Sherman's Food Adventures: 2010

Sun Gong

*Restaurant is now closed*

After a long staff meeting, I was ready to crawl into my bed and sleep. After all, I still hadn't recovered from 3 days of late night hockey. However, I still had to pick up Pomegranate and make the long drive home in traffic. Seeing how we were both tired and not wanting to cook dinner, take out seemed to be a good idea. Driving along, we considered sushi; but really, it's best eaten right away. That is when Pomegranate remembered that Sun Gong was on the way home. Hey, this place is a dive, in the true essence of the word. The place is strictly take-out and let's just say that the outside does not prepare you for what you'll find on the inside. With a milk crate doubling as a washroom trash can, a pink kid's bike parked right next to the toilet and a plastic takeout container doubling as a cash register, you'd think we were in another country. Nope, we're in Coquitlam and if first impressions were important, I'd really never ever consider visiting the place. Rather, I tend to eat anything and have a place in my heart for dives like Sun Gong. It's a mom & pop operation where you'll find good prices, huge portions and decent Chinese/part North American Chinese fare.

While we were heading there, Pomegranate looked up the phone number on Urbanspoon. He did all the ordering and when we got there, the lady exclaimed that "your friend is Chinese!" I guess she was surprised since I ordered all the typical North American Chinese favourites. If good prices and good portions aren't enough, there is free Wonton Soup for orders over $25.00. Okay, all pork wontons have never been my favourite; however, these ones were actually quite good. The meat was not gritty and had a nice "rebound" texture to it. The addition of water chestnuts added a nice crunch. The soup itself was pretty light and was not really memorable.

Now for our dishes starting with the Broccoli Beef. With lots of garlic and a nice dark soy colour, the beef was tender and well-seasoned. I liked how the beef wasn't over-tenderized; thus exhibiting a bit of chew. The broccoli was perfectly cooked with a nice crunch. The BBQ Pork and Shrimp Fried Rice had a good amount of cold water shrimp; but could've used a bit more BBQ pork. The rice was slightly chewy and dry (maybe slightly too dry). Texturally, the rice was ultimately fine while it probably could've stood for a bit more salt. For the kiddies, I got the Chicken Chow Mein. The owner-lady was nice enough to give us a call back immediately to make sure if I wanted the deep-fried version or the "wet" version. I went for the wet version for the kiddies' sake. This was an okay chow mein with lots of chicken and cabbage. Again, it could've used a bit more soy; but nothing inherently bad about it either. With that being said, the noodles were on the softer side.

Our last dish was completely different than the others where it was not only flavourful, it was a flavour explosion. The Ginger Beef was laced with a gingery/vinegary sauce that really needed a side of rice. It's too bad there was too much sauce. Rather than thin strands of unidentifiable crisps, the beef was actually in large pieces with some chew. For what it's worth, the food at Sun Gong is cheap, plentiful and decent. Sure, it won't be my first option for Chinese food; but if I'm in a pinch and needed something quick and won't hurt my bottom line, it does the job.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Large portions
- Honest, nice owners

The Bad:
- Not going to set the Chinese culinary scene on fire
- Inside looks like hell; but really doesn't matter since it's take out...

Sun Gong Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sango

It's been over 10 years ago since I've lived in Coquitlam. It is very different since then, with many residential developments sprouting up. The area around Ioco Road and Guildford Way has changed dramatically. Once a vast area of nothingness, now rests Newport Village. I swear, if you put this complex in Downtown, it would fit right in. Modern, trendy and full of services, I can see why this place is so popular. So where you find services, you'll also find restaurants. However, many if not all of them are hidden from the street. Last time I was in the area, Pomegranate and I paid a visit to St. James's Well. Pretty decent eats. I wouldn't have even known it had existed if no one told me about it.

This would be the same for Sango. Located in the development kitty-corner to Newport Village, it is completely hidden from plain view. You need to drive into Brew Lane towards the Thrifty Foods to find it. Both Polka King and Rich Guy have eaten here, resulting in 2 thumbs up. In that case, it was a matter of time that I made my way out to give it a try. And that I did, with the family and meeting up with Rich Guy once again. Does this guy do anything but eat? Wait. That would be me as well. Nevermind. Now, the thing that worried me about the place is the "fusion" part. I'm not against it per se. It's just that fusion usually implies "more expensive" and possibly "not very good". But I'm always game about giving everything a chance.

Walking into the place, it sure had style and one look at the menu - yup, it's somewhat pricey. All that remains is whether the food stacks up or not. We decided to try a few of their specialty rolls starting with the Hot Night. Essentially a dynamite roll with spicy braised tuna on top, this was pretty pedestrian. The rice was decent having some bite (a bit bland though); but the roll was not as flavourful as I would've hoped. The Red Dragon was the prototypical blank canvas (California Roll) with something on top. The something was a combination of tuna, unagi and avocado with a spicy sour sauce. I found this one much more flavourful and interesting. Some nice flavours going on with the tuna, unagi and the sauce. For nothing more than plain curiosity or stupidity, we got an Blazing Unagi Roll for $15.95! Turns out it was nothing more than a California Roll with unagi on top plated on aluminum foil. Only the plate underneath it was set ablaze. Don't get me wrong, it was actually a good roll with a large piece of unagi on top. Just incredibly pricey.

Now for an item in the "fusion" section - the Italian Red Snapper. It's sliced thin and drowned (or drewned as stated in the menu) in EVOO and balsamic vinegar with green onions and fried garlic slices. I can't deny that this was not bad; however, I much prefer the one from Sushiyama. Somehow the flavours were a bit muted and it could've used much more garlic. Naturally, at any Japanese restaurant, it would be a good idea to try the sashimi. Hence, we ordered the Assorted Sashimi consisting of salmon, ika with ebi, tai, tuna tataki and wild salmon. Once again, I have to say it was pretty good. Nicely cut and presented, it was both fresh and texturally pleasant. The only thing we didn't like was the portion size, it was quite small.

By default, we got the Tempura Udon for the kiddies. Not something I would choose to order; but that's what the kiddies want and that's what they'll get. I found the udon noodles to be on the softer side. Just a bit though. As for the broth, it was very flavourful. Maybe too flavourful. It was intensely sweet with a touch of saltiness. I was extremely thirsty after dinner. Not completely sure as to the cause; but you can make your own conclusions. The tempura consisted of only 3 pieces - one each of ebi, carrot and sweet potato. It was sure crispy; but the batter was too thick. I really couldn't believe the udon set us back $11.00. For that price, I could go to Chef Hung or Hakkaido Ramen Santouka for a bowl of noodles. At this point, we were not completely full and decided to tack on 2 appies. The first one was the Chicken Yakitori. Nothing particularly interesting with it considering it is 2 skewers of chicken meat with teriyaki sauce. However, it was decently tender and not too salty despite the abundance of sauce. Secondly, we got the Takoyaki. Normally, these are pan-grilled in a takoyaki mold; yet many places do the quick way by deep-frying them. As expected, these were deep fried. Decently fluffy inside and slightly crispy outside, I didn't mind them. I thought there was just enough unagi sauce and mayo for flavour while I could've used more bonito.

If I had to sum up Sango in one word, it would be expensive. The food itself wasn't bad considering the location. Nothing spectacular; yet nothing horrible either. The ambiance and decor are quite pleasing while the service can be a bit slow (although it wasn't rude as some people have remarked). However, I can't get over the pricing. It is dangerously close to Miku prices and Sango is no Miku. Furthermore, it is not located in Downtown, so I'm not exactly sure where the premium pricing comes from. At the very least, the fusion part doesn't necessarily detract from the final product. Unfortunately it does reaffirm the stigma of a fusion restaurant - $$$.

The Good:
- Some interesting items
- Food is okay considering the location
- Pleasing decor

The Bad:
- Expensive
- Food is alright but does not justify the cost
- Service is a bit slow

Sango on Urbanspoon

Chez Meme Baguette Bistro

Despite located quite conveniently close to where I live, Chez Meme Baguette Bistro has eluded my culinary adventures. How so? Well, the fact it is only open Monday to Friday 8:00am - 3:00pm puts it smack dab in the middle of the working day. As much as it doesn't seem like it, I do have a day job! Hence, it has been difficult to try the place out. So, to take advantage of the Christmas holidays, I dragged the whole family including the grandparents out to Hastings at Gilmore. Hey, I know they serve up delicious baguettes; however, they have breakfast and some French entrees as well. I want to try it all! Now initially, my parents had arrived first and snapped up a window seat. Too bad it was near the door and every time someone opened it, the temperature dropped significantly. So we had to move... to a table with no natural light. *GASP* What about my pictures? Well, you see the result. Sub par. *SOB*

The cold air from the door can be attributed to the fact the restaurant is very small. Getting a table is a challenge since it is busy all the time. As we begin to look at the food, it is quite clear why they are successful. For the kiddies, we got the 2 Egg Breakfast to share. It may be a simple dish; but these were some of the best scrambled eggs we've had. Fluffy and just barely cooked, this requires skill. The toasted baguette was nice, the kids loved it. It included 3 meaty breakfast sausages and a pile of sauteed potatoes. If you were expecting hashbrowns, these were not it. Good in its own ways though. Think boiled potatoes that are lightly pan fried. For $6.50, this was a large plate of food which was made with care. Much better than any chain restaurant out there. My dad also had a breakfast plate in the Baguette Willy, consisting of a toasted baguette with ham and scrambled eggs topped with cheese sauce. At first, I was seriously concerned about the sauce. It looked like nacho dip. Silly me. I must've forgotten I was in in a French bistro. They wouldn't serve anything like that! In actuality, the sauce was quite mild and cheesy (not salty at all). It went well with all the components with the ham providing the necessary saltiness. Once again, the fluffy scrambled eggs made the dish.

Viv and I decided to take the baguette portion of the meal. She went for the Bourguignon and my word... Look at it. All meat, no filler. Consisting of tender short rib, caramelized onions and horseradish, this was good. There was a great combination of flavours, in particular the contrast of red wine with the sweetness of the onions. Beautiful. For myself, I predictably had the Jarret consisting of lamb shank, roasted garlic jam and grainy dijon. Once again, the baguette was stuffed with tender meat, no filler! I loved the baguette, it was a great combination of gamy lamb, sweet jam and some bite from the mustard. I opted for the Soup du Jour as my side which happened to be Cauliflower, Thyme and Truffle Oil. The soup was very mild with only a small hint of thyme and earthiness from the truffle oil. This is best to be enjoyed on its own since the lamb baguette was so flavourful. My only request would be that the soup be served hot. It was only lukewarm.

Lastly, my mom had the Duck Confit with orange sauce. Normally, an orange sauce can turn out to be too sweet or even "marmaladey". Not so here, the sauce had the nice essence of orange (rind and all); yet had a strong element of savouriness which gave it good balance. The duck itself was very good. Most of the meat was fall off the bone tender. There was a requisite gaminess of duck which went well with the orange sauce. Lastly, the skin was rendered nicely with very little in the way of duck fat. It wasn't crispy due to the sauce; but it was good in its own ways. In fact, everything was good. What a pleasant surprise for North Burnaby. Solid French food for extremely reasonable prices. Couple that with honest service from the proprietors, you can get any better than that. Too bad it is not open more often.

The Good:
- Really solid eats
- Good portions
- Reasonable prices

The Bad:
- Although friendly, service is strained due to the limited staff
- It's a small place, waits are common

Chez Meme Baguette Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Bombay

Just a mere 10 hours since we last ate together, I met up with Rich Guy for lunch. Previously, we were doing late night eats at Lucy's Eastside Diner. This time around, it is The Bombay in Coquitlam. Arguably the best Indian restaurant in Coquitlam, it has been on my wish list for awhile. Mind you, it is easy to the "best" when you are the only Indian restaurant in Coquitlam! Hey, I have high expectations coming into this one. After all, I work near the best Indian restaurants in the GVRD.

Normally, I'm a pretty punctual person. Actually, I think it's genetic. Both of my kids were born on their due dates. Talk about punctual! Anyways, due to circumstances beyond my control (road work), I was a full 30 minutes late meeting Rich Guy. He ended up visiting XS Cargo in the meantime. I hope he didn't end up buying some useless junk there. I've had my share of good and bad experiences there. I digress. Anyways, is it just me or are Indian restaurants surprisingly clean? This one is no different. Even the washrooms are exemplary. Try to find that in a Chinese restaurant! Again, I digress. So we were seated by the only staff member at the front of the house... I mention this because he really seemed overworked for the amount of customers in the restaurant (and it was only 1/3 full!). Imagine if it were full! This probably contributed to the long wait between ordering and getting our food.

Now when we finally did get our food, it was quite a lot of it. You see, with Indian food, there are times where there is a whole lot of sauce and very little meat. Not here. In my Lamb Vindaloo, there was enough meat to for 2 portions. Furthermore, it was very flavourful and quite spicy for "medium" (just the way I like it). Rich Guy has been here many times in the past and said that "spicy" is insanely hot. The lamb itself was in big tender chunks. Rich Guy had the classic Butter Chicken and once again, there was plenty of tender pieces of meat. This particular version was a bit more tomatoey than creamy. Nonetheless, it was still very flavourful and smooth. It went well with the wonderful Naan. It had the desired chewy/stretchiness on the outside which gave way to a soft warm inside. Perfect for soaking up the abundance of sauce. Of course we also had Basmati Rice for the curries as well. It was a bit clumpy and hard, not the best looking rice; but it did the job when soaked with the flavourful sauces.

Finally, we got an half order of Tandoori Chicken to share. Probably not a good idea since there was more than enough food already... It arrived sizzling on a hot plate and it smelled wonderful. It also tasted alright with hits of various spices; but the chicken was very dry. That was true for the dark meat as well. In fact, the white meat was quite stringy. Not the highlight of the meal by any stretch of the imagination. But honestly, that was the only real glitch in an otherwise delicious and filling lunch. I was quite surprised at the quality and portion size of the dishes. Although the service was sparse and slow due to the lack of staff, the one server was friendly and tried the best he could. I guess since there is no competition nearby, the prices are on the higher side. With that being said, the portions balance it to a degree. Definitely good enough to compare with the restaurants in Surrey.

The Good:
- Large portions
- Food looks and tastes like it should
- Very clean

The Bad:
- Not cheap
- Lack of staff

The Bombay on Urbanspoon

Kadoya (Denman)

It's nice to have a day off. Time to sleep in, spend time with love ones, do some chores, run some errands... and in my case, go out to eat! Costanza had called me up earlier in the morning and wanted to see if I was up for breaky. Well, I would've been if I had been awake! Don't you hate people calling and waking you up? I suggested we go for lunch instead and he was game. I checked in with Rich Guy and he was available as well. What does he do all day anyways? Since we were planning to eat in Downtown, I also texted Kim. He is always game to eat! More the merrier! To make things convenient, we chose the new 2nd location of Kadoya on Denman at Davie. Kim arrived first and was able to score a table nearby the window. Not right by the window, but close enough.

Kadoya is known for their specialty rolls and despite having 3 diners, we could only order so much. Thus, Kim hatched up a plan of ordering 2 of their lunch specials which gave the option of choosing 3 of their specialty rolls in smaller portion sizes. Hence, we ended up with 6 of their specialty rolls to try. A pretty good deal at $9.95 per lunch special. But before that, we had their Friday special in the Daily Sashimi, which was Spicy Salmon. Another good value at $8.99. Unlike some other places, the cubes of salmon were not merely hidden with an explosively hot sauce. Rather, we could still taste the salmon which had a fresh texture. It was slightly sweet with some kick; but only moderately. A good portion size for the money.

Now onto the rolls starting with the Kadoya. Having been named after the restaurant, I had high hopes. Well, consider it meeting expectations. First of all, I loved the presentation with the different colour tobiko. The rice was moving towards the gummier side; yet it was not a big issue. I did get a hint of vinegar and some sweetness. As for the roll itself, it is a combination of deep fried salmon skin and cucumbers on the inside with tuna tempura, tobiko, mayo and teriyaki sauce on the outside. This was a well-balanced roll with some nice crunch and just enough flavour from the sauces. I can't say the same for the King's Roll though. Consisting of prawn tempura (cold and soggy) and avocado on the inside with wild salmon, tobiko, green onion, garlic chips and honey mayo on the outside, the flavours just didn't seem to work. This is especially true with the honey mayo. The sweetness completely overwhelmed the other components. This would've been much better with an unagi sauce combined with something less sweet.

Also consisting of prawn tempura and avocado on the inside was the Paradise Roll. On the outside, there was wakame salad, tobiko and sweet mayo. For me, this one was okay. Disregarding the stone-cold and soggy prawn tempura, the flavours were mild. The wakame provided the necessary flavour and the smoothness of the mayo brought it all together. The Volcano Roll was something truly a bit different. Inside, there was a mix of spicy salmon and tempura bits. On the outside, there was slices of scallops topped with tobiko and black sesame sauce. For me, the black sesame was the highlight of the roll.T he tempura bits did not provide the necessary crunch since they were soggy. If it weren't for the black sesame, nothing much good about this roll. Moving on, we got the Dragon Roll, which is a bit more common. Consisting of prawn tempura and avocado on the inside with unagi, tobiko and mayo on the outside, this was a pretty standard Dragon Roll. Once again, the soggy and cold prawn tempura took away from the roll. No textural contrast; yet it did taste okay due to the sweet BBQ unagi.

Now the award for worst roll of the bunch was the Canucks Roll. Much like the Canucks from the 80's, this roll was partially orange and really bad. Inside, there was Tony Tanti and Petri Skriko... uh... I mean spicy tuna with tempura bits. Outside, there was salmon tempura, tobiko, bonito flakes and sweet mayo. Due to the soggy nature of the tempura bits, the inside was chewy. To compound this issue, the salmon tempura was not only not crispy, it had the consistency of Ron Delorme (I mean tough...). So we ended up gnawing on this roll without any joy of eating it. Our roll adventure didn't end there. We also got an order of their California Tempura Roll. At only $4.50 for 10 pieces, this was a pretty good value. However, the roll itself was pretty ordinary. Due to the deep fry job, the rice became very soft. In the end, the result was a roll devoid of any texture, it was all one mushy mess. However, it wasn't terrible. It's a standard California roll deep fried. I wouldn't complain much about it since it wasn't very expensive.

For comparison's sake, we got a few cooked items to try. Since we had a huge overload of rice already, we opted for the Beef Yakisoba. I know, more carbs. What can you do? Hard to do any Atkin's in an Asian restaurant! The portion size of the yakisoba was quite good while there was a good mix of ingredients. However, the noodles were too soft and the whole thing was over-sauced. It was a bit wet. Curiously, it was served on a hot plate; yet it was not really sizzling. Not a horrible yakisoba, just a very average one. The second cooked entree was the Chicken Teriyaki. Once again, nothing inherently terrible with it; but nothing special either. It was a decent sized portion with plenty of fresh veggies underneath. Much like the yakisoba, the hot plate was not really all that hot. The chicken was decently tender and there wasn't too much sauce. The batter was okay in spots while a little soft in others.

I have mixed feelings about Kadoya. There were some decent items mixed in with some forgettable items. I must admit that their rolls are quite aesthetically pleasing, in addition to being quite large in size. However, only a few worked. The other dishes we had were generous in size; yet, the execution in general was quite inconsistent. Almost all the fried components were universally cold and not crispy. They ranged from soggy to chewy. Not a good texture, especially in a roll that desperately needs crunch. With that being said, I thought their pricing was fair. It is very reasonable for what we got and considering the Downtown location. In terms of service, the one server was extremely overworked.

The Good:
- Good portions
- Reasonable prices
- Large selection of specialty rolls

The Bad:
- Cooked food wasn't that impressive
- Lack of staff
- As with anything on Denman, parking is an issue

Kadoya Japanese (Denman) on Urbanspoon

A Taste of Asia

It always seems like we avoid/ignore/take for granted the restaurants that are located closest to us. I seem to travel far and wide in order to experience interesting food. Well, it's quite possible that I tend to forget about the local establishments for that very reason. They are generally not all that interesting. Face it, usually, the most popular and unique restaurants are not located in the burbs, particularly residential areas. Of course there are exceptions; but that is not often the rule. So when I asked Viv if she was in the mood for Vietnamese food, she got all confused when I said we'd go to this place on Hastings near Willingdon. "There's a Vietnamese place there???" she questioned. Well, a Chinese-run Vietnamese restaurant that is...

So how do I know about this place? Well, much like the 6th Sense, I see can see restaurants, where others might ignore. Where some men would nearly sideswipe the car next to them while checking out women, I'd do the same when I excitedly see a restaurant. Oh, those awnings with various fonts are ever-so-sexy! Alright, A Taste of Asia doesn't exude anything sexy, in fact, it is probably as un-sexy you can get for a restaurant. Essentially a mom & pop operation, the prices are rock-bottom and the entire setup is merely functional. I kept this in mind as we were seated at a table which was serenaded by an oscillating fan every 2 seconds. Reminiscent of Eatwell in Coquitlam, the prices could give food fair joints a run for their money.

We started with a Shrimp Salad Roll. For $2.25, we weren't expecting a lot of shrimp and there really wasn't much. However, the roll was fresh and did what it was supposed to do. The peanut dipping sauce was quite thick and a bit too sweet. I tacked on a Cold Cut Banh Mi as well. The bread was crispy and quite chewy. I like mine lighter; however, I know some people prefer chewy, so chalk this up to personal preference. I did like the liberal use of pâté, even though it was not very flavourful. A decent amount of meat with crisp cucumber, carrots and daikon rounded out the sandwich. Good thing I ordered a Banh Mi because the Special Pho was small. I ain't complaining though since it only costs $5.00. Despite its size, there was ample amount of tender rare beef, brisket, tripe, tendon and meatballs. The broth was not too heavy or salty while being slightly oily. Viv went for her usual - Lemongrass Chicken Rice. Now the amount of chicken looks like a lot, in reality, it was thin. Regardless, it was tender with lots of lemongrass flavour. So the food here is okay and probably gets lost among the many other Vietnamese restaurants in town. Mind you, it is their prices that sets them apart. There are not many places where you can order 4 items and spend under $20.00.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Friendly owner/operators
- Food is alright for the price

The Bad:
- When prices are low, compromises have to be made
- Service is extremely sparse

A Taste Of Asia on Urbanspoon