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Category: New Westminster Page 1 of 3

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

Kirin, Starlight Casino

After a disappointing experience and the last Kirin, my family was willing to try somewhere new, yet not stray from the restaurant chain that they like. So we found ourselves travelling all the way to New Westminster for this location of Kirin, within the “Starlight Casino”; instead of their downtown or Cambie street one, that is actually much more convenient for us.

To read the post on our precious visit with unsatisfactory customer service from a high end Chinese restaurant, please click the link below.

 

Kirin

 

I personally didn’t mind the trip as I find this, their newest location the nicest of the lot. With vaulted ceilings and high walls in a peach and tan shade, patterned curtains, and crystal light features, there was enough detailing to add glitz, without feeling like they were crowding the room. Their other familiar pieces from location to location was also present. White tablecloths, a candle lit under a mental platform to keep your tea warm, and metal chopstick stands to rest them on when not in use. We were seated at a table for five by the window and our view allowed us a look at their garden of black bamboo. Apparently in order to get them their desired hue it takes cultivating of an additional year.

As always my father takes the reigns when it comes to ordering, as no one else in my family wants the responsibility. According to them, they just come to eat.

We always start off with a warm soup, which warms up the belly for the fulsome meal to come. The “Crab meat and fish maw soup” is one of my favourites, in which I only get treated to when dining with my family. It is fishy and salty with a thick syrupy-like consistency, punctuated with nice chewy rubbery bits. I like it best with a spoon of red vinegar for an additional tang. I wish there was enough for multiple bowls, but somehow there is always just enough for everyone to have their one.

Next came the live lobster cooked in a “cream and butter sauce”. When ordering you are asked how large you want it, as you pay for the crustacean by the pound. So later showing you your lobster alive and crawling table side, confirms this order. To begin this course you are handed a hot towel to wipe your hands with, however they were more like luke warm cloths when we got them tonight. But at least they served their purpose and were used get our hands clean for the task ahead. I actually don’t like getting my hands dirty when I eat, so don’t actually eat a lot of live seafood prepared in shell like this. However, everyone was given a two pronged fork to help pry meat from shell, which allowed me to indulge a lot more today. I greedily took the claw, and was disappointed by how salty and fishy it tasted. It needed more of the cream sauce it sat on to mask this taste. And even then I wished that the sauce was denser, with a more luxurious texture, and that the chunks of onions within it weren’t so large. To end and to clean our hands again, the table was given two hot water finger bowls with lemon.

This is their “Hot appetizer barbecue assortment”, the menu didn’t list what we would be actually getting, so we were surprised by the mound of jellyfish that sat on top of it. It was most definitely cold, and it helped to chill the assortment of barbecue meats under it. The barbecue meats included pork, pork belly, and duck. It was good, but nothing outstanding given the prestige of the restaurant.

The “Chef’s special deboned duck” is what continues to bring my father back. This is the specialty dish that he ordered last time, that requires advance preparation, that he didn’t get. It comes stuffed with “eight treasures” including legumes, nuts, and dried shrimp. It is served whole and then cut up and open table side. Most impressive is the ability to cut into the duck with a butter knife; it is just that tender. Although tasty enough, I don’t particularly like the end result as I find the stuffing too grainy in texture and I was never a fan of cooked nuts. I would have preferred the stuffing done American style with breadcrumbs instead, but who stuffs a duck?

The “String bean stir fried with chopped garlic and minced pork” was my pick, although I was chastised for it. Given how common this dish is and that any restaurant can prepare it for you. However I don’t often eat Chinese food, so I didn’t have the same sentiment as my family did. We ended up getting it at the end as our only vegetable dish. And sadly I was disappointed by their offering. I wasn’t a fan of their beans, I found them old and their peas within chalky; whereas I prefer my green beans thinner, longer, and crispier. At least the seasonings were spot on, plenty of minced meat and garlic for flavour.

My mother ironically selected the “Braised ox tail in red wine sauce en casserole”, but didn’t have any of it. She found the meat hard, despite it being some of the most tender beef I have ever had. It was incredibly easy to pry meat from bone. It came sizzling in its hot pot as a good mix of fat, cartilage, and meat per large bone segment. The crisp green peppers and the soften carrot chunks in gravy made a nice pairing with our side order of rice.

