Best Falafel

It goes without saying that I have some pretty awesome friends.  Not only do they willingly go eat with me, they also put up with my incessant picture-taking and constant yammering about the food.  But there are times that I have to eat alone.  Yes, I'm acutely aware that this is not a unique phenomenon, however, I still have this phobia about taking photos of my ramen surrounded by strangers.  So the best thing to do in this case is to get takeout, in particular something in the form of a donair and/or shawarma.

Driving down Commercial Drive, I stopped when I spotted Best Falafel.  Best Falafel?  It's like in Elf, Buddy found the "best coffee in the world".  Since I was rather hungry, I left the "best falafel" for another day.  This time, I decided on the Lamb Shawarma Platter which was a good portion size.  The slices of lamb were succulent and well-seasoned.  I found the rice to be far too soggy though and to make matters worse, the sauces added to the moisture.  The hummus was very good though with a smooth creaminess that was garlicky with a nice hit of acidity.

On another visit, I did finally end up with the Falafel Wrap complete with all the fixins including lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, pickles and pickled turnip.  With just the right amount of sauce, the whole thing was not overly wet while super garlicky.  The crunch and acidity from the ingredients helped brighten up the flavours.  As for the falafel itself, since it was reheated with a microwave, it was no longer crispy.  It was moist though with a mild array of spices.  I also got the Chicken Wrap which was appreciably more impactful in terms of depth of flavour and texture.  Naturally, with meat replacing falafels, this wasn't surprising.  I found the meat to be on the drier side with crispy bits which was okay since the other ingredients provided moisture.  Overall, I enjoyed the food at Best Falafel, in particular the wraps.  Despite being satisfied by the portion size, it is a bit smaller than other places at either the same or higher price point.

The Good:
- Condiments add both texture and punch of garlic
- Since they open up the pita and make a wrap rather than a pocket, the ingredients are more even

The Bad:
- Portion-to-price ratio is not as good as some other places (such as Donair Affair)
- Falafel is okay, but not "best" (I'm half-joking here...)

Best Falafel on Urbanspoon

What8ver Cafe

If you haven't figured this out by now, I'm pretty good friends with Mijune (aka Follow Me Foodie).  But with her successful life as a foodie master, it is increasingly hard to track her down and meet up.  Wait, maybe she is trying to ignore me?  I guess I do not take a hint very well.  What8ver the case (no, that is not a spelling mistake, just read on...), I was able to corner her late one night.  With not much open in the area, we ended up meeting at What8ver Cafe for some drinks and snacks (on a night that she had already consumed 3 dinners...).

With all the "toast" craze these days, I wonder if people actually realize that toast is not something new especially with Taiwanese cuisine (and HK-style cafes).  Sure, it is different of course, but it is still glorified toast.  On that note, I tried the Pizza Toast topped with real mozzarella, cheddar and dry Italian spice mix.  As you can see, they didn't skimp with the cheese (which was not greasy) which was a nice compliment to the crispy toast.  Since it was thick-sliced, the inside was soft and slightly elastic.  At Mijune's urging, we also got the Strawberry Macaron Toast Box.  This thing was topped with strawberry ice cream, strawberries, a strawberry macaron, whipped cream and accompanied by honey.  Compared to the one we had at Soho, this was less sweet due to one less scoop of ice cream.  The toast inside was crispy and only lightly sweetened.  The surprising part was the macaron as it was crispy and light with a soft chewy centre (wonder where they sourced it from?).

For my beverage, I got the Mango Slush with coconut jelly. This was served in a large jar with a considerable amount of jelly.  Hence, it was a prudent decision to order the slush with less sugar.  When mixed together, it was just right with a very mild mango essence.  We ended up sharing the drink where it appeared Mijune actually drank it instead of me.  Does she live on sugar?  Well on that note, I was able to corner her again and we met at the same place, same time and same table.  We didn't order the same stuff, yet kept to the theme by getting the Toast with Condensed Milk.  With less stuff on top than the pizza toast, this version was appreciably more crispy and firm on the outside while still soft on the inside.  As much as condensed milk can be super sweet, there wasn't too much which made the sugar level bearable.

For the 2nd time, they didn't have a few things available including the omelet, so we settled for some Shaved Ice with mango pearls, lemon jelly and pudding.  As much as the individual ingredients were not sweet and in fact, quite bland, the drizzle of condensed milk was too aggressive.  Hence, the ice was super sugary and we actually need more ice to balance it out.  From the items we did get to try, they were serviceable.  The toast box was probably the most memorable of the bunch.  Unlike most internet reviews, we didn't find the service bad.

The Good:
- Decent stuff
- Open late
- Decent service for us

The Bad:
- Some items run out way too early
- Not a whole lot of seats

What8ver Cafe on Urbanspoon

Dashiwa Sushi

Here we go with another random sushi food adventure...  I was cruising along 64th Ave in Surrey one day with Klutz and Tavers in search of eats.  We kept driving and driving and driving to no avail.  Huh?  Are there any restaurants around here???  Yup, there were as many restaurants along 64th as there are people doing the speed limit on highway 91.  When all was about lost, we noticed a cluster of businesses at 152nd.  Hey, a Greek restaurant and of course, a Japanese one too.  We opted for sushi over roast lamb...

To start things off, we got an order of the Ebi Tempura that was served on a familiar Corelle plate.  I've got the same one in blue!  Anyways, these were pretty good with a crispy and light batter that was easy on the grease.  Inside, the ebi was buttery and exhibited a mild snap.  Next, we had the Assorted Sashimi consisting of Tai, Hokkigai, Tako, Atlantic Salmon, Tuna and Sockeye Salmon.  As evidenced in the picture, the fish had a nice sheen that translated into an overall freshness (as much as flash frozen can get).  Textures were good including the buttery, yet firm salmon and the soft, but not mushy tuna.

Onto some maki sushi, we had the Dragon Roll comprised of essentially a dynamite roll (ebi tempura, imitation crab and cucumber) with torched unagi on top and drizzled with unagi sauce).  We found the roll to be neatly constructed where it stayed intact.  The sushi rice was firm and seasoned lightly with a touch of sweetness.  With a smoky char, the buttery unagi added both texture and flavour to the roll.  Next, we tried the Alaska Roll consisting of cooked ebi, avocado and cucumber with smoked salmon on top.  This was a pleasant enough roll, yet it was surprisingly small.  For me at least, this was not typical of an Alaska roll.

Our obligatory cooked dish of the meal was the Chicken Yakisoba.  It arrived steaming hot and somewhat saucy.  As a result, the noodles were more wet than toothsome.  Taste-wise, the dish was sweet with a touch of tartness.  The ample amount of veggies probably contributed to the moisture content of the dish.  Up until this point, it appeared that Klutz could eat more, so we got the Sushi Combo A (7 pcs of nigiri).  With 2 pieces of ebi and tuna along with 3 pieces of salmon, this was yet again a modest portion.  However, it is all about balance with Japanese food, not huge quantities.  With that in mind, the fish-to-rice ratio was fine. Similar in quality to the aforementioned sushi and sashimi, this was also good.

Then surprisingly, we were presented with a complimentary order of the Aburi Salmon Nigiri (was it my camera?).   Although the torched salmon was buttery while the rice was toothsome, the amount of sauce was rather unnecessary.  It only served to hide the natural flavours of the ingredients.  Then again, it was complimentary, so we weren't really all that bothered by it.  Well, how about that?  A random sushi restaurant turns out to be pretty decent.  I wonder what other places exist beyond 152nd...

The Good:
- Above-average eats
- Friendly people
- Quality over quantity (if that matters to you)

The Bad:
- For those who want quantity, best find the closest AYCE
- On the pricier side

Dashiwa Sushi on Urbanspoon

Handi Indian Cuisine

As parents to 2 kids, Viv and I have tried to expose them to as many different types of food possible.  Furthermore, we have refused to serve them any steak that is beyond medium-rare.  Despite their queries as to why the meat is blood-coloured, we stay the course.  One particular cuisine that they have had very little experience with is Indian Food.  So with yet another Groupon in my arsenal, we headed over to the nearby location of Handi for a food adventure (at least for my son as he hates everything...)

