Sherman's Food Adventures: April 2011

Cattle Hot Pot

Whenever Rich Guy is in town, it is a real treat. Yes, he does willingly eat with me at almost anywhere - that is a benefit for sure. However, the real treat is that he hits his bro up for Canuck tix. You see, Richer Guy owns a suite at Rogers Arena and he has tickets to give away to clients. Well, I'm not exactly a client; but that is where Rich Guy comes into the picture... So he was able to secure tickets to the Columbus game. We met up at Richer Guy's place and he gave us a lift in his Benz to his personal parking spot at Rogers Arena. Interestingly, the gate attendant asked where his Ferrari was at... They know what car he drives??? Boy, he is definitely Richer Guy! Now as for the game, it was as boring as watching molasses strain through a sieve. If it weren't for the shootout win, we would've fallen asleep. Hey, I shouldn't complain. Game tickets, parking spot underground and driven to and from in a Benz. Hey... we should've asked him to take the Cayenne instead!

So after the game, there was only one thing left to do. Eat! Since we were getting close to Richmond, we decided to head for late-night AYCE at Cattle Hot Pot. For $17.95, it looked like a decent value. However, much like any other hot pot joint, the soup base nor the special sauces are included. Personally, I find this misleading. Nothing against Cattle Hot Pot per se since every place does the same; but if you're going to charge for broth other than boiling plain water, then just add it into the price. It is just a pet peeve of mine. So we ended up with half Satay and half Ching Bo Leun (it's a herbal soup). We ordered as many items as 2 people could eat, especially late night!

We started with the Fatty Beef which was well-marbled, fresh-looking and extremely tender when cooked. For me, it always tastes better when boiled in the satay side of the soup. As with most hot pot places these days, the meatballs are freshly made, not frozen. The Beef Meatballs were indeed a nice colour and had the perfect texture. When cooked, they had an excellent bounce texture when bitten into. As for the fresh Shrimp Meatballs, these were my favourite. A mix of shrimp puree and whole cold-water shrimp, it was like eating a shrimp wonton without the wrapper. Very tasty too, nice and sweet. We also got some Sui Gow which are quite similar to wontons except for being bigger and with the addition of wood ear mushrooms. These were good since the base of the filling was the excellent shrimp puree/shrimp mix.

As with any hot pot, seafood is a must, so we got some Basa, Oysters and Shrimp. Other than the large oysters, the other items were previously frozen. This is not a negative though because there is no live basa here and it is not spot prawn season (let alone they would actually serve that in an AYCE). So what it was, it worked and that's that. A relatively popular item these days is the Pork Cheek. Well, actually anything cheek is trendy, whether it be a halibut cheek or lamb cheeks. Why is it popular? Well, the cheek has a unique texture that is not readily found anywhere else. When cooked briefly, it is slightly chewy with a rebound-type texture. By no means is it tough, it just has some bite. Now if you braise it, suddenly, the texture becomes a bit gelatinous. Of course, at hot pot, we would've just boiled it quickly and it would have the aforementioned qualities. Next, we got a plate of mushrooms consisting of Enoki and Shiitake. Well, what can I say, they were good mushrooms and when cooked, they were good as well. Just don't over boil the enoki, it's gross that way.

For me personally, I need to have some offal at hot pot. The more the better actually. However, not everyone shares my love for "the best parts of an animal". Rich Guy falls into that category. So I only got a conservative amount including Bible Tripe and Beef Tendon. The tripe boiled up to be easy to chew while the tendon was precooked enough so that it was soft to eat once boiled. I liked that the tripe did not have any gamy flavour which indicates it was properly washed beforehand. Oh, the corn on the same plate was really good. Not sure where they got fresh corn from; but it was sweet while each kernel was not not tough. We actually got a few more items such as tofu, watercress and bean curd skin; but they are hardly picture worthy. You just have to trust me when I say they were good as well. Again, hot pot is not a difficult thing to do. What you need is a good flavourful broth, fresh ingredients and decent service. We got all 3 this time around. So that would mean we would do a repeat visit.

