Sherman's Food Adventures

Happy Day

Shortly after my post on the last-standing location of Bino's, it suddenly closed.  I'm sure what I wrote had nothing to do with it as the place was already in disrepair and the food was crap.  It surely was on its last legs.  Now the place has been completely transformed into a modern Hong Kong-Style Cafe called Happy Day.  The place has been non-stop busy since it opened and trying to get a table is nearly impossible (since the place is not as big as it may appear).  We decided to make a preemptive strike by going for dinner at 4:30pm.  Heck, that was even too early for my parents!

Similar to what can be found in Hong Kong, the menu at Happy Day offers up many different versions of their Bo Loh Bao (Pineapple Buns).  Including the classic Pineapple Bun with a slice of cold butter, there are sandwiches consisting of pork chop, ham, Spam and egg.  My son went for the Corned Beef, Egg and Cheese Pineapple Bun which was a meal in itself.  The bun itself was fairly light, yet a bit dry.  However, with all the fillings, it made up for it.  I found the topping to be crumbly and sweet, which was fine.  The egg was not overdone while sporting a modest amount of canned corned beef.  The bun with cold butter was decent but naturally wasn't as good as the gold standard being Lido in Richmond.

From there, the meal started to go downhill with the Baked Pork Chop Rice.  There were several issues with this dish beginning with the fried rice base.  It ate like someone tossed it with fried egg than actually doing a good job wok-frying it since it too soft.  Second, the sauce itself was pale and bland.  We had to resort to adding salt and pepper.  The addition of onions was a fail since they were practically raw and too sharp-tasting.  The only good thing was the tender pork chop.  Sporting a similar bland sauce was the Ox-Tail Spaghetti.  We felt the portion size was underwhelming as its flavour.  Furthermore, the sliced oxtail was not as soft as we would've liked either.

We also gave this Fish Soup Noodles a shot as well with rice noodles, pork jowl and tendon.  I thought the soup base was decent, yet lacking in the natural sweetness of fish.  Furthermore, the noodles were overcooked being far too soft.  The pork jowl was nicely bouncy though and the tendon was soft, yet still retained some texture.  When it hit the table, the Singapore Fried Vermicelli looked legit with an appealing yellow hue.  Unfortunately, the noodles were far too dry and hard to swallow.  At the very least, the flavours were there with an impactful curry depth.  Although the shrimp exhibited a nice crunch and the BBQ pork was lean, both were hard to find as there wasn't much of them.

Our last dish was the Sweet & Sour Pork which was also modest in portion size.  We liked the fact it was made to order (not refried pork), which meant the outside was crispy while the inside was juicy and tender.  The amount of sauce was just right, barely clinging onto each piece.  It was on the sweeter side though, in desperate need of more vinegar.  Ultimately, this and the Pineapple Bun were the only appealing items we had at our meal at Happy Day.  The others were not only forgettable, they were generally unappetizing.  We were not sure why there is so much fuss, including the long lineups.

The Good:
- Nicely decorated and clean
- Efficient service
- Lots of choice with the Pineapple Buns

The Bad:
- Small portions
- Food is generally sub-par
- Flavours are a bit off

Osum

Steveston aka Storybrook, is probably one of the furthest points away from me in the Lower Mainland.  No, I'm not including Abbotsford here and yah I know White Rock is even further.  I guess the game of Frogger I play with my car in Richmond makes the drive seem like an eternity.  So when a tasting was arranged at the newly opened Osum, I hesitated briefly.  Looks like I wasn't the only one to hesitate because I ended up giving Diana and Amy a lift there.  I'm sure they didn't want to play Frogger in Richmond either...

Meeting up with Nora, we got down to sampling some eats beginning with the Hot Dry Noodles consisting of house made thick noodles, bean sprouts, carrots, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, chili oil, garlic sesame chili sauce and braised pork belly.  I enjoyed the chewiness of the noodles and when mixed with all of the ingredients, there was a spicy kick at the start and lingered right until the end.  It wasn't overpowering though as I got hits of saltiness, peanut, sweetness and tang as well.  Nice crunch from the nuts and mustard greens too.  Off to the bao, we sampled the Osum Pork first.  Inside the firm, yet not dry bao, there was slow-braised pork belly, cucumbers, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, peanuts and garlic peanut sesame sauce.  This had varied flavours and the pork was relatively tender.

My favourite bao was the Osum Beef with braised brisket, pickled mustard greens, crispy shallots, toasted pine nuts, cucumber, cilantro and spicy peppercorn sesame sauce. As clearly evidenced in the picture, the beef was well-charred and caramelized.  Hence it was sweet and smoky while tender to chew.  There was a tangy crunch from the pickles as well as some background spice from the sauce.  Next up was something very different and to many people, just plain weird.  Garnished with crunchy cheese puffs and processed cheese, the Osum Chicken also consisted of more typical ingredients such as cucumber, red onion and cilantro in a Korean sweet & spicy sauce.  Although the chicken was tender and there was a nice crunch to go with the sweet glaze, the whole thing tasted of processed cheese and its usual saltiness.  I know process cheese and chicken in Korean food is a thing, but it's not my cup of tea.