We started off with a platter consisting of Calamari, Pappardums and Veggie Samosas.  For me, I enjoyed the calamari the most as they were buttery soft while still exhibiting an appealing chewiness.  The light batter on the outside was nicely spiced and not greasy at all.  As for the samosas, they could've been a bit hotter on the inside, but on the exterior, it was crispy and not overly doughy.  The potato filling was purposefully spicy and soft.

Moving onto the mains, I sampled the Butter Chicken first and it was quite sweet and somewhat salty.  Despite this, there was impactful hits of tangy tomato and creaminess.  It was mildly spiced as we requested, yet the heat did build at the end.  My daughter didn't mind and happily ate it.  She is definitely a foodie in the making as my son complained it was too spicy.  In big chunks, the chicken was sufficiently moist where some of the sauce had penetrated the meat.  At the very least, my son was okay with the Saag Prawns which were aromatic, but far too salty.  This was tempered by being combined with the rice and naan (as that was probably the plan anyways).  The prawns themselves were cooked just right being meaty with a nice snap.

My daughter also enjoyed the Palak Paneer where it had a mild spice with a touch of ginger.  The chunks of paneer were appealing in texture being soft while retaining its shape and consistency.  As for the spinach, it was pretty smooth and a touch creamy without any wateriness.  To go with our dishes, we had rice and Naan.  Nicely charred underneath with moderate blistering on the top, the naan was mostly soft with a bit of chewiness.  My son seemed to like it as he mostly filled up with it (*sigh*).  Overall, this was a serviceable Indian meal, if not a bit ordinary and salty.  We enjoyed the hospitality though, albeit we were the only table there for most of our meal.

The Good:
- Friendly service (but we were the only table)
- Serviceable food

The Bad:
- Flavours are out-of-balance, either too salty or too sweet

Handi Cuisine of India on Urbanspoon

Dockside

Location, location, location...  Probably the most important word (repeated 3 times) when it comes to many businesses and your own personal property.  So when a restaurant sports a killer view practically right on the water, it already has an advantage.  To further enhance its allure, how about a location in a predominantly touristy spot?  Well, that is almost a recipe for success right?  Possibly, but for a restaurant, the food still needs to be at the very least decent.  Hence, that was our food adventure for the night as we scoped out Dockside in the Granville Island Hotel - a place that fits the aforementioned criterira.

With a wicked view of False Creek and a spacious dining room to match, we were already impressed with its location alone.  Naturally, we had to sample their wares before any judgements could be made.  On that note, we started with a few appies including the Saltspring Island Mussels in a white wine broth spiked with dill.  These were prepared properly being buttery and tender where all of them were open.  I personally prefer BC honey mussels due to their size, but these were okay.  The broth was a bit mild for my tastes, but the cooked-down white wine did come through.  Arriving at the same time, the Dockside Crab & Shrimp Cakes were served with mango salsa, charred lemon aioli and cilantro.  Fairly large, the crispy cakes were pretty much comprised of crab with very little filler.  We would've preferred it be fluffier though.  The lemon aioli was impactful with a noticeable acidity while the mango provided a vibrant sweetness.

My daughter would have been supremely disappointed if we didn't order the Smoked Salmon Chowder - and guess what we did?  Yes, being spoiled is not just an understatement, it should just be a way of life for her (including a Macaron addiction).  Anyways, the modest amount of chowder was served in a deep bowl (an illusion perhaps?).  Thick and creamy with a good amount of carrots, celery, potatoes and onions, the smoked salmon ensured that the soup was on the saltier side.  For me at least, I didn't mind that as I would prefer more smoked salmon than less (which would make it less salty).

For our entrees, I went for the Duck Breast with baby zucchini, broccoli rabe, fingerling potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, charred orange and fennel jus.  I really enjoyed the preparation of the meat as it was succulent and well-brined.  Furthermore, the skin was nicely rendered and crispy.  Unfortunately, I only wished there was more of it as the veggies on the plate outnumbered the duck over 2:1.  As for the veggies, they were appealing where textures were crisp and the flavours were purposeful.  What brought everything together was the silky jus as it was aromatic without being salty.  My dad had his go-to being the Grilled Chinook Salmon served with seafood and saffron risotto, chorizo, asparagus and fresh herbs. Although not particularly attractive with the albumin littering its exterior, the salmon was still moist and well-seasoned.  In actuality, the risotto was more like wet rice than anything else, but it did taste good though with an aromatic saffron hit.

My mom also went for her standby - Moroccan Spiced Rack of Lamb with tomato and cumin, seasonal veggies and harissa.  She substituted the chickpea and roasted artichoke with fingerling potatoes.  Prepared medium-rare, the lamb was moist and sufficiently tender.  The exterior crust was rather dry due to the spice rub.  Viv decided on the Dockside Cioppino consisting of salmon, halibut, prawn, mussels, snow crab and scallop in a San Marzano fennel broth.  Thick and tomatoey with a fennel essence, the broth was mild with a touch of acidity.  There was a decent amount of fish to go along with the one prawn and one scallop.  All of the seafood was cooked accordingly including the halibut which was moist and flaky.  The whole thing was accompanied by a substantial "mini-baguette" which was crusty, yet soft on the inside.

For dessert, we had the Gala Apple Deep Fried Pie which arrived in a shape of a mini pie with scoop of ice cream on top.  Crispy and a bit flaky, the fried exterior shell was actually quite light.  Inside, the large chunks of apple were cooked down until tender while not mushy.  There was enough sugar resulting in a balance of flavours as well as a nice consistency to the sauce.  We also got the Dockside Lemon Meringue featuring an all-butter pastry, lemon curd, charred Italian meringue and raspberry.  This quasi-lemon  tart consisted of a custard that was tangy with an equal amount of sweetness.  The meringue on top was a nicely torched while the crust was more buttery soft than firm.  As a whole, we thought the food at Dockside was actually quite pleasant.  Being a good value or not is a totally different issue.  Fortunately, we had a Travelzoo coupon to help in this regard.

The Good:
- Decent food, considering it is a hotel restaurant
- Awesome location and decor to match
- The service we got was attentive

The Bad:
- Fairly expensive
- Food is fine, but not sure if there is enough protein on the plate

Dockside Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bismarck

If you haven't noticed, I've been on a restaurant coupon purchasing frenzy of late.  Despite some of the mediocre results, saving at least a bit of money helps with my kid's college fund. Seeing how we go out to eat after our Friday night hockey games, I figured that a Groupon to the Bismarck would be a good call since it is open late.  Gordo, Lionel Hutz and Milhouse didn't mind saving a bit of money and were all in with this deal as well.

We decided to share everything starting with the Chicken & Waffles.  Unfortunately, due to the large pieces of chicken and the amount of syrup, the waffles were no longer crispy.  On the other hand, they were fluffy though.  As for the chicken, the thick breading was peppery and firmly crunchy.  The chicken meat was moist and flavourful including the white meat.  We also tried the Srirracha Chicken Flatbread with banana peppers and pickled red onion.  Slightly chewy while mostly pillowy soft, the flatbread was a bit thick.  Yet, the ample amount of toppings and restrained amount of srirracha kept the ratio in check.

Next we sampled the Pulled Pork Sandwich with crispy onions on a brioche bun.  With a few stringy pieces, the sammie was actually quite good.  There was enough sweet and smoky BBQ sauce to keep things moist without being wet.  Only a few onions remained crispy whereas the rest became soft.  The brioche bun did not hold up well to the wet ingredients.  On the side, the skinny fries were crispy and light.  Next up was the Bis Burger with 7oz prime rib burger topped with cheddar cheese, butter lettuce, tomato and pickled sweet onion served on brioche. This was pretty decent as well with a moist meaty patty despite being a bit salty.  The soft brioche was appealing in texture, but once again, didn't hold up that well to the ingredients.

For our sides, we had the Fried Okra with ranch dressing.  These were lightly battered where it was only a touch crispy.  Exhibiting that classic sliminess, the okra were not overdone.  Possibly a thick breading would've provided a better textural contrast in this case.  Lastly, we tried the Buttermilk Biscuits served with butter and chicken gravy.  More dense than fluffy, the biscuits were flaky on the outside.  I enjoyed dunking it into the mild and thick gravy as it provided some extra moisture.  Seemingly a better place to grab drinks rather than having an entire meal, the Bismarck was okay for late night eats.  Nothing remarkable, but definitely serviceable.

The Good:
- Hip spot with great music (that is just loud enough)
- Serviceable eats

The Bad:
- Okay eats, but not remarkable

Bismarck on Urbanspoon

Salida 7

While in the lineup at Soft Peaks, I noticed that the old Terracotta Modern Chinese had been replaced by Salida 7.  With very few Spanish tapas joints around, I made a mental note to visit when possible.  Coincidentally, Salida 7 was one of the participants in the Poutine Challenge, where Sean was a judge.  Therefore, I ended up tagging along with him to try their entry as well as having a full meal.  Trying to do his best Mijune interpretation, Sean had some Soft Peaks as a pre-dinner dessert.  Actually, that crossed my mind as well...

Okay, back to the dinner, we started with the Montadito Con AtĂșn y Jamon.  Sitting atop crunchy bread, there was a generous portion of soft tuna mixed with picada, artichoke and Serrano ham finished with a piparra.  Creamy and mildly salty from the Serrano ham, there were occasional interruptions from the sweet little bits and hits of acidity.  The side salad was vibrant and crisp, yet far too salty.  Next up, we had the Gambas al Ajillo consisting of prawns, chili, white wine, almonds, garlic, parsley and prawn toast.  The nicely-sized prawns exhibited a natural essence while finishing off with a meaty snap.  Although there was an appealing combination of sweet, salty and spicy with a touch of acidity, the saltiness was more dominant. I really liked the side of crunchy toast topped with a prawn-infused aioli despite being rather greasy.

Onto our next dish, we had the Tortilla con Manchego consisting of free-run eggs, Manchego cheese, Romesco sauce, roasted pepper, spinach, fingerling potatoes and walnut bread.  I found the soft layered potatoes to be appealing in texture, however, the Manchego was curiously in the background. Offsetting the mild flavours, the Romesco provided an aromatic hit of nuttiness and punch of olives.  The best part of the dish was the crunchy and nutty walnut bread.  In somewhat of a surprise, our favourite dish of the meal was their entry into the Poutine Challenge, being the Poutine de la Bravas (a take on the classic Patatas Bravas) with smoked chorizo, charred tomato gravy, pepper aioli and cheese curds.  Slightly crispy, the tender chunks of potatoes were caressed by a spicy aioli and rich smoky gravy.  The melted cheese curds formed a tasty crust on the bottom of the cast iron pan.  Spicy and meaty, the chorizo added body to the dish.

Lastly, we shared the Paella Tradicional Valenciana made with arborio rice, saffron, mussels, white tiger prawns, sausage and chicken. Since this was a smaller portion, the thin layer of rice was not texturally consistent.  There was somewhat of a crust on the outside edges, yet overall, the rice was pretty wet.  Although not as briny as I would've liked, the aromatic saffron really came through.  The small amount of seafood was cooked properly with buttery mussels and meaty prawns.  Overall, our meal at Salida 7 was pleasant enough. With the lack of Spanish tapas in town, Salida 7 does the job. Prices are on the higher side though.


*Poutine was comped as part of the challenge*

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Cozy room

The Bad:
- Like any tapas joint, bill can get up there

Salida 7 on Urbanspoon