Sherman's Food Adventures: July 2018

Horizon's

For me personally, I put more emphasis on food quality over things like service, ambiance and location.  After all, the whole point of eating out is well, eating the food.  Yes, the other aforementioned criteria can enhance the experience, but if the food is not acceptable, then it is akin to paying for a movie that sucks.  No matter how nice the theatre, the seats, the company, the popcorn or location, one would come away disappointed.  So that brings me to Horizon's on Burnaby Mountain.  I haven't been to the place in ages for that very reason.  The reliance on their awesome location (and subsequent view) may have affected the effort put into their menu.  We recently visited them for brunch to see if anything has changed and/or improved.

Other than the repairs that were made due to a fire years ago, the place looked pretty much the same with stellar views of Downtown Vancouver, the North Shore and Metrotown.  They also still sported their popular made-to-order Omelette Bar with an array of ingredients supplemented by baked goods and fruit.  Although we shouldn't expect a French-style omelette, I feel that they overdo the eggs where the whole thing becomes more like a frittata.  If you do not mind that, then for $20.00, it is a good value as you can have as many omelettes as you wish.  My son had his favourite with the Eggs Benedict featuring the classic combo of Canadian back bacon, English muffin and Hollandaise.  As much as the egg was perfectly runny, the English muffin was hard as a rock.  We couldn't even cut through it!  How do you mess that up???

For myself, I had something more typical with the Flat Iron Steak with eggs.  This was probably the best dish of the meal where the steak was prepared medium-rare as requested.  It was fairly tender with a decent char on the outside.  The chimmichuri on top was rather weak-tasting though.  Both eggs were poached perfectly being runny with fully cooked whites.  I enjoyed the tangy and light Hollandaise atop the not-overly-wilted spinach.  I wasn't a huge fan of the hashbrowns as they were too squishy and greasy while being not crispy enough.  My daughter went for the Maple Miso Salmon which tasted great.  The marinade created a sweet and caramelized aroma that was accented nicely by the rich umaminess of the miso and sweetness of the maple syrup.  However the fish itself was woefully overdone being hard and dry.

Although the Seafood Crepes were promoted as the best dish by our server, it ultimately fell flat.  Thick, dense and rubbery, the crepes shouldn't have even been called crepes.  Not appealing at all and absolutely terrible.  Inside, the seafood was hit and miss with the fish overdone and lifeless.  On the other hand, the shrimp and scallops were okay.  The buerre blanc was a total letdown as it was water and completely flavourless.  It needed some acidity and salt.  Viv went for the most interesting dish in the Huevos Estofados consisting of tomato, chilies, pepper, onions, corn, cheddar, cilantro, eggs, chorizo, cream and crispy tortilla strips.  This was a nice combination of sweet, spicy and smoky savoury.  This along with my steak were the 2 best dishes of our brunch.  It is really too bad since their location is stellar.  The food just doesn't do it justice.

The Good:
- Awesome view
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Food is not up to par

1/2 Priced Burgers @ Bin 4

Ever since my first ever visit to Bin 4 Burger Lounge in Victoria last year, I've been hoping they'd open up a location in Vancouver.  Well, that didn't take long as they set up shop on Granville at 14th late 2017.  I made it out there pretty quickly to discover that they were just as good as I had remembered.  What I also discovered was that their kid's menu was an insane value as you nearly get a full-sized order for a fraction of the price.  On that note, we recently found out about their 1/2 burgers after 9:00pm as long as you purchase a beverage (including pop).  We ended up visiting the place several times after softball.

On our first go around, I decided to try something other than red meat in the Delizioso with Rossdown Farms free-range chicken breast, basil pesto, grilled tomato, bocconcini, fresh basil, balsamic reduction, cracked pepper, basil aioli and butter lettuce.  I found this combination of ingredients to be fairly light and mild-tasting.  There was a noted herbaceous slant to the flavour profile thanks to the 3 applications of basil.  The chicken was beautifully seared while remaining tender and almost juicy.  Judes also shied about away from red meat and decided on Chicken of the Sea consisting of seared rare sesame crusted Ahi tuna, olive tapenade, chipotle aioli, cucumber, fresh cilantro, cilantro yogurt, butter lettuce, tomato and red onion.  As evidenced in the picture, the tuna was perfectly rare, buttery and fresh-tasting.  Much like my burger, this one was mild and light.  It ate easy and the cilantro really came though.

Pom Pom went for the Dirty Bourbon consisting of 63 Acres premium BC beef, onion ring, pork & chorizo, red onion & red pepper saute, chipotle bourbon BBQ sauce, chipotle aioli, butter lettuce and tomato. As with my previous experience with this burger, the flavours were more sweet than spicy.  This was a hearty concoction with the combination of beef patty and the rest of the meats hidden in the crunchy onion ring.  With the unmistakable smell of truffle oil, we sensed the Wild Mushroom even before it hit the table.  In addition to the mushrooms and truffle oil, there was garlic, cream, parmigiano, truffle aioli, baby arugula and tomato.  Predictably, the burger was woodsy with plenty of umaminess.  Despite the presence of truffle oil and aioli, it wasn't used too liberally.

Bam Bam chose the Black & Blue that featured a blackened beef patty, Ermite blue cheese, jalapeno and sweet onion relish, chipotle aioli, butter lettuce and tomato.  As such, there was a crust on the patty that was smoky and crispy.  As much as there was blue cheese present, it wasn't overly strong.  The ample relish on top was indeed sweet and provided a nice counterbalance to the heartiness of the patty.  On the side, he subbed Fried Pickles and they were uniformly crunchy.  R2D2 wanted to compare with Bells & Whistles (All-Day Breakfast Burger), so he had the Breakfast Club consisting of a pork & chorizo patty, fried egg, Hertl's bacon, house made roasted jalapeno guacamole, roasted garlic aioli, 5 yr cheddar, butter lettuce, tomato and red onion.  By virtue of being a completely different creation, this ate more like a burger than breakfast sammie.  It was hearty with a nicely spiced patty aided by the robust flavours of the bacon and cheddar.  Instead of fries, he chose the Spiced Potato Chips which were firmly crunchy.

On our second visit, Bam Bam opted for the Bison Burner with a side of Wild Mushroom Gravy.  That was a great decision as the gravy was super powerful with a smack-in-the-face umaminess.  It was a touch salty, but it went well with the fries.  The burger itself was comprised of Rangeland bison, 5 yr aged cheddar, crispy fried onions, house-made lime & tomatillo hot sauce, jalapeno aioli, butter lettuce and tomato.  In my opinion, this is one of the more impactful burgers on the menu.  The slight gaminess of the meat combined with the sharpness of the cheddar added depth while the combination of the hot sauce and jalapeno aioli offered up tang and spice. Sens Fan ended up with the Boss Hogg with a beef and chorizo patty, black bean salsa, panko-crusted deep fried goat cheese, avocado lime cream, chipotle aioli, butter lettuce, tomato and red onion.  By virtue of the big ball of fried goat cheese on top, this was a hearty creation that had a bit of spice, tang and full of creaminess.

JR also went for chicken in the Sweet Corn & Chipotle.  As the name suggests, the main component other than the beautifully seared chicken breast was sweet pops from the niblets.  It was mixed into the red pepper and jalapeno salsa which added a tangy spice.  There was also a small amount of cilantro, roasted jalapeno goat cheese, chipotle aioli, butter lettuce and tomato.  The most noticeable of these was the goat cheese as it added a thick creaminess.  On her second go around, Judes had the Minted Lamb with eggplant & tomato relish, Ermite blue cheese, mint pistou, roasted garlic aioli, butter lettuce and red onion.  The mildly gamy BC lamb patty was moist while decently seared.  Despite being an ample amount of relish on top, it added mostly moisture rather than impact.  On the other hand, the blue cheese was definitely there as well as the unmistakable taste of mint.

I went straight for their featured burger being the How Do You Like Them Apples consisting of a venison & pork patty, borgonzola cheese, apple & maple compote, apple sticks, apple gastrique, butter lettuce and garlic aioli.  Even before I took a bite, I was expected it to be sweet.  That it surely was with the maple really coming through.  There was no mistaking the apple flavour.  In fact, it somewhat obscured the cheese.  I found the patty to be lean and slightly dry, but the compote added enough moisture to compensate.  So going back to last year, I've visited Bin 4 a total of a half dozen of times (including Victoria).  I can definitely say that their burgers are pretty good stuffed with quality ingredients.  The beef patties can be on the drier side and the fries can be inconsistent, but overall, great stuff in my books.  Can't beat the 1/2 price deal after 9:00pm either.

The Good:
- 1/2-priced burgers!
- Quality ingredients
- Sides and dips included in price

The Bad:
- Meat is good quality but a bit too lean for some
- Fries can be inconsistent 

Tobiko Sushi

My original experience with Tobiko Sushi was completely random.  I had just finished up a meeting in the area and was in search for eats.  I was going to head to the Wendy's, yet out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Tobiko Sushi.  Hey, Japanese food on the whole is better than eating burger and fries right?  That could be totally false dependent what you order I guess...  Whatever the case, I ordered the chirashi don and to my surprise, it was one of the better ones I've had of late.  Since I was in the area again, I stopped by to have that dish and a few others as well.

Look at the picture.  Look at it!  The Chirashi Don in all its glory with only a tiny amount of sushi rice.  This was only $16.95 where it could rival most assorted sashimi plates.  It consisted of salmon, tuna, ebi, tamago, imitation crab, tuna tataki, tobiko, ikura, seared salmon and baby scallops.  Judging from the fresh sheen, we were confident that the fish would be on point.  That is was being the right textures and surprisingly flavourful (given the price point).  The sushi rice had enough moisture while still retaining an appealing chewiness.  Although the don was not plated in its usual bowl, I preferred this as I could eat more easily.  Much like the last time, I also had the Assorted Tempura which was a generous portion.  Each piece was relatively crispy and light except for a few portions where the batter was thick.  It didn't matter much as it wasn't much of a hindrance. 

We decided to give the Aburi Salmon Nigiri a try and it was interesting.   This was rather saucy, but not as flavourful as it appeared.  The salmon was buttery soft while lightly seared.  A more aggressive char would've helped adding smokiness and caramelization.  The rice was good though being chewy with enough moisture while lightly seasoned.  For no apparent reason other than needing to get a standard maki roll, we also added the House Roll consisting of tuna, salmon, tamago, imitation crab, cucumber, carrot and tobiko.  This was carefully constructed where the ingredients stayed put while the layer of rice was thin.  Similar to the aburi nigiri, the rice was chewy and had just the right amount of moisture.  Ingredients were fresh too.

Lastly, we got the Katsu Don for good measure (like we actually needed more food).  As you can see, the portion size was massive. Mostly crispy, the breaded chicken was tender and succulent.  I thought that the amount of sauce made the rice a bit mushy on the bottom.  However, when mixed together, it wasn't too bad.  Interestingly, even though there was so much sauce, we could've used a bit more impact though.  Tobiko Sushi is very much another neighbourhood Japanese restaurant.  Therefore, I wouldn't suggest driving out there for a meal.  However, if you are in the area, it is good quality food for a reasonable price.

The Good:
- Reasonable pricing
- Quality eats
- Awesome people

The Bad:
- Small place, very few seats
- A bit inconsistent where things are different such as the Chirashi Don, it was not the same as my first visit


Sea Fortune

As much as I've tried very hard to stay on top of the Richmond Dim Sum scene, it changes far too often for me to keep up.  However, I do get into these missions every now and then to visit the spots I've never been to.  Of course there are a few obstacles such as distance (I'm not exactly close by) and traffic (that is a given and honestly an occupational hazard).  But these things ultimately do not matter when I'm focused on food.  Therefore, we made the trek out to Sea Fortune, which has changed hands a gazillion of times in the past decade. 

The first dish to hit the table was the Beef Meatballs.  These were generous in size, yet not crazy big (insert requisite ball joke here).  Texturally, they were on point being moist and tender with an appealing rebound.  There was only a modest amount of greens which didn't overwhelm the flavour profile.  With that in mind, the seasoning was quite mild, but that is why it is served with a side of Worcestershire sauce.  I wasn't originally interested in ordering the Sparerib Rice, but since it was on special (before 11:00am), I did the Chinese thing and got it.  Good call since the rice was dry and chewy (a good thing since it was going to be doused with sweet soy anyways).  On top, the ample spareribs were meaty with a good chew.  They were garlicky with a touch of spice.

Onto more starch, the Mini-Lo Mei Gai were actually smaller than usual (despite being mini anyways).  Once unwrapped, the sticky rice was on the wetter and softer side.  I would've preferred it to be chewier as it was sloppy to eat and didn't have a good mouth feel.  This might've been due to the ample ground pork filling which made the thing hearty.  It did taste good though with a balanced savoury-sweetness combined with the natural meat flavours and some mushroom.  Of course I had to get the usual Tripe & Tendon which in this case, was prepared in a "teriyaki sauce".  Honestly, this didn't taste like any teriyaki sauce I've had before.  Rather, it was more akin to a sweet satay sauce of some sort.  I thought the textures were spot on where the tripe was soft while retaining a chew.  The tendon was soft, but didn't disintegrate.

