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Category: New Westminster Page 1 of 3

The Taco Factory

We had a bad experience with the taco restaurant that it was before, so was curious to see how this reincarnation fared today. And to be honest if it wasn’t for the new staff, my partner wouldn’t have ventured in for the first time in years, and then come back with me in this post.

Located in New Westminster this place isn’t necessarily a destination, but a nice option for Mexican cuisine in the area. Their slogan is “Where authentic is created” and with the Spanish music and the mother and daughter team working front of house and kitchen, I was optimistic.

This was furthered along by the very enticing menu. Everything was listed with vivid photos and well written descriptions. You choose your foundation from tacos, tortas, tostadas, burritos, gorditas, quesadillas, flautist, and sopes. Then you pick your desired protein from the list off the back. Carne asada, pollo asado, carnitas, chorizo, al pastor, and pescado. Or flank steak, grilled chicken, slow roasted pulled pork, Mexican sausage, pork marinated with onion and pineapple, and battered deep fried basa. They also have slow roasted chicken meat and chunks of lamb listed, but both were not available today. You can either keep your platter protein consistent, or mix and match 2-3 within your order. For example, if you get 3 tacos, you can have each one be different: a beef taco, one in chicken, and the last with pork. Meaning between our two orders we were able to try all the available above, minus the fish.

My partner had the three 4inch tacos, in soft shell corn tortillas. The regular order is garnished with white onion and cilantro, however he requested the without. This is the edited version, and despite mentioning no onion and cilantro due to dietary discomfort, our server forgot to mention it to her mother/chef. So she had to bring the tray back to the kitchen and had both picked out, and then brought back to us. What came back was grilled chicken on a tortilla, slow roasted pulled pork, and pork marinated in onion and pineapple. They didn’t look like much without its greens, luckily it came with two sauces.

You get your own carafes of sauces to use as sparingly or as excessively as you wish. The red was hot, it came without a warning, but I guess the colour is telling. The green was tangy and mild, it gave the tacos some kick. But not enough to hide how bland the chicken was. The pulled pork was better, it had a nice char to it. But my favourite of the three was the pork with pineapple, and its tangy barbecue-like sauce.

Similar, but with two 6 inch corn tortillas fried and piled high, were the tostadas that I had and preferred. Here, I also had my choice of proteins, but a lot more toppings along with it. I had the flank steak cut up into small cubes, and the ground Mexican sausage with some heat. The chorizo was more fulsome with chunks of potato, and the steak hard and over cooked, with less flavour. Topped with sour cream, lettuce, cilantro, and fresh cheese. All together it had the texture of a hard shell taco, and tasted more like tex-mex with the cheese and sour cream. It was everything I liked about “Taco Time”, but elevated and grown up.

I just questioned the side of fries that came with both orders, they felt out of place with or without ketchup. A side of dirty rice or seasoned potato chunks would have been more complimentary and more authentic, like their slogan advertised. Although they did add to the great presentation on the boards.

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.
Not my first choice for tacos, but at their fair prices, and with use of quality ingredients, I won’t shy away from a return visit either. A viable quick meal option when in New Westminster. Don’t deny your cravings.

TACO FACTORY
418 E Columbia St, New Westminster, BC V3L 3W9
(604) 553-0334
thetacofactory.ca

$4 happy hour specials at Match Eatery

It was a rainy day, and we spent it at home, sleeping the weather away. And now after 9pm we rolled out of bed in search for some dinner. We decided to take advantage of the timing and head down to “Match Eatery”. Located at “Starlight Casino” in New Westminster, they have a pretty decent happy hour menu. The same food and drink specials you get during 3-6pm, are also available from 9pm to close. A tidbit I learned from another recent visit. In fact, a few photos in this post are from that visit, with better light.

The bar was busier this Saturday night, with all its televisions and surround sound systems dedicated to a live broadcast of boxing. There was a television screen no matter where you looked, and the booming announcer’s voice was hard to avoid. You couldn’t miss the literal blow by blow. The tense energy from the heated match helped to set a more lively vibe.

We were taken on a trek, past the lengthy island bar that lit the way, and given one of the many spacious booths that lined the open room. A comfy round all the way towards the back, by the largest television screen. I liked it and all the other available booths, the more comfortable seating made you want to linger in the space for longer. Feeling more relaxed and therefore eating and drinking more.

Please excuse the quality of my photos. I took them in the dark of the room, as I didn’t want to distract from the match, or the overall late night ambiance, with a bright light.

We basically ordered one of everything off the happy hour menu, minus the pretzel with warm cheese dip and mustard. All food items are $4, available for you to order one at a time. This, instead of 3 to a set like they have on the regular menu. Even as a slider this was a lot for $4. The “Meet me at the hop” is a 100% fresh Canadian beef car hop burger, with American cheese, house mayo, and iceberg lettuce; all between a brioche bun. Each slider is served with a handful of house made old bay kettle chips. The chips were perfection, served in large slices, just the way I like them. You bite through each lightly salted crisp, enjoying the texture just as much as you do it’s flavour. As for the burger it reminded me of a whopper with its sauce, minus the tomato and replacing it with a strong and melty American cheese instead. A solid four biter, no complains.

But between the two slider options, I would recommend the chicken. But at this price, just get one of each. This is the “Crank up your honky tonk” Southern fried chicken sandwich topped with their secret sauce, ice berg lettuce, and sweet pickles; between the same sweet brioche bun as above. This too is served with house made, old bay kettle chips. I would recommend ordering either just for the chips. The chicken burger tasted as impressive as it looked. Plenty of crispy batter on a substantial amount of chicken to crunch though. It was good quality white meat, tangy slaw, and creamy heat. Delicious, exactly what I expected from a fried chicken sandwich.

The menu reminded us that “Life’s short, eat more tacos” so we obliged by trying one of each available on the happy hour menu. The “Mole chicken” is a food truck style taco prepared with fresh slaw, pico de Gallo, chipotle cream, and mexi-fries. This was a familiar flavour with zesty heat and runny dressing. A little too spicy for my partner, but with enough slaw it does balance things out with its freshness.

Between the two tacos I preferred the “Crispy fish” one. This too was a food truck style taco with fresh slaw, but chilli cream and fruit salsa, over the crispy fried white fish, and side of crispy mexi-fries. The mexi fries were pretty bland, a dip in ketchup is how I preferred them. The fish had a nice crunch, it had just as much flavourful seasoning as the chicken above, but less liquid running down your mouth with every bite. I liked the surprise sweetness and tropical feel from the mango chunks. They also have helped to dull the heat of the chilli cream. Glad I liked it, as we got two. Our server accidentally brought us the wrong order, and seeing as he can’t take it back once it hits the table, he let us have it for free.

The menu was cleverly crafted. Each item came with a side of potato, other than fries. Therefore if you are craving some, like my partner was, the only way to get it is to spend another $4 for their “Dirty fries”. These are hand cut fries tossed in Cajun butter, topped with chip dip, Parmesan cheese, hot sauce, and crispy bacon. These was so much going on with this that you didn’t need ketchup. Each shoestring fry different, with the above dusted over it in various combinations. Great with beer given how salty it was with the parm.

To drink my partner had a 16oz craft draft for $5. He had a choice between IPA, pale ale, and amber ale. He went pale with “Steamworks”. I went with the 1/2 price wine. Any size any selection of wine went for 50% off. Pictured is the Shiraz Cabernet by “Saint and Sinner” from Canada. A nice rich red that paired well with all our salted and fried, heavier tapas.

Fearing it wouldn’t be enough food, my partner also ordered the “Italian sausage rigatoni” from off of the regular menu. Rigatoni in a house made tomato sauce with roasted Italian sausage and whole cherry tomatoes. Topped with a dollop of Boursin cheese and shaved Parmesan, and served with a triangle of garlic loaf. The pasta was a comforting portion. Like everything else this too was not bland. Plenty of zesty sausage, juicy tomatoes, tangy sauce, and herbaceous salted cheese to keep you curating your bites. My only critique would be, smaller pieces of the above. Sausage shreds and tomato halves to better enjoy with the pasta. You want the ingredients smaller than the large noodle tubes. And there was pretty much a 1:1 ratio between sliced up meat balls and the chewy pasta noodle.

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? – Yes.
Everything was a lot better than a thought it would be, for a late night menu. Great staples, all at amazing prices. You get so much value, that I would absolutely recommend their happy hour, and come back for more myself. This serves as really great sobering up food, ideal with heavy drinking and a late night vibe. Don’t deny your cravings.

MATCH
350 Gifford St., New Westminster, BC, V3M 7A3
(604) 777-8008
matchpub.com

Starlight Casino

Today we were gathered at New Westminster’s “Starlight Casino”. Here, to get a more intimate look at this entertainment property. From two of its anchor restaurants to a game of baccarat in their salon room.

For the visual version, check out my latest vlog video, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Our night began at “Kirin” for some fine Chinese cuisine. A whole suckling pig, lobster, and traditional dim sum desserts, to name a few. For more detail on what we ate, click the link below.

Kirin Banquet

 

As we nibbled we were also given a show by “Shang Noodle House” (also located within “Starlight”). They had their national noodle pulling champion from China, putting on a demonstration for us. She won the title 10 years ago, before she came to work with them here. From a ball of dough she pulled and stretched the round, repeating the motions again and again until she had noodle threads so thin and so soft.

We were then given a chance to touch it and hold it for ourselves. Although I wished there was time of us to try the pulling motion for ourselves, as well.

The final product was then deep fried for everyone to try. Crispy and crumbly, it melted in your mouth and tasted like corn flakes.

After dinner number one, we moved the party to the “Match Eatery” and pub, next door. We were given a tour of all their party rooms before finding ourselves in their “Bud room” with our own bar, pool table, and television screens. For the run down of “Match” and all that they have to offer as the place to party in New Westminster, visit the dedicated blog post below.

Match Eatery, Starlight Casino

From there it was a quick stop at the casino’s “Red Bar”. A bar and club of sorts. Every night, after 9pm its doors open and the party energy within spills on the actual casino floor. Here they have non-ticketed live bands playing every Friday and Saturday. Rotating musicians playing until 1pm and a live DJ taking over until they close at 2pm.

To immerse ourselves in the space further we enjoyed a “French 75”. A classic cocktail with gin, lemon juice, and sparkling wine.

With drink in hand we then rounded out the night playing baccarat, which all of us have never done so before. We were treated to a two round tournament in one of “Starlight’s “ prestigious salons. It is only open by special request with $25,000 buy-in to start and a $500 minimum to play. For those who request the salon, you are treated to your own concierge, they help with any requests you may have, and serve sparkling wine to help celebrate a win, or drown your sorrows in liquor.

The following are instructions on how to play baccarat, from what I retained. Naturally, there are a lot more nuisances to the game, but this is all I needed to get me through the first few rounds, where I started hot and fizzled out quick once my luck turned.

Each round is 20 hands. The goal of each hand is to get to 9. Aces are worth 1, face cards and 10s are 0. For example if you get a king and a 5, your total is 5 and another card is pulled trying to get to 9. The banker doesn’t draw on 7 or more, and the player will always draw on 5 or less. Either can only have up to 3 cards. You don’t actually hold any of the cards, the dealer places everything before them. A hand for the banker and one for the player. Your goal is to place your bet on whether you think the banker or the player would win. We were each given $2500 in chips to play with and one by one we busted. The last one standing won a gift card.

Thus, our night ended in us learning a whole lot more about the casino as a whole: sampling all the food options, checking out the entertainment possibilities, and trying our hand at the games. And yet there is still so much more we didn’t get to see and do. Definitely a great place for your next night out. And for those looking to go all out, they have shuttle service from the skytrain to the casino and back again, so you can leave your car and worries at home.

STARLIGHT CASINO
350 Gifford St., New Westminster, BC, V3M 7A3
(604) 777-8008
matchpub.com

Match Eatery, Starlight Casino

“Match Eatery” is party central in New Westminster, and we got a full look at all they have to offer. Not only do they boast a large island bar and plenty of booth seats, ideal for any game or match viewing; but they also have 5 different private rooms to cater to any occasion or clientele. We would visit them all, before hosting our own party in the “Bud room”.

The first room was more like a whole private restaurant. A full bar, several tables, and private washrooms; giving guests the ability to rent out a whole restaurant for themselves and 100 of their best friends. But more realistically, the ideal venue for a work function.

The “Lounge” got its name, given the ability for guests here to watch any game in comfort. Individual couches set up facing the ceiling to wall television screen, much like a theatre. For additional fun is a giant jenga and giant connect four that you can play with as well.

My favourite room was the “Smirnoff” room, named for its pronounced branding. This was a sealed off room, and with the door closed: sound proof. Here, you can have your own DJ and convert a part of the room into a dance floor. Reserving it is pretty much like renting out your own club with private bar and washroom. Given, the upscale appeal of the place, they have a specific menu to match. Not just bar snacks and finger foods like what we had below, but canapés like bocconcini and tomato skewers, instead.

Tonight we were in the “Bud room”, similar to the room above in that it was branded with everything “Budweiser”. A Budweiser bar with bottles on display and a dedicated bartender, their logo on the pool table, and Budweiser beers in Budweiser buckets at every table. This is the ideal room for a smaller party, and the most popular one to reserve. Great for a gathering with two television screens to catch any match on.

The following is what we had: a great sampling of their regular and happy hour menu, each with a whimsical name. “Ain’t no thing like a chicken wing”. Classic deep fried pub-style wings, dry rubbed in salt and pepper. But also available in hot, xo sauce, bbq, and honey garlic. Served with celery sticks & ranch dip.

The “Nacho average nachos” was a grandiose platter with a mound of chips topped with jack cheese, cheddar, their house-made cheese sauce, jalapeños, black olives, and green onions. Served with an edible bowl of salsa, sour cream, and house-made guacamole. This was the vegetarian version, but for $4 more you can add taco beef or mole chicken to your order. Even without it, this was a hearty serving, plenty of layers and lots of dip to keep you going back for chip after chip.

