Sherman's Food Adventures: August 2010

Purple Lotus

As we get further and further away from the Downtown core, there is a sentiment that the quality of food slides down a slippery slope (hey, I've used that opening line before... oh well!). In the case of Japanese food, there can be an argument for that, particularly with ramen. However, that is not the case with everything. Take Pho for instance. Almost as a paradox, there is hardly any good Vietnamese eats in Downtown itself. Mind you, there are plenty of good ones in all parts of Vancouver out of the Downtown core. Yet, there can be gems further out such as Song Huong and Pho Tam in Surrey. Today, we go on the hunt for good Pho in the New Westminster.

Of course, we were already a bit weary since the place we had in mind advertises Chinese, Western and Vietnamese food. Fusion? Hardly. Trying to appeal to masses? Probably. Yah, there was the usual diner items such as breakfast, burger and sandwiches. Now unless they were "Banh Burgers", we weren't interested. Now, if Miss Y were here... We'd be watching her chow down on a Deviled Egg Sandwich in a Vietnamese restaurant... Well, fortunately for me, Pomegranate and Pops were not going to eat "Canadian Food" as the menu listed. Rather, we got the a little of everything starting with the obligatory Spring Rolls. We were a bit dismayed with the wheat-based wrapper (it really should be rice); but they were still quite decent. Burning hot, as exemplified by Pomegranate almost blowing a gasket, they were crunchy and not too oily. The filling had a good mix of meat, vermicelli and veggies. Pomegranate should stop popping things in his mouth before looking at them. Much like the time at Fu Lin where he ate a raw dumpling...

We also ended up sharing a House Special Pho which comes with all the fixins' such as beef, brisket, flank, meatball, tendon and tripe. Pomegranate doesn't do tendon and tripe, so I ended up eating it. However, he accidentally got some tripe and picked it out. For someone who randomly puts things in his mouth without looking at it; he picked out the tripe pretty handily! As for the Pho, the noodles were good being slightly chewy; however, the broth was strange. It was... gritty. Yes, that sounds wrong right? Well, there were peppery bits and other spices at the bottom of the bowl which interfered with the taste and texture of the soup. Thus, the soup was actually peppery which wasn't to my liking.

Next up was the Lemongrass Chicken on Rice. This was a solid dish. The chicken was grilled perfectly and had good lemongrass flavour. It wasn't too sweet or salty. Nice balance. I liked how the rice was still a bit chewy without being hard. Now from the category of "WTF" was the Chicken & Vegetable Chow Mein. We asked for the noodles to be crispy; but we ended up with what looked like a loose bundle of hay. The noodles were so skinny and fried that the thin sauce merely sat at the bottom of the dish. This was nearly as bad as the one I had in Roseburg, Oregon where they used prepackaged chow mein. I know this is a Vietnamese restaurant and it serves us right for ordering chow mein; but seriously... Pops ordered something much better than the chow mein being the Stir-Fried Prawns and Mushrooms. The dish looked great with lots of prawns, mushrooms and brightly-coloured green peppers. He thought the items were cooked properly. So this was a strange one. The food was either good or it was bad. So I guess if you hit the right dishes, you'll be fine. If not, you probably won't be coming back. I'll file this one in the "not good enough" category.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Good portions
- Friendly staff

The Bad:
- Really hit and miss
- When a places offers too many types of cuisine...

Purple Lotus on Urbanspoon

The Fish House

So imagine this scenario. It's April and Christmas has long passed. We were cleaning up the house and found some Christmas presents we had never opened. Somehow they got pushed to the back pile of stuff. Yes, there are piles of stuff everywhere in our house. When you have kids, stuff begins to accumulate. Excitedly, we start to open some of them. Hey, it's Christmas all over again! Finally, we get to a large gift basket from Guy Smiley. Okay. Blanket, cookie ingredients, chocolate, gift cert from the Cannery, marshmall... WTF?!?!!? The Cannery! OMFG! The place is closed! Oh no! This can't be happening! Free food gone down the toilet. Wait. Not all is lost. The Fish House belongs to the same group that used to run the Cannery. Maybe I can use it there. One quick email and yup, they were going to make an exception. Phew, that was a close one! And hey, I can use my Entertainment coupon as well. Score!

So off we went with the whole family including the Grandparents. It was another glorious summer day which is perfect for a Sunday at the Fish House. We got a few appies to share before our mains. The first was the Steamed Mussels in a coconut milk, tomato, cilantro, lime & chili pepper broth. Finishing off the dish was raw sea asparagus and a papadum dome (I had to remove it to take the picture). This was a solid if not unremarkable order of steamed mussels. Nothing amiss, the mussels were sweet and the broth was a nice compliment providing contrasting flavours with the lime and cilantro. I'm not sure why I picked the Shrimp Spring Rolls as our other appetizer. Being that we could easily order this dish at a Chinese restaurant for Dim Sum at more than half the price, this probably didn't make much sense. With that being said, the filling was pretty tasty with a combination of shrimp and veggies. The rolls could've been a bit more crispy though. I think the moisture from the filling compromised the wrapper. I didn't really bother with the dip, it was a combination of sweet chili and peanuts.

For my main, I had the Westcoast Benedict which is essentially Eggs Benedict with crab meat, tomato and avocado. There first 2 things that struck me about the dish was the plethora of crab meat and the obvious use of a mold to poach the egg. Although the egg was poached perfectly with a nice runny centre, there is just something about a free hand poached egg that I'm impartial to. I really like that there was plenty of crab; but as my mom remarked, it would've been better if it were lump meat. Lots of crab; but little in the way of crab flavour or texture. The Hollandaise sauce was not bad with a nice buttery/lemony flavour. I just wish there was more of it. So much crab and other ingredients that need saucing. Now the side of fried smashed potatoes was just crazy! Look at it! 5 whole (albeit small) potatoes. They were good being soft inside and crisp outside; but no way I could finish it.

Dad had the daily feature being the Grilled Swordfish with a skewer of shrimp. Swiss chard, asparagus and a corn/crab butter sauce finished off the plate. As expected, the swordfish ended up being quite dry. This is by no means a criticism since swordfish is very lean. The shrimp were grilled perfectly and the multitude of items in the sauce added sweetness. Viv went for the Croque Monsieur which is egg dipped brioche griddled with shaved ham, Gruyere & Dijon
mustard. As you can see, there was no absence of ham. She liked the soft brioche; but thought there wasn't enough mustard (which can easily be rectified). It was served with the same potatoes and she could only finish one of them.

Mom had the Big Breakfast which included 2 eggs, 2 turkey sausages, bacon, toast and once again, the smashed potatoes. This was your typical breakfast, except the for the turkey sausages. Despite appearing quite dry, the sausages were very juicy and moist. She requested her eggs be done over-easy and as you can see, they were executed properly. By looking at the next picture, you might think we ordered 2 full-sized breakfasts. However, that was not the case. The second one is actually a Kid's Breakfast believe it or not. It came with scrambled eggs, choice of meat (we got 2 turkey sausages) and 2 smashed potatoes (I think we cleaned them out of their potatoes!). Seeing how this also included choice of beverage and dessert, not a bad deal at only $8.95. Once again, don't let the dry appearance fool you, the turkey sausages were moist. We found the eggs to be scrambled perfectly being fluffy while cooked all the way through. This is not small feat. It's not often we get good scrambled eggs.

Of course, we go from good value to not-so-much. While my daughter attacked the kid's breakfast, my son settled for... Pancakes. Well, at the very least, they were fluffy and light. As if Denny's didn't provided an obscene amount of butter for their pancakes, there was enough here to make a loaf of pound cake. Whatever the case, my son didn't bother with any of it. In the end, I was lucky enough to be able to use the old Cannery gift cert. I'm not sure if this is applicable universally. Best to email them directly to check first. I also used a couple of Entertainment coupons which made the total bill obscenely low. However, I didn't find the regular prices to be out-of-line for brunch. Remember, it is located in Stanley Park and the food is quite decent. Nothing great, but not bad either. As for dinner, the prices are on the higher end; yet once again, you are paying for location as well. You can't expect a restaurant to cover the cost of operation in Downtown without charging a bit more. With that being said, ultimately they still have to provide a good product. Our visit for brunch was pleasant accented by good service.

The Good:
- Lovely environment, especially on a sunny day
- Kid-friendly with a kid's menu
- Acceptable food

The Bad:
- Dinner is pricey (although there is an Entertainment coupon)
- Parking is pricey

Fish House in Stanley Park on Urbanspoon

Fu Lin Hot Pot

Probably the warmest and nicest day of the year so far. Perfect day to eat something that can really take advantage of the weather. Picnic? Fish 'n Chips on the wharf? A sandwich from Finch's eaten at the seawall? Nope, nope and nope. Pomegranate and I went to eat hot pot. That's right, a boiling vessel of steaming broth. That's exactly what we needed today. Yah, call us weird, call us strange; but never accuse us of not putting food first before function. Besides, the place is air-conditioned. Hot pot anytime baby! It reminds me of the time we had hot pot at Costanza's house in mid-July. Halfway through our meal and dripping with sweat, we figured that it was not exactly the best idea. Just like the time we lined up for Boxing Day whilst eating Yogen Fruz. Fine, we make bad decisions. Maybe we'll go for a sno-cone in December.

Thinking that they had AYCE hot pot for lunch, Pomegranate and I proceeded to Fu Lin in Coquitlam. My cousin had tipped me off about this place and Jessica blogged about it as well. For $18.99 for dinner, it is a relatively good value considering its location. However, on our way there, I was almost side-swiped by a Volvo while exiting the Trans-Canada. The Volvo was well past the exit ramp and had to cut in, barely avoiding the median and a hitchhiker to exit. If I hadn't caught the glimpse of what is the equivalent of a Swedish tank to my left, I would not be blogging about hot pot right now. Well into full rage, I opened my sunroof and appropriately "saluted" the idiotic driver. Maybe I'll reconsider my shots against Richmond drivers and now proclaim Coquitlam as Richmond North...

To add insult to injury, Fu Lin doesn't offer AYCE for lunch. However, there were a few lunch specials for under $10.00. Each special comes with a choice of dipping sauce. We got our items pretty quickly and I put some Dumplings and beef slices into the boiling broth. I look down for a second and Pomegranate proclaims that, "it's cold and frozen in the middle". Cold and frozen? Huh? The beef slices are really thin and they should cook... OH NO! "You didn't eat the dumpling did you???". Apparently he plopped the whole thing in his mouth and had swallowed it. The dumpling had only been in the broth for less than a minute. Well, pork sashimi is not dangerous is it? Anyways, the cooked dumplings were quite good with a soft skin and meaty filling. The super thin slices of Fatty Beef cooked on contact with the boiling water. Very tender; but gone very fast. It looks like a lot more than there really is.

We really enjoyed the Fresh Noodles. Since we could control the cooking time, we pulled them out when they were al dente. Mixed with the dipping sauces (satay and spicy soy), the noodles were actually one of the highlights of the meal. As for the veggies, we had Napa cabbage and Shanghai bak choy. Both were fresh and properly cleaned. For my combo, I got some shrimp, mussel and squid. As for the other items, they are your typical prepackaged foods such as meatballs, fish tofu, imitation crab and vermicelli. Nothing much to say about them other than they were fine to eat. In terms of being a hot pot restaurant, Fu Lin does the job for a reasonable price. What we really look for in these type of places is freshness and value. Considering that there are not many choices in Coquitlam, Fu Lin is pretty good. Furthermore, the AYCE for $18.95 is a more than acceptable price given all the mitigating factors.

The Good:
- The items we tried were fresh
- Pricing is reasonable
- Service is friendly

The Bad:
- No AYCE option for lunch
- Not a big restaurant, cannot accommodate large groups

Fu Lin Hot Pot Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Maple Leaf Prime Recipe Contest

Believe it or not, despite the fact that I eat out so much, I do enjoy cooking. Recently, I was contacted by Maple Leaf to participate in a recipe contest using their Prime Pork products. Now, my blog is mainly focused on dining out, in particular, at restaurants in Vancouver. At first, I hesitated. Then after a follow up email, I figured why not? So after thinking about what I should make, I formulated the dish in my mind. After a few tries, the final product became Miso-Honey Ginger Chili Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Mango Mint Salsa & Quinoa Salad. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 Maple Leaf Prime Pork Tenderlion
4 tbsp. Honey
2 tbsp. Miso Paste
1 tsp. Chili Flakes
3 tsp. Lime Juice
1 1/2 tsp. Grated Ginger
1/4 tsp. White Pepper
1/4 tsp. Sesame Oil
2 tbsp. Olive Oil (regular, EVOO too strong)
Salt & Pepper

1 Cup Quinoa
2 Cups Water
1 Cup Diced Cucumber
1 Cup Diced Tomato
2 tbsp. Olive Oil (EVOO here)
2 tsp. Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper

1/2 Mango Diced
2 sprigs of Chopped Mint
1 tsp. Lemon Zest
1 tsp. Lime Juice
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Seeds

Procedure (tenderloin):
1. Combine miso, honey, lime juice, chili flakes, white pepper, sesame oil and grated ginger in a ceramic bowl. Whisk until all mixed. You can adjust the flavour as you wish by adding any of the aforementioned ingredients.

2. Coat pork tenderloin with olive oil, salt and pepper. Heat BBQ to 500° F and spray grilling surface with vegetable oil. Place tenderloin onto the grill uncovered and turn after 3 minutes.

3. Baste tenderloin with glaze and then turn it over. Repeat after 5 minutes. Be sure to NOT to close the cover. The tenderloin will burn if unattended. Keep basting the tenderloin as it cooks. Once it reaches an internal temperature of 140° F, remove from grill and rest for 10 minutes.

4. After 10 minutes, cross cut tenderloin into 1 cm thick slices.

Procedure (quinoa salad)
1. Place quinoa and water into a pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce to low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes and then let it rest for 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the quinoa and wait for it to cool.

2. Dice cucumber and tomatoes and combine with cooled quinoa in a mixing bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly.

Procedure (mango salsa)
1. Combine diced mango, mint lemon zest and lime juice. Spoon over sliced tenderloin and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

This portion serves 2-3 people. So if you like this recipe or just want to vote for me for the heck of it, go to the Maple Leaf Prime Facebook Page. You can vote once a day (so vote for me everyday! LOL... Shameless plug!). For your troubles, you get a 50% off coupon for voting from Maple Leaf.

VOTE FOR ME!

Paris Bakery

While slurping up Pho at Red Pagoda, JuJu remarked that he really wanted a Banh Mi. However, there was none on the menu. I proceeded to point him in the direction of Paris Bakery across the street. I remembered walking by it while on my way to Brado a few weeks ago. I was intrigued by the thought of a Banh Mi shop on the Drive. So despite being quite full from lunch, we headed over for some sandwiches. Emilicious was more in the sweet mood, so she headed over to Dolce Amore instead. Reminiscent of Thu Mai, there were quite a few people in the store playing cards and smoking. However, it was less intimidating this time around. It's old hat for me now! As we approached the counter, one of the ladies scurried from her laptop to help us. I glanced over and ah yes... Farmville... What a colossal waste of time. I often look over at Viv and wonder why she spends so much time on it. Furthermore, I really don't care if someone bought a cow or something like that!

JuJu picked out the Meatball and Shredded Chicken sandwiches. While sticking to my policy of trying to order the opposite someone else has, I got the Special and BBQ Pork. What I really liked about these subs was the ample amount of meat. As you can see in the special sub, there is a good amount of Vietnamese ham, headcheese and pickled daikon & carrots. In terms of taste, I got quite a bit of fish sauce despite the presence of pate. The pate got lost as a result. I found the bread to be on the denser side; but the exterior was still quite crunchy. Pretty solid Banh Mi in a location which is more well-known for Latin and Italian cuisine.

The Good:
- Banh Mi are okay given that there is not much in the way of competition nearby
- It's inexpensive given the location

The Bad:
- Much better can be found on Kingsway
- What's with the people hanging out gambling?

Paris Bakery on Urbanspoon

Red Pagoda

Sunday morning hockey is always a welcomed activity in my books. Think of it. I actually do something productive on a weekend morning and get some exercise out of it. Sure, I could probably sleep or sit around surfing the net instead; but I'd miss out on eating. Eating? What does that have to do with Sunday morning hockey? C'mon any team sport is not worth playing if there is no eating involved afterwards! I'm particularly interested in the location of Sunday as well - Britannia. Yup, right next to a multitude of eating options on the Drive! You see, my sports activity schedule is strategically planned around location. Friday hockey is on the North Shore and Monday softball is generally on the Westside of Vancouver. That's pretty good coverage!

Of course eating would not be very fun without willing participants. Sure, I regularly eat alone and it's not that big of a deal. However, I often wonder what people think when I'm "creepily" snapping photos of my Bean Dip in the corner of a restaurant? I can only imagine... So thankfully, we had JuJu and Emilicious out with me for some Commercial Drive eats today. My wish was to give Red Pagoda a try. I promised JuJu that it was only a few blocks away from Brit. Turns out it was more like 4 blocks. He kept whining about how he was getting tired. I'm not sure how he managed 1.5 hours of hockey! We finally got to Red Pagoda and as if it was meant to be, we got the last window seat. Really good day for it too with an open window facing the nice sunshine and light breeze. Oh, and also the rabid German fans cruising in their Volkswagens celebrating a win in the World Cup. Hey, that's the atmosphere you get on the Drive!

Being quite hungry after the game, I went ahead and got both the Shrimp Brochette and the Chicken Brochette. They were both served separately with vermicelli, sprouts and greens. I thought that the shrimp was cooked perfectly with a nice crunchy texture. The chicken was also done properly with a charred exterior giving way to a moist interior. However, I though that both, and especially with the chicken, were quite sweet and that was the predominant flavour. JuJu got the Shrimp Salad Roll and there must've been the whole head of lettuce in it. So much so, the other end looked Carrot Top, except it was green. Too bad there was so much lettuce and not enough shrimp. Otherwise, it would've been more balanced. It look more like a lettuce roll than anything. The peanut sauce was good though since it was thick and very peanutty. He continued on with something a bit different in a bowl of Spicy Pho. He thought it was pretty flavourful; yet not too spicy. The rest of the ingredients are the typical ones you'd find in a regular bowl of pho. Well-executed all around though.

Emilicious and I decided to go for the regular pho instead. I'm not sure which one she had; but I got the "everything" version - Pagoda Special Beef Noodle Soup. Consisting of rare beef, flank, brisket, meatball and tripe (no tendon!), this bowl of noodles was pretty good. The noodles were still a bit chewy and there was a decent amount of meat. The beef soup was a little on the thin side being predominantly sweet.

Just like the last time at Le Do, I got a dish for Viv to go. I asked for it to be brought to the table first before packing it up. Hey, I wanted to take a plated picture of the food! I know, it's bordering on OCD... If you look at the picture of the Lemongrass Chicken on Rice, you can barely see any rice because there is so much meat! Viv turned this dish into 2 meals. She thought the chicken was a bit on the dry side and predominantly sweet. She didn't get much in the way of lemongrass flavour. Sure, the meal wasn't perfect; yet it was decent all-around. Prices are fair considering the location and service was friendly. Despite being satisfied with our meal, we spotted some Banh Mi across the street... Much like Lord of the Rings, in the words of Pippen and Merry, "time for 2nd breakfast!"

The Good:
- Decent food
- Friendly service
- Good portions

The Bad:
- As with any restaurant on Commercial, parking is an issue
- Slightly pricier than other Vietnamese joints

Red Pagoda on Urbanspoon

Maguro Sushi (Surrey)

So, our initial plan was to hit up Bubble World in Surrey for some Taiwanese beef noodle. I know, I know, it is not exactly the first place that comes to mind when we think of TBN. However, Surrey is not the hotbed of TBN! Furthermore, Pomegranate wanted to try out this thing called TBN since he'd never had it before. Alas, we were foiled as we rolled up to the place. Cash only! Fine, let's do the Pho joint a few stores down... Ah zut! Cash only again! Alright then, let's go to the Japanese restaurant sandwiched in between. Yes, they take credit card and Interact. As we walked into the place, I wondered if it was related to the Maguro Sushi in Ladner? I guess so, since the name is exactly the same. If that were truly the case, I was confident we'd have a decent meal. The one in Ladner is not great; but certainly solid given its location.

Despite sitting as close to the windows as possible, the restaurant was dark and once again, I had to pull out the flash even though it was not dark out. Yes, it draws attention and I'd prefer not to use it! So, we ended up deciding to share a lunch box and 2 specialty rolls with the first being the Rainbow Roll. Unlike the one at Sushi Turn House, the one here was significantly smaller. However, it looked significantly better. I thought it was better texturally and taste-wise. The rice was actually quite good with a nice "bite". It could've used a bit more flavour; but pretty good nonetheless. The roll itself consists of a California roll topped with ebi, salmon, tuna, tai and more salmon with tobiko in sections. Clearly shown in the picture, everything including the avocado was fresh which made for a pleasant eat.

Up next was the Dragon Roll which is also a California roll with avocado and unagi on the outside topped with unagi sauce. Once again, fresh ingredients and decent sushi rice resulted in a solid roll. Good to eat and definitely carefully made. Our last roll happened to be included with the lunch box. Nothing as fancy as the previous 2 rolls; but a popular one nonetheless. Other than the California Roll, the Dynamite Roll is probably the most popular, especially in bento boxes. I guess it has a lot to do with it being fully cooked, much like the CaliRoll and the BC Roll. As Pomegranate would suggest, it's sushi for beginners. With that being said, we both still enjoy eating it despite never really being our first choice. Maybe we were spoiled from the first 2 rolls. We found this roll only average. It was pretty large and the prawn tempura was still crisp; but there a bit too much rice.

In the lunch box itself, there were a number of items. Starting with the Sashimi, it consisted of 2 pieces each of tuna and salmon. I would classify the sashimi good and bad. I found the salmon sashimi to be quite good. Nice texture and natural sweetness. Somehow, I found the tuna sashimi to be too soft. I know tuna by default is pretty soft; however, if you have eaten lots of tuna sashimi, you'll know what I mean. Seemingly like a reoccurring theme, the Tempura was quite decent as well. Maybe slightly heavy on the batter while still being crispy and relatively light, there was nothing to suggest that the Tempura was anything but a good eat. The Teriyaki Chicken was okay, slightly dry but not over-sauced. It rested on a bed of sauteed cabbage and sprouts. It's nice to get some other veggies that are not battered and deep-fried.

Well, was it worth it to visit Maguro over Bubble World and Pho Vinh on the account they take credit card? I guess it was. The food in general was quite decent and the pricing fair. Service was friendly with a smile, if not a bit sparse. Not sure if they were trying to be non-intrusive or they just didn't check on us. Wasn't a big deal though. It's nothing that would rival the best sushi around in the GVRD; yet considering its location, it did the job and didn't offend.

The Good:
- Mostly decent food given its location
- Reasonable prices
- Friendly, if not sparse service

The Bad:
- Not a lot of staff, service can be sparse

Maguro Sushi on Urbanspoon

Black Bear Pub

Lately, I've been ranting and raving about the restaurants we visit after hockey. Why? Well, once again, I personally believe that a good ol' beer and some hot wings makes more sense than a bowl of wonton noodles. Hey, don't get me wrong here. I love wonton noodles! But that would seem more appropriate after a game of Mahjong or something. So my mission was to find a place near the our rink for some real Canadian eats and of course, barley sandwiches! For some reason or another, all this time, we have never visited Black Bear Pub located within Lynn Valley Centre. It's literally only 5 minutes away from the rink! Best of all, it's open past midnight. Now, in the daytime, the pub is pretty easy to spot due to its "house-like" appearance which stands out among the newer retail outlets. However, at night, that's another story... Most of us eventually made our way there; but Emilicious took the scenic route and was on her way to West Van before she U-turned it back. Good thing though. As Milhouse explained, if it weren't for her misadventures in North Van, we would've left. You see, the place was packed solid. The fact she took so long allowed tables to become available. While we were waiting in the parking lot, Kim drove out to deliver some goodies from Seattle. That was much appreciated and we snacked on Top Pots while we were waiting. I tried to convince Kim to stay for some eats; but he was too tired from driving from Seattle. He refused food! What has the world come too?

As mentioned earlier, I wanted beer and some hot wings after hockey. And I did exactly that. I started with 1lb of Hot and Dry Wings. No, they were not dry and hot at the same time; rather I got half and half. For me, these wings were a fail. They were fried far too long and became hard and tough. Too bad really since the dry wings had a nice salt & pepper coating. Now if that wasn't enough, I also got The Matterhorn Ostrich Burger. You see, I played back-to-back hockey games and I didn't eat dinner. Loaded with mushrooms, bacon and Swiss, the burger was quite good. Naturally, the meat was not exactly juicy due to the lean ostrich meat. However, it was nicely charred and all the other ingredients made up for it. Despite it's attractive appearance, I was not a fan of the Fat Boy Fries. They were not crispy due to their thickness. I'm sure someone likes them, it just ain't me.

Unlike most pubs, the menu here has an Asian influence and I dared Boss Woman to try one of those items. She obliged and went for the Indo Curry Pasta. It actually consisted of udon (as the pasta) and veggies with a spicy coconut curry sauce topped with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Naan was served on the side. Surprisingly, she liked it (she prefers Asian food and I didn't think she'd like this fusion thing). The sauce was noticeably spicy and flavourful. Emilicious ordered something more conventional in the Pulled Pork Sandwich. Although there was plenty of tender pork and crunchy coleslaw to potentially make this a good sandwich, there was not enough BBQ sauce. Thus, the sandwich was quite dry.

Milhouse gave the Meatloaf a go. It came with garlic mashed potatoes and veggies. Although the meat was a little dry; there was enough great tasting gravy to make up for it. He found the mashed potatoes to be light and fluffy. The veggies were fully cooked while retaining some crunchiness. Bear, totally in his element since the place is named Black Bear, didn't go for the obvious choices. He intentionally stayed away from the Naked Bear Burger since he thought that would scare everyone in itself. However, he did go for the Bear Cheese Bread. Advertised as a blend of 3 cheeses with herbs, this was your typical cheese bread. Although it did have a lot of cheese. He also had the Dry Garlic Ribs which again were your standard dry ribs. It came with an obscene amount of plum sauce which didn't really go with the ribs, in my opinion. Eaten plain, the ribs were good. Not too dry and it was seasoned with just enough salt.

Now, as circumstances presented itself, I found myself at the Black Bear Pub again 4 days later. Well, that was a great opportunity to take a picture of the exterior since there was light out. Furthermore, I could try the one dish that I was eying; but didn't get a chance to order last time. I was quite curious how a $10.00 bowl of Clam Chowder would look like. Turns out that it wasn't as big as I envisioned. For me, $10.00 should buy you a whole lot of chowder. Instead, I found a bowl of soup that is no bigger than any other bowl of soup I've had. I did like the fresh mussels used as garnish, it added a touch of class. However, most of the soup was made up of big chunks of potatoes with some clams here and there. Don't get me wrong here, the soup was not bad. It was creamy with a nice "seafood" taste and the potatoes were excellent. Just not worth $10.00. Viv ended up with the Pesto Chicken Club. As evidenced in the picture, the roll was toasted thoroughly resulting in a crispy product. Viv thought the chicken was both moist and flavourful. All of the other fresh ingredients resulted in a solid sandwich. As for her side salad, it was a fresh side salad...

So, by virtue of having the opportunity of visiting the Black Bear twice within 4 days, gives me a clear overall picture of the place. First and foremost, it is nice place to hang out after an event or just to grab a bite with some friends. Of course, barley sandwiches go well with all the food here. And about the food, it is generally okay with a few misses. Of course, with a menu that dares to go beyond the usual pub fare, that will happen. However, that gives more choice to those who don't merely want items that come out of the deep-fryer. The only thing that could be better is the service. Nothing inherently wrong; but it is a bit sparse when it gets busy.

The Good:
- Diverse menu
- Nice place to hang out
- Plenty of parking

The Bad:
- A tad on the more expensive side
- Food ain't bad; but not great either
- Sparse service

Black Bear Neighbourhood Pub on Urbanspoon