Sherman's Food Adventures: July 2011

Hog Shack Cook House (Revisted)

Okay, it is no secret that I've been doing quite a few revisits to restaurants which I haven't been to in awhile. If there has been any significant changes, I end up putting up a new post while taking the old one down. However, some are merely an add-on to an existing post. This time around, I couldn't do either. You see, I've just recently been to the Hog Shack, so nothing has really changed all that much. Secondly, I really couldn't add onto the existing post since this was almost like a repeat of sorts with a whole bunch of new items. Somehow, it just seemed like a good idea to do a separate post. The actual reason I was back was due to Mijune's "birthday" event at the Hog Shack and subsequent dessert-a-thon at The Apron afterwards.

The deal here was we pay one flat fee and we would be presented an array of food to share amongst our tables. Miss Y ended up joining me since she and Mijune seemed to hit it off ever since they met. We were joined by Anita and her friend to complete our table of 4. Apparently, we are nearly at the bottom of the friend totem pole since we got our food last at the same time as another lowly table of bottom-feeder friends. Now I know where I stand with Mijune! So with practically every table finished eating while we were just starting, you can imagine the barbaric eating display we put on. Well, it is food meant to be eaten with our hands right?

So I'll start with the sides. Last time, I had concluded that the sides were probably the weakest part of the meal. So we'll see how they fared this time. The Corn Bread, served as mini-loaves were pretty much the same being crumbly and moist. It wasn't too sweet which is something I personally like. I would've liked more crunch from more cornmeal though. The Coleslaw was crunchy and had a decent amount of zing. It was creamy from the liberal use of mayo. Overall, an okay coleslaw. The same could be said about the Baked Beans. Much like last time, the beans were rich and slightly smoky. Naturally, it is plenty sweet due to the molasses. Now, saving the best for last, the Creamed Corn was the table favourite. We had none left at the end. The corn niblets were sweet and crunchy. They were bathed in a creamy sauce that was also sweet; but complimented the corn at the same time. Loved the consistency of it.

Moving onto the main event, we were presented a platter consisting of things not easily found in the GVRD. First, we have the Pulled Pork Pancakes. I know that the Red Wagon has them and Deacon's Corner does a version as well. Other than that, I personally do not know many places that have it on their regular menu. Starting with the pancakes, they were soft, fluffy and only slightly sweet. Sandwiched in between was a good amount of tender pulled pork slathered in just enough BBQ sauce. Just like last time, I found the sauce to be not as "deep" or smoky as I would've liked. It is more sweet and "zesty" (if that is the right word) than anything. I like the combination of pancakes and puled pork. For me, I think this is just as good as the one from the Red Wagon. It surely is bigger with one more layer.

Another rare item on the platter was the Chicken and Waffles. Now this is not usually found up here in Vancouver. Some may not understand the combination; but just google Roscoe's and you'll get the idea. Another winner in my books. For me, it was all about the fried chicken. Each piece was crispy and well-seasoned. Yet, the most important thing of all was that the chicken itself was moist and juicy - each and every piece. Combined with the sweet waffles, it was a nice contrast. The only thing I would've liked to see was a crispier waffle. The St. Louis Style Ribs that were on the platter were appreciably more moist and juicy this time around. Coincidence? Not sure. But I did noticed that the rack of ribs were more meaty and thick which could've helped keep the moisture in.

I've saved the best of last because I can't get enough of the Burnt Ends. These consist of slow smoked brisket which is cut up, sauced and put back into the smoker for another go around. The result is a very smoky, flavourful chunk of meat. The flavour burst will knock your socks off. This is a must try here. Once again, this is not a typical item found anywhere else in Vancouver. And this can be the theme of the revisit - foods that you can't find readily anywhere else. Unique items to our part of the world is what makes the Hog Shack special.

The Good:
- Unique items not normally found in Vancouver
- Two words: Burnt Ends
- Spacious dining room

The Bad:
- They cooked their meats from a raw state, can be dry for some people

Hog Shack Cook House on Urbanspoon

A Taste of Ukraine

As I have said over and over again, for such a diverse city, Vancouver is pretty much dominated by Asian cuisine. Although there are many Italian and Greek restaurants to choose from, there is little else in terms of diversity. And let's not include North American food in this mix. It almost seems like other ethnic cuisine are under-represented. In a city as large as Vancouver, those "other" cuisines are indeed not very prevalent, even when there is a significant population of certain ethnic groups. For instance, according to the statistics for Vancouver, there are over 200,000 people of Eastern European origin. But then when one looks at the available restaurants that serve Eastern European food, there aren't many. If we break it down even further and focus on Ukrainian food, it gets even smaller. Heck, the most recent Ukrainian eating experience I had was from a co-worker who made authentic borscht. And no, it's not like what a Hong Kong style cafe serves. Now, I'm not going to profess that I know much about Ukrainian food. Heck, look at the options we have here. Other than perogies, cabbage rolls, borscht and kovbasa (kielbasa) sausage, I haven't had much "Ukrainian" eats. The last time I even had such food was from Hunky Bill's at the PNE (which I've done for many, many years...).

Since last year, a little shop that opened up on St. John in Port Moody has piqued my interest. A Taste of Ukraine didn't look like much; but there was some good words from reliable friends. Seeing how I was hungry and with no one to eat with, it seemed like as good of a time to grab some take out. Now, if one wanted to eat in, there are 2 tables available. For me, I grabbed a few items and headed home anxiously. Naturally, I got some Perogies with Kielbasa. There were 2 kinds of perogies - cheddar cheese & potato and sausage & potato). The first thing I noticed about the perogies was the ample filling which was not dense. I found that the cheese perogi was simple in taste while flavourful at the same time. The fat from the pan fried kielbasa provided a certain level of smokiness and flavour as well. As for the sausage itself, it was meaty with a nice sear. There was not too much sausage in the other perogi; hence it was not as flavourful. I much preferred the cheese one.

Continuing on with my "tourist" approach to Ukrainian food, I had one each of the Pork Cabbage Roll and Beef Cabbage Roll. Due to the nature of the meat, the pork roll was more tightly packed than the beef. As for the filling as a whole, there was lots of it and it held together. This could be a bit dense for some people; but I liked how it didn't fall apart while I was eating it. I found that the rice was cooked just right where it was not mushy nor too hard. With the sour cabbage combined with the tart tomato sauce, there was a level of zing as well as a hint of pepper. I thought these were good and well-priced (they were huge!).

Lastly, as I was paying, I noticed a tray of various Piroshki. I ended up getting a Meat Piroshki just to try. I found the bottom of the piroshki a little overcooked but it didn't affect the taste nor texture very much. It was okay, I found the meat to be a bit dry and tasteless. Maybe if this was a fried piroshki, it would've been more interesting. However, other than that, the perogies and cabbage rolls were fantastic. I'm definitely going to hit them up again to try some other items.

The Good:
- Well-priced
- Large cabbage rolls

The Bad:
- Not really a bad; but it's most take out, don't plan to eat-in

A Taste Of Ukraine on Urbanspoon

Pho 24 Express

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away... Okay, it wasn't in another galaxy and it wasn't really that long ago; but for Polka King, it seemed like a different reality. You see, he is an accountant by trade and when we last visited Gold Train Express out on Kingsway, there was some very strange mathematics at play. Hence, he was perturbed to the point of never returning. Oh and the large neon sign proclaiming "fresh washrooms" concerned him as well. Fast forward almost 3 years and here we are heading to the newest addition to the Gold Train family - Pho 24 Express, also on Kingsway. Now, 3 years later, we also see less and less of Polka King because he is so infatuated with Polka Dot. Well, I don't blame him really. She is a lot better looking than all of us and would you blame him for hanging out with her more than us? Besides, we had more than enough willing participants for our after-hockey-eats. Unbeknownst to him that we were heading to a place affiliate with Gold Train Express was Milhouse. He was with us last time and he has not forgotten as well. Emilicious willingly joined us since she doesn't mind the location out near UBC. Apparently, their math skills are more sharp out there. Sweet Tooth, Gordo and Apu rounded out the group.

