T-Khan Grill Mongolian BBQ

At one point last year, I was frequenting Warrior Grill out at Strawberry Hill.  Yah, I realized that it wasn't "true" Mongolian BBQ, but really, it was okay for an inexpensive lunch that wasn't a burger.  Suddenly it closed and there went one of my go-to places.  Then recently, a new Mongolian BBQ opened up in Newton where the old C-Lover's used to be located.  With strangely the same setup (and equipment) as the defunct Warrior Grill, I am wondering if there has been a reincarnation here (albeit with different owners).

Initially, I was planning on doing the all-u-can-eat, but then it donned on me that I neither had the time nor the appetite to do such a thing.  Besides, the large bowl provided was more than enough for me to cram all the food I needed for lunch. With a modest selection of veggies and noodles, I gingerly and sparsely loaded up my bowl.  Nothing was particularly amiss here as things looked fresh.  Onto the meats, I went for everything including beef, chicken, pork and lamb.  After than, I chose my sauces and made a bloody mess of things.  There must be a better way of doing things...  Maybe bigger spoons?  A dispenser?  Otherwise, the sauces get all mixed up anyways due to spillage.

Once constructed, my masterpiece was piled high with ingredients.  The Tetris-like precision meant that even a light wind would send it toppling over.  Not too long after, it was swooped up and prepared on the flattop.  Similarly to the old Warrior Grill, the fact they don't have an actual Mongolian grill meant that the food may have not necessarily cooked as fast.  As a result, caramelization would be less and moisture at the bottom of the plate would be an issue.  On the other hand, I found it acceptable and it ended up being a hearty meal on the cheap.  Although it isn't the sexiest place nor was it amazing food, the fact that the owners were super accommodating and friendly makes me want to visit them again.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Really nice owners (especially the lady)

The Bad:
- Limited selection
- Flattop can only do so much

T-Khan Grill Mongolian BBQ on Urbanspoon

Rosemary Rocksalt (Main Street)

Okay, what are some of the most popular things to eat in Montreal?  Poutine would be an obvious one as well as smoked meat and bagels.  Well, how about combining the bagel with smoked meat?  That's the idea behind Rosemary Rocksalt.  And the co-founder is none other than Joel Siegal's daughter, Parise.  Oh, and if you didn't know already, Joel Siegal is famous for his Montreal-style bagels which are found at his 2 stores in Vancouver.  Miss Y and I had a small taste of the Rosemary Rocksalt during Tasting Plates Main Street where we vowed to return for a proper meal.

That we did prior to my hockey game where I thought it would be a light enough meal.  Go figure, a heavy bagel with fatty meat...  Maybe I don't understand the idea of a light meal. We decided to share a few items including the Large Montreal Smoked Meat on a Rosemary Rocksalt Bagel.  The well-marbled meat was moist and needed very little effort to chew.  It was nicely cured where it was purposefully salty with some peppery notes.  Although I'm not completely convinced smoked meat belongs in a bagel (too chewy and there is a hole in the middle), the bagel itself was firm and toothsome with nice aromatics.  Suprisingly, the side of Fries were better than expected.  Slightly oversalted, these were lightly crispy with the goodness of soft potato inside.

With a not-so-discreet hint, Miss Y seemed to want the Lox & Cream Cheese on an Everything Bagel.  The bagel itself had a nice sesame and poppy seed crust on the outside which added a crunchy texture to contrast the chewy inside.  With a liberal spread of cream cheese and enough smoked salmon, capers and onion on top, this was pleasant enough.  Overall, we thought the bagels at Rosemary Rocksalt were good while the addition of smoked meat was something different.  As mentioned before, I'm not totally convinced at the combination since I would prefer light rye.  Yet, it isn't necessarily a bad thing either.

The Good:
- Fatty, melt-in-your-mouth smoked meat
- Nicely textured and flavoured bagels

The Bad:
- Chewy dense bagel + melt-in-mouth meat = mess with things falling out all over the place
- On the pricier side

Rosemary Rocksalt on Urbanspoon

Kingyo Izakaya

Sometimes, tough decisions need to be made.  Decisions that involve our very being and the existence of Earth...  Like who to eat with after Friday night hockey!  Did you expect something more deep and meaningful?  #firstworldproblems  So my dilemma was whether to join Milhouse and Gadget Girl in some quick eats (not necessarily good eats either) and then a night of role-playing games or head Downtown with Miss Y for Izakaya.  Let me see here...  Unidentified eats vs. Kingyo with the gorgeous Miss Y... Guess who won?

It was actually a great idea to visit Kingyo as I haven't been to the place in 5 years.  We started off with something light in the Fresh Sashimi Salad consisting of salmon, tuna and hamachi atop organic greens dressed with a soy vinaigrette and garlic oil.  This was a pleasant dish with vibrant cuts of sashimi that had a nice sheen and a fresh taste (as best as flash frozen can get).  I found the dressing to be plenty appetizing with a nice acidity that was balanced off by a savory sweetness.  The pieces of ponzu jelly added another layer of salty tanginess.  Next up was the Stone-Grilled Beef Tongue with yuzu red pepper paste.  After nearly 7 years of offering it to Miss Y, she finally accepted my tongue!  Woohoo!  With a quick sear on the hot stone, each thin slice of tongue was predictably chewy (tongue is not tender unless you stew it).  Tart and slightly aromatic, the paste was a mild compliment to the tongue.

Onto one of my favourite Japanese dishes was the Ebi Mayo made of tempura-battered tiger prawns with spicy chili mayo.  These were impressive too look at but we found the batter to be slightly too dense.  Therefore, the crunch was rather firm and somewhat doughy inside.  On the other hand, the prawns were large and had a meaty snap.  As per the description, the mayo was spicy with a tang rather then the usual sweet version.  Moving onto a larger dish, we tried the Stone-Grilled "Kakuni Bibimbap" with slowly stewed tender pork belly "kakuni", Korean-style pickles, nori and green onions on Koshihikari rice in a sizzing stone bowl.  This was a substantial amount of food, in particular, the pork belly (which was succulent and meaty with a beautiful roasted flavour).  After a quick mix and then squashing the rice onto the sides of the bowl, we waited until a caramelized crust had formed.  This was aided by the sweet sauce which was nicely accented by the crunchy and tangy pickles.  The chewy short-grain rice held up well to the ingredients, which was key to this dish.

With Miss Y still chewing away on the one piece of tongue she agreed to eat, another plate of chewy meat arrived being the Grilled Pork Cheek marinated in Kingyo's original miso marinade with homemade blended spice on the side.  Now when I said chewy, it wasn't in a negative manner.  Pork cheek, similarly to tongue, needs to be braised in order for it to become tender.  Simply grilled, it came out with a bouncy chew which was complimented by a nice exterior char.  Tastewise, it was mildly salty and a touch sweet that was balanced out by the spicy condiment.  The squeeze of lemon was key too as it lightened things up.  Miss Y loves udon, so it was a given we tried the Kingyo-Style Peperoncino with Japanese anchovy, cabbage, green onions, chili strings and nori.  We found the dish to be rather salty due to the anchovies, but for me, it was just right.  The noodles were still chewy while slightly wet from the cabbage.

For dessert, we had the Blue Cheese Ice Cream with walnuts and apple compote. As much as we were warned that there was a considerable amount of blue cheese in the mix, it wasn't overpowering.  We liked the sharpness combined with the mild sweetness of the ice cream.  The apples were tender and only slightly sweet while the walnuts added a nice crunch.  After all this food, we were plenty satisfied and felt it was money well spent.  Turns out Milhouse ended up suffering through a visit to Pho Hoa...  I guess I made the right decision!  Anyways, 5 years later and we still find that Kingyo continues to deliver good eats late into the night.

The Good:
- Solidly crafted eats
- We felt the service was very good

The Bad:
- A bit pricier than other Izakayas

Kingyo Izakaya 金魚居酒屋 on Urbanspoon

Ramengers

With Whipping Girl being all-grown up and such, she now has plenty of responsibilities.  Naturally, she had to furnish her new digs with the important stuff, like a big screen TV and bar stools.  But what about a bed and washer/dryer???  Well, she finally got her bed from Ikea and needed me to help build it for her.  No problemo, I've built enough Ikea furniture in my lifetime that I have nightmares about Lack (no not Eddie) and Malm...  But to make things extra sweet, it meant she was going to treat me to dinner!  Since it was cold and dreary, we decided to hit up Ramengers on Kingsway.

To start things off, we decided to get a regular-sized order of the Cheese Tonkotsu Ramen which was only topped with a moderate amount of melting, stringy cheese.  That was a good thing as it didn't overwhelm the ramen.  The ramen itself was toothsome and plentiful as it seemed like a never-ending bowl.  As for the tonkotsu broth, it wasn't overly salty while still exhibiting some natural pork flavour.  It wasn't particularly silky, but that didn't hurt things much.  The piece of chashu was torched on one side where it exhibited an appealing smokiness.  I found the meat to be a bit salty though with parts that melted-in-my-mouth with others being a bit chewy.  The egg was beautifully soft and well-seasoned.  To contrast this bowl, we got the large size of the Pork Bone Ramen which was distinctively Korean-inspired.  It was a combination of ramen and spicy pork bone soup which worked in our opinion.  The level of spiciness was just enough where it didn't make us sweat, but still had an impact.  We found the soup to have depth-of-flavour and a lasting impression.  The pork bones were meaty and consisted of super tender meat.

For our sides, we had the Unagi Don which featured chewy flavoured rice.  The piece of unagi was buttery, only mildly glazed and smoky.  Combined with the cabbage, each spoonful had a nice balance of flavours and textures.  Lastly, we had the Chashu Rice Bomb that was also nicely spiced.  There was a good balance of salty, spicy and sweet.  The rice was chewy while the chashu was a bit salty and dry. If we looked solely on the ramen at Ramengers, it more than held its own amongst the other options in town and specifically, its closest rival in Kamamarui Ramen in Burnaby.  Now with her Ikea bed built, Whipping Girl only needs a washer and dryer.  And no matter what food she tried to treat me with, I'm not moving those!

The Good:
- Large portions (even for regular)
- Nice people
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Seating is really tight (really!)
- Parking lot is worse

Ramengers on Urbanspoon

Kazu Japanese Restaurant

It also seems like there are as many Japanese restaurants along Hastings in North Burnaby as there are Italian restaurants.  Now, for an area that has traditionally been Italian, it is somewhat of an oddity.  But hey, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise as the same could be said about the entire stretch of Lonsdale in North Van and Broadway in Vancouver.  One quick search and there are well over 1000 Japanese restaurants in the GVRD.  As I've said over and over again, a very small percentage are actually Japanese owned and operated. Yet, Kazu Japanese Restaurant happens to be one of those and conveniently right along the aforementioned Hastings.

Despite the torrential downpour, I dragged the family out for some authentic Japanese that didn't include monstrous specialty rolls doused in an array of multi-coloured sauces (although I do like them when done well).  We started out with an order of Assorted Sashimi consisting of tuna, tako, salmon, ebi, hokkigai and hamachi.  Carefully prepared and plated, the pieces exhibited a nice sheen and fresh demeanor (as much as flash frozen can get).  I found the hamachi especially nice being buttery with a rebound and tasting naturally sweet. Onto a few basic rolls, we had the Salmon Maki and BC Roll.  At first, the rice was slightly warm, but one cooled, it had an appealing chewiness with mild flavours.  The salmon skin in the BC Roll was slightly crispy with a good amount of meat attached.  As for the Salmon Maki, the fish was aesthetically-pleasing and sweet tasting.

For the kiddies, we ordered the Nabeyaki Udon consisting of a modest amount of ingredients including spinach, shiitake, egg, ebi tempura, chicken and pink kamaboko.  There was a decent amount of slippery chewy udon noodles bathed in a slightly sweet broth.  We found the dashi to be on the milder side where the bonito was not very apparent. Also for the kiddies, we got some Chicken Karaage which my son devoured.  I sampled some and understood his enthusiasm as each piece was evenly crispy on the outside with well-rendered skin.  Additionally, the dish was easy on the grease.  Inside, the meat was juicy and moist while seasoned just enough while not being salty.

Since he was so happy with the chicken karaage, my son started to ignore the Prawn Tempura (which is usually his favourite).  Again, after dining on several pieces myself, I began to understand why he wasn't that thrilled with it.  Although the ebi was large with a sweet meaty snap, the tempura batter was too doughy and laid on thick.  Hence, the crispiness was only available in spots.  And as it cooled, the exterior texture only got soggier.  Arriving next were the Fried Shrimp Heads from our assorted sashimi.  Viv and I love it when we get head...  er...  Anyways, these were fried up crunchy where the shell was completely edible without cutting up the inside of our mouths.  With a squeeze of lemon, that was all that was needed to brighten things up.

Lastly, we added the Oyako Don just in case we weren't full.  Well, we were full and Viv had a nice lunch the next day.  The fluffy rice was topped with a good amount of moist chicken, egg and white onion.  We would've liked to see the rice a bit more chewy, as it got even softer with the topping and sauce.  And about that sauce, it was definitely sweeter and we could've used a bit more of it. Although the meal was far from outstanding, Kazu offered up authentic Japanese eats that was a nice break from the usual places along Hastings in Burnaby.

The Good:
- Friendly people
- Things are done right for those who care
- Simple and focused menu

The Bad:
- A bit pricier than the others nearby
- Limited menu for some

Kazu Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Grand Honour Restaurant

Back in my pre-University years, we lived in Oakridge where there were only a few options for Dim Sum.  One would be Miramar out in Kerrisdale (where Golden Ocean now stands) and the other is where Grand Honour now resides.  After the closing of Nong, Grand Honour moved a couple of stores down to occupy the dark basement floor restaurant devoid of any natural light.  Yes, not the most sexiest of locations in my opinion.  In my never-ending quest to hit every Dim Sum joint in the GVRD, the family including grandparents descended (literally) to Grand Honour.

The first thing we noticed was the indifference with one of the managers.  This was confirmed when he accidentally brought us a plate of gai lan (when we had actually ordered pea shoots).  He merely took it off our table violently without a word and proceeded to plop it onto the table next to us in an annoyed fashion.  And to top things off, when we finally got in a word with him, he insisted the order was correct and we'd be getting our pea shoots.  In actuality, it took several reminders and we got it as our last dish much later...  Yes, he was giving us lip service.  My thoughts?  If you can't stand your job, don't take it out on the customer.  Just sayin'.  Oh as for the Pea Shoots, they were tender with a residual crunch where it was mildly seasoned with a touch of natural sweetness.  For the kiddies, they were happy to see the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice). We found it to be rather bland where the rice was chewy and dry.  In fact, the sliced meat was quite dry too, but there was lots of it.

Onto the most important dish for a Dim Sum service, we had the Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumplings).  These featured a thin elastic skin which was translucent where we could see the colour of the shrimp.  As for that shrimp, there was lots of it where they were in whole pieces exhibiting a buttery snap.  Although there was a wealth of salty and sweet elements, there wasn't any hint of sesame oil nor white pepper.  As for the Sui Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumpling), they were large with firm chunks of meat.  Although meaty in texture, there was some hint of rebound and bite.  The plethora of shrimp and mushroom ensured there was a variation of flavours and textures, yet we got mostly an overwhelming amount of salt instead.  Much like the haw gow, the whole shrimp were large and appealing in texture.

Moving onto a larger dish, we tried the Seafood Yee Mein served in a hot pot.  This was reminiscent to the one we had at Peninsula except less expensive.  We found the noodles to have a chewy texture while still soft.  There wasn't a whole lot of residual moisture which meant there was also a nice caramelization of flavours, especially from the dark soy.  There was only a modest amount of seafood where the shrimp and scallop were sweet while the dried scallop added both aroma and some texture.  We liked how the vegetables remained crunchy, but the chunks of fish were not fresh tasting though.  The kiddies helped devour the BBQ Pork Buns which featured a fluffy exterior that was not too dry nor wet.  The meaty filling was a good balance between sweet and salty where it was easy on the fat.

Moving onto the Shrimp Bean Curd Skin Rolls, these were fried up crispy, but the exterior was far too chewy and not light.  Inside, the whole shrimp were overcooked being rubbery and lacking in snap.  Although it appeared the frying oil was hot enough, the grease retention was pretty significant.  Each piece was literally dripping with oil as we picked them up. Furthermore, the whole thing was far too salty where we could not taste the shrimp itself.  Sticking with the same theme, we had the Shrimp Rice Noodle Rolls which featured floury rice noodles.  Inside, the whole shrimp were cold and did not heat up even with the freshly made rice flour noodles.  Moreover, the shrimp didn't exhibit much snap or flavour.

As usual, we got the Black Bean Spareribs which looked impressive with big meaty pieces.  After a few pieces, it was confirmed that the ribs were in fact meaty with very little fat and cartilage.  The texture was on point with an appealing chew that rebounded.  However, there was a complete lack of seasoning where the natural pork flavour was dominant.  Next up, we had the Beef Meatballs that exhibited a light bounce texture.  Hence, it was on the softer, airier side.  It was well-seasoned though with a balance of flavours including a proper amount of greens that didn't detract from the beef.

Since there weren't any shrimp spring rolls, we had to resort to the Taro Spring Rolls.  Despite the fact my son loves fried taro dumplings and taro pudding cake, he rejected these ones.  I had to agree because the filling was dry and mealy (not exactly something I would use in this case).  At the very least, the rolls were crunchy though as there was little moisture to soften them up.  For dessert, we got the classic Mango Pudding in a heart-shaped mold.  Other than some bits of mango, this was pretty typical with mild flavours and a jello-like consistency.  Consistency would not be the operative word when it comes to describing the Dim Sum service at Grand Honour though.  Although there were some highlights, the food was a bit hit and miss.  Prices were high, but not Peninsula high at least.  In that case, Grand Honour makes a good alternative if you were in the area.

The Good:
- Acceptable food
- Decent portion size

The Bad:
- Hit and miss
- Service is also hit and miss

Grand Honour 阿一鲍翅 on Urbanspoon

ShuRaku Sake Bar & Bistro

"Let's eat in Downtown tonight", Gadget Girl texted out-of-the-blue.  Uh...  Have they abolished the GST?  Did the Dodo not go extinct?  Do people suddenly know how to navigate a traffic circle?  Did she lose her mind all-of-a-sudden?  The likelihood of her actually choosing to eat in Downtown after our Friday night games is as good as finding a non-slippery floor in a Chinese restaurant washroom.  But I guess we can't look a gift horse in the mouth right?  So off we went to ShuRaku since it was near where she wanted to be (yes, there was a reason...) and it was open late.

Whenever Bear is around, we are destined to have something with sesame in it.  Hence, we started with the Gomae.  Unlike some of the common versions out there, this one was not slathered in an obscene amount of sweet syrup.  Rather, it was only lightly dressed with sesame puree exhibiting barely any sweetness.  In fact, it could've been more impactful, but this was at least legit.  The spinach itself was prepared nicely with a slight chew while being tender.  Next up was the Renkon Kinpira (lotus root sautéed and simmered in sweet soy sauce, sesame oil with a hint of chili).  Sweet Tooth and Bear, being Japanese, were a bit indifferent with this dish.  The spice level was a bit too understated as it gave way to the heightened sweetness which ended off with a noticeable saltiness.  We did like the crunchy texture though.

Onto the some meat dishes, we had the Chicken Nanban described as succulent chicken thigh, deep fried & drizzled with sweet and sour nanban sauce.  I would say the description was more or less correct as the thick pieces of dark meat retained a juicy moistness.  There was only a light crunch from the exterior deep fry while the sauce was enough to seasoned the meat (without being overly salty).  Next, we had their signature dish being the Japanese-Style BBQ Back Ribs (Fall-off-the bone tender Canadian pork back ribs glazed with our own secret BBQ sauce).  These were indeed moist and tender.  They were also really big with plenty of meat clinging onto the large bones.  As for the glaze, it was sweet with a touch of savouriness.

We had something a bit more healthy with a plate consisting of Nigiri, Negitoro Roll, California Roll and Salmon Roll.  I found th sushi rice to be slightly on the drier side, but it still had an appealing chewiness.  It was mildly seasoned, but was hardly bland.  We found the fish to be appealing with a nice sheen and a fresh taste (as fresh as flash frozen can get).  Everything was neatly prepared as evidenced in the picture. The Agedashi Tofu was a hit and miss in one dish.  I found the the exterior of the tofu to be crispy, but beyond that, the coating became gummy. Hence, the batter merely slid off after one bite. The silky tofu was a positive though as well as the balanced sauce.

Heading into some carb-heavy items, we had the Chicken Yakisoba and Pork Cutlet Don.  Arriving on a sizzling hot plate, the yakisoba featured chewy noodles which were the beneficiary of the sizzle.  Hence, there was some smokiness that went well with the caramelized sweetness and a note of zippiness as well.  The big pieces of chicken were sufficiently moist, but in need of a more seasoning though.  As for the pork cutlet don, it was not very good.  We found the meat to be overly dry and chewy while the panko coating to be completely softened.  The rice was dry and chewy which was the correct preparation, however, the lack of sauce meant that the don was also lacking impact.

Lastly, we had the Sake Miso Gindara.  As much as some people would like you to believe black cod is easy to prepare, that is not always the case (especially with a sake marinade).  This one was done right as the fish retained its texture and integrity being flaky and buttery.  Both the sake and miso were noticeable penetrating all-the-way-through.  This was a well-executed dish.  Overall, we satisfied with the eats, especially for late night.  Considering ShuRaku is located right in the heart of the Granville Entertainment District, the ambiance was low-key enough for us to have meaningful conversation without needing to yell.

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Relatively low-key atmosphere
- Above-average service

The Bad:
- Pricey relative to portion size
- Good, but not great

ShuRaku Sake Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon