Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sea Snails at Ap Gu Jung

Ap Gu Jung Korean on Urbanspoon
Hi Everyone!

I became curious about Korean seafood pancakes from an article in the Vancouver Sun about dining out for less than $25. The restaurant cited was Ap Gu Jung on Robson Street On the online menu was something else even more interesting -- sea snails!

I managed to find two friends to dine out, and ordered the kimchi seafood pancake to start as an appetizer. It was very reddish and a tad spicy, but not really hot-spicy at all. One of my fellow diners said she had seafood pancakes at other Korean restaurants before, and this one was very different. Not bad per se, just different. It was about 8 inches wide, too soft to pick up, and soggy enough that the seafood goodies (which ended up near the middle, sitting underneath a dish of soy (?) sauce with chilli) tended to tear free if you didn't support the wedge as you pulled it out. There was evidence of searing as some surfaces were crunchy-crusty.
As for the contents of the pancake, strangely enough what I noticed wasn't seafood but large portions of onion. Hmm... Anyway, there were portions of tentacles as well.
Next time, maybe I'll try the other seafood pancake.

For my entree, I went with #54 - "sea snails and fresh greens served with chillied noodles". Which wasn't exactly as described... I thought the $20 price tag was for the exotic snails, but it turned out the portion was vast. Two bowls of white rice noodle and a HEAP of a lot of "fresh greens". The greens were shredded and mixed in with the chopped up snails (which were almost hard like gizzards, and a bit hard to find in the mix). The "chillied noodles" weren't chillied at all -- It was the greens and snails that were practically swimming in a generous portion of very red sweet-and-hot sauce. Tasty sauce. Very hot. Served chilled, which gave it a refreshing feel.
It was a huge portion, probably good for three to four people, though extra noodles would have been nice.

Would I recommend it? Not for the sea snails. Here's why: It wouldn't have made a difference if there weren't any snails at all. The sauce overpowered everything. The vegetables were more for texture than for taste. And the snails ended up being these funny chewy bits that gave it some texture. Not much taste. They could have substituted tough chunks of chicken and you wouldn't know the difference.
So, for me, the "sea snails" was a bit of a gimmick. If you can stand the heat (rated "5 chillies" on the menu), at $20 this is a reasonable bargain as it can feed 2-3 people as an entree (add one person if you can get extra noodle).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Marry Him Even If He's Not Perfect

There's a nice article about being realistic in dating and marriage expectations in the March 2010 issue of Chatelaine, which interviews Lori Gottlieb. Here's an excerpt from her book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.

  I've always mentally deducted points when deciding whether to date someone. If, for example, I wanted someone smart, funny and cute, but he turned out to be smart, funny, cute and nerdy, I'd forget that I got the "smart, funny and cute" and focus instead on the nerdy. I'd focus on the disappointing aspects instead of feeling lucky to have found the positive ones.
  That's what entitlement can do.

Sip Resto Lounge - Dine Out Vancouver 2010


Sip Resto Lounge on Urbanspoon

Went to SIP Resto-Lounge with a couple of wonderful dining buddies last night for Dine Out Vancouver 2010 (this all-too-short event officially ends Thursday night, May 6th, 2010).

Our reservation was for a rather late-ish 8pm, and the busyness was just starting to pick up, especially shortly after our very own Canucks were crushed by the Blackhawks 5-2. That said, I was a bit surprised that the sports bar setup and inflated jalepeno decor for Cinco de Mayo hadn't attracted more attention.

One of the attributes of SIP is that it uses alcohol in every dish. This is a bit understated on the website ("Executive Chef Mike Carter takes pride in not only using the finest ingredients, but also with a carefully selected array of liquors, wines and beers found in all of SIP’s Inventive Plates. This results in exclusive flavor profiles born from the kitchen.") and as I don't drink at all, I was hard pressed to identify it on our orders. Your mileage may vary.

With three diners, we could order one of each of the three appetizer options for Dine Out (yay!).

The Chicken Spinach Salad (grilled and chilled thyme chicken breast, roasted red peppers, butternut squash, baby spinach, mixed greens, feta cheese, creamy grand marnier dressing) was a busy looking square bowl of stuff and you had to dig under the mixed greens to find the good sized chunks of chicken (about 1 cubic centimeter blocks). For me, salad is salad, so I can't fairly comment on this.

Mushroom Madeira Soup (A blend of local wild mushrooms, fresh sage, thyme, madeira, roasted garlic, cream) was creamy, but not too thick; and slightly sweet. And surprisingly not very "mushroomy" tasting but it was definitely pureed mushrooms and you could feel some graininess in the texture as well as a bit of sliminess. I'm guessing the green stuff on top was madeira but in the darkly lit space, it looked like green algae or swamp water. Didn't make much difference to me in taste. Came with two triangles of chewy toast. Whoop de doo.

The best appetizer of the bunch had to be the Cajun Seared Albacore Tuna (local B.C. tuna seared rare, served with alize, pineapple salsa, cilantro aioli, croustini). Not only was the presentation beautiful and the tuna generously cut (about a 1/4 inch in thickness) but the long plate on which it served wasn't underloaded with three bites, but fully utilized with six. Perfect for sharing.

Uncooperative dining friends (ahem!) meant that they both ordered the rather quite good salmon, and it was up to me to pull out something different with the tenderloin and we missed trying the Portobello and Ricotta Cannelloni (hand rolled cannelloni stuffed with roasted portobello mushrooms and ricotta cheese,served with shiraz tomato sauce, asiago cheese and fresh basil).

What stood out for me on the Seared Sockeye Salmon (pan seared 6 oz. wild B.C. salmon glazed with Sake and maple syrup, served with miso cream, seasonal vegetables, miso cream, Japanese rice) was the sweet glaze on the fish that, in the small sample I was provided, more or less covered the taste of the salmon itself. The fish flaked nicely and had a beautiful red-pink colour, possibly accentuated by the glaze and the candlelight. Other than that, there was some veggies and a small bowl's worth of rice, that my companions didn't finish.

I asked for my Prosciutto Wrapped Beef Tenderloin (grilled 6 oz. beef tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto, served with seasonal vegetables, roasted baby potatoes and sherry demi-glace) to be medium rare, and it looked quickly seared on the outside, resulting in a lot of redness on the inside. Nevertheless, there wasn't any interminable chewing required as might sometimes happen with meat that's more on the raw side. The amount you get looks small, but it was over an inch thick, and I suppose there was a whole 6 ounces in there somewhere. The demi-glace came off rather tame-tasting.

Overall, I'd have to score the entrees as well-prepared, but taste-wise a bit boring.

On to dessert! Only two choices here, and we had two plates of the brownines and one cheesecake.

The Crème Brule Cheese Cake (New York style cheese cake with a crispy Brule topping, served with Goldschlager caramel, strawberry coulis and fresh mint). It is as it sounds -- cheese cake with a sweet crust on top, giving the surprisingly soft cake added sweetness.

The Triple Chocolate Brownie (house made brownie with milk, white and dark chocolate served with Baileys crème anglaise and whipped cream) was far and away the highlight of the dinner. It wasn't the more common fudgy style brownie, but the cakey style, in between a cake and a cookie and you can almost imagine a soft crunch. It was pretty tasty on its own, but with a bit of whipped cream and a sauce that looked like some sort of orange goop by the light of the candle, the taste just blossoms in your mouth into something extraordinary. Maybe I was starved for a good dessert to finish, but the combo of brownie and "condiments" was competing for best dessert with Hamilton Street Grill's gingerbread pudding.

Our plates seemed to come very quickly, and service was attentive, but a bit aggressive in clearing plates, in my opinion. It's a solid choice for a $28 menu, especially with a "Wow!" dessert to finish.