Sherman's Food Adventures: January 2017

Belachan Kitchen

Here we go with another random Groupon food adventure.  I blindly purchased a dinner for 4 at Belachan Kitchen on Robson despite not knowing anything about the place.  Soon after, I noticed there were mixed reviews on which made me a bit nervous.  Taking over the spot of the old Tropika on Robson, it appears they kept everything the same but the name.  So with that in mind, at the very least, the place would be serviceable.  Say what you want about the Tropika, but the Chinese-altered Malay menu appeals to many.

Despite having more than enough food on deck, we decided to add the Chicken Satay for the kiddies as they love the dish.  This was quite good where the chicken was nicely marinated and charred.  There was a caramelized smokiness as well as sweetness from the marinade.  The chicken itself was tender and cooked just right.  Fortunately, the satay was the only thing we needed to add since the Roti Canai was already included.  This was an average version where it was a little on the denser and chewier side.  The exterior was good though being well seared and crispy.  On the side, the curry dip was sweet and just a touch spicy.

We thought the Thai Prawn Cakes were probably the best appie as it was texturally on point with a light crispiness.  The buttery shrimp filling exhibited an appealing rebound that was moist and airy.  There was enough seasoning for impact while it didn't overpower the sweetness of the shrimp.  I also liked how there was a restrained amount of cilantro where it only existed in the background.  For our soup, we chose the Tom Ka Gai with coconut cream, lemongrass, chicken, baby corn and mushroom.  This was aromatic and slightly sweet.  It was bordering on bland, but the ingredients were on point though as the chicken was very tender.  They should've removed the kaffir lime leaves as well as they shouldn't have sliced the lemongrass into small bits.  Not particularly edible.

Onto the mains, we had the Thai Red Curry Chicken served with a side of rice.  This was a fairly large portion consisting of tender slices of chicken breast, peppers and onions.  We found this only mildly spicy with some sweetness and saltiness from the fish sauce.  I would've liked to see more brininess (more shrimp paste).  It was pretty creamy though from the coconut milk.  The Red Wine Pork Ribs were a pleasant surprise as it exhibited both depth and richness of flavour.  With an abundance of garlic as well as fish sauce, the whole thing was robust with a salty brininess.  The ribs themselves were fairly tender with a meaty chew.

The best dish in our minds was the Stir-fried Seafood with vegetables in sambal sauce.  The combination of dried shrimp, palm sugar and sambal made things spicy and seafoody in flavour.  Furthermore, there was a caramelized sweetness from the wok heat as well as a briny saltiness.  Add in perfectly cooked green beans and eggplant as well as shrimp and squid, the dish was on point.  Our last savoury item was the Fried Hokkien Mee with pork, squid and shrimp.  This was a fairly straightforward stir-fry noodle, but it was pretty good.  The noodles were chewy while the wok heat was good.  The ingredients were not overdone, including the crunchy bean sprouts.  A bit more seasoning could've put this over the top.

As for the sweets, we were served Deep Fried Bananas with ice cream.  I've never been a huge fan of this as it is generally greasy.  This was still the case, but at the very least, the batter remained crispy while the banana wasn't overly ripe.  We also had the Black Sticky Rice Soup with coconut milk.  This was "okay" but need more rice in my opinion.  It was pretty sweet though and its just too much like red bean soup for my liking.  Yah, I wasn't too excited about the desserts, but the rest of the dishes were actually quite acceptable.  Definitely a Tropika clone, but hey, it was fine for us and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

The Good:
- Fairly large portion size
- Okay service
- Decent eats for what it is

The Bad:
- Flavours could be more bold, but then again, they are appealing to wider market
   

Juke

This strange.  Really strange.  I swear that I had written and posted about Juke when I visited the place last September!  But when a friend said they couldn't find the post, I had to check myself.  Lo and behold, he was right!  There was no post!  Maybe I thought I did a post because I had IG'd most of the pictures already.  Whatever the case, I considered whether I should go back and to an actual blog entry or not.  Well, since you are reading this, I guess the decision was to check my notes and go from there!

Now we know the place is known for their Fried Chicken, but honestly, you know I wouldn't be satisfied with only that.  So we got a few sides in the Biscuits with schmaltz.  These were flaky and firmly crispy on the outside.  The crust was texturally appealing and a nice contrast to the inside.  The side of schmaltz was of course fatty and creamy while aggressively salted.  We also got the Dirty Fries which were not as dirty as it could've been.  With that being said, the flavours were weird to me.  The onions didn't seem to go and the amount of moisture made it overly creamy instead of messy.

Something I really enjoyed was the Charred Corn on the Cob coated with more schmaltz, lime, chili flakes and green onion.  I thought the corn natural sweetness was activated by the char while the smokiness was apparent.  Each niblet still had a juicy pop that was firm and of course sweet.  The aggressive saucing of the corn was probably not necessary as it was a bit over-the-top.  Probably the most docile dish so far was the Roasted Cauliflower with crispy chickpeas and spiced yogurt.  We found that the cauliflower had the right texture being cooked all-the-way-through while still retaining a certain firmness.  As mentioned flavours were pretty mild though.

Where's the fried chicken???  Wait, we had even more sides including the Cornbread Mac n' Cheese.  Well, my son as pretty happy about this and in reality, it was good.  Loved the firm noodles that were completely enveloped with real gooey cheese.  I would've loved even more creaminess and moisture to the dish, but in reality, it didn't really matter.  Literally, to top it all off, the crunchy corn bread added an appealing texture and aroma.  To the kiddie's delight, we also got the Grilled Mortadella and Cheese as well.  As evidenced in the picture, the sammie was seared up nicely on the flattop, hence creating a crispy crust.  Inside, the combination of meat and cheese made things a bit salty though.

Okay, finally getting to the main event, we got 3 pieces of Fried Chicken and 1/2 slab of Sticky Pork Ribs.  Okay, I'm going to confidently say that the fried chicken was on point.  With juicy meat and a crunchy, well-rendered skin, this was on point for me.  I've heard otherwise, but we liked it.  I didn't even care that the batter was gluten-free.  As for the ribs, they were indeed sticky and sweet, but they lacked BBQ-essence.  The rub exhibited layers of different flavours.  The meat was somewhere in between fall-off-the-bone and being meaty.  We still enjoyed them nonetheless.  The side of slaw was surprisingly spicy with lots of crunch and peanuts.

For dessert, we decided to try Yo Mamma's Donuts filled with jam.  Honestly, we should've just called it a meal and didn't bother.  These were too dense for our liking and really sweet.  Maybe we ate a heavy meal and these were just not something we should've been eating afterwards...  With that being said, the chicken and ribs were pretty good (I guess others have had different experiences).  The sides were a bit hit and miss and nah, skip the donuts.  Just stick with the chicken and mac n' cheese.

The Good:
- Crunchy and rendered skin
- Juicy chicken
- Funky hipster vibe

The Bad:
- A bit pricey
- Sides are hit and miss
- Funky hipster vibe