Sherman's Food Adventures: October 2010

Fresh Local Wild

Okay, I'll be honest. I was in no rush to visit Fresh Local Wild. After reading about it in Kim's post, the prices seemed a bit high for a food cart. After all, when we start paying over $10.00 for this type of food, it'd better be damn good. So, despite the fact I was nearby in Downtown, I passed up the opportunity. However, as I was on my way out of the Downtown core, I noticed a tweet that they had a special. Specifically, "any sandwich + fries + drink for $10.00". Right then and there, I went into Chinese mode and thought that was a deal too good to pass up. I hightailed it back across the Cambie Street bridge and luckily found a parking spot a block away on Robson. With Rich Guy manning the car, I made my way to the food cart. Looking over the menu, there are only a few items available such as a Salmon Burger, Po Boy and Venison Burger. Fries and Poutine round it out. Hey, that is good thing, do one thing and do it well. Prices are indeed on the higher side with it maxing out with the Po Boy at $10.00. However, keep in mind that they are Ocean Wise which means that products are sustainable and responsibly harvested.

So once again, my Chineseness took over and since I had the pick of any sandwich, I selected the most expensive one being the Po Boy. With 3 large oysters, this was a decently filling sandwich. I could definitely taste the oysters since the coleslaw topping was quite mild. It did add a nice crunch though. As for the Fries, they didn't look that promising; but ended up to be quite crispy. Looks like they used something like peanut oil here to achieve both the colour and crunchiness. I decided to try these without the "poutine" option since I was not really that hungry.

Finally, the last part of the combo was the Black Currant Soda. I liked how it was not very sweet and some zing was added in the form of lemon. Honestly, the food ain't bad here. In fact, it's pretty good. As mentioned by many others, the pricing is on the steeper side for street food. Sure, that cost is partially attributed to the raw materials - there is nothing one can do about that. Moreover, it's seafood (which is never cheap). For me, the $10.00 special was worth every penny. It is in-line with other food carts in the area. I'm just not sure if everyone out there will be as keen on the regular price of $14.00. If it were a sit down restaurant, I'm sure no one would complain.

The Good:
- Food is pretty solid
- Operators are really cool people
- Ocean Wise is a plus

The Bad:
- Not that it is incredibly expensive; but it costs more than any of the other food carts around
- On the topic of cost, it hits a threshold that many people might not be comfortable with

Fresh Local Wild on Urbanspoon

Thai Pudpong

It's funny how I don't make it out to West Van as often as I used to. When I was a wee one, our family would make the trek out to Salmon House on the Hill for brunch. Then, back in my University days, I would venture into the British Properties weekly. No, I wasn't up to any illegal activities; rather it was to visit Rich Guy. Now you see where he gets his nickname... More recently, when we used to live in Downtown, it was a mere jaunt over the Lion's Gate. But now, it seems I rarely make it out to the land of Range Rovers and BMW's. Well, today, I had an errand to run in West Van and I was hungry. Guess where this is leading to? Hey, I had to eat! And it was lunchtime! Where?

Walking down Marine Drive, I considered Savary Island Pie Co; but it was crazy busy. I'm not one for lineups. Thus, I kept walking until I arrived at Thai Pudpong. Yes, I know, West Van is not exactly the hotbed of Thai food. In fact, unlike many other types of ethnic cuisines, there is no designated area that boasts great Thai food. So I thought: why not? Once seated, I was handed their lunch specials menu and it had the typical items for $7.95 each including salad. Being the hungry person that I was, I went for 2 dishes starting with the Shrimp Pad Thai. I found the texture of the noodles to be perfectly chewy while being coated with just the right amount of sauce. However, the sauce itself was bland. Most of the tartness came from the lime. Otherwise, it was only slightly sweet. By the way, the shrimp that you see is the shrimp that I got.

