Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Joe Fortes Mini Burgers

Click to add a blog post for Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House on Zomato I've been to Joe Fortes several times for Happy Hour (2013, 2015) though I haven't blogged all my visits. Since I've tried so many items, I figured this time, in addition to various orders, I'd try their sliders.

Joe's Mini Cheese Burgers (3 for $7.95) cheddar cheese, pickles, coleslaw
  • McDonalds has burgers that taste better than these sliders.
  • The patty is... mediocre. Dunno why they even bother putting this on the menu. You get a thin slice of cheddar, a slice of pickle, and honestly that's all I can remember when I peeked in the burger.
  • Still, you get 3 sliders for $7.95. Which works out to more than 1 burger patty of meat. Shove the coleslaw into your mini-burgers to make them more acceptable.
  • Go to a real burger place, like Sliders on West Broadway, to get really decent sliders. Go to McDonald's if you insist on mediocre burgers. But leave the sliders at Joe Fortes alone.
Everything else from the happy hour menu was, however, good to really good as usual. Prawn Tacos still ace.

They were also very aggressive about seating. We were in shortly before 4pm and the four of us got a tiny strip of bar. They were going to try to jam us four, plus another 2 couples (total 8 persons) in there, but we had too many orders and eventually they did move us to a table when one became available.
In the meantime, they brought out food as it was prepped from the kitchen, but there was simply no table space. One of the servers essentially urged us to quickly divvy up items on one of the serving plates so she could clear it and make room for another.

Happy Hour isn't really geared for parties. I think they are expecting couples who just order one or two things and are done quickly. Not the best dining experience, I have to say, but they were slammed even at 4pm and with a lineup in the waiting area, so I think they are moving people quickly so others aren't kept waiting too long.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Nature's Aid all natural shampoo and conditioner

The latest sample I received from SocialNature is Nature's Aid All Natural Shampoo and Conditioner. It claims to be:
  • For all hair types
  • Organic
  • Vegan
  • All Natural Shampoo + Conditioner
  • Natural lather for an amazing shampoo experience
  • Scalp friendly formula helps alleviate dry or flaking scalp
  • Lightweight moisture for perfectly smooth, silky hair
  • Helps to treat and prevent split ends
  • No synthetic fragrances
  • No artificial colours or dyes
  • Free of parabens, sulfates, and harsh chemicals
I have thin hair (and a big bald spot) on my head -- so not a lot of hair to work with. And I also tend to have an oily scalp, leading to oily hair, and if I'm not careful dirt can build up on my scalp. In the past, hair loss experts claimed that this was a contributing factor to my hair loss.

Anyway, in the past I typically looked for whatever cheap shampoo in Superstore will handle oily hair. Later on, I just used soap and found that it did the same job just fine.

I've tried Nature's Aid for almost a week now, using shampoo and conditioner in the morning.
They lather easily and both shampoo and conditioner have a light, pleasant, gingery aroma. I don't have a dry or flaking scalp so I can't attest to that. My hair does feel clean and not oily after, and I think softer than usual.

Other than that, I can't really report anything special here.

So if you're looking for a shampoo that uses natural ingredients; or if you're VEGAN conscious; or if you just want something different to handle oily hair; then Nature's Aid is definitely worth considering.

Nature's Aid shampoo front

Nature's Aid shampoo back

Brie-osh Baked Brie - Pecans and Caramel

Picked up a packet of Nuvo Gourmet Brie-Osh - Pecans and Caramel from Superstore. I've bought brie before, but my mom never fooled around with doing anything "fancy" with it, possibly because she didn't know how. So I got this in the hopes that she'd get the idea and maybe try it on her own.

Pecans on top (as in the picture) NOT included.

Bread is sweet and looks basically baked for you.

On the inside, it is a cake of brie sitting on a tasty-sweet mixture of pecans and caramel. It's so basic you might as well not buy this and just use whatever you have at home. That was my MISTAKE NUMBER 1.

MISTAKE NUMBER 2 was following the baking instructions. After the indicated 30 minutes at 250°F on "Bake" in my toaster oven, the cheese still hadn't melted in the least and was still cool when I cut it in half. I turned my oven on Toast at 250°F and left it in there for an additional 30 minutes. Cheese still only barely melted (see picture of two halves).
At this point I gave up and shelved half for experimentation later. I took the other half and popped it in the microwave for 1 minute on "HI" heat. The cheese mostly melted all over the place. Scooped it back and cut it into four wedges.

Barely enough pecan and caramel to go around.

Next time, I'm gonna just buy my own brie, cut it open, slather it with marmalade, sit it on a slice of expendable bread, and nuke it in the microwave.

Brie-Osh Baked Brie - Pecans and Caramel

Brie-Osh ingredients

Brie-Osh instructions

Brie-Osh nutrition facts

Brie-Osh Baked Brie - pecans and caramel

Brie-Osh Baked Brie - pecans and caramel - side

Brie-Osh Baked Brie - pecans and caramel (bottom)

Brie-Osh Baked Brie - pecans and caramel - baked 60 minutes

Brie-Osh Baked Brie - pecans and caramel - microwaved

Xu's Wonton House xiao long bao

Xu's Wonton House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato My first experience of Xiao Long Bao in Canada. Right next door to Bubble Waffle Cafe in Crystal Mall (for which I had a SocialShopper coupon) and based on my dining buddy's recommendation we got XLB there as well.

Eat it fast. Once it got colder, the skin at the bottom stuck to the paper and it tore when we lifted it off.

The denser top where the dough pinches is where you lift it off with your chopsticks. It's freshly steamed so generally too hot to just pop the whole thing in your mouth but you can do that if you wait a couple of minutes -- but you're risking the rest of the XLB being cold. I recommend just diving into them right away. Bite a hole, suck out the juice, eat the rest or pour some of the provided vinegar into it.

I have nothing to compare it to but they were pretty tasty -- both soup and the bao themselves. At $4.55 for 5, they are very cheap, compared to Bao Place for instance.

Lineups are quite long. You get a number, and thankfully they also shout it in English.

In the pictures below, we were overzealous and quickly ate one per steamer before I remembered to take a picture. DUH.

2015-Dec-28 Xu's Wonton - xiao long bao

Bubble Waffle Café SocialShopper

Bubble Waffle Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Came here for a SocialShopper coupon: "Authentic Hong Kong" Soup Noodles Set Meal for 2, Including Side Dish and Drinks. The deal is $14.50 with a supposed $27 value.

There are definitely savings here since you choose your two noodles either from the mark-it-yourself menu, or any of the pre-set $7.29 bowls. You get two drinks, and one small side dish.

Despite the place being called Bubble Waffle Café, you do not automatically get a bubble waffle but you can add it on for just $2, their special price for add-ons when you also purchase noodles.

Super Hot Dry Noodle with Grilled Sausage and Fish Tofu (normal price $7.29)
  • Not "super" spicy-hot to start, but there's a hot aftertaste in your mouth. Thankfully the drinks are all cold.
  • Noodles look redder (due to sauce) than in the picture at the counter. Sausages were also more grilled (which I prefer).
  • Approximate amount of noodles is what you get in a packet of instant noodles.
  • Even without the coupon, price for portion felt okay and it was fairly tasty.
Starbucks Grande-sized drinks. They are plastic-capped bubble-tea style, with a western astrology cartoon picture. We got Gemini and Aries.

"Small Side Dish": Curry Fish Balls
  • Basically, fish balls (7?) tossed in curry sauce. Nothing too special here.
  • In retrospect I'd go with one of the other choices, though. Twisted potato (rotato!) would be the most fun. Don't worry about portion since it's all bound to be small.
Chocolate  Bubble Waffle ($2 with noodle order, $4 otherwise)
  • Crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, and pretty big -- about 75% bigger than a single waffle in one of those supermarket frozen food section packs.
  • Not super fun or tasty, to be honest. Maybe I should have tried the cheesecake one.
  • I wouldn't buy this for $4. Get it as an add-on if you really want it.
Overall, the SocialShopper coupon is a good deal. Noodles are an OK value. Smaller portion than a pho bowl, but also cheaper and with more interesting taste options, so it evens out.

2015-Dec-28 Bubble Waffle Cafe Crystal Mall Social Shopper

2015-Dec-28 Bubble Waffle Cafe Crystal Mall - chocolate bubble waffle

Monday, December 21, 2015

Meat and Bread kashmiri lamb sandwich

Meat And Bread Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Finally made it down to a Meat and Bread location (Gastown), today for a late (2pm) lunch. Still a long lineup even so late into the lunch hours, but there was still seating at the long communal table so turnaround appears to be quick.

Monday Special: Peace Country Kashmiri Lamb, Garlic Aioli, Fried Onions, Cabbage Slaw, Cilantro ($9.50)
  • Probably better hotter but I had to sneak it out of the place to take a pic at VCC since no one else was taking pics there.
  • The chewy-crusted bread was OK but chewing it too fast made my jaw ache. Yeah, it's that chewy.
  • Lamb was tender for being pulled lamb, but otherwise a bit on the dry side, but helped by the aioli.
  • Weak on flavours of garlic, fried onions, and cilantro. But lamb was tasty and very flavourful, easily making up for the shortfall.
If you think of this as a $10 burger with no side, it comes in on-par with most restaurant or gourmet burgers. Plus counter service means no tip really necessary, so it works out to a medium or light meal (depending on your appetite) for $10, which can be really rare these days, especially if you're looking for something tasty and not ordinary.

