Sherman's Food Adventures: March 2018

Yolk's (Hastings)

I've been fan of Yolk's ever since they first started out as a food truck parked near Dunsmuir and Beatty.  The combination of perfectly poached eggs (better be with a name like Yolks) and their signature lemon truffle potatoes was a nice brunch treat.  They were so successful, they opened a B&M store at the ol' Brave Bull location.  Loved how I could eat their food in a restaurant environment since runny eggs and food truck usually means a complete mess.  They didn't do much to reno the place, hence it looked run down and the washrooms were forgettable.  However, they opened a clean and modern 2nd location at the ol' Sliders on Broadway.  Finally, they have moved their original store down the block to brand spankin' new digs.  I met up with Steph to check the place out.

We started the festivities with the Smoked Salmon atop lemon truffle potatoes.  This was typical Yolks with a perfectly poached runny egg where the whites were still tender (not rubbery), yet still cooked through.  On top, the creamy Hollandaise was well-seasoned being buttery with a touch of acidity.  We would've preferred the potatoes to be more crispy, but they were still tasty with a nice balance between the Earthy truffle and zing from the lemon.  Our second plate consisted of the daily feature being Jerk Chicken atop corn bread.  Once again, the egg and Hollandaise were on point while the chicken was fairly tender.  It was somewhat spicy where it could've been amped up a bit more.  Unfortunately, the corn bread was underdone, so it was mushy and not very appealing.

For our 3rd item, we shared the Chicken and Waffles that I had last time I was at Yolks.  This time around, I thought it was executed better with crispy breaded chicken that was moist and succulent.  The waffles could've been a bit crispier, but they were still light and fluffy.   On the side, there was a good helping of maple syrup.  This was a nice transition to our order of Beignets dusted with powdered sugar.  I found these light and airy while not being overly greasy.  Unlike the ones I've had in New Orleans, these were less chewy, which I personally prefer.  Cornbread withstanding, the brunch at the new location of Yolk's was better than the last time I had it.  Prices are slowly creeping up though.

The Good:
- Perfectly poached eggs
- Clean new digs

The Bad:
- Pricey
- That cornbread was terrible

Bin 4 Burger Lounge (Vancouver)

As much as one might think that there is an oversaturation of burger joints in the GVRD, we are not really a burger town at all.  Yes, we can find some good ones at the Pourhouse, Campagnolo Upstairs and Au Comptoir (those of the not cooked-to-death variety), but on average, what we have here is a bunch of chains and mediocre burgers.  Ever since my trip to TO last Summer, I have realized that our burger game is actually rather weak.  So when Bin 4, hailing from Victoria decided to open up shop here, I was anxious to try them out since I enjoyed my original visit in Victoria.

We met up with Uncle Willy and family where Auntie Willy went for a variety of burgers including the Wild Mushroom consisting of 63 Acres premium BC beef, wild mushrooms, garlic, cream, truffle oil, parmigiano, truffle aioli and arugula.  As expected, the combination of truffle and mushroom created a woodsy flavour to the burger.  Truffle oil can be rather overpowering and we enjoyed how it wasn't overused in this application.  For her choice of dip, she had the roasted garlic aioli and that was my personal favourite due to its classic simplicity.  Uncle Willy went for the standard Heritage Burger with bacon aioli and butter lettuce omitting the red onion and tomato while adding Hertl's bacon and 5 year-aged cheddar.  Yes, this was the basic burger essentially, but still solid with moist beef and quality ingredients.  He had the chipotle aioli as his dip and it was smoky with a bit of spice.

For myself, I went for the Bison Burner featuring Rangeland Bison, 5 year-old cheddar, crispy fried onions, house made lime & tomatillo hot sauce, jalapeno aioli, butter lettuce and tomato.  I really enjoyed this burger as it was full of flavour and was surprisingly moist for lean bison.  It wasn't overly gamey due to the nice char on the meat.  The crunch from the onions added great texture while the sharpness of the cheddar really game through.  I chose the curry aioli and it was definitely aromatic from the spices, but only mildly so. For Viv, she went for the Dirty Bourbon with an onion ring, pork & chorizo, red onion & red pepper saute, chipotle bourbon BBQ sauce, chipotle aioli, butter lettuce and tomato.  I thought this was more sweet than spicy.  I personally would've preferred more kick but it was still impactful and messy.  The crunch from the large breaded onion ring was a nice touch.  Her choice of dip, roasted jalapeno aioli, was quite spicy and tangy.

