Sherman's Food Adventures: July 2013

Cheat Day

*Restaurant is now closed*

My son absolutely loves grilled cheese.  He could quite possibly eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a whole month if need be.  In fact, he would eat them in a house, with a mouse, here or there and anywhere... Hence, I delayed my visit to the newly opened Cheat Day until he could tag along.  So on our way to Science World, we made a pit stop on Seymour to visit a store tailor-made for my son, one that specializes in only one thing - grilled cheese!

Predictably, my son had the Classic Grilled Cheese (made with 1-year old white cheddar) on white bread. It was a fairly large sandwich with plenty of ooey gooey cheese.  I liked how the bread was perfectly toasted a crunchy golden brown.  Furthermore, it wasn't all that greasy either.  There was no absence of flavour due to the sharpness of the cheddar.  Viv ended up with the Brie with caramelized onions, peach chunks and jam.  It was indeed interesting.  With the aforementioned combination, there was no shortage of sweetness as well as moisture.  Hence, it was a sloppy sandwich to eat.  We found that the cheese got lost amongst the rest of the ingredients though.

For myself, I decided to have something different in the Ramen Grilled Cheese with egg, nori, ramen, spicy tomato sauce and scallions.  Again, it exhibited the same qualities as the basic sandwich while adding a bunch of non-traditional ingredients.  Similar to the brie, the cheese got lost amongst the abundance of noodles.  I found the noodles to have a nice al dente texture while being lightly seasoned.  The fluffy egg, nori and green onions added texture and different flavours while the spicy tomato sauce was not as impactful as one would expect. In the end, it came down to only one persons' opinion - my son.  He gave his grilled cheese an 8/10. 

The Good:
- Wonderful crispy browned exterior
- Not overly greasy
- Interesting combos

The Bad:
- Cheese gets lost in some of the more creative versions
- Best for take out as the place is quite small

Cheat Day on Urbanspoon

Pho Cilantro

It was a hot Summer's day right after Sunday hockey.  A perfect time to visit a non-A/C Vietnamese restaurant for some steaming hot Pho right?  Well, I'm pretty sure that's how they do it in Saigon, so why not here?  At least we are a good 10 degrees cooler!  In reality, that was not really out intention, but alas, our eating adventure was Pho Cilantro which was sans climatiseur.  We strategically sat near the door which was slightly ajar to catch whatever breeze that decided to enter the restaurant.

As with any meal with JuJu and Milhouse, we ordered far too much food starting with the Lemongrass Chicken Salad Roll.  This was well-constructed with crunchy veggies, firm noodles, basil, yet unfortunately dry chicken.  The chicken did taste good though while the rice wrapper had a nice elasticity.  We got a couple of Bánh Mì sandwiches including a grilled pork and the one pictured, cold cut.  The bread was really crunchy and crusty.  It was a bit big for the amount of ingredients though.  We found that the cold cut needed more pate as there was only a small streak of it.  As for the grilled pork, once again, there was flavour, but it was dry.

For my main, I had the Bún Bò Huế which was super flavourful.  It had hints of lemongrass, plenty of chili oil, ginger, fish sauce and a healthy dose of MSG.  Unfortunately, the noodles were really soggy while the meats were chewy (except for the Vietnamese ham).  Also, there was no pork blood nor knuckle.  Milhouse had the Phở Chín Bò Viên which was also super tasty.  Lots of meat flavour, sweetness and licorice hits (from the star anise).  However, much like the bun bo hue, there was plenty of MSG.  The noodles were okay here, but some of the meats could've been more tender.


JuJu had the Grilled Beef and Spring Roll Vermicelli where the beef was really well-seasoned, but really dry as well.  The spring roll was crispy, however, the filling was dry and mealy.  Since I was hungry, I also had the Lemongrass Chicken and Fried Egg on Rice.  Similarly to the salad roll, the chicken was dry and hard.  Yet as with everything else, it had plenty of sweetness, lemongrass and all the good stuff (MSG?).  Of note here, the server neglected to bring us any cutlery for these 2 dishes.  In fact, when we were about to order, she rolled her eyes in disgust as JuJu headed to the washroom.  Me thinks she dislikes her job and customers.

Lastly, we decided to try the Bánh Rán or Vietnamese "donut" filled with coconut and mung bean.  It is very similar to the Chinese Jin Deui.  These were crunchy, not greasy and not very sweet.  This was a nice way to end our meal, but the service or lack of was a little annoying.  We never got checked on and asking for anything was a chore for the server.  The rolling of the eyes was not cool either.  Furthermore, there was a big issue with the food as the proteins were mostly dry and chewy.  Lots of potential here, but not quite there yet.

The Good:
- Flavourful broth and meats (suspect there is a lot of MSG though)
- Some interesting items on the menu
- Clean

The Bad:
- Proteins are dry and chewy
- The lady server there has a bad attitude
- No A/C

Pho Cilantro on Urbanspoon

Spaghetei

I'm sure most of you are aware that there are Chinese versions of various cuisines via HK-style cafes.  Hence, you see ketchup posing as tomato sauce and hot dog wieners doing their best breakfast sausage impersonation.  However, what if I told you that there is something known as Japanese-style spaghetti?  Well, that is what they serve at Spaghetei, one of Robson's newest restaurants.  Don't worry, you won't find sashimi or wasabi in your pasta, but you will find unique flavours.

Whipping Girl and I made our way at opening to grab a nice window seat, but alas we were moved to a bigger table once they knew we were attempting to eat 4 different orders of spaghetti.  Yes, we were trying to be ambitious as well as trying to sample as many versions as we could.  They started us off with a Spinach Pesto Garlic Bread that was crunchy and garlicky.  Loved the bright green hue.  The first dish to arrive was the Clam Shellfish consisting of clam, squid & mushroom with ginger soy sauce.  We found the spaghetti to be perfectly al dente.  Normally, I don't use the word perfect, but this was indeed toothsome while completely cooked.  There was a definite taste of the sea with just the right level of saltiness and a touch of ginger.  

Being astute, they decided to bring out our pastas slowly as none would get cold while we ate through them.  We had the Neapolitan next and it included chicken, bacon, sausage & vegetables in a mild ketchup sauce.  This was somewhat similar to the HK-style cafe version but less saucy and more tart.  The sweet onions added another layer of sweetness.  We also had the Butter & Soy consisting of shrimp, shimeji & spinach with butter soy sauce.  We really liked the silkiness of the "barely-there" sauce as it helped temper the saltiness of the soy.  The individual components were prepared well with nicely wilted spinach and snappy shrimp.

Our last dish was our favourite being the Mentaiko tossed in spicy cod roe with shimeji and dried seaweed on top.  Similar to the udon version, the cod roe provided a nice pop of seafoody flavour.  The slight spice was a good compliment to the roe as well as the seaweed.  Okay, I'll admit it.  I went in with particular reservations, but in the end, I really liked their renditions of spaghetti.  This is a must return in my books.

The Good:
- It doesn't look like a lot, but it was enough
- Well prepared components
- Super nice service

The Bad:
- A touch pricey for some people, but okay for Downtown

Spaghetei すぱげっ亭 on Urbanspoon

Milestones (Chef's Tasting Menu)

There was a time way back in High School and University where Milestones would be on our regular rotation of eating destinations.  Hey, all of favourites were there: Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Thai Drummettes, Portobello Mushroom Chicken and Prime Rib.  However, as time passed, these favourites became monotonous and we just stopped going.  Hey, for some restaurants, keeping everything mostly the same works, but for a "more upscale" chain restaurant, Milestones did not keep up with the times.  So when I recently got an email to try out their new culinary direction led by chef Jason Rosso, I was more than happy to attend.

Along with other bloggers, Viv and I were treated to a 6-course tasting menu highlighting some of the new dishes offered at Milestone's. In addition, we were served wine pairings for each course from Constellation Brands. We started with the Crispy Quinoa Shrimp with chimichurri aioli and vegetable slaw.  This was an interesting use of raw quinoa as a breading which afforded a significant crunch.  However, it was pretty dense, hence it overshadowed the shrimp.  Inside, the sweet shrimp exhibited a cold-water snap.  The smooth aioli was mild where it did not overwhelm.  Although crunchy and vibrant, I found the slaw to be lacking in punch where it could've used more acidity.  This was served with a See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Gris which was floral and light.  Next, we were presented with Panko Blue Crab Cakes with fennel & arugula salad and chiptole aioli.  These little fried nuggets were super crunchy on the outside.  The breading was a touch overbearing in relation to the delicate crab meat.  I would've liked to see something lighter.  With bits of chili flakes and yellow pepper mixed in, there was no absence of flavour and spice.  Moreover, the spicy chipotle aioli added another layer of heat with a slight tinge of curry.  A glass of Kim Crawford Chardonnay 2012 which was fruity and a nice compliment to the crab.

To go with our glass of Nk'Mip Riesling (which was dry with a bite), we were served a Spicy Thai Basil Stirfry featuring rice noodles, shrimp, chicken and coconut milk.  Sadly, this was not very good.  We found the noodles to be far too soft, wet and broken.  Furthermore, there was a lack of flavour despite the small hint of spice and aromatics of the coconut milk.  However, with a squeeze of the accompanying limes, it perked the dish up a bit.  As for the proteins, the chicken was sufficiently moist for white meat while the shrimp had a meaty snap.  Plated beautifully, the Grilled Japanese Tuna Tataki was really good.  It had been marinated for 24 hours with rice wine, fish sauce and soy.  Hence, the tuna itself was tasty on its own with a balance of flavours including the aromatic essence of sesame oil.  Furthermore, it was prepared properly with a light char on the outside while being rare and buttery on the inside. Adding the missing element of sweetness was the accompanying Mandarin orange dressing.  Completing the dish was an asparagus and fennel slaw which added brightness and a crunch to the plate.  Since tuna can be quite meaty, it was appropriate that the wine pairing was the Mark West Pinot Noir that exhibited peppery notes.

Onto my favourite offering of the night, we had the Surf and Turf consisting of a grilled flat iron steak topped with a lobster fricassee, tempura onion ring and a side of lobster mash potatoes. The thin steak was nicely prepared where it was tender and required very little effort to eat.  The creamy lobster fricassee added richness and a delicate sweetness to the dish.  As for the mash, it was buttery and smooth with chunks of sweet lobster strewn throughout.  The wine pairing for this dish was a glass of Dreaming Tree Crush which was fruity with a bite.  Lastly, we finished off the meal with an Avocado and Lime Tart bourbon candied pecan and organic blueberry chutney and a brown sugar Chantilly.  The tart itself had a nice refreshing lime hit which was not sweet at all.  However, when combined with the sweet pecans, the flavours became more balanced. Although not without flaws, the tasting menu illustrated a different side of Milestones that has been a long time coming.  The meal left me wondering what else is in store for the future.  Since we were given gift cards at the end, I guess another visit is imminent. 
 
*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*

Fortune City (ChineseBites Dinner)

Now fully back into the ChineseBites schedule of restaurants, we made our way to Fortune City for dinner.  I've been here before for Dim Sum and it was frankly quite mediocre.  Hence, my expectations for dinner were not high.  However, with anything, I went into it with an open mind.  As per usual, the ChineseBites crew were there including RickAlvin, Kevin, GraceSean, Amy and Romina.

We started with the Pan-Fried Tiger Prawns which were wok-tossed with green and white onions.  Hence, the flavour profile was quite sweet and of course "oniony".  The prawns themselves were cooked right having a firm snap while exhibiting a natural sweetness.  Of note, I found the dish to be rather heavy on the grease.  Next up was the whole point of the meal - Peking Duck.  You see, for all the ChineseBites dinners we've had, Peking Duck has never been on the menu.  For the first course, the Peking Duck wrap was pretty good.  With a beautiful hue, the duck skin was crispy and light.  The layer of fat was minimal whereas the meat was moist and tender.  I particularly liked the noticeable roasted flavour.  The crepes were so-so in my opinion as they were a little thick and chewy.  At the very least, they were not dried out.



The second course was the standard Duck Lettuce Wrap. There was ample amount of the same moist duck in the stir-fried filling.  I found it to have enough moisture without being wet.  There was a good level of crunch from the veggies while the addition of diced Chinese sausage made for a slightly different flavour as there was an increased savoury and aromatic element.  From that, we had the Sauteed Ling Cod with Yau Choy.  The fish was oil-blanched properly where it was intact, moist and flaky.  They were not overly aggressive with the seasoning which was a good thing due to the delicate fish.  As for the yau choy, it was overcooked where it had lost most of its snap.  Due to the conservative use of salt, the yau choy was subsequently bland.



Back to some more crispy skin, we had the Deep Fried Crispy Skin Chicken.  Much like the Peking Duck, the chicken skin exhibited a beautiful shade of golden brown.  I liked how the fat was nicely rendered.  As for the chicken itself, the dark meat was juicy and flavourful.  On the other hand, the white meat was a bit dry.  A bit more of a brine might've helped matters.  Then we had something a little bit different with the Pork Chop in Plum Sauce.  With the massive amount of sauce, the pork chops were a bit soggy.  However, at the same time, they were super tender.  I liked how there was a minimal amount of fat too.  As for the sauce, it was tangy and quite sweet.


Moving along to Rick's favourite dish (he didn't like the one at Golden Swan), we had the Braised Egg White and Crab Meat with Broccoli.  This one was better, but I got big chunks of thickened corn starch which were not appetizing.  If we looked beyond that, the egg whites were fluffy and lightly seasoned.  There was a good mix of crab leg meat, crunchy shrimp and baby scallops mixed in.  I found the scallops to be a bit fishy though.  The broccoli underneath was vibrant and still crisp.  Nicely plated, our last dish was the Wintermelon with Assorted Seafood.  The melon was super soft with pieces of Virginia ham adding some flavour.  The stir-fried seafood was of scallops, prawns and squid were cooked properly with the squid being the highlight  It was tender while maintaining a nice chewiness.

If this wasn't enough food already, we were presented with a random dish being the Special House Chow Mein with lots of the same ingredients as the previous dish (add BBQ pork, chicken and mushroom).  Toppings were fine and so was the sauce, but there was too much of it rendering the noodles into a greasy mush.  Normally, there are crunchy bits, but everything was wet.  Overall, the meal was okay, but not without some execution issues.  The dinner pretty much mirrored my mediocre Dim Sum experience.

The Good:
- Nothing seemed too salty
- Large venue with lots of space
- Lots of parking, but tight spots

The Bad:
- Some execution issues
- Greasy

Fortune City Seafood Restaurant 百福海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Guu Kobachi

Originally, we tried to hit up Guu Kobachi after Friday night hockey, but the lineup was far too long for us to wait (we were hungry!).  Hence, we went across the street for some Peking Duck at Chengdu instead.  Undeterred, when Miss Y wanted to go for an early dinner, we went right at opening in hopes of snagging a seat.  Well of course we did, since who eats at an Izakaya at 5:30pm on a weekday?  Us two dorks apparently...

Since Miss Y lived in Japan for awhile, she was conditioned to order drinks to go with her food.  In fact, going to an Izakaya for dinner and possibly ordering drinks is a purely local phenomenon as it is the other way around in Japan.  I digress.  So to go with our booze, we started with 2 each of the 4 featured Oysters.  Starting from top left and clockwise, we had the Royal Miyagi, Light House, Golden Mantle and Gabi.  Then we moved onto my favourite Izakaya offering being the Ebi Mayo.  These were slightly different being wrapped with shredded potato.  The result was a pretty crunchy exterior giving way to a somewhat doughy and greasy layer underneath.  The ebi was cooked nicely having a snap.  The accompanying mayo had a slight spice to it.

Moving along, we had another classic being the Chikuwa Cheese which consisted of fish cake tubes filled with cheese and deep-fried.  These were pretty good with a softly textured fish cake which retained a slight chew.  The cheese filling (possibly mozzarella) was mild and stringy while the exterior was coated with a crispy tempura.  Interestingly, our order of Salmon Yuuke did not come with any eating vessels (such as shrimp chips).  Hence it mostly depended on the cucumber and mountain yam for texture. The mixture of soft, sweet salmon and quail's egg was accented by a sweet and spicy sauce.  We liked it, but again, would've preferred it to be served with an edible vessel.


Onto 2 more substantial items, we had the Mochi Gratin consisting of sticky rice cake, mushroom and cheese in a clam chowder sauce.  The result was a really rich and heavy dish that could've used a starch of some sort.  It was super cheesy with chewy bits of soft mochi and mushroom.  Not sure about the clam chowder sauce as we really didn't get much clam flavour.  Lastly, we had the Yakiudon with beef.  The dish featured chewy udon noodles with tender beef and bits of mushroom.  With a good amount of pepper, the noodles were not bland.  Based on the food we tried on this visit, it appears that Guu Kobachi is a worthy addition to the Guu family.  Same decent eats for the same decent prices.

The Good:
- Predictably good
- Okay pricing
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Place is tiny
- It's dark, much like most Izakayas

Guu Kobachi on Urbanspoon

The Rumpus Room

Quick.  What was on the Northwest corner of Main & 11th for the longest time? You know, the place with the big chicken on its signage?  If you answered Juicy Fried Chicken, you are either a fried chicken connoisseur or born prior to the year 2000.  Yes, much like Brownie's (another oldie), JFC disappeared into oblivion losing to the big boys, Church's and KFC (don't really get it myself).  In its place, we find a funky new establishment called the The Rumpus Room.

Aptly named, the place resembles a 80's rec room complete with ol' skool sofas and board games. Definitely comfortable and homey which is reflected in the menu as well.  Gordo and I decided to share a few things beginning with the Deep-Fried Pickles ($6.50) served with tartar sauce.  Unfortunately, the batter was doughy and not-crunchy-at-all.  However, the pickles themselves were crisp, tart and not-too-salty.  The tartar sauce was quite mild, so it tasted more like ranch (but that was fine though).  Next, we had the Poutine ($9.00) which featured house-cut fries, real gravy and authentic cheese curds.  The fries were not that crispy while the gravy was flavourful in a non-salty way.  We liked the cheese curds, but since they were all melted, we couldn't tell if they were squeaky or not.

For my main, I had the Peanut Butter Burger ($15.00).  This was constructed with a house-made 6 oz. natural hormone free patty, bacon, cheddar, lettuce, apple cranberry chutney, tomato and peanut butter on a brioche bun.  The meat was cooked through and somewhat dry, yet the ingredients, including the creamy peanut butter, added plenty of texture and moisture.  The key was the bacon as it helped balance the sweetness of the peanut butter.  On the side, I got Ants on a Log (celery sticks with peanut butter and dried cranberries), which featured a healthy portion of peanut butter.  Gordo had the the Chorizo Penne ($12.00) and it was quite large. The penne was very al dente while the large meaty slices of chorizo had a nice kick.  I particularly liked the ample chunks of tart tomatoes as it afforded a fresh taste to the dish.

Gadget Girl ended up with the Chicken and Waffles ($12.00) which featured lots of crunchy fried chicken morsels.  I found them rather dry though, but the thick gravy did help matters.  Larger pieces of chicken could've made them more moist, but I can see how that could greatly increasing the cooking time.  I really liked the waffles as they were lightly crunchy on the outside while airy and soft in the middle.  Apu opted for the BLT ($7.00) that naturally had bacon, lettuce and tomato.  It was sandwiched within sourdough and dressed with garlic aioli.  Although this was a typical version, it was constructed with plenty of crispy bacon which made it tasty.  He chose Yam Fries as his side which could've been crispier in our opinion.

For dessert, he decided to try the Deep Fried Cheesecake ($5.00) topped with raspberry compote.  I liked how the crunchy batter wasn't too heavy as it was a textural contrast to the softened cheesecake.  The tart compote helped lighten things up a bit.  Sweet Tooth and Emilicious ended sharing the Banana Cream Pie ($5.00) which was creamy and rich.  It wasn't particularly sweet, rather letting the ample fresh banana slices do their thing.  The 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream were firm, yet a touch icy.  As you can clearly see, the deep-fryer gets a lot of play at The Rumpus Room.  With that, one would expect properly prepared fried food, but this was generally not the case.  Overall, we didn't dislike our food as most items had an interesting twist.  Moreover, prices are reasonable for the portion sizes.  In that case, if you are not expecting your culinary world to be set on fire, The Rumpus Room is a fun place to grab some comfort food with good friends.


The Good:
- Inexpensive and good portions
- Cool retro 80's rec room feel
- Interesting washrooms

The Bad:
- Some of the fried items could be crispier
- Staff are nice, but are overextended

Rumpus Room on Urbanspoon