Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2012

900 West Lounge (Afternoon Tea)

Funny how something old becomes new again. Take bell-bottom jeans. One would think they disappeared with the 8-track in the late 70's and early 80's. Nope, I have a pair of bell-bottom jeans that I wear regularly. The same could be said about cars, in particular, the Beatle and more recently, the Fiat 500. How about the Salisbury Steak? Uh... Yah, that hasn't come back in full force yet... Another phenomenon is High-Tea (or afternoon tea) and no, I don't do it that often. Despite its rebirth, especially with the younger folk, it has suddenly become trendy to drink tea with little sweet and savoury treats. As mentioned, it is not my cup of tea (sorry for the pun), but there have been times I've been sucked into going. Miss Y coerced me into joining her at Applewood and once again, I promised to meet her at the Hotel Vancouver for some raised pinky tea sipping.

If it weren't uncomfortable enough for myself doing afternoon tea, imagine Miss Y being an hour late. That's right. I garnered the sympathy of practically all the staff when they noticed I was sitting there all alone for an hour with my tea (which was getting cold...). Better yet, she told me to order first which meant me+tea+food = creepy guy all alone taking pictures of a smoked salmon pinwheel.... I'm not sure if it was Miss Y's intention of making me squirm. With her finally present, we got down to the food.  We started with the bottom tier first which consisted of a Smoked Salmon Pinwheel, Cucumber Sandwich, Ham & Cheese Croissant and a Mango Curry Chicken Canape. Nothing was bad per se, but nothing really stood out either.  The Mango Chicken Curry was quite mild and there really wasn't any mango flavour.

Onto desserts, it included fresh-made Scones, Black Current Mousse in a chocolate cup, Opera Cake and Lemon Tarts.  Again, nothing really out-of-the-ordinary. I did enjoy the lemon tart (as I always do) since the curd was tangy and smooth.  The tart shell was buttery and a bit soft though.  The scones were fresh and the Devonshire cream was nice.  But there was something missing about the whole thing.  Maybe I expect more out of the Hotel Vancouver.  It is *the* place where most would think to get the best high-tea.  It almost seemed like they mailed it in rather than stepping it up a notch.

The Good:
- Attentive service (especially for me all alone)
- There is a certain level of elegance

The Bad:
- Food a bit ordinary 
- Expensive

900 West Lounge (at Fairmont Hotel) on Urbanspoon

Silvestre Deli & Bistro

If you think back to my Mochikas post (assuming you have read my blog since then), I mentioned that the "diversity" of food in Vancouver is somewhat misleading. There really is no such thing when every other restaurant is Asian.  Hey, I don't personally have a problem with that because I love Asian food.  However, as much as we are hailed for our cuisine, it is pretty one-dimensional.  So when I got an invite to try out Vancouver's newest addition to the Peruvian restaurant scene (which is not a large one), they didn't have to ask twice.  Viv and I were expecting to try a few items and call it a day, but they sent out dish after dish until we couldn't eat no more.  I can honestly say that we got a good gauge of the food and a food coma as well.

We started off with 2 beverages.  The Chicha Morada was purple in colour due to the use of purple corn.  It was sweet as a result and the pineapple juice only added to it.  It had a cider-type of flavour from the use of cinnamon and cloves.  The Chicha De Joar (not pictured) was intensely sweet due to the fermented corn.  Despite the sweetness, we could really taste the alcohol content as well. As for the food, we had one each of the Tamal Criollo and Tamal Verde.  The Tamal Criollo was full-flavoured with a touch of spice.  It was a bit zesty too benefiting from the hot peppers.  The texture was slightly gritty, but by no means hard nor dry.  On the other hand, the Tamal Verde was milder with a herby hit (from the cilantro).  Both were served with roast pork which was also full-flavoured and a bit salty.  However, when combined with the pickled spicy onions and a bit of the tamale, it was a tasty bite.

