Sherman's Food Adventures

The Fresh Window @ Drew's Catering & Events

Here we are with another challenge from Vanfoodster.  This time around, it is the Burger Challenge and I did a fist pump when I found out that I was selected as a judge.  Yes, I love burgers and this was going to be fun unlike say... a salad challenge (ew...).   For my first stop, I decided to hit up The Fresh Window @ Drew's Catering & Events (picture from their Facebook site) down at the foot of Granville Street in Vancouver.  Located almost underneath the Arthur Laing Bridge, Drew's Catering offers up a take-out window in addition to their usual catering services.  This is purely a take out operation, but for the purposes of this challenge, we got to sit down and eat.

Miss Y joined me this time around and we got right down to it with their entry into the challenge being the Burger Noir all neatly contained in a custom box.  It featured a striking black brioche bun with 24-hour braised beef short rib, savoy cabbage coleslaw, horseradish aioli and shoestring potato.  Having the benefit of a solid piece of beef, the burger ate more meaty (as in chewier in a good way).  The short rib was super tender though, but not mushy.  It exhibited depth-of-flavour while the crunchy coleslaw added texture and creaminess.  The same could be said about the crispy shoestring potato as the crunch was of a different type, but very welcomed.  All of this was well-contained by the soft bun that barely held everything in.

We also tried the Smoked Brisket Rueben featuring Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, smoked Russian dressing and grilled kale on rye.  This wasn't much to look at, but ate very well.  The rye was robust, yet not dense and lightly crunchy.  Inside, the smoked brisket was flavourful and super succulent.  The sauerkraut provided enough tang and crunchiness where I thought the kale was pickled.  The nicely melted Swiss cheese helped bind everything together while there was just enough dressing that things stayed moist but not mushy.

Our last item was the DC Poke Salad sporting blackened Albacore tuna, organic greens, avocado, tomato, marinated artichokes, roasted corn, pea shoots, edamame, boiled egg and sesame miso dressing.  So by virtue of being a salad, this ate very light and was refreshing.  The dressing was nicely tangy and bright while the ingredients were fresh and on point.  For instance, the boiled egg was perfect, being fully cooked through without any off-putting dark rings.  We wished the tuna served rare though.  Overall, we thought the food was pretty solid and definitely freshly made, just like their name implies.

*All food was complimentary*

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Decently-priced
- Fresh

The Bad:
- Purely takeout, so not really any seating

Draw Winner!

Just a quick note that Julia L has been randomly chosen as the winner of the 9th Anniversary Draw!  Julia, please email me directly at admin@shermansfoodadventures and congrats!

Eastern Pearl Chinese

When I first spotted posts on Eastern Pearl, I actually thought it was referring to the restaurant located in Redmond, WA.  At that time, I had just visited the place after our flight back from San Diego during Christmas time.  Alas, the Eastern Pearl that was on IG referred to the newly opened spot in PoCo on the corner of Lougheed and Shaughnessy.  More than half-a-year later, we finally had a chance to make it for their Dim Sum service.  We wanted to make a reservation since we heard how busy they can be, but to no avail.  Either they had their phone off the hook or something was amiss as we couldn't get through the day before or the day of.  No matter, we went later and snagged a seat within 10 minutes.

Once seated, we noticed that the renovations had removed the booth seating in favour of a open dining space (good for banquets I suppose).  We got down to ordering and were served the BBQ Pork Pastry first.  From the outside, it looked like any other version with a flaky and super buttery (or lardy) pastry.  Inside, we were surprised to find a considerable amount of Japanese pickled ginger mixed in with the lean BBQ pork.  As a result, the flavour profile was completely that of the ginger being sweet with a sharp tanginess.  Next, the Beef Meatballs looked a bit too pale for our liking.  The reason for this was the considerable amount of baking soda which made the texture too light and fluffy.  There was no meat texture left.  It wasn't mushy though, which saved the dish from being a bust.  In terms of taste, the ample dried tangerine peel and seasoning kept the baking soda flavour from being at the forefront.

