Sherman's Food Adventures

My Greek Taverna (Surrey)

For as long as I can remember, I've had My Greek Taverna on the list of to-eat-at-restaurants.  It really didn't matter which location either as they have one each in Coquitlam and Surrey.  Every time I've had a chance to visit the place, something else came up or the place was closed.  So it got forgotten for like the last 8 years (almost the life of the blog).  Finally, I got chance to check the place out despite some varied reports from others.  I happened to be in Surrey, so we headed towards Scott Road at 64th.  On that note, the place isn't the easiest to get access if one was traveling southbound on 120th.

Things got off on a relatively good start with the Calamari.  It was a generous portion of large rings of squid.  It was fried golden brown being lightly crispy and easy on the grease.  The squid itself was tender while retaining an appealing bite and chewiness.  On the side, the tzatziki was airy and garlicky with dill.  However, they were over-zealous with the seasoning as some pieces were stingingly salty.   The same could be said about the Chicken Souvlaki as each nugget of chicken breast tasted purely of salt.  Such a shame as it was grilled almost to perfection with a beautiful charred exterior and being relatively moist for white meat.

As much as it wasn't as salty, the Roast Lamb was not immune to the same issue.  Although it was pleasantly garlicky, it was still overseasoned in our opinion.  We were pretty excited that the portion size which was generous, but ultimately, it was disappointingly dry and chewy.  The desired gelatinous, moist and tender texture was missing.  On the positive side, the rice was one of the best we've ever had being chewy, well-seasoned and nutty.  The best dish of the bunch had to be the Moussaka where it had a delicious and texturally-appealing layer of bechamel.  The meat was moist and well-seasoned while not being salty emitting the classic nutmeg essence.  Overall, this visit to My Greek Taverna could've been good if not for the overuse of salt and the chewiness of the lamb.

The Good:
- Large portions
- Excellent rice
- Except for the lamb, proteins were on point

The Bad:
- Overuse of salt
- Lamb was dry

Kamayan-Style Dinner @ Kulinarya

I'm sure many of you have either seen or tried a seafood boil in Vancouver and/or in the States.  Something about a pile of food and eating with your hands has a certain appeal and wow factor.  Sure, it may not be for everyone and really it can get rather expensive, but the novelty does exist where it is worth trying at least once.  Something along the same lines is the Filipino Kamayan-Style Dinner (or boodle fight).  Multiple dishes of Filipino cuisine are stacked or lined up atop banana leaves for a group to share without the use of any utensils.  A bunch of us recently visited Kulinarya in Coquitlam to experience this feast.

We arrived a bit early, but since they were still setting up, we ended up waiting outside until they were done.  Once inside, we were greeted to a long table lined with banana leaves with the dishes we chose for the meal.  Sitting atop rice (wished it was garlic rice), there was Kaldareta, Crispy Pata, Fried Tamarind Chicken, Fried Bangus, Pinkabet and Lumpia.  Rounding out the mess of food was some fried plantain and fresh mango slices.  On the side, we had the usual vinegar condiment for the crispy pata, plum sauce for the lumpia and banana ketchup for whatever we wanted it with.  Everything was spaced out accordingly so that everyone seated at the table had access to all items.

My favourite item of the bunch was the Crispy Pata as it featured crunchy crackling that had gelatinous fat underneath.  As for the meat, it was tender and fatty with the aromatic flavour from the deep fry.  I enjoyed the tendon and fat attached to the bone as I picked it off to dip into the tasty vinegary sauce.  The Lumpia was also good being crispy (despite sitting for awhile) with a tasty filling.  The Kaldareta was creamy with fatty and tender beef.  Loved scooping up the rice saturated with the coconuty sauce.  I wasn't a huge fan of the chicken though (specifically the white meat) as it was dry. 

Moving onto dessert, we got a large order of Halo Halo complete with the base of evaporatied milk and shaved ice topped with the usual ingredients such as beans, agar jelly, palm seeds and ice cream.  This was pretty typical where it ate well and was a refreshing finish to a heavy meal.  However, this was not the last dessert as I spotted some Ensaymadas behind me on the counter.  I got one to eat in and several to go.  These were money featuring a soft and sweet bun topped with finely shredded cheese.  Surprisingly, I found these 2 desserts the highlight of the meal.  It wasn't as if the rest of the food wasn't any good (except for the chicken).  However, the temperature was a real problem, but then again, they have to set it up.  I guess you can't really win in that regard.

The Good:
- Cool experience
- Relatively reasonable pricing
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Food was rather cold (but logistically cannot be hot either)
- Chicken was dry

La Forêt Bakery and Coffee

Here we go with one of the latest and greatest things to hit Instagram in La Forêt Bakery and Coffee.  Located on Jubilee Ave just South of Metrotown, one would not expect to find such a place here.  Resembling an industrial building on the outside, it was a pleasant surprise to find such an expansive and inviting room.  The place could house a large restaurant, instead the tables were spaced out generously while the ample skylights and foliage created a courtyard-like atmosphere.  Mijune and I met up there recently to check it out.

We decided to try out a range of items including the basic Croissant.  On the outside, it looked pretty legit with the obvious layering and a nice hue.  However, when we took our first bites, this is where it all fell apart.  First of all, the interior was doughy and dense.  It was a bit undercooked where the layers stuck to each other.  Also, there wasn't much of a crunch from the outside while little shattering occurred.  Moreover, it didn't even taste buttery.  Next up, we tried the Double Matcha Cake which resembled an opera cake.  We liked the crunch of the layers as well as the hard white chocolate on top.  The matcha was pretty muted while the layers of buttercream were too aggressive in our opinion.

As mediocre as the croissant was, the Canelé was way worse.  Even before we ate it, the texture was off due to the use of a silicone mold.  The exterior was extremely tough and gummy (supposed to be thick, but not this tough).  Inside, it was one solid piece of custard that had the texture of a jube jube.  If you've ever had this before, this texture was completely wrong.  It is not supposed to be solid and dense.  Rather, it should've been tender with only some resistance.  From that, we moved over to the Mango Tart which was average.  We found the mango to be not ripe enough where it lacked flavour and was tough.  Underneath, the tart shell was somewhere between firm and crumbly.

Lastly, we sampled the Beef Bulgogi Sandwich served on squid ink bread.  Visually, this was stunning with the black bread.  However, it was pretty dry.  On the other hand, the beef bulgogi was on point being tender and well-marinated.  I would've preferred the slivered red peppers to be roasted rather than being raw.  Yes, they provided a crunch, but the flavour didn't go.  Unfortunately for us, La Forêt was a miss despite the gorgeous space and friendly staff.  Of course we didn't try everything, so there could be some redeeming qualities to the place.  With that being said, for the things we did try, they were not that impressive.

The Good:
- Expansive and gorgeous space
- Friendly people

The Bad:
- Sub-par pastries

Chinatown BBQ

Back in my youth, it was a thing to visit Chinatown.  From the torturous circling of Pender and Keefer Streets for that prized parking spot to the constant dodging of loud spitting, it was a part of my childhood.  We would frequent the classics such as Ming's, Hong Kong Cafe, Chiu Chow Restaurant, Park Lok, New Dynasty, the original Hon's, Golden Horse and the recently burned down Daisy Garden.  It used to be 2 storefronts but they shrunk to one as Chinatown began its decline.  Lo and behold, just a few stores down, we find the brand new Chinatown BBQ with the same BBQ master from Daisy Garden.  Clad in modern retro decor that is both clean and somewhat hipster, this is probably the model whereby others can resurrect this historic neighbourhood.

They're keeping it simple with a BBQ-focused menu supplemented by small bites and some Chinese curry.  We were forced to keep it simple since they were out of Roast Pork.  Our first dish was the BBQ Duck on Rice that sported both a leg and some breast meat.  Although the pricing at $10.95 could be considered on the higher end, there was enough duck to justify it.  Furthermore, the duck was on point being succulent and well-brined while not being salty.  The skin was nicely rendered and crispy, especially the leg and back portion.  There could've been a bit more rice for the amount of duck though.  We also got a small plate of the BBQ Pork and by the visuals, it looked pretty legit.  Yes, it was as good as it looked with a caramelized bark where inside, the meat was juicy and fatty.  Flavours were balanced, yet the glaze was not as impactful as the one at HK BBQ Master.

We got a side dish of Jellied Pork Hock and Marinated Jellyfish which was smaller than the usual serving size.  They had run out of jellyfish and provided what was left, so they charged us a couple of bucks less.  Fair deal IMO.  Although sliced a bit thick for my liking, the pork hock was still good where the fat and skin was nicely gelatinized while the meat was tender.  What brought it all together was the tasty garlic vinegar dip (and plenty of it).  Since the jellyfish was the bottom of the barrel, some pieces were quite small.  Texturally, there was good elasticity and the marinade was a good mix of soy, spice and sesame oil.  To get our greens for the meal, we got the Boiled Gai Lan topped with stir fried garlic and ginger in soy.  The gai lan was cooked just right being crunchy and vibrant.  Loved the aromatic and strong garlic flavour.

We had to wait awhile for our last dish since they prepared it to order.  The Soy Sauce Chicken was magnificent being succulent and downright juicy.  There was a nice sweet soy flavour to the chicken that was just right where the skin was tasty and appealing in colour.  Loved how the side ginger and green onion condiment was mostly ginger like some other places.  Despite missing out on the roast pork and curry, we got enough of a taste to say that Chinatown BBQ is legit.  Prices are a few bucks more than the usual, but the place is clean and retro modern.

The Good:
- On point BBQ duck and soy chicken
- Service was actually friendly
- Clean

The Bad:
- A bit more expensive than other similar places
- Need to work on having enough food to last the day

Midam Cafe (Richmond)

Hot off the heals of our meal at Dolpan Korean BBQ, we decided on doing it all over again at nearby Midam Cafe.  Well, it wasn't really right away, more like a month in between meals.  Even though there has been a Midam out in Coquitlam for many years, I've never had a chance to visit the place.  They are known for their house-made rice cakes in addition to several other Korean specialties including dessert.  Once again, I was almost side-swiped by some lady in the parking lot a la Richmond style...  Ah, the sacrifices for eating in the heart of traffic hell...

Onto the food, we ended up ordering the Pan-Fried Fresh Pork Belly served with tofu, egg and stir-fried kimchi.  This was quite good with nicely seared pieces of pork belly that were meaty while still tender.  I liked how the ratio of fat and meat was almost 50/50 which meant each piece was easily edible.  It went well with the usual spicy bean sauce on the side.  I wasn't fond of the stir fried kimchi though as it was more like 90% white onion.  Another enjoyable dish was the Deep Fried Sweet & Spicy Boneless Chicken.  Each nugget was massive in size and lightly breaded.  Beyond the lightly crispy exterior, the meat was succulent and supremely juicy.  I thought the dish was more sweet than spicy though.

Next up was the Stir-Fried Spicy Chicken in the recently popular (in Vancouver that is) UFO grill (with corn, egg and cheese).   As much as it costs $35.00, there was plenty of food in the deep cast iron grill.  The chicken was tender and moist while mildly spicy.  I loved the soft rice cake that had a pleasant chew and mouth feel.  The whole thing went well with a bowl of white rice as there was lots of savoury sweet spiciness.  

For dessert, we shared the classic Rice Cake Waffle drizzled with syrup.  This was warm and soft with only a minor amount of crispiness.  Compared to the ones I had at Saemaul, these were more like the typical rice cake texture (rather than being crunchy).  Our second dessert was the Black Sesame Shaved Ice and there was no mistaking it by appearance and taste.  It was on the sweeter side, but the aroma really came through.  The ice was a bit melted, but was fairly light and fluffy.  So based on the items we had, our experience at Midam was quite good.  They really do a good job with their signature item in savoury and sweet applications.

The Good:
- Rice cake on point in texture
- Fairly diverse options including dessert
- Funky atmosphere

The Bad:
- A little pricey
- Parking lot for this location is insufficient

Yama Sushi

If you haven't already noticed, I've reduced the amount of posts back to every other day rather than every day.  The reason for this is that I just want to spend more free time with the family and take advantage of some down time.  Hence, when I do go out, I tend to go with convenience rather than the hottest new restaurant.  So, I've been frequenting Sushi Town (near my house) quite a bit.  Yes, please do not give me a hard time as I realize it is hardly great Japanese food.  With that in mind, I decided that if I was already spending money on eating out, we should try something different.  We traveled all the way to Lynn Valley to a small little spot called Yama Sushi.

When I say small, think of 7 tables for 2.  That's it.  So for a Friday night, we had to wait a bit.  Once seated, we were treated to really warm and attentive service.  We began with an order of the Assorted Sashimi (reasonably priced at $13.00).  It was neatly plated and was generally good with Sockeye and Atlantic salmon, Tai, Mackerel and Albacore Tuna.  Textures were good, but the tuna was still partially frozen and icy.  We ended up ordering 2 rolls including the Mango Crunch and Chopped Scallop.  As neatly prepared as these rolls appeared, the rice itself was far too wet and gummy.  That was a shame as the ingredients were well-portioned and fresh.  I thought the mango roll had a nice mix of tang to go with the ripe avocado, but the large amount of cream cheese was not the best accompaniment.

As per usual, my son had his fill of Nigiri including Tamago, Unagi and Smoked Salmon.  These were pretty standard and did the job.  I liked how the rice-to-topping ratio was pretty even, so each piece ate nicely.  However, the curse of the gummy rice struck again, creating a heaviness to each bite.  We got our usual filler dish in the Chicken Yakisoba served on a regular plate.  We wished it was served on a sizzling cast iron plate because it ate rather wet.  Furthermore, there was a noticeable onion flavour that took over the dish.  Beyond that, the noodles were nicely chewy and well-seasoned.  The ample chunks of chicken were tender and almost juicy.

Served in a long oval bowl, the Assorted Tempura was pretty solid.  It featured 2 pieces each of ebi, broccoli, yam and sweet potato.  Although the batter appeared to be thick, it didn't eat heavy nor doughy.  The outside was crispy and easy on the grease.  Everything was cooked properly without being soggy nor underdone.  Lastly, we had the add-on Gyoza with our specialty roll for an extra $1.75.  These were pretty average with a mushy pork and cabbage filing while the dumpling skin was a bit hard and dry from the cooking process.  We would've preferred only the bottom to be seared rather than the whole thing.  So how does this lil' sushi spot stack up?  For the neighbourhood, it does well with very reasonable priced.  However, the gummy sushi rice was not that appealing (maybe it was a one-off?).

The Good:
- Nice people
- Reasonably-priced
- Okay for the neighbourhood

The Bad:
- More of a takeout spot, seats are limited
- Sushi rice too gummy and wet

Opus Co

More than ever, it seems that some independent restaurants (those that are not part of a chain) are taking more risks as in offering up nose-to-tail cookery.  Furthermore, the farm-to-table movement is becoming more mainstream where diners are focusing on quality and fresh ingredients.  Of course, that usually comes at a price and frankly, a large chain would have a hard time with that kind of commitment.  That is where a small place such as the newish Opus Co comes into the picture.  This was something that fit Miss Y like a glove as the "Opus Feast" was as Paleo as it gets for dining out.

The aforementioned Feast is their tasting menu for $50.00pp that features shared plates that are chosen by the chef.  We decided to sit right at Chef's Counter where we could watch our food being prepared.  We began with a small Charcuterie Plate consisting of house-made sweet capocollo with sesame salt, lamb spam and turnip with shrimp paste.  This was a simple plate that highlighted their use of Asian seasoning.  We loved the lamb spam (made with cured lamb belly and trimmings) as it was meaty and lean while being easy on the salt.  The fermented saltiness of the shrimp pasted turned an ordinary turnip into something flavourful and impactful.

Next up was the Kale Salad with roasted squash, Asian pear, peanut sauce and cilantro vinaigrette.  This was another flavour explosion thanks to the aggressive use of the tangy and bright dressing.  I appreciated the restraint with the cilantro as it can be overpowering if not used properly.  Due to the intense briny saltiness, it appeared there was fish sauce in the vinaigrette. We did agree that there was probably just a tad too much dressing though.  The robust texture of the kale did stand up to the strong flavours though while the peanut sauce added creamy aromatics.

Onto the mains, we shared the Pan-Seared Steelhead with kasu "risotto", beets and grilled treviso.  If there was perfection in preparing the steelhead, this would be it.  The skin was appealingly crispy and well-salted while the flesh was just barely cooked through which meant it was flaky, moist and buttery.  On the side, the beets were tender and sweet while the grilled treviso was crunchy and lightly bitter.  By employing the leftover lees from sake-making, the kasu riostto was an interesting addition where it was soft and lightly creamy with a bright and only mild sake background flavour.

From fish, we went with Pork Belly with crispy rice with pork fat and dressed with fermented black bean sesame dust.  Another side consisted of salted radish.  The rolled piece of roasted pork belly was sliced and then seared.  The result was a wealth of fatty aromatics combined with the caramelization of flavours.  We could really taste the pork since it was not overseasoned (this was a good thing).  It was super buttery and tender where it didn't take much effort to cut and chew.  The rice was crispy and chewy with the essence of pork fat while the dust added a nutty saltiness that accented the pork.

Our last savoury item was the Lamb Loin rubbed with anchovy and garlic atop a miso creme fraiche accompanied by pickles.  Prepared a beautiful medium-rare (close to rare in some parts which was fine by us), the meat was succulent and fatty sporting caramelized exterior.  The flavours were intense with a briny saltiness, yet restrained enough that it didn't overshadow the delicious fattiness of the lamb.  The side of pickles added an acidity and crunch that helped cut through the fatiness.

For dessert, we were presented with a duo consisting of Bay Leaf Buttermilk Ice Cream with candied squash and a cranberry shortbread cookie as well as Carrot Cake with a sticky marmalade on top.  Creamy and lightly woodsy, the ice cream was purposefully sweet.  Loved the robust sweet squash on the side.  As for the carrot cake, it was fluffy and light where the sweetness was surprisingly restrained.  Even the marmalade was not over-sweet.  As you can plainly see, we enjoyed our meal at Opus Co where the food is interesting and well-prepared.  The Feast is an incredible value and I just might head back when I'm in town.

The Good:
- Well-prepared proteins
- Interesting and good use of Asian flavours
- Well-priced

The Bad:
- Super small dining space