Sherman's Food Adventures: February 2012

Tako Sushi & Pho

*Restaurant is now closed*

Have you ever driven along on your merry way and then see something that totally floors you? Sure, it could be a car accident of some sort, a pretty lady or man, the lineup at Anton's or a properly observed 4-way stop in Richmond. For me at least, I usually stop dead in my tracks when there is a new restaurant. Now imagine one that serves sushi and pho? Uh... Well, that has happened before with Japolo Sushi (which surprisingly turned out well). Now there is another called Tako Sushi & Pho on Canada Way. Actually, it would be hard for me to stop dead in my tracks here since the location is pretty awkward to get in and out of (especially if you were traveling Westbound).

So I finally made it out there along with Big D and Slick for some multi-cuisine action. Unluckily for me, they both had Pho which made for a lack of diversity. Well, that is why I ended up ordering a combo consisting of a California Roll and Sashimi. Well, it was a California roll. *Yawn* There was nothing amiss with it other than the bland and slightly dry rice. It was edible and non-offensive. I was impressed with the look of the Sockeye Salmon and Tuna Sashimi. The colours were good and it looked fresh. That would be true with the salmon as it was sweet and had a nice texture. Not for the tuna though, I found it mushier than usual (as tuna is mushy already).

Of course I had to also try a bowl of Pho too. Unfortunately, they do not receive a passing grade on it. First of all, the portion size was not very large. Most other places would be a half-size larger. Furthermore, the broth was bland with no impact at all (the little that was provided). At the very least, the meats and noodles were okay. Big D and Slick pretty much had the same problem with their bowls too. They were neither good nor a great value. Unlike Japolo Sushi, Tako does not succeed in meshing the 2 cuisines together. Although the sushi was not bad, it wasn't great either. As for the Pho, well, you already got the idea.

The Good:
- There is variety
- Prices are okay
- They have a parking lot

The Bad:
- Pho is below par
- Portion size is an issue
- Difficult to get into and leave if you're not traveling Eastbound

Tako Sushi & Pho Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bright Point Fusion

"Let's do lunch at Pho Tam sometime", suggested Big D while we were suiting up for Sunday night hockey. Although that sounded like a great idea since Pho Tam is probably the best in the GVRD, I wanted to try something new. I persuaded him to join me at a new Chinese restaurant in Whalley, not too far from Pho Tam. Now, Dim Sum and Surrey doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Strange really, when you consider the large Asian population. So when I saw a place offering Dim Sum, it piqued my interest. Located in the former City Central Palace, Bright Point Fusion is hard to miss with its bright lime green paint.

MaryMac was curious as well and joined us for Dim Sum. In fact, Big D dragged 2 more people along which was a good thing, especially for Dim Sum. Entering the place, it seemed like the renovations were a combination of the old and the new with mismatch light fixtures and chairs. I'm pretty sure there was a great deal on lime paint as well somewhere... No matter, decor is one thing, but food is another. It was obvious this was a family run operation since we were greeted by the son who was taking care of a baby. We were presented with a menu and a sticky note pad to make our selections. At first, I was concerned that our order might be confusing since we were marking down numbers of the items as well as the number for the amount of each. In fact, it did end up confusing our server as one of our dishes was reversed (rather than 2 of item 1, we got 2 of item 2, not sure how that occurred though).

Anyways, we started with the Fried Squid and boy was it drenched in oil. We were one of the first customers there and I can only assume the oil wasn't hot enough yet. It was really too bad since the squid had a nice flavour - good balance of saltiness and a touch of spice. Now onto what I would categorize as one of the worst things I've ever attempted to eat was the Seafood Salad Spring Roll. The name on the menu was misleading as it said "Seafood Spring Roll". Rather, it was a salad roll consisting of canned fruit, mayo and barely any seafood. The roll was a greasy, oil-logged mess. When we bit into it, the melted mayo leaked out. With only canned fruit in the middle, this was not appetizing at all.

Thankfully, the Pan-Fried Daikon Radish Cake was decent. It was on the stiffer side, but not terribly so. Good daikon flavour with intermittent pieces of Chinese sausage strewn throughout. It was fried up nicely and wasn't greasy at all. Now for the dish we didn't order but got 2 of - the Scallop Dumpling. These were alright I guess. The filling was a mix of shrimp of pork which was topped off with scallop. The texture of the filling was bouncy and decently seasoned while the rice flour wrapping was slightly dense. Probably one of the better items of the meal was the Sui Mai (shrimp & pork dumpling). I found the pork to have a good bounce texture which was easy to chew while not completely mushy either. The shrimp inside was okay, it could've had a better snap. Taste-wise, it was on the "porkier" side. Not that it was a bad thing though.

