Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2016

Momofuku Noodle Bar

While we were in Toronto, there was a moment where we considered visiting Momofuku.  However, we saved that for our visit to the New York City location with Costanza and Elaine.  We made our way out to their location in East Village to find out that the wait was over an hour long.  Sure, we expected as much, but with a group of 8, it didn't look promising.  So we ended up splitting our group into 2 tables of 4.  Since we didn't feel like standing around for 1+ hours, we did dessert first at the nearby Veniero's Pastry.

Finally seated and after a slice of cheesecake, we started with the Scallop Crudo with ginger, charred corn and crispy chicken skin.  This was completely on point and a delight to eat texturally and taste-wise.  The buttery and sweet scallops were lightly complimented by the smoky sweet corn and background ginger essence along with a light tang.  The crunch of the skin was a necessary texture.  We also got the Smoked Chicken Wings with pickled chili, garlic and scallion.  I found the wings to have unevenly rendered skin, but for the parts that were good, it was on point and flavourful from the glaze.  It was a combination of sweet dark soy with a touch of spice and light tanginess.  I didn't get much smokiness and I did find the wings a touch mealy.

The best thing we had by far were the Shrimp Buns with spicy mayo, pickled red onion and shredded lettuce.  We found the bun quality to be excellent being soft and warm with a slight elasticity and chew.  Inside, the shrimp patty was absolutely delicious.  It was buttery, sweet, cold-water crunchy and well-seared.  The spicy mayo provided a creamy kick while the lettuce brought it down a notch.  Yummy.  Now onto the Momofuku Ramen, we found the noodles to be on point and probably some of the best we've had.  They were chewy and al dente with a nice rebound texture.  As for the broth, it was indeed flavourful and meaty, but really salty.  The pork belly was very lean and smoky from the sear.  It wasn't as buttery as expected.

Our last dish was the Chilled Spicy Noodles with Szechuan sausage, Thai basil and candied cashews.  We were warned that this was a spicy dish and boy was it ever.  There was a kick that lasted and lingered, yet at the same time, we could taste the meatiness of the sausage and sweet crunch from the cashews.  Again, the noodles were on point being appealingly chewy.  Overall, we found our visit to Momofuku Noodle Bar to be okay.  I guess it was over-hyped in our own minds, so it might've been a bit unfair.  Yet at the same time, we've had better versions of some of the dishes elsewhere.

The Good:
- Some uniqueness compared other spots in town
- David Chang (yes, the name)
- Baos were good

The Bad:
- Ramen too salty for me
- Not worth the wait

Mercato

For all of the recommendations I received from various sources, sometimes the restaurants we end up visiting while in another city are based purely on circumstance.  It could be that some places are just not kid-friendly while others are not located nearby where we would end up.  Hence, most of the spots we visit may not be the "usual" nor overly sexy.  This brought us to Mercato, which was somewhat near our hotel, for lunch one day.  This lil' Italian spot sure seemed homey and just the right place for 2 families.

We began with the Frittura di Pesce which was a bounty of fried calamari, shrimp and cod.  We found the batter light and crispy while totally not greasy.  The calamari was large and tender while retaining an appealing chewiness whereas the shrimp were meaty with a firm snap.  As for the fish, it was buttery and flaky with even less batter then the calamari and shrimp. I particularly liked the mild tomato dipping sauce.  Next, we had the Spinaci Salad with raisins, apples and goat cheese.  This was lightly dressed which allowed the ingredients to be heard such as the sweet apples, even sweeter raisins and creamy gamy goat cheese.

For my main, I had the Orecchiette Cime di Rapa e Acciughe (broccoli rabe, anchovies, bread crumbs, garlic and olive oil).  This was a drier concoction with firm pasta coated with bread crumbs.  It wasn't particularly flavourful until mixed in with the crisp rabe since the anchovies had adhered to them.  Together, the flavours were good.  Viv ended up with the Gnocchi with beef and pork ragu.  The tender nuggets of potato pasta were a good balance of soft and firm.  Hence, there was a nice bite to them.  The rich ragu had body and depth while not subjected to much salt.

Our kiddies had the Lasagna with b├ęchamel and beef ragu.  Due to the b├ęchamel, the whole thing was creamy and rich.  However, the hearty ragu added a real meatiness while providing body to the dish.  What brought it all together was the mild, yet flavourful tomato sauce which had a cheesiness to it.  Costanza's kiddies had the Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil.  As simple as this was, the execution was on point.  Featuring al dente pasta and an abundance of flavourful and tart chunks of tomato, the whole thing tasted fresh and bright.

The best dish of all was the Seafood Linguine which was the beneficiary of an array of seafood including calamari, shrimp, mussels and clams.  The sauce was impactful with the taste of white wine and briniess from the shellfish.  Even though it seemed too saucy, the pasta was well-flavoured and the seafood was on point. As I mentioned in the intro, sometimes the best places are the ones off the beaten path.  I'm not sure if Mercato qualifies as such, but it was definitely not on our radar.  I guess it should've been from the start.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Nice people
- Priced-right

The Bad:
- Seating is a bit tight

Pizza Suprema

Sometimes, I wonder if our vacations are actually a break at all.  When we travel, it is almost like we do a marathon sightseeing mission where we don't even have time to rest.  Hence, we need a vacation from our vacation when we get home.  So after a long day of walking and walking some more at The Met (that place is huge!), we were in no mood to travel far for food.  We kept it close with a visit to Pizza Suprema for some NYC pizza action.

We got several slices to go including the Meatlovers and Suprema.  Predictably salty, due to the abundance of meatballs, sausage, pepperoni and ham, the pizza was loaded with flavour.  I could've done with less salt, but it was expected.  The tomato sauce was really good being tangy and nicely seasoned.  The best part was the crust as it was chewy and nicely crisped up.  The Suprema (their signature pizza) was loaded with many toppings including sweet Italian sausage, pepperoni, sauteed onions, roasted red peppers and fresh mushrooms.  This was a bit less salty than the meatlovers and replaced that with sweetness.

The kids loved the White Pizza that was essentially cheese bread with romano, ricotta and grande mozzarella and fresh garlic.  This had no sauce which meant the crust was chewy and drier.  This was appealingly garlicky.  The best slice, in my opinion, was the Chicken Parmigiana since it was less salty and had plenty of cheese.  Moreover, there were nuggets of crispy pieces of breaded chicken strewn on top.  So with all of the choices for pizza in the city, we ended up at Pizza Suprema due to convenience.  With that being said, it was still a great choice as it was good and didn't cost us a fortune.

The Good:
- Lots of choice
- Properly seasoned chewy crust
- Impactful sauce

The Bad:
- The ones with lots of meat are pretty salty (but as the owner says, try the plain cheese)
- Can have long lines at times

Ta Bom Korean Cuisine

Many-a-time, we find the tourist approach to most of the ethnic cuisine we find in town.  Never specific to one region nor really any rhyme or reason, we essentially find the greatest hits under one roof.  So it comes as no surprise that the usual stuff is found on Korean restaurant menus such as mandu, japchae, bibimbap, BBQ, gamjatang and so on...  However, Ta Bom in Coquitlam has brought us the hot plate complete with main dish, and sides of egg, corn and cheese.  If you have ever been to LA, then this is old hat, but for the rest of us, this has taken Vancity by storm (as evidenced by the long lineups).

I joined Kirsty, Diana, Amy, Joyce and Nancy to try out this new type of BBQ out on Austin Ave (mind you, Kirsty and Nancy had already sampled it beforehand).  We ended up with 2 hot plates including the Bulgogi and Spicy Octopus with Pork.  Slowly sizzling, the bulgogi was emitting an intoxicating aroma of caramelized beef.  Picking up a piece and dunking it into the melted cheese, I got an ooey gooey bite with crispy beef bits giving way to sweet and tender thinly sliced meat.  The fluffy egg on the side was texturally appealing as well as the sweet pop from the corn niblets.  Saucy and spicy, the baby octopus were tender with an easy chew.  There was also sweetness from both the octopus and the sauce itself.  The rice cake was also a textural surprise hidden underneath the onions.

After we were all done, the remaining spicy sauce and bits of pork were saved for the Fried Rice.  Yes, we made fried rice akin to a dolset on the hot plate.  Now we weren't able to do this with the bulgogi since there was no "sauce".  Hence, make sure you order the right hot plate if you want rice later.  After a brief wait, the rice crisped up and formed a chewy crust while it also soaked up the flavourful sauce. 

On another visit, we had the Spicy Pork Hot Plate with corn, cheese and egg.  Unfortunately, they couldn't serve it on the butane burner due to some regulatory inspection thing.  Hence, they heated it up in the kitchen and served it to us with the egg cooked separately.  Suffice to say, the experience was not as good as the first time, especially without the option of the fried rice at the end.  As for the pork, it was tender and aggressively dressed in a similar sauce as the octopus.  It was sweet and slightly spicy.  We also got the Seafood Pancake which was pretty thick and aggressively fried.  Hence, the exterior was crispy while the inside was a touch doughy.  It was still decent though with enough seafood and conservative with the green onion.

One dish I kept eating and eating was Mom's Pop Chicken.  It featured tender nuggets of chicken that were lightly battered and nicely fried up.  It was coated with a sweet gochujang sauce that was impactful being sweet, spicy and tangy.  It went really well with the side of rice accompanying the Pork Bone Soup.  About that soup, it was a bit thin in terms of flavour where it didn't have the aromatics we normally find in the soup.  It was tangy from the veggies and had a light meat flavour.  The pork bones themselves could've been more tender as well since the meat stuck to the bone.  As you can see, the main draw at Tabom is the hot plate.  The other stuff is decent, but nothing memorable.  If you want the full meal deal (as in the burner), you will have to wait as they are scheduled to do renos in December.

The Good:
- Dat hot plate with cheese!
- Fairly friendly service
- Dat fried rice at the end!

The Bad:
- Other dishes we had were average
- Lineup all the time (well, not as much right now without the burner)  

Carnegie Deli

You'd think after eating so many different things, I wouldn't go back to a tourist trap of sorts right?  Well, there were 2 reasons we made our way back to Carnegie Deli on our recent visit to NYC.  First, we were travelling with Elaine and Costanza (yes, we visited Tom's Restaurant too...) and they've never been to the place before.  Second, I never blogged about it.  This visit almost never happened because Carnegie Deli was closed for a year due to the "gas stealing" fiasco.  In fact, Carnegie is scheduled to close at the end of this year, for good.

Just like last time, we waited stupidly in line for about an hour to pay large amounts of money for sandwiches with far too much meat in them.  Yup, we had the Woody Allen again with equal portions of corned beef and pastrami.  However, it seemed smaller than we remembered it.  Don't get me wrong, it was still a lot of meat!  I liked the pastrami more as it was buttery and nicely peppery on the outside.  The corned beef was pretty dry and rather bland.  Was the sammie worth $29.99?  Certainly not, but I guess it is the touristy thing to do.  To relive every moment, I once again, got a Tongue Sandwich (no, not from Viv...  LOL) and it was good. The slices of tongue were tender and buttery with a nice rebound.  It was also well-salted also (and went well with the mustard).

To round out the meat sammies, we got the Beef Brisket which was definitely meaty.  However, we found it to be incredibly dry and bland.  Sure, that is what the mustard was for and it certainly made a difference.  This was our least preferred of the sammies.  My daughter went for the Tuna Melt and nearly dusted off one of the 2 really enormous mounds.  The tuna was lightly dressed, hence it was on the drier side.  However, that also meant it wasn't overly wet nor greasy.  There was a considerable amount of melted cheese on top which added the necessary flavour as the tuna itself was rather plain.

For my son, he just had to get something boring like the Burger with American cheese.  Nothing really interesting, but decent nonetheless.  The burger patty was large and fairly moist while nicely seared on the outside. There was enough melted cheese on top to hide the entire patty. Costanza's youngest son went for his standby being the Mac n' Cheese.  It was actually not bad being creamy and Velvetta-like.  The pasta was not overdone, but again, nothing to write home about either.

For dessert, we once again got a slice of NY-Style Cheesecake with strawberries.  I can see how many people wouldn't like this as it was super heavy and rich.  For me, this was just right since a cheesecake is not a cheesecake unless every bite is cheesy, rich, creamy and thick.  Since Costanza likes his desserts lighter, he got the Banana Cream Pie.  I'm not sure if this was exactly less rich, but it certainly was airier and creamy.  I thought it was okay, but nothing particularly special.  Sadly, Carnegie is really a tourist trap and I've had better deli-meat sandwiches elsewhere.  It's sad to see it go, but at the same time, not really either.

The Good:
- The touristy thing to do
- Large sandwiches that you can take an IG photo of and brag about it
- Efficient service

The Bad:
- The sandwiches are actually sub-par
- Expensive
- The lineup is ridiculous

The Dumpling Trail Part 2

"What?  How come this restaurant is not one of the recommended stops on the Dumpling Trail in Richmond???".  Ah yes, I've heard that once too many times in the last little while.  You see, restaurants have to be actually participating in the Dumpling Trail in the first place.  Hence the limited suggestions at the beginnng.  They have since added more participants to list that is constantly growing.  As a result, I went on another Dumpling Trail run-through with 3 different people (Amy, Jacqueline and Sharon) at 6 different spots.

Once again, we kicked things off with early morning Dim Sum at Vivacity where we made sure the Ha Gau (decided to use a different phonetic spelling) and Siu Mai were on the list.  As clearly evidenced in the picture, the dumpling skin was thin and translucent.  It was also appealingly chewy which gave way to whole shrimp that did its buttery snap thing while sporting natural sweetness accented by sesame oil.  As much as the shrimp dumplings were good, the Siu Mai were even better in my opinion.  The combination of whole chunks of bouncy pork mixed well with the bits of shrimp that were equally bouncy.  Not overly dense, the dumpling was fairly light and natural-tasting.

When we think of dumplings for Dim Sum, we don't often include the Seafood Dumpling in Soup.  This usually includes shark's fin (I personally have stopped eating it), but I didn't notice any in this one.  I found the soup to be sweet and full-of-depth while easy on the salt.  Sporting a tender wrapper, the pork and shrimp filling was on point with a considerable cilantro hit.  Going with something completely different we had the Deep Fried Glutinous Dumpling.  Sadly, this was not our favourite as the glutinous outer shell was too thick and not really all that crispy.  On the other hand, the filling was really good with whole shrimp and lean ground pork.

We then moved onto our 2nd stop at Aberdeen Centre, specifically, Szechuan House in the food court. We ended up getting 4 items including the Spicy Wontons and Boiled Dumplings.  In terms of overall flavour and impact, the spicy wontons were not lacking.  The spicy and tongue-numbing chili oil-based sauce was definitely at the forefront.  At the same time, it wasn't so spicy that we couldn't taste some saltiness to go with the background sweetness and a touch of tang.  The wontons featured a fairly dry skin that was semi-thick.  I found the filling to be a touch mealy where it lacked actual texture.  The boiled dumplings were pretty good despite looking rather flat.  I found the dumpling skin to be medium thickness, yet tender at the same time.  The filling was surprisingly balanced despite the plethora of green onions.  We just wished there was more of it.

After a quick stop for coffee (Amy wanted some), we headed over to Shibuyatei.The best course of action was to sample their dumplings in the Gyoza Combo featuring 2 each of Pork, Shrimp and Scallop.  These featured a thin and chewy skin that was a touch dry.  On the bottom, it was fairly well-seared, but it wasn't really that crispy.  My favourite of the bunch was the pork as it was tender, moist and a bit meaty.  It was mild-tasting though.  I found the scallop to be sweet, but a little mushy as the meat was diced up pretty small.  On the other hand, the shrimp had a meaty snap and was naturally sweet. 

Now, we weren't only eating dumplings as we had ordered full meals so far.  That was about to be taken to a new level at Dinesty as we got 11 dishes including an order each of the Xiao Long Bao and the Crab Xiao Long BaoUnlike the last time I had these, the meat filling was less gritty while the soup was still on the saltier side.  I thought the dumpling skin was fairly thin while being tender and a bit chewy at the top.  The main difference between the two types of XLBs was that the crab and pork filling was sweeter with a background brininess.  We also got the Taiwanese-style Potsickers which are longer and thinner than their Cantonese counterparts.  These were fried up nicely on the bottom being golden brown and crispy.  The dumpling skin was medium-thick where it was a touch on the chewier side.  The moist filling was a mix of processed pork and green onion.

Waddling out of Dinesty, we dragged ourselves to a hidden gem in Shanghai Station in Empire Centre.  Their Spicy Wontons are some of the best I've had in town and yes, we did get a few plates.  Unlike some Cantonese restaurants which serve up actual wontons tossed in chili oil, the ones here are more like boiled dumplings.  Hence, the dumpling skin was thicker while still buttery and tender.  The filling was moist and meaty.  The best part was the combination of peanut sauce and chili oil sauce.  So smooth, spicy and flavourful.  We also got their healthier-style Potstickers where they use less oil.  It was exemplified in its presentation where the dumplings were not glistening with oil.  Hence, the dumpling ate drier and the skin was chewier.  That was not a bad thing as the tender and juicy filling balanced things out.

Our last stop was at Pepper Lunch, which to many would not be a place one would think of when looking for dumplings.  However, their Gyozas are on point.  These were seared up evenly rendering a crispy and appealingly golden brown underside.  The rest of the dumpling skin was thin and al dente while the filling, whether it be beef or chicken, was tender and juicy.  Personally, I loved the meatiness and more robust flavour of the beef more than the chicken.  So there you have it, another group of participating restaurants along the Dumpling Trail in Richmond.  More are being added and who knows, maybe there is another day of dumpling insanity is in my future?

The Kunjip

Originally, we were scheduled to eat with Costanza and Elaine on our first night in NYC, but since they missed their connecting flight, we would have to do it alone.  All the while, we made it into NYC and took our sweet Blacklane limo to our hotel.  We considered many different choices, but my son insisted we eat Korean.  Well, that wasn't a stretch nor was it a suggestion out-of-left-field because our hotel was right next to K-Town.  We were a bit nervous about getting a table since it was Friday night, yet heading out at 9:30pm meant it was not as difficult.  We decided to hit up The Kunjip due to its relatively reasonable prices and diverse menu.

Not surprisingly, we were presented with the obligatory Banchan consisting of kimchi, spicy daikon, potato starch noodles, pickled cucumbers, seaweed, pickled daikon and sausages.  Nothing was particularly memorable and the kimichi was a bit too sour for my tastes.  I found the seaweed a bit difficult to eat as it was dry and chewy.  Whatever, it did its job and there wasn't anything terrible.  Next we had the Bossam with the usual kimchi radish, hot sauce, fermented shrimp condiment and in this case, oysters (David Chang anyone?).  I liked how they served it where the fatty pork was kept warm.  It was decently flavourful while buttery soft.  When wrapped with the condiments in the blanched cabbage, the whole thing ate quite nicely.  I wasn't a huge fan of adding the oysters though as it became too briny and took away from the pork.

Probably my favourite item of the meal was the Kam Ja Tang (pork bone soup).  It arrived bubbling hot with many large pieces of pork bone.  The meat fell off pretty easily and was super tender and well-spiced.  In fact, the whole soup was very flavorful with a balanced spiciness which was accented by a certain meatiness and the herbs, specifically the perilla seeds.  Also arriving super hot, the Dolset Bibimbap with beef was quite hearty sporting a bevy of ingredients.  I found that the veggies and the big slices of beef were well-prepared.  However, the rice was a bit wet and did not form a crust, even with my pushing it to the sides.  They forgot to provide us with the side of gochujang until I asked for it.

We really never ate much of the Japchae as I over-ordered and the fact there was something similar with the banchan.  However, the appetizer portion was prepared well with chewy noodles that was not overseasoned with sugar.  It was a tad greasy though.  I liked how there was quite a bit of ingredients to be found including beef.  Our last item was the BBQ Chicken that was prepared in the kitchen (we didn't have room to BBQ).  The predominantly white meat was seared well, but ultimately was dry and not moist.  Despite its shortcomings, the meal was reasonably-priced while the portions were generous.  It did the trick for our first meal in NYC.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Generous portions
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Not particularly comfortable to sit there
- Hurried service
- Some hit and miss