Sherman's Food Adventures: October 2015

Sushi Yoi

After a visit to the Lougheed Staples in Burnaby, we were in need of nourishment.  One look at the adjacent Sushi Garden and we were not going to line up for mediocre Japanese fare.  We already did that recently!  As much as Church's Fried Chicken offered up another option, I had to resist. The solution?  Drive up a block over to Rosser and visit Sushi Yoi in the former location of Chinese restaurant and another Japanese restaurant before that.

Whenever I see Aburi Salmon Oishi on a menu, it conjures up memories of the fantastic version served at Miku.  Priced at only $7.95, it was a no-brainer for us to order it.  You know what?  It was actually pretty good with buttery soft and slightly charred salmon with the usual sliver of jalapeno on top.  Unlike Miku, the sauce here was more subtle and vinegary.  We thought the rice was a bit soft, but it didn't make or break the dish.  Next up, we had the Assorted Sashimi consisting of Atlantic salmon, albacore tuna, toro, tako, hokkigai and mackerel.  This was decent with nicely textured tako which was tender with an appealing chewiness.  On the other hand, the tuna was not completely defrosted, so it was really cold and a bit stiff.

The kiddies ended up sharing the Bento Box with teriyaki chicken, tempura, California roll and green salad.  Either my son really loved the teriyaki chicken or he was famished because he dusted it off.  I was able to try some of the chicken and it was moist with a crispy exterior.  There was a modest amount of sweet teriyaki sauce on top.  As much as the tempura was hot and crispy, the oil was too old where it compromised the flavour of the batter.  In actuality, my daughter didn't eat much of the bento box, rather, she focused her attention on the large portion of Chicken Karaage.  It was made with nuggets of dark meat that were coated in a light and crispy batter.  Moist and tender, the chicken was also lightly seasoned (including the batter).

Arriving on a sizzling cast iron plate, the Beef Yakisoba ate both good and bad. I grabbed some noodles from the top of the dish and it was chewy and mildly seasoned with a sweet glaze.  Furthermore, the thin slices of beef were cooked just right being tender and buttery.  Viv ended up with the caramelized noodles on the bottom and they were far too sweet and greasy.  Since they had absorbed the excess sauce, the noodles were rather soft as well.  Our specialty roll for the meal was the Canada Roll with spicy tuna, mango and avocado topped with imitation crab and tobiko drizzled with mango sauce.  The flavours were good with ripe tangy mango, smooth avocado and mildly spicy tuna, yet the rice was a touch soft and too sweet. While we were dining on the food, it occurred to us that the prices were not too far off from Sushi Garden.  In that case, if one wanted acceptable inexpensive Japanese food, Sushi Yoi is an alternative to the nearby Sushi Garden.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Fairly large portions
- Acceptable

The Bad:
- Well, of course it ain't authentic, what did you expect?
- Sushi rice a bit too soft

Sushi Yoi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Faubourg (Park Royal)

With an invite to try Faubourg's seasonal offerings for October, it occurred to me that my best bet for a eating buddy would be Mijune.  Hey, she loves sweets and seems to have a bottomless pit for a stomach.  Alas, a tasting with Mijune is never complete without trying practically everything on the menu.  Hey and why not?  Why only sample a few items when you can have it all?  I guess the fact I was playing hockey right after made me feel less guilty.

We kicked things off with a selection of pastries including the classic Butter Croissant.  A few years ago, I put this item on my top 40 list of things to eat in Vancouver.  Well, something was not right here as it wasn't how I remembered it.  It wasn't bad per se, but it lacked the crispiness and lamination of the original one I had in Kerrisdale.  On the other hand, the Pain au Chocolate was remarkably better with crispy layers falling off as I took each bite.  My only wish would be for more chocolate as the filling was rather sparse.

Onto the Almond Croissant, it was more crispy and flaky than the butter croissant.  It wasn't overly sweet, but that was a direct result of a small amount of actual frangipane.  In fact, there was not a whole lot of almond flavour to it.  In stark contrast, the featured item of the month was our favourite of the bunch.  The Pumpkin & Cinnamon Croissant (looked more like a Danish) was crunchy and nicely laminated where it made a mess upon each bite.  Semi-sweet and only slightly kissed by the flavour of pumpkin, the filling was a good match.

I was not a huge fan of the Ham & Cheese Croissant due to the dense interior texture.  I'm not sure if it had anything to do with the filling (which was rather sparse as well), but it was in direct contrast to the Pain au Chocolate.  On the positive side, the exterior was crispy though.  Lastly, we had the Cheddar and Herbs Scone which was decent.  Although slightly underbaked where the exterior was a bit soft, it did have a balanced cheesiness while nicely accented by the savoury herbs.  Inside, it was fluffy and light with only a touch of flour-taste.

We moved from here to a selection of breads including the mini-Baguette.  I enjoyed the chewy crust as well as the overall taste of the bread.  However, the inside was a bit dense and not chewy enough in my opinion.  It was appealingly moist though where it wasn't dried-out.  Our favourite item of this selection was the Fig and Walnut as the entire loaf had an overall on point texture.  Outside was firm and chewy while the inside was soft and chewy at the same time.  The nuts and were plentiful while accented by an intermittent burst of sweetness from the figs.  I also enjoyed the Cheese Stick Bread where it was slightly crunchy on the outside and definitely cheesy throughout.

Onto the sweets, we tried the Mille Feuille first.  Although the banana mousse was light and only purposefully sweet, the puff pastry seemed to take on some moisture.  Hence it didn't break when we put the fork into it.  Rather, it went limp.  Was it because it was the end of the day?  Not sure, but it looked good though.  The Lemon Tart was next and it did taste lemony with an accenting amount of sugar.  Texturally, the custard seemed a bit gelatinized, but it was okay nonetheless.  As for the tart shell, it was rather thin and wasn't as firm as I would've liked it to be.

The next 2 pastries were our favourite by far.  Refreshing and light, the Green Tea Passion Fruit Mouse lived up to its namesake with bursts of tangy sweetness from the smooth and creamy passion fruit mousse.  In the centre, there was lychee gelee that was impactful and complimentary.  We would've liked to see more matcha taste, but it didn't make or break it.  We also enjoyed the Tri-Chocolate Decadent where it wasn't overly sweet while being luxurious in texture.  I found there was a distinction between the dark, milk and white chocolate layers, yet they all worked in harmony providing a variety of flavours.

The features for October were Shadow the Cat and the Fresh Fig Tart where the former fit into the Halloween theme just fine.  Cute and chocolaty, the cookie base for the cat was a bit too firm.  However, the combination of the cookie, coconut mousse and raspberry gelee center all enveloped by a rich chocolate ganache was on point.  As for the Fig & Almond Tart, the fanned fig on top was rather appealing while the rest of the tart featured layers of honey vanilla cream, fig jam and almond frangipane.  This wasn't overly sweet while the sporting nice aromatics.  I liked the presence of fig without it being too heavy.

As much as the Macarons looked well-made and uniform in shape, the texture was a little off.  The outside was on point with a light crispiness that gave way to a soft centre.  However, the missing texture was the classic chewiness.  Furthermore, we found the flavours far too sweet. With that being said, they were above-average on the macaron continuum.  The October featured flavour was the Pumpkin Spice Latte Macaron and as much as I'm not a fan of pumpkin anything, this was not bad as they eased up on the pumpkin flavour.  Now if you have been paying attention, it might seem we were being a bit critical of our selection of items.  That we were, but with the growing number of patisseries in town, there is no room for complacency.   With that being said Faubourg still remains a respectable choice within the GVRD.

*All food, drinks and gratuities were complimentary*

The Good:
- Lots of choice
- Pastries were overall good

The Bad:
- Inconsistencies with their croissants
- Unless something has changed, I prefer their Kerrisdale location more

Faubourg Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dunn's Famous

With Dunn's first foray into BC back in 2011, I was pretty stoked to sink my teeth into their buttery smoked meat.  Ultimately, it was pretty good, but something was just not right.  It was partly due to their other menu items, which were pretty mediocre.  But the biggest reason for their downfall was the restaurant itself - it did not look like a deli and really didn't have anything in common with the Montreal locations other than the smoked meat.  Fast forward to the present, we now see a relaunch focusing in offering a true deli experience.

I met up with Diana, Amy and Joyce for a tasting of their menu prior to their relaunch.  We got things rolling with the 4 oz Smoked Meat Sandwich sporting lean brisket.  Despite the lack of fat, the meat was still buttery and meaty with a background saltiness.  With only a streak of yellow mustard, it was definitely there, but not particularly impactful.  For our first appie, we tried the Deep Fried Pickles with red pepper mayo.  We felt that the beer batter was too thick here where the pickle was overwhelmed.  The dip was good though with a spicy and sweet creaminess.

Moving along, we had the Latkes served with sour cream.  These were slightly crispy and dense with a firm potato texture.  It was intermittently interrupted by little nuggets of sweet onion.  My favourite starter was the Matzoh Ball Soup.  It featured 2 large matzoh balls which were soft and fluffy.  They were not dense in the least, which made them easy and enjoyable to eat.  I liked how they were served hot, which enhanced their texture.  As for the chicken broth, it was decently flavourful without relying too heavily on salt.

Of all the options for poutine, we selected the Dunn's Poutine sporting hand-cut kennebec fries, smoked meat, house-made gravy and real cheese curds.  This was legit with crispy fries that stood up to the gravy and cheese.  I liked the consistency of the gravy which was purposefully salty.  The only thing I would've liked to see was more intact cheese curds.  Out of curiousity, we tried the Smoked Meat Grilled Cheese.  It was pretty good with medium fat meat with melted cheddar.  The bread was nicely toasted up, yet the sandwich could've benefited from some mustard and/or thousand islands dressing.

We weren't satisfied with 2 sammies, so we also got the Rueben featuring double meats stacked on dark rye with sauerkraut, Swiss and thousand islands dressing. The toasted rye held up well to the wet ingredients where there was just enough dressing.  The good amount of medium fat meat was nicely balanced by the tart sauerkraut.  To top it all off, we special ordered a 12 oz Full-Fat Smoked Meat Sandwich with Dijon.  Oh yeah, that is what we were waiting for.  Buttery and completely melt-in-our mouths tender, the meat was aromatic and nicely brined.  We felt the Dijon was a better match with a more impactful zing.

We ended the meal with the house-made Cheesecake with lime and vanilla.  Although a bit crumbly, the texture was smooth and light.  There was a hint of lime and a bigger hit of vanilla that provided enough impact without the aid of too much sugar.  The strawberries were not subject to too much sugar as well, hence the slight tartness came through.  Overall, we enjoyed our meal at the "new" Dunn's.  Sure, some of the appies were a bit clunky, but the most important items (the smoked meat sammies!) were completely on point and definitely satisfying.

*All food and beverages excluding gratuities were complimentary*

The Good:
- On point smoked meat
- Okay pricing considering its location
- More of a deli experience with relaunch

The Bad:
- Appies a bit clunky

Dunn's Famous Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Alley

As I’ve lamented time and time again, Guy Fieri sometimes gets it right despite all the misses. Now, we can’t blame him for most of the crap featured on Triple-D’s because it is not completely up to him where the show takes him. If you watch the show enough, you can certainly tell when he actually likes a dish and when he is merely indifferent. One of those “money” dishes you can completely believe his enthusiasm is the Oxtail Soup found at The Alley Restaurant on Oahu.

We stopped by the place in hopes of playing a few games of bowling prior to eating another filling meal. Well, the lanes were full and so was the restaurant. We resorted to waiting for a table for our next feed. For the kids, we decided to get them the Saimin with the usual Spam, cha sui, fish cake and veggies. This was actually quite good with an aromatic broth that featured sesame oil. The noodles were texturally on point with an appealing chewiness. The only weakness was the lack of ingredients as there was only a few slivers of Spam, 2 slices of cha sui and 3 rice cakes.

For myself, I did another Mixed Plate with Tasty Chicken and Garlic Shrimp accompanied by 2 scoops of brown rice and of course mac salad. Aptly named, the tasty chicken was exactly that with moist and juicy meat coated with a crispy batter. It was tossed in a sweet chili type sauce that had just the right amount of sweetness to compliment the salt and spice. Meaty and large, the garlic shrimp were indeed garlicky, which went well with the rice. Similar to Rainbow Drive-In, the mac salad was too soft, but the creamy mayo dressing did taste really good with a bit of pepper.

Okay, for the moment of truth, Viv’s order of Oxtail Soup did live up to the hype and then some. The broth was super aromatic with a light licorice finish from the star anise while there were hints of booze from the JD. However, the most dominant flavors were from the meaty oxtail and shiitake mushrooms. As much as oxtail is sometimes referred as a “can’t screw up” cut of meat, this one was prepared masterfully being tender and nicely glutinous from the tendon and fatty portions. And yes it pains me to agree with Guy again, but the dipping sauce was the cherry on top as it added a sweet spicy ginger hit. This dish hit all the flavours including salty, sweet, spicy, tart, bitter and the umami from the mushrooms.

We finished off the meal with the Chocolate Insanity Cake which was addictively good. We weren’t sure why it wasn’t featured on Triple D’s because it really did take the cake. It was served warm and super moist with thin layers of icing. The cake was purposefully sweet with a tonne of dark chocolate. Better than the motherlode cake at Claim Jumper in our opinion.  So there you have it, our last meal in Hawaii before returning on an evening flight back to YVR.  It was one of the better ones and it didn't disappoint despite the hype.

The Good:
- That oxtail soup...
- That chocolate cake...
- Just plain good

The Bad:
- Not cheap
- Super busy, including the parking lot

The Alley Restaurant Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rainbow Drive-In

Originally, I had scheduled a visit to the popular Rainbow Drive-In just East of Waikiki on our last day on Oahu. But for some reason, I wasn’t feeling it for the mixed plate and such. We ended up meeting some friends for a quick visit to the beach and they had just gone to Rainbow the day before. They were pretty happy with the portion size and quality of the food. Call it gentle persuasion, but that was enough for me to head there for lunch.

Like any other popular tourist eating spot, parking sucked and the lineup for food was present. But both issues weren’t as bad as Helena’s. As for our eats, I decided on the Mixed Plate which included chicken, beef and mahi-mahi with 2 scoops of rice and mac salad. This was a substantial amount of food fit for 2 meals. I thought the chicken was the best of the meats as it was succulent and well-seasoned. The skin was not rendered enough though. I found the beef to be purposefully salty but a little dry while the mahi-mahi was moist. My son had the Loco Moco with fries smothered in a thick gravy and topped with 2 fried eggs. We thought this was a bit disappointing as the 2 beef patties were thin, dry and chewy. The thick gravy was mildly salty where the starchy fries soaked it up.

Viv went for the ½ Fried Chicken with rice and mac salad, which commanded a 15-minute wait. It was well worth it as the chicken was fried golden brown with crispy rendered skin. Both the dark and white meat were moist and juicy due to the flavorful brine. We were indifferent with the mac salad as the pasta was too soft. The dressing did taste good with a nice creaminess accented by enough salt. My daughter was happy as a clam with her Chili and Crackers. The slightly thin chili was meaty, flavourful and slightly spicy. The sweetness of the onions really came through.  Overall, the food was pretty good, plentiful and well-priced.  Not sure if it was as awesome as people have said though.

The Good:
- Large portions
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Decent but not outstanding
- Can be somewhat of a wait

Rainbow Drive-in Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Marukame Udon

With a late evening flight looming, my parents did not want to venture far for dinner before I drove them to the airport.  Well, low and behold, the ever-popular Murakame Udon lay only 2 blocks away from our hotel.  Of course there was a lineup to greet us despite the fact we arrived at 5:00pm.  Not to fear as there were many tables available where the lineup was moving along with their orders.  Unfortunately, a bunch of people ignored the sign about saving tables which meant we had to squeeze 6 people into one made for 4.

For the kiddies, we got them the basic Kake Udon with freshly made noodles in their traditional broth. As advertised, it was light with hints of seaweed and bonito found in a classic dashi.  The noodles were slippery and toothsome without the aftertaste of packaged udon. For myself, I went for the Curry Udon with shredded beef and onions. The slightly thick broth was quite mild with only minor hits of curry and spice.  It wasn't overly sweet, which was to my liking.  The thin slices of fatty beef practically melted-in-my-mouth while the onions did add some sweetness (as the curry wasn't too sweet on its own).

My mom decided to try the hot Ontama Bukkake Udon featuring a sweet and savory sauce with a soft-boiled egg on top.  Once again, the slippery and chewy noodles were a nice match for the subtle sauce and the barely cooked egg whites and runny yolk.  My dad went for the Niku Udon with the traditional broth topped by sweet beef and caramelized onions.  This was the same as the kake udon except for the addition of the buttery soft beef and sweet onions.  Hence it ate more hearty and naturally with more sweetness due to the onions.

Due to the inadequate A/C, Viv was smart to go for the Garlic Chicken Udon Salad.  The chewy udon noodles took on the sweet and garlicky dressing well while the veggies made this a refreshing item for a hot day.  The tempura chicken was battered aggressively where it was crunchy while juicy inside.  In addition, we got a selection of side items including Ebi Tempura, yam tempura, chicken karaage and musubi.  Nothing was particularly amiss other than the slightly thick batter found on everything.  As you can probably understand, the food at Marukame is not complex.  In fact, it is as simple as it can get.  It further reinforces the ol' adage - do one thing and do it well (and for a good price too).

The Good:
- Cheap
- Fresh and solid eats

The Bad:
- Not a place to sit and linger, it's eat and go
- Fried items a bit over-battered

Marukame Udon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato