Sherman's Food Adventures: May 2011

Northern Tadka

I was so impressed with my meal at Taste of Punjab that I was revving to do a return visit the very next week. Motoring down 96th, I was well on my way when I noticed another new restaurant... Yah, I got food ADD. Can't help it. So much so, I almost got whiplash from my sudden head jerk towards the right. Where the old Jim's Hideaway used to occupy, stands a new Indian restaurant. Okay, I know, I know. Much like Richmond needs another Chinese restaurant, we find another Indian restaurant in Surrey. Okay, before you lose interest and stop reading, stay with me here. I do concede that another post about an Indian restaurant in Surrey might sound repetitive; but there is the possibility of finding a gem. The new restaurant is Northern Tadka. Located in the same plaza as Mr. Pickwick's and Chicken World, it still hasn't completely rid itself of Jim's Hideaway. In fact, the entrance is still splattered with "Jim's" on the frosted glass.

If you are wondering why the place is called "Northern" Tadka, it is because the food served here is Northern Indian. Specifically from the Punjab region. Much like other ethnic cuisine, there are many regional cuisines that we aren't familiar with since it is easier to group it all into an "Indian", "Chinese", "Italian" and so on "restaurant". Fortunately for most, Northern Indian cuisine is the most prevalent in the GVRD. You know, the Butter Chicken, Tandoori Chicken and Aloo Golbi type stuff. Seeing how I can only eat so much (I do have my limits you know), I decided to visit this place 3 times before I wrote about it. For the first visit, I went for one of my favs being the Lamb Vindaloo. I am daring to put myself out there by saying that this was one of the best vindaloos I've had recently. The first thing that struck me was the heat. This was no wussy version. There was a kick of spice that made itself known and lingered for a bit. However, it did not overwhelm the rest of the flavours. Unlike some vindaloos, I could actually pick out some individual spices taste wise and visually. Of course, there was the signature tartness from the vinegar. The only thing that could've been better was the lamb itself, it was slightly tough. Included with the lunch combo was 2 pieces of Tandoori Chicken. It was aesthetically-pleasing with the usual red colour and nice charring. One thing I can't stand is dry tandoori chicken and I have to say that this was far from that. The exterior was flavourful and smoky while the chicken meat inside was actually tender. This was well-executed.

On my second visit, I went for the classic in the Butter Chicken. Arriving steaming hot and pleasing to the eye, I dunked the accompanying Naan into the sauce. I thought the sauce was well-balanced being creamy while not overly so. There was an obvious tomato component that did not intrude on the rest of the flavours. As for the naan, it was soft and warm with a nicely charred exterior. And for a third visit, I went for the Lamb Korma. Very much like the vindaloo, the sauce was slightly chunky. There was discernible pieces of cashews and what looked like paneer. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is no paneer in korma. So was it clumps of yogurt? Whatever the case, the "chunkiness" of the korma did not compromise the flavour. In fact, I found the entire dish to be well-balanced with nice hits of cream, nuttiness and a hint of spice. Personally, I would've liked it spicier; but that could be easily rectified by requesting it when ordering. The standard dessert for all of the lunch specials is Galub Jamun aka as the sugary sweet ball of death. For me, I'm not a huge fan of this since the sweetness level borders on instant diabetes. So not much to say about it. Otherwise, the many items I have tried on 3 separate visits have confirmed to me that Northern Tadka has some pretty solid eats. Prices are reasonable and the people are very friendly.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Reasonably-priced
- Pretty good service

The Bad:
- Restaurant is pretty large, not sure if the wait staff can do adequate coverage when busy

Northern Tadka on Urbanspoon

Crystal Elephant Range Restaurant

*Restaurant is now closed*

Fear. We all experience it. As much as we try to fake it, there are things in this world that make us squirm. For my, skydiving, bungee jumping, driving along #3 Road and parking at Yaohan would certainly fit into that category. Another fear of mine relates to eating. Predictable, I know. Whenever, I see fusion food, it makes me uncomfortable. However, there are times where the food surprises me and everything is good. Now fusion is one thing; but how about combining completely different cuisines at one restaurant. Try Italian and Thai... ??? Yah really. When I spotted Crystal Elephant Range and noticed the strange combination, it elicited ideas of driving away fast. Really fast. But wait. I need to give it a chance don't I? What is the worst that can happen? Fine, I needed to see for myself. Situated in the old location of Tony's Pizza and Pasta, it is very much like the old restaurant, except they added Thai food (and some Chinese and hamburgers... ???). Okay, after looking at the menu, I got a clearer picture of the place. It turns out that Tony used be at the Chili Club in Vancouver, so that's where the Thai food comes into play. As for the Italian, Maria does that part. So it's like 2 restaurants in one.

Okay. Since I wanted to give this place a fair shake, I had already planned in my mind to visit it at least 3 times before I wrote this post. For my first visit, I decided to go for something out of left field and choose the Wonton Soup. And you know what? It was not half-bad. Consisting of pork and shrimp wontons, I ate the whole thing without much incident. The pork had a nice bounce texture and it was well-seasoned. The broth was not exactly a traditional wonton soup base. Rather it had napa cabbage in it. Once again, it was fine being more on the sweet side. For reasons unknown, I went for their Thai lunch special which was the Sweet & Sour Chicken served with rice and a spring roll. Well, I really do not have much to say about it other than it was a sweet & sour chicken dish with tender chicken slices and fresh crisp veggies. Not something I would normally order, so I do have a bias against it. Ultimately, I was indifferent.

On my second visit a couple of days later, I went for the Chicken Satay. Wow, for $5.95, this was a very huge dish. The picture doesn't do it justice because the skewers of chicken were really, really big. They used dark meat with the skin on and that resulted in an excellent product. The meat was moist and well-seasoned with curry. The accompanying coconut curry dip was fantastic. Slightly sweet with a nice kick, this had the right consistency and clung to each piece of meat perfectly. Very good satay. Of course that wouldn't be enough food right? So I got the Pad Thai as well. Now if you are looking at the picture and freaking out, I don't blame you. It certainly didn't look like any pad Thai I've ever had before. No preserved turnip, no pressed tofu and really no tamarind or enough spice. Why you might ask? Well, I have the answer straight from the chef's mouth. You see, even after my first visit, the proprietors chatted me up. Being one of the few Cantonese-speaking customers in the area, I guess I was "refreshing". So I discussed with Tony the reasons why the pad Thai came out the way it did. Once again, it was due to the clientele in the area. They don't like spice, they don't like tamarind, they don't like fish sauce etc... Hence, the pad Thai resembles more of a Pad See-Ew instead. With that in mind, it was pretty good in that respect, it just wasn't a pad Thai in the traditional sense. With that being said, Tony would happily make a real pad Thai if one wanted it.

As if this wasn't enough food to write a post, I went back for a third visit with the full intention of trying out a pasta as well. Hold a moment though. I won't only eat one item. That would be a waste of a visit; thus, I started with the Tom Yum Goong. First of all, like many of the items I've tried so far, there is a twist of sorts. The usual items were there - fish sauce, galangal, lime, cilantro, lemongrass, shrimp and mushrooms. That made for a flavourful, if not a tad salty broth. However, the overall flavour profile was altered with the addition of green and red peppers (and some napa cabbage...). I wouldn't say it was a bad per se; but it was not very traditional tasting as a result. As for my pasta, I got the Spaghetti with meat sauce. Nothing fancy nor modern; but it was solid. The pasta was al dente and there was just enough sauce to coat the noodles. It was slightly tart with a touch of sweetness. It could've used a bit more salt; but with the addition of Parmesan, it alleviated that issue. So what has 3 visits taught me about this "fusion" restaurant? Well, the people are very nice and so are the prices. I honestly can't say it is necessarily authentic; but then again, what are the demographics out here anyways? Hence, they don't really need to be authentic since the clientele may not go for it. On the other hand, you could ask them to make it more "authentic" if you prefer. However, if you do not have lofty expectations, it does the job.

The Good:
- Generous portions
- Inexpensive
- Friendly people

The Bad:
- Authentic it is not

Crystal Elephant Range Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Red Star Seafood Restaurant

"Let's go for dinner at Red Star", exclaimed my parents out of nowhere. Okay, that may not sound much like a new idea since we all know that Red Star is one of the best Chinese restaurants in Vancouver. However, with my parents at least, this was somewhat of a shocking declaration. You see, they have been really good customers of Victoria Seafood Restaurant for many, many years. As such, they do not really deviate from the usual very often. Yet, with my constant praises regarding Red Star finally got to them. I do believe they are actually open to going to somewhere other than Victoria for dinner. No offense against Victoria. They do serve up some good Dim Sum (albeit expensive); but their dinner is not really up to snuff in relation to their prices. I think they realize this since they are now charging 20% for their food at the moment. Okay, enough about Victoria, onto Red Star.

Alright, lemme get this out of the way right now. For those who want to point out that I just did the Foodie Feast which featured Red Star, I do not expect any preferential treatment and do not want free food. In fact, I made a reservation not in my name. Hence, they didn't even know I was eating there until part way through. And yes, we paid for our meal; but they did give us 10% off. Also, some of the pictures are from a previous visit since they look much better (due to lighting, not the actual final product). So there, enough with the disclaimers... Onto the food! We started with the Peking Duck (2 courses). One thing that you'll immediately notice is the relatively thinner layer of fat with the Peking Duck. The reason for this is that the duck is specifically raised for Red Star. Hence, the skin will be more meaty; rather than fatty. Still not healthy; but a bit better nonetheless. The second course of Peking Duck was the Duck Lettuce Wrap. That's what they do with the rest of the duck meat once the skin has been carved. In some instances, some restaurants offer a third course consisting of a duck bone soup or a thick soup with duck meat. The lettuce wrap was prepared really well. The components stayed crunchy with no residual liquid at the bottom of the plate. A clear indication of enough wok heat (or wok hay).

One dish I wanted my parents to try was the Modern Fried Rice which employs wild rice rather than the standard white rice. Added into the mix are chicken, celery, egg, crab meat and compoy. This is no ordinary rice in terms of ingredients and price. What I like most about this fried rice is the texture. Unlike regular white rice, wild rice is chewier and does not clump up. This results in a drier fried rice that has plenty of texture. Add in the premium ingredients and there you have a CRA winning dish. My dad particularly liked it since it was "healthier". If any Chinese food can be considered healthier, I guess it is a bonus. So I guess it was fitting that our next dish was not exactly a low-calorie item. Typically, Peking Pork Chops are fatty and deep-fried. These were pretty much that; however, these were done properly. The pork was tenderized to the point it was very easy to chew while still retaining a meat texture. The sauce itself the right thickness where it clung to each pork chop without leaving a watery mess at the bottom of the plate. The flavour was well-balanced with a good combination of tart, savoury and sweet. A well-executed dish.

Duck skin and fried pork chops, not necessarily part of a low-calorie diet. Hence we got some fish. I guess it didn't hlep that it was fried as well. The Black Cod Hot Pot consisted of several large pieces of cod with whole garlic cloves, shiitake mushrooms and roast pork. The fish was cooked perfectly. It was moist, flaky and stay intact mostly when picked up. Just the right amount of starch-thickened sauce coated each piece. It was garlicky and rich. For our last dish, we got the Pea Shoots with sea cucumber, shiitake mushrooms and goose webs. The pea shoots were really fresh and high quality. They were cooked perfectly being tender while still having a crunch. I liked how there wasn't a pool of water at the bottom of the plate. This is a clear indication they did not water blanch it first. Furthermore, that also means there was good wok heat as well. The one thing that could've been better with this dish was the preparation of the webs and sea cucumber. I found them a smidgen underdone. Call it personal taste, I like them to be on the softer side. Other than that, the meal as a whole was very good. While we were there, the place was packed from start to finish. This is no coincidence. Compared to meals I've had recently at Kirin City Square and Victoria, there is no contest as to which one is better.

The Good:
- Properly executed food
- High-quality ingredients
- One of the few restaurants in this class to have their own in-house BBQ

The Bad:
- Expensive
- Really cramped seating
Red Star Seafood on Urbanspoon

Thai Hang

Much like Chinese cuisine where there is a clear distinction between Dim Sum and dinner service, it is much of the same for a Vietnamese restaurant when we look at the typical Pho versus Bo 7 Mon. Most people are familiar with the bowl of rice noodles in beef broth; yet not so much with the "beef 7 ways". Normally served during Vietnamese weddings, this is only available at a select few restaurants in town. Other than Song Huong, there are other places that offer variations; but not the full 7 courses. Last time I was at Thai Hang, I enjoyed a good beef 7 ways meal. However, I've never tried the other regular Vietnamese dishes on the menu.

When Kaiser Soze suggested we go to one of his favourite Vietnamese restaurants after Sunday morning hockey, JuJu and I were game. The fact we were able to snag one of the last 2 tables indicated that he's not the only one that likes the place. Much like Pho Tam, there are lunch specials which give a choice of Pho and a starter. For myself, I went for the Spring Roll. First things first, the fact they used rice wrappers made for a more authentic spring roll. Secondly, it was fried up nicely without being too oily. And lastly, the filling was not too dense and had plenty of flavour even without the dip. JuJu also had a combo and went for the Salad Roll instead. These were pretty modest in size and loosely wrapped. Therefore, some of the filling fell out when it was dipped into the sauce. It was also a bit heavy on the lettuce, which may have contributed to the loose filling. Other than that, it was fine.

We all had Pho, so I'm not going to talk about 3 bowls that were basically the same. Kaiser Soze mentioned that Thai Hang's portions are generally some of the largest he's seen. I would agree that the portions are decent; but it doesn't hold a candle to Pho Tam. As for the meats, they were tender and plentiful. The noodles were prepared correctly while the soup was pretty good. It wasn't as flavourful as I would've liked. At the very least, it didn't seem like there was an overabundance of MSG. Now at this point, we were moderately satisfied; but not completely so. Well, Kaiser Soze was fine, he didn't want to eat anymore. However, JuJu and I could eat more. And so we did. We ending up splitting an order of Lemongrass Chicken on Rice. Now this was a generous portion of 2 deboned chicken legs atop broken rice. The chicken was very moist and juicy with a whole lot of flavour. We could definitely taste the marinade and it went well with the properly cooked rice. My only wish would be for a bit more charring. That was a great way to finish off a satisfying lunch. Not the best Vietnamese food we've ever had; yet it was universally above average and well-priced.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Decent portions
- Food is above average

The Bad:
- Seating is tight
- Service is hurried and sparse (but what do you expect...)

Thai Hang Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Brunch @ Fleuri (Sutton Place Hotel)

Normally, I'm not one for crowds. Hey, call me anti-social; but it just stresses me out. That probably explains my aversion to lineups, public events and Richmond. So when it comes to stat holidays and special occasions, I would much rather celebrate it in peace and quiet or possibly delay for a week or so. That goes the same for Mother's Day. We were planning on going for Sunday brunch the week after; but at the last minute decided to do what corporate marketing machines want us to do - buy cards, gifts and eat expensive meals. Ah whatever, we only live once, let's just spend the money eh? So we booked Sunday brunch at The Sutton Place Hotel for Mother's Day. That would be for my mom and Viv (since she's a mom too!).

