Sherman's Food Adventures: May 2009

Jugo Juice

How come the weather is always so nice in May? It seems like every year it rains like no tomorrow in April, then gets nice in May. April showers bring May flowers? Okay, then why does it start to rain again in June? Right, we live on the wet coast. Taking advantage of the nice weather, I switch into summer mode and get into my shorts and sandals. Excellent, now onto the mall... Mall? On a nice day like today? Trust me, I'm not even sure why I'm at the mall. One thing is for sure, at least I can get a nice cold refreshment here. We were considering Orange Julius; but we really don't like the last 1/3rd of the drink since it becomes a foamy mess. Also, it ain't cheap. Too bad there isn't Jamba Juice up here in Canada (yet). However, we do have Booster Juice and Jugo Juice. It ain't Jamba Juice, but it'll have to do.

I've always been a bit weary of Jugo Juice. It's probably the brand loyalty and familiarity of Jamba Juice. It's almost like, "How dare they try to copy them!" I guess it could be the Marble Slab and Coldstone Creamery debate as well. Anyways, we picked up a Powerzone Jugo Juice, which contains strawberries, pineapple, tropical nectar and orange juice. I'll admit it. This is probably the 5th time I've had Jugo Juice and it is indeed growing on me. If Jamba Juice never existed, I'd probably like it unconditionally.

Well, my daughter seemed to like Jugo Juice unconditionally. She kept sipping away at it like there was no tomorrow. This is exactly how my son reacted to Jamba Juice when we visited my cousins in San Fran, 3 years ago. They do say children are the best indicators of honest opinions. Therefore, I guess there really isn't that big of a difference other than the name.

The Good:
- It's supposed to be a bit healthier than other drinks (there is quite a bit of sugar though)
- You get your servings of fruit!
- It's refreshing

The Bad:
- It's a bit filling
- It's not really that cheap

Jugo Juice on Urbanspoon

Pho 101

Alright, class is in session. You are all registered in Pho 101. So what is exactly is Pho? Well, it is a Vietnamese dish which consists of rice noodles, thinly sliced beef (and other beef products) resting in a broth comprised of beef bones, oxtails, charred onion and spices. This broth can take a very long time to prepare, sometimes taking the entire day. The origins of Pho is a bit unclear. Some say it originated from the French (who occupied Vietnam) dish Pot-au-Feu. Others claim it was Chinese influence since Pho could be derived from "Fun" (Chinese for noodles). Whatever the case, it is a very satisfying and delicious dish from the Vietnam.

There are a multitude of Vietnamese noodle joints all over the GVRD, each with their different spin on the broth. Some are a bit richer and salty; some are a bit lighter and clear. Today, we decided to visit a brand new Pho restaurant on Hastings in Burnaby. The restaurant is aptly named Pho 101. Yes, there are a lot of Pho restaurants with numbers in their names; but this is the first time I've seen a triple digit number in the name. I guess they are running out of numbers to use? What will come next? Pho 666? Could be some hot and spicy Pho! Pho 101 has a huge advantage in its location. There is not another Pho restaurant nearby for at least 20+ blocks. Thus, there is no competition. Moreover, it seems like they wanted to go for a more updated decor and style. It's definitely a lot more clean and modern than most of the transplanted Pho restaurants. These other Pho restaurants do not renovate and it is extremely odd to eat Vietnamese food amongst Italian or Greek decor.

Luckily we arrived early, the place filled up pretty quick; partly because it has no competition and it's also a very small restaurant. Naturally, I ordered Pho and picked the most expensive one at $10.00 for a large bowl. This is probably one of the most expensive bowls of Pho I've ever seen. However, it comes with a side of thinly-sliced raw Filet Mignon which you can place into the hot broth. I was a bit skeptical of the meat, wondering if it was really going to be good. Yet, it was soft and tender, even after sitting in the broth for awhile. The broth itself was rich tasting and not oily at all. It was bordering on salty without being so. This was a solid bowl of Pho, if not a bit small compared to places like Pho Hong and Pho 99.