For my son and daughter, they both had the Kid's Heritage Burger adding bacon and cheddar. To us, it looked just as large as the adult version, hence, it was a great deal at $8.00.  Not mentioned with the aforementioned burgers, the default bun was an Irene's Bakery brioche, but one could have a lettuce stack instead.  We thought the bun was soft enough while not dry and it held up to the ingredients.  For our sides, we had a choice between house cut kennebec fries, spiced potato chips or salad.  No one had the salad...  LOL...  Typical of double cooked fries, these were crispy while still potatoey inside.  They were aggressively salted though.  The house-made chips were equally good being smoky and crispy.  Compared to the other burgers I've had in town, Bin 4 certainly holds its own.  Pricing is fair, especially since a side and dip are included.  I will be back.

The Good:
- Fair pricing since it includes side and dip
- Solid beef patty
- Modern space

The Bad:
- Fries are oversalted (but can ask for less)

Tetsu

If you haven't noticed, there is an inordinate amount of sushi joints in the Lower Mainland.  However, for the longest time, most of them were not very authentic and offered up what could be considered "value sushi".  Hey, we deserve the restaurants that we have!  If that is what people were used to and demanded, then that is what we will get.  As our tastes and knowledge matured over time, more and more authentic sushi joints began to pop up.  Naturally, with the higher quality eats, we also have seen the increase in the pricing.  One of the latest spots to open up is Tetsu on Denman.  We decided to check out their premium omakase menu.

Our first few courses consisted of little appetizers with the Tamago stuffed with Unagi arriving first.  From the looks of it, the thing was legit with defined layers and a healthy dose of diced and sauced unagi in the middle.  One bite and I was in heaven as the warm fluffy well-seasoned egg had a fantastic mouth-feel.  The buttery unagi was a robust addition that was also nicely sweet.  The only minor issue was that the bottom portion of the tamago was a bit overdone (but ever-so-slightly).  Otherwise it was perfect.

Next, we had the Baby Anago or Conger Eel served in a mini-wine glass.  It was slippery and soft with a non-offensive sliminess.  The flavours were subtle, but sweet with a noted hit of sea essence.  Of course the slight brininess and saltiness came through, but it was perfectly balanced with the sweetness.  A simple offering that fit the unique, but tasty criteria.  Our last small appie was the Sea Snail served in broth with snap peas.  This was very similar to conch having a firm chewiness that wasn't tough.  It was sweet with clean flavours.  The broth was very mild and almost bland, but this was intentional not to take away the subtle flavour of the snail.  I thought the peas could've been less cooked though.

Onto the main event, we were presented with a selection of Nigiri that was a piece of art.  It consisted of Bluefin Kamatoro, Shimaji, Butterfish, Hotate, Saba, Seared Spanish Mackerel and Hokkaido Uni.  Oh man, this was top notch featuring the buttery and sweet bluefin that was melt-in-your mouth fatty.  The shimaji had a nice snap and we could really taste the sea.  Featuring a more aggressive rebound, the butterfish was of course buttery, mild and clean-tasting.  Soft and sweet, the scallop was amped up by the wasabi and a bit of ginger.  Firm and appealingly chewy, the saba was fishy in a good way.  Loved the ginger, green onion and wasabi combination.  No other seasoning needed.  The seared mackerel was also buttery and nicely fishy.  Again, the ginger and spice was impactful, yet not overpowering.  As for the sushi rice, it was pretty solid, if not a touch soft in parts.  It was well-seasoned and the ratio of rice-to-fish was perfect.

Onto our Udon course, we got one each of the hot and cold Inaniwa Udon.  Starting with the cold udon, it was served with a dipping sauce consisting of the usual daikon, ginger and green onion.  The thin slippery fresh noodles were chewy and really refreshing.  The light dipping sauce was only sweet and savoury enough to add flavour without being too strong.  For the hot udon, it was served in a aromatic and mild broth that had some brininess.  With the addition of togarashi, it amped up the spice level.  The thin noodles softened in the hot broth, hence, the texture was less chewy and more tender.

Onto dessert got one each of the Green Tea Ice Cream and Red Bean Mochi.  Not a whole lot to say about the ice cream other than it was definitely creamy with a full-bodied matcha flavour.  The house made mochi was fantastic being soft with a pleasant chew.  The red bean was actually not overly sweet so it complimented the mochi without being overbearing.  At the end of the meal, we were pretty pleased with most of the items served.  Quality and craftsmanship was definitely top-notch as there was obvious attention to detail.  However, we weren't really all that full, so it was the classic case of quality over quantity (that seems to be the trend for Japanese food these days).

The Good:
- Quality ingredients
- Careful craftsmanship
- Good service

The Bad:
- On the pricier side
- Quality over quantity (for those who want value)
- Limited seating

Two Rivers Meats

Ever since Miss Y went on the Paleo diet, I've been trying to find places that could either fit within that diet or come close.  One of the newer spots in town that nearly satisfies this criteria is Two Rivers Meats out in North Van.  They combined their fabulous meat shop with a counter-service restaurant that is truly the definition of farm-to-table when it comes to the meats.  We headed out there in hopes of trying their beef tartare, but alas, due to the health inspectors, this was temporarily off the menu.  No matter, there was still lots to choose from.

Before we got to the things we ordered, they presented us with a nice little bite consisting of Tallow Popcorn.   For those who aren't familiar, beef tallow is essentially rendered beef fat.  This may sound highly unhealthy, but compared to frying in vegetable oils that change composition under high heat, beef tallow does not.  Whilst eating the peppery and salty popcorn, I didn't notice it to be greasy in any way.  We began with the Charred Chicken Drumsticks dressed with jalapeno buffalo sauce.  I found the meat to be tender and succulent, but the drumsticks could've been charred more aggressively as I didn't get much smokiness.  The sauce on the other hand was super impactful being spicy (lingering) and tangy.

For my main, I went for the Bavette Steak with a side of Tallow Fries.  It was prepared a beautiful medium-rare.  The meat was super tender with a bite while being juicy.  It was nicely charred on the outside where it was smoky and crispy.  The herbed butter on top added all the aromatics and seasoning the steak needed.  The tallow fries were very crispy and not greasy.  On another visit with, we went for the featured steak once more with the 6 oz. Wagyu Tri-Tip.  It was nicely charred, seasoned and topped with the same silky herbed butter.  We asked for it to be prepared medium-rare and it was done so perfectly and evenly.  The meat itself was juicy and well-rested.  Due to the our requested doneness, some of the rich fat in the steak was not rendered, hence being a bit chewy.  But that would be our fault, not theirs.

We also ended up sharing the Pork Cracklings that were more like fried pork belly bites a la Tuc Craft Kitchen style.  However, unlike Tuc, these were much larger and far less rendered.  Hence, they were lightly crispy on the outside, but very fatty otherwise.  They weren't bad per se, but we couldn't eat all of it due to that.  They were well-seasoned, but then again, something like an acid would've been good to cut down the heaviness.  Lastly, we had the Dry Aged Cheeseburger with a side of tallow fries.  We liked the bun as it was soft and airy, but still held everything together.  The patty was juicy, but curiously dense and not as impressive as we would've expected from Two Rivers.  Also, the decision to use processed cheese was another curiosity.  We also added bacon and it was fantastic being crispy and meaty with rich smoked flavours.   After these 2 visits, we came away only mildly happy.  The meat quality and execution of the steaks were pretty much on point, but the rest of the items were average at best.  Lots of potential here though.

The Good:

- Fresh meat, really...
- Steaks executed expertly
- Good tallow fries

The Bad:
- Other items were average
- A little pricey for the type of restaurant

Trafiq

Bear has the biggest sweet tooth.  He can munch on dessert after he has already had dessert.  Yes, second dessert!  I guess it consistent with Winnie-the-Pooh and his honey obsession right?  Therefore, he usually influences my savoury-tooth into becoming a sweet-tooth, even if is only for the briefest of moments.  So when we had to meet up, he suggested that we should head over to Trafiq.  Good idea since I've never been to the place and all I've heard is good things about their wonderful cakes.

Bear insisted I try the Chocolate Cake (which I've had before since he brought it to a party once but I totally forgot) and it was one of the best I've had in a long time.  Despite its appearance, the cake was not overly sweet.  Rather the play between the dark chocolate cake and the creamier chocolate cream created layers of discernible flavours.  The best part was the texture as it was moist (but not wet) while the cream was light.  I also gave the Salted Caramel a shot and it was much sweeter than the chocolate cake.  However, it was purposefully sweet with a caramel smokiness accented by the slight bite of salt.  Once again, the cake was airy and light while the cream was even lighter.

For myself, the Zen (yuzu matcha) caught my eye with its beautiful shade of greens.  Unlike many matcha cakes I've tried, this one put the matcha far into the background.  I could definitely taste it, but the bitterness and typically strong flavour gave way to the floral and bright yuzu.  It ate almost like a fruity cake rather than one that had matcha in it.  Nicely balanced and textures were on point once again.

I got a couple of items to go including their Walnut Coffee Cake with butter streusel.  Seemingly standard and not interesting, the coffee cake was super moist and fluffy (while not being wet).  The sweet topping was a bit smoky from the caramelization.  I appreciated the extra internal layer in the middle that balanced out the sweetness.  On the topic of sweet, the Amazing Schnecken was a truly tasty sticky bun.  Although it looked to be off-the-charts sweet, it really wasn't.  Of course it was still sweet, but purposeful.  Again, there was a caramel smokiness and butteriness.  The bun itself was soft and light.

The last item was the Chunky Monkey (croissant bread pudding with chocolate and banana).  As suggested by Bear, I nuked this and it came out perfect.  Custardy and definitely aromatic from the bananas, this was also just sweet enough.  Loved the dark chocolate topping.  However, I can see some people might not enjoy the dense texture.  However, I personally thought most of the items were on point and in fact, some of the best in the city.  Definitely a solid choice for cakes, for a slice or even the whole darn thing.

The Good:
- Attractive and on point cakes
- Purposefully sweet

The Bad:
- Pastries are okay, but cakes are better
- Seating is limited and tight

Miraku

Whenever I see people raving about something like, "this is the best sushi in Langley" on Google reviews and/or Yelp, I get a bit suspicious.  So how do they quantify this?  Have they gone to every sushi joint in Langley?  Also, what is their experience with Japanese food (ie. the best California roll doesn't constitute the best sushi anywhere...).  So when Nikita and I were deciding on which Japanese restaurant to visit, I suggested Miraku since many have remarked it as the "best in Langley".  Okay, I have only been to a handful of places in Langley, but since Nikita and Bluebeard have lived in Langley forever (and I do mean forever as Nikita was born and raised there), they could give an educated assessment of the place.

We started with the relatively expensive Assorted Tempura for $15.95.  When it hit the table, the price tag seemed reasonable since it consisted of 6 ebi and a good amount of veggies.  It was apparent that they were careful with the batter as it was paper thin, yet crispy and not greasy.  The ebi was buttery with a light snap while the veggies were done right.  In particular, the sweet potato and yam were sliced thinner than usual, hence it was not heavy to eat.  For some odd reason (could it have been my camera?), we were served a complimentary appie in the Tempura Salmon Salad drizzled with sweet mayo and vinaigrette.  This was pretty good as the salmon was still moist and the batter was as good as the previous dish.

Onto some sushi, we had the Spicy Salmon Roll, New House Roll and a few pieces of Nigiri.  Sporting the same spicy dressing, both rolls had a saucy kick to them, but wasn't overpowering.  The sushi rice was chewy with the right moisture level.  I found it mildly seasoned.  They were prepared carefully where the rice was even and minimal while the filling was generous.  As you can see in the picture of the Sushi Combo, the nigiri was appealing in appearance and the ratio of fish-to-rice was on point.  We kept it simple for our order of sashimi with the Sockeye Salmon (not pictured).  It was aesthetically-pleasing where the texture was soft with a bite while the flavour was fresh and sweet.

As per usual, we got an order of the Pork Gyoza for our daughter since she can eat all of it by herself.  These were seared on 2 sides rather than one, which created a crispiness on the outside.  They weren't overly aggressive with the sear which meant the smokiness and caramelization was lacking.  Inside, the filling was soft and moist with a good balance of cabbage and pork.  Rather than ordering it in nigiri form, we had the Unagi Donburi instead. I wasn't a huge fan of the presentation in a shallow bowl, but it ate quite well.  The rice was chewy and texturally on point while the buttery unagi was moderately sauced. I mention this because the rice could've used a bit more flavour from the addition of more sauce.  Also, not sure how the plethora of green onions added to the dish.  So is Miraku the best in Langley?  It is purely subjective, but for us, it was indeed pretty good albeit expensive.

The Good:
- Carefully prepared
- Fish quality was good
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Pricier than the others

My Greek Taverna (Surrey)

For as long as I can remember, I've had My Greek Taverna on the list of to-eat-at-restaurants.  It really didn't matter which location either as they have one each in Coquitlam and Surrey.  Every time I've had a chance to visit the place, something else came up or the place was closed.  So it got forgotten for like the last 8 years (almost the life of the blog).  Finally, I got chance to check the place out despite some varied reports from others.  I happened to be in Surrey, so we headed towards Scott Road at 64th.  On that note, the place isn't the easiest to get access if one was traveling southbound on 120th.

Things got off on a relatively good start with the Calamari.  It was a generous portion of large rings of squid.  It was fried golden brown being lightly crispy and easy on the grease.  The squid itself was tender while retaining an appealing bite and chewiness.  On the side, the tzatziki was airy and garlicky with dill.  However, they were over-zealous with the seasoning as some pieces were stingingly salty.   The same could be said about the Chicken Souvlaki as each nugget of chicken breast tasted purely of salt.  Such a shame as it was grilled almost to perfection with a beautiful charred exterior and being relatively moist for white meat.

As much as it wasn't as salty, the Roast Lamb was not immune to the same issue.  Although it was pleasantly garlicky, it was still overseasoned in our opinion.  We were pretty excited that the portion size which was generous, but ultimately, it was disappointingly dry and chewy.  The desired gelatinous, moist and tender texture was missing.  On the positive side, the rice was one of the best we've ever had being chewy, well-seasoned and nutty.  The best dish of the bunch had to be the Moussaka where it had a delicious and texturally-appealing layer of bechamel.  The meat was moist and well-seasoned while not being salty emitting the classic nutmeg essence.  Overall, this visit to My Greek Taverna could've been good if not for the overuse of salt and the chewiness of the lamb.

The Good:
- Large portions
- Excellent rice
- Except for the lamb, proteins were on point

The Bad:
- Overuse of salt
- Lamb was dry

Kamayan-Style Dinner @ Kulinarya

I'm sure many of you have either seen or tried a seafood boil in Vancouver and/or in the States.  Something about a pile of food and eating with your hands has a certain appeal and wow factor.  Sure, it may not be for everyone and really it can get rather expensive, but the novelty does exist where it is worth trying at least once.  Something along the same lines is the Filipino Kamayan-Style Dinner (or boodle fight).  Multiple dishes of Filipino cuisine are stacked or lined up atop banana leaves for a group to share without the use of any utensils.  A bunch of us recently visited Kulinarya in Coquitlam to experience this feast.

We arrived a bit early, but since they were still setting up, we ended up waiting outside until they were done.  Once inside, we were greeted to a long table lined with banana leaves with the dishes we chose for the meal.  Sitting atop rice (wished it was garlic rice), there was Kaldareta, Crispy Pata, Fried Tamarind Chicken, Fried Bangus, Pinkabet and Lumpia.  Rounding out the mess of food was some fried plantain and fresh mango slices.  On the side, we had the usual vinegar condiment for the crispy pata, plum sauce for the lumpia and banana ketchup for whatever we wanted it with.  Everything was spaced out accordingly so that everyone seated at the table had access to all items.

My favourite item of the bunch was the Crispy Pata as it featured crunchy crackling that had gelatinous fat underneath.  As for the meat, it was tender and fatty with the aromatic flavour from the deep fry.  I enjoyed the tendon and fat attached to the bone as I picked it off to dip into the tasty vinegary sauce.  The Lumpia was also good being crispy (despite sitting for awhile) with a tasty filling.  The Kaldareta was creamy with fatty and tender beef.  Loved scooping up the rice saturated with the coconuty sauce.  I wasn't a huge fan of the chicken though (specifically the white meat) as it was dry. 

Moving onto dessert, we got a large order of Halo Halo complete with the base of evaporatied milk and shaved ice topped with the usual ingredients such as beans, agar jelly, palm seeds and ice cream.  This was pretty typical where it ate well and was a refreshing finish to a heavy meal.  However, this was not the last dessert as I spotted some Ensaymadas behind me on the counter.  I got one to eat in and several to go.  These were money featuring a soft and sweet bun topped with finely shredded cheese.  Surprisingly, I found these 2 desserts the highlight of the meal.  It wasn't as if the rest of the food wasn't any good (except for the chicken).  However, the temperature was a real problem, but then again, they have to set it up.  I guess you can't really win in that regard.

The Good:
- Cool experience
- Relatively reasonable pricing
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Food was rather cold (but logistically cannot be hot either)
- Chicken was dry