Long's Noodle House

Wow, it seems like a "long" time ago since I last time we had a meal at Long's (sorry for the bad attempt at humour...).  In all honestly, I'm not even sure why I haven't been back in 5+ years.  Well, the fact that I was in search of the best Beef Pancake Roll forced the issue.  Greeting us upon arrival was a lineup out the door into the pouring rain...  Oh yeah, that might be one of the reasons for not rushing back.  Then once seated, we had to share a table in the small dining space.  Right, another reason...  Maybe the food could override these negatives?

One cannot and I stress, cannot make a visit to Long's without ordering their Wine Chicken.  So we decided to order pizza instead.  Not.  Miss Y was nowhere to be found, so we wouldn't make such a mistake. Served in a small urn of sorts, the chicken benefited from being immersed an impactful  sauce with plenty of Shaoxing wine balanced with the right amount of sugar and salt.  As for the chicken, it was moist with nicely gelatinized skin.  Next, we had the Xiao Long Bao, which completely caught me off guard.  We've had them before, but for some reason or another, it was never on my radar for being one of the best in town.  Well, they were exactly that with thin and tender skin which held in the considerable amount of soup.  The soup itself was sweet and gingery with a background hit of Shaoxing wine.  We found the meat to be moist and not overly gritty.

Off to some noodles (since it is in the name of the restaurant...), we got the Chicken Soup Noodles for the kiddies.  Mild and sweet with a moderate impact, the soup offered enough flavour for the noodles.  The noodles were toothsome while the ample amount of tender chicken and vibrant greens made this a decent bowl despite being ordinary on paper.  For the adults, we chose sometime that had more oomph in the Dan Dan Mein.  Although it was rather saucy, the noodles were not too soft (still not toothsome).  A bit smoky and bordering on a burnt flavour, the meat sauce exhibited minor elements of spiciness (from the bean paste) and the aromatic from the sesame paste/oil.

To complete our dumpling quota, we had the Potstickers as well.  These were pan-fried until golden brown on the bottom.  Not particularly ground-breaking, except the dumplings were not greasy.  Normally, we find restaurant potstickers to be almost fried since they use so much oil.  These featured a medium thick dumpling skin which was tender with a bit of chew.  Inside, the meat was juicy, tender and full-flavoured.  As part of my mission to find the best Beef Pancake Roll for the CRA, we were obliged to get an order.  Unlike the past winning entry from Peaceful, the pancake was less greasy and definitely more naan-like in texture.  Different, but good in its own right. Inside, the sliced beef shank was nicely gelatinized and seasoned.  There was just enough sweet hoisin.

If you think we forgot about their other signature dish, don't worry, we got the Crispy Rice with Salted Egg Yolk Sauce.  These little clusters of airy and crispy rice would've been a good snack on their own.  However, the chef had the creativity to toss them in salted duck egg yolk.  The result?  A crispy base coated with the unique aromatic salty oiliness of salted duck egg yolk.  A bit gritty, the small clumps of egg yolk nestled in the nooks and crannies of the crispy rice end up being little explosions of flavour with every bite.  They should really package this and sell it at T&T.  For dessert, we tried the Sweet Pastries which featured a light and flaky exterior while sporting a semi-sweet centre.  These were similar to "Lo Poh Beng" or old wives cake (no, I didn't make a joke about it to Viv...).  Alright, I'll admit it.  I was wrong to avoid Long's for so long (sorry for the sad joke again).  The food does outweigh the negatives.

The Good:
- Food is solid
- Best wine chicken in town
- Rushed, but still okay service

The Bad:
- Uncomfortable dining space
- Long waits with nowhere to wait

Long's Noodle House 小龍記麵家 on Urbanspoon

Peaceful Restaurant (Broadway)

On our search to find the best Beef Pancake Roll in Vancity, it brought us to a past winner - Peaceful Restaurant.  Also known for their hand-pulled noodles, the original location is endlessly busy despite 2 other ones opening up in the past couple of years.  I met up with Joyce, Chloe and Jesse to sample some dishes including the aforementioned beef roll.  As expected, the place was indeed busy, even for a weeknight.  Being a small restaurant, we got quite cozy at a tight table for 4.  The neighbouring table, being right next to us, got a front-row seat to our incessant picture-taking...

We began the meal with what we were here for - the Beef Pancake Roll.  Glistening with oil (some shiny lard there...), the exterior was crisp while the layers underneath were just a touch doughy.  I'm sure the grease helped make the pancake as flaky as it was, but really, it was not that pleasing after awhile.  Inside, the beef was thinly sliced and moist, but the ample amount of sweet hoisin was overwhelming.  Is it still the best in town?  Probably not, but still good in the grand scheme of things.  Next up was the Szechuan String Beans which were equally greasy.  Although flash-fried and then stir-fried, these were not as crunchy as I would've liked.  They were a touch soft, but not mushy.  Flavourwise, it was okay with a barely detectible spice.

Unlike the last time, the Moo Shu Cutting Noodles were overly greasy.  I'm not sure why this was necessary as the wok heat would've sufficed in keeping the noodles from sticking.  That was most unfortunate as the noodles themselves were chewy and appealing to eat.  There was enough seasoning as well without being salty nor too sweet.  But the grease...  it just made the dish hard to eat.  Fortunately, the Peaceful Fried Rice was not the beneficiary of too much oil.  On the other hand, it wasn't dry enough nor did it exhibit any nuttiness.  The wok heat was there, but somehow, it wasn't really fried rice.  Even the promised spiciness wasn't really that apparent.

Lastly, the Szechuan Thousand Chili Chicken looked legit with chilis and peppercorns.  But the flavours were flat without much spice at all.  It looked and tasted like fried chicken knees.   Spiciness withstanding, the dish itself wasn't bad since the chicken was slightly crisp while being completely moist and generally enjoyable to eat.  However, other than the noodles, the rest of the food was pretty average at best.  Since the place is mostly famous for its hand-pulled noodles, at the very least it does do that right.

The Good:
- Solid hand-pulled noodles
- Good beef pancake roll

The Bad:
- On the greasier side
- Other than then noodles and beef roll, everything else is quite pedestrian

Peaceful Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The BBT Shop

What's the best Bubble Waffle in the GVRD?  Sounds like a simple question, yet, if you really think about it, there are not a whole lot of places to get one.  Well, I guess people have noticed, hence the opening of a new joint in Landsdowne Mall.  Having tried most of the other places in town already, The BBT Shop looked a bit different from the rest.  Unfortunately, being located within the Superstore complex in Richmond, I had to build up the courage to pay it a visit.  Well, I didn't need to fear for my car's life, rather, I just went late on a weeknight with Choobee (ah...  the joys of no traffic).

To start things off, we got the Original which was lightly dusted with icing sugar.  Honestly, we could've done without it as the flavour of the waffle was fine by itself.  There was an aromatic sweetness that emanated from the griddled batter.  It was on the crispier side with a relatively hollow interior.  Hence it was light, but missing the usual soft chewiness.  With that being said, I wouldn't hesitate to rank it high on my list in terms of BBW in town.  Next, we tried the Matcha, which was curiously better texturally.  Was the batter thicker?  It was lightly crispy on the outside while fluffy and chewy on the inside.  Moreover, the matcha taste really came through with an appealing bitterness.  It was only semi-sweet which meant the matcha could be at the forefront.

We got one of their special BBW in the Red Velvet topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate.  Served on the side was sweetened cream cheese.  Again, the waffle had the same texture as the matcha (maybe the original batter was too thin with the original?).  The chocolate drizzle was not necessary in our opinion as it made things too sweet.  The side of cream cheese was tangy and purposefully sweet.  Of course we couldn't leave the place without trying out a beverage, so I got a Real Mango Slush with popping pearls.  I asked for half-sugar and it was a good choice because the popping pearls were pretty sweet.  As for the slush itself, it was blended well with the mild taste of real mango.  So despite not serving traditional bubble waffles, the ones at BBT Shop were enjoyable and unique.  I would no problem coming back for more.

The Good:
- Lots of choice, including some pretty extravagant ones 
- Although not traditional, the textures and taste are appealing

The Bad:
- Prices can get up there with some of the more premium options
- Chaotic parking lot at peak times  

The BBT Shop on Urbanspoon

Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle (West Van)

Continuing on with my search for the best Beef Pancake Roll, it brought Viv and I to Chef Hung out in West Van.  Actually, we were already in West Van and were in search for eats. So to kill 3 birds with one stone (yes, 3 birds), we could eat, I could try a beef pancake roll and do a blog post.  Talk about efficiency!  It's like losing your parking spot, place in line and temper in Richmond!  Wait...  Anyways, we settled for a low-key dinner on a weekday in sleepy West Van.

We started with the Marinated Cucumbers which were crunchy and vibrant.  There was a good balance of acidity with sweetness where each bite started off tart, then sweet and ended off tart.  There was also a significant sharp garlic hit that was appetizing.  Next, the Chicken Nuggets arrived in surprisingly large chunks.  Therefore, each piece retained their juices.  In turn, the meat was succulent due to being cooked just enough.  With minimal skin, the exterior was still crispy and light.  Although adequately seasoned, I would've liked to see more pepper.

As for the noodles, we ended up with the Award Winning Beef, Tendon and Tripe with flat noodles.  Strangely, there was 2 pieces of each meat except for the beef.  Too bad since the beef was the best part as it was firm to the touch from our chopstick, yet moist with each bite.  The tendon and tripe were a bit too soft in our opinion as they merely melted in our mouths.  Toothsome and appealingly chewy, the flat noodles were on point.  We found the soup to be rather light, but clean.  It had sufficient impact, but nothing particularly strong.  Arriving in 8 pieces, the Beef Pancake Roll was pretty decent.  Crispy and only a touch flaky, the pancake was a bit dense and doughy on the inside.  Plentiful and moist, the beef retained a slight chew and was accented nicely by the crunchy cucumbers and scallions.  The concentrated hoisin was quite powerful despite being modest in application.

Taking somewhat of a chance, we had the Xiao Long Bao.  For a non-Shanghainese joint, these were okay with a relatively thin dumpling skin except for the twirl on the top.  Inside, there was no soup to be found, but the meat was moist and gingery (where there was an absence of shaoxing wine essence).  Viv also added a Bubble Milk Tea with coconut jelly as her beverage.  The tea itself was rather mild and indeed milky.  It wasn't too sweet, but the coconut jelly put it over the edge where it ultimately was pretty sugary.  Thinking back to my original visit to Chef Hung's Richmond location, I feel that the meal in West Van was more consistent.  Could it be purely on location or have they straightened things out?  Whatever the case, it did the job without much incident.

The Good:
- Decent eats 
- Fairly comfortable

The Bad:
- On the pricier side
- Service can be a bit hot and cold (depends who is serving you)

Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle 洪師父牛肉麵 on Urbanspoon

Delicious Cuisine

Remember the Curry Challenge where I decided to incorporate actual blog visits into the my tasting commitments?  Well, here I am at it again trying to multi-task so I can free-up some time to do absolutely nothing.  Yes, absolutely nothing is something I have been aspiring to do since my high-school days.  I haven't seen much of that since then and I guess it is all a part of growing up...  *sigh*...  Anyways, as part of being on the Blogger's Judging Panel for the Chinese Restaurant Awards, we needed to eat at various places starting with Delicious Cuisine.

Meeting up with fellow judges Joyce, Chloe and Jesse, we were treated to some dishes we were judging on and others items to complete our meal.  We began with the Spicy Pork Offal Stew featuring stomach, intestines and blood.  It may seem like a crime scene to some, but totally delicious to us!  This was extremely gamy where it might turn some people off, but for me, I didn't mind it much.  I found the stomach to be chewy, yet sufficiently soft to eat.  The thick sauce was definitely spicy with background sweetness.  With a smattering of Szechuan peppercorns, there was some tongue-numbing moments.  Next up, we had the Pan Fried Egg with Tiger Prawns.  Essentially a fried omelet with prawns, this was a pretty straightforward dish.  With a slightly crispy exterior and still fairly fluffy interior, the egg was pretty mild with minimal seasoning.  Exhibiting a meaty snap, the prawns added a natural sweetness to the dish.

For some reason, we also ordered the Tiger Prawn & Pineapple with Mayo.  Personally, I'm not a huge fan of mayo and fruit, so I didn't eat much of it.  Let me rephrase that, if it were a cold dish, I would be more inclined to like it.  So with my bias, I would not be the person to properly assess this dish.  With that in mind, the prawns were good though with a light crispiness giving way to a gentle snap.  Of course the dish was sweet and very mayo-greasy.  To cleanse our palates, we had the Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic. I found the pea shoots to be a touch soft, yet with still a mild crunch.  There was plenty of minced garlic and appropriate seasoning while not being overly salty.  There was decent wok heat without excess grease.

Onto one of the dishes we actually needed to judge, we had the classic 3-Cup Chicken.  The big pieces of chicken were moist and super-succulent.  In terms of chicken texture, this has to be one of the best I've had.  However, if we focus strictly on the flavours, it was far too sweet with very little wine which meant that the overall profile of the dish was one-note (except for the apparent basil aroma).  I did like how it wasn't overly greasy though.  Next, we were served the Bamboo Shoot & Free-Range Chicken Steamed Soup in a large bowl (normally, it is per person).  One sip, and it was apparent that they were pretty aggressive with the salt and MSG.  Yet, for some reason, I didn't mind it because no one could accuse the soup of being bland.  I liked how the bamboo shoots were crunchy without being pungent.  Much like the previous dish, the chicken was juicy and moist.

Lastly, we had the Tea-Smoked Duck which announced itself before it hit the table.  We could smell the smokiness as it approached.  In fact, it was probably too smoky as the tea really didn't come through.  With that being said, the smoke penetrated all the meat which meant there was plenty of impact.  I liked how the meat was moist, but the skin and fat could've been more rendered.  Lastly, we had the Stir-Fried Shredded Pork served with crepes.  With no filler, this was a meaty dish consisting of tender julienned pork that retained a natural texture.  It was sauced just enough that it wasn't dripping with moisture.  Taste-wise, it was sweet with a touch of spice.  So, if we looked at the meal as a whole, the food was pretty solid.  I wouldn't mind returning for the purposes of trying some different items.

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Modern dining space

The Bad:
- A little pricey
- Food came out a bit slow

Delicious Cuisine 一品怪廚 on Urbanspoon

Tuc Craft Kitchen

This re-visit to Tuc Craft Kitchen has been a long time coming.  As much as I enjoyed my initial visit, there have been a slew of other restaurants I needed to try (and some I still haven't gotten to).  But really, I was pretty anxious to return because the last time, I only tried 4 dishes during their lunch service.  I did consider enlisting the help of Whipping Girl, but she has gone MIA as of late (busy whipping?  er..) Anyways, thanks to Doc and The Ringer, we checked out Tuc late after the Canucks final game of the season.

We began with their signature dish being the Gelderman Farms Pork Belly Cracklings with coarse salt and on the side, star anise red wine reduction.  I felt they executed this better than last time as each nugget of pork belly was firmly crisp on the outside while still retaining a moist meatiness (last time, it was more dry throughout).  Of course we couldn't forget about the wine reduction as it provided the nicely tart and aromatic balance to the rich pork belly.  Next up, we tried the Parsnip and Smashed Potato Fries with toasted coriander ketchup.  The smashed potato fries were pretty much as described being large and potatoey with a lightly crisp exterior.  Light and crunchy, the parsnip ate like shoestring fries.  Although not a particularly exciting dish, the side of coriander ketchup was money as there was a fragrant tangy sweetness.

Although their cracklings are addictively good, we felt the Australian Orange Glazed Lamb Ribs were off-the-charts.  First of all, the amount of lamb was quite generous.  Secondly, the lamb was super moist and succulent.  But third and most importantly, the jalapeno pepper orange glaze hit our palates with full force.  It started off sweet and citrusy, then moved onto a background spice that was just right.  Next, we moved onto a larger dish in the Cabernet Braised Double R Ranch Beef Cheeks with red wine glace, gratin potatoes, shallots & wilted spinach.  Don't let the size of the cast iron pan fool you, there was a significant amount of rich, succulent beef cheeks nestled within the creamy and cheesy potatoes.  Unlike many other restaurants, they were able to infuse a noticeable amount of flavour in the beef cheeks without being just plain salty.  There was depth from the Cabernet to go with the natural gelatinous flavour of the cheeks.

Staying with red meat, the Port Glazed Grass Fed Beef Short Ribs arrived next.  This was accompanied by caramelized pearl onions, kohlrabi, herb nugget potatoes and chocolate port sauce.  Much like the beef cheeks, the short ribs were fall apart tender while retaining an appealing amount of moisture.  Although more mild in flavour, the meat was the beneficiary of a rich reduction which was slightly sweet and a touch smoky.  At the same time, we tackled the Braised Pork and Cranberry Chutney consisting of herb roasted Fraser Valley pork shoulder, double smoked bacon, roasted nugget potatoes and cranberry chutney.  The pork shoulder itself was somewhat dry, but the ample amount of sauce (which was somewhat similar to the previous dish except more meaty and mild).  I found that the tart cranberries helped bring brightness to the dish.

Moving away from the pork and beef, we had the Pacific Seafood Stew with pacific oysters, Lake Louise steelhead trout, manila clams, salt spring island mussels, basmati rice and lemon grass & white wine broth.  At first, Viv thought the rice was underdone, but as it began to soak up the ample creamy broth, it was just right.  The white wine was not that apparent while we did get a hint of lemongrass.  All the seafood was on point, especially the trout as it was moist and flaky.  For dessert, we shared the Doughnuts with spiced rum caramel sauce.  As much as the doughnuts themselves were greasy and a bit too fried (moist cakiness though), the side of caramel sauce was money.  It was purposefully sweet with a touch of booze.  Once again, Tuc Craft Kitchen didn't disappoint.  Fantastic food at a reasonable price point.

The Good:
- Dependable and solid food
- Reasonably-priced for what you get
- Nice vibe

The Bad:
- Not really a bad, but the menu could diversify a bit as there are very similar dishes
- Dessert selection is small

Tuc Craft Kitchen on Urbanspoon