Sherman's Food Adventures: June 2013

Old Bavaria Haus

Going for eats with Miss Y is always an entertaining proposition.  She loves to yak and her stories are both amusing and interesting.  And in some cases, the jokes on me because she is usually fashionably late.  Let's not forget the time she was an hour tardy for our afternoon tea at the Hotel Vancouver.  The staff there thought I was stood up or something.  But not to fear this time as I picked her up and hence, dinner would be on time. We decided to go to one of her favourite joints in New West being the Old Bavaria Haus (and on a Schnitzel Wednesday too!).

I decided to try their Goulash first and it was really thick. Tasting somewhat like a mild chili with plenty of paprika, this was a meal in itself.  There was lots of meaty morsels nestled within the rich tomatoey concoction.  For my main, I had the Schnitzel Cordon Bleu.  Naturally, it was stuffed with Swiss cheese and ham. The pounded pork was not exactly moist per se, but it wasn't extremely dry either (not supposed to be juicy anyways).  The exterior was nicely browned and lightly crunchy.  I thought the meat was properly seasoned where there was flavour, but so much that we couldn't taste the meat. It was served with a mushroom gravy and on the side was veggies, red cabbage (a little mushy) and pan-fried potatoes (soft).

Miss Y had my first choice being the Schnitzel Champignon. I couldn't order it as it would be boring talking about only one dish!  It was a plain pork schnitzel topped with sauteed mushrooms and Bearnaise sauce.  The sauce was thick, buttery and rich which helped provide moisture to the crunchy pork.  A light meal this was not. Lastly, we shared an order of their Apple Strudel.  It was a little dense and being not really all that hot didn't help things.  Hence, the flavours weren't really strong. It wasn't horrible by any stretch of the imagination, it just wasn't memorable either.  Dessert withstanding, the schnitzel was decent and reasonably-priced, especially for a Wednesday.

The Good:
- Food is predictable and consistent (it's been the same every time I've been here)
- The service we got was friendly
- Okay pricing, especially on Wednesdays

The Bad:
- Dining space is charming, but dated and musty

Old Bavaria Haus on Urbanspoon

Reel Mac and Cheese

Of all the things to eat in the world, my son's favourite food is Mac n' Cheese.  And we're not talking about lobster mac n' cheese here, just the plain classic type.  In fact, he's been known to do Kraft Dinner for consecutive meals regularly.  Alas, I want to open his eyes to other delicious eats in the world, but if he insists on Mac n' Cheese, then so be it.  I'll just have to expose him to "better" versions.  Thus, I paid one of the newer food carts, Reel Mac and Cheese, in town in search for the good stuff.

On my first visit, I decided to start with the standard, being The Main Event consisting of a 5 cheese blend with butter, whole milk and spices topped with either crispy or caramelized onions. I thought that the macaroni was firm enough while there was just enough sauce clinging to each piece of pasta.  The flavours were mild while the textures were creamy and rich.  For me, I probably could've done with a bit more sharpness.  As for the crispy onions, they were more like crisps (with not much onion flavour) where they added a nice crunch.  I also tried Slumdog Millionaire which was appropriately laced with mild curry and peas.  There was definitely enough curry to make an impact and it was indeed mild.  Personally, I would've liked more spice (but that's just me).

I had to return a second time because they had ran out of the Run Fat Boy Run the first time.  These fried balls of mac n' cheese were quite "hashbrown-like" on the outside with a light crispiness and creamy on the inside.  They were greasy as expected, but my son absolutely loved them.  Enough said.  As a whole, I think Reel Mac n' Cheese does a good job with their product (definitely better than other mac n' cheese joints in the city).  Nothing ground-breaking, but not bad nonetheless.

The Good:
- Not too saucy
- Firm pasta
- Great people

The Bad:
- A bit pricey (but in-line with most other food carts)
- Sauce is cheesy but could use more impact

Reel Mac and Cheese on Urbanspoon

Dinner @ Ming Dynasty

*Restaurant is now closed*

There was a time when we would meet Costanza and Elaine for regular eats.  Heck, we would go catch a movie and grab late night bubble tea as well.  Ah yes, that was before the kiddies arrived.  Oh the memories...  Now, in order to meet up for dinner, it requires moving heaven and Earth to get that scheduled.  We finally thought there was a day that worked for all of us, yet ultimately Viv couldn't make it.  Whatever, I decided to go anyways.  Passing up an eating opportunity is akin to giving up a prime parking spot to someone else at Parker Place.  Not gonna happen.

Since I brought my son with me, it was a given we'd order the Peking Duck. It was pretty obvious that it was oil basted (or fried) since it came out so quick, but in the end, the skin had a nice rich colour and was lightly crispy.  They left a substantial amount of meat, which was moist, on each piece.  The layer of duck fat was neither horrendous nor negligible - it was somewhere in between.  The crepes were a touch chewy, but not dried out and did not stick to each other.  We got another kiddie favourite (and we had 3 kids at the table) being the Shrimp and Scrambled Eggs was a pretty decent dish with crunchy butterflied shrimp and mostly soft eggs.  It was probably overdone by just a few seconds which left some clumpier pieces that were not as soft.  It was aggressively seasoned, yet hardly salty.

Next up was the Seafood & Tofu Hot Pot which consisted of a well-prepared seafood included basa, shrimp, squid and scallops.  The tofu had a silken quality to it and was fried just enough that there was a "skin" on the exterior to prevent breakage. Costanza's kids really love the Peking Pork Chops, but for some odd reason, the English name in the menu was Pork Chops with Worcestershire Sauce.  Yes, there is Worcestershire in there, but weird name nonetheless.  Luckily Elaine could read the Chinese name. We found the dish well-executed with manageable pieces which maintained their tenderness despite being fried.  The pork was properly tenderized where it was easy to chew while maintaining a meatiness.  Although there was a bit too much sauce, it was well-balanced with a nice shade of red, nice tang, a hint of Worcestershire and sweetness.

Getting our veggie intake, we got the Stir-Fried Gai Lan with Garlic which was chopped up in an interesting style where each stalk was cut diagonally into thin strips.  This way, it was probably cooked a lot faster.  However, the main benefit from our end was the size of each piece - very easy to eat.  Loved the fact they did not overcook it where each slice retained a crunch.  Interestingly, there was more ginger than garlic. Lastly, the Duck Lettuce Wrap was generously graced with big chunks of moist duck meat.  The dish exhibited good wok heat with no pool of water on the bottom of the plate while providing a mild flavour.  The thing we didn't like was the rather haphazard presentation of the lettuce, especially the top piece which was discoloured. Overall, the meal was pretty solid at a reasonable price ($88.00).  We wondered why the place was not busier...


The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Decent eats
- Decent service

The Bad:
- The place was pretty empty for a weekend night, it was very strange
- Parking lot is small, but there is lots of street parking

Ming Dynasty Cuisine 明門海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Jule's Cafe

Sometimes, we need to step back and really re-think the price of restaurant food as we know it.  Sure, most smaller Asian joints are good value, hence no real issue there.  But for your typical chain restaurant, it has slowly crept up to some lofty numbers.  Most items cannot be had for less than $12.00 and many are between $15.00 - $20.00.  I know, there is overhead such as food costs, staffing, rent, advertising and so on.  But what if you just wanted to get some decent food for under $10.00 (how about under $6.00)?  Oh and the place is not a dive nor located in a sketchy area?  Well, we were about to find out as we visited Jules Cafe after Sunday hockey.

Since Jules is an "order-at-the-counter-first" operation, it was imperative we found a table.  So as we were waiting for the first available seat, I looked over the menu.  The low prices encouraged me to order not one, but 2 meals.  I started with the Eggs Benny since it was the most interesting breakfast item. The hollandaise sauce was almost like a foam where it was super light and frothy.  Flavourwise, it was not very rich as you can imagine.  I did pick out some lemon and a touch of butteriness, yet it could've benefited from more zip.  As for the egg, it was poached nicely with a very runny yolk.  The English muffin could've been toasted a bit more in my opinion as it became quite mushy with sauce and yolk.  The fried hashbrowns were golden brown and crispy with a soft potatoey interior.  For my next course, I had Jule's Bacon Cheeseburger which looked, at first glance, like any other diner burger.  Oh how wrong I was.  One bite in and it was super moist and light.  The homemade patty was not greasy and just barely cooked.  The house-cut fries were golden in colour but ultimately were soggy.  And if you were wondering, I did finish both dishes.

JuJu, not to be outdone, had 2 dishes as well starting with the French Toast.  It looked appealing and was ultimately quite good.  There was enough egg to coat both sides of the bread without making it soggy.  It was moist though with a dusting of cinnamon and icing sugar.  I personally would've preferred that it was browned a bit more on the outside for some textural contrast and flavour.  For his second act, he had the Grilled Hot Dog with a side of fries.  As you can see, they weren't messing around with this hot go as it was split and fully dressed with a considerable amount of grilled onions on top.  This was pretty standard except the onions could've used more time on the pan.  The large mound of house-cut fries were the same being not crispy enough.

Milhouse totally wimped out and ordered only a Super Traditional Breakfast consisting of 3 eggs, 3 slices of bacon, 3 sausages, hashbrowns and toast.  It was carefully prepared where the scrambled eggs turned out soft and fluffy.  After it was all said and done, we were amazed at the prices combined with decent food quality.  The people were super friendly while the place was well-kept.  We realize that the operational costs of this cafe is far less than some other restaurants, but you really can get decent grub for cheap - if you look for it.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Decent eats
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Decent eats, but don't expect to be blown away either (remember the low prices though)
- Expect to wait for a table

Jules Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sushi Bay

Normally, Japanese restaurants (non-Izakaya) are never in our repertoire for late night eats.  Most, if all, close quite early which kiboshes any hope from escaping the dreaded late-night greasy Chinese eats (or greasier burger).  However, with an early game looming, it was our chance to hit up Sushi Bay on Kingsway.  Well, that idea died before it even had a chance.  Our game was delayed by 45 minutes because of a scheduling error at North Shore Ice Sports.  In the age of computers, how does one double book a sheet of ice???  Anyways, we waited for our next early game to finally make it out to Sushi Bay.  Some were not familiar where it was actually located, to which I answered, "it's near the ol' Consumer's Marketing".  That drew a few crickets, as the place has been closed for a looong time...

Milhouse, Emilicious and I decided to share some items starting with the Agedashi Tofu.  This was pretty straightforward with lightly fried tofu which was soft on the inside.  It was dressed ever-so-lightly with a mild tentsuyu broth.  Nothing amazing, but solid nonetheless.  Next was another bowl of Chirashi Don (yes, I seem to be ordering this a lot lately).  It was a pretty substantial portion for the price featuring vibrant-looking sashimi (Atlantic & Sockeye Salmon, Tuna, Tako, Ebi, Amaebi, Tamago and Hokkigai) which was equally pleasing to eat.  As for the sushi rice, it was chewy and nicely seasoned.  We decided to share a couple of specialty rolls including the Rainbow and the Double Dragon.  As you can see in the picture, the rolls were full of ingredients and minimal rice.  Moreover, the avocado was aesthetically-pleasing and ripe.

Onto some cooked food, we had the Gyoza, which were not very gyoza-like.  There was quite a bit of greens combined with the ground pork.  Hence, it was more like a Korean mandoo.  Despite the visuals, it wasn't as crispy as the colour suggests.  Lastly, as the picture clearly illustrates with the bright sheen, it was greasy.  The last item we shared was the Yam and Prawn Tempura.  It was "alright" as the batter was a bit dense, yet ultimately still crispy and not as heavy as it appeared.  Yet, due to the amount of batter, it did affect the texture of the ebi. Lionel Hutz and Truditini ordered enough food for 4 people for themselves including an assortment of Nigiri (Tobiko, Unagi and Inari).  They were neatly prepared with a good rice-to-ingredient ratio.  Again, the decent sushi rice only added to the already good nigiri.

They went on to share a plate each of the Atlantic and Sockeye Salmon Sashimi (but I'm not going to talk about it much since we already had a Chirashi Don).  The slices were large (yet not in an unmanageable size) and nicely textured.  They also got a Beef Teriyaki.  If you haven't already made the comment in your mind, the large amount of sprouts made the dish look funny.  In fact, there was far too much of it compared to the beef.  It was pretty tender though with a minimal amount of sauce.  They also got Sushi Bay's version of the Awesome Roll consisting of imitation crab, avocado, cucumber with BBQ salmon, tobiko, bonito flakes and green onion on top drizzled with special sauce.  The roll was quite large and an excellent value for $6.95.  Pretty standard stuff, but could've used more sauce.

Another roll worth mentioning was the Hockey Pucks on Fire because we had just played a game.  Ironic yes and also quite tasty.  It contained spicy salmon and imitation crab wrapped in seaweed with no rice and deep fried.  With the combination of sauces, the roll was zesty and crispy. After our meal, we all agreed that the value was definitely apparent with good portions at low prices.  Sure, the stuff ain't completely authentic nor was it the best sushi we've ever had.  But Sushi Bay is better in comparison to other similarly priced places.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Good portions
- Friendly service

The Bad:
- Although friendly, service can be over-stretched
- Not completely authentic, if that bothers you

Sushi Bay on Urbanspoon

Sura

It seems that "getting a good deal" is something that is harder and harder to come by.  Sure, we can merely go for a bowl of Pho and consider a good value, but is hardly a deal anymore.  So when Whipping Girl mentioned that there was this great lunch set meal at Sura, I was skeptical.  Korean food AND in Downtown?  Yah, what kinda deal were we looking at?  Apparently there are 2 set meals with one being $15.00pp and the other $20.00pp.  Okay, that doesn't seem like much of a deal price-wise, but please stay with me.

We went for the $20.00 menu and it started with a Green Salad.  Hey, it was a green salad.  And in the words of Forrest Gump, "that's all I have to say about that".  Right behind it was the Dong Chimi, which is a type of kimchi in a brine.  The veggies were crisp, pickled (of course) and a bit spicy.  A refreshing way to start the meal.  Arriving at the same time, we got the Tang Pyeong Chae.  Consisting of mung bean "noodles" (not really noodles, but I'll call them that here) and a bunch of julienned veggies, this was dressed in a nice sesame vinegar dressing.  Good textures and properly seasoned, I could've eaten more of that, but...  then the Japchae was placed on our ever-shrinking table space.  This was a well-made Japchae with chewy noodles with just the right amount of veggies and tender meat.  It was not greasy and balanced in flavour (not too sweet).

Next, we got 3 dishes of Banchan including Kimchi, Kong Jang and Cucumbers & Carrots with black sesame.  The kimchi had a nice crunch, yet could've been spicier in my opinion.  I liked how it wasn't too salty.  I enjoyed the soy beans as they had a nice bite with a rich sweetness.  The cucumbers and carrots were okay, not as crunchy as I would've liked.  However, there was a nice sesame hit, which I personally love.  On a side note, they had asked us during the meal if we wanted a refill of the Banchan - very attentive and generous.  Now, with almost no room left on the table, they crammed the Jeyuk Bulgogi onto the edge.  Their attempt at artistic plating may have seemed weird, but the pork was prepared quite well.  There was a good ratio of meat to veggies where the pork was moist, spicy and sweet.  The depth-of-flavour was apparent as well.  We both received a bowl of rice to go with this and the rest of the meal.

Yes, this was only halfway!  Next time, we swore to get a bigger table because the Kimchi Pancake was practically on top of other plates.  Not sure why they used such a big plate...  Despite being on the softer and wet side, the doughy pancake had a wealth of flavour thanks to the kimchi.  I felt it was quite greasy, but what Korean pancake isn't?  The scallion/veggie-to-pancake ratio was good as there was crunch in every bite.  Moving alone, we had the Galbi Jjim, or beef short ribs.  We found these to be quite sweet from the marinade and the accompanying glaze.  The meat was definitely tender while slightly dry at the same time.  With that being said, it was not hard to chew at all and each piece was meaty.

Even before we could even dig into half of our food, the Sweet & Sour Fried Fish arrived.  Man, was this a large portion considering the amount of food we already had on the table!  This was an appetizing dish with crispy battered fish dressed in a thick spicy sweet and sour glaze.  There was a nice contrast between the crunchy thick batter and the flaky moist fish.  I'm usually not a huge fan of this type of dish, but I liked this one. Now, I didn't really like the Squid Salad though.  As you can clearly see in the picture, it was super hard to find the squid.  At first, we didn't even know what the darn thing was.  Far too many greens on the plate and little-to-no squid made this a fail.  And even when we found the squid, the pieces were so small, we didn't get a sense of the dish.  The only thing we could pick out was the nice spice.

You think we were done?  No way, there was more!  Next we had their version of Bossom.  Instead of being wrapped in a leaf, the pork belly was atop a slice of pickled daikon and topped with what we believed was doenjang. First off, the pork belly was cooked just right as it was melt-in-our mouths tender, yet the fat and skin had a gelatinous texture.  The combination of acidity, saltiness, spice and sweetness created a balance of flavours.  After that, we had a classic being the Tang Sooyuk or Korean-style sweet & sour pork. Unfortunately, the pork was far too lean and hence was really dry when fried up.  The exterior was crisp and not greasy, but the dense pork killed the dish.  Too bad really since the sauce had a nice tartness to counteract the intense sweetness.

Mercifully, since we were full and the table had no room left, our last dish was the Doenjang Jjigae or fermented soy bean paste and vegetable stew.  Bam!  There was the intense flavour that hit us when we took a sip.  The combination of the salty paste, dried anchovies, garlic and onions created a firestorm of flavour.  That was a great end to the savoury part of the meal as we had one last thing being the Rice Punch.  A light refreshing way to end a glutinous meal.  All this was had for $20.00pp and to think the $15.00pp meal is practically the same. This, my friends is what you call a deal.

The Good:
- More hits than misses with the food
- We got good service
- The lunch special set meals are a great value

The Bad:
- Even with a bigger table, there still isn't enough room for all the food
- Great value, but they could've staggered the food a bit, as we were overwhelmed

Sura Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon