Sherman's Food Adventures: April 2009

Pho Dat Phu

*Restaurant is now closed*

Alright, I'll admit it. I only decided to go try this place because I thought the name was interesting. I guess Pho Shizzle would be a funnier name. But, I guess the best of them all was the iconic Pho Bich Nga on Victoria and Kingsway in Vancouver. Too bad it has long since closed. Actually if you pronounce Pho correctly, it's more like "pheu". In addition to the name, there are really not that many Vietnamese restaurants in North Delta. Actually, Pho Dat Phu is on the Surrey side of Scott Road. I've been getting my Pho phix, er... I mean fix at Stanley Restaurant up until now. So is Pho Dat Phu a serious contender?

Well, first of all, the restaurant itself is nothing much to look at, inside or out; however, not many Pho places are. Typically, you go in and order; then get your food in less than 5 minutes later. I finished my meal so quickly, I got back to work with 15 minutes to spare! Like I always do, I ordered the Pho with everything including tripe and tendon. Much like some other places, there is a special where you can add 2 spring rolls and pay an inclusive price of $8.50. The spring rolls were crispy and not oily at all; however, they were not very hot. The Pho itself wasn't bad. The soup was quite light and not too salty. There was an adequate amount of noodles and meat as well. The plate of bean sprouts was missing a few items though, namely the basil and the hot peppers. I found this very strange for a Pho place. Other than that, the meal was pretty good. The lady who served me (appears to be the owner) was very friendly and seemed to have a rapport with repeat customers. Will I return to try some of the other dishes? Pho sure!

The Good:
- It looks like Pho, it tastes like Pho
- Reasonable prices
- Friendly owner

The Bad:
- No basil and peppers???

Pho Dat Phu
9544 120th Street
Surrey, B.C.
604-581-0122

Business Hours:
10:00am - 9:00pm (Mon - Sat)
10:00am - 8:00pm (Sun)

Pho Dat Phu on Urbanspoon

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Harvey`s

So what can you find at some Home Depots in the GVRD? The newest Kohler facets? The latest Ralph Lauren paint colours? The new Weber stainless grills? Well, you probably will find these things; but you will also find the only locations of Harvey's in the lower mainland of Vancouver. Other than the YVR (Vancouver airport) location, Home Depots are the only home to Harvey's here. Some of you might wonder what is Harvey's, since it is mostly an Eastern Canada thing. I often wonder if the popularity of some places are due to their limited availability. This phenomena happened when Krispy Kreme was only available in the states. Everyone was flocking down to Burlington to pick up boxes of fried sweet dough. I was one of those people who would drive down there to do Krispy Kreme runs. I would show up at the border with 12 boxes of donuts. Imagine the border guard trying to understand that I just drove 45 minutes into the US to get donuts. Now that I have a Krispy Kreme within 5 minutes from where I work, I no longer eat them.

Does Harvey's benefit from this same phenomenon where you can only get their burgers when you decide to go buy some fertilizer or a compressor? It depends. I used to eat at Harvey's quite a bit when I was renovating our old house. It was so convenient and since I was at Home Depot anyways... I do a return visit to Harvey's in order to get a unbiased opinion about their food. Currently, there is this new Angus Mushroom Melt; but I really didn't want to eat that after I looked at the nutrition facts. Yes, after having the omelette bar at Horizon's, I was not going to take another cholesterol hit so soon. Rather, I went for the original burger with no cheese. Moreover, this way, I could taste the meat on it's own. I only went for a regular fries and a Diet Coke. One advantage Harvey's has over places like McDonald's and Wendy's is that they flame-broil their burgers. Yes, Burger King also does that; but don't get me started about the Whopper (ewww...).

For a fast-food joint, the burgers at Harvey's are pretty decent. In addition to being flame-broiled, the burgers are pretty simple along with the modest toppings. However, the toppings are proudly displayed in metal mixing bowls for you choose from. This is a Harvey's novelty since you can see your burger being made from start to finish. I like the fries from Harvey's as well. They are simple; yet crispy and plenty of potato-goodness. I guess this sums it up best about Harvey's - it's no non-sense burgers and fries that are pretty good for fast food.

The Good:
- Flame-broiled burgers
- You can get exactly what you want on your burger
- It's not McDonald's or the sort

The Bad:
- Only at Home Depot
- Being fast food, it doesn't compare to real burger joints

Harvey's
7350 120th Street
Surrey, B.C.
604-590-1353
www.harveys.ca

Harvey's on Urbanspoon

The Reef

The return of good weather in the GVRD also signals the start of softball season. Our team had it's first game today and we were a bit short. We did have enough players to field a team, but barely enough. We did our best, but lost 16-11. Uncharacteristically I had 2 home runs and 7 RBIs. I think the rest of the team was wondering why I don't do that more often. Well, I'm not sure if I can do it more often! LOL... After the game, we decided to go for something a bit different than our usual Asian-inspired meals. So off we headed to The Reef on Main street in Vancouver. There are actually 2 more locations on
Commercial Drive and in Victoria.

The Reef serves up Caribbean food in a casual atmosphere with plenty of loud music. 4 other members of my team joined me in this food adventure, giving me much more to talk about! We started off with the complimentary Johnny Cakes. They're essentially fried dough balls. Strange that such a simple thing can taste so good. After that we shared some Plantain Chips with Jerk Mayo. The chips were a bit under-fried, but the spicy jerk mayo made the dish a real winner. The starchiness of the plantain was given a real kick and smoothness from the mayo.

Judes had the Island Thyme Chicken which is marinated in coconut milk and slow cooked in Jamaican thyme. I tried the chicken and my first impression led me to believe it was overcooked. However, this is a result of slow-cooking it. Admittedly, it was a bit dry (it was the breast meat); yet with the hits of coconut and thyme, it tasted great.

I had the Maracus Bay Mahi Mahi which is pan-seared in lime and curry served on a bed of coconut rice. The star of the dish was actually the apple and cho cho (chayote) slaw. The crunchiness and tartness of the slaw really added a nice texture contrast between the soft fish and rice. The fish itself was a bit overcooked; yet it was still moist. I think they were a bit heavy with the lime because the fish became very tart, especially combined with the slaw. Fortunately, the smooth coconut rice brought the flavours down a level and everything seemed to work well once you got a little of everything in one bite.

Lionel Hutz had the Molassy Ribs which have been "loved" by chipotle and brown sugar. I tried this too and it was pretty spicy and rich. The meat was tender, yet not mushy. I thought the ribs were okay, but with such bold flavours, I really didn't taste much else. Lionel Hutz made a point to say that the coleslaw was sour. We weren't sure if it was supposed to taste that way or not. Boss Woman had the Curry Chicken and she didn't really like it. To me, it looked okay, and the mango chutney looked appetizing. However, she said the chicken was dry since they shredded it into the curry. I think it's supposed to be made this way; but I guess it wasn't the type of curry that she normally likes. Hey, you can't really argue with personal tastes.

Milhouse had the Jerk Salmon and it looked like it was a bit overcooked. Well, with anything in jerk spices, it'll always looked overcooked. However, the salmon looked cooked all the way through and if it was like my Mahi Mahi, then it might've been dry. Alas, Milhouse seemed like he enjoyed it, so I'm going to assume it was okay.

The Reef is definitely a distinctive place. The atmosphere was funky and decor was run-down
trendy. Moreover, the food is not something you can find readily in the GVRD. There were some issues with the food; but overall, I liked the flavours. To me, the food may have been overcooked; however, it could be that I'm used to and prefer just barely cooked meats. Despite this, I still enjoyed eating at The Reef.

The Good:
- Funky atmosphere
- Bold flavours
- Something a little bit different

The Bad:
- Overcooked food?
- Sometimes flavours were too bold, overpowered the dish

The Reef
4172 Main Street
Vancouver, B.C.
604-874-5375
www.thereefrestaurant.com

Reef on Urbanspoon

Nando`s Chicken

Time to fire up the grill! It's BBQ season! I guess it isn't much of a big deal in places such as the Southern US; but it is for us in the GVRD. Actually, I've already barbecued a dozen times already, even during our chilly spring. I have barbecued ribs, pork chops, strip loin, burgers, salmon and chicken. Mmmm. BBQ chicken... The thought of BBQ chicken made my mouth water. Hold on! But I was at work, how am I going to satisfy the BBQ chicken urge. If you know me, when I start thinking about food, it won't go away!

Searching for BBQ chicken (can't believe I'm on a BBQ chicken quest), it led me to Nando's at Strawberry Hill. This is not the first time I've been to Nando's; but I haven't been in quite awhile. I took this opportunity to use my Entertainment coupon. I don't even know why I get the book, I always forget to use it! Don't get the wrong idea, I didn't get 2-for-1 to eat all by myself. Actually I could if I were really hungry; but instead I split it with a co-worker.

So what exactly is Nando's? Well, it's essentially African-inspired Portuguese BBQ chicken. If you check out their website, you can read all about it's history. The Peri-Peri hot sauces used at Nando's comes from African Birds Eye Chili and it has been said to be an aphrodisiac. Hmmm... I'll leave it at that. Anyways, I went for the Double-Leg meal and chose the Spiced Rice as my side. Since I was on my lunch break, I decided to go for medium heat for my Peri-Peri chicken. I didn't want to have a fire in my stomach for the afternoon.

Some of you might be wondering what is so special about Nando's chicken. After all, how hard is it to barbecue some chicken? Well, it's not really how they barbecue their chicken that sets them apart. Rather, it's all in the sauce. The fresh (never frozen) chicken is marinaded in the Peri-Peri sauce for 24 hours and then barbecued. As you can imagine, the chicken is quite flavourful and spicy (you can choose the level of heat). I've had the spiciest version once and it's actually quite hot.

I personally like Nando's chicken, it's generally quite tender and never lacking in spice. The only thing that keeps me from going more often is the price. It's actually quite pricey for this class of restaurant. Moreover, for the expert barbecuers out there, you can probably make a pretty mean BBQ chicken at home too.

The Good:
- It's a BBQ chicken place and the chicken is good
- Lots of spice and heat
- Peri-Peri sauce is good stuff

The Bad:
- Pricey

Nando's
#144 - 12101 72nd Avenue
Surrey, B.C.
604-502-8010
www.nandoscanada.com

Nando's Chicken on Urbanspoon

Saint Germain Bakery

I'm not really enamored in visiting Metrotown on a Sunday. It's usually a madhouse and I'm quite crowd-adverse. However, everywhere I need to visit was at Metrotown. First I stopped at EB Games and traded in a couple of games. I really love the TIV (trade-in value) at EB Games, it allows me to get some new games for ones I've finished with. After that, I stopped by Stupidstore (I really mean Superstore...) to pick up a few items. On my way out after paying at the self-serve kiosks (are they really all that much faster?), I was face-to-face with Saint Germain Bakery. Oh! Wasn't I on a mission to find the best Chinese buns and pastries? Hey! I have my camera with me (what a coincidence...). I've had stuff from Saint Germain before, but it has been awhile. So I zip over to the counter and only got 12 items. I guess I felt guilty after my 6 egg breakfast at Horizons. After getting over the sticker shock, I quickly made my selections. I got BBQ Pork Buns, Pineapple Buns, Egg Tarts, Ham & Egg Bun and a Strawberry/Lychee Mousse Cake. The service at Saint Germain was outstanding. I know, great service at a bakery, how exciting... Well, with the indifferent attitude I got at Anna's Cake House, this was good!

The first thing you'll notice with the pastries at Saint Germain is that they are very nice looking. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better looking pineapple bun at one of the large chain bakeries. It's uniformly round (because of the paper liners) and the topping covers the entire bun. Does this translate into a better tasting product? Well, I think it's a matter of personal preference. Taking a bite into the pineapple bun, the topping was not too sweet; rather it was delicate tasting. The same could be said about the BBQ pork bun. It was so light tasting, it was bordering on bland. The egg tart wasn't bad, it had an extremely thin crust which is slightly flaky. The egg custard was smooth and lightly sweetened. However, the strawberry and lychee mousse was quite sweet.

For me, the pastries at Saint Germain are a bit too delicate. I much prefer the old school looking and tasting pastries at New Town Bakery. However, if you like delicate tasting pastries, then Saint Germain is not a bad choice. But, you must take into consideration that you are paying much more for it.

The Good:
- Products are made with care
- Great service
- Pastries are not too sweet

The Bad:
- Expensive
- Pastry dough is a bit chewy
- Flavours are a bit too delicate, bordering on bland

Saint Germain Bakery
#1144 - 4720 Kingsway
Burnaby, B.C.
604-438-8182
www.saintgermainbakery.com

Saint Germain Bakery (Metrotown) on Urbanspoon

Brunch @ Horizons

*As of 4/15/2010, Horizon's will be closed indefinitely due to a fire*

So where can you get 221% of your cholesterol intake for the day in one meal? McD's? KFC? Krispy Kreme? Probably... Well, there are a lot of places you can do that. Today, DT and I went to get our weekly fill of cholesterol in the form of Horizon's omelette bar. For $18, you can have as many omelettes as you want. Yes, that's right, you can get all-you-can-eat cholesterol that can probably last you for the month. Wait, there's more! You have a choice of shrimp, chirizo, smoked salmon, bacon, ham, red onions, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and cheese to increase the cholesterol levels in the omelette. Oh and did I mention they fry up the omelette in a generous amount of clarified butter?

Vandelay and Donna Chang came along for the brunch; but didn't have the omelette bar. I guess they are conscious about their cholesterol. Wait, scratch that. They love LA Fried Chicken, I think that's just as bad. So, we met up at Horizons on a glorious Sunday morning. The main attraction of Horizons is the view, and on a sunny day, it's hard to beat. The Salmon House on the Hill has probably a better view and also has the same omelette bar. Both restaurants belong to the same restaurant group, including Aqua Riva.

We were seated right at the window and the view was spectacular, too bad there are a few trees in the way. Ensure that you make a reservation ahead of time to guarantee a window seat. Sitting in the middle of the restaurant is not quite the same. As you know DT and I had the omelette bar. Of course it would be good manners to wait for Vandelay and Donna to get their food first before we attacked the omelette bar. But, we have no manners, so we went to get our cholesterol. Up at the omelette bar, there is a selection of freshly-baked pastries and fresh fruit. I guess the fruit helps lessen the guilt? I particularly like the savory cheese and chive scones. After filling up your plate full of pastries made with butter, you can choose the ingredients for your omelettes. You can watch the ingredients sizzle in butter while the chef creates your custom omelette. There is one caveat though. Don't expect the omelette to be cooked to perfection. The chef is usually too busy making 3 omelettes at a time to make it perfectly fluffy. I find that the eggs are always cooked a bit too much. With that being said, it's still pretty good eats.

Vandelay had the Eggs Benny and it was pretty good. The eggs were poached perfectly with the whites cooked and the yolks runny. It rested on a piece of Black Forrest ham and focaccia bread with a Bearnaise sauce on top. The home fried potatoes were not as crispy as they looked; however, they tasted very good. Lots of natural potato taste. Donna Chang had the blueberry pancakes. They were fluffy and full of blueberries. It was accompanied by honey sweetened whipped cream and syrup.

Service was pretty good, we were never left with an empty glass and finished plates were removed promptly. However, there were a few times where the service wasn't as good. On a previous visit for brunch, many of the servers were chatting it up at the bar and seemed like they forgot to check on their tables. I've been to Horizons many times before, for dinner and brunch. Food is decent; but you'll never confuse it with newer upscale restaurants in downtown.

Much like The Cannery, the food is a bit more conservative; yet if you accept it for what it is, it's more than acceptable. If you are looking for cutting edge fine dining, you might be disappointed. However, most of these other restaurants do not reside on the side of a mountain. The location of Horizons is a huge plus. Right now, there is a 3-course special for $29.95, this is cheaper than eating at Milestone's. Sure, the food may not wow you, but it's not exactly terrible either. I do think that their regular prices are not reflective of the food; but their special pricing makes up for that. Oh, and for the record, DT and I had 442% of our daily intake of cholesterol.

The Good:
- Outstanding view
- Plenty of parking
- Comfortable and spacious dining room

The Bad:
- At regular price, the food may not be up to par
- Service is hit and miss

Horizons
100 Centennial Way
Burnaby, B.C.
604-299-1155
www.horizonsrestaurant.com

Horizons on Urbanspoon

Lao Shan Dong

If you can remember my previous post about Tomoya, I really wanted to visit Lao Shan Dong instead. We didn't know they closed early on Sundays. Well, here is attempt #2; mind you, I've been here lots before. Lao Shan Dong shares a parking lot with Tomoya; yes the same small, narrow one. I often wonder why they make parking lots so narrow, when some people obviously cannot maneuver in them. This is also the case of the Crystal Mall parking lot. I guess it's for economic reasons - get as many people in as possible. So Viv squeezes our SUV into a tiny space and she barely was able to get out herself, luckily she's petite.

The menu at Lao Shan Dong is pretty simple. They have a few noodle choices, dumplings and some small side dishes to choose from. We didn't feel like having a bowl of noodles each, so we decided to share a large bowl. We also got a small order of boiled dumplings and 3 side dishes: Beef Shank, Pickled Cabbage and Dry Tofu. The large bowl of noodles is more than enough for 2 people, especially if you order other items like we did.

The food came out fast and furious. I believe we got all of our items within 5 minutes of ordering. Of course the side dishes were quick because they are all pre-made and displayed up at the front of the restaurant. The beef shank was sliced razor-thin and topped with a thick soy-based sauce. It was pleasant to eat; however, the sauce was really salty. The dry tofu was also topped with the same sauce and all we could taste was salt. The pickled cabbage was lightly flavoured with vinegar, sugar and peppers. It was a good compliment with the spicy beef noodles. The boiled dumplings is an interesting dish. At first glance, it looks boring and bland. Also, the skin is a bit thick and the meat filling is not very flavourful. Okay, you're probably thinking that I don't like the dumplings. On the contrary, I do! When dipped into a mixture of soy sauce and white vinegar (you can adjust this any which way you want), it really works. It's also a bargain - 10 pcs for $5.

Now the main attraction, the beef noodles. As mentioned, the bowl of noodles is quite large, even the small bowl. The broth is flavourful; yet not overly salty. I like the addition of pickled vegetables which gives the soup some zing. It also gives a texture contrast to the noodles and beef. The noodles themselves are soft, yet still retains its elasticity. There were an abundance of noodles and beef in the broth. The beef flank was tender; however, since it's a relatively lean cut of meat, it can be a bit chewy. The beef noodles are good at Lao Shan Dong and stand up well to other places in the GVRD. Service, if you can imagine is hurried and efficient. you won't get much in the way of chit-chat; but this place is not about that. You can sit down, order, eat and leave within 30 minutes no problem.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Large bowls of good beef noodle
- Curiously good plain ol' dumplings

The Bad:
- Side dishes are so-so
- Seating is tight
- Lineups are common

Lao Shan Dong
4887 Kingsway
Burnaby, B.C.
604-439-9588

Business Hours:
11:00am - 9:30pm (Mon - Thur)
11:00am - 10:00pm (Fri & Sat)
11:00am - 3:00pm (Sun)

Lao Shan Dong Homemade Noodle House on Urbanspoon

White Spot (North Road)

White Spot? You might be wondering why I chose such a conservative, unadventurous place for dinner. Well, if you read my previous post on Aquarius Bakery & Cafe, you will know that it was certainly an adventure, in more ways than one. I know that I wouldn't be hassled at White Spot for taking any pictures, even if it is close to Cumpari's and Anna's (I had picture-taking problems there too). Besides, I had my whole family with me, I wouldn't want to be "arrested" (see Aquarius again) for taking pictures of food?!?!

White Spot has been a favourite of mine since I was a little kid (can you say Pirate Pack?) going to the Oakridge location when the Oakridge Centre was an outdoor mall! Yes, an outdoor mall... in Vancouver. Go figure... Rain! Hello? I also went to the original Granville location before it burnt down. Hmmm... Am I feeling old??? Anyways, now that I'm in Burnaby, I go to either the North Road or the Lougheed and Gilmore location. I'm not particularly enamored to either of them, but they are close to me. When I go to White Spot, it's usually for their burgers. Yes I know, they are not very big, there is waaaay too much mayo on them and the patties are kind of thin (even the Bigger Better ones). Well, for some strange reason, it reminds me of my youth (damn, I'm using that cheesy Iron Chef line again). There are very few things in British Columbia that have the appeal of a White Spot burger. It's messy; yet satisfying. Even their Triple-O sauce is not a really big deal; after all it's just hamburger relish. I personally wouldn't rate it against places like Moderne, Vera's, Hamburger Heaven, Fatburger and Burgers Etc. It's not the same type of burger. There's a certain "je ne sais quoi" quality to the food.

Now that I have completely confused you with my pathetic explanation as to why I like White Spot burgers, let me continue my rambling... The fries that come with the burger are really not even all that crispy, but I like them. Think of Moderne Burger fries, but soggier. They're really good with a side of Triple-O. Yes, it's heart attack on a plate. Viv always looks at me in disgust as I slather each fry with mayo and relish. Add a Classic Plate or have the Grill & Greens and you get treated to Zoo Sticks. Fried zucchini and ranch dip never tasted so good. Maybe get some Dippin' Chicken or a clam chowder for a starter. Too bad they got rid of the fried mushrooms - those were good! Instead of having a burger, there are the ol' standbys, the CBC (no not the TV station), Chicken Broccoli and Cheese or the Turkey Dinner. Don't go for the spot size, the regular size is more than enough. However, every time I go, some of my turkey slices are nuked beyond edibility.

Now here I come to rain on the foodie nostalgia. White Spot has gone through a few changes over the years which included the interior decor and the menu. They began doing theme features that celebrated different cultures and more recently; local celebrity chefs. In my opinion, do yourself a favour and avoid these dishes. They are not very good. Usually, they cost $15 or more and are not executed well. If you want Thai food, go to a Thai restaurant, not White Spot. If I'm going to spend $15+ for a meal, I'm going somewhere more authentic and not a chain restaurant. However, if you want a really messy, not overly big burger that is still reasonably-priced, White Spot is the place.

The Good:
- You know what you are getting
- Still one of the least expensive chain restaurants
- Good for families

The Bad:
- Hit and miss theme menus
- Expensive theme menus
- Why do they microwave their turkey?

White Spot
4075 North Road
Burnaby, B.C.
604-421-4620
whitespot.com

White Spot on Urbanspoon