Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2009

Five Corners Cafe

What a great idea. Let's drive all the way out to White Rock on one of the wettest days of the year for some breakfast! While driving on the freeway and all you see is a wall of water; it's pretty much a bad idea to be driving in the first place. Moreover, if stepping out of the car meant being soaked from head to toe; it's another indication that staying inside would've been more prudent. But it's eating and that is the most important thing here. Not many things can stop me from eating. Even the stomach flu didn't faze me. I was defiant and ate McDonald's, Viva Sue Pizza and Beard Papa's despite my attachment to the ceramic god. Rain! Pfft... Bring it on!

So why White Rock? Well, I've heard of this little diner called the Five Corners Cafe. It's been there for awhile; but it's under new ownership. I thought that I needed to give it a try. Besides, there is a severe lack of real diners in the GVRD. Escaping the monsoon, otherwise known as Vancouver fall weather, we were greeted by pictures of Clark Gable, Katherine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. This is definitely a quaint little diner out in White Rock. The staff are indeed friendly and made us feel quite comfortable.

Despite the clock showing a few ticks after 10:00am, I decided to go for one of their "famous" burgers. Naturally, I would choose the biggest, most expensive one being the Roger Burger. Stacked high on a toasted bun, there were Jalapenos, mushrooms, bacon, cheese, a fried egg that essentially dwarfed the homemade patty. Look at the picture, that's not even with the top part of the bun (which includes lettuce, tomato and onion). I found that the patty was not that juicy; but overall the burger was tasty. For $10.00, this was a very good value. Think of the Royal Red at Red Robin on steroids. As for the fries, they were crispy; but were a bit generic.

Sexi Mexi had the Farmers Hash and it was massive. Underneath the perfectly fried sunny side eggs were sausage, tomato, mushroom, green onion, peppers and pan fries served with a side of toast. As you can see in the picture, nothing is overcooked. No mushiness here. Ma had the Classic Breakfast which is essentially 2 eggs, choice of meat, pan fries, toast and coffee. It was fantastic. How so? Well, for one the eggs was cooked perfectly, the bacon was crispy,
potatoes evenly cooked and the toast, crunchy. Trust me, there are places that can't get this right. We were pretty happy with our meals at Five Corners. It's not often you find a place that not only embraces the diner concept, it actually lives it. It's not the best food we've ever eaten and it's certainly not the best burger I've ever had; but the venue, price and portion size help make this a great place to grab some diner food while in White Rock.

The Good:
- Good portions
- Inexpensive
- Great service

The Bad:
- It's quite small, not good for big groups

Five Corners Café on Urbanspoon

Banana Leaf (Broadway)

My bro-in-law (Guy Smiley) wanted to meet up with us for dinner and wondered where we'd like to go. Honestly, that's like asking a child what they want for Christmas. With my kid's culinary needs in consideration, I suggested we head to Burgoo on Main Street. After all, they have their 2 favourite dishes - grilled cheese and mac 'n cheese. Well, that plan epically failed since there was a 1 hour wait for a table at 5:30pm on a Sunday. Undeterred, I pulled out my back up plan and suggested we head to Temaki Sushi. Arghhhhh!!! It's closed on Sunday! At that point, out of pure desperation, I asked Viv to check out the prices at BC Sushi a couple of stores down. $25.00 for AYCE... Meh... We decided to skip that idea, especially since it would cost us $17.00 for my son. Yah, whatever, I'm not paying $17.00 for a bowl of udon (which is all he'd have anyways). Alright, last ditch effort, Banana Leaf on Broadway. I know there are some noodles they'd eat there. Besides, Banana Leaf used to be one our 'ol standbys when we used to live in Downtown. I guess it was about time we visited them again.

With parking spots secured right in front, we got a table right away, tucked into a corner. I was a bit hungry by then and started munching on the complimentary nuts. They are addictive. Sweet and a bit salty, these crunchy peanuts would be a great snack while watching hockey. We started with the Roti Canai, which to me, is a must order when at any Malaysian restaurant (assuming it doesn't suck). With the right combination of pan fried crispiness and sweet, soft fluffiness, these flaky gems were delicious. Even more tasty with the curry dipping sauce. We got 2 orders and it was massive, we hardly could finish it.

Next up were the Steamed Clams in Soy Bean Sauce with Chili & Ginger. The sauce was definitely flavourful with strong hints of the aforementioned ingredients. However, I couldn't stop thinking of how little food was actually on the plate. If you discarded all the shells, you'd probably be left with a pile of clam meat that wouldn't even fill a small ramekin. I guess that is the cost of eating clams, mussels and the sort. One peculiar dish that we ordered was the Singapore-Style Sweet and Sour Pork Chops. To me at least, they are very similar to Chinese Peking-Style Pork Chops. The only difference that I could see was the absence of Worcestershire sauce which gives Peking Pork Chops their unique depth of flavour. These pork chops were fried up just perfectly being juicy while crispy on the outside.

My choice of dish was the Rendeng Beef. Unlike the version I had at Taste of Singapore, this one had a good amount of grease on the top. Not necessarily a bad thing since oil does contain a lot of the flavour. For me at least, I could've done with a little less; although I've had much worse at Tropika. The meat was both tender and plentiful. The coconut and chili based sauce was quite spicy. Not mind-blowing spicy; but there was indeed a kick. Went well with the coconut rice though. On that note, the Sambal Beans were also a good accompaniment as well. These were spicy and flavourful as well. The beans were ever-so-slightly over fried when they oil blanched it. However, that wasn't a big deal.

Not exactly a dish I would normally order at a Malay restaurant was the Ipoh Char Hor Fun. Mainly for the kiddies, this dish is not spicy at all and quite saucy, especially for a noodle dish. I'm not a big fan of this since it's essentially swimming in an oyster & egg sauce. I'm sure someone likes it, but I find it both bland and soggy. I've also had this dish at Tamarind Hill and it's the same. Chalk this up to personal preference. Well, another solid meal at Banana Leaf. I've heard some rumblings about how the food has been watered down to meet the tastes of Vancouverites. Well, I can somewhat see this; but honestly, if the food tastes good, it really shouldn't matter.

The Good:
- Reasonably priced
- Most dishes are well-seasoned
- Good service

The Bad:
- Portion sizes vary, with some dishes being large and some small

Banana Leaf (Broadway) on Urbanspoon

Nuba (Seymour)

Taking advantage of the fact that Viv was picking up some things at the Downtown Sears, I dropped her off and went in search of food. The mission - to eat something a bit different and also get something for takeout. Hey, Viv needs to eat too! Heck, I'm not going to try something right in the downtown core, parking would be a nightmare. So looking for something a bit more on the fringe, I targeted Nuba on Seymour. Just as I thought! Plenty of parking available around Seymour and Drake.

Looking over the menu board, I was debating what to order. I hate choices. I can never decide what to eat! I can have one thing in mind and when it's time to take my order, I change it at the last minute. That would be probably the explanation for me standing there for at least 5 minutes with a confused look on my face. I finally settled on the Chicken Tawook Platter for myself and the Crispy Cauliflower Pita for Viv. I originally got one of the very few tables near the inside of the restaurant. However, I was scoping out this dude who was just finishing up right at the window. Before a blink of an eye, I swooped over to snap up that window seat when he left. Anything for better lighting!

I got my order shortly after and despite what others have complained about, I found that the portion size to be acceptable. After all, it wasn't that expensive, what do you expect? Resting on a bed of brown rice was a grilled flavourful chicken breast. A salad and pita bread with humus completed the combo. I gotta say that was one delicious humus. Smooth with a touch of lemon and olive oil, I couldn't get enough of it on each slice of pita. The chicken was a bit on the dry side; but it certainly wasn't tough. I really liked the slightly spicy sauce with cool yogurt. The salad filled space on the plate being quite ordinary except for the pickled cabbage.

The signature dish here is the crispy cauliflower and I got it in a pita for Viv. We didn't know how cauliflower could be so good. Just barely cooked retaining a nice crunch, these little morsels had a nice lemon flavour. Gonna have these bad boys without the wrap next time! I gotta say it was pretty good food at Nuba, especially the cauliflower. I'd probably skip the chicken next time to try something else though.

The Good:
- Something a little bit different
- Who would have thought cauliflower can be so good?
- Unique flavours

The Bad:
- Portion size could stand to be a bit bigger
- Not really a lot of seats at this location

Nuba (Seymour) on Urbanspoon

ABC Country Restaurant

*This location is now closed*

ABC??? Has hell frozen over? Has Kawawa suddenly transformed into the second coming of Tojo's? Is it now safe to drive in Richmond??? Hang on, this is not a misprint, typo or cruel practical joke. I did indeed eat at ABC Country Restaurant today. My opinions about the place are pretty much biased. From the countless times I've been to ABC in the past, it has failed to impress me one bit. Could it be that I'm not that enamored with food that can be generally replicated at home? Could it be that most people can do better? I'm not implying that I expect gourmet food here, I just want food that doesn't like look like somebody's leftovers.

I really wasn't intending on dining at ABC; but I said something to Pomegranate that made me feel guilty. I basically said that ABC sucked *ss. Well, he went on to say that his late father loved the place, especially the dinner menu. *Sigh* What was I supposed to do? Go for breakfast at ABC I guess... At least I didn't have to suffer though lunch nor dinner. You'll find that I seem to order Eggs Benny quite often for breakfast. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of it; rather, I find that it is a dish that can demonstrate kitchen execution. This time around, the eggs were perfectly cooked despite the obvious mold they were made in. The Hollandaise was a good consistency; yet I didn't seem to taste anything. For some reason, it wasn't buttery or lemony. I was disappointed that they used smoked ham in place of Canadian back bacon.

Blondie had the French Toast with eggs & bacon. A pretty standard version where the eggs were nicely over-easy. Bacon was crisp and toast soft, not much to complain about here. Ma had the Bacon and Eggs. The eggs were a perfect sunny side up and the bacon crisp once again. The country potatoes were alright. I'd prefer if they were a bit more on the crispy side, much like the ones at Denny's.

Yah, I'll admit it. The breakfast here at ABC was decent and inexpensive. However, I must say that I've been to ABC countless times in the past and their lunch/dinner items lean more towards home cooking. And when I mean home cooking, it's home cooking from the 80's. I know there is a market for this type of restaurant, especially with families and older customers; yet, it's not something I would frequent when there are so many other choices around.

The Good:
- Service is friendly
- It's reasonably priced
- Breakfast is decent

The Bad:
- Lunch/Dinner meals were good... in the 80's
- Not much in the way of creativity when it comes to the food

ABC Country Restaurant (Scott Road) on Urbanspoon

X-Site Grill & Bistro

What's up with X-Site Grill & Bistro? Everytime I drive by the place, I see their specials proudly advertised with a large banner across the front. So what's the big deal you might ask? How about daily specials that are around $6.00? WTH? Yeah, that's what I was thinking. That's pretty darn cheap. You know when a deal seems too good to be true... Tonight, Viv and I decided to finally try this place and figure out if they were for real. One things for sure, for a Thursday night, they're pretty busy. Inside, there was definitely the strangest mix of patrons you'll ever see. Young University students mixed in with older Asian folk, all in one restaurant.

Looking over the menu, I was a bit taken aback by the prices. Either everything was missing a "1" in front of it or they really were serious about charging what is essentially McDonald's prices for a real sit-down restaurant. Again, can this be too good to be true? To find out, we first started with a Calamari to share. At $6.00, this was a formidable portion of large squid rings. They were tender and the batter was crisp while not being oily. Only criticism is that since they were so large, it's a bit hard to eat. By virtue ofordering a beverage, Viv was able to order the daily special which happen to be the Grilled Salmon for $6.00 (it's Sirloin Steak on Mondays!). Not the most aesthetically pleasing piece of salmon, it was still cooked right being moist and tender. To fill out the plate, there was a massive salad, rice, garlic toast and boiled potatoes with sour cream. Nothing to write home about; but this was a complete meal for the price of a Japadog!

For me, I went for the Mushroom Burger. Also for $6.00, I got a homemade patty topped with mushrooms with salad and boiled potatoes on the side. Nothing extraordinary with the burger; yet again, it was solid. I particularly liked the soft bun, it makes the whole thing easy to eat. I found that the use of boiled potatoes with sour cream an interesting departure from the usual French fries. I actually liked them. So including Viv's drink, our meal came out to $20.00 plus tip and tax. Okay, the food wasn't outstanding; yet for the price, what do you expect?

The Good:
- Incredibly cheap
- Food is decent, if not boring
- Service is friendly, when you can get their attention

The Bad:
- It's pub food, don't expect any more, any less
- The open seating plan is a bit strange
- Service is slightly sparse

X-Site Grill and Bistro on Urbanspoon

EBO at the Delta

Fine dining and kids. Now those are two things that are normally not associated with each other. You'd have better luck not having someone steal your parking spot at Aberdeen Centre. In fact, you'd have a greater chance at finding a car parked correctly there than experiencing fine dining with your kids. It just seems like there are not many nice restaurants that truly accommodate kids. Who can blame them? The whole point of fine dining is to enjoy not only the food; but the ambiance as well. Screaming kids tossing mac 'n cheese at you is not what most people are looking for when celebrating an anniversary, birthday or engagement. What if I told you about a place that not only welcomes the little ones; yet also has an actual kid's menu? Wait, what if all children 6 and under ate free? Better yet, what if you call in the next 30 minutes, you get a free garlic peeler??? Okay, the deal ain't that sweet!

Seriously, it was a pleasant surprise to find a place that we could take the entire family and not worry about what the kiddies were going to eat. Besides, my son won't even eat the simplest of things, let alone foie gras! I originally tried to make a reservation for 6 via Opentable; but just like other times, I couldn't get one. So I had to call the restaurant directly for one. I'm thinking that each restaurant only reserves a certain amount of tables for Opentable bookings. When we did arrive, there were many tables that could accommodate a party of 6 and they were not occupied throughout our meal. The table we got was awesome. It was a large round table in a semi-private corner. Excellent, the kids could do whatever and no one would notice!

The menu here is not very extensive. In fact, it's downright small. Moreover, the prices may appear a bit high, particularly for a restaurant that is pretty far removed from the Downtown core. We ordered 2 appies to share - Crab Cakes and Prawns to Share. At first glance, the crab cakes didn't seem too interesting, especially since they were not very big. Once I cut into them, it was a different story. Chalk full of fluffy crab and cream cheese, these little morsels were pretty good. The accompanying chili aoili was a bit too standard; not that it wasn't good, it just wasn't all that creative. It tasted like a chili mayo you'd get at an Izakaya. Not necessarily a bad thing, I just thought something more interesting was in order. Consisting of 10 tiger prawns, the Prawns to Share were accompanied by roasted garlic infused drawn butter and thyme flat bread. The prawns themselves were quite ho-hum; yet with a squeeze of lemon and a quick dip into the butter, they were sure tasty. Not sure if it was worth the $23.00 though.

My mom and Viv weren't too hungry and got an appetizer each. My mom got the Chowder with spot prawns, crab, leeks, potatoes, corn, bacon and scallion oil. The soup itself was served table side with the liquid being poured over the seafood. Although the table side service was impressive, it really didn't add anything to the soup. However, the soup itself was creamy and full of seafood. Viv went for the Scallop and Spinach Salad. It consisted of 3 seared scallops over a bed of spinach and bacon dressed with a maple vinaigrette. The scallops were seared beautifully with a nice caramelization; however, they were a touch overcooked. One other issue was that the spinach that came into contact with the scallops were completely wilted.

For my main, I had the 12 oz Ribeye. It rested on perfectly cooked French beans topped with blue cheese butter accompanied by a side of garlic Parmesan fries. I asked for the steak to be cooked medium-rare and it came out exactly so. I like a good butter on top of my steak; but for some strange reason, the whole thing became quite greasy and messy. I did like the blue cheese, it gave the steak some really good flavour. As for the fries, they were crispy. Nothing more I can say about them. My dad opted for the Salmon with fingerling potatoes, French beans and bacon. Similar to the chowder, the lobster emulsion was served table side. The fish itself was prepared so that it would have a crispy skin while maintaining a moist interior. We thought this was a successful dish; however, I'm not sure if it needed all that sauce. The fish was a bit lost.

My son, predictably, had the Grilled Cheese & Fries. Doesn't he ever get bored of grilled cheese? My daughter had the Mac 'n Cheese with a side of raw veggies and dip. Both meals included a choice of beverage and a dessert. My son had the chocolate brownie and my daughter had the chocolate chip cookie. Since they are both under
the age of 6, the meals were free. That's right, not only is there actually a kid's menu at EBO, it's free! Lemme help you do the math here. If you go to a chain restaurant such as Milestone's or Earl's, you would be paying roughly $20.00 per entree anyways. I'm comparing apples to oranges here because I know someone is going to point out that the burgers are under $15.00 each. If you ordered a steak or a salmon fillet, you will absolutely pay more than $20.00. At Milestone's, their kid's meals cost $10.00 and they don't even have one at Earl's. Thus, you will be paying roughly the same or even less at EBO depending on how many kids you bring to dinner.

Sure, the food wasn't perfect, it did have its flaws. But c'mon, what meal is perfect? Maybe the tasting menu at the French Laundry? If you have $240.00 to burn per person! Thus, for the equivalent price you'd have to pay at Earl's, Milestone's and the sort, you can have a good meal with your kids. Furthermore, the service we got was outstanding. Our server was friendly and sincere. But let me make one thing clear, if you don't have kids, then EBO become a little less attractive since the prices are not that cheap.

The Good:
- Kid-friendly and kids under 6 eat free
- Attentive, sincere service
- Really comfortable dining room

The Bad:
- Limited menu
- Dishes could've used a bit more refinement

EBO at the Delta Burnaby on Urbanspoon

Salt Tasting Room

It's really taken me a long time to finally pay Salt a visit. I keep thinking of it and I never get a chance to do it. Why? First of all, it is not exactly a place you would take your kids. Second, it's not a part of town I frequent all the time, especially the alleyways. Third, it's not exactly meant to fill you up. Aha! But today was the nearly perfect day! I was in between meals and I only had one kid with me. Better yet, I had the kid who would actually eat the stuff. Guess who that was? Yes, it was my daughter, she is game for any food. We were able to snag a spot on Cordova and made the short trek into Blood Alley in the pouring rain. With booster seat in one hand and daughter in the other, I was thinking this better be worth it! As I was attempting to take a picture of the front of the restaurant, a few individuals made some comments. As the flash went off, a voice from the shadows remarked, "was that lightning???" Another blurted out, "I hope you didn't get me in that picture!" Uh... Okay... Now why do I avoid the alleyways again?

Since it was 3:00pm in the afternoon, it was not busy at all. In fact, we were only the 2nd table there. This is good, we could eat in peace and quiet and my daughter could chuck food if she had to. But she's smarter than that, she'd eat it! Viv and I both each went for the $15.00 tasting platter. For each platter, we had a combination of 3 meats/cheeses and 3 condiments. I selected Mike's Corned Beef, Pork Cheek Headcheese, and Manchego Cheese. My 3 condiments included Guinness Mustard, Quince and Apricot Chutney. Included with our order was a nice selection of bread and crackers. The mustard was a natural fit with the melt-in-your mouth corned beef. My daughter ate quite a bit of it. My son doesn't know what he's missing! Honestly, I really couldn't tell the difference that they had used pork cheek for the headcheese other than a slight textural difference (it was less chewy). I'm not sure if I made the right decision to get quince as a condiment though, all I tasted was sweet. Surprisingly, the chutney brought sweetness to the sharp Manchego. Made from sheep's milk, Viv really didn't prefer the gaminess (but I do!).

Viv selected the Ash Camembert, Avaonlea Cheddar and Capicollo. Her condiments included Cipollini Onions, Piccalilli Relish and Piparres Peppers. Predictably, the Camembert was soft enough to spread and it was buttery smooth. The aged cheddar was quite flavourful with strong hints of nuttiness. The fatty capicollo was a bit spicy and went well with all the condiments. It brings up an interesting observation though. For Viv's condiment choices, it seemed that all of them went well with anything. Paired with some red wine, the "snack" was tasty, interactive and fun. We felt the $15.00 is a reasonable price for the tasting plate despite the fact it doesn't look like much. In this case, it is the sum of the parts that is more important that each individual item. Definitely something different in an interesting location.

The Good:
- A multitude of combinations to be had
- Interactive food which is high in quality
- It's unique

The Bad:
- Don't come here if you're hungry
- Interesting location

Salt Tasting Room on Urbanspoon

Kawawa Ramen

Talk about not learning from my own mistakes. If you recall my post on Kawawa Japanese Restaurant, I wasn't exactly thrilled with my meal. And that's putting it lightly. I'm often quite fair and almost too courteous to rip into a restaurant; but there was no way I could hold it in after the AYCE debacle. You'd think that in the eyes of Pavlov, I'd never return to anything remotely related to Kawawa. Well, you're wrong. I'm either a glutton for punishment or I really have a short memory because here I was at Kawawa Ramen. Right next door to the scene of one of the worst meals I've ever had. Kim had blogged about Kawawa Ramen and it seemed passable. Well, it couldn't get any worse, could it?

We were in the vicinity of Metrotown and we needed to eat. It was raining and parking underground seemed like a good idea. Everything seemed to point in the direction of Kawawa Ramen. As the elevator doors opened, I caught a glimpse of Kawawa Japanese and all the bad memories came flooding back. My first instinct was to run. Run really far away. Like all the way to Richmond. Wait, that's probably too extreme. I held onto my daughter tightly and briskly walked past Kawawa Japanese, trying not to look up. Breathing heavily and beading with sweat, I made it over to Kawawa Ramen. Dr. Phil would be impressed, I faced my fears and survived.

Alright, now it was time for me to see if they could somewhat redeem themselves. Viv ordered the Kimchi Ramen and a side of Gyoza. To absolutely no surprise, the gyozas sucked. If they had called them Chinese Potstickers, there may have been a chance that it would be believable. Again, another example of misinterpreting Japanese food. The gyoza skin was thicker than mochi. If that wasn't bad enough, it was soaked in enough grease that it would make a pubescent teenage boy's face look good. Epic fail! Oh no, is this what we were in for??? Noooooo!!! It's happening again! Nightmare on Kingsway, Part II! Instead of Freddy Krueger, I was just waiting for the "Ton-Can't-Chew" to come put me out of my misery.

Interrupting my panic attack, all 3 bowls of ramen arrived. Okay, I'll serve my kids the food first. They can be my official taste testers. We got them a bowl of Miso Ramen to share. Hmm... My daughter was a bit indifferent towards it, while my son didn't seem all that enthused. Wait, he hates everything. Oh alright, I need to try this for myself! With hands shaking and more beads of sweat running down the side of my face, I put chopstick to ramen and dove in. Getting ready to hork, I started to chew and... it wasn't too bad! At least in my bowl, the noodles were al dente. I actually ended up getting the Tongue Ramen. I know, I know, I love tongue, what can you say? Can never get enough tongue you know? Once again, I asked Viv if she wanted any tongue and she gave me another one of her famous dirty looks.

Although the ramen and tongue were good, the tonkotsu broth was not. It was quite weak and not overly hot. Kintaro Ramen need not worry. There is no comparison. Viv's Kimchi Ramen was quite average. She noted that it did not taste like kimchi; rather some lame attempt at pickled cabbage. She didn't like it. As for the pork, it was decent. Despite being quite bland, it was tender and had a good amount of fat. I also got the Golden Egg and it was actually quite good. However, the entire meal was a bit uneven. There were some really low points mixed in with a few decent parts. Not remotely close to being as bad as the restaurant next door, Kawawa Ramen is still the perfect example of mediocre Japanese food.

The Good:
- Prices are reasonable (for the venue and location)
- Food didn't suck (compared to next door)
- I survived

The Bad:
- Portions are a bit small
- Broth is a bit weak
- Gyozas should not be called as such

Kawawa Ramen on Urbanspoon