Sherman's Food Adventures: 2021


If you have followed this blog long enough, you do know that I have a soft spot for food in the burbs.  Well, it helps I live in the burbs because it directly involves me...  So when a tasting at Natalino's Pizza out in South Surrey/White Rock came calling, I didn't need much convincing.  Seriously, why are so many people so skittish about leaving Vancity to try food out in the burbs anyways?  Maggi joined my on this food adventure where we sampled authentic Roman-style pizza with quality imported ingredients.  The owner/chef is from Italy and really prides himself on creating the best Roman-style pizza in town.  

Before we got to the pizzas, we were served individual ingredients, so that we could appreciate the quality.  That we did with the made from scratch San Marzano tomato sauce, fior di latte, meats and the crust by itself.  When combined into the Queen Margherita, the flavours really melded into something balanced and delicious.  The thin sourdough crust was crispy on the outside while soft and chewy on the inside.  Due to the flavourful sauce, the pizza was plenty tasty and it didn't hurt that there was an even amount of cheese on each slice as well as fresh basil.

Up next, we tried the King Pepperoni with tomato sauce, mozzarella, Spanish chorizo salami, fresh mozzarella, lemon zest and parsley.  Naturally, with so much salami on top, there was much more body and saltiness.  However, this was completely balanced off by the lemon zest.  Something unexpected, but it worked.  As you can see, there was lots of cheese and fresh parsley on top as well.

Continuing on with the local classics, we had the Hawaiian with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, bacon, fresh pineapple, coconut flakes, green onions, and cilantro.  Here was yet another twist with the addition of coconut flakes.  This created a de facto "pina colada" effect where it was indeed very tropical.  Lots of tang as well as sweetness in this one.  Once again, with so much topping, it was quite filling.

Their most popular pizza happens to be the Montanara with white truffle sauce, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, sausage, cherry tomatoes, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and basil.  This was very good with just enough truffle essence for effect without being overwhelming.  The ample amount of tender sausage made this hearty while the bursts of tang from the tomatoes and the brightness of the fresh basil lightened up the heaviness of the sauce.

One of their newer offerings is the Santorini with feta, kalamata black olives, artichoke, red onions, bell peppers, oregano, orange zest and a drizzle of one of the best extra virgin olive oils imported from Italy Chiaro Scuro by De Robertis. This was probably the most loaded pizza, yet the crust held up.  Lots of classic Greek flavours here from the gaminess of the feta to the salty tang from the olives.  Orange zest was the wildcard and it was mostly in the background.  Could really taste the olive oil as it was high quality.

Going a bit spicy, we had the Manila with Spicy sauce, mozzarella, pork belly, banana peppers and cilantro.  This wasn't spicy as in "mouth on fire", rather it was heat that was manageable.  Hence, we could still taste the other ingredients including the buttery pork belly and the tang from the banana peppers.   This was nice spicy finish to an eye-opening experience at Natalino's.  This has to be the best Roman-style pizza I've had in the Lower Mainland.  Not only is the crust excellent (not being too thick, yet still a good contrast of crunchiness and soft chewiness), the toppings are top-notch and plentiful.   Yes, this is not remotely close to where I live, but I'll gladly do a return visit.

The Good:
- Not too thick Roman-style crust
- Excellent toppings
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Mostly takeout, save a few tables. Best eaten fresh

Chef's Plate

Seeing how I usually gather up ingredients from the supermarket to make home-cooked meals, I never really considered ready-to-cook meal kits as an option.  Maybe call it stubbornness or pride, but to me, it always seemed like cheating to go that route.  However, I was ready to see for myself as Chef's Plate came calling and asked if I wanted to give it a go.  Sure, why not, I'm always up for new things and honestly, I've been so busy with life in general, trying to go shopping and then meal plan for the week has been tough.

So I was able to pick 3 different dishes for Sunday delivery to my doorstep for the week.  The thing about these meal kits is that although all of the ingredients are included, the veggies generally still need to be cut up.  That is actually a good thing as it ensures freshness and it keeps longer.  There are some items that you will need to have on hand, but they are common - like salt, pepper, oil, butter and milk.  Otherwise, the meats and seasonings are neatly portioned for the recipe (for 2 or 4 people).  Generally, each recipe took around 30 minutes to prepare.

The first dish we tried was the Harissa Salmon with Moroccan couscous.  This was possibly one of our favourite dishes where the salmon was fresh and when cooked to the recipe's specifications, came out moist and delicious with harissa really coming through.  We felt there was probably too much couscous (but I guess more is better?).  It was fluffy and was accompanied by roasted cauliflower (with curry spice), onions, tomatoes, toasted almonds, feta and lemon juice.

Although simple in appearance, the kids loved the Bavarian Pork Chops with roasted potatoes, broccoli and remoulade.  Once again, following the instructions, I coated the pork chops with mayo and then a breading blend.  Cooked it for the time suggested and it came out moist and tender with a crispy coating.  The remoulade consisting of mayo, dijon and garlic was tangy and flavourful.  Potatoes were tender and the roasted broccoli still had a bite.

The last dish we prepared was the Pork Pomodoro Pasta with pesto pull-apart bread (we omitted the pesto since the kids didn't want it). Due to the absence of pesto, the bread was a bit plain in appearance.  It was fluffy inside though.  As for the pasta, it was fully-loaded with pork and zucchini.  Really could taste the sweetness of the onion while the Italian herb spice blend was nicely balanced.  Again, the instructions were on point with al dente pasta.  One doesn't need to be super-skilled to make this dish.

So we were quite impressed with the meal kits and I had a new appreciation for the convience of it all.  Therefore, I put in a personal order for the following week consisting of 4 different dishes.  I prepared the Creamy Beef Penne with mushrooms first.  Again, the pasta was al dente and there was more than enough beef to make it hearty. With the use of cream cheese, this was indeed rich and creamy. Interestingly, the combination of beef stock reduction and soy sauce provided just enough salty meatiness for the dish.

Something a bit familiar but with a few differences, the Breaded Pork Chops with roasted broccoli and cheesy orzo was still its own dish.  Like last time, the pork chop came out perfectly juicy and tender.  The mayo mustard dill sauce was tangy with brightness.  With an ample amount of orzo underneath, this was a filling meal.  Only thing that could've been better would be more cheese for the orzo.  Despite that, it was still plenty flavourful.

Possibly one of the plainest-looking dishes was the Chicken & Creamy Mustard Pan Sauce with garlic mashed potatoes.  However, it happened to be one of the tastiest.  The deboned chicken leg was prepared in a way that it sported appealing browning while still remaining juicy.  That pan sauce took all of the reserved chicken juices and combined it with shallots, butter, dijon, chicken stock, cream and sour cream.  Rich and full of umaminess.  Only thing is that this was the least filling of all the dishes (most are more than enough food).  Maybe use 2 chicken thighs rather than the leg?

We left the Oven-Fried Fish Tacos with avocado salsa and lime slaw til the very end.  Turned out this was another favourite with flaky fish and a crunchy (and healthy) coating.  The crunchy slaw was so refreshing and tangy.  Coupled with the ripe avocado and lime mayo, this had lots of brightness.  Really enjoyed these tacos.  In fact, there wasn't a dish we disliked amongst the 7 we had.  Chef's Plate is definitely a go-to solution if we are short on time and still want a home-cooked meal.  Usually I do the cooking, but sometimes, I'm not at home due to events I have to attend.  With everything ready-to-go, Viv ended up making dinner with these kits.  We ultimately ordered another week (I didn't take pics of those) and enjoyed those dishes too.  Will definitely order more in the future when my schedule gets hectic.

*The first 3 dishes were complimentary*

The Good:
- Fresh ingredients, portioned out for you to cook at home
- Overall, good recipes
- Delivered right to your door

The Bad:
- Most recipes are more than enough food, even for big appetites, but there are some that are not as filling, just need to choose carefully depending on your family 



If you haven't noticed, Chinatown has been going through quite the transformation in the last 10-15 years.  Once bustling with crowds looking for the freshest veggies and seafood 7 days-a-week, we now find stores closing and being replaced with hipster joints.  The gentrification of the place has drawn a variety of reactions across the board.  For myself, I do reminisce about my childhood and the memories of accompanying my parents on weekend shopping trips and dim sum.  However, I also realize that change is inevitable and sometimes you just have to see things through.  Much like I value family, the owner of the newly opened Fiorino does the same with his Florence-inspired street food, with pictures of family and memories from Florence itself adorning the walls.  Located in the former Brixton, Fiorino adds to the growing mosaic of business that call Chinatown its home.

I brought the family to the media launch so that we could not only share the plates of food, but to properly experience the concept.  We were started off with the Crostini consisting of tomatoes with garlic on artichoke puree, porcini puree with mushrooms and chicken liver mousse.  The crostini itself was crunchy holding up to the wet toppings.  I found the chicken liver to be rustic and chunky while flavourful.  Mushrooms were earthy as expected while the tomatoes were tangy and spiked with plenty of garlic.

Sliced paper thin, the Beef Carpaccio was visually-appealing and topped with capers, shallots and truffle oil.  This also ate very well too with buttery melt-in-our-mouths beef that was well-seasoned yet not overdone.  There was enough truffle oil for effect without being too pungent while the saltiness was just right as the natural meat flavour still came through.

Next up was probably our favourite dish being the house-made Gnocchi with wild boar ragu and parmigiano reggiano.  Although it was on the greasier side, the flavours benefited from the fat as the ragu was rich, meaty and full of body.  At the same time, it wasn't heavy due to the chunks of onions that weren't completely cooked down.  The large gnocchi were tender and somewhere between fluffy and firm. 

We then moved onto the Gnudi Cacio e Pepe.  For those unfamiliar, gnudi are essentially "naked" dumplings where it is all filling and no pasta.  These consisted of spinach and ricotto in a cheese and pepper sauce (hence cacio e pepe).  These were soft and well seared.  The sauce itself was a bit thin but not lacking in flavour.  It was indeed cheesy and a bit buttery.  Fried sage on top completed the dish.

For me, I always happy to see a lamb dish and yes, I was pleased to see the Polpette D'Agnello hit the table.  These were huge meatballs where the lamb was just barely cooked through.  Hence, they were moist and juicy with the unmistakable flavour of lamb.  It sat atop Tuscan salsa verde which was bright, tangy and aromatic.  I ended up eating most of it since I am the only lamb-eater of the family.  No complaints from me!

One dish that maybe needed a bit of refining was the Verdure Fritte featuring semolina-battered vegetables.  We found the batter too thick and dense which also meant it wasn't particularly crispy either.  On the other hand, the veggies were perfect though as they were still crisp while cooked through.  It did state that there was a side of mushroom spread, but I didn't really taste mushroom.  Whatever it was, it was tasty.

Now the other fried dish was appreciably better in the Fritto Misto with semolina-battered local seafood (shrimp and calamari) and roasted garlic aioli.  Although the pieces of seafood were on the smaller side, they were not overdone in any way.  The shrimp was bouncy while the calamari was tender with a slight chew.  The batter was crispy and not greasy.  Side of aioli was creamy and garlicky.

The kids love Arancini, I guessed they saved the best for last (well, everything came pretty quickly, so they didn't have to wait long!).  This was one giant-ass arancini that was crispy on the outside with semi-soft aborio rice and cheese in the middle.  This sat atop a pomarola sauce that was tangy and slightly sweet.  Normally, with such a big arancini, getting the outside crispy (while not burning it) and ensuring the middle is melted, would be somewhat difficult (trust me, I've tried).  However, this was executed well.

For desert, we were served the classic Tiramisu with mascarpone crema, ladyfingers, cocoa powder and sour cherries.  The crema was rich and sweet while the ladyfingers (there wasn't many in ours) were properly soaked and moist.  For some reason, we didn't see or taste any sour cherries.  I'm sure that would've helped cut the sweetness.  In the end, the food we did try was mostly good and great for sharing.  Prices are reasonable and the place has a nice vibe in a Seattle-Portland type of way.  I'm curious about their sandwiches they serve for lunch and some of the new items they have added for dinner.  I just might try that too!

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Generally good sharable plates
- Modern rustic vibe
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:

- Need to refine those fried veggies 



There are many fine dining destinations in the Lower Mainland that cover a fairly wide gamut of cuisines.  Sure, some are more represented than others, but that is another story for another day.  In terms of location, the majority of these spots are, not surprisingly, located in the Downtown core.  So when we have spot opening up in Richmond at the new Versante Hotel, it is a relatively big thing. Ophilia and I ended up checking the place out recently.  This post will encompassed 2 visits as the first was marred by inattentive service, so we were invited back with a few comped items.

So the food will be a bit out-of-order (mix of meal 1 and 2) since I want to do a natural progression rather than jumping around.  Whether one is order a-la-carte or doing the Bruno Experience (tasting menu), it is recommended that you try the Scroll Loaf with foie gras butter.  This round "croissant" was crispy on the outside while soft and buttery on the inside.  It was spiked with rosemary and pecorino which made it tasty on its own.  However, the side of bruleed foie gras butter made this a decadent starter.  It was sweet, creamy and complimented the loaf well.

Finished off tableside, the Oysters on the half shell were sauced with a motoyaki and topped with ikura marinated in sake and yuzu.  As you can see in the picture, the oysters were torched, where the ikura were charred.  So beyond the buttery and briny oyster, it was complimented by the classic Japanese flavours of a motoyaki.  It was creamy and slightly tangy with spice as well as smokiness.

Now Crispy Brussels Sprouts aren't a new thing as they have been a menu staple for quite some time.  However, the version here at Bruno was very good.  Not only was every sprout indeed crispy, the seasoning was on point.  Beyond the saltiness of the parm, there was a noted spiciness from the calabrian chili crunch.  However, it wasn't just one note, rather there was a smokiness to the flavour profile as well.

One of my favourite dishes was believe it or not, the Truffle Potatoes.  These were a study in texture as the outside was crispy while the inside was creamy and moist.  Beyond that, the flavours really popped consisting of garlic truffle butter, parmesan herbs, green peppercorn aioli.  So the first 2 flavours to hit were the salty and nuttiness of the parm then giving way to the aromatics of the truffle butter.  Finishing off was the subtle pepperiness of the aioli.

Normally, pork belly can be hit and miss.  Sometimes, it is so fatty, it is a bit cumbersome to eat.  Other times, it can be too dry where it defeats the purpose of eating the dish.  For this version, we found Kurobuta Pork Belly with black garlic balsamic glazed peppercorn lime aioli.  The belly itself was mostly meaty with some buttery fat on the top layer.  Moist and melt-in-our-mouths soft, the meat portion of the belly was perfect.  Loved the fermented and rich salty flavours of the black garlic.  The balsamic and lime helped cut through the heaviness.

Onto some bigger plates, we thoroughly enjoyed the Dungeness Crab Croquettes with Iberico Ham, baby green artichoke hearts, marinated sicilian olives and nduja sausage remoulade.  First and foremost, these were large and stuffed with fluffy crab.  There was very little filler, if at all.  The fact they kept the filling from drying out while the outside was crunchy showed good precision.  There was plenty of complimentary flavours here including the umaminess of the savoury remoulade.  Added the necessary flavour without taking away from the delicate crab.

One dish that was a little hit and miss was the Halibut Uni King Crab Risotto with ikura, burrata cheese, uni cream and lemon zest.  On one hand, it was beautiful to the eye and indeed the halibut was perfectly cooked.  It was flaky and buttery, indicating that it was also fresh.  Flavours were on point with the creamy seafoodiness of the uni accented by the further creaminess of the burrata.  Nice balance provided by the lemon zest.  However, the actual risotto itself was undercooked.  It wasn't by a little bit either, the aborio rice was hard.  Too bad really.

Now both times, we ordered the Truffle Wild Mushroom Gnocchi because it was so darn good.  Loved the soft pillowy gnocchi that also had a certain appealing chewiness.  This was perfectly contrasted by the fried sunchoke crunch on top as well as the bottarga.  Again, the truffle was restrained where the other ingredients did get to announce themselves.  Mushrooms were tender and of course provided another hit of earthiness.

Prepared beautifully, the Grilled Wagyu Flank Steak was accompanied by tomato, avocado, grapes, shishito peppers micro herbs, rustic bread and chimichurri.  Being a flank steak, we weren't expecting any melt-in-our-mouths texture.  Although it wasn't, the tenderness of the meat was still apparent.  Furthermore, the natural fats in the meat afforded a intoxicating aroma.  It also helped that the meat was well-seasoned too.  As for the peppers, they could've been cooked through more and the bread was a bit too chewy.  Loved the grapes and tomatoes though - kissed with just enough heat but not overdone.

Now we loved the gnocchi, but the Ndjua Tagliatelle was equally good.  To begin, the pasta was firmly al dente while bathed in Cortez Island basil pesto, smoked bacon, heirloom tomato, fennel, grana padano and calabrian chili crunch.   There was a quite a bit going on here and ultimately, there was plenty of impact from the ingredients.  There was a nice spiciness to go with the smoky meatiness.  Brightness occurred in the form of the pesto and tomatoes as well as the shaved fennel on top.

Served with a good amount of forno bread, the Saffron Cream Mussels were money.  What the description does not say is that in addition to the mussels, we found clams and wild pink scallops as well.  These were all open and cooked just enough so that they were still buttery and delicate.  The saffron cream was balanced with an aromatic essence.  Dipping the well-seasoned (maybe a bit salty) bread into the broth was enjoyable.

Now getting to the much bigger plates, we had the Truffle Lavender Duck with foie gras, flambe apricots, confit duck croquettes, candied hazelnut crumb, summer figs and duck glace. Don't let the picture fool you.  Each slice of duck was huge, easily enough protein for 2 people on this place.  It was prepared medium-rare where it was juicy and tender.  Loved the glace as it was silky, gelatinous and full of depth.  The apricots and figs were a nice sweet compliment to the duck.  I found the croquettes to be crispy, but the duck confit was a little dry.  I didn't really get the lavender and that is possibly a good thing as it can be too floral if over-used.

Something even bigger was the 52oz Bone-In Ribeye with gorgonzola horseradish butter, chimichurri and red wine jus. This was massive piece of meat that was thick and still prepared perfectly medium-rare.  However, despite the promise of sharp flavours, the meat was rather bland.  Now don't get me wrong, it was tender and moist, but just lacking seasoning.  With that being said, the chimichurri and red wine jus did help the cause, but there needed to be much more of it.

Onto dessert, we had the Stone Fruit Pavlova, Rustic Tiramisu and also the Bruno Honey Lavender Soft Serve.  I thought the pavolva was pretty good with plenty of fresh fruit.  Definitely fruity and refreshing.  Only thing is that the whole thing was a bit too sweet.  The same could be said about the tiramisu, but ultimately, the flavours were apparent and the ladyfingers were properly soaked.  Soft serve was creamy and also sweet, but it did taste good with the crunch from the pistachio brittle and freshness from the preserved berries.  So as you can see, we had nearly everything on the menu save for some salads, flatbread and 2 of the bigger share platters.  From this, we were pretty sure the food was quite good at Bruno.  Nice to see something of this caliber in Richmond.

*2nd visit had 4 dishes comped as well as dessert*

The Good:
- Proteins were properly prepared
- Very few issues with the food
- Nice dining space

The Bad:
- Service the first time was aloof, but second was much better (albeit they knew we were there)
- Self-parking is a bit troublesome with only one pay station far away from the actual level you need to park

Published on Main

Sometimes, people will ask me what is my favourite restaurant in Vancouver.  More often than not, I come back with some questions of my own because that is far too general of inquiry.  However, it has become apparent to me that I do have an answer to that question now, regardless of price, cuisine or neighbourhood.  If one was to spend money eating out, I would point them in the direction of Published on Main.  Honestly, this place has some of the prettiest plates and the most consistent food.  No pretentious attitude here, just good food.   Recently re-visited the place to do a "Mijune-style" meal.

Starting with the seemingly simple Chips & Dip, we found house potato chips served with sour cream and onion dip with smoked fish.  This was so addictive where the chips were crunchy yet light at the same time.  Lightly salted, they were good on their own, yet the dip was addictively creamy, tangy and smoky (due to the fish).  Those little morsels of fish added more texture as well as the crunch from the onions.  Loved the dill garnish as it afforded some brightness.

Now that was a good start and while I was munching on the chips, the beautifully-plated Side Stripe Prawns arrived.  This featured cooked and chilled side stripe prawns with cucumber, apple and horseradish.  Those buttery prawns were delicate with a mild rebound texture.  They were sweet and lightly seafoody.  The freshness of cucumber and apple provided a non-conflicting compliment to the sweet prawns.  Horseradish was restrained.

Staying with things from the sea, we had the roasted Pacific Squid with bacon vinaigrette, castelvetrano olives and brown butter crumb.  One bite and there was an impactful fermented flavour from the olives that complimented the tangy and saltiness of the vinaigrette.  Texturally, the squid was tender, yet exhibiting a mild chew (in a good way).  To contrast, the crumb on top did its crunchy thing with the usual nuttiness of brown butter.

Now one might not consider the Black Garlic Caesar a must order with so many other great choices on the menu.  However, don't go sleeping on this salad as it was really good.  There was just enough dressing which was creamy, earthy and surprisingly bright.  The combination of romaine hearts and kale afforded 2 different textures.  An ample amount of pecorino and crunch on top meant we had plenty of tang and nuttiness.

One of the must order dishes in our opinion was the Wagyu carpaccio with pickled elderflower, ginger miso and malted barley cracker.  This did not disappoint as the beef was tender and full-flavoured.  It wasn't sliced as thin as one would expect, yet it still didn't require much chewing.  There was a bit more texture than thinner sliced versions, but that was a good thing.  On top, the combination of ingredients added acidity, fermented saltiness and crunch from the cracker.

Before we ordered, we were deciding between the smoked steelhead and Pickerel.  As you can see, the pickerel won with its potato and mushroom pinwheel, kelp and lemon sauce.  This was one of our favourite dishes where the fish was flaky and moist while the skin was crispy.  It was well-seasoned on its own, but that sauce was fantastic.  It had an appetizing acidity combined with the umaminess of the kelp.  Loved that soft potato in the middle.  It was earthy from the mushrooms while nicely caramelized.

Another veggie item of our meal was the roasted Winter Squash with koji butter sauce, candied pepita & currant.  The camamelized squash was definitely the star of the show (as it should be).  Richly sweet, the squash was tender while not mushy.  It was a touch smoky as well.  That koji butter was creamy, yet not heavy due to the balancing amount of tanginess.  Keeping with the fall/winter theme, the candied pepita provided some crunch.

One of the most appealing choices on the current menu is the Chanterelles with smoked celeriac, poached egg and fried bread.  Even though it was another veggie dish, it ate so decadent and meaty, we hardly noticed.  The beautiful flavour and texture of the mushroom was on full display.  Definitely buttery and properly seasoned.  The cafe au lait sauce was rich, yet slightly watered-down by the poached egg.  Underneath, the creamy smoked celeriac provided more depth.

We didn't stop with the beef carpaccio as we also had the Wagyu Bavette for good measure.  This was beautifully medium-rare with all of the fat activated.  As such, the meat was buttery tender while still meaty due to the cut.  Plenty of natural umaminess, but the roasted chanterelles and smoked potato dauphine added even more comforting flavours.  That potato was smoky and creamy.  There was also a side of spicy condiment, but it really wasn't that spicy.

Our last savoury item was an add-on (so that is why it seems out-of-order).  The Herbed Ricotta Manti also featured chanterelles (we weren't complaining) and a herb shallot cream sauce.  Thin and al dente, the manti were filled with a creamy and tangy ricotta filling. The herbs really came through in the form of dill and tarragon.  Cream sauce was aromatic and bordering on salty, hence it was flavourful and impactful.

Onto dessert, we had the
aerated Hay custard with green apple and chamomile.  This appeared to be a very large portion until we dug into it.  Pillowy light and fluffy, the hay custard was on semi-sweet and slightly earthy.  The combination of apple and chamomile was naturally complimentary adding sweetness and a refreshing tang.

Ending everything off, the Creamsicle featured
vanilla ice cream with mandarin granita and milk meringue.  Another refreshing dessert, this was up my alley.  Loved the fruitiness of the granita and the sourness of the raspberries.  The granita itself wasn't very sweet, but the ice cream did all the heavy lifting in that department.  Now as I post this the menu has already changed a bit with 4 new dishes replacing some of these ones.  That only means I have to go back - it won't be hard to convince me

The Good:
- Beautiful plates
- Consistent
- Good use of acidity

The Bad:
- Portion size is modest, so you'll have to order lots (upping the cost, but also more variety)

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