Sherman's Food Adventures: March 2013

Falconetti's Parallel 49 Cask Dinner

A few years ago, Falconetti's participated in the Foodie Feast with their house-made sausages.  And not too long after, they were featured on Triple-D's on the Food Network.  Remember what I said about signature dishes?  Well, they definitely exploited that fact.  Now, there was one problem - the rest of their culinary offerings were dubious at best.  So the reliance on a bunch of meat in tubes (some better than others) would not be the best strategy moving ahead.  Fast forward to the present and they have hired a new Executive Chef who has decided to take Falconetti's in a different direction.

Enter their Parallel 49 Cask Dinner ($65.00 taxes and gratuity inclusive), which featured 3 courses and a beer pairing with each.  I was invited by the manager to try it out with a guest (who happened to be Miss Y).  We started with the Parallel 49 "Lord of the Hops" Glazed Smoked Duck Breast. This was paired with an Parallel 49 Custom Cask Beer which was much less rich than the colour would suggest.  It went down smooth and easy.  The duck itself was smoky and sufficiently tender.  The skin needed to be rendered and more crispy.  It was served with a frisee and arugula salad with lemon & brown butter vinaigrette topped with a poached free range egg.  The egg could've been slightly more runny, but the salad was good nonetheless.

Next up was a House Spiced Confit Pork Loin served with a crispy potato cake and Parallel 49 "From East Van with Love" bacon mushroom ragout topped with crispy onions.  For a thick pork loin, it was decently moist and actually juicy in the middle.  We liked how there were developed flavours without being salty.  The star of the plate was the ragout which exhibited a rich saltiness along with the Earthy mushrooms.  The potato cake was indeed crispy and nicely browned. 

Lastly, we were served a hot Apple Turnover with cinnamon-spiced cream cheese and smoked maple Jameson caramel.  It was curiously served in a bowl, but it was explained that the changeover in culinary direction wasn't complete.  Therefore, the kitchen only consisted of a grill and there was a serious lack of plates. Serving vessel notwithstanding, the turnover was really good.  The pastry was flaky and crisp on the outside, while the apples maintained a bite with a good balance of sweet and tartness.  This was a pleasant end to a surprisingly decent meal at Flaconetti's.  If they could get a real kitchen in there, I'm curious what Chef Jamie Birtwistle & Chef Shaun Snelling are capable of.

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

The Good:
- Lots of strong booze
- Food is pretty decent considering the venue
- Upstairs space is comfortable

The Bad:
- The limitations of the kitchen does prevent more creative endevours (for now)
- $65.00 is not bad considering what is included, but it can be a touch lower

Falconetti's East Side Grill on Urbanspoon

Main Choice Chinese Restaurant

It doesn't happen often, but it did this time - a restaurant had changed hands before my blog post could go up.  Oh well, the food was pretty "meh" anyways, so I wasn't surprised at the changeover. What about the post in the queue??? There was only one thing I could do...  Go back and try the food again!  Yes, I know this is serious dedication, yet did you expect any less???  Formerly Kei's Chili Kitchen, Main Choice does not look any different from the inside and in fact, the menu still has some of Kei's "specialties".  Maybe they just changed the name?  Whatever, I needed food anyways.

With any of their lunch specials, Wonton Soup is included. For a complimentary soup, it was okay.  The wontons were of the all pork variety where the meat was soft in texture and mildly seasoned.  Of course the soup base was not exactly classic wonton soup, but at the very least, it was not something gross. The first of my 2 mains (yes, I really did get 2 lunches) was the Spicy Ginger Beef ($6.75).  It wasn't really all that spicy.  There was some elements of spice, but in the end, it was really just ginger beef with some peppers.  The beef itself was easy enough to eat being properly tenderized.  There was a good ginger hit, but the accompanying fried rice was somewhat dry.

 I also got one of their lunch combos which included Chicken Chow Mein, Sweet & Sour Pork and Almond Chicken ($8.75).  Yes, this is as far away from real Chinese food one could get, but I wanted to see how it was regardless.  The chow mein was okay being slightly dry but not greasy.  The sweet & sour pork was not all that crispy, yet the meat itself was moist.  It was mostly sweet with only a hint of sour.  As for the almond chicken, it was greasy as expected.  To be honest, I can never understand the popularity of this dish as the chicken itself doesn't really have that much flavour.  A dusting of slivered almonds doesn't do much. In the end, the food was okay and considering the low prices, is a lunch option for people in the area.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Good Portions

The Bad:
- Okay for a quick meal, but nothing amazing either

Main Choice Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wing Kee

As of late, Gordo and I have been frequenting some of the same places over and over again for late night eats after Thursday night hockey in Richmond.  Great for consistency, but horrible for blogging.  I don't know about you, I am just not that enthused about talking about the same restaurant multiple times in a month.  Hence, I did a bit of research and found out that Wing Kee is open until 3:00am.  Fantastic.  That was our eating adventure for the night...  er..  I mean morning.  Don't I have to work the next day???  Yah, but food takes precedence.

Arriving faster than seniors for an early bird special, the Sweet & Sour Pork ($4.95) was at our table less than 3 minutes after we ordered it.  Of course the pork was refried, but then again, it was not bad.  Each large piece was still moist inside while crunchy on the outside.  The sauce was a good balance between being sweet and sour.  The Honey Garlic Spareribs ($5.95) followed up shortly after.  They were equally crisp on the outside and probably too crisp on the inside as the meat was quite dry.  Furthermore, we found there was far too much sauce which was really sweet, yet with a nice garlic hit too.

We weren't that thrilled with the Wonton Noodles ($5.50)as the broth was quite cloudy and weak.  It could've been partially attributed to the overcooked "eggy" noodles which were texturally deficient.  The wontons were mostly pork, yet did the job with a slight bounce texture.  They were in need of more seasoning though.  I got an order of the Preserved Duck Egg and Salted Pork Congee ($5.25) as well.  It was not exactly what I was expecting as the pork looked like it had been through a food processor.  It wasn't exactly ground nor was it chopped.  It was mildly flavourful while exhibiting various bits of bone and cartilage.  The egg was diced up far too small to make any impact.  As for the congee itself, it was slightly thick but got watery as we ate it.  It was seasoned properly though.

Gordo was really insisting on more carbs, so he ordered 2 noodles including the Stir-Fried Yee Mein ($9.50).  It was watery and soggy which made it not enjoyable to eat.  I think they put far too much bean sprouts in it.  Interestingly, the flavours were okay though including a good hint of spiciness.  Lastly, we had the Soy-Fried Noodles ($7.50, forgot to take a picture aiya!) which were nicely done.  Plenty of wok heat and not overly greasy, the noodles had a nice chewy texture.  Flavourwise, it was just enough.  From our sample of food, we surmised that the da lang items as well as the wok-fried items were better than the traditional wonton noodles and congee.  But not much to complain about when a restaurant is open until 3am...

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Open until 3:00am
- Sparse but relatively friendly service

The Bad:
- Stick with the wok-fried items, other stuff, not so good
- Sparse service

Wing Kee Restaurant on Urbanspoon

New Spicy Chili

"Recommend me a good Chinese restaurant", a friend of mine asked me one day.  "What type of Chinese food - Cantonese, Taiwanese, Szechuan, Chiu Chow or Hunan?", I queried.  She looked at me with bewilderment and a glazed-look.  Yes, much like most other types of cuisine, there are significant regional differences.  One misunderstood type of Chinese cuisine is Szechuan.  Sure, there are a few popular restaurants such as Szechuan Chongqing, but in reality, they cater to more mainstream tastes.  Hey, I'm not hating on Szechuan Chongqing.  They serve their clientele well.  However, when one wants the "real" thing, it gets a bit more complicated (as in being really spicy).

Meeting with Louisa in Richmond, she raved about this small little spot tucked in the 4200 plaza on #3 Road.  I left the ordering to her as she picked 3 of their specialties including the Garlic Pork.  The fanned out fatty pork belly was super tender dressed with chili oil and of course garlic.  There certainly was a kick to the dish, but not as much as the visuals would suggest.  I'm okay with that because when something is too spicy, you can't really taste anything else. Continuing on the spicy train, we had the Spicy Chicken.  Once again, at first glance, the dish seemed to be "blow-your-socks-off hot".  But nope, it was only mildly spicy (at least for me), thus, I could taste the chicken.  Being the free range variety, it had a slight chew.  The skin was jelly-like while there was the requisite layer of gelatin underneath.

And here it is, one of their most popular dishes - The Spicy Fish Hot Pot.  In addition to chili oil, there were dried red chilis and Szechuan peppercorns.  Suffice to say, this had a good kick.  However, once again, it was not pain-inducing heat.  That I liked as there was still some tongue numbness, but I could taste and enjoy the delicately prepared fish.  This was made all-the-more enjoyable with 4 cold Yanjing beers (a great deal at $10.00). For me, this was a well-executed and authentic Szechuan meal.  I guess there is another reason to make the trek into traffic-hell central...

The Good:
- Spicy, but not so much you can't taste anything
- Carefully prepared
- Relatively comfortable dining space

The Bad:
- During more peak times, you may not find a parking spot as the lot is small and shared by other businesses
- May not be spicy enough for some, but you most certainly can ask for it

New Spicy Chili 小四川 on Urbanspoon

Chiffon Chinese Cuisine

*Restaurant is now closed* 

No food after late night hockey just seems like a foreign concept to me.  Much like traffic circles to most drivers in Vancouver. However, there are times when nobody wants to eat with me.  *sniff*  That was the case on a Saturday after a session of hockey at Richmond Ice.  What to do?  Call Mijune!  Yes, she is a reliable dining companion when one is needed.  Even though she was stuffed from her regular eating regiment, she saved a small crevice in her stomach for me...  After picking her up, we headed over to Chiffon, which is another Bubble Tea/Taiwanese joint in Richmond.  Hmm...  There seems to be quite a few of those around eh?

When the Fermented Pork arrived, we were a bit confused at the amount of batter.  And since they used pork belly, the whole thing was really fatty and honestly inedible.  Hey, we like pork belly, but not the way it was prepared here.  It was not melt-in-our-mouth soft, rather, it was on the chewier side.  And with the obscene amount of crunchy batter, the meat was lost anyways.  We did, on the other hand, enjoy the sweet and salty dip though (that didn't sound right did it???).  Fortunately the Crispy Chicken Nuggets were fantastic.  The meat was light and airy while the coating was crispy.  Furthermore, it was seasoned just enough with salt and five spice.  Loved the fried basil as well.  

The Spicy Beef Noodles lived up to its name where I coughed a few times because the soup had a real kick.  It didn't exhibit any real depth, but the spice level ensured a certain impact.  As for the sliced beef shank, it was both plentiful and tender.  I loved the meat as it required very little effort to eat.  The tendon portion was the best as it was gelatinous and melted in my mouth.  The noodles were good too, being al dente. Now, I attempted to visit the place again on a Thursday night at 12:15am.  Closing time as stated on the door was 1:00am (and the "open" sign was still flashing).  We were turned away saying they were closed.  I do understand there needs to be last call so they can clean up and actually close at 1:00am, but 45 minutes prior?  Of note, the service Mijune and I received was confused and not all that attentive either. 

But...  Begrudgingly, I returned again with Mijune to try their inexpensive Build-Your-Own-Noodle.  I went for tripe and fish in a spicy broth.  Yes, it really did have a kick and it was fine for what it was.  It's not Deer Garden, but whatever, it was late.  Again, the service was a bit cold, but not rude.  I dunno.  It's not like the service was that bad, yet they really could do better.  At the end of the day, the prices are good and the food is passable.  Still not high on my list of places to eat at since there are so many other good choices in Richmond.


The Good:
- Cheap
- Fairly comfortable digs
- Passable food

The Bad:
- Not sure about the service...
- Passable food

Chiffon Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

One Saigon

The chances of finding good Vietnamese food in Downtown Vancouver is as good as not finding urine on the washroom floor at a Chinese restaurant.  Yes, that is an unappetizing analogy but really, the choices we have for Vietnamese grub in Downtown is downright depressing (especially for a city that boasts some pretty decent Vietnamese joints).  So with Whipping Girl anxious to eat something other than a Japadog (because her beloved Mangal Kiss has not reopened as of yet), I thought it would be a good idea to drag her along for some Pho on a cold winter day.  Actually, we were planning to head to Shizen-Ya, but there weren't open yet.  Enter One Saigon a couple of stores down.

We ordered a few things to share starting with the Traditional Banh Mi.  Now, I'm not sure what they meant by traditional because the hoisin-based sauce threw us off a bit.  Beyond that, the individual components were acceptable especially the crusty bread.  We wished there was more pate and possibly a splash of Maggi or fish sauce. Next up was the Shrimp Salad Roll which was a bit plain without basil.  Yet, it was constructed nicely with a properly textured rice wrapper.  We weren't big fans of the dip as it was mostly hoisin and very little peanut.  Of course we had to get a bowl of Pho as a baseline of sorts.  We ended up with the Pho Bo Vien since Whipping Girl loves balls...  Uh...  Anyways, the broth was rather light and a bit sweet.  It lacked depth and meatiness.  The noodles were good though and really, for Downtown, this was a decent bowl of Pho.

Lastly, we had the Lemongrass Chicken with Spring Rolls on Rice.  This was a modest portion which featured a wheat wrapper spring roll.  Yes, they didn't use rice wrappers, but I'm sure it was done out of convenience since rice wrappers dry out really quickly (which means they would need to make them to order and by the looks of the kitchen, that would be too much trouble).  Looking beyond the wrapper, it was fine.  As for the chicken, it was moist with a modest lemongrass hit.  Again, a decent offering considering its location.  And that pretty much sums up One Saigon.  Put it anywhere else and it would be mediocre, but since it is right smack in the middle of Downtown, it does the job at a reasonable price.

The Good:
- Inexpensive considering it's in Downtown
- Decent eats for Downtown

The Bad:
- If it were not in Downtown, it would be hard-pressed to compete
- Not a lot of seats

One Saigon on Urbanspoon

Tacofino Commissary

On the heels of declaring Tacofino's Tuna Ta Taco as one of my top 40 things to eat in Vancouver, it was only fitting to visit their store out on Hastings.  With a relatively early hockey game on Friday, we were able to hit it up before closing (which also meant we didn't have to wait in line!).  With a fairly large contingent of 8 people, not having to wait was great as the seating is mostly communal.  Since sharing on a full length table would be difficult, Gordo, Emilicious and Milhouse ended up splitting a few items with me while we ignored the rest of the table... LOL...

We started with the house-made Tatar Tots with chorizo verde, cheddar curds, queso fundido and kimchi crema.  For $10.00, we found this to be smallish in size despite the interesting array of toppings and condiments.  Disregarding the price, we found these tatar tots to be fantastic.  They were slightly crispy pillows of mashed potato goodness laced by ingredients that offered up a wide range of complimentary flavours.  The green chilis added spice and tartness while the crema was cooling.  The chorizo contributed a bit of meatiness and the cheese curds were well, cheesy.  Next up was the Brussel Sprouts ($7.00) with bacon, cotija cheese, masa bread crumbs.  These were much spicier than we had expected, however, I personally liked the kick that lingered after the first bite. Although the sprouts were tender, they retained a pleasant crunch.  Bringing the whole thing together was the smooth and creamy cheese as well as the saltiness of the bacon.

Onto what we were really here for - the tacos...  Predictably, we ordered a bunch of their popular Fish Tacos. Now some might think that $6.00 is a bit steep for a fish taco, but rest assured, these were of a decent size and most importantly, are money.  The large piece of ling cod was fried beautifully where it was just cooked and flaky.  The batter was thin, crispy and light while the rest of the ingredients - shredded cabbage, chipotle mayo and salsa fresca - married well together with a certain brightness and spice.  Now drum roll please for one of my top 40 things to eat in Vancouver - the Albacore Tuna Taco.  We actually got 3 of these and only one turned out right.  The other 2 featured fully cooked tuna, which lessened the enjoyment of the taco.  However, the one that did work out was fantastic as usual.  The still-rare piece of tuna was accented by soy, sesame, wakame, ginger, salsa fresca and wasabi mayo.  The Asian flavours were powerful enough to add flavour, yet at the same time, not overwhelm the delicate piece of tuna.  Unlike the one served from their food cart, this was served with only a light dusting of cabbage.  It could've benefited from more for textural and visual purposes.

Moving away from fish, we had the Skirt Steak Taco which featured pickled veggies, cilantro and black garlic mayo.  The steak itself was cooked a nice medium-rare.  Predictably, it wasn't exactly tender, but it wasn't tough either. There was a good amount of char and seasoning.  I liked the crunch from the veggies as well as the acidity, particularly from the pickled onion.  The spice of the pepper added a good kick while the mayo provided some moisture as well as sweetness.  Staying with meat, the Pork Jowl Taco was dressed with cabbage, pineapple, fried shallots and sriracha. The pork cheek was seared crispy on the outside while the meat was fatty and full-flavoured (a touch salty though).  The sweetness of the pineapple cut through some of the heaviness whereas the modest amount of sriracha added just enough heat.  I loved the fried shallots for their texture and aroma.

With 2 more meat tacos on the menu, there was no choice but order those as well.  The Gringa consisted of pork al pastor, cheddar curds and kimchi in a fried tortilla finished with chipotle mayo. The crunch from the fried tortilla was a nice contrast to the cheesy, shredded pork mix.  The kimchi added even more crunch, yet was too mild for my tastes.  It could've been spicier.  Our last meat taco was the Chicken Karaage with avocado and black chili oil.  The chicken was moist with only a light crispiness on the outside.  The flavours were balanced with only the slightest hint of spice.  This could've benefited from some acidity, maybe from some lemon.  And just to change things up, I decided to get the Crispy Potato as our lone vegetarian taco.  Hidden underneath the cabbage, queso fresco, cheddar and salsa fresca was essentially a potato mash.  Hence, the fried tortilla was essentially for texture.  This was decent for a non-meat taco.  At the end, we were pretty happy with our eats, despite the spending a good amount of money.  We thought the food was good, but I'm sure some will find it expensive.

The Good:
- Well-prepared food
- Interesting eats
- A good hipster scene (if that is your thing)

The Bad:
- Can be seen as a bit pricey
- Can get busy where seats are at a premium

Tacofino Commissary on Urbanspoon

Lay's Do Us A Flavour Prize Pack Winner

Congrats to Suzie M for winning the prize pack giveaway from Lay's.  Even if you didn't win, don't forget to enter the Lay's Do Us A Flavour Contest and submit your original flavour for a new Lay's chip flavour.  As for Suzie, please email me at admin@shermansfoodadventures.com to claim your prize!

Nando's (Strawberry Hill)

There are times when I just don't know what to eat.  Yes, as crazy as it sounds, I had no cravings whatsoever for lunch.  Seeing how I didn't have a lot of time, I settled on fast food, but I had no urge to visit anywhere that started with Mc or ended with King.  Hence, I briefly considered Wendy's with their salads, but in the end, I didn't want to spend $9.00 for it.  Subway came into play, but I had that the week before.  And really, I didn't want to go back to Nordel Kitchen because it ain't any healthier than the aforementioned fast food joints.  Finally, I settled on Nando's partly because I had an Entertainment coupon burning a hole in my pocket.  Now, there were actually a couple of them where I settled on the whole chicken dinner.  Yes, I got a whole family dinner for myself...

It included Garlic Portuguese Buns which, in my opinion, were too chewy for my tastes.  Don't get me wrong, I love Portuguese buns especially for making tasty sandwiches, but I want my garlic bread to be either soft or toasted, not in between.  Moreover, for garlic bread, there was not a whole lot of flavour either.  Onto the star of the meal, the Flame Grilled Chicken with a hot spice level.  Consistent with this location, the meat was moist and juicy, even the the breast.  It was indeed spicy and dressed further in Peri-Peri sauce. The flavours were smoky and the extra packets of Peri-Peri sauce ensured a wallop in every bite.

For my 2 sides, I went for Peri Fries and Spiced Rice.  Frankly, I've never liked the sides at Nando's.  The fries were not crispy enough in my opinion being rather generic.  Even with the spicier option, I didn't find them that flavourful.  As for the rice, it wasn't any better.  It was dry, bland and unappetizing.  Whatever the case, the chicken was good (especially this location as I find other places make it very dry).  Nando's can be a bit expensive, especially without a coupon, but the chicken is pretty good.

The Good:
- Nicely grilled chicken (at this location)
- Spicy (just the way I like it)

The Bad:
- Can be pricey
- Sides are weak

Nando's Chicken on Urbanspoon