Sunday, February 28, 2016

reLiSH Gourmet Burgers (Commercial Drive)

reLiSH Gourmet Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Other than the food, there's lots I actually like about reLiSH on Commercial Drive:
  • First, for a fast-food joint, service is actually really ace. The main person manning the till (the South Asian manager?) was really friendly, patient, and helpful. He brings your order to where you are sitting. He checks in on your meal each time something new is brought. Also I noticed he made sure to see all patrons off with a good-bye sendoff when they leave. This is sit-down restaurant level service that is better than some sit-down restaurants!
  • The space is open and seating feels spacious and private. Unlike their neighbours Jamjar and Cabrito who are super busy but also pretty packed like sardines. One of the reasons we went to reLiSH tonight was because we wouldn't be squished and we could have a relaxed time and conversation over dinner.
  • Vegan option. It's not a "real" vegan option in that you make it happen with substitutions. But at least it's possible. What you do is:
    • Ask for lettuce instead of bun, since bun making involves egg here.
    • Look at veggie topping selections and omit non-vegan items. For some, you are basically only omitting mayonnaise.
What I didn't like:
  • The food. This part is complicated -- see below when I go through my food experience in detail. I tried the February special burger, onion rings, and coleslaw. After a promising introduction at reLiSH on Davie as part of a Yelp event, this was a huge letdown.
  • I was initially put off by the minimum recommended tip of 15% you are presented with when you pay at the till. Nevertheless I can see how people are inclined to not leave any tip at all if left up to them to leave a tip on the table, and tipping for fast food is also not really the norm. So if left to convention, they wouldn't get any tip at all. 
  • Didn't get napkins right away with the burger sent to our table. Napkins were also far away at the condiment station. I recommend napkin dispensers at every table.
Lots of lost points on the food makes this a sub-standard place when it could be superlative thanks to spaciousness and excellent service.

February burger, "Red Monkey" ($9.96) sweet + sour pineapple, cucumber, green onion, onion frites. Your choice of patty (I went with vegetarian). Poppy seed and sesame bun.
  •  The notice board indicated "sweet + sour pineapple". Only after my meal did I notice that the digital noticeboard read "sweet + sour pineapple SAUCE". Just sauce. Not chunks of pineapple. I'm almost tempted to call this a cheat.
  • The toppings indicated were token, especially the all-important pineapple, which was just a smear.
  • The cucumber was in large chunks that liked to fall out of your burger.
  • I went with the veggie patty, which was on its own really decent -- not-overpowering curry flavour. However, it was very prone to crumbling, so if you are not clever with your burger it's liable to be a mess.
  • Because of the curry, the patty overpowered everything, including the small amount of pineapple. This is partly my fault because I wanted to go veggie tonight. I admit I was recommended either the beef or turkey patties. Whenever you get the veggie patty at reLiSH, remember you're getting a clear curry flavour with your burger that doesn't go with a lot of stuff without either clashing flavours or flat out overpowering them.
2016-Feb-27 reLiSH (Commercial Drive) - February burger

2016-Feb-27 reLiSH (Commercial Drive) - Red Monkey Burger and side of onion rings

2016-Feb-27 reLiSH (Commercial Drive) - Red Monkey Burger (inside)

2016-Feb-27 reLiSH (Commercial Drive) - veggie patty closeup

Beefeater Onion Rings ($4)
  • Absolutely horrified by the puny portion of onion rings that came with my burger. For $4! Remember that they may look big, but they are rings so they only looks big in volume.
  • Strangely, when my friend ordered another side of onion rings -- also for $4 -- she got more! Huh? Was it because they saw me taking photos?
  • Very crispy exterior and no flour flavour, which sometimes happens with onion rings. We're talking crunchy and hard crispy here. Plus, it stayed crispy even when cold. Really, really decent.
  • We were only later offered a dipping sauce (no, not Heinz ketchup available at the condiment station). Wouldn't have known about it otherwise. Anyway: TIP -- Ask for dipping sauce right at the start, and lots of it.
  • When my friend's subsequent order of onion rings came, it did not come with any more dipping sauce. Huh? Is the sauce standard or not? If not... why did we get it?
2016-Feb-27 reLiSH (Commercial Drive) - onion ring side order

Coleslaw ($3)
  • Not what you are thinking. This is more like a "salad" of plain white lettuce and a smallish amount of "coleslaw dressing".
  • Coleslaw dressing is really rather good, with a sweetness and also a gingery flavour. Ask for more to go with your boring lettuce salad "coleslaw". Or even just ask for some to go with your burger or onion rings.
  • Without the dressing, this is an overpriced waste of time.
2016-Feb-27 reLiSH (Commercial Drive) - coleslaw dressing
2016-Feb-27 reLiSH (Commercial Drive) - menu

2016-Feb-27 reLiSH (Commercial Drive) - faux candle at bar

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fortune House gives a free meal with every dessert

Fortune House Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Been literally years since I went to Fortune House Seafood Restaurant. Last time was for Signature Dish 2011, a Chinese-restaurants-of-the-lower-mainland event that I've never seen again since.
The best and most surprising development is their partnership with Mealshare, a charity that gives a meal every time you buy a meal tagged with their logo on the menu.
As you can see from the pictures below, Fortune House has many qualifying items -- lots more than most Mealshare restaurants, which typically mark maybe 2-3 items.

The way Mealshare works is that the restaurant makes a contribution every time you buy a marked menu item.And because lots of people like to buy dessert (and all the desserts are Mealshare items), Fortune House is providing a lot of meals through Mealshare! This really says something about the restaurant's owner being so committed to the principles behind Mealshare that he is basically making a charitable donation with almost every patron that walks in the door.

Yeah. Some people are really nice.

For this reason alone I'm going to score them higher than they would normally get for food and service -- I didn't go tonight just to interview them about Mealshare. I went because I was invited to eat-and-blog. Read on...

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - menu page 1

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - menu page 2

My set menu tonight was courtesy of the YVRFoodies Meetup, so IT WAS COMPLIMENTARY.
That said, if you've read my recent food-for-review blog of Kaya Malay Bistro, you'll know I can't be "bought" and I'm still going to give an honest review, not necessarily tilted in their favour just because they gave me free stuff.

First, general notes:
  • There were 11 at our table and everyone was taking pics, so everything was obviously cold by the time we allowed ourselves to eat. I'm sure everything that is hot tastes better hot. I didn't get the full "proper" experience.
  • They mass-produced everything for about 35 people. That always takes a toll somewhere. And I noticed it right from the first dish (read on...).
  • I found that overall the food was OK. And they would also score OK, except they unnecessarily lost a lot of points ("unforced errors"). For example, they provided a menu for our reference. BUT they did NOT follow the menu in terms of which courses came out. Kind of minor, but it's like a table of contents that isn't accurate. Points lost for overall sense of confidence in their competence.
  • Tea refills come pretty fast!
  • I asked for hot water with some lemon. It never came. Hot water was available from the refill pots at the table, but no lemon. :-( I guess they forgot.
Assorted Vegetable Tempura, Homemade Garlic Chili Sauce
  • If I had to rate the restaurant based on this one dish, it would score zero.
  • You can tell they are trying hard with presentation, using the martini glass and good mix of colour. But the veggies aren't shaped properly to really allow a very nice presentation.
  • Where they really lost points with me was when I noticed that everyone else had a sprig of broccoli and I didn't. Where's my broccoli? How did that escape the notice of the kitchen and the servers -- unless no one cared to fix it. And maybe they couldn't because they had to go on to make the next dish. Whatever the case, I got one piece of veggie less, and it was such an obvious plating error.
  • Where's the chili sauce? Unforced error. :shakes head: Some of the deep fried veggie sticks had some salt (or salty spice) on it, but not all. When I did have it, it seemed quite strong. Not sure if that would have gone well with any chili sauce, so maybe they substituted sauce with salting? In any case, it didn't follow the menu provided.
  • Very crispy tempura coating, but also very oily tasting. Have your veggies some other way.
  • Carrots at the bottom nice to look at but also needed something to help you eat it, unless you really like raw carrot.
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - vegetable tempura

