Sherman's Food Adventures

Love for Pho

Sometimes a quick meal doesn't have to involve a drive-thru or a food fair in a mall.  For those who know, grabbing some Pho can be pretty time efficient and easy on the wallet (although the prices are creeping up there).  So with not much time to spare, we were driving up Kingsway in search of Vietnamese.  Well, that is as easy as stumbling on a Trump joke on social media.  However, we were nearing Boundary and the selection gets a bit thin until you reach Metrotown.  But there was a new spot in Love for Pho.

We ended up with our usual Pho Dac Biet and it was full of ingredients including an inordinate amount of tendon (which was soft with still a bite).  The rest of the meats were fairly good where the brisket was fatty and soft.  As for the broth, it was clean with mild flavours including the sweetness of daikon and a faint anise finish.  The noodles were plentiful and still chewy.  My son loves Lemongrass Chicken with rice, so yes that's what he had.  It featured chewy rice with shredded pork and a large piece of deboned leg.  It was succulent and juicy, but lacking in impact.  We thought there a more aggressive marinate was necessary as well as more charring to the fatty skin.

We also got my son's other favourite dish being the Beef Stew with bread.  Hidden underneath the onions were a plethora of super tender melt-in-our-mouths beef shank.  The tendon portion of the meat was partially melted which meant the meat was barely chewy.  In terms of taste, the broth was not overly fatty nor seasoned, but there was a noticeable meatiness combined with 5 spice, anise and the sweetness of carrots.  Sticking with bread, we ordered the Banh Mi Dac Biet, which was quite good.  The crusty bread was not overly dense inside while there was enough ingredients to balance.  Add in the pate and the drops of Maggi and the sandwich was tastyOverall, we found the meal good, but the flavours could've been stronger.

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Okay portions

The Bad:
- Flavours could be more impactful
- Service is fine, but sparse   

Tap & Barrel Shipyards

Location, location, location - that can refer to anything from a surprise on the sidewalk (think a dog) to where a restaurant is situated.  Most times, it can be a equalizing factor that can make up for other shortcomings.  Take a lot at Salmon House on the Hill and Horizons, great views with decent eats, but not extraordinary.  I guess Miku would be an exception as it combines an outstanding location with equally outstanding food.  Tap & Barrel seems to have the right idea in terms of location as both their Olympic Village, Convention Centre and Shipyards buildings are not only beautiful, they are all at the water's edge.

Milhouse and I thought that since we were playing hockey in North Van already and it was getting late, a visit to the newer Shipyards location was in order. We started with the Fried Pickles which were pretty good.  The pickle itself was juicy and just tart enough while the breading was on the thicker side.  Hence, it was pretty firmly crunchy, albeit heavy.  The side of aioli was creamy and spicy

Despite being late night, I went for the Steak Frites that sported a small sirloin with sea salted fries.  I requested medium-rare and my steak was pretty much bang onAs such, it was fairly tender and well-seasoned.  It was also properly rested where the juices stayed in the steak.  As for the frites, they were okay being crispy and light.  I found them to be a little bit dry though.  Milhouse went for the Fried Chicken Sandwich that featured an aggressively crunchy batter.  Underneath that, the chicken was fairly succulent while the whole thing was pretty sweet with a touch of spice.

On another visit, Milhouse, Lionel Hutz and myself shared a few items including the Pork Belly and Egg Pizza.  We've had it before at the Olympic Village location and this was not as good.  The egg was completely cooked through, so the texture was a bit rubbery and lacking the runny silkiness.  On the other hand, the pizza portion was on point being crispy with a slight chewiness while nicely seasoned.  There was some smokiness from the pork and the caramelized onions were definitely sweet.  We also got the Pulled Pork Mac n' Cheese which was only so-so.  The noodles were a little soft and the aged white cheddar sauce was runny and fairly bland.  It wasn't creamy either where it was more floury.  To top things off literally and figuratively, the pulled pork was dry and flavourless.

Our 3rd item was appreciably better.  The PB&J Burger featured chipotle peanut butter and bacon jam.  This combination resulted in nutty and sweet flavours as well as smoky and saltiness from the bacon jam.  Furthermore, there was some spice from the chipotle.  Add in the pickle and there was almost every flavour imaginable.  The brioche bun was fantastic being soft while not disintegrating, but the beef patty was a little dry.  Groundskeeper Willy went for the Cod and Chips which was on point.  The flaky and moist fish was coated in a thin batter than was flavourful and not greasy.  Okay, remember when I mentioned location?  Well, T&B has that down pat.  But how about the food?  For what it is, we believe the food is more than acceptableIs it awesome?  No.  But it does the job for fairly reasonable prices. 

The Good:
- Decent eats for this type of establishment
- Okay pricing considering everything
- Lively atmosphere

The Bad:
- Hey, it's a casual place to grab a drink AND get some food, so don't expect gourmet 
- Portion size is on the smaller side   

Chambar

Normally, I try not to post any revisits if they are too close together.  In fact, there are certain places that are so consistent, a year in between posts probably yields similar results.  However, with our recent visit to Chambar, it seemed like a good idea to do a post on because their menu had completely changed since our dinner just over a year ago.  Another reason would be the increased variety of dishes since Costanza and Elaine were present as well.

We started with their signature dish (albeit in a different broth) with the Congolaise (Mussels & Frites) featuring tomato coconut cream, smoked chili, lime and cilantro.  All four of us had a hard time picking out any coconut cream or essence.  Either they put very little or completely forgot.  Hence, it was more a spicy tomato broth with a background smokiness and tang.  The cilantro was pretty impactful with an initial hit.  Although served on the side, the frites were pretty much the star of the show with a fluffy crispiness.  We got an order of the Daily Bread to compliment the mussels and it was actually a great item in itself.  It appeared to be some sort of light rye, cheese and sage bread with a chewy exterior giving way to a firmly soft (yes an oxymoron I know...) cheesy interior.  Loved the creamy whipped butter on the side.

Normally, Sardines on toast highlight the robust flavour of the fish.  However, the one here was nicely balanced where the tomato relish was both intensely sweet and tangy.  The chermoula on top was the proverbial icing on the cake as the brightness of the ginger really cut through the fishiness of the sardines. Probably my favourite appie was the Calamars Farcis featuring veal-stuffed calamari, taro chips and chili aioli.  The squid itself was tender and buttery with a balancing chew.  It was nicely charred on the outside providing not only a few crispy bits, but also a warming smokiness.  Inside, the ground veal was tender and moist with a lingering spiciness.  This was further amplified by the chili aioli.

Onto the mains, I went for the Tajine D’aziz À L’agneau or braised lamb shank with honey, figs, cinnamon, cilantro and almond cous-cous.  Once the lid was removed off the tagine, an aromatic scent wafted towards me.  I could definitely get the cinnamon and smell of lamb.  I found the meat to be tender and fatty while spiced with a sweet jus.  This was of course from the honey and figs.  I could definitely get the cinnamon (there was a stick of it), but it wasn't overwhelming at the same time.  I poured all of the cous-cous into the tagine so it could soak all of over the flavour.  Viv went for the Pot au Feu de Truite featuring steelhead trout, local beets and Brussels sprouts in a tapioca galangal shisho broth.  Sporting crispy skin, the trout itself was flaky and moist.  It was mildly seasoned, where it allowed the fragrant broth do the heavy lifting.  It exhibited a certain brightness with a robust galangal essence.

Elaine picked out La Pi├Ęce De Boeuf (AAA char grilled 8oz beef brochette) and proceeded to ask for it to be prepared medium-well (the horror!).  I commend the chef from not wavering from this absurd request as it came out a perfect medium-rare. Ballsy move, but hey, I would've serve this any other way either! Imagine ordering lobster and requesting it to be extra rubbery!  Anyways, it was buttery and tender with a crispy char.  The chimichurri was bright and flavourful while the sundried tomato jus added another layer of tang and saltiness.  Costanza opted for the Thon Provencale (Albacore tuna loin & belly, sea asparagus, rapini, rouille potatoes, chorizo chips, olives and red pepper coulis).  I enjoyed the rare, buttery loin as it was nicely seasoned on the outside.  However, the belly was a bit mealy from the aggressive frying.  It wasn't all that flavourful either.

For dessert, we shared the Citron Cremeux and Coco Panna Cotta. Hidden beneath the tangy and smooth raspberry sorbet and overly dry sponge cake was natural-tasting lemon lemon cream.  It was appealingly tart and smooth.  Beautifully plated with toasted coconut sorbet, lime puffs, blueberries, black pepper and lime compote, the panna cotta was light and semi-sweet.  I could definitely taste the black pepper as well as the sweetness of the blueberries.  On the other hand, there needed to be more acidity to bring the dessert to another level.  As you can ascertain, this meal at Chambar was solid and carefully prepared.  Often, I get asked why Chambar is grouped into the best restaurants in Vancouver - well, this didn't happen by accident.

The Good:
- Carefully prepared food
- Attentive service
- Purposeful flavours

The Bad:
- On the pricier side