Sherman's Food Adventures: 2018

Fremont Bowl

When visiting a city, most people prefer to eat somewhere close to their hotel and/or place of stay.  Let's face it, the bulk of the population do not have the same level of care when it comes to restaurants.  Now we can take this one notch higher where some will do a quick google search and possibly luck out on something good.  Then we have the dedicated ones who scour social media where they follow in other's footsteps (even better is going with a local who is a true food aficionado).  That is what happened when we were visiting Seattle's Woodland Zoo.  Luck would have it that @teelythefoodie's picture of a Chirashi Don from Fremont Bowl would pop up on my IG feed (that day too!).  Hey the place was really close to the zoo!  Hence we made our way there for dinner.

Let's get right to it, their most popular and photogenic bowl by far is the Chirashi Don for $14.95.  My son more than happily ordered that for himself as he is on a chirashi don fix these days.  Considering the price and the amount/variety/quality of ingredients on top, this was a fantastic value.  The bowl sported 3 pieces each of red tuna and hamachi, 5 pieces of Atlantic salmon, 2 pieces each of tuna tataki and unagi as well as ebi, masago and negitoro.  I tried the hamachi and it was buttery and sweet.  For my daughter, she went simple with the Sake Don featuring 8 large slices of Atlantic Salmon.  They were fresh, buttery and sweet.  Underneath, the rice was chewy with just the right amount of moisture.

I went for the Unagi Don which was one of the more expensive bowls at $16.50, but look at it.  LOOK AT IT!  The 5 enormous pieces of unagi that covered all of the rice and in fact, was more than needed for that amount.  I wasn't complaining though as they were buttery and sauced enough to flavor the rice.  Since there was so much of it, each bite was extra fatty with sweet caramelization.  Normally, with an unagi don, I try to conserve so I have enough until the end.  With this one, I just ate recklessly.  For the same price, the Short Ribs Yakiniku Don was equally stunning in portion size.  There was 10+ slices of tender short rib which also meant reckless eating!  No need to leave some meat for the rest of the rice.  Portion was one thing but the well-charred and seasoned ribs were smoky and sweet.

Viv ended up with the Crispy Chicken Katsu Don served with a side of tonkatsu sauce.  OMG, the portion sizes were just shocking as there was 2 large fried deboned chicken legs for this one bowl.  Once again, portion size wasn't the only thing good about this bowl, rather, it was also prepared on point.  As you can clearly see, the cutlet was thick and only lightly breaded.  Inside, it was tender and bursting with juices.  Loved having the tonkatsu sauce on the side as it allowed customization as well as keep things crispy.  Elaine did something similar with the Crispy Tonkatsu Don also served with sauce on the side as well as shishito peppers.  Just like the previous bowl, there was another large cutlet underneath the one you see in the picture.  It was crispy while tender and moist on the inside.  This was quite impressive due to the leanness of the pork loin.

Costanza went for the Salmon Poke Bowl with the addition of unagi (+2).  It sported big chunks of Atlantic salmon, imitation crab, masago, cucumber and wakame with yuzu sauce.  Again, with so many ingredients atop the rice, it wasn't devoid of flavor as there was a nice balance of sweet, tangy, salty and the aromatic from sesame oil.  I also added a side of Chicken Karaage that was served with a masago mayo dip. These could've been crispier, but the thin layer of flour on the outside ensured that this was mostly meat.  About that meat, it was juicy, mildly seasoned and super tender.  Alright, I know I've repeated many things in this post, but things were indeed large and things were indeed well-prepared.  Couple that with reasonable pricing and I can see why there is always a lineup here.

The Good:
- Reasonable pricing
- Huge portions (mostly the protein)
- Well-prepared

The Bad:
- Eating in is a hurried experience
- Lineup at most times

Serious Pie & Biscuits

5 years ago almost to the day, Costanza and I ventured down to Seattle for the madness known as Black Friday.  Some called us brave, some swore we were crazy while others knew why I was really there - for the food!  After some serious all-night shopping and very little sleep, we still made it out to Downtown Seattle to check out one of Tom Douglas' many delicious eateries - Serious Pie (see how I used serious in the sentence as foreshadowing?).  We came away impressed and wanting for more.  Costanza wanted to return right away, but heck, who does that when there are so many choices!  This time around, we returned with both families and we ended up checking out their other location that also features biscuits.