The Good:
- Fresh ingredients
- Broth tastes good
- Service is efficient

The Bad:
- Although service is efficient, it is generally indifferent
- Not a very big place, I can imagine it gets really busy

Cattle Hot Pot Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Ursu Korean BBQ

Quick. What do Mexican and Korean food have in common? Dog meat? No, that's not it, despite what you hear. If you were thinking of carbs, spice, beef, grilled meats and the sort, I guess you can make a compelling argument. However, let me rephrase the question - what do they have in common within the GVRD? Simple. The Roaming Dragon and Coma food trucks (and Cartel Taco). These mobile outfits have combined the 2 cuisines hoping to offering something tasty and different. Now we have another in the form of a cart with a consistent home. Ursu Korean BBQ food cart sits on the corner of Georgia and Richards (which is a bit tight for that sidewalk, I might add). If the Roaming Dragon and Coma represent modern fusion cuisine, then Ursa would be the rustic, less-refined version.

Rather than the usual younger operators found at food carts, this one features older Korean ladies serving up tacos and quesadillas. There was a small gathering when I arrived and as we were all waiting for our food, it quickly donned on me that this is not exactly "fast food". It took over 20 minutes for me to get my order. When I did get it, the ladies behind me asked for their money back since they could not wait any longer. To get an idea of their offerings, I got a little of everything. I got a BBQ Chicken Soft Taco as well as a BBQ Beef Taco. In terms of a better value, I would recommend going for the soft taco since they can put more "stuff" into it. Furthermore, the soft taco was the better of the 2 in general. The problem with the hard taco was that they did not toast it first; hence it had a "stale" texture to it. Not that it was stale though, it just wasn't crispy. In terms of the meat, both were quite sweet while the chicken had some spice. For some reason or another, I found the un-melted cheese a poor compliment to the Korean BBQ meat. Texturally, the chicken was tender while the beef was quite dry. I think the beef taco could've benefited from some type of sauce.

Also in need of some sauce was the Bulgogi Dog. Essentially replacing a taco shell with a hot dog bun, the whole thing was far too dry. The dry bun combined with the dry meat with no form of moisture whatsoever made it hard to eat. I needed water to help me swallow. As mentioned, the meat was quite sweet (which is not really that usual for Korean BBQ) and could've benefited from some contrasting flavours. Lastly, I got the BBQ Chicken Quesadilla (yes, I ate all of this). Unlike the taco, the cheese worked well with the spicy chicken meat. Since it was melted, the flavours kinda melded together. I did enjoy this since there was all the typical ingredients to a chicken quesadilla except with a Korean twist. However, I can't see many people paying $6.99 for this. That is probably why I'm not that excited about this latest Korean-Mexican fusion food cart. Personally, I would probably go with the Roaming Dragon or Coma Food Truck ahead of Ursu.

The Good:
- The Korean ladies are quite friendly
- The option of some smaller items may suit those with smaller appetites

The Bad:
- The wait for food is too long (especially for people needing to get back to work)
- For me, some of the items seemed to be thrown together without much thought
- It doesn't seem pricey at first; but it can get up there if you want to be full

Ursu Korean BBQ Food Cart on Urbanspoon

The Jade

For those who are unfamiliar with Dim Sum, it is a form of Chinese tapas that is normally served for brunch/lunch. In the GVRD, there appears to be 3 distinct levels of Dim Sum. First, we have the hole-in-the-wall, inexpensive Dim Sum which normally runs around $2.50 - $3.00 per dish. Second, we have the middle-of-the-road pack that serves up these dishes at $3.00 - $4.00 each. Lastly, we have high-end Dim Sum that sees an average price of $4.00 - $5.00 per dish. Now what does the premium get you? Well, a nicer venue which normally includes washrooms that are not dangerous to your health. Hey, it's an important feature to many! I honestly cannot understand why so many Chinese restaurants treat their washrooms like the bottom of their shoes. In fact, I think the bottom of their shoes would be cleaner... I digress. In addition to nicer washrooms, the service is relatively better. I say relatively because even the best service at a Chinese restaurant would be considered embarrassing at other places. Lastly, the raw materials are expected to be better as well. Is it worth paying for? Well, Rich Guy and I were about to find out on our visit to The Jade for Dim Sum.

