Sherman's Food Adventures: February 2021

Chicken World (Denman)

It wasn't too long ago that I had re-visited the Surrey location of Chicken World out on 96th Ave.  Turned out to be a pleasant surprise as the food was a helluva better than my initial visit prior to the ownership change.  However, that particular location essentially serves the burbs and I highly doubt that Vancouverites would travel out there for takeout, especially during Covid.  Hence, it was only natural that I pay the Denman location a visit too.  It also gives me a chance to see if there is consistency across locations as that is rather important for a chain restaurant.

Since the place is known for its Fried Chicken, we started there with a mix of original and spicy.  Loved how the batter was crunchy while nicely rendered.  The chicken itself was brined, hence it was flavourful and juicy.  For me personally, I preferred the spicy as it added more punch and impact.  But really, both were good.  Gravy was pretty standard if you like your chicken and fries dunked into it.

Similar to some other chicken spots in town, Chicken World also offers grilled chicken in the form of Peri Peri Chicken.  Once again, we got a mix of spicy and regular.  I'm pretty sure they use the same brined chicken for fried and peri peri. Therefore, it was no surprise that the meat was equally tender and juicy.  Once again, the spicy was my choice as it had a nice kick.

Like last time, we had 2 sets of Wings sauced in BBQ and Teriyaki sauces.  These were fairly large wings with a crunchy batter on the outside.  Skin was decently rendered and the meat was still moist.  Of the 2 flavours, I liked the teriyaki the most as it had plenty of ginger notes to go with the expected sweetness.  I should've listened to the manager there because having the sauce on the side would've been less messy.

Beyond the Masala Fries (which were crunchy with a nice dusting of spices), the one side that probably doesn't get enough attention is their Rice n' Spice consisting of the Arabian Rice (that is to the left of it), but topped with fried chicken bites and spicy mayo.  This thing ate like a meal and packed plenty of flavour.  The fries were good too being crispy and dusted with spices.

We also had 4 of their sandwiches including the Gabber, BeWafa Beef, Nashville Billo and Grilled Chicken Burger.  On my continuing quest for the best fried chicken sammie, the Gabber and Billo are certainly contenders in the fast food category.  Chicken is moist and juicy with a crispy batter.  I would've liked more spice with the Billo though.  Surprisingly, the beef burger isn't just a throw-in.  The beef patty was charred and not dry.  Lots of inherent meat flavour as well as onion.  While the grilled chicken isn't the most sexy looking, it was still moist and nicely charred.

We also added the Potato Wedges for good measure and well, they were frozen potato wedges that were fried.  With that being said, they were prepared properly and sported a crispy seasoned coating.  It wasn't overly greasy either.  So the question is: does the new Denman location stack up with the original Surrey spot?  Well, yes and a bit more.  You see, I though the sandwiches, in particular the beef burger, to be prepared better.  Other items were the same.  Good alternative to places like Church's and Hi-Five.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:

- Moist brined chicken

- Choice of fried and grilled

- Sandwiches are equally good

The Bad:

- We didn't have it this time, but the onion rings aren't my favourite

The Roost

My quest for the best Fried Chicken Sandwich in the GVRD had brought me to a place that is fairly new.  Taking over the spot on Denman that used to house Centro, The Roost Eatery & Drinkery sports a Southern-inspired menu featuring fried chicken, fried chicken sammies and sides.  They didn't bother to renovate the spot, but for me at least, it has this Bino-esque 80's theme complete in the typical browns and oranges for the era.  As much as I reminisce due to the decor, I was really here for the food.  

So without any delay or more words typed by me, let's head straight to the sandwiches!  We went for both the Basic Bird and the Dirty Bird.   These were essentially the same with a crispy buttermilk breaded thigh, with spices, garlic aioli, lettuce and pickle on a brioche bun.  With the dirty bird, it substituted chipotle aioli and added a spicy glaze.  Naturally, I gravitated towards the spicier dirty bird since it really did have a pleasant kick, even in its medium-hot version.  The bun was soft while keeping everything together.  I found the chicken to be moist and juicy where the batter could've been a bit crispier.

The other featured item on the menu was their Fried Chicken which was buttermilk brined and spiked with southern spices.  We decided to try the Mild and Hot to get a sense of all the heat levels since we already had the medium in the sandwich.  There was a nice mix of white and dark meat with our fried chicken.  Although the white meat wasn't exactly juicy, it was still tender and flavourful.  The mild spice was more on the sweet side with some spices.  It was quite tasty and would satisfy people who can't take heat.  With the drumsticks, the meat was predictably more moist and juicy.  The batter was fairly crispy and well-rendered.  Maybe our heat threshold is higher because we found the hot to be fairly mild even though it had a slight kick.

Looking over the menu, we knew we had to try the P & C Fritters which were peaches & cream corn fritters with peach habenero aioli dip.  These were advertised as crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.  I would agree that the exterior was indeed crispy, but the middle was a bit too soft, almost seemed underdone (even if it wasn't).  Otherwise, I liked the flavour as it was sweet with more pops of sweetness from the corn.  The dip was the perfect accompaniment where it provided heat and cooling at the same time.

Lastly, another item we had to order was the Mac & Chz Bombs.  These large breaded and fried mac & cheese balls were appealingly cheesy (they didn't skimp with the cheese here) with a perfectly fried crunchy exterior.  I particularly liked the macaroni, which was al dente.  The one thing that would've made these absolutely perfect was a bit more salt.  Overall, we found the food to be good and worth a try if you were in the area.

The Good:
- Focused menu
- Reasonably-priced
- Decent eats

The Bad:
- Could be spicier
- A few tweaks here and there

ARC After Dark @ ARC Restaurant (Fairmont Waterfront Hotel)

The words "fine dining" and "bargain" are rarely, if ever, found in the same sentence (this was astutely said by @adadintheburbs).  Normally, we have finely-crafted eats that would easily run over $50.00 per person at a nice restaurant.  Heck, we can spend that much at Cactus Club (although I do like the place).  So when The ARC Restaurant in the Fairmont Waterfront put together their ARC After Dark menu (available from Thurs - Sat after 5:00pm) featuring 14 items that are bottomless for $49.00 per person, one can finally say fine dining and bargain together.  Of course price is one thing, but execution and overall deliciousness of the food does all the talking.  I was invited to try the menu out and not to give away the surprise, but it was indeed delicious and well-priced.

Ordering a bit at at time, so we didn't overload the table and our stomachs, we got things going with the Baked Brie with pistachio pesto, savoury granola and crostinis.  Nicely torched and completed melted, the brie was creamy.  I particularly loved the puffed rice as it added an aromatic nutiness to go with a different nuttiness from the pesto.  Of course the crunchy crostinis were the perfect vessel and counterpoint to the melty brie.

Another study in contrasting textures was the Smoked Salmon Rillettes topped with salmon roe, chives and egg.  This was lightly smoky with the sweetness of the salmon coming through.  The toppings not only provided beautiful colours, they contributed brightness and also pops of seafoodiness.  On the side, the sea-salted potato chips were supremely crunchy and appealingly salty.

Sporting a beautiful caramelization on top, the Sweet Onion Tart Tartin was constructed with vidalia onion and topped with goats cheese.  A frisée salad was served on the side.  I thought the intense sweetness really came through especially with the top layer.  Pastry was on point too.  The creaminess of the goats cheese was a natural compliment to the onion. The middle layers of onion could've been more cooked through though.

One of the more interesting items was the Chicken Liver Bánh mì Toast with pickled vegetables and fish sauce caramel.  On top of the crunchy toast, the silky smooth chicken liver mouse was sweet with a touch of boozy aftertaste.  The brightness and acidity from the pickles livened each bite.  There was a touch of spice and of course the cilantro came through.  The pungency of the fish sauce caramel provided plenty of umaminess.

Seemingly one of the most simple items was also one of my favourites.  The Arugula Salad with grilled pear, walnut, parmesan, aged balsamic and olive oil really packed a punch.  Thanks to the aged balsamic, there was that initial tangy sweetness that gave way to a different sweetness provided by the pear.  Salt content was there from the parmesan and of course the pepper-bitterness of the arugula added another layer of flavour.

On our second round, we had the Charcuterie Board featuring duck prosciutto, cured bison, pork rillettes, house made mustard, pickles and grilled sourdough.  Yes, charcuterie boards are not complex to make, so it is generally up to the quality of the ingredients.  I thought the the meat selection was far from default and ultimately, delicious.  Furthermore, the sourdough was nicely charred.

Probably my favourite dish of the meal was the Ahi Tuna con Ajoblanco with eggplant, peppers, pickled cucumber, saffron and garlic-almond sauce.  The flavours were clean and bright with the beautiful tuna standing out.  The crunch from the cucumbers underneath added texture and also acidity.  The topping of eggplant and peppers provided complimentary sweetness but didn't interfere with the tuna.

Another seemingly simple dish was also very good.  The Polpettini (or mini veal and pork meatballs) served with marinara sauce atop parmesan polenta was comforting and satisfying.  Meaty and on the denser side, the meatballs didn't appear to have much in the way of filler.  It wasn't dry nor chewy though.  The meat was tender and moist.  Marinara was tangy and full-flavoured.  I thought the polenta was a nice addition to the dish.

A seemingly mild-tasting dish, the Roasted Squash showed more punch than we would've expected.  The squash itself was perfectly-textured where it was soft while still retaining its structure.  Providing the saltiness was the prosciutto and the basil added some herbal sweetness.  The globs of stracciatella offered up some ooey gooey cheesiness.  However, the most impactful component was the cherry agrodolce. As the sauce implies, there was sweet and sour thing going on, but more heavy on the sour.  Some might consider it too strong, but I happen to enjoy sour, so it worked for me.

Moving onto some bigger dishes, we tried the Mussel Pasta with Salt Spring Island Mussels, tomato, fennel and n'duja velouté.  I really enjoyed this as the pasta shells hung onto the delicious velouté well.  That velouté was creamy with noted hits of spice and meatiness from the n'duja.  To top it off, there was also the brininess of the plump mussels as well as the background notes of fennel and tomato.  Delicious.

The other pasta was also on point.  The Chitarra Pasta featured pork ragu, parmesan and lemon gremolata.  They were able to maintain an al dente texture with this fresh pasta which made it all the better to go with the rich pork ragu.  The tender nuggets of pork were full-bodied and well-seasoned from the braise.  The lemon gremolata  brightened things up with tang, herbs and aromatics.

To get some veggies into our diet (other than the salad), we had the Charred Broccolini with caper salsa verde and crème fraîche.  Living up to its namesake, the broccolini was indeed charred with a noted smokiness.  It was wilted but still retained a crunch.  Flavours were apparent with the tangy saltiness from the capers.  Bringing it all the way back down was the crème fraîche underneath.

Perfectly prepared, the Smoked Steelhead was flaky and moist on the inside while crispy on the outside from the sear.  It was only lightly smoky while seasoned just enough.  Underneath, the saffron-leek risotto was creamy with chewy (in a good way) grains of aborio rice.  It was also well-seasoned without going overboard.  Of course the aromatics provided by the saffron was welcomed.  This was all topped off by some fried spinach.

The last dish was also the most filling in the Braised Beef Shortrib with emmental cream spätzle, braised cabbage and braising jus.  The fairly large piece of shortrib was melt-in-my-mouth tender with plenty of pop from the red wine jus.  I really enjoyed the spätzle as it was tender with a chew while bathed in creamy emmental.  It was like a high-end mac and cheese but with spatzle.  At this point, we were pretty much stuffed.  So one can order all the dishes, or only order more of the preferred items.  It is really anything you want for $49.00pp.  A good deal in my books for quality food, spacious and modern dining space and top-notch service.  It is so good that I'm planning to return on my own coin.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

 The Good:

- Reasonable pricing

- Good variety of well-executed dishes

- Spacious and safe dining room

The Bad:

- Parking can be rather pricey in the area, but there is a flat rate for the hotel parking lot for $9.25 after 6:00pm

- Would've liked to see a dessert option on the menu

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