Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2013

Fish on Rice

Really?  Fish on Rice???  Yes, really.  There was a time when we would frequent Fish on Rice for the quantity, and of course not the quality.  We'd suffer through the bad service and the questionable washrooms just to get our fill of mediocre Japanese food.  I put a stop to that as I just couldn't eat bad sushi anymore.  However, for ol' times sake, Costanza and I decided to drop by for lunch, just to see what was going on at Poisson on Riz.  Of course, we ended up getting the AYCE menu.

  The first item to arrive was the Salmon Sashimi (which is limited to 6 slices per person for lunch). It was sliced as if they used a mandolin. Yet, to be fair, at least they offer sashimi at no extra charge.  The fish was slightly below average, being quite soft and mushy (although it tasted fine without any fishiness).  We got an assortment of rolls including Dynamite, House and CaliforniaThese were haphazardly constructed, especially the California Roll (as you can clearly see in the picture). The good thing was there wasn't a whole lot of rice.  That was doubly good because the rice was not very good.  It was dry and not really all that sticky. Suffice to say, there wasn't a whole lot of flavour going on either.  At least the filling was acceptable.   

Next was the Ebi Sunomono, which was surprisingly good for an AYCE.  The noodles were firm and chewy while the dressing was balanced between sweet and tart.  On the other hand, the Gomae was pretty typical for this type of menu consisting of a sweet, candy-like dressing.  The spinach was okay though being cooked just enough. Since Costanza is no fan of head, I mean Salmon Head, I ate it all by myself.  It was okay, grilled up with a nice char.  The meat was a little dry though.  We got a few pieces of Nigiri and the dry sushi rice didn't help things, but it was edible.  As for the Chicken Karaage, it was not very good.  The batter was fat too thick and mealy.  Despite the visuals, it wasn't all that crispy while the meat wasn't all that juicy either.

The Gyoza appeared to be fried up nicely, but in the end, it was all colour with no crispy texture.  The wrapper was thick and doughy while the filling was dense and lacking in flavour. Not particularly Japanese, the Shrimp Toast was a bit weird as it was coated with tempura batter and fried.  Hence, the bread became wet and unappealing.The shrimp was a bit slimy as well.  On the other hand, the Tempura was pretty good with a non-greasy and light batter.  The veggies were cooked just right.  The Agedashi Tofu was typical for an AYCE being pretty bare while sitting in a sweet dashi.  Despite being lean, the Tonkatsu was served crispy and hot.  The meat wasn't exactly moist, but it was sufficiently tender.

Arriving in purposeful serving vessels, the Oyster Motoyaki were quite heavy. Of course the mayonnaise based sauce would be greasy and rich, but this one was almost egg custard-like.  With that being said, it did taste okay and the oyster was of a good size.  And about those serving vessels, they are a lot more hygienic than reusing shells.  The Beef Short Ribs were a surprise, not only because they were pretty good, but because they arrived in the number as requested.  I can't tell you how many times we have ordered stuff elsewhere to only get half.  Anyways, the ribs were tender and charred nicely.  It was on the sweeter side, but good nonetheless.

Heading into our last 2 items, we had both the Beef and Chicken Teriyaki.  Not to sound boring, but the beef was pretty typical of AYCE being a bit dry, but easy to chew.  I liked how it wasn't oversauced.  The chicken was fried up moist and tender, but the skin was not crispy at all.  Of note, the wood planks underneath the cast iron plates looked like they needed replacing.  Moreover, Costanza almost puked after visiting the gross washrooms.  But if cleanliness is not an issue, the food was passable (except for the sashimi) considering the price.  Remember this is AYCE and thus, can only be compared to other AYCE (NOT legit Japanese restaurants). As for the service, unlike past visits, it was acceptable.

The Good:
- AYCE menu had a good selection for the price
- For what we had, the cooked items were passable
- We didn't get yelled at or ignored, so service was okay

The Bad:
- Washrooms are horrid
- Raw stuff below average
- Can never confuse AYCE with good Japanese food

Fish on Rice on Urbanspoon

Zako's Deli

*Restaurant now closed*

For something seemingly so "Canadian", it is pretty difficult to find places to get good Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwiches in the GVRD.  Sure, there is Dunn's in Downtown, but if you really think of it, there are not a whole lot of other choices, unless you want to head out to Estrella's in Langley (remember, I'm talking about the real thing, not some supermarket deli smoked meat...).  There is one that I knew of and finally got a chance to try - the place is Zako's Deli.

For some odd reason, I got the Steamers which were 2 hot dogs with coleslaw on top.  Yes, since my eating companion was already having the smoked meat sammie, I had to try some thing different. Well...  these were 2 hot dogs...  Since they were called steamers, I was a little confused why the bun was not steamed (or steamed poorly).  Not sure what I was thinking...  Anyways, I also had the Poutine which was a bit disappointing as the cheese curds had no squeak to speak of.  The fries were okay but not a crispy as I would've liked.  The gravy was thick and mild. 

You didn't think I'd try Zako's without a Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich right?  I got one to go and really, the meat was just alright.  I found it almost too tender where there was a lack of meatiness.  It did taste okay though with the usual brining spices without being too salty.  Overall, I thought the everything was okay but nothing I'd rush back to revisit.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Friendly owner and staff

The Bad:
- Stuff is okay, but there is better (such as Estrella's and La Belle Patate)
- Better get takeout, it's a small place

Zako's Deli on Urbanspoon

E2 Cafe

Trick or treating in a mall, seems like all the rage in the last few years.  Well, it is guaranteed to be dry and the chances of tainted candy are small - pretty much a parent's dream come true.  Well, we once again braved the hoards at Lougheed Mall.  But wait, this was only round 1...  We headed into the neighbourhood for round 2 later.  But not before we headed across the street from the mall for eats at E2 Cafe.  Formerly Lulu Cafe, E2 is a typical Hong Kong-style cafe.  Unfortunately they are located in a parking lot that is about 20 parking spots short.

With both of our orders, it came with a bowl of soup.  I decided on the Cream of Mushroom while Viv had the Borscht.  The cream soup was pretty typical being floury thick rather than creamy.  It did taste okay though with a balance of flavours.  There was only a few slices of mushroom to be found though.  Despite being overly sweet, the borscht (Chinese bastardized version that is) exhibited depth, body and plenty of tomato flavour.  Furthermore, it was not devoid of ingredients.  The kids ended up sharing a Build-Your-Own-Noodle - udon in original fish broth with ham and fish tofu (in addition to the standard ingredients such as shredded Napa cabbage, mushroom and bean curd skin).  The broth wasn't exactly silky nor exhibiting body, however, it was not bland either.  The noodles were still chewy and not much to say about the toppings as they were store-bought (like all other places).

I ordered the 3-Item Meal consisting of beef steak, ox tongue and fried basa filet.  For my starch, I selected spaghetti and my choice of sauce was black pepper.  I wasn't a huge fan of the steak as it was completely cooked.  On the other hand, the tongue was moist and tender (mmm...  tender...).  The star of the plate was the fried basa as the fish was flaky and soft while the breading was really crunchy and not greasy.  This was fried as well as one could expect.  As for the black pepper sauce, I liked it (despite being a bit too thick).  There was plenty of spice and garlic within the thick sauce.   Viv decided on the Baked Pork Chop Rice which was an impressively large portion.  Although it was doused in sauce, the pork chop was juicy and still super crispy.  As for the sauce, it was mild with only a bit of tang (from the diluted ketchup).  The rice was pretty good as it was wok fried and retained a good chew. 

As part of our meals, we had a choice of drink.  Viv had the Mango Milk Tea with coconut jelly.  Yikes, if we had known that it would be that sweet, we should've jacked her dad's insulin stash.  This was not very good.  I went for the Iced Tea (w/o sugar thankfully) and it did the job.  And really, E2 essentially did the job and was a decent value.  Sure, there is better to be found in Richmond.  Yet, we were very far from Richmond (thank goodness...).  Service wasn't bad per se, but not overly enthusiastic either.

