Sherman's Food Adventures

Honolulu Coffee Shop

The veritable Egg Tart, a Chinese bakery staple as well as many a Dim Sum service.  There are the good, the bad and unfortunately the ugly.  Personally, I love the ones with the flaky puff pastry over the hard tart shells (like the ones from Anna's, bleck!).  However, I do realize it is very subjective, so each to their own.  So while in Hong Kong, the logical thing to do is eat lots of food and for at least this morning - to see if the famed Egg Tarts at Honolulu Coffee Shop live up to their name.

We traveled the short distance from North Point to Wan Chai on the MTR for some breaky, so I decided on the Scrambled Eggs and Chicken Steak accompanied by a buttered roll.  I gotta say the eggs were pretty good being silky and runny.  However, that chicken steak...  There was enough oil in and around that thing to heat a house.  Furthermore, it was so overdone, the meat was akin to jerky.  Not good at all.  Viv had the Eggs and Pork Chop and sadly, it was equally oil-logged.  She resorted in using napkins to soak up the grease.  Texturally, it was not as chewy as the chicken though, so that was a plus.

For my son, he had over easy eggs and buttered roll with Ham and Spaghetti in Soup.  So nothing particularly interesting with the roll, but the eggs were nicely runny and yes, greasy.  The runny yolk was good with the lightly buttered roll.  As for the spaghetti, it was actually somewhat al dente rather than the usual overdone pasta.  The soup was fairly mild while the amount of ham was adequate.  My daughter went for something different in the Spaghetti with Borscht.  Again, the spaghetti was firm and the borscht was the typical tart Hong Kong-style cafe version with some cabbage, tomatoes and onions.

So far, these breakies were pretty blah, but we weren't here for that.  Instead, it was all about the Egg Tarts.  Before that we decided to try the Bo Loh Yau (Pineapple Bun with butter).  This wasn't very good since the bun was cold.  Therefore, it was quite dense and lacking in a crispy sugary top too.  On the other hand, the Egg Tarts were legit.  Featuring a flaky and firmly shattering shell, it was a nice contrast to the silky and purposefully sweet egg custard.  These did not disappoint even though the rest of the food did.  Yes, the food was actually sub-par and not very appetizing.  They use far too much grease and even if that was the case, at least drain it from the food before serving it...

The Good:
- Flaky and buttery egg tarts
- Cheap

The Bad:
- The rest of the food is sub-par
- Hurried service

Kum Gang Hin Cuisine

When one flies over 13 hours and loses a day as the plane crosses the International Date Line, it can mean only one thing...  Being hangry!  Did you think being tired or jet-lagged?  Well that too, but for me, I was completely famished especially when the time back in Vancity would be 5 in the morning (I'm used to late night eats after hockey).  So after being picked up at the airport, we made our way to my uncle's place at North Point.  Seeing how it was late already, we merely went downstairs and grabbed some convenient Shanghainese food at Kum Gang Hin.

No, this place wouldn't be on any "must eat" list when visiting Hong Kong, but the Xiao Long Bao were pretty decent.  We got 3 steamers as they only came in multiples of 4.  The best feature about the XLBs was the "Din Tai Fung-esque" dumpling skin where it was thin, chewy and al dente.  Inside, the pork filling was rather meaty rather than being processed.  There was an adequate amount of soup which was meaty and flavourful with a touch of sweetness.  To get some greens into our diet, we had the Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with garlic.  These were the smaller and thinner variety that were akin to bigger alfalfa sprouts.  They were on point though being crunchy and lightly seasoned.

Normally, I don't order Sweet & Sour Fried Fish because I remember sub-par versions from my childhood.  Restaurants would deep-fry the heck out of dead fish and slap some sauce on top for those who didn't know any better.  However, this was not the case here as the fish was soft and flaky while the outside was lightly crispy.  I loved the sauce as the consistency was just right while being appealingly tart with a balanced sweetness.  As much as the Hand-Shredded Chicken with soy sauce was simple and featured fairly lean chicken (it was free-range), I kept eating it.  I guess the full-flavoured chicken (that we cannot get in Vancouver) was the real draw as the sauce was not that impactful.

One dish that I ordered with my son in mind was the Stir-Fried Shredded Pork with crepes.  It was attractively plated with julienned cucumber, green onion and wonton crisps.  I enjoyed this dish as the pork was super tender while not being too soft.  The sweet and lightly spicy sauce barely clung to each piece while the crepes were soft with a slight chewiness and didn't dry out.  For our noodles, we got the Ja Jeung Mein (Noodles with meat sauce) where the noodles were a bit overdone and clumpy.  However, the sauce was on point with a silky viscosity while being meaty and full-of-depth.  The thinly sliced cucumber was welcomed as it blended into the noodles easily.  

Lastly and probably my most favourite dish were the Potstickers.  These were fried up beautifully with a crunchy browned bottom while the rest of the dumpling skin was medium-thick and al dente.  I liked how they weren't overly greasy too.  Inside, the pork filling was moist, tender and light.  It was mildly seasoned where I could still taste the meatiness. Okay, I did state that Kum Gang Hin would probably not be on anyone's top 10 list when dining in Hong Kong.  I still think that is true, but if you find yourself in North Point and hungry, you can get some above-average eats here for a reasonable price.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Decent eats
- Owner pretty friendly

The Bad:
- Like many spots in HK, the seating is tight
- Decent, but there is better

Satomi Sushi & Grill

To be completely honest, part of this post dates back to last year.  Usually, I would've ditched it and not even bother publishing it.  However, I recently visited Satomi Sushi & Grill last week and ate most of the same dishes and more since Costanza and family joined us. So I'm mainly talking about my most recent experience with only a few items from before. For those who don't already know, the owners formerly ran Minato on Broadway and Oak before the corner mall became another condo development.

Prior to the sushi, we got the Prawn Tempura to kick things off.  Presented on a metal rack, this ensured that the tempura would stay crunchy without sitting in a pool of grease (or paper soaked in grease).  Now this was assuming that the tempura was prepared properly to begin with.  That it was with a light and crispy coating that gave way to a large buttery prawn that had a sweet snap texture.  We noticed that all the tempura plates were served like this, which meant the veggies would stay crispy (as they soften more quickly).  On our most recent visit, we had the Ebi Mayo which was the same tempura prawns drizzled with spicy mayo.  Interestingly, they didn't plate this the same way and the batter did soften after awhile.

Moving onto the Deluxe Assorted Sashimi, it sure looked impressive on a big plate with fairly large pieces.  However, remember that large pieces of sashimi does not mean better in terms of texture and eating logistics.  Although the Hamachi was unusually large, it ate buttery since it was the farmed variety (hence lighter colour).  Texturally, the Salmon and Tuna were buttery as well.  However, the Aji was essentially the scraps of the fish which annoyed us.  I thought the Tako was a bit thick and too chewy for my tastes.  Our last item was Nigiri featuring Hotate, Aji and Toro.  These were pretty good where the rice was formed properly and tasted okay.  The scallop was buttery and sweet while the Aji and Toro were texturally on point.

Ordering a different set of Nigiri on our most recent visit, my son had his usual Tamago, Unagi and Smoked Salmon (yes, he is branching out and really, this is the gateway to sashimi!).  Anyways, the rice was nicely formed again and on point texturally.  The tamago was pretty good (as evidenced by the picture). The last time I had the Spicy Salmon Aburi, it was regrettable since the rice was too loose and the whole thing was constructed poorly.  We couldn't even pick each piece up without it creating a bloody mess.  The rice was actually not that bad, it just wasn't packed in properly into the mold. It was spicy though and it was actually decently flavourful.  This time around, it was done correctly, but the jalapeno could've been sliced thinner.

Onto 2 cooked items, the Oyako Don was uniquely plated where the egg and chicken mixture was separate from the rice.  In this manner, the rice remained chewy and didn't get soggy.  We asked for no onions for the kiddies, but they put it in anyways.  Whatever the case, it was good though with fluffy egg and tender chicken in a mildly sweet sauce.  This was not bad, but the Chicken Yakisoba was better.  It featured chewy noodles that were not greasy and nicely seasoned being sweet, salty and slightly tangy.  The crunch from the veggies was good while the chicken was plentiful.

We also ordered 2 rolls in the Alaska Roll and Una-Tama Roll.  I only took a picture of the Alaska Roll since I was busy eating...  We found the rolls to be fairly well made being not too loose nor too tight.  The rice was chewy and mildly seasoned while the ingredients were fresh.  The una-tama roll was missing the cucumber to go with the unagi and tamago, but my son didn't mind.  Overall, from these 2 visits, I would say Satomi is above-average with some minor consistency issues.  As Costanza remarked, we could add Satomi to our regular rotation.

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Things were carefully prepared (well most of it at least)
- Pleasant service

The Bad:
- Minor consistency issues
- Tight seating  

Once in a Blue Moon Jazz & Diner

There once was a diner located in North Delta that was completely hidden from plain view.  It started out at Jim Harley's Diner, but it closed and became Blast N2 The Past 50's Diner complete with some of the old decor.  I visited a few times and the food was pretty decent (mostly the burgers and fries) especially for the price.  However, it also "closed".  I put that in parenthesis because it reopened as Once in a Blue Moon with some of the same people and some of the same items.  However, there is a new owner and maybe they have influenced the menu as they now offer Korean short ribs among other items.

We stopped by for breaky one day to check it out.  The first thing that we noticed was the renos that have transformed the place into more of a lounge feel.  Also, the $4.95 Breakfast Special (weekdays only) also caught our eye.  It included 2 eggs, hashbrowns, toast and choice of meat.  This was pretty solid with crispy bacon and those potatoes were on point being crispy while soft and fluffy inside.  For myself, it's not like I didn't want to save money, but since everyone ordered that, I had something different in the French Toast breakfast.  it was almost the same thing except for the French toast.  Same great potatoes, nicely done sunny side eggs and crispy bacon.  The French toast was okay, but a bit spongy.

We returned later in the week to try some lunch items and we went back in time to Blast N2 the Past with the Full Moon Burger consisting of fried egg, grilled onions and cheese.  From what I remembered, the beef patty was a bit mealier than it was before,  Was it a one off or did it really change?  Not sure, but it wasn't dry though.  The side of fresh cut fries were exactly how I remembered being really crispy, fresh-tasting and potatoey inside.  Zamboni Guy tried their Cheesburger Wrap also with fries.  This was lower-carb alternative and had the same qualities as the aforementioned burger except in a wrap that was grilled slightly on the flattop.  

For myself, I had the Korean Shortribs with rice (to get a taste of the new menu items).  This came with the Salad Bar which was rather modest, but fresh nonetheless.  It sported a pasta salad, Greek salad, beets, potato salad and Caesar salad.  As for the shortribs, they were spot on.  Nicely charred and well-marinated, these tasted and ate like Korean shortribs found at Korean restaurants.  Not so much for the rice though as it was rushed and mushy.  I appreciated them making it right away, but it was not good.  So overall, there was some hits and misses with the food.  But the same great service and eclectic feel still remains.  Nice to see the place open again.

The Good:
- Almost everything seems to be freshly made
- Nice people
- It's got that hidden, eclectic feel 

The Bad:
- Hit and miss
- Not easy to find if you don't know where it is

Sen Pad Thai

It all started with Maenam for Chef Angus An.  His upscale Thai eatery has put him on the map in Vancouver.  Say what you want about the place, but he has his fans and hence, has expanded his restaurant empire steadily.  There was Longtail Kitchen, then Fat Mao Noodles, followed by Free Bird.  Now we find Sen Pad Thai located in a food stall on Granville Island.  As the name suggests, one will find different versions of pad thai and other stir-fried Thai favourites.  Grace and I ventured out to the land of tourists on a fine Summer day to try the place out.

