Sherman's Food Adventures


People usually associate a pub as a the destination of choice after team sports. Hey, I don't disagree with that as it is a great place to grab a beverage and non-offensive eats for usually a decent price.  However, due to my upbringing, I'm more inclined to go for Chinese food.  Now, the wonton noodle thing gets a bit repetitive, so the next best thing is Hong Kong-style cafe fare.  Yet, most of the late night HK-style cafes reside in Richmond. So one of the few choices in Vancouver is an oldie in i-Cafe.  We made several stops here to get a variety of dishes.

I decided to go big or go home, so 3 items it was.  I began with the Lobster Bisque topped by puffed pastry.  It was stretched rather thin so there really wasn't much to be had.  On the other hand, that ensured crispy and flakiness without undercooked pastry either.  As for the soup itself, I found it somewhat thin and really sweet.  There was some lobster essence to be found, but it was quickly overwhelmed from the amount of seasoning.  Interestingly, there was no lobster meat to be found, rather, it was replaced by shrimp.

Since it was late night, I had their mini-versions of the Baked Spaghetti Bolognese and Baked Pork Chop Rice.  These were indeed mini, even for the price of $9.95.  I found the spaghetti to be a bit soft, but par for the course.  The meat sauce was full of beef, but at the same time was on the sweeter side and lacking depth.  Overall, it was still decent.  I enjoyed the rice better as the fried rice base was chewy and nutty.  The pork chop on top was beautifully tenderized and sported only a light breading.  There was more than enough sauce to flavour both the rice and pork chop, however, it was also very sweet and equally salty.  They could've eased up on the seasoning.

Milhouse went for 2 dishes himself, copying my pork chop rice and also having the Fried Noodle with Beef in black pepper sauce.  This was also a mini portion and yes, it was small.  I found the noodles to be appealingly crunchy while topped with just enough pepper sauce that was also on the salty side.  The ample amount of beef was tender and subjected to enough wok heat.  Lionel Hutz ended up with the Singapore Fried Noodles which was decent.  The curry flavour was definitely there as well as proper seasoning.  Chewy and not overly greasy, the noodles were subjected to enough wok-heat too.  Dish was lacking in ingredients though. 

On another visit with Milhouse, I finally decided to go really big in the Combo A featuring beef tenderloin, sirloin and ox tongue with spaghetti, black pepper sauce, soup and beverage.  I have to say that my plate of food had to be one of the best executed versions I've had in a while.  The tenderloin was buttery tender while the sirloin was just as good being meatier.  Peppery and impactful, the black pepper sauce was on point, except there wasn't enough of it for the spaghetti.  One caveat though, the carrots were too mushy. For some inexplicable reason, I also got the Mini-Curry Beef Brisket with rice.  As you can see, this was larger than the other mini-dishes.  It featured tender nuggets of brisket which required very little effort to chewThey were bathed in a spicy sauce that was thick and flavourful.

Milhouse went for the Baked Grouper in Cream Sauce on rice. This was another well-executed dish where it was served bubbling hot.  The fish was both plentiful and expertly prepared where it was soft and flaky.  We found the cream sauce to be rather thick, but it did taste good with a balanced amount of savoury and sweet elements.  There may have been a bit too much of it as the rice became rather wet.  Overall, these 2 visits were pretty solid and we felt the service was generally good.  Prices are on the higher side, but not unlike its closet competitor in Gloucester.

The Good:
- Generally on point eats
- Decent service
- Fairly comfortable dining space

The Bad:
- A bit pricey
- Somewhat salty 

Gyoza Bar

It's been a long time since I had originally visited Gyoza Bar when it first opened.  We went with a pretty large group and ended up trying a good variety of dishes.  We loved the simple, yet elegant space featuring an open kitchen.  Living up to its namesake, the gyozas were pretty good (at least the pork version was) and aesthetically-pleasing.  We weren't as convinced with the ramen and the other creations as much.  Shortly after that, they changed the menu and added build-your-own bao boards.  I never did get to try that, but that was about to change as I re-visited the place with Sharon, Nicole and Nora.

In addition to some tasty beverages, we were started off with the Prawn Ceviche accompanied by gyoza skin crackers.  The large and meaty prawns were naturally sweet with a firm snap.  I didn't find them to be particularly flavourful on their own, but when combined with the yuzu citrus marinade, things livened up.  The brightness of the citrus was further amped by the pungency of the red onion and cilantro.  Visually stunning, the Roasted Beet Gyoza surprised me since it was almost "meaty".  The Earthy shredded beets were mixed with feta cheese offering up a robust texture.  As evidenced in the picture, the dumpling skin was ultra-thin and seared up crispy on the bottom.

Onto an actual meaty offering, we had the Halibut Collars that were nicely fried up where the meat was moist and sweet.  There was definitely the taste of the sea happening here where the natural flavours were not drowned out by the sweet and salty soy dressing.  I found that the veggies underneath soaked up all of the sauce and hence were a bit overseasoned.  But it really was all about the fish where the collar meat was on point with an almost buttery texture.

