Sherman's Food Adventures

Yory Korean Cuisine

It has only been one month since we had visited Yory Korean Cuisine in Fleetwood.  But we were returning just as Summer had just begun because they have launched a few new items and also we wanted to try some dishes we didn't have last time.  The big takeaway from our original meal at Yory was that the food was delicious but best of all, it was reasonably-priced and served in large portions.  Hey, the trifecta of great restaurant eating: taste, price and value!  So we were excited to return!

We began with the Dak-Galbi which was plenty saucy and cheesy.  This was a mix of boneless dark meat chicken, sweet potato and rice cakes in a sweet & spicy gochujang-based sauce.  I found the large pieces of chicken to be tender where they took on the flavours of the sauce.  The rice cakes were tender with an appealing chewiness.  Bringing it all together was the melted mozzarella on top that created some delicious stringiness.

Just in time for Summer, they are now offering Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodle and Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodle Salad.  Somewhat similar, yet remarkably different, these both featured cold chewy buckwheat noodles.  The noodles were perfect while the spiciness was balanced.  The biggest difference between the two was that the salad did not sit in a broth and of course, had crunchy veggies.  The cold noodle in broth was a bit less spicy since it was diluted somewhat.
Yet another new dish on the menu is the Thick Soybean Paste Stew (that also comes with a Barley Bibimbap).  The stew itself was more like a Chunky Soup with mushrooms, soft tofu, beef, veggies and egg.  Due to the use of fermented soybeans, the soup had a richness to it that was salty in a good way.  There was enough sweetness to balance things though.  We didn't get to try the barley bibimbap, but I've had something similar at another Korean restaurant.  The texture of the barley is much chewier than rice, which I prefer.

Staying with hot soup, we had the ol' standby being the Gamjatang (or Pork Neck Soup).  This one featured 3 really large bones with plenty of tender meat.  It fell off-the-bone and took up all of the flavours of the broth.  That broth was super flavourful with good spiciness as well as a nuttiness from the perilla seeds.  Due to the seeds and the pork bone, it made the soup a bit creamy and silky.  The big chunks of potato were soft and also absorbed the tasty broth.

So yah, we were having yet another hot soup dish on a warm day with the Clam Kal Gook Su (Knife-cut noodles in clam broth with barley rice).  Oh wow, this was fantastic!  Reminded me of the one I had at Kang's Kitchen in Coquitlam.  This featured perfectly-cooked noodles that were al dente with a nice rebound.  There were ample fresh clams that gave the broth a natural sweetness that was slightly briny.  I couldn't stop drinking the broth!

We also tried the Volcano Jokbal which looked more like bossam to me.  The pieces of pork belly were a little firm, but was ultimately tender with slightly gelatinized skin and fat with equal parts tender meat. There was inherent flavour with a mild salty sweetness. Dipped into the side of ssam, it added spice and extra saltiness.  This was served with some spicy radish and of course, lettuce on the side for wrapping.  

So we ended things off with the Dolset Squid Bibimbap which was a nice departure from the standard version.  I found there to be more impact of flavours from the squid stir-fry without needing to add more gochujang.  There was sweetness and spice to go with the tender pieces of squid (that still had a nice rebound).  The rice had a nice texture that was not too wet, so it could take on the saucy squid.  In the end, Yory did what Yory does, as in provide delicious eats in good portions for reasonable prices.  The new Summer dishes are good and only adds to the repertoire of good eats on the regular menu.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Consistently good eats
- Large portions
- Reasonable prices

The Bad:
- Service is a bit sparse due to the restaurant being busy

Rens Club Cafe

From the outside, Rens Club Cafe does not really give any hints to what cuisine lies within.  I mean it is a bit difficult with the existing facade that originally belonged to La Villetta many years ago.  Then the restaurant became Eat for Good where minimal renovations were made.  Upon entering Rens, the real change starts to appear with a brightened interior with plenty of natural light.  New tables and chairs adorn the dining room as well as a coffee robot at the centre of it all.  We still didn't get a sense of what they served until we took a look at the menu.  Oh, they are a Thai restaurant!

Well, then let's start with the Bangkok Street Platter with pork spring roll, deep fried tofu, chicken satay and papaya salad.  I thought the spring roll was quite good with a crispy exterior and a not-overly-dense pork filling with wood ear, onions and carrots.  I particularly liked how they were not greasy.  The fried tofu was pretty typical, but I ended up dipping that in sweet & sour tamarind sauce which made things come alive with lots of impact.  Tender and well-marinated, the satay ate particularly well with the thick and aromatic peanut sauce.  Interestingly, I couldn't stop eating the fried taro sticks.  So crispy!

We ended up trying 2 soups including the Tom Yum and Tom Kha.  These were fairly large portions meant for sharing.  I found the Tom Yum to be decent with a good amount of aromatics, tanginess and the unmistakable taste of lemongrass and galangal.  I thought the spice level was pretty mild while the amount of palm sugar quite high.  As for the Tom Kha, it was also aromatic, but with coconut milk being prominent, it was certainly creamier and more mild.  Once again, it was on the sweeter side.

Of course we were going to get the Pad Thai (default Thai dish right?) and it was pretty decent.  The noodles were al dente and not clumpy, but then again, it was probably due to the greasiness too.  The tamarind sauce was more sweet than tangy but it still was fine.  I would've liked to see a bit more sour and even more spiciness too as the flavour was quite one note.  However, the caramelization was present, so the smoky sweetness was definitely there.  Also present was the egg, bean sprouts, chives fried tofu and peanuts.  Would've liked to see some pickled turnip though.

Next, we tried the Beef Yellow Curry with potato, carrot and onion.  I thought by appearances alone, this looked quite appealing.  It was indeed not bad where there was plenty of beef that was tender and exhibiting natural texture.  The veggies were cooked through, but were still vibrant and had a firm texture.  The curry itself was a bit too sweet in my opinion.  Maybe reduce the amount of palm sugar and increase the spice level and the curry would be on point in my opinion.

Next, we had the Chicken Red Curry that was the sweetest dish we had so far in the meal.  In addition to the palm sugar, the sweetness of the grapes, lychees and pineapple made this taste more like a dessert than a curry.  Possibly, if there was more spice to the dish, it could've balanced off all of the sweet components.  However, it would be best that they didn't add the fruit and stuck to the peppers, tomato and basil.  Chicken was tender though.

To complete the trifecta of curries, we had the Tiger Prawn Green Curry with eggplant, peppers and Thai Basil.  I thought this was the best curry of the bunch where the prawns were perfectly cooked with a sweet snap.  Eggplant was excellent too where the Thai eggplant was especially appealing in texture.  The curry itself was sweet like the others, but a little less so.  I got the creaminess from the coconut milk, but would've liked more fermented shrimp flavour.

One of the better items we had was the Khao Soi Gai.  Although once again sweet, I found the creaminess of the curry broth to be fragrant and aromatic.  I would've liked to see more of the crispy noodles as there was just not enough of it.  The egg noodles were prepared properly being al dente, but a touch clumpy. The chicken was tender and fell-off-the-bone.  There was enough pickled mustard greens to break up the heaviness of the coconut curry broth.

We ended off with 2 desserts to share including the Housemade Coconut Ice Cream and the Mango Sticky Rice. A little melty and not particularly smooth, the coconut ice cream was actually decent.  Flavour was good and just sweet enough. Definitely homemade as there was no stabilizers used. As for the sticky rice, it was also good being soft and chewy while lightly sweet and coconutty.  Not sure about the jelly flowers.  Weird texture. Overall, the food at Ren's is a bit confusing.  Nowhere in the name or the restaurant screams Thai food.  Furthermore, they have to ease up on the palm sugar.  With that being said, the food here is better than the nearby H&P Noodle House, but not as authentic as Chad Thai.  It certainly cannot compete against Siam Le Bien further East on Hastings.  But really, who are they catering to?  If it is for the casual diner that doesn't care about authenticity and would rather have sweeter than spicier, then maybe they have an audience.  But with the constant lineups at Siam Le Bien, maybe the neighbourhood does prefers authentic Thai food?

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Fairly decent portions
- Nice decor
- Serviceable eats

The Bad:
- Far too sweet
- Doesn't taste all that authentic

Baan Lao (Afternoon Tea Thai Experience)

One of the more deluxe dining experiences in town can be found in the village of Steveston.  Baan Lao, with its renowned service and beautiful location, offers up a unforgettable fine dining experience that would be Michelin-star if it were located in Vancouver instead of Richmond (local tourism board builds partnerships so that they receive Michelin-rated restaurants).  Of course this kind of experience doesn't come cheap, but for now, one can have a taste of Baan Lao at a lower price point.  They have added a high tea service for $95.00 per person.  What better way to enjoy the sights and sounds of Steveston along the riverfront than dining on carefully-crafted bites in a beautiful space?

Well, Jackie and I were invited to experience this complete with the Gong Fu Cha pairings curated by TAC-certified tea sommelier.  But before we got to any teas or even the food, we were served the classic Lemon Grass Pandan Elixir.  I've had this a few times before here and it is supposed to be a palette-activator.  However, just looking at the menu and the promise of intricate little morsels, it was appetizing enough!  This was lightly sweet and fragrant while beautifully cold.

Off to the first course, we were served a trio of bites including Khao Kriap Pak Mo (stir-fried organic chicken breast with steam rice paper dumpling), Yum Salmon Fu (Thai crispy wild sockeye salmon salad in crispy golden pastry) and Kuai Tiao Lui Suan (rice noodle butterfly paper salad roll with Thai herbal sauce).  I've been always impressed with Chef Nutcha's attention to detail and the use of vibrant colours.  These were too beautiful to eat!  My favourite of the bunch was the dumpling as the wrapper was soft and glutinous.  Inside, the chicken was layered with flavour from the caramelization of the stir-fry as well as the intense sweetness of the palm sugar.  The crispy edible vessel for the salmon was crispy and light giving way to the different textures and flavours of the salad.  Definitely aromatic with sweetness and some tanginess.  Lastly, the salad roll was bright and full or crunch from the vegetables.  Definitely could taste the herbs.  All of this was paired with Chiran Fukamushi Sench Green Tea.  I found this both subtle yet impactful at the same time.  It didn't take away from what I was eating though.

Next course consisted of many different items that were even more stunning than the previous trio.  They included Thung Thong Nuea Kwai (stir fried water buffalo money bag), Khao Chi Nuea Yang (coconut sticky rice with marinated beef tenderloin with tomato Thai chili sauce), Thot Man Kung (crispy mangrove prawn cake), Tao Hu Thot (deep fried organic soft tofu and wild seaweed caviar) and Gai Sa Tay (homemade brioche and grilled yellow curry organic chicken breast).  I know it is an easy thing just to say, "it was all delicious", but really it was.  I've had the money bags before and believe me, beyond the crispy exterior wonton shell, the meat in the middle was sweet and flavourful.  Beef tenderloin was tender and was complimented well by the spicy tang and it sat atop fried sticky rice.  This was a study in textural contrast with crunchy and chewy.  Oh that soft tofu was so easy to eat and delicate.  Finally, the curry chicken mouse atop brioche was an aromatic and textural delight.  All of this was paired with Yiwu 2006 Shu Pu’er Tea that was both earthy and a bit sweet.

Our last course featured Kai Tao Phueak Sang Kha Ya Bai Toei (deep fried taro ball with pandan coconut custard), Phon La Mai Kae Sa Lak (hand carved seasonal fruit), Luuk Choop (mung bean paste coated with agar) and Khao Niao Ma Muang (sweet mango with coconut milk sticky rice).  Oh that taro ball was was crispy, then chewy while revealing a sweet custard inside.  It was aromatic and tasty.  The mango sticky rice was carefully-prepared and once I took a bite, this definitely showed.  The rice was chewy, yet soft while aromatic and lightly sweet.  The ripe mango was expertly carved and intensely sweet.  This was paired with Dong Ding Oolong which was rather smooth and aromatic.

Ending off our meal, we were served the Tropical Sunset, Flavoured Green and Black Tea Blend which also featured flower petals.  Hence, it was predictably floral with fruitiness.  Overall, the afternoon tea was a great experience and all of the bites were carefully constructed in terms of appearance and taste.  Teas were a good match and definitely a cut above "typical" teas.  Service was attentive as expected, but a little less polished than the dinner service (possibly less experienced-staff for the afternoon).

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Stunning setting and dining space
- Carefully curated food and teas
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- It is afternoon tea, so don't expect to be stuffed, but for bigger appetites, it might not be enough
- Service was good, but less polished than the dinner service

Pho 68

So here we go with another Vietnamese restaurant with a number in it.  This time around, we have the brand-new Pho 68 located right below Superstore on #3 Road in Richmond.  I think the biggest question about the place is what sets it apart from the many run-of-the-mill spots in town?  For one thing, the menu seems to combine both Northern and Southern Vietnamese cuisines into one.   Secondly, the place is modern and purpose-built, rather than taking over an existing space and doing no renovations to it.

To start, we had the Beef Shank Salad consisting of sliced braised beef shank, pickled veggies, mint, nuts and fried shallots in a tamarind dressing.  This was a light and almost refreshing beef salad (not that I would often say that) where the meat was tender and the dressing was tangy and sweet.  Another starter was the Sticky Wings in a caramelized fish sauce that also came with rice and pickled veggies.  This could definitely be eaten as a meal!  The wings themselves were large and juicy.  I found the skin to be crispy and properly-rendered.  The ample amount of sauce ensured that we got every little bit of the stick sweetness combined with salty-briniess.

Typically a specialty of Hai Phong in the North, they serve pâté sticks here.  On the menu, it is referred to as Breadsticks filled with pâté, meat floss and hot sauce.  These were very good with crispy, almost crunchy bread that fairly light.  The ample amount of homemade 
pâté was flavouful and aromatic.  Now onto the more familiar Southern Bánh Mì, we had the cold cut,  lemongrass chicken and grilled minced pork.  These were also good with airy bread with a crunchy exterior.  All the usual ingredients were there  including mayo, cucumber, pickled carrot, cilantro, hot pepper, black pepper and soy sauce.  For me, I've always enjoyed the cold cut myself and this was loaded with all the usual meats.

Onto some soup noodles, we had the Beef Rib Phở.   With 3 big meaty beef bones, this was one hearty bowl of noodles.  I found the broth for the phở to be clean and fairly balanced.  It did have some meatiness to go with the sweetness from the daikon, charred onion and rock sugar.  The noodles were nicely al dente (even though it sat in the broth for awhile) and the rib meat was fall-off-the-bone tender.  I found the rare beef to be sliced thin and ultimately tender as well.

For the 
Bún Bò Huế, this was a hearty version with plenty of slippery lai fun noodles, beef brisket, chả lụa and chicken meatballs.  The broth was pretty fragrant with a definite lemongrass essence.  There was some spice due to the chili oil and a minor brininess.  In general, this was a solid version of BBH despite missing 2 key components of pig's blood and pork knuckle.  However, I do understand why they were missing as those components do not appeal to everyone.

Our last soup noodle was the Bún Riêu or Vietnamese crab noodle soup.  Now, there are many variations in town and for the going price (around $15-$20), you aren't going to get a lot of crab.  But in reality, it is little to with the amount of crab meat, rather it is the flavours and the soup base.  This one was aromatic, sweet, a bit tangy and of course briny.  I've always thought that the much-talked about version from Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen is far too "porky".  This one here was much more focused and clean.  The crab, pork & egg mixture was light and fluffy.   Completing the bowl was some shrimp, tofu and crab cakes.

From soup noodles, we moved onto rice dishes in the Grilled Prawns & Pork Slices as well as the Beef Luc Lac.  As you can clearly see, both rice dishes were well-portioned.  Beyond that, they were also very good.  The ample pork slices were charred and fully caramelized whereas the prawns were just cooked through with a meaty snap.  As for the luc lac, there was a bit too much veg for my liking, but ultimately, they were able to have enough wok heat to sear the meat with a sweet and salty caramelization.  The same could be said about the veggies too as they were still crunchy but cooked through.  This was super impactful and went well with the rice.