Italian Stallion and Wolvie joined us for this meal and the last time they dined with us was at Memphis Blues in December of last year. I guess we'll make a date for December of this year for our next meal then. JS had the Fried Chicken Leg and Rice. It's a simple dish really; but it's pretty good if you didn't want to go for Pho. Chicken skin was crispy and the meat was juicy and tender. However, LS stated that she preferred having the noodles. I would concur, especially since the chicken dish costs more than the Pho.

We also ordered a Vietnamese sub for good measure and it was actually pretty good. Crispy French bread and fresh fillings including what we figured was jellied pork rinds made for some good eating. So did Pho 101 make the grade? I would say yes. The food was made with care and the service was good.

The Good:
- Pho is good
- Food is made with care
- Good service

The Bad:
- Extremely small restaurant, tight seating arrangements
- They didn't turn on the A/C and it was boiling while eating hot soup

Business Hours:
11:00am - 8:00pm (7 days a week)

Pho 101 on Urbanspoon

Excellent Tofu & Snack

Again, I have to credit Wendy's Boyfriend (Eat 'n About) for this one. She/boyfriend and Ben (Chowtimes) are great resources for dining in Richmond. We decided to get some dessert after Top Shanghai. After reading Wendy's post about Excellent Tofu & Snack, I was anxious to try some of their desserts. The only thing that worried me was the parking lot at Central Square. It's extremely small and there are quite a few businesses here, which include Ninkazu and Lido. Luckily for us, there was a parking spot available immediately as I pulled into the parking lot.

Excellent Tofu is not much to look at outside and really, it ain't too much to look at inside either. It's essentially a really long counter with a few small tables behind it. No matter, we were here for a quick, cheap dessert; not expecting anything fancy. As Wendy mentioned, the old guy who runs the place has impeccable English. We actually ordered in Chinese to his son (?). Viv and I decided to share a Grass Jelly & Tofu Pudding dessert, Fruit Cocktail Tofu Pudding and a Red Bean Pastry.

I really liked both desserts, especially since I could adjust the flavour with simple syrup, ginger syrup and brown sugar provided. I'm a big fan of the grass jelly, despite it being a bit bitter. This is easily corrected with copious amounts of ginger syrup. Mind you, the red bean pastry was not so good. It was kept in a warm pan and it was nuked for our dining pleasure. If you can imagine, this is not a good thing. The whole thing was very dry and had that "sitting around for awhile" quality to it. Next time, we'll stick with the tofu desserts.

The Good:
- Fresh tofu products and desserts
- Inexpensive
- Its got that "dive" quality to it

The Bad:
- Don't eat the pastries
- Not a place to take a first date

Business Hours:
10:30am - 10:00pm (Mon, Tues & Thu)
12:00pm - 10:00pm (Wed)
10:30am - 12:00am (Fri & Sat)
10:30am - 11:00pm (Sun)

Excellent Tofu & Snacks Ltd on Urbanspoon

Top Shanghai

ET and Christina (Doesn't TaZte Like Chicken) swore they would never return to Top Shanghai to eat ever again, despite the food being pretty good. They explained that the service is just plain horrible. Well, I can definitely relate. There are a few restaurants I have not set foot in again due to horrendous service, namely Po King and Yan's Garden. My point is, if I am spending my hard-earned money to dine out, why should I be subjected to abuse? However, as ET remarked, people are masochists and continue to dine at these places. Well, being a masochist for one night, I took the family to Top Shanghai to see what the fuss was all about.

So here I was in Richmond, AGAIN! This time, there were all sorts of near misses, slow drivers and people who wanted to cut me off. Phew! I thought something was amiss, since it was so pleasant the last few times. Everything is normal again! Upon entering the restaurant, we were quite shocked to see a table smack dab in front of the entrance. Seriously, the person sitting next to the door would be in harms way of wayward handbags, diaper bags and SLR cameras on shoulder straps. That was just a preview of how tightly packed the tables were. Literally, if you sat on the inside, you would not have a hope in the world in getting out to use the washroom. A comfortable restaurant this is not.

We had plenty of time to look over the menu because my parents were running a bit late in meeting us. I couldn't contain myself and burst out laughing at the menu. Yes, it was the case of the misspelled Chinese menu that seems to afflict ALL Chinese restaurants. The more notable errors were Fried Pork Bum, Homemade Bean Crud and Fried Prok. Spell check anyone? Imagine what an unsuspecting person would think whilst reading this menu? This reminds me of the time when I used to live in Coquitlam. There was this market that used to be near the London Drugs (now Michael's) and they sold live seafood. Advertised proudly and boldly in the front window was LIVE CRAP. Okay, I'm not sure if it was supposed to be live crab or live carp. Whatever it was, I went in and told someone that they were selling very fresh garbage.

Okay, we avoided ordering any bums or crud and settled on Chicken in Wine Sauce, Stewed Pork Belly, Szcheuan Tendon & Noodles in Soup, Hot & Sour Soup, Shanghai Noodles in Soup, Xiao Long Bao and Pan Fried Buns. The food actually came out in that order, making no sense whatsoever. I think we got the chicken first because it was a cold dish. No matter, it was pretty good. Since the chicken was free-range, the meat was lean and a bit chewy. I happen to like this texture and combined with the strong wine flavour, it was a winner. Next came one of Top Shanghai's signature dishes. I ordered this on the recommendation of Ho Yummy. In Chinese, it's called "Dong Bao Yeuk". Actually it's named after the person who created this dish, so there really isn't an English translation. What it is will scare some people. It's essentially a big side of pork belly that has been braised gently. What you get is a very tender piece of pork belly. It's extremely sinful; but so good! I guess Vandelay should've been here to eat it too, seeing how he loves pork fat!

The tendon noodles arrived next and it was not very good. First, the noodles were clumped together and a bit too al dente. Second, the soup was flavourless despite appearing to be quite rich in colour. Third, the tendon was not very tender. I'm not sure why we got our soup 4 dishes into our meal and after a noodle soup too?!?! Anyways, the soup was jam-packed with ingredients. However, it was neither very sour or hot. It was a good "lots-of-stuff' soup; rather than a hot & sour soup. Fortunately, the Shanghai noodles were quite good. The soup was flavourful without being salty and there was plenty of pork, cabbage and spinach on top of the noodles.

The juicy buns (xiao long bao) arrived nearly at the end of the meal (who was expediting these dishes???) and they were good. The large dumplings were full of broth and well-seasoned meat encased in a paper-thin wrapper. I liked how they placed each bun on a slice of turnip. This made removing the buns a much easier task. Last to arrive was the sang jeen bao (pan-fried buns). I give it high marks for a very crispy bottom and actually having juice inside. I give it really poor marks for being a bit too heavy on the dough.

I really didn't mind the service all that much. It's probably because I didn't experience much of it. It's basic and I guess we can't expect too much. I enjoyed my meal; but it was not as good as I would've hoped. It's probably because I came in with high expectations. One thing I really didn't enjoy was the proximity of the tables. It was bordering on ridiculous. Also, they really should get a spell checker for their menu. What would they do if someone insisted they get the bums and the crud???

The Good:
- Reasonable prices
- Decent food, if not unspectacular
- Nice pictures of the food everywhere (and I mean everywhere)

The Bad:
- Minimal service
- Very tight seating arrangement
- Strange expedition of dishes

Business Hours:
10:30am - 10:30pm (7 days a week)

Top Shanghai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Tomahawk

Today we were out early in West Van for another kiddie party. Did all of my friends have kids at the same time??? Seems like every kid's birthday is in May, including my own! I considered visiting one of my favourite places to dine on a sunny weekend - Salmon House on the Hill. However, I wasn't sure if the kiddies would actually eat anything there. Well, there is this one place that I've heard about practically all my life and I've never actually tried it. This place is the Tomahawk, which has been around since 1926.

Once again, Vandelay and Donna Chang join us in the culinary adventure. Inside the Tomahawk, there is an impressive collection of First Nations art. I didn't take any pictures of the art out of respect for their picture-taking policy. For insurance purposes, they do not want people randomly snapping pictures of their irreplaceable carvings and other artifacts. However, they were more than happy to let me take photos of the food. This was after I asked politely and handed them my Moo card. These cards do come in handy!