It was a good decision to order 2 dishes because they were very modest in size. For my second meal, I chose the Chicken Green Curry. Despite its humble appearance, there was a good amount of tender white meat mixed in with string beans, green and red peppers and eggplant. I liked how the veggies were all still vibrant in colour and texture. For the curry itself, I asked for medium and it turned out to be very flavourful. Definitely spicy, with good amount of Thai basil and smooth coconut milk, this was a good curry. Too bad there was so little rice to enjoy it with. I would say the food here is quite decent, if not small in portion size. Mind you, it was still reasonably-priced considering the location. Worth checking out if you have Thai food cravings in West Van.

The Good:
- Very friendly service
- Okay prices

The Bad:
- Portion size is modest at best
- Tight squeeze of a dining room

Thai Pudpong on Urbanspoon

Les Faux Bourgeois (Part Deux)

It's been over a year since we last visited Les Faux Bourgeois. During that time, the place has emerged from being a little French bistro located in an odd location to one of Vancouver's dining destinations. A combination of good food and reasonable prices, it is no wonder that Les Faux has claimed a spot on many top-10 lists. With so many accolades, the place is very popular and there is nearly no chance of getting a table as a walk-in. Thus, much like last year, I had to make a reservation far in advance. The main reason for the re-visit was due to Elaine's birthday. She had not tried Les Faux before and despite my hesitation to do too many repeats, I was more than happy to oblige since I really like the place.

Les Faux fits into the same category of reasonably-priced French restaurants such as Salade de Fruits, Bistrot Bistro, Twisted Fork, Pied-à-Terre, Mistral, Jules and La Brasserie. Unlike Le Crocodile, one can dine at these places and have money left over for important things like fuel and Loonies for parking. Good thing that Les Faux is located where it is, no pay meters to be found! As mentioned, the place is small while being quaint. With that being said, if you do decide to stay a bit longer, the seats are not all that comfortable and you are really close to the next table. As for our table, it was nowhere near the window; thus I had to use my flash. Costanza originally thought they had reserved a window seat for us; however, I reminded him that I'm really not all that important! In fact, I think Aaron McArther and Elanie Yong got the best seats at the back. Yah, being on TV has its advantages. Actually, Aaron and I have played hockey a few times together. Maybe I should've played the "I know this local celebrity" card...

Anyways, we decided to split 3 appetizers starting with the Calamari with tarragon aioli. Sure, not really a "French" dish per se; yet it was on the daily specials and it sounded good. In reality, it was good. It was fried perfectly with a crispy, non-oily coating. The squid itself was tender while not being mushy. Although the squid was flavourful on its own, the tarragon aioli was a nice mild-tasting accent. The only thing I would've liked to see was maybe some acidity in the mayo. Although the Moules et Frites was not really an appetizer, we ordered it as such. Advertised as a spicy charred tomato & scallion broth, it was very tomatoey; but not really all that spicy. Lots of fresh chunky tomatoes provided freshness and the charring added depth. Curiously, big plump mussels were mixed in with small, emancipated ones. I guess it is the luck of the draw... The frites were pretty good. Very crisp, well-seasoned and not oily. A tad on the starchy side; but very good nonetheless. Our last appie was the classic Escargots. Served atop 3 croutons, the escargots were not very flavourful. I would go as far as calling them bland. Sure, there was enough butter and some garlic; but the whole dish seemed to be missing salt. Moreover, I found the snails themselves to be on the rubbery side.

When it came time to order our mains, Elaine and Costanza took my suggestions based on my last visit. Hence, Costanza had the Steak Frites. Originally, he wanted his steak medium; but both the server and I convinced him to have it medium rare. You see, in this version, they were using a hanger steak, which is the meat directly above the diaphragm. It is very flavourful; but can be tough if overcooked. It turned out to be a good decision since it was perfect and as tender as it could be. Laced in a full-bodied and well-balanced red wine shallot jus, there was no shortage of flavour. The same wonderful frites took up the rest of the plate. Too bad Costanza had his fill from the Moules et Frites. No matter, I just ate all the frites he couldn't handle! Elaine opted for what I had last time which was the Duck Confit. In a noticeably smaller portion than last time, the confit was just as good though. Tender, well-seasoned meat with a crispy skin, this is one of my personal favourite versions of this dish in Vancouver (with Pied-à-Terre being a close 2nd).

Viv ended up with one of the specials for the night. Good thing we had the earlier seating because the Veal Chop sold out shortly afterwards. The generous portion of veal was cooked perfectly. I found it to be tender and full of meat flavour. Accompanied by chantrelles and chive mashed potatoes, this was a hearty meal that Viv could not finish. I had the other featured item on the specials board being the Pot-au-Feu. Now, if you are totally confused why there is a chicken breast in the picture, I don't blame you. Normally, this dish is made of beef. And honestly, I wish it were beef since the entire thing was bland. Sure, it isn't supposed to be a flavour explosion, I get that. However, a little salt would've done wonders. Despite this, the chicken was still decently moist for white meat.

For dessert, we all shared the Vanilla Creme Brulee and Chocolate Gateau. With a beautifully torched hard sugar top, it had all the earmarks of a great brulee. We found it to be a bit too sweet and the custard to be a bit thin. But overall, it was fine. As for the Chocolate Cake, it was more of a ganache than anything. The sweetness was quite muted and the dark chocolate was able to shine with the desired bitterness. After it was all said and done, Elaine and Costanza remarked that the meal was pretty solid all around. For the prices they charge, it is no wonder Les Faux remain popular as ever. Sure, Le Croc is better; but that is really comparing apples to oranges. If you have a craving for French food on any ol' day, Les Faux certainly fits the bill.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Generally well-executed food
- Decent portions

The Bad:
- Tight dining room
- Hard to get a reservation

Les Faux Bourgeois on Urbanspoon

Northern Delicacy

When Viv told me that we should all go to the beach, I thought that was a great idea. Little did I know that the place she spoke of was Centennial Beach. What's the big deal you wonder? Well, Centennial Beach is in Tsawwassen. We live in Burnaby. Yup, that is not very close at all. Fine, after all, it is a nice beach with a killer kid's playground. Of all the times Bubbly and Chill have tried to get us out to visit them in Tsawwassen, the one time that we do head out there, they're out of town. LOL. Try getting us to head out there again anytime soon! So after building and rebuilding a sand castle (my daughter wrecked it twice), we were famished. And guess what place lies in between Burnaby and Tsawwassen? Yes, that's right... Richmond. The equivalent of traffic hell, it is a place that I want to avoid but cannot live without. You see, there is a lot of food in Richmond. And I love food. Period.

Therefore, we found ourselves in Richmond looking for food. It brought us to Aberdeen Centre, specifically Northern Delicacy. With large Terracotta statues outside, it is hard to miss. Right below lies Fisherman's Terrace, near Tropika & Master Hung and adjacent to Guu, you can see my point about food in Richmond. There is no shortage of it, albeit of an Asian persuasion. After we finished ordering, I had to take my son to the washroom. Nothing usual you might think; but the darn washroom is out of the restaurant, past Guu, down a long corridor, another corridor after that and into a room that would rival a sauna. Not convenient! It's amazing that upon returning to our table, 2 dishes had already arrived. Either the food comes out fast or that trek to the washroom was long. We started with the Xiao Long Bao. A bit on the smallish side, the filling was quite tasty (lots of meat flavour) despite the modest amount of juice. The skin wasn't really all that thin; yet was easy to eat. I would say these are above average XLB.

Our first noodle dish was the Tan Tan Noodles. In addition to the usual peanut-based sauce, this particular version had crushed black sesame seeds on top. Although the whole bowl of noodles became quite goopy after awhile, the flavour profile was pretty nice. No absence of peanut flavour and the nuttiness from the black sesame gave an extra oomph to the noodles. For the kiddies, we got the Tender Chicken Noodles, or should I say just "Tender Noodles". You know the expression, "Where's the Beef?", how about "Where's the Gai (Chinese for chicken)?". There must've been only 10 tiny pieces of chicken for the entire bowl of noodles. They were indeed tender; but how can anything be hard to chew if it is in the size of a tic tac? The broth was very muted (probably the intention) and there was plenty of veggies though. Noodles were on the softer side. We also got an order of the Braised Pork Shank since it looked so majestic in the menu. When it arrived, it was like getting a McD's cheeseburger. You see it didn't look anything like the picture since it was small. Fortunately, it was flavourful and the skin was delicious. The meat was a little on the dry side though.