2015-Dec-21 Meat and Bread Gastown - kashmiri lamb

2015-Dec-21 Meat and Bread Gastown - kashmiri lamb (inside)

2015-Dec-21 Meat and Bread Gastown menu

Afternoon Tea at Adonia

Adonia Tea House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato After a screwup at Provence, we called around for another afternoon tea place, and Adonia Tea House let us squeeze in. It's a tiny place, so it was really quite a squeeze -- small couch plus two chairs, and food and tea onto two small tables and nearby side tables. So the presentation was a bit mixed (and my friend cut up the scones before I could get a picture).
Decor and ambiance is nice for afternoon tea despite the cramped room, and they have many interesting and elegant pieces if you look around carefully.

Tea for three had basically just the sandwiches same for everyone. Everything else was one-of-a-kind, so if you insist on trying everything, you'll have to nimbly cut and scoop a bit off everything. This is very non-standard for most afternoon teas I've had (except Soffee Cafe so far). Some people might not like it but I am more easy going and appreciate the choice it offers.

Bottom tier ham sandwiches and cucumber sandwiches had the contents beautifully laid out but were otherwise really rather boring. Which is not a huge deal since they are light fillers. However, this set the tone, and I'm probably being biased with my experience of my afternoon tea.
What looked like butter accompanying the jam was actually more like sweet cake icing, and I thought that was a nice touch.
The sweets strangely tasted like it came from a store, but since they have a chef and kitchen back there, it is unlikely to be the case. I can't exactly put my finger on why they were strangely disappointing, but maybe it's the subtle things: Like the mini cupcakes being rather firm and a bit dry. Or the cheese mini-quiches being so wet on the inside. Or the scones having a fairly decent buttery aroma, but not so much in taste.
It's also possible that it was a rush job because we just parachuted in with maybe a 30-minute warning on our reservation.

They are skimpy on Afternoon Tea details on the website, and the pricing is off ($29 instead of $27 on the website). I counted 11 pieces on our full Afternoon Tea set.

I did very much like the teapots and the special lower lip on the spout which helps tea pour with no messy dribbling, which can happen with other spouts that do not have this feature.

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - afternoon tea for 3 persons, scone and creams trays

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - teapot and tea set

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - afternoon tea for 3 persons, main tray, picture 1 of 2

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - afternoon tea for 3 persons, main tray, picture 2 of 2

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - tea list

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - clocks with the incorrect time

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - teacup display

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - one of several sexy ladies

2015-Dec-20 Adonia - no idea what this says

LA Chicken

L.A. Chicken Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Hilariously close to Red Rooster, the other best-fried-chicken-in-Richmond contender, is LA Chicken. Looks more like KFC chicken. Super crispy skin. Eat it right away and it's sooo juicy. Like dripping wet juicy. Winner.

Unless chickens have shrunk since the last time I had KFC, the size of the legs and thighs seemed... smallish.

I tried only the spicy chicken, and it was OK for spiciness. You get a bit of spicy-heat aftertaste. Otherwise, seemed to be just like "regular" fried chicken.

Try to order tubs. 2 pieces for $6.60 works out to over $3 per piece. With bigger orders you can get it under $2 per piece, which puts it on par with KFC. Still, for sheer amount of meat, it beats a burger.
Don't go for "snacks" or combos. 2-piece snack is $8, which means your fries are $1.40.

2015-Dec-17 LA Chicken menu 1

2015-Dec-17 LA Chicken menu 2

2015-Dec-17 LA Chicken menu 3

2015-Dec-17 LA Chicken menu 4

2015-Dec-17 LA Chicken (top), Red Rooster (bottom)

Red Rooster broasted chicken

Red Rooster Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Red Rooster is kind of a dilapidated looking hole-in-the-wall. You know, what many Chinese restaurants look like.
They use broasting (a trademarked combination of pressure cooking and frying) to give you "fried" chicken. If you know only KFC, then it will be disappointing for the inferior crispiness of the skin. Also, I found it less juicy than fried-in-four-minutes chicken, from KFC or nearby LA Chicken.
Still, there is really no comparison because the styles are too different. When you go, just try to turn off your expectations and try something new.

Portion is atrocious. When did chicken parts shrink? Or does KFC have dibs on big fat chickens?

5-piece Combo ($15.49) is for five pieces legs/thighs, macaroni salad (it's the only kind, apparently), and fries.
  • Fries are actually really decent! And dusted with the same curry-ish spice as on the chicken. Spicing is quite nice but a bit mild / tame for my personal taste. Not just straight salty, though, which is nice.
  • We at our chicken pretty much right when it came out. Missing the same crispy fun as "regular" fried chicken. More like what you can do at home without any fancy coating on your chicken.
  • Meat didn't seem to be as juicy as freshly fried KFC. Skin also seemed less oily.
  • Macaroni salad was sort of... bland and yuck. We didn't finish it. TIP: Don't buy the combo. Just go for chicken only.
  • Choice of pop comes with your combo. I picked the weirdest one, which was a Pakistani cream soda. It's green. It's also normally $1.50, which is the priciest soda they have in the fridge.
Unlike KFC, it takes about 20 minutes per order, IF there are no orders ahead of you. They have to prep the chicken with some marinade/coating first, and their broaster only handles 20 pieces at a time and it takes 15 minutes to fry.
You might be the only one in the store at the time but they could be handling called-ahead pickup orders so potentially your wait could be in excess of 30 minutes.

TIP: If you want white meat, there is an option to replace dark with white for 15 cents per.

TIP: Pay when you order, like any other fast-food place. They invite you to pay after you eat, like a sit-down restaurant. But it's all too easy to accidentally do a dine-and-dash because you think you are in just another fast food place.

2015-Dec-17 Red Rooster - 5pc combo

2015-Dec-17 Red Rooster - Pakola - pakistani cream soda

2015-Dec-17 Red Rooster - menu and money from around the world

2015-Dec-17 Red Rooster - wall art

2015-Dec-17 LA Chicken (top), Red Rooster (bottom)

Afternoon Tea at Provence Mediterranean Grill

Provence Mediterranean Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Tried to go to Provence Mediterranean Grill for Afternoon Tea. Of course I made a reservation ahead of time on Bookenda. When I got there, it took a long time for anyone to even acknowledge me at the waiting area. Once we were seated, it again took a long time for anyone to check in on us (maybe the dispersing brunch rush had something to do with it?).
Finally, we asked to get started with the afternoon tea. That's when we were told 24-hour-ahead reservations were necessary. Since I confirmed my reservation numbers the morning of the day before, I figured we should have been okay.
The server told me that afternoon tea had to be scheduled over the phone.
Really? Where does it say that on the website? (see below). In fact, the website says "Reservations recommended" -- which suggests walk-ins are possible for afternoon tea, with just the risk of not having seating instead of not having food.

Also, I specified I wanted afternoon tea in the notes on the online reservation TWO WEEKS ago. Nobody read that? They knew I had a reservation, so how could they not know it was for afternoon tea?

It really, really, annoys me when restaurants have an online presence but don't follow up properly.

2015-Dec-21 Provence Mediterranean Grill - afternoon tea menu

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Congee Noodle Delight

Congee Noodle Delight Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Lured here by my friend with the promise of large portions.
Not that much seating but probably more than you think since the entrance is tight before you get to the "back room".

Portions are actually just OK for price since most of it is made up of cheap carbs.

Special Egg Foo Young ($14)
  • Menu doesn't say, but it contains BBQ pork slices and shrimp.
  • Shrimp were big. BBQ pork was tasteless.
  • Portion weak for $14 but you are probably paying for the shrimp.
  • I was initially told it was a mix of seafood and shellfish. It was NOT. And they did NOT give me the correct info until AFTER the dish arrived. WTH?
BBQ Duck with Rice ($9 for big plate)
  • Waste of money. Duck had basically no meat, no tasty fat. You are just getting skin plus the rice it's sitting on.
No.69 Hot Chili Minced Pork with Noodle ($7.50)
  • The menu says "Cold Meat" but the meat was hot. Huh? Still, the server insisted what he brought was correct.
  • Not spicy-hot at all. Sauce tasted like that tomato sauce from canned sardines. (No, I'm not joking).
To make your food more palatable, use the condiments. I tried the reddish vinegar and the oily chili, which was weakly spicy-hot, so use lots to get any flavour going.

Don't let my review actually dissuade you from going -- just don't order what I ordered. The menu is pretty big. They must do something right.

2015-Dec-14 Congee Noodle Delight - No.69 Hot Chili Minced Pork with Noodle $7.50

2015-Dec-14 Congee Noodle Delight - House Special Egg Foo Young - $14

2015-Dec-14 Congee Noodle Delight - House Special Egg Foo Young - BBQ pork and shrimp

2015-Dec-14 Congee Noodle Delight - BBQ duck and rice $9

2015-Dec-14 Congee Noodle Delight - BBQ duck and rice - duck underside

2015-Dec-14 Congee Noodle Delight - condiments