Now if there was any doubt of its affiliation with Gold Train, the abundance of neon on the outside was a dead giveaway. Hey, at least it is easy to find... Sweet Tooth had a hard time deciding what she wanted and eventually settled on the Spring Rolls. We loved the presentation. It appears more and more places are cutting them diagonally, which makes them look "fancier". Despite appearing overfried, these were not greasy and crispy according to Sweet Tooth. It was nice to see that they were not made with wheat wrappers nor made to look like Chinese spring rolls. Since that was not enough food for her, she tacked on a Salad Roll as well. Also "artistically" plated with open ends, the roll itself was pretty standard. As for the dipping sauce, it was too peanutty. There was not enough hoisin sauce which made the sauce bland and one-dimensional. Milhouse suggested that we merely squirt some hoisin in ourselves. I guess we could've done that.

Now Apu, Gordo and Emilicious all had Pho in some shape or form, so there is no point in describeng them all. The corresponding picture is of Emilicious' Pho Tai (with the addition of vegetables). I tried some of the broth and to me, it was predominantly sweet and with a definite MSG slant. Not a bad broth per se, just not enough meat flavour and savoury elements. The meats were tender and plentiful while the rice noodles started off a bit clumpy before loosening up in the hot broth. For myself, I had an X-Large Bun Bo Hue. Maybe this is an unfair comparison; but I didn't find it any bigger than the large at Pho Tam. In fact, it was smaller. On the menu, it stated that there was beef, Vietnamese ham and pork's leg. There was definitely a lot of ham and tender beef; but I didn't see any pork's leg. The noodles were plentiful and cooked just right. I found the broth acceptable where it had some spice and sweetness. I didn't get any hints of lemongrass though. Milhouse went for the Bun Bo Nuong, Cha Gio and Nem Nuong (grilled beef, spring roll and marinated pork on vermicelli). This was also pretty standard stuff with the same spring rolls and meats. Nothing Earth-shattering; but solid nonetheless. This was pretty much our experience here (with proper mathematics). Decent for late-night eats.

The Good:
- Open late
- Food is okay
- Prices are okay

The Bad:
- Food is okay
- Is the X-Large really that much larger?

Pho 24 Express on Urbanspoon

Docker's Diner

For the longest time, JuJu has been wanting to head to Docker's Diner for some breaky after Sunday morning hockey. Fate would have it that we would be going the very week he misses hockey. Oh well, them the breaks. I'm not sure if I want to see his reaction when we see him next. It's almost like cheating on him food-wise. Well, not all was lost since Mijune was going to make a cameo appearance on my Sunday food adventure (but due to scheduling issues, she didn't make it...). And this was somewhat of an adventure. Located on Powell Street, Docker's Diner is not in the usual places we would go get Breakfast. For us, Powell Street is a thoroughfare to bypass the traffic on Hastings. Hence, anything on the street itself is just a blur as we are traveling to our destinations.

Well, for today at least, we stopped and headed into Docker's Diner. What can I say, it looks like a diner on the outside and it looks like a diner on the inside. Nothing fancy, except for the nostalgic pictures adorning the walls. Kaiser Soze decided to go for the standard Breakfast, which included 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 strips of bacon, hashbrowns and 2 slices of toast for $5.45 tax inclusive. Not a bad deal in my books. As you can clearly see, it was a standard breakfast. Although the bacon was crisp and the sausages cooked right, the hashbrowns were a bit too hard in some places though. Another breakfast item was the Omelet special consisting of spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. Overlooking the obvious overcooking of the egg (this is a diner), the omelet itself was very bland. All of the ingredients do not lend itself to flavour; thus there was a lack of seasoning.

For myself, I had the Roast Beef Sandwich served open-faced. When it arrived, I have to admit it scared me a bit. With a copious amount of pale lumpy gravy, it didn't look all that appetizing. Despite its dry appearance, the roast beef was actually very tender. But the gravy was as bad as it looked. It was bland and unappealing. The mash potatoes were more starchy than creamy, which I didn't mind except the gravy didn't help things. I really like the bread though, it was really soft and the crust was removed. Milhouse went for lunch menu and had the California Clubhouse with fries. The twist is the imitation crab in place of turkey for this sandwich. He thought it was alright since there was nothing amiss. The fries were your typical frozen krinkle-cut; however, they were decently crisp. So as you can tell by the photos, the food is pretty simple and honest here. It is advertised as home-cooking and I guess they are exactly that. Expectations cannot be too high. I really wish I didn't order the roast beef sandwich because if I didn't, my overall impression would be more favourable. But since I did, I would say the food is passable, especially at the prices they charge. The one thing that is an intangible is the real people that work there.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Real people, real service

The Bad:
- Food is average

Docker's Diner on Urbanspoon

Atithi

As much as I love Indian food, I tend to avoid it when I'm in Vancouver. Not that Vancouver doesn't have good Indian food - check South Main Street. However, I'm spoiled by the great, inexpensive Indian food available in Surrey. So it has not even occurred to me to go for it after softball on Mondays. And possibly I was assuming too much as well. I didn't think anyone on my softball team wanted to go for Indian food. How wrong I was. It seemed like the prevailing choice. So with a few options nearby after a game at Canarvon, we headed over to Atithi on Burrard. With the limited amount of free parking spots in the area, I decided to try my luck with the first one I spotted on 8th Ave. Despite being just big enough for my car, I made it with the aid of the backup cam. Hence, no cars were harmed in this food adventure. I can't guarantee that on my next Richmond foray...

As a table, we decided to share a couple orders of Samosas to start. They split them up for us since we had 7 people at the table. This maybe a bit nitpicking; but we would've preferred the tamarind chutney and cilantro sauce to be served on the side rather than directly on the samosa. As for the samosas, they were fried until crisp with a soft potato filling which had an underlying heat. I personally like the tamarind chutney more since it has a nice zing to it. In this case, the cilantro sauce was quite flavourful where it actually had a pronounced chili pepper kick. I was not satisfied sharing samosa's and also ordered a Chili Gobi. This consisted of lightly battered and fried cauliflower tossed in a sweet chili sauce. Not too dissimilar to a Thai sweet chili, this one had more kick to it. The cauliflower was perfect - cooked all-the-way through while still crispy outside. Everyone at the table universally liked this appy and would gladly order it for themselves if they had the chance.

Milhouse was famished. So just like me, he got an appy all for himself. I was secretly hoping he would do so and also, I was routing for the Frankie. As if he had telepathic abilities, he did order it. Looking almost like a Taiwanese pancake roll, the Frankie consisted of egg, lamb curry and cucumber. It was accompanied by the same cilantro sauce and tamarind chutney (and a few fries). Now this particular item is one of the specialties and I wouldn't go as far as to rave about it; however, it was quite good nonetheless. I found the wrap to be soft and easy to eat while the lamb was tender and well spiced. With the appies out of the way, we all had our own entrees. To my horror, both Miss Y and Judes had the Butter Chicken. Duplicates! Anyways, the butter chicken was um... "different". It was rather sweet and didn't have any other distinguishing flavours. We felt more tomato paste was needed. There was, however, lots of tender white meat.

Now duplicates was bad enough. Try triplicates! To my utter shock Bear, Milhouse and Hot Chocolate all had the Lamb Palak. If Mijune was here, she would've put them in their place! This was really thick and in somewhat of a smaller portion compared to all the other dishes (even with the sauces taken into account). Despite this, it was full of tender pieces of lamb and was quite filling in the end. The flavours were quite muted which suited most people quite fine. Boss Woman mercifully had something different in the Railway Station Curry with lamb, tomatoes and cilantro. This was also a very mild offering which didn't mean it wasn't good. The flavours were just muted (which I'm sure tailored to the prevailing clientele). Other than the muted flavours, the lamb was plentiful and moist while there was plenty of tomato goodness.

For myself, I had the Punjabi Style Goat in light tomato & cilantro curry. Even though the ingredients seem similar to the Railway Station Curry, the flavours were much more prominent. There was a certain richness that highlighted the ingredients, particularly the tomato. Moreover, a certain level of spice made itself known without being offensive. Coupled with large pieces of moist, tender goat, this was probably the best dish at the table. Miss Y and Boss Woman kept returning to the sauce and ignoring their own dishes. A good sign. Now all of our meals included rice and Naan. The naan was was quite pale and doughy. They probably didn't have a tandoor on-site which would greatly hinder their abilities to pump out really good naan. With that being said, I've had decent naan cooked without the use of a tandoor as well. One side note is that we ran out of naan partway through our meal and we were offered more naan. We were never notified of the extra charge for the naan. To be fair, we would've been fine with the charge since it was negligible. It just would've been nice to know ahead of time. Despite all of our reservations about the muted flavours at Atithi, we still enjoyed our meal. In all fairness, a restaurant is only there to satisfy the majority of diners. Hence, our expectations were not unreasonable considering the location. It is nowhere near Main Street nor Surrey. With that taken in consideration, the meal as a whole was alright and reasonably-priced.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Service is quite friendly

