Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2011

Treasure Court

*Restaurant is now closed*

Checking up Facebook on a Sunday morning, I noticed a message by JuJu asking if anyone wanted to do a buffet. Slightly intrigued, I questioned what did he have in mind. Soon after, he declares that he felt like Dim Sum and wondered who was in. Me, me! Pick me! As if there was any doubt about it. So on my way out to run some errands, I met up with him to do a quick Dim Sum lunch. But where? We've been to so many of the usual places already. First, we tried our luck with Chong's on Kingsway. Upon arrival, we discovered that they were closed. We briefly entertained the thought of Come Along a few doors down; however, we didn't feel like Come Along together... Ahem. Rather, we drove down Kingsway and ended up at Treasure Court. Formerly King's Garden, then Delicious Chinese Cuisine, the signage has only been recently changed. Both former names were on the front of the restaurant prior. I guess they didn't want to waste the Chinese portion of the sign (they have since removed them). Reminds me of Golden Pizza and Sandwich out in Surrey.

As expected, there was a slight wait. When a table opened up, JuJu immediately occupied the seat away from the window. As I have said over and over again, I am so lucky to have such cooperative eating companions! He wanted to make sure I got good lighting for my pictures. He's a keeper! As for the food, we predictably started with the ying and yang of Dim Sum being the Haw Gow and Sui Mai. If there was even an award for the biggest shrimp dumplings, these would definitely be in the running. The darn things were absolutely massive. And to top it all off, they were prepared nicely. There was big chunks of cold water shrimp which were well-seasoned. The dumpling wrapper was not gummy nor too thick. Really good value. The sui mai was equally impressive. Just as large as the haw gow and filled with perfectly texture pork and shrimp, we were wondering if we could finish the food we ordered based on our first 2 dishes!

If we thought the haw gow had a lot of crunchy shrimp, then the Shrimp Spring Rolls had just as much. I don't think I've ever seen so much shrimp crammed into a spring roll before. What was more impressive was that the shrimp were in very large pieces rather than a mousse. In addition, the shrimp was sweet and seasoned properly. The only thing that bugged us was the oiliness of the whole thing. Check out the oil slick at the bottom. Next up was more shrimp in the form of the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll. As you can clearly see in the picture, the rice noodle is quite thin. In fact, it was both thin and perfectly textured. It was soft while still exhibiting a slight elasticity. Inside, there was large whole crunchy shrimp along with some yau choy. For me, I personally don't like the addition of greens in rice noodle rolls. I find it messes with the texture. Other than that, the rice noodle roll was one of the better ones I've had lately.

Once again, JuJu insisted on ordering the Xiao Long Bao. Shanghainese food in a Cantonese restaurant is never a good idea; but I gotta admit that these were acceptable. Sure, the dumpling skin was too thick and yes the amount of soup was meager. Yet, we went in with reasonable expectations and they were not horrible. The filling was actually quite tasty and not gritty. No shortage of meat flavour. Could've used more ginger though. Of course, whenever I go for Dim Sum, I need to have my balls. Beef Meatballs to be exact. Generally, it is good that the meat is pureed until smooth and tenderized until it has a bouncy-like texture. I would say the one here was probably over-tenderized. It is true that the meat in this particular item usually takes on a very non-meat-like texture; but this was too "airy". Therefore, it was lacking body. Flavourwise, it was slightly on the bland side too. But then again, I dipped it into Worcestershire sauce anyways.

For me, I got the Blackbean Spareribs as usual. Since JuJu and I have our own favourites, I think I ate most of the spareribs. I had no problem with that since they were very good. By looking at the picture, it is quite obvious the whole thing was mostly meat with very little in the way of cartilage or fat. Taste wise, it was very garlicky - exactly how I like it. In terms of texture, it was marinated just enough to easily chew. Lastly, we ended off the meal with a filler. We didn't plan it this way; but it came last. Too bad since we were pretty full already. Since we are committed to our eating, we the Loh Mei Gai (Sticky Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaves) anyways. I found the sticky rice slightly on the drier side; but the pork filling seemed to soften it up onced mixed. Furthermore, the filling was well-seasoned, which in turn made the rice taste good too.