It's funny how we can spring for a $60.00 per person brunch; yet balked at paying for hotel parking. When I found out it was $8.00 an hour, my Chineseness took over. Heck no would I pay that! So I merely found street parking around the corner from Japadog for $6.00 for 2 hours. Ha! I showed them! The only problem was walking past Japadog twice... I wanted some. No, must... resist... Once past the lure of a Terimayo, we arrived at the entrance to Fleuri and there was already a lineup to get in. Argh! Darn lineups and crowds! Okay, breath slowly, don't hyperventilate. There's a lot of food, keep the appetite! Fortunately, I was able to attack the food with my camera before the mad rush. Unfortunately, I really didn't eat until after that and by then, it was a traffic jam. Darn #$*#)*# crowds! LOL...

Despite being Mother's Day, the spread was pretty much typical of the regular Sunday brunch offering. At the front, there was a "bread basket" of sorts which also had some fresh tortilla chips, croissants and Danishes. Behind it, there was an array of salads which included Gemelli Pasta with English Peas, Tomato & Basil Pesto, Golden Beet Salad with Crumbled Goat Cheese, New Potato Salad with Asparagus & Radish and Tomato & Herbed Bocconcini. Honestly, I didn't try any of these salads. With so many other choices, I decided to save myself. They did look fresh though. Within the same section, there was a good selection of cold platters consisting of Flaked Halibut and Trout with Chopped Strawberries, Smoked Salmon & Gravlax, Mussels with Lemon, Dill and Sausage-infused oil (?) in a Spoon, Melon & Prosciutto, Marinated Mushrooms, Cured & Smoked Meats and Grilled Antipasto Platter. We thought the mussels were the highlight. The little bite had a big hit of flavour with the lemon while some smokiness from the oil. As for the other items, they were pretty much what we expected from a brunch such as this. As for the halibut & trout, the strawberries on top was rather strange and didn't really compliment the fish. There really needed to be a savoury component to it.

Now the one platter that sat majestically above everything else was full of Clams, Mussels, Shrimp and Crab Claws. Doing what my parents taught me, I attacked this first. Salads. Pfffft... It's all about the seafood baby! I found all of the items to be prepared nicely except for the crab claws. Okay, lemme rephrase that. There was nothing wrong with the preparation per se; but the claws had this odd texture only reserved for previously frozen crab. Too bad really. Would've been nice to have Dungeness Crab legs instead. Moving along to the hot food station, I found the token Dim Sum tray. Ah yes. Something that must have reasonable expectations. So there was Sui Mai, Haw Gow and Ebi Gyoza. I thought the sui mai was somewhat passable since the pork was a little bit chewy while still tenderized. Unfortunately, the darn thing was too loose and fell apart. Furthermore the shrimp was overcooked. The haw gow was well, not very good. The shrimp inside consisted of some good bits mixed in with some not so good bits. Also, there was far too much sesame oil. The dumpling skin was the worst part. It was thick and crumbled on contact. The ebi gyoza was alright. At least the dumpling skin was done right and the shrimp inside was passable. The meat filling was a bit gritty though.

The next tray consisted of a Trio of Fish in Buerre Blanc. Surprisingly, the salmon and halibut were moist. This is a very difficult thing to regulate in a buffet setting. I found the buerre blanc to quite mild. It did not overwhelm the fish; yet it didn't really flavour it either. I wasn't all that fond of the smoked mackerel though, it was tough and I could barely chew it. Moving along once again, I found the one of my favs - Sliced Lamb Shoulder. Normally, I'm a bit hesitant with pre-sliced meat sitting around in a warming tray. It tends to dry out. In this case, it was heading in that direction. However, I still found the meat to be tender and well-seasoned.

The obligatory pasta dish consisted of Crab & Squash Tortellini with Orange Bisque Reduction. Unless we were mistakened, we didn't detect any orange in the sauce. Either there was none or it was not very prevalent. No matter really because the sauce couldn't save this poorly made tortellini. The pasta itself was quite thick and the filling was not very good. The crab was super dry despite the presence of sweet squash. After this, there were the usual breakfast items such as waffles, pancakes, sausages and bacon. Nothing much to say about these other than the Eggs Benedict. As you can see in the picture, the piece of Canadian back bacon was so thin, it started to curl. I think either less cooking time or a thicker cut would've at least been more visually appealing. The egg itself was poached perfectly - fully cooked with a runny yolk. The Hollandaise sauce had a nice consistency; but could've used more lemon.

Turning my attention away from the regular breakfast items (no, I didn't have any), I tried the Roasted Chicken. Sitting in its own drippings, the meat was actually still decently tender and flavourful. I'm not a huge fan of chicken at a fine dining restaurant nor brunch; but this did the job for those who want something safe. Right next to the chicken was a trio of sides consisting of Polenta with Olives, Potato Pavé and Mashed Potato Rosettes. I love polenta and this one was actually quite good. I especially loved the little nuggets of olives which added a salty kick. The potato pavé was pretty standard while the rosettes were very dry. But enough with the vegetarian stuff, I quickly moved onto the carving station which consisted of Prime Rib, Baked Ham and Turkey Breast. For me, it's all about the prime rib. I bypassed the other 2 meats and went straight for the roast. And what a delicious roast it was. It was super tender and well-seasoned. With a splash of au jus and a side of horseradish, I was in meat bliss. I would've preferred it to be a bit less done; but they need to appeal to everyone.

Now I'm not really a sweets person, if you don't know already... However, with the large selection of Desserts, I had no choice but to try some. With that being said, I think my 3-year old daughter had almost as much as me. There was a wide range of sweets including petit fours, several types of cheesecake, bread pudding, creme caramel, chocolate mousse and profiteroles. My favourite of the bunch was the creme caramel. It was silky and rich with the smoky sweetness of the burnt sugar. It was also cooked properly exhibiting no air bubbles. For the other items I did try, I didn't think anything was amiss and they really seem to know their chocolate here. Well, they do have a chocolate buffet available as well. In essence, this is a pretty comparable buffet to that of the Pan Pacific, Waterfront, Hotel Vancouver and the Burnaby Hilton. As with any brunch buffet, there are highlights as well as flops. It is very hard to control the consistency and quality in a buffet setting. In all honesty, there is very little separating the aforementioned hotel brunch buffets. It all comes down to personal preference and pricing. For me, I still like the one at Griffin's; but in terms of dining space, the Pan Pacific has the nicest view.

The Good:
- Good selection of items
- Service is above-average
- Excellent prime-rib and seafood

The Bad:
- The buffet area is far too cramped
- Dining room is not well-lit, hence it doesn't feel like Sunday morning brunch

Fleuri on Urbanspoon

Soul Robata & Izakaya

After finishing up a meal at Tomoya with my softball team, I had to rush over to Coquitlam. Rich Guy had a flight to catch since he was heading back to the Philippines. Yah, a pretty sad day for me once again since that would eliminate an anytime, anywhere eating partner. As expected, we didn't let this trip to Richmond go to waste. After he checked his bags in, we went for some eats. While driving down Westminster and waiting to turn left, we noticed a white Benz signaling right while in the left turn bay. Okay, maybe they want to get out of the left turn bay? Nope, they proceeded to make a left turn while signaling right. I guess they couldn't see out of their completely fogged up windows? Once we passed them, they also had their high beams on. Lemme reiterate. A white Benz signaling right while turning left with windows all fogged up and high beams on, driving at 30 km/h on #3 Road. And people give me a hard time when I express my displeasure at driving in Richmond... Need I give more evidence?

Anyways, we made our way to Soul Robata and Izakaya for a bite to eat prior to his boarding time. Yes, Izakaya again... It seems that is all we ever eat while in Richmond. Well, another reason for this is because I needed sometime lighter since this would be my 5th meal of the day. I'm sure this will make Mijune proud! The last time I was at Soul Izakaya, it was part of the Foodie Tour last summer. I was happy with the food and decided it was time for a full meal. Seeing how the Sashimi was quite impressive the last time I was here, we got 2 pcs each of flounder, shimiji, amberjack and geoduck. Every piece was fresh texturally and tastewise. We particularly liked the shimiji. Buttery while still retaining some texture, it was sweet beyond our expectations. I didn't even use much in the way of soy or wasabi. Despite being a relatively simple dish, Rich Guy loves Fukahire Kurage or otherwise known as jellyfish and shark's fin salad. Beyond the crunchy texture, the salad was well-seasoned exhibiting a great combination of vinegar, sweetness, saltiness and a hint of spice.

We weren't exactly in the mood for Tako Wasa; but seeing it was the special of the day, we went for it anyways. Must be the Chinese in us - can't pass up a deal... Well, it turned out to be a solid choice since it was pretty good. The tako was chewy as expected; yet not overly so. There was a nice kick and some acidity. This went well with the nori sheets provided. Personally, the same nori sheets don't work for me when it comes to Salmon Yukke. I much prefer it to be served with shrimp chips a la Guu. Something about the crispiness and the ability of being able to eat it without salmon squirting all over the place. Maybe with that in mind, we were not exactly raving about this offering. Nothing particularly wrong with it since the salmon was fresh and all. However, on mix with the quail's egg, scallions and oshinko slices, there was not much flavour to it. I know it is supposed to be subtle; but a little lemon would've gone a long way to brightening it up.

One dish we did rave about was the Gyu Sashi. Technically a beef carpaccio, what we got was essentially beef tataki. However, this was exactly how we liked it. Sliced thin and easy to chewy while maintaining a meat texture, we gobbled it up quickly. The ponzu dressing was perfect. A good combination of vinegary zing and saltiness. Add in the grated ginger and the whole thing was very appetizing. Last time at Koto Izakaya, Rich Guy got turned onto monkfish liver or ankimo, so it was a given we'd see what the Ankimo Sandwich was all about. Well, it consisted of 4 mini-sandwiches with monkfish liver. It sounded good on paper; yet it really didn't work in our opinion. The delicate liver got completely lost between the slices of bread. In fact, we couldn't even really taste it, which is a shame. It was not a bad offering per se. It was just not how we would eat monkfish liver.

Next up was a classic in the Ebi Mayo. Unlike some other iterations, there was not an obscene amount of mayo; rather, there was just enough. That was good since the very crunchy fried shrimp could shine on its own. Perfectly cooked as well, this was a solid version. Originally, we also wanted to try out the Gindara. Unfortunately, they were sold out and we settled on the Grilled Unagi. To many, unagi doesn't really elicit much excitement since it is a relatively common item in a Japanese restaurant. In fact, Ross from Friends popularized it as a state of mind... However, this was no ordinary unagi. It was fatty, tender and all around delicious. The darn thing practically melted in my mouth while the fatty skin was a delight to eat. There was just enough sauce too without drowning the darn thing.

Since Rich Guy had a flight to catch, we rushed the last item a bit and honestly, we wished we had more time to savour it. The Grilled Lamb Chips were friggin' fantastic. Rich Guy is not a huge fan of lamb; but he liked this. It was cooked perfectly with a medium-rare centre and none-too-gamy. It was super-tender, not requiring much effort to chew. What brought it all together was the perfect complimentary sauce. It was a sweet soy sauce with a nice gingery kick. There was no absence of flavour while it did not overwhelm the lamb at the same time. After that, we quickly left for the airport all the while being quite satisfied with our meal at Soul. We realize that it is not a true Japanese Izakaya much like Koto down the street. However, that shouldn't matter much when they can dish out some tasty food.

The Good:
- Some pretty good flavours
- Mostly well-executed
- Decent service

The Bad:
- Most items are reasonably-priced and some are quite expensive
- Need I repeat what I say about the parking along Alexandra?

Soul Robata & Izakaya on Urbanspoon