Sherman's Food Adventures: November 2019

The Holy Crab (Brunch Menu)

Once an overlooked part of the menu that only existed by default, Brunch has become the thing to do on weekends (or any day of the week at some spots).  Sure, we can do Dim Sum or early morning Pho, but it appears that everyone is getting in on the action these days.  All the chain restaurants are on board and there are many independent options around town.  In terms of originality, that gets a bit more sparse as we find the usual 2 eggs with choice of meat, hashbrowns and toast as well as the classic eggs benny.  Trying to offer something a bit different, The Holy Crab is set to launch their brunch service on Saturday, November 30th.  I was given a sneak peak recently where they definitely put a Southern twist on the usual brunch menu.

Case in point, their Egg Bennies included such options as Blackened Catfish and The Holy Crab Cake.  Other than the different proteins offered (which also included smoked salmon and lobster klaws), the Hollandaise was Cajun-spiced.  Hence, there was definitely a smoky kick to dish.  I found the Hollandaise to be very rich and creamy with a smooth consistency.  All of the eggs were perfectly poached where they were super delicate and burst with a runny yolk on contact.  There was a choice of either English muffin or biscuit as the base of the benny.  I found the biscuit to be a little too dense for the concoction as it added even more heaviness to an already decadent dish.  As for the proteins, the catfish was flaky and moist where the blackening spices were apparent and impactful.  The crab cake was a little dense, but had a crispy exterior with fluffy crab.  On the side, we found crispy red potatoes and a salad.

The most interesting option on the menu was surprisingly the Toast Boards.  For $14.00, one could chose 2 of them to go with a side of black bean, corn and wild rice salad.  The Shrimp & Egg was loaded with cold-water crunchy shrimp tossed in a cajun-spiced mayo topped with soft-boiled egg segments.  This was all about the shrimp texture and spice contrasting the crunchy toast.   Straight-foward in construction, the Smoked Salmon featured cream cheese, capers, shallots and fresh dill.  Classic combination with buttery salmon with the saltiness of the capers and creaminess of the cheese.  My favourite was the Truffled Scrambled Eggs as it was silky smooth and barely cooked through with lots of earthiness and a touch of spice.  This was served atop fried tempura tempeh which offered crunch and heartiness.  Last one was the Vegetarian with avocado, cherry tomatoes, alfafa sprouts and radish.  Again, this was straight-forward except for the tempeh underneath.

There was a vegetarian-option on the menu consisting of poached eggs and Cajun Hollandaise on pan-seared artichoke hearts atop creamed spinach.  Named the Egg Sardou, this was indeed vegetarian, but also one of the heaviest offerings of the bunch.  Consistent with the eggs bennies, the Hollandaise was creamy and spicy while the eggs were super soft poached.  What made it extra rich was the creamed spinach.  It was really thick and despite being mild-tasting, it would not be easy for one person to finish.  Continuing on the theme of heavy, we had the Breakfast Poutine sporting shrimp and snow crab claws atop Cajun-spiced fries along with legit cheese curds, house-made gravy and a fried egg.  Since they had a base of their addictive crunchy and spicy fries, the poutine already was good from the start.  The crunchiness of the fries ensured they could stand up to the mild-gravy and runny egg.  

One of my favourite items was the Southern Fried Chicken and Pancakes for $14.00.  This was a considerable amount of food where the 3 cornmeal buttermilk pancakes were fluffy and substantial at the same time.  Fried until super crunchy and in a dark golden hue, the chicken thigh was juicy and moist with a touch of Cajun spice.  The combination of salty spiciness combined with the syrup made the dish even more appetizing.  Our last dish was the Grilled Cheese (also available with shrimp or lobster for $3.00 and $6.00 more) served with Seafood Chowder.  Constructed with a blend of mozzarella and cheddar, the sandwich was crunchy with plenty of melted goodness inside.  I would definitely add a seafood to give it more body and texture.  The side of somewhat thick chowder was full of seafood and was mild-tasting with a minor taste of the sea.  Overall, I thought the brunch items were pretty good and well-priced.  It also didn't hurt they were not shy in adding some spice too.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Something different
- Spice added to most dishes
- Well-priced

The Bad:
- Heavy, if you care
- Biscuit too dense for my liking

Bob Pochana

One of the biggest complaints about Thai cuisine in the GVRD is that it has been "watered-down" so that it appeals to as many customers as possible.  While that maybe true, you can't blame restaurants in trying to maximize its target audience.  After all, they are in the business of making money to feed their own families as well as the staff.  On the other hand, it leaves the hardcore foodies wanting for more.  Fortunately, there are a few spots in town that do their best to offer up flavourful eats that may alienate the causal customer.  Bob Likes Thai Food happens to be one of my favourites in town and now they have decided to open up a casual take-out spot on Robson.  Paying homage to Thai street food, dishes are served up in wax parchment paper ready-to-go.  With prices ranging from $10.00-$12.00, it is also accessible.

I was recently there for a tasting and we had many of their most popular dishes including their take on a Portland favourite - Kao Mung Gai.  Yes, it is spelled different phonetically, but I assure you, this version could even be better than Nong's Khao Man Gai!  Featuring fluffy, yet still firm broken chicken rice, this ate well even before the addition of the "sauce".  Ah yes, the explosion of ginger, garlic, vinegar, soy and fermented soybean is essential to the dish.  When combined with the fragrant rice and tender chicken, this was addictive and really, I could've eaten 2 orders.  Now that was one of the highlights, but their version of Pad Si Ew is the best in town in my opinion.  Exhibiting serious caramelization, the rice noodles were subjected to plenty of intense wok heat (or wok hei).  Add in the pepper, dark soy, oyster sauce and sugar, there was a bit of everything in there including noted spice.  Moreover, the texture of the noodles were on point being soft with plenty of chewiness.

Let's not forget their Pad Thai as it was equally good compared to the previous 2 dishes.  Just like the pad si ew, there was noticeable wok heat where the noodles were slightly charred.  This produced a smoky caramelized aroma that only further enhanced the palm sugar and tamarind.  There was a dash of spice combined with some brininess that just completed the dish of al dente noodles.  One of the better versions in town in my opinion.  Back to a rice dish, the Kao Kah Moo or pork belly was simmered in anise, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic and bay leaf served on rice with pickled mustard greens and hard boiled egg.  Possessing many of the same qualities as the Chinese dish known as "cau yook", the pork belly was melt-in-mouth worthy.  Flavours were balanced without being too sweet nor salty.  The listed spices came though while the mustard greens cut through the heaviness.

Staying with the same cut of meat, the Kana Moo Krob also had similar qualities to Chinese roast pork where the cracklings were crunchy yet still airy and not hard.  With a 50/50 even balance between tender meat and fat, the belly also ate very well.  Despite being wok fried with gai lan, garlic and chilis, the crackling stayed crunchy and the roasted aroma was not lost.  Vibrant and crispy, the sliced gai lan segments benefited from the wok heat and added not only a different texture, it was tasty on its own.  Topped with a runny fried egg, the Wok Fried Pork & Garlic was yet another tasty concoction.  Maintaining the same and consistent high wok heat, the marinated pork was cooked beautifully where it was tender yet at the same time was dry on the outside without an excess moisture.  Savoury and slightly spicy, this went well with the rice and yes, the runny egg didn't hurt either.

On the topic of eggs, we had a dish that was predominantly made of eggs.  The Kao Kai Jeaw or Thai omelette was a simple dish with spring onion and cilantro served on top of rice.  Aggressively fried, the crispiness of the omelette on the edges was a nice textural contrast to the rest of the fluffiness.  Even before we dug in, the aroma from the fried egg was appealing.  Now this alone was good, but I found that when we added some of the vinegar chili sauce (as found in the stewed pork dish), it really brought things to life with spice and tang.  A visit to any "Bob" Thai restaurant isn't complete without Bob's Poutine.  Okay, this isn't really a poutine, but consider it chips and sauce consisting of thinly-sliced deep fried taro root topped with lemongrass, lime leaf, deep fried tofu, chili and green curry sauce.  If you can imagine, this was a flavour bomb with all of the usual Thai aromatics to go with their spicy green curry.  I got a few samples in before the chips got soggy.