One of the better dishes we had also happened to be the gold standard for Dim Sum being the Ha Gau (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings).  Although they were on the smaller side, the execution made up for that.  Beyond the relatively thin and perfectly textured dumpling skin (nicely chewy with a rebound), the shrimp filling delivered.  Made up of shrimp pieces and some mousse, the filling was buttery with the right amount of moisture.  The initial crunch of the first bite gave way to the classic bounciness.  It was sweet with the aromatics of sesame oil in the background.  Instead of the regular Siu Mai, we got the Black Truffle Siu Mai instead.  This was also very good featuring tender, yet meaty chunks of pork that exhibited rebound.  Mixed in was the same buttery shrimp as well as a small amount of shiitake.  It was finished off with a small dollop of black truffle.

Relatively large and fluffy, the BBQ Pork Buns were a good balance between bun and filling.  I found the bun to be airy and light while not taking on too much moisture.  Inside, the pork filling was a combination of lean pieces with entirely fatty ones.  This was not appealing to me personally.  That also meant the BBQ pork was tender though.  The glaze was nicely balanced between sweet and savoury.  Continuing on with the same protein, we had the BBQ Pork & Pea Shoot Rice Noodle Roll.  This suffered the same problem as the BBQ pork bun where the pork was far too fatty.  I had to pick out half of it since it was all fat.  Not appealing at all.  Too bad really since the rice noodle was thin with perfect elasticity.  The addition of tender pea shoots lightened up the fattiness of the meat.

The next 2 items consisted of the Deep Fried Dumplings and Deep Fried Taro Dumplings. We actually only ordered one of them, but they messed up entering the order replacing the intended Spring Rolls with the deep fried dumplings.  Whatever, we ate then anyways and both of them were on point.  The glutinous rice exterior of the fried dumpling was relatively thin, light and crispy.  Inside, the pork filling was generous, well-seasoned and tender.  The same could be said about the taro dumplings as well.  Outside, the layer of taro was soft and also crispy.  However, it was quite oil-logged.  Our last dish was the XO Daikon Pudding Cake.  This was so-so as each cube was cut a bit too small, hence they seemed oily and maybe a bit lacking in texture.  It was lightly spicy and briny.  In general, the Dim Sum at Sea Fortune was acceptable with a few highlights.  However, it doesn't stand out with the many options in Richmond.

The Good:
- Decent
- Dining space spacious
- Okay service

The Bad:
- Decent, but doesn't stand out
- Parking lot insufficient

Aburi King

The measure of ones success can often be found within the amount of copycats.  Think of it, someone wouldn't try to do the same thing you are doing if it isn't making money.  Often, it gets a bit excessive, where we find 3 bubble tea shops on one block (think Fraser Street and 42nd) or 8 ramen shops in a 2 block radius on Robson.  But you get the idea, if something is successful, why not get in on the action?  This would be the case with aburi sushi.  Miku/Minami started the trend and that opened the floodgates with Victoria Sushi, Green Leaf, Kishimoto, Yui Bistro and the sort.  One of the newest players is the aptly-named Aburi King out on Rupert at 22nd.

We headed here after Sunday morning hockey for some aburi action.  On that note, we got all 3 available options for Aburi Oshi with Hamachi, Bluefin Tuna and Salmon.  In terms of plating, they really shouldn't have crammed them together as it was hard to figure out which was what and also they were somewhat stuck.  Also, the repetitive sauce and toppings didn't highlight the unique flavours and texture of each fish.  Despite that, we still enjoyed the evenly torched fish.  Maybe the hamachi could've been cooked a bit less though as it was no longer buttery.  The rice was quite good being chewy with the right amount of moisture.  The smokiness and caramelization was apparent while the piece of ripe avocado hidden in the middle worked way better than I would've thought as it added a smooth creaminess.

For myself, I wanted to try the Aburi Roll consisting of spicy tuna, spicy salmon, chopped hamachi and chopped scallop on top of an avocado cucumber roll.  This was rather substantial as they overloaded each piece with ingredients.  So much so, things started falling off.  I wasn't complaining though as it meant that I wasn't going to go hungry.  Unlike the aburi oshi, the toppings were still fairly rare and buttery.  Again, the smokiness and caramelization of the sauce created aromatics and umaminess.  This was well worth the $12.00 they charge for the roll.  Since JuJu and I arrived first, we ordered our own amuse with the Fish & Chip Cone consisting of sole fish tempura, avocado, cucumber, masago, potato flakes and special sauce.  This small cone for $1.50 was pretty good where the fish was flaky with a crunchy batter while the rest of the ingredients complimented it well.  I felt that if there was a bit of rice, this would've ate a bit better.

As a table, we also shared the Assorted Tempura with ebi, eggplant, carrot and zucchini.   This featured a fairly thin layer of batter that was mostly crispy.  I say mostly because some parts were a little doughy, but ever-so-slightly.  The ebi was fantastic having a buttery and moist snap.  Although the veggies were sliced pretty thin and small, they were still able to not overcooked it very much.  I would've liked to see thicker pieces.  JuJu spotted the lunch specials on the table placard and settled with the Chicken Katsu with rice, miso soup, salad and California roll for $8.00.  Good value here as he was pretty satisfied with the portion for the price (and since his nickname is piggy, that is quite the feat).  The chicken was crispy and covered with a tangy sauce.  Despite the crunchiness, the meat wasn't completely dried out.

Probably one of the best values on the menu was the Ramen.  Milhouse had the Shio ($9.00) while Kaiser Soze went for the Miso ($10.00).  Okay, let's get this out of the way first - the ramen here won't put the fear into other ramen joints, but it was good for what it is.  Sure, the soup base lacked a bit of depth and yah, the chashu was cut too thick (which meant it wasn't as tender as it could've been).  Yet, the noodles were on point while the egg was decent and it included all the fixins'.   This probably best sums up Aburi King - decent eats that are just a step below some of the more well-known spots in town, but they also charge quite a bit less.  Good value food here.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Decent food all-around
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Repetitive flavours

Waraku Sushi

As we played the last few games of the Spring season, the start times generally got earlier and earlier.  This was directly related to the end of youth leagues that usually get the best times.  With a 6:30pm game, it opened up a wealth of opportunities when it came to food afterwards.  Since we've been ending around midnight for the past few months, I just didn't even bother checking out new places for late night (hence my weekly visits to Myst).  However, we got to check out a small little Japanese joint out on Lonsdale this time around in the form of Waraku Sushi.

Unassuming from the outside, and modestly decorated on the inside, Waraku is the prototypical neighbourhood sushi restaurant.  So much so, the staff even asked how we knew about the place because everyone else were regulars!  We started off with the small Assorted Sashimi sporting salmon, tuna, tai, amaebi and hokkagai.  This was pretty good where the fish exhibited a nice sheen and fresh smell.  Texturally, both the tuna and salmon were on point.  Next up we had the Assorted Tempura with ebi, zucchini, carrot, sweet potato and yellow pepper.  This featured a fairly thin layer of batter that was crispy and light. The veggies were cooked just enough where they still retained a bite.  This was especially so with the zucchini as it can often be too soft.  I found the ebi to be meaty with a light snap.

Onto some rolls, we had the House Roll consisting of salmon, tuna, imitation crab and avocado.  Unlike some other spots, this was just the right size where we could pick it up without everything falling out.  Once again, the ingredients were fresh while the roll itself was constructed carefully.  Although a touch soft, the sushi rice was still chewy and lightly seasoned.  Normally, I don't order deep fried sushi rolls since they can be oily and not actually crispy.  However, the Volcano Roll here was actually good.  It sported a thin crispy exterior that gave way to warm sushi rice that was still chewy (a bit soft though).

The large order of Chicken Karaage was probably my favourite cooked item as it featured large nuggets of boneless leg meat.  It was super juicy and well-seasoned where each piece was tender.  The oil must've been at the optimum temperature as the outside was crispy while not greasy.  On the side, there was a mayo dip that was lightly sweet and creamy.  Sporting 6 pieces, the pork Gyoza were a little different in that the dumpling skin was super thin.  So much so, one of them had a tear even before we picked it up.  Not only was it thin, the skin was super delicate and a bit wet.  We would've liked to see some more elasticity and robust texture.  Inside, the pork filling was succulent and juicy while mildly seasoned.

We ended up adding 2 items after the fact with the Dream Roll and Chicken Yakiudon.  Constructed carefully much like the other 2 rolls, the dream roll was essentially a California roll with unagi on top.  Once again, the sushi rice was on the softer side (and warm too), but it was still chewy and there was just enough of it.  The roll ate well with buttery soft unagi that was lightly sauced.  As for the yakiudon, it arrived on a sizzling cast iron plate.  We found the udon to be a bit too soft, but it wasn't mushy.  The dish was a touch wet where caramelization was lacking even with the hot plate.  It did taste good with balanced flavours while the amount of cabbage and chicken was plentiful.  Overall, the food at Waraku was more than acceptable.  Add in reasonable prices and friendly people, it is a great choice if you are in the neighbourhood.

The Good:
- Above average eats
- Reasonable prices
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Sushi rice could be a bit chewier