Sherman's Food Adventures: July 2019

Lee Garden (Surrey)

At one point in time, over 5 years ago, the Dim Sum scene along Scott Road was pretty sad.  Other than Lotus and defunct Yummy Wonton House, there was much more in the way of chain restaurants and Indian food.  However, with the addition of Chongqing and Happiness, we found legit Cantonese Dim Sum (yes, I know Chongqing is Szechuan, but they serve Cantonese Dim Sum) in the ol' wasteland between Surrey and North Delta.  I actually thought Happiness could give Richmond restaurants a run for their money.  Well, they have been swallowed up by Lee Garden (the original location is in Burnaby).  I've visited after the name change and honestly, nothing seems to have changed.  Finally, I got around to writing a post about the place.

For the as long as I can remember, I wasn't super fond of the pan fried version of the daikon cake.  Not that it couldn't be delicious, in fact, when done right it goes really well with some hot sauce.  However, the more modern version being the Stir-Fried Daikon Cake with XO Sauce is more appealing to me.  This one here was nearly perfect where each cube was crispy and easy on the grease.  Also, the texture was soft, but still had some firmness.  There was a nice background spice and brininess from the XO sauce.  I felt it could've used a touch more though.  One dish that was a little lacking was the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice) as the rice was a bit on the drier side.  It wasn't due to the lack of pork filling though as it was nearly 50/50 with the rice.  Hence, the flavour profile was that of natural tasting pork.

Onto the staples of Dim Sum, we had the Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumplings).  Large in size, the ha gau were pretty good despite being stuck together (forgivable since they were too big to keep apart).  I found the dumpling skin to be medium thick with an appealing elasticity.  Some parts were a bit wet, but with a few minutes of sitting out, it tightened up.  Inside, the shrimp filling was on point with large chunks mixed with some mousse.  There was a moist snap to go with the seasoning where the sesame oil and natural shrimp flavour coming through.  They actually forgot about the tobiko on top of the siu mai, but that didn't matter.  They were good as well being of a good size.  The pork was fairly processed and hence had a light bouncy texture.  There was enough shrimp and shiitake to add both flavour and texture.

Onto the offal part of the meal, we had the Steamed Beef Tendon & Tripe in Chu Hou Sauce.  Again, this was a generous portion of large chunks of tendon and tripe.  Texturally, I thought the tripe was on point with a soft chewiness.  As for the tendon, it was on the firmer side, but still soft.  However, the tripe was far too gamy and could've used more rinsing.  The gaminess was so strong, it affected the tendon as well.  Too bad really as the seasoning was impactful with a sweet and savouy garlickiness.  It was debated whether we would order the Phoenix Talons (Steamed Chicken Feet) because it wasn't a "preferred" item.  Heck, I got it anyways!  Well, it was pretty good with medium-sized feet that featured soft fried skin.  Underneath, the fat and cartilage was cooked through being soft and appealing.  I thought the flavours were very similar to the tripe except without the gaminess.

Looking rather pale, the Steamed Bean Curd Skin Rolls stuffed with pork and veggies was pretty average.  I found that since they didn't fry the bean curd skin, the texture was too soft.  Not to mention, it was also not appealing to look at and didn't have that fried nutty flavour either.  Inside, the pork filling was loose, yet tender.  The sauce was very mild and almost not there.  Hence, I needed to dunk these into Worcestershire sauce for impact. I guess the bean curd skin rolls weren't as pale as the bright white BBQ Pork Buns.  Mind you, the buns should be that colour.  They were fluffy like they appeared while being moist at the same time. Inside, the lean pork filling was plentiful and sauced in a sweet and savoury glaze.  Pretty textbook in my opinion.

We can't go for Dim Sum and not order any Rice Noodle Rolls.  So we not only got the shrimp, we also go the BBQ pork rice noodle rolls (only shrimp pictured).  These were also done right with a medium thick noodle that was soft with some elasticity.  There was more than enough shrimp and BBQ pork for both rolls.  I found the shrimp to be cold-water crunchy with sweetness while the BBQ pork was lean.  Moving onto a different type of roll, we had the Garlic Shrimp Spring Rolls.  As illustrated in the picture, the filling consisted of whole shrimp that were meaty with a garlicky snap.  There was not a whole lot of shrimp mousse in these rolls.  The outside wrapper was crunchy and hot while easy on the grease.

Onto dessert, we went for the good ol' Egg Tarts which were a pale such as the bean curd skin rolls.  Yes, the egg custard filling was a touch pale (and semi-sweet), but the puff pastry was truly without colour.  This was because they didn't bake it enough and/or not at high enough heat.  Therefore, the shell was as flaky as it could've been and furthermore, some parts were gummy.  Despite the egg tarts and a few other items, the Dim Sum at this location of Lee Garden is solid and respectable for anywhere in the Lower Mainland.  Not sure what difference there is over the restaurant here before though (Happiness).

The Good:
- Solid Dim Sum
- Fairly good service
- Decent selection

The Bad:
- A little pricey

Parallel 49 Brewing

Long ago, I had visited Parallel 49 Brewing for, what else, a beer-tasting.  That was fine and dandy, but there wasn't any food!   Don't get me wrong, I like a good brew as long as I can eat something with it!  So I never planned a return visit.  Recently, I heard that they had put in a permanent food truck in the restaurant (yes, it is parked right in the dining area!).  After Sunday hockey, it was suggested we go there since we were at nearby Britannia Arena.  Sounded good to me!

To get a sense of the menu, I enlisted the help of JuJu and Milhouse in sharing some of their more popular items.  We started with their BBQ Wings served with ranch dressing.  Now if you are wondering why the wings were dry, the "BBQ" was the rub on the outside of the wings rather than a sauce.  Hence, they ate crispy with a sweet and slightly spicy coating.  The skin was somewhat rendered while the meat was moist and juicy.  Since sides are extra for the burgers, we got both the Kennebec Fries and Waffle Fries to share.  Much like the wings, these were also solid.  Extra crispy and light, the fries were more like Belgian frites (which is a good thing).  On that theme, the side of dijon mayo was the perfect dip for the fries.  The waffle fries were crunchy and not overly greasy while the cilantro mayo had just enough flavour without being overwhelming.

Trying to share the Bacon Cheeseburger was an exercise in mathematical angles, but we figured it out.  It consisted of a beef patty, cheddar, bacon, lettuce, onion, pickled cucumber and mac sauce on a brioche bun.  This was reminiscent of the one found at The EI Furniture Warehouse but better IMO.  From the soft moist patty to the crispy bacon, this was an enjoyable burger.  I found the brioche to be soft enough that it didn't interfere with the rest of the ingredients while robust enough to not fall apart either.  Sharing the Two Piece Fried Chicken & Slaw was a bit easier and oh was it ever good.  Not only was the meat juicy, the skin was fantastically crunchy and spiced.  Add in the cayenne honey and we had sweet heat.  Not to be outdone, the side of slaw could've also been the star as it was crunchy, tangy and full-flavoured.

Finally, we shared something that didn't need to be cut into irregular sizes - 3 x Crispy Beer Battered Cod Tacos with cabbage, spicy mayo, pico and micro cilantro.   Nothing complex here but just well-prepared fish that was flaky and moist while encased in a crispy thin batter.  Cabbage and pico de gallo were fresh while the spicy mayo added a kick.  So in the end, I thought the food was really solid considering the venue.  Nothing that will set the culinary world on fire, but a good side for your beverage.

The Good:
- Well-prepared pub-like food to go with your drink
- Fair-pricing
- Since it is in Parallel 49, you have many drink options

The Bad:
- Wish the sides were included

Skylight Restaurant

Sometimes we either think too much or try to hard when it comes to choosing a restaurant to eat at.  Sure, we work hard for our money and we certainly do not want to waste it on mediocre overpriced food.  But when we have a hungry group of people, a plain ol' any restaurant can do.  This was the case after Sunday morning hockey when we stepped out onto Commercial Drive in search for eats.  We didn't wander too far as we made our way to the very unsexy Skylight Restaurant.  Yes, this place has been around forever and no, the food isn't particularly exciting, but we were about to find out why it continues

While others went for breakfast, I decided to stick with a lunch basic being the Special Burger consisting of 2 patties, double cheese and 2 slices of bacon.  This wasn't very expensive and considering the portion size, it was pretty much fair for the price.  As you can clearly see, this wasn't something gourmet nor exciting.  The bun was a typical burger bun and the patties were of the generic frozen variety.  Bacon was crispy and fatty though.  It did the job, but to be blunt, I've had better at other diners in the city.  I ended up sharing this with Milhouse who ordered the Combo of sweet & sour pork, broccoli beef and fried rice.  Once again, this was pretty typical of North Americanized Chinese food.  The portion size was rather small considering the price.  I thought the pork was good, but the sauce could've been more impactful.

Onto the breakfast items, The Pancakes with scrambled egg and sausages was good and bad.  Although a bit thin, the pancakes were fluffy and light.  Sausages were fried and hence crispy on the outside and fatty on the inside.  Eggs were overdone and flat.  Edible but not the way I would like them done.  We had 2 orders of the German Breakfast at the table consisting of sausage, hashbrowns and eggs.  This was prepared nicely with perfectly sunny side eggs, soft hashbrowns (maybe too soft) and pan fried sausages.  Not bad, but not overly interesting either.  However, Skylight isn't a place to find inventive food or anything particularly sexy.  It serves a purpose as a greasy spoon dishing out Canadian-Chinese food and diner fare.

The Good:
- Fairly well-priced
- Does the job
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Food was okay but meh at the same time
- Chinese food was surprisingly overpriced

New Mandarin (Dinner)

Whenever I see a new Chinese restaurant open up shop (in particular, one with Cantonese Dim Sum service), I quickly visit it for lunch and then subsequently go back for dinner not too long after.  Usually, there are 2 separate chefs for Dim Sum and dinner.  Hence, the food can be very different in style and execution.  So after a relatively decent Dim Sum experience at New Mandarin, we made reservations to go for dinner on Father's Day.  Unlike the seating in the VIP rooms for Dim Sum, we were situated in the main dining room for dinner.  However, much like the last time, the seating was far too tight where there was nowhere for the staff to go once everyone was seated.

We ended up going for a set menu with a few extra dishes.  It started off with the 3 Item Combination Platter consisting of sliced beef shank, marinated jellyfish and sliced pork hock.  This was a dinner for 6, so the portion sizes were a bit smaller.  With that being said, it wasn't very big even with that consideration.  Execution-wise, the items were quite good.  I found the jellyfish to be appealingly chewy while still soft.  It was impactfully marinated where the sesame oil and white pepper really came through.  The beef was tender where the braising liquid completely penetrated.  Gelatinized, the pork hock had a good rebound texture.  Next, we had the Swallow's Nest & Seafood Pumpkin Soup.  Despite its colour, the soup did not taste like pumpkin (which is a good thing because it can be too pungent).  There was a general lack of bird's nest but the seafood was plentiful and prepared well.

Usually, set meals tend to include the smaller lobsters and crabs for their shellfish dish.  Not here as the Lobster with Supreme Broth was absolutely massive.  Just picking up the claw was difficult.  In addition to that, it was prepared properly with bouncy moist meat that was sweet and briny.  There was just enough sauce to coat each piece and flavour the included bed of wonton noodles underneath.  I liked how they didn't charge extra for the noodles since it is not a surprise to pay anywhere from $5.00 to $10.00 for it elsewhere.  From there, we moved onto the Marinated Half Free-Range Chicken served with ginger and green onion condiment. About that condiment, it was legit where it was mostly ginger with only a bit of green onion.  As for the chicken, the skin was beautifully gelantized including an appealing layer of gelatin underneath.  The meat was tender with the classic free-range chicken chewiness.

There used to be a time when the fish course would be rock cod, but that is far too expensive and over-fished, so we had the usual Steamed Tilapia with onion, cilantro and sweetened soy.  I'm personally not a huge fan of tilapia because it can generally be rather mushy and bland.  Well, this was acceptable where the fish was cooked just enough.  It was somewhat flaky and moist while the soy did offer up the necessary flavour.  For our veggie dish, we had the Braised Pea Tips with lily bulbs and wolf berries.  Other than the lobster, this was one of the bigger dishes offering up tender pea tips that were still crunchy.  Being cooked in a broth, they were very mild tasting (but that is the point).  The addition of lily bulbs added a firm texture as well as another layer of sweetness to the dish.

We ended up adding a couple of dishes for the kiddies including the Sweet & Sour Pork and Scrambled Eggs & Prawns.  Made with pork belly and served with a bevy of fresh fruit (dragon fruit, cantaloupe and honey dew), the sweet & sour pork was quite good.  Due to the use of pork belly, the meat was tender with a wonderful rebound.  We found the sauce balanced with a good tang and sweetness.  The dish could've been a bit larger in portion size, but it wasn't too small either.  Surprisingly, the scrambled eggs and prawns was decent in size and sported a good amount of large prawns.  They were meaty with a moist snap.  Unfortunately, the eggs were a over done with parts that were seared too much.  Hence, the silkiness of the egg was intermittent and inconsistent.  Seasoning was on point though.

Lastly, we had the Seafood Fried Rice topped with fried garlic.  If I had to compare it to a recent version, this was much better than the one at Golden Restaurant.  There was much more wok hei which meant the rice was caramelized, nutty and chewy.  Also, there was plenty of seafood strewn throughout the rice.  Lastly, the seasoning was sufficient enough and the fried garlic on top helped with the aromatics.  It was agreed by everyone at the table that the food was above average.  Prices are on the higher end, but the class of restaurant reflects that with nice decor and generally good service.  However, a big issue was the lack of servers where we couldn't get most of our requests filled.  It was a challenge to even get the bill.  This is a real issue that they need to address.

The Good:
- Above average food
- Nice decor
- Service was good when we got it

The Bad:
- Expensive
- Seating is far to tight
- Not enough servers, was really hard to get anything

Golden City Restaurant

Despite our meal at Wild Mountain, most of our eats in Sooke consisted of burgers, fries, pizza and other fried food.  So prior to our ferry back to Vancouver, we stopped off in Victoria for some Dim Sum.  I do understand that Dim Sum may not be any lighter or healthier than the aforementioned eats, but there is something comforting about it.  That also partially explains why I put up with average-to-substandard Chinese food while on vacation.  This time around, we steered clear of the hit-and-miss Don Mee and went up the street to Golden City on Fisgard.

Walking into the place, it was like a time warp back to the late 70's and early 80's complete with paper lanterns.  However, we did order from a modern checklist much like the ones we find in Vancouver.  To get away from fried food, we started with the Deep Fried Dumplings and Spring Rolls (LOL).  Despite the complete lack of filling in the deep fried dumplings (and when there was any, it was mostly pork fat), the outer shell was on point.  Just thick enough with  glutinous rice flour, it was sticky and soft with a crispy exterior.  It wasn't too greasy either.  Although the spring rolls were advertised as shrimp and chive, the filling was all pork and some veggies.  That didn't mean it wasn't good though as the pork was moist, well-seasoned and bouncy.  The spring roll wrapper was light, crunchy and easy on the grease.

As per usual, we ordered some Rice Noodle Rolls in both Shrimp and Donut.  Just a touch on the thicker side, the rice noodle was marginally doughy, but overall, quite good.  There was a decent amount of elasticity and the noodle was relatively soft.  I enjoyed the large whole shrimp which were meaty with a sweet snap.  As for the salty donut, it was large and extremely crunchy.  Not sure if they refried it or not, but it was on they greasier side.  Whatever the case, it was a whole lot better than being doughy and soft.  Normally, when we order XO Daikon Radish Cake, it arrives in small deep-fried cubes.  Not this one, as they took big irregular pieces and stir-fried them with XO sauce, green onion, sprouts and egg.  I've seen this done before, but with smaller pieces.  Ultimately, this was not bad with soft daikon cake that was mildly spicy and briny from the XO.

Onto some steamed items, we got the classic Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumplings).  Impressively large, the ha gau were more than acceptable.  The medium thick dumpling skin was on the doughier side, but still had some elasticity.  Inside, the shrimp filling was on the denser side, but still texturally appealing with a moist snap.  In terms of seasoning, it was on the milder side, but the sweetness of the shrimp did come through and we did end up dunking them into hot sauce anyways.  The siu mai were appreciably better than the ones we had at Don Mee (gross...) where the pork filling was in chunks rather than ground up.  It was more meaty than bouncy in texture, but the flavours were all there including the shrimp.

For Costanza, he loves tripe and normally doesn't get to eat any with his family (they don't particularly love it).  So with both options available, we got the Bible Tripe and the Honeycomb Tripe.  Starting with the bible tripe, the pieces were bite-sized with very few smaller bits at the bottom.  They were tender with an appealing chewiness and snap.  The classic ginger and green onion flavour came through without being salty.  As for the honeycomb tripe, they strips were fairly large.  Texturally, it couldn't have been anymore perfect being soft and buttery while retaining the classic bite.  The dish was well-seasoned with hits of garlic, slight spice, sweetness and saltiness.  Both types of tripe were also not gamy which meant they had been cleaned and prepared properly.

Another solid dish was the Bean Curd Skin Roll or phonetically pronounced "Seen Jook Guen".  Although a bit pale, the bean curd skin had been fried enough so there was a chewy texture while being delicate enough.  Inside, the pork and veggie filling was moist and tender.  It was well-seasoned as well with a good balance between sweet and savoury with a mild pork flavour.  Again, that didn't really matter as we dunked it into copious amounts of Worcestershire sauce.  Without trying to make a joke, the Beef Meatballs were very large in size...  However, they were also a bit too dense for our liking.  There needed to be a bit more baking soda and starch to make these fluffier and more airy.  However, it wasn't as if they were bad either.  The meat was still tender and mildly seasoned with just the right amount of green onion.

For some larger dishes, we got the Wok-Fried Flat Rice Noodles with Beef.  Portion size was on the smaller side, but considering this was dim sum service and it was priced at $12.95, we were fine with it.  If we talk about execution, this was pretty legit.  As evidenced in the picture, there was more than enough wok heat (or wok hei) to create caramelization and smokiness.  The dish wasn't overly greasy and the noodles were not clumped together.  The ample amount of sliced beef was also fried up nicely as well as being super tender.  Also priced at $12.95, the Sparerib and Chicken Feet Hot Pot Rice was expensive.  At the very least, it was a big portion where the ribs were tender and well-seasoned.  I didn't particularly like the chicken feet as the cartilage underneath the tender skin was hard.  I found the rice to a bit too wet, but not a bad dish overall. In fact, Golden City wouldn't be out-of-place in the Lower Mainland, let alone Victoria.  Sure, the decor could use a refresh, but it kicks Don Mee's rear end if we had to compare locally.

The Good:
- Legit Dim Sum
- Nice people
- Decent selection

The Bad:
- The 70's called and want their Chinese restaurant decor back
- Some items were pricier than usual

Pizzability (Sooke)

As much as I would love to blog exclusively the best restaurants in Vancouver and around the world, it is not completely practical.  First and most importantly, I need to save for my kid's college fund, so eating it all away is not exactly responsible (but oh so delicious!).  Second, eating like that gets a little much, unless you are some eating assassin like Mijune.  So when we were in Sooke, it was agreed that we would do one inexpensive meal that didn't involve visiting a restaurant.  We ended up picking up a couple of pizzas and 2 lasagnas from the nearby Pizzability.

I think this had to be one of the first times I've picked up pizza from the second floor, hence it was rather warm when we entered the place.  Gotta give it to them, they were organized and efficient as everything was ready including little containers of Parm and red pepper flakes.  We got one each of the Cheese and Meatlovers Pizza.  So the pizza crust was not greasy, which was a good thing.  However, it was also rather dry and cardboard-like.  We did like how it was crispy, but the denseness and dry texture was not that appealing.  There could've been a bit more tomato sauce in our opinion.  The cheese pizza was pretty basic, but the meatlovers was impactfully spicy due to the plethora of sausage.  Again, liked how it wasn't too greasy, but the crust was a downer.

Usually, takeout pizza joint Lasagna can be a feeble attempt consisting of noodles, sauce and some cheese.  Surprisingly, we found cottage cheese and meat within the lasagna.  This made it much more hearty and varied in texture.  Like the pizzas, one of the lasagnas had added Italian sausage and that made it really robust and spicy.   Furthermore, they did not skimp on the mozzarella cheese either.  I actually liked the Italian sausage lasagna as it was good for what it was.  Probably one of the best pizza joint versions I've had ever.  That pretty much made up for the average pizza.  Yet, who am I kidding?  For the price, the food was more than acceptable and did the job especially for the kids.  Not great pizza, but good enough for a quick simple meal.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Surprisingly decent lasagna

The Bad:
- Crust a bit too dry

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