As we were finishing up, JuJu and I were discussing how good the Dim Sum was for the money. At only $2.75 per dish, both the portion size and quality of the Dim Sum were surprising. This is a remarkable feat since JuJu and I have been doing plenty of Dim Sum lately after Sunday morning hockey. Bottom line - there are plenty of places to get good Dim Sum in Vancouver. However, when one can find a place that offers decent Dim Sum at a great price and with good portions, it's a keeper - much like JuJu...

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Large portions
- Good execution

The Bad:
- Not a very big restaurant = long wait
- Service is sparse

Treasure Court 聚寶閣海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

The Main

Back in the summer, we tried to do late-nite at The Main after Friday night hockey. However, the place was super-packed and the chances of us getting a table was as good as not being pissed off shopping at Stupidstore. For those who are unfamiliar with a typical visit to Stupidstore (Superstore), I dare you to not be violated in some way while shopping there. From the frustrating parking lots (apparently, all courtesies such as right of way, signalling for a parking spot, not denting other cars and driving with due care go out the window), free-range kids, people blocking the exit so they can enter with their shopping cart, fighting for the last box of corn flakes on sale and butting in line, it never fails to be an adventure at Stupidstore. Loved how the clueless lady walked right past the lineup for the self-serve checkouts last time I was there. She walks up to the checkout only to discover it was cash only. I remarked to her that the lineup starts here. She replies by saying that she couldn't use the checkout anyways because she didn't have any cash. Uh... the point has nothing to do with the fact you didn't have any cash! You freakin' skipped the line! Very classy. I truly digress.

So we took another chance at The Main after another late Friday game. To our surprise, the place was relatively empty and we finally got our chance to try the food. There was live music playing and it was pretty good. Too bad they cranked it up far too loud. I couldn't even concentrate on eating! Well, not really. Although I think I was losing my hearing. Sweet Tooth and Emilicious decided to share 3 appies and a dessert starting with the Calamari. It was a fairly large portion with a good mix of rings and tentacles. I found the squid to be slightly over-tenderized, however, the crispy non-greasy coating made up for it providing a nice texture. We thought the tzatziki to have a nice tang. For their second appie, they had the Dolmathes. I found that the rice inside to be on the drier side, but it was flavourful though. I liked the the grape leaves, they retained their integrity while being moist. For their last dish, they went for the Keftedes, which in my opinion, was the best of the three. These meatballs were large, moist with an aesthetically-pleasing browned exterior. There was a pronounced onion flavour mixed with a good level of herbiness.

For their dessert, they chose the the Bougatsa which I originally mistakened for Galaktobouriko. Well, they are roughly the same consisting of sweet custard sandwiched in between phyllo except galaktobouriko gets soaked in syrup. I found the custard to be silky and only semi-sweet, however, the phyllo was far too chewy and hard. This was forgivable though since this was the end of the day and it was an end piece. For myself, I really shouldn't have had a big dinner at midnight, but I couldn't resist the Slow-Roasted Lamb shoulder with Greek salad and potatoes. At first, I was concerned with the lack of colour with the lamb. Those reservations were quashed with my first bite into the moist and tender meat. I would go as far as saying the meat was actually juicy. Hence, there were no dry or stringy parts to this large piece of lamb. The lamb was very flavourful with just a touch of gaminess and strong lemon hints. The roast potatoes were perfect - soft while not falling apart with good colour. The Greek salad was fresh, topped with plenty of feta and kissed with just enough olive oil and acidity for flavour.

As for Gordo, he went for "The Main" Pasta consisting of linguini with chicken, olives, capers, tomatoes, onions, red wine and olive oil. First off, the pasta was served burning hot. How do I know this? Well, the sequence of events that explains it was quite comical. Emilicious was squeezing a lemon onto her meatballs (that is a joke within itself) and it inadvertently squirted on my face (which is another potential joke). This happened while I was in the process of trying the pasta which I dropped onto my napkin. I proceeded to take the napkin to wipe my face of the lemon juice to only find out that the pasta was burning hot! All the while, no one knew what was really going on since the music was so loud. Back on topic, the pasta was not only burning hot, it was full of flavour which was well-balanced. The pasta was a touch past al dente but not overly so. Milhouse has been trying to get his girlish figure back, so he opted for the "The Main" Burger. And he wonders why his diet isn't working... As evidenced in the picture, there was bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. Pretty typical burger with crispy bacon and slight dry patty. Decent, if unspectacular. The fresh cut fries were welcomed, even if they weren't that crispy.

Gadget Girl completed the varied dishes at our table with the Classic Pepperoni Pizza. In addition to the pepperoni, there was green peppers and mushrooms with plenty of cheese and zesty sauce. I would call this a pretty typical pizza in the same vain as Gigi's and Sunrise Pizza. Well, was it worth the effort to finally try the Main? I would say yes based on the fact that the food was more than acceptable, especially for late night eats.

The Good:
- Pretty solid eats, considering the hour of day
- Enjoyable live music
- Decent service

The Bad:
- Music was too loud this time around
- A tad pricey
- Not their fault, but parking in the area sucks

The Main on Urbanspoon

Sushiyama Revisited

We were not really planning on revisiting Sushiyama after Friday night hockey, but it acted as a backup plan to our original destination. After our visit to Hime a while back, Emilicious and I were intrigued with Rhizome Cafe next door. It had this eclectic feel which seemed quite inviting. However, as we walked up to the place this time around, there was this book reading of some sort and there were no tables available. Everyone there seemed so focused on the reading, we really didn't want to walk in and interrupt. So we ended up walking down the block to Sushiyama. As per usual, there was a lineup and since we had 9 people with us, that was no easy task to find a table that large. Well, there was one in the corner near the entrance, however, the people there took their time leaving even though they had already paid their bill. In fact, it was about 20 minutes before they left. During this time, Boss Woman was getting really impatient and even suggested we go next door for some Pho. And she doesn't even like Pho! LOL... In the end we got our table and most people decided to get their own things. I was, however, able to convince Sweet Tooth and Milhouse into sharing food with me (they even left the ordering to me! bad idea on their part...).

As for the others, Emilicious had the Charashi Don. It was a fairly large bowl of rice with plenty of fresh-looking sashimi on top. Nice colour and sheen. It was a good value at just a shade under $10.00. However, I discovered later that she got food poisoning afterwards (was it food contamination? Make what you want from that information). The ever elusive Polka King decided to join us this time for eats and brought along Polka Dot. Seems like he's allowed to come out when she can keep an eye on him... I guess the expression ball-and-chain really does apply to some people... They decided to have a Party A Tray all to themselves. It sounded like a lot of food, but in reality, it was only 9 pieces of nigiri and 24 pieces of maki sushi. They easily finished it. Again, for $19.00, it was a pretty good value. They weren't exactly descriptive when I asked how they liked it, but not to worry since I had ordered some sushi to share (btw, they did like it). Milhouse, Sweet Tooth and I started with the Alaska Roll consisting of 2 types of salmon, tuna, tako, crab stick, cucumber and tobiko. This was an ingredient-heavy roll which was quite good. I found the rice to be somewhat dry, but it was still alright.

