Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2014

Aomori Sushi

If I am not mistakened, there are almost as many Japanese restaurants than Chinese ones in the GVRD.  Considering the difference in population, it seems like a strange phenomenon.  At the same time, we all know that most Japanese restaurants are run by non-Japanese.  One theory as to the enormous number of Japanese establishments is the perceived "healthier" cuisine and the fact it is easy to take out (for one or for many).  Also and unfortunately, for those unauthentic spots, the need for trained chefs may not be necessary as well.  So once again, I was in Newton visiting another one of the revolving (as in changing ownership and/or name) "Japanese" restaurants in the area.

I started with an order of the Appetizer Tempura and it was pretty massive in size.  Either they were very generous or miscounted because there was 3 ebi rather than the 2 stated on the menu.  I wasn't complaining as the tempura batter was really crispy and light.  The ebi was buttery but slightly too soft for my liking.  I appreciated the big slice of yam, yet it was a real chore to eat it.  A smaller piece would've been more practical.  For my main, I had the Chef's Special which included a choice of specialty roll, miso soup, 3 pcs of nigiri and 3 Fried Gyoza.  These were crispy and again, not overly greasy.  The filling was moist with a good mix of tender pork and cabbage.

Onto the main plate, I had the Nigiri, including salmon, tuna and ebi, first.  I thought the sashimi was pretty good and especially the tuna as it had plenty of flavour.  I would've liked more of it as the rice-to-fish ratio was a bit off.  As for the sushi rice, it had a nice consistency with some chewiness, yet it was a bit salty rather than being unseasoned or seasoned with sugar/rice wine vinegar.  The big purplish thing on the plate was the black rice Baked Salmon Roll.  I found that there was a bit too much rice for the amount of ingredients (imitation crab and cucumber with seared salmon and hot sauce on top).  With that being said, the rice was fine texturally and they didn't overdo it with the sauce.

On a separate visit, I tried the Ebi Mayo, which resembled the tempura except for the amount of batter.  There was a significant amount which made each piece firmly crunchy while the ebi was meaty and natural-tasting.  I wasn't a huge fan of the sweet tangy mayo as it resembled honey mustard.  I also wasn't fond of the green salad garnish.  It would've been better on its own. As part of my combo, I got the ever-standard California Roll which consisted of rice that was different than last time.  It was not as salty and exhibited only a touch of seasoning.  It was of a nice consistency though with a slightly dry chewiness.

For my main, I had the Chicken Teri-Don that featured chewy rice that was on the drier side.  It was topped with well-charred pieces of chicken that wasn't exactly moist, yet not dry either.  The teriyaki sauce was pretty typical being sweet, salty and slightly tangy. From the items I have tried at Aomori, most were decent considering the price point.  Sure, it ain't the most authentic, but it is not offensive (as mentioned, hard to fine authentic Japanese anyways).  I really enjoyed the warm service I received on both visits and that goes a long way in creating a good impression.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Decent eats
- Friendly people

The Bad:
- Might offend those who want authenticity

Aomori Sushi on Urbanspoon

Silver Tower

Normally, my hockey games in Richmond do not involve eats afterwards.  Yes, it is a sad reality that the group I play with isn't all that interested in eating a big meal just before bedtime.  Such amateurs!  C'mon, where else would you make up for all those burned calories???  Hence, when there was a random pickup game including the likes of Milhouse, Gadget Girl and Emilicious, I knew there would be more than just hockey.  As a result, we went out in search for late night eats and ended up at Silver Tower.

With the nightmare of Golden Oscar's cream of tuna fresh in my mind, I was a little hesitant with another cream soup, but I did it anyways.  The Cream of Chicken was really quite bland while the broth itself was not that creamy.  Of course any cream soups in HK-style cafes are more starch-thickened than anything else.  At the very least, the bits of meat were chicken, not tuna.  The soup was part of the "Choose 3 Meats" meal where I went for Ox-Tongue, Chicken Steak and Fried Basa.  I went for black pepper sauce and spaghetti for my side.  I found the meats to be quite good as the tongue was soft yet still maintaining an appealing chewiness.  Again, I offered it to Emilicious and Gadget Girl, but they gave me dirty looks.  Milhouse, on the other hand, seemed like the only willing partner...  The chicken steak was juicy with a nice sear on the skin side.  My favourite was the fried basa as the fish was moist and flaky while the breading was super crunchy.  Unlike other places, the black pepper sauce was actually spicy and flavourful.

Gadget Girl and Emilicious both had the BBQ Duck Lai Fun to my chagrin (cursed duplicates!).  Blessed with a bounty of tender and moist BBQ Duck, it was a satisfying bowl of noodles.  The broth was fairly light and clean-tasting.  There wasn't really any distinguishing flavours nor was there any body, but at least it wasn't salty.  Milhouse tried to channel the menu from Cattle Cafe and went for the Salmon in Cream Sauce.  This was actually quite bland with a sauce that only exhibited the mildest lemon hit.  As for the salmon itself, it was okay where it wasn't overly dry.  However, in general, he was not really impressed with the dish and looked longingly at my tongue...  Ox tongue!

On another visit with Milhouse and JuJu, I decided to try 2 dishes including a HK-style cafe staple being the Baked Pork Chop Rice.  I found the pork chop to be large and fried beautifully where it was still crispy despite the plethora of sauce.  It was tenderized properly where there was still meat texture while still being tender and not lacking moisture.  As for the sauce, it was slightly tart and not overly sweet.  I also got the Satay Beef with Vermicelli Hot Pot.  There was a fairly generous portion of sliced tender beef where it had a bounce texture.  It was well-seasoned and only slightly spicy.  I found there was just too much onion and green peppers for the vermicelli to be noticed.  Overall, from the dishes we sampled, Silver Tower can be considered a viable option for late night HK-style eats, particularly in Richmond.

The Good:
- Large portions
- Decent eats
- Well-priced

The Bad:
- Not much in the way of service
- Not much in the way of parking spots

Silver Tower Cafe Restaurant 銀座 on Urbanspoon

Kitsilano Daily Kitchen

Ah Whipping Girl... People often wonder how she got her nickname...  Well, it certainly didn't involve any whips nor chains (thankfully!).  Rather, she has the tendency to do some pretty hilarious things which I endlessly razz her about (hence she is my whipping girl).  The most recent escapade involved the purchase of 2 coupons to Kitsilano Daily Kitchen.  She went the first time with another friend and ended up messing up the tip (which she had to fix).  So when it came time to use the second coupon (the better tasting menu one!), she was a little apprehensive since we could've very well have gotten the same server...

Luckily for us, that wasn't the case and we ended up having a relaxing dinner (with no tip incident...).  After the complimentary bread, we moved onto our first course which happened to be the Sea of Cortez Big Eye Tuna Poke with fermented fish sauce, sesame seeds, citrus and tamari.  the brightness of the fresh tomatoes along with the aromatic sesame seeds were the most impactful ingredients in the dish.  However, we felt the overuse of acidity and salt (from the fish sauce) overwhelmed the delicate tuna.  It did have a wonderful buttery texture though.  Next up, we had the Prawns with Potato Rosti that was drizzled with a lobster reduction.  We absolutely loved the prawns as they were cooked perfectly with a sweet cold-water snap.  The creamy lobster reduction had a good deal of impact in terms of smell and taste.  Underneath, the potato rosti was crispy with a starchy interior.

Moving on, we had a beautiful piece of Uni atop Butternut Squash Risotto with Summer squash and double-smoked bacon.  Although the risotto was a touch soft, it didn't adversely affect the dish.  We found there was just the right amount of moisture, yet it was strangely sour.  The real star of the show was indeed the sweet uni which was complimented nicely by the crisp bacon and soft squash.  Onto the Roasted Rack of Cache Creek Lamb with roasted squash and 18-year old balsamic, I was pretty excited (because I love lamb).  On the other hand, Whipping Girl was moderately enthused since she doesn't prefer it.  I think I ended up helping myself to her rack (er...).  As you can clearly see in the picture, the lamb was a wonderful medium-rare.  The meat practically melted in my mouth with an appealing gaminess from the fat.  The sweetness of the squash and sweet tartness of the balsamic added nice balance to the dish.

We were treated to another game meat in the Oven Roasted Peace Country Elk Sirloin with ruby red beat puree and nugget potato.  This was a strikingly colourful plate of food with a bright red hue accented by a touch of green.  Although the meat was on the chewier side (as lean game can be), it was done rare enough that it wasn't too much of an issue.  The tart and sweet puree was necessary as the meat was aggressively salty.  Ending the meal, we were presented with Assorted Fruit and Grand Marnier Sabayon with a red wine reduction.  Beautiful in colour, this simple dessert was relatively light and refreshing.  The silky sabayon was quite sweet, but it went well with the fresh and vibrant fruit. Overall, we thought the meal was pleasant enough with a few seasoning issues. However, we were weren't sure if the regular menu prices could compete with similar restaurants.

The Good:
- On point executed proteins
- Simple, yet effective plating
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- On the higher part of the restaurant price continuum in Vancouver
- A few seasoning issues

Kitsilano Daily Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Cristos Greek Taverna

Once again, the most convenient of places seemed to be taken for granted as one knows it will always be there.  For me, Cristos is just another Greek restaurant that I pass by on the way home.  So there I am traveling all the way to places such as White Rock and Langley for eats and completely ignoring my own backyard.  Hence, when we decided to head out for eats, we finally decided to try out Cristos with the family, including my parents.

We began with 3 appies including the obligatory Calamari.  It was served with a heaping dollop of thick and smooth tzatziki which was laced with enough lemon and cucumber for impact.  As for the calamari itself, it was coated with a light crispy batter than remained adhered to each piece of squid.  The batter was properly seasoned while the squid was on the chewier side, yet not tough to eat either.  We also got the Chicken Livers which were also fried with a light crispy batter.  These were not incredibly dry, so there was still a bit of moisture in the middle.  Again, the batter was seasoned, which ensured that there was flavour beyond dipping each liver into the tzatziki.

Our last appie was the Hummus served with a basket of whole wheat pita bread.  They were toasted up crisp while still soft in the middle (as soft as whole wheat can get).  The hummus itself was smooth and well-seasoned.  There was a definite lemon hit as well as garlic.  For my main, I had the Mousaka that featured a creamy layer of bechamel.  It was just thick enough (as in size) to provide a "sauce" rather than overwhelming the entire dish.  The tender slices of eggplant and zucchini sandwiched the moist nuggets of ground beef.  Once again, this was seasoned just enough with a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon.

My mom had the Roast Lamb and it was a decent portion.  Although the exterior was a little big dry and stringy, the inside was sufficiently moist and well-seasoned.  The rice was a little bland, but did have a nice texture being chewy while not hard.  She had a side of Caesar salad and it featured crisp romaine with a light toss of dressing (which was pretty standard).  My dad had the Greek Ribs which was also a good portion.  Again, they were a little dry, but okay nonetheless.  They were properly seasoned where there was enough flavour without being salty.  The Greek salad was fresh and topped with plenty of feta.

Viv went for the Beef & Chicken Souvlaki and it was also well-seasoned.  We found the chicken to be rather moist for being white meat.  There was an attractive char that added another layer of flavour.  As for the beef, it was on the chewier side, yet not dry.  It also had a nice char which added a smokiness.  My son shockingly agreed to a Kid's Souvlaki (not sure he would like the spices) which he finished. It was consistent with Viv's dish in terms of texture while exhibiting a bit more char.  Fortunately, it came with steak fries, so he didn't have to go through therapy seeing all those veggies on his plate.  Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Cristos as it was generally well-prepared and adequately portioned.  The service was pretty good as well.

The Good:
- Decent eats
- Friendly service

The Bad:
- Kinda pricey

Cristos Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon

The Flying Pig Gastown

Sometimes, I think that subliminal thoughts affect my decision-making more than I think it does.  For instance, what would myself, Milhouse, JuJu and Kaiser Soze do after  hockey?  If you answered brunch, then you are either brilliant or peeking at the answers.  We ended up going for brunch at The Flying Pig in Gastown partly because I had it in my head subconsciously.  You see, Viv was out for brunch with her crew at Tableau at the very same time.  I couldn't let her steal my thunder right?

Arriving a bit past the rush, we were seated near the bar, overlooking the rustic charm of the 2-story dining room.  They started us off with some complimentary Banana Bread which we devoured immediately since we burned so many calories during hockey (at least we thought we did).  Nothing much to say other than it was moist and not overly sweet. JuJu decided to try the Braised Beef Shortrib Jumbo Macaroni in a Cabernet mushroom cream sauce.  For a bit eater like JuJu, he thought the portion size was insufficient for the price.  However, in terms of quality and taste, it lived up to expectations.  The pasta was a bit past al dente, yet bathed in a creamy, woodsy sauce that clung onto each piece of macaroni.  As for the short rib, it was sufficiently moist and natural-tasting.

For myself, I started with the Devilled Jumbo Chicken Drumettes.  These were tossed in sriracha BBQ glaze with Parmesan basil sour cream on the side.  I've had these before at their Yaletown location and unfortunately, this time around, they were rather dry.  I did like the completely rendered skin which made it pleasant to eat.  As for the BBQ sauce, it was more sweet and tangy than actually spicy.  For my main, it was as if Viv was channeling into my brain because as she was dining on a Croque Monsieur at Tableau, I got the Croque Madame (sourdough, 3 cheeses, ham and over easy eggs).  Have we been married that long for this to happen???  Crispy and not overly tart, the sourdough did not interfere with the melted cheeses.  The thick slice of ham was noticeable while the runny eggs made this a good dish.

Milhouse opted for the one of the featured items being the Corned Beef Hash with poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce.  Again, this was not bad with plenty of corned beef that was more chewy then soft.  The mixture of salty, sugary notes and the buttery Hollandaise made for an impactful concoction.  I thought the potatoes could've been crispier though.  Kaiser Soze ordered what was the most filling item being the Pulled Pork 4 Cheese Gnocchi in spicy tomato cream sauce served with garlic toast. Although not chewy, the gnocchi was firm and filling.  There was a plethora of cheese as well as the slightly chewy pulled pork.  The sauce wasn't particularly spicy, instead, it was on the saltier side.  Overall, we went away satisfied, if not longing for some more food.

The Good:
- Great location and dining space
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Pricey for what you get

The Flying Pig on Urbanspoon

Pinpin

Often, when a bunch of us meetup to eat, we do the standard Japanese or Chinese thing and to a lesser extent, near-fine dining.  However, to change it up a bit, Bear suggested we go grab some Filipino cuisine.  Well...  that's easier said than done because the options are few in the GVRD.  As I've said before, there are only a handful of Filipino restaurants and compared to the actual population, it is truly disproportionate.  And as same as always, my Filipino friends remark that they merely just cook the food at home with often better results.

Well, since our group did not have any Filipino representation, the only way we could get it that night was Pinpin out on Fraser. To start off with a little bite, we got literal by ordering the Lumpia Shanghai (finger-size spring roll).  These were hot and crispy with a balanced mix of pork and veggies.  Although most of the pork was moist, there were a few pieces of bone and fat that were not that appealing.  Next we had the 1/2 Fried Chicken.  From its appearance, the skin looked to be quite crispy and in fact it was.  However, the meat was pretty dry and not seasoned very much.  Although not my personal favourite either, I like the one from Max's more since it is less dry and more flavourful.

We decided on ordering the large Crispy Pata, but when it arrived, our server proclaimed it was an extra large portion (for $1.00 more).  I guess they were out of large pork hocks?  Whatever the case, we enjoyed it as the meat was succulent and tender while well-seasoned.  Of course the vinegary soy helped cut the heaviness and salt.  As for the pork skin, it was fried up until super crunchy with the fat rendered.  To even things out, we were got the Mixed Veggies.  This stir-fry was nicely prepared where the veggies were vibrant in colour and firm to the bite.  A subtle layer of starch-thickened sauce added a mild flavour to the veggies.

We couldn't decide which noodle dish to have, so we ordered both starting with the Pancit Miki Bihon. Although the vermicelli was a bit too soft for my liking, the whole plate was the beneficiary of good wok heat where the flavours caramelized and the moisture evaporated (and soaked up by the noodles).  Adding more aroma was the plethora of garlic. As for the ingredients, the shrimp had a good snap while the veggies were still crisp.  Our other noodle dish was the Pancit Palabok. It was pretty saucy (as usual) and soft as well.  It had the trademark seafoodiness as well as a light pepperiness and sweetness.

Of course we couldn't get out of their without getting the Chicken Adobo.  This featured chicken thighs charred and topped with a thickened adobo sauce.  For me, I felt it wasn't very impactful.  I like my adobo on the vinegary side and this one was far too mild. Also, I wasn't too sure about the viscosity of the sauce, I much prefer a non-thickened version.  The chicken was okay though being sufficiently tender with well-rendered skin.  We were pretty stuffed, so we were on the fence about dessert.  With Bear around, he literally tipped the scales and we ended up with 2 desserts including the Leche Flan.  This was silky and thick where the carmelized flavours were smoky and sweet.  Luckily we shared this as it was pretty rich.

We were inspired by the table beside us and their Grand Halo-Halo, so we ended up with a much smaller version with ube ice cream.  Not shown in the picture were all the usual ingredients hidden underneath the ice.  The combination of beans and palm fruit added texture in a chewy manner which was contrasted by the smooth ube and ice. This was a sweet end to a filling meal (we didn't even come close to finishing everything).  Sure, some things could've been better and overall, Filipino food can be heavy, but considering the lack of options in Vancouver, Pinpin does the trick.


The Good:
- Generous portions
- Lots of choice
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Hurried service
- Tight seating 

Pinpin on Urbanspoon