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - vegetable tempura

Dim sum Trio: House Shrimp Dumpling, Deep Fried Meat Dumpling, Sticky Rice Wrapped in Bamboo Leaf
  • Meat dumpling had slightly sweet skin (nice!) and I guess an OK amount of filling, which was sort of smothered by the skin. Otherwise OK.
  • Sticky Rice had one token piece of very firm egg yolk and sausage. If you don't cut it open like an autopsy though, you probably wouldn't know and just know it tasted pretty good.
  • I personally didn't care for the egg yolk, so I was sort of glad there was just one small piece. Interesting to get two different flavour bites because of it, though (depending on how you eat it). This one time I really regretted dissecting the item.
  • Shrimp Dumpling reasonably big (but I don't know how many per dim sum order, and at what price). Didn't appear to have any filler at all, and shrimp inside was crunch-firm and sweet. Very nicely done. Wish I could have had it hot, but after taking my pics, that was just not possible.
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - dim sum meat dumpling, sticky rice, shrimp dumpling

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - dim sum meat dumpling, sticky rice, shrimp dumpling

Garlic [Steamed] Fresh Scallop served in Shell, Vermicelli, Infused Oil
  • Quite a nice presentation, but ruined by the horribly chipped plate it sat on.
  • Definitely a lot of garlic!
  • Overall this ended up tasting like a steamed scallop plus as much garlic as you wanted on it -- and they definitely aren't stingy with it. For me, a bit boring.
  • Pretty big scallop to be sure!
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - steamed fresh scallop

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - steamed fresh scallop

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - steamed fresh scallop

XO Sauce Stir Fry Beef Tenderloin, Mixed Peppers, Deep Fried Milk, [Bird's] Nest
  • Really nice presentation on this.
  • Super-crispy bird's nest basket.
  • Deep fried milk slightly sweet, but not very "milky" tasting if you're worried about it. Very crispy on the outside, making this quite fun. A bit oily smelling but smothered by the milk once it's in your mouth.
  • The menu didn't say, but there were candied (?) walnuts in there.
  • Overall, I really liked this and would have had more if we didn't have to share the one plate with 11 people.
  • TIP: Tear the nest at the end when you can have a dry "handle" to go with the sauce-soaked bottom part.
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - XO sauce stir-fried beef with deep fried milk

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - XO sauce stir-fried beef with deep fried milk

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - deep fried milk

Deep Fried Tilapia, House Sweet and Sour Sauce, Crispy Rice
  • Amazing "crispy rice" flakes stayed crispy all the way through and well past an hour -- excellent! Not that tasty on its own, so make sure to get sauce on it.
  • Tilapia tail almost crispy enough to eat like a cracker. Almost. Don't try that with the cheek/head (I did. It was fail. But not many people would have tried it, I think).
  • Presentation is interesting but overall not that pretty for the fish. The cooked meat blossoms out, but it's ugly. The Change has a really pretty Squirrel Fish dish if you're into this sort of deep-fried whole fish.
  • Yay for filleted fish and pre-cut large chunks. Some parts closer to the head may still have bone, so watch out. Otherwise, really easy to eat.
  • Lots to like here. I think it could have used some extra sauce on the side for those who might want more. But definitely do not make the fish swim in it.
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - deep fried tilapia in sweet and sour sauce

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - deep fried tilapia in sweet and sour sauce

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - deep fried tilapia in sweet and sour sauce

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - deep fried tilapia in sweet and sour sauce

Marinated Tender Pork Ribs, Coconut Curry Drizzle, Seasonal Greens
  • Light on actual curry flavour and absolutely no spicy heat.
  • Seasonal greens tucked underneath. A lot but you are clearly not getting more cheap greens than rib, which is good. Sometimes restaurants tilt it way too much to the roughage that's supposed to be secondary.
  • Tender meat that's almost fall-off-the-bone. As it is, you can scrape it/pull it off with your fork.
  • I would have liked it with stronger curry flavour, but this is not an Indian restaurant, so I understand if it's lighter that way. That said, if I want curry, I'll go to an Indian restaurant. (Careful, I'm biased here since I like my curry spicy).
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - coconut curry pork ribs

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - coconut curry pork ribs

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - coconut curry pork ribs

Traditional Soy Sauce Chicken
  • Tender, moist chicken. Not overdone with the soy sauce. Otherwise kind of boring for me.
  • Definitely needed to be eaten hot, which I didn't get a chance to do.
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - traditional soy sauce chicken

Interesting that the restaurant, which was already giving us a free multi-course meal, was responsive to tables saying they weren't full. Our table was reasonably full with people close to done well before the chicken. But nevertheless the restaurant responded with a heaping plate of rice for each table, working out to slightly less than one bowl per person at our larger table of 11.
No spoons provided though. Hmm...
The chicken was left on the table since there were many pieces left -- but they had also cleared the communal serving chopsticks. Hmm...

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - fried rice

Mango Pudding
  • Thanks for telling me to use the condensed milk on it. Not. I didn't even see it on the table initially.
  • Definitely bonus points for the really nice fish shape -- the carp (plus golden colour) as a symbol of prosperity.
  • Points lost for plating from the start -- The dish came with the spoon sitting on the carp (see picture!). I was worried the tender pudding would be ruined, but it turns out it's on the rather firm like-a-custard-firm side, so the fishie survived just fine. Still... unforced error.
  • If it didn't have the fish shape, I'd never have ordered this. It tastes inferior to an actual slice of sweet mango, so clearly making it a pudding did nothing for it -- so why would you bother making it into a pudding? Oh, right -- for the fish shape.
  • I did get to try it with condensed milk. For my friend it smoothed out the flavour and made it creamier. For me it didn't really do anything except further weaken the mango flavour.
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - mango pudding

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - mango pudding

And that was it for dinner!
Also in attendance at our table:
2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - YVRFoodies banquet menu

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - YVRFoodies banquet menu

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - YVRFoodies banquet menu (vegetarian)

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - jasmine tea

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - table setting

2016-Feb-24 Fortune House - table setting

Monday, February 22, 2016

American Cheesesteak - DOV voucher

The American Cheesesteak Co. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato After Dine Out Vancouver 2016 at The American Cheesesteak Company, I had to come back to use my vouchers. Somehow I ended up with three, so happily I managed to get a couple of friends to come with me before they expired at the end of this month.

This time around, I decided to try their most basic and traditional Cheesesteak, and chose the Philly ($10, cheese + sauteed onions) with American Cheese. I wanted to know what the fuss was about that started this.

Huge mistake.
It was horribly boring.
Also, "American Cheese" is white like mozza but kinda tastes like Kraft cheese singles. Ick.

Sauce -- any kind of sauce -- would make it infinitely better, and I looked wistfully at my friends enjoying theirs that cost them just a couple of dollars more. They had the Koagie ($13) and Cowboy ($12 and their most popular one).

Even without our $5 vouchers, price for portion is excellent. You're getting maybe more meat than two McDonalds burgers that weigh in at around $8-$10. My girl-friends couldn't finish their buns and were too stuffed to try more than maybe a tablespoon of frozen custard.

Speaking of which: The Dine Out Vancouver offer also included a free scoop of frozen custard, and a "scoop" is like a full cup's worth! I got the coconut, one of the rotating flavours they have. It had a good, fairly strong coconutty flavour but was otherwise too close to ice cream in texture for me to discern a clear difference between frozen custard and ice cream. If you're worried about the custard part and thinking eggy, flavour, don't worry.

Despite the large portion of a scoop, price for portion you are probably better off getting a full $6 frozen tub to go.

2016-Feb-22 - American Cheesesteak Company - Philly

2016-Feb-22 - American Cheesesteak Company - cowboy

2016-Feb-22 - American Cheesesteak Company - Koagie

2016-Feb-22 - American Cheesesteak Company - 1 scoop Coconut frozen custard

Chewy Junior - coffee and a chewy

Chewy Junior's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Been a long time since I had a Chewy at Chewy Junior. Because of their hours, I normally wouldn't have gone, except I had two offers to redeem:
  • A free coffee and chewy, courtesy of a Zomato promotion. (Yup, I got it for free when it would otherwise have been $5.00 - $5.50).
  • An offer of 12 free chewys from Chewy Junior via Yelp -- the business responded to the inconvenience to me during my most recent visit. A rare occurrence nowadays, to be honest, that businesses take customer complaints seriously.
The lone person manning the store with less than one hour to close wasn't sure about the legitimacy of the Yelp offer as he didn't seem to recognize the Yelp handle as being official, so no big deal, I bought my Yelper friends a chewy each to try.

 In April last year, price was $3.00 - $3.50 based on filling. Now it's $3.15 - $3.85 based on topping.
  • Overall my feeling about the price for what you get hasn't really changed. You have to really like this product to be willing to pay for it, same with gourmet donuts at Cartems, for example. And it has its own style and charm, setting it apart from other pastry in its price range.
  • Special decorative toppings are available, but you basically need to call the boss to get pricing on those. Their instagram account has examples.
  • To make it more affordable, there are various promotions you can try:
    • Belly, which you can sign up for right there at the cash register, and in under a couple of minutes. You may already have a Belly account as it's at 7-Elevens as well.
    • Posting and hashtagging pictures on Instagram. They pull one random winner weekly to get a half dozen free chewys.
Coffee is Republica Coffee Roasters, medium roast. It was pretty big, maybe a Starbucks grande in size. Problem was, it wasn't hot enough, definitely not enough to need a sleeve. Maybe it's end of the day coffee, maybe it's customer feedback that it was being served too hot, but coffee that isn't hot is just kinda ick.
Get your coffee elsewhere, maybe at the Tim Hortons not too far away on West Hastings at Seymour.

Since it was at the end of the day, I inquired whether "freshly baked" chewys were any different or better, and surprisingly the answer was no. The main reason is that when they first come out, they are fragile and therefore not suitable for filling or having toppings painted on them, so they have to be allowed to cool anyway. Therefore, according to the clerk, it didn't really matter.
All chewys are made fresh everyday, so at the end of the day, everything gets chucked. Which is also why the counters start looking kind of bare. That said, if there is a particular type you really, really, want, they typically have lots of empty chewys on standby and may take special requests, as they did with us.

For my complimentary-thanks-to-Zomato chewy, I went with one of the cheapest ones, with chocolate and zebra stripes on top. Knowing about the chewy, I bit gently, and there is some chewiness but not enough that you have to struggle. It's quite thin, and the filling is not exactly water, but definitely less viscous than honey.
TIP: Keep your chewy tilted up. And make sure napkins are on hand.
The two girls I was with weren't prepared and made a huge mess. Nothing on their clothes, fortunately, but one of them somehow ended up with a bit of spray in her hair!
The chocolate filling definitely had chocolate flavour, but you can tell from its pale coffee colour that it wasn't going to be strongly chocolatey. Don't expect to be drinking molten chocolate, which might make it too rich anyway to be honest.

Finally -- and am I asking for too much here? -- some of the chewys were, well, ugly. Ugly-shaped. Maybe it's unavoidable from the baking process. Maybe the cratering is sometimes too deep and ruins the smooth shape of the topping. I'm not docking points for this, but... well, just sayin'.

TIP: Frozen Chewys are also pretty good!
I took one home for my mom and she didn't want  the whole thing, so she insisted on cutting it in half. Because I told her the cream would pour out, she froze it first. Turns out, the shell holds up pretty well and the inside has a texture of ice cream when you do it and thaw it slightly in the fridge after. See below for cross-section picture.

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - coffee and a chewy

2016-Feb-23 Chewy Junior - frozen chewy, cross-section

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - chocolate cream chewys

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - vanilla custard chewys

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - special topping chewy

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - Belly

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - Vanilla Frosty Madness

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - Neapolitan

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - Hazelnut Hedgehog

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - Strawberry Cheese

2016-Feb-22 - Chewy Junior - wall art