By appearances alone, the Siu Mai (Shrimp and Pork Dumplings) seemed to be on point.  In fact, it was really good featuring a buttery and bouncy texture where the meat was light and loose.  The flavours were sweet and briny with the full woodsiness of the shiitake mushrooms.  There was enough moisture where the dumpling had a nice mouth feel.  I also enjoyed that the intermittent bits of chewy, natural textured bits of pork mixed with the binding mousse.  As for the Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings), they were not as successful.  The thick and dense dumpling skin ensured that it was a fail even before we got to the filling.  It's not as if the filling was anything to write home about either.  I found it dense and lacking in moisture.  Despite the presence of a light snap texture, it was completely overshadowed by the lack of airiness.

On the same note, the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll was too thick as well.  Strangely, the thick rice noodle roll was not doughy.  Rather it had a good amount of elasticity and the texture wasn't all that bad.  The problem was that it was double the thickness of most other rice noodle rolls.  Therefore, the noodle was fine, but the execution (when they were applying the noodle batter to the tray) was sloppy.  Inside, the shrimp filling was on point though with a flavourful snap and being well-seasoned.  That was evident in the Shrimp Spring Roll as well where the filling was moist with a buttery snap.  It was also the beneficiary of a boatload of garlic that tasted great.  These were served hot with a light and crunchy exterior that was easy on the grease.

Off to some offal, we ordered the Steamed Tripe and Tendon.  This was far too saucy where the flavours came on strong.  There was an overload of sweet and saltiness that surprisingly didn't hide the gaminess of the tripe very much.  There was some appealing spiciness though.  In terms of texture, the tripe was a bit too soft and only had a light chew.  The tendon was pretty soft, but still maintained its shape.  One of the larger dishes was the Steamed Spareribs atop crystal noodles.  We enjoyed the chewiness of mung bean noodles where they soaked up the tasty black bean and rib juices.  Although lacking bounciness, the pork ribs were tender with a meatier texture.

Once again, we got the Xiao Long Bao despite our recognition they were not going to be very good.  That they weren't where the dumpling skin was thick and doughy.  Furthermore, there was no soup to be found.  Inside, the pork filling was good though being moist, meaty and tender.  To be fair, there should be no expectation that XLBs would be good at a Cantonese restaurant.  On the other hand, the Eggplant stuffed with Shrimp Mousse was pretty much on point.  The mousse was airy and bouncy with enough seasoning to hold its own.  I found the eggplant to be soft but not completely melted.  Lastly, the black bean sauce was on the milder side, but there was enough inherent flavour.

We also got the Phoenix Talons (Chicken Feet) as per usual. For me at least, I find them just as important as the ha gau.  These ones passed the test being fairly plump with tender, yet not mushy skin.  Underneath, the cartilage and fat were soft without melting away.  Flavourwise, it was well-seasoned with garlic and black bean as well as a bit of spice.  If you look at the picture of the Custard Bun, it is a closeup and not particularly well-styled.  The reason for that was once I split the bun open, the custard ran out like water.  It was far too thin and we lost most of it right away.  It was sweet and aromatic though while the bun itself was soft and airy.

Lastly, we had the Baked Egg Tarts which ate better than they appeared.  The buttery and flaky shell was cooked just right while the silky egg filling was just sweet enough.  This ended a relatively uneven meal where some dishes were really good while some where pretty average-to-below-average.  However, considering that the Dim Sum game out in the Tri-Cities area is pretty weak, Eastern Pearl does a decent job in a nicely renovated space.  However, service can be rather poor depending on which server you get.  Furthermore, I'm not sure why they refuse to answer the phone to take reservations.

