Sherman's Food Adventures

Jack Frost Cafe

After the initial onset of Korean Bingsoo in the GVRD started mostly by Snowy Village, there was a rash of similar joints opening up such as Sulmida, Passion8 and My Frosty.  Let's not forget one could get this at Midam as well including a few lesser known places.  Then all-of-a-sudden, there has been a lull of sorts when no new places entered the scene.  However, with anything that is hot, there will be a rush of imitators (think Poke...).  One of the newer spots is Jack Frost in Richmond, which I visited several months ago, but never go around to blogging about it.  We dropped by recently, so it was a good time to finally write it up.

My initial visit was when it first opened with Joyce, Nora and Lesley.  We ended up trying 2 of their bingsoos including the Matcha Red Bean and Mango.  First and foremost, I found the sizing to be on the smaller side when compared to places such as Snowy Village and My Frosty.  However, with that being said, they were still more than enough and they didn't skimp on the ingredients.  I found the matcha to be good with enough tea flavour without being bitter.  The ice itself was light and just sweet enough.  Of course I'm biased towards My Frosty and their flavoured Bingsoo, but this was good nonetheless.  Originally, when we had the mango for the first time, there was cheesecake, but the second time, there was none.  Mangoes were ripe and plentiful though being layered underneath the snow as well.

On our second visit, we did got the Strawberry and it did include a slice of cheesecake.  As such, the bingsoo was more "filling" and less light to eat.  However, I love cheesecake, so I much prefer it being there.  Similar to last time, the milky snow was fluffy and light while not overly sweet.  That was a good thing as the strawberries and condensed milk ensured there would be more than enough flavour.  For the kiddies, they wanted the Oreo Bingsoo over the dipping dots, so we didn't get the dipping dots... :(  Anyways, this was good too being overloaded with whole Oreos and layered with even more bits underneath.  To top it off, there was Oreo dust on the sides and little brownie bites.  This ate a bit sweeter due to the inclusion of so many Oreo components.

We also got a seasonal offering in the Watermelon Bingsoo served in a half-watermelon.  It was topped with melon balls, ice cream and condensed milk.  Due to watermelon being mild-in-taste and well, watery, this was very light and refreshing.  The ice cream was necessary in bringing more sweetness to the table.  Overall, we enjoyed the bingsoo at Jack Frost and it is definitely a good addition to the existing spots in town.  Despite the smaller portions, the quality is there.

The Good:
- Sweetness level is about right
- Enough fruit on top and within the layers
- People are friendly enough

The Bad:
- Parking for that location is truly a challenge (even more so than other Richmond spots)
- Portions are small

Aleph Eatery

With the prevailing food scene in Vancouver, it is easy to overreact to cuisines that are unfamiliar.  We have such a wide array of Asian options, most people are quite well-versed as to what is good and what is average.  However, when it comes to cuisines less traveled, it seems like we will automatically go nuts for it since we've either never had it before and/or there is nothing to compare it to.  That would be the case with Middle-Eastern food where we do have some spots to chose from, but not all areas are represented.  Mijune and I met up recently at Aleph Eatery out on Powell to experience Chef Haitham El Khatib's take on Middle-Eastern eats.

Highly-recommended and stunningly beautiful to the eyes, the Silk Road featured hummus, eggplant and labneh combined into edible art.  It was finished off with honey, olive oil and zaatar with chimichurri saj on the side.  In comparison to the more well-known Jamjar, the hummus here was infinitely better featuring non-canned chickpeas blended smooth with noticeable hits of lemon and garlic.  Tender and not overprocessed, the eggplant was delicate with discernible texture.  It was lightly dressed in olive oil and was particularly good mixed with the zaatar and labneh.  About that labneh, it was thick and creamy with an appetizing tang.  It was complimented nicely by the honey.  Not to be ignored, the saj was warm, soft and had a mild chewiness.  I really wanted the Ultra Crispy Potatoes and they did not disappoint.  These were akin to the ones found at Pepino's, but dressed differently of course.  It consisted of tahini, aleppo and roasted red peppers.  Such a simple offering, but addictive.  Aromatic and firmly crispy, the potatoes were still soft and fluffy.  Beyond a mild saltiness, the flavours mainly came from the sweet peppers (with some spiciness) and nutty creamy tahini dressing.

Although we were there during lunch, we decided to get the Turmeric Cauliflower (which is on the dinner menu).  Turned out to be a good idea since they were also very good.   Unlike many of the fried versions in town, this one was roasted with turmeric and topped with tahini dressing, sliced almonds, aleppo and parsley.  Despite the repeat of a few ingredients, the cauliflower shared no common flavour profile with the potatoes.  Rather, the turmeric really came through with a gingery tanginess while complimented by the creamy dressing and the slightly spicy and sweet aleppo.  Texturally, the cauliflower was on point being firm with a moist crunch while cooked all-the-way-through.  Another hit was the Falafel with brined beat and carrot, radishes and garlic toum.  By appearances alone, it was attractive with a bright green hue surrounded by dark golden brown.  It ate as it appeared with a firm crunch giving way to a fluffy and soft centre.  There was noted hits of cumin, parsley and spice.

Our last dish was my personal favourite being the Enoki Mushroom Shawarma.  Initially, I was hesitant to order it, but upon Mijune's urging (or forceful suggestiveness...), we got it.  She was right though, it was fantastic from the first bite.  There was so much impact from the spices used on the enoki including nuttiness, aromatic bitterness and earthiness.  Combined with the hummus underneath, we got the lemon and garlic once again.  Eaten with the fantastic saj on the side, this was texturally and tastewise on point.  Okay, I got a little excited with this place (due to some of the aforementioned reasons), but compared to similar spots (in particular, Jamjar), Aleph does a much better job.  Would this be as exciting if we had the same amount of Middle-Eastern restaurants as Chinese restaurants in town?  Probably not, but given the limited options, Aleph is one of the better ones.

The Good:
- High-quality ingredients
- Small spot where the chef keeps things consistent
- Impactful flavours

The Bad:
- Some seats are a bit awkward in the small space
- Some creative license on certain dishes which might not work for some people

Kiriri Japanese Cuisine & Sushi Bar

For those who care, authentic Japanese eats is somewhat of a unicorn in the GVRD.  Most of the Japanese spots in town are not operated by Japanese.  Now that also can be a fallacy since not all Chinese-run Chinese restaurants are good (same with all other types of cuisine).  However, being Japanese owned and operated is a start.  From there we can assess whether they are good in addition to being legit.  So finally I was able to make it out to Kiriri Japanese Cuisine out in Richmond (it has been there for awhile) when I met up with Aussie and family (visiting from, you guessed it, Australia).

For the adults, we began with the Hawaiian Tuna Tower with sushi rice, avocado, mango, albacore tuna and masago.  Yes, this was a creative take on sushi at an authentic Japanese restaurant.  But this was a whole lot better than some of the massive towers found elsewhere.  What it lacked in size and quantity, it was completely made up by the fresh ingredients and careful construction.  Textures were on point while the impactful flavours from the buttery tuna and ripe mango made the tower delicious.  Normally I focus on the execution of the batter when it comes to Ebi Tempura, but the shrimp inside was the real star here.  It was of a good size, buttery and had an appealing snap.  That in itself made this a winner, but the crispy and light batter didn't disappoint either.

Of course we couldn't pass up on the Sashimi, even though the prices could make house prices look reasonable.  The platter consisting of albacore tuna, sockeye salmon, red tuna and Atlantic salmon set us back $70.00.  Yes, that is expensive, but worth it if you are looking for some of the finest sashimi in Greater Vancouver.  The subtle sweetness of the tuna and salmon in addition to the delicate textures cannot be conveyed by the picture or the words that I've typed.  Would I do this weekly?  No, I need to pay my mortgage, but once in awhile, this would be worth every penny.  Onto a cooked item, we had the Tonkatsu (or Pork Cutlet on the menu) served with tonkatsu sauce, lemon and Japanese mustard.  The lean pork was surprisingly juicy and moist.  It was firm since there was so little fat, yet it was not dry at all.  The crunchy panko coating was not greasy and was fairly delicate.

In addition to my son's usual Nigiri (tamago, unagi, chopped scallop and Atlantic salmon), we got a couple of rolls.   On the same platter, there was the Rainbow Roll consisting of a California roll topped with Atlantic salmon, tai, mackerel, ebi and albacore tuna.  For me, this has become a pretty basic roll found on many Japanese menus in town.  Once again, the impressiveness of the roll didn't lie with the visuals.  Rather, it was the freshness of the ingredients and the care that was taken with its construction.  Again, on point textures with the rice and fish.  Something a bit different, we got the Special Spicy Salmon Roll with soy paper on the outside and finished with jalapeno.  It wasn't super spicy (which is usually the case), but the jalapeno upped the spice level.  Rice was nicely chewy while the soy paper added another layer of texture.

My son got ambitious and opted for the Chirashi Don consisting of hamachi, tai, albacore tuna, Atlantic salmon, ika, tako, tamago and mackerel on perfectly prepared sushi rice.  Texturally, the rice was chewy without being dry and the amount of seasoning was balanced (for the type of rice that is seasoned because some versions come unseasoned).  Sounded repetitive, the fish was on point with the tuna and salmon being the highlight.  Strangely, my daughter had some sashimi, but then went on to have a Hot Somen.  This is not something she usually orders but it featured a rich and tasty dashi.  We could tell it was done the right way where the aromatics and brininess of the bonito really coming through.  As you can probably guess, we enjoyed our meal very much at Kiriri despite costing a pretty penny.  But this is an intermittent reminder how Japanese food is supposed to be like.

The Good:
- Carefully prepared food
- High-quality ingredients
- Friendly service

The Bad:
- Doesn't come cheap
- Much like any Richmond restaurant, parking is limited

Stem Japanese Eatery

Not really all that long ago, the only place where you would normally find higher-end eateries was in either Downtown and/or the Westside of Vancouver.  However, with more and more people moving Eastward into the 'burbs, we are no longer stuck with just chain restaurants.  Interestingly enough, it isn't the traditional Western fine-dining that are opening in spots past Boundary Road.  Rather, we see more expensive Asian joints popping up.  Does it have something to do with demographics?  Possibly or maybe the appetite is there for more refined Asian eats.  This is the case with Stem Japanese Eatery setting up shop in South Burnaby.  With the former chef of Zest at the helm, the price point at Stem readily reflects that.

After being open for over half-a-year, we finally made it out with the kids and the grandparents.  We started out with an order of the Sockeye Salmon Sashimi for $20.00.  Yes, $4.00 per piece can be sticker-shock, but similar to the best sushi bars in town, the quality was worth it.  Visually, it was stunning with deep colours.  Each slice was buttery soft while retaining a meatiness and being superbly sweet from start-to-finish.  We got a couple orders of the Onsen Tamago sporting a 64-degree Maple Hill Farm free-range egg, dashi espuma, Koshihikari rice, kale stem & shrimp furikake finished with black truffle oil.  When mixed together, the silky egg and espuma created a velvety base for the chewy rice and crunchy stems.  Flavours were subtle, but that was the point due to the delicate ingredients. 

Neatly plated, the Soba Crab Roll was certainly an interesting concoction.  It consisted of BC dungeness crab surrounded by nori, green soba noodles and then more nori.  On the side, there was a dashi soy broth for dipping.  Texturally, I wasn't sure of the soft-on-soft.  It could've used a crunchy component somewhere (except for the ends).  However, it was still tasty since it had a big chunk of fluffy crab in the middle.  The noodles were a touch soft, but they weren't mushy.  Loved the impactful dashi soy that wasn't salty.  For my son, he had to have the Unagi Tamago Cone (2 of his most favourite things).  Carefully constructed and featuring chewy sushi rice, there was a buttery piece of unagi and a fluffy slice of tamago.  Nothing complex, but texturally on point.

Onto one of our favourite dishes of the meal, the Bio-Dynamic Zucchini Blossom Tempura was perfect.  These large blossoms were stuffed with ebi shinjo and deep fried with tempura batter.  The result was a crunchy exterior giving way to the delicate blossom and the bouncy shrimp paste with shiso.  The plate was finished off with a yuzu aioli drizzle which added a creamy tang.  Another solid dish was the Chilliwack Miso Pork Jowl that was cured for 48 hours with a house blend miso.  It was simply grilled and topped with a granny smith apple salad.  Completing the dish was a roasted rhubarb puree.  Texturally, the pork jowl was on point with a chewy bounciness.  There was definitely the fermented essence of the miso coming through as well as a smokiness from the grilling.  I thought the puree was a great tangy compliment.

Viv's favourite dish was the Grilled Yarrow Meadows Duck marinated with house made shoyu koji.  It was garnished with zucchini ohitashi, soy braised mushroom and burdock kimpura.  The brined duck breast was cooked to a nice medium which ensured that it was moist and tender.  I would've liked the fat to be rendered more, but it was tender and did not get in the way.  In addition to the inherent fermented saltiness, the burdock added an herbal woodsiness while the mushrooms were a nice balance between sweet and salty.  There was also a background hit of truffle oil as well. The solid plates continued with the Garlic Chicken marinated in garlic sweet soy finished with green onion, shiitake and aomori garlic chips.  Although the ingredients were simple, the execution was flawless.  Succulent and super juicy, the chicken thigh pieces were caramelized and full-flavoured.  Plenty of aromatics to go with the classic sweet saltiness.

Another seemingly simple dish was the Miso Cheese Eggplant.  This was basically half an eggplant baked with mozzarella cheese, sweet miso and truffle oil.  You've probably heard it before, but I'll repeat here - plates with simple ingredients (and very few of them) are the hardest to make since there is little room for error.  Consistent with all of the food so far, this was done right.  Cooked through, the eggplant still retained its shape.  It was tender and delicate with the unmistakable rich fermented taste of sweet miso.  They didn't overdo it with the truffle oil either.  Not trying to repeat myself, but the Haida Gwaii Halibut Cheek Age Oroshi was expertly deep fried.  It was flaky with an appealingly chewy bounciness normally found with halibut cheeks.  The cheeks were dressed in a oroshi daikon dashi soy broth which was subtle, yet impactful at the same time.  Combined with a daikon essence, the sweetness of the dashi was only slightly counteracted by the saltiness of the soy.

Based on our server's recommendation, we added the Dashi Omelette.  It was made-to-order with local free-range egg, ichiban dashi, snow crab, local shungiku, wasabi stems and daikon radish.  This was super delicate and fluffy.  Again, flavours were subtle with classic dashi coming through from the bonito and kombu.  Providing a touch of sharpness, the shungiku was liberally strewn throughout.  The only thing I would've liked to see was less moisture as some parts were soggy.  Our last dish was the Hot Udon featuring hand-made noodles from Akita, Japan.  These were slippery and silky, unlike the dense generic packaged type you find at many Japanese restaurants in town.  The soy dashi broth was sweet and full-of-depth with a background smokiness.  Although this wasn't a complex dish, the balance and execution really shone.  That would be the best description for the entire meal in general as things were carefully made and presented.  Prices are definitely on the higher end, but worth it in my opinion.

The Good:
- Carefully-crafted food
- Delicate, but impactful flavours
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Pricey
- For some, the flavours might be too subtle, but that is the intention

The Italian Osteria & Cheese Bar

Even though I've never lived in Langley nor have do I live near Langley, I've always had my pulse on the restaurant scene there.  You might wonder why I would care so much about restaurants in Langley...  Well, I've always had friends out there and in fact, all through University, I would visit Aussie often and then after that, Nikita and Bluebeard through the early 2000's til present.  Let's just say that the restaurant scene has come a long way since then and now we are beginning to see places that can be considered good.  The JRG group has recognized the potential of the area and have pegged many of their restaurants throughout the city.  Their newest is The Italian offering up legit pastas and Neapolitan pizza.

We headed out there with Costanza's family to get a good feel for the place.  We ended up eating quite early and hit their happy hour and took advantage of their drink specials and also their $10.00 pizza deal.  But before we hit the pizza and pastas, we got 2 orders of the Caesar Salad for the table.  As simple as salads can be sometimes, this one was done right.  The romaine was fresh and crisp while the dressing wasn't heavy nor was the salad overdressed.  I thought the parmesan yogurt dressing to be tangy and light while aided by the dehydrated olives (which provided a rich saltiness).  Finishing off the salad was a sprinkling of honey and herb croutons.

The kiddies wanted the basic Margherita featuring fior di latte, San Marzano tomato sauce, Tuscan olive oil and fresh basil.   Prepared in a 900 degree wood-fired oven, the pizza was well-charred with leoparding.  It was very crispy all the way to the centre while being properly seasoned.  I would've liked to see the crust to be a little more tender in the middle though.  Ingredients were legit and the flavours were right there as well.  They also shared the Prawn Genovese which was also the table favourite.  It was topped with pesto, oven-dried tomatoes, grana padano, mozzarella and basil.  The combination was aromatic with a good tang from the tomatoes and cheesy.  Done just right, the pieces of prawn were meaty while still tender with a snap.

For the adults, we went for the Truffle Mushroom comprised of thyme roasted mushrooms, truffle cream, mozzarella and baby arugula.  As much as we do not prefer the overuse of truffle oil, this pizza was nicely balanced.  With just a hint, the truffle cream was definitely impactful without creating an overwhelming earthiness.  There was a proper amount of flavourful mushrooms to live up to its namesake while the thyme was evident with each bite.  On top, the arugula added a certain brightness to balance off the heaviness of the cream and cheese.  I thought the most interesting pizza was the Wagyu Carpaccio with pecorino romano, dehydrated olives, arugula, oven-dried grape tomatoes and truffle aioli.  If you can imagine, it was beef carpaccio on a pizza crust.   Sliced thin where it literally melted in our mouths, the wagyu didn't disappoint.  The complimentary flavours were on point with a creamy saltiness accented by a tanginess.  Only issue with this pizza was the temperature as the crust couldn't be hot, otherwise it would cook the meat.

Onto our pastas, the best of the bunch was definitely the Ricotta Gnocchi Pomodoro bathed in fresh grape tomato sauce, garlic, basil, Tuscan olive oil and grana padano.  These were large and pillowy soft while still retaining its texture.  They were seared nicely where there was a caramelized smokiness.  We thought the sauce was perfect since it was not strong enough to overwhelm the delicate gnocchi, but was present enough to provide flavour and aromatics.  It was a nice combination of fresh tomatoes with the simple accents of garlic an basil.  The kids really wanted the Classic Alfredo with chicken featuring linguine in white wine cream and grana padano.  This was also good where the fresh pasta was al dente and while the cream sauce was rich, it wasn't overly heavy either.  The ample amount of chicken could've been a bit less cooked though.

We really wanted to like the Spaghetti Carbonara, however, it was far too salty for our tastes.  Yes, we understand that the use of speck and guanciale would ensure that the dish would have a certain saltiness, but we found it excessive.  On the other hand, no one could accuse the plate as bland or boring.  There was definitely the meaty saltiness from the aforementioned cured meats in addition to the free-range egg yolks, pecorino romano and fresh black pepper.  I actually enjoyed this pasta despite the salt (mostly because I like salty), but the rest of the table didn't feel the same way.  Also overly salty was the Braised Shortrib Pappardelle which interestingly was more balanced due to the spiciness in the San Marzano tomato sauce.  I agreed that it had a salty finish, but for me personally, I didn't mind it too much.  Again, the fresh pasta was al dente while the generous amount of shortrib was tender.  In the end, we were pretty stuff and came away satisfied.  We liked how much thought and effort was put into bringing a restaurant like The Italian out to Walnut Grove.  With a few tweaks to the pizza crust and the seasoning for the pastas, they food could rival spots in Vancouver.

The Good:
- Decent portions for the price
- No absence of impactful flavours
- Family-friendly

The Bad:
- Pizza crust was a little dry
- Pastas could use less salt

Royal Seafood Restaurant

As hard as I have tried, I haven't visited all of the restaurants that serve Dim Sum in Richmond.  Naturally, it is extra difficult when some of them change hands over and over again.  That would've been the case with my recent visit to Sea Fortune.  That location never seems to hold a restaurant for very long.  Well with Sea Fortune out-of-the-way, it appears I'm getting closer in trying every Dim Sum joint out in Richmond.  There is another that is tucked away on the second floor in a plaza on the corner of Blundell an Garden City Way.  Yes, we made our way to Royal Seafood Restaurant to further my mission (is it impossible?).

So, not only was there a 20% off discount if you dine before 11:00am, but the Sparerib & Chicken Feet Rice was only $6.95.  At times, the rice can be mushy and lacking in nuttiness, but this one was quite good.  Chewy and aromatic, the rice was on point while soaking up the garlicky juices of the spareribs.  About those ribs, they were meaty with a tender chew.  Lots of flavour including some spice.  Normally, we do not order a plate of noodles for Dim Sum, but with Cee Cee in attendance, we had to get the Singapore Fried Noodles (her fav).  This was prepared pretty well with chewy noodles that were not clumpy nor too dry.  There was enough curry and seasoning for impact and while it wasn't apparent in the picture, there was a good amount of buttery shrimp and BBQ pork.

Of course we got the usual suspects in the Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork and Shrimp Dumplings).  Medium-sized with medium-thick dumpling skin, the ha gau were pretty good.  Let's start with the positives first.  I found the skin to have a good elasticity and it wasn't overly sticky.  The filling was moist being a mix of whole pieces of crunchy shrimp and bouncy mousse.  However, the one caveat was that the flavour was a touch fishy.  As for the siu mai, they were rather pale and consisted mostly of pork.  Texturally, the pork was mousse-like being bouncy yet lacking in natural meatiness.  I would've liked to see some shiitake mushrooms for some variance in taste because the dumplings were pretty one-note.

Rather then going with shrimp, we decided on the Beef Rice Noodle Roll.  By visuals alone, I appreciated the uniform and careful construction of the rolls.  I also liked how they put enough beef in the middle.  Therefore, the rolls were hearty and balanced in terms of ratio between noodle and filling.  I found the noodle to have a good elasticity while the beef was tender with a firm bounce.  It wasn't particularly flavourful, but the sweet soy did the job.  On a similar theme, we were served the Beef Meatballs next.  They were on the firmer side, but were still tender and had the classic rebound.  Again, they weren't aggressively seasoned.  There was a balanced amount of green onion.

For myself, I got the requisite Beef Tripe and Tendon.  When it hit the table, it didn't look like much and in fact, after digging around, there wasn't much at all.  In terms of execution, it was acceptable.  I found the tripe to be slightly gamy and a bit too soft.  The tendon was outright too soft in my opinion.  Tastewise, I thought the dish was too sweet and lacked the usual garlickiness.  This was a miss for me.  Looking a little over-fried, the Shrimp Spring Rolls were indeed a tad overcooked.  However, the outside was still crunchy and not overly greasy.  The shrimp filling was a touch rubbery, but not entirely without snap.  It was well-seasoned and tasted better than the shrimp in the ha gau.

Rather than going for the usual steamed version, we went for the Baked BBQ Pork Buns this time around.  This was a good call as these were on point.  Light and airy with a crispy exterior, the buns were very easy to eat.  The sweet glaze on the outside was sticky and went well with the savoury BBQ pork filling.  I liked how the meat was mostly lean pieces.  Our last dish was the XO Daikon Pudding Cake.  Pieces ranged from crispy to soggy, yet the overall texture was silky and soft.  I found the flavours to be rather mild and not spicy enough.  There was the usual brininess from the dried shrimp though.  I liked how the dish wasn't soaked with grease.  Compared to other Dim Sum spots in Richmond, Royal lags a bit behind since the competition and expectations are high.  It wasn't as if the Dim Sum wasn't any good, there is just too many other places to dine at nearby.

The Good:
- Decent service
- Nice dining space
- Dim sum was actually okay

The Bad:
- Okay Dim Sum actually doesn't cut it in Richmond