“No Bib Dry Ribs”, named for the promise that you will keep your shirt clean with their salt and pepper dusted pork ribs. It was a little on the dry side, as intended, but it left me wanting a tangy or creamy dip to give it some moisture and flavour.

“Squid pro quo” was heavy breaded calamari, fried jalapeños, red pepper, and diced red onion; all served with tzatziki for dipping. A solid order, but I could have personally used less breading and more chewy squid.

I liked the gummy sweet chilli sauce on the “Shanghai Express” crispy chicken bites. And the black and white sesame seeds and deep fried noodles offered some crunch. An easy to like and share appetizer.

“You had me at Pepperoni”, a double pepperoni pizza with roasted garlic, pepperoncini peppers, and cheese on a honey-sesame crust. The crust was the best part, it ate like bread sticks. It and the hot peppers adding a new dimension to the classic pepperoni pizza

“Mamma Mia- Did Someone day margherita?” “Match’s” version of the classic with roasted tomatoes, bocconcini, and pesto was a little saltier; and had a lot more flavour than a regular margherita pizza, thanks to the zesty pesto. This one is Vegetarian friendly.

The “Bbq chicken pizza” was mole chicken, bbq sauce, pickled red onion, cilantro, mozzarella, and cojita cheese. Classic sweet and spicy bbq sauce paired with tangy onion and plenty of cheese.

We also had a few happy hour food specials, that I didn’t get to try tonight. But having heard that they were all $4 each, I came back shortly after, to try the extent of that menu myself. For that review, come back for tomorrow’s post.

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 would definitely recommend their happy hour specials to any one who loves a good deal, and the property in general if you are looking for a lively spot to watch a game at or have a great evening within. The party definitely starts here. Don’t deny your cravings.

MATCH
350 Gifford St., New Westminster, BC, V3M 7A3
(604) 777-8008
matchpub.com

Kirin Banquet

We were gathered at “Kirin” in New Westminster for a more intimate look at the popular fine dining Chinese restaurant; as well as the whole Starlight Casino property it is a part of. (For the full review of that, visit the link below.)

Our evening began in one of Kirin’s private rooms, towards in the back. Vaulted ceilings with large lanterns, that bathed the room in a glow. The light cast, matched the orange of the walls and the hue of the carpet underfoot.

We all took a seat at individual tables, with tea and orange juice for each. Then one by one our banquet feast came. With each share-style platter: we took photos, it was divided, portions were served, and we ate to try, (knowing there would be a second meal to follow).

The first course began with “Roasted whole suckling pig”. A whole baby pig filleted, with crackling skin. It was a show stopper with its blinking LED eyes. Here, we would not get any of the pork, but did enjoy the skin as the centre to a white bun canapé with cucumber, green onion, and a salty and sweet brown sauce. It was a delicious starter, but I couldn’t help but ache for some of the actual pork meat to go with it.

Next was another impressive looking platter. “Live lobster in puréed squash soup served with spinach noodle”. Two whole lobsters with plenty of meat. The crustaceans were naturally sweet, so you mostly tasted them, and none of the additional flavours from the squash. It could use some more seasoning, or at least at little more salt. Similarly, the spinach noodle that was underneath the lobster needed more flavour. It had a wonderful hue and a great texture with the squash paste coating it, it just wasn’t tasty enough for my preference.

Next, was one of their new dishes. “Prawn and pork wrapped in flat rice noodle topped with puréed truffle”. It was an interesting interpretation. It reminded me of dim sum with the pork and prawn bundled together. And also like fish maw soup with the texture of the gummy rice noodle wrap that surrounded both. The side of crisp broccoli florets offered a nice crunch. So all I was missing was the truffle. Because if the menu goes out of its way to mentioned truffle, you are looking for truffle.

Next was “sautéed beef tenderloin cube with black pepper and basil”. Yet another stunning presentation. Meaty chunks of beef and onion with cabbage at the centre of a fruit and vegetable heart. Thin slices of cucumber, tomato, and oranges arranged around the savoury like a heart. Tasty enough, but it would be nice to have the latter tie into the beef and onion more.

For dessert it was a collection of “Chef’s special dim sum dessert”. The room enjoyed the “Glazed deep fried dough delight with walnut and duck egg yolk”. Majority of the guests liked the fact that it melted in your mouth. I didn’t like the chalky finish and how powdery it was. It would have also been nice to have more nuts like the walnut to chew through and a lot more of the egg yolk flavour to savour.

The deep fried sesame seed ball had a lovely crispy and chewy shell. Served fresh, it had a steaming, thick glob of sweetened mung bean paste at its core.

My favourite of the desserts was the “Fruit mochi”. Chunks of cantaloupe and honey dew in coconut cream, surrounded by a wonderfully gummy shell.

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? – Yes.
Best enjoyed with a large group, not necessarily somewhere I would come for quick and easy Chinese food. This was definitely a feast and for an occasion. Don’t deny your cravings.

KIRIN
Starlight Casino, 350 Gifford Street, New Westminster BC, V3M 7A3
604-528-8833
kirinrestaurants.com

Dim Sum at Kirin New Westminster

We had relatives in town and my family took them out for dim sum at “Kirin”. My dad is a fan of “Kirin”, but not the Cambie location due to several brushes with bad service, so a drive out to New Westminster was required today. He liked the finer dining restaurant for its finer details. The thought put into their food presentation, the more attentive service, the overall cleanliness of the space, the free parking on premises; and how the food wasn’t too salty or sweet, but seemed to cater to everyone’s taste. And our meal even ended with a luke warm cloth for wiping up after. I am sure it was meant to be hot given the metal container they were rolled up and stacked in, and the matching tongs that were used to deliver them into out out reached hands.

Our sever was also friendly, not common at most Chinese restaurants. He bantered in Cantonese and wore a smile on this face. Although this might be a different experience on a busier day. Today this was an easy drive on a Tuesday, with less traffic on the road and in the restaurant.

We were seated at one of their many round tables with a glass lazy Susan at its centre. An ideal set up for the easy sharing of small plates, amongst our party of 6. White table cloth over a peach, cloth napkins folded into a peaked cone. And there we sat in light conversation, as the meal began with no one wanting to order. No one wanted to come across as being too forward, or to have the responsibility of ordering for everyone else. There was the passing around of the menu, and the reassurance that no one cared what they would be eating. All until my dad took charge, ordering dim sum staples like “ha gao” and “sui mai”. I tried ordering a few items based on photos posted online, however it wasn’t available at this location and neither were items in the photos pictured on their in house menu. No explanation was given for the false advertising in the latter. None-the-less the following is what we were able to order, in the order of which it came. And everything took longer to come, as it is made fresh to order.

“Steamed shrimp dumplings”. Chunked prawn within a starchy coating, tasty like it always is.

“Beef tendon braised in spicy sauce”. You eat this for its firm gelatine-like texture. Fully coated with a thick syrup-like glaze, seasoned with a slow to creep heat that flavours the dish fully.

Similar in texture was the “Steam chicken feet and gluten in black bean sauce.” But both had more of a soften, rubbery texture with the scrunched up skin on the chicken feet and the folded sheets of the gluten.

The “Sticky rice with pork and shredded scallop, wrapped in lotus leaf” had more filling that most sticky rice bundles I have opened up.

The “Deep fried eggplant stuffed with minced prawn in black bean sauce” was the table’s favourite, as it was the first dish to be cleared. This was cut in halves at the table, for easy sharing. Minced prawn meat formed like a ball and steamed like meatloaf with a similar foamy texture.

The “Spareribs steamed with chopped garlic” were easy to pop into your mouth and have your tongue and teeth do all the work, tearing the typically soft meat and cartilage from bone.

“Steamed prawn and Sakura farm premium pork dumpling topped with flying fish roe”. You could absolutely taste the quality of the meat used in this fulsome dumpling. Definitely one of the better renditions I have had.

“Pork neck bone, peanut and fried fish congee”. This was a nice warming way to end our meal. Lightly flavoured by pork and topped with shredded iceburg lettuce and peanuts for crunch; although there are already plenty of cooked peanuts within this, but those were quick to crumble under the pressure of your tongue. I also got a few of the bones that I ate clean, the meat had no seasoning; but was still the most flavourful element in the bowl. Plus it offered some texture to chew through.

Worth noting, the higher price point comes with additional service. I had my plate switched out twice during our 1 hour meal, and my bowl once. Although each time it was done abruptly by one of managers in a suit.

 

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.
Everything was tasty, but I have had other dim sums just as good, for less. I wouldn’t necessary make the commute just for dim sum. However if my family is inviting and paying, you can definitely expect to see me here again. Although my dad was very please by how reasonable the cost of the total was today. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KIRIN
Starlight Casino, 350 Gifford Street, New Westminster BC, V3M 7A3
604-528-8833
kirinrestaurants.com

Piva

A girlfriend and I have been meaning to check out this place. She lives in New West, and the travel for me to here from home is a lot closer than me going downtown. So when the stars aligned we came to “Piva” for some modern Italian fare.

Immediately the decor stood out from anything else in downtown New West. There was an emphasis on the “modern” with vaulted ceilings, marble table tops; and single bulbs hanging from the exposed piping above. We sat in the lounge within eye line of glossiness of the golden bar that went sky high. Comfortable in faux leather scoop back seats, we surrounded a circular three person table top. The bar was well stocked, offering diners a place to park themselves at, sitting in front of their black tile bar top. The kitchen on the dining room side featured white tiles. White to match the chefs in their uniforms, visible from the open window pass. This feature was highlighted by the restaurant’s name in neon yellow.

Our server was just fantastic, he was charismatic with great energy. Really engaging with great recommendations, asking questions to help direct us towards a delicious meal. He even took interest in my photo taking, helping to curate a few shots. Including this one with the bottle and glasses of bubbles for us each. Although, another server did warn us to get on to eating, as the marble table tops do tend to help cool down the food quicker.

When our decision was split between the “calamari steak” or the summer special octopus, our server suggested the latter as it was the more photo-worthy. It was, and we ate it with no regrets. “Grilled octopus” seasoned with a smoked paprika maple glaze and served with corona bean, braised garlic, spinach, and pickled fennel. The octopus was plenty tender, served as a tentacle you cut off slices from, piece by piece. I wasn’t too excited by the vegetables it was served with; they offered no flavour, simply a change in texture from chewy to crispy.

Next our choice of pizza was between the sweet and tangy duck and fig or the “Modern Italian” that was recommended. In hind sight we should have went with our first choice, it’s flavour would have been a nice change of pace from the others, with their similar tomato base.

But the “Modern Italian” was still a fragrant thin crust pizza, done classically with a classic flavour. Roast game hen, capicola, braised garlic alfredo, sweet onion, smoked caciocavallo, and arugula pine nut pesto. I liked the blobs of pesto scattered about. It offered variation, the large onion rings gave the pizza a certain fresh quality, where as the chicken was a little bland. Each pizza slice was a little too heavy to feed directly into your mouth without it drooping, yet very difficult to cut with fork and knife. A slice was good, but a whole pizza, a little too monotonous in flavour.

To round our meal off with some vegetables we had the vegetarian gnocchi. Chewy balls of dough paired nicely with a collection of crisper vegetables. Eggplant, broccolini, tomato, chickpea, cipollini onion, and artichoke; with roasted lemon to flavour. Sadly all the tomato based flavours had me wishing for some alfredo instead.

 

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.
Definitely the nicest restaurant in downtown New Westminster, giving you a reason to look out of downtown Vancouver for your next night out. And best of all it is conveniently adjacent to the skytrain, should you choose to drink. They do have a great cocktail selection to tempt you with, including the “bagpipes in a Ferrari” that caught my attention for its name alone. You will see me back for this one. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

PIVA
787 Columbia Street, New Westminster, V3M 1B6
604-522-0221
pivarestaurant.ca
Piva Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

North Noodle House

My guest for the evening decided that we should try out more restaurants in New Westminster. One, it being her home turf. Two, there are lots of new restaurants opening up in the area. And three, I really haven’t covered much in New West. Though unfortunately we chose Monday as the day of our meet up, and there really isn’t much open or open late on a Monday in New West (that isn’t a chain). So to be honest, this wasn’t our first choice, however a good one for anyone looking for a quick Northern Chinese meal enroute, given its location right on the New Westminster skytrain platform

Naturally it wasn’t a very large restaurant or one that was really ornate. A few red and gold lamps hung for authenticity purposes, otherwise it was simply a gathering of white tables and black chairs. We were given a table at the very back, adjacent to the single stall washroom, overlooking the kitchen from the door left ajar. There, we saw one chef kneading the dough that would soon become the noodles and dumplings we would later enjoy.

I asked my guest to order for me. I told her to order a few dishes for us to share that were more unique to Northern Chinese cuisine. Although I ended up asserting myself more during the selection process.

We started off with the “Xi’an white lamb stew with diced pancake”. This was a very peppery soup, traditionally made with fish, but here lamb for more punchiness. The highlight were the cubes of dough bobbing about, you really don’t expect its texture in such a mix. Yet they worked with the chewiness of wood ear and slippery strands of vermicelli. It was an interesting taste, but one bowl of it was enough for me.

I much more preferred the “Xin-jiang noodles fried chicken “with potatoes, coloured peppers, and a spicy star anise sauce. This too was also peppery, but differently so, less peppercorn, more black pepper. And like the dish above, once again the carbohydrates were the highlight. I wanted some hand made, sheared noodles and this dish delivered a plenty. Although they would have been better highlighted with a creamier, thicker sauce, instead of the stir fry that this was. Although I appreciated the freshness the peppers provided, the starch the potatoes offered, and the crispiness of the fried chicken nuggets to bite into.

And finally I insisted of an order of the “Pan fried dumplings with pork or vegetables”, solely based on its photo from off the menu. Although a lot more of it came than expected, and it really wasn’t what I thought it was. I was thinking more like gyoza with its shell. Instead, this was steamed white buns fried in a pan. Chewy dough stuffed with a mild meat. After one “bao” I was searching for a sauce to dip it into, and to help change the taste.

As for the service it was spotty. It as hard to gain attention from the casual staff, there were no check ins; and when you finally got someone to look at you, they forgot your request, and you had to repeat the process again. This was more fast food style, except for the fact that you order at your table, then after your meal, pay at the register. So don’t expect service with a smile.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If it weren’t the only quick and easy Chinese restaurant in the area, I wouldn’t have any other reason to return. It was good, but no real standouts during this visit. I did like their noodles enough that I would consider taking some in a Dan Dan sauce to go. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

NORTH NOODLE HOUSE
New Westminster Skytrain Station, Third Floor
356-800 Carnarvon Street, New Westminster BC, V3M 0G3
604-544-6611
North Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hyack Sushi

Today I was invited to a media sneak peak at the newly opened “Hyack” Japanese Restaurant, conveniently located across the street from New Westminster skytrain station.

At this point they were only a month and a half old, so the meal below was not only a look at their upcoming Christmas special, but their menu as a whole.

And as always, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The restaurant was once a school, two floors with a red brick facade, now renovated into the open space before us. There is parking at the back, and should you miss out, additional stalls are available across the street. Entering through the back brings you right to their top floor. Whereas main entry has you climbing a flight of stairs.

Today we were seated in their private party room, set to a blown up, high resolution photo of Columbia Street, in New Westminster. Their regular space is outfitted with black tables and chairs with plenty of space between each set to give you and your dinner mate(s) some privacy in your conversing. On the wall, an abstract art has rounded lines “swimming” up stream like fish. Kitty corner to it is their sushi counter. The sleek looking kitchen is visible past the two sushi chefs manning this station; and their counter top, glass cold fish coolers.

The restaurant is a family affair. The mother and daughter run the front of house operations, and their son/brother the trained sushi chef, works the kitchen. The following are his creations that we would be tasting. The cheery daughter was the one to tend to us, answering our questions, and offering us insight on their popular menu items.

To start, we set the jovial tone of the place with “Bingtanbok”, a black raspberry wine from Korea. It is great for those who like to drink and non- drinkers alike. With a 7% alcohol percentage, it doesn’t have the bitter taste of beer, or the kick of a strong spirit. It is easily available here at “Hyack Sushi”. Otherwise you are looking at a large, black listed wait at your local liquor store. It tastes like black currant juice with the body of a fizzy soda. Delicious. And apparently it is a common Korean practice to drink a bottle of this yourself, through a plastic straw.

The “Deep fried poached egg” is already one of their popular dishes. And it is exactly as it sounds. A soften egg with runny yolk, hidden under a thick and crispy fried coat of batter, then drizzled over with a tangy sauce. One per order and one per person is all you need from such a decadent two biter.

My favourite dish of our tasting was their “Set of Aburi Nigiri”. This alone beckons a return for. Only getting to try the squid and tuna, makes me want to come back for more of their sushi and sashimi. It was just so fresh.

The “Spicy Chirashi Don” is a sashimi salad of raw fish and tamago (egg omelette) served over fresh greens. For those who want more substance, the order does include a bowl of rice on the side. And a dish of spicy sauce that you can drizzle over, mix in, or dip into at your preference. The sauce is what gives it its flavour.

The “Aburi salmon Oshi” was spectacular. A thick slab of salmon gently seared for that tell tale creamy texture paired with a hint of smoke. The cream cheese between it and the rice was a nice addition and my favourite part. It was salty where the drizzle on top was a little sweet.

The “Gyu Katsu” was an engaging dish. Triple “A” beef battered crispy and left relatively raw. At the table you sear it for an additional amount of time. This allows you to choose how pink you want your meat, leaving only yourself to blame if it is overlooked. It comes with three sauces to dip in to. The sesame and salt is a simple glaze to best highlight the flavour of the beef. The house made teriyaki offers the classic salty and sweet combination. And the traditional tonkatsu is tangy with vinegar.

And saving the bet for last, this is their sablefish centric specialty combo. It is only available from December 17 to the 24th, in celebration of the winter season. The full order includes a side of rice, soup, and appetizer/side.

The soup is a next level miso. Sable fish bones stewed in a miso broth, served with actual chunks of fish bobbing around with seaweed pieces, green onion slices, and tofu chunks. It has a lighter flavour compared to the traditional miso. It didn’t have that distinct briny and salty flavour that is associated with miso. This is a soup that I would and could enjoy every day, given it’s lighter tone.

I was surprised by how much I liked the steamed egg in a cup. It looked like a thick soup fresh; but the more it sat, the more it looked like a congealed pudding. It also had the texture of pudding, an airiness you slurped between your lips. But instead of sweet and creamy, you got savoury and herbaceous. This would definitely be a great offering during brunch. But be warned it is served fairly hot, and without the proper blowing you could singe your tongue.

And the entree is more than just an extremely well cooked, generously sized piece of buttery sablefish. The dish also includes seasoned vegetable in mint yogurt, and two deep fried amebi. The shrimp was so well fried that you could eat it from head to toe. It was a stunningly beautiful plate, especially with the use of edible flowers for flourish. It had a variety of textures and flavours for a balanced plate.

 

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.
“Hyack” has so is much going for it. A great location by a post secondary institution, adjacent to a highly trafficked area of New West, conveniently by a skytrain station. The large white signs surrounding the building helps to bring attention to it. However being on the second storey with no windows to look into, you might not necessarily choose them for your next impromptu meal. Instead you will need to walk up and in, to see bodies in the chairs and the faces of those enjoying what they are eating, in order to be convinced to try the new kids on the block. And if you do, you will discover a great addition to the neighbourhood. They serve delicate dishes in larger portions, within a dressier setting for that in between date night vibe. Not quite fancy, but a step up of causal with quality dishes at reasonable prices. They are also open for lunch, and promise plenty of seasonal featured menus in the months to come. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HYACK
55 8th Street, New Westminster BC, V3M 3N9
604-553-7553
Hyack Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

IT Char Burger

My partner has been meaning to bring me to “Royal Mall” for some time now. This strip mall in New Westminster” is an out door space with an inside courtyard and foodcourt. The latter would be our destination. Where the number of available tables and the age of their chairs speak to the traffic. This is the home of “IT burger”, a foodcourt stall offering a plethora of cuisines, and not just what its name suggests.

“IT Burger” is known for their burgers and according to my partner, they are the ones to get. But for those looking for variety, they do offer the world’s cuisine from fried fish and chips to Korean BBQ bulgogi, from chicken noodles fried in a pan to chilli cheese dogs and butter chicken. The menu is basically a collage of photos. A clever idea, seeing as a pictures speak a thousand words and coming across their booth, one might be weary of what they could get. Here the photos looked good, so you wanted to try them.

Based on my partner’s frequency, he believes the same man serving us today is also the shop owner. He has only seen the one guy behind the counter across a handful of visits. This one man working by himself six days in a row from 8am to 7pm, and Friday until 8:30pm. So it is commendable that his food is always consistent from start of the day to the end.

This mid afternoon, the plaza was considerably busier: the after school crowd and families shopping after work. We were the first to order, with four individual men following suite, sporadically after.

As my first time I went for their signature “IT Char Burger”. The ingredients weren’t listed, but the back lit photo of it was delicious looking enough. Two juicy char broiled burgers topped with a mound of caramelized onion and bacon bits.

The time the burger patty and its bottom bun spend on the stove top really sets it apart. The char gives it a different taste and texture. A nice crispness on the outside to parallel the crispy lettuce on the inside. There was a good ratio of bun and ingredients to burger patty, although most of the lettuce did fall out between bites; not that it felt like a lost. Overall a stand out regular burger. So tasty because it was so done well. And as satisfying for the wallet at around $10 or so.

My partner got his favourite, the “Teriyaki burger” with lettuce. It had one of the same patties that I had in my burger, heavily coated in a sweet and salty, syrupy teriyaki sauce. He too had the lettuce in his burger fall out due to gravity.

Almost as good as the burgers were the side of fries that accompanied them. Not just your regular thick cut potato sticks. But these fries had an extra coating and a second dip for some extra crunch. The larger sticks were my favourite, where its shell hid soften mashed potatoes within. A thick gravy would have been ideal here, although the traditional ketchup packet was no slouch.

Definitely a greasy meal that you wouldn’t have every day, but a great stop when you are craving a good burger. And if all the above was this good, I am curious to see his take on eggs and French toast, a grilled chicken wrap, or just more from his burger line: including chicken patties and burgers seasoned with Korean flavours.

 

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.
Chances of you stumbling upon this on your own are slim. You have to know to make this your destination, taking the trouble to come here, just like we did. And it is worth it. Especially when you throw in supporting a local small business. Once again, we highly suspect that the owner is working in his kitchen six days a week. He gets patrons, but not enough to warrant more than him manning the cash register and the stove stop. Hopefully this changes. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

IT CHAR BURGER
29-800 McBride Blvd, New Westminster BC, V3L 2B8
604-521-8783
IT Char Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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