A visit to Gyoza Bar wouldn't be complete without an order of their Pork Teppan Gyoza served with spicy miso and umami soy.  They've changed their recipe since the last time where the pork is less processed being meatier and chewier (in a good way).  Therefore, the gyoza ate more substantially. The dumpling skin was razor thin being appealingly chewy while the bottom was nicely crisped up.  We also tried the Chili Shrimp Teppan Gyoza featuring the same features as the pork gyoza except with buttery and sweet shrimp.  We found a few of them to be a touch salty though.  It came with cilantro-garlic vinegar which was tart, sweet and aromatic.

The most impressive dish was the Family Bao Board consisting of Soy-Garlic Tenderloin Skewers, Korean-Spiced Pork Rib, Maple Garlic Soy Chicken Skewers and Miso Baked Scallops Dynamite.  One of my favourites was the sous-vide ribs where the meat was super tender and aggressively lacquered with a sweet and spicy gochujang glaze.  Since the scallops were served whole, guts and all, the flavours were not only sweet, but also incredibly briny.  For me, I loved it as well as the spicy and buttery miso sauce.  Condiments on the board included pickled cucumber, Asian slaw, kimchi, gochujang, srirracha aioli and herb dijon aioli

We ended off the main dishes with the Tamari-Shoyu Tonkotsu Pork Ramen with chashu and ajitama egg.  I found the pork broth to be flavourful with a certain umaminess that was Earthy and rich.  It was somewhat silky with a considerable amount of meatiness as well as understated saltiness.  The noodles were thin and chewy, but I personally prefer them to be thicker.  With that being said, it didn't make or break the dish.  Fatty and meaty, the chashu was texturally more firm than buttery while the egg was perfectly runny. I would've liked to see larger slices of chashu though.

For dessert, we were served a plate consisting of Japanese Green Tea Cheesecake and Mochi Ice Cream.  I absolutely loved the cheesecake as it was rich and immensely cheesy.  I didn't think the green tea was that noticeable though.  The mochi was soft with a slight elasticity while the melted ice cream was semi-sweet.  Overall, this revisit was pleasant where the gyozas remained the star of the show.  However, the interactive and visually-appealing bao boards add a fun and tasty option.  As for the ramen, the broth was better this time around while the noodles were chewy (I still personally like thicker ones though).  I will be returning for sure and it doesn't hurt that there is a Travelzoo coupon available too.

*All food and beverages excluding gratuities were complimentary*

The Good:
- Solid gyozas featuring a meaty filling and ultra-thin wrapper
- Fun Bao Boards
- Simple, rustic dining space

The Bad:
- Ramen broth is good, but I thought the chashu could be softer and larger in size


Sometimes it's easier said than done when selecting a restaurant for late night eats.  Sure, there are actually a decent amount, especially in and around the Downtown core.  However, it is a crap shoot everywhere else.  Since it was only Milhouse, Bear and Lionel Hutz joining me for food, it meant we didn't need to head West (because all of us live either in Burnaby or East Van).  There was a brief thought about going to Golden Oscar, but since we still bore the scars of our last visit (it sucked), we decided to go kitty corner to E-Tea. 

We decided to share 2 items in the Chicken Nuggets and Deep-Fried Squid Tentacles.  Sporting a light and crispy coating, the chicken nuggets were fairly succulent and tender.  Although the skin remained attached, it was well-rendered and crunchy.  We thought the flavour was decent with enough salt and light pepperiness.  Universally, we weren't huge fans of the squid though as it was too chewy and somewhat fishy-tasting.  On the other hand, the batter on the outside was crunchy and not greasy.  It was a bit thick though and bready.

For myself, I had the Hand Pulled Beef Noodle Soup.  Okay, maybe I'm being picky here, but the noodles were too uniform to be hand pulled.  With that being said, they were decent being slippery and chewy.  As for the broth, it was pretty weak as it tasted more like something you'd find with instant noodles.  It was thin and had more MSG taste than beefiness.  There was a slight spice due to the hot paste on top.  I did like the beef shank though as it was super tender and moist.  Bear did the predictable and had the Chicken Steak with black pepper sauce.  The chicken was well-seared and succulent inside.  We found the sauce to have a nice silky consistency while being peppery and spicy due to the addition of red chili peppers.

Lionel Hutz ended up with the Thai Chicken Fried Rice that was glistening with oil.  Due to that, there was enough wok heat and chewiness.  Beyond the on point texture of the rice, as well as the tender pieces of chicken, we found the flavour to be similar to a pad Thai.  It was rather sweet with some savoury elements complimented by spice.  For Milhouse, it was all about the Sweet and Sour Fish with rice.  Good choice because the sauce was nicely thick and well-balanced.  There were impactful hits of sweet and tang to go with a touch of spice.  The fish was moist and flaky while sporting a crunchy exterior. 

