Sherman's Food Adventures: April 2014

Fisherman's Terrace

Normally, our softball year-ender occurs within the same calendar year as our last game of the season.  Due to my busy schedule, I kept putting it off until recently.  Well, with the new season only a month away, it suddenly became a year-opener (at Fisherman's Terrace) instead.  Whatever really, because it serves as an excuse to go out and eat!  I was able to round up some of the crew including Boss Woman, Bear, Hot Chocolate, Judes, Gadget Girl and Mr. Blueberry. Surprisingly, Milhouse couldn't make it (isn't he in 50% of my food adventures???).  Oh and the picture of the front is old, disregard the 2 large shark fin!

So with a fairly large group including a bunch of kiddies, we went ahead and ordered 33 dishes (some doubles) to the surprise of our server.  He questioned us about the amount of food, but we assured him that we were trained-eating machines...  We began with the hot and crunchy Shrimp Spring Rolls.  These were packed solid with big pieces of shrimp which exhibited a snap with plenty of seasoning.  Onto another fried item, we had the Fried Taro Dumplings.  They were a bit small in size, hence they were really crunchy.  Moreover, the modest amount of filling contributed to this as well.  In my opinion, this was out-of-balance in terms of the filling-to-taro ratio.

Next, we had the Steamed Pork Spareribs which were cut up into relatively small pieces.  Despite consisting mostly of meaty rib pieces, the meat was over-tenderized where it lacked any real texture.  On the positive, there was plenty of garlic and seasoning.  Being equally garlicky, the Phoenix Talons (Chicken Feet) were far too soft.  That also included the cartilage and tendon underneath as they were almost all melted away.  The inclusion of fried gluten underneath was a treat as it had soaked up all of the sauce.

With the same snappy shrimp filling with the addition of vibrant greens, the Fried Bean Curd Skin Rolls were really good.  Like the spring rolls, they were jam-packed with filling all encased within a crunchy package.  Normally, this rolls can be pretty greasy, but not in this case.  Onto the steamed version, we had the Bean Curd Skin Rolls.  The filling here consisted of ground pork and flowering chives.  It was moist and super tender without being mushy while the bean curd skin was buttery soft with a slight bite.  There wasn't an excessive amount of sauce where it was mild-tasting and not goopy.

The most important dishes of any Dim Sum service are the Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) and Sui Mai (Pork and Shrimp Dumplings). Although the dumpling skin on the haw gow was a bit doughy, it was not overly thick nor dense.  I liked the shrimp filling as there was a definitive snap while the essence of sesame oil announced itself.  As for the sui mai, the meat was chewy in a good way.  The ample shiitake mushroom and crunchy shrimp added both texture and a variety of flavours.  Beyond that, there dumpling was well-seasoned and balanced.

Thank goodness Boss Woman loves offal because that meant we could get the Tendon & Tripe.  This larger-portioned dish was welcomed at our table because there was enough for everyone (which was only Boss Woman and I, but she took most of it!).  It was good with soft tendon and tripe.  I liked how the tendon maintained its integrity where it wasn't melted.  Furthermore, there was no gaminess, rather it was well-seasoned. Despite being speckled with lots of green onion, the Beef Meatballs were balanced with a meaty flavour.  The texture was bang on with a nice bounce where the meat was not overprocessed.

Heading into the homestretch, we had the Pan-fried Daikon Cake.  These were rather dense with a fairly good sear on the outside. Hence, there was a slight crispiness that somewhat alleviated the heaviness.  In terms of taste, these were good with lots of Chinese sausage and dried shrimp.  If that wasn't enough carbs at the end of the meal, we also got the Pan-Fried Pork Buns.  The bun-to-meat ratio was not very good as there was whole lot more dough than meat.  They were soft though, so it wasn't exactly dense.  Despite being tender and appealingly gingery, the meat filling was too greasy. 

Of course we couldn't do without the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice) because of the kiddies.  Well, the adults don't mind it either...  As evidenced in the picture, there was almost as much filling as there was glutinous rice.  Hence, it wasn't longing for moisture or flavour as the meat was savoury and sweet.  Also for the kiddies (and yes, the adults too), we got the BBQ Pork Buns as well.  Similarly with the previous dish, there was a 50-50 split of filling and bun.  Hence, it was plenty saucy and meaty.  The bun was fluffy while the filling was a touch fatty.  In an lighter shade of red (less food colouring), the sauce was a good balance of salty and sweet.

Our last 2 savoury dishes consisted of the Stuffed Eggplant with shrimp mousse and the Sticky Rice Dumplings.  Consistent with the aforementioned dishes, the eggplant was bursting at the seams with bouncy shrimp mousse.  The eggplant itself was fried so it was lightly crisp and soft inside (without being mushy).  Acting only for colour purposes, the black bean sauce wasn't very flavourful.  We actually made a mistake by ordering the sticky rice dumplings and as such, weren't overly enthused with them.  Yet in reality, they were bland and a bit too dry.

Onto dessert, we ended up with a selection including the veritable Egg Tarts.  Golden brown and flaky, the tart shell was also very buttery (or lard...).  Within, the egg custard was soft and not overly sweet.  The Fried Sesame Glutinous Balls (with black sesame filling) were served hot and crunchy.  Affectionately known as "golf balls" by the kiddies, they seemed to enjoy them as well. For the diverse amount of items we ordered, the food was above-average.  Sure, Fisherman's Terrace will never be mistakened for the best dim sum in the GVRD, but it certainly does the job for a reasonable price.

The Good:
- Service is decent
- On the whole, food is above-average
- Okay pricing for the quality

The Bad:
- Seating kind of squished
- It's in Aberdeen, you have to put up with that parking lot

Fisherman's Terrace Seafood Restaurant 釣魚台海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Win Win Chinese Buffet

It's pretty clear that the Chinese buffet doesn't really fly in the GVRD.  Sure, there are a few here and there, but one would really have to look for them.  Ultimately, most do not last long because most people know where to get the good stuff.  So it was to my complete surprise that Win Win Chinese Buffet opened up in the former location of Saturday's Fish n' Chips (and before that ABC Country Restaurant).  For the low price of $8.99 for adults, one could help themselves to AYCE North American Chinese food.

Now don't get overly excited (well, I'm sure many are actually turned-off, but that's another story) because the selection could only be described as very modest. Essentially, as clearly seen in the picture, WYSIWYG. But really, $8.99 usually buys you a 4-item combo at places such as Manchu Wok.  So, the pricing fits with the selection.  And about that selection, on one side, there was Plain Rice, Fried Rice, Fried Shanghai Noodles, Chow Mein, Spring Rolls, Sweet n' Sour Pork, Chicken Balls, Fried Chicken.  The other side consisted of Broccoli Beef, Mixed Veggies, Green Beans, Shrimp Chips and 2 more veggie stir-fries.  Soup consisted of Hot n' Sour and Consume.

I tried most of the items and the Fried Chicken stood out.  It was very much like Church's, yet the brine was a bit strong as the chicken was pretty salty.  However, that also meant it was pretty moist as well.  The Green Beans were vibrant and crisp while the Broccoli Beef was disappointing with soft broccoli and chewy meat.  I wasn't a huge fan of the Chicken Balls because there was too much greasy batter.  The Sweet and Sour Pork was okay though, but the sauce was somewhat clumpy.  Oh, and I would avoid the Hot n' Sour Soup because it was more like thickened water with peas and tofu.  In reality, Win Win exists to fill your belly if you do not mind mediocre food at a low price.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Friendly enough people
- Spacious

The Bad:
- Limited selection
- Food is meh

Win Win Chinese Buffet on Urbanspoon

Sushi Wara

Oh, lookie here, another Brown's Social House!  I hope you realize I say this in jest...  Yes, Brown's has invaded North Delta and opened up shop on Scott Road near 64th.  Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of the place (but maybe I need to do another visit to make sure).  Hidden behind the grand opening is a Japanese restaurant occupying an unfortunate location.  Sushi Wara is its name and trying their food is definitely my game.  I decided to make a couple of visits so that I could sample a proper variety of food.

When I first laid eyes on the Appetizer Sashimi, the portion size jolted me much like the off-key performance of Tegan & Sara at the Heritage Classic.  The slices of tuna, salmon and hamachi were huge.  I tried the tuna first and it was pretty darn cold and still somewhat frozen.  No matter, as it was not mushy while having a certain vibrancy.  That could be said about the salmon as well, but the hamachi was the star as the texture was buttery and taste was sweet.  The shocking size of the Awesome Roll (everything is awesome?) made me doubt I could finish the food that I ordered.  Consisting of a California roll with seared salmon on the outside garnished with fried yam, it was well-constructed.  I found the rice to be on the sweeter side and somewhat dry.  However, with all of the ingredients, that didn't really matter.  I particularly liked that they didn't over-sauce everything.

I also had the Appetizer Tempura and again, the size would rival some full-orders.  Although the batter was on the thicker side, each piece remained crunchy until the bite. I liked how there was minimal grease despite the abundance of batter.  The ebi was really meaty and had a slight snap. I returned a few weeks later for another visit where I decided to try the Ebi Mayo (one of my favourite Japanese dishes).  With breading more like one found on fried cocktail shrimp, these were crunchy and minimal on the grease.  The ebi itself had a buttery snap.  I didn't mind the breading, but personally, I prefer the regular crispy batter.  It came with both spicy mayo and sweet chili sauce.  I only used the mayo and it had a nice balance with just enough spice.

I also tried their Oyako Don which was the beneficiary of a whack load of chicken.  Moreover, the pieces of chicken were really large and buttery moist.  Underneath, the rice was chewy and stood up to the moisture.  The flavours were out-of-balance though as it was far too sweet.  Other than that, it was an enjoyable dish.  For the dishes I tried, the food at Sushi Wara was decent.  Sure, it was not completely authentic, but that didn't bother me much.  I found the service to be really attentive where the staff really made an effort.

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Really eager staff
- Lots of light (I don't like dark restaurants)

The Bad:
- On the pricier side
- A bit hard to find

Sushi Wara on Urbanspoon

Brunch @ Earl's Kitchen & Bar

To be frank, I have a love hate relationship with Earl's.  In its infancy, I would frequent the place and be pretty pleased with the food.  However, as the prices climbed, my interest waned.  I've been back a few times in the past year and the food has been fine, but it was mostly the same.  Yet, it looks like change is in the works and with the addition of brunch, there might be a little love to be found somewhere.  I was invited along with Diana and Caroline to sample this new menu at the North Vancouver location.

We started with the Granola & Yogurt Parfait consisting of flax seeds, rolled oats, dried cranberries, sultanas, toasted almonds and pecans, fresh berries and thick Greek yogurt.  This was a simple, yet effective light day-starter.  I liked the mild sweetness (where there was a side of honey, if you wanted more sugar) and the light crunch that went well with the thick plain yogurt.  Next up was the Eggs Benny with Virginia ham, Hollandaise atop grilled sourdough accompanied by fried smash potatoes. I loved the potatoes as they were creamy soft with a super crispy exterior.  As you can see in the picture, the poached eggs were nicely runny while there was no shortage of ham.  At first, I was concerned with the saltiness of the Virginia ham, but it wasn't overwhelming.  However, the sourdough was too strong for the dish as it masked the light lemony Hollandaise.

Onto our next dish, we had the Eggs Florentine with Parmesan cream sauce, spinach, mushrooms, polenta and grilled sourdough.  This was my favourite as it combined the creaminess of the polenta with the earthiness of the crimini and oyster mushrooms as well as the saltiness of the Parm.  Despite the addition of runny poached eggs, the dish didn't feel heavy.  I found the crunchy sourdough to be the appropriate side as it added texture and a jolt of flavour to the otherwise mild concoction.  Lastly, we tried the Sourdough French Toast with Chantilly cream, berry purree, pure maple syrup and whipped butter.  Everything about this plate was bang on except for the choice of bread.  I thought the strong sourdough competed with the other flavours and ultimately didn't work.  As you can probably ascertain, we were pleasantly surprised at Earl's brunch offerings.  However, the overuse of sourdough may have compromised the overall enjoyment.

*All food and drinks excluding gratuities were comped*

The Good:
- Props for being a bit different with their own spin on dishes
- The fried smashed potatoes are really good

The Bad:
- Overuse of sourdough compromised flavours

Earls Tin Palace on Urbanspoon

Bistro Peekaboo

Some parts of the lower mainland get no attention in culinary terms.  Generally, it would be the 'burbs and specifically, the little enclaves such as Tsawwassen.  With such a relatively isolated community (separated from everywhere else by a bunch of farms), the restaurants  mainly serve the locals. But for me, that just means I need to make the effort to go out there.  And that reason this time was to meet up with Bubbly, who calls Tsawwassen her home. We met up at a lil' place called Bistro Peekaboo.

Normally, I do not take pictures of Miso Soup since it is much like complimentary bread - it's only there by default.  However, I quite enjoyed this one because it wasn't super salty.  Rather, there was a depth and richness to it which was further enhanced by seaweed and purposeful cubes of tofu.  Next, I got the Sashimi portion of my bento box.  The slices of tuna and salmon were of smaller in size, but not lacking in quality.  There was a fresh sheen and fresh smell (as much as frozen can get).  Textures were on point as well as the natural sweetness.

Onto the box itself, there was the usual sides in addition to Tempura, Chicken Katsu and California Roll.  I found the tempura to be crispy and light with a touch of grease.  The ebi was buttery with some snap.  As for the katsu, it was crunchy while still moist inside.  The light drizzle of sauce ensured it stayed crispy and being light in flavour.  The California roll was decent with chewy, sticky rice.  It was rather bland though.  Bubbly had a similar meal except with Beef Teriyaki.  This was also well-executed with moist and tender beef with just enough sauce.  Although the prices are on the higher side, it was somewhat of a surprise that I would find a Japanese-run restaurant (preparing good eats) tucked away in one of the many strip malls in Tsawwassen.

The Good:
- Carefully prepared eats
- Really friendly people

The Bad:
- Expensive
- Hard to find

Bistro Peekaboo on Urbanspoon

Brown's Social House (North Burnaby)

Whenever the words "Brown's Social House" are muttered, I usually shiver in disapproval.  Hey, compared to the other popular chain restaurants in town, Brown's is not usually at the top of the list.  My initial visit was not particularly impressive, but given that was 5 years ago, I decided it was time to give them another chance.  So after a crushing loss (a la Canuck-style) in our Friday night league game, the hockey team paid a late-night visit to the Brentwood Brown's.

I started with the Biltmore Pizza consisting of pesto, feta, shrimp, sundried tomato and jalapeno white sauce.  With large jumbo shrimp and a generous drizzle of pesto, the pizza looked appetizing.  And it really was since the flavours were abundant and pronounced.  There were big hits of garlic and spiciness that went well with the crunchy shrimp. However, it was on the saltier side and the crust was far too doughy (in need of more colour too).  Next, I had the Crispy Halibut Street Tacos with a side of gaucamole.  These were not bad featuring moist halibut with a very crunchy batter.  I would've personally liked less batter, but that would be nitpicking.  In terms of texture, I thought the tacos were on point, but the accompanying pico de gallo was a bit one-dimensional (being mildly tangy).  Moreover, the gaucamole could've used more acidity.

Emilicious and Gadget Girl shared 2 items beginning with the Tahitian Tuna Salad with lemongrass crusted albacore tuna, wasabi mayo and cilantro ginger vinaigrette.  Of note, the picture represents only half-an-order since they split the salad.  They thought it was decent since there was an array of textures from the lettuce to the wonton crisps.  The vinaigrette had a nice acidity while the mayo worked with the nicely rare tuna.  They also shared the #28 Dragon Bowl consisting of teriyaki chicken, coconut rice, veggies, red cabbage and spicy yogurt.  I was able to try this dish and it was more ingredients than rice.  As such, there was no absence of textures and flavours.  However, that also meant there was a bit too much flavour as it was quite sweet and saucy.  With that being said, the rice was not wet while the chicken was sufficiently moist.

Lionel Hutz had the obligatory burger with the Hickory Burger with smoked bacon, cheddar and BBQ sauce.  He thought the patty retained enough moisture to escape being dry.  Furthermore, the ingredient and sauce helped matters.  On the other hand, the bun got a bit wet due to this where it could've benefited from more toasting.  He remarked that the flavours were mild and it could've used more smokiness.  Milhouse continued the theme with the Almost Famous Blackened Fish Burger consisting of Pacific halibut, crisp coleslaw and chef's dressing.  The fish itself was thick and cooked just right being flaky and moist.  However, he didn't really get any of the flavours associated with blackened fish.  Rather, he remarked it was bland where even the coleslaw and dressing didn't add much impact.

Gordo and Sweet Tooth decided to share a Crispy Calamari before dessert.  I found this to be somewhat inconsistent as parts were crunchy while other pieces were a little soft.  As for the squid itself, it on the chewier side.  It was only mildly seasoned which worked since there was dipping sauce anyways.  I wasn't really impressed with the marinara sauce as it didn't go in my opinion, but the Cajun tartar sauce was not bad as it was creamy with a touch of spice.  They ended up with both the House Made Key Lime Pie and Chocolate Pecan Pie for dessert.  As much as the filling was tart and creamy, the crust on the key lime pie was far too thick.  Hence it was not easy to eat nor was it balanced with the amount of filling.  The chocolate pecan pie was not bad as the baked crust was thin and firm.  The filling was on the sweeter side and I would've liked to see even more chocolate.

And since no one ordered any of the Hand Cut Double Cooked Fries, I had to get a side of it.  These were decent as they were crispy while still potatoey inside.  They had the classic fresh cut feel to them.  Overall, this visit to Brown's was better than the last time for me personally.  Yet, that isn't really saying a lot.  The food has some redeeming qualities, but almost everything had a deficiency of some sort. Hence, that is where it lags behind the others such as Cactus Club and Earl's, especially when their prices are almost the same as well as the theme and decor.

The Good:
- Service we got was pretty solid
- Fun, lively atmosphere

The Bad:
- Kinda pricey
- Food is okay, but behind the rest of the competition

Browns Socialhouse on Urbanspoon