The Bad:
- Some flavours are muted
- Naan needs some improvement

Atithi on Urbanspoon

Spicy Legend

Seeing how the Canucks' Stanley Cup run went all the way to the very end, our softball games were postponed. The result? Almost every game from now until the end of the season will be double-headers. Great. That delays eating even more. And me being hungry during any game is not a good thing. Such was the case in our double-header on the first game back from nearly a 3-week hiatus. It started off okay - I was blocking errant throws and hitting the ball decently. Then, as my stomach began to grumble, that's where the wheels fell off. Once I had Arby's on my mind, I could not catch anything if my life depended on it. Silent Bob suddenly became vocal Bob. I don't blame him. I bobbled every throw he sent my way. I was so desperate for food, I snatched half of Chill's granola bar. Remember that Snicker's commercial with Betty White? That was me.

At the end of both games, everyone else was famished. Boss Woman thought that since it was not that warm, we should do hot pot. Sure, that sounded good to me, especially if it was all-you-can-eat. Rather going to Richmond for our Hot Pot, we decided to try out Spicy Legend on Kingsway. Located in the former location of Fantastic Restaurant, this is not your usual hot pot joint. Rather, it is Szechuan and it means business. As the name suggests, there is a choice of spicy broth with an option of how hot you want it. We originally though we could take medium; but the server warned us that if might blow our socks off. Hence, we went for mild instead. While waiting for everyone to arrive, we took turns heading off to the washroom. The consensus was that these were some of the worst washrooms we've seen in awhile. They were absolutely filthy. Furthermore, the back door was open throughout our meal. A clear health-code violation.

Now, when the split broth arrived, the spicy side looked ominous. With what looked like scotch bonnet peppers floating on top of a chili oil slick that looked thick enough to fry something, we were concerned. No matter, Milhouse, Miss Y and I proceeded to cook things in the spicy broth. Now as we began to eat it, it was sure tasty. It was darn spicy too! You know when it is so spicy, your tongue begins to numb? Well, this was it. I personally like spicy and I didn't mind this; but it was really killing my tastebuds after awhile. And this was mild! Imagine how spicy it was when we dumped the Spicy Beef and Fish into the broth? Yes, doubly-spicy. The beef was your typical marinated and tenderized slices while the fish appeared to be Basa. Both were very moist and very spicy. We liked this very much.

When we marked off the items off the order sheet, the server told us they would bring out portions that would be sufficient for all of us. We were a bit hesitant since most hot pot places bring out very little and we have to keep ordering over and over again. Not here. The plates of meat were huge. As evidenced in the picture, the Beef was stacked high on the plate and was relatively flat. The significance of that is there is very little space in between slices; hence, there is more meat. Some places have curled up frozen slices which look impressive on a plate. In actuality, there is very little meat. The meat here was pretty good, it had a nice colour and when cooked up was tender. Much of the same with the Lamb. A generous amount of slightly fatty slices were equally tender after a quick dunk into the boiling broth.

With many of our various items, they amalgamated it into one large plate consisting of shrimp, pork kidney, duck gizzards, intestine, tripe, fish meatballs and cuttlefish meatballs. Naturally, the shrimp were the previously frozen variety while the offal was pretty standard. However, we were dismayed at the frozen fish meatballs. Most places now have freshly-made meatballs (albeit from frozen ingredients). Hence, they were pretty generic and stiff. In a colander, we had the spinach, fried bean curd, vermicelli, mushrooms, dumplings and frozen tofu. Of note here, the dumplings were actually quite good. The skin was slightly hard (even after a long boil); but the filling was both flavourful and meaty in texture without being gritty. The fried bean curd stick was not very good though. It was very hard and dry. Despite boiling the heck of it, it remained very chewy. The Fried Meatballs sounded good on paper; however, I personally didn't like them much. Don't let the dense appearance fool you. They were actually very loose inside and I found the texture to be very weird, almost mousse like. I didn't feel like I was eating a meatball.