Now, Dim Sum is not complete without having their CRA-winning dish - Mushroom Dumplings. A combination of mushrooms encased within a thin rice flour wrapper, these are in fact very good. I wouldn't go as far as to say it is necessarily a "wow" thing; but it's good nonetheless. Something about the umami-ness of the mushrooms make the dumpling. Of course the perfectly cooked wrapper helps too, it's slightly chewy/gummy while still easy to eat. We were curious about their version of the Dumplings in Consume because it was not like the usual "goong tong gau" we are familiar with. Rather than one big dumpling, there were 3 shrimp "wontons" with wood ear mushroom. They sat in a flavourful chicken broth with one piece each of dried scallop, baby abalone, sea cucumber and dried fish maw. This was a very upscale version and it delivered. Good quality ingredients and perfect execution. However, I'd prefer one big dumpling over the small little wontons.

The Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) were very good. The dumpling skin was the perfect texture exhibiting a slight chewiness. It was neither gummy or too thick. As for the filling, the whole shrimp had a nice snap and the natural sweetness of the shrimp and sesame oil just tasted great. Now for the ying to the yang, the Sui Mai (Shrimp & Pork Dumplings). These were equally as good. A good combination of bouncy pork and shrimp, these also tasted quite good. Continuing on the dumpling theme, we decided to give the Crab Dumplings a try. Often, whenever "real crab" is used in such things like sushi and dumplings, it seems to get lost. It's such a delicate ingredient, it doesn't take much to overwhelm it in terms of flavour and/or texture. The same could be said about this dumpling. With a mix of cilantro and ground pork, the crab seemed to be MIA. Not a bad dumpling by any means, the crab was just not apparent.

What was not lost was the shrimp in the Rice Noodle Roll. The perfectly cooked cold-water shrimp had a nice snap and were encased in soft rice noodle. Although soft, the rice noodle still had a slight resistance; which kept it intact once picked up with chopsticks. I liked the addition of yellow chives as it both gave colour and flavour. Now, the excellent rice noodle couldn't save the Ja Leun or Salty Donut Rice Noodle Roll. Despite the equally soft rice noodle roll with the addition of green onion, the salty donut itself killed the dish. The donut was greasy, overfried and too crispy. I realize this dish is more about textural contrasts then flavour itself (since the main flavouring agent is sweet soy and hoisin/sesame sauce); however, this was way too much of a contrast. Another dud was the Pan-Fried Taro Cake. A close cousin to the daikon radish cake, this is remarkably more dense and rich in flavour. Now being more dense is one thing; but this particular version was very hard and dry. When we were chewing, it became mealy and if we didn't have tea on hand, it would've been a bit difficult to swallow. Flavour-wise, it was good though. A rich taro flavour accented by dried shrimp and Chinese sausage, it was too bad the taro cake suffered from a lack of water when they made the paste. One thing they did get right was the pan-frying. Although uneven, it was crispy and aesthetically pleasing.

On the flip side, the Steamed Spareribs were very good. First of all, the ribs were quite meaty and there was very little in the way of cartilage and fat. Secondly, the texture was a good combination of a slight chewiness and being tender. We liked the addition of peppers as it added a level of sweetness to compliment the black bean and garlic. Lastly and yes, it actually arrived last, was the Egg Tarts. I guess that is one of the benefits of paying more for Dim Sum, there is a chance that the proper order of food expedition will occur. Despite their modest size, the egg tarts did pack a punch. The flaky pastry yielded a good amount of egg custard that was semi-sweet and the right balance of soft; yet not watery. With that being said, these were amazingly small.

This brings up an interesting point. With the high prices and modest portion size, The Jade services specific clientele. Consider this, we shared 10 dishes and we were not stuffed. We weren't hungry by any stretch of the imagination; but we could've eaten more. The total bill including tip came to over $65.00 for 2 people. Now with that high price tag, there is a certain level of expectations in terms of food quality. On the whole, Dim Sum was quite good except for 2 dishes. Rich Guy and I discussed that fact. We came to the conclusion that if 80% of the dishes were good, that is acceptable. On the other hand, the prices don't allow for much room for error either. Is it acceptable to have 2 sub-par dishes at roughly $5.00 each? We really couldn't come to a consensus. That is probably why I will remain indifferent despite some really good dishes.

The Good:
- Food is made with care
- The service we got was attentive
- Large parking lot exclusively for The Jade

The Bad:
- Expensive
- You can get the same quality of stuff elsewhere for less

The Jade Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The BiBo

Awhile back, Mijune and I were invited to try out a new Italian restaurant on 4th Ave. The BiBo is the brainchild of Carlo Lorenzo Bottazzi and Andrea Bini who traveled to Vancouver from Italy attempting to extol the virtues of an authentic Italian gastronomical experience. We never made it out to their initial invite due to the Foodie Feast. Finally, with a break in our schedules, Mijune and I shoehorned this dinner between Bake for the Quake and blogging. In fact, we were late for our reservation since there was a 45 minute wait to get into Bake for the Quake. Kudos to Melody and Joy for organizing such a successful fundraiser. On a side note, it appears that Mijune has replaced Kim as my partner in eating. Seems like a good trade for me, Mijune is a whole lot better looking!

When we finally did arrive at The BiBo, Andrea spent some time chatting with us. Boy, he is Italian alright. From his passion about food to his wonderful Italian accent. In fact, he chose this location for its existing wood-burning brick oven. Ah yes, no wonder the place seemed familiar to me. Originally, this location was Portobello back in the 80's and early 90's. Then it became an Indian restaurant and now it has become The BiBo. As Mijune and I settled in with some beverages, we were presented with an Antipasto Platter to start. The platter consisted of 3 cheeses (Fontina, Tallegio and Pecorino) as well as 3 meats (Prosciutto Cotto, Prosciutto Crudo and Ham(?)). Completing the platter was olives, pickled pearl onions and house-made focaccia. With any meat and cheese platter, the quality of the ingredients are what make or break it. So, not to sound uninteresting, the platter was good. However, the one variable was the focaccia. Essentially the same as the pizza crust except with nothing more than rosemary and olive oil, the focaccia was pretty good. I thought the dough was seasoned properly while Mijune thought it need a bit more salt. The bread itself was chewy and slightly crisp. It made us feel excited to try the pizzas later.

Next, we were presented with a plate consisting of 3 pastas. We started with the Rigatoni Alla Norma. Hands down this was the best of the 3. The combination of grilled eggplant, tomato, basil and salt ricotta cheese was truly a flavour explosion as the menu states. At first, there was a hit of tang and slight sweetness ending off with a salty kick. With this flavourful sauce caressing the really al dente pasta, we would order this again.
Onto the Pesto Gnocchi, it had a pleasing green hue that screamed out fresh. One bite into the soft gnocchi and it wasn't as flavourful as it appeared. At first I thought the gnocchi was too soft; but as I waited for it to cool down a bit, it was the texture I personally liked, which is soft while maintaining some form resistance. It was explained to us that the basil is specifically imported from Italy. Hence, I am not sure if it is supposed to be more mild or not. I did get a sense of the herbiness at the end; yet it was still very understated. Lastly, we tried the Bibo Matteo which is apparently a close family friend's recipe. It consists of wide pasta bathed in a creamy porcini sauce. Okay, I have to admit the back story gives the pasta an almost mythical quality, however, we both agreed that this was the least favourite of the three. I'm not saying this was bad by any means, it just didn't have the impact we were hoping for. The pasta was past al dente and the mushroom sauce was indeed creamy; yet not particularly Earthy. It has the potential of being a great dish. It just needs a bit more punch.

So we could try as many different types of pizza as possible, they made 2 pizzas divided into quarters. We started with the Margherita Formula One made with San Marzano tomatoes DOP, buffalo mozzarella and basil. As evidenced in the description, this pizza is serious. From the certified San Marzano tomatoes to the buffalo mozzarella, this is authentic as it gets. In terms of flavour, it was pretty good. Well-balanced and very similar to the one served at Nicli Antica, down to the charred crust.. However, the one big difference was the centre of the pizza. It was very soft and limp. We brought this up with Andrea and he acknowledged that and assured us that the pizza is authentic. On the opposite side was the Pancetta & Gorgonzola. This one was a flavour explosion due to the sharp gorgonzola. That in itself made the pizza sing and was my one of my favourites.

I didn't have the same sentiment for the Eggplant and Tomato though. Nothing wrong with the eggplant since they do prepare it very well here. It was the tomatoes. They were very bland and didn't provide the tang we were looking for. Not a bad pizza per se, it just didn't interest us much. The last quarter of this pizza was the Red Onion and Mushroom. Despite the obvious lack of meat that might make me biased towards it from the outset, Mijune echoed the same sentiments about this slice. It was alright; but did not elicit much excitement. This would be okay for someone who likes onions and mushrooms. Now onto the next pizza, the first bite was my favourite. The Baccone absolutely rocked. The combination of prosciutto, eggplant, spicy salami, provola, tomato and mozzarella was both well-balanced while providing a multitude of different flavours. I felt the the spicy salami had just enough kick without overwhelming the other components while the marinated eggplant gave a nice tang at the end.

Now, Mijune and I agreed on both the Quatrro Formaggi and Baccone as 2 of the top 3 of the night; however, when it came to the third, we did not agree. I though the Bresaola was pretty good. A white pie (or without sauce), this consisted of mozzarella, bresaola, arugula and parmasan flakes. I really liked the combination of flavours with the saltiness of the bresaola, bitterness of the arugula and nuttiness of the parmesan. I guess it also helped that the pizza crust was not as soft since there was no sauce. While this one was not in Mijune's top 3, the Boscaiola was. A relatively simple pizza consisting of house-made sausage, tomato, mozzarella and mushrooms, it was indeed a good pizza. If we had ranked all the pizzas, I would've put this 4th, so we were almost on the same wavelength. The star of this pizza was the house-made sausage. I found it not too fatty and very meaty. It was not overseasoned and that in itself did not overwhelm the other subtle

The slice right next to the Boscaiola was somewhat similar consisting of Porcini Mushrooms and Sausage. No tomato sauce in this one gave it a slightly different flavour. I found the mushrooms to have a more prominent role, partly due to the type of mushroom as well. Hence, there was an obvious woodsy taste that was slightly bitter as well. Again, the wonderful house-made sausage gave this pizza some body. Without the tomato sauce, it wasn't as good as the Boscaiola; but it did also mean the pizza wasn't as soft either. As you can plainly guess, I liked the pizzas, especially my top 4; however, the softness of the pizza crust at the centre bothered me a bit. In that respect, I personally like the crust at Nicli Antica more while I like the topping combinations here at Bibo. Too bad I can't combine the two...

After this carb-fest, I was already throwing in the towel. Mijune, on the other hand, was just revving up for dessert. Predictable. And luck would have it, more carbs for dessert! On the dessert platter, there was the Chocolate Pizza on the outside and the Sweet Pizzacotto at the centre. I have to be honest here, I was not a big fan of the pizzacotto. Maybe I was on carb overload? I'm not sure, but I found the layers of pizza dough to be heavy and the layers of sweet custard did not stand up to it. If it were up to me, I would've preferred thinner layers of pizza dough with more custard in between. On the other hand, I liked the Chocolate Pizza. It reminded me somewhat of a Chinese dessert which has red bean paste encased in dough and pan fried. However, this one was much better since it was sweet chocolate. The dough wasn't too thick and the chocolate was silky. Despite being full, I managed to eat a whole slice.

Now you'd think we'd all had enough food right? No, not Mijune. She's an eating machine! She requested to try the Tiramisu and in the end, it was a great idea. Although not teeming with espresso, the tiramisu was delicious without being too sweet. The custard was creamy while the lady fingers were soaked enough to melt in our mouths. I personally liked the fresh fruit in both desserts since it was refreshing and visually appealing. Okay, lemme put this out there. Ever since The BiBo opened, there has been plenty of hype. After all, they invited many of Vancouver's food bloggers for a tasting including myself and Mijune. Therefore, the majority of the write-ups you see on Urbanspoon are a result of this. So what's the deal on The BiBo? Exactly what I just wrote. There are some really good ideas and the owners are serious about the ingredients. They go as far as importing specific items from Italy to preserve the authenticity of the food. Now with that being said, there were some things that were better than others. The pastas we did try exhibit potential with the rigatoni impressing while the Matteo being only okay. The pizzas as a whole have some pretty nice flavour combinations; but the crust itself was a bit soft for me. We thought the Tiramisu was really good as with the Chocolate Pizza. The jury is still out on the Sweet Pizzacotto. Of course we really can't comment about the service since they knew we were there. They were friendly naturally; but they could've checked on us a bit more often. I loved the vibe and decor of the place, it really is lively and the Italian movies playing on the back wall is a neat trick. The bottom line? A decent place that takes its food seriously. Give it some time, there are still some growing pains.

*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*

The Good:
- Stylish decor with movies playing on the back wall
- Some good flavour combinations for the pizzas
- Lots of choice

The Bad:
- Pizza crust is mostly good except for the soft centre
- Service could be more attentive

The BiBo on Urbanspoon

Frasers Bistro & Lounge

"Come on, join me for food...". That's what Mijune proposed one random night. Well, joining Mijune for food is quite common to tell you the truth. She can out eat me any day... This random meal had something to do with a tweet from Jeremy eluding to meeting up for dinner at Fraser's Bistro in Surrey. Alright, I'm up for this. As I have said over and over again, there is very little love given to Surrey in terms of its culinary scene. Fair enough. There are really not a whole lot of "fine dining" places in Surrey itself; but there are lots of places to eat. Fraser's Bistro isn't exactly fine dining; but it comes pretty close. Now, intention and reality are mutually exclusive, so we'll have to see if it can live up to it.

Apparently, Jeremy used to work there and we were going to do a menu sampling of sorts; yet at the same time, pay for our own meal. Joining us were his brother and Mary from Mary in Vancity and her husband. We started with a shot of Gazpacho consisting of tomato, cucumber and red onion. I found this to be quite refreshing and appetizing. There was a decent balance between sweetness and acidity with a touch of spice. Only complaint would be the slightly gritty texture. Next up was Calamari with a red pepper aioli. On the bottom rested mesclun greens tossed in a buttermilk dressing. The fried squid itself was tender on the inside with a slight bite while pleasingly crisp on the outside. I would've preferred less salt in the batter thought. I loved the red pepper aioli, it was slightly spicy and went well with the squid. In fact, it want well with the buttermilk dressing as well. I guess they intended for the two to balance each other out. In actuality, it did accomplish that; but there was a tad too much dressing and made the greens limp.

After that, we moved onto a pasta teaser (we had more pasta coming later). We tried the Ravioli stuffed with goat cheese, sundried tomato, caramelized onion. The pasta itself was made with butternut squash while laced with a sage brown butter and basil. This little bite was extremely buttery. Not in a bad way though. The sage brown butter was tasty and it did compliment the pasta itself. However, I felt that the sun dried tomato was overwhelming and masked the other components. Maybe a bit less would've maintained a better balance. We were presented with 2 plates of Mussels next. The one pictured was the Thai Coconut Curry. I found the broth to be quite thick due to the copious amount of coconut milk. There was actually a nice kick from the red curry and it went well with the sweet, plump mussels. As a sauce, the broth would've went well with a bowl of rice; but in the end, it could've been a little less thick because it was too heavy for a seafood dish. As for the fresh cut fries on top, they were not as crispy as I would've liked. I'm pretty sure they didn't use Kennebec potatoes; hence they turned out to be on the softer side. For those who don't like it too crisp, they worked fine as a dipping device into the flavourful broth.

Next, we moved onto 2 pizzas. The Italian Sausage and Mushroom was actually quite good. I liked the zesty flavour from the combination of sausage and fresh tomato sauce. There was a modest mix of shiitake and button mushrooms which did add the usual earthiness to the already flavourful pizza (that is only if there were mushrooms on the slice). While not a Neapolitan pizza, the thin, crisp crust was good in its own ways. Our second pizza was the Tomato, Boccocini, Basil and Red Peppers. I thought this pizza was a little heavy on the cheese and short on taste. Hence the crust was not as crisp as the other pizza. I did like the red peppers, they were sweet; but then again, the basil-pesto-like sauce did not provide any impact. I call it a "pesto-like" sauce because it sure looked like pesto, albeit a pale one. However, it wasn't particularly pesto-like in flavour. The menu says it is basil; yet if this was the case, then it would've been much more effective if they added fresh basil on top of the pizza.

Continuing our tour of carbohydrates, we were presented with 3 different pastas starting with the Smoked Salmon Fettuccine with capers and goat cheese. I found the sauce to be very creamy while not being too heavy at the same time. There was the right amount of smoked salmon where it did not overwhelm the rest of the pasta. The pasta itself was cooked properly being al dente. The item that made the most impact was the capers. There was only a modest amount of them; but they added a nice zip that helped balance the richness. The next pasta was the Lamb Farfalle which consisted of shredded lamb, spinach, pine nuts and lamb jus. Once again the pasta was done right. There wasn't much lamb jus; yet there was still adequate flavouring which was not gamy. The lamb itself was a tad chewy while the spinach was wilted just enough. It retained a vibrant colour and did not even get close to being mushy. The roasted pine nuts were naturally a nice addition in terms of texture and well, nuttiness. Our last and probably the best of the 3 pasta was the Mushroom Ravioli. Stuffed with mushroom laced in a thyme cream sauce and more mushrooms, this was a rich offering. Curiously, it wasn't as earthy as one might expect with so much mushroom. No matter, it was still good being more subtle than in-your-face.

After the fairly heavy pastas, we were presented with an interlude of sorts - a shot of Roasted Corn Chowder. Despite being a small portion of a larger soup, this had to be hands down the highlight of the night. This soup had it all. It was savoury, sweet, creamy, smoky and spicy. This had a certain Indian flair to it as there was a pronounced curry hit to it. I could have had many bowls of this. With my taste buds still singing, 2 salads arrived. Now, whenever one orders a Caesar Salad, it almost seems a bit boring. Well, especially at chain restaurants, it does become quite generic. So I wasn't exactly expecting much. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the dressing was made in-house. It was well-balanced in terms of saltiness and acidity. The freshly shaved Parmesan added a nice nuttiness. But the one thing that really set this salad apart was the fried capers. Texturally and flavourwise, it made the Caesar something better than the usual. While the Caesar was good, the Grilled Portobello Mushroom was not. I normally love grilled portobellos, they are so "meaty" and mushroomy (is that a word?). But for some inexplicable reason, the portobello was marinaded in far too much vinegar. Not only did it destroy the natural flavour of the mushroom, the texture became very unappetizing as well. That was really too bad since there were nice grill marks which could've tasted great if it weren't for the over-acidic marinade.

After our salads, we proceeded to the meat dishes. As they arrived all at once, there wasn't really an order to it all. So I quickly snapped photos of everything and started with the House Smoked Duck Breast with spätzle. The duck wasn't exactly tough per se; but I thought it was sliced too thick which made it appear to be chewy. In fact, I found the texture to okay and the meat itself exhibited plenty of smoke flavour. One thing I did find chewy was the skin. It was not rendered enough or prepared in a way that was easy to eat. Rather, it was akin to gnawing on undercooked bacon. Not pleasant in texture nor taste. The spätzle was dry and lacking flavour. I did not enjoy it. I wasn't exactly sure about the composition of the accompanying sauce since it was predominantly sweet. It may have been some form of berry reduction? On the topic of sauces, I didn't know what to think about the demi-glace that decorated the plate with the Certified Angus Grilled NY Strip. The steak itself was tender and cooked nicely medium rare. No issues with the quality of the meat nor its execution. However, the demi-glace tasted like water-down HP Sauce. I guess the tang resulted from the red wine while I was not sure where the graininess originated from. It was far from silky and far from being balanced. That really detracted from the nice steak. On the other hand, the asparagus and fingerling potatoes turned out quite well.

Our last protein was the Seared Halibut. The fish itself was prepared properly being flaky and moist. However, it was severely under-seasoned. Even the sauce couldn't bring the fish to life. About that sauce... I'm not sure what it was. It was slightly sweet and not much else. It didn't have enough acidity or salt to properly flavour the fish. The side of rice was also bland and a bit dry too. It's really too bad since all the proteins were cooked quite well whereas the sauces were weak. If they can work that out, the dishes would be more successful. Finally after all these dishes, we ended up with a dessert sampler which consisted of 3 items. The first one I tried was the Bailey's Creme Brulee. At first glance, the torched sugar topping had a pleasing caramel colour and was the right thickness. Once inside, I found the custard to be quite smooth and predominantly sweet. I could detect the Bailey's while the real vanilla was not evident until I got to the bottom of the ramekin. Not a bad attempt.

Next dessert was the Lemon Upside Down Cake. For me, I'm a sucker for anything lemon when it comes to dessert since I really enjoy the tartness. However, there was none of that evident in this cake. It was moist though and served warm. So on that level, it was a good cake. Yet, for me, a lemon dessert is not a lemon dessert without the tartness. The last dessert was what we categorize as an "epic fail". When I first took a bite of the Cheesecake, something immediately dawned on me. I couldn't find the words; but I knew something was absolutely wrong. I deferred to Mijune who declared it as "curdled". Ah yes, thank you, that was the right term. You see, there were bits of cream cheese strewn throughout the cheesecake. So very, very wrong. Honestly, I didn't even know what kind of cheesecake it was. It was brownish in colour; but did not taste like coffee. Neither did it taste like any discernible fruit. I really didn't know what flavour they were trying to go with this and add in the incorrect texture, this was a really bad cheesecake. I'm sorry to be so blunt; but there is not other way of putting it. In fact, this illustrates my argument that a restaurant is only capable of what it is capable of. Despite the announced presence of Mijune and myself, the food was what it was. The sauces for the entrees need some work, as with the desserts (especially the cheesecake). Now, to be fair, we tried almost everything off the menu and there were indeed some high points. The pizza was not bad considering this is not a pizza joint. Furthermore, the pastas are more than acceptable. It also must be noted that the more casual dishes, such as the calamari were very good. Despite some execution issues, I must give Frasers Bistro kudos for attempting this type of food, particularly given its location.

The Good:
- Pizza, pastas and casual items were good
- Not too expensive
- Kudos for them trying to be different than all the other restaurants nearby

The Bad:
- Certain execution issues such as the sauces and the cheesecake
- Not a bad per se; but their location doesn't scream out "fine dining"

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