Sherman's Food Adventures: June 2012

Teemway BBQ & Fresh Meat

It seems like that we've been settling for T&T BBQ as of late. I say "settling" is because we all know that T&T is never the first choice for anything, yet it is definitely the most convenient. Take their groceries for instance. If the items are not on sale, they are generally more expensive than most other stores. Look at the baked stuff, it is acceptable while not great (expensive too!). Their cooked food can best be described as average (not as good as Kent's or Top King). Lastly, their BBQ'd meats are serviceable, but really do not hold a candle to such big boys like HK BBQ Master and Parker Place Meats.

So for the next little while, I will resist the urge to be lazy and actually visit random Chinese BBQ joints in hopes of finding the next "gem". First up is Teemway BBQ & Fresh Meat out on Victoria Drive. I decided to go for 3 meats including the Roasted Pork. Now by virtue of using various parts of the pig, it is hard to compare head-to-head with a place like HK BBQ Master because they use strictly the belly. With that being said, the pork at Teemway was more than acceptable having a crunchy crackling and well-seasoned meat. Since it wasn't the belly meat, it was naturally less moist and fatty.

I wasn't a huge fan of the their BBQ Pork though. It was pretty bland and extremely dry. To be fair, the 2 pieces of pork were lean, so it would naturally not be very moist. However, even with that in mind, the pork was almost chalky in the centre. Furthermore, there wasn't enough "sauce" to keep the exterior moist and flavourful either. Lastly, I got half a BBQ Duck and it was fairly plump. There was plenty of meat on the bones and it was well-seasoned. The meat was a tad dry, yet not terribly so. The skin was slightly shriveled (and I took the picture as soon as I got into the car). For the items I tried from Teemway, it wouldn't necessarily make me want to escape the convenience of T&T since the stuff was pretty comparable. Yet, much like T&T, the BBQ items are serviceable and would be a decent option for those living nearby.

The Good:
- Pretty standard stuff, so it does the job
- Not particularly expensive

The Bad:
- Meats are slightly dry
- BBQ pork could be better

Teemway BBQ & Fresh Meat on Urbanspoon

Summer of Love (Presented by Swallow Tail)

Ever since my first experience at the original Swallow Tail Supper Club, I look forward to their special events. The last time, I was invited to their Secret Supper Soiree, which involved moving from location to the next. This time around, I was invited to their Summer of Love dinner which featured an Iranian meal served in the yoga studio at Che Baba. Prior to entering the studio, we met at Robson Park and sat on beach blankets (which we had to bring ourselves) for our first course.

Robin led the procession which included a violinist. Our first item was Iranian Flatbread stuffed with feta, basil, mint and tarragon. The bread was a little dry, but the cheese helped provide some moisture. I liked the combination of herbs which offered up some unique flavours. Not a bad start, but hardly exciting. After that, we were ushered into the yoga studio which was converted into a dining room where we sat on the floor. Authentic yes, comfortable, no (especially for the tall men around me). As we entered the studio, we were presented with a drink consisting of Gin with sage flower and elder flower petals. It was a light and refreshing beverage. Any other drinks (including wine) were extra charge, which is both normal and expected at an event such as this.

After some introductions, the first plates of food came out. We started with Iranian Basmati Rice (Lubia Polo) with beans, cinnamon and pork (at least I thought it was pork). Even from the very beginning, we got very little information as to what we were eating. We were given bits and pieces here and there, but no formal explanation (that we could hear at least). The rectangle thing that you see on top of the rice is "tah-deeg" which is the rice crust at the bottom of the pot. The rice dish was pleasant, but we only got 2 small orders of it to share among 6 of us. The half Meatball (Kufteh) on top of the rice was only one of 2 that we received for the whole table (that would mean we got only one entire meatball for 6 people). It was moist and had a good meaty texture while being soft. There was a combination of herbs, beef and what I believe were nuts or split peas.

Served on the side was Cucumber Yogurt Dip (Maast-o Khiar) which was refreshing. Then we got one, count'em, one small bowl of Eggplant and Tomato (Mirza Ghassemi). This was fresh-tasting with slight tartness. The texture was quite nice though. It was a bit strange to eat this without any bread. For our last savoury dish, we were presented a small dish of Tomato & Cucumber Salad (Salad Shiraz). Not much to comment other than it was crunchy and vibrant with a touch of tartness. We actually got 2 of these for the whole table. Throughout dinner, we requested for more food since we were hardly satisfied. The 3 other tables around us had the same issue. Not only did we not get anymore food, it was difficult to even get our water glasses refilled.