The use of process cheese didn't end there though as it was thoroughly featured on the Korean Cheesy Chicken over hand made noodles, cucumber and kimchi tossed with chili flakes and kimchi mayo.  This had somewhat similar elements to the bao, but the saltiness of the cheese was more evenly distributed amongst the noodles.  There was more tang due to the kimchi and the spiciness was different as well.  Lastly, we had the Multi-Mushroom Noodle with home-made kale noodles, kale chips, assorted mushrooms, truffle oil and mushroom sauce.  I loved the chewy sheet noodle while the Earthiness of the mushrooms really came through.  I found the use of truffle oil just a bit over which made things far too woodsy.  This could've been great without any truffle oil at all.  Not unlike Bao Down and Heritage Asian Eatery, Osum fits a niche that hasn't been necessarily filled up until now.  I must give it to them for offering up some unique and interesting items.  On the other hand, some tweaks are needed here and there.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Dare to be different
- Not devoid of flavours
- A change of pace compared to other spots in the area

The Bad:
- A few tweaks with the flavours are needed
     

Fort Pub & Grill

As of late, I haven't been heading out to Langley for eats for some reason or another.  Yes, I do not live in Langley and in fact, I'm on the other side of the Port Mann.  A more important factor is that I haven't made it out to visit friends out that way either.  They are still my friends...  I hope...  Whatever the case, I made it a point to meet up with Hot Mama and some friends at the Fort Pub & Grill located near the train tracks in historic Fort Langley.  Yah, we really went that far to meet up with Hot Mama...  She'd better appreciate this!

I decided to get a the classic Salt & Pepper Wings which ranged from small pieces to really large ones.  Despite the variance in size, they did a good job with the deep-fry as the exterior was uniformly crispy while the inside was still juicy.  This was rather impressive since the wings didn't seemed to be the beneficiary of any brine.  All the flavour was from the toss of salt and pepper after-the-fact.  For my main, I had the Bedford Burger with an Angus beef patty, sunny side fried egg, sauteed mushrooms, onions, smoky bacon, apple wood smoked cheddar, house mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickles.  This was definitely a 6-napkin burger if not more.  The egg was perfectly runny while the meat was moist and well-charred.  I loved the soft brioche bun that was still able to hold in all of the ingredients.  The side of fries were crispy and well-salted.

Miss Y had the Steamed Mussels in a creamy white wine broth.  They were fairly large and plump while cooked just enough. The modest amount of sauce was impactful where it was well-seasoned and lightly creamy. The wine was rather mild and had been completely cooked down.  For a pub, this was completely unexpected, but impressive nonetheless.

On another visit (also meeting up with Hot Mama), I decided to start with the Poutine.  It was a rather large portion doused in a considerable amount of thick, meaty gravy.  It didn't taste particularly typical, rather it was more like a gravy one would find with a veal cutlet.  No matter, I liked it as well as the legit cheese curds.  The fries were pretty pedestrian though being thin, not crispy enough and dry.  But the gravy solved that problem.  I also had the Cottage Pie which was also well-portioned.  The beef, carrot, peas and onion mixture was pretty tasty with tender meat and well-developed flavours.  I found the mash potato topping to be a bit plain where some more cream and/or butter would've made it fluffier.

CeeCee (formerly known as DeeDee...) went for the Roast Poblano & Crab Dip featuring roasted poblano pepper, mascarpone cheese and crab served warm with fresh baguette and Parmesan crusted naan bread.  We found the dip to be thick, creamy and a bit salty.   The lemon wedge on top was really necessary in brightening up the heaviness.  Although hardly a real naan bread, it was cheesy and soft though. It was a Bacon Cheeseburger for Zamboni Guy as he has doesn't venture far from the regular.  Unlike my Bedford Burger, this one was overdone and dry.  Bacon was crispy though.  From these 2 visits, it appears that consistency might be an issue, but if you hit it on the right day, Fort Pub offers up decent eats in Fort Langley.

The Good:
- The solarium portion of the restaurant is great for a sunny day
- Food is decent
- Service is not bad

The Bad:
- Inconsistency
- Lack of parking  

Smokehouse Sandwich Co. (Downtown)

After my initial visit to the original location of Smokehouse Sandwich Co. out in Richmond, I came away indifferent.  The sammies weren't terrible, in fact, they were "okay".  However, I felt the portion size was smallish while the flavours were far too mild.  So I was a bit surprised to find out that they expanded into Downtown within Cathedral Place.  With all of the sandwich options in Downtown Vancouver, I thought it would be in tough with the competition.  Grace and I decided to check out the place for lunch armed with a couple of Social Shopper coupons.

We decided to go for all of the available meat options including the Wilbur with cumin-spiced pulled pork with aioli & coleslaw.  Let's get this out-of-the-way first - I liked the light, airy and crusty toasted bun.  Some people might find it boring, but in general, it is pretty versatile and does hold up to the wet ingredients without being dense and hard like the one found at Hubub.  As for the pulled pork, it was appreciably more moist and tender than the first time I had it in Richmond.  However, for some odd reason, the flavours were less apparent this time around with the cumin being rather faint.  Tart with a zing, the pulled tamarind chicken in the Sarah was dry and mealy.  That was partly alleviated by the abundance of sesame ginger oil dressed carrots and daikon.  This tasted almost like a Banh Mi because of it.

My favourite protein of the bunch was found in the Billie.  It featured fatty and tender slices of salt-cured pork belly.  Rounded out by the same aioli as well as salsa and lettuce, this was a pleasant sandwich, if not a bit sparse (in both ingredients and texture).  However, it didn't take away from the buttery and meatiness of the mild-flavoured pork which wasn't necessarily accented properly by the salsa.  I would've preferred something brighter and acidic like pickled fennel or onions.  Lastly, we had the Samson with coffee-crusted strawberry glazed beef with aioli, red bell peppers and lettuce.  The meat itself was money being melt-in-our-mouths tender with a sweet and smoky flavour.  However, the raw red peppers would've been better if they were roasted to bring out more of the intense sweetness rather than having a raw taste.  So the verdict with this location?  Indifference again.  Meats were on point, but the flavours were not quite there while the sides were woefully weak.

The Good:
- On point meats
- I liked the bun
- At least when we went there, it was peaceful (not sure it that is good for them though)

The Bad:
- Flavours were not quite right
- Sides are terrible except for the chips