Next up was some Anticuchos or skewered beef hearts.  It was served with half of a boiled potato (which seemed to be seasoned and roasted as well) and green onions topped by hot sauce.  The beef heart itself was slightly chewy and seasoned aggressively.  The potato was fantastic as it was crisp on the outside, while soft on the inside without being mushy.  A dab of the onions and hot sauce with the beef heart really amped the flavours. Arriving buried beneath a whackload of marinated red onions was the Cocktail de Ceviche.  It consisted of raw fish marinated in lime juice, peppers and the aforementioned onions. There was cooked corn and toasted corn served on top.  We found the cubes of fish to be of a good size.  They were bouncy, tart (but just enough) and not fishy at all.

A familiar dish showed up next being the Papa a la Huancaina or boiled potatoes topped with a sauce of spicy cheese, hot peppers and milk. I've had this a few times and locally, at El Inka Deli.  This particular version was quite pleasant with soft potatoes that still retained their shape and a cheesy sauce. Viv thought it was on the saltier side, but I enjoyed the good amount of flavour, especially when the potatoes were essentially a blank canvas. Originally, when we were perusing the menu, we really didn't give the Pollo a la Brasa a second thought.  I realize it is a popular Peruvian dish, but roast chicken didn't really seem as interesting as some other items.  Thank goodness we left the ordering up to them.  The roast chicken leg was freakin' fantastic!  As you can clearly see in the picture, the meat was plump and juicy.  There was a lot of flavour due to the excellent marinade.  Yet what really stood out was the chicken skin.  It was completely rendered resulting in a crispy texture which also highlighted the exterior seasoning.

Our favourite dish of the entire meal was the Causa Rellena de Camarones. This was essentially an elaborate potato salad, yet it was a very tasty potato salad.  It consisted of shrimp, peppers, onions, peas, carrots and mayonnaise sandwiched in between layers of mashed potato seasoned with lime juice and yellow hot pepper.  Unlike the potato salad found at the family BBQ (unless it is a freakin' gourmet version), this one had heightened flavours (due to the lime juice and peppers) as well as a few different textures (like the pop of the peas, snap of the sweet shrimp and the crunch of the peppers).  Moving along, as we were beginning to throw in the towel, we had the Ceviche de Pollo.  This was spicy stewed chicken with onions marinated in lime and spices.  This one I have to say was not one of our favourites.  There was nothing wrong with the flavours as there was a bit of spice, a good lime bite and some sweetness.  However, the chicken thigh was pretty tough on the most part.  That made it a bit difficult to eat.  

On the other hand, the Aji de Gallina was a much better chicken dish.  It consisted of shredded chicken in a Peruvian yellow hot pepper sauce with ground walnuts and Parmesan cheese. This was packed with flavour with the saltiness from the cheese, spice from the peppers (but not overly spicy) and creaminess from the evaporated milk.  It went really well with the rice. Okay, we were bound to get an Empanada somewhere during this meal and yes, it did show up.  This baked pastry consisted of beef and onions.  There was a sweet glaze on the flaky pastry which added to the already sweet filling.  Hence, the wedge of lime was necessary to provide some balance to the flavours.  Next was the Seco de Res Con Frijoles or stewed beef with cilantro, onions, potatoes and red peppers.  We found the beef to be rather dry and chewy, however, the flavours were interesting (especially the cilantro as I shockingly didn't mind it).  I liked the pop of the large sweet peas, as well as the soft beans on the side.

For our last savoury dish, we had the Lomo Saltado de Carne.  This could be considered a fusion dish of sorts with elements of Asian flavours, in particular the use of vinegar.  Hence the tangy hits with the steak, onions, tomatoes and peppers.  The flavours were fine here as well, but once again, the beef was pretty tough.  Lastly, we were presented with Alfajores and Lucuma Gelato.  Alfajores are shortbread cookies with dulce de leche filling.  These were sweet but not stingingly so.  We loved the creamy filling.  As for the lucuma gelato, it was definitely different.  The texture was dense and mealy, yet sweet at the same time (because the lucuma fruit has a dry flesh).  This was sweet, if not, educational way to end a really long meal.  It is important to note the portion sizes were reduced so we could sample more food.  But in the end, we were too full to walk.  Overall, there were some really good dishes which would require a return visit.

The Good:
- Lots of choice on the menu
- Some good flavours (albeit a bit mild)
- Something different

The Bad:
- Some meats (other than the really good Pollo a la Brasa) were dry
- Parking in the area is a challenge

Silvestre Deli & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Oriental Buffet

Oh my.  This is what you call scraping the bottom of the barrel.  We haven't been to Oriental Buffet in Guildford for at least 18 years.  18 years?!?!?  Yah, not a very memorable meal that's for sure.  The only thing I remembered was that we had watched Timecop in the movie theatres.  Yes, that was a heck of a long time ago, especially given the fact that Jean-Claude Van Dam was still popular (and in shape).  Loved the line where he said (with his trademark accent): "If I cannot go back to save her... this scumbag is not going back to steal money!".  Hey, if I could go back in time to make money, there are a few things that I would do.  One - I would open up the best auto collision shop in Richmond, complete with a full fleet of courtesy cars. Second, I'd invest in some real estate (duh...).  Third, I'd probably just be lazy and win the lottery... Well, apparently, there was no lottery to be won at Oriental Buffet since it didn't really appear they had cleaned it in 18 years.

On the inside, everything looked pretty much the same too...  Much like Timecop, it really did feel like going back in time!  Back when there was actually a selection of Chinese buffets.  However, fast forward to the present and the choices have dwindled to only a few.  So for $10.99 (lunch), we could help ourselves to as much mediocre and greasy food as we could handle.  For myself, one and half plates was as much as my body could take.  The selection was not bad considering the price.  There was a modest selection of Sushi available, but it was not very good.  The avocado had turned brown since the sushi had probably been sitting around for awhile.  It really didn't look appetizing and in fact, was quite poor. The rice was gummy and the fish didn't seem too "fresh".  On the side were some New Zealand Mussels and Shrimp.

There were 2 full sections of Hot Food consisting of Stir-Fried Broccoli, Pork Hock, BBQ Pork, Corn, Fried Potatoes, Fried Chicken, Chow Mein, Sweet n' Sour Fish, Spring Rolls, Mushrooms, Sweet n' Sour Pork, Orange Pork Chops, Spareribs, Fried Vermicelli, Stir-Fried Rice Noodles and Fried Mock Scallops.  Later on, there was a modest selection of Dim Sum which included Haw Gow, Sui Mai and Xiao Long Bao.  The only items worth mentioning was the Fried Chicken and Pork Chops.  The chicken was moist, well-seasoned and fried just right while the pork chops were tender and full-flavoured (if not very greasy).  Otherwise, the other items were pretty forgettable.  The Dim Sum was basically your average frozen variety.  There was also a Grill-it-Yourself section which I didn't get to try since they were constantly out-of-meat.  I did try the Hot n' Soup Soup and it was pretty much as expected - starch-thickened water with lots of sodium and some ingredients.  I won't even talk about the Desserts because they just didn't look appetizing.  I do give them credit for offering hard ice-cream though.  But in the end, the place only served one purpose: to fill someone's tummy for cheap.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Decent selection

The Bad:
- Food is "meh"
- Decor has seen better days

Oriental Buffet 東方自助餐 on Urbanspoon

Aroy Thai Kitchen

For many, Port Moody will never be considered a dining destination except for the locals.  But hold on there.  For those who know, there are gems to be found, if you know where to look for it.  Case in point, the best roti (in the Lower Mainland, we're not comparing to the Caribbean for heaven's sake) can be found at Rehanah's while some pretty darn good purin is available at Cake-Ya.  Fuji Sushi has recently relocated here and it serves up authentic Japanese fare. And let's not forget Kurumba with its wonderful Malaysian cuisine. Whether you like it or hate it, Rosa's is a popular destination restaurant (for pro hockey players) as well. With the aforementioned restaurants, it is almost shocking at the diversity of cuisine available and furthermore, it is not crappy either. Therefore, Port Moody needs a bit more attention from just the people who live there.

Naturally, I have no problem giving a bit of love for PoMo since I will travel for food!  And apparently, Big D, Slick and Smiles were up for it too...  if I picked them up.  Fine, anything for some eating company!  Rich Guy joined us too because he lives nearby and really, he is always up for eating.  The place we decided on was Aroy Thai...  Yes, there is competition for Little Thailand.  We decided to split a bunch of lunch specials beginning with the Pad See Ew. Although in abundance, we found the beef to be chewy and dry, however, the veggies were crunchy and vibrant.  The noodles were seasoned nicely with dark soy, but I swear I tasted Maggi sauce in it.  Onto another noodle dish being the Pad Thai, it was pretty good. It was not ketchupy and had a good level of spice.  There was good caramelization of flavours while the noodles were al dente.  As you can clearly see, they were not shy about adding ingredients into the dish.  

Next up was the Peppery Pork which was very flavourful and after a few bites, it was just plain salty.  This could've been a good dish since the pork had a nice chewy, yet moist texture and there was definitely a good amount of pepper.  Yet in the end, there was just too much sodium.  Moving onto the curries, we had one of each starting with the Pork Red Curry.  Noticeably spicy with considerable depth, the curry was thick and rich from the coconut milk.  It was on the greasier side, but then again, that is probably why it was tasty.  Onto the Chicken Green Curry, it had a nice consistency where it was neither too thick nor watery.  Again, there was a good level of spice and we could really taste the shrimp paste. Hence, there was plenty of depth and once again, quite enjoyable to eat.

Completing the trifecta of curries, we had the Chicken Yellow Curry. Unlike many yellow curries (my least favourite by the way), this one was complex with a good amount of spice.  The potatoes were soft while still maintaining their shape. However, there wasn't a whole lot of chicken though.  The fried shallots on top added another level of flavour. Portions were on the smallish side, considering the fact that the lunch specials were $10.00.  However, we were actually pretty happy with our meal at Aroy considering the fact we went in with no real expectations.  The food was generally flavourful and well-prepared (except for the salty pork dish).

The Good:
- Good spice level
- Flavourful
- Friendly people

The Bad:
- Portions are on the smaller side
- A little heavy with the salt

Aroy Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Yuko Maki

Having just returned from Whistler (with the front of my car resembling fly paper), we were in search for eats. I originally wanted to hit up Pho Saigon since I usually get this urge for soup noodles after any time away from home. Epic fail because the place closed at 8:00pm. 8:00pm??? That's a bit early in my books... Did they have an "early bird" special as well? Anyways, we were hungry and didn't want to stray too far. Hence, we drove up Lonsdale in search of random eats. That's right. We were simply going to walk up to a restaurant without looking on Urbanspoon, Yelp or any food blog site. We were kickin' it ol' skool. So the place we decided to try was Yuko Maki. It was brightly lit and seemed bustling with activity.

We walked in and we waited. No eye contact from any of the staff. They seemed too busy to seat us. However, finally someone noticed and we sat in one of their large booth seats. As we perused the menu, the pricing really stood out. After our expensive foray at Sushi Village in Whistler, the prices at Yuko Maki seemed almost rock bottom. Right after we had just put in our order, the Assorted Tempura suddenly arrived. It came faster than a pubescent male ogling a Playboy magazine. When we started to dig in, it became clear why it was prepared so quickly. Each piece was oil-soaked with the spring rolls (yes, very authentic eh?) practically inedible due to the grease. The veggies were sliced thick, yet it didn't help dissipate the oil.

Next up was the Spicy Combo consisting of a Spicy Dynamite Roll, Spicy Scallop Roll and Spicy Tuna Roll. The rolls lived up to their namesake where there was a definite kick. We also liked how the Dynamite Roll had 2 crunchy ebi tempura. However, they were poorly constructed, falling apart on contact. We did like the minimal layer of rice though as it was not heavy to eat. And about that rice, the texture was a bit gummy, but the strangest thing of all was the taste. It was somewhat salty... That was not right. Continuing with the rolls, we had the Dragon Roll which was reasonably-priced at $7.95. There were large fatty pieces of unagi atop a stuffed California Roll. Not bad, but the unagi sauce was really sweet. Viv only ate one piece and didn't touch it after that.

Of course we had to get some sashimi, so we opted for the Salmon and Tuna. These were some really large slices and at first wowed us. One bite later and we were not impressed. The salmon was poorly cut which led to a certain chewiness which spoiled the enjoyment. Then, the tuna was overly mushy and bland. Quantity yes, quality no. Lastly, we got a bowl of Chicken Udon for the kiddies. This was also a large portion consisting of many veggies not normally found in a traditional udon. No matter, we didn't mind and the chicken was super tender (it was prepared in a Chinese-style though). While we were there, Viv remarked that the place reminded her of Daimasu during our University days - cheap, unauthentic Japanese food. And judging by the clientele, Yuko Maki does exactly that for people who really don't care. We do though, so no return visit imminent.

The Good:
- Really cheap
- Large portions

The Bad:
- Food is just wrong
- Place is a bit dirty

Yuko Maki (Lonsdale) on Urbanspoon

Splitz Grill (Whistler)

Here's the situation.  We were in Whistler at Chill and Bubbly's place.  There were a total of 5 kids.  What does one do for lunch?  Bubbly suggested we cook something.  Pffft... What would I take a picture of?  I didn't drive up to Whistler to eat instant noodles!  So off we went into the village looking for eats.  Yes, I realize there are other options outside of the village (and inside too like the Famous Warehouse), but we needed to be down there anyways.  The first thing that popped into my mind was Splitz Grill.  Kid-friendly, predictable food and relatively reasonable pricing.

For me, I had to get something interesting, so I selected the Bison Burger with fried egg, cheese, babaganoush and a bunch of veggies.  Naturally, with bison, the patty was not exactly juicy, yet it wasn't dry either.  I guess the addition of a runny egg and sauce helped alleviate that.  Not the best burger I've ever had, but enjoyable nonetheless.  I also liked their fresh-cut fries.  They were crispy and potatoey, however, they were a touch greasy as they didn't drain them properly.  For Viv, I got her a regular Beef Burger with caramelized onions and tzatziki. As expected, the beef patty was more moist and the addition of the onions added sweetness.  She liked the thick tzatziki on her burger and as a side for the fries.

So what did my son and daughter have at a burger joint?  Doing their best Miss Y impersonation, they had the...  Chicken Strips. *sigh*  Well, these Sysco/GFS chicken strips were fried up nicely and well, they did the job.  And really, Splitz came through and did the job for the adults and kiddies.  Not the really all that cheap, but cheaper than many other places in the village.

The Good:
- Burgers are pretty good
- Customizable
- Okay pricing considering the location

The Bad:
- Despite the aforementioned "good", prices are still high

Splitz Grill on Urbanspoon

Jeggs and Hatley

Having a bit of time to kill until we had to pack up and leave Whistler, we descended on the village to check out the Farmer's Market (which has already long ended).  The first thing that caught my attention was Jeggs which was serving up freshly made Okonomiyaki.  Upon closer inspection, they were cooking up the vegetarian version.  Oh well, I was hungry and that didn't really matter to me.  Or did it...  Well...  I can honestly say I did miss the meat and/or seafood.  The whole thing was mostly cabbage, green onions and of course eggs.  It was topped with sauce and bonito flakes.  It felt more like a cabbage omelet more than an okonomiyaki.  Can't say I actually enjoyed it too much despite being somewhat of a novelty.  
  
While walking around looking for more food, we sauntered into Hatley's because Bubbly was raving about their gelato. Um...  It's a kid's clothing store you know...  Apparently, they thought it would be a good idea to stick a gelato stand amongst stainable clothing.  Yes, gelato + kids + new clothes = ???  Whatever the case, we tried 3 flavours which they were nice enough to put into 2 cups.  We tried the Raspberry Lime Sorbet, Blueberry Gelato and Cheesecake Gelato.  The sorbet was really refreshing and not overly sweet.  It was a tad icy though.  As for the gelato, it was not really that rich and it was kinda dense.  I preferred the richness of the cheesecake over the blueberry.  Acceptable gelato, it did the job and we weren't expecting anything mind-blowing.  Of course, this post was back when the weather was a lot nicer.  The village is probably covered in snow right now!  But you can still get the gelato (if you want in the cold), but you gotta wait til next year for the okonomiyaki (sorry it took so long to post this!).

The Good:
- Well, both are novelties and that's what tourists like?  Maybe?

The Bad:
- Hey, it's the Village, things are expensive
- Both were "meh"

Hatley Gelato Scoops  on Urbanspoon