About that biscuit, we had to get an obligatory one to check it out right?  We ended up with the "Zach" sporting fried chicken, tobasco black pepper gravy, fried egg and bacon.  Eerily similar to the "Reggie" from Pine State Biscuits, this one ate heavy and sinfully.  Loved the gravy as it was peppery and creamy.  The fried chicken was fairly moist with a lightly crispy coating.  Egg was runny and bacon was crisp while the biscuit itself was exhibited a crunchy exterior giving way to firm fluffiness.  Solid biscuit.  For our first pizza, we chose the basic with 2 of the Buffalo Mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil.  Clearly evidenced by the picture, the crust was heavily charred, thin and crunchy.  Yes, there was a strong nuttiness going on to compliment the tangy tomato sauce and ample basil.

My personal favourite was the Sweet Fennel Sausage, roasted peppers and provolone.  This was super zesty and meaty from the combination of tender sausage and sweet peppers.  Add in the tangy tomato sauce as well as the well-charred crust, this was a textural and taste delight.  Moreover, I actually liked how this one was less burnt.  The first one was probably just a bit too much so.  I'm not always a fan of raw arugula on top of pizza because it seems to fall off and doesn't really do anything.  I guess it was the same for the Soft Eggs, prosciutto and local greens.  Whatever the case, the runny eggs and the salty prosciutto were a nice combo in a breakfast sort-of-way.  This crust was actually not charred enough for my liking though.

Our last pizza was the Roasted Seasonal Mushrooms and truffle cheese.  Naturally, this one was aromatic from the truffle and woodsy from the mushrooms.  Another classic combination that wasn't overpowering.  I liked this one almost as much as the fennel sausage except the crust was barely charred.  On the side, we got 2 orders of the Bacon Fat Home Fries.  OMG, these were rich and super potent.  The kids googled these morsels up and we barely had a sniff.  They don't look like much, but they were yum!  Once again, Serious Pie didn't disappoint as their crust is what makes their pizza.  Just wished it was a bit more consistent.

The Good:
- Loved that crunchy charred crust
- They have biscuits at this location
- Impactful toppings

The Bad:
- Inconsistent charring
- Lack of parking at this location

Marination Ma Kai

Back in 2012, our family went on a cruise aboard Holland American's Oosterdam sailing from Seattle to Alaska.  It was our second time doing that itinerary and according to Viv, "2 times too many!".  Yah, she is more of the active traveler and seeing trees, ice and wildlife is akin to looking out our backyard in Winter.  Despite her poor attitude towards the trip, we still had a good time and ended up meeting 2 new friends from Seattle, Scout and Lola (not their real names...  LOL).  We killed it onboard slaughtering the competition in every trivia session.  Ah yes, Viv was having a jolly ol' time...  So almost every visit to Seattle, we meet up with them.  This time around, it was at their suggestion - Marination Ma Kai in West Seattle.

Other than the spectacular view and outdoor dining space, Marination also boasts an array of Hawaiian eats.  Before we got to that, we ended up with something more typical of spot right near the water - Fish n' Chips with miso tartar sauce.  Panko-crusted, the fresh fish was flaky and moist.  Although the coating appeared to be thick, it was actually light and crunchy.  On the side, the house cut fries were on point being crispy with plenty of tender potato goodness inside.  Impressively gigantic, the Pork Katsu Sandwich sported slaw, red onion, mayo and house-made tonkatsu sauce on a ciabatta bun.  Crunchy and meaty, the pork cutlet was thick and tender.  The mix of tangy slaw, creamy mayo and sweet tonkatsu sauce provided layers of flavour.  The robust bun kept everything together.

Of course we had to get the Spam Musubi because if we didn't the kids would have a hairy cow.  Not that they wouldn't eat a hairy cow that is...  So for good measure, we also got the Portuguese Sausage Musubi as well.  I personally enjoyed the regular Spam Musubi since it was familiar and the texture was complimentary to the chewy sushi rice.  Not that the sausage wasn't good, it was meaty and nicely spiced, but the robust nature of the meat made the musubi heavier than usual.  Underneath the good amount of kalbi beef and sunny side egg was Kimchi Fried Rice.  This was further finished off with green onion and furikake.  Adding the meat component on top of the rice made this a hearty dish where the chewy and well-seasoned rice was spicy and tangy.

