Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2015

Neptune Seafood Restaurant

When it seemed like a meal with my mother-in-law was transitioning from Chinese water torture to something bearable, it came to a crashing end.  Having no choice but to sit at the same table for a baby one-month at Neptune Seafood Restaurant in Richmond, the nightmare began even before I got a chance to sit down.  There she was gossiping at the top of her lungs about people who were sitting within an earshot.  Viv couldn't sink deeper into her seat expressing complete embarrassment.  At least I had an excuse to leave early due to a hockey game later that night...

As with any Chinese banquet meal, the Appetizer Platter arrived first sporting sliced beef shank, hokkigai, shrimp, vegetarian goose and jellyfish.  If we could describe this dish with one word, it would've been "sweet".  It was if they forgot there was other ways to flavour the items other than sugar.  With that being said, the texture of the jellyfish was pretty good being buttery with an elasticity.  The shrimp were a bit annoying to eat since they were so small.  Next up was the Peking Duck carved table side.  They left a significant amount of meat attached to the crispy skin.  I liked how the layer of fat was pretty minimal.

We moved onto the Fish Maw and Crab Meat Soup next.  Although it was watery in consistency, the broth did have impact with a muted sweetness accented by the soft fish maw and large pieces of fluffy crab meat.  The second course of the Peking Duck was the usual Duck Lettuce Wrap that was subjected to enough wok heat.  Hence, there was plenty of caramelized flavours to go with the nice addition of Chinese sausage.  Interestingly, there wasn't enough lettuce for all of the filling (similarly to the duck skin and crepes).

For our main seafood item of the meal, we got a pair of Lobsters prepared in a consume sauce.  I liked how there was just enough sauce to coat each piece without being goopy or too wet.  It was on the saltier side though.  As for the lobster itself, one of the two was rather scrawny and hence a bit overdone due to the lack of meat.  The other one was okay though with sweet bouncy meat.  Graced with an artificially colour enhanced skin, the Free Range Chicken was prepared very well.  Beneath the gelatinized skin was moist and almost juicy meat.  It was well-seasoned while the condiment of ginger and green onion was on point.

Now for the most bizarre interaction of the night.  When the Abalone Mushrooms & Pea Shoots arrived, my MIL confidently proclaimed it was sliced abalone.  To which I replied, "no, that is not abalone".  It was actually abalone mushroom which was toothsome and buttery while the pea shoots were overdone a tad.  After we were done, she looked at me and spelled out "abalone mushroom" as if I was the one who thought it was abalone.  I could do nothing but face palm...  After than, there was no mistaking the Steamed Rock Cod dressed with scallions and sweet soy.  We found the fish to be obliterated being chewy and almost dry.

From this, we moved onto the usual ending dishes - Chow Yee Mein and Chicken & Lettuce Fried Rice.  Although a bit firm and "wet" where it lacked enough wok heat for caramelization and sear, the noodles seemed to be coloured by dark soy rather than being flavourful.  The noodles ate like they were merely tossed around with sauce.  As for the fried rice, it was terrible.  With clumps of mealy and dry rice, this was not fried rice.  There was a lack of flavour, wok heat and nuttiness associated with fried rice.  Again, it looked like they merely tossed it around without actually stir-frying it.

For dessert, we were served the usual Cookies as well as Baked Tapioca Pudding.  Cookies were fine, but the tapioca pudding was not very good.  It was not even remotely hot where the pudding was stiff and dry while the butter crumb pastry topping was wet and not fully cooked.  At the very least, the lotus paste filling was not overly sweet.  The faults of this dish as well as a few others could be partially forgiven because it was a multi-course banquet type meal.  It is hard to execute with consistency with the volume of food.  However, there still needs to be a minimum level of quality, especially a restaurant of Neptune's class.  If we take that into account, the meal was lackluster at best.

The Good:
- Fairly attentive service
- Nice renovations
- Lots of parking

The Bad:
- Lackluster food
- Smallish tables

Neptune Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mango Mama

Sometimes I wonder if my daughter truly knows how lucky she is.  I mean, she gets a steady stream of macarons and other treats not really having a care in the world as to the cost.  Every time, she pops those macarons into her mouth as if they were grapes.  There goes $15.00 each time!  Well, I didn't help the cause as I made it a point to stop by Mango Mama after a meal in Richmond.  Yah, this was equivalent to letting loose a bunch of ants on a sugar cube.  She was rather pleased we were visiting a place that was partially named after her favourite fruit.

Well that meant we couldn't get out of there without ordering the Snowy Mango Fluffy Ice with mango, mango ice cream and mango popping pearls.  Well, this was mango overload in a good way as the ice was indeed fluffy and finely shaved.  Although there was quite a bit of sweetness, it wasn't overwhelming.  We found the mango to be fresh, not frozen.  However, this came at a cost - $13.95!  Interestingly plated, the Strawberry Napoleon Cake featured plenty of ripe strawberries accompanied by ice cream and puff pastry.  This was pretty standard where the dessert was more like strawberries and cream with a piece of puff pastry on top.

For my beverage, I chose the classic Milk Tea.  It was pretty good with an aromatic tea flavour accented by the creaminess of evaporated milk.  It wasn't overly sweet which made it easy to drink.  We also got the fresh Strawberry Slush and it was outright terrible.  Not only was it super icy, it didn't have any discernible taste.  Even after we asked for some simple syrup, it still didn't taste like much.  Overall, 3 out of the 4 items we had were decent, yet at the same time pretty expensive.  Moreover, the service was plain terrible as we weren't offered any water or even given any napkins or extra cutlery until we asked.  That is when we could actually flag anyone down that is...

Alas, after a ChineseBites meal at nearby Aberdeen Centre, Sean and I decided to drop by Mango Mama for a few expensive desserts.  We split the Mango Sago (with mango, mochi and grapefruit) first and it was a decent portion.  It was slightly thick with a mild mango essence.  There were chunks of fresh tasting and sweet mango to go with the chewy mochi balls.  Next was the Strawberry Pancake which featured a thin crepe that was fairly dry.  Inside, the fresh whipped cream was light and mildly sweet.  Since strawberries are not in season, it was by no surprise that they were a bit tart.  In the end, we visited the place due to convenience and came away aghast at the prices despite the fairly decent desserts. 

The Good:
- Appears to be fresh fruit (including the mango)
- Dessert items we tried were decent

The Bad:
- Holy expensive, Batman!
- What service?   

Mango Mama Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thai Hang 2

Due to the diagonal path of Kingsway, it makes for some interesting buildings lining the street from start to finish.  One particular location is the building that houses the second location of Thai Hang Vietnamese.  Essentially 2 storefronts combined into one, the odd triangular shape makes for a strange dining space.  This was especially true for its past tenants such as Red Fort and Khyber Pass.  Trying to get the attention of the wait staff was nearly impossible as they were in a separate room.

Well, we weren't too concerned with service or the odd shape of the restaurant when we stopped in for a quick bite.  In fact, I don't recall ever being that picky with any Vietnamese restaurant since they often take over other restaurants.  We started off with the Butter Garlic Wings that sported a thin almost tempura-like batter.  Hence, the exterior was lightly crisp while the skin was not rendered at all.  The good news was the juicy and well-seasoned meat underneath, but the rest of the wings were not very flavourful.  For my main, I tried the Luc Lac Beef which was pretty bland.  There was very little impact and flavour while the chunks of beef were rather chewy.  The version at Phnom Penh kicks this one in every way.

The kiddies shared the Lemongrass Chicken with Rice (where we added 2 fried eggs).  This was a pretty good dish consisting of sweet charred chicken that was sufficiently moist.  On the other hand, the lemongrass was definitely overwhelmed by the amount of sugar used in the marinade.  Of course we also got an order of Pho which featured a very mild broth that was lightly sweet.  It could've used more meatiness and maybe more star anise.  Meats were okay though.  I guess that pretty much sums up the food here as the real draw is their Bo 7 Mon.  That will be another day and I'm sure will be more exciting than the meal we had this time.

The Good:
- "Okay" eats
- Decent portions

The Bad:
- Not particularly memorable
- Flavours could've been more impactful 

Thai Hang Vietnamese Restaurant 2 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Purebread

A few Summers ago, we were up in Whistler at Chill's cabin.  Yes, we are very lucky to have a friend like Chill and Bubbly because staying at Whistler can be a pricey proposition otherwise.  While we were there, Bubbly kept insisting we visit Purebread in the Village.  She was yammering on and on about the place to which we ignored.  Not that we weren't interested, but with a location in Vancity, we weren't in a hurry to try the place. Well, we finally did get to the Vancouver location, 3 times in fact...

On our first visit, Viv had the Lemon Chevril Brownie which lived up to its namesake in spades.  In addition to hits of rich dark chocolate, there was the unmistakable essence of chevril in the cream cheese.  Then the whole thing was lightened up by the spike of lemon a the end.  We felt this was a balanced and well-executed brownie.  For our savoury item, we had the Cheddar and Bacon Scone.  Beyond the almost crunchy exterior, the inside was soft, fluffy and purposefully dense.  It was blessed with a good amount of sharp cheddar and the smokiness of the bacon.

On another visit, we decided to try the Mushroom Gruyere Tart just on looks alone.  Yes, we are pretty shallow like a puddle sometimes...  Well, the looks weren't deceiving like a Photoshopped picture as the puff pastry was light and crispy.  On top, there was a mixture of Earthy mushrooms, caramelized onions and of course melted creamy gruyere.  On the other hand, we thought the flavours were a bit too mild.  Another solid offering.  For our sweet tooth, we went for the Raspberry Riot Loaf that featured an overly sweet glaze on top.  Not a really big issue as the soft and fluffy cake was minimally sweet while being the beneficiary of lemon. 

On our 3rd visit, we almost didn't make it since the place was packed.  But we toughed it out and found a seat anyways.  Turned out to be a great decision as we really enjoyed the Savoury Croissant with pesto, cheese and tomato.  Despite its plain appearance, the croissant was packed with flavour from the aromatic and pleasingly salty pesto.  The light and airy croissant didn't hurt things either.  We also had the Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie and it was similar to the other one we had except for the tart raspberry and impactful cream cheese centre.  This as a real treat and really, all 3 visits were on point.  There is still many items to try and I'll probably just tack it onto this post as there are definitely more visits in the future.

The Good:
- Appealing and equally good treats
- Fairly large selection

The Bad:
- Kinda pricey
- Tight and I mean it, seating


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

Miyako Sushi

My son's fascination with Teriyaki Chicken has made him a rather agreeable individual when we insist on eating Japanese.  Although the dish could be considered one of the "safer" options, it is at the very least not Udon in soup (really hated ordering that all the time).  So when we were heading home one rainy night, it made for an easy decision for dinner.  Not being particularly adventurous nor having any sort of plan, we stopped at Miyako Sushi (which was on the route home). 

Upon looking at the menu, the "Pick any 3" items for $8.95 looked like a great way to feed the kiddies.  One of the choices was the aforementioned mini-Teriyaki Chicken Don.  We also got the Appetizer Tempura and Wild Salmon Roll as well.  Although the rice was pretty soft and wet in the don, the chicken itself was fairly tender while not being over-sauced.  We weren't that impressed with the tempura as it looked rather dark in colour, possibly from the use of old oil.  Hence, the flavour was as such and the veggies were somewhat undercooked while the batter was super greasy.

For Viv and myself, we got the Assorted Sashimi consisting of salmon, tuna, tai, hokkigai, tako and hotate.  The slices of salmon and tuna were pretty large, yet not cut with much precision.  Due to its thickness, the salmon was a bit difficult to eat.  It was decent in quality though as it was relatively sweet with a toothsome texture.  The tuna was fairly soft and not overly flavourful.  Yet for $13.95, this was a pretty large order of sashimi.  Looking more like a full order of Futomaki, the 1/2 order was another good value.  By its appearance alone, we thought it would be dense.  One bite and no, it wasn't dense at all, but the rice was a little wet and soft.  I wasn't a huge fan of the large amount of imitation crab though, as it resembled a California Roll rather than a futomaki.

As a filler, we got the Chicken Yakisoba served on a sizzling cast iron plate. I liked how there was very little "sauce" on the bottom of the plate.  In turn, the noodles remained chewy and not overly sweet.  On the other hand, there could've been a touch more seasoning as the dish was quite mild in need of some tang.  The veggies retained some natural texture while the bits of chicken were a bit dried out.  Our specialty roll of the meal was the Awesome Roll consisting of a California roll topped with seared salmon and crispy yam strings.  Once again, the rice was pretty wet, which made the roll heavy to eat.  There wasn't much inherent flavour to the roll either.

Just to ensure that the kiddies got their fill of food, we added the Chicken Karaage as well.  Prepared with large pieces of dark meat, the chicken was tender and succulent.  It was lacking in seasoning though.  Furthermore, the batter wasn't exactly crispy, being quite greasy instead.  As you can ascertain, the food at Miyako Sushi wasn't exactly authentic.  Now that shouldn't be a determining factor as long as the food is good for what it is.  In this case, things were alright, but hardly memorable.

The Good:
- Well-priced and well-portioned
- Fairly friendly service

The Bad:
- An interpretation of Japanese food
- Flavours were generally weak     

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

Fondway Cafe

Originally, I was invited to the media event for Fondway Cafe which I was all ready to attend before I double-checked my schedule.  Drats, I already had dinner scheduled for that night.  Could I do both, "a la Mijune"? Who am I kidding?  Of course not...  So the only other option was to attend their VIP night a few days later.  Tucked behind the Metrotown Skytrain station on Beresford, Miss Y and I were surprised to find a cute little Asian-run cafe adorned with appealing decor and a wonderful high ceiling.

As part of the tasting menu, we were given a choice of beverage.  I went for the Caramel Macchiato which was served in a double-walled plastic cup. This ensured that I could hold onto it despite being served scalding hot.  It also kept it warm longer.  As for the drink itself, it was lightly creamy with hints of caramel without being super sweet.  The espresso part of it was pretty mild.  Miss Y had the Grass Jelly Milk which was served in an interestingly tall cup.  The soft jelly was easily sucked up by the large bubble tea straw where it was slightly sweet and minimally bitter.  Also lightly creamy, the milk was easy on the sugar.

In terms of food, we were started off with a selection that included Chicken Corn Chowder, Vegetable Soup, Cheese Salmon and Tuna Waffle.  Even before I was informed that everything was made in-house, we could easily tell things were fresh.  I really enjoyed the vegetable soup as it had a home-made quality where nothing was too acidic nor salty.  At the same time, it was full of depth highlighted by natural sweetness.  The corn chowder was equally good with a medium viscosity while not being over-seasoned.  The bits of chicken were remarkably tender despite being in a soup.  Not much to comment on the smoked salmon other than that the cracker was too crumbly for the application.  I liked the acidity of the tuna mixture, but the waffle was a bit cold and stiff.

Generally, a Green Salad is as exciting as a border lineup (go get Nexus!), but this one was actually a bit different.  Sure, the greens were well, greens, but the Italian-type dressing was spiked with fruit and fresh cucumbers which added a certain brightness and natural sweetness.  Furthermore, it added another layer of crunch and texture to the salad.  This was accompanied by 2 sandwiches including the Smoked Pork and Turkey Croissant.  These were generous in size and packed with ingredients.  Unlike ham, the smoked pork was not overly salty while sporting a softer pulled pork-like texture. I liked the addition of sliced hard-boiled egg as it added some more body to the sandwich.  Served on a house-made croissant, the real turkey breast was decently moist.

Onto some sweets, we were served 3 tarts including one that was a mix of Nuts, Seeds and Cranberries.  This one had a firm texture while lightly sweet and of course nutty.  We loved the various textures of crunchy and chewy.  Up next was a Berry Frangipane Tart topped with slivered almonds.  This was fairly dense as it appeared and lightly sweet with the essence of almonds throughout.  Lastly, with a buttery sugar crumb topping, the Apple Tart featured a firm buttery crust that held in what appeared to be more frangipane topped with sweet apples and cranberries.

Moving onto some cakes, we were presented with 5 consisting of Green Tea Red Bean, Earl Grey, Strawberry Cream, Concentrated Chocolate and NY Cheesecake.  Being an Asian cafe, the cakes were predictably light.  I thought they executed it nicely where it was fluffy and light while not dried out.  They were conservative with the sugar where we could taste the intended flavours.  The earl grey was my personal favourite as the natural tea taste really came through at the end without being too strong.  Another highlight was the cheesecake as the texture was spot on being creamy, a touch dense while being very cheesy and mildly sweet.  The bruleed top added the necessary sugar content and a crunch as well.  So, they say sometimes good things come in small packages.  Sure it is an overused cliche, but this just might be the case of Fondway Cafe.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- House-made everything
- Not heavy on the sugar

The Bad:
- Hidden location with limited parking
- Some may not understand the light Taiwanese treats 

Fondway Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato