Sherman's Food Adventures: April 2019

Dachi

At times, I meet with other foodie friends for some serious eating at various restaurants in town.  They are not invited events nor do we get anything special out of it.  It is just basically a few friends heading out for dinner and enjoying both the food and company.  Sure, some of us take pictures for IG and/or blogging purposes, but that almost seems secondary.  Hey, I'm not opposed to invited events, but in reality, this is as enjoyable as it gets when it comes to eating out.  It is especially great when I get to hang out with the likes of David, Maggi, Areta, Kristina and Hanson (too bad Diana had to miss this one) at the newly opened Dachi in the old location of Campagnolo Roma.

Channeling out our inner-Mijune, we decided to sample the whole menu starting with the 3-Year Aged Cheddar & Buttermilk Biscuits with mutsu apple butter.  If we looked at this dish without the apple butter, these were really good cheddar biscuits regardless.  There was a firm crusty exterior that gave way to a soft sharp cheesy and fluffy interior.  I'm not sure that the apple butter itself added too much to the biscuit other than moisture and aromatics (not sweet enough to be noticed).  Now that was pleasant enough, but an actual butter would've been more rich and impactful.  Next, the Burrata with toasted seeds, radicchio and ajou pear was another pleasant starter featuring fresh and creamy cheese.  The intense nuttiness from the sunflower butter was the real star of the plate though.  I felt the crunchy and tangy radicchio was a good counter-balance to the sweetness of the pear.

One of my favourites was the Yarrow Meadows Duck Confit Croquettes with smoked raisin puree and pickled celery.  Consisting of shredded tender duck meat with little to no filler, the croquettes were meaty and rich.  On the outside, the thin coating was uniformly crunchy with little grease.  Tangy and sweet with a touch of smoke, the raisin puree paired beautifully with the robust duck meat.  Add in the crunch from the spicy and tangy celery, there was a wealth of impactful flavours.  As much as the Mushroom & Toasted Seed Perogies were appealing to look at, I felt they were just okay.   The dumpling skin was chewy and medium-thick with a good elasticity.  Mushroom filling was subtle but still appealing especially with the nuttiness from the seeds.  This was served atop a creamy celeriac puree and topped with a grilled king oyster mushroom.

Another table favourite was the Vancouver Island Manila Clams with crispy pork belly, roasted onion broth and egg milk.  Loved the plating with the broth prominently at the forefront with the clams and bread off to the side.   The star was definitely the earthy and sweet broth that was a bit like Pho.  Deeply flavoured garlickiness and purposefully salty.  Loved the side of bread as it helped soak up all of the tasty broth.  Next, we had the Ricotta Gnudi with kombu braised leek puree, toasted buckwheat and sweet onion.  Visually, this was appealing with beautifully seared gnudi and some green to add some colour.  I found the gnudi a bit dense and doughy but they were flavoured well.  The creamy puree had plenty of umaminess with the brightness of the leek.  To provide a textural contrast, the toasted buckwheat was crunchy and light.

From there, we went to something more substantial in the Country Fried Steelhead Trout with salted beets and horseradish gribiche.  Although the batter was not crispy in the least (in fact a bit soggy), the fish itself was moist and rare.  The meat was tender and properly seasoned.  Creamy, chunky, tart and full of onion essence, the gribiche was only a touch sharp from the horseradish.  This was an impactful compliment to the fish that wasn't just a plain tartare sauce.  As much as the tender and earthy beets were nice, we didn't think it went with this dish.  Although the Roasted Winter Squash Stew contained no meat, I actually enjoyed it very much.  This was robust and comforting sporting tender squash that was still firm and starchy.  The natural sugars were activated while complimented by the creamy and nutty cashew butter (and ricotta) that was also surprisingly spicy and vinegary.

Maybe because I love meat, the next 2 dishes were right up my alley beginning with the Braised Pork Cheeks that were fork tender and meaty.  They were full-bodied with natural pork flavour while exhibiting penetrated seasoning from the braise.  It was accompanied by sunchoke, creamy parsnip puree, roasted hazelnut and oloroso sherry.  Considering the root vegetables in the dish, there was plenty of earthiness to go around.  Loved really soft sunchokes.  Our last savoury item was the 24-hour Roasted Beef Chuck Flat with heirloom carrot, red miso and Swiss chard.  Each piece of beef was tender and meaty while fully seasoned.  The miso was earthy and full of fermented notes.  Sweet roasted carrots were impactful as a side providing a textural crunch as well.

Onto the desserts, I tried the Poached Granny Smith Apple with cider sabayon, spiced cake and ginger marscapone first.  The cake itself was spicy with hits of nutmeg while fluffy and purposefully sweet.  It was topped with a generous amount of creamy and airy sabayon.  There was plenty of zip and sharpness from the cider and ginger to lighten the dessert.  Of course the apples on the side were sweet pops of goodness.  The other dessert consisted of 69% Cocoa Chocolate Ganache with meringue, hazelnut streusel and pear vanilla puree.  This looked pretty sweet but it was mild with an appealing bitterness.  The ganache was rich and thick while the meringue was creamy and caramelized.  With a crunch, the nutty streusel added the needed textural contrast.  So as you can see from the pictures, Dachi was the perfect spot for us since they menu focuses on share plates.  We felt the food was pretty solid and service to match.

The Good:
- Solid food
- Attentive service
- Okay pricing

The Bad:
- Overuse of purees
- Desserts were good, but savoury dishes were better

GLGW Chinese Restaurant

Sometimes it is a blessing to be put into a situation where we must blindly walk into an unknown restaurant.  With reviews and social media at our disposal at anytime on our smartphones, it has taken out the guessing game when it comes to eating out.  However, how many times do we just take a chance on a random restaurant?  This happened recently when we tried to head to Chuan BBQ in Richmond.  When we arrived, it appeared that they left for vacation and wouldn't be back for a month.  Being hangry, we merely went next door to GLGW for some dry hot pot.

For those unfamiliar, think of ingredients you might cook in a boiling hot pot, but instead of a broth, there is only sauce.  It is actually prepared in the kitchen without any diner participation.  So really, it can be seen as a large bowl of cooked food.  Now the picture doesn't do it justice as this bowl of food could easily feed 4 people.  We ended up getting the Prawn Hot Pot with additions including scallops, lamb, ribs, lotus root, gluten, bean curd skin, cauliflower, tripe, rice cake, oyster mushrooms and pig trotters in a spicy Szechuan-style sauce (minus the numbing spice).  Although we had a mix of different ingredients, they were able to cook most things well independent of each other.  For instance, the shrimp and scallops were not overdone (albeit the batter on the scallops was too goopy) and the rice cake was still chewy.  Rice was needed to eat this as it would get too flavourful and salty without it.

So if you are wondering if there was any filler underneath the top layer of the hot pot, there wasn't.  Rather, as you can clearly see, it was all the good stuff that we ordered.   In fact, since there was so much of it, everything stayed steaming hot underneath.  Yes, that meant the seafood continued to cook, so the best course of action was to remove that ASAP.  Loved that they didn't skimp with the more expensive ingredients as the ratio was pretty even with everything in the bowl.  To squeeze in one different dish, we had the Mouth-Watering Chicken.  Although this looked pretty plain, the tender chicken was inherently flavourful.  There could've been more spice, but this was a decent version.  Loved the gelatinized skin (with some gelatin underneath).  So you might be wondering how much did our hot pot cost?  Well, it wasn't cheap at $80.00, but considering how much food there was and the level of execution, I'd come back for more.

The Good:
- Proteins done right
- Spicy, but not killer spicy (depends on your personal tastes)
- They don't skimp with the more expensive ingredients

The Bad:
- Even though I thought the pricing was fair, it can add up if you don't watch it
- Contradicting what I said earlier, it may not be spicy enough for some

Moderne Burger

With the redevelopment of the 2500 block of West Broadway, we saw the closure of several businesses including Kinome Japanese Kitchen, Benny's Bagels and Aria Florist and Wedding Design.  Benny's has reopened as a retail outlet and possibly a cafe in the future.   Aria has also relocated.  Probably one of the most anticipated relocations is Moderne Burger where it took several months of delay to finally open a month ago.  Taking over the old Wendy's spot right next to Tim Horton's at 865 West Broadway, they have now become a counter service operation with slightly lower prices to go with the slightly smaller burgers.

Since they are starting off with a fairly simple menu, I ended getting everything that they had including the Steak Burger with lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo and house sauce on a fresh baked bun.  Since we all love cheddar and bacon, this was added to all of our burgers (good for the picture too...).  If you can appreciate, Moderne Burger has always prided themselves on being rather basic by letting the ingredients speak for themselves.  In this case, that is essentially what this burger was about.  Nothing complex nor mind-blowing, but a solid burger consisting of lean unseasoned beef that was accompanied by real cheddar, crispy lean bacon and fresh ingredients.  For myself, I doubled it up and of course the burger was larger and more robust.  Solid all the way in my opinion.

The only other option (unless your are a vegetarian) was the Turkey Burger with the same ingredients and yes, we added cheddar and bacon.  This was actually surprisingly good.  Although the turkey patty should've technically leaner than the beef, it was actually more moist.  It was flavourful on its own while the bacon really did more for this burger than the steak.  I would actually order this for myself (Viv ended up with it this time).  Due to the generous portion of their regular Fresh-Cut Fries, we only ordered 2 of them for 4 people.  These were really good being crispy and not overly greasy.  Good potato texture left inside.  My son had the chocolate shake, but we didn't take a picture of it.  Very thick and somewhat sweet, but good nonetheless.  The same could be said about everything else as the food was as good as I remembered.  

The Good:
- Same Moderne Burger simplicity
- Lower prices (with slightly smaller burgers)
- Easily accessible with its new location and counter service operation

The Bad:
- Menu can be use a few more items (maybe in the future)
- Food does take a bit longer to come out, not really fast food (but a good thing in terms of quality)

RedBeef Noodle Kitchen

So you'd think after 2 burgers, fries and poutine at Hundy, it would be enough to call it a night...  Nope, no can do.  Eating is a sport and eating more means winning!  So we made the short walk across the street (probably burned off 10 calories) to RedBeef Noodle Kitchen for 2nd dinner!  I've been meaning to try the place out for quite some time and even though we were already stuffed, we couldn't pass up the opportunity.  For those who have seen on IG, they are famous for their premium beef noodles, but that wasn't the only thing we ate.

Before we got to the noodles, we had the an order of the Salt & Peppery Chicken which was well-portioned.  This was very good with large chunks of dark meat that was juicy and tender.  On the outside, the batter was thin and crispy.  It was also impactful with the right amount of saltiness and spice.  Moreover, the dish wasn't overly greasy either.  Although it looked more like a garnish, the fried string beans were also texturally on point with a crunch.  Sporting a large slice of braised pork belly, the Taiwanese Pork Bun was just as good.  Even though the mantou sat there while we took photos, it remained soft and fluffy.  Inside, the pork belly was tender and meaty with only a bit of fat.  The classic combination of peanuts and sugar was spot on and provided a nice balance with the spicy pickled mustard greens.

Off to the noodles, of course we had their signature Premium Beef Noodles with soup served table-side.  The raw slices of beef cooked in the hot broth.  They were absolutely heavenly with a buttery texture that only sported a bit of meaty chewiness.  Underneath, the noodles were appealingly al dente while soaking up the flavourful broth.  Some have remarked that the soup wasn't flavourful enough, but to me, it was meaty and full of depth.  The pepperiness was just right where it was noticeable without being too strong.  We also got the Beef Noodle Trio with braised beef shank, tripe and tendon.  The broth here tasted the same except with the tangy punch of the pickled mustard greens.  Noodles were just as good while the beef practically melted in our mouths.  Tripe had a tender chewiness whereas the tendon was a bit too soft.

Lastly, we had the Beef Potstickers which didn't resemble the typical shape of the Taiwanese version.  One bite and yes, the dumpling wrapper was fairly thin and appealingly chewy, but the beef filling was far too fatty.  In fact, there was liquid fat leaking out.  Not a great mouth-feel.  They did taste good (maybe because of the fat) with an aromatic meatiness.  Overall, we were quite happy with the food at RedBeef especially the premium beef noodles.  Service was actually quite good.  We didn't like the beef dumplings, but that was the only negative of the meal.

The Good:
- Legit premium beef noodles
- Their regular noodles are good too
- Service was decent

The Bad:
- Prices are a bit higher, but okay given the location and quality
- Beef dumplings were not good

Mott 32

Okay, before you bring out the pitchforks, this is a blog post about food and not about politics.  If you want to talk about Trump and the sort, go look elsewhere.  To be blunt, I've avoided dining at Mott 32 for this very reason.  After awhile, it just didn't make any sense to do so.  I actually missed dining at Mott 32 in Hong Kong because I knew there was a location right here at home.  So I finally made it out to Mott 32 for Dim Sum with my parents and you know what?  I'm going to talk about the food for the next few passages.  End of story.

So we all know that Mott 32 has high end pricing due to the food quality, service and decor.  I'm not opposed to spending money for unique experiences, but be aware, Mott 32 is indeed expensive.  To illustrate this, the Siu Mai consisting of soft quail egg, prawn, Iberico pork and black truffle costs $21.00 for 3 dumplings.  Yes, $7.00 per dumpling.  Let that sink in for a bit.  On that note, these were fantastic with buttery soft pork that had a beautiful rebound.  The runny quail egg in the middle was a nice little treat.  Combined with the dollop of black truffle on top, there was plenty of umaminess.  At $12.00, the Ha Gau with prawn and pea shoots could've been considered a steal relatively speaking.  I thought the dumpling skin was prefect with a certain translucency that was chewy while delicate at the same time.  Inside, the prawn was top quality being sweet with a buttery snap.  I personally would've done without the pea shoots because it made the filling too loose.

One signature item at Mott 32 is the Hot and Sour Iberico Pork Shanghainese Soup Dumplings.  These are always ever-present on IG with their own individual little baskets, but for our serving, they were plated typically on parchment.  I would have to confirm the hype on these as the considerable amount of soup inside was a flavour bomb.  Measured spiciness combined with an appetizing tang, the soup was encased within a thin chewy wrapper.  As for the meat, it was tender with a bit of rebound.  Somewhat similar to the ones found at Tim Ho Wan, the Signature Crispy Sugar Coated BBQ Iberico Pork Buns were delicate with a crispy and sweet topping.  The bun itself was soft and warm being fluffy with a touch of elasticity.  Sweet and aromatic, the BBQ pork filling was fairly lean. 

With their Steamed Rice Noodle Roll, it was a bit different as it sported crispy rice paper directly underneath the noodle itself.  Hence, there was a nice contrast between the thin and soft noodle (with an appealing chewiness) as well as the snap-textured prawn.  As for the prawn, there was plenty of it where the filling was akin to an overstuffed spring roll.  Normally, most rice noodle rolls feature 3 large shrimp per piece.  One item that I wasn't that keen with was the Poached Pork Dumplings.  Beyond the overly soft wonton-like wrapper, the pork inside was too soft and mushy for my liking.  This was further exacerbated by the inclusion of cabbage which made things even more soggy.  The one saving grace was the aged vinegar and spicy sauce that featured plenty of chilis.  Hence, there was a "spicy wonton" thing going on with the flavour profiles.

Two of the more standard-looking and typical-tasting dishes were fried.  The Garlic Prawn Spring Roll didn't stray from the ordinary, yet at the same time, was better than most other versions.  This started with the high-quality prawn filling where large chunks were present exhibiting the desired buttery snap texture.  Lots of natural garlic flavour complimenting the right amount of seasoning.  Golden brown, the exterior was crunchy and not greasy at all.  Although smaller than usual, the Taro Croquette stuffed with chicken and prawn was on point.  Lightly crispy and not overly oily, the croquettes sported a semi-thin layer of mashed taro.  It was flavourful from an adequate amount of salt.  Inside, the chicken was tender while the prawn was consistent with the other dishes.  The use of chicken helped make this less fatty.

Moving back to pork, we had the Pork Spareribs with pumpkin and spicy black bean sauce.  Normally, this would feature little chunks of pork rib and cartilage, but for this version, it was mostly large pieces of meat.  Therefore, the price tag of $12.00 (which is easily double of any other dim sum spot) didn't seem all that outrageous especially with all things considered.  Beyond being well-seasoned (albeit not really that spicy), the pork was perfectly bouncy and tender.   Okay, for $28.00, the Sweet & Sour Pork at first glance appeared to be overly small in portion size.  However, the quality of the pork could not be questioned.  With a bit of fat, the pork was tender and bouncy with a thin crispy exterior (even with the sauce).  Blessed with aged black vinegar, the barely clinging sauce was sweet and tangy with a high level of depth.

For our noodle dish, we tried the Wok Fried Flat Rice Noodles with AAA Canadian beef and bean sprouts.  This was all about execution as the noodles were chewy, fully separated and not grease-soaked.  There was plenty of caramelization and smokiness from the proper wok heat (wok hei).  Beyond the attractive colour from the dark soy as well as the wok fry, there was enough seasoning for impact without being salty.  The AAA beef held up its side of the bargain being tender and buttery.  For dessert, we shared the Crispy Egg Flour Pastry drizzled with honey, citron and sesame.  These were light and airy featuring a soft crispiness.  Although sweet, it wasn't overwhelmingly so.  The addition of the orange rind created a marmalade-type effect where it was bitter, tangy and bright.  Overall, we enjoyed the Dim Sum at Mott 32 and for some dishes, we can see understand the pricing given the level of service, quality of ingredients and level of execution.  However, this is literally not everyone's cup of tea, so it really depends on your budget.

The Good:
- Quality of the food is apparent
- Service is top notch
- Lovely dining room

The Bad:
- Of course, it is expensive
- Modest portions

Mama's Dumplings

This visit to Mama's Dumplings was supposed to happen like half-a-year ago.  You see, I was scheduled to meet up with Nora, Lesley and Joyce for our monthly eat-up there.  However, due to accidents on both the Knight Street Bridge and Oak Street Bridge, traffic was at a standstill.  So after waiting for an hour and barely moving a few blocks, I gave up and turned around.  Since then, I've tried to make it out there, but really, it is located just South of Ironwood Plaza on Steveston...  Yep, not the closest spot to where I live.  But I made it a point to get out there at last with Uncle Willy for lunch.

As mentioned, this place resides amongst warehouses and other businesses offering a unique lunch option.  They also serve coffee and other beverages where we tried the Americano, Matcha Latte and London Fog.  I'm not coffee expert, but Uncle Willy remarked that it was decent where he could drink it without the aid of sugar nor cream as it was smooth enough.  The matcha and London fog were flavourful, but overly sweet.  Okay, let's cut to the chase by talking about the Xiao Long Bao.  These little suckers were pretty legit.  Being Nanxiang-style, these featured a thin dumpling skin that was tender with a touch of chew.  Inside, there was a considerable amount of sweet soup.  I found the meat to be moist but a bit overly loose.  In the end, these were very good.

We found the Boiled Pork and Cabbage Dumplings to be excellent as well.  These featured a medium-thick dumpling skin that had a good elasticity while being soft and delicate at the same time.  Now that was find and dandy, but the best part was the filling as it had more meat than cabbage.  It was juicy and moist with plenty of seasoning that was a good balance between salty and sweet.  Although the Mouth-Watering Chicken wasn't exactly an authentic version, it was still pretty tasty in its own right.  It was a fairly large portion of tender and moist chicken with gelatinzed skin.  More akin to hot bean paste, the sauce didn't have the classic Szechuan numbing spice, but it was flavourful.  The flavour profile was more salty chili pepper than anything else.

The next 2 dishes were complete duds in our opinion.  Looking like it was more like a soup noodle than Dan Dan Mein was not very good.  The peanutty "broth" was practically devoid of impact as it was only aromatic without spice nor salt.  I actually felt like grabbing the soy sauce and pouring it in (the horror!).  Furthermore, the noodles were overly soft and mushy.  This has to be one of the worst I've had in the GVRD.  So let's take this and put essentially the same flavours into the Wontons in Spicy Chili Oil shall we?  Well, you can guess how bland the dish was right?  I have to say they need to take spicy out of the menu description because this was essentially peanut sauce.  With this being said, the wontons themselves weren't bad.  They were packed with a semi-dense pork filling which was bouncy and flavourful.

We got back on track with the Fried Pork Belly that really should've been called Double-Cooked Pork Belly.  Whatever the name, it was executed properly with big slices of pork belly that was tender with an exterior sear.  It was stir-fried with crunchy cabbage and peppers.  The dish was on the saltier side, but best eaten with rice anyways.  I found the spice level to be medium where it was apparent without being too excessive.  Personally, I could take it spicier.   To provide some balance, we got the Seasonal Vegetable with Garlic.  It turned out to be Shanghai bak choy and honestly if I had known, I would've stuck with the broccoli or green beans instead for the same price.  If we focus on the execution, it was done right with very little moisture at the bottom of the plate.  Lots of wok heat where the bak choy was cooked through while still being crunchy.

Unlike the dan dan mein, the Stewed Beef Noodles were appreciably better.  The broth itself was fairly meaty with a good cloudiness that provided depth.  It was sweet and mild.  On top the stewed beef appeared to be the beef finger meat (or the meat in between beef ribs) which was tender and buttery.  They were well-seasoned by the braising liquid.  Nestled within the soup, the white noodles were not al dente, but not as soggy as the one in the dan dan mein.  To get something from each section, we got the Fried Rice with chicken and egg.  I asked if there was green onion and they said no, but yah the rice had green onions...  Other than that, the dish was done right with chewy discernible grains of rice that was fully caramelized and nutty.  There was enough seasoning while the veggies were not overdone.  I wish there was more chicken though.

We ended up getting a few cold appies in the Cucumber Salad and the Black Fungus (Wood Ear Mushroom) Salad.  We liked how they were large in portion size and that they were noticeably spicy.  In terms of texture, both were crunchy with enough moisture without making it wet.  We did think that the cucumber was lacking inherent impact as beyond the sauce on the outside, it was pretty bland.  One of the other more popular dishes at Mama's is the Shanghai-Style Fried Pork Bun.  By appearances alone, this was a winner with a significantly crisped up and brown bottom.  We did enjoy the moist juicy filling, but the bun itself was rather chewy and somewhat dense.  Not a bad version by any means, but not as good as the XLBs.  So this brings up my main point about Mama's Dumplings - that the XLBs are probably the best thing going for them.  Otherwise, I wasn't exactly wowed by anything else.  I would return for the XLBs, but that's about it.

The Good:
- XLBs are solid
- It's go that weird location thing going for them
- Good portion sizes

The Bad:
- Other than the XLBs and some of their dumplings, the other dishes are very hit and miss