Trying to cover most of the menu, we also got both the Kalua Pork and Spam Sliders complimented by slaw and nunya sauce (mayo, gochujang, garlic and green onion) served on a soft Hawaiian-style roll.  Once again, my preference was with the spam as it was one solid piece of meat that was familiar with its buttery soft texture.  The saltiness really helped balance the slaw.  Again, it wasn't as if the kalua didn't taste good.  In fact, the tender pork was really yummy and it ate like a pulled pork sandwich, just without BBQ sauce.  Lola also got the sliders, but added a Kalbi Beef Taco on the side as well.  It was served on a corn tortilla and topped with slaw, pickled jalapenos, sesame seeds and nunya sauce.  It sported the same well-seasoned beef from the rice we had as well as the same slaw and sauce from the sliders.  Tasty little bite.

We ended things off with Hawaiian Shaved Ice in a mix of Mango and Lychee.  This was not as sweet as it appeared, but flavourful enough that we could discern what it was.  Nice and refreshing and while it ain't as fluffy as Korean bingsoo, it was good in its own right.  Reminded us of grabbing shaved ice in Lahaina.  That would probably be the best description of the place.  A taste of Hawaii right by the water that emulates the island experience.  With reasonable prices and a killer view, there is not much to dislike about the place.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Large portions
- Taste of Hawaii

The Bad:
- Limited parking
- Can get pretty busy and you will be without a seat

Sam Choy's Poke to the Max

We all know the poke craze that has hit Vancouver in the last few years, but other than a few outliers, most have been "salad-type" poke operations.  No, we haven't been blessed with many places that serve up authentic poke (which is basically fish, onion and soy-based dressing) without all the random ingredients.  However, in an about-face, we find the "Godfather" of poke, Sam Choy, amping up poke and other Hawaiian treats at Sam Choy's Poke to the Max in Seattle.  Seeing that piqued our interest and made it our first stop for food.

About that poke, we went for the Mo' Betta Shoyu featuring salmon, shoyu, sesame oil, unagi sauce and wasabi aioli.  This was accompanied by 2 scoops of rice, ginger, pickled veg and wakame salad.  It was pretty much straight up poke except for the 2 sauces.  Honestly, we could've done without them as they not only made the whole thing too heavy, it also muddled up the flavours.  We didn't even know what we were eating due to the strong unagi sauce.  Beyond that, the salmon was excellent as well as the condiments.  Following the same theme, the Reconstructed Musubi was a complete mess in our opinion.  Splatted obscenely by the same 2 sauces, it totally took away the enjoyment form the seared Spam, egg frittata and chewy sushi rice.  It was unnecessarily messy and once again muddled.

On the flip side, the Big Kahuna Kulua Sandwich was a hit.  The pork was plentiful and tender.  Unlike some other versions I've had in the past, the meat was moist and not overly fatty either.  In addition to the Hawaiian sweet bun, there was coleslaw, namasu, cilantro and aioli.  These added a bright crunch as well as sweetness and tang. On the side, the furikake fries were pretty damn tasty.  They were lightly crispy and somewhat greasy, but the taste of the nori added appealing umami.  Lastly, we had the Garlic Moco (instead of the Loco Moco) featuring garlic fried chicken, garlic sauce, grilled onions and a sunny side egg.  This was also tasty with impactfully flavoured crispy chicken.  That alone was worth the price of admission.  We were so-so with the mac salad as it the pasta was too soft.  At the end, we were torn as to whether we enjoyed our meal or not.  If I had to choose one or the other, it was more of a miss than hit for us.

The Good:
- Plenty creative
- Loved that fried chicken
- Kalua sammie and fries were on point

The Bad:
- Too many sauces on the poke and musubi
- Why can't they keep things more simple?

Congrats to the winner!

Congrats to Vivian Truong for winning the $100 GC!!!  Please DM me at with you mailing address and choice of restaurant.  I will send that to you ASAP.  Happy eating!

