Sherman's Food Adventures: March 2015

Kalok Seafood Restaurant

As mentioned in this blog numerous times before, Choobee doesn't like venturing far for her eats.  Getting her to go East of Main is as difficult as protecting your parking spot from a big luxury SUV in Yaohan Centre.  Recently, she has been working in Richmond and that meant she is forced to eat outside of Vancouver.  I took advantage of this development by meeting up with her for lunch.  Unfortunately, I didn't check the operating times of our intended destination...  So with nothing as a backup plan, we made the simple decision to go for Dim Sum at the nearby Kalok.  Since Dim Sum is best shared with friends, she made the quick call out to JoJo and others.

We started off with the Green Beans with minced pork and olives. As much as this dish was prepared properly with oil-blanched beans finished off with plenty of caramelization from high wok heat, the whole dish was overly greasy.  Overlooking that, the flavours were good though with just enough saltiness from the olives.  Next, we tried something a bit different in the Fish Paste & Pea Tips Rice Noodle Roll.  Wrapped in a thin and slightly elastic rice noodle roll, the fish paste and pea tip mixture was fried until crispy.  Texturally, there was a nice rebound with the slight crunch of the pea tips.  Personally, I thought the filling was far too dense for a rice noodle roll.

From fish to shrimp, we had the Eggplant with Shrimp Paste.  I swear there was more shrimp paste than eggplant as there was no room for more.  The eggplant was a bit oil-logged, but tender while not mushy.  Light and bouncy, the shrimp paste was moist and sweet.  Despite the rich black bean colour, the sauce was not really that impactful.  With actual black beans on top, the Steamed Spareribs with pumpkin were even more greasy than the green beans.  With an oily film gracing each piece, it was rather unappetizing.  With that being said, there was a decent rebound texture to go along with the adequate amount of seasoning.

Moving on, we had the Phoenix Talons (Chicken Feet) which were aesthetically-pleasing.  In this case, looks did not deceive us as each claw was plump with moist fried skin that retained a bite.  Underneath, the cartilage was soft without melting away.  To round things out, there was a good amount of garlic to accent a balanced savoury sweetness.  To this point of the blog, I don't think there have been many Shrimp Spring Rolls that have been bad.  Well, this one was not very good.  They were fried too long in old oil which meant that there was this greasy flavour that offset the decent filling.  Sure, the shrimp were buttery with a slight snap, but the exterior of the roll was just not very appetizing.

Onto the standard, the Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumpling) was the beneficiary of the same filling in the spring roll.  Hence, the bits of shrimp and shrimp mousse were buttery and moist.  I would've liked to see more snap, but it was sufficient.  Although there was a certain degree of sweetness, it didn't seem to have much shrimp flavour nor enough sesame oil.  As for the skin, it was thin and nicely chewy.  Seemingly tossed haphazardly on top, the tobiko on the Sui Mai resembled a crime scene.  The mixture of pork, shrimp and shiitake was completely over-processed where the dumpling took on mousse-like qualities.  In terms of taste, I found the good amount of shiitake went well with the sweet and savoury elements.

Continuing on, we sampled the Pineapple BBQ Pork Buns.  These could've been money if they had prepared them properly.  It appeared that the oven temperature was too high as the bottom of the buns were crispy and brown while the other parts were underdone.  Overlooking this, the BBQ pork filling was nicely balanced while the bun was actually quite airy despite being underdone.  As a filler of sorts (like we needed any), the Stir-Fried Sticky Rice was decent.  Normally, this dish can be greasy due to the its preparation in a wok.  However, this was not the case here as they achieved good caramelization without excess greasiness.  Furthermore, the rice was on point being chewy while not too hard or soft.  Despite the bits of Chinese sausage, I would've liked to see more seasoning.

Choobee was truly intrigued by the Veggie & Meat Bun in Hot Pot as she tried to envision what that would look like.  Well, it was literally, pan-fried buns served in a hot pot.  Essentially "sang jeen bao" that were further steamed/roasted in a heated claypot, the buns themselves were pretty decent.  They were fluffy and filled with moist and flavourful pork, yet they could've been seared a bit more.  Lastly, we had the Steamed Sponge Cake which was pretty much indicative of our meal.  It was "okay", but not as fluffy and moist as we would've liked (more lard please).  Moreover, it didn't have a depth of sweetness either.  Yup, the food was alright, but pales in comparison to other places in the same price range.

The Good:
- Food came out quick and dessert came out last
- Service was decent

The Bad:
- Food is alright, but with faults
- Not exactly expensive, but not cheap either

Kalok Seafood Restaurant 加樂海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Bob's Submarine Sandwiches

I've been trying to visit Bob's Subs in Richmond for the last 5 years with no success.  Hey, it's not because of accessibility, cost or anything to do with the food.  Rather, every time I make my way there, I opt for something Asian instead.  Yes, with the significant selection of Asian eats, I succumb to the enticement.  But I finally made it a goal of mine and enlisted the help of Peppermint, Swim and Bubbleberry.  Why the help for some sammies?  Let's just say that these are no ordinary subs found at places like Subway and Quizno's.

So let's get right to it then...  Bob's subs can be had either cold or hot where the amount of meat is equivalent to 2 or 3 subs from Subway.  On that note, Swim had the 12" Super Sub consisting of double steak, double cheese, mushrooms, salami and capicollo.  Suffice to say, this was enough food for more than 2 people.  But give the guy credit as he struggled to dust it off (he really did finish it!).  The thin rib-eye was sufficiently tender while the rest of the ingredients were well-prepared.  One caveat though, considering the amount of meat, the sammie was not all that flavourful.  Peppermint went for a 6" Club featuring turkey and bacon with lettuce and tomato.  This was more than enough for her as she barely finished it.  She found the bun to be soft and nicely toasted while the turkey was moist and the bacon was crispy.

Bubbleberry decided on the 12" Steak which was only slightly smaller than Swim's Super Sub.  Consisting completely of thinly sliced fresh rib-eye steak and caramelized onions, this was a heavy plate of food.  As much as it was rib-eye, the meat was a touch chewy while still tender enough.  He was not as successful as Swim and only ate a quarter of it.  There was enough leftovers for 3 more lunches!  For myself, I had only the 6" Super Sub because I wanted to have some Fried Chicken (I ate half of it before I snapped the photo...  doh!).  It was actually decent in a Church's-type way.  The skin was rendered and crunchy while the brined meat was juicy and flavourful.  The generic fries were quite crispy.  At the end, we had to pack our leftovers (except for Swim) which was enough for dinner.  That pretty much sums up Bob's as the food is both plentiful and cheap.

The Good:
- Big portions
- Cheap
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Super busy, food might take awhile
- Despite decent, the sammies are actually kinda bland

Bob's Submarine Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Best Falafel

It goes without saying that I have some pretty awesome friends.  Not only do they willingly go eat with me, they also put up with my incessant picture-taking and constant yammering about the food.  But there are times that I have to eat alone.  Yes, I'm acutely aware that this is not a unique phenomenon, however, I still have this phobia about taking photos of my ramen surrounded by strangers.  So the best thing to do in this case is to get takeout, in particular something in the form of a donair and/or shawarma.

Driving down Commercial Drive, I stopped when I spotted Best Falafel.  Best Falafel?  It's like in Elf, Buddy found the "best coffee in the world".  Since I was rather hungry, I left the "best falafel" for another day.  This time, I decided on the Lamb Shawarma Platter which was a good portion size.  The slices of lamb were succulent and well-seasoned.  I found the rice to be far too soggy though and to make matters worse, the sauces added to the moisture.  The hummus was very good though with a smooth creaminess that was garlicky with a nice hit of acidity.

On another visit, I did finally end up with the Falafel Wrap complete with all the fixins including lettuce, tomato, banana peppers, pickles and pickled turnip.  With just the right amount of sauce, the whole thing was not overly wet while super garlicky.  The crunch and acidity from the ingredients helped brighten up the flavours.  As for the falafel itself, since it was reheated with a microwave, it was no longer crispy.  It was moist though with a mild array of spices.  I also got the Chicken Wrap which was appreciably more impactful in terms of depth of flavour and texture.  Naturally, with meat replacing falafels, this wasn't surprising.  I found the meat to be on the drier side with crispy bits which was okay since the other ingredients provided moisture.  Overall, I enjoyed the food at Best Falafel, in particular the wraps.  Despite being satisfied by the portion size, it is a bit smaller than other places at either the same or higher price point.

The Good:
- Condiments add both texture and punch of garlic
- Since they open up the pita and make a wrap rather than a pocket, the ingredients are more even

The Bad:
- Portion-to-price ratio is not as good as some other places (such as Donair Affair)
- Falafel is okay, but not "best" (I'm half-joking here...)

Best Falafel on Urbanspoon

What8ver Cafe

If you haven't figured this out by now, I'm pretty good friends with Mijune (aka Follow Me Foodie).  But with her successful life as a foodie master, it is increasingly hard to track her down and meet up.  Wait, maybe she is trying to ignore me?  I guess I do not take a hint very well.  What8ver the case (no, that is not a spelling mistake, just read on...), I was able to corner her late one night.  With not much open in the area, we ended up meeting at What8ver Cafe for some drinks and snacks (on a night that she had already consumed 3 dinners...).

With all the "toast" craze these days, I wonder if people actually realize that toast is not something new especially with Taiwanese cuisine (and HK-style cafes).  Sure, it is different of course, but it is still glorified toast.  On that note, I tried the Pizza Toast topped with real mozzarella, cheddar and dry Italian spice mix.  As you can see, they didn't skimp with the cheese (which was not greasy) which was a nice compliment to the crispy toast.  Since it was thick-sliced, the inside was soft and slightly elastic.  At Mijune's urging, we also got the Strawberry Macaron Toast Box.  This thing was topped with strawberry ice cream, strawberries, a strawberry macaron, whipped cream and accompanied by honey.  Compared to the one we had at Soho, this was less sweet due to one less scoop of ice cream.  The toast inside was crispy and only lightly sweetened.  The surprising part was the macaron as it was crispy and light with a soft chewy centre (wonder where they sourced it from?).

For my beverage, I got the Mango Slush with coconut jelly. This was served in a large jar with a considerable amount of jelly.  Hence, it was a prudent decision to order the slush with less sugar.  When mixed together, it was just right with a very mild mango essence.  We ended up sharing the drink where it appeared Mijune actually drank it instead of me.  Does she live on sugar?  Well on that note, I was able to corner her again and we met at the same place, same time and same table.  We didn't order the same stuff, yet kept to the theme by getting the Toast with Condensed Milk.  With less stuff on top than the pizza toast, this version was appreciably more crispy and firm on the outside while still soft on the inside.  As much as condensed milk can be super sweet, there wasn't too much which made the sugar level bearable.

For the 2nd time, they didn't have a few things available including the omelet, so we settled for some Shaved Ice with mango pearls, lemon jelly and pudding.  As much as the individual ingredients were not sweet and in fact, quite bland, the drizzle of condensed milk was too aggressive.  Hence, the ice was super sugary and we actually need more ice to balance it out.  From the items we did get to try, they were serviceable.  The toast box was probably the most memorable of the bunch.  Unlike most internet reviews, we didn't find the service bad.

The Good:
- Decent stuff
- Open late
- Decent service for us

The Bad:
- Some items run out way too early
- Not a whole lot of seats

What8ver Cafe on Urbanspoon

Dashiwa Sushi

Here we go with another random sushi food adventure...  I was cruising along 64th Ave in Surrey one day with Klutz and Tavers in search of eats.  We kept driving and driving and driving to no avail.  Huh?  Are there any restaurants around here???  Yup, there were as many restaurants along 64th as there are people doing the speed limit on highway 91.  When all was about lost, we noticed a cluster of businesses at 152nd.  Hey, a Greek restaurant and of course, a Japanese one too.  We opted for sushi over roast lamb...

To start things off, we got an order of the Ebi Tempura that was served on a familiar Corelle plate.  I've got the same one in blue!  Anyways, these were pretty good with a crispy and light batter that was easy on the grease.  Inside, the ebi was buttery and exhibited a mild snap.  Next, we had the Assorted Sashimi consisting of Tai, Hokkigai, Tako, Atlantic Salmon, Tuna and Sockeye Salmon.  As evidenced in the picture, the fish had a nice sheen that translated into an overall freshness (as much as flash frozen can get).  Textures were good including the buttery, yet firm salmon and the soft, but not mushy tuna.

Onto some maki sushi, we had the Dragon Roll comprised of essentially a dynamite roll (ebi tempura, imitation crab and cucumber) with torched unagi on top and drizzled with unagi sauce).  We found the roll to be neatly constructed where it stayed intact.  The sushi rice was firm and seasoned lightly with a touch of sweetness.  With a smoky char, the buttery unagi added both texture and flavour to the roll.  Next, we tried the Alaska Roll consisting of cooked ebi, avocado and cucumber with smoked salmon on top.  This was a pleasant enough roll, yet it was surprisingly small.  For me at least, this was not typical of an Alaska roll.

Our obligatory cooked dish of the meal was the Chicken Yakisoba.  It arrived steaming hot and somewhat saucy.  As a result, the noodles were more wet than toothsome.  Taste-wise, the dish was sweet with a touch of tartness.  The ample amount of veggies probably contributed to the moisture content of the dish.  Up until this point, it appeared that Klutz could eat more, so we got the Sushi Combo A (7 pcs of nigiri).  With 2 pieces of ebi and tuna along with 3 pieces of salmon, this was yet again a modest portion.  However, it is all about balance with Japanese food, not huge quantities.  With that in mind, the fish-to-rice ratio was fine. Similar in quality to the aforementioned sushi and sashimi, this was also good.

Then surprisingly, we were presented with a complimentary order of the Aburi Salmon Nigiri (was it my camera?).   Although the torched salmon was buttery while the rice was toothsome, the amount of sauce was rather unnecessary.  It only served to hide the natural flavours of the ingredients.  Then again, it was complimentary, so we weren't really all that bothered by it.  Well, how about that?  A random sushi restaurant turns out to be pretty decent.  I wonder what other places exist beyond 152nd...

The Good:
- Above-average eats
- Friendly people
- Quality over quantity (if that matters to you)

The Bad:
- For those who want quantity, best find the closest AYCE
- On the pricier side

Dashiwa Sushi on Urbanspoon

Handi Indian Cuisine

*Restaurant is now closed*

As parents to 2 kids, Viv and I have tried to expose them to as many different types of food possible.  Furthermore, we have refused to serve them any steak that is beyond medium-rare.  Despite their queries as to why the meat is blood-coloured, we stay the course.  One particular cuisine that they have had very little experience with is Indian Food.  So with yet another Groupon in my arsenal, we headed over to the nearby location of Handi for a food adventure (at least for my son as he hates everything...)

We started off with a platter consisting of Calamari, Pappardums and Veggie Samosas.  For me, I enjoyed the calamari the most as they were buttery soft while still exhibiting an appealing chewiness.  The light batter on the outside was nicely spiced and not greasy at all.  As for the samosas, they could've been a bit hotter on the inside, but on the exterior, it was crispy and not overly doughy.  The potato filling was purposefully spicy and soft.

Moving onto the mains, I sampled the Butter Chicken first and it was quite sweet and somewhat salty.  Despite this, there was impactful hits of tangy tomato and creaminess.  It was mildly spiced as we requested, yet the heat did build at the end.  My daughter didn't mind and happily ate it.  She is definitely a foodie in the making as my son complained it was too spicy.  In big chunks, the chicken was sufficiently moist where some of the sauce had penetrated the meat.  At the very least, my son was okay with the Saag Prawns which were aromatic, but far too salty.  This was tempered by being combined with the rice and naan (as that was probably the plan anyways).  The prawns themselves were cooked just right being meaty with a nice snap.

My daughter also enjoyed the Palak Paneer where it had a mild spice with a touch of ginger.  The chunks of paneer were appealing in texture being soft while retaining its shape and consistency.  As for the spinach, it was pretty smooth and a touch creamy without any wateriness.  To go with our dishes, we had rice and Naan.  Nicely charred underneath with moderate blistering on the top, the naan was mostly soft with a bit of chewiness.  My son seemed to like it as he mostly filled up with it (*sigh*).  Overall, this was a serviceable Indian meal, if not a bit ordinary and salty.  We enjoyed the hospitality though, albeit we were the only table there for most of our meal.

The Good:
- Friendly service (but we were the only table)
- Serviceable food

The Bad:
- Flavours are out-of-balance, either too salty or too sweet

Handi Cuisine of India on Urbanspoon

Dockside

Location, location, location...  Probably the most important word (repeated 3 times) when it comes to many businesses and your own personal property.  So when a restaurant sports a killer view practically right on the water, it already has an advantage.  To further enhance its allure, how about a location in a predominantly touristy spot?  Well, that is almost a recipe for success right?  Possibly, but for a restaurant, the food still needs to be at the very least decent.  Hence, that was our food adventure for the night as we scoped out Dockside in the Granville Island Hotel - a place that fits the aforementioned criterira.

With a wicked view of False Creek and a spacious dining room to match, we were already impressed with its location alone.  Naturally, we had to sample their wares before any judgements could be made.  On that note, we started with a few appies including the Saltspring Island Mussels in a white wine broth spiked with dill.  These were prepared properly being buttery and tender where all of them were open.  I personally prefer BC honey mussels due to their size, but these were okay.  The broth was a bit mild for my tastes, but the cooked-down white wine did come through.  Arriving at the same time, the Dockside Crab & Shrimp Cakes were served with mango salsa, charred lemon aioli and cilantro.  Fairly large, the crispy cakes were pretty much comprised of crab with very little filler.  We would've preferred it be fluffier though.  The lemon aioli was impactful with a noticeable acidity while the mango provided a vibrant sweetness.

My daughter would have been supremely disappointed if we didn't order the Smoked Salmon Chowder - and guess what we did?  Yes, being spoiled is not just an understatement, it should just be a way of life for her (including a Macaron addiction).  Anyways, the modest amount of chowder was served in a deep bowl (an illusion perhaps?).  Thick and creamy with a good amount of carrots, celery, potatoes and onions, the smoked salmon ensured that the soup was on the saltier side.  For me at least, I didn't mind that as I would prefer more smoked salmon than less (which would make it less salty).

For our entrees, I went for the Duck Breast with baby zucchini, broccoli rabe, fingerling potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, charred orange and fennel jus.  I really enjoyed the preparation of the meat as it was succulent and well-brined.  Furthermore, the skin was nicely rendered and crispy.  Unfortunately, I only wished there was more of it as the veggies on the plate outnumbered the duck over 2:1.  As for the veggies, they were appealing where textures were crisp and the flavours were purposeful.  What brought everything together was the silky jus as it was aromatic without being salty.  My dad had his go-to being the Grilled Chinook Salmon served with seafood and saffron risotto, chorizo, asparagus and fresh herbs. Although not particularly attractive with the albumin littering its exterior, the salmon was still moist and well-seasoned.  In actuality, the risotto was more like wet rice than anything else, but it did taste good though with an aromatic saffron hit.

My mom also went for her standby - Moroccan Spiced Rack of Lamb with tomato and cumin, seasonal veggies and harissa.  She substituted the chickpea and roasted artichoke with fingerling potatoes.  Prepared medium-rare, the lamb was moist and sufficiently tender.  The exterior crust was rather dry due to the spice rub.  Viv decided on the Dockside Cioppino consisting of salmon, halibut, prawn, mussels, snow crab and scallop in a San Marzano fennel broth.  Thick and tomatoey with a fennel essence, the broth was mild with a touch of acidity.  There was a decent amount of fish to go along with the one prawn and one scallop.  All of the seafood was cooked accordingly including the halibut which was moist and flaky.  The whole thing was accompanied by a substantial "mini-baguette" which was crusty, yet soft on the inside.

For dessert, we had the Gala Apple Deep Fried Pie which arrived in a shape of a mini pie with scoop of ice cream on top.  Crispy and a bit flaky, the fried exterior shell was actually quite light.  Inside, the large chunks of apple were cooked down until tender while not mushy.  There was enough sugar resulting in a balance of flavours as well as a nice consistency to the sauce.  We also got the Dockside Lemon Meringue featuring an all-butter pastry, lemon curd, charred Italian meringue and raspberry.  This quasi-lemon  tart consisted of a custard that was tangy with an equal amount of sweetness.  The meringue on top was a nicely torched while the crust was more buttery soft than firm.  As a whole, we thought the food at Dockside was actually quite pleasant.  Being a good value or not is a totally different issue.  Fortunately, we had a Travelzoo coupon to help in this regard.

The Good:
- Decent food, considering it is a hotel restaurant
- Awesome location and decor to match
- The service we got was attentive

The Bad:
- Fairly expensive
- Food is fine, but not sure if there is enough protein on the plate

Dockside Restaurant on Urbanspoon