The last dish was the 4 Seasons Green Beans. We were quite disappointed in the portion size of this dish. It was no bigger than what you'd find at late night da lang (at other Chinese restaurants). Furthermore, the beans were oil-blanched way too long. They were soft and devoid of any crunch. On the plus side, the beans were tasty with a touch of spiciness. I found that the use onions was far too liberal and it overwhelmed the flavours a touch. Meh. The food was okay here as well as the decent XLB. However, I found the prices and smallish portion sizes to be a sticking point. It does not make me want to return anytime soon. Not that anything was terrible. It's just that there are so many other options available nearby at a lower price point.

The Good:
- Comfortable digs
- Lots of choice
- Lots of parking

The Bad:
- Pricey for what you get
- Food is okay; but not spectacular

Northern Delicacy on Urbanspoon

Goldfish Media Event

*Restaurant is now closed*

About a month ago, I was invited by Executive Chef Curtis Webb (via Victoria) to a preview of the new menu at Goldfish. I really didn't give it much thought because it has been a goal of mine to give Goldfish another go. You see, about 3 years ago, I had visited Goldfish and came away unconvinced. Not that it was horrible or anything, the food just wasn't memorable. However, I liked the decor and vibe. There is no mistaking it, Goldfish fits Yaletown. This brings up an interesting point. When we look at establishments in Yaletown, certain things come to mind - style, hip, trendy, classy and pricey. Well, the pricey part cannot be helped. Considering the high-rent and costs associated with Yaletown, nothing comes cheap. Well, I guess Subway counts; but I'm not talking about that. So, the tasting consisted of 5 dishes, all of which were still in the "experimental" phase. Beautiful ingredients, spot on execution; yet some of the flavours were definitely a work-in-progress. I didn't end up blogging about it since it was not the final product. Sure, I could've just posted the pictures and attached a description; but you know me... I have verbal diarrhea...

Fast-forward a month later, I was invited to the media launch of their new menu. The same items would be there, as well as some others. I decided to go and see for myself if they had made the necessary tweaks to the dishes I had tried. The first item was the Tuna Poke consisting of Ahi, chopped scallop, hamachi, creamy avocado and ceviche sauce. Adding some crunch is fried taro. With this item, they have been able to balance the flavours, unlike the first time I had it. Gone is the predominant cilantro. Now the flavours are much more clean with the tuna really shows up. Next up was the Jumbo Tiger Prawns with a spicy coconut sauce finished coriander tempura. I liked this dish the first time I had it, so I'm glad they didn't change it. The prawn was perfectly crunchy while both the sauce and coriander did not take away from its natural sweetness. Then we were presented with the Lemon Grass Chicken with jasmine rice. This is usually prepared with dark meat since it remains juicy and tender. In this version, they used white meat and surprising it was not dry at all. Well-executed in that respect. For me at least, I would've preferred more lemon grass flavour. It could've been a result of the thick piece of chicken where the flavour wasn't able to penetrate.

Now here comes the dish that was both good and bad the last time I had it - King Crab Tempura wrapped in bacon finished with crushed avocado, sweet soy, grana padano. Hey, it's king crab. A very delicious and expensive ingredient. And hey, it's bacon. I love bacon. However, when we fry bacon and it isn't crispy, it becomes leathery and not very aromatic. This is the case here. The large piece of crab leg meat was outstandingly sweet while the tempura was perfectly crispy. Furthermore the sweet and savoury sauce made for a delicious dish. But, as for the bacon, I'm still not a big fan.

Presented on individual forks was the Green Papaya Beef Salad with rice noodles, julienne vegetables and spicy peanuts. I loved the crunch of the veggies and the peanuts (with a bit of spice). I wanted to like the beef since it was cooked perfectly rare; but it was a tad chewy. I think this would be alleviated if it were sliced thinner. Tender wasn't a problem with the Miso Sablefish with sauteed king tips and crispy spring onions. Perfectly cooked with nice colour and plenty of sweet miso, the flesh practically
melted in my mouth. The king tips were well-executed exhibiting a slight crunch. Something out of left field came our way next. It was not on the menu. On the existing menu, there is the requisite Asian fusion item of BBQ Duck Spring Rolls with sweet fish sauce. This particular spring roll was of the Cheeseburger variety. Yah, go figure, that's really going fusion! It's ground beef in a spring roll atop cheese sauce. Currently it is in the experimental stage (not on the menu yet). I must give them kudos for trying it. We often see Asian food fit North American food for fusion purposes. In this application, we get the reverse in a North American classic fitting into an existing Asian dish. I oddly liked it, despite some reservations. Honestly, almost anything works in a spring roll. Okay, I really guess the best things come last. My favourite from the previous time was the Kurobuta Pork Buns. I was happy that they added more meat for their final product. Sure, the mantou is the "it" bun these days, especially in Asian fusion. Where most places have been using short rib, they use the pork equivalent of Kobe beef combined with pickled onions and coriander. Definitely juicy, definitely tasty. Probably the
best version of an Asian slider so far, better than Terracotta and Bao Bei. Finally, we were presented with a Pannacotta and a light Cheesecake. Honestly, I quickly scoffed those down since I needed to leave. Didn't get much of an impression of the pannacotta; but the cheesecake was light and not too sweet. It was "fluffy" rather than being of the dense variety.

Despite my initial reservations about accepting the media invitation, I was ultimately happy attending. Of course I realize the food was carefully prepared and of course I'll be waited on hand and foot. I get that. However, my main mission was to see if menu in the conceptual stage moved towards a satisfying final product. Furthermore, I wanted to see for myself if my initial impressions of Goldfish could change. Honestly, the first time I ever visited the place, I found the food to be lackluster and lacking creativity. Sure, it was fusion, but honestly, all I got was a piece of fish steamed with ginger and onions. I could do that at home thank you very much. The new items are a combination of "safe" dishes and some that try to be different. We must also take into account what the target customer is as well. After all, this is Yaletown. If you were looking for inexpensive eats with no frills, you are in the wrong neighbourhood. Hey I get it, I used to live here. As mentioned in my Bao Bei post, there are times I do not want to eat in an environment with fluorescent lighting and linoleum floors, no matter how good the eats are. Naturally, I will reserve final judgment when I visit Goldfish independently in the future; however, this tasting has given me incentive to do so.

Le Crocodile

Last time at L'Abattoir, JS and TS had to jet shortly after finishing their meal. Thus, they left me with paying their bill. No matter, since I knew we'd be eating together sometime in the near future. The near future really didn't come soon enough. Yes, there were other opportunities to eat with one another; but I was really busy. Not to mention, being away for a whole week in Portland. With a bit of free time this week, I suggested we get together for lunch somewhere. Now this may seem like an easy exercise. Nope. We really didn't have any ideas as to where to eat. In fact, I had to go into Urbanspoon to get some ideas. Our minds were completely blank! Well, that is not a stretch for us really... So the ideas started off small, such as Jules Casual French Bistro. Then for no apparent reason, TS suggested Le Crocodile. Uh... That's not an inexpensive place! Well, one look a the lunch menu and it wasn't too bad. So off we went to Le Crocodile. I managed to find a parking spot right across the street on Smythe. Not really unusual during a weekday since the spots here are so freakin' expensive. I kept feeding the meter throughout my meal. I think it was enough to get another entree!