To get a sense of the entire menu, we also had the Lemongrass Chicken & Spring Roll Vermicelli.  Just like every other dish, this bowl was loaded and the vermicelli couldn't even be seen as a result.  The huge piece of chicken was well-charred while the meat was still juicy and properly brined.  The ample amount of spring rolls was crunchy with a medium-dense pork-filling.  Overall, the food at Pho 68 is solid across-the-board.  Considering the reasonable prices and large portions, it is no wonder why there are many locations and they are generally all busy.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Large portions
- Consistent across-the-board
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- The beef luc lac could do with a few less veggies

Xiaolongkan Hot Pot

Man, I've been doing so many AYCE hot pots lately...  As I mentioned, AYCE (All-You-Can-Eat) has made a triumphant comeback during these inflationary times.  Another recent option is Xiaolongkan on Alexandra Road (or Restaurant Row or Food Street).  This recently announced AYCE costs anywhere from $35.99 to $39.99 per person depending on the day and time.  Seeing how they are merely serving what was on the menu before, the food quality is high.

Of course with any hot pot experience, we need to talk about the Sauce Bar.  Much like many in the city, the one here at Xiaolongkan has all the basics and a little bit more.  They have all of the base sauces in large dispensers so you can fill your bowl to your heart's content.  All of the other condiments such as cilantro, green onion, garlic, chilis and the rest were in the actual bar itself.  We also found some light snacks and fruit.  You could also help yourself to some guava candy as well.

Before we get to the "meat" of the meal, we have to talk about the Amaebi as well as the soup bases.  Presented sashimi-style, the sweet shrimp were exactly that.  Buttery soft with just the slightest snap, these were a nice start to the meal.  We ended up with 3 different broths to cook our food in including Tomato, Mixed Mushroom and Traditional House Special Chili (in medium spice).  My favourite was the tomato as it truly had all the tang and sweetness we were looking for.  It was slightly thick too so the broth adhered to all the items we cooked in it.  The mixed mushroom was the mildest and definitely had a salty umami thing going on.  For the house special broth, it was spicy and had plenty of depth thanks to the chili lard.

Onto some cooked items first, we had the Deep Fried Chicken Wings, Glutinous Rice Siu Mai, Crispy Deep Fried Pork, Chinese Donut, Pig's Ears with Chili Oil and Brown Sugar Rice Cake.  I thought these were all pretty decent where the pig's ear was my favourite.  They were tender with a crunch while appealingly spicy.  The brown sugar rice cake was also delicious being soft and sticky with a rich sweetness.  Fried pork was tender and came with a side of spiced salt.

Of course we have to talk about the beef right?  Presented on a "dragon boat" and also served to us by a robot, the Selected Beef Slices were thin and tender.  I especially liked it cooked in the spicy broth as it took on the silky heat well.  However, we really were here for the Superior SRF Wagyu Beef Slices (one order per 3 people).  Oh yeah, these were money with just enough marbling to ensure that each piece would be buttery soft.

We had many more items from the menu, but I want to highlight the ones presented in a box because it was nice to look at and I appreciate the effort they put into making things appealing.  We found Seaweed, Enoki, Shredded Daikon, Quail Eggs, Shrimp Paste, Spicy Beef, Shrimp Balls, Fish Slices and Marinated Beef Tongue.  The highlights included the sweet and bouncy shrimp paste.  Our server spooned little quenelles into the hot broth.  The beef tongue was tender with a bit of a chew.  Perfect texture.  The beef was also good being buttery since it was tenderized.  It still kept some of the marinade even after boiling.  There were a few more items that we had randomly and I know it is an easy thing to say they were good, but in fact, they were!  The food quality was really high for an AYCE menu and to top it off, the price is reasonable.  Would come back in a heat beat.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced AYCE
- High ingredient quality
- Nice space, nice presentation

The Bad:

- Sauce bar is smaller than other places
- Large parking lot, but very weird parking arrangements  

Osteria Elio Volpe

One of the most popular modern Italian restaurants in the Lower Mainland is Savio Volpe.  I've had quite a few experiences with the place and I would agree that it is a place that will be on everyone's "to-dine" list.  I've always enjoyed their wood-fire meats and their delicious antipasti plates.  Pastas have always been hit and miss for me, but others seem to love them.  But really, no one can deny it is one of THE places to go in Vancouver for modern Italian food.  Now they are adding another restaurant to the stable in Elio Volpe on West 17th.  Eileen and I were able to get a coveted reso to celebrate her birthday.

