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Category: BBQ Page 2 of 3

Dixie’s BBQ

My partner is a fan of a good barbecue. We have been to a few all around the Lower Mainland, so today we were giving “Dixie’s” on Hastings a try. They are known for their Texas style barbecue and show their allegiance through the restaurant’s decor. It has a well themed rugged look with a worn wood pallet ceiling, a wagon wheel chandelier, and red brick and sheet metal walls.

I liked the rusted cinema style light boxes, repurposed into signs on the left hand wall. The pair welcomed you in and advertised their availability of brisket, ribs, links, and smoked pork; with its shattered light bulbs.

And I found their use of an old pick-up truck clever. It jutted out of the front left wall. Not only for propping, but its tail gate could be dropped and the stools taken down from its trunk to create four additional bar-style seats.

Behind the bar, a pair of longhorns crowned the flat screen television broadcasting a blue jays baseball game. It was mounted within a refurbished glass door cabinet, which certainly added to the country homey look of the place. With it were two additional cabinets on either side. Its shelves were used to carry all their whiskeys. And the space under them, held all the glasses needed to pour yourself a stiff drink.

The bar continued to draw your attention, with an angle iron suspending thick chains and light bulbs within mason jars. Both hanging above the stools that lined it. Their was an old timey register for show, it matched the antique revolvers hanging behind the bar on display.

We originally started off seated at one of their high tops, but was quick to trade up given how uncomfortable the stools were. They were hard and flat with jagged edges. And the table in front of it much taller. I felt I was too short to be able to satisfactorily reach the food that would be presented before me. Luckily we were able to move to a larger picnic table by the window, this was the most effective seating arrangement for us. One large enough for us to be able share our meal below.

Each table was well equipped with your own paper towel roll for the hand held adventure before you. Pails of cutlery and a caddy of sauces were available to take and use as needed. On the table was also a listed explanation of the different American styles of barbecue, and where to find them locally. I found this a great lesson to learn off of a table sign.

Central Texas BBQ emphasized on the meat, where the sauces and side are secondary. It is always served with white bread and pickles to help cut in to the grease and balance the plate with some acidity. This is what we would be having at “Dixie’s” today. Memphis style barbecue is big on pork including pork ribs and pulled pork. Both use a dry rub, before a thorough cook in a big pit. Locally you can get this from “Memphis blues”. North Carolina style BBQ also specializes in pork. They brush theirs with a spice and vinegar mixture while cooking, and then serve it with a ketchup based sauce. This is represented in the city by “Pekinpah”. Kansas City style uses all kinds of meat and they are all cooked super slow and super low, preferably over hickory wood. The sauce is most commonly a thick, sweet molasses and tomato mix that sticks. In Vancouver you can get this from “Hog Shack”.

When dishes were ready, one of the chefs came out from the back to help serve them. He came out gleefully in its torn and worn tan apron, thick beard, and baritone voice. If I were to personify a good barbecue, he is what I would describe. He hand delivered metal trays two by two and gave additional information on all of the meats as he set them down.

To get the best assessment of the place we ordered the “The Bubba”, which offered up a little bit of everything. This is a family style dinner meant to be shared at $35.00 per person. It included a tasting of all their smoked meats: brisket, pork ribs, hot links sausage and pulled pork. It also had a healthy serving of their corn meal fried chicken, best enjoyed with their country gravy and your choice of one side per person. We went for the mac n cheese and cornbread over the possibility of smoked brisket beans, tots, serrano cheese spinach, meat chilli, biscuit, coleslaw or potato salad. The menu and our server warned us about the portion size and the need to be hungry to fully enjoy it all. Although we find comfort in having leftovers and the ability to pick at it for days to come.

It was recommend that we start on the beef brisket first, as the fat on it will congeal the longer we leave it. It was prepared 8:30am, first thing in the morning, and you could tell this was the case by the quality of the meat in your mouth. It was tender and juicy, however lacked flavour for me. It had us reaching for a sauce, but only the hot variety or ketchup was available at our table. And the country gravy that came with the platter already had chunks of meat in it. Besides it was best paired with the fried chicken instead.

The fried chicken was my favourite, it was deboned for eating ease and breaded crispy in their corn meal batter. The meat underneath this thick layer of crunch was some of the juiciest I have had. But as good as this was, it was only good eaten right away. The breading didn’t keep its wonderful crunch the day after.

Once again, I liked the pairing of it with the county gravy. The gravy was thick and creamy like congee, adding a different textural element to the chicken, as well flavour. Althohgh I could have done without the chunks of ground beef embedded within it. It was tasty, but not necessarily. It was already a flavourful gravy as is, and its texture without ground beef would have been better to highlight everything else around it.

We found that the pulled pork also lacked flavour, and once again we were without a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce to perk things up with. But like the brisket the meat was just so well done that you continued to eat.

The only smoked meat we found enjoyable presented to us as is was the whole rack of ribs. It was marinaded in Dr. Pepper soft drink for that extra syrupy sweet flavour. The meat fell off the bone, or was at least easy to pry from bone.

Amendment, the spicy sausage cut up into chunks, was the most flavourful of the smoked meats. It had plenty of herbs and lots of fire for flavour. This too was enjoyable dipped into the country gravy to balance out all that spice.

The corn bread was a little dry and I could have done without the chopped up jalapeños in it. And instead I would have preferred it with more sweet sponge to help break the meal up. Something different to rejuvenate the plate, helping to change all the overwhelming meaty textures and flavours.

The macaroni was more successful in offering us this much needed break. However, alone it was bland, just a thin coating of cheese over starchy pasta spirals.

When it came time to leave, our bill was rolled up and presented in a large calibre bullet casing, it was a nifty touch. And I knew I couldn’t walk out without first visiting their washroom. Based on how well themed the dining area was, I wanted to see if things were consistent all the way through to the washrooms.

The hallway leading to the facilities were marked by a handsome set of antlers and a couple of swinging saloon doors. The corridor on route to the stalls were painted with the Texas flag and a few photographs to mark the city. Inside, each stall had its walls papered with faded posters of country singers and black and white photographs of cowboys and Indians. Kenny Rogers with a mike and Dolly Parton in her teens. It also had its own juke box, but I couldn’t be sure the country ballads playing were coming from it. The sink was a repurposed oil drum, the flowers sat in a recycled milk can, and the soap dispenser was once a mason jar.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This was both our first time trying this style of barbecue, so we couldn’t help but to compare it to what we liked from our favourite: Memphis style barbecue with its sauces and fries. Both of which we were left craving for. Not that there is anything wrong with this style, it is just not our preferred type of barbecue. However I would still recommend them, and wouldn’t be apposed to returning for more chicken and sauces, or maybe to try one of their burgers instead. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DIXIE’S
337 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1P3.
778-379-4770
meatatdixies.com
Dixie's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Montana’s, Rib Fest

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My partner wanted ribs and after a few disappointing dinners out for some, we finally went to “Montanan’s to guarantee him his fix. Walking up to the place he complained how hungry he was and how he could smell the scent of the meat he wanted to eat. But it was busy this Saturday night that we would not get to eat any of it anytime soon. We didn’t think of making reservations, so when we came at 7pm we found ourselves having to waiting until 8pm to be seated. Although they were able to take our names and our number to call us when our table was ready.

The restaurant was as I remembered it the handful of times I was ever in the area and wanted something cheap and meaty. A cabin motif, perfectly reflecting the rugged outdoor Canadian lifestyle. Wood logs, hockey jerseys, canoes and paddles, and antlers crafted to form a chandelier.

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In the end our wait earned us a great booth table towards the back. Here, tables were pre-set with parchment paper and a glass of crayons for those with children and the need to keep them occupied. Kids that wanted to could draw, my partner was one such kid. Though, sadly we discovered that the crayons available for use were sitting in a shot glass of tobacco sauce. Imagine a child holding on to one of these crayons, then realizing it is wet, instinctively going to lick their hands dry, only to discover an awful burn in their mouths. We brought it to the attention of our server.

He eventually found a green crayon on the floor and went to work. This kept him busy as we waited longer than usual for our food. Given the busy service and the popular time and day, I could have expected as much. Our server was late to take our food order as she was expected to be one of three staff members needed to sing the birthday song (more on that below). And when we finally had our order taken, it took over 45 minutes for it to actually arrive.

But despite the rush and stress our server and majority of the others within ear shot held their composure and remained friendly. They were identified by their casual dress code. Their jeans and flannel look matched the country vibe of the restaurant well. Our server’s energetic disposition was contagious. Everything was a positive yes. I could see why there were so many large groups celebrating birthdays here tonight. It was fun and causal.

For each birthday person, the staff rung musical triangles and called attention to them and their table. First comes an announcement, followed by the singing of their own rendition of happy birthday, or rather a birthday chant. And to make this even more in to a spectacle the birthday boy or girl gets to wear a helmet of stuffed antlers on their head.

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When it came time to order, we were excited to learn that their “rib fest” was back. It advertised mouth watering, sauced up, and fall off the bone ribs. They featured three options with sides. But my partner went with the classic 6 rib in their “Rib n’ wing combo”. It gave you a choice of sauce for their famous ribs, and on their four double dusted chicken wings. He went with the honey garlic over his ribs and the chipotle honey for the wings. For sides it was the Mexican corn, fries, and in house baked corn bread.

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The ribs were tender, but we missed the traditional BBQ sauce flavouring. The honey garlic he had instead lacked kick. The chipotle honey gave the wings more flavour, but wasn’t necessarily complimentary to its thick breading. It would have been better left as a dry rub seasoned with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. The sides were pretty standard, chewy fries and a cup of corn that tasted like salsa with the coloured peppers.

I was looking for something a little lighter and gravitated towards the “chicken waffle club sandwich”. Southern fried chicken breast with maple sriracha, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and two strips of double smoked bacon. All between two flame grilled Belgian sugar waffles.

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This was a saucy burger that made a mess. Therefore the more I allowed it to sit, the more the soggy the bottom waffle got. It’s run off pooled at the bottom of the skillet it was served in. It also turned a portion of the side potatoes to mush. But worst off was the lettuce in the sandwich that was quick to follow, aided by the mayo and saucy. Sandwich crafting 101, you don’t put mayo and lettuce together. As for the flavour, this was one of the best seasoned chicken breast in waffles I have had. The crispy chicken with saucy spreads and chilli spice, between sweet waffle really gave the sandwich its own identity. As my partner’s first taste of chicken and waffles, he liked what he had here, especially the mix of textures.

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For the side I upgraded my choice of fries or one of two salads for their “ultimate appy”. The in “house seasoned Montana’s Chippers”. The regular entree version is seasoned with savoury dill and served with their in house made honey dill dip. This was just salted. The chips where perfectly crispy, offering a great side, better than fried.

As I mentioned earlier, between our two hands on either entrees we made quite the mess. We went through a mound of napkins and had to ask for more. Therefore were grateful to been provided wet wipes at the beginning so that we could do a quick clean up before switching from two hands to picking off the mess with fork and knife.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It definitely satisfies the craving for classic eats at great prices. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MONTANA’S
2929 Barnet Hwy, Unit 1046, Coquitlam BC, V3B 5R5
604-472-7772
montanas.ca
Montana's Cookhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Montana’s

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How do you follow shooting pistols, revolvers, and atomic rifles at a gun range? With plenty of meat for cheap, cause ammo isn’t. And when I think hearty eats for less I think Montana’s, which also happens to be conveniently located in Coquitlam, a couple of kilometres away from the range.

It was dressed like a wood cabin and its decor did everything it could to have you concluding this was the place you wanted to be for hunks of meat and whole potatoes as sides. Fresh game procured from their morning’s hunt maybe? They were painting an illusion and I was easily buying into it.

Walking up to the building, it looked like a cowboy saloon with a pebbled stone exterior. Inside, the room was rampant with wood detailing and furnishings. Wooden floors, wooden arch ways, wood trunks leading to the ceiling’s wooden support beams, and glossy wood tables and chairs. There was even a wooden chandelier crafted to look like the points of antlers. It, like the other decorations added interest to the walls and rafters in a rugged in theme. Snow shoes and skis side stepping on the wall, imitation pine foliage and little trees lining the ceilings. And they even managed to hoist a red truck over tables to create an archway.

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Within the foyer, by the hostess booth was a wooden curio cabinet, housing their various barbecue sauces in bottles and jars for you to take home. They had over five different flavours, so you were bound to find one that you liked. And at the actual booth, they had kids colouring sheets and cardboard crowns for patrons. Female and male deer antlers to wear. I was not ashamed to admit that I helped myself to one of each and they kept us entertained as we waited for the food to come. A wait that took longer than expected, considering it wasn’t all that busy around 2pm.

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We were directed to the lounge area with its wooden bar, because he didn’t have reservations. Though looking around, they had plenty of seating options across three separate sections. Like the dining area that included a stone fireplace. But we instead sat on high tops surrounded by Canadian hockey jerseys out stretched and pinned at the shoulders. The Jets, Leaf, Montreal Canadiens, and the Canucks were well represented. A Blackhawks jersey made an appearance, but that seemed out of place.

The menu was very user friendly. Plenty of glossy steak and rib photos to order by sight.

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The “Rib n’ sausage combo” was their famous ribs served with your choice of BBQ sauce, and a fire grilled chorizo sausage with their bold deli mustard for dipping. This was the full rack of ribs that came with six bones. Although if this was not enough meat, they also had a size up, that was the jumbo version. The ribs were a messy, but delicious affair. Best enjoyed with hands, wet wipes and a bucket to discard bones were provided. The platter was served on slate plate with options for sides. My guest skipped the southern baked beans and corn for coleslaw, and made fries his choice of side with the baked cornbread.

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The “Firecracker sirloin” was a top sirloin fire-grilled to perfection. It was topped with plenty of bacon, crispy jalapeños, spicy dusted onions, and a chipotle honey BBQ sauce. The steak was perfectly cooked; and with all it toppings, each bite was different and kept interest. It came with the same side choices as the ribs above. Here, my other guest choose the baked potato and coleslaw to accompany the crispy Cajun onions that also topped the steak. Although the onions would have been nicer and stayed crispier for longer, alone on the side. The potato was the most disappointing thing on the plate. It was plain despite all its dressing.

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Looking for a smaller portion their “hand carved 7oz petite filet steak, lightly smoked” caught my eye. That and its side of waffle fries, waffle fries are the best kind of fries. And these were the best part of the plate. The crispy potatoes were perfectly fried and breaded with corn meal for that extra crunch. Although I wish there was a better ratio between it and the steak. There was double the amount of potato to meat, if not triple. It was also odd to pull a carving knife from the plate. Its presence unusual considering the meat was already cut up into manageable pieces for you. As for the meat itself, it was tough and dry at the ends and sides. Only one slice in the centre had the texture of medium rare right. The meat was also pretty bland, some additional seasonings or a side of sauce would have easily helped. And while I am asking for things, a fresh component would have been nice to cut through all the heavy starch. Maybe an oven roasted tomato or a side of sweet corn salsa, something to balance the plate. I ended up using ketchup with the potatoes and the meat. Overall, this was a good snack size portion of food at a good price.

Being within a mall means there is plenty of parking and much to look at, after you finish your meal. And we did just that, skipping desserts here for a change of scenery. Especially needed after how long we sat, past paying off our bill, and after our server repeatedly asking us if we needed more water or anything else.

Our server had a way about her. She was saying things that may normally offend you, but because she spoke with a southern charm and an air of comforting self deprecating humour, you engaged in her. Though I still found her a little brash, too lax with her “huns” and “darlings”, too comfortable as she leaned on our table to speak, and too passive aggressive in her hints for us to leave. We eventually took her not so hidden messaging and vacated. In hindsight, I can see her appeal in the setting, a country draw that definitely added character to the place, like a attraction you would come back for.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Classic eats for great prices. Not my first choice, but one that meets the criteria when I am looking for a guaranteed good meal with plenty of fixings for under $20. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MONTANA’S
2929 Barnet Hwy, Unit 1046, Coquitlam BC, V3B 5R5
604-472-7772
montanas.ca
Montana's Cookhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Claypot Hotpot and B.B.Q.

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Hotpot, barbecue, and steamer all in one kitchen gadget!

 

I like food, I eat when I am happy, I eat when I am sad, I eat when I am bored, and I eat to say I have eaten it. Today I wanted to eat my feelings and my guest suggested hot pot. Hot pot is one of those comforting meals where you cook the food at your table. The process of eating as you cook gives you plenty of time to talk. The goal is to eat all that you can and claim your money’s worth.

This particular hot pot restaurant has long been on my list, so when the stars aligned and we found ourselves here. I opted for an earlier dinner time to allow us the opportunity to digest after such a heavy meal, before bed.

They are known for all you can eat hot pot on one of the most unique contraptions built for dinner theatre. This was a hotpot boiling pot, barbecue grill, and steamer all in one. Three tiers for you to cook your meat and vegetables on. The ability to boil a wonton in soup, grill it like a gyoza, or steam it like a dumpling, right before your very hands. Each method was not only delicious, but it allowed you variety, and offered you a way to rejuvenate a would be one-toned taste.

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The room was cold, the kind of cold that had you folding your arms to keep warm. But it would soon quickly warm with the heat of several flames bringing several pots to boil. Each table had a burner built into it, ours was already on and flickered when we sat down. A little dangerous considering that first part of the dinner involves checking off a flammable piece of paper, doing so by passing it back and forth over this flame.

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The menu is two pages front and back. One dedicated to the traditional hot pot fare with pre-cooked sides, sauces, and drinks. Another with thicker cuts of meat, ideally for the barbecue platform. However you can put anything anywhere at your discretion. With pencil you go over each option checking off what you wanted and listing how many pieces you believed you could eat.

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You begin by choosing your broth. As is often the case, there is a separate cost for the soup. You have to have soup to have hot pot, so it is disappointing to have to pay the separate charge for it. $9 was the standard price, with $18 being on the higher end. “Silky chicken with ginseng”, “winter melon and chicken feet”, “parsley and preserved egg”, and “preserved vegetable and pork belly” were the most adventurous of all 13 options.

We went with the ability to have two $9 soup bases for $13. Our pot would be divided, on top of having the additional layers protruding from its centre. If you didn’t plan to barbecue you could request the regular hot pot vessel, just the cauldron.

The “Thai Tom Yam Kung” soup based was a red-ish Orange brew with a nice warming spice. The “Peppered pork stomach” is one I wouldn’t recommend. The broth was littered with peppercorn pearls and each bite into one unleashed the full force of spicy pepper. And the rubbery stomach meat was no better.

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The second tier was for barbecue grilling. It is interesting to note that you lay the raw meat or seafood directly on to the thin piece of white paper, protecting said grill. This layer shields it from the burning of grease, and doesn’t affective the cooking process or the finished product.

The top layer was a steamer basket with lid. As the hot air from the cooking below rises, it steams everything at the top of the tower.

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As for ingredients that went into the boiling broth? This was one of the most comprehensive lists I have ever had the pleasure to scan though and choose off of. Everything was available to order piece by piece, in a set of four, or by the bundle or plate. It was hard to decide and commit to six pieces of pork skin or four pieces of black fungus. I preferred the guess work out of my hands, and to be able to order by a set or by the plate. A plate of beansprouts or a medley of mushrooms. Bring me what you think I could finishing. Especially as we weren’t able to eat all that we ordered and we only ordered one round. I think this is one of the only places that actually gives you everything that you check off. They don’t hold you back, or use their best judgment and experience to restrain you from over ordering, and ultimately wasting food. This was the one time I wished we didn’t get what we asked for at a restaurant. More than five plates were left uncooked and much more sat over cooked, hidden at the bottom of the split pot.

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Seafood like fish fillet and salmon heads, various squid parts, octopus, and mussels. Oysters were available too, but the menu was specific to say only two each. We were initially upset by the restriction. This was all you can eat but with a limit, it defeats the purpose. Though either of us liked how the cooked oyster came out. We avoided the shrimp in shell because peeling it was tedious. Although it was easier to peel after a quick grill and was delicious because of it.

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They had six different dumplings choice available, but the minced fish one were crossed off. You couldn’t really tell the dumplings apart, they were cooked in the same broth and dipped in the same sauce, so they essentially tasted the same. Although their different shapes and various dough wrappings were visual appealing. Pork and chives, pork and fungus, pork and vegetable, fish, and wonton.

The “meat” choices were sheered thin or rolled into curls. Sliced rib eye, short rib, pork belly, regular pork, and lamb shoulder. They also had meat by the bone or in cubes. Chicken wings and luncheon meat. And for the more adventurous they offered beef tripe, stomach, and tendon. They had pork jowl, stomach, liver, bung, and even cooked pork blood cubes. We avoided all of this, as I was not daring enough to try any of it. Such ingredients are so strong that they often change the flavour of the soup and therefore everything cooked in it. My guest was of the same mind set.

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The vegetables were more appealing. With six variations of tofu and bean curds. Five different types of leafy greens washed and served on a plate. And taro, lotus root, turnip, and pumpkin, just to name a few.

My hot pot favourite has always been the balls. Minced and mashed meats formed into round balls. They had eleven options including all the basic proteins and more exotic ones like cuttlefish and dace fish. Imitation crab meat fell under this category as well.

They also had a bevy of noodles to boil and eat it all with. Udon, vermicelli, bean thread noodle, glass noodle, instant noodle, and the noodle in wonton soup. I like the chew of such carbs and especially the slices of rice cake and the tubes of gluten. However, I advise not filling up on it, as it is the cheap stuff. And in order to get more bang for your buck, you want to gorge on everything else, specially the proteins.

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If you run out of sauce you could always order more. I find the meal is nothing without a strong salty mix to dip meat into and/or to drench noodles with. We started off with soy and satay sauce, and had plenty of it to go finish our meal with. But if we ran out or wanted a different flavour profile, all the varieties were priced at a $1 more. Hot chilli pepper, chopped garlic, shredded ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, or persevered egg.

And if you are too lazy to cook, they actually offered pre-cooked appetizers and entrees. Seaweed and pork ear salads, rice with chicken, and deep fried rice cake.

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Each table included a metal rack with three shelves. This was so that there was enough room for everything you ordered, and that you were given enough elbow space in which to eat it all.

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Overall, I can’t really comment on the food. We were the ones cooking it. And seeing as we were busy talking instead of concentrating; all the meat came out burnt, the seafood was fished out overcooked, and the dumplings stuck on to the grill in a melted mounds. Although with the use of the soy and satay sauce it all came out tasty. Once again I left another hot pot meal
too full and without tasting the finished broth/end product. The soup ends up tasting like what you put into it throughout the cooking process, which ends up being nothing like its original brew.

The meal was to end up in a bite of tofu for dessert, but we were too past full to indulge.

There were plenty of staff to tend to each table. Almost one person per seating looking out for you. Each raise of your hand or a look in their direction had them approaching you. They weren’t ready on the tea refill, but were quick to jump as soon as I called. Although at the same time I felt judged by some of my requests. There was no communication from them to say they understood, but instead a contorting of the face to question my request. I wanted a plate to store the excess food being over cooked in soup. I got one bowl. I wanted more napkins to clean my hand, I got just a one.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The drive to was a little out there for me, but very much so worth the effort. A unique experience with a large array for food at a good price. All you can eat enoki mushrooms and quail eggs where other places charged an extra dollar or two for either. The point of this visit was to enjoy the special pot, and it delivered, giving us a unique dining experience. Overall for the cost and the value, I have no regrets. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CLAYPOT
105-8291 Alexandra Road, Richmond BC, V6X 1C3
604-284-5181
Claypot Hotpot and B.B.Q. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Yale Saloon

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Looking to cross one off the bucket list at downtown Vancouver’s newest country, rock, and BBQ destination.
I was privileged enough to attend their grand opening, and sly enough to come early to take photos. Doing so to avoid the soon to be crowded bar, seating areas, and dance floor.

Located within the Granville entertainment district, like all the other night clubs and attractions, their neon lights lit up the sky. It’s name in blue, derived from the hotel it was affiliated with; a saxophone to symbolize the regular blue performances within; an a pink pig branded with “BBQ”, for obvious reasons.

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This would be my first foot into a country bar/club, and minus the bales of hay, this is how I would expect a modern interpretation of one to be. Walking in, I was immediately impressed by the thoroughness of their theme. The servers were in dressed down “country” wear: a causal red flannel shirt and denim blue jeans. A few had bandanas, but not enough had cowboy boots and hats. They sold you on the “country” with details at the bar and the decorations on the dance floor. The main bar had longhorn bull horns presented in display. Several bottles of spirits and various bottles of wine were corralled behind wire. And rusted cans and tins, were lined up in a row above it all.

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Above the glowing red the dance floor were chandeliers shaped like wagon wheels. A texaco gas pump and a moose head stood near by. And surrounding it all l were booth seats, high top tables meant for leaning, a secondary bar, and benches to rest your tired feet. Feet tired from the line dancing, that often went on there.

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Tonight they had cheerleaders from the BC lions in. They were here to perform in celebration, and did so incorporating some line dancing moves into their regular pom pom full routine. It very appropriate given the venue. I was hoping we as the guests would be given the opportunity to fall in lines and try some group line dancing ourselves. It would have been another one to cross off on my bucket list. Guess I have a good reason to come back. Back to the only place that would offer such an opportunity.

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Their sit down dining area was located by the entrance. A step up, adjacent from the primary bar and the kitchen. From here you got a good look at their smoker. We would later get a behind the scenes look at it, as well as an exclusive tour of their kitchen. The above area was set dim, strung with small hanging bulbs of lights. Along with the television screen broadcasting old cowboy movies, it illuminated the section and made visible the cow patterned flooring underfoot. Splotches of black and white that the red leather upholstered booths and high top chairs stood on. Here, they spoke to their promise of blues music with a gallery of black and white photography. Framed photos of blues and country artists in performance against a handsome red brick wall.

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The celebration of the music continued by the dance floor, with a vinyl record collection pasted on the wooden panelled wall, like wallpaper.

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For their opening, there was a back drop with props to play out your cowboy fantasies. Dawn a straw woven cowboy hat, a red patterned bandana, and straddle a saddle propped on a stool, for a memorable photo. There were enough hats that many guests wore them to play cowboy and sheriff all night long.

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But out of everything, I was most enamoured with the mechanical bull. As soon as he and I locked eyes I knew I would mount him not once but twice tonight. And I was determined to not break a nail while I was bucking around. It was the body and head of a rotund bull, surrounded by an air filled barrier. Like a bouncy castle without the trampoline.
Monday through Wednesday they have live music. And during their weekends they turn the western on with country and rock tunes, and this mechanic saddle for some bull ridding. It is definitely a recommendation for a girls night out. There is an innuendo to the whole thing that have women turning 30 and brides celebrating stagettes flocking to such an attraction. I mean they did make it tempting to host your party here. A reserved table at no extra charge and no cover charge for all those invited, free line dancing lessons from their staff, and a free mechanical bull ride for your entire party. The birthday-bride also gets a complimentary cowboy hat in celebration. It had me contemplating when would be appropriate to have such a night out.

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Mechanical bull riding is glamourized in movies and on television, landing it on many people’s things to-do list. And the “Yale” is the only place downtown that lets you check it off. This would be my first time. A young man manned the station behind a pedestal of controls. You showed identification and signed a waver: if you get hurt, the bar is not liable. You go on at your own risk, fully aware that the whole point of the activity is to out last a jerky machine, programmed with the intention to whip you off and down by force. Hopping on is challenging if you aren’t very fit, or like me, lack upper body strength, with the ability to lift yourself up and on to the saddle. The “bull” operator was kind enough to give me a hand, or leg. On bended knee he allowed me to use his thigh as a stool. Though during the second time around, full of liquid courage and off the high of doing it once before, I was able to hop on myself. Before my first ride I enlisted his help, asking of for tips and tricks on how to out last the machine. You hold on with one hand, using both could potentially lead to you clock yourself in the face, so should the bull jerk that way. Then from there it is negotiating your balance and reacting the the machine. When you were swung one way, you have to tilt to the other, then rebalance yourself back at centre as soon as possible. This was the trickiest and not doing so soon enough is what resulted in you loosing your balance and tipping off. Extending your legs and asserting your bicep strength to hold on helped. The settings vary with a “sexy” mode for those scared to fall, but wanting a taste of the experience. “Sexy mode” is basically the machine swerving back and forth under you, like a women swaying her hips to the beat at a night club. The ride typically starts from here, then cascades to the point where it is obvious that the “bull” wants you off its back. The fall is inevitable, but just as fun as the ride itself. You are still holding on tight to the braided rope, so it is your bottom that lands on the mattress of air. Despite the exhaustion, the trembling after, or any rope burn and chafing, you immediately want to try again. To best your time, especially if it is your first. By the night’s end I had ridden it twice with a combined time of 50 seconds. I was proud, having won a prize the second time around. And proudly walking away with battle scars. Scars in the form of a bruise in my inner thigh from the thick braid putting pressure in between my legs, and the soreness I experienced the days after. Worth it, to say I have lived and done it.

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A country western bar isn’t the same without some good barbecue. And their entry into the game comes with one of the biggest smokers in Vancouver. This one was affectionately named “Gator”, by their executive chef, who shared his nickname with it. He was kind enough to give us a run down of his operation and a behind the scene look at what he loves to do day to day. He opened the stainless steel door of the smoker to reveal a slow rotating wheel of grill racks. From what I could make out, they were smoking full rack of ribs and others meats wrapped in tin foil. The smoker is stacked with logs of wood. The wood is not what cooks the meat, they are used to accent it with their scent and flavour. Hickory, cedar, cheery and pine from the Okanagan. Three hours the meat sits in brine, three hours more it sits and slow cooks in the smoker. The chef sprays the meet to keep its surface moist. This is how they make proper slow-smoked meats with their homemade rubs and sauces.

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Just past this is their kitchen. Line cooks were back here tonight prepping the appetizers that would soon be passed around to the guests. Slider buns being squirted with sauce and brisket being sliced under a heat lamp. We were gifted a taste of some of the most succulent meat I have ever had. This was quality melt in your mouth meat, made all the more tender with its pockets of fat. No sauce needed it was full of flavour. I could have eaten the whole mound with bare hands, if given the chance.

Their menu is a celebration of good meat just like the above. Barbecue platters of pulled pork, brisket, hot links, and side ribs. With all the traditional sides of course: coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, and corn bread. They put their spin on this and other bar classics like soups and salad, wings, nachos, burger and sandwiches, and full entrees. A salad with corn nuts, a quinoa bowl with beans and their own smoked tomato vinaigrette, grilled cheese with BBQ chicken and caramelized onions, a chopped chicken burger with a buttermilk ranch sauce, and the ability to add smoked meat to practically anything.

Don’t mind the darkness of the food photos below. At such a setting I rather not turn on my flash and blind others. Plus it is a more accurate account of the experience. I eat the food in a darken setting and want you, the reader to experience what I do, as I do.

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“Jalapeño corn bread”. Moist nuggets, like spongy cake bites, but with the gentle sting of some spicy jalapeños to kick it up a notch.

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“Baked Mac n’ Cheese”. Elbow macaroni heavily coated in velveeta melted cheese, then breaded in cornflakes for the perfect crunch. Heaven on a stick and the perfect accompaniment to drinks. It was served with their homemade chunky ketchup-like dipping sauce, for those in need of tomato with their cheese.

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The “Pulled pork” sliders were made with slow cooked pork shoulder, crunchy slaw, and jalapeño mayo on a brioche bun. It was definitely a multiple napkin burger. They were generous with the moist maker sauce, I didn’t miss any of it when glops of it fell to the floor within my first bite. The spice was a slow burn balanced by the heaviness of the cream. The bun was good, but I would have liked less of it to better highlight the pork.

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“Side ribs”. They were easy to eat as the meat fell of the bone. Great as is and better with a thick and sweet barbecue sauce.

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And we had plenty of rye and ginger cocktails to wash it all down with. Because really, what else do you order at a country bar other than whiskey?

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I could definitely see myself back here for dinner with my partner and dancing with my girls. They are bringing something new to the area and people are eating it up. The bull riding and line dancing are ones to stop by and try, and the barbecue platter is one to lust over. For a low-key fun night, without the need to dress up, this is one that I would recommend for a good time. I have already promise my partner that I will take him back to try their barbecue, so expect a more comprehensive post on the food, soon. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

YALE SALOON
1300 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1M7
604-428-9253
yalesaloon.com
The Yale Saloon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Devil’s Elbow Ale & Smoke House

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Some seriously good Happy Hour deals: $1 a slider!

 

I have heard great things about this place, so when looking for a happy hour spot, I jumped at trying their $6, $6, $6 offers. Wine, beer, and appetizers at $6 each.

Walking up to the building, the window read “beer, bacon, bourbon”, I thought, “this is promising”. The building was black in cast iron with their logo in red, a muscular forearm lifting a trident in the air. Though I guess it must be a pitch fork, because that is the devil’s weapon of choice.

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When you walk inside, the scents made good on the promise the window declared. It smelled like malty liquor, cured meat, and salt. It made you thirsty and hungry at the same time. The interior was rugged like you would expect for a smoke house. The words “Devil’s Elbow” was stencilled on one of the bleached wood, alcove seating areas. Adjacent to it was a wooden canoe suspended from the ceiling. It held a place in the corridor separating the more rowdy bar area (especially with the hockey game on) from the more quite dining area, just before the kitchen pass. The canoe was certainly an eye catching conversation starter. The rustic theme continued on with their heavy bar in both look and stock, their open ceiling exposing wires and ducts, and the unfinished brick meets wood look on select walls. I liked the energy of the place, especially with the rotation of 90’s top charters. Like Alanis Morisette’s “ironic”, No Doubt walking on “spiderwebs”, and TLC taking about “scrubs”. It all certainly had our server dancing in the isles.

We went through the happy hour food menu with gusto, and thankfully our server was kind enough to warn us that we had asked for was a lot of food. She advised us to keep with the four dishes below, even though we wanted more. Like the fried catfish entree that they were sold out of, so early in the afternoon.

When one of the kitchen staff delivered our dishes one of the pork purses rolled off the plate. She simply said that we lost one. We didn’t move wondering what she would do. She insisted that the table was clean and suggested we just pick it off the table and place it back on to the plate. We complied and ate it, as I am not to fussy, but is that really the correct course of action when such a thing happens? I don’t know about you? But there have been many occasion where I have seen tables wiped down with a communal cloth, a rag that doesn’t get rinsed off or rung out between uses. Who is to say that this table is really clean after a wipe from one of those. Though I am highly sensitive to this sort of thing. That’s why I got out of the restaurant industry when I did.

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“Pulled pork purses” with smoked pork butt, smoked bacon, cabbage, and zesty honey BBQ sauce. $6 between 3-6pm, regularly there are $11. These were my favourite of the night. They were surprisingly deep fried parcels stuffed full, I expected white steamed buns. They were crispy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. The sauce and green onion gave each bite a sweet and salty Asian feel.

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The “Brisket sliders” were filled with house smoked beef brisket, tangy coleslaw, and sesame seeds in a toasted brioche bun. We didn’t expect there to be six of them. Given the $6 price and it being happy hour , I expected the plate to only come with three. Especially since they are normally $10 for three. Or else we were given a bonus by mistake? These little bundles were a mouthful, full of tender barbecue meat and tangy coleslaw. It definitely highlighted the smokiness of the brisket.

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The “Kettle chips with maque choux” was house made potato slices paired with southern style corn salsa. Salty chips and sweet corn. Some chips were too salty, but their great texture made up for it. They were the perfect base for the soft corn to be scooped up with.

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The “Mac and cheese corn bread” side was not a part of the happy hour specials, but it was a side that we couldn’t pass up at $4. Especially with our server promoting it. And besides when you are going for southern fare you usually stop for corn bread. Though this was not what we were expecting. It was far too dense. Dense from all the carbs, dense from the combination of pasta and corn meal. The melty cheese sauce and fresh tomato chunk topping helped a little to add moisture, but I didn’t find both very complimentary to its base. I rather-ed a helping of regular corn bread and a small bowl of mac and cheese, separate.

Our several actually did the same with “orange crush”, she over sold it like the Mac and cheese corn bread. She made it seem like it was their own homemade batch of orange crush. Though in reality it was nothing special, just regular orange soda. Or else we wouldn’t have gotten a glass to try. At least she is good at her job and a great sales man. And/or we don’t have the same tastes.

We of course weren’t able to finish all the food, so had most of it packed to go, but sadly they didn’t have any bags to put the cardboard containers into, and the sauce and oil ended up leaking on to my car seats. It is also nice to note that although we were done eating, our food was packed to go, and we had paid in full; our server continued to tend to us, she stilled poured us water and check in on our welfare. In general she seemed really into her job. We watched her continuously dancing and singing along to the music as she checked on all the tables, one after the other like a circuit. She was in a great mood and had set the tone for ours.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Happy hour was so impressive that I want to come back to try the rest of their menu. My partner is a big fan of barbecue meats, and has asked that I bring him back after he had my leftovers and really enjoyed the beef in the sliders and the pork in the purses. I agreed having had my eye on their “smoked BBQ meat platter”. It comes with pulled pork, beef brisket, pork back ribs, and your choice of two sides. We would choose the IPA Mac and cheese and garlic mashed potatoes over the chilled potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, or creamed corn. And if this isn’t enough food, for $20 more you can get their larger meat platter that comes with A half smoked chicken, pulled pork, beef brisket, pork back ribs, and your choice of four sides. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DEVIL’S ELBOW
562 Beatty Street, Vancouver BC
604-559-0611
devilselbowalehouse.com
Devil's Elbow Ale And Smoke House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

KYO Korean BBQ & Sushi House

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We were finally trying the all you can eat option at “Kyo”. And were delighted to not only have an extensive meat and vegetable list to cook on a grill, but a full menu of sushi and Japanese appetizers to choose from as well.

The restaurant was located on a second floor that required a walk up a steep flight of steps. Even though the entrance is just a door, it is eye catching. Enough to stop those passing by with its wood and glass finish, and it’s striking name in bold brush strokes.

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Inside, the restaurant is spacious, they sought to accommodate larger groups across different tables. Tables of four, six, and even twelve. One had imitation plants and fake foliage surrounding it. Another, was in an area with a vaulted ceiling; and hanging above were several large orbs wrapped in white ribbon that dangled down like jellyfish tentacles. Larger parties definitely took advantage of the space and were allowed to enjoy their time in loud jovial conversation. There was a 1.5 hour maximum stay policy, but they weren’t very strict with it, especially with around 30 tables or so available. We grabbed one of the tables for six that came with two coils to cook off of and to share from.

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You order off a sheet of paper. Fine print under various categories with the quantity of a serving in brackets. If you order the sashimi, it’s one piece; similarly was every serving of sushi. Though the speciality rolls came in slices of 8 and the teriyaki meats came as 4-5 pieces covered in sauce.

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We started aggressively on the meat options, ordering multiple orders of chicken, pork, and beef that came in pieces of five. Everything was seasoned similarly with only a notable difference between spicy and mild. It was good, but it would have been nice to have some dipping sauces to company it with. Especially as we weren’t the best at-your-table-grill chefs and ended up burning a few of our initial attempts. And as a result we saw the need for fork and knife, as pulling at hard food between chopstick and teeth is quite difficult. I then wished they were smaller cuts of meat, though that would only make them burn all the more quicker. We took turns cooking, gripping the tongs, flipping various cuts, and serving one another. Honey and garlic pork, black pepper beef short ribs, and spicy lamb were a few of the meats.

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The raw vegetables ironically came a little after. They took longer to cook up and therefore required more time on the grill. There they stayed until black with grill marks, whereas the meat was a quicker process for fear of overcooking. The corn was 1/3 of a cob, they came out sweet and crispy. The eggplant was soggy, the peppers crunchy, and the zucchini refreshing. They helped give us much needed breaks from all the meat we ordered.

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We also ordered seafood that came piece by piece. Prawn, squid, salmon, and mussels. We wished the prawns were shelled as they were hard to crack right off the grill, the squid was actually cuttlefish and still sandy, and the mussels didn’t cook right shell side up or down. The salmon was the best one on the grill and made the most sense. Though all in all we found the meat above more appetizing and when doing seconds avoided all the seafood section all together.

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There was also many cooked sides to choose from. The teriyaki chicken was a little on the sweeter side, it would have been nicer with some rice. The Korean japche noodles were bland alone, but best as another side to the barbecue meats.

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Under the “deep fried” section had “corn cakes” and “mochi”. The corn croquettes were both sweet and savoury, highlighting the natural sweetness of corn. We all agreed that this was our favourite and that we could eat 100 pieces of these. “Delightful” was the word that was tossed around.
The mochi was most enjoyable for its texture. A nice chew to go with that crispy first break into breading. Though all it all, it just tasted like you were eating empty carbs.

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The “Scallop kaarage” was over fried, you picked up more of the char flavour than the mild seafood one. And when you could taste it, the scallop tasted more like moulded fish, or something that started off frozen. We also looked for that distinctive soft and stringy scallop texture, but we never got it. It was like mash. Some tartar sauce would have been nice.
The “veggie spring roll” were average at best and oily at most, all I got was its crispy texture. It tasted like the filling was all bean sprouts. And as with the other deep fried items, this would have been better with a dip, in this case something sweet and sour, like the traditionally paired plum sauce.

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The “smelt” was fried end to end. The small fish was salty like anchovies, and just not for us.
The “deep fried gyoza” was listed under the “appetizer” section. It looked and tasted more like deep fried wontons with overly fried heavy and heavy edges. More like an oily cracker than a meat filled bundle. You couldn’t taste the filing or any thing past the wrapper.

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The regular gyoza was a lot better. It was nice to have it as expected, with its doughy wrapper covering it meat ball filling.
They had zucchini, carrot, and squash tempura. We stuck with the yam. This did come with a sauce, and in hind sight we cold have used it with the other deep fried foods above.

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They also had maki rolls, sashimi, cones, and nigiri by the piece which they labeled as “sushi”. But everyone knows you don’t fill up on rice and carbs when doing all you can eat. However I couldn’t pass up the ability to try their aburi sushi. “Aburi” is nigiri sushi with its fish topping partly grilled and partly left raw. This is often done so with a torch. “Aburi salmon with miso sauce”, “aburi tuna with miso sauce, “aburi Saba”, “aburi Thai with unagi sauce, and aburi hamachi”. They did not disappoint. For those like me, who like sushi, but don’t like the texture of sashimi, this is a way you get the best of both worlds with a tolerable texture. The sauce was like icing on the creamy fish.
The “chopped scallop” cone was regular and the spicy tuna underwhelming on its tiny single serving plate.

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For the dessert they had mango pudding and jello, both pre-made and both ready to be served in individual bowls. The mango pudding was full of sweet tropical mango flavour. Both it and the jello were great light and refreshing ends to finish on. The jello was cut into easy to handle squares, they had a good ratio of gelatine to water, that kept them firm. It could however have used a scoop of vanilla ice cream for that perfect bite. Similarly the mango pudding could have used a splash of evaporated milk for moisture.

As impressed as I was over the extensive menu, the staff had me less excited. There were enough of them to service the handful of tables that were occupied during our stay, and the work they were to perform didn’t involve conversation or much interaction. Yet we were often kept waiting. My guest wasn’t able to track down enough employees to take full advantage of the all you can drink fountain coke he order. Not that it was worth it, they called it coke but it must have been a no name make or flat, as it didn’t taste all that good, or like cola. Then during the first round, our cooked food order went missing with the need for them to make sure that we indeed didn’t get it. Though we didn’t understand what the big deal is, it is all you can eat, we can just order more. And when trying to get a new sheet to order of off, it was especially hard to gain attention. I could have sworn two separate staff members saw me, we met eyes, yet on both occasions they turned and walked away. I was even waving with both arms in the air. My five other guests can vouch for me that this was the perceived case. We then had a repeat with trying to get and pay off our bill. At one point we saw three staff members just congregating with their backs towards us, facing their hostess booth’s wall, with their visibility blocked off.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I will definitely come back because we didn’t get to try all of it. There was too much variety. I would suggest doing this one across two different settings. One time just for their barbecue aspect, the next for their sushi and Japanese appetizers. Both were good. All you can eat sushi and Korean BBQ for $30. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KYO
2993 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3J6
604-739-8868
kyobbq.com
Kyo Korean BBQ & Sushi House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gyu-Kaku Japanese Barbecue

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It was 2pm and we wanted all you can eat Korean BBQ. Most places close from 3-5pm for dinner prep. Our search for so open place eventually yielded “Gyu-Kaku”. They weren’t Korean BBQ and they weren’t all you can eat, but they had a really good Japanese BBQ and a great happy hour menu, which ended up being just as good and just as cost efficient. But I will get more into that later.

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The restaurant was the second floor of a building complex along Broadway. Their row of red flags flying marked the place. Though getting their would be tricky. The complex comes with its own parkade, it’s entrance was right off the main road, you would miss it if you didn’t know. Although there is sufficient parking right out front and around the corner during specified times.

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Inside, the restaurant is fairly new, with simple patterns and strong lines the restaurant looked modern. Brown and black all over. They had lamp shades branded with their logo, a Japanese quote in red and black splashed across the wall, and walls dedicated to the display of Polaroids. The instant photos were hung by clips and were strung up on a line. They were captured of staff members in their branded black tee uniforms and customers enjoying the space.

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Each seating arrangement was set up like a booth, benches on either ends of the attached table. Each table had its own heat source built into it and a water tap installed overhead. One was necessary for the other, for safety reassurances. All seats were arranged around the metal grill and the protective gold ring around it. Between tables were cut-out wire separators, they provided breathing space and the sense of privacy between seating arrangements. They also dual functioned as a way to post specials. Though this barrier only separated the table top space, you still had to worry about seating and the actions of others. We had to move down a booth because a fellow diner felt it appropriate to have her bare feet on the seat and encroach the personal bubble of my guest. That was not very appetizing.

Our server was friendly, he introduced himself by name, which isn’t typical at most Asian restaurants that I have been too. He was soft spoken and polite. He didn’t make small talk, but made sure to do laps around us in case we needed anything of him.

After taking our order he set the barbecue process up for us. He greased the rack with oil before allowing us to grill on it. And mid way through our meal, when we had over sullied the rack by burning too much meat on it, he removed it with tongs into a specially designed bucket. He then replaced it with a fresh clean grill plate and a fresh coat of oil for us to work with. This was repeated once again before our dessert course as well.

The menu was made up of various laminated and coloured signs. The pictures allowed you to see what you are getting. Coming during happy hour was an effective way to test out the menu without committing and paying too much. Our logic is, if the inexpensive stuff is good the more pricier stuff should be even better.

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We ordered several dishes as part of their happy hour deals. All the meat came raw and we cooked them as they arrived. Therefore I cannot guarantee the accuracy of meat to picture. I will blanket my post by saying the cooking process is just as important as the eating itself. The enjoyment we had and the time we took to put meat on grill, and to serve one another was almost just as satisfying as eating. Having to cook for yourself elongates the dining experience. You spend more time in the company of your guests. You spend more time socializing in between bites. You spend more time on one another.

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As for the food, everything was flavourful and if anything was over or under cooked, we only had ourselves to blame. Though we did feel that the meat looses a lot of its flavour once it is cooked through. However we were able to use the available sauces as an easy remedy of this. All the meat looked and tasted like good cuts, we cooked them to our ideal tenderness. This is defiantly a fun activity to engage in with larger groups. The more people around the grill, the more food, and the more fun.

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The “Chicken basil” would be a wise one to start with. Especially as the chicken was the least flavourful when compared to the others. Though it lacked flavour overall, it didn’t have enough time to properly marinade. It also didn’t have enough oil, this it constantly getting stuck on the grill. The chicken comes in either basil, spicy miso, or yuzu sauce. Basically, the three sauces everything else came in as well.

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“Filet mignon ponzu”.

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“Bistro hanger steak miso”.

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“Yaki-shabu tartar”.

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“Spicy pork”.

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The “Toro beef tare” was easy to identify because they referred to it as “beef bacon”. It was an accurately descriptive name.

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On top of happy hour they were also advertising their “yakiniku fest” from July 7 to September 7. On it was New York steak for cheap, so we had to order s serving. Despite all the deals, there were so many specials, that it was all so confusing to wrap our heads around.

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The “fried gyoza dumplings” was also part of happy hour. It was fried to order with a crispy skin. It was served with a nice sesame sauce for dipping. It had the same filling as the steamed gyoza.

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The Mushroom medley and Broccoli offered us a way to take a break from all the meat. A side of veggies. Both were served wrapped in tin foil and goes straight onto the grill. This was a little harder to cook perfectly, given we couldn’t see its colour change and we didn’t have a timer. Over cooked or not, our fault or not, we finished both.

We also had the “Happy hour set menu” at $49.95 for two. This saved us $13 on everything that it came with.

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Miso soup for two with cubes of tofu and sheets of seaweed.

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The “Gyu-kaku salad” was a mix of lettuce, shredded cabbage, daikon, cucumber slices, cherry tomato, and boiled egg. It wasn’t anything special, but given the amount of meat we went through, this was a nice break and refreshing pause.

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The “Steamed chilli dumplings” were delicious. Juicy pork coated in chewy dough, topped with chunky chilli, roasted garlic, and fresh green onions.

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The “Sukiyaki bibimbap” was your typical rice bowl cooked at your table. The server tosses everything together with a raw egg right before your eyes. He then presses the mixture against the bowl to further cook it. The stone bowl is heated and the rice continues to cook within it. This made for good filler. The rice was tasty and delaying the cooking process longer crispened at our table for a nice crunchy texture. However my guest stumbled upon a bone by way of tooth, it was an unpleasant surprise that turned him away from further scoops. It also really wasn’t great with the barbecue meats. It already had beef in it and it was already pretty tasty.

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Not on the specials menu, but on the regular one: one of my guests ordered the “sweet onion”. It was literally a chopped up raw onion for around $2. In hind sight, this wasn’t a bad order, but instead one that should have been ordered much sooner. Cooking it alongside the meat above would have lent both additional flavour. Instead this was ordered towards the end, and we watched him eat almost a whole, partially grilled onion by himself.

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The “Yaki onigri” was a solid brick of rice shaped like a rectangle. It was also part of the regular menu. It was meant to be cooked on the grill like everything else. However it being such a thick mound of rice, only the surrounding seeds toasted on the grill, and we had to remove the onigri prematurely before the seeds burnt. What we were left with was just steamed rice.

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I was impressed that even their desserts utilized the grill. The “Taiyaki pancake” was a sweet dough fish filled with red bean paste. We were given a new grill plate and instructed to set the fish down for two minutes to cook on both sides. It never went golden brown, went pale to black so we removed it from heat without a thorough cooking. The filling was whipped smooth red bean. It’s texture and taste is best likened to sweet refried beans.

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With all the heat from all the grills and the warmth of a hot day we also ordered ice cream to cool down. Much needed before we went back out to brave the heat of a summer’s day. The ice cream made for a great sauce with the red bean pancake. The black sesame tasted like roasted peanuts.

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The “Maple syrup gyu-kaku ice cream” was maple syrup and powdered malt mix over vanilla ice cream. Tasted exactly as it is described.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This was better than the all you can eat meal we were originally planning to go to. And the prices here came out to be better too: $23 per person for happy hour here, instead of the $25-27 per person for all you can eat else where. We had lots, but not the point of being stuffed, nor did we feel like we had to eat more than we could because it was all you can eat. This was a good amount of food, with a good variety of meats. And although they were seasoned similarly, they all looked different and tasted differently after cooking. And at $2-4 per plate, you can go wrong even if you didn’t like it. I would recommend this best on a cold day, as a nice way to warm up and enjoy an interactive meal with good friends. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GYU-KAKU
#201-950 W. Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Z 1K7
604-558-3898
gyu-kaku.com
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Hanwoori Korean Restaurant

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Tonight this was our destination for some cook-it-yourself Korean BBQ. The restaurant was pretty regular inside and out. Designed for function there was not much to describe in terms of aesthetics. Even the Christmas lights with its pine trim was kept up all year long for practicality. You turn it on to celebrate, otherwise it stays off the rest of the year. 

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Seating was either on a spacious cushioned booth or within an individual room, like a cubicle with four walls and a sliding door. The latter, a perfect solution for any large and especially rowdy party. But only a few seats came equipped with a table top stove, a prerequisite for the barbecue process. After all, they have plenty of other Korean cuisine classics if you weren’t keen on cooking your own meal, or wearing the scent of barbecue on you all day. 

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The menu showcased the various barbecue combinations first. The success of each was dependant on the number in your party or the cuts of meat you desired. In general such places only offer finer cuts of meat, so you end up paying for what you get. We chose the smallest of such combinations suggested for 2-3 diners. “BBQ combination A” which included prime beef ribs, sliced beef, chicken, and spicy pork marinated in their house special bbq sauce. 

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Along with all the red meat came various cooked vegetarian sides, a common sight at most Korean restaurants and a perk for dining at them. A simple broth and a green salad with shredded lettuce. We also each got a bowl of rice, served in a metal container with a lid. It helped to balance out all the protein, and give the base for the food you craved.

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Julienne pickled daikon and bean sprouts with shredded carrot and cucumber. 

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Boiled potato in a sweet sauce and pickled assorted vegetable including cucumber and radish. 

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Spicy kimchi with pickled cabbage and steamed broccoli with a brown tangy sauce.

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The cooking is done with the electric heat source, built right into the table, a covered hole with the dials to control the temperature located on the side of the table. After ordering their barbecue selection the server sets things up for you. The lid is replaced with a metal coil. A protective ring is placed around it, to prevent you from sticking your hand too close and burning yourself. 

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The meat arrives sorted into lumps on the same large plate. The prime beef rib was served on the bone, with sharpened scissors our server cuts things down to size. Rectangular cuts she then places directly on to the coil, after first greasing it with the tiny cube of butter provided. The meat starts to sizzle, it cooks quick, a few flips and you are ready to eat. It smells delicious. Using the tongs provided you serve each other from grill to plate. The above process is repeated yourself for the rest of the remaining meat. If you weren’t sure how to do it all before, the demo from the server helps. Half the dining experience is grilling yourself and conversing with your guest as you do. Though it does get troublesome as you can’t fully immerse yourself in enjoying the actual dining part of dinner. You are force to watch the rack in case things burn. Dropping chopsticks for tongs, having the food before you cool down, all in order to have meat continuously coming off the grill in a timely manner. Taking turns on cooking helps. But better yet, come with someone who actually enjoys the activity portion of Korean BBQ, someone who doesn’t mind serving you. 

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The short ribs were my favourite. I usually save the best for last, and this was definitely the best cut out of the four as part of the “BBQ Combo A”. But seeing as the server placed it on the grill for us, there was no going back now. Each piece was juicy with just the right amount of tenderizing fat. 

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Chicken with button mushrooms. 

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Sliced beef. 

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Spicy marinated pork. 

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My guest was keen on this Korean delicacy. “Yukhwae”, shredded raw beef marinated in seasoned sesame oil. Given that it was essentially just raw beef I was paying for, I was glad that there was some thought put into its presentation, though they do shortly mix it all together at your table. And when they do it all looks a little less appetizing. We paid $22.95 for raw ground beef, raw garlic, raw turnip, and raw egg. If you think about it, you can get lean ground beef from superstore for $3.89, though I am sure it is no where near as fresh as the serving we were having now. I did think it a little weird, but as an indiscriminate food blogger I go with the flow and am willing to try almost anything. (For the record I can’t do snails, sea cucumber, and wilted or soggy leafy green vegetables.) The shredded turnip provided some texture, a crunch; and the Yuzu leaves gave it some spice, more than just a sesame flavouring. We imagined it sweet, but it wasn’t. It tasted like how you would expect it to. It is like how you imagine eating raw beef would be, texturally. I personally didn’t like it as I am a textural eater and I need crunch in my savoury. This was all mash. We did not finish it. Seeing as there was already an egg in the mix, my guest took the leftovers home to make hamburgers with.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The activity was enjoyable and the seasonings on everything was good. If we didn’t like anything, we only had ourselves to blame, as we were the ones to do the actual cooking. The restaurant itself was not a stand out for me. Aside from the rooms it was all pretty standard and all available at many other like Korean restaurants, featuring the possibility for barbecue. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HANWOORI
5740 Imperial Street, Burnaby BC, V5J 1G2
604-439-0815
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Sura Korean BBQ Restaurant Richmond

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This is my first request post. I love it when someone invites me to visit their favourite restaurant, and I in turn am able to give an insightful review on it. I have not lighten my opinions, nor have I steered my writing in any way. Like myself this is written in utter honesty, the only way I know how to be and how to write.

We almost didn’t get past the congested underground parking of Aberdeen Mall. Tight corners, tighter stalls, intersections with no rules, and pedestrians who didn’t care where they walked. It has certainly lost my future business. I was stuck behind a stop sign waiting for the endless line of cars entering and exiting. Neither rows allowing a parked car to reverse from its stall. The term gong show came to mind.

When we finally stopped, a lengthly walk around the newer, still spacious mall was required in search for our lunching destination. We wished for a mall directories readily available between busy crossroad. The restaurant’s entrance was through the mall. A muted exterior with simple lines, its name in block font, and its showcased menu on display to peak your interest. With an open doorway leading to an open space, you were allowed a peer in before you made any commitment to eat. We were greeted upon entry. A unison hello in what I can only assume was Korean.

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The room was scattered with lowered tables and attached benches. A row against the wall to ceiling windows, and another paralleled a few feet away. Both rows were winding to match the curvature of the space. The tables were all joined together, a continuos bench with table tops built in intermittently. No barriers, no back support, a clear view of your neighbours an arm’s length away. This allowed for versatile seating. Couples and family or large parties of ten. For a bit more distance, choose the booths. They were staggered with patrons sitting back to back as apposed to side by side in the row before. And these were separated by a barrier too far to lead on, but far enough to create separation. Each dark wood bench was patterned with coloured cushions in an alternating pink, yellow, and blue. Cushions that had actual bulk, and actually gave bottom support from the solid hard wood beneath. I suspect this would not be for long through continuous use. In fact at the table next to ours they doubled up on pillow consumption for that added luxury. Each table arrangement had a covered cooking coil and a metal tap, to cook your food and put out any would be fires.

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The room as a whole was new, a clean space with a modern design. Void of artwork or contrast, it allowed the view from the windows and the vaulted ceilings to speak for themselves. We appreciated having a view, but not necessarily what it was off. The entrance to the mall, an empty space of tiled concrete and plant life creeping up from between the cracks. We wished for some panache. A plant, a bench, a water feature. Instead it was this, a sad nothingness, so we people watched those at the restaurant across the way.

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I was impressed by the utensils. The usual metal indicative of Korean cuisine, but painted in a dull brassy gold. It felt fancy, and consistent with all the dish ware that matched one another.

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The menu was easy to navigate, with lots of coloured photos, and clear defined sections, well designed for novices like ourselves. Though we did wish for were more details, what was in the dish? in English. We were in specifically for the barbecuing of Korean BBQ, only to be disappointed by the limited selection. Given “BBQ” is in the title we had hope for a feature, a lunch special, a nod to its name and respect to the promise it proposed. We came in wanting to barbecue, wanting to do it ourselves, wanting it at our table; all as part of our dining experience. In reality there were more kitchen cooked dishes than BBQ items available. And looking around of the room no one else was barbecuing. It almost seemed like the coils and taps built in were wasted. The five options that were available were pricer cuts of finer meats. At $28 for the least expensive portion we decided to split our ordering between hot food and BBQ.

The set courses peaked our interest and seemed like the best value. Two courses at either $15 or $20 per person. Having it required a minimum of two orders that may be subjected to change seasonally, and is only available until 3pm. It seemed like a lot of rules, with no substitutions allowed and nothing off this list could be ordered separately. A take it or leave it sort of deal. A new one, where other establishments are bending over backwards to make it your way. So instead we walked away from the obvious good deal to order less and share more.

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At first glance our $28 portion seemed small. This was not enough to feed two as our server mentioned. Though seeing the soup, sides, and rice that it came with; then trying a piece we began to see the value in what we were having. The coil was heated, a ring around the grill was put into place, and oil was brushed on. The heat source for cooking functioned doubly as a heat source for warming, given our sandwiching between it and the chill of the window pressed against us.

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“Royal Galbil”, beef short ribs. The meat came prescored, arranged delicately as a whole, with scissors accompanying to cut things down to size. We voted that the “farm girl” in our group would do the cooking, being most familiar with beef. Only to have our server walk by and settle in to help us do it “right”. She was concerned that the smaller portions we precut would burn quickly and that we weren’t getting the most for our money. As a result she stood by the end of our table and began cooking for us on the spot. We felt spoiled with our own at table chef. She stopped to flip our meat and stayed to supervised. Such personal service. She kept the meat whole, only cutting when it was time to divide it between three. She even went a step further, doling out portions on to each plates. We were surprised how quick the whole barbecue process was, so fast that you missed out on the action and could have easily burned your meat. The beef short ribs was really well seasoned, with a simple hint of salt. All its delicious flavour was from the premium meat.

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Our order came with a couple things. A few mushroom caps came on the original plate, and our chef bought us extra, allowing everyone to have two. We were informed that when the caps were done they would be filled with water. It was here that we wondered how we would survive without her supervision. How do other guests barbecue without written instructions, or without being given an explanation from their server prior to. We were just luckily that ours was attentive.

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Quail’s egg, cuts of beef, whole garlic cloves, seasonings, and slices of jalapeño in a dark sauce. All this in a small metal bowl was allowed to boil at the edge of our grill. Once cooked the ingredients were delicious as is and the drippings made for a good dip. We just wished that the sauce cooked quicker so that we could have used it with the meat. It would have also been nice to get additional vegetables on top of the mushroom caps, more to grill more to enjoy with the short ribs. Especially if this was or only order.

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Our BBQ selection also came with a full order of soup. As with the others we were pleasantly surprised by this bonus, as the menu didn’t mention that we would get more than just the beef. In this spicy red broth was tofu, beef, zucchini, onion, enoki mushrooms, daikon, and jalapeño for spice. One of my guest declared this to be his favourite. The spice had a good kick and it ate like a meal with all the chopped vegetables at the bottom. Well cooked the vegetables were no where near mushy, instead they absorbed all the broth and made for a tasty bite. Eaten with the bowl of rice included it at like a meal.

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As per all Korean meals, this too came with four sides, and a bonus two salads. We didn’t know what was included with which order, but we enjoyed it all just the same. Bean sprouts with red and green peppers, soften potato chunks, leeks in sauce, and kimchi. Each was bland, but made for a good add on to our entrees. A change of taste and a break from texture.

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A red spicy salad flavoured with kimchi. And a raw salad used to be eaten as is, like a side of rice.

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“Potato pancake”. This was a safe order. Crispy on the outside, chewy potato on the inside. Good, but it tasted like nothing more than a breakfast hash brown. I wanted ketchup. Our server suggested the seafood version the next time we would be in.

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“Seafood rice cake”. Rice cakes with vegetables, mussels, squid, and prawn. We choose the more adventurous seafood order over the possibility of beef. Our server was once again attentive, she checked our spicy tolerance. I don’t like spicy foods as I feel it hides the dish behind a numb tongue. Even with a bright redness and a heavy coating of sauce, this was just right. Though the thicken sauce did make it a challenge to remove the tails off the prawns and to pry the mussels from their shells. Especially given our use of the flat and heavy metal chopsticks. The gummy texture of rice cakes is not for everyone. It’s takes multiple chews to get through and almost resembles rubber. I am one of those who likes it for that very reason.

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“Stone bowl bibimbap”. I failed to snap a picture pre mixing, it bothered me. The rice was mixed on a cart in front of us. The mixing cooks the egg and the heat from the hot stone bowl fries the rice to a crisp. Although the rice was full of julienned vegetables, it was tasteless when eaten in conjunction with the other dishes before it. It unfortunately lost its taste in the mix, therefore I cannot give a fair assessment on this. It was hearty and impressively filled with numerous components.

Our server was really the highlight of our meal. She made the experience and made the meal memorable. She went that extra mile, giving us a run down on how to eat, with what utensils, and even off of which plates. She offered wooden chopsticks as an option in case the metal ones in their place proved to be impossible. And after keenly seeing us struggle with with grill and our meat cutting she stepped in to cook for us. This meant we got the best out of our barbecue, a lesson that would allow us to replicate the process in the future. And then when it was time to pay we appreciated how she didn’t bus the table when the bill was dropped off. She let us figure out our math, and cleaned up only after we left. Very professional, I wish I caught her name for proper recognition.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The meal was without a doubt delicious, though the price debatable. Other than the set meal this would be an special occasion lunch or dinner. Not necessarily something you would indulge in on a day to day. We ate quickly going through everything, with a lot left over. It felt like we have tried everything and were perfectly content at the end. Though the spicy flavours had me wanting dessert, something sweet. Shame none was offered, no menu given out, or maybe there was none to be had? We ordered four dishes and had the number of dish ware tripled on us. Shame the occasion was soured by the having to park at the beginning and the needing to escape the lot at the end. Don’t deny your cravings.

SURA RICHMOND
4151 Hazelbridge Way Unit 1830, Richmond BC
surakoreancuisine.com
Sura Korean BBQ Restaurant Richmond 수라 水刺間 on Urbanspoon

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