Lastly, the Oysters were pretty much your plastic tub variety. They were fine and of a decent size as well. Well, I would definitely say that Spicy Legend is one of the few places that puts hot into hot pot. For me, I was able to stand it; but I can definitely see some people not liking the spice at all. With that being said, they can order a non-spicy broth. Yet, that defeats the purpose of eating here. In terms of the food, it was okay. I would say there are much better places to do Hot Pot in the GVRD for the same price. The one thing that did bother me was the lack of cleanliness and that is already taking into account that this is an Asian establishment.

The Good:
- If you like it spicy...
- Meats are plentiful and good

The Bad:
- If you don't like it spicy...
- Selection lags behind other AYCE hot pot joints
- Clean it is not

Spicy Legend on Urbanspoon

Britannia Sushi

Due to the many kid's birthday parties that fell on Sundays, I have missed a month's worth of hockey. Worse yet, I missed 4 eating opportunities too! Determined to reverse this trend, I ignored the fact it was Father's Day and not only played hockey, I was determined to eat afterwards. JuJu declared in the locker room that eating was not in the cards since he had Father's Day plans. Pffft... Where's the eating dedication??? No matter, Milhouse had finally come out for the Sunday morning session of hockey and I knew he was up for eats after. Upon hearing this, JuJu was hurt. He felt like yesterday's trash, thrown out just like that. I must admit it. He's no good to me if he ain't eating. The plain hard cold facts! See if he wants to eat out with me ever again!

After we were done, Kaiser Soze pipes up that he only had about 1 hour to eat. Wow, that's not much time if we had to factor in driving. Hence, we went somewhere close by to the rink which turned out to be Britannia Sushi. I know, I know... This is another one of those non-Japanese run mediocre sushi joints. Trust me, I am fully aware of that. Just call this a "convenience" influenced eating destination. Despite the plethora of combo options, I opted to order a la carte. I started with a small order of Salmon and Tun Sashimi. The slices of fish were very thick and actually not too bad. I would say they were middle of the road. I actually thought the salmon was rather sweet. The tuna was a bit too cold; but I'm nitpicking. Being somewhat different, the Ebi Salad Dragon Roll was not what we see typically in a "dragon roll". Instead of the centre being either a California Roll or Dynamite Roll, it consisted of chopped ebi and masago mixed with mayo. The familiar unagi topped the outside of the roll. Although the whole thing was essentially one texture, which was mushy, I didn't mind the flavours. It was predominant sweet; but it was at least different than any other Dragon Roll I've ever had. The rice on the other hand lacked bite and flavour.

For my "main" I had a Teriyaki Chicken & Tempura Don. Yah, I wasn't exactly inspired today, I just wanted to get full. I found the tempura to be coated with far too much batter. It was too crunchy and the ebi got kinda lost in there. The teriyaki chicken was overcooked and dry. Event the large amount of sauce couldn't save it. At the very least, I didn't find the sauce too sweet. Surprisingly, the rice was actually very good. It was chewy with loads of bite. For some reason or another, the Bento Box that Milhouse got escaped my attention. You see, it had practically everything that I had ordered for half the price in one box. Well, the sushi was different; but it was close enough. He pretty much echoed my experience especially with the dry teriyaki chicken. Kaiser Soze had a combo which included Teriyaki Chicken, Sushi and Udon. I guess third time was the charm as he reiterated the dry chicken. I guess they were consistent on this one, consistently bad. In his opinion, he thought the teriyaki sauce was too salty. The same could be said about the broth for the udon. The noodles were fine; but the broth killed it. Well, I guess this is really another mediocre sushi joint. Boy there are a lot of these around Vancouver. At the very least, the place has renovated (which is a good thing according to how dirty it was before) and the prices are good.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Lots of combo choices

The Bad:
- Food is "meh"

Britannia Sushi on Urbanspoon