For dessert we got both options of sweet soups, great for those preferring one over the other. The older generation went for the traditional red bean. But as I have mentioned countless of times before, I avoid it as I am not a fan of its texture. So instead I helped myself to “sago” which is like sweetened coconut milk with tiny tapioca balls. This time it was served cold, whereas I much more prefer it warm with the tapioca soft.

And to cap off my mom’s birthday celebration (the low key reason why we were here tonight. She doesn’t like a fuss being made over her.) we ordered a round of lucky peach buns filled with a sweet lotus paste. One for each person, steamed and served within a bamboo steamer. They were wonderfully soft and great to chew between the teeth.

 

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.
Definitely not a restaurant I would travel to or even visit, outside of family dinners, but absolutely one of the nicest ones my family frequents for special occasions. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KIRIN
Starlight Casino, 350 Gifford Street, New Westminster BC, V3M 7A3
604-528-8833
kirinrestaurants.com
Kirin Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

El Santo

My partner loves Mexican food. It is one of the only cuisines that he as a cautious diner, would actually explore. He goes out of his way to search for new Mexican restaurants we have yet to try. And today his search yielded “El Santo”, located downtown New Westminster.

From its white walls and crisp colours you could tell this was still a newer restaurant. Walking in there was much of their decor to keep your head roving. Pistachio green booths against a steel blue fabric wall, stitched with yellow and blue geometric patterns and shapes. It runs down the length of the restaurant going from blue to brown, with more ornate thread work the further into the restaurant you recess.

But one of the first things that catches you eye is the big luchador mask. Upon closer inspection, you realize it is a piece of art created by the gathering and gluing of many corks together. An impressive feat that not only speaks to their wine program, but it also makes a great trademark for the restaurant.

In fact, I was so entranced by this and the rest of the the room that I sat on our assigned booth without looking, and the result was me sopping up a puddle of liquid with my cotton dress. I was shocked and jolted back up with a yelp. Then quickly retreated into the unisex, single stall bathroom to to dry off with one of their hand dryers. Later, our hostess who sat us, our server, and the floor manager came to apologize for what had happened to me. They all did this one at a time offering an explanation. Stories combined, they explained that the seat had been sprayed in order to clean it, but they had never gotten back around to actually wiping it with a rag. And now they didn’t have to because my dress did the job for them. It didn’t bother me much, except causing the initial stir. It was nice of them to reach out in care, it really spoke to their customer service focus. Although it would have been nice to be compensated for the intrusiveness of it. Needless to say the rest of our interactions with the staff were good ones. Everyone helped out where ever, and the manager himself was very hands on.

I liked their easy to read menu with its short points. Although, it would have been nice to have a legend running down the side, as we weren’t sure what a handful of items were just by reading it. This left us with plenty of questions to be asked during the ordering process. But at least dishes were organized by size and type. To start, to share, tortas, tacos, brunch, and plenty of tequila. The latter was all listed on a page with over 100 choices, and the option to try a flight to get in more than one.

We had the “el pastor torta”, prepared with 12 hour braised Fraser Valley pork, grilled pineapple, fresh vegetables, and creamy slices of avocado. This was crunchy bread sandwiching shredded meat dressed in a sweet and salty barbecue coating. The slices of fresh avocado offered a creamy and cooling component. Although, I could have still used more raw vegetables in the mix. Julienned strips to chew and some tangy pickled onion to balance out the flavours with some acidity.

This flavourful sandwich was paired with your choice of salad or “papas mexicanas”. We went for the “papas mexicanas”, which are pan fried potatoes seasoned in Mexican spices. They too were tasty, once you allowed them too cool off. They were great as is, but even better when dipped into the side of slightly spicy salsa. The serving of potatoes also had whole garlic cloves mixed in, and I found them delightful.

We also had two taco for $8, but with two small tortillas for each mound of meat, you are really getting four for the price of $8. The list of possible fillings were no different from that which goes into the tortas. But to mix it up, we had one of our our tacos filled the “cachete”, upon our server’s recommendation. “Cachete” is braised beef cheek served with crispy shallots, jalapeño, and salsa roja. It wasn’t as flavourful as the filling before. We found this heavy with oil and bland. It needed some salsa for flavour, and was missing some freshness to round it all out. The fried onion included gave each soft taco some crunch, but only made it heavier as a bite. The easy fix would have been to include a side of tomatoes slices and avocado cubes to brighten up the plate, or even a nice creamy mayo to slather over top.

For the other two tacos we had the “Tinga de pollo”. This is slow roasted and pulled farmcrest chicken, offered to you with house made chorizo, cotija cheese, pickled onion, roasted tomatillo, and guajillo salsa. There was a lot of going on in this, and yet, I was still able to note the cinnamon-y flavour within the chicken. Good, but not memorable.

The “green rice” we ordered on the side made the dishes hardier and more filling.

We didn’t have room for their dessert, but our meal ended with a quarter of a Hibiscus flavoured marshmallows. Sweet and spongy to clean the palette with.

 

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
A stand out spot for Mexican cuisine when in New West. Not my favourite, but one of the better ones for setting and service for sure. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

EL SANTO
680 Columbia St, New Westminster BC, V3M 1A9
604-727-8176
elsanto.ca
El Santo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burger Heaven

We were looking for a lunch spot in New Westminster, and I remembered that “Burger Heaven” had an eating challenge (I am slowly working my way through the city’s food challenges that pit your stomach against a large plate, with a limited time to finish it.) Theirs was a burger stacked with beef patties, that I had originally planned to take on; so when looking for a meal today, I decided to suss out the place before hand. And good thing too, as after this visit, I no longer have the will to return for anymore. It was hard for me to finish my one burger with its one patty, let alone many patties in one oversized handful.

This is definitely one of those places you would consider a “dive”. A little cozy, a lot run down, and a favourite hang out for the neighbourhood. As first timers we didn’t know what to expect walking into the restaurant with the rusted iron gate surrounding it. A twist of black metal bent with purpose, each angle and each curve covered with a fine layer of mildew and dust from the age of the place and the elements. The artistic intent of this didn’t really resemble anything, and the full enclosure made you feel like you were in a prison. We grabbed a seat here, in the covered patio, given the nicer weather. Had we gone inside for a table we would have been greeted by their declaration of having the “best burgers in town”, followed by the eye catching wall of photos running down the length of the restaurant. Many faded and many more dog eared over the years. There were also colourful cartoon murals depicting the restaurant and its clientele with a humourous, sunday morning comic spin.

The menu is a long sheet, listing their varieties of burgers and sandwiches, each with a defining ingredient and a name to match. The “Greek God Burger” had black olives, tzatziki, and feta cheese over their beef patty. The “chicken cordon bleu burger” had its breaded chicken filet topped with ham and melted mozzarella. And they even had one called the “insanity burger”, which is a beef patty with cheese and bacon, between two grilled cheese sandwiches.

We liked the international burger idea so had two of our own. My partner had the “Hawaiian burger”. A teriyaki sauced burger topped with ham, a pineapple ring, lettuce, tomato, onions, and mozzarella. It is served with a side of wedge potatoes for a full meal. The teriyaki sauce was on the saltier side, whereas I would have liked it stickier and thick with more honey, the kind you get at cheap Japanese sushi restaurants. It would have complimented the soggy pineapple better. Although I would have liked a nice charring of the fruit over the grill. This could have done lots to improve the burger’s overall taste. That, and if you trade the drier patty and replaced it with a juicer chicken breast.

I had the “Thai beef burger” with crunchy peanut butter, bacon, green onion, and sweet Thai chilli sauce. I upgraded my fries in exchange for onion rings, which got soggy fast. I was hopeful for the peanut butter as I like savoury with a sweet nut butter. But I didn’t get much of it, or any of the promised Thai flavours that came with the title. Although for more “Thai”, I could have used green papaya in a slaw, in exchange of the lettuce. This would have also helped with the sour tang that I was missing. The beef patty was also very dry in this burger as well, here some ketchup would have done wonders. I managed to track down a bottle inside, after asking for some from our server and having to remind her again.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
We came in excited and left disappointed. We deemed the food overpriced for what we had and cannot see ourselves returning. This isn’t my idea of heaven. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BURGER HEAVEN
77 10th Street, New Westminster, BC V3M 1C4
604-522-8339
burgerheaven.ca
Burger Heaven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wild Rice Market Bistro

This evening I was invited to a media tasting for “Wild Rice”, a new-ish restaurant by the waters of New Westminster. I remembered their original incarnation in Chinatown, and recalled leaving none too satisfied. Therefore was particularly interested in returning to them almost 4 years later (yes, I have been blogging for a very long time) to see if anything has changed, besides the locale.

The move has now made their restaurant a destination, and less a stop simply out of connivence, as they once were. Here, they are still within walking distance of the skytrain, but parking is limited and the distance to travel from Vancouver is a little out of the way. But it is a shame that this New West area doesn’t see more dining traffic, the whole waterfront view is lovely. And what a great place to spend some time at, after dinner, strolling the boardwalk.

When you walk in, the restaurant fronts with a little connivence shop. A cash desk behind a metal fence displaying their wares as you walk into their lounge. They sold bottled sauces, homemade rubs, and full leaf spices that they used in their cooking. And that after your meal, you might want to take home and recreate yourself.

The lounge was a dark space, kept romantic with strung up bulbs, two by two. The back wall displayed various sizes of metal woks. Under it, giant paper fans and some bamboo steamer lids balanced on their sides, it certainly spoke to the Asian influences of the restaurant; much like the Chinese newspaper they used to wallpaper the hall, on route to their row of single stalled washrooms.

The lounge area was flanked by their bar on the right, with a rotation of local and neighbouring beers on tap. And on the left their open kitchen, which is a point of pride for the restaurant. They have nothing to hide when it comes to their cuisine. So showcase themselves, and their chefs, with an open pass and a window on the side, that puts prep work on display. From chopping up fresh vegetables and sectioning out portions of noodles, to carving a whole pig down to manageable chunks for stews and stirfrys.

This transparency aligned well with the chef/owner: Andrew’s, belief in being sustainable, and keeping in touch with his local community. I enjoy these events most, to be able to create a report with such proprietors and to create a dialog on their vision. So was very happy to learn that Andrew had no qualms about sharing.

He prides himself on the fact that they purchase their produce from small family farmers, to keep the prosperity as centralized as possible. Everything these small farmers offer is natural and organic, an Andrew does regular site visit to ensure these standard are being maintained. He also invites the very same farmers into his restaurant to show them what becomes of their hard work, thus building a different relation of farm-to-table.

The restaurant also grows their own herbs out front, in planters. They simply stroll outside and harvest as needed. We each walked away with a bag full of fragrant chives, basil, rosemary, and thyme.

And they have preached and collaborated with the other surrounding businesses in organizing several garbage and recycling pick ups. This is so that all waste matter is properly disposed of, in the most eco-friendly way possible. Even their takeout boxes are eco-conscious.

Our group of eight was given a seat in their dining area, right at the back, under a living display of overreaching leafy and vine-y plants. The entire dining room was hung with red, white, and green lanterns. It gave the space a very whimsical feel.

Before we got down to eating, the owner/chef took the time to give us a bit of background information on his restaurant and its concept. He originally learned how to cook from his grandmother. She sparked the flame and he continued to fan it with an education at a French culinary school. So now, as a homage to his grandmother they serve their food family style, in large portions, divided between a handful of people. This is in her belief that food should be eaten at its optimum. One course at a time, as it is served fresh. Which was ironic today, considering that this was a gathering of bloggers and social media influences, and one of the things we do is take dozens of photos before digging in. And what is often the case, is that what we eventually eat is typically cold and far from optimum. None-the-less, given good reason, our group was more cogniscent of our cooked food, and therefore made every attempt to click fast and eat soon, in support of “grandmothers” ideals.

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.

We started with their “House Salad” which was a mix of greens with cucumber, tomato, and toasted pecans; all coasted lightly in their mirin soy vinaigrette. I am not one for salad, but with a few trying bites, all I tasted was the vegetables, I was missing the dressing, and left looking for a vinegary tang.

The “Peking Duck Tacos” were made with Yarrow Meadows duck confit, house pickles, wonton ribbons, scallions, and a creamy hoisin sauce. It was spicy, then sweet, and ended salty. I liked all the textures and the crunch from the wontons, I just wanted more duck and for the tortilla to be made fresh, or at least heated up. You could tell it wasn’t by how great the filling tasted in comparison.

Their “Siu Mai Dumplings” are quickly becoming my favourite dish to recommend. They take a tried and true classic and give it a refreshing twist, a grown up and fancy take worth revisiting. New and clean made with local pork and shrimp and served with a scallion verde.

The “Chicken Skins” were fried crispy and served with more verde, pickled veg, and ponzu, for dipping. The ponzu gave you a salty light soy flavour, the pickle a tangy brine, and the verde offered some herbaceous-ness. Each was good in its own way, adding acidity to the otherwise greasy finish of this meat chip. Definitely great with their beers on tap.

The “Spicy Chicken Kung Po” mixed free run chicken, broccoli, twice cooked peanuts and rice noodles in a rich coconut sauce. The noodles were light with the refreshing flavour of coconut. And it paired well with the subtle peanut flavour. I just wished that the noodles were gummier, and a little less sniff, which then left me wanting more sauce for a stickier chew.

And for dessert we had a “Sticky Toffee Pudding”, it is normally a larger serving, but for a tasting, this was plenty. The pudding is half baked then finished off by steaming. Thus giving it a moist almost buttery texture. It is served traditionally with butterscotch sauce and a Tahitian vanilla ice cream scoop. Delicious.

 

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.
They are a great option for modern Chinese food in the area, a bit of a drive for those not in local to New West skytrain. A great addition to the neighbourhood, offering something different and exciting. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

WILD RICE
810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster BC
778-397-0028
wildricebc.ca
Wild Rice Market Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Boston Pizza

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“Boston Pizza” has been advertising their dessert burger, enough that it had us interested in visiting their New Westminster location, to give it a try for ourselves. This chain sports bar isn’t known for its great eats, but more its game time setting; so I approached with lowered expectations.

The dessert burger, or rather the dessert slider, given its size; was chocolate ganache and vanilla ice cream, drizzled in caramel sauce and sandwiched between a sweet bun. It’s limited time presence was in celebration of summer, and at $3 a pop, you can certainly afford to give it a try.

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We expected it to be served warm, like a normal burger would be, to the point that my guest actually blew on the dessert. Instead, the chocolate was a solid brick that was difficult to chew through, definitely not meant to be eaten like a burger. This would have been better a brownie to mimic a patty, it then certainly would have been more complimentary to the scoop of ice cream and caramel sauce. Similarly the bun would have been better warmer and softer, more like a sponge or angel food cake. I started to think that these might have been preassembled and left waiting in the refrigerator for someone to order them. If the bun was kept dry and crispy for crunch, they would have been better off with some nuts or chocolate crisps for texture instead.

This was a creative idea and a great way to bring customers in, but I felt it could have been better conceived. A better tasting and put together dessert to have customers coming back for. Yes it would mean the price would have to go up, but at least then you could have gotten a treat you actually liked. This was a glorified ice cream sandwich that they could have done so much more with. For example, charging $13.99 for a plate of three in three different flavours: vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. Each with its own complimentary topping, and differing ice cream and sauce.

Being unsatisfied with the reason why we came in, in the first place; we followed it with a dessert my guest had tried and actually likes.

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The “Chocolate doughcano” is like a dessert pizza pocket. Chocolate mousse, cheesecake chunks, caramel, toffee, pecans, and almonds; wrapped and baked in their house pizza dough. Then topped with icing sugar and chocolate sauce, and served with whipped cream. A dessert so decadent that I strongly suggest sharing it between at least two.

This was the redeeming dessert that gave us the warmth we wanted. The pizza crust offered salt that balanced out all the sweetness it was hiding at its core. Though it was mostly chocolate that you tasted. I didn’t find any cheesecake chunks. And all that chocolate made things soggy, it left you also looking for the crunch that the nuts promised would have delivered. The first bite was the best, but you grew bored of it quick without a syrupy sauce or fresh fruit to give you a taste break, it was very one toned. Even some mint infused into the whipped cream would have sufficed.

 

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.
We came for the novelty of the desserts and it left us not wanting any more. With all the artisan and gourmet options in the Vancouver dessert landscape, most are willing to travel further and pay more for better. I am one of them and at $3, I recommend splitting one and heading somewhere else with the change you saved.

“Boston Pizza” would not be my first choice when looking for a meal. I would lean towards it for cheap eats and drinks, and a fun place to cheer my favourite sports team at. During game nights they have beer pitchers that light up when the home team scores. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

BOSTON PIZZA
805 Boyd Street, New Westminster BC,
V3M 5X2
604-759-3133
bostonpizza.com
Boston Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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