Sherman's Food Adventures: July 2014

Dim Sum @ Lee Garden Seafood Restaurant

For the longest time, I wondered to myself why Grand Buffet was still in business...  Gosh, at one point they had 2 locations!  Brings back memories though...  I remember one meal when the birthday girl was surprised by her boyfriend with a Dairy Queen Christmas Log.  Apparently it was 50% off since it was after the 25th. Nothing says "I love you" like a log...  Suffice to say, they are not together anymore.  I truly digress... So the former Kingsway location is now occupied by Lee Garden Seafood Restaurant.  Turns out my mom was ahead of the game and already knew about it before I could even ask if she wanted to try their Dim Sum service.  So off we went...

We liked how they had renovated the place that featured spacious seating arrangements. Tastefully appointed with floor-to-ceiling windows, there was no shortage of natural light.  Onto the food, we began with 3 orders of rice noodle rolls including the Donut Rice Noodle RollShrimp Rice Noodle Roll and Mushroom Noodle Roll (not pictured).  We found the rice noodle to be thin, soft and at the same time retaining some elasticity.  The salty donut was crispy and easy on the grease while the shrimp was meaty rather than having a buttery snap.  A smattering of flowering chives were a nice addition as it added a nice essence.  Consisting of shiitake, button and enoki, the mushroom rice noodle roll was Earthy and flavourful on its own.

To make us feel better about the meal, we got an order of Stir-Fried Pea Shoots as the obligatory green thing at our table.  I guess this was somewhat all-for-naught because it on the greasier side.  On the other hand, it was cooked properly retaining a crunch where it was seasoned just enough that we could still taste the vegetable.  Naturally, we moved from veggies to something fried in the Shrimp Spring Rolls.  Piping hot and crunchy, these were obviously fried in the proper temperature as there wasn't much grease.  The shrimp filling was garlicky and shrimp-tasting, but lacked snap.  Much like the rice noodle roll, it was meaty in texture.

Onto something a bit different, we tried the Bean Curd Sheet Rolls in soup.  Normally, these are filled with pork and served in a thickened diluted oyster-based sauce.  Instead, the filling was fish mousse and as evidenced in the picture, it was sitting in broth.  The light fish filling had a rebound texture while being sweet and lightly salted. With a good amount of greens in the mix, it broke up the monotony of the mousse.  Next up, we had the Phoenix Talons (aka Chicken Feet).  With 6 pieces, this was a substantial portion.  However, they were somewhat overdone as the cartilage underneath was very soft.  Flavours were good though with plenty of garlic and a touch of spice.

Of course we had to get to the most important dishes eventually in the Haw Gow and Sui Mai. With the shrimp dumplings, we found the skin to be just right being chewy while not doughy.  The filling featured whole shrimp which were consistent with the rest of the dishes being meaty with only the slightest of snap.  It was well-seasoned with a pleasing hint of sesame oil.  They weren't too careful with the sui mai as one of them was completely missing tobiko on the top.  As a whole, they were chewy with a touch of rebound.  In terms of taste, the natural pork flavour was dominant with a touch of sweetness.  Yet it was missing something, like maybe more shiitake, salt or shrimp (or maybe all of them?).

And filling in the offal quota, we had the Tripe and Tendon.  The tripe was soft with some chewiness, yet pretty gamy.  They should've done a better job rinsing them.  As for the tendon, they were on the stiffer side which meant more cooking was needed.  The dish was well-seasoned though with plenty of garlic and ginger.  Now the Steamed Pork Spareribs didn't have any textural issues as they were on point.  They were chewy with a moist bounce.  The seasoning was also quite impactful with garlic and the peppers really coming through.  Furthermore, the rib pieces were really good where it was minimal on the fat and cartilage.

In an unusual twist, we ordered 3 desserts, partly because my daughter ate an entire Mango Pudding by herself (in addition to the other desserts).   It was pretty typical though where it was a gelatin rather than pudding.  It did have some mango essence though and wasn't overly sweet.  Next, we had the Steamed Custard Buns which were fluffy and light.  Even the custard filling wasn't crazy sweet, which made it bearable to eat.  Finally and arriving last (yay!), the Egg Tarts were flaky but a touch too soft.  The custard was silky and light being easy on the sugar.  Overall, for a new restaurant, Lee Garden held its own in terms of Dim Sum service.  Devoid of glaring errors and featuring fairly decent service, we may have a good higher-class Chinese restaurant in the Edmonds area.

