Sherman's Food Adventures: 2021

Harbour Oyster Bar

By virtue of its location, Vancouver is not only known for being the hub of Asian Cuisine (specifically Chinese), but for a great place for seafood.  Fresh seafood can be found on most menus and there are restaurants featuring seafood (Blue Water, Coast, Joe Fortes).  However, most of them are rather expensive and high-end dining.  What if I told you there is a place on the Drive that features seafood but is much more casual and reasonably-priced?  Harbour Oyster Bar is exactly that and they offer happy hour oysters @ $1.50 each from 11:00am - 5:00pm everyday!  We checked them out a few times after Sunday morning hockey at Brit nearby.

So about those Oysters...  They have been featuring Chef's Creek the last while for $1.50/shuck during their happy hour (which is almost all the time except for dinner).  All the condiments are included such as horseradish, mignonette, cocktail sauce, lemon wedge and an array of Tabasco.  Don't let the price fool you because these oysters were creamy and slightly briny with a clean finish.  One of the better deals in town considering the extended HH.

Also on their HH menu is the Steamed Clams in butter, garlic and white wine served with garlic bread for $12.00.  These were prepared perfectly with every clam being open and buttery soft while retaining a bite.  They were briny and sweet while fully flavoured with the broth underneath.  The side of charred garlic bread was the perfect vessel to soak up all of the buttery clam juices. 

Another HH option is the Garlic Prawns in Cajun lemon butter sauce for $12.00.  These were also quite good with buttery prawns that had a sweet snap.  These were tasty on their own, but the ample and sinful butter sauce was flavourful with the acidity of the lemon and accompanying lemon wedge.  Our only suggestion would be a side of the same garlic bread as the clams to soak up the butter.

Out last HH item was the Lobster Poutine, also for $12.00, with jalapeño, corn, cheesy béchamel and cheese.  This was only average as there wasn't a whole lot of lobster to be found.  Fries were crispy and held up well to the sauce and the addition of corn provided pops of sweetness.  Didn't notice the jalapeño much.  I found the sauce to be creamy and mildly flavoured with sweetness.  Could've used more spice.

Onto some bigger items, I tried the Oyster Po'Boy on my initial visit.  This consisted of 3 mini-brioche buns with one fried oyster each dressed in remoulade, slaw, corn and tomatoes.  This was so delicious as the oysters were creamy and briny while sporting a crispy spiced batter.  Brioche was soft and toasted and each one just ate so well.  On the side, the made-to-order Boston Chowda had to be one of the best I've had in town.  Lightly creamy, well-spiced and full of fresh clams and mussels, this featured natural briny and sweet flavours.

Milhouse has been one of most trusted eating companions since the start of this blog and I thought I should actually mention him by name as he ordered the Blackened Cod Sandwich with asian slaw and sambal mayo.  Although the piece of fish was a bit small, it was moist and flaky with a noticeable spice crust on the outside.  The slaw was crunchy while the mayo was only mildly spicy.  Brioche was toasted and held everything together being airy and soft. 

On my other visit, I split my Lobster Prawn Rolls with Tonya (not her real name) so I could get half of her sandwich (more on that later).  These featured the same soft brioche buns as the po'boy.  Inside, there was a good amount of both lobster and prawn which were texturally on point and also dressed just enough.  The side of fries, much like in the other dishes, were crunchy and stayed as such until the end.

Okay, the item I shared with Tonya was the Lobster Grilled Cheese on grilled sourdough.  This was really good with plenty of melted cheese and an equal amount of tender and moist lobster.  The sourdough was buttery and evenly crunchy that offered up the right texture contrasting the cheese and lobster.   So this is pretty clear, but I'll reiterate - the food at Harbour is solid and reasonably priced.  A good place to get your seafood fix in a casual spot with great service to boot.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Reasonable pricing
- Good service

The Bad:

- Seating is somewhat tight

Fighter Chicken

For what seems like forever, the biggest and only players in the fast food fried chicken scene were Church's and KFC.  Sure, we had a dusting of Brownie's, Lee's and even Juicy Chicken at one point, but nothing compared to the big 2.  The landscape has changed considerably over the last decade where we have seen the addition of Hi-Five and Win-Win.  Yes, there are more single location spots, but I'm not going to name them all right here (because I've blogged about them already).  This post is to concentrate on one of the newest, which is Fighter Chicken, with its 2 locations in Vancouver.  We got some takeout from the Renfrew spot to see what they were all about.

We ended up getting a little of everything including naturally, the Fried Chicken.  Even though you are merely looking at pictures and reading these words, it is pretty obvious the chicken had a crunchy batter.  Just look at it, the flakes of batter that are emanating from the skin.  Beyond that the skin was well-rendered and the meat was both juicy and well-seasoned.  The only thing I can say as a counterpoint is that if you like a little less batter, this chicken isn't for you.

Now for something different, but really much of the same, we had the Fried Chicken Wings.  Same crunchy batter and maybe a little less rendering of the skin on the wings.  Possibly because they needed less cooking time and since the batter was relatively thick, there was less chance it would render completely.  However, the meat was juicy and seasoned just like the big pieces of chicken.

So if one did not want to deal with bones, I can tell you the Crispy Chicken Fillets sported the same batter.  It didn't seem as thick possibly due to the smooth texture of the chicken tenders and lack of skin.  Hence, it didn't eat as crunchy. Despite being white meat, it was still tender and moist. Obviously, not as juicy as the dark meat, but it was still good.

So another option, for those who want bite-sized pieces, the Popcorn Chicken was, as you guessed it, coated with the same flour batter as everything else.  Similar to the fillets, the batter wasn't as thick, so each piece was rather meaty.  Being white meat, these were actually the least moist of the bunch.  Also, they didn't seem as crunchy either.  However, one would dip these into something anyways, so no big deal.

For those who don't want to each chicken altogether (but why did you come to a fried chicken joint???), there is the option of the Crispy Fish Fillet.  If you wondering why everything looks the same, they once again used the same batter.  Not that it was a bad thing though as the fish was crispy and flaky inside.  I quite liked these.  On the other hand, it gets really monotonous with the same batter, same flavour and same visuals.  We couldn't even tell the difference between the chicken fillets and fish fillets until we bit into them. 

So for something different, I predictably also had their Spicy Chicken Burger (because I'm searching for the best chicken sammie in town: @shermaneatschickensandwiches).  I also ordered the regular sandwich, but they forgot it in my order.  Now for the spicy, it had good heat and it was huuuuuge.  Look at the 2 fried chicken thighs!  Very crunchy and still juicy in the middle.  This was good and a great value.  In fact, most of the stuff from Fighter Chicken is more than acceptable and priced well considering the portion size.  But my biggest issue, if it hasn't been obvious by now, is that they need to vary the batter.  Maybe for the fish, use panko?  I know this is not unique to Fighter Chicken only as many fried chicken spots use the same batter.  However, by virtue of the variety offered, they might want to at least consider one or two other options.

The Good:
- Crunchy, moist chicken
- Large portions
- That chicken sandwich

The Bad:
- Everything uses the same batter

 

Chef's Choice Chinese Cuisine (Dim Sum)

Believe it or not, I actually had the Dim Sum at Chef's Choice way before I went for dinner (2 times).  The reason I did not post on it was simple, my pictures were terrible.  Yes, I'm quite picky about that and even these pictures for this post are so-so.  Whatever the case, this visit for Dim Sum is the 4th time I've eaten at Chef's Choice within a month.  I'm pretty confident that I have a good grasp on the place.  Without further ado, let's get to the food!

To start, we had the Seafood Congee where exactly 3 slices of fish, 2 scallops and 2 prawns hid within the broth.  All were of a good size, fresh and cooked just right.  The fish was flaky and soft, scallops were delicate and the prawns had a sweet snap.  As for the congee itself, it was cooked down enough that it was silky with only tiny morsels of the remnants of rice.  I thought it was seasoned enough that it didn't taste plain without being salty.

Not many places serve the classic Shrimp Toast anymore and we had this the first time, so we weren't going to pass it up this time around.  Unlike other versions, the toast on the bottom was not soaked all the way through with oil. Rather it was not overly greasy while being uniformly crunchy.  The shrimp paste topping was well-portioned and had the requisite bounce texture.  It was well-seasoned and still had natural shrimp flavour.

We normally do not order Sweet & Sour Pork during Dim Sum, but we decided to do it this time around.  It consisted of fried pork belly which was juicy and tender.  There was good mouth feel due to its bouncy texture.  There was enough batter to provide crunch (even with the sauce) while not being too heavy.  I found the sauce to be good, but it needed more tanginess in my opinion.  Also, there seemed to be more sauce than the previous time, which made it a bit too saucy.

One of the bigger dishes we ordered was the Spareribs on Rice Noodles Hot Pot.  Last time, I got the tripe version, but didn't see it on the menu this time.  For something that seems rather defaultish due to the generic nature of rice noodle rolls (the ones with no filling), this was prepared really well.  The noodle rolls were pan-seared and really soft while having good elasticity.  There was a bit too much sauce for my liking but that only added to the softness of the noodles.  Plenty of spareribs on top, but they were marinated too much being soft with not enough chew.

One of the more interesting dishes was the Fried Donut filled with shrimp paste.  The donut itself was crispy and light without being greasy.  It tasted great on its own with enough salt.  However, the shrimp paste filling added not only texture, but some sweetness.  The ample amount of shrimp paste was like the shrimp toast (probably the same stuff) being bouncy and well-seasoned.  My only wish is that this came with some sort of dip because it ate a bit dry.

As always, we got the kids favourite dish in the Shrimp Spring Rolls with nori and cheese.  Well, normally, we don't find cheese in shrimp spring rolls, but rest assured, this was fine.  There was only a small amount of cheese, so it was barely noticeable.  Instead, we could taste more of the nori and of course the shrimp instead of the cheese.  The shrimp was bouncy and well-seasoned while the roll itself was crunchy.

Of course I got my usual offal in the Tripe and Tendon.  Although this isn't an overly complicated dish it is difficult to nail the right texture.  It can be underdone where it is chewy or overdone where it is practically melting.   This dish was bang on with tripe that was in large pieces that were buttery tender but still retaining a bite.  The tendon was soft and gelatin like while not melting away.  Seasoning was on point too being sweet, salty and garlicky with some spice.

So at first glance, it was a bit distressing to see the Phoenix Talons with parts of the skin missing at the end of the chicken feet.  That is usually an indication that it was overdone or overhandled.  Fortunately, it ate a whole lot better than it appeared.  They were large in size and extremely plump.  So that meant the cartilage and fat underneath was in fact, not melted away.  Seasoning was good with it leaning towards sweet with plenty of garlic and a touch of spice.

You won't find gigantic Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) at this place, but you will find carefully crafted ones instead.  The dumpling skin was delicate with elasticity.  Inside, the tender shrimp filling had a buttery snap with only enough seasoning for effect without being overwhelming. Often, we concentrate on the size of the dumplings but really, some of those gigantic ones are not good, consisting of mostly shrimp mousse.  Quality over quantity here folks.

Same could be said about the Siu Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumplings) as these were also very modest in size.  However, the ingredients spoke for themselves as there was a good ratio of shrimp to pork.  Furthermore, the pork was fatty enough (without being all fat) to have the perfect complimentary texture to the sweet snap of the shrimp.  Hence, the dumpling ate with plenty of bounce and it wasn't dense.  There was a modest amount of seasoning where we could taste the ingredients.

Unlike many places, they do not serve beef meatballs for Dim Sum.  Rather, they do a version of it that resembles a Beef Siu Mai.  Due to the natural texture of beef, these did not eat like siu mai though.  Rather, think of a similar texture to the beef meatballs (processed beef that becomes bouncy) but a bit denser.  I would've preferred them to be a bit more airy, but they weren't overly dense either.  In terms of seasoning, these were very mild and needed the Worcestershire.

Probably the one thing to get here is the large Seafood Soup Dumpling since they do it the traditional way where it is served in its own steamer rather than a bowl.  Hidden inside the massive dumpling was the usual gelatin (that dissolves into soup when steamed), cilantro, pork and seafood.  Unlike the first time we visited the place, they now serve these in individual portions rather than in 2's.  This way, you can get the exact amount you want for the table.  I thought this dumpling was quite good with a thin tender wrapper (that didn't puncture).  Inside, the gelatin was not all melted, but for the portion that was soup, it was sweet and light.  

For our choices for dessert, we didn't stray far from the regular starting with the Baked Egg Tarts.  These were textbook and then some.  The tart shell was flaky, light and buttery (or lardy...).  There was nice colour to it without being overbaked.  In the centre, the egg custard was light, silky and only sweet enough.  I often say that, but the overly sweet ones from Kam Tou reinforced the belief that not all egg tarts are created equal.

We couldn't forget about their fantastic Steamed Brown Sugar Sponge Cake (as we've had it 2 times before).  I love the size of this as it is easily shared by 8 people.  It was fluffy and airy while the sweet rich caramel flavour of the brown sugar emanated through smell and taste.  Overall, the dim sum here at Chef's Choice is solid complete with great service.  I've had it a few times and it has been consistent.  Pricing is on the higher end, but worth it in my opinion.

The Good:
- Quality dim sum
- Great service
- Clean upscale dining space

The Bad:
- A bit more expensive than mainstream dim sum joints
- Parking is free, but since it is extremely tight, don't drive a LX570 into it

 

Socrates

A long time ago, in a neighbourhood not far away...  from me..  I had tried Socrates Greek Restaurant on Hastings in Burnaby.  To be frank, I don't really have lasting memories of that meal and I couldn't tell you if it was good or bad.  Then all of a sudden, the place closed up shop and popped up further West on Hastings in an ol' pizza joint.  If you can imagine, the storefront isn't big, so it is purely takeout (save for a few tables out front).  Perfect during Covid and actually still perfect now.  Why pay for all that dining space when you can do many more covers doing take out?  Besides, Greek food travels quite well.  So yes, I ordered it for takeout one night for dinner.

Seeing how I love variety, I had to get the Greek Appy Platter with Keftedes, Kalamari, Tiropita, Spanakopita, Tzatziki, Hummus and Pita (last 3 items are not pictured).  I thought this was a fantastic deal for $35.00.  Crispy and tender, the kalamari was good especially with the fluffy tzatziki.  Both the tiropita and spanakopita featured crispy phyllo with a cheesy filling (spinach in the case of the spanakopita).  The only thing that could've been better was the keftedes as they are a bit dry.  They did taste good though with onion and spices.

Whenever I go for Greek food, there is no question I'm ordering the Roast Lamb.  The large piece of shoulder was extremely tender and well-seasoned (could definitely taste the garlic and rosemary). The meat practically fell apart on contact but still had texture when eaten.  This came with rice, potatoes, pita, taztzki and Greek salad that came in separate containers. 

Originally, we had ordered one each of the chicken and beef souvlaki.  However, something got mixed up and we ended up with 2 Beef Souvlaki dinners.  Wasn't a huge deal though as the beef was pretty darn good.  As you can see, it was nicely charred with a caramelized smokiness.  The meat itself was cooked to medium where it was tender.  It was also seasoned enough to stand on its own.  The rice underneath was a touch greasy, yet chewy and flavourful.  Potatoes were tender yet not mushy with plenty of lemon.

One of my other favourite Greek dishes is Moussaka and the one here was pretty massive, nearly taking up the entire take out container.  It featured tender layers of eggplant, zucchini and potato that tender, not mushy.  The beef was also tender and well-spiced.  We got plenty of nutmeg in every bite.  The béchamel on top was creamy without being too heavy.  This was delicious and a good value.

We know that Lasagna isn't exactly the thing to order at a Greek restaurant, but we don't mind these take out versions as we have reasonable expectations.  Besides, we could get 2 of them for $20.00.  This was a cut above the ones you find at pizza take out joints as it had some more cheese and meat in addition to sauce and noodles.  It was good for what it was with a tangy tomato sauce and plenty of cheese.  In fact, the Greek food was pretty darn solid, in large portions and well-priced.  No wonder they are so busy.  I'd order from here again.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Solid eats
- Large portions

The Bad:
- Only take out, so don't travel too far or it will get cold
- Wish they had an online ordering system (for more accuracy)  

Wasuta Pasta

One of the more stealth foods that I really enjoy is Japanese pasta.  I just love their interpretation of classic Italian cuisine that can be very close to the original while also being completely reworked.  There are certain places you can get this including Cafe L'Orangerie and Noah's Cafe but there is also a trail of former restaurants that have come and gone.  Now we have a new options in Wasuta Pasta hidden on River Road in Richmond.  Ophilia and I headed there for lunch to check it out.

We ended up starting with one of their daily features in the Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with parm, ailoi, caviar and toasted focaccia.  This was really good despite the fact that Wagyu can be a bit stringy if not cooked enough (fats have to be activated).  Seeing this was not A5, it wasn't that big of an issue.  It was sliced thin and was still buttery with a few chewier parts.  There was enough compliments for aromatics and flavour while the bread was crunchy albeit sliced a bit too thick.

Next, we tried the Crab Cream Croquette with a rosé sauce.  Although the exterior of the croquette was still fairly crispy, it would've been even more so if the sauce was served on the side or underneath rather than on top.  Inside, it was creamy and rich with obvious pieces of fluffy crab.  With that being said, it was more of a textural thing because the crab flavour wasn't prominent.  That wasn't really a big issue as the croquette still ate well and I would order this again.

For our pastas, we started with the Fettuccine Uni Cream with fresh scallops, basil, nori and panko.  This was pretty rich and there was the background sea-flavoured sweetness of the uni. Once mixed, the basil and nori added each of their own flavours, but not overly so due to the overall saltiness of the sauce.  The pasta was al dente and was enveloped by just enough uni cream.  I thought the most appealing part of the dish was the whole scallops (from the shell) that included the roe.  They were cooked perfectly and were sweet.

We love anchovies so it was clear we would be ordering the Spaghetti Aglio e olio with Anchovy.  In terms of texture, the spaghetti was perfectly al dente.  Although the pasta was well- seasoned, the anchovy flavour was mild.  We could've done with more intense salty-fishiness to go with the garlic and chili peppers.  Furthermore, the dish needed a bit more olive oil to keep the pasta from clumping up.  By no means was this not good, it just needs a few tweaks.

My favourite pasta of the bunch was the Fettuccine Mushroom Butter Soy.  All that you needed to know about the dish is in its name.  Butter soy is such a classic Japanese pasta and it is a good baseline for this type of restaurant.  They didn't fail as the pasta was once again al dente and there was enough moisture to keep things loose.  It was aromatic and nutty with the light saltiness from the soy.  The mushrooms naturally added an umaminess that Japanese cuisine is synonymous with.  Lastly, the garnish of umeboshi plum gave the dish an extreme hit of salty tang.  So overall, the meal was pretty good and is something a bit different in a hidden location in Richmond.

The Good:
- Something different
- Friendly staff
- Quality ingredients

The Bad:
- Kitchen ventilation not the best

Michi Craft Kitchen

Since I can remember, I've always loved chicken wings.  As a kid, it is easy to eat those drumettes and as I got older, those cheap wing nights at the pub were a University staple.  Right now, I still love wings just as much and there are so many more options.  Just look at 101 flavours at Wild Wing.  Then we also have a whole bunch of Asian style wings including the newly opened Michi Craft Kitchen with their overstuffed wings.  Jacqueline and I decided to check it out and see what these wings were about.

On that note, we got 3 versions of the Fried Michi including Cheesy Corn, Sausage Egg Yolk & Sticky Rice and Spicy Fried Rice with cheesy cheese topping (extra $2.00).  Now at $6.49 each, it almost seems like you need to win the lottery to afford them, but they are actually quite large.  Are they still worth that price?  It is subjective, but I thought they were tasty.  The breading was crunchy and the skin was fairly well-rendered.  As mentioned, there was plenty of filling.  I thought the sticky rice with sausage and egg yolk was delicious.  The cheesy corn was tasty too with sweet pops from the niblets and ooey gooey cheese.  I thought the spicy fried rice was okay, could've been spicier.

So if you wanted no breading and frying, they had Grilled Michi as well.  We ordered it with fried rice, but it came as Sausage Egg Yolk & Sticky Rice again.  Oh well, that was my favourite stuffing anyways.  This was a little less at $5.99.  I found the skin to be almost completely rendered while the chicken meat to be still moist.  As mentioned, the filling was delicious and overstuffed.  You can literally get full on a few of these alone.

But of course we didn't just get wings and went for the Spicy Fried Noodle with Beef Rib as well.  This looked impressive and I really wanted to like this, but in the end, it was pretty bland for spicy.  Furthermore, the noodles were not al dente.  I know this will sound mean, but a bowl of Mi Goreng would've been better.  With that being said, the beef rib was really good being tender, meaty and fall-off-the-bone.  

On the other hand, we really enjoyed the Omelette Rice with Tomato Beef Stew.  The star of the dish was the stew itself.  It had depth and body with plenty of meatiness as well as the richness of stewed tomatoes.  The beef itself was tender and buttery.  Although the egg was far from overdone, I would've liked it to be a bit more runny so it would remain fluffy.  This was cooked all-the-way-through.

Due to the cuteness of it, we just had to order the HK-Style Milk Tea with Bear frozen milk tea cube.  Yah, this was for the novelty of it all, but it was also decent.  This was a very milky and creamy tea.  It was only semi-sweet with adequate tea flavour.  I personally could've done with more of that.  So overall, the food was pretty good here at Michi Craft.  The overstuffed wings were fun, but maybe a bit too expensive.  However, I can understand why due to its Robson location as well as the wings being rather large.  Stay away from the noodles and be sure to have that omelette rice.  

The Good:
- Large overstuffed wings
- Cute decor
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Wings are pricey
- Noodles need more flavour

High Tea @ Jess' Restaurant

Now that I've finally started trying out the spots I didn't get a chance to visit, it was time to get to Jess' Restaurant out in Kerrisdale.  I've heard varying opinions about that place, but as usual, I have to check it out myself to make my own assessment.  Joining me on this food adventure is another fabulous foodie, Ophilia, who I met at Chef Kristian's pop-up dinner in Squamish.  The first thing that struck us when we walked into the place was its glizty Vegas-like decor and vibe -  a bit different for Kerrisdale.  We considered doing the lunch menu, but ultimately decided on the 3-Tier High Tea.

Naturally, the whole experience started with our choice of tea.  Since I enjoy fruitier and more floral teas, I went for the Marco Polo which was a black tea with a fruity and flowery taste.  Sounded exactly up my alley!  That it was and it came with a big ornate pot of hot water as well as a sachet rest on the side.  So all of the accessories were pretty, how about the food?

We started on the bottom tier of savoury items first that consisted of Salmon Gravlax Canape (house-made blini, horseradish mascarpone and deep fried capers), Egg Toast (toasted brioche, 63° egg yolk, chives and marinated ikura), and Jumbo Seared Scallop (deep fried capers, crouton and lemon zest).  This was a great start as the salmon was buttery and the blini was soft without being too delicate.  That egg toast was the bomb.  Brioche was crispy and buttery while the egg yolks had a great mouth feel and were so custardy.  Although the scallop was hardly jumbo, it was perfectly seared and caramelized.  Beautifully delicate inside and sweet.

Our next tier consisted of a Corn Cheese Financier, Butter Scone, Maple Pecan Scone, Berry Compote and Crème Fraîche.  I really enjoyed the savoury financier as there was a sweet smoky outer crust giving way to a balanced moist cheesy sweet cake.  The butter scone ate more like a biscuit (looked like one too) with a crispy buttery crust  and fluffy centre.  Not as sweet as the name would suggest, the maple pecan scone was appealingly firm on the outside with intermittent pieces of walnut.

The top tier was all the sweets sporting a Strawberry Choux, Earl Grey Mousse Cake, Salted Vanilla Macaron and Matcha Chocolate.  The strawberry choux ate as good as it looked.  Delicately crispy with semi-sweet cream, this was appealingly light.  I thought the mousse cake was excellent being airy and just sweet enough.  Good hit of earl grey without being overwhelming while the lavender was in the background.  We weren't fans of the macaron as it was a bit too large and then there was far too much filling and being overly sweet.  Texturally, it was on point though with a crispy shell and chewy interior.  Ending off things was the delicious matcha chocolate.  It was creamy and smooth with a good hit of matcha without being too bitter.  As you can see, all the treats were relatively small and quaint.  Even though that might not satisfy those with big appetites, you have to remember high tea is supposed to be delicate and not in huge portions.  The quality and execution on nearly on the items was really good, so we enjoyed it.  Now we have to see if the lunch/dinner menu stacks up.

The Good:
- Carefully prepared
- Almost everything was spot on
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Price is par for the course, but some might not find it a good value
- Still not sure about the Vegas glitz  

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