With all the photos popping on to my online feed, this one has long been on my list. I read foodies and food bloggers alike declaring that their sago and mango ice the best to hit the block. Ironically we tried neither. Instead, we were craving durian and knew they offered it here, so that was reason enough for us to go.
Late on a Friday night we drove up to a line. A wait list hung by the door, 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes was a decent amount of time to wait, however, we already drove across town for this, we weren’t turning back now.
You must love the smell of durian, it engulfs you upon entry. It was the reason why we were here in the first place, so we were thrilled. But for those unfamiliar with the pungent fruit, I can only imagine their reaction and repulsion, having to turn around 360.
There wasn’t many tables so I understand the wait. Several two tops with the ability to push them together to seat more. Waxy white tables with white scoop-back chairs. We were eventually given a seat on the cushioned bench by the wall. With a backdrop of red behind us and a lengthy cubby hole still decorated for Christmas. Red and green tinsel, hanging red baubles, miniature frosted trees, and snowmen bundled up for the winter. There was a similar theme decorating the washroom, with garland strung up over the mirror.
Across us, on the other wall was a series of mirrors. They created the illusion of depth in the narrow space, reflecting the light from the unwatched flatscreen and the drops of bulbs hanging from the ceiling.
On their working counter, towards the back of the restaurant was a machine that enabled you to print out photos of yourself, if you have WeChat. I attempted to download the app using their wifi, but no luck. Those who succeeded had the option to add their photos on to “Doolami’s” real world social media gallery.
The wait we had allowed us to go through their entire menu in complete thoroughness. For both of us, we were visualizing the tastes of our childhood desserts. With each page we flipped, we reminisced.
They had tropical and classic homemade ice creams server in waffle bowls or take home pints. Each flavour is made with all natural ingredients, no preservatives, sweeteners, additives, or colouring. I regretted not taking a pint home of durian. They also had mango, matcha, blueberry lavender, vanilla earl grey, or Godiva chocolate available. We passed on two scoops of ice cream in the waffle bowl for something we couldn’t prepare ourselves.
Their most popular item was their “Snow ice”. A pile of ice shaved as fluffy as snow, topped with tropical fruit. It is essentially is the Asian version of a snow cone flavoured with fruit and sweetened with condense milk. The prices were reflected of the fruit they imported to use in each. They stressed that you were definitely getting what you pay for, by listing where they fly the fruit in from. Mangoes flown in, by air from the Philippines and/or Australia caused the price to fluctuate. Market price has their “Mango snow ice” and “Lychee snow ice” at $15.99, pretty steep for fruit and frozen water. Though it was the “Golden dragon fruit snow ice” that cost the most. $20.99, as they used jumbo, super sweet dragon fruit from Ecuador. In comparison, the papaya version was decently priced at $10.99. Jet fresh, tree ripened papaya from Hawaii. We passed on these for their price, deciding to get more bang for our buck on other items.
Like their sago, the reason why we came in the first place. “Sago” is a starch extracted from various tropical palm stems. It is often made into flour and in this case, then produced commercially in to tiny pearl-like spheres. It is similar to tapioca pudding in its texture and common preparation.
Their mango was the one everyone online was raving about, and the one that won all the awards. But we were here for durian and since we didn’t get it in the ice cream, this was our own choice left.
The “Durian sago” tasted true to our memory of durian. Sweet and creamy, with its unique after note. It really is an acquired taste and those who love it, get cravings for it, like we did. And those who hate it, can’t even stand being in the same room with any of it. They often describe the stench of durian comparable to dirty socks. We however loved the fruit and its role in the pudding-like dessert. We even concluded that they must have used “D24” durian. “D24” is the designation of a premium species of durian, it is often the most fragrant and the most flavourful. Together with the sago, this was a fresh and foamy dessert, like an airy moussed mixed with a milky cream. The sago pearls offering a fun texture to chew through. As good as it was, we felt like it was missing an element to being a full dessert. Something crunchy or starchy like a side of sweet bread or a slice of plain cake. Overall, the flavour was so strong and so unique, that I suggest saving it for last, like we did.
Their house special grass jelly and red bean soup is available both hot and cold. I veto-ed the more common red bean soup and we asked the server if the grass jelly was better hot or cold. He suggested cold, and in hind sight I wish we went hot for more of a soupy dessert.
The “House special grass jelly” came with handmade taro balls, matcha balls, red beans, lotus seeds, and peanuts. The dish was literally the assembly of all the above bland ingredients on a plate, like a salad. And like a salad, in needed dressing for flavour. We asked for some condense milk, to help transition it better into the realm of desserts. The only server, was kind enough to give us free reign over one of their condense milk squeeze bottles. I went crazy with my squeezing and still felt like I was missing some sweetness in this. The balls were similar to Mocchi but harder, chalkier, and not as enjoyable. If you didn’t first see their colour, you couldn’t tell one ball and its flavour from the other. The peanuts and red bean were worst. Both were sandy and the peanuts soggy. I have never had cooked peanuts like this before and I wouldn’t want to again. It just breaks apart in residual pieces in your mouth. It was best taking a bite of everything at once, as it brought things together. I couldn’t imagine this dessert hot, but probably better than cold cooked peanuts with condense milk.
The most interesting dessert was their black sesame and purple taro paste. It was liquified colour, similar to a pudding, but you sipped like soup. Though neither of us grew up with this so we passed on it for some rice balls instead.
The “Glutinous rice balls with peanuts and sesame” was our favourite. It hit the childhood nail on the head with its gummy centre covered in a gritty enjoyable shell of sugar and ground up peanut and sesame sand. It got caught in between your teeth, but the hassle of eating it, was worth it. Six balls in one order was not enough.
The last item we got was not on the menu. My super sleuthing online showed us that it was not listed, but something you could request for. I did this by showing our server the photo on my phone. It was creamy milky jello solidified in a cored papaya, then cut down to bite size pieces. It looked better than it tasted. I expected more flavour and more sweetness from the tofu-like jello, to offset the mild start of the papaya.
Often, all my photo taking for this blog leads to stares. Looks as I strive to get the best photo I can with my iPhone 6. I am willing to stand above my table and make my guests shine their phone’s flashlight over my plates. All my invitees know to not touch their food until I have had my way with it first, and that is often plenty of photos in different angles. Often dozens of shots snapped of just one dish, which I later go home to dwindle down to the perfect one for this post. And today I was going over and beyond to capture the perfect shot to win “Doolami’s” photo contest, which I did not. The rules were to take a photo and post it on Instagram tagging them. If they repost it you win a free serving of what was depicted in your winning photo. Guess I was ambitious when I tagged them in a photo with all four of the dishes we ordered.
Either way all this snapping caught the attention of our neighbour. A young man, dining by himself, who taught himself clever to sneak a photo of me taking my photos. He did this with his phone at his side, barely tilting his body towards me. From the corner of my eye I called him out on it. I started out friendly, though not letting him get much of a word in.
I asked him if he took a photo of me, he was truthful. I asked him why and what was he going to use it for. He couldn’t reply. So I filled it in for him. I stated had he simply asked for a photo, I would have posed for him. Even in my awkward bent knee, head bowed, and shoulder slumped unflattering profile. But to take a photo with the purpose of making fun of me publicly, I told him it wasn’t very nice. I explained that I take photos for my food blog and that I take my writing seriously. So for him to do what he plans on to mock me, would be very disrespectful. I asked him to delete the photo and watched him do it. I even went so far to ask that he scroll through his album so that I could confirm the image of me was indeed gone. Later I would realize it would still be in his “deleted” folder. I can only hope my words struck something in him and that he is a respectful young man.
After this interaction, we went about finishing our desserts without any further contact or acknowledgement of what hadtranspired. Though before he left, I did give him my blog card to visit my site. Once again I hope he heard my words, as what I shared meant something to me.
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.
We were able to narrow down what we wanted to try to five items, which still left us wanting many more. These were sweets made with ingredients I have yet to find in abundance anywhere else in Vancouver. Unique flavours worthy of trying once. Though given its location and that it is not the most convenient of drives, I do not see myself returning often for that very reason. Don’t deny your cravings.