Honjin Ramen

At one point in time, many of the new ramen shops in town were opening up in and around Robson Street.  Yes, it still remains the highest concentration for those noodle shops, but things are slowly changing.  We are finding more spots located outside of Downtown and in fact, outside of Vancouver in general.  One of the newest to join the fray is Honjin Ramen located within restaurant row adjacent to Zone Bowling in Coquitlam.  One look at their menu and other than being brand new in a spot not known for ramen, their prices are bucking the trend with most bowls under $10.00.

We decided to check it out for lunch one day since it was rather rainy and definitely seemed like a good time for soupy noodles.  With only 4 main choices, we ordered them all with my son doing the classic Shio with bamboo shoots, half-egg, corn and nori.  Clean and clear, the chicken broth was pretty light naturally accented by salt.  The noodles were thin, yet al dente while the fatty chashu melted in his mouth.  As evidenced in the picture, the ajitama egg was a fail as it was almost fully cooked.   My daughter had her favourite being the Miso with all of the same ingredients including green onions (unlike my son who didn't want them).  As expected, this broth was more robust with the addition of fermented soybeans.  However, it was very "misoy" as the fermented saltiness was really apparent.  For those who like it overpowering like that, then you will love it.  

For myself, I tried the Tan Tan Men which was probably the most flavourful of the bunch due to the addition of spice.  The broth was creamy due to the fat and sesame paste.  Unlike the Szechuan version, this was more of a soup than a sauce.  Hence, the flavours were less concentrated.  As like the other bowls of ramen, the noodles were perfectly al dente.  Viv went for the one that nobody else ordered being the Shoyu Ramen.  At first, we thought this was the miso ramen due to the cloudiness of the broth.  Turned out that this was one actually as impactful as the miso.  There was of course the saltiness of the shoyu mixed in with the meatiness of the broth.  It ate a bit greasy, but on the other hand, there was depth due to that.

On the side, we had the Chicken Karaage which arrived as a modest portion.  What it lacked in size, it made everything up with execution.  Each nugget of dark meat was bursting with juiciness and adequate amount of seasoning.  On the outside, it was crispy and not greasy.  In the end, we agreed the ramen was decent for Coquitlam and was very well-priced.  Portions were on the smaller side (hence, in line with the pricing), but enough for lesser appetites.  A good option for a quick meal before a movie (like we did).

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Decent
- Good service

The Bad:
- Smallish portions

Haan Korean BBQ

For all of the Korean restaurants located in the GVRD, there is a surprising lack of good options for Korean BBQ.  Yes, I'm sure we can name quite a few, but compared to places like L.A. and NYC, there aren't many great ones to be found.  Of course it could be partly due to the smaller Korean population, but it isn't as if Korean food is a mystery here.  In fact, I find it quite popular and somewhat of an "it" thing for the past little while.  So when we wanted to do Korean BBQ, but didn't want to head to the usual spots (including the now not-as-good Insadong), we made our way out to Haan Korean BBQ in Coquitlam.

We ended up getting 2 Short Plates and 1 Beef Rib. For the amount of meat that we got, I thought the pricing was fair.  The meat quality was actually quite good with plenty of marbling.  Since it was sliced thin, the beef cooked rather quickly, but it wasn't as tender as it we had hoped for.  Ont the other hand, the beef short rib was buttery tender and since it took longer to cook, developed a smokier char.  Served with our meals was the usual condiments of romaine lettuce and Banchan.  Of those, we found pickled daikon, potato salad, bean sprouts, spicy pickled turnip and kimichi.  Nothing particularly amiss about these as the kimchi was spicy and full-of-depth.  I would've liked to see stewed potato though.

Not to be outdone, we also added the Gamjatang Hot Pot served on its own burner.  This was quite good as it was loaded with meaty and tender pork bones.  The broth itself had a good spice with legit perilla seeds.  Hence there was good aromatics and depth as well.  Hidden within, there was also some veg and tender nuggets of potato.  To top it all off (if we didn't have enough food already), we added the Bossam.  This was also well-executed with buttery and meaty slices of pork belly complete with spicy radish and a curiously small amount of cabbage.  Overall, we found the food at Haan to be quite good and fairly priced.  Of course Korean BBQ is never a cheap proposition, but this was okay comparatively.

The Good:
- Fairly good eats
- Fair pricing
- Service was decent for us

The Bad:
- The regular beef was not as tender as it appeared

Rosa's Cucina Italiana

When it was suggested that we go dine at Rosa's out in Port Moody, I was rather indifferent.  You see, my last visit (which was a long time ago) didn't elicit any strong feelings for a return engagement.  Not that the food was terrible by any stretch of the imagination, it just wasn't memorable.  Sure, the walls are littered with celebrities and yes, it has got the strange location and "hidden gem" written all-over-it.  So why not, I can give the place another chance to prove why it is so popular where they often have a daily mini-Anton's lineup.

We kicked things off with a large Caesar Salad that definitely lived up to its namesake.  It sported fresh and crunchy romaine hearts that was moderately dressed.  We could definitely taste the ample garlic as well as the Parmesan cheese.  However, there wasn't enough anchovy and Worcestershire sauce for impact.  Furthermore, the salad ate rather greasy (as you can see from the glistening picture).  Another shared appie was the massive serving of 4 Meatballs.  I thought these were good, but not great.  The amount of bread in the mix created a mushy texture that wasn't meaty enough for our liking.  However, not all was lost as the tangy tomato sauce did have impact.

We ended up sharing some pastas including the Spaghetti & Italian Sausage.  Although the portion sizes at Rosa's doesn't compete with Anton's, it is still large in their own right.  On the top, we found 2 large uncut Italian sausages.  These were meaty and lightly spicy with the finish of fennel.  As for the pasta, it was al dente and well-portioned.  I thought the sauce was nicely zesty and tangy, yet the pool of water at the bottom of the plate lessened my enjoyment.  I made sure we got the Spaghetti Vongole as it is probably my favourite pasta.  This one featured a tonne of baby clams which ensured a certain brininess.  We chose garlic and oil sauce and it was definitely garlicky.  I thought it wasn't as greasy as it could've been which in turn made this one of the better pastas of the night in my opinion.

I wasn't a huge fan of the Homemade Gnocchi in cream sauce though.  It was awesome that the gnocchi was house-made, but it was rather dense and heavy.  With that being said, it wasn't terrible either, so let's not go to that extreme.  I guess the fact it was bathed in a rich and extremely creamy sauce (also cheesy) didn't help the dense gnocchi.  I think a tangy tomato sauce would've been a better match.  Our last pasta was the Spaghetti Carbonara which was actually quite good.  As with the other dishes, the pasta was al dente while enveloped in a creamy and cheesy egg sauce.  There was enough bacon for a salty richness.  Overall, the pastas were pretty much like the first time I had them - not bad, but not great either.  What was particularly unsettling was another customer was being extremely rude to our table for taking pictures, but instead of calming the situation down, the staff did nothing.  I understand that it creates a spectacle of sorts (and can be annoying to others), but no need to be rude about it (it was borderline harassment).  That literally and figuratively left a bad taste in our mouths.

The Good:
- Some pleasant dishes
- It's got that hidden gem personality to it

The Bad:
- Not really worth lining up
- Staff were not responsive to a rude and harassing customer

This Blog is 10 Years Old!

A decade.  Can you believe it?  I surely can't.  Over the last 10 years, I've had my fair share of delicious food and well, not-so-delicious food.  I try to say it as it is without being an a-hole about it.  Sure, there are those who say I'm not critical enough and those who say I'm too critical.  Well, we can't please everyone right?  Besides, I'm not in it to please anyone but myself really.  So in the words of Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way"!  I really appreciate the friends I've met along the way as we've shared food and many laughs.  Am I going to do this for another 10 years?  To be honest, probably not.  In fact, my dedication to the blog has been waning.  I will continue posting as much as I can, it might not be as frequent as every other day though.  I am excited about my Japan trip in 2020 as well as a road trip/possible cruise in 2019, so there will be plenty of content I want to share with you.  But for now, I'd like to celebrate 10 years with another giveaway for a $100.00 GC to a restaurant of your choice.  Just leave a short comment (doesn't have to be nice...  LOL) and your first name and last initial.  Winner will be announced on November 8th.

Isami Sushi

When I first started blogging, I had already been to many of the restaurants in town, but had not taken pictures nor written about them.  It was a bit of a drag to go back to each and every one for the purposes of being complete.  However, some slipped through the cracks since we find newer restaurants opening up frequently.  Therefore, places such as The Eatery and Isami Sushi have been lost in the shuffle.  Thanks to a comment from a reader, he reminded me of Isami Sushi and I made it a point to go eat there.  We ended up meeting with Popper and Popette where we had the plan to grab some Soft Peaks afterwards.

With the kids attacking the Salmon Sashimi shortly after I took a picture of it, Viv and I were only able to wrangle one piece from their ravenous appetites.  Considering the price ($11.00) and quality, this was a pretty good value.  For a non-value type of Japanese restaurant (ie. Sushi Town, Sushi Garden, Sushi California), the sashimi here was inexpensive, well-portioned and buttery.  We were all giggling at the typo on the menu that read "shopped scallop cone" rather than Chopped Scallop Cone.  My son actually wanted one, so we ordered it.  As evidenced in the picture, they didn't skimp on the baby scallops as the thing was an almost perfect 50:50 ratio of rice and scallops.  They were lightly dressed, buttery and sweet.  He found the sushi rice to be on the softer side, but still chewy and mildly seasoned.

Trying to change it up a bit, I decided to try out their Unagi Battera.  Neatly constructed, but a little loose, each piece fell apart as we picked them up.  There is a fine line between being too densely packed and too loosely constructed, so in general, it was still fine.  As such, the texture of the rice was softer and fluffier, but still with some chewiness.  On top, there was an ample layer of buttery unagi that wasn't over-sauced.  We weren't interested in getting any specialty rolls, but wanted something bigger than the traditional ones.  Hence, the compromise was in the Special Maki consisting of tuna, salmon, salmon skin, cucumber, avocado and flying fish roll.  This was 10 pieces large and stuffed with plenty of filling.  I though the roll was pretty standard (besides being big) and ate quite well with the right textures.

Originally, I was going to give the Chicken Karaage a go, but it appeared we had enough food already.  Fate would have it, Popper ordered it and offered me a piece!  Exactly what I had on my mind...  Beyond the crispy rendered skin, the meat was succulent and had a certain umaminess to it.  We couldn't put our finger on that particular flavour, but it was appealing.  For some reason, it was served with a salad (not that we were complaining though).  Usually, my daughter can easily down an order of Gyoza all-by-herself in addition to eating other items.  However, she only ate half of one this time around.  For me, it sort of made sense as the filling was rather mushy.  There was a pleasant hit of ginger though and the dumpling skin was delicate while seared quite well.

As always, we got the Assorted Tempura, but this was a bit different where they added 2 pieces of fish with the usual ebi and veggies.  I found the batter to be pretty thin, especially on the veggies.  So much so, you can actually see the veggie underneath as seen in the picture.  Despite the minimal batter, everything was still crispy.  Arriving on a cast iron plate, the Beef Yakisoba was not sizzling.  Why serve it on such a plate if you don't do it right?  Anyways, this was pretty average in my books.  I found the noodles almost not cooked enough being not overly hot and somewhat too chewy.  They were also pretty greasy which made for a not-so-appealing mouth feel.  The dish ate dry as there wasn't enough moisture.  Lastly, there was a lack of flavour which might've had something to do with the dry noodles as well.

Trying something different, we had the BBQ Mixed Seafood.  Okay, if the picture looks more light a seafood motoyaki, then you are right.  What they did was BBQ the seafood and then chopped it up and baked it with a creamy sauce.  We weren't really fond of this either as the seafood was overdone and not smoky (despite the BBQ).  Lastly, we had to add a Mini-Chirashi Don since my son was not satisfied with the amount of food we ordered.  Well, this was a fabulous deal at $12.00.  This was topped with plenty of sashimi which was fresh and visually appealing.  It ate well too with chewy sushi rice underneath.  So overall, our visit to Isami Sushi yielded generally decent food at very reasonable prices.  Not sure about the cleaniness of the place though, they might want to look into that.

The Good:
- More than acceptable food
- Reasonable prices
- Fairly good service

The Bad:
- May need to keep an eye on the cleaniness