Lastly, we were presented with Saffron Rice Pudding (Sholeh Zard) for dessert. This was not to my liking, nor was it for many other people as well (since many were left uneaten). There was nothing wrong with the flavours as it was quite mild and only semi-sweet. The texture was far too stiff. It appeared that the pudding was made too long in advance and it had hardened. At the end, we were served some Tea which was accompanied by rock sugar (which one would put in their mouth while drinking the tea). Okay... I'm sad to say that this dinner was not up to the usual high standards. We've come to expect innovation, creativity and customer satisfaction from Swallow Tail. This did not happen here. Sure, I was comped, yet it still wasn't a great experience. For those around me, they had paid $79.00 each for this. The feedback I got was one of disappointment. The excuse we heard for the lack of food was due to one table re-ordering early (and essentially consuming all the food). Even if that is the case, that is not our problem and plans should have been in place to make sure people had enough food. Furthermore, the service was slow and unorganized. It is understandable that there are a lot of logistics involved in running a pop-up restaurant, but the bottom-line is that the customers have to go away happy. This was not the case. Now, by writing this "not-so-glowing" post may eliminate my chances at further invites from Swallow Tail. However, if this is direction they are moving towards, I may not want another invite.

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

Tamarind Vietnamese

*Now Pho 99*

It was cold and the skies were threatening to rain. Yes, the 2nd day into Summer and it looked more like Fall. That is what we get in Vancouver. Funny how the day before, it was warm and muggy. Hence, my visit to Kim Hoang would be perplexing to some. You know, hot noodle soup + muggy day = lots of sweat. But hey, everyday is a good day for Pho right? What do they do in Vietnam when it is consistently warm? Anyways, I was on my way to pick up some take-out food at Afghan Bakery when I spied with my little right eye (because it was on my right hand side!), a new Vietnamese joint in the same complex. Tamarind eh? Name sounded like a Thai restaurant. I got out of my car to investigate. To my surprise, it was a Vietnamese restaurant. Pho again? For the second straight day? Well, at least it was cooler.

Talk about stumbling upon something new, the place had just opened recently with a 20% grand opening special. The ladies inside greeted me warmly and anxiously. One of them declared that they are even better than Pho Tam. *Gasp* That is quite the proclamation! So I settled in and ordered 2 full-sized dishes to her surprise. Hey, I was hungry! I started with the Pho Dac Biet which arrived in only one size. That was fine with me since I find it silly with the large and small designations because at most places, there seems to be very little difference between the two. I immediately took a quite sample of the soup. It was definitely lighter than Pho Tam, yet still exhibiting definite flavours. It was clear and overall pretty good. Was it better than Pho Tam? Well, that would be subjective wouldn't it? For me, it was different. As for the noodles, they were chewy and didn't clump up. The meats were mostly tender, but the flank was a touch dry.

For my second dish, I had the Lemongrass Chicken with broken rice. Now this plate of food rivaled Pho Tam in terms of size and quality. There were 2 de-boned chicken legs which were cooked perfectly tender and moist. There was ample seasoning including a good hit of lemongrass. The rice was cooked nicely too, where it was fluffy with a bite. I really liked this dish. In fact, the items that I did try were above-average and the ladies there truly care about their customers. I will definitely return.

The Good:
- Super friendly proprietors
- Good eats
- Relatively diverse menu

The Bad:
- Location is a bit run-down (on the outside only though)

Tamarind Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kim Hoang

To say that June has sucked weather-wise would be an understatement. My Northface jacket has been used far too often this Spring and the threat of rain every Monday for my softball games is getting a bit tiring. But wait. The first day of Summer brought us... wait for it... Warm weather! Ironic that I decided to go for Pho though... I ended up at Kim Hoang because people have told me to check it out. Well, that was awhile ago... when it was still cold outside... Located in the same plaza as the Tim Horton's, Kim Hoang is a small place that can be easily missed. In fact, if one wasn't traveling Eastbound on 152nd, it is actually not the easiest spot to get to.

Of course I got to it and once inside, occupied the only 1 of 2 window seats available. I went ahead and ordered my favourite being the Pho Dac Biet. The broth was clear and light, yet still exhibited meat flavour with a touch of star anise. It was quite sweet though. The noodles were perfectly prepared being slightly chewy and not clumpy at all. There was a good amount of meat which were all tender except for the brisket which had some chewy parts. Now one bowl of Pho wouldn't be enough right? So I also got the Bo Kho (Beef Stew) served with a crusty baguette. The beef stew was slightly underdone as the stewing liquid was flavourful while lacking depth. The carrots were actually still somewhat crunchy. However, the copious amount of tender beef shank made this dish acceptable. The meat was moist and the connective tendon tissue was gelatinous and practically melted in my mouth. The meat itself was quite bland though. This led me to believe that the meat and carrots may have been added to the stew after the fact. 

I returned again to try something else on the menu and had the Bun Bo Hue... on yes, another warm day (they do that in Vietnam right?).  This was a fairly average version as it was somewhat aromatic with lemongrass, but it was not very spicy nor did it have any shrimp paste (or very little of it).  The meats were good though and the pork knuckle was a nice surprise. Whatever the case, the 3 items that I did try were decent enough to put Kim Hoang in the large group of acceptable Vietnamese restaurants in the GVRD.  Yes, I did do a return visit, but that was only to sample more than 2 items.

The Good:
- Portions are quite good
- Pho is decent
- Service was pretty friendly

The Bad:
- It's fine, but there is better (nearby)
- A bit difficult to get to if not traveling in the right direction

Kim Hoang Vietnamese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria

To say that the latest fad in Vancouver is Neapolitan pizza would be an understatement. Much like Japanese ramen, macarons and diners, there seems to be a new joint opening up every month. The one that started it all was Nicli Antica and it led to a host of others such as Verace, BiBo, Farina, Barbarella, Novo and Via Tevere. Now we finally get our first "chain" Neapolitan pizza chain called Famoso. Originating out of Edmonton and now expanding to BC and Ontario, Famoso prides itself on serving authentic Neapolitan pizza. Viv and I were invited to their media preview where we were instructed to order whatever we wanted. Wow. I'm glad Mijune wasn't around because I'm sure she'd try everything on the menu. Channeling my inner-Mijune, I decided to try as much as I could by ordering a bunch of stuff beginning with the Famoso Salad. It was a hearty concoction consisting of romaine lettuce, prosciutto crisps, carrots, cherry tomatoes, spicy sopressata, fire-roasted chicken and feta dressed in a dijon-balsamic vinaigrette. This was more of a meal in itself rather than a starter. The sopressata provided a nice kick as well as a nice chewy textural contrast to the crisp lettuce. The fire-roasted chicken was flavourful while being not too dry considering it was breast meat. There was a good amount of feta on top to cool the spice from the sopressata. The vinaigrette was mostly on the sweet side and could've benefited from a touch more acidity. Despite that, the salad was good.

For our appy, we went for their Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella Balls baked in Campania tomato sauce, fresh basil and pecorino romano with flatbread served on the side. Although lacking in texture and shape, the fresh mozzarella balls were nicely seasoned by the salty prosciutto. Surprisingly, the best part of the dish was not the balls themselves, rather it was the fresh tomato sauce. One taste and the sauce exuded a brightness from fresh tomatoes. It was naturally flavourful with a desirable tartness which really complimented the mozza balls. Remember how I channeled my inner-Mijune? Well, Viv and I decided to share 4 full-sized pizzas. A daunting task for sure, but hey, the more things we try, the better we'd understand the menu. Of course it was a given to get the Margherita as a baseline of sorts. Okay, sure it is pretty obvious from the picture that the pizza wasn't exactly blistered nor exhibited much in the way of leoparding. I'll cut them some slack because they were pumping out multiple pizzas at a time. Normally, we wouldn't order 4 pizzas and neither would the couple next to us (actually they ordered 7). Hence, it appeared they rushed it a bit. Therefore, the pizza was quite soft in the middle. I'm not sure if this had anything to do with the oven, which was not wood-burning. If we focus solely on the ingredients, they were good. The fresh tomato sauce was very much like the one found in the appy we had. The fresh fior di latte and basil were legit, but with a soggy crust, it was not the complete package.

Our second pizza was the Funghi Tartufo with roasted white mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, truffle oil and reggiano parmesan. Rather than a strong mushroom flavour, we got more truffle oil than anything else. This was not a complaint, instead that was more of an observation. They weren't shy with the mushrooms, which in turn made the middle of the pizza even more soft. This was a good pizza, yet could've benefited from more salt. That was not an issue with the Pollo though. Despite being a chicken pizza, there was plenty of flavour thanks to a nice sprinkle of salt on top. In addition to the chicken, there was roasted red pepper, basil and artichoke hearts. With flavourful fire-roasted chicken (like the one in our salad), sweet peppers and tart artichoke hearts, there was a balance of flavours which didn't miss the tomato sauce. With less wet ingredients, the crust on this pizza was more chewy and crisp on the outside.

While we were chatting with the couple next to us, we came to an agreement that we would share any non-duplicated pizzas. As such, we got to try the San Andreas consisting of EVOO, garlic, and oregano, fresh mozzarella and chili-lime marinated roasted chicken. Once baked, it was further topped with fresh avocado slices, diced roma tomatoes, diced onion, cilantro and drizzled with light cream, served with a lime wedge. Okay, I'm not going to sugar-coat it, this was universally the least-liked pizza. With so many toppings, it only served to make the entire crust even more soggy. It was really too bad since it sounded good and in fact, was good in terms of flavour. We also sampled the Siciliana topped with Italian sausage, Italian ham and baked prosciutto. As an all-meat pizza, I was already liking it. And yes, it was very meaty. However, the flavours seemed muted for some reason or another. It didn't make sense to me since I could see all of the meat, yet couldn't get a tonne of flavour. Now that was not a problem with the Spicy Thai (with mild spicy peanut sauce, fire-roasted chicken, fresh mozzarella, smoked mozza and topped with matchstick carrots, bean sprouts, cilantro and crushed peanuts) though. We ordered it with reluctance because Asian fusion on a pizza could be a disaster. Furthermore, anything dubbed as "spicy" on a menu usually means "not spicy enough". This pizza was a complete surprise as it became our favourite one of the night. There was definitely a kick to the pizza which could not be considered wimpy. Yet, it wasn't too spicy that it overwhelmed the other flavours. The crunch from the carrots and sprouts added some texture while the squirt of lime brightened the flavours.

By now, we were in a food coma, but hey, there was dessert! We didn't hold back and ordered 4 of them. Yes, that's right. Take that Mijune! We began with 3 scoops of gelato consisting of Salted Caramel, Vanilla Bean and Key Lime. Since the gelato was not made on-site, the texture was compromised being a touch icy. The salted caramel had a nice balance of sweetness and salt. In fact, I found it not too sweet which made it easier to eat. The vanilla bean could've benefited from more vanilla beans since the flavours were quite muted. As for the key lime, it definitely tasted like its namesake. I enjoyed it and kept eating it. We also got the classic Tiramisu which was pretty much a textbook version, if not a bit generic. We didn't dislike it nor did we rave about it either. Our only wish was it to be made in-house rather than being pre-made. Our second dessert was the Panna Cotta and it was okay. The panna cotta itself was a touch stiff, but was pleasant enough to eat. The side of pineapple was refreshing, yet surprisingly bland. Therefore, the entire dessert was not very memorable.

The very last item we had for the night (thank goodness) was the Dolce & Banana. This was the best dessert by far. The caramelized bananas were tasty and sweet. However, we liked how the bananas themselves were not overripe which meant that the sweetness was not overbearing. Again, we didn't care for the gelato. Now after our meal was over, I was still troubled by the soggy pizza. With so many Neapolitan-style pizza joints in town, this would be a serious problem. So to make sure, I returned a few months later right when it opened for lunch. Therefore, no rush, no pressure and hopefully no soggy crust. I went for the Conforto with Italian sausage, roasted mushrooms and roasted red peppers. Okay, the good news first. The outside crust was sufficiently charrd with a nuttiness to it. Also, the toppings were tasty and plentiful. The bad news? The rest of the pizza was again soggy. It almost had a crepe-like quality to it. I realize the middle of the pizza is supposed to be softer, yet this was beyond soft. This was really perplexing to me since they have all one needs to make good Neapolitan pizza. Can it be the tomato sauce is too wet? Oven not hot enough? Too many toppings? All of the above? Bottom line - there is a complete Neapolitan pizza to be found somewhere here, it just hasn't happened yet.

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

The Good:
- Reasonable pricing
- Lots of good ingredients
- For the visit I made on my own, the service was good

The Bad:
- Soggy crust

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Rogue Kitchen and Wet Bar

Gadget Girl doesn't like to go out of her comfort zone when it comes to late night eats after Friday hockey. So much so, we have to eliminate areas such as Downtown and the North Shore (although we play our games on the North Shore... ???). So when a few of us decided to head to Rogue after the game, we had to think of a game plan to convince her to join us. Think of it, Downtown is only a mere 10 minutes or so from the 2nd Narrows if one uses Powell. And since it is late night eats, parking shouldn't be an issue in terms of cost or availability. Yes. That was the argument we were gonna use on her. Well, it was all for naught because Sweet Tooth had actually driven Gadget Girl to the game. She was our food hostage! Bwahahaha...

Another reason I suggested Rogue was due to the fact I had been there earlier in the day on the Taste Vancouver Food Tour of Gastown. The sample of Lobster Mac n Cheese was pretty impressive and since they open late, it was an obvious choice. On that note, Rogue was one of the only stops on the food tour to offer up a sample large enough to get a good gauge of the food. Hence, it lured me back. The other stops (other than Brioche) had tiny portions that didn't leave a lasting impression. As the adage says, "you only get out what you put in"... I digress.

So despite being hopping for a Friday night, we were able to score a table quickly. In order to get a good idea of their menu, I decided to share some things with Gordo. However, I had the Fries X3 all to myself. It included 3 types of fresh cut kennebec fries: Poutine, Truffle Oil & Parmesan and Gorgonzola Cream & Bacon. First or all, the fries were pretty good on their own being crispy and having that "fresh cut" quality. The cheese curds in the poutine were squeaky while the gravy was thick and mild. My favourite of the 3 had to be the truffle oil and & Parm because the fries maintained their crisp texture. Moreover, the right amount of truffle "mustiness" and salty Parm made them quite tasty. The gorgonzola cream was creamy and rich. It wasn't as sharp as I would've liked as it was quite mild.

Onto the items I did share with Gordo... We had the Seafood Linguine with prawns, scallops, salmon, halibut, lemon, herbs, red and yellow peppers. This was a fairly generous portion with al dente pasta and a considerable amount of lemon flavour (with lots of garlic and herby taste as well). For me, that was really appealing because more often than not, seafood pasta can be pretty bland. I was a bit indifferent with the large amount of crunchy veggies though. On one hand it offered up a textural contrast, yet on the other, it "got in the way" of the pasta. If the seafood wasn't overcooked, this would've been really good. Our second item was the Spicy Tiger Prawn Pesto Pizza (prawns, red onion, pesto, mozza, feta, grana padano Parmesan) which was actually quite spicy. It was just spicy enough to add a kick without overwhelming the rest of the ingredients. The prawns had a nice snap and were naturally sweet. The crust was mostly crispy on the outer edge while being soft in the middle. We thought the pizza was more than acceptable.

Gordo didn't stop there either and got an order of the Lobster Mac n' Cheese for good measure. Consisting of four cheeses, mac and lobster, this has been one of the better versions I've had lately. I like that they use a variety of lobster meat rather than just from the claw (since it is kinda spongy). Also, the mac is al dente while there is just enough sauce. So the mac is not wet and it not too rich either. The crumb topping adds texture and I appreciate that the whole thing doesn't reek of truffle oil. Moving over to Gadget Girl and Emilicious, they shared 2 dishes beginning with the Baha Fish Tacos. Although the menu stated Basa, we were informed they used Mahi-Mahi instead. It was Cajun-spiced with avocado cream, mango salsa, house coleslaw wrapped in white flour tortillas. When it arrived, it looked to be rather small in size, but then again, there was a good amount of fish and mango. Despite being $14.00, they thought it was well-worth it since the fish was moist and flavourful while the abundance of mango really amped the flavour quotient. For their second dish, they had the Coconut Poached Chicken Salad (snap peas, red and yellow peppers, mango, mixed greens, cashews, thin Asian noodles in a sesame soy dressing). This was a really mild tasting salad with fresh ingredients which provided different textures.

Bear and Milhouse also had the Lobster Mac n' Cheese as well as the 9.2 oz Rogue Burger with house ground sirloin (cooked to medium) with bacon and cheddar on a sesame brioche bun. The patty was juicy and moist, and when combined with the rest of the fresh ingredients, it turned out to be a solid burger. The brioche bun became a bit soft on the bottom because of the moisture content, yet still held together until the last bite. Now when it came to desserts, Bear was all over it. He went for the biggest one being the Apple Pie & Ice Cream. It arrived in a cast iron pan and somewhat resembled a galette. The "crust" was actually puff pastry which was flaky and crispy. The sliced apples on top were soft with still some appleness to them. The pie wasn't very sweet where the ice cream made up for it. Sweet Tooth and Gordo shared the Hot Fudge Sundae and well, it was a large sundae. Not bad, just a bit too much whipped cream. Lastly, Milhouse and Emilicious had the White Chocolate Cheesecake with an oreo crust, dark berry compote and caramel drizzle. The cheese cake was smooth and rich. Pretty good for late night eats. Actually, we agreed that practically everything was either decent or above-average. Of course nothing would win any culinary awards, but Rogue is pretty good for this class of restaurant.

The Good:
- From the sample size we had, the food was above-average
- Place has a good vibe and decor
- Diverse menu

The Bad:
- Service was mostly attentive (especially the drink refills) but there were long gaps where we couldn't find our server
- Portion size varied from dish-to-dish (naturally, the ones with more expensive ingredients were smaller)

Rogue Kitchen and Wet Bar on Urbanspoon

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