We got the Semolina Parker House Rolls to start.  Each piece pulled apart easily, revealing a steaming hot and fluffy texture.  But the best part was the peconino butter where it was super creamy and spreadable.  Naturally, it was well-salted from the cheese.   Beyond that, we also ordered the Yellowfin Tuna Crudo.  These little bites were bright and clean-tasting.  The combination of jalapeno and colatura dressing helped add some tangy spice as well as briny saltiness.  With the sprinkling of pangrattato, we had some texture to compliment the buttery soft fish.

As another starter of sorts, we selected the Guanciale Pizza with castelvetrano olive, roasted mushrooms and pomodoro.  This was similar to Neapolitan-style pizza with its thin crust and preparation in wood-burning oven, but the crust was even thinner and almost uniform in texture.  The middle was a bit softer like a Neapolitan pizza but the edges were flat and crunchy.  On top, the pomodoro was mild and offered just enough moisture for effect.  The ample amount of guanciale added a salty fattiness while the olives provided tang and more saltiness.  Mushrooms did its earthy thing.

We went for two half-portions of pasta including the excellent Calabreselli alla Vodka.  For a half-portion, this was still plenty large for sharing.  It featured firmly al denta pasta that was complete coated in a spicy vodka sauce.  It was tomatoey and creamy with both bold and subtle flavours.  The crab was a bit lost in this and only added texture.  Once again, we found bread crumbs providing the crunch.  The other pasta was the Rigatoni Cacio e Pepe featuring large firm pasta tubes.  The sauce was creamy, cheesy and of course peppery featuring 10-year old cheddar.  What really made this dish sing was the roasted jalapeno on top.  It broke up the heaviness and added spice and tang.

One last half-portion to go and this time, it was the Carnaroli Risotto with morel mushrroms, mascarpone and chives.  We found this risotto a bit heavy on the cheese and light on the actual carnaroli rice.  Hence it was almost soupy despite allowing it to rest for awhile.  Despite this, the rice was still firm and did not go mushy.  Lots of creamy cheesiness here and not too salty.  However, the dish was a bit tangy for some reason or another.  Did enjoy the morels as they were intensely earthy and of course the texture was appealing.

Moving onto our main course dishes, we had the 10oz MacLeod’s Leap Flatiron Steak with charred onion, watercress and black pepper condiment.  It was prepared a perfect medium-rare being uniform and also very moist.  It was both cooked and rested properly.  Now looks are one thing, but it also ate very well.  The meat was succulent and required very little chewing.  Lots of natural meat flavour and the steak itself was properly seasoned.  That black pepper condiment was full of umami and pepperiness.

That was good, but the Pan-Roasted Striped Bass was also very good.  It featured fava beans, morel mushrooms, hakurei turnip and citrus butter sauce.  I found the seasoning a bit aggressive as most parts of the fish was salty.  However, the dish could not be accused of being bland.  The bass was cooked to perfection though being buttery soft and flaky.  It literally melted in our mouths.  The citrus butter sauce was mild and light, complimenting the fish without taking away from it.

We ended up going for 2 desserts including the Amaretto Semi Freddo and the Tiramisu Cheesecake.  Both desserts were pretty good with the semi freddo being purposefully sweet with the unmistakable amaretto fruitiness.  It was creamy and light while living up to its name of being semi-frozen.  Love the crunch on the top as it added texture.  Not looking like much, the tiramisu cheesecake was also good.  It was creamy, yet not too heavy while having all of the components of tiramisu.  Overall, our dinner at Elio Volpe was good with definite highlights.  Possibly a few things could've been better, but that is nitpicking. We also had some great cocktails.

The Good:
- Loved the service
- Most dishes were prepared properly
- Energetic vibe

The Bad:

- Risotto was a bit soupy

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