From the very start, it was quite obvious that Le Crocodile is all class. From the tasteful decor to the attentive and professional staff. One thing that I noticed was the attention to detail from the staff. Trust me, in Vancouver, this is not a given. It's amazing how crappy the service is in this city. It is no wonder why we have no Michelin-rated restaurants. I digress. So after careful and deliberate planning, we figured out our selections. You see, TS/JS share the same ordering technique that I employ. No duplicates! Nice. To begin, we were presented with an amuse bouche consisting of a Crab, Cheese and Chive Tart. Pretty big for an amuse bouche, only someone with a big mouth could eat that in one bite. No, I didn't eat it in one bite! And I don't have a big mouth! Well, not really... Soft with subtle flavours, it was a nice start to the meal. Not expecting the amuse bouche, JS ordered the Onion Tart. A bit of a redundant item; however, only in concept, not taste. There was a pronounced sweet onion flavour which was front and centre. For a tart, the taste was clean and there was no mistaking that it was made of onion.

TS got one of the appetizer features being the Prawn Salad with mango sauce. I got to sample some prawn and in addition to being perfectly cooked, there was a strong grilled prawn essence. This was a very enjoyable taste and it was naturally flavourful. Being a bit ambitious, I decided to employ the Truffle Omelet as my appetizer. You see, it is actually an entree and our server warned me that it is not small item. Nah, it's French food, how big could it be? Well, look at it... There is a full plate of food here including the decent-sized omelet to the mound of frites to the plentiful butter lettuce salad. For me, I needed to try the omelet. For such a simple item, it requires plenty of skill to properly execute. This one was excellent. Nicely browned on the exterior giving way to a fluffy soft interior, this is skill in action. One complaint would be the excess use of salt which overwhelmed the truffles. As for the frites, they were very good being crispy and properly seasoned. We all kept munching on them with much content. The butter lettuce was fresh and only lightly dressed.

So with that "appetizer" out of the way, my main course arrived. The Duck Confit consisted of two meaty duck legs! We were beginning to realize that the portion size here is quite large. Most of the leg meat was tender except for some parts which were a bit tough (mostly on the exterior). The skin was not crispy in this case; rather it was the soft, melt-in-your-mouth version. I'm not complaining. The star of the dish had to be the demi-glace. An intense red wine flavour tempered by a savoury-sweetness brought the duck meat to life. JS opted for the Chilean Seabass with lobster beurre blanc. I was given a huge piece to taste and the first thing that struck me was the sauce. Absolutely delicious. It was like the perfectly cooked fish had been sauced with a lobster bisque. Once again, we were not complaining. The buerre blanc was rich with a powerful lobster essence. TS decided to get a "meat" dish since JS had fish. Careful planning, I tell ya... So she had the Venison Medallions in a chantrelle sauce with spatzle as a result. She asked for it to be medium-rare and it came out closer to medium. However, that really didn't affect the net result since the venison turned out to be very tender and not that gamy. The rich chantrelle sauce was understated; yet luxurious. The spatzle was very buttery.

Every table received a side of Shoestring Frites to go share with their meal. It was quite the novelty to eat. Crunchy and lightly salted, it would make a great snack. Compared to the actual frites, we could've done without these; but since they were complimentary... While we were deciding whether to have dessert or not (since we were so stuffed from the large portions), we were presented with a palate cleanser in the form of Cantaloupe Sorbet with port syrup and mint. This was very good since the sorbet tasted exactly like eating a cantaloupe. Furthermore, the little bits of cantaloupe added texture and flavour. We thought that the port syrup was too sweet and detracted from the natural sweetness of the fruit. We were not hungry; but buckled under the pressure and decided to share 2 desserts. The first of which was the Marinated Peaches in Mission Hills ice wine and mint with raspberry sorbet. We really enjoyed this refreshing dessert. The peaches were sweet; but not too sweet with a nice hit of mint.

Alright, I know we came for lunch and I'm sure dinner service is probably more upscale. However, for the price we paid, we got a lot of food. The portion size was definitely more country-style. Disregarding the portion size, the food itself was very well-executed and delicious. Service was impeccable, probably some of the best I've had in a long time. Very professional and knowledgeable. Le Crocodile is definitely more traditional than some of the newer French eateries in town; however, in my opinion, it sets the standard in Vancouver.

The Good:
- Good portions
- Impeccable service
- Quaint and traditional

The Bad:
- Not exactly expensive; but it's not cheap (especially for dinner)

Le Crocodile on Urbanspoon