Friday, February 12, 2016

5 Bonus Stars with Starbucks

Starbucks Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Normally I wouldn't have bought this combo from Starbucks except they were giving out 5 bonus stars, which goes a long way toward keeping my Gold Card status.

The offer (good Feb-12 to Feb-14) is: "Pair your handcrafted Mocha beverage with any cookie, and earn Bonus Stars on top."

Cookies are a couple of dollars for a big but thin cookie. I went with the ToffeeDoodle.
For mocha, I asked which one qualified and one person at the counter said "any", and the other suggested peppermint. Upsell? Anyway, I went with peppermint and they automatically placed the order for a grande.

TIPS: Ask for extra hot. Cool whipped cream on top (with chocolate sprinkles) can really cool down your drink, which is sort of like a weak hot chocolate with coffee flavour.

The cookie was thin but broad (and still not worth even $1), and very chewy. Also quite sweet, enough to give a faint burning sensation (the sort you can get with something too sugary) at the back of the throat.

Overall, good for stars, but sub-par in taste and value.

2016 Feb-12 to Feb-14 five bonus stars offer from Starbucks

Monday, February 8, 2016

Could use a big plate at Bao Down

Bao Down Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Been a long time since I've been to Bao Down. Menu's changed a bit (and they opened another location near Olympic Village). Prices went up a bit for their fries but overall still really good value -- especially with their weekday special combos.

Bao are big, light, tender, almost fluffy. Two of them together is more bread and meat and interesting-ness than a comparably priced single gourmet burger at a restaurant, nowadays weighing in at $12+.

TIP: Get extra napkins right away.
TIP: Small square tables are really good only for one person if you've got a platter of 4-6 items. Get a bigger table!

Japayoki Fries ($6 small, $10 large) kennebec fries, seaweed, fried chicken, cheese sauce, jalapeno, bean sprouts, sweet soy, togarashi
  • Something tasty and coconutty in the yellow sauce (cheese sauce?).
  • Even a "small" order is heaped high with salad on top and has large white-meat bites of chicken that it's big enough to look like a light meal all on its own. (We're talking ping pong ball sized).
  • Chicken chunks fairly tender and definitely not dry.
  • Could have used a plate to toss everything together like a salad. As it is, when you gingerly eat the salad off the top, you're just left with some (still crispy) fries on the bottom, which are now boring. Get some house hot sauce from downstairs to help with the leftover fries.
Vevo ($6) tamari braised shitake, sprouts, kale, micro greens, beet, carrot, peanut sauce
  • OK tasting. I think it might be better if you strip the sprouts from the top so you can get more of the flavours of the other ingredients.
  • Sweeter beets would make this more interesting, as would maybe a clearer flavour of the shitake, which was quite good when I isolated one of them to taste.
  • Shrub of sprouts massed on top make this look maybe bigger than it was, and in anycase it was quite tricky to fold the bao.
2016-Feb-8 Bao of the Week - Snap Kick, One Punch ($8) lettuce, tomato, salt/pepper, chicken in hot sauce, blue cheese ranch, red onion, jalapenos, bacon
  • Tasty and you definitely get that blue cheese flavour, but maybe not so interesting for you to pay a special $8 for it when they have other tasty options for $2 less.
  • Not that spicy-hot. If you need more heat, try one of the sauces. Even the "mild" Red Eye Chili Sauce is pretty spicy-hot.
Monday Special ($10) Bao Chicka Bao, Small Kimchi Fries, and a can of pop
  • Great deal and pretty filling dinner for $10, since the "small" fries are really quite a large order.
Bao Beignets ($4)
  • Get these for FREE with a Yelp check-in.
  • Basically bite-sized donuts coated in something snowy and sugary.
  • Quantity is really decent -- a heap of maybe 2 cups worth.
  • Eat them quickly while they are still tender on the inside.
Kitchen a bit slow IF you are expecting fast-food McDonalds turnaround times. Each item has so many ingredients, so expect a wait. They don't bring it to your table, though, which means you do probably need to hover near the ordering counter because you may not hear your order number being called over the rather loud music.

Staff are friendly and helpful!

Our order (see below) was around $32 for two persons. We were full and had to take the kimchi fries and bao beignets to go.

2016-Feb-8 Bao Down - kimchi fries (ul), japayoki fries (um), vevo (ur), snap kick one punch (lr), bao beignets (lm), bao chicka bao (ll)

2016-Feb-8 Bao Down - main bao menu

2016-Feb-8 Bao Down - fries, special bao, and bowls

2016-Feb-8 Bao Down - housemade hot sauces

2016-Feb-8 Bao Down - weekly specials, new menu, add-ons

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chinese New Year dinner at Dinesty Metrotown

Dinesty Dumpling House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Although my previous experience at the new Dinesty at Metrotown was disappointing, I was willing to chalk it up to the location being new and give them another try.

Well over a week ago I made a reservation. When I tried to change it to two smaller tables but more seats in total, it was initially approved, but later they called me and told me they wanted a $100 deposit for the second table. I ask for 2 more seats and they want $100. Really?

Anyway, I kept my reservation. They are of course well aware of Chinese New Year, so I was not surprised to find the restaurant of course packed for their 7pm second seating. What I wasn't expecting was the staff shortage--It took very long to just order anything. But even so, floor staff kept their cool with customers and were at least professional though clearly so overworked most basically had to ignore you unless you walked right up and talked to them, in which case they typically asked you to wait a moment.
Dishes also came out quite slowly. The kitchen was probably working at full capacity of course, but surely management could have called in all hands to help with Chinese New Year at least on the floor for bussing and helping with customers? The dishes at our table were basically never cleared. How the kitchen survived without their plates and steamers returned was a mystery. Potstickers and various items came with no condiments. I even saw another large table get their own replacement bowls and soup spoons from the service counter.

Sadly I didn't get every photo before hungry hippos dove into the food, so not quantities on the plates in the picture are as they came from the kitchen...
Overall, food was between mediocre and substandard, especially certain staples, like Hot and Sour Soup. Xiao Long Bao (soup buns) could not be counted on to actually have soup inside, which was extremely disappointing.

We tried quite a few things. Only a few notes here:

Hakka Style Shredded Pork w/ Squid & Green Onion ("Shred Pk w Squid&Oni"; $12.95)
Stir Fried Rice Cake with Pork Chop Shanghai Style ("Fr Rice Cake w Pk Ch"; $8.95)
Simmer Chicken & Chestnuts in Brown Sauce ("Chk+Chestnuts in Bro"; $12.95)
  • The sauce is pretty tasty here, and they give you lots of it.
Stir Fried Prawns, Scallop & Squid ("Fr Prawn Scallop+Squ"; $14.95)
  • So much bean I thought it should be included in the name of the menu item.
  • Prawns strangely salty here.
Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Buns ("Shangai PF Pk Buns"; $6.95 for 6)
Steamed Chicken Soup Dumplings ("Chk Soup Dumplings"; $7.50)
Simmer Assorted Vegetables & Fried Tofu ("Assort Vege+Fr Tofu"; $11.95)
Large Hot and Sour Soup ("Hot+Sour Soup(L)"; $7.95)
  • Spicy-hot in a peppery way, but not sour at all.
  • Good for maybe 6 bowls of soup.
Steamed Pork Buns ("Steamed Pk Buns"; $3.95 for 3)
  • At just over $1 a piece, in price it is way less than the new-ish steamed bun place nearby, Bao Place. A little smaller, though, and the filling not as tasty, but the Bao Place isn't exactly super-tasty either.
Steamed Chinese Toon Buns ("Toon Bun"; $3.95 for 3)
Steamed Red Bean Paste Buns ("Red Bean Paste Bums"; $3.95 for 3)
Steamed Chocolate & Red Bean Paste Dumplings ("Choco+RBean Paste Du"; $5.95 for 8?)
Pan Fried Pork Pot Stickers ("Pk Pot Stickers"; $6.25 for 6 sticks)
Gongbao Chicken ("Gongbao Chk"; $13.95)
  • Watch out for the chilies!
  • Felt lacking in peanuts, but otherwise not bad.
Shrimp & Pork Shaomai ("Shrm+Pk Shamomai"; $7.95 for 6)
  • One shrimp on the top of a filling of pork. Pretty meaty -- you get slightly more filling than one of their soup buns.
Fried Noodles with Seafood ("Fr Ndl w Sfood"; $9.50)
  • Also had clams. Which were gobbled up before I could take a photo. <.<
  • Strangely bland except for a peppery flavour.
  • NOT a "chow mein" with the crunchy pan-seared noodles, if that's what you are hoping for when you order. Look at the picture in the menu carefully. Not sure if they actually have that style of noodles on the menu.
2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Hakka Style Shredded Pork w/ Squid & Green Onion

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Stir Fried Rice Cake with Pork Chop Shanghai Style

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Simmer Chicken & Chestnuts in Brown Sauce

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) -  Stir Fried Prawns, Scallop & Squid

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Buns

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - no soup was in my soup bun

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Large Hot & Sour Soup

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Steamed Chinese Toon Buns and Steamed Pork Buns

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Steamed Red Bean Paste Buns

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Steamed Chocolate & Red Bean Paste Dumplings

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Pan Fried Pork Pot Stickers

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Gongbao Chicken

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) -

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - Fried Noodles with Seafood (also had clams)

2016-Feb-7 Dinesty (Metrotown) - chandelier