Another decent offering was the Black Bean Spareribs. Most of the pieces were of the actual rib variety with little fat and cartilage. These were more chewy than tender, but it wasn't hard to eat though. As evidenced in the picture, there was plenty of black bean and some red chilis as well which added some kick. Now, typically, I am not a proponent of ordering a Shanghainese dish in a Cantonese restaurant. It never seems to turn out right. This is especially true for Xiao Long Bao. As simple as it appears, to make a good one, it takes lots of skill. I think the only non-
Shanghainese joint that makes a decent one is Dinesty. So we were not expecting much out of the ones offered here. The skin was predictably thick and the amount of broth inside meager. However, I would say that it wasn't terrible. In fact, the meat filling was pretty acceptable and the flavour was pleasant. And of course I was not even attempting to compare it to an actual XLB from a Shanghainese restaurant.

With an overly thick oyster-based sauce, the Bean Curd Skin Rolls, much like the other dishes, were okay. They were a bit scrawny with little in the way of pork filling. The textures were alright though. I didn't find the pork gritty nor the bean curd skin too tough. The sauce, however, was a bit off-putting since it was goopy and actually slid off the roll itself. Lastly, we waited for our original order of Haw Gow, which was left off the bill due to the do-it-yourself-blank-sticky-note ordering system. I'm pretty sure they rushed the order because the centre of the shrimp filling was slightly undercooked. I'm sorry but there is no other way to describe these other than they were not very good. The dumpling skin was doughy had no elasticity whatsoever. Furthermore, the shrimp filling was mushy with no snap, bounce or real texture. At the very least, it tasted okay though. Just to cover all the bases here, I do realize these were slightly undercooked, but the shrimp filling itself was lacking in whole pieces of shrimp which would explain the texture as well.

Okay, I'm really torn on this one. First, the restaurant is run by a very friendly family which are only out there to make a living. So by totally trashing the place in this post would be rather tasteless. Furthermore, I really don't want to offend the person who tweeted me the recommendation. However, the bottom line is the food was pretty mediocre at best. Considering most of the dishes are only $2.75, it tempers one's expectations and makes it more acceptable. Also, the fact there is no real good Dim Sum around in the area might help its cause. Yet, for me personally, I'm probably not their target customer.

The Good:
- Super cheap
- Friendly proprietors

The Bad:
- Dim Sum is below-average
- Decor is interesting

Bright Point Fusion Food Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Prairie Cafe

Sometimes pure randomness leads to pleasure. No, I'm not talking about something dirty (get your minds outta the gutter!). Rather, when we end up at a restaurant by fluke or accident, it could lead to a surprise or two. Well, the surprise could be actually bad as well since random visits are a 50/50 proposition. This was the case when we tried to visit Davidson Pitt Stop in Fleetwood. Upon arriving at our destination (after several wrong turns thanks to the GPS, how ironic), we discovered it was closed (apparently for good). Yikes! What now? Thankfully, I had a backup plan in the Prairie Cafe. However, I had no clue about the place and upon walking up to the front door, it was a bit confusing. The name Prairie Cafe gave me thoughts about farms, small communities and good ol' comfort food. However, the fact that the signage had Chinese characters was totally unexpected.

I guess being Asian kinda confused them as well, since they look a bit surprised when I walked in. I won't lie to you, from the outside, the place looked like a dump. On the inside, it was way nicer than I would've guessed. Quite homey with nice Korean proprietors actually. So I wasn't surprised to see Bulgogi on the menu in that case. The fact that I ordered it at 9:45am might've been unusual though (for Western standards). However, rice and some form of meat is not really a stretch for breakfast in Asia. Take Tocilog for instance. Although the veggies looked vibrant and the rice had a chewy texture, the lack of meat made it underwhelming. I could've eaten another meal after this one. Furthermore, there wasn't enough wok heat (or pan heat or whatever they used), thus the food was watery and kinda bland.