The Good:
- Large portions
- For what we had, the food was decent

The Bad:
- They are cursed with a crappy parking lot
- Too much sugar in their bubble tea

E2 Cafe Restaurant on Urbanspoon

West Restaurant + Bar

By virtue of having a blog, there have been some interesting requests I've received over the years.  They range from promising me increased traffic to invitations to try a smartphone for 30 days for the purposes of taking food pictures (why do I need a phone for 30 days when I already have a phone???).  Anyways, one request was to drive Lincoln MKZ for a couple of days and have dinner on them.  What's the catch?  Well, I guess it meant I was merging food with cars in a post.  Seeing how I love cars as much as I love food, I am going to post a more comprehensive review of the Lincoln MKZ on a separate site (a bit later).  But for now, let's just say I was completely surprised by the car.  For me, I always associated Lincoln with an older, more conservative demographic.  In fact, I've driven the old town car many times as part of a wedding party (not particularly impressed).  But the MKZ is nothing like that.  With big 19" optional wheels, a minimal wheel gap and modern styling, this Lincoln has younger buyers in mind.  I was supplied with the hybrid version of the car and it was thrifty on gas and heavy on the luxuries.  Let's just say I didn't expect to be won over by a Lincoln.

Onto where we drove this Lincoln to dinner - West Restaurant & Bar.  Viv and I have been meaning to do a return visit for 5 years because our initial meal was not representational of the restaurant.  We had originally gone there for Dine Out, but really, that was not a fair assessment of the place.  Hence this time around, she had the Sea Tasting Menu while I had the Land Tasting Menu complete with wine pairings.  To start off, we were presented with 3 types of bread accompanied by butter and olive oil.  Of note, the olive oil was very flavourful.  Next was an amuse bouche consisting of a Crab Croquette with Meyer lemon emulsion.  The little ball was full of natural crab flavour albeit salty (accented by the emulsion though).  The exterior was really crunchy which gave way to a mix of fluffy and chewiness. 

Viv's first course was the Langley Organic Trout which was lightly charred until crispy and smoky.  The flesh was slightly rare and super moist.  Accenting the dish was creme fraiche, cucumber balls, red onion, dill and potato crisps.  This was paired with Taittinger "Brut Reserve" which was light, fruity and refreshing.  To start the land tasting menu, I had the Beef Tartare seasoned with sweet onion and soy, sesame and shallots.  Nori and nori crisps provided the crunch to go with the smoothness of the meat.  I thought the tartare was expertly seasoned with a good ratio of savoury and acidity.  A glass of Adami Prosecco "Bosco di Gica" added a crisp bite to accent the dish.

Next up on the sea tasting menu was the Albacore Tuna with octopus chorizo, black olive puree, green onion, puree, golden Yukon potatoes and potato crisps.  As evidenced in the picture, the tuna was seared slightly exhibiting a smoky aroma.  The star of the plate was the octopus chorizo as they were tender, spicy and salty (in a good way).  The glass of Laughing Stock Pinot Gris 2011 was a nice sweet fruity contrast to the saltiness of the dish.  My second course was the Twice Cooked Foie Gras with toasted Agassiz hazelnuts, green strawberries, green strawberry jam, chocolate ganache and brioche.  The significantly-sized portion of foie was smooth, swet and rich with a slight seasoning of 5-spice on the outside.  The tart jam and strawberries added the necessary tartness to cut through the richness.  Serving the same purpose, the Pfaffenheim Gewurztraminer 2011 added some refreshing mild fuity notes with a strong finish.

Moving on, Viv had the Diver Caught Scallops glazed with Maple jelly accompanied by celeriac puree, celeriac and caramelized onions. The large buttery scallop was seared a golden brown with a slight exterior crispiness which was sweet and smoky.  The celeriac added a background Earthiness.  Paired with this dish was Grunderloch "Fritz's" Riesling 2011 that was sweet and floral.  For myself, I had the espelette glazed Thiessen Farm Quail with potato and herb rosti, chevre, vanilla honey gelee and lavender pearls.  Being a beneficiary of a lovely brine, the quail was moist and flavourful.  The skin was nicely rendered displaying a light crispiness. Both the gelee and pearls were so mild as well as the chevre, hence, the quail stood on its own.  The full-bodied glass of Hartford Court "Land's Edge" Pinot Noir 2006 with cherry notes was a nice match with the quail.

Heading into the homestretch, Viv had the Line Caught Ling Cod with chorizo "bacon", Helmer potatoes, heirloom carrots, green onion puree and a crab vinaigrette. Essentially, the ling cod couldn't have been prepared any better as it was flaky and moist highlighted by a super crispy skin.  It rested upon a really tasty crab vinaigrette with large fluffy chunks of crab.  The chorizo bacon added both crunch and that extra oomph to an otherwise delicate dish. Appropriately, this was paired with a light and fruity Laroche "La Chantrerie" 1er Cru Chablis 2011.  My last savoury dish was the Yarrow Meadows Duck consisting of confit leg cabbage roll atop financier cake and seared duck breast.  This was done in a "Peking"-style with a hoisin-based sauce in addition to a coronation grape jus.  The duck breast was peppery, nicely roasted and minimally fatty while the cabbage roll was tart with well-seasoned and moist duck.  This was paired with Ken Wright Cellars Pinot Noir 2010, which to me, was a bit weak.

As a palate cleanser, we were presented with a Blueberry Sorbet with a slice of quince. This was really sweet featuring concentrated flavours.  We were pretty surprised as blueberry is normally quite mild.  The quince added some tang to go with the sweetness.  For dessert, Viv had the Spiced Squash Cheesecake with a banana base, chocolate ganache and orange squash sorbet.  This was a remarkably light cheesecake that was easy on the sweetness.  The orange sorbet and sauce added brightness and citrus while the crunchy bits afforded textural contrast.  A glass of Chateau d'armajan Sauternes 2006 had tempered sweetness.  For myself, I had the Almond Blancmange consisting of apple oat cake, pomegranate fruit salad and earl grey sorbet.  The syrup-soaked cake was a bit dense for my liking (but it was made with oat...), yet it wasn't too sweet.  The side of panna cotta was smooth and creamy where it was topped with Turkish cotton candy and accented by apple cranberry coulis.  This was paired with Quail's Gate Late Harvest Optima 2011 which was just sweet enough that it didn't interfere with the dessert.

Unlike my previous visit to West (which was not really all that representational), we finally got the real deal.  The food was intricately prepared and beautifully plated.  We found the wine pairings to be thoughtful and mostly spot-on.  Combined with an attractive dining space with attentive service to match, there was much to like about our meal at West.  Again, thanks to Lincoln for picking up the tab for this meal.

*All food and tips were comped by Lincoln Canada*

The Good:
- Intricately prepared dishes
- Nice dining space
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Well, it doesn't come cheap

West Restaurant + Bar on Urbanspoon

Longtail Kitchen

Good affordable Thai food.  Sounds somewhat like an oxymoron eh?  Sometimes, we have inexpensive Thai food, yet it may not be actually that great.  Then we have good Thai food (authentic and somewhat authentic) that features miniscule portions for a pretty penny.  When Whipping Girl exclaimed we could get great Thai food for a reasonable price, it got me interested.  Normally, I generally ignore what she says...

She had recently visited Longtail Kitchen in New West and was chomping at the bit to get me to try it.  So much so, she drove and paid!  What a great deal for me!  Apparently associated with Maenam, but with a more reasonable price tag, I was looking forward to it. We started with the Chicken Satay first and it was pretty average.  The chicken exhibited a minimal amount of grilled appearance and flavour.  The meat was tender enough, especially for white meat, but was not that "hot" in temperature.  The peanut sauce on top was mildly sweet and only a bit nutty.  Next, the Fried Oysters were lightly fried with a slightly crispy exterior.  The oysters themselves were sweet and juicy.  What made the dish was the sweet and slightly spicy dip.

The best appie had to be the Fried Chicken Wings which reminded me of Phnom Penh in terms of texture.  They were airy crisp with hot juicy flesh on the inside.  The flavours were really apparent with a nice wok-toss with salt, pepper, fried onion and garlic.  Completing the flavours was the dipping sauce which was a nice balance of spice, tartness and sweetness. Unlike most of the Pad Thai dishes found in the GVRD, this one was bursting with tarmarind flavour.  So much so, it was super tart which suited us just fine. In addition to the tamarind, there was a slow rumble of spice.  The noodles were still chewy while there was just enough "sauce" to flavour the noodles without drowning them.  We weren't fond of the prawns though as they were overcooked and chewy.  

Lastly, we shared the Fresh Turmeric Curry of Ling Cod and Mussels.  We got a couple bowls of rice because the sauce couldn't be wasted.  It was creamy and aromatic from the coconut milk, lemongrass and galangal.  Again, there was a slow rumble from the spice that lingered.  The ling cod was a bit broken, yet was still moist.  As for the mussels, they were fat and plump.  Not bad, not bad at all.  Decent Thai Food for a reasonable price.  I'll be back.

The Good:
- Although not super spicy, the flavours were not weak
- Above average eats
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Reasonably-priced, but the portions are still small
- Not the most comfortable place to sit and linger

Longtail Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Fresgo Inn

The Fresgo Inn.  Ah, it brings back such good memories.  Greasy diner food served in large enough portions to make one forget they were pretty much plastered.  Yes, that was one of the late night options for the Downtown party crowd on Davie Street.  Sadly, that location closed awhile ago, leaving the Surrey spot the only place to get such eats.  I guess only inebriated Surrey party goers can experience such gut-busting delicacies now.

For me, I party like it's 1999.  As in I haven't partied much since 1999.  Hence, it was a lunch visit to Fresgo Inn this time around.  And much like last time, the Red Clam Chowder was pretty strange.  It was obviously thickened by a roux, but the whole thing separated in the chaffing tray.  Hence, there were little clumps of thickened broth within watery soup. On the positive side, there were lots of tender baby clams and veggies.  Flavourwise, it was pretty mild with just a bit of clam juice. One of their best deals is the Burger Special and Yodeling Girl had issues finishing it.  With 2 large beef patties, bacon, cheese and all the fixins', the burger was plain massive.  Although nothing outstanding, it was better than the average burger.  The fresh cut fries were a treat though being lightly crisp.

Consisting of 2 slices and 2 uniformly shaped scoops of mashed potatoes (interesting plating...), the Meatloaf was a substantial portion.  Although it was smothered in thick gravy, the entire dish was actually quite mild.  The gravy itself was less flavourful than it appeared as it provided moisture more than taste.  Soft and only slightly meaty, the meatloaf was moist.  I found the mash potatoes a bit too firm though.  Mrs. Spray Bottle ended up with the Clubhouse.  Yes, it was enormous too.  Stuffed with real turkey, crispy bacon and fresh fixin's this was a solid clubhouse.  Paired with the same house cut fries, there was not much complaining about the price due to the portion size.

On another visit, I decided to try their Spaghetti & Meatballs.  For under $10.00, I wasn't expecting much.  In reality, the plate of pasta was pretty mediocre since it was far from al dente and the sauce was pretty bland.  But dang, that was a big plate of food and the meatballs...  they were impressively monstrous. I found them decently soft, yet a bit bland.  Honestly, I really shouldn't do much complaining considering most items are $10.00 or less.  The portions are so massive, the BC Lions eat here after practice.  Enough said.

The Good:
- Massive portions for the price
- Not great food, but more than edible
- Lots of choice

The Bad:
- Hey, it's cafeteria food, won't impress some food snobs
- Place in need of a renovation

Fresgo Inn Restaurant & Bakery on Urbanspoon