About that curry, we did end up trying 2 of them including the aforementioned Green Curry (Gang Keaw Whan Gai) with chicken, bamboo shoots, basil and eggplant.  Unlike many versions of green curry in town, there was much more in the way of ingredients than actual sauce.  The big chunks of chicken were tender and almost juicy while the eggplant was soft, but not completely mush.  Best of all, the curry itself was aromatic from the coconut milk while exhibiting a noticeable amount of spice and brininess.  Exhibiting beautiful colours from the red and green peppers, the Panang Beef Curry (Panang Nua) was also very good.  The curry here was a bit richer and thicker with the usual hit of spice.  Pops of sweetness and aroma from the coconut milk provided balance.  As much as the portion size didn't look like much, the richness of the curry combined with the rice made it a filling dish.

Just before we got to the dessert, we did things a bit backward by having the Tom Ka Gai.  Sporting lemon grass infused coconut milk with chicken and mushrooms, this was both subtle and a flavour bomb at the same time.  I could get all of the ingredients with every sip, yet it wasn't overpowering where it was balanced and hit my sense of smell first.  Simple and delicious, the Mango Sticky Rice was a fitting end to an array of well-prepared Thai street eats.  The warm sticky rice was mildly sweet sporting aromatic coconut milk.  Tangy and sweet, the mango provided a shot of brightness and life to the heavy rice.  The surprise of the dessert was the chunks of coconut custard on the side - so creamy and tasty!  So you can see I enjoyed the food at Bob Pochana, but that was a given since I already enjoy Bob Likes Thai Food.  Best of all is the accessibility of the food figuratively and literally.  I even bought some to go with my own coin!

*Food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Reasonable pricing
- Good wok heat (wok hei) resulting in intense flavours
- Not afraid to add in spice

The Bad:
- Mostly take out as there is only one large table available

Pho Galaxy

There we were, driving home from Kelowna on our last leg of our 3-week road trip.  Amazingly, we weren't that tired nor were we sick on one another.  However, one thing that was for certain - we needed food badly (a la Gauntlet, if you are old enough to know this reference).  Not just any type of food that is, we wanted Asian food, specifically something soupy or noodley (is that a word???).  One quick search for Pho in Chilliwack (as we were driving by) resulted in Pho Galaxy.  I vaguely remembered my cousin raving about the place, so we quickly entered it into the GPS.  Now, I also returned for another visit shortly after with Mijune because she wanted to see for herself if it was as good as people have indicated.

So we essentially had the same dishes that I had the first time including the Phở Dặc Biệt.  As you can see on the side, not only was there the usual sprouts, peppers and lime, we also found saw leaf herb.  This is rare to find and relatively expensive.  Back to the pho, the broth wasn't in-your-face impactful.  Rather, it was subtle and clean.  There were notes of sweetness, meatiness and background star anise at the very end.  Meats were good, however the noodles were a bit overdone.  Now the real star of the meal was the Bún Bò Huế due to the incredible broth.  This one was in-your-face with a balanced spiciness to go with equal amounts of fermented shrimpiness.  So aromatic and full of depth.  I wish they had included pork blood and knuckle to make it completely legit, but this was good nonetheless.  Make sure you ask for the thicker lai fun as they default to regular rice noodles if you don't specify.

Trying to get a few different items from my last meal and to also take their recommendations, we got the Deep Fried Squid as well as the House Special Chow Mein.  I'm going to get right to the point about these 2 dishes - they were okay, but hardly something I would drive out to Chilliwack for.  The batter on the squid was a bit too thick for my liking and it wasn't as crunchy as it appeared.  Furthermore, it wasn't seasoned enough.  Mind you, there was a sweet and sour dip served on the side.  The squid itself was tender with an appealing chew.  Despite what I said, the chow mein was still decent and prepared properly.  Noodles were crunchy and there was no shortage of ingredients on top.  I thought the dish was on the milder side, but that wouldn't stop someone from adding vinegar and/or hot sauce.

We had to get a rice dish to make the meal complete, so we also took their recommendation and got the Lemongrass Chicken and Pork Chop on Rice (we added a fried egg too).  Clearly seen in the picture, the meats were aggressively charred and hence there was a caramelized smokiness to go with the ample brine.  I thought the meats were trending to the drier side, but they were still tender.  Rice was prepared right being fluffy while still chewy and not wet. So after 2 visits to Pho Galaxy, it begs the question, is it worth it to drive all the way out to Chilliwack?  Well, if it is for the Bún Bò Huế, specifically the awesome broth, then yes, I would drive out for it.  However, if that doesn't matter to you much, then no, you can stay in town for equally good Pho (like Pho Tam in Surrey).

The Good:
- That Bún Bò Huế broth
- They go saw leaf herb
- Super nice people

The Bad:
- Pho is good, but not mind-blowing
- It is far for those who do not live in Chilliwack or Abbotsford

Oak + Cru

So after nearly 3 weeks, we were close to the end of our epic road trip.  On the morning that we were scheduled to drive back home, we decided to keep our lunch simple.  Sure, there are many great places in Kelowna for brunch/lunch, but we were tired and uninspired.  Therefore, we merely walked downstairs from our room at the Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort to Oak + Cru.  I was already warned that we might have an average experience here and that we were prepared for.  Hey, who knows, maybe we might get lucky (with the food that is...).

Let's just say even if the food wasn't good, the location and view was worth the price already. So onto the eats, my son decided on the O+C Burger sporting 2 wagyu beef patties, cheddar, smoked bacon, sweet onions, lettuce, pickles, vine ripe tomatoes and Russian dressing on sesame brioche.  This was pretty good!  The meat was tender with enough moisture while the abundance of produce was fresh (although he didn't eat any of it!).  Bacon was crispy and there was plenty of melted cheddar.  Fries were crispy too.  For myself, I went for the Baked Mac + Cheese with herb crumb topping and a side salad.  Although the cheese blend wasn't sharp enough for my liking, it didn't mean the dish wasn't flavourful.  I found it rather aromatic and salty enough for impact.  Noodles were al dente and the sauce was the right viscosity.

Viv decided on the Fish Tacos with halibut, corn tortilla, cilantro-amarillo mayo, guacamole, cabbage, queso fresco and jalapeno.  The smallish piece of halibut was flaky and moist with a thin crispy batter.  Veggies were fresh and crunchy while the mayo had a fairly strong cilantro aftertaste.  This dish would fall in the "not bad" category.  Of note, the green salad on the side (same with my dish) was supremely fresh with berries and tomatoes.  My daughter had the Pizza Margherita which was nicely blistered on the top.  Although the crust was fairly thin, it was a bit dry and too chewy.  On the other hand, the San Marzano tomatoes in the sauce were tangy and impactful.  Okay, let's just say the food wasn't going to win any awards, but for us, it did the job and was better than expected.  Combined with the gorgeous view, we left satisfied.


The Good:
- Outstanding location and view
- Food was more than acceptable
- Decent service

The Bad:
- Pricey for what you get
- There are better choices for the pricing

RauDZ Regional Table

Believe it or not, I haven't been back in Kelowna since 2007.  Yep, we were passing by on our way to Alberta and stayed for the night.  Plenty has changed since then as the place has gotten more popular and hence busier with a larger population. For me personally, we rolled into town without a care in the world as the kiddies are much older and Viv didn't have a headache from them fighting in the backseat this time around.  We quickly checked into the Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort and made the short stroll over to one of the more well-known spots in town - RauDZ Regional Table.

We were seated in a rather darker part of the restaurant amongst a packed crowd, hence, I decided to just use my phone camera (hence, the crappy photos). Our first item arrived pretty quickly in the Popcorn prepared with warm bacon drippings, cracked pepper and parmesan.  This was sinfully delicious being fluffy and aromatic from the bacon fat.  The bite from the pepper varied the heaviness as there was also the salty parm.  From this dish to the Charcuterie Board, it took 40 minutes.  No joke, I timed it!  It would've been nice if someone would've let us know or apologized for it.  Anyways, the board consisted of cured meats, house made terrine, smoked fish pate, poached prawns, artisan cheese, olives, pickles, mustard and crostinis.  This was pretty good where the terrine could've been seasoned more aggressively.  I thought the fish pate was interesting with an appealing fishy smokiness.

We also got the House-made Pan Bread with flavoured butter and Okanagan stone fruit vinegar.  Bread was made-to-order and we enjoyed the crustiness of the exterior combined with the fluffy interior.  The vinegar provided a nice hit of acidity.  Right next to it, the Confit Leg Poutine with cheese curds and pan gravy was good except we felt the fries were too thin and hence did not stand up well to the gravy.  We loved the chicken as it was tender with a brined bounce-like texture.  Legit squeaky cheese curds too.  Rather than settling for the appetizer version of the Handmade Parmesan Gnocchi, we ordered the larger portion and added a grilled chicken thigh for good measure. This was a well-prepared dish where the gnocchi was fluffy with enough firmness to provide a bite.  The grilled chicken was perfect with enough char for colour and flavour while the meat was tender.  Umaminess was provided by the Okanagan mushroom bordelaise and some morel powder on top.

Completing the meal, we had both the Arctic Char and the 8 oz. New York Steak.  Surrounded by greens and array of veggies, the arctic char was oat-crusted and drizzled with browned maple butter.  We felt the char was decently moist yet could've been cooked just a tad less.  We thought most of the veggies were on point except for the completely burnt string bean.  Flavours were mild with only the slightest sweetness from the sauce.  As for the steak, it was perfectly medium-rare and topped with Qualicum blue cheese and peppercorn sauce.  Suffice to say, the steak was not wanting for more seasoning.  The creamy sharpness of the cheese went well with the peppercorns.  The side of hasselback potato was pretty good.  Overall, we thought the food at RauDZ to be solid albeit not mind-blowing either.  The experience might've been tainted by the incredibly long wait for food too.  That was most unfortunate.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Service was good despite the wait
- Well-prepared proteins

The Bad:
- Wait was too long for food and no explanation was provided
- Pricey

NUDO Ramen House

Our original plan for Spokane in terms of dinner was The Flying Goat.  However, we were pretty much settled into our hotel in Downtown and didn't really feel like heading back out with the car.  Furthermore, we were pretty much sick of all the fried chicken and BBQ that we'd been consuming since we left LA.  Yes, #firstworldproblems I know...  So we went for plan B and decided to walk a few blocks over to Nudo where we would have the opportunity to eat some noodles in soup.  Get it?  Nudo?  (noodle...).  Yes, we knew the place wasn't exactly an authentic Asian restaurant, but that didn't matter to us.

Before we got to the "nudo", we had the Popcorn Shrimp which had way too much going on in our opinion.  When we could find a nugget of shrimp, it was over-battered.  It was cold-water crunchy though, so texturally, it was okay.  The goopy mess of sweet soy and sweet mayo just made things too heavy and over-seasoned.  I would've much preferred the sauces on the side.  This was a definite miss for us.  Next, the Red Sauce Pork Wontons were decent.  Feature a delicate dumpling wrapper, the wontons were fairly light and cooked just right.  The pork was tender and juicy while being lean.  We found the sauce to have a mild kick to go with the salty sweetness. No, these were not the typical Szechuan-style, but at the same time, they were good in their own way.

Onto the mains, everyone had a bowl of ramen except for me.  I went for the Pineapple Curry Fried Rice with BBQ Eel.  Okay, let me get this out of the way first...  This dish was really sweet.  Combining chunks of pineapple with the syrupy sweet glaze of the unagi sauce totally overwhelmed the curry essence.  This was disappointing since the fried rice itself was deliciously caramelized and nutty.  Furthermore, the large piece of buttery eel was great on its own.  Maybe this could've been 2 separate dishes.  Onto the ramen, my son ordered the Shoyu that included BBQ pork, soft boiled egg, corn, nori, fish cake, inari and bean sprouts.  All of the components were quite good including the al dente fresh ramen noodles and well-charred pork.  Egg was runny too.  However, the soup was pretty weak where we could taste the soy sauce (shoyu), but little else.  There was no depth or any other discernible flavors.

Fortunately, my daughter's Tonkotsu Ramen was more flavorful, albeit just slightly.  Consisting of the same ingredients, there wasn't anything different in that regard to the shoyu.  However, the meatiness of the 15-hour pork broth came through with umaminess and body.  With that being said, it was still lacked depth.  The best broth had to be Viv's Spicy Miso as it had a slight kick to go with the fermented bean essence.  Even with that, this was on the sweeter side and we were expecting more saltiness.  Okay, to be frank, the ramen at Nudo was actually decent.  However, with all of the ramen we've tried elsewhere, this was pretty average in comparison.  Now if we look at Nudo in a vacuum and only consider where it is located, then it becomes slightly above average.

The Good:
- Modern dining space
- Solid service
- Decent

The Bad:
- Decent for the area, but it would be lacking in a metropolitan such as Seattle

Congratulations to the winner of this year's draw!

As you can see in the picture, the winner this year of the $100 GC to any restaurant is Irene T!  Congrats.  Contact me with a DM to admin@shermansfoodadventures.com

Notorious P.I.G.

After a full day at Yellowstone (probably not enough, needed 2 days at least!) and an overnight in Bozeman, it was time to make our way back home.  Our plan for the day was to drive west through Montana, then a small section of Idaho and ending for the day in Spokane, Washington.  Prior to that, we had a scheduled stop in Missoula, Montana for some lunch.   I guess we weren't the only ones with that plan as the place was packed and we settled on a table inside with crappy lighting.  Hence the below-average pics from my smartphone.

We ended up getting the Old Joe Platter where we could chose any 3 sandwiches plus a full slab of ribs and 4 sides for $52.00.  A good deal if you ask me!  So we ended up with the Tri-Tip Sirloin with Deviled Egg Potato Salad. as well as the Beef Brisket with Slaw.  They didn't mess around with the meats as they piled it on the soft ciabatta.  Smoky and tender, the tri-tip was not as dry as it appeared.  Loved the eggy potato salad as it was creamy with bits of tender potato. As for the brisket, it was also tender with enough moisture that it wasn't chewy.  Lots of smokiness and seasoning from the caramelized rub.  Slaw was fresh and crunchy.

Despite being super skeptical, we got the Turkey sandwich with Smoked Gouda Mac n' Cheese.  Normally, smoked turkey can be dry and lifeless, but this was super moist and dare I say, juicy.  It was flavorful and ultimately (gasp), our favorite of the bunch.  The side of mac was delicious with the silky smokiness of the cheese.  Yes, this was the best sammie, but the Full Slab of Ribs were also very good.  The meat fell off the bone yet retained its texture.  It was tender with a balanced amount of smoke and only the slightest effect from the rub.  A thin layer of tangy BBQ sauce added just enough moisture and added taste.  No wonder the place was so busy, the food was very good and the prices even better!  Great choice for a quick lunch while passing through.

The Good:
- Fair pricing
- Super-friendly service
- Well-prepared meats

The Bad:
- Seating is a bit limited, so you need to wait
- Parking was surprisingly hard to find