Mrs. Spray Bottle did the right thing and ordered the Bacon & Eggs with hashbrowns and toast. She asked for over easy eggs and they were more or less that. Bacon was aesthetically-pleasing and crisp while the hashbrowns were okay. We liked how the breakfast was neatly prepared and not merely slapped on the plate. For reference purposes, the Ham & Eggs was equally good with fluffly scrambled eggs and a generous helping of ham. What else to eat in a diner? How about a BLT with fries? Yah, not the most exciting thing in the world. The trick with simple food is to have good ingredients and proper execution. That was mostly the case here. The tomatoes and lettuce were fresh while the bacon was crispy. Fries were pretty good too (for generic fries that is). We just would've liked to see the toast with more colour. It was a pasty white which didn't even look toasted at all. Yet, what did we really expect from a random food adventure anyways? Prairie Cafe does the job for most people looking for a quick freshly made meal. Nothing fancy, yet nothing life-changing either.

The Good:
- Polite staff
- Carefully made food
- Kinda homey inside

The Bad:
- Not sure of the Bulgogi
- With carefully made food, it takes awhile

Prairie Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wallflower Modern Diner

While we were dining at Osaka Sushi, my hockey team wondered why I had not met them for eats after each game despite my knee injury. That was a good point. How come I haven't done that already? Isn't sports only an excuse to gather a bunch of people together for eats afterwards? Boy, what the heck was I doing for the last 2 months? I really dropped the ball on this one. Seeing how the first game of the New Year was an early one, that meant we could escape the "late-night wonton noodle trap". We ended up heading over to The Wallflower since well... I suggested it. Apparently, the team has been so lost without my lead, they have actually been going home hungry with no idea where to eat. I didn't know I mattered so much!

Yet another one of the many eclectic Main Street eateries, The Wallflower tries to be a little of everything including an extensive Vegan section on the menu (where some of the regular items could be as gluten-free as well). Ginseng was inspired by the veganism and went for the Cajun Tofu. These were pan-fried and served with a spicy peanut dip. The dip itself did have a mild kick and plenty of peanutty goodness, however, the tofu sticks were bland. This would've been better if the tofu was crispier and had more seasoning. Emilicious and I couldn't stand for eating only one dish, so we decided to share a few items including the Stuffed Yorkies. This particular appie is showing up on more menus, which makes me happy since I love it. Basically mini-Yorkshire pudding stuffed with roast beef and sauced with horseradish mayo (au jus on the side), these were a traditional roast beef dinner in one-bite. The Yorkshire pudding was very good with a crunchy exterior, however, the beef was far too stringy and dry. Too bad really because all of the other components were good.

For our mains, we split the Perogies which were fantastic. These dumplings were not heavy-at-all with a surprisingly fluffy skin and a soft, flavourful filling. They were pan-fried until crispy on the bottom and the aroma from the onions, large bacon pieces and sauerkraut was intoxicating. Normally, a side Caesar is as defaultish as one can get, however, this was not the case here. With a housemade dressing that had a rich flavour from the Worcestershire and anchovies (and it showed in the colour), this was a good Caesar. The second item we had was Grandma's Fried Chicken with pan-fried chicken thighs, sauteed onions, veggies, mash potatoes and gravy. The 2 large thighs were really moist and juicy. The thick gravy had a good natural flavour which was not salty. Loved the consistency since it adhered to the meat perfectly. One thing I would've liked to see was the gravy served on the side since it essentially nullified the crispiness of the skin. The few bits
that I did salvage were well-seasoned and crunchy. Although we appreciated the housemade mash potatoes, it could've stood to be creamier. It appeared that they were too
conservative with the cream and butter.

Milhouse had the other dish that I had been eying other than the fried chicken - Meatloaf Wellington. Yes, you read it right, they took a meatloaf and wrapped it in puff pastry and baked it. The picture doesn't really show that there are two large slices of meatloaf on the plate. And to on one's surprise, Milhouse dusted it off. He offered some of his meatloaf for me to try and I thought it was pretty moist and flavourful
(something doesn't sound right in this sentence). However, Emilicious tried his meatloaf too (another bad sentence...) and thought it was dry. So we could only surmise that due to the baking, some parts dried out, especially the more browned portions of the puff pastry. In the end, Milhouse said he'd order it again since it was good as a whole. When Gordo's Spicy Chorizo Penne arrived, we all marveled at the portion size. Not bad for 12 bux. As advertised, the pasta had a kick and finished off with a lingering spiciness. A good amount of chorizo and peppers ensured that the dish wasn't boring. However, the penne could've stood to be cooked a lot less.

Sweet Tooth originally stated she was not hungry, but ended up dusting off a whole Reuben consisting of pastrami, sauerkraut, Swiss, grainy mustard on marbled rye. She thought that the bread was nicely crisp while the ingredients were balanced (she particularly liked the tangy and crunchy sauerkraut), although the meat was slightly dry. As for the fries, they were not very good. They had a stale quality to them (and I'm not saying they were stale) which made them very starchy and dry. Although there was something to pick at about every plate of food, there is no denying that The Wallflower offers up decent comfort food at reasonable prices late into the night (or morning that is).

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced and fair portions
- Vegan and gluten-free options
- Nice vibe

The Bad:
- Tight seating
- Food is mostly good, but there were issues with every plate

Wallflower Modern Diner on Urbanspoon

Soirette

I'm sure it comes to no surprise that the latest food fad to hit Vancouver is the macaron. Don't confuse this with the macaroons you see in the boxes of Neilsons (those are toasted coconut chocolate treats) for around a dollar at Walmart. Rather, the macaron is a French import consisting of a meringue almond powder "cookie" sandwiching a filling of some sort. Despite the vibrant colours, the meringue part of a macaron generally is not flavoured. That is reserved for the filling. In terms of appearance, there needs to be a uniform shape and size with the obligatory "feet" (rough edges around the base of the meringue). Okay, I can go on and on about the macaron, but I'll stop here. As mentioned, it has become quite popular here in the past couple of years. You can find them at places such as Thomas Haas, Thierry and Kitchening with Carley to name a few. Now we can add the newest entry, Soirette, to the mix.

As you might already know, I'm not a huge sweets person. However, I am a sucker for macarons. They just look so darn cute. Did I just say cute??? I meant manly. Wait... Nevermind. Anyways, Rich Guy and I decided to hit up Soirette after Dim Sum. Its location is in a somewhat quieter part of Downtown near Coal Harbour. The place is simplistic, elegant and focused. They only serve macarons and tea folks - a good thing when you want to specialize in one thing. On the day we went, there were 17 flavours to choose from. I decided on a box of 12 and just in case you were wondering what they were, starting from the bottom left clockwise: Raspberry, Malibu, Rose, Pistachio, Matcha, Lemon, Caramel Fleur de Sel, Cappucino, Passionfruit, Chocolate, Pink Peppercorn and Lavender. For me, the highlights were the pistachio, chocolate, caramel fleur de sel and pink peppercorn. I though the texture of the macarons were bang on being crispy and delicate. The flavours were very real while not being too sweet. For example, the pistachio really tasted like pistachio without any hint of "artificialness". For me, these are legit and would be immediately in my top 3 in Vancouver. Dare I even say the best?

The Good:
- Does one thing and does it really well
- Carefully prepared and it shows in both appearance and taste
- Competitive pricing in relation to other places

The Bad:
- I did say they were competitive in pricing, but in the end, they are an expensive treat

Soirette Macarons & Tea on Urbanspoon

Preston's

Okay, if you pay close attention to the first picture of this post, you'll notice that there is something peculiar. Yes, the red carpet! Why is there a red carpet leading into Preston's? Honestly, this picture was taken during the grand opening way back in June 2010. Now, I'm not normally a "grand opening" type of person since it usually involves large crowds and it really doesn't offer up any indication how an actual meal would be like. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying grand openings are not important. To a restaurant, this is the best way to create buzz and a splash. We must remember - a restaurant is out there to make money and who can blame them for doing whatever they can to promote themselves? In fact, some of their offerings that night were pretty good (some not so much). This prompted me to plan an actual visit. Well, more than one and half years later, the time had finally come. With Whipping Girl, Costanza and Chill, I was ready to tackle some of their grub.

From what I could remember, the highlight of the grand opening was the Calamari. Thus, I had no objections when Costanza wanted to share an order. The grilled squid had the perfect texture - chewy while still delicately soft. The smokiness of the grill helped add a nice caramelized flavour to the naturally sweet flesh. The accompanying tapenade really completed the dish by offering up a different form of saltiness. This is probably their best dish by far (compared to everything else I've tried). Costanza went for an item he had once before which was the Crispy Halibut Sandwich. The cornmeal-crusted BC halibut was served on a brioche bun along with tarragon tartar. I really liked the cornmeal crust, it was very crunchy and added a nice texture to the sandwich. However, the halibut was a bit dry (even for halibut). The tarragon tartar was not as impactful as we had hoped, but then again, we could've just asked for more. We both love brioche buns, but this one was too dry and combined with the dry halibut, it was not that appealing. We loved the large side of crispy yam fries though.

Whipping Girl and I shared a few items, which was awesome in my books. The Steak Bites arrived first and were mostly tender with a few larger pieces that required more effort to chew. We felt the hoisin & ginger glaze was a touch too sweet though. Even when dipped into the side of mustard, it didn't help cut through the sweetness. The Pork Sliders were pretty
disappointing. The bun was a touch too dry while the meat needed much more BBQ sauce. Furthermore, the coleslaw was barely there, hence, I didn't get a sense of the flavour nor the texture. There were enough good components here to make a good pulled pork sandwich, it just needed some tweaking.

The one dish that needed just a minor tweak was the Seafood Linguine. With a good amount of mussels, clams, prawns, scallops and salmon bathed in a white wine cream sauce, shaved Parmesan and fresh basil, all of the components were there to make a good dish. This was especially true with the al dente linguine too. What was wrong then? There was no flavour in the sauce. Sure, it is supposed to be subtle, but it was far too subtle. Lastly, we had the Preston's Poutine which boasted Quebec Cheese Curds and Rickard's Red Gravy. Again, there were some good components at play here. The gravy was nice - not too salty, yet flavourful at the same time. The cheese curds were not necessary the type I like, but there was plenty of it and it wasn't offensive. The fries were the weak link though. Too generic for my tastes. If they were more "fresh cut-like", then we'd have a winner. If you have been noticing a trend here, you are right. The food has potential here, considering the decent components. However, we felt a few tweaks were needed to put the food over the top. With that being said, the food wasn't bad. Combined with attentive service and a fancy decor, Preston's is safe place to visit if one wasn't in the adventurous mood.

The Good:
- Nice decor
- Pretty good service
- Okay lunch pricing considering everything

The Bad:
- Although there are some really good components, the final product needs some tweaking
- Dinner pricing gets up there, you can eat practically anywhere

Prestons on Urbanspoon

The Famous Warehouse

"Gangster shot at the Sheraton Wall Centre" was the headline in the newspaper. Oh that's just great. One day later, we were supposed to attend a conference there. Well, I guess after that, it would probably be the safest hotel out there due to the attention it received. I knew one thing was for sure: we weren't going to eat at the hotel restaurant! Despite this, I heard the food is to die for... Sorry, bad joke. Where we did end up eating lunch, which was The Famous Warehouse,
should've been a crime within itself. Everything on the menu is only $4.95. Seems like an unreal steal of a deal eh? Makes you think of the Ikea commercial where the lady thinks she got something cheaper than it really was. "Start the car!"

The most popular item it seems is their burgers, so there was no choice to what I would order despite 2 other burgers at the table (apparently they weren't going to share!). I chose the Mushroom Jack Burger consisting of premium Alberta beef, tomato, lettuce, pickle, sauteed mushrooms, gravy, macho sauce and Monterey jack on a brioche bun. Considering the price, this was a decent burger. I found the beef rather juicy for being cooked all-the-way-through. It was nicely seasoned as well. I liked how they didn't skimp on the ingredients despite the low cost. Hence, it was a solid burger that had good textures and flavours. Only thing I would've liked was a more moist bun. Seeing how everyone was already having their peppered fries, I substituted mine for the Warehouse Poutine. Unfortunately, mine was a little bit cold by the time it arrived. For a non-traditional poutine (see the cheese), it was okay. The gravy had enough flavour while the fries were a touch limp. I think if they omitted the pepper, the poutine would've been better since that is all I could taste.

Ma had the Mama T's Crunchy Mac 'n Cheese (is that ironic?). Boy this was a large portion for the price (notice the trend?). Arriving with 2 large pieces of focaccia, this was a concoction of cheddar, mozzarella, alfredo, cornflakes, thyme and a Parmesan crust. This was decently cheesy with a nice contrast of textures. Once again, not bad for $4.95! Another item at the table was the Crispy Chicken Caesar Wrap. This was stuffed with fried chicken strips, crisp romaine, maple bacon, Parmesan cheese within a red tortilla. Although a wrap is hardly something to rave about, it was indeed solid. The chicken was moist and crispy at the same time while there was just enough dressing. Didn't hurt that there was crispy bacon either. All of us were pretty satisfied with our meals and that was not taking into account of the cost either. Of course when you start adding extras and ordering booze, the price starts to climb. Yet, if you stay conservative, eating at the Famous Warehouse could cost you about the same as going to McD's.

The Good:
- Cheap (everything is $4.95)
- Food is more than acceptable (even when not looking at the prices)
- The service we got was good

The Bad:
- If you start adding extras or like to booze it up, it is no longer that cheap

The Famous Warehouse on Urbanspoon