Monday, September 28, 2015

Geometry lesson at True Confections

True Confections Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato True Confections is a tightly packed space that is apparently wildly popular at night.
Alcoholic drinks are pretty cheap here, around $5.

$2.95 gets you a small pot of hot water (about 4-5 cups?), a tea bag, but no sign of a hot water refill. I asked for Tart Blood Orange and I got organic two leaves and a bud Paisley Label Tea. Even Starbucks will at least open your tea bag for you, and a grande tea there will cost you a bit less.

The cakes we tried (Diplomat, Devil's Food) were startlingly tall for ~$8.75... BUT skinny.
So... if you double the height but half the width... how much more cake than normal do you get for a price that weighs in at probably $2 more than par.
As for the cakes... my feeling is that they are mediocre. You can probably do just as well at home with cake mix. Maybe try their banana cream pie instead.

A more complicated and tastier slice at $4.25 from Breka will probably be much more satisfying and I recommend you go there instead. Plus, they are 24 hours. (Though sometimes you get duds).

Cheap and delicious at Kingyo

Kingyo Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Kingyo means goldfish, and the little restaurant that feels like an old tavern in a period kung fu movie is heavily branded with goldfish images. Definitely worth checking out for the decor. Keep your eye open for the free mouthwash, toothpicks, cotton swabs, and air freshener in the bathrooms (in this respect similar to their sister restaurant, Suika).

It's a busy place even on a Sunday night, but turnaround can be quite fast, and after 8pm or so you can probably expect to walk in and get a table for a small group. Or, even easier -- reservations are allowed.

It's an izakaya, so I recommend against tunnel-vision and looking for the sushi. In fact, the one sushi we had was intensely boring. Luckily we had two Japanese girls at our table who helped with the ordering and we got lots of tasty stuff (and some duds, sadly).

Deep Fried Fresh Corn ($5.80) - deep fried fresh corn with soy butter
  • Whole corn cut into quarters lengthwise, so you get some of the inedible cob (seed rack) and rather small kernels.
  • You can eat the entire stick served to you, but the cob is tough and tasteless.
  • Net amount of kernels is very small. Get this at Suika instead where they use canned sweet corn. You don't get any cob there.
  • Total waste of time no matter the price.
Our Famous Invincible & Undefeted [sic] Tantan Noodble ($9.80) noodles in pork bone & shrimp broth; seasoned with sesame, miso, cashew nuts; topped with ground pork, chili marinated chinese chives, and black sesame
  • Wow was this tasty. And price for portion is really decent as you get a sizable bowl that wasn't mostly soup.
  • A little bit of spicy heat really kicked up the tastiness a notch without any burning of the tongue.
  • For one person, this could possibly be a light meal all on its own -- under $10!
  • We ordered three for our party of seven and the orders automatically came with sharing bowls!
  • TIP: Ask for extra spoons and chopsticks if you want to distribute the noodles first instead of everyone dipping in their chopsticks.
Pressed Snowcrab Sushi ($13.40) pressed snow crab sushi with ikura (salmon roe) topped with ponzu jelly, radish sprouts, tobiko, shiso herb, and wasabi mayo
  • Don't share this with too many people. I got a lousy end piece and it was basically rice with a bit of crab on top. Not very even, so not every bit will be tasty.
Chicken Karaage ($8.40) deep fried boneless chicken served with real salt, himalayan crystal salt, and hakata salt
  • Completely unnecessary tiny portions of three types of salt for dipping -- the chicken itself is flavourful enough, and in any case there's not that much salt to go around.
  • Our Japanese friends agreed it was the most authentic chicken karaage they have had.
We also had some items from the special September menu. If it shows up, definitely get the cold udon noodle "salad". Good portion, very tasty, and under $10.

New Generation Fresh Ginger Ale ($5.50)
  • House-made ginger ale.
  • Our Japanese friends said the bitter ginger taste makes it a hit with Japanese girls back in Japan (?).
  • Not enough gingery bite for me, but enough. And tempered with 7-Up so it came in on the sweet side.
  • Refreshing palate cleanser.
  • Quite a bit of ice in my tall glass, though (at least 50%?)
Overall, price for portion for the filling carbs was very good. Go with a group and order a few other times for a cheap but tasty time, probably coming in under $15-$20 for a medium-filling meal.

Our male server was upbeat, friendly, and chatty despite us having come in just at the tail end of a very busy night.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Upscale Chinese at Yue Delicacy

Yue Delicacy Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato So apparently there's no good Chinese food in Paris and 4 siu mai will set you back 12 Euros when it's only about $3 here. Or so says my friend who's back in town after about six months there.
Naturally, she wanted to eat good Chinese food before going home and tonight we landed at Yue Delicacy -- the "Best Chinese Upscale winners of Vancouver Magazine's 26th Annual Restaurant Awards".

Right off the bat, they scored bonus points over most Chinese restaurants for the following:
  • Host at the front door. Who speaks English. None of that waiting-around-till-someone-acknowledges-you-so-you-can-ask-about-a-reservation and watching-people-coming-in-after-you-get-served-while-you-are-still-ignored that can happen at other places.
  • Clean washrooms. That look like hotel washrooms.
Slight loss of points for the menus which have English translations, but not quite enough. When the price reads "$40 / unintelligible Chinese characters", as a diner you really, really, want to know what the heck those Chinese characters mean. No pictures either.

We tried a bunch of stuff and overall the food was really decent, without looking too oily or sauced. Some items:

Deep Fried Whole Squab ($20.95?)
  • Total amount of meat less than one leg and thigh from KFC. Not worth it.
Peking Duck 2 ways (on the bill it shows as "Beijing Duck 2")
  • Didn't seem too special. Pretty standard.
  • The dish made from the duck meat looked like a simple stir-fry. Looks like a lot but if you look closely, chopped up onions (?) make up a good amount of this. A bit lacking in tastiness (but not too salty either) but there's a lot of Hoisin (?) sauce for you to top up the flavour.
Deep Fried Milk Curd (?)
  • The dish is mostly a stir-fry of snow peas, a bit of mushroom, and a lot of reasonably fat prawns.
  • The deep fried lumps are coated in batter. Sweet, and you can further sweeten these by dipping them in sugar.
  • I had a slight bitter aftertaste from these but my fellow diners said they didn't have the same. Hmm.
  • Overall, not as interesting or tasty as it sounded. And didn't really go well with the rest of the dish. They could've done this as a dessert.
Sweet Taro Soup
  • One of three free desserts! Looked like everyone got this and it definitely didn't show on the bill.
  • Simple, sweet, cloudy-milky soup with some sort of small pearls and cubes of taro.
  • Simple and tasty.
Almond Roll
  •  Slightly sweet translucent jelly-like wrap with slivers of almond.
  • OK tasting, made better by being part of the free dessert lineup.
Fried thingie with honey, sesame seeds, and coconut (?)
  •  Oily tasting fritters of ... I-don't-know-what that's really just there to carry the honey and other stuff sprinkled unevenly on top.
  •  More free dessert. Hmm...
Overall, taste was okay to good, and they got bonus points for amenities and quality of service (which is still inferior to The Change, which is clearly expecting to cater to a more Caucasian demographic).

We ordered a total of four things and our bill came to just over $119 after tax and before tip. For three persons, and NO cheap carbs to make dinner more filling, we ended up at $40/person before tip, and enough leftovers for two very full takeout boxes, so price is really decent if you go in a group.

Tea was free, of course and they were proactive about topping it up -- we didn't need to open the top of the pots to signal we needed a hot water refill. That's still more brownie points for their service.

Also nice are mobile screens that can give dining parties relative privacy in the smallish room.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Coffee and desserts at Notch8

Notch8 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato After a disappointing dinner at Tableau, we drifted over to the Fairmont Vancouver for dessert, hoping to introduce our dining buddies to the interesting Grand Marnier Souffle we had had at Notch8. Alas, the dessert menu (at the bottom of the bar-lounge menu) had long since changed to a basically $10 everything list.

We were seated at a different location in the surprisingly expansive restaurant, and got to see a little bit more of the interior. Each turn of a corner takes you into a different ambiance, making Notch8 a surprisingly versatile dining location.

Lemon Curd Tart ($10) candied peel, vanilla crémeux
  • Average sized lemon tart. Barely any sharp tartness, which may be disappointing to some.
  • Bitter peels and vanilla cream were totally worthless as a result, and I really didn't need to pay for them, did I?
  • Nowhere close to the excellent tart at Tartine so I'm gonna have to rate this one at no more than $6. But you're at the Fairmont, so I suppose a couple of extra dollars are expected.
  • Burnt-sugar crème brûlée top.
Summer Berry Pudding ($10) vanilla bean ice cream, honey tuille
  • Yup, it's pudding all right. Absolutely soaking in sweet berry syrup. So sweet you might want to temper it with the ice cream.
  • Otherwise pretty tasty. Definitely a 2-3 person sharing portion based on the sweetness.
Coffee ($5.50)
  • This gets you a POT which has probably 3 mugs in it.
  • Better than Starbucks, AND you get to have it in a much nicer space. Next time you're thinking of a quiet place to read or get work done, try asking to be tucked away somewhere quiet, deep inside Notch8.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Tableau Bar Bistro forgot my pasta sauce?

Tableau Bistro & Bar - Loden Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Smallish room, dimly lit, overall nice ambiance dominated by a lovely bar. Points for that.

Our table got to try a lot of things. I personally got two of the features of the day, so you will likely not experience them yourself, BUT there are lessons there that you should take note for your own visit to Tableau.

Free bread and butter after you have ordered. Not many restaurants do that anymore

(Pictures by a fellow diner at our table.)

