Sherman's Food Adventures: 2008

Memphis Blues (Commercial)

We headed out today for some good ol' BBQ in the middle of winter. Now where would I find good authentic southern BBQ in Vancouver? Memphis Blues! I've been visiting this joint since their first location opened in Vancouver on Broadway near Granville. I've been going to the one on Commercial for the last little while and the food and decor are almost the same as the original. Memphis Blues serves up authentic BBQ ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket, and other BBQ goodness. The story is that the owners of Memphis Blues (George Siu and Park Heffelfinger) were traveling and had a stopover in Memphis. They had authentic pulled pork and it was love at first bite.

Memphis Blues is not a big restaurant; in fact, it is quite small. If you come during the busy hours (normally the weekend at dinner time), you will be waiting for a table. Although there are servers, you actually go up to the counter to order. Once the food is ready, they will deliver it to your table, but everything else is up to you. The food at Memphis Blues is a pretty good value. Meats are slow cooked over hardwood, and are never boiled or precooked. Therefore, the meat is "meaty"; yet a tad dry. One thing is that you either love this or hate it. The reason is that since the meat is slow cooked, the ribs tend to be a bit drier than other places such as Tony Roma's and Montana's. However, places like Tony Roma's and Montana's do not slow cook their ribs, thus they are a bit juicer, yet lack richness in taste. I am not saying one is better than the other, it is merely a question of preference. I personally like my ribs a bit more on the moist side, so I'm not particularly fond of the ribs at Memphis Blues. However, the pulled pork and brisket are fall apart tender. The homemade BBQ sauce is excellent, rich and smoky, but not too sweet or salty. Meals generally range from $9.00 - $20.00, generally including a sandwich or meat with fries, cornbread, and coleslaw. However, if you have a few more people, the best deals by far are the platters. The Memphis Feast for $39.95 includes half a BBQ chicken, ribs, brisket, rib tips, sausage, pulled pork, fries, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread and BBQ sauce. This can serve up to 4 people; but you may need another dish if you want to be full. Yet, you can upgrade to the Elvis platter, which is essentially the same as the Memphis Feast, but almost double the meats for $69.95. This can serve 4 really hungry people, but should be good for 6 people. Then there is The Priscilla for $135.95 that serves 10-12 people. If you do the math, Memphis Blues is not an expensive place to eat, especially when sharing. Typically, BBQ restaurants are not cheap since most of food is meat and material costs are high. But you can be really full from Memphis Blues, spending under $15. If you really like BBQ, then it's the place to go in the GVRD.

The Good:
- Food is authentic Southern BBQ
- Inexpensive
- Casual environment

The Bad:
- Restaurant is small
- If you like wet BBQ...
- Ribs are dry (some like it, some don't)

Memphis Blues BBQ House

1342 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, B.C.
V5L 3X6

(604) 215-2599

1465 West Broadway Ave
Vancouver, B.C.
V6H 1H6

(604) 738-6806

1629 Lonsdale Avenue

North Vancouver, B.C.
V7M 2J5
(604) 929-3699
www.memphisbluesbbq.com

Memphis Blues Barbeque House (Commercial) on Urbanspoon

Richmond Sushi

Watching the snow come down endlessly, we wondered if the trek to Richmond for AYCE sushi was a good idea. Well, we do have an SUV, and we actually have snow tires... Heck, why not? Wait a minute here. Let's be rational for a moment. Drive into Richmond... On probably one of the snowiest days in the last few years... for AYCE (mediocre) sushi... Insane? Probably. Well, we braved the snowy roads of Richmond and miraculously did not get into an accident! I guess it is time for me to buy a lottery ticket. Okay, maybe 100 lottery tickets...

Anyways, most people would think it's plain lunacy that we would drive all the way to Richmond for AYCE sushi, let alone in a blizzard. But Gadget Girl decided to organize a "team lunch". If you know her by now, you just nod your head and say "yes". Otherwise, you might find yourself on the farm team for the rest of the season. The destination was Richmond Sushi, which is part of the Top Gun group of restaurants, which included Kingsway Sushi, Top Gun Sushi, Top Gun Hot Pot and Garden City Hot Pot. I have been here many times in the past for dinner and late night. That seems like eons ago though since I'm not a huge fan of AYCE anymore. If you look past the unauthentic Japanese food (it's Chinese owned), the food is pretty consistent and you always know what you are getting. Lunch is $11.95 and for the deluxe dinner, it's $23.95.

As it was for lunch today, there was no sashimi on the menu. However, it can be added for an extra $5.00 per person. I'm not sure if that is actually worthwhile since the fish here is quite average. Not that it ain't fresh per se, it's just not high quality (and I don't blame them, since it's AYCE). Predictably, the sushi rice ain't exactly going to win any awards. The texture borders on being close to regular rice; but at least it wasn't mushy. The rolls we got were not assembled very well and basically fell apart on contact. We were pretty happy with the Gyoza and Short Ribs, they arrived piping hot. I've noticed that the Top Gun chain seems to do a decent job with the temperature of their food. It may not be great, but at least hot things are generally hot and cold things are cold. One odd thing about the ribs though. They were unusually tender. It leads me to think they were marinaded in baking soda.

For once, the Chicken Karaage was not fried chicken wings. Rather, they were fried pieces of chicken thigh. Despite looking quite good, these were fried a bit too long and ended up pretty dry.
The Beef Teriyaki is your typical AYCE version where it is thin, a bit overcooked and dressed with a too sweet sauce. The same could be said for the Chicken Teriyaki, it was fried too long.

As for dinner, you get a larger selection of items including such Chinese specialties like chicken knees, beef tongue and sui mai. As you can see, the target market are obviously not those who are seeking an authentic Japanese experience. Again, the food is edible if you take into account what your expectations are. There is no way you can compare Richmond Sushi to Japanese restaurants run by Japanese people. At the very least, they are trying to serve the food at the correct temperature (I based this on more than one visit). Service is quite efficient, since Richmond Sushi is following the trend of using PDAs to take your order. This sends your order directly to the kitchen and the food comes out quite promptly. Mind you, the service will never be confused with "good" service. It does the job with little to no emotion or extra effort. It's true that AYCE is not really the best way to do Japanese cuisine; but if you must, Richmond Sushi is indeed passable, for Chinese-interpreted Japanese food that is...

The Good:
- At least they attempt to serve food at the right temperature
- Food comes out lightening quick (can be good and bad)
- Moderately priced

The Bad:
- Sashimi is an extra charge for lunch (unlike Fish on Rice and Shabusen)
- The regular dinner (as opposed to the deluxe) has limited selection compared to other places
- It's Chinese-Japanese Food

Richmond Sushi
1488-8388 Capstan Way
Richmond, BC
V6X 4A7
(604) 207-7799
www.topgungroup.com

Richmond Sushi on Urbanspoon

Fortune House

Dim sum, I love it. I remember when I was younger, we'd go every weekend, sometimes on both Saturday and Sunday. That probably explains why I eat it all the time. It's like an addiction. Mind you, I think I'm addicted to all food in general (if that is not obvious already). Back then, there weren't many choices. You could count on one hand the places you could go for Dim Sum. It brings back memories of Golden Crown, Ming's, Park Lok, Pennisula, Kingsland, Pink Pearl and Flamingo. Heck, I even met one of my good friends (Goose) while we were kids at Golden Crown.

One place that serves up pretty good dim sum is Fortune House Restaurant at Metrotown in Burnaby. Similar to most Dim Sum restaurants in town, this place is always busy on both weekends and weekdays. Unless you come right when it opens at 10:00am, you'll be SOL and waiting for around an hour for a table. Alternatively, you call ahead and make a reservation. However, a reservation only puts you into a separate list for people who have called in, so you will still have to wait for your table. The estimated time for a wait is beyond 30 minutes. Now, you may wonder why the wait? Well, the dim sum pretty good as I had mentioned. Furthermore, there is a real lack of competition nearby. You have Top Gun in Crystal Mall which is not bad. But then you get into places such as Po King (which I would never return to).

Portions are quite generous here. You will find that the Shrimp Dumplings (haw gow) are big and cooked perfectly, with cold-water shrimp. I like how most of the filling is whole shrimp with little in the way of filler or small bits. I just wish the wrapper was a bit less gummy. It's not often that you find Scallop Rice Noodle Roll available at all Dim Sum places, so we decided to order it. The rice noodle here is soft while still maintaining it's structural integrity (interesting way to describe it eh?). Inside, there are fairly large pieces of sweet scallop and cilantro. We also got the Shrimp & Pea Shoot Dumpling and it confirmed that the rice flour wrappers are indeed gummy. However, the filling was quite good with mostly crunchy shrimp with some pea shoots. I liked that it was well-seasoned, yet I could still taste the sweetness of the shrimp.

As always, we get the rice hot pot. This time it was the Spareribs & Chinese Sausage Rice. When the server removed the lid of the hot pot, it revealed that there was a good amount of ingredients on top of the rice. Sadly, the rice itself was quite mushy and could've used a bit more cooking time. The spareribs were quite dry; however, they were quite meaty. One dish that is done quite well here is the Salty Donut Rice Noodle Roll or "Ja Leun". It's essentially a Chinese Salty Donut wrapped in rice noodle with green onions and dried shrimp (in this case, dried scallop on top). As already mentioned, the rice noodle is soft; yet holds its shape while the donut is just the right texture (in between soft and airy while having a little bit of crunch). One of my favourite Dim Sum dishes is the Fried Taro Dumplings. It's essentially ground pork, shiitake mushrooms and in this case ham encased in mashed taro root, then deep fried. Unfortunately, these ones arrived stone cold. A big no-no. Especially since there are no push carts here, it is expected that the Dim Sum would be served hot. Otherwise, the dumplings were very good being light (despite the frying) and well-seasoned. While the taro dumplings were cold, the BBQ Pork Pineapple Buns were not. This is a combination of 2 different types of pastries. It's a BBQ pork bun with pineapple bun topping (which incidentally has no pineapple in it, it just looks like a pineapple). Since it was warm, the bun itself was soft and the topping was crispy. Only thing that I didn't prefer were the onions mixed in with the BBQ pork. Don't get me wrong, it's not the fact I do not like onions, it's because I don't find that the onions add anything to the flavour of the pork. After all, it's not seafood which needs onions to help mask the fishiness which BBQ Pork doesn't have.

Definitely an acquired taste is the Steamed Chicken Feet or Phoenix Talons. They are essentially fried chicken feet that are then steamed in a oyster/soy based sauce. The trick is to steamed them until they are tender and gelatinous while not turning the skin into mush. These ones here were almost perfect with the skin being plump while very little of it detaching from the bone. Flavourwise, I thought they were a bit salty. One item that you rarely see at a Cantonese Dim Sum restaurant is the Onion Pancake Beef Roll. This is usually a Northern delicacy. However, Fortune House has changed ownership and there is a increased focus on Northern Chinese food. The roll itself was packed with beef and the pancake itself was slightly doughy.

The portions at Fortune House are quite decent and the food is generally quite good. The decor is upscale (but a bit cramped), and the service is attentive. However, the service during dim sum is a bit hurried and disorganized. But it appears the staff are trying their hardest to keep up. Food comes out at at decent pace, and we never had to wait too long, despite being a busy restaurant. Dinner is also good, matching most other restaurants in this category. Portions are not as large for dinner, but they are not small either. Service is much more attentive during dinner since they are usually much less busy. Prices are pretty reasonable for this type of restaurant, taking account the food quality, ambiance, service and cleanliness. Overall, Fortune House is a solid choice if you want to eat either dinner or dim sum.

The Good:
- Food is carefully prepared
- Good portions for Dim Sum
- Good service (for dinner)
- Location (lots of parking and inside the mall)

The Bad:
- Extremely long waits for a table during Dim Sum
- Hurried service (Dim Sum only)
- Cramped seating arrangements

Fortune House Seafood Restaurant
2199A - 4700 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
V5H 4M1
(604) 438-8686
www.fortunehouserestaurant.com

Fortune House Seafood on Urbanspoon

Pho Hoa (Burnaby Kingsway)

When you want to eat something late at night, especially after midnight, there are not too many places to choose from. Let's just say Vancouver is a little behind in that respect. When I was in NYC, everything was open! One ol' standby is Pho Hoa. You really can't go wrong with Pho Hoa. It may not be the best pho in town; but it certainly is predictable. This Vietnamese restuarant has many locations around the world and I've been to ones here in GVR, Edmonton, and Milpitas (California). I can say that the they are pretty much the same throughout the chain. You know what you are getting, and I guess that would be the advantage of Pho Hoa over some mom 'n pop joints.

Tonight, it was like any other Friday night. We had just finished up our hockey game and were looking for eats. Boss Woman wanted to do wonton noodles; but we put down that idea. Nobody really wanted to do that, and besides, Polka King and I just ate it a couple of days ago. Like most other Pho places, the decor is pretty minimalistic. Also, if you are looking for a sparkling clean restaurant, you've come to the wrong place. I am not picking on Pho Hoa specifically, since other Asian restaurants in this genre are equally dirty. However, being a large chain restaurant that spans the globe, you'd think they would have higher standards. Anyways, the menu is again, pretty standard, you have your Pho (Vietnamese beef soup noodle), vermicelli bowls with various types of meat and spring rolls, and rice with various meats.

I went for my usual large #44, which is a bowl of Pho which consists of brisket, tendon, flank and tripe. It's listed under Adventurer's Choice and aptly so. For me, it's just normal. The soup base for the Pho is not too heavy; but well seasoned. It's probably a bit stronger compared to places such as Pho Hong and Au Petit. That could be the result of boiling the broth longer, more flavouring ingredients, or msg. I am hoping it's not the latter. Milhouse, Bear and Polka King all had vermicelli bowls. Shredded Pork, Beef and Chicken respectively. All looked pretty good and were cooked nicely; but Bear complained that there wasn't really all that much meat. This brings up one beef (sorry for the pun) I have with Pho Hoa is that the portions are not as large as some of the independent Vietnamese restaurants, but I guess this is what you are giving up for name brand consistency. Service is efficient and fast (food will come out shortly after you have ordered); however, like many restaurants in this genre, you will find it unmemorable and uninspired. Not necessarily a knock on Pho Hoa, but don't expect anything more than the minimum. Pho Hoa is a solid choice for Vietnamese food, especially late at night. Yet, if you want something a bit more exciting and bigger portions, go elsewhere.

The Good:

- Consistent
- Food tastes good
- Open late

The Bad:
- Portions are a bit on the smaller side
- Service is lacking enthusiasm
- A bit dirty

Pho Hoa
5505 Kingsway
Burnaby, B.C.
604-436-0001
www.phohoa.com

Pho Hoa (Burnaby) on Urbanspoon

Shanghai Wonderful

*Updated post as of 10/25/09*

Goose messaged me over MSN and indicated that he wanted to meet up for some Shanghainese Dim Sum. Of course the first thing that comes to mind is Shanghai River since it is arguably one of the best in town. However, we seem to go there quite often and something different was in order. I suggest Shanghai Wonderful since we hadn't been there for about a year. The last time was with Vandelay and Donna Chang. We had the dinner for 4 that cost $68.95. It was a magnificent value since it included a choice of appetizer: Smoked Fish and Jellyfish or Free-Range Chicken, Peking Duck (3 courses - skin/wrap, lettuce wrap and soup), Braised Pork Hock, Xiao Long Bao, a tofu bean dish and dessert. It could have easily served 6 people.

Located in the former Bread Garden across from Landsdowne Mall, Shanghai Wonderful is one of many Shanghainese restaurants in Richmond. Some others are Shanghai River, Top Shanghai, #1 Shanghai and Chen's Shanghai to name a few. There is parking in the plaza; but it doesn't seem adequate when it's busy. The restaurant itself is modern and clean; thanks to the remnants of the former Bread Garden. Similar to most Shanghainese restaurants these days, there is a fresh dumpling station where everything is made-to-order fresh. We arrived before the place opened and I must say that the drive to Richmond was quite relaxing and uneventful, other than following someone who drove excruciatingly slowly. I think the plan from now on is to visit Richmond before anyone wakes up. Less people on the road, safer for me!

We started off our meal with the Drunken Chicken, which is essentially free-range chicken bathed in a rice wine sauce. The sauce itself was quite strong with plenty of wine flavour with a hint of sweetness. The chicken itself was cooked nicely with gelatinous skin and a bit of gelatin hiding underneath. Arriving with a glisten shine, the Seafood Hot & Sour Soup exhibited a deep rich colour. We chose to get the chili oil on the side since some did not like it too spicy. Not only did the soup have good depth of flavour (a tad on the sour side according to Goose), there was plenty of seafood and the other ingredients. According to my cousin, the Xiao Long Bao here are some of the best. I would tend to agree with him. They were fresh and the outer wrapper was extremely thin. The buns themselves were very juicy, bursting with meaty flavour. However, the juice wasn't too fatty which was good. These are definitely comparable to the ones from Shanghai River. Some might even argue that these are better.

For the kiddies, we got the Shanghai Thick Noo
dle Soup. From the picture, you can't see the noodles; but take my word that they were good and not overcooked. The soup was not as rich as the one at Shanghai River; but was still quite good. There was plenty of pork and veggies atop the noodles. Originally, we weren't planning on ordering the Sticky Rice Roll; but we saw some other people eating it. Doesn't it always seem like the dishes at neighbouring tables look better and more enticing than the ones you ordered? The one thing we noticed was that the rolls were filled with plenty of salty fried donut, dried pork and pickled mustard greens. Furthermore, there was very little rice and it was "protected" from drying out by plastic wrap. The one thing that I didn't like was the donut itself. It was dense and quite difficult to chew.

I gotta say, it's great to have an authentic bowl of Tan Tan Noodles. The noodles were the star of this dish. They were cooked al dente exhibiting mouth-pleasing chewiness. It also held up well to the flavourful sauce. About that sauce... It was peanuty with a nice kick of saltiness and texture from the mini dried shrimp. There was a hint of background heat and nice aroma from the crushed peanuts on top. This puts impostor places such as Toko to shame. Another very well-received dish was the Shredded Chicken Cold Noodles. My word, for the price ($6.25), this dish was massive. Not only were there a lot of chicken and noodles, there was a mound of shrimp, BBQ pork and julienned veggies. This dish was an absolute home run. The al dente noodles were bathed in a delicious sesame dressing with a touch of seasame oil and soy. The julienned cucumbers and carrots along with bean sprouts provided a crunchy texture contrast.

We added 2 more dishes at the end, one being the Steamed Bun with Sweet Condensed Milk (Wun See Gewn). Usually, we like this fried, but the kiddies seem to like the steamed one better. Not much to say about this dish other than it was soft and when dipped into the condensed milk, it's quite sweet. I remember I used to spread this stuff on toast. Not sure if I'd do that now. The final dish took quite a long time to arrive; but it can be forgiven because the Pot Stickers are freshly made-to-order. When it finally did arrive, they were bursting with juice and the dumpling skin was not too thick. However, I did find them a bit on the stiffer side. I personally like them on the softer, moist side.

Compared to the dinner items, the Dim Sum was much more satisfying. Most of the dishes, if not all were very good, well portioned, fresh and inexpensive. This definitely gives the other Shanghainese restaurants in the area a run for their money. I'm still not convinced that I particularly like their dinner menu, even though it is an excellent value. Service is hurried and generally acceptable here. I find that the seating is a bit cramped; yet I didn't feel uncomfortable. Arrive early though because you'll have a hard time finding a parking spot or a table.

The Good:
- "Wonderful" Xiao Long Bao
- Food comes out very quickly

- Good value

The Bad:
- Seating is quite cramped
- Set dinner menu only in Chinese, not good for those who can't read it
- Limited parking

Shanghai Wonderful
110-8380 Lansdowne Road
Richmond, B.C.
604-278-8829

Shanghai Wonderful on Urbanspoon

Stanley Restaurant

Pho is something that you can probably get on any street corner in Vancouver, particularly on the Eastside. However, in some of the burbs, particularly Delta, you would be hard- pressed to find decent Chinese food, let alone a good bowl of Pho. So with that in mind, my expectations are tempered. The one place I frequent quite often is Stanley Restaurant. Yes, I know the sign says Pho Stanley; but the actual name is Stanley Restaurant. Tucked in behind the Delta Lion Pub, most people wouldn't even know it existed. As such, there is very little natural light in the place. In fact, it seems almost like someone's basement. One look at the decor and it sure looks like forgotten restaurant decor from the 70's. Hey, whatever, it is the food that counts right? When I first visited the Stanley, it was a full 5 years after I started working out in North Delta. I didn't even know it existed up until then!

As mentioned, the decor is pretty typical of Pho joints. Minimalistic, keeps the cost down. Well, at the very least, this place give you the full neon treatment (seems to be a Vietnamese favourite) such as the case at Pho Van and Goldtrain Express in Vancouver. Service is pretty good, since it appears that it's family-run. It's by no means memorable, but it's quick and efficient. The food at Stanley Restuarant is pretty good for a Vietnamese restaurant out in Delta (not exactly the hotbed of Asian cuisine). This time around, I decided to start with a Shrimp Salad Roll. I don't usually get it since it is too much food for me to finish and have a Pho too. Not bad, lots of ingredients inside including roast pork and shrimp. A bit bland without any basil. The dip was more hoisin than peanut; but did the job.

Like I always do, I get the large House Special Pho for $7.25. It's got all the goodies such as brisket, rare beef, tendon, tripe and meatballs. All the meats are good except for the rare beef. It is on the chewier side. The broth is quite decent in my books. It has a good amount of meat flavour, possibly on the saltier side. And in this case, not very clear. The noodles could be a bit chewier; but not a bit deal. Let's be honest here, it's good for North Delta. There are better. Not nearby though! The closest is Pho Hot and it is not as good. Okay, I must admit I eat at the Stanley quite often since it is close and relatively inexpensive. So on another lunch hour, I had the Bún bò Huế. This particularly version had some heat; but not incredibly so. I didn't get much in the way of lemon grass, so that was a bit disappointing; however, the abundance of noodles and meat made up for it in some ways. I'm not too picky when my personal favourite , Pho Tam, is so much farther away. But if I had to compare, the one here does not hold a candle to the Pho Tam version.

As always, Ma loves the Lemon Grass Chicken on rice. As you can see, it is a very generous portion. The chicken is tender with a good amount of lemon grass flavour. It is so good for her, she asks me to get it for takeout whenever I head here for lunch. Hey, I'm not going to declare the Stanley to be in my top 10 of Vietnamese restaurants. However, with the very few options in this area, it more than satisfies the Vietnamese Pho cravings. Prices are reasonable, service is good and it is relatively clean, if not a bit dated. We really can't ask for more.

The Good:
- Decent portions
- Reasonable pricing
- Friendly proprietors

The Bad:
- Not sure about the Chinese food...
- Hard to find

Stanley Restaurant
11184 84th Avenue
Delta, B.C.
Tel: (604) 594-1933

Business Hours:
11:00am - 9:00pm (Mon - Sat)

Stanley Restaurant on Urbanspoon

PhotobucketPhotobucket