Sherman's Food Adventures: October 2018

Colony (Northwoods)

"If you build it, they will come".  You may recognize this from Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner (well assuming you are a movie buff or aren't a millennial...).  This phrase holds true when it comes to restaurants and other services.  Now you might think that I'm referring to these aforementioned businesses, but I'm actually talking about the condos and high rises that have sprouted up on the North Shore close to the 2nd Narrows Bridge.  You build those and the businesses will follow suit.  That is a bonus when restaurants show up.  Selfishly, it benefits me as it is close by to where I play hockey on Friday nights!  So I was naturally intrigued when we were recently invited to check out the newly opened Colony Northwoods.

As the Loaded Tater Tots arrived, Diana grabbed it immediately and we started chowing down.  As much as these were deep fried until golden and crispy, they were not overly greasy.  Loved how the inside still retained a soft potato texture.  These remained crispy despite the drizzle of chipotle mayo, plethora of banana peppers, green onion, jalapenos, pico de gallo and sour cream.  As you can imagine, there was a "nacho" like quality to this dish that was accented by the creamy spiced mayo.  Heading completely off to the other side of the food spectrum, we had the Rainbow Glory Bowl consisting of quinoa, spinach, fried tofu, cucumber, beets, carrots, pumpkin seeds, almonds and tahini dressing.  Yes, the ingredients were indeed fresh and full of textures, but the dressing is what made the salad.  It was nutty, aromatic, sweet and lightly tangy.  This didn't look filling, but it was so packed, there was still plenty after we took our own servings.

Although they were serving hot wings, Diana asked for their Lemon Pepper.  What a great idea as these were on point.  Medium in size, the wings featured crispy skin that was properly rendered.  This, combined with the tender and nearly juicy meat on the inside, meant that the wing ate well.  They weren't messing around as the wings were aggressively coated with a tonne of black pepper.  Therefore, the pepperiness was at the forefront.  However, there was an equal amount of tang from the lemon juice which added a touch of "Phnom Penh-ness".  Very tasty and I would totally order these again.  Next, 4 cute little Corn Dogs were presented in a slanted bowl and accompanied by dijon and ketchup.  The fairly thin layer of batter was lightly crunchy and spiked with herbs.  Inside, the Nathan's weiner was juicy and flavourful.  I enjoyed dipping it into the dijon more than the ketchup as it added a vinegary sharpness to balance off the saltiness.

One of my favourite dishes was the Crunchy Chicken Sandwich with house pickled red onion, arugula and herb mayo.  Sure, the white meat wasn't exactly juicy, but it wasn't dry either (maybe the edges, but that is understandable).  I found the coating to be well-seasoned and crunchy while still airy and light.  The right amount of herbed mayo added both moisture and another layer of flavour while the pickled onion took care of the acidity.  This was completed by a soft toasted bun.  Staying on the same theme, the CJ Burger was pretty solid.  It wasn't anything crazy consisting of aged cheddar, butter lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and burger sauce, but there wasn't anything to complain about.  The charred patty was fairly moist while the rest of the ingredients were fresh.  On the side, we found house-cut fries which were on point.  These were crunchy with a soft potato centre.

Onto some larger dishes with a full rack of Danish Baby Back Ribs with house made BBQ sauce.  To be frank, I'm never a fan of ribs at restaurants that are not true BBQ houses.  Maybe it has something to do with my trip to Texas...  However, this one here featured a unique BBQ sauce that set it apart from most chain restaurants.  It was very tangy from the apple cider vinegar and not extremely sweet.  The ribs themselves were not par-cooked to death, which meant they retained a meaty chewiness.  They were still tender though, so it wasn't difficult to eat.  All-in-all, a respectable version from a non-BBQ joint.  When the Salmon Cobb Salad arrived, I was a skeptical.  The salmon looked overdone and dry.  Yet, I was wrong.  It was actually moist and flaky while well-seasoned.  That was a good thing as the goddess dressing was on the milder side albeit creamy.  

We had a few bonus dishes (ordered by the table) in the Dry Fried Squid with sambel oelek, green onions, green beans and chili garlic sauce.  This featured pronounced flavours that were spicy, salty and aromatic.  The squid itself was tender and lightly battered.  There was a bit too much grease though when they wok (or pan) tossed it.  Ending off the meal, we had Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches.  Nothing particularly complex here, but they were nice little bites nonetheless.  The macarons themselves featured a crispy shell that gave with to a chewy centre.  So as you can see, the food here at Colony is not particularly fancy.  It isn't meant to be, rather it is accessible, well-priced and solid.  Good place to enjoy the atmosphere and dining space while grabbing a drink and some eats.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced compared to other chains
- Nice dining space
- Solid

The Bad:
- Limited menu in terms of larger dishes
- Parking lot is rather tight

Doppio Zero Pizza

When Hilda suggested we meet up for dinner in Coquitlam, I was more than happy to join in.  Most times, there isn't enough exposure of spots located outside of Vancouver proper.  Besides, the place she suggested was only a 15-minute drive for Diana and myself.  However, we were surprised that Doppio Zero Pizza was located near the Chevron on Como Lake at Porier.  To the best of our knowledge, we never noticed any restaurants at that location.  Well, apparently they tore down the corner market and built a brand new building that houses a few businesses including Doppio.

Since we were there on a Wednesday, most of their appies were 50% off and all of their thin-crust pizzas were $15.00.  As such, we got 3 appies including the Polpette di Carne al Pomodoro.  The dish consisted of 4 medium-sized meatballs, which in my opinion works much better than 2 gigantic ones.  This way, the texture was more consistent from outside to the middle being meaty and tender with little filler.  I found the deep-red marinara sauce to be good with a bright tang balanced off by background sweetness and depth.  Now the Arancini Sicilani did not follow the same idea as it consisted of 2 large balls with the usual aborio rice in addition to bolognese and mozzarella.  Here, we found them to be crispy, but not the same temperature throughout.  In one of them, the cheese had not even melted.  Furthermore, the rice was on the mushier side.

Our last appie was the Marrow Crostini Bruschetta sporting bone marrow, pickled shallots and cannellini bean salad.  This was texturally on point with crunchy bread that held up to the wet ingredients.  We didn't notice the bone marrow too much, where more was needed for its richness.  The shallots were a natural compliment as it provided the acidity and brightness to balance off dish.  What brought it all together was the bean salad as it was full of umami while the texture of the beans were just right (being tender with firmness).

We ended up with 2 pastas where the Tagliatelle al Funghi e Manzo really stood out.  Al dente while tender, the tagliatelle was bathed in a rich oily sauce (in a good way) that featured the earthiness of mushrooms including morels.  Of course, the robust oxtail added both meatiness and umaminess.  To top it off, the truffle oil added another layer of earthiness that was just right and not overwhelming.  On the other hand, the Spaghetti Carbonara was not as successful.  It is true that the egg yolk really came through with a creaminess and surprisingly strong flavour.  However, the dish itself lacked punch as there was not enough pancetta (although the pieces we got were crispy and smoky) nor discernible amounts of pecorino romano and black pepper.  It was too bad as the pasta and egg were on point, there just wasn't enough flavour.

For our 2 pizzas, both were very good but the Carne e Tartufo really stood out.  It sported fior di latte, salami, pancetta, sausage, ham, onions, mushrooms and truffle oil.  The combination of ingredients produced a flavour profile that was meaty, sweet and earthy.  Although one might think that this would've been a salty mix, it really wasn't.  It was aromatic and impactful.  With so many toppings, the thin crust was predictably soft in the middle, but it was totally forgivable as the other pizza was able to highlight the crust as it should've been.  Consisting only of fior di latte, speck, scamorza and zucchini, the crust on the Affumicata was crispy, well-charred and chewy.  It was smoky with enough seasoning while the cheese and speck added some saltiness.  Loved how the zucchini did not create any soggy portions on the crust.  Overall, Doppio is a welcomed addition to the area since there is nothing like it.  Dishes were a bit hit and miss, but I'm willing to go back for another round.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced, especially for happy hour
- Nice leoparding on pizza crust
- Trendy casual space

The Bad:
- A bit hit and miss

Il Posto

There was a time when I worked out in Ladner and had the opportunity to try most of the restaurants in the neighbourhood.  Let's just say there were a few gems to be found, but in general, the food scene was pretty weak.  However, Chef Terry Pichor and his partner, Julie Marcopoulos have opened up Il Posto where many restaurants have failed since Uncle Herbert's closed up shop over 10 years ago.  If Julie's last name rings a bell, she is the daughter of the original owner of Mario's, which has been a Tsawwassen institution for many years.  We ended up checking out Il Posto on our way to T-Mills one Saturday night.

Immediately, the spiffy new renos were noticeable and refreshing.  We ended up sitting in the front near a window which was comfortable and relaxing.  Before we got to the mains, we began with a Caesar Salad sporting focaccia croutons, parmesan and double-smoked bacon.  Lightly dressed, the salad at first wasn't very impactful, however, the bacon really came through since the smokiness and saltiness was at the forefront.  It also helped that there was plenty of it as well.  Rather than being crunchy, the bacon was meaty, which actually worked for us in the salad.  We had one more appie in the Meatballs with pecorino and toasted focaccia.  These were on point being meaty, moist and not full of filler.  They were nicely seasoned and spiced, but the tangy tomato sauce added a nice acidic and bright punch.  Loved the ample amount of fresh basil on top as well.

We ended up trying 2 of their pizzas including the Carbonara with b├ęchamel, double smoked bacon, black pepper and egg.  Due to the minimal amount of wet ingredients, the razor thin crust on this pizza was crunchy from edge to nearly the centre (where the egg soften it up).  Although not charred, the crust was nicely browned adding aromatics.  We would've liked to see the dough seasoned a touch more, but the toppings added the necessary saltiness.  We thought the egg was perfectly runny and creamy.  Our other pizza was the Brooklyn consisting of tomato sauce, roasted garlic, mozzarella, grana padano, pepperoni and fennel sausage.  Now the crust on this one was much more fragile due to the ingredients on top.  We found the tomato sauce to be tangy and well-seasoned (like the sauce from the meatballs).  Combined with the meats, the pizza was zesty and robust.

For our pasta, we chose the Spaghetti Bolognese with aged parmigiano reggiano and garlic oil.  Compared to many of the newer pasta joints in the GVRD, the portion size on this was pretty large.  We found the pasta to be right at al dente with a pleasant chew.  As for the bolognese, it was meaty with mild hits of sweetness.  Personally, I could've used a bit more depth and richness, but there nothing majorly wrong with the dish.  Overall, we were quite satisfied with the food at Il Posto.  It might have hard time when compared to the heavy weights in town, but for Delta specifically Ladner, it serves up solid eats at a reasonable price.

The Good:
- Solid, especially for its location
- Fair pricing
- Fair portions

The Bad:
- May have a tough time competing against spots in Vancouver (but it isn't in Vancouver...)

Yuan's Shanghai Serendipity Cuisine

If you haven't already noticed, the cost of dining out at a Chinese restaurant has gone up considerably in the last decade.  What was once an affordable way to dine has now entered the "fine dining" level.  Even cheap neighbourhood dives are becoming a thing of the past as those generally exist out in the burbs.  When Yuan's Shanghai Serendipity Cuisine opened a few years ago, I heard that it was expensive and overpriced.  If we fast forward to the present, it doesn't look all that unreasonable anymore since many other spots in Richmond are in the same price point.  I've been to their sister restaurant (Z&Y) before, so it was about time I actually ate at their original location.

We gathered up the family including the grandparents for a nice Shanghainese Dim Sum lunch.  Starting things off, we got right down to business with the Xiao Long Bao.  We only went for one order since we had quite a few items on deck already.  Turns out that we should've ordered more despite this as they were pretty good.  At first glance, the skin didn't look very thin, but it ate well being al dente while still tender.  Bursting with soup, the meat filling was tender with a bounce.  It was meaty in flavour with a hint of ginger (but could've used more xiaoshing wine).  Naturally, the soup tasted similar with a pleasant sweetness where the salt level was conservative.  Sporting an equally bouncy meat filling, the Pan-Fried Pork Buns were somewhat juicy.  I enjoyed the relatively thin exterior bun since many other versions are too thick and doughy.  

Arriving in a beautiful dark reddish brown hue, the Hot & Sour Soup was fairly spicy.  It wasn't as if it was painful heat, but it definitely got more pronounced as I ate it.  There was more heat than tanginess while the base broth had depth and exhibited a certain savouriness.  There was an adequate amount of ingredients including the usual wood ear mushroom, carrots, tofu, julienned pork, shrimp and egg.  I would've liked to see a bit more shrimp though as not everyone got one in their bowl.  Looking rather spicy, but in reality it really wasn't, the Wontons in Garlic Chili Sauce were not bad.  As pictured, the tender and bouncy pork filling was encased in a super thin wonton wrapper.  They were delicate and almost juicy while bathed in plenty of chili oil.  Personally I could've used more savouriness and even more heat.

Although the Smoked Duck appeared to be dry and chewy, it was actually wasn't.  I found the skin fairly well-rendered and crispy with only a few fatty portions.  Both the dark and breast meat were moist.  There was definitely some smokiness, but it wasn't as strong as I would've liked.  On the other hand, the meat was salty enough that it was far from bland.  The accompanying buns were fairly soft and were natural compliments to the flavourful duck.  We considered the Wok-Fried Rice Cake to be a dish that was both good and bad.  Exhibiting plenty of wok heat, the flavours were caramelized and the rice cakes were nicely seared.  However, the veggies were completely obliterated.  They were beyond mushy and oil-logged.  It would've been better than they stir-fried them separately and combined them at the end of the wok-frying. 

We also go one of my parent's favourite dishes in the Shredded Chicken and Mung Bean Noodle Salad.  For the picture, there was a mini-noodle pull because it was completely covered by a generous helping of peanut sauce.  This was quite textbook with chewy noodles, tender chicken and crunchy julienned cucumber.  As mentioned, there was enough sweet and salty peanut sauce to coat everything (and I mean everything).  As for my son, he loves Chee Fan (Sticky Rice Wrap with dried pork floss) mostly because of the salty donut.  This featured a thin layer of sticky rice that was not dried out nor too soft.  There was a crispy, albeit dense, donut in the middle with dried pork floss and pickled mustard greens.  Not a complicated dish, but this was done right and they didn't skimp on the ingredients.

Our last dish was one of the best-tasting - Pork Ribs with Black Vinegar Sauce.  It sported a classic sweet tanginess with the depth of black vinegar.  It was well-balanced and highly addictive.  The ribs were tender enough with a meaty chewiness.  However, the batter on the outside was a bit too thick.  Despite this, it was still crunchy.  Overall, the food was more than acceptable at Yuan's and frankly, I do not understand all of the bad reviews.  Yes, it is on the pricier side, but it isn't any more than Shanghai River and the sort.  Also, please do not compare this to smaller spots like Chen's or Shanghai Morning since they are in a different class of restaurant.  It's like comparing Bishop's to White Spot (he did have a curry on the menu before though... LOL).

The Good:
- Fairly solid eats
- Nice dining space
- Decent service

The Bad:
- As mentioned, on the pricier side
- That parking lot sucks goat nads...

Shun Feng Seafood Restaurant

A few posts ago, I remarked how I wanted to tackle the last few Dim Sum spots that I haven't been to in Richmond.  Strangely, there was one right in front of my face and I chose to ignore it.  Shun Feng Seafood Restaurant, located in Parker Place Mall, has been there in various iterations since the mall opened.  Originally, it was the 2nd location of Floata and yes, I went for Dim Sum there eons ago.  Newly renovated and completely different, we decided that Shun Feng would be the next place we would tackled on our Richmond Dim Sum Adventures.

At first, I was wondering why the heck they were charging almost $10.00 for the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice wrapped in lotus leaves).  When it arrived, it made much more sense as it was enormous, reminiscent of the past where there was one large lo mei gai rather than the typical 3 mini-versions we find today.  One scoop into the middle revealed a large dried scallop atop a considerable amount of pork, mushrooms and salted egg yolk.  This resulted in an impactful mixture that was meaty, briny and full of umaminess.  My son was really happy with the BBQ Pork Pineapple Bun as it was texturally on point.  The sugary topping was crispy and didn't disintegrate while the bun was soft and fluffy beyond the crunchy exterior.  Inside, the pork was fatty and tender being sauced by a sweet glaze.

We ended up with 2 types of the rice noodle rolls including the Shrimp & Asparagus Rice Noodle Roll as well as the Donut Minced Fish Rice Noodle Roll.  For the shrimp roll, there were 4 smaller portions that featured whole medium-sized shrimp.  We thought the entire roll was on point with soft and buttery sheets of noodle that had slight elasticity.  The shrimp were cold-water crunchy while retaining a meatiness.  Although there was a side of sweetened soy, the shrimp were seasoned enough to stand on their own.  As for the larger donut roll, it featured a considerable amount of minced fish mousse in the centre.  We thought it was a little too dense.  Other than that, the noodle was just as good as the shrimp roll and the donut was lightly crisp.

Sporting cute swan head crackers, the Deep Fried Taro Dumplings were stuffed with a tender and saucy ground pork filling.  It was mixed with a Portuguese sauce (the Macao version) that was heavy on the coconut milk and light on the curry.  As such, the flavours were more subtle and in some sense not very impactful.  But that was fine in our minds as the robust nature of the dumpling with a smooth taro mash and crispy exterior didn't need a overwhelming filling.  As for the swan heads, the cracker was actually not tasty, more for decor only.  Stuffed with smoked salmon and shrimp encased in seaweed then fried with tempura batter, the Seaweed Rolls were polarizing.  I thought they were interesting with a light crunch that gave way to a meaty centre that was smoky and salty.  Viv remarked it was too fishy and dense.

Fairly large in size, the Ha Gau (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings) were pretty good.  The dumplings featured a medium-thick skin that had a good initial chew.  There was elasticity but at the same time was too dense nor doughy.  Inside, the filling consisted of shrimp mousse mixed with pieces of shrimp.  It was nicely seasoned with the aroma of sesame oil definitely coming through as well as a pronounced sweetness.  Texturally, there was an appealing bounce that was buttery and moist.  Topped with a whole piece of shrimp, the Siu Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumplings) was equally tasty.  Much like everything else, the shrimp had a nice rebound and was not overdone.  Underneath, the pork had the desired bounciness that was juicy and well-seasoned, yet we could still taste the natural meat flavours.

Large and plump, the Phoenix Talons (Steamed Chicken Feet) were nearly flawless.  Often, we get scrawny over-fried feet, but this was still full of fat and cartilage underneath the buttery skin.  Furthermore, both components were neither under or overdone resulting in a tender texture.  I found the sauce to be quite balanced with sweet, savoury and slightly spicy elements.  Packed to the brim, the Steamed Pork Spareribs were also good.  In addition to the usual black beans and garlic, they incorporated preserved vegetable.  So we got typical flavours associated with this dish (which were impactful), but also the tangy and umami hits from the preserved veggie.  It was definitely different and tasty.  The spareribs themselves were meaty and bouncy while not overly fatty.

Last but not least, we had the Steamed Beef Meatballs with Watercress. Medium in size, but also beautifully executed, these were texturally on point.  There was a certain meatiness that was tender and of course bouncy.  The meat wasn't too dense, not too fluffy.  It was rather mild in flavour with a balanced amount of cilantro and green onion.  This and most of the other dishes, except for the seaweed rolls were pretty solid.  We thought the pricing was fair considering all of the other competition nearby and also the food quality.  Interestingly, the service was a bit hit and miss, but overall decent.  Maybe we had low expectations going in, but Shun Feng did surprise us and it slots in just fine with the rest of the Dim Sum joints in Richmond.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Nicely renovated dining room
- Fair portion size

The Bad:
- Service was hit and miss
- On the pricier side, but comparable to other spots

Centro

Redevelopment.  That is the reality in Vancouver as precious pockets of land and storefronts are transformed into multi-level housing.  This led to the closing of Pronto on Cambie Street and the subsequent opening of Centro on Denman (until that also is redeveloped?).   We recently visited the place for dinner with Elaine and Costanza.  Upon entering, we were greeted with "Bino's-eque" 1970's decor that pays homage to the original building (where a Bank of BC used to reside).

Since we didn't ask them to course out our food, things came fast and furious.  We had to dig into the Wild Boar Pancetta-Wrapped Prawns quickly due to lack of space on the table (they did add another one to give us more room though).  These were baked and served with gremolata.  Meaty while retaining a firm snap, the briny prawns were amped by the salty and cooked-down pancetta.  I didn't notice much of the gremolata though.  Served with spicy pomodoro, the Calamari Fitto was well-executed.  Although the pieces were small, they were not dried out.  There was an appealing chewiness underneath a razor-thin batter that was crispy and well-salted.  The spicy sauce on the side really added a kick.

After that, a bunch of pastas arrived including the Spaghetti with mushrooms and veal cheek ragu.  This was a substantial portion of al dente spaghetti with a generous amount of ingredients.  Since it was piping hot and full of sauce, the longer it sat, the more soft the pasta got.  I was fortunate enough to sample some right away and it was very "mushroomy" with only intermittent hits of tender veal.  The sauce itself was quite mild and completely dominated by the mushrooms.  I personally love the taste of mushrooms, but for others, it was not balanced.  Another daily feature was the Capellini Nero with clams, mussels, calamari, tomatoes and plenty of garlic.  I thought this was pretty tasty with hits of brininess accentuated by plethora of roasted garlic.  Hence, there was a robust flavour that was blessed with strong umaminess.  The thin pasta was still relatively al dente while the seafood was on point.

We also selected one pasta from the regular menu in the Linguine Prawns Picante with capers, roma tomatoes, Calabrian chili, EVOO, lemon and fresh herbs.  This was the favourite of the table since it had plenty of punch from the chilis.  There was balanced combination of acidity, sweetness, saltiness and spice without going over the top.  Of all the pastas, the linguine was the most al dente (even as it sat for awhile since there was no "sauce", just EVOO).  The large prawns were also done right having a meaty snap and being properly seasoned.  Another daily feature was the Duck, Gorgonzola and Pear Flatbread.  This featured a soft crust that was only a bit crispy on the edges.  The wealth of ingredients on top helped soften it up.  On the other hand, the generous toppings ensured there was plenty of punch too with the sharpness of the gorgonzola paired with the muted sweetness of the pear.  The large slices of duck breast ranged from tender to a bit chewy.

Yet another daily feature was the Pork Belly with apple puree and roasted onions.  This was a pleasant with a meaty piece of roasted pork belly.  The fat had been rendered enough where there was a meatiness to the pork belly that was natural-tasting with the roasted aroma really coming through.  I found the apple puree to be lightly sweet but not really all that impactful.  This was probably the weakest dish that we had for the meal.  We also got a Caprese Salad to balance out our meal, but then I went ahead and substituted in burrata for $5.00 more.  They didn't hold back as the fresh campari tomatoes were coated in a good amount of burrata.  It was fresh, creamy and really made the salad.  The usual fresh basil, EVOO, arugula and balsamic reduction added the classic flavours, but we wished there was more vinegar.

The Good:
- Well-portioned
- Friendly service
- Solid eats

The Bad:
- Seating and tables are tight
- Smaller dishes were not as strong as the bigger ones