Vandelay only had one thing on his mind - mmm... bacon... When he heard about the Yukon-style Bacon & Eggs, he just wanted to have it, especially since there are 5 (!) slices of Yukon-style bacon. If you've ever had De Bacon at De Dutch, then you'll get an idea of what Yukon bacon is like. Served with the 5 slices of bacon were a heaping pile of hash browns, 2 eggs and 2 slices of Klondike toast. He seemed to enjoy his bacon since he really didn't say much while eating. Maybe he was experiencing pork fat overload since he had the full fat pork treatment at Kintaro only 2 days earlier.

For me, I only had one choice in mind - Oysters on Toast. The fact that it sounded a bit strange made me want to order it. What I got were 6 fried oysters on top of 2 slices of Yukon bacon and Klondike Toast. A heaping pile of hash browns occupied the rest of the plate. The oysters were good; however, the batter was either too thick or over fried. It was a bit too crunchy. I liked the bacon and the hash browns; yet I could've done without the toast. I'm not sure if it's only me; but the Klondike toast is very dry. I had to get a side of butter to somehow moisten the toast to no avail.

Viv had the half order of the Eggs Florentine. The egg was poached perfectly and the cheese sauce wasn't too salty; yet it was average in her books. Donna Chang had the Organic Beef Pattie Melt. Although it didn't look all that impressive, she said it was good - bread was crunchy and the meat moist. My son had the kids meal with Grilled Cheese. He seemed to enjoy it, probably because they used real cheddar cheese. That is a rarity these days, most places use processed cheese.

Despite the average food, I still like the Tomahawk. It is something a bit different and eclectic. If you look at a place like De Dutch, it is something a bit different too. But, it costs more than Tomahawk and I'm not sure if the food is any better. I look at Tomahawk as a whole experience and it's got good service, an interesting dining space and a "je ne sais quoi" quality about it. In fact, it's exactly the type of place that would be featured in the show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives".

The Good:
- It's got tradition and character
- Something a bit different
- Service is good

The Bad:
- Food is a bit average

Business Hours:
8:00am - 9:00pm (Sun - Thu)
8:00am - 10:00pm (Fri & Sat)

Tomahawk Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Mondo Gelato

Let's see, I ate at Asian Spice for lunch today, then Irashai's open house for some appies followed by a big bowl of Ramen at Kintaro. Do you think I was done for the day? Of course not! Seeing that I had put an hour in the meter and we finished our ramen in about 30 minutes, we had time to kill. I persuaded everyone, including Viv (who was very full and giving me dirty looks), to go for some gelato. We strolled down Denman all the way to Mondo Gelato. I haven't been to Mondo in awhile; but I do remember that they made good gelato.

Mondo has a modest selection of gelato, soy gelato, sorbetto and frozen yogurt. I believe that this is the way to go for a Gelato shop. It is much easier to maintain quality control when there are fewer flavours to produce. Also, the freshness of the product is not compromised since a large selection means that some flavours may not sell as well. I think La Casa Gelato and Amato suffer from this problem, especially La Casa.

I convinced Viv to get 2 scoops to share, all the while getting more dirty looks. We choose Pistacio Gelato and Grapefruit Sorbetto. One thing that stood out immediately was the strong, bold flavour of the gelato and sorbetto. This is probably the best pistacio gelato I've ever had. It really felt like I was eating pistacios because not only did I get the natural flavour; I also got hits of roasted aroma in every scoop. The same could be said about the grapefruit, the flavours were intense. Mind you, the sorbetto was a bit on the icy side. However, the gelato was smooth as silk, not icy bit like Amato. Mondo Gelato is one of my favourites, along with Vivo! and Cumpari's. They are all smooth, packed with flavour and reasonably-priced. Can't go wrong with any of them.