The Good:
- Pleasing decor with spacious seating
- Decent eats
- Decent service

The Bad:
- Shrimp could be prepared better
- Prices are on the higher side

Lee Garden Seafood Restaurant 利苑海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Urban Thai

When I used to live in Yaletown, I would frequent some of the local restaurants (oh how I miss that now I'm in the 'burbs).  One time (no, not at bandcamp...), I met up with Choobee at Urban Thai.  To be honest, my memory of the place is pretty indifferent.  Also, I was too busy listening to Choobee's endless yammering to create a lasting memory.  She can make Joan Rivers look reserved...  I digress.  Also, I did do a Thai cooking lesson there a few years ago, but that didn't count as a visit per se.  Therefore, when I was invited to a tasting of their new menu from their new chef, I thought why not?  So with Miss Y as my trusty eating companion, we headed off to see what interesting things awaited us.

We were started off with a plate consisting of Cho Maung (Steamed homemade flower shaped dumpling stuffed with minced chicken, ground peanuts and Thai spices) and Jalapeno Shrimp (Fresh jumbo jalapeno stuffed with shrimp paste served with house sauce).  The flower exhibited a soft and glutinous texture while the filling was sweet and nutty.  I didn't mind it, but the filling to "flower" ratio could've been better.  The texture of the shrimp mousse was pleasing with a buttery rebound.  Combined with the jalapeno and sweet sauce, there was no absence of flavour (and a nice lingering spice).  However, we felt it was a bit too sweet.  

On the next dish, it featured Avocado Roll (avocado, mango, lettuce, onions and fresh basil with homemade mango sauce), Beef Cucumber Roll (BBQ beef rolled with cucumber and tomato with spicy sauce) and Spicy Soft Shell Crab (marinated and breaded with beer and served with spicy apple shallot sauce).  We found the avocado roll to be refreshing with a big hit of basil which was accented by the just-sweet-enough sauce.  The beef roll was somewhat chewy with a nice crunch from the cucumber.  We liked the spicy sweet sauce at the bottom of the shooter glass.  As for the crab, it was crispy and light while being easy on the grease.  The spicy dip was salty, sweet and not lacking in acidity.

Next up, we had our favourite dish being the Duck Noodle Soup consisting of sliced BBQ duck with rice noodle, bean sprouts and gai lan.  With an appealing roasted flavour, the mostly moist duck exhibited plenty of natural flavours.  The star of the show was the impactful broth that was sweet and kissed by a touch of soy.  There was depth to match the rich meatiness of the duck. Moving onto the Pork Hock with Rice, things got even more sinful as the tender meat was accented by a fatty gelatinous rind.  The flavours were mild with a hint of 5-spice, however, things were amped up by the accompanying spicy sauce.  Although it is a small detail, we liked how the egg was not overcooked.

Continuing with more food, we had the Mussel Omelet with homemade chili sauce.  This was really crunchy and resembled a fritter/pancake rather than an omelet. It could've used a bit more moisture as it was dry inside despite the mussels.  On the other hand, my next piece was not as dry.  We found the sauce to be more akin to sweet chili rather than straight-up spicy chili.  Our last savoury dish was the BBQ Jumbo Prawn topped with tamarind sauce.  This was more like a langostino than a prawn in terms of texture and taste.  The meat was sweet with minimal spice.  There was just enough tamarind for that signature tang without being overwhelming.

For dessert, we were served Deep Fried Ice Cream which featured a crispy shell encasing hard mango ice cream. With all the interesting food we sampled, this was a bit ordinary.  Not that it wasn't any good though as the execution was there as the ice cream stayed hard while the thin batter on the outside was crunchy.  Overall, we were surprised at how enjoyable our meal turned out to be. Definitely something different than what you would find with the existing menu items.

*All food and beverages excluding tips were comped*

The Good:
- Different and interesting new dishes
- Not lacking in flavour
- Reasonable pricing for Yaletown

The Bad:
- Not sure about the present, but in the past, the regular menu items were average

Urban Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon

Moby Dick Seafood

Sometimes, a restaurant's location can make an experience more positive than the food might suggest.  That is usually the case where there is a view and/or if the place is located near the water.  This is true for fish n' chip joints such as Pajo's and Go Fish (although Go Fish is decent).  However, location is one thing, the food has to speak for itself as well. Yah, I'm a sucker for razzle dazzle sometimes because there is something called the complete experience.  So I had to keep that in mind when we headed out to White Rock for a visit to Moby Dick.

I started with a bowl of Creamy White Boston Whalers Clam Chowder which was thick and rich.  I wouldn't say it was creamy though, rather it was more floury.  That didn't take away from the overall enjoyment as it was chock full of tender clams with only a minimal amount of potatoes.  With a kiss from the sea, the broth was sweet and unmistakably clam tasting.  I felt there was a balance of flavours which made it a bowl-licking experience.  For my main, I had the 1st Mates Seafood Plate consisting of 2 breaded shrimp, 2 breaded oysters, 2 battered scallops, one filet fish, garden salad and Yukon gold fries.  I won't comment on the fish as I'll leave it to the actual dish later.  As for the shrimp, they were crunchy with a meaty snap while the oysters were a bit wet, subsequently moistening the batter.  I wasn't a huge fan of the scallops as they were wet too and a bit rubbery.  The fries were slightly disappointing as they were not crispy despite its dark shade of brown.

Onto the actual Fish & Chips, Yodeling Girl decided on the 2 piece, which actually was a 3 piece because they like to add a piece with every order.  I guess it is like Chinese BBQs where one asks for one pound and ends up with a pound and a half... except you pay more.  As you can probably guess, the fries were still soggy while the fish itself was rather moist and flaky.  However, the bottom side was not crisp anymore due to the excess moisture.  Furthermore, the fish seemed to be rather bland.  Well, cue the tartar sauce to save the day as it was fantastic being tart and creamy.  Devo added a side of Poutine to his order of fish and it looked legit.  However, the cheese curds were not squeaky.  The gravy was decent though with a nice consistency and easy on the saltiness.  Too bad the fries got even soggier as a result.

Klutz inexplicably had the Deluxe Burger instead of any seafood dish.  I think he was doing his best impression of Miss Y...  Surprisingly, the burger was okay as the frozen patty was not overly dry and had a good sear.  Nothing too exciting with the rest of it, but it was more than acceptable given the venue.  And about that venue...  Well, as I mentioned before, the location rocks, but in this case, the food is only average.

The Good:
- Nice location
- Big portions

The Bad:
- Food is average
- Long lineups

Moby Dick Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Yu Kee

Sometimes the casual Chinese meal gets lost with all the available options for eats, particularly after hockey or softball.  I mean, it is something one usually does with their family, not with their sports teams.  And really, it ain't exactly the sexiest choice out there...  Think of it, "team, good game today, let's go for a Chinese multi-course meal".  No, that doesn't really have a good ring to it.  But with growling tummies and playing at nearby Ross field, we ended up doing the Chinese meal thing at Yu Kee in the Killarney Market complex.

Just like what I said in the intro, we proceeded to go for the set multi-course meal starting with the Daily Soup. It consisted of dehydrated bak choy and pork bones with some dried dates.  It was pretty good since there was no shortage of ingredients and it wasn't over-salted either.  Our first dish was supposed to be the sweet & sour fish, but honestly we are not all that interested in the Cantonese version.  So we had the Fried Fish tossed in salt, pepper, garlic and chilis instead (and MSG of course).  This turned out to be very good with lightly crispy and moist basa fillets which were barely cooked through. There was just enough seasoning to give it a good spicy garlickiness.

Next, we had the Peking Pork Chops in a deep shade of red.  Even before taking a bite, we could smell the black vinegar.  Hence, there was a rich tartness which was balanced by an equal amount of sweetness.  The sauce was tight as it clung onto each piece of properly tenderized pork chop without creating a gloopy mess on the plate.  Bam Bam insisted we add another dish to our meal which was the Mongolian Beef. Their interpretation of the dish consisted of extra large pieces of tenderized beef which were bathed in a spicy and savoury sauce.  Once again, there was just enough it to coat each piece of meat, hence, there was no pool of moisture on the bottom of the plate.

With the need for green, and since most set meals included a veggie dish, we had the Gai Lan with Beef.  Who doesn't love some beef with their greens?  This was also well prepared with good wok heat.  The beef was nicely caramelized and tender while the gai lan was properly prepared where it exhibited a pleasing crunch.  We did find the beef a bit salty though.  The somewhat "lighter" dish of the bunch was the Silken Tofu topped with seafood.  Naturally, the tofu underneath was buttery soft.  The seafood on top was bathed in a starch-thickened sauce that was mild with some sweetness.  We found the seafood to be on point where the shrimp had a nice snap.

Our last dish was the Yeung Chow Fried Rice.  They had run out of BBQ items when we arrived, so the chicken you see in the rice was probably a substitution.  The fried rice exhibited enough wok heat where it was nutty and chewy.  I thought it was a bit on the drier side though.  Moreover, the rice wasn't aggressively seasoned.  Despite my rant about our softball team not going for a Chinese meal very often, this would be our 3rd already since we had previously visited Old Buddies and Yu Xiang Yuan.  I guess that will be our MO from now on?

The Good:
- Reasonable pricing
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Owner lady was nice, but spent too much time chatting with her friends to notice us much
- A bit salty and greasy

Yu Kee BBQ Kitchen 裕記燒臘小廚 on Urbanspoon

Burger Burger

*Restaurant is now closed...  Darn*

Other than the expensive "gourmet" burger joints, it has increasingly difficult to find a cheap freshly-made burger with a side of equally fresh house-cut fries. Until we get an In n' Out, we are often stuck with a frozen patty accompanied by a fried Sysco product.  That got me thinking back to an ol' favourite in Burger Burger.  On my way there while I was pulling into the parking lot, my lowered car did a slow painful scrape which made me cringe as well as the pedestrian on the sidewalk.  Heck, the guy asking for change in front of the 7-11 cringed too.  I guess Viv was right after all?

So for those expecting a gourmet experience at Burger Burger, you best move along because the place is the epitome of a dive.  You would have better luck finding better ambiance in a Cactus Club washroom...  But with a deluxe burger combo (including fries and a can of pop) for $5.75, one cannot expect too much.  Peppermint and Bunny both decided to go for the more expensive combo ($7.75) in the Bacon Cheeseburger.  This featured crispy bacon with melted processed cheese over a handmade fresh beef patty.  It was nicely charred while still moist exhibiting a natural meat flavour.  The chewy bun was airy enough that it wasn't overly dense, yet stood up to the ingredients just fine.  The side of fresh-cut fries were crispy and not heavy on the grease (unlike last time).  Klutz ended up with the Teriyaki Burger and it was essentially the deluxe version with sauce slathered on top. Naturally it was sweet and a touch salty.

For myself, I tried their Bulgogi Burger since the couple that run the place are Korean (they must do it justice right?).  Once again, the patty was nicely browned while still moist.  It exhibited the sweetness associated with bulgogi as well as some savoury elements and spice.  For me, it worked.  While I was trying to finish off my food (which was plenty), I noticed that the people beside us were also having bowls of Wonton Soup.  Of course that made me curious and hence, I got a bowl for myself. So they can make a bulgogi marinade, but can they do Chinese food?  For starters, the smallish wontons were actually not bad.  The pork filling was mildly seasoned while being moist with a good rebound texture.  The broccoli and carrots were barely cooked where they maintained a crunch.  As for the soup, it was flavourful with garlic and black pepper (too much though as the soup was too peppery).

Trying to be different, Devo had the Chicken Cordon Bleu which featured breast meat with ham and processed Swiss.  With a nicely seared exterior, the chicken breast remained fairly moist.  With ham and processed cheese, the flavours were on the saltier side.  For the price we paid, our bellies were full without emptying our pockets. So this recent visit to Burger Burger reiterated what I've known all along - decent freshly-made eats at really good prices.  Just don't visit the washroom...

The Good:
- Cheap
- Freshly-made eats
- Friendly owner-lady

The Bad:
- Really divy
- Terrible washrooms

Burger Burger on Urbanspoon

Dundas Fish & Chips

My comfort level with eating alone is akin to a suitor in a Katy Perry video (Dark Horse for those who don't know...  Wait, why am I watching Katy Perry videos???).  Hence, when I was sans company for lunch, I decided to pick an obscure dive that many might recognize but would never actually stop to eat at.  Yes, if you drive into Downtown via Dundas, you will be very familiar with Dundas Fish & Chips.  Heck, I must've passed by this place more than I've listened to "Never Gonna Give You Up"...  Er...  I mean "Who Do You Love" by YG.  Yes, that's it...

So naturally, I went for their fish n' chips, specifically the One-Piece Cod and Chips.  I know this is nitpicking, but I would've liked my tartar sauce on a separate plate (or something like that).  It was creamy and full of pickles and onions, yet needed more acidity.  As for the fish, it was super juicy and flaky.  The cod was on point, period.  The batter was definitely crunchy and minimally greasy, but it was a bit too hard (not enough baking soda?).  Although I could see the dill in the batter, there was practically no seasoning (but then again, there was tartar sauce).  The light and crispy fries were quite good, except there was very little potato texture left.  They were more like crisps.

I also tried their Sweet & Sour Pork with Fried Rice combo for the heck of it.  I liked the fried rice as it had considerable wok heat where the rice had a nuttiness while being chewy.  It was well-seasoned and the corn added a nice sweetness and crunch.  As for the sweet & sour pork, the pieces were very meaty, yet too dry and far too salty.  Hence, it totally overwhelmed the mild tasting sauce (which was mostly sweet).  So was it worth stopping to try the pace?  If good value is what you are craving, yes.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Food fits the price
- Friendly people

The Bad:
- Average eats

Dundas Fish & Chips Restaurant on Urbanspoon