Sherman's Food Adventures: October 2016

Shake Shake Tea

Originally, Diana, Amy, Dee and I were going to meet up at Golden Szechuan where we would eat some spicy food and call it a night.  Diana had a better idea.  Why not combine a night out for dinner with an invited milk tea tasting?  What better to sooth our numbed tongues than a cold milky beverage?  As it turned out, the spicy food wasn't really all that spicy.  That didn't prevent us from trying a bunch of bevvies as we made our way to the nearby Shake Shake Tea.

I gave the Oolong Tea a try first and I found the 100% sweetness to be very deceiving.  I personally thought it was just right (as well as the others).  Any less sugar and the drink would border on bland.  The milkiness was evident, but not in a creamy fashion.  As for the tea, it was definitely in the background though especially compared to the Jasmine Tea.  Sporting the same light milkiness, the jasmine tea had a richer aroma that had an appealing faint bitter finish.  The sweetness was exactly the same as the oolong being just right for us.  I thought that the addition of grass jelly or pudding was the right compliment to these milk teas as the pearls were rather sweet.

Sweet would be the word to describe the Caramel Tea with pearls.  First of all, the smoky rich sweetness of caramel was pretty strong and at the forefront.  I thought it could've been dialed down a bit as it was amped up even further with the sweet pearls.  Texturally, the pearls were on point being chewy, yet not too hard at the same time.  Raising the sugar quotient was the Black Sugar with pearls.  The use of black sugar meant the drink had a deep sweetness that didn't give us sugar shock, rather, the sweetness crept up gradually.  Add in the sweet pearls and yes, it would've probably been better with grass jelly.

Onto some fruitier drinks, I tried the Lychee Yogurt on its own.  This was refreshing and light with a certain tartness and only a mild thickness.  I got it at 75% sweetness and that was perfect in my opinion.  Adding coconut jelly would be a good match for this drink.  The lychee flavour was pretty evident, but not overwhelming at the same time.  Dee got the Super Mango Slush and it relied on natural sweetness rather than sugar.  One sip and we could tell it had a mango pungency.  However, we would've preferred it to be blended more aggressively as there were ice crystals.  I guess you could ask for that when ordering.  

Amy got the Wintermelon and it was a whole lot less sweeter than the one at Gong Cha.  Flavours were less developed, but I enjoyed it anyways because I could get the natural flavours without being overwhelmed by sugar.  This was at 100% sweetness too!  Diana decided on the Peach Green Tea and I found this one super refreshing and light.  Again, the 100% sweetness was on point where it didn't interfere with the peach and green tea flavours.  It wasn't bitter at all where the green tea was more of an accent flavour than at the forefront.

We also tried their Jar Desserts that resembled parfaits.  The Rocher Mousse did taste like a Ferraro Rocher being sweet and nutty.  The cake portion was moist and not ovelry sweet.  The mousse itself was creamy and light.  On the other hand, the Caramel Banana Mousse was very sweet due to the banana bread.  Although the mousse itself was not sugary, the banana bread dominated the flavour profile.  A bit wet, the Matcha Granola Mousse was still my favourite.  The crunch of the oats, almonds and pecans offered up textural contrast to the soft mousse and cake.  I could taste the matcha, but it wasn't too strong.  I liked these desserts, but they are pretty pricey at $12 - $13 dollars each.  However, when paired with a beverage, the price of the drink costs only $3.00.  About those drinks, I thought the sugar level was bang on, however, the tea flavour could've been more impactful.

*All drinks and desserts were complimentary*

The Good:
- Spot on sweetness at 100% level
- Decent fruit flavours
- Jar desserts are not too sweet

The Bad:
- Tea flavours could be stronger
- Jar desserts are pricey    

Golden Szechaun

Once there was a Knight & Day located on #3 Road.  Then there wasn't a Knight & Day on #3 Road.  I guess with all of the tasty options in Richmond and in particularly, on #3 Road, there was really no reason for Knight & Day to exist.  Currently, in its place, we find Golden Szechuan, which happens to be one of the nicer (and more expensive) Szechuan restaurants in town.  I had originally visited it awhile ago to try their pricey (but worth it) water-boiled fish.  Naturally, I couldn't do a post about one dish, so I returned again with Dee, Amy and Diana for more variety.

However, let's get to one of the best versions of Szechuan Water-Boiled Fish in the GVRD.  This was in fact, the Szechuan Water-Boiled Live Barramundi which was pretty darn expensive at $80.00.  What it lacked in value, it made it up in quality as the slices of fish were buttery and soft.  There was a natural sweetness that came through despite the spicy ingredients, we could taste the fish.  Only mildly, there was a tongue-numbing experience to go with the rest of the ample seasoning.  Plated like laundry, the Spicy Pork Belly hanging on bamboo was actually quite good.  The thin and meaty slices were gelatinous and tender.  Dunked into the chili oil soy underneath, we got saltiness, sweetness and of course a lingering kick.