Normally, a Spider Roll (soft-shell crab roll) can run you roughly $8.00 (if you are lucky) at most other sushi joints. When we noticed that it was only $6.75, we thought it was a great value. Now price and taste can be 2 mutually exclusive entities... Fortunately, this was a well-made roll with a meaty soft-shell crab which was not slathered with too much batter. Too many places put more batter to make their soft-shell crab look bigger. On the topic of deep-fried, we also shared the Deluxe Assorted Tempura. Normally, when there is fish tempura, the pieces are roughly the size of a fish stick. Not here, the first thing we noticed as the dish was being placed on the table was the large pieces of fried fish. Furthermore, the fish was only lightly coated with tempura batter. In fact, this was better than many fish 'n chips I've had. The fish was moist while the batter was crisp and light. Predictably, the rest of the items were fried perfectly crisp.

For the purposes of filling our tummies after a hockey game, we got 2 filler items starting with the Oyako Don. I know, a rice bowl ain't too much to get excited about, but this was solid nonetheless. Lots of moist chicken with onions, egg and mushrooms. The rice had a nice texture where it was chewy while not dry. However, the most important thing of all was the mirin, soy and sugar mixture seeped all the way through the rice. The other filler or carb-heavy dish was the Yaki Udon. It was a tad on the greasier side. I guess they didn't want the noodles to stick to the hot cast iron plate. The texture of the noodles was good though being slightly chewy. Moreover, the veggies remained crisp. However, as the picture easily suggests, they skimped out on the udon. Although not expensive, this was fairly meager in portion size. Other than that, Sushiyama generally represents good value with above average food. Not sure what happened with Emilicious' charashi, but my own personal experiences at Sushiyama have been solid. Not the best in town by a long shot, yet certainly better than most (at very reasonable prices too).

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Usually a lineup
- Not the most comfortable seating arrangements

Sushiyama on Urbanspoon

Cactus Club (Burnaby North)

I have to admit it. I don't mind Cactus Club. Sure, it is a chain restaurant. Yes, it's not exactly cheap and it's a lot of style over function. Yet, I can't deny the food is generally pretty good. Before its transformation earlier in this century, Cactus Club was a one our usual dining destinations. It was a great place to meet up with a large group of friends where we would dine on reasonably-priced casual food. Well, it ain't all that casual anymore and the prices have gone up significantly. The food and prices took another leap as Rob Feenie entered the fray. With everything, there is a correlation between the price and what you get. What you do get
now-a-days at Cactus Club is a combination of "better" chain restaurant food with attractive staff and decor all served in a trendy environment. As mentioned, I like my dives; but I do like appreciate the trendier joints as well. I find it unfair that people complain about certain restaurants when they refuse to accept what they are. In other words, if you don't like trendy and don't want to spend the money, then stay away. No one forces you to eat at these places. And if you do, consider everything that the restaurant offers and then make a judgment. They have their target market and they do a good job
serving them. They wouldn't be in business otherwise. Okay, enough ranting from me...

So this was the case after Friday hockey this time around. Most people were not wanting to do the late night Asian food in a dump thing again. Thus, we headed over to the Lougheed location of Cactus Club. We used to hang out at this spot all the time after hockey because it was convenient. Now, we hadn't been here in awhile and they have done some renovations. The place is really swank and now has the prices to back that up. Call it the Rob Feenie excuse - a reason to charge more! And about Rob Feenie, one of his better creations is The Burger. Simple in name and if you think of it, simple in terms of ingredients, it is somehow a great burger. Consisting of aged cheddar cheese, cured bacon, sautéed mushrooms and red pepper relish, it has a little of everything. From the saltiness of the bacon, Earthiness of the mushrooms to the zing of the relish, it is solid offering. I didn't have it this time, Silent Bob did the honours. He pretty much echoed my thoughts except with much less words...

For myself, I BBQ Duck Clubhouse which was comprised of bbq duck, pan seared chicken and crisp prosciutto on pecan fruit bread. This was definitely a different take on a clubhouse. I found the meats to be somewhat dry, which made it slightly chewy. I did like the flavours though. It was a good combination of duck flavour with salty prosciutto and the sweetness from the bread. It was decent; but not as good as I envisioned it to be. Sweet Tooth had the Prawn & Scallop Spaghettini, which I've tried before. Much like my past experience, the dish itself was quite good. With al dente pasta in a fresh-tasting and well-balanced tomato sauce, there is not much to complain about. Well, there is one thing though. For $20.00, it is not exactly a good value. Don't get me wrong. There are scallops and prawns which are cooked up perfectly. However, there are not many of them. Good; but too pricey.

On a separate visit, I tried another Feenie creation in the Short Rib Sandwich with caramelized onions, beef jus and Emmental cheese on toasted sourdough. An updated take on a beef dip, except with tender rich-tasting short rib, I liked it. Yet honestly, it is pretty hard to mess up braised short ribs! Yet on another visit, I had the Fish Tacos which were also very good. I liked how the grilled fish was not "wet". On the other hand, it was not dry either being moist and flaky. Loved the spice rub which gave the fish some bite. Combined with the remaining ingredients, there was some crunch as well as some freshness. With Sweet Tooth in attendance, it was a foregone conclusion that she'd go for a dessert. She went straight for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bar with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and crunchy chocolate pearls. Alright, I'm not a huge sweets guy, but I did like this one. Much like the one I've had at EBO, the chocolate to peanut butter ratio was perfect. As the name suggests there was crunch to go with the smoothness of the chocolate peanut butter. Good textures, great flavours. Milhouse had the White Chocolate Cheesecake consisting of a dark chocolate crust topped with a berry compote. For a chain restaurant, they make a pretty solid NY-style cheesecake here. For those who like a harder cheesecake, this would be quite satisfying. The shape was uniform while the texture was creamy. It wasn't too sweet with a definite baked cream cheese flavour.

Not to be outdone, Bear (who is also a dessert fiend) had the Apple Galette, as described on the menu: a warmed granny smith apples, a hint of cinnamon on a flay puff pastry topped with vanilla ice cream and finished with caramel. I had this a few times already and man, I am not ashamed to admit that the desserts at Cactus Club are pretty good and consistent. This reminds me somewhat of the apple pie at Joey. And what's not to like? The flaky pastry, the balanced apple filling, just enough caramel and the scoop of smooth ice cream all combine to make it better than apple pie. Lastly, Emilicious had the Key Lime Pie (which is one of my favs). Sounding quite repetitive, this was another good dessert. The filling was smooth with a good mix of tartness and sweetness. The crust was there, but not overwhelming while the sprinkle of lime zest added freshness. Flame me if you want, but we don't mind Cactus Club. I'm not afraid to admit it. Sure it's pricey, but at the very least, the food is pretty good.

The Good:
- Pretty consistent food
- Place to be seen and to see
- Attractive staff

The Bad:
- Pricey
- Find me a location that doesn't have a lineup during peak times (good for them and Rob Feenie)

Cactus Club Cafe (Lougheed) on Urbanspoon

Best Dim Sum

Frozen Dim Sum. Not particularly the sexiest way of enjoying the Chinese version of tapas. Of course with most things, fresh is better. However, making fresh Dim Sum at home is not necessarily the most effective use of ones' time or effort. So we resort to frozen dumplings for our Dim Sum hit at any time during the day. We were actually not on the lookout for frozen Dim Sum really; however, it was right in our faces as we left Fortune City. The place didn't look like much and in fact, it was really run-down inside. I was truly skeptical and reluctantly picked out a few items. The one item that I am normally quite afraid of buying frozen is the Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumplings). I really shouldn't have been afraid at all because these haw gow were pretty decent. Sure, the dumpling skin was on the thicker side; yet the shrimp filling was good. There were large chunks of crunchy shrimp that was well-seasoned and sweet.