The Good:
- Plenty of flavour
- Smooth gelato
- Reasonably-priced ($3.75 for 2 scoops)

The Bad:
- Small selection (can be a good thing too)

Business Hours:
11:00am - 10:00pm (Sun - Thu)
11:00am - 10:30pm (Fri & Sat)

Mondo Gelato (Denman) on Urbanspoon

Kintaro Ramen

Free food and booze. This is a rarity these days. There is no free lunch in this world; except at Irashai Grill's open house today. They were opening their doors to promote their food and of course, the restaurant. I still think they should drop the sushi and go purely Izakaya. Their tapas are some of the best in town (at a price of course). But that's just me, what do I know? Well, I know how to chew. That's essentially what I have been doing non-stop for the last little while. Mind you, after the initial rush of food at 5:00pm sharp, the food came slowly. I don't think the kitchen was able to keep up with the mass of people milling around in the restaurant. Viv and I, joined by Vandelay and Donna Chang, decided that we had sampled our fair share and decided to kick it. I think we left at around 6:00 and the place was so packed, it was hard to move about. It's too bad really, I was really looking forward to meeting up with fellow bloggers Gigi (Ho Yummy) and Kevin (604Foodtography). Alas, I don't really like crowds (especially hungry mobs), so we headed to Kintaro Ramen as a follow-up to our appies at Irashai Grill.

We were expecting the usual lineup at Kintaro; but surprisingly, there was none! We were seated promptly at the counter. Being at the counter made giggly like a little schoolgirl, that's probably why I opted to order the Cheese Ramen. Apparently, on the menu it states that the "ladies just lo-o-ove it!". Er... sure... All the others were a bit boring and ordered the Miso Ramen. However, Vandelay did the "clog-your-arteries" full fat broth, full fat pork version. Yes, at Kintaro, you can choose how you like your broth (rich, medium or light) and fatty or lean pork. Watching the ramen chef make our noodles was pretty cool, especially when he skimmed off fat from the boiling pot of broth to specifically place in Vandelay's bowl. I was able to get a picture of the fatty pork before it was placed in the boiling broth. That was a lot of lard there!

I can honestly say that the broth at Kintaro had plenty of depth. Even Viv's light broth was plenty flavourful; however, it gets really good if you add pork fat. I chose the medium and you can really taste the pork flavour. Donna Chang noted that some people don't like the "porky" flavour here. For me, I think it's perfect, other than being a bit salty. It's slightly sweet, aromatic and rich. There was no shortage of al dente ramen noodles, pork, corn, bean sprouts, menma (bamboo shoots) and onion nestled in the broth. I actually got the lean pork and it had plenty of meat flavour; but Vandelay's fatty pork was outstanding. The slightly melted fat added another depth of pork flavour which only pork fat lovers could appreciate.

For my cheese ramen, the melted cheese (mozzarella and edam?) really worked. Every chopstick full of ramen was laced with stringy cheese. However, the abundance of cheese really made the bowl of noodles heavy and filling. It was difficult to finish at the very end. Throughout the meal, the service was solid. The servers kept checking with us and we never had an empty cup. The restaurant is really small, typical of Japanese noodle houses. You really do not want to stay long, especially right next to the boiling broth.

The Good:
- Big portions (pork is outstanding)
- Hearty & rustic broth
- Good service

The Bad:
- Small restaurant, not a place to linger
- Long lineups

Business Hours:
12:00pm - 11:00pm (Tues - Sun)

Kintaro Ramen on Urbanspoon

Asian Spice

Having recently just dined on Southern Indian cuisine, I met up with Toolman today for some Chinese Indian cuisine at Asian Spice. This particular cuisine is popular in Calcutta where there is a substantial Chinese population. Many of these Chinese originated from Hakka and Canton. Essentially, the cuisine is unmistakeably Chinese with the addition of Indian spices. Hakka Masti and Green Lettuce are 2 other Chinese Indian restaurants along Scott Road. Much like all the other restaurants in the area, there are lunch specials at Asian Spice. For $6.50, you get a choice of entree, rice, and soup or pop. We decided to order 3 meals and share.

10 minutes into our meal, we were surrounded by L.A. Matheson students like a swarm of locusts. Apparently, they take advantage of the specials during their lunch hour. Mind you, they ate and left within 10 minutes. I've never seen people eat a plate of food that fast before. I had once called in to Asian Spice inquiring about their hours and the lady did warn me this happens every lunch hour. So the tip here is to not come here until after 11:45am. However, I didn't really have a choice since my lunch hour is at the same time.

Toolman and I ordered the Chili Prawns, Manchurian Beef and Singapore Fried Noodles. To start, we had the Hot & Sour Soup. This is one of the spiciest hot and sour soups I've ever had. Since I like spice, I really enjoyed it, despite the colour being a bright orange-red. Toolman took the entire meal to finish his, he thought it was a bit too spicy. The fried noodles were pretty standard, which is actually a good thing. It looked and tasted how it should be and that's an achievement for restaurants located out here. Overall, it was pretty mild with plenty of egg, shrimp, onions, cabbage and peppers. The beef dish was slightly disappointing. It was a bit bland and completely overwhelmed by the taste of cilantro. I'm not sure why restaurants use so much cilantro because it is very pungent. A little goes a long way. On the other hand, the chili prawns were fabulous. The sauce had just the right amount of heat. The prawns were big and cooked perfectly. The sauce went really well with the rice.

Toolman and I thought that the lunch specials were a an excellent value. Moreover, the dishes are a slight departure from the usual. Coupled this with good service, Asian Spice is a decent place to go for spicy food.


The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Flavours are bold
- Friendly service

The Bad:
- Flavours are bold (for those who like mild food)
- Invasion of high school students during lunch

Business Hours:
11:00am - 10:00pm (Mon - Thu)
11:00am - 10:30pm (Fri)
12:00pm - 10:30pm (Sat)
12:00pm - 10:00pm (Sun)

Asian Spice on Urbanspoon

Mayuri Indian Cuisine

Butter Chicken, Palak Paneer, Tandoori Chicken and Aloo Gobi are some of the more recognizable dishes found in Indian restaurants in the GVRD. What many people do not know is that this is only a very small representation of Indian food. Many of the immigrants from Indian were from the Punjab, which is really a very small area in northern India. Consequently, the majority of Indian cuisine in the GVRD is reflective of the population. This is also very similar to Chinese cuisine where it is predominantly Cantonese food, since many of the early immigrants were from Hong Kong. Trying to find southern Indian cuisine is a bit of a challenge. It's out there; you just need to know where to look for it. Nikita emailed me a few days ago asking if I wanted to go for lunch at Mayuri. I've heard of this place before. It serves both northern and southern Indian cuisine. However, I only had eyes on the Dosas, a specifically southern food. Dosas are essentially crepes made with lentils and rice flour. They can be served plain or filled with practically anything.

Mayuri is located in a very odd place, right smack in the middle of a predominantly industrial complex. If Nikita hadn't invited me to go, I would not know it existed. We had a bit of a problem deciding on the many different dosas available. Alas, Nikita noticed that there as a platter on the last page which included a Masala Dosa, Vada (Savory Lentil Donut), Idli (Steamed Rice Cake) and Lentil Soup. We both ordered this not knowing how much food it really was. When the platter arrived, the dosa was quite large; however, one peek inside revealed that there was only a modest amount of potatoes and onions. We were supplied with 2 condiments which included a coconut chutney and red tomato chutney. The sauces seemed to balance each other out, one being smooth and the other being a tad spicy.

The dosa was nice and crispy; yet a tad too chewy. I broke off large sections and dipped it into the sauces. When I go closer to the filling, I began to eat it in one piece. The vada was excellent. It was very crispy, while being soft and warm on the inside. The idli was soft and fluffy; but Nikita and I were not too found of it, not because it wasn't good, but probably because we were on carb overload. The lentil soup was a nice balance of sweet, spicy and salty. The idli was a bit more bearable to eat once I dipped it into the soup. Balancing the entire meal was the Mango Lassi that I ordered. It's essentially a sweet drink made of mango pulp, yogurt and ice cream. I really enjoyed the drink, it was similar to a milkshake. I thought it was alright, could've had more taste other than sweet.

Seeing that time was a wasting, I really didn't get a chance to finish my dosa. Mind you, even if I did have time I wouldn't have finished it either. I'm not sure if it was the quantity or the fact that I was suffering from carb overload. Whatever the case, it was a decent, if not average meal; but honestly, I like northern Indian cuisine better.

The Good:
- It's something a bit different
- Inexpensive

The Bad:
- Weird location
- Food is pretty average
- Lack of staff

Business Hours:
11:00am - 9:30pm (7 days a week)

Mayuri Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon