Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2008

Anducci`s

*UPDATE* 02.27.2010 - I got takeout tonight and was informed that their portions have decreased while charging the same price. They claim to have "more" ingredients now. Yes, the portions were significantly smaller with no evidence of more ingredients. Also, the pasta was softer than mash potatoes. In my opinion, this is a recipe for disaster. If they don't get their act together, I can't see how they will continue to survive.

I can remember going to Anducci's quite a lot during my University days. Face it, I had a really big appetite and Anducci's satisfied it. Of course there are better choices than Anducci's when it comes to pasta; however, similar to how people can put up with Anton's and Old Spaghetti Factory, I personally don't mind Anducci's. It's not completely authentic when compared to true Italian eateries; but if you can accept it for what it is, it's alright. One things for sure, the once affordable prices since my University days have crept up close to $20.00 for dinner portions. There are several locations in the GVRD, 2 in Burnaby and 1 in Surrey. One consistent thing about Anducci's is it's inconsistency. Portion size, food quality, complimentary focaccia (or sometimes not) and service are highly unpredictable (this is over a 16 year period that I've eaten at this place). It can be wonderful and it can be downright awful. Compared to Anton's, the portions at Anducci's are not as large; yet they are still not small. However, any lack of quantity is made up with substance. I feel that Anducci's tastes better than Anton's. Also, it appears that there is more ingredients accompanying the pasta.

Talking about inconsistency, for the longest time, the Focaccia bread at Anducci's was complimentary. Moreover, it was pretty good, topped with Parmesan, EVOO (extra virgin olive oil, damn, my inner Rachel Ray is coming out!) and balsamic vinegar. Then all of a sudden, they began charging $1.00 for it. In addition, it seems to morph from long strips, to cubes and today - half circles (now it's free again). Service is very inconsistent, ranging from very good, to slow and indifferent. Today, it was pretty good, lucky for us. We started with the Cattiva Diva salad which consists of spring mix, corn, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, avocado and dried cranberries. Taste-wise, there are a good combination of flavours at work; but they are all but destroyed by the copious amount of dressing. They really should put it on the side.

We ordered 2 pastas, the Carnivore King with Linguine and Pollo & Basilico with Ziti. Both were done al dente with just enough sauce. You'll find that the sauces at Anducci's a bit sweeter than authentic pasta bars. To the connoisseur, this might offend; but I'm not a big fan of really tart pasta sauces, so it's alright with me. As you can see in the pictures, there is no shortage of sausage, capicollo and meatball in the Carnivore King. Suffice to say, it's difficult to finish the whole plate of pasta. I suggest that sharing a few plates among friends as the best idea.

We've eaten a few times at Anducci's with my friend Italian Stallion, who is Italian (hence the name). Although he agrees that no pasta joint is as good as how his mom makes it, Anducci's is not bad. He says that there isn't the same love and care like homemade pasta and sauce. Let's face it, no restaurant can replicate that.

The Good:
- Plenty of ingredients
- Lots of sauce choices

The Bad:
- Service and food quality are not consistent
- Not really all that authentic
- Small portions

Anducci's Cucina on Urbanspoon

Insadong

This was a rare Friday that there was no hockey game scheduled. Therefore, Polka King, Milhouse, Boss Woman, Viv and I took advantage of this and went to see the new Bond movie, Quantum of Solace tonight. I'm a sucker for movie theatre popcorn, even thought it costs you as much as a real meal. I'm sure it costs them less than $1.00 for the $12.00 combo. But here I am, doing my part in driving the economy. It's funny how I try to finish the whole bag of popcorn before the movie starts so I can get a free refill. It's plain insanity! There was so much butter on the popcorn, I think every popped kernal just slide down my throat. The movie itself was not too bad; but really short, I think it was only 1.5 hours long. Despite downing a large buttered popcorn and a large ice tea, I was ready to tackle dinner. We had a decision to either go for some Pho or some Korean BBQ. The Korean BBQ won. We went to Insadong, a truly authentic Korean restaurant, complete with chime button on your table (to alert staff you want service).

We ordered the dinner for 5, which was $80.00. It included a delicious Seafood Salad which consisted of spring mix with scallops, jellyfish, squid and smoked salmon. Of course with most Korean restaurants, we were supplied with Banchan (complimentary appetizers), kimchi, pickled daikon, bean sprouts, stewed potatoes and spicy cucumber. The waitress was nice enough to bring double the portion of these appetizers since we had 5 people. The banchan was pretty standard, neither being usually good or bad. Next, we had a Radish Roll that resembled a sushi roll, except it was filled with pickled radishes wrapped with thin slices of radish. I didn't care for it too much, it was quite bland, although it was quite crunchy. A hot bowl of seafood tofu soup came next that had whole prawns in the shell and veggies. The broth was lightly flavoured with broken pieces of tofu (it was quite soft). There was a choice of soup, we could've ordered the soybean soup instead. I've had that before, but I prefer the tofu soup. For the next course, we had a choice of the Japchae (stir-fried potato starch noodles) or Seafood Pancake. We choose the pancake, but we also ordered a japchae anyways, since we like both. The seafood pancake resembles more of an omelete with seafood in it. Surprising it was not as oily as other Korean restaurants; but then again, it's still quite relatively oily. Usually, underneath the pancake on the cast iron plate, there are pools of oil resembling a Pizza Hut deep dish pizza pan. There was no shortage of seafood within the soft pancake with the exterior cooked up crispy (from all that oil!).

The Japchae, much like other Korean restaurants, arrived on a really large platter. Obviously this is a dish for sharing. Mind you, I'm sure someone has tried to eat it all by themselves before. Once, I saw someone eating a whole Lobster with Cream Sauce at Victoria Restaurant (it was a tourist, no one in their right mind would try to do that). There was plenty of beef, peppers, onions, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, zucchini and button mushrooms nestled within the soft; yet chewy noodles. I'd only wish that there wasn't a pool of sauce at the bottom of the plate. It made the noodles a bit slimy. We also got a Stone Bowl Bibimbap. Sizzling hot, the rice was topped with plenty of veggies and accompanied by the usual hot sauce. The main course consisted of a traditional Korean BBQ that came with most of the standard meats, Kalbi (beef short ribs), Bulgogi (beef), chicken, and spicy pork. In addition, we got prawns, oysters and mussels. The waitress was going to cook it for us, but we ended up doing it ourselves. The meats are quite fresh and of high quality. The kalbi had really good marbling and when cooked, was tender. I particularly liked that hte meats were not over marinaded. Every time the grill got a bit dark looking, the wait staff came and replaced it with a new grilling surface. That was good since cooking the meat on the burnt surface didn't seem appetizing. Rice and lettuce was also included in the meal. The traditional method of eating Korean BBQ is to put some rice, meat, bean paste, sliced raw garlic (make sure you slightly grill these first) and peppers in a lettuce wrap.

Although the service was very attentive and quick, it is wildly inconsistent visit-to-visit at Insadong. When it gets busy, you might be hard pressed to get quick service, even with the service button at your table. One time, we kept pressing the button and no one every came to check on us. I must've pressed the button 5 times in a row. Mind you, that was probably a bit annoying and thus maybe that is why they never showed up. But it's unacceptable to wait more than 5 minutes for someone to come by, especially when you have asked for service via the button. Otherwise, why have the button? Unless it's some twisted Pavlovian experiemnt on hidden camera! They really, really need more staff. They try, but there is no way they can cover such a big and busy restaurant. However, the food is very good and the portions are generous. Furthermore, the food tastes like it should be. Personally, I think it is one of the best authentic Korean restaurants in the lower mainland.

The Good:
- Moderately priced
- Generous portions
- Comfortable environment
- Authentic

The Bad:
- Inconsistent service or more like no service
- Lack of parking, you'll never find a parking space!
- Be prepared to wait for a table (which is a positive too, since it means it's good)

Insadong Korean BBQ and Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Congee Noodle King

We had just finished my regular co-rec ice hockey game and it was late. Boss Woman really likes Chinese food and we'd been frequenting non-Asian places lately. Finally we bended to the pressure and decided to head to Congee Noodle King. Joining us were Milhouse and Polka King. Lionel Hutz was being anti-social and headed home. As the name suggests, Congee Noodle King is known for their congee (rice porridge) and wonton noodles. They also have a late night menu (Da Lang) that consists of smaller dishes priced between $4 - $6. I have tried a few of the dishes on previous visits and the portions are pretty reasonable. It's best to get a few of them to share with a bowl of plain congee.

Tonight, I was not in the sharing mood and went with a bowl of Preserved Egg and Salted Pork Congee. To make sure I got both of their signature dishes, I also got a Wonton Noodles.
The congee, as expected, is very good. The consistency is just right, not watery; yet just thick enough. It is neither too salty or too bland. Congee lovers will understand what I am talking about. In addition, whatever congee you order, you will get more than enough ingredients in the congee itself. The salted pork was made the traditional way, marinated with salt, boiled and then hand-pulled. Just like you've seen on Fear Factor, there are a whack-load of preserved egg in the congee. Yes, it's black and moldy looking, especially with the green yolk; but trust me, it's not as bad as it looks. In fact, it has got this almost nutty flavour to it. I've had the sliced beef congee on previous visits and it's equally good. There is plenty of tender beef in the congee and thankfully, the beef isn't overly marinated with baking soda; thus retaining it's beef flavour and texture.

I consider the wonton noodles as some of the best in the GVRD. They hold up well to places like Ho Yuen Kee and Mak's. The noodles have a slightly chewy consistency; yet still soft at the same time. As you can tell from the picture, the wontons are made almost purely of crunchy shrimp. They were well-seasoned and cooked perfectly. Moreover, the soup was quite flavourful. Maybe a bit too flavourful to the point of it being salty. Milhouse went for the large Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice. For $8.00, it was a good value. When it arrived, even Milhouse agreed he couldn't finish it. Although the rice was seasoned quite well; the rice was not as firm as it should be. Furthermore, he kept getting fish cartilege and it annoyed him. And believe me, don't ever annoy Milhouse. He's a nice guy; but don't get him mad!

Boss Woman and Polka King shared 2 items - the Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp and Fried Rice Noodle with Beef. Although there was quite a bit of crunchy shrimp, the eggs were overcooked and looked more like fried eggs. They generally should be runny. However, the noodles were prefectly cooked being in one piece without getting mushy. Lots of tender beef were nested within the dish. In terms of ambience and service, it is a typical Chinese restaurant in this genre. It's functional and service is efficient and non-descript, when not overly busy. It's a consistent and predictable place to pick up some inexpensive Chinese eats.

The Good:
- Good tasting food, especially the congee and noodles
- Inexpensive
- Open late

The Bad:
- Disinterested service
- Usually very busy
- Lack of parking

Congee Noodle King on Urbanspoon