Sherman's Food Adventures: October 2012

Golden Pita Lebanese

Most of us are familiar with certain "hidden" restaurants that are only known to locals or those who are diehard eaters. I use the word hidden because they may not necessarily be visible from the street nor are they in a normally high-traffic area. Furthermore, some of these only exist to serve the lunch crowd. For me, I generally have my eye out for places to eat, so I seek out these hidden gems. Then I really have no idea how I could've missed Golden Pita (out at Lougheed Mall) all these years. From the times I visited the liquor store and more recently, Dollar Giant, what was I looking at??? A restaurant right in front of my eyes and I conveniently chose to ignore it?

Ignore it no more as Big D suggested I give it a go. Fine, so with no eating companions for lunch, I did the eat-by-myself routine once again. Sure, no one will notice the guy at the window with the big DSLR taking a picture of his Falafels...  Anyways, these were not bad. They were dense (like many falafels are), yet not overly so. There was a good balance of spices while the exterior was really crunchy.  Of course a plate of falafels would not be enough food...  So I also got the Beef Plate which included a veggie pocket, wara' inab tabbouleh salad, humous, tzatziki and pita bread.  The meat was moist and flavourful while the rest of the items were well-prepared.  I particularly liked the veggie pocket as the pastry was soft while the filling had a nice mixture of veggies including sweet corn.  On another visit, I had the Beef Shawarma and it consisted of fresh ingredients, tender beef and a great mixture of flavours.  I'm keeping the description short because of the next item...

I went back one more time to try their famed Chicken Rocket.  You know when someone raves about a particular food item and they give out this "foodgasm" face?  Well, Big D did just that.  It was a bit disturbing, but I got the idea.  Bam!  Yes, that's how the flavours hit me like a luxury SUV running a stop sign in Richmond. The combination of roasted chicken, onion, sumac spice, humous, tahini sauce, tomato, pickled turnip, feta cheese and hot sauce wrapped in a baked pita was more flavourful that I could imagine.  Depending on what was in each bite, there was the immediate hit of the hot sauce (I got spicy), then the tartness from the turnip and finishing off with the sumac spice, sweet onions and roasted chicken.  The humous brought the whole thing together.  Furthermore, since it was baked, the pita was crispy on the outside which added more texture.  I would definitely order this again.  In fact, as you may have already noticed, I keep going back to Golden Pita for eats...  That basically says it all.

The Good:
- Solid eats with good flavours
- Great people, super-friendly

The Bad:
- Not expensive, but not cheap either
- Small place, best to keep your party small 

Golden Pita Lebanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Greekfella's

Quite awhile ago, I spied a Greek restaurant on one of the rare occasions I drive along River Road in Delta. I think I was avoiding the Patullo Bridge since there was an accident (as if that doesn't happen ever). I kept it in the back of my mind, but never had a burning desire to eat there. Besides, there isn't a whole lot of literature on the place. But like most restaurants, I'd get to them sooner or later.  Finally, it was due to Supreme's insistance that she treat me to dinner that I finally had an opportunity to eat at Greek Fellas.  You see, I helped her install some lights on her car (she has the same car as I) and felt the need to treat me to food.  And since she lives out in North Delta, it seemed like a good spot to meet.  Ip Man and Ninja tagged along, but they were a little confused about our eating destination.  I don't blame them...  If you Google map the address, you'd wonder why too.

We were presented with some Greek Salad to start.  It only consisted of tomato, cucumber and feta which suited me fine because I'm not a huge fan of raw onions and peppers in my salad. It was pretty good being fresh and only lightly dressed with vinegar and olive oil. Next was the Calamari which arrived in a modest portion. The fried morsels were an attractive golden brown which in turn resulted in a crispy exterior. The breading was not greasy and actually kinda light. The squid itself was tender without being too soft. There was still a bite. Furthermore, it was well-seasoned. The tzatziki was thick and tasty. For myself and Ipman, we had the Roast Lamb. For some reason or another, his portion was larger (which I took a picture of instead of my own). The lamb had a nice roasted flavour and richness. The meat was fall apart tender and moist. There was a good amount of seasoning which as not salty. The lemon potato was a touch stiff, yet still easy to eat. It had a good balance of acidity. The rice was a touch soft, but was not bad. 

Supreme and Ninja had the Prawn Souvlaki which was quite good. It was grilled nicely where the shrimp retained a sweet snap. Again, it was only a modest portion, considering the price. And that is the one problem I have with the place.  The food in general is surprisingly good considering its low-key existance.  However, at prices that are around $20.00 per entree, it effectively takes itself out of the hidden-gem category.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Good service

The Bad:
- Pretty expensive
- Strange location

Greekfella's on Urbanspoon

Nooch Snack & Chill

Okay. Here was the scenario. I needed some lunch and I felt like heading over to Richmond. That's right. Richmond. Woah dude, how about your car? It's like new, you're just asking for trouble... Well, I was intending on meeting Choobee and JoJo, who were already in Richmond. Now, there are ways to keep the risk to a minimum. First, stay away from #3 Road. Second, find a place with a spacious parking lot. Third, don't eat Chinese food. By employing that strategy, it decreases the chance of door dings, accidents and parking spot conflicts. Now that is easier said than done because most of the best eats (that are Asian) are near #3 Road and involve challenging parking lots.

So after tossing several ideas around, we decided to head out to Nooch Snack and Chill near the new Ikea. Alright, that would work. It satisfied all of our criteria and hopefully the food would be good too. Since both of them decided to go for sandwiches, I went for something different with the Spaghetti Bolognese. Before that, I had the Butternut Squash Soup (which was the Soup du Jour). This always reminds me of Jim Carey in Dumb & Dumber asking the waitress what is the Soup du Jour. She replies, "it's the soup of the day". And he responds, "mmm, that sounds good, I'll have that". In fact, this soup was not bad. It was a touch thick and clumpy, but it tasted good. I could definitely make out the nutmeg and there was an underlying spice as well.


The Spaghetti Bolognese wasn't exactly a true version of the dish, but then again, I did not expect as much. The pasta was al dente while the sauce was like any other typical meat sauce. The onions and carrots were not cooked down, therefore the sauce was a bit chunky and the meat was a bit chewy. It was okay. JoJo opted for the Tuna Melt with tomato and cheddar. Although it wasn't exactly exciting, the melt was solid. There was ample tuna with crunchy bits with a liberal amount of melted cheese on top. Now, the favourite of the bunch was Choobee's selection of the Italian Sausage Panini. Yes, there were the usual jokes about that... She did look happy eating it. Nestled inside crispy bread was meaty sausage, onions, peppers and mozzarella. The sausage was not fatty and had a nice flavour. The onions and peppers both added sweetness. Although we weren't necessarily "wow'd" by anything we ate, the food was generally solid, especially for a lunch joint. Prices are okay, service is friendly and the place is clean. Bottom line - it did the job.

The Good:
- Friendly service
- Okay pricing
- The place is clean

The Bad:
- Food is pretty ordinary

Nooch Snack & Chill on Urbanspoon

Pacifico Pizzeria Ristorante

Meeting up with Whipping Girl for lunch in Downtown usually means good eats. Think of it. We could practically go to any restaurant in Downtown. That's quite the selection. However, it didn't work out this time around. Typical Vancouver weather. A torrential downpour of sorts kiboshed our grandiose plans for terrific eats. Rather, we simply went somewhere closeby to her office. We settled on Pacifico Pizzeria located in the former Downtown location of Lombardo's. For a lunch hour, the place was surprisingly empty. Was it the rain? Or was it some other reason? We would soon find out...

To get a sense of the menu, we decided to get 2 of the pizza lunch specials (which comes with a choice of mini-pizza with salad or soup). The first was the Margherita. When it arrived, we realized that it was not classic Neapolitan style pizza. Generally, that would not be an issue if the pizza was good for what it is, yet it was pretty disappointing. The crust was dry and tasteless, while the tomato sauce was pretty bland. We kept looking at each other in amazement. For a pizza joint, this was not exactly what we were expecting. Hey, maybe the Salsiccia would be better. After all, there was spicy Italian sausage, peppers and red onions at play. Well, it didn't turn out as we had hoped. It was also pretty mild considering all the toppings. Combined with the same flavourless dry crust, we didn't end up eating much of it. We really didn't even feel like packing it up to go.


Lastly, we had the Chicken Parmigiana with linguine from the regular menu. This was relatively more successful than the pizzas. The chicken was dry with a crisp exterior. The tomato sauce was light and very mild. As for the linguine, it was tossed in pomodoro sauce which was not bad being fresh, yet mild once again. Well, if you have been paying attention, that pretty much summed up our meal - uninspired flavours. We were actually pretty surprised how mediocre the food turned out to be. Maybe we're getting spoiled by all the new dynamic Neapolitan-style pizza joints opening up in town.

The Good:
- Comfortable open dining space
- The service we got was pretty good

The Bad:
- Food lacked flavour
- Pizza crust is bland and dry

Pacifico Pizzeria Ristorante on Urbanspoon

Chung's Fish n' Chips

Ever since Uncle Hebert's closed up shop over 6 years ago, there has been a void of fish n' chips in Ladner.  Sure, there's Sharkey's, but it just ain't the same.  Imagine my surprise when I noticed a new fish n' chip joint while randomly driving by one day.  Located not too far from the former Uncle Herbert's, Chung's Fish n' Chips can be easily missed with its temporary signage (and I mean really temporary!). Walking into the new, clean restaurant, I was warmly greeted by the staff. I decided to start with a Clam Chowder since a plate of fish n' chips is never enough right?  The creamy Clam Chowder was reminiscent of Campbell's Chunky Soup.  Now that is not an insult.  I actually like that version of the soup.  This one was super thick, clammy and full of ingredients.  

For my main, I went for Cod, Halibut & Chips. The first thing I noticed was the extremely thin batter.  Second was its unique taste. There was a zing.  Upon further inspection, the batter was riddled with lemon zest.  Something definitely different and welcomed (in my case).  With the zing already built into the batter, I didn't mind the creamy mild tartar sauce. Since the batter was so light, it was not as crispy as I would've liked.  Contributing to the moisture was the flaky, tender cod.  It was fried perfectly.  As for the halibut, it was naturally more stiff, but with that being said, it was slightly overcooked.  The fresh cut fries were very light and crisp.  So much so, they were probably too airy.  If they were served on its own, I would declare them to be some pretty darn good fries.  But they didn't seem to go with the fish.  I'm probably used to the starchier, denser fresh cut fries we normally see with traditional fish n' chips.  With that being said, I thought their version of fish n' chips to be above average and I would certainly entertain the possibility of a return visit.

The Good:
- Super light batter with lemon zest
- Friendly service

The Bad:
- Thin batter can get moist quickly
- I liked the fries, but for some reason, they don't scream out fish n' chips

Chung's Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon

Yianni's

I do occasionally refer to Urbanspoon for ideas as to where to eat. Now, I generally try not to read too many of the reviews because it might possibly influence my opinion. Therefore, I look at the "like" percentage. Now, that is where there is an inherent problem. With that type of voting system, where it doesn't require someone to actually write an accompanying review, it basically screams out "manipulation". Hence, many "highly-rated" or even "lowly-rated" restaurants could be the result of ballot-stuffing (AKA - the owner or friends of the owner voting positively). I'm not sure if this was the case with Yianni's in New West, but that was one of the reasons we chose to eat at the place for lunch (the 80%+ rating).

Meeting up with Slick, Big D, Head Case and Smiles for lunch, we intended to put a good dent into the menu. We did like the feel of the place though, as it had an open front where the sunshine and fresh air flowed into the spacious dining room. For me, I went for the Moussaka because Slick and Smiles both ordered the Roast Lamb. No duplicates! Wait, there was a duplicate... The agony! Anyways, I cannot say it in any other way - the Moussaka sucked. It had to be one of the worst versions I've ever had. First, it was a really small portion, even for lunch. Second, the bechamel sauce on top was hard, dry and barely there. I actually had to chew through the sauce (and that wasn't merely referring to the top of it either). The meat underneath was overseasoned with too much allspice, however, it was moist and tender though. Even the tzatziki was not good. It was thin and was predominantly flavoured with dill. No cucumber or garlic hit.

As for the Roast Lamb, it was an okay portion for the price, yet it was not as moist as we would've liked. The piece I tried was rather stringy. There was flavour, mostly with the tomato sauce on top though. Big D had the Calamari and it was not that good either. Although the batter was crispy, the squid practically had no texture. It was far too soft and was completely overwhelmed by the crunch. On the positive side, it was seasoned quite well. Too bad it had to be dipped into that watery tzatziki. And finally, Head Case had the Lamb Souvlaki which was a smallish portion. The lamb flavour really didn't come through as he thought it tasted more like beef. The texture was nice though, tender and easy to chew with a nice char on the outside. Like me, he really didn't get the tzatziki as it didn't resemble tzatziki. So there you have it, so pretty "meh" Greek food bordering on "less than meh". We went away confused as to the 80% rating on Urbanspoon.

The Good:
- Pleasant service (although there was only one server)
- Nice ambiance
- Okay pricing

The Bad:
- Small portions
- Below average food

Yianni's Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon

Sushi & Roll

For me, authenticity when it comes to food can be a double-edged sword.  On one hand, a restaurant can be viewed as legitimate and respected by those who seek out authenticity.  However, it can also be very bad for business, especially when the majority of their potential customers neither care or even know what authentic looks and tastes like.  As I've stated over and over again, restaurants are in the business of making money.  They are not there to satisfy a few food bloggers and/or authenticity aficionados.  Therefore, as much as some people loathe places such as Sushi Garden and Sushi Town, they have their loyal following who crave good portions at low prices.

Joining the fray is Sushi & Roll which is another Korean-operated sushi joint in the same vain as Sushi Garden and Sushi Town.  Located in the heart of Whalley, it strives to serve up acceptable food in large portions and at reasonable prices.  We started with the Spicy Salmon Sashimi which looked a lot like the one you'd find at the aforementioned sushi joints.  The large mound of salmon and cucumber were only slightly inflated by the daikon underneath.  We found the salmon to have a bouncy texture which was pleasing. However, the fish itself was a little bland, but then again, there was sauce (which was only mildly spicy).  Next was the Ebi Tempura which arrived fresh from the deep-fryer.  The batter was light and crisp, not sporting too much grease.  For the shrimp itself, it was cold-water crunchy, yet a bit bland (due to the rinsing I'm sure).
 
Resembling more like a Korean Gunmandu, the Gyozas were okay.  The filling had a decent amount of greens and was on the denser side.  There was a good amount of onion flavour as well as pork.  If we looked at these as merely dumplings, they did the job, but for those who seek authenticity... yah, these were not gyozas.  Onto our first roll being the Awesome Roll (sounds a lot like Sushi Town eh?).  The inside had imitation crab meat, cucumber, avocado, masago and mayo while the outside was salmon, green onion, mayo, masago and bonito flakes.  The rice had a nice texture, yet lacked flavour.  A pretty good roll for $6.95.  Next up was the Mangodise Roll.  It was comprised of mango, cucumber and imitation crab meat in the middle with ebi on the outside as well as mango sauce.  The sauce had quite an impact but for the mango pieces themselves, we could've stood for more. But for $4.50 (on special the day we went), we weren't that concerned.

Lastly, we had the Yakiudon which arrived on a non-sizzling cast iron plate.  This is pet peeve of mine - why serve it on a hot plate if it ain't hot?  Anyways, the noodles were wet while the predominant flavour was sweet.  There was too much red pepper too.  The chicken was moist and tender though. I'm not trying to be anti-climactic here, but the meal was pretty much predictable.  It was almost a carbon copy of meals we had at Sushi Town and Sushi Garden (but possibly with a bit more care put into the food).  So yah, it ain't authentic, but it sure is inexpensive and the portions are pretty good too.

The Good:
- Well-priced
- Good portions
- Service is pretty decent

The Bad:
- For those who care, not authentic
- Cooked items are not as good as the raw

Sushi & Roll on Urbanspoon

Hart House

Although revisits to restaurants have never been a high priority, there is one that I've been itching to do.  Early on in the life of this blog, I went to Hart House during Dine Out.  It was a so-so experience which probably wasn't completely representative of their regular menu.  I really thought that it was not a fair assessment.  However, with so many great places to eat in Vancouver, the return visit got lost in the shuffle.  Then suddenly, a Hart House Groupon appeared, which I quickly snapped up.  It was almost as surprising to see this as the one with The Pear Tree.  I ended up making a reservation for a Friday, which I would later find out was the same night as the Hot Chefs Cool Jazz event at EBO!  Okay, this meal better deliver because I was missing out!

Starting the meal off, I had the Seafood Trio consisting of Ponzu Salmon Tartare, Crispy Calamari and Seared Scallop with squash puree & crispy sage. I found the tartare to be buttery with just enough ponzu to flavour, but not to overwhelm.  The crostinis were a nice eating vessel since they were a crunchy contrast to the soft salmon.  The crispy, tender, yet slightly chewy calamari lived up to its namesake with a peppery kick.  The thick tzatziki underneath was a nice match.  However, the star of the slate plate was the beautifully seared scallop.  Crisp and browned on the outside while buttery soft and barely cooked on the inside, I wished there was more than just one.  The squash puree appeared to have some seafood essence (which we're guessing was lobster) which added a subtle sweetness to the scallop.  My mom had the Dungeness Crab Salad with avocado cream, radish and sun-dried tomato oregano vinaigrette. Hidden beneath the micro greens was a puck of fluffy crab.  And it was all crab, no filler.  They were in big pieces being naturally sweet and fresh.  The avocado cream was smooth and did nothing to take away from the delicate crab.

Viv had the UBC Beet Salad from their 2-Course Harvest Menu (for $32.00).  It consisted of pickled beets, honey beets, poached apples, chevre, pistachios and baby watercress.  She loved the beets as they still had some texture despite being soft.  She is not a huge fan of goat cheese, so I was given the task of eating it all (but I liked it!).  My dad had the Autumn UBC Squash Veloute (from the Harvest Menu as well).  With the addition of toasted almonds and maple cinnamon beurre noisette, the soup benefited from some additional sweetness and different flavours. For my main, I went for the Duck Leg Confit with goat cheese hash, savoury cabbage and grainy dijon Spaetzle with a warm bacon vinaigrette on top.  I thought this was a pretty well-executed dish. The skin was nicely rendered and super crispy while the duck meat was dry in spots.  I liked how the meat was not salty where it allowed the other ingredients to be noticed, especially the bacon vinaigrette.  It was the salty acidic hit that provided balance to the sweet cabbage and plethora of creamy goat cheese.  I loved the spaetzle as it had a bite while still being fluffy.

Predictably, my mom went for the only lamb offering on the menu being the Grilled Lamb Sirloin with house made Harissa, broccolini, Cannellini beans, haricot vert, artichokes and tomatoes. More often than not, a lamb sirloin can be somewhat chewy if it is of poor quality or not prepared properly.  That was not the case here.  The meat was super moist and tender.  It was grilled a perfect (yes, it was perfect) medium-rare.  We didn't find it particularly gamy, however, the harissa helped in that regard with a mild spiciness.  Viv had the 48-Hour Sous Vide Beef Short Ribs with squash puree, roasted root vegetables, small onions and braising jus.  The pieces of short rib were melt-in-our mouths soft while at the same time being meaty.  There was depth-of-flavour from the sauce which was balanced by the sweet puree.  

My dad had the Pan-Seared Arctic Char with braised red cabbage, cauliflower puree, fingerling potatoes and crispy brussel sprouts.  A crispy sear on the skin side gave way to a moist and flaky flesh which was only mildly seasoned so it didn't overwhelm the fish.  The fried brussels sprouts were really good and we forgot they were brussel sprouts.  For the kiddies, we ordered them the Pork Shoulder Pappardelle (with arugula, pine nuts, shaved Grana Padano and braising jus) to share.  What you see in the picture is a half-portion, since they split the dish into 2 plates. The shredded pork shoulder was rich and delicious while the sauce was silky and slightly sweet. Although the pasta was al dente, the whole dish had very little flavour. We did get some bitterness from the wilted arugula and savouriness from the cheese, yet in the end, it needed salt. Lastly, we got a side of the Truffle Parmesan Fries, which arrived in a very large portion.  These fresh-cut, double-fried spuds were really good.  They were crisp and full of essence and flavour.  We couldn't stop eating them.

Finally, we made it to dessert where my mom went for her standby - Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee with a cocoa meringue. I liked how it wasn't overly sweet with a rich smooth custard.  The burnt sugar topping was just the right thickness.  Overall, a solid effort.  Viv had the Caramlized Lemon Tart (which I had my eye on as well) with nut tuille, orange caramel and Mascarpone cream.  I found the lemon curd to be rather stiff in texture.  It was quite tart though which was counteracted by plenty of sugar.  The crust was moist and could've benefited from a softer curd. For myself, with the lemon tart already claimed, I had the Autumn Fruit Trio consisting of Pumpkin Cheesecake, Chocolate Cardamom Panna Cotta and Banana Beignets.  The pumpkin cheesecake was slightly stiff, yet still creamy and smooth.  There was a noticeable nutmeg hit and I liked the fact it was not too "pumpkiny" since I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin.  It was not too sweet either, which suited me just fine.  The panna cotta was also a bit dense.  It had a noticeable cardamom hit which made it a touch herbal tasting in combination with the bitterness from the chocolate.  The best part of the trio was the banana beignets.  They were warm and soft with just a touch of banana. 

Okay, I'm gonna admit it - we were pretty surprised with our meal at Hart House.  We weren't expecting the consistent level of execution with the majority of our dishes. It appears that the new Executive Chef, Alana Peckham, had put her stamp on the new menu.  The proteins were nicely prepared as well as the sides.  Furthermore, the service was attentive and courteous.  I'm glad I spotted the Groupon and am also glad we made a return visit.

The Good:
- Nicely executed proteins (and veggies as well)
- Quaint setting
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Food is good, but the menu could be more innovative (although that contradicts Chef Peckham's philosophy, which is to make it simple and classic)

Hart House on Urbanspoon