We started with the Fried Chicken Wings with Thai garlic.  This is the same one found at Longtail Kitchen, but unlike the ones I had there, these were completely underseasoned.  They were crispy though with well-rendered skin.  However, the accompanying dip is what makes the dish and that it did with a sweet, tangy and spicy fish sauce.  It was super impactful and in fact, made me forget the wings were not flavourful on their own.  Next, we had the Papaya Salad which featured fresh and crunchy julienned green papaya and carrot.  It was bathed in a tart and spicy dressing that was a bit muted for my tastes.  The flavours were bright though, but I would've liked to see a bit more sweetness for balance.

Of course we got an order of the Pad Thai, but specifically the Pad Thai Goong (with shrimp).  Although the dish looked rather pale and lifeless, nothing could be further from that.  The chewy noodles were not oversauced and were the beneficiary of enough wok heat.  The caramelized flavours were deeply sweet and super tangy (from the tamarind) with impactful spiciness.  One could add more with the available chilis at the counter.  There was enough pickled turnip to add both a crunch and more salty tang.  I found the Pad See Ew even more smoky and caramelized from the wok fry, possibly due to the soy and palm sugar.  The mung bean noodles were chewy and delicious (absorbed all the flavours), but there wasn't enough of it.  We appreciated the abundance of ground pork, but there was too much of it.  Adding some Prik Nahm Som (chili vinegar) kicked up the flavours even more so.

Lastly, we had the Khao Pad with a wealth of tangy sausage.  It was a nice pop of flavour to contrast the pungent fried rice which had the aroma of caramelized fish sauce.  There was a smokiness from the hot wok and also a noticeable spice level.  The rice itself was chewy while the sausage had a nice meatiness that wasn't overly heavy.  Overall, we both enjoyed the food offered at Sen Pad Thai as they were prepared with plenty of wok heat and enough spice.  Prices are a little on the higher side, but not unreasonable.  It's nice to see something a bit different with real punch of flavours on Granville Island.

The Good:
- Enough wok heat for carmelization
- Don't skimp on ingredients
- Good spice level

The Bad:
- Although being a food stall, it's not cheap

To Dine For Eatery

Proclaiming you have the best of <insert food product here>, can often backfire.  Case in point, if you have ever watched the movie Elf, you will remember the "world's best cup of coffee".  That is far too much to live up to and really, food is too subjective anyways.  However, when something is truly "the best", it should be in the discussion of being the best for most people.  So imagine my curiosity all these years passing by To Dine For Eatery on Terminal staring at the "Best Burger in Town" poster?  Finally, Dr. No-Share made sure I tried the place out by meeting me for lunch.

He decided to go for the most interesting item on the menu being the PB & Bacon Burger.  Yes, this is not first time I've seen or had peanut butter in a burger, but this one was pretty balanced.  There was enough PB for some creamy nutty smoothness, but that was complimented by the crunchy and salty bacon bits.  I think the key here was that the bacon was in bits where it was impactful with a uniform crunch throughout the burger.  For myself, I went for the Holy Smokes featuring the same 6 oz. homemade patty with smoke flavour, smoked farmers sausage, cheddar and produce.  This was indeed flavourfully smoky with the nice snap of the meaty sausage all encased in a soft, properly toasted airy bun.

Viv went for the Korean Kimchi Burger which, as the name suggests, was stuffed with homemade kimchi, cheddar and produce.  I found the patty to be meaty and not too dense while being decently moist for being well-done.  It featured a nice char and was well-seasoned.  The kimchi was crunchy and tangy with a medium spice level.  Didn't think the cheese would go here, but was ultimately relegated to the background due to the kimchi.  My son ended up with a pretty basic one in the Bacon Cheeseburger that featured crispy smoked bacon and plenty of melted cheese.  This wasn't complicated, but at the same time was a satisfying burger that featured the same qualities as the others.  The side of house-cut fries were probably just as good or better than the burger being crunchy with still some potatoness left inside.

My daughter went off-the-board and had the Tuna Melt with celery and red onion mixed in with a mayo-mustard dressing and 3 cheeses on grilled French bread.  This was fairly hearty and flavourful with the crunch of the veggies.  The bread was nicely grilled where it was crunchy but not overly greasy.  Again, with the 3 cheeses, there was no mistaking that this was a melt.  Dr. No Share's daughter had the Original Korean Rice Bowl which was essentially a bibimbap consisting of spinach, carrots, pickled radish, shiitake, cucumber, nori, bean sprouts, beef and egg with hot sauce on the side.  They didn't skimp on the ingredients while the rice was nicely textured being chewy and not wet.  Yet, let's get to the point here - it is all about the burgers.  They are good and so are the fries while the price is fair.

The Good:
- Solid burgers
- Solid fries
- Solid people (friendly that is...)

The Bad:
- Not open on weekends or later in the evenings (it is a weekday lunch spot though)


Ignite Pizzeria

The Neapolitan pizza game in Vancity has slowed down a bit over the years with a few spots opening up every now and then.  For awhile there, it seemed like a new one came onto the scene every week.  Some thrived while others disappeared (even before I could try them!).  One untapped market is the Neapolitan-style slice pizzeria (go in, grab one or two slices to go).  Some purists might point out that is not the optimal way of eating this style of pizza, but really, I personally don't mind and accept it for what it is.  Pizza Garden seemed to have the market cornered in this regard, but a new place just down the road on Main Street, Ignite Pizzeria, attempts to do the same thing.

We decided to check it out after Monday night softball with the 6 of us.   Looking over the menu, it seemed like a better deal to get 4 large pizzas rather than a smaller one for each person.  So we started with the Meat Lover sporting Parma prosciutto, soppressata, Italian sausage and bacon.  This was a hearty and flavourful pizza due to the amount of meat on top.  As such, the middle of the pizza was a little soft, but the rest of it was crispy and chewy (can be as such since the large pizza has more surface area).  I found the outer edges a bit thicker, but it wasn't a problem.  Underneath, there was sufficient leoparding where the crust was nutty and aromatic.  Next up, the Pesto Chicken exhibited more discernible flavours with a bright pesto, tender chicken, sweet red peppers and woodsy mushrooms.  The crust also held up a bit better due less moisture.  There was plenty of mozzarella and fior di latte atop the tangy tomato sauce.

My favourite of the 4 we ordered had to be the S+B Guiseppe Cortinovis' Choice consisting of tomato sauce, fior di latte, mozzarella, sopressata, bacon, caramelized onions and black olives.  Although it shared similar qualities as the meat lover, the addition of onions (could've been more caramelized) and olives added different layers of briny saltiness and sweetness.  This really helped elevate the impact of flavour.  Furthermore, the crust on this one remained more crispy and was actually thinner for some odd reason.  The result was a delicious pizza in taste and texture.  Our last one was the Parma Prosciutto with the aforementioned meat and arugula along with the same tomato sauce, fior di latte and mozzarella.  This didn't skimp on the prosciutto and hence, the aromatic saltiness really came through.  It was nicely balanced off by the large amount of fresh peppery arugula.  Predictably, the crust was even crunchier on this one due to the absence of wet toppings.  Overall, we enjoyed the pizza at Ignite and wouldn't hesitate to come back to grab a slice or two.

The Good:
- Generous with the toppings
- Chewy crunchy crust (except for the more moisture-ladened options)
- Liked their rosemary garlic oil

The Bad:
- Outside crust portion can be slightly dense
- Is a pricier slice pizza option (but toppings and quality make up for it)