Sherman's Food Adventures: May 2020

Let's take a pause...

First and foremost, I hope everyone is doing well during these uncertain times.  I have friends that are either out-of-work or have taken pay cuts.  I really feel for all the people that have been affected by Covid-19, in terms of health and economically.  Although I do have a few posts that I can still throw up on the blog, I've decided to take a break for the time being.  I have been cooking lots and have been considering whether to activate a domain that I've been paying for since 2011.  It is and I might very well start posting on it.  It currently redirects to this site.  However, I will start posting again when I feel that it is the right time.  The people in the restaurant industry work hard and I wish them the very best.  Naturally, I would also like to acknowledge everyone who is out there doing their job and keeping people healthy and stocked with supplies.  For now, follow me on Instagram: @shermansfoodadventures  Take care everyone!

Thai New West

7 years ago I had visited Thai New West and came away with a fairly good meal.  Now that was only a few dishes and I always thought I should go back for a more in-depth post.  However, just like with everything else, that was pushed aside due to so many of restaurants I wanted to visit in the meantime.  Conveniently, Mijune was invited to try the place out and I joined her to help eat all of the food.  Mind you, she really doesn't need my help.  She could've finished it all by herself anyways... 

Well, at the very least, I was there to enjoy a meal with good company.  We weren't straying far from the classics as the first two dishes to arrive were the Green Papaya Salad and Chicken Satay.  Sporting the desired crunch, we found the salad to be fresh and well-constructed with green papaya, garlic, carrot, chilli, tomato, green bean, peanuts and fresh lime.  The best part was the balanced flavours including the heat from the chilis as well as the usual fish sauce and accompanying sweetness.  Neatly plated with peanut sauce and cucumber relish (as well as some shrimp chips), the chicken satay were moist and tender (almost juicy).  They were aromatic and properly seasoned.  There could've been a more aggressive char, but then again, that might've dried the chicken out.

We continued on with our favourite appie of the night being the Larb with ground chicken, chilli, roasted rice, onions, herbs and fresh lime.  Unlike some other versions I've had lately, this one was moist, yet not wet.  Sometimes the meat gets dried out, but this one was perfect.  Flavours were also very apparent with a bright acidity complimenting a noted spiciness and brininess from the fish sauce.  So much so, my nose was runny from the experience (which was a good thing!).  The next dish was a little more simple in the Crispy Tiger Prawns.  These large prawns were wrapped like a spring roll. As a result, it kept the prawns moist and maintained their texture with a meaty snap.  The wrapper on the outside was aggressively crunchy which was a nice contrast.

Our last starter was the traditional Tom Yum Goong with lemon grass, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, kaffir and tamarind juice.  Not overly complex but sometimes hard to balance, this was indeed spot on.  We could definitely get all the notes of sour, tangy, spicy, salty (briny from the fish sauce) and sweetness.  The best part was that there were many layers of tanginess from the lime and tamarind as well as the tomatoes.  Lots of large prawns which were meaty as well.  What followed next was my absolute favourite dish of the night - the Pad Kee Mao or Drunken Noodles.  This was a veritable flavour explosion with pops of sweetness, spice and aromatics.  The noodles rode the fine line between being chewy and soft which was just right.  Most importantly, the wok heat was high enough to caramelize the sugars from the ingredients to provide maximum impact.

Onto two curries, we started with the ever-popular Chicken Green Curry.  What struck me when it first arrived was the portion size.  Normally, Thai curries are served in very small bowls because there doesn't have to be a lot to flavour plenty of rice.  However, I was not complaining as more means leftovers!  Well, not in this case...  LOL.  Anyways, it was pretty textbook being creamy and coconutty with the essence of green curry.  Mild undertones of seafoodiness as well as some spiceiness.  Chicken was both plentiful and tender.  Now the Salmon Gaeng Penang was something that I wasn't expecting.  Usually, this comes with beef, but I wasn't complaining as the salmon was perfectly prepared.  It was just barely cooked through which meant it was flaky and moist.  The penang curry was sweet and aromatic with less spice than the green curry.

For our next dish, Pad Bai Horapa, it went well with rice (like the previous two dishes) due to the combination of garlic, fresh chilli, onion, mushroom, basil leaves & bell pepper as well as palm sugar.  The sweetness and aromatics along some spice made it plenty powerful on its own.  Therefore, rice was definitely needed.  This one was made with tiger prawns and it totally went well with the flavours due to its natural sweetness and meaty snap texture.  Due to the use of palm sugar, sometimes Thai dishes taste similar but they do exhibit differences such as the Pad Ped with Beef.  It sported chilli, garlic, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, onions, basil & bell pepper.  The main difference, other than the protein, was the addition of bamboo shoots which added an obvious aroma as well as texture. I would've liked the beef to be a little more tender, but it wasn't chewy though.

Okay, here is a dish I had to have - Pad Thai with Prawns.  No, it wasn't because it is one of the most well-known Thai dishes around either.  To be frank, this was one of the items I wasn't as fond of the last time I visited.  Well, I'm happy to report that it was better this time.  Noodles were chewy and the whole dish was the beneficiary of enough wok heat so that there was not an over-abundance of moisture.  Furthermore, there was a nice balance between sweet, tangy and spice.  The prawns were as good as the other dishes and all of the usual ingredients were there.  Now completely stuffed, we moved onto dessert where we began with the Sticky Rice and Mango.  Another classic dish which happens to be one of my favourites.  This one did not disappoint with soft, yet chewy sweet sticky rice.  Nice and aromatic from the coconut milk.  Beautifully balanced by the tangy and sweet mango.

Of course we had to continue with more desserts (I guess the worst-kept secret with Mijune right?).  We had a delicious Black Rice Pudding consisting of black sticky rice, taro, longan, coconut meat and fresh coconut cream.  This happens to be the Chef's mom's secret recipe.  Well, it is a fine recipe as it was aromatic, not too sweet and texturally a real treat!   Another appealing dessert was the Saku or tapioca pudding with banana and sweet coconut cream.  Very similar to other Asian desserts with the light pops from the tapioca pearls.  Again, aromatic and creamy with only enough sugar for impact.  We actually had on more dessert in the Fried Banana, but I really didn't have much to say about it other than it was crispy and delicious.  That pretty much sums up our meal at Thai New West.  Very solid eats in large portion sizes.  A good choice for the area!

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Impactful flavours
- Well-portioned
- Good spice level

The Bad:
- A touch sweet with some dishes

Hanoi Old Quarter

My very last meal eating out at a restaurant before the shutdowns was with Jacqueline at Hanoi Old Quarter.  For those who are unaware, they are part of the same group as the ever-so-popular Mr. Red Cafe.  Hence, the menu at Hanoi Old Quarter serves up some of the same goodies with a Northern Vietnamese flair.  This location used to be Happy Man Restaurant which was a HK-style cafe.  Some subtle renovations have given it a Vietnamese look but the overall layout stayed the same meaning seating is on the tighter side.  Loved how the staff were so welcoming and pleasant throughout our meal.

Getting to the food, we had the outstanding Crab Spring Rolls.  Exactly like the ones you'd find at Mr. Red, these were bursting with filling including a generous amount of fluffy crab.  Beyond that, there was also a good mix of sweetness, brininess and umami elements.  This was all encased in a legit thin and crispy rice paper wrapper.  One of the best things to eat in town period.  Next up, we had the Banh Cuon with minced pork with a side of Vietnamese ham.  These rice noodle rolls were super thin and buttery soft.  At the same time, there was a pleasing elasticity to them.  Loved the moisture content as it was just enough without being wet, and not overly dry either.   There could've been a touch more pork and wood ear mushroom, but that wasn't a huge deal. This was topped with aromatic and crispy fried shallots.

Onto some bigger dishes, we had the Beef Stew in Clay Pot served with a baguette.   Although it didn't look very big, there was plenty of tender beef slices nestled within the flavourful stewing liquid. Along with a hint of curry, the onions and five spice really came through.  I personally love it with bread rather than noodles, so I like how this is the way they serve it.  Lastly, we tried the Vermicelli Noodle Soup with egg, chicken, prawn, ham and herbs.  As you can see, this was a bevy of ingredients that totally hid the noodles.  Very filling bowl of noodles despite the "light" ingredients.  The broth itself was clean and sweet with some of the flavours from the ingredients blending in.  I found the noodles to be perfect being slippery with a chew.  Although there could be a variety of meals as my last before I stopped going out (this was mid-March), this was both satisfying and delicious.

The Good:
- Love those crab spring rolls
- Nice people
- Different than the usual Southern Vietnamese spots in town

The Bad:
- Seating is tight

Burnaby Mountain Clubhouse Lunch

For those who know, the Burnaby Mountain Clubhouse is one of the hidden gems nestled within North Burnaby.  Is it because they serve the best food in the city?  Well, I wouldn't go that far, but let's just say they dish up good food at very reasonable prices.  In fact, their 3-course meals have been legendary offering up striploin and lobster for around $35.00.  It is even cheaper during Dine-Out.  We've been here countless times including brunch/lunch.  I've never blogged about lunch, so I decided to take same pics this time around.

For myself, I went big with the 8 oz. Grilled Steak Frites featuring parmesan-truffle scented fries and au jus.  I found the steak to be bigger than the advertised size and prepared perfectly medium-rare.  However, the au jus was curiously thick like a hybrid between gravy and demi-glace.  Fries were pretty generic, but they were crispy and tasted good.  Nothing particularly wrong with the dish, but for a similar price, I'd go for the Cactus Club version instead.  My son didn't explore the menu very much and went straight for the Applewood Smoked Bacon Cheeseburger with fries.  Although it wasn't anymore interesting to look at than any other burger, the components were solid.  Patty was well-seared and not dry.  Bacon was crispy, veggies were fresh and the brioche bun was soft and nicely toasted.

One of the more interesting options was the Lobster Panini for only $19.00.  If you look at the sandwich, there was plenty of lobster combined with Swiss arugula, tomato and lemon aioli.  This ate really well as each bite featured big chunks of lobster (rather than shredded bits).  Therefore, we could really taste the salty sweetness of the bouncy meat.  The arugula added a bitter bite while the aioli was creamy and lightly tangy.  My daughter decided on the Truffle-Scented Mushroom Grilled Cheese featuring portobello and cremini mushrooms.  Again, the sammie was stuffed with ingredients.  Unfortunately, as you can clearly see, the middle was also full of unmelted Swiss and parmesan.  It didn't kill the dish, but it wasn't particularly great with mouth feel.  That also meant the bread should've been toasted longer too.

Two of the more standard items were the California Chicken Club and the Wild Salmon Burger.  With the same ingredients as the burger, the chicken club also sported guacamole.  Nothing special, but okay nonetheless.  The chicken breast could've been a touch juicier though.  As for the salmon burger, the salmon was fairly flaky and was accompanied by coleslaw and tartar sauce.  It was a generous piece of fish as it went beyond the borders of the bun.  Overall, we thought the food was decent, but not any better than the various chain restaurants within the same price point.  They do have location on their side as the dining space is large and the greenery outside is nice especially on a sunny day.  For the best deal, you can't go wrong with the 3-course dinner menu.

The Good:
- Nice setting
- Competitive pricing
- 3-course dinner menu is a steal

The Bad:
- Lunch menu is okay, but not any better than anyone else

Marutama Garden

It's rather interesting that I keep raving about the original location of Marutama, yet at the same time, I haven't been back in quite awhile.  Generally, they do have the best ramen egg and the fresh-made noodles is a nice touch.  So when we were nearby Marutama Garden on Main Street, we figured this was the next best thing to visiting the Downtown location.  Besides, this location does have its perks such as no lineup (well at least when we were there) and a decent amount of tables considering the small store.  After taking a look at the menu, we settled on 4 different bowls of ramen.

The kids actually ordered the same thing, but one was bigger than the other.  My son went for the Shoyu Zenbu Ramen with chashu, extra chashu, spinach, nori and egg.  This was a solid bowl of ramen where the broth was creamy and rich.  Curiously not as rich as I remembered, but this was a good thing as it was definitely drinkable without being heavy.  Lots of meatiness and natural sweetness.  The chashu was tender while the egg was on point.  It could've been more flavourful though.  My daughter has a smaller appetite, so she went for the basic Shoyu Ramen with the same ingredients except she kept the onions (unlike my son).  Everything was consistent including the egg and the chashu.  The plentiful noodles underneath were al dente, although curiously not the same as the original location.

Viv decided on the Miso Ramen which was a huge pile of stuff on top of the noodles.  It consisted of a mix of veggies and chopped chashu which was really filling in itself.  Add in the generous amount of noodles underneath and there was no chance she could finish it.  The miso broth was a bit lighter than she would've liked but there was still the appealing fermented rich saltiness associated with miso.  For myself, I went for something different in the Aka Maru consisting of chili and nuts with soft-shelled shrimp and chopped chashu.  Naturally, the whole thing was nutty and aromatic from the combination of walnut, pine nut, peanut, cashew, almond and pistachio.  There was also a touch of spice and the faintest hit of brininess from the shrimp.  I thought this was not bad, but left me wanting for the more popular shoyu instead.

For some sides, we had the really crunchy and juicy Marutama Fried Chicken coated with corn flakes.  We really liked the chicken as it was so tender while the corn flakes provided an appealing crunch.  However, as very noticeable in the picture, the whole thing was extremely greasy.  So we weren't sure if the juiciness wasn't mostly oil.  We also had the homemade Pan-Fried Gyoza.  In terms of dumpling quality, these were pretty solid.  The skin was thin with nice elasticity and the filling was texturally on point.  However, they could've been a touch more aggressive with the sear.  Overall, we thought our meal at Marutama Garden to be relatively good.  We wished we had the same noodles as the original location, but that didn't make or break the meal in our opinion.  Solid option for Main Street.

The Good:
- Fairly spacious for the small store
- Solid option for the area
- Loved the fried chicken (but also too greasy)

The Bad:
- Wish they had the same noodles as the original location

Kim Anh

This is another within the category of restaurants that I drive past and never stopped to eat at.  Kim Anh is a non-descript Vietnamese joint out on Edmonds in Burnaby that I've reminded myself to try for the last 8? years.  I can't even remember.  So it took a specific prescription for my daughter that we had to head out over to a pharmacy on Edmonds Street.  Since we were there already and hungry, this was as good as anytime to finally try Kim Anh.  Interestingly, we noticed a picture of banh mi with a side of fries on the sandwich board.  That didn't scare us away, in fact, we wanted fries!

Before that, we got the usual Phở Dặc Biệt with the usual brisket, tripe, tendon, beef meatballs and rare beef.  This was a fair portion for the price and despite not being visible, there was enough al dente noodles as well.  We found the broth to be clean and slightly on the lighter side.  There was the sweetness of daikon that came through with a touch of meatiness.  A more-than-acceptable bowl of Phở.  For myself, I decided on the Bún Bò Huế.  Like many other versions in town, this one was missing pig's blood and pork knuckle.  I won't hold that against them because not everyone actually likes those ingredients (I do though) and it might not be a big enough seller to justify keeping it in stock.  I thought this BBH was decent with a mild spiciness that could've used more fermented seafoodiness.  Meats were good and the noodles were the usual slippery self.

For my daughter, she didn't want the usual beef soup, so she went for the Phở Ga instead.  Although the broth was mild and of course not heavy, the bowl was still rather hearty due to the good amount of chicken breast.  I wouldn't go as far as say it was juicy, the chicken was dry either.  Noodles were on point and the broth did taste good with plenty of chicken essence.  My son didn't deviate from his usual ordering pattern at Vietnamese restaurants by getting his favourite - Lemongrass Chicken on Rice with fried egg.  Once again, the dish was solid featuring well-seared chicken that was juicy and mildly-marinated.  It could've had a stronger aroma, but it was still good with some smokiness.  Rice was chewy and the egg was fried just right.  Many places overcook it, which defeats the purpose of having an egg in this dish.

Yes, we did end up ordering the Cold Cut Combo Banh Mi with a side of fries.  Call it the power of suggestion... the sandwich board outside???  Anyways, the frozen fries were really good because they were fried perfectly.  So golden and crispy.  The banh mi was no slouch either as the baguette was relatively light and crusty.  Inside, there was more than enough pate for impact and sufficient ingredients to create a good bread-to-meat ratio.   Although the meal wasn't anything I would drive specifically for, Kim Anh is a solid choice for the neighbourhood.  It is especially good for its price point and people there are super nice.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Resonably-priced
- Good people

The Bad:
- Flavours could've been a bit stronger

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