Sherman's Food Adventures: April 2016

Jolly's Indian Bistro

Viv and I love spicy food.  Generally, the spicier the better, unless it is Szechuan Boiling Beef that is on nuclear hot (my experience with that at the now closed Hot Luck was not fun... It was hotter coming out than in!).  However, this love for spice has not translated with the kids as they consider pepper to be too spicy.  So our mission is to condition their palates with different foods that offer up some heat.  We ended up at Jolly's Indian Bistro for some of this conditioning and also the fact we had a Groupon.

Starting things off, we got the Paneer Pakora drizzled with mango sauce.  This was pretty good as my son even liked it (sans mango sauce... imagine trying to scrap that off!).  Inside, the paneer was soft yet still retained a bite and rebound texture.  It was coated with a thin, crispy and seasoned batter (the caraway seeds were dominant).  My daughter loved the sweetness of the mango sauce unlike my son.  However, the best part was the chickpeas underneath as they were texturally on point while the curry was slightly spicy and aromatic.  Trying to ease them in slowly, we got them the veritable Butter Chicken.  Although it was still decently spicy for mild, the kids still ate it with only a bit of complaining.  We found it to be a good balance between creamy and tangy tomatoey while not being overly salty.

For myself, I had to get the Lamb Rogenjosh and I requested it to be spicy.  It did exhibit some heat, but it wasn't mind-blowing.  This was fine by me as I could still taste the layers of flavour from the sweetness of the caramelized onions and various spices including the cloves.  The only thing I would've liked to see was less salt.  The chunks of lamb were of a good size and fairly tender.  Lastly, we had the Goan Fish Fry which featured a whole fillet of fried basa advertised as sitting in a chicken gravy.  This was fairly mild with a background spiciness.  It didn't particularly taste like a chicken gravy as it was more like a curry with coconut.  The fish was good though being flaky with a crispy batter.

All of these dishes were priced above $15.00, but to be fair, all of them included salad, rice and Naan.  As you can see in the picture, the naan looked more like a well-charred lavash.  It ate somewhat like one as well with an airiness to it with a glutenous chew.  We also liked the slightly crisp and nutty exterior.  So in the end, we were quite pleased the kids ate the food without asking for McD's instead.  Overall, it was pretty decent albeit a touch salty.  Although I could get better Indian food for less in Surrey, this was not bad for kits.

The Good:
- Decent
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- A little pricey
- A little salty  

PG's Jamaican Takeout

It goes without saying that there is not a whole lot of choice when it comes to Jamaican cuisine in the GVRD.  Sure, there is The Reef, but for me at least, it has become pretty mainstream after they opened up 2 more locations.  So when I spotted a Groupon for PG's Jamaican Takeout, I immediately bought it without noticing it was located in...  White Rock???  Okay...  I guess they have no immediate competition!  I was able to get Emily to join me on this food adventure as I promised rollerblading.  Apparently White Rock is a no fun zone as they have more "No Rollerblading" signs than stop signs...

We decided to start our meal off with an order of their Johnny Cakes not knowing that each dish came with one.  Doh! No matter because the mango coconut butter made it all good.  It was creamy, aromatic and lightly sweet.  However, the Johnny cake itself was on the denser side.  On the outside, it was all deep-fried goodness being crispy (almost crunchy) and only a touch greasy.  The ones at The Reef are better. For our first plate of food, we dug into the Stewed Oxtail.  It featured gelatinous and tender pieces of meat (albeit the smaller pieces of the ox tail, which are generally more tender anyways).  Flavours were tight with a definite meatiness to go with sweetness from the onions.

Next up was the impactful Jerk Chicken.  Normally, I find the jerk chicken in Vancouver to be too mild and one note in flavour.  The one here was complex with layers of heat mixed in with the nutmeg, cinnamon and rum (this had a striking resemblance to some moles I've had in the past) .  We liked how the flavours had penetrated the meat and at the same time, the meat was still moist and tender while the skin was rendered.  On the side, the beans and rice were nicely dry so it could soak up all the tasty spice.  Equally tender, the Curry Goat exhibited a rich curry hit that was a touch salty.  However, it went well with the rice as a result.  I liked how the goat was not dried out.  In fact, the pieces were gelatinous and fork tender.

Lastly, the Ackee & Saltfish was money.  The tender pieces of ackee were nicely flavoured by the salty fish.  Smooth and fluffy, the ackee maintained a texture without being mushy.   I couldn't stop eating this dish, which was pretty much the theme of all the items we ordered.  In the end, it was worth the trip out to White Rock because the food at PG's is legit.  We would've paid regular price (without the Groupon) and would've been happy.  It wasn't only because of the food either as the people there are super nice too.

The Good:
- Impactful flavours
- Solid execution
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Small place, it truly is takeout unless you can snag a table
- It's not exactly cheap (especially if you order the larger portions)
- Johnny cakes could be less dense 

Lucky Plus

Another day and another new Chinese restaurant in Vancouver...  So what else is new?  It always amazes me because Vancouver needs another Chinese restaurant as much as it needs higher house prices.  So when I spotted the new Lucky Plus (sounds like a dollar store name...) open up last year across from Golden Oscar, I put it onto my long list of Chinese restaurants we needed to dine at.  Finally, we got to it as my parents were wanting to grab some dinner.  They seem to like eating Chinese food all-the-time...  Don't they cook this at home already???

Anyways, we snagged one of the last tables in the place as it was hopping busy on a Saturday night.  It was interesting to see how we navigated eating a Chinese meal in a long booth.  We decided to try something different in the Truffle Shredded Chicken (or not different if one was dining at Chef Tony).  Although this dish was pricey at $15.95, there was no filler here as it was all chicken (with some green onion) and a whole lot of black truffle.  We liked the appealingly chewy texture of the free-range chicken as well as the gelatinized skin.  It was aggressively seasoned bordering on salty while the truffle really came through without being incredibly overwhleming.  We also got one of their signature items being the Marinated Duck.  This was indeed very good where the meat was moist with a tender chew.  In addition to the natural gaminess of duck, the braising liquid penetrated the meat where there was a nice balance of flavours.

From the interesting to the standard, we went for the ever-normal dish of Gai Lan with Beef.  I was not a big fan of this as the gai lan was chopped into little bits.  Furthermore, it was fairly old where it was no longer vibrant green nor tender to the chew.  The plethora of beef was a bit inconsistent as some slices were tender and well-marinated while others were chewy and sinewy.  I found the entire thing to be rather salty.  Arriving in a large portion, the Cod and Tofu Hot Pot was well-executed.  The large pieces of fish were a little crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside.  The tofu was silky with a proper deep-fry where the exterior was not too chewy.  There was just enough oyster-based sauce to moisten the ingredients without inducing sogginess.  It was also not overly salty which was good since we didn't order any rice.

Next we had the Black Vinegar Ribs where we could smell the pungency of the vinegar emanating from the dish.  The sticky glaze was definitely vinegary, but also very sweet in a balsamic reduction manner.  Hence, this really need rice as a side.  As for the ribs, they were tender while not super soft retaining a meaty bite.  I liked the crispiness from the deep fry. At first, I was wondering why the Lamb Hot Pot was $23.00.  Well, that was answered pretty quickly as the humongous portion was slapped onto the table.  Although there was the usual napa cabbage filler on the bottom (to also prevent sticking and burning), there was also plenty of lamb, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and deep fried bean curd skin.  Although the lamb was sufficiently tender and gelatinous, it ate somewhat chewy since the pieces were far too large.  They should've been 1/4 of the size.  It was cumbersome to eat.  In terms of flavour, it was pretty mild, which was fine for me because I wanted to taste the meat. Suffice to say, we didn't finish all the food due to the large portion sizes.  In terms of execution, it was hit and miss.  We did enjoy the surprisingly attentive service.

The Good:
- Large portions
- Friendly and attentive service
- Some good items

The Bad:
- Hit and miss, depends on what you order
- A bit difficult to share dishes in a long booth  

Anh + Chi

Really, if you've been to one Vietnamese restaurant in town, you've probably been given a preview to all of the other ones.  Usually minimalist and adorned with linoleum floors, dusty plastic plants and mirrors galore, the Vietnamese Pho joint does its best impersonation of a hermit crab.  They take over whatever restaurant there was before and generally do very little to renovate.  Don't even get me started on the washrooms...  Oh and if there is a test regarding what is on the menu, well, we've had enough practice to ace it.  But wait, rising from the ashes of the ol' Pho Hoang is the newly renovated and reinvented Anh + Chi (owner passed the reigns to the children).

Seeing how it has suddenly become the social media darling since it opened last week, Boss Woman, Bam Bam, Pebbles, Bear and introducing R2D2, joined me to see what the fuss was all about after our softball game.  We started off conservatively with the Pho Hoang which was modest in size.  This was pretty standard stuff with a broth that was clean, but a touch bland.  The noodles were still chewy and didn't clump up too much.  As for the meats, they were sliced thin and tender.  Next up was the Cơm Chiên consisting of wok-fried rice with egg and chicken.  As much as this didn't impress visually, it was on point in terms of texture and taste.  The rice was chewy and nutty while being properly seasoned.  The well-charred chunks of chicken added a certain smokiness to the dish.

One of my favourite items was the Bánh Xèo or Vietnamese crisp rice flour, coconut milk & turmeric crêpe filled with pork, prawn, bean sprouts and mung bean.  Textually, the thin and crispy crepe held up to the wet ingredients.  I thought the prawn and pork were on point while the sprouts were cooked-through, but still were crunchy and not overly wet.  Of all the things on the menu, I thought Bear would choose the short ribs on rice, but he suggested the Chú Tư or trio of meat including lemongrass chicken, short ribs and pork chop.  Ah yes, all meat and no filler (including his beloved short ribs).  This was on point in terms of meat texture as the chicken was juicy while the pork and short ribs were sufficiently tender.  The dish did suffer from underseasoning though.

We went ahead and tried both flavours of their Cánh Gà including the Chili Fish Sauce Wings and Butter Garlic Wings.  The wings featured crispy skin that was well-rendered.  The meat wasn't exactly juicy nor was it dry either.  We found that the chili fish sauce was much more impactful compared to the butter garlic.  It was slightly spicy, a bit sticky (sweet glaze) and of course salty from the fish sauce.  I wasn't sure that the lemon juice on the side really was necessary for this flavour.  On the other hand, it was very necessary for the butter garlic as it was rather bland.  Yes, there was some hits of garlic, but the wings were underseasoned.  At the very least, the lemon juice added a zip.

We also got the Cá Chiên or whole red snapper on a bed of mango salad and drizzled with chili fish sauce.  Okay, that wasn't really a whole red snapper, rather, it was a fillet.  With that being said, it was prepared expertly where the exterior was nicely seared while the meat was moist and buttery.  It was also underwhelming in flavour, but the mango salad did its job by adding acidity, sweetness and sharpness from the onions.  Majestically plated, the Khay Bánh Hỏi Lụi Nướng was a platter consisting of house-made pork sausage, bamboo pith, beef in betel leaf, grilled chicken, spring roll & grilled prawn.  This was a prepare-your-own salad roll dish that had resembled parts of Bo 7 Mon.  Definitely interactive and fairly decent.  Overall, the food was pretty good, if not expensive for the portion size.  However, given the renovations and now fitting into the Main Street hipster scene, I guess there is a price to be paid.

The Good:
- Inviting and hip dining space
- Attentive service 
- Although there are standards on the menu, there are more unique choices to be found
The Bad:
- Expensive (but remember you are not only paying for the food now...)
- Smallish portions
- Flavours could be more impactful   

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