Baked Cheese & Pasta Casserole ($22) blue cheese, gruyère & parmesan cheese
  • Yup, it's basically mac 'n cheese.
  • Strong but thankfully not overpowering blue cheese aroma.
  • For the price, go for something more interesting. If you're vegetarian then beggars can't be choosers, I guess. Maybe try going on $18 Meatless Monday instead.
  • Portion looked like 2 cups, possibly 3 cups max.
Feature flatbread ($12)
  • Today it was something about a roux base, ratatouille, and small cubes of chicken.
  • Where's my ratatouille? Someone forgot the veggies or what?
  • Cubes of chicken sprinkled over it.
  • Very thin and crispy crust which definitely helps in picking it up.
  • Since neapolitan pizza places are charging $12-$18+ for 11" pizza, I guess you can't really complain when they call it flatbread instead of pizza.
2015-Sep-20 Tableau - tagliatelle alfredo and beef bourguignon Sunday speciality - Beef Bourguignon ($24)
  • In the picture, it is the dish on the right.
  • Looks absolutely nothing like beef bourguignon, if you have had it before elsewhere or looked it up on wikipedia.
  • Looked like a few cubes of beef thrown into a stir-fry of root vegetables and a bit of pasta.
  • Where's the tasty brown stew?
  • Portion looked like 3-4 cups in total.
Feature Pasta #1 Tagliatelle alfredo "without the guilt"
  • In the preceding picture, it is the dish at the upper left corner.
  • Pureed cauliflower was supposed to substitute the fattening creaminess in the classic dish. Instead, there were a few sprigs of cauliflower but basically no sauce.
  • Maybe it didn't have to be slithering in sauce, but I think there should have at least been some clear sign, flavour, and texture of the noodles having been generously coated in the faux alfredo sauce.
  • Not sure how much this was, but probably in the $20's as everything else is. And price for what came to the table was definitely not worth it not just in lack of tastiness but also (to a lesser degree) portion.
2015-Sep-20 Tableau - tagliatelle alle vongole Feature Pasta #2 ($24) Tagliatelle alle vongole in rosso
  • I was initially very confused by what I got -- I was thinking, "where's my sauce?". But apparently that is the Italian-American style, and to not have it swimming in sauce is acceptable.
  • Not sitting in sauce is okay, but could the noodles at least taste clearly like they had some flavour other than noodle?
  • About 4-5 cups in total, excluding the shells of the small clams.
  • Portion is smallish but taste was the main reason for disappointment. For $24, I needed it to be somehow really tasty. For $24, totally not worth it.
 Steak Frites ($26) 8oz grilled sirloin, watercress, red wine sauce
  • Probably the best and most reasonable value on the entire menu. You also get a generous amount of french fries.
  • Fries looked too dark, so probably over-fried slightly. Also very salty.
  • Fries were mostly very short, maybe 2-4 cm. It looked intentional based on how the ends of the fries appeared to be cut, BUT visually it looked like mostly they put it together with short scraps from cutting fries from potatoes.
Overall, feeling extremely disappointed by my meal. Tastiness just wasn't there to justify price. Portion was disappointing for price, but that is an afterthought. Usually when prices start climbing over $15-$18 for a main, you get taste or you get portion. Here you got prices in the $20's but you got neither good taste nor good portions. We lost faith and went elsewhere for dessert.

And based on how many of us were surprised by what we got compared to what we were thinking we'd get (e.g., beef bourguignon), I recommend that you try to peek at what other people are eating, and don't all get the same thing in case you need to mix and match with your dining party.
They were remarkably clear and up-front about the 18% automatic gratuity for parties of 8+. In some restaurants they don't bother to tell you and you accidentally double-tip when you're using the machine. Here, they mentioned it during the pre-reservation call, before dinner, and when the bills are handed out.

Friday, September 18, 2015

6 Mountains Pu Erh Tea

The latest sample sent to me by SocialNature is 6 Mountains Pu Erh Tea. The name 6 Mountains Tea probably comes from the reputed "Six Great Tea Mountains".

6 Mountains Tea - tea bag

6 Mountains Tea - instructions 1

6 Mountains Tea - instructions 2

The two pictures below show how the Earl Gray tablet turned out after the first steeping of 3 minutes.

6 Mountains Tea - first steeping 1

6 Mountains Tea - first steeping 2

Mine did not smell fishy, which suggests a slip-up during production. Not sure what the return policy is in such a case, but such accidents are not exclusive to any brand.

I made a second mug shortly after and in seconds the tea bag delivered a deep, rich colour (see below). After taking the following photo, I took out the bag to preserve it for future steeping and I recommend you do so as soon as you get the desired strength/colour from steeping.

6 Mountains Tea - second steeping

6 Mountains Pu Erh tea tablets are sold in 12-packs for $39, plus $10 flat rate shipping, plus $0.50 GST on shipping. At $39 per 12, it works out to $3.25 per tablet. If you assume that you can steep it 4 times, it is roughly 80 cents per mug.
How you interpret this price will greatly determine how much value you perceive.

If you go to Starbucks, a tall (small) cup of Teavana uses one tea bag and will cost $2.15. You can also ask for a refill of hot water, so it could possibly work out to $1.08 per cup, but the second cup is gonna be weak.
Flavour-wise, you'd need to really love your tea to care about having more than just flavoured water. So if you just want flavour in your hot water, you could buy Lipton's Yellow Label. On offer at Superstore, it could be just $5 for 100 bags, or 5 cents per mug. Your second steeping will probably be quite weak, but if you can live with it, you can count it at 3 cents per mug.

So if you pick up 6 Mountains Pu Erh tea at all, it will probably be because you care that it is post-fermented and offers assorted benefits. These are non-quantitative benefits. You would need to experience it over time in a rigorous controlled test to see for sure -- in short, you either believe it or you don't. And if you don't, you're going to shop for flavour or price, and neither qualities are really what 6 Mountains is about (although they do have three flavours - Original, Earl Gray, and Rose).

Other than cost, presentation is very classy and (my personal preference here) flavour is better and more mellow than Lipton's.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Boston Pizza - Kids eat free - with a catch

Just got this Boston Pizza Free Kids Meal offer in my e-mail today. Looks like a good deal, but READ THE FINE PRINT before making a final decision. The highlights are
  • Costs you $5 up front.
  • That $5 will be donated to Boston Pizza Foundation Future Prospects.
  •  Fine print: Receive one (1) FREE Kids Meal per visit with the minimum purchase of $16. Card may be used on purchase date. Card not valid with any other coupon or promotional offer. Valid for dine-in only. One FREE Kids Meal per child per $16 purchase. Please present card before ordering. No cash value. Price includes all applicable taxes. OFFER EXPIRES JUNE 30, 2016.
Still want it? Buy before October-11. Do it through MyBP for an extra free kids meal.

2015-Sep-16 Boston Pizza Kids Card offer

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Remember to order carbs at Suika

Suika Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Suika has a tight space that looks perpetually busy. Dark interior with dark furniture. Fantastic sake-bottle chandelier.

Bathrooms are black-walled so for goodness sakes do not turn off the light or the next person will have a helluva time looking for the switch.

Like a real Japanese establishment, they have mouthwash and toothpicks. (Nope, not ultra-classy enough to give you disposable toothbrushes.)

They are too busy to give you the most prompt service and bussing and water, but the apparently all-Japanese staff are friendly and polite. Plus, the kitchen is quite fast, all things considered. And they do make sure someone sees you all the way to the door and wishes you a safe journey home.

It's an izakaya, which is sort of meant to be drink-alcohol-eat-snacks. Therefore portions are going to be small for your money, and you hope it will be tasty.
TIP: If you are hoping to put together a filling dinner at a decent price, remember to order carbs. Like noodles or rice. Those do come in a smallish to OK portion for your money. If you do not order any carbs, be prepared to order a lot of dishes and shell out maybe $40+ per person, excluding drinks.

Pan Mushroom Udon ($11.80)
  • Smallish portion of what looks like stir-fried udon. Taste is initially okay until the flavours build and the bit of spicy heat hits you. Then magically, it tastes really good.
  • Has chunks of chicken breast as well. Total chunks of chicken breast and mushroom look disappointing, however, especially for something that is $11.80.
Suika Deluxe Box ($12.80)
  • Nine sake cups of very flavourful items including an interesting shrimp cream cheese.
  • Price will feel steep because each item disappears in two bites.
  • You could possibly pair it with a small order of plain rice ($2?) and make a meal of it.
Torotoro Cha-Shu ($6.80) Pork roasted, then slowly braised till tender; served with suika's secret spice blend. It melts in your mouth.
  • Strangely soft -- so soft it's almost creamy in texture, so yes, it does feel like it melts in your mouth!
  • More interesting than tasty. Whatever "secret spice blend" they have, they need to give you more of it because this was awfully bland.
Ebi-Mayo ($8.80)
  • The staple of every izakaya and favourite of Japanese all over.
  • It's ebi-mayo. Nothing special here except they are skimpy on the mayo part.
Pork Feet ($6.80)
  • One pig's foot (a little more than just the hoof part) that appears pan-seared with some sort of fairly tasty juice until the outside is almost crispy.
  • Fat and collagen, and not that much of it because the rest is bone.
  • An acquired taste for sure. Price for portion is ridiculous for something that's mostly fat, so you really have to love it to want to pay for it.
AAA Beef Garlic Steak ($19) comes with fresh shichimi spice and soy onion sauce
  • Comes sizzling on a hot stone, so if you needed to you could cut the cubes open to expose the medium-rate inside and sear it some more.
  • Tender, but otherwise steak is steak.
  • Garlic bits sitting on top is where you need to go to get the garlic flavour.
  • The greenish chopped up stuff tastes is like wasabi paste but is not as strong. 
Grilled Sable Fish ($9.80) grilled miso-marinated sable fish
  • Tender almost buttery fish. Otherwise nothing special here. Save your $9.80 for something more interesting from the menu.
Corn Kakiage ($5.80) organic corn niblets fried with cilantro batter, soy sauce, and butter
  • Sweet corn that was battered and deep fried.
  • Tastes like sweet corn. Waste of time since batter and the deep fried treatment didn't really enhance the already strong and delicious flavour of sweet corn.
Beef Tendon Bibimbap ($9.80) stewed pork belly, sweet dried shrimp, and scallions on rice served in a hot stone bowl
  • If you want a picture, tell your server IMMEDIATELY. Because they mix up the rice right away for you, a thorough process that takes a few minutes.
  • They paste the rice against the sides of the bowl. You can leave it there for a few minutes to get crispier rice.
  • TIP: Order this early if you want crispy rice, and nibble on something else while waiting for the stone bowl to crisp the rice. Otherwise you will probably not have the patience to wait. Watched rice never crisps.
  • About 10 heaped tablespoons worth of rice. I know because we were sharing it amongst 5 people and we each only got two big tablespoons.
  • Once it's mixed thoroughly, you can see the ratio of stuff to rice is actually pretty high.
  • Predominant flavour is pepper. Otherwise tastes sort of like canned corned beef mixed in rice.
Hits and misses on the menu but even the misses are at least good-tasty. Better in a group so you can sample dishes. Remember to add carbs and you can get a moderately filling meal at around $25 without drinks or dessert.

No shortage of cute girls here -- and not just the staff.

Bento box at Umi Sushi Express (Metrotown)

Umi Sushi Express Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Umi Sushi Express is "famous" for their end-of-the-day $2 sushi box deals, but my friend insists they are best for their cheap bento boxes.

Around $7.49 will get you a beef or beef short rib bento box that includes:
  • A few slices of sweet potato tempura
  • One long prawn tempura
  • Four pieces of sushi with what looks like avocado and imitation crab meat
  • Token salad of shredded lettuce tossed in maybe soy sauce
  • About 1 bowl of rice
  • A variable amount of meat
$9.99 for the teriyaki Unagi bento box (freshwater eel).

It does NOT look like the picture. Picture shows a lot more meat than you are likely to get, and apparently this can vary highly from day to day. Today, my friend's beef bento box had more mushrooms and onions than pale shreds of beef.
My unami was thinly sliced and pasted over the copious amount of rice. Lots of sauce helped me to eat the excess rice.
Strangely, the prawn in the prawn tempura was tasteless. I carefully isolated the prawn from the batter, and yup, it was tasteless.

Everything in the box is thoroughly mediocre. Especially disappointing was how the portion of the main item (beef or unagi) did not look like the ad copy.
At basically $10, do NOT get the unagi bento box. At $7-$8, the other bento boxes are more acceptably priced for mediocre food with a very filling accompanying amount of rice. That's your budget lunch or dinner right there.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Buy alcohol, get free Tapas - Salt Tasting Room

From September-8 to October-11, between 3pm and 6pm every day, Salt Tasting Room will offer free tapas to customers enjoying wines, sherries, and beer.

Read about this "San Sebastián Experiment" at Vancouver Magazine.

Dessert at Anatolia's Gate

Anatolia's Gate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Dropped in to Anatolia's Gate late in the evening, about an hour before closing. If it's a really quiet night, they may start closing up everything even while diners are still in the restaurant.

Baklava ($5.95) sweet Turkish pastry made of thin dough sheets and walnuts; four for $5.95 or 2 for $2.95
  • A full order is four. Each is about a cubic inch.
  • Thoroughly soaked in syrup which thankfully did not include much, or any, rose water; and which was strangely not too sweet.
  • At almost $1.50 per piece, this was not really worth it as it wasn't that tasty.
Kunefa ($8.50) sweet Turkish pastry made of shredded dough and our homemade cheese
  • Price for portion is OK. Definitely a sharing at the size of approximately five packs of cigarettes.
  • Tastiness is also OK. Not too sweet despite being soaked in syrup.
  • Fun to eat because of the cheese that stays stringy even when the item has cooled to room temperature.
  • TIP: Instead of trying to tear chunks or wrap it around your fork like spaghetti, the least-messy way is to use the edge of your fork to cut chunks. You won't get the stringy fun that way, though.
I actually liked that the desserts were not too sweet, as syrup-soaked items generally turned out that way.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Where's my rum at Breka Bakery

Breka Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato After dinner at Deer Garden Signatures, we wandered over to Breka Bakery for dessert.
Cakes are generally $4.25 for a piece about 3"x3"x2", although you may find some things less than that, such as a Rum Ball for $2.75. Tastiness is generally good to very good.

Savory sandwiches are rubbishly priced at $7.50 or so for sad looking sandwiches that doubtless look better after the toasty panini treatment on site. But "grilled cheese" -- which looked no more than slices of cheddar between white bread -- was $6.50. Really?

At the same time, whole 6" tortes were only $8.50 and a massive poppyseed roll that's probably the size of your forearm was only $9.50.

Prices at Breka defy understanding and may be related to how long they've sat in the displays.

Rum Ball ($2.75)
  • About tennis ball sized.
  • Super-firm, almost like fudge.
  • Where's my rum?

Deer Garden Signatures a great phở alternative

Deer Garden Signatures Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato We had wanted to try Non Stop Pizza again but it turned out they were not just closed, but closed down on their Fraser Street location. The whole block (?) was scheduled for demolition and, probably, gentrification.

So my second choice was Deer Garden Signatures, which I'd been curious about but wasn't about to run out to Richmond for.
There was a line-up in the tight waiting area, but for our party of five, the wait time was estimated at 10 minutes, even with two parties ahead of us. And it was no lie! In about ten minutes we ended in a spacious booth near the back of the restaurant.

Client demographic looked predominantly under-30's Chinese, but the fairly young wait-staff could speak English well and were more polite and patient than at most Chinese restaurants I've been to. Points here!
Our orders didn't all come at the same time, BUT they all came very hot -- apparently it's served as it's made, no waiting around to serve an entire table at the same time, which risks items getting cold. One order from the menu took longer to prepare and we weren't told beforehand. But that, too, came out steaming hot, so it's clear the waitstaff are very prompt with delivering food.

Although the rest of the Fraser/49th region looks dilapidated, this restaurant is cleanly renovated on the inside. Booths give a lot of privacy despite the busyness.

If you haven't been, the protocol appears to be that you press a button at your table if you need service. Eventually, they will come. Press it when your party is ready to order.

They started us with hot tea, and there was no refill afterwards.
There are forms to fill out for their noodles, both at the hostess table and at the tables in the dining room. There are also menus, but read carefully what is available at what time.

A couple of us ordered dishes, which didn't look so great -- so like every other place, Deer Garden Signatures has duds, and our table had wildly swinging opinions from "disgusting" or "not impressed" to "good value" to "tasty".

It's hard to go wrong with the noodles if you like phở, but some soup bases are definitely tastier than others. Price for portion is also very good. Price for an already fairly big bowl (approximately the size of a standard bowl of phở) is $8.95, or around $10 after tax and tip. This is comparable to phở, but the mix-and-match concept gives you a lot more variety.

2015-Sep-8 Deer Garden Signatures noodle menu

For my soup base, I chose "watercress and almonds fish soup", which tasted like fish sauce soup. Which was OK, but way inferior to "peanut sauce & chili soup" which my friend ordered. That was way superior and I highly recommend giving it a go. Watch for the spiciness if you can't handle that well, though.

Standard items in the soup are green onion, cabbage, bean curd, and mushroom -- all of which can be omitted if you specify. The bowls were big enough that none of us wanted to try supersizing it for $1.50 more.

I also ordered "desert wings with ginger" ($1.95 for 3 wings). OK sized wings. VERY crispy, and stayed crispy for a long time. Moist on the inside. NOT gingery. As wings go they were very nicely deep fried and superior to most "wings" places. Worth a try unless you insist on strong gingery taste.

Glowbal at TELUS Garden

Glowbal Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Glowbal Group has got Telus Garden monopolized with not just the obvious Glowbal restaurant but the decidedly un-Glowbal-looking little Nosh cafe inside.

Glowbal used to have a Glowbal Grill Steaks & Satay and Grill in Yaletown, which honestly didn't impress me with overpriced mediocre skewers.
Then they opened various other restaurants including the black-and-gold themed Black+Blue -- still with great ambiance and mediocre food.

Now there's Glowbal.
  • Huge "patio" if you can really even call it that. It's basically outdoor seating that will be really interesting to watch when the winter months hit. Funny birdcage booth seating available outdoors as well.
  • Luxury-invoking black and gold theme inside.
  • Tight-looking ground floor interior as a lot of space is given over to the kitchen.
  • Upstairs seating.
  • Thankfully spacious staircases leading to the washrooms downstairs.
  • Still pricey in the Glowbal style.
Robata Platter ($39) chef selection from the robata grill
  • On the day we went, if I remember correctly this was 2 skewers each of:
    • Tierra Y Mar (normally $10 for 2 skewers) tiger prawn, chorizo, tomatillo salsa
      • BIG prawns, and sweet.
      • One prawn and one piece of sausage of so-so thickness (not a whole sausage!) per skewer. That's about $5 per prawn.
    • Bacon Wrapped Okra (normally $6 for 2 skewers) spicy aioli
      • Two pieces per skewer. I'm going to call this $1.50 per piece of short bacon because okra is slimy and yucky and only made palatable to me by the bacon and dip. Waste of time.
      • Where's the "spicy" part?
    • Kurobuta Pork Cheek ($8) spicy miso
    • Ginger-Soy Beef ($9) peanut sauce
    • Chicken ($6) yogurt marinated
  • Came with a token salad of shredded veggies and a couple wedges of lime.
  • Hey look, no discount!
  • Only got 3 sauces with the platter (tomatillo salsa, spicy aioli, and something green)
  • Would have been way better if this came really hot.
Tsukune (normally $6 for two skewers) chicken meatball, cured organic egg yolk and soy
  • Chicken meatballs were decent and tender all on their own, but definitely try it in the egg yolk dip
  • Not sure I'd pay $3 per ping pong sized meatball again, though.
2015-Sep-7 Quesdo Fundido at Glowbal at Telus Garden Queso Fundido ($14) chorizo, oaxaca cheese, navajo fry bread, charred jalapeño
  • Did someone throw in avocado instead of jalapeño by accident?
  • Salty!
  • Comes in a hot (volcanic stone?) bowl that keeps the cheese sizzling hot for a good time. This sears the cheese into that tasty brown leathery stuff where it touches the bowl.
  • While hot and the cheese is quite liquid, it is lots of fun to fork it out and watch the cheese string along, just like in pizza commercials.
  • Too-touch chewy wedges of bread. Be generous with the cheese or you won't have enough bread.
  • Great way to get a small party started while waiting for your mains.
  • Feels a bit overpriced for $14 but its quite tasty and fun, so overall price for not just taste and portion but experience is OK. Definitely try this.
Early reviews touched on shoddy service, and maybe it was different for us because we were seated inside, but there was no shortage of servers and three hostesses at the front. Our server was very attentive with prompt water top-ups and checking on us.

Like Black + Blue, you are basically coming here to impress your party with the space, to feel the prestige of dining in "luxury". If you are a foodie, look over the menu carefully and do not order anything that sounds boring. Like chicken skewers that taste like... just grilled chicken.

Keep your eyes open for slabs of parmesan strategically placed (exposed) on marble counters, ready to be grated onto your plate.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mr. Ho Wonton House

Mr. Ho Wonton House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato I've passed by this place so many times but never bothered to go in (because I get better Chinese food at home, that's why!) But tonight it was my friend's pick and also in part because we were curious about how just how many types of wontons there could be in a wonton house, we wandered in.

Curious mix of both Chinese and non-Chinese persons. Hmm... At least for sure it would be easy for non-Chinese persons to order, which was great for the two of us.
The older gentleman at the front desk was very friendly. The older female server too, but a bit rushed -- just dropped off the menus and whipped around to be on her way. Subsequent behavior, however, convinced me that she was just busy and not meaning to be rude. Combined with the friendly front desk who even send you off with a friendly goodbye when you are leaving, I'm leaning toward not taking points off.

The many booth seats reminds me of Denny's or Red Robin, but they do have a section with round tables (which look like they could accommodate 12 persons). Booths feel a bit packed but seating is spacious. Seats feel a bit lower than normal, though.
We were put in a side room, so isolated enough from server traffic that I felt safe enough to sneak in some pictures this time...

TIP: Mr. Ho Wonton House website prices are WRONG as of the time of writing this review. Add about $1 to all items.

spicy wontons with garlic and hot chili oil - minus about 2 wontons we ate already
house special wor wonton soup (SMALL) - initial bowl
house special wor wonton soup (SMALL) - half eaten, still lots of meat left
Breaded Lemon Chicken (half order)
Breaded Lemon Chicken (sample oily underside)
chinese broccoli with oyster sauce
Spicy Wonton with Garlic & Hot Chili Oil ($7.75)
  • Each wonton is about the size of a ping pong ball. Tastes like wonton -- nothing special here.
  • Holy moly! For an "appetizer" you've got at least a light meal worth of wontons. The picture is minus about three wontons we had already eaten.
House Special Wor Wonton Soup ($7.95 for Small)
  • Even a "Small" is a pretty big and deep bowl.
  • Not that many wontons for a "wonton soup".
  • No cheating with fillers of carbs or veggies or soup. You get quite a lot of meat. In the second picture, you can see that once we ate some of the top stuff off, there's still quite a bit of meat left to go.
Breaded Lemon Chicken
  • Oily batter which you could tear off if you needed to.
  • White meat, a little thicker than schnitzel.
  • Disgusting "lemon sauce" which looked neon-coloured and tasted like concentrate or pop. The strong flavour is needed to combat the oily taste, however.
  • Recommend you order something with less radioactive looking sauce. Decent chili sauce/oil is available at every table in little pots.
Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce
  • Where's my oyster sauce?
Overall: Some items are duds (every restaurant has some) but with some items, price for portion is really good. Taste is OK, so this place adds up to being good as a value-for-your-money restaurant. Anywhere you can get a decent meal for around $10 or under deserves a bonus point nowadays.

TIP: The password for the free wifi is... "wonton"! (Of course! Duh. :D )

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Happy Hour Appys at Chewies Coal Harbour

Click to add a blog post for Chewies on Zomato Previously I'd been to Chewies during Happy Hour as well, way back when their fried chicken dinner was $3 dollars less at $18 instead of the $21 it is now).
Happy Hour is pretty popular at Chewies starting around 5pm, so if you want a reasonably quiet room, get there around 4pm. Later the ambient conversation noise of a busy room, plus the loud music, will make hearing the person just a couple feet away pretty challenging.

I'd opted for the full proper dinner of chicken last time, so this time I thought I'd try their strictly happy hour discounted appetizers ("First Bites"). The items on offer are listed on a separate happy hour menu.

Boudin Balls (regular price $14) Creole style pork sausage meat and dirty rice stuffed sausage balls, chicken fried and served with sweet and smoky mustard.
  • Mustard is still mustard, so if you use too much it'll flatten all the other flavours.
  • Smells and tastes like liver. If you actually like liver or pate, this will be okay.
  • Token salad plus four boudin balls, each roughly the size of a ping pong ball. At the Happy Hour price of $7, this is still almost $2 per ball! I feel the price is pretty steep unless you really like the salad too. At regular price, if you really only get 4 balls as well, don't order it and get a proper main instead.
Crocs & Hush Puppies (regular price $14) Chicken fried crocodile, house vinaigrette, corn hush puppies, jalapeño jelly
  • "Jelly" dip is sweet and watery.
  • Crocodile here is chunks so you can actually isolate whole pieces of crocodile (which is apparently cheaper to import from Australia than it is to get alligator from North America?).
  • Tastes too much like chicken. And since the total portion of crocodile is probably about one KFC thigh, paying even $7 half price for the novelty of eating crocodile is too much. Just eat chicken.
  • Hush puppies were pretty firm and not particularly tasty. Try the Revel Room's cornbread hush puppies, which come with their fried chicken dinner plate.
Unless the regular price portions are bigger (hopefully double!), under no circumstances should you order Boudin Balls or Crocs at full price. The portion starts to look awfully small when the price goes over $10. If you allow that they are in a downtown location and are willing to pay for that location, then half price to even $10 is acceptable.

Pan Seared Calamari ($13) BC Humbolt squid with a cucumber, mint and jalapeño salad in a crème fraîche dressing with smoked paprika aioli
  • Decent sized plate at half price. Almost looks like a medium plate of fettuccine, except the "noodles" are squid. That's a fair amount of squid if you are paying half price during Happy Hour.
  • Didn't look or taste really pan seared (keyword here being "seared") to me, and overall taste was a bit on the bland side.
  • TIP: If you find it a bit too bland, instead of reaching for the sour hot sauce on the table (which tastes like Frank's Hot Sauce), maybe mix your salad and its dressing into the squid noodles.
  • Price for portion okay, taste was so-so.
Dungeness Crab Cakes (regular price $15) Lemon aioli, with an avocado & cucumber salad in a sherry vinaigrette
  • Strangely, this did not strongly taste like crab. Might be a fluke as the contents of the cakes did look quite crab-meat-like that there shouldn't have been much filler.
Despite a lacklustre experience from their happy hour menu (especially considering the price -- so I recommend trying their appetizers only during Happy Hour first), I continue to hear their fried chicken is still a winner. So Chewies probably still has better dinner mains than appys. Every restaurant menu has winners and duds, so check recent reviews for recommendations and go in informed for a tastier time.

My previous warning about the mid-way server change at Happy Hour continues to be valid. If you change your seat, definitely tell your server, or simply try not to do it. It took a long time to sort out 12 bills because our party moved around a bit.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Very hot "salad" at Tuc Craft Kitchen

Click to add a blog post for Tuc Craft Kitchen on Zomato

I was at Tuc Craft Kitchen over a year ago, and the menu has changed a lot. Fortunately still on the menu are the Orange Glazed Lamb Ribs (was $9, now $11), which are still three ribs per order, and still very delicious by all accounts of people who had them. I passed this time and tried curious-sounding things instead.

Crispy Bacon and Egg ($4)
  • Pretty much exactly as it sounds: Hard boiled egg wrapped in lightly battered bacon fried to a crisp.
  • This was on the menu way back when and probably kept because it's strangely good in its simple way.
Parsnip Fries ($5)
  • Long, noodle-like strings of parsnip, coated in batter and deep fried.
  • The sauce that came with this is really tasty.
  • The fries themselves weren't oily to the touch, but tasted like slightly oily batter.
  • Waste of time and overpriced for the fluffy 2-cup portion you get.
Farmer’s Summer ($16) tender squash, assorted beets, vine ripened tomatoes, ricotta cheese, sweet pea sugo
  • Sounded like a salad but it came in a very hot bowl. So hot the server needed to caution me.
  • The beets were shredded into long, thin, noodles. The experience of eating this is like having a hot bowl of noodles!
  • Definitely mix the goodies in the bowl or all the sauce will stay sunk at the bottom and leave you a sour-salty soup to finish.
  • TIP: Ask for a spoon when you order.
  • Overall, good tastiness but really more interesting than anything.
  • Found only one (1) yellow tomato smaller than a ping-pong ball.