On the flipside, the Mini-BBQ Pork Buns were lacking in filling. Yes, they were the mini version and I probably have to cut them a bit of slack since you can only fit so much in it. However, even after steaming, the bun itself was slightly dry and the lack of filling only perpetuated the problem. There was nothing wrong with the BBQ pork filling though, it was sweet and savoury with a pleasant colour. Now, how about a bun that has no filling at all? The owner-lady suggested we get a bag of their Mini-Mantou. Apparently, it is very popular with the kiddies. Well, she was right. The kiddies just couldn't get enough of them. I can see why too. They were pillowy soft after steaming while still maintaining a slight elasticity on the outside. It was slightly sweet; yet not overly so. It was an excellent blank canvas for some type of filling. In this case, it was Spam. They loved their mantou Spamwich. Of course for the more creative, a braised pork belly or roasted pork would really be a great compliment to the mantou.

Normally, much like the haw gow, frozen Xiao Long Bao are as attractive as day-old McD's french fries. So once again, I was a bit hesitant to get any. But I did and the owner-lady was adamant as to how to prepare it. She asked me like 3 times if I knew how to steam them. I assured her that I wouldn't butcher her product. After cooking them, I could see why she was so concerned. The XLBs actually had a decent amount of juice in them. That is a rare feat for any frozen XLB. Now, not all was good though. The skin was thick; yet that is totally forgivable since it was a frozen product. Second, the meat and juice were not exactly flavourful. There was some meat flavour with very little in the way of seasoning. In the end, these were still very respectable frozen XLBs. Lastly, I gave their Pork Dumplings a try as well. These were pretty average at best. The meat filling was totally bland and had a weird texture. The dumpling skin was not too thick, so that was okay. Granted, it is typical to dip these dumplings into some sort of sauce. Therefore, being bland is not necessary the end all. In general, for the items we did try, there were some surprises. Of course our expectations were tempered since it is unfair to compare with freshly made Dim Sum. With that in mind, the haw gow, xiao long bao and mantou were above average for frozen Dim Sum. I'm game for getting these again and trying some of their other stuff as well.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Above average frozen XLBs and Haw Gow
- Friendly, if not over-enthusiastic owner-lady

The Bad:
- If it matters to you, the place looks like hell
- Parking issues that plague most Asian malls are present here

Best Dim Sum on Urbanspoon

The Fray

*Restaurant is now closed*

Tops, Knight & Day, Denny's and fast food joints. What do these have in common? Heart attack food? Open 24 hours? Desperation eats? Yah, pretty all of those traits and more... That, essentially is what we are facing as eating destinations since our freakin' league games are so late. In fact, over the next 2 months, no games are earlier than 10:00pm. Most are going to be after 11:00! I think it is time to change leagues. So when I got an email from The Fray hoping I'd pay them a visit in the next little while, it seemed unlikely. They do open until midnight, but their last call is at 11:00pm. For us, the only time we could even possibly make it there in time was our 9:00pm game coming up. We miraculously made it by 10:45, a full 15 minutes prior to last call. How did we achieve this? Simple. Gadget Girl and Emilicious actually made it out of the changing room within 20 minutes (as if you haven't already guessed, this is a co-ed league, and no, we do not change in the same dressing room!). Even more amazing was the fact that Milhouse made it out at around the same time. Normally, he likes his long, hot showers... uh...

On looks alone, I really liked the concept and vibe of the place. The first thing that caught my attention was the table arcade game that boasted classics such as Ms. Pacman, Galaga and Space Invaders! The North wall was adorned with various board games which we could play at our leisure. Way cool. But most rad of all was the Grown Up Activity Sheet at each table. Consider it a localized scavenger hunt with items such as a hoodie, old-school Chuck Taylors and a blogger with a digital camera... hmmm... Anyways, we decided to share some appies as a group and sorta quasi-shared some mains as well. Gadget Girl decided on a salad for herself. Apparently, she wants to maintain her girlish figure, much like Milhouse. Despite covering a good part of their menu, the owner decided to treat us to 3 bonus appies. And were we glad he did because we wouldn't have had the good fortune of trying the Freaky Potatoes. These house made rosemary-infused thin chips were graced with green onions, bacon, cheddar, hot sauce and sour cream. A complete hit with our table, these had it all - texture, spice, cool, salty and cheesy.

Next up were the F-Bombs. No, Milhouse wasn't reliving the choice words he had during the game or nor was it myself going into a tirade about Richmond drivers either. Rather, these were their rendition of Devils on Horseback. Instead of prunes, these were bacon-wrapped figs finished off with a balsamic reduction. For all intents and purposes, the same "sweet mixed with salty-smokiness" still applied. As such, these were pretty well-received. However, my personal favourite had to be the Portobello Fries. These panko-encrusted fungi were a textural delight. The super crunchy exterior gave way to a perfectly cooked mushroom "fry". Not much in the way of seasoning though, other than the truffle aioli which added a double-dose of Earthiness.

Moving past the comped items, we had the Duck Fat-Fried Chicken. That's right folks. Not a misprint. The chicken drumsticks were fried in duck fat. Due to the richness of the fat, the exterior of the drumsticks were fried to a golden crisp. Wonderful texture with the rendered chicken skin which became a thin layer of crunchiness. With that being said, we would've liked to see the chicken meat cooked a little less. Served on the side were Parmesan sour cream dip and Nước chấm. I preferred the sour cream since it actually adhered to the meat. The Vietnamese fish sauce dip had a hard time penetrating the chicken meat.

Our last appie was the Pulled Pork Sliders served on a purple yam bun. Not sure if these were really the purple yam buns, but in terms of texture, they were indeed dense. Probably too dense and really should've been toasted. Furthermore, the pork was a tad dry and it required a good dousing of BBQ sauce. The sauce itself was thin and lacking in smokiness. Overall, these sliders were probably the weakest of the appies we tried. Moving onto the mains, the first thing that stood out on the menu was the Fat Bastard Pork Belly. This was a fairly large piece of belly with a crispy crackling on top. The fat did not exactly melt-in-our mouths and the meat was a bit chewy. It was accompanied by horseradish slaw, caramelized apple rings and pork jus. This dish has potential if the belly could be prepared differently.

The Mac and Cheese also caught our fancy and it was pretty decent. I would've preferred a touch more sharpness and some more of the rich bechamel sauce. The radiatore pasta was al dente and it really held onto the sauce well. The crumb topping added a nice crunch. Although it didn't blow our socks off, this was way better than the one I had at the Mac Shack (or maybe because the Mac Shack was just not very good in general). Milhouse once again went for a burger in the form of the Fray Burger. I gave it a try and the Pemberton beef patty was actually quite moist and flavourfully seasoned. It had a nice sear too. The lettuce and tomatoes were fresh, however, the bun was too dense for my taste. Overall, a solid burger. Now, with Sweet Tooth in attendance, we had no choice but to order a few desserts. I gave the Chocolate Espresso Brownie a try first. On the menu, it was incorrectly printed at $14.95. At first, we thought it had gold flakes or something. Turns out it was only $5.95. Curiously, the outside of the brownie was more moist than the inside, which was dry (probably due to the chocolate sauce). We didn't get a huge hit of espresso, but the brownie was indeed chocolaty.

If the brownie got mixed reviews, the Orange Panna Cotta was unanimously given thumbs up. It was silky, not overly sweet and bursting with flavour. It was very fragrant and refreshing. Furthermore, it was a relatively large portion. This was a satisfying end to a somewhat uneven meal. Most of the appies were pretty darn good (except for the pulled pork sliders), the dinner entrees needed some refinement, the burger was solid and as mentioned, we liked the panna cotta over the brownie. So in essence, they were batting at .600, which is above average. So assuming you pick the right items, the Fray is a pretty neat place to hang out and grab a bite (especially the appies).

The Good:
- Very cool concept with the retro games and such
- Some interesting menu items with equally interesting names
- The appies are generally pretty good

The Bad:
- For the entrees we tried, some tweaks are needed

Fray on Urbanspoon