On another visit, we went for some dumplings in the Boiled Pork and Cabbage Dumplings as well as the Spicy Wontons.  I found the boiled dumplings to be pretty good with a moist well-balanced filling.  The meat was soft with a bit of chew and the cooked crunch of cabbage.  A bit doughy, the dumpling skin was cooked just enough.  We all agreed that the Spicy Wontons were tastier due to the good amount of minced garlic on top.  Combined with the green onions and mildly spicy, tangy and salty dressing, there were many impactful flavours to be found.  The wonton itself featured a buttery wrapper encasing a tender and slightly bouncy pork filling.

Fairly large in size, the Mouth-Watering Chicken was more mild than it appeared.  Despite that, it was pleasant with enough savoury elements to go with the chili oil.  The chicken itself was free-range and hence, was lean and appealingly chewy.  The skin was nicely gelatinzed while the meat was properly seasoned.  Giving the impression that it was astronomically hot, the Boiling Beef was actually not.  With that being said, there was a noticeable spiciness that didn't linger much.  Most of the heat was centered around the bean sprouts rather than the tender slices of beef.

We also got 2 noodles in the Dan Dan Noodles and the Braised Beef Noodles.  We opted for the dry version of the dan dan noodles since we didn't want anything goopy or too saucy.  This was decent with starchy noodles that were a bit soft, yet sauced with a tasty concoction of ground pork, bean paste and chili oil.  It was by no means super flavourful, but again, pleasant nonetheless.  As for the braised beef, the noodles were more al dente while the soup was sweet and somewhat savoury.  The sliced beef was thin and practically melted-in-my-mouth.  

Unlike the last time, the Twice-Cooked Pork was very good.  The slices were thinner and had an appetizing chewiness.  It wasn't dry though, which made it even more appealing.  There was plenty of wok heat to go around creating a smoky caramelization to go with the chili oil.  The garlic scapes were crunchy, vibrant and a touch spicy.  Now "a touch spicy" was not exactly what we were looking for.  That would be the theme of the meal as the food was well-prepared, but the spice level was rather tame considering the authentic Szechuan cuisine served here.  With that being said, the meal was still pleasant, albeit pricey.

*Partially paid for by Tourism Richmond by gift card*

The Good:
- Nice spacious dining space with high ceilings
- Generally attentive service
- Food is carefully prepared

The Bad:
- Dishes were not as spicy and impactful as we would've liked
- Pricey       

Lisa Lou's Chocolate Bar

I've never been that fond of sweets, but for some reason, I tend to crave them during the holidays.  Could it be the festive nature or just because everyone else is treating themselves?  I'm not completely sure.  I can go through an entire year without eating chocolate, but when Christmas arrives, I can dust off a whole box.  Well, it isn't exactly Christmas (even though the stores are hawking products already), yet with a tasting at Lisa Lou's Chocolate Bar organized by Sharon, I guess I was getting my fill of sweets early.  It was on Thanksgiving Day, so I guess it was technically a holiday.

We started off strong with my favourite of the tasting - Lily (lemon & coconut). Can you believe the most enjoyable chocolate, in my opinion, is actually vegan?  Mind blown yes.  Consisting of coconut oil and milk as well as roasted coconut, this was very aromatic with caramelized sweetness.  I loved the crispy crunch of the brown rice as well.  Despite the prominent "Raspberry" label, I was pleasantly surprised that the caramel filling was not overly sweet nor tart.  For me, it worked as it let the bitterness of the dark chocolate come through.  I can see how some mind find it a bit too mild-tasting though.

One of the sweeter chocolates was the Marc consisting of almonds, bourbon and malt.  It started off with a caramel sweetness followed by a bourbon finish.  It was aromatic with a nutty crunch from the almond.  Although this was the sweetest of the bunch, it worked in this applicationMade up of sour cherry, pistachio and crispy brown rice, Sue was another favourite of mine.  Naturally, the sweet tartness of the cherry helped keep things light and it was a perfect compliment to the dark chocolate.  Again, the crispy crunch of the rice helped keep textures interesting.

For once, I brought my daughter out for one of these tastings since Nora said she was bringing hers (she didn't... ahem...).  Anyways, my daughter really loved the Passionfruit as it was filled with an impactful amount of filling which was tart, yet not incredibly sweet.  Super flavourful and hard to eat just one.  On that note, we also sampled some of their Caramels including Raspberry and Meyer Lemon.  These were soft, chewy and buttery.  I would've liked them to be a touch firmer, but the flavours were intoxicatingly powerful.  I had the meyer lemon and it was balanced in terms of sweetness and tang.

The last item I sampled was one the Vanilla Brownie Ice Cream SandwichBy the time I took a bite, the ice cream had melted somewhat due to the lack of stabilizersThis meant it was creamy and naturally textured.  I found it semi-sweet while the brownie was firm enough to keep thing together while being thin so that it wasn't cumbersome to eat.  Overall, I quite enjoyed the products at Lisa Lou's.  I found that the chocolates were the most consistent product.

*All chocolates and treats were complimentary*

The Good:
- Purposeful flavours that weren't overwhelming nor too sweet
- Dark chocolate had a nice firm texture giving way to silkiness
- Lots of products

The Bad:
- I enjoyed the caramels, but they could've been firmer since most of them stuck to the wrapper