Sherman's Food Adventures: July 2020

Khob Khun Thai

During these really strange times, I have concentrated on cooking at home and spending time with the fam.  I haven't been really going out until recently.  Even with that, I'm pretty selective of who I meet with and where.  Prior to my actual first dine-in experience, we had met up with Bluebeard and Nikita at Blue Mountain Park for some outdoor take-out dinner.  Seeing how Khob Khun Thai was just around the corner, it was as good as anytime to finally try the place it.  It had been on my radar for quite some time and we had originally pegged it as a dining destination before heading to Silvercity one night.  Well that won't happen anytime soon, so this was our opportunity.

We weren't sure as to their spice level so instead of going all-the-way to 5, we went just a notch below with 4.  Judging how much heat there was in the Pad Thai Goong, it was plenty in our opinion.  There was an initial smack to our faces with spice and then it continued and lingered throughout our meal.  I thought the pad thai was a little dry, but plenty chewy in texture.  This might've been the fact we did takeout and it sat in the box a for bit where the moisture was soaked up.  As mentioned there was heat that also went along with some sweetness and tang.  Prawns were perfectly cooked with a meaty snap.

Just as spicy, if not more, the Pla Pad Prik Keag (Crispy Fish Belly) was tangy and sweet.  Again, I'm sure the fish would've been crispier and less moisture-logged if we had eaten it in the restaurant fresh.  Despite this, I enjoyed this with the rice for 2 that we ordered (it was so generous in size, it was more like rice for 4).  The fish itself was a touch on the drier side, yet with such a thin piece of belly, it would've been difficult to keep tender.  Besides, it was supposed to be crispy anyways, not flaky.

With a touch less heat due to the coconut milk, the Chicken Green Curry was full of tender meat, peppers, green beans, eggplant and bamboo shoots.  It was a bit thin in consistency, however, it didn't lack flavour.  I would've liked a touch more fermented shrimp essence, but the spice and aromatics did still come through.  As mentioned, the generous amount of properly prepared ingredients made this hearty.  There was more than enough curry to compliment the giant box of coconut rice on the side.

For the kiddies, they can handle spice, but not to the level we are used to, so we ended getting them the Pad See Ew.  There was about an even 50-50 split between flat rice noodles and ingredients (including tender beef, crunchy gai lan and egg).  Hence, it ate hearty with varying textures.  I thought the noodles were nicely prepared with an appealing chewiness.  There was evidence of caramelization and I liked how it wasn't overly greasy.  It was balanced between sweet and salty, but for me at least, I would've added hot sauce to it (to be fair, we asked for mild).

Also for the kiddies, we got an order of Khao Man Gai which is essentially a version of Hainanese chicken.  Similar to the one you would find in Portland (Nong's Khao Man Gai), this one featured a side of the sweet garlicky ginger sauce that naturally went well with the chicken and rice.  There was ample amount of tender chicken to go with an equally large portion of chewy rice.  I would've liked more sauce since the dish itself wasn't exactly flavourful on its own (and it generally isn't).  Next time, I'm going to double up on that sauce.

For dessert, we went for the classic Mango with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice.  As you can see in the picture, the sticky rice wasn't exactly the most attractive thing as it was pretty mushed up.  However, it tasted great being aromatic and just sweet enough.  I can understand why the rice was like that as I'm sure it isn't a big seller.  So it probably wasn't prepared fresh (would've taken too long anyways).  Mango was tangy and ripe though.  Overall, we enjoyed the food from Khob Khun Thai despite some of the critiques.  Understandably, the dine-in experience would be superior and we are more than willing to do that in the future.

The Good:
- Well-portioned
- Super nice owners
- Spicy enough

The Bad:
- Limited seating and now with Covid restrictions, even less
- Sticky rice was a bit mushy


Glowbal

Although I've had some takeout and even a semi-dining out experience at McArthur Glen, Viv and I haven't really gone to a restaurant for the true dine-in experience since mid-March.  We finally took the plunge at Glowbal due to a variety of factors.  First off, we had purchased the gift card bonus back in April and needed to use it.  Secondly, the outdoor dining at the front of the restaurant appeared to be a really safe place during these Covid times.  That it was with plexiglass dividers (even for the already separated booths) and all of the other usual Covid protocols.  We even noticed that the manager doubled checked each table after it was cleaned by staff.  We felt assured.

Onto the food, we started with their feature of the day which was the Dungeness Crab Cakes coated with a quinoa crust accompanied by arugula and fennel salad, pineapple salsa and lemon tarragon aioli.  These were full of crab and very little filler.  The outside was firmly crispy due to the use of 2 different types of quinoa.  Very subtle flavours in the crab cake itself where the salsa helped with the acidity and sweetness.  With that being said, a bit more acidity would've amped the flavours even more so.

Instead of ordering only one pasta (as another appie), we decided to go big with the Pasta Platter to Share consisting of Glowbal’s Spaghetti & signature meatballs, short rib pappardelle, rigatoni pomodoro and

tiger prawn pappardelle.  To say this was a whole lot of food would be an understatement.  One of the best values in town in my opinion at $45.00.  Moreover, we found it to be pretty solid too with moist and meatballs with truffled spaghetti.  Big slices of tender short rib nestled within the al dente pappardelle and flavourful braising jus.  Our favourite was the spicy and tangy rigatoni.  Creamy and rich, the prawn pappardelle was topped with fried capers and tangy roasted tomatoes which cut through the heaviness.  Best of all, the prawns were gigantic and perfectly textured.

Of course we didn't end our meal there (as evidenced in the background) as we also had the Pan-Roasted Halibut with lemon, capers, homemade gnocchi and brown butter foam.  Unfortunately, all the components of the dish were excellent except for the halibut itself.  Despite the beautiful sear on the outside, the fish itself was dry and overdone.  Too bad because the veggies were expertly prepared being vibrant while coated with a nutty brown butter.  The gnocchi were on the firmer side, yet at the same time had a good mouth-feel.

Now I've had the burgers at Glowbal before, so I was pretty sure we would enjoy the Ultimate Burger with a 9 oz beef patty, braised shortrib, mushrooms, double smoked bacon, fried mac n’ cheese, onion rings, truffle aioli, beefsteak tomato, lettuce, dill pickle, fries and side caesar salad.  This monstrosity was a bit hard to eat, but it was all worth it.  The large patty was meaty and moist while the brioche bun held it together (despite getting a bit soft on the bottom).  Individual components were good where the short rib was tender, bacon was thick and rendered.  Crispy onion ring and loved the cubes of fried mac n' cheese on top.  Another solid deal at $22.00.

We saved a little room for dessert and had the classic Zeppole al Cioccolato with hazelnuts, vanilla crème anglaise and amaretti biscuit.  I've had these Italian-style donuts on many occasions and these were good as usual.  A bit crispy on the outside and plenty fluffy on the inside, the semi-sweet molten chocolate centre was a nice contrast to the sweet

crème anglaise.  Very addictive and hard to eat just one.  However, that is what we did as there was another dessert!

The featured dessert of the night was the Lavender Pot de Crème with fresh berries and sugar tuile.  Wow this was really rich and creamy.  Viv thought it was bit too thick, but for me, it was prefect.  Otherwise, if it was light, it would resemble a pannacotta.  This was not that and the spoon would've easily stayed put if I stuck it down the centre.  It was aromatic and floral while only purposefully sweet.  The fresh berries were a simple and nice compliment adding more sweetness and tang.   In the end, we tried to pull a "Mijune" but was ultimately unsuccessful.  Where is she when you need her to finish the food???  Anyways, the meal at Glowbal was good and pricing was fair with all things considered.  Best of all, the Covid protocol was solid and we felt safe dining there.

The Good:
- They take the Covid protocols seriously
- Good value with all things considered
- Excellent service

The Bad:
- Halibut was overcooked

Food Folk Eatery (McArthur Glen)

Okay, so this is my first post in a long time and in fact, my first time "eating out" since mid-March.  I was invited to try out 3 of the food options located in the Food Folk Eatery at McArthur Glen.  Many of you are already familiar with Hula Poke and Chachi's Sandwiches, however this is the first location of Dirtbelly in the GVRD.  Originally from Calgary, Dirtbelly offers up fresh salads loaded with greens and grains. In fact, this is the first time that all 3 of them are in one food hall within BC.  Worked for me as I could try them all and outside in the fresh air as well!
Since I've never had Dirtybelly before, I quickly dug into their Jerk Warm Bowl consisting of savoury rice, kale, red pepper, spiced pineapple, yam, cilantro, green onion, coconut flakes, Thai green chilis and jerk coconut crema.  So you know how when something is advertised as spicy and it isn't?  Well, not this one.  My mouth was on fire from the green chilis. This was strangely satisifying with firm chewy rice that was aromatic and of course spicy.  Lots of different textures and flavours at play here.

I added a simple Fieldberry Salad to represent the salad portion of their menu.  Sure, there were many other more elaborate choices, but the combination of spinach, romaine, carrot, cranberries, blueberries, almonds, pumpkin seeds, feta and 1/2 avocado in a raspberry poppyseed vinaigrette sounded light and refreshing.  That it was and it was not overdressed.  A good combination of sweet and tanginess combined with the pops of blueberry and sweetness from the dried cranberries.

Onto some creations from Hula Poke, we tried the Tiki first.  This continued the spiciness with a bevy of red chilis accompanying togarashi sauce, cucumber, green onion, edamame, crispy onion, black sesame, cilantro, kale and tuna atop coconut rice.  Yes, my mouth was still on fire from the Jerk, now it really needed some of the drinks served on the side.  Unlike almost all of the other poke spots in town, Hula offers the choice between traditional sushi rice or a blend of jasmine and basmati rice.  With this bowl, we had the coconut rice and it was much lighter and fluffier.

Again, to get something that was less spicy, we also tried the Yuzu with ginger sesame, avocado, cucumber, edamame, carrot, furikake, black sesame, crispy onion, kale and salmon.  They weren't shy about dressing the poke and the potency of flavours were a result.  A good combination of sweet, tangy and savoury.  I thought the fluffy rice was a good match to the dressing and the generous topping of kale.  Much like the Tiki, the fish was in large chunks and appealingly textured.

For our sandwiches at Chachi's we began with the Chili Chicken with sweet chili sauce, jalapeno, cilantro, cucumber, spicy mayo and red onion.  This was essentially crispy chicken strips doused in a sweet glaze and placed within ciabatta.  Solid sandwich, but the addition of jalapeno up the spiciness.  Lots of flavour from the cilantro and onion as well.  Yes, this was fine and dandy, yet my favourite sammie at Chachi's was the last thing we had.

The Pork with Mac is the sandwich to get at Chachi's in my opinion.  I've had it a few times in the past and it consists of sweet pulled pork, sweet chili BBQ sauce and mac n' cheese.  This was predictably messy where the pork was tender and saucy.  I would've preferred the noodles to be a bit more al dente, but the cheese really helped compliment the sweet BBQ sauce.  Best of all, the aggressively toasted ciabatta easily stayed intact to hold all that sauciness inside.  Overall, I already knew that Hula Poke and Chachi's were going to be good.  What surprised me was the warm bowl from Dirtbelly.  Super tasty and filling (and there wasn't any meat!).  Nice to see some new choices at McArthur Glen.

*All food and beverages were complimentary

The Good:
- 3 completely different food choices all in one place
- Lots of choice
- Spicy means spicy

The Bad:
- Could use a bit more seating when it gets busy, but you can just eat in the mall too