The Good:
- Is competitive in the Tri-Cities area where the Dim Sum game is weak
- Pricing is okay for the portion size

The Bad:
- Service can be poor depending on who you get
- Food is hit and miss

Dolpan Seoul BBQ

Korean BBQ has pretty much been mainstream for awhile now.  Many associate this with the traditional cast iron pan that sits above a built-in gas or portable burner.  However, there are many other types of grills used for Korean BBQ, including non-stick pans, solid cast iron pan with oil drainage and the suddenly fashionable all-in-one with the side troughs for egg and cheese.  For this meal, we visited Dolpan in Richmond which employs the solid cast iron pan as well as featuring non-marinated meats.  I met up with Nora, Joyce and Lesley to check it out.

To start, the usual Banchan arrived consisting of pickled daikon, sprouts, stewed potatoes and spicy turnip. Pretty standard stuff and even though the potatoes looked mushy, they were actually quite good being nicely sweet and appealingly soft. For the BBQ, we decided to try the Pork Sampler with pork belly, mok sal, pork jowl and kaburisal for $39.00 at exactly 500 grams.  They ended up cooking this for us as we already had a full table and an upcoming hot pot as well.  The meats arrived well-seared and fully cooked (maybe a tad over done).  We dipped the meats into the 3 condiments provided which included fermented bean paste, sweet bbq sauce and salt.  I thought the pork belly was the best as it was meaty with only a modest amount of fat. 

Onto the most visually-striking dish, the Army Base Hot Pot was a mish-mash of everything one could find lying around.  This included wiener, sausage, spam, tofu, instant ramen, rice cake, cabbage and processed cheese.  Although the ingredients were modest (everything found on a army base...), it all went together nicely including the cheese.  The salty, spicy and comforting quality of the hot pot really came through.  On the side, we added the equally-striking Egg Volcano.  Although it looked perfectly cooked on the outside, the inside was actually well-done.  So any fluffiness was reserved for the outside. In the end, we thought the meal was pretty good.  I liked the quality of the BBQ meats, but the prices in general are on the higher side.

The Good:
- Meats are good quality
- Pretty impressive hot pots
- Things seem to be carefully made

The Bad:
- Pricey
- Those overhead exhaust vents are dangerous for taller people

Happy Tree House BBQ

Once again, the power of Instagram has prevailed.  As much as I am aware of the fairly new location of Happy Tree House BBQ on Kingsway, I wasn't completely convinced that a visit was all that necessary.  Located in the former Star Anise and before that, Samosa Garden, Happy Tree serves up BBQ skewers and whole fish presented on a heated cast iron plate.  This I know because it has been plastered on IG for the last half year.  So when it came time to pick a place to eat with Miss Y (she of the Paleo diet), it seemed like a good spot to check out for both eats and to get our meat on...

One thing that irked us was there is no "per skewer" option on the menu.  Rather, you must order a minimum amount (usually 5 of one type) of skewers.  Therefore, unless you come in a group of 6 or more, it is tough to get a variety.  So we ended up with only a few with 5 each of the Premium Beef and Special Lamb.  Both were seasoned with enough spices to create a nutty and spicy flavour to compliment the natural meat taste.  I thought the lamb was the better of the two being fatty and succulent.  However, the beef was caramelized a bit more which meant a noted smokiness and nutty sweetness.  I'm not sure why they would set this to minimum of 5 as they were constantly pumping these out and they could easily serve up less than that if requested.

On the other hand, there was no such ridiculous limit on the Prawn as we only had to get 2 as a minimum.   These looked less grilled than we would've expected.  Rather, they appeared to have been deep-fried (even though they were not).  After we removed the shells, the meaty prawn was natural-tasting and sweet.  Texturally, it was firm and slightly overdone being dense.  It wasn't dry though, where the meat was still tasty.  We were able to order one Oyster (I guess if they had a 5 minimum limit on the seafood, no one would order it?) and it was good.  It was more or less a plain oyster with some seasoning on top.  Hence it was naturally briny and only slightly salty.  I found it was cooked just right being buttery inside with only a touch of chewiness on the edges.

Seeing how magnificent the whole fish looked in the IG photos, we got the Spicy Grilled Cod with peppers served on a a large pan that was heated underneath.  Sure this was $39.00 but the portion size was pretty large as we didn't put much of a dent into the fish.  As flaky and moist as the fish was, the texture and appearance resembled sole more than cod.  The dish looked crazy spicy, but similar to Szechuan water-boiled fish, there was enough heat to make an impact without burning our tongues.   To cool things down, we got the Hand Made Noodle in bone broth as well as a bowl of rice.  The noodles were pretty good being chewy with elasticity.  They were a touch overdone though.  As for the soup, it was plenty tasty with the essence of sesame oil.  However, we felt there was too much seasoning and it took away from the natural flavours of the bone broth.

Lastly, for our veggie, we got the Eggplant topped with a considerable amount of minced garlic.  Hence, the flavours were intense and made sure we weren't going to kiss anyone later one (the spicy fish was also very garlicky).  Although rather oil-soaked, the eggplant was texturally appealing being meaty while tender.  It was barely cooked through which ensured that it wasn't mushy.  Of course we didn't finish all the food we ordered and it didn't help we had to get 5 earch of our meat skewer order.  Whatever the case, the food was tasty and the service was a whole lot better than we have read about.

The Good:
- Tasty and well-seasoned food
- On point execution of proteins

The Bad:
- Stupid minimum limit on most of the skewers
- Must they play the music that loud?  I've been to concerts that were quieter

Jaipur Indian Restaurant

Finding Indian food along Scott Road is as easy as making fun of Donald Trump.  Yes, it is that easy...  So when another spot opens, it hardly makes any news.  Jaipur has been operating in the old Arby's building on Scott for nearly 2 years now and I've been there many times.  Somehow, I just never got around to blogging about it.  I must say they did a good job renovating the place because it is classy, clean and doesn't resemble an Arby's anymore!  I met up with Chill for a few meals and this post is an amalgamation of these visits.

Trying to be more original than eating Butter Chicken all-the-time, we started with the Chicken Tikka Masala instead.  This was full-flavoured with rich flavours that were mildly spicy (as we requested) with big chunks of seared chicken.  The light tang from the tomato melded well with the sweetness of the onions and spice from the peppers.  It was pretty thick and creamy too. We also got the Goat Curry which was also good with tender pieces of meat.  We found the flavours to have depth where the sweetness of the onions came through as well as the bite from the ginger.  We had this another time (as evidenced in the picture) and it was consistent.

On our next visit, we had the Chicken Vindaloo (tried to do something different than lamb) that featured tender nuggets of white meat.  I was rather impressed with the moist texture of the chicken.  As for the sauce, it was richly tomatoey with only a mild tang from the vinegar.  I thought the flavours were well-balanced and the spice level was good. On the side, we had rice and also Garlic Naan. I found the it to be a little bit disappointing as it was rather thin which made it susceptible to being soft from the brush of garlic butter.  Despite that, it was still lighty crispy on one side while chewy and soft throughout.

We returned again and decided to try their Shrimp Goan Curry which was freakin' fantastic.  Bathed in a creamy coconut curry, this was super aromatic and pungently sweet.   There was also enough seasoning to make it super flavourful bordering on salty.  The consistency of the sauce was just right for both the chewy rice and better executed naan.  We found the shrimp buttery with a sweet snap.  Our next dish was the Chicken Palak which was just as impactful.  We asked for medium spice and that was just enough to provide the balance of heat, saltiness and robust flavours.  It wasn't particularly spinachy nor creamy.  Rather, it was thick and almost zesty.  Loved the chicken as it was super tender.  I have actually visited Jaipur a few more times without taking pictures (gasp) and I can definitively say that it is a solid choice along Scott Road.

The Good:
- Impactful flavours
- Friendly service every time (as opposed to all of the online reviews)
- Clean

The Bad:
- On the pricier side

Lee Yuen

I've said it before and I'll say it again...  Considering the large Asian population in Surrey, it is a complete mystery that there are so few good Dim Sum spots around.  Actually, let's take it a step further and just say there is a lack of authentic and good Chinese restaurants period.  Lately, it has been moving in the right direction with Neptune, Chongqing and Happiness setting up shop in various parts of Surrey.  One might debate how good the aforementioned restaurants are on the Chinese food continuum, but let's just say it is a start.  However, for this food adventure, we visited an oldie in Lee Yuen near Guildford.  Sure, it ain't the sexiest restaurant, but prices are reasonable and it isn't merely a sweet & sour shop.

To start things off, we got the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll.  On appearances alone, the rice noodle roll looked legit.  Generally it was good with elasticity where the rice noodle was only a touch thick and doughy.  Inside, the ample amount of shrimp were large and had a nice meaty snap.  They were not seasoned enough though, but the sweetened soy did the flavouring.  Next, we had the Sliced Fish Congee which was as photogenic as popcorn ceiling.  However, it was decently thick and had a very mild taste.  We actually enjoyed this as many restaurants put far too much MSG into their congee.  There was a good amount of flaky fish which made the entire thing hearty.

After that, everything showed up including the Shrimp Spring Rolls.  These were on point with a crunchy while not dense exterior that was easy on the oil.  Inside, the shrimp filling was buttery with a moist snap.  It was well-seasoned too with plenty of garlicky goodness.  Since we got all of our steamed items altogether, it was hard to decide which one to tackle first.  For some inexplicable reason, I tried the Bean Curd Skin Roll before the ha gau.  It wasn't a bad decision though as the filling was loose with a good mix of veggies.  It kept things bright and light.  On the exterior, the fried bean curd skin was tender with a light chewiness.  

Okay, right after that, I got to the Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumplings).  As ha gau go, this one was pretty average at best.  The thick and doughy dumpling skin was pretty wet which created a strange texture.  Inside, the shrimp mixture was far too fatty and loose where the chunks of pork fat was too evident.  On the the positive side, the shrimp did taste good and had a nice texture.  As for the siu mai, it consisted of big and meaty chunks of pork.  There was an inconsistent bounce texture where some pieces were rather chewy but still ultimately tender.  Flavours were balanced including good hits of shrimp and shiitake mushroom.

Onto some offal action, we had the Steamed Tendon and Tripe.   This was a fair portion of tender chunks of tendon that retained their shape.  I would say they weren't overly soft, but my personal preference is for a bit of resistance anyways.  As for the tripe, they were soft with an appealing chewiness.  There was not too much gaminess which meant they were rinsed properly.  There was a good balance of flavours as well.   The same could be said about the Phoenix Talons (Chicken Feet) where the sweet, salty and garlicky elements were in harmony with a touch of spice.  Texturally, the chicken feet were okay with tender skin and soft cartilage.  They weren't plump per se, but decent nonetheless.

Our last two items consisted of Steamed Pork Spareribs and Beef Meatballs.  The well-portioned spareribs exhibited the classic bounce texture where the meat was also tender.  It was still meaty though with a good chewiness.  There was more than enough seasoning and garlickiness to go around without being salty.  As for the meatballs, they were tender, but too soft.  In fact, I would go as far as saying they were mushy.  They did taste okay with a balanced salty and sweetness.  However, they overdid it with the cilantro as it was rather overpowering.  Overall, we enjoyed the Dim Sum service despite some obvious execution issues.  We realized that we were in Surrey and there are not many options, but for the price, Lee Yuen is serviceable.

The Good:
- Serviceable
- Well-priced
- Well-portioned

The Bad:
- Some items need work
- Service needs work
- The decor needs even more work