Of course we didn't leave out the Bubble Tea out of the equation since the place is a BBT joint.  From left to right, we had the Mango, Milk Tea and Oreo.  I thought all of them were okay and for those who didn't ask for half-sweet, like me, the drinks were a bit on the sweet side.  I didn't think the flavours were overly memorable, but they weren't bland either.  Definitely an acceptable option for late night.  That pretty much sums up E-Tea as the food was alright except for the squid and noodles.  Prices were pretty cheap though, which would somewhat offset some of their shortcomings.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Serviceable for late night

The Bad:
- Food is so-so
- Drinks are so-so   

Chi Modern Vietnamese Kitchen

Sometimes, we find certain types of cuisine pigeon-holed as cheap simple food.  Well, that is partially due to the limited representation locally.  One of the most obvious examples is Vietnamese food.  Completely over-represented by Pho and even more specifically South Vietnam, we only get a snapshot of the culture and cuisine.  However, with the trend moving towards clean and specifically-built modern restaurants, we find Vietnamese food being more refined, diverse and of course more expensive than the typical Pho joint.  The newest one to hit the town is Chi Modern Vietnamese Kitchen run by former runner-up of Masterchef Vietnam, Chi Le.

Along with Nora, Sharon and Jacqueline, I was invited for a taste of their most popular items.  We got down to it with some appies including the Bo Tai Chanh (Beef Carpaccio) and Cha Gio Vit (Crispy Fresh Duck  Rolls).  Sliced semi-thin, the tender Snake River Wagyu beef was buttery and soft.  The garnishes of lime, onion, cilantro, roasted peanuts, red Thai chilis and crispy shallots added both aroma and naturally an Asian flavour to the dish. Despite incessant picture-taking, the crunch of the spring rolls didn't dissipate.  I liked how there was an initial and lingering herbaceousness from the first bite. There were plenty of sous-vide duck inside the roll which was fairly tender and appealingly gamy.

Although prepared expertly, the Ca Nuong (Chargrilled Eggplant) was one of the least impactful in terms of flavour.  It may have been possible that this was the intention as eggplant on its own is generally not flavourful.  There was a noticeable smokiness though that was accented by the roasted peanuts and light saltiness of the fish sauce..  The red chilis were not particularly noticeable, unless we intentionally picked one up with the piece of eggplant. Texturally, the eggplant was on point being soft yet not mushy.  At first, the Ga Kho To (Lemongrass Chicken Hot Pot) tasted overly sweet, but that was nicely balanced by the saltiness of the fish sauce and then subsequently by a lingering spice from the chilis.  I loved the use of the chewy and firm red rice as it stood up to the sauce well.

Beautifully seared on the outside, the Bo Luc Lac (Shaken AAA Beef Tenderloin) was tender and nicely caramelized.  The inherent flavours were mild with a bit of sweet saltiness.  However, with the side of salt, pepper and lime, it added the necessary acidity, salt and slight kick that elevated things.  Our consensus favourite dish by a mile was the Com Chien (Chi Fried Rice) with cured sausage, onion, runny egg and garlic-ginger crumble.  If there was perfection in fried rice texture, this would be it.  Each grain was chewy and nutty while caressed by the silky runny yolk.  The wealth of flavours were strong including initial caramelized sweetness and then giving way to the chewy saltiness of the sausage.  I could've eaten this all by myself.

Topped with a plethora of green onion, the Cha Ca La Vong (Black Cod Vermicelli) was a pleasant dish, but had a hard time following up the fabulous rice dish. Underneath the turmeric and galangal-encrusted buttery black cod, the chewy vermicelli was loose and not clumpy.  A dousing of the side fish sauce and there were plenty of salty sweet flavours at play.  Also bursting with impact were the Canh Ga Chien (Chicken Wings).  Dressed in a thick and syrupy sauce, there was an immediate tamarind tartness followed by a rich sweetness.  Mixed in was the usual garlic and ginger.  The only thing I would've liked to see was a crispier and more rendered skin.

As simple as the So Diep Song (Atlantic Sea Scallop) appeared, the flavours were clean and impactful.  The combination of lime, lemon, key lime and kalamansi juices made for a complex citrus hit that worked well with the buttery and sweet scallop.  There was a background heat provided by red Thai chilis infused into the dressing.  For dessert, we were served the Durian Rice Balls sitting in a simple syrup.  I found the glutinous rice shell to be soft and pillowy while the durian filling was pungently sweet, but not overbearing.  This was a fine way to end a meal that featured a wealth of impactful flavour and mostly on point execution.  It's nice to see that Vietnamese cuisine has been elevated and better represented within the GVRD.

*All food and beverages excluding gratuities were complimentary*

The Good:
- Strong and impactful flavours
- On point execution
- Lovely decor

The Bad:
- Sticker shock as prices are not cheap
- Skin on wings could've been more rendered