Sherman's Food Adventures: April 2021

Mary Brown's

I'm not sure if you have noticed, but quietly, there is a new player in town when it comes to fried chicken.  It might appear that Mary Brown's is a completely new chain fast food joint, but in reality, it has been around for over 50 years.  Mainly located in Eastern Canada, it has found its way to the West Coast where most of their locations are in Surrey (and one just barely in North Delta on Scott Road).  I recently grabbed a bunch of their food to go including their chicken sandwiches.

So why don't I talk about them first with the Big Mary in regular and spicy.  The size of the sandwiches were pretty average with medium-sized fried chicken breasts.  I found the batter to be well-spiced, not too thick and crispy.  The meat itself was tender and not dry.  In terms of spice, I thought it was definitely there but not tongue-burning.  The mayo in the Big Mary was actually quite tasty and complimented the chicken well.  Although the sesame bun was not as dense as the ones found at A&W and Church's, it was still not as light as the brioche found at Popeye's and KFC.  A decent, if not average sandwich overall.

Moving onto their Fried Chicken, I would say the best comparison would be KFC.  Although the chicken is not exactly like KFC, the thin lightly crispy batter tastes somewhat like KFC and the meat has the same consistency where it is on the drier side.  The one big difference is the spicy version as it does have a good kick and does not have to be over-breaded like the KFC one.  I didn't mind the chicken, but my personal bias towards juicier chicken moves the needle closer to Church's and Hi-Five for me.

Off to some sides, their Taters were really good as the crunch was consistent and the potato texture inside was soft and plentiful.  They were also flavourful on their own.  We universally disliked the Macaroni and Cheese Salad as it tasted like cold pasta with a red pepper flavoured Cheese Whiz type sauce.  If this was served hot, I believe it would've been better.  However, the macaroni was al dente, which meant the texture was on point. Probably our favourite item of the bunch was their Chicken Pop-ins.  Essentially their version of popcorn chicken, these were large in size with plenty of meat.  On the outside, the coating was crunchy with enough seasoning that we didn't even need the dip.  Wasn't a fan of the gravy as it was far too thick and I could've just made some with packets of powdered gravy at home.  So overall, the food at Mary Brown's was somewhat of a disappointment.  It wasn't terrible, but compared to my favourite fast food fried chicken spots in town (such as Church's and Hi-Five), it lags behind.

The Good:
- Spice level is good
- Chicken Pop-ins are better than KFC's popcorn chicken

The Bad:
- Food lags behind some of the other fast food chains in town

South Castle Korean

I really like Soondae.  No it is not a typo for sundae... For those who don't know, Korean blood sausage or Soondae is made from stuffing pig intestines with blood, meat, vermicelli and various other ingredients (depending on who makes it).  If that doesn't sound appetizing to you, I urge you to give it a try, it tastes a lot better than it sounds.  One of the best places to get it in the GVRD is at South Castle in North Van.  Interestingly, I've passed by South Castle many times but have never spotted it due to the very poor signage in front.

We decided to get the soondae and other internal organs in their Spicy Soup to start.  At first glance, the soup looked to be like any other Korean soup, but hidden within the broth was plenty of soondae, liver and stomach.  The flavours were rich with spice and comforting.  I loved the texture of the soondae as it wasn't heavy despite the ingredients.  Sporting a glutinous chewiness, the intestine was not gamy at all.  Inside, the ingredients were almost airy.  This was very filling and worth every penny.

Not satisfied with the amount of offal we had already, we also got the Grilled Beef "Tripe".  That is what they called it on the menu, but it was obviously not tripe.  Rather, it was the small intestine.  Apparently, this dish could be made with either or both.  This particular one was pretty tasty as it had good caramelization with a nice pepperiness. The onions really added a nice aroma and bite to the dish.  There was plenty of tender intestine that had a slight chew to it.  It wasn't overly fatty nor gamy tasting.  

Although the menu is limited, the Cold Buckwheat Noodles looked good (they have pictures).  So we got that too.  Good decision as the noodles were perfectly textured being chewy and ice cold.  The gochujang-based sauce was flavourful with plenty of spicy accented by tang and sweetness.  The thinly sliced beef was tender while the crunch from the veggies added texture.  This was the perfect meal for a chilly day and definitely comforting.  Best Soondae I've had in the city.  I'll be back.

The Good:
- Beautifully textured Soondae
- Solid eats for what we had
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Limited menu
- Limited space


With all of the new Italian restaurants that have opened up in the last few years, it is easy to forget the OG spots such as Marcello's.  Sure, we find sexier spots such as Caffe La Tana, Oca Pastificio, Livia and even the American Italian Pepino's strewn along Commerical Drive.  However, Marcello's continues to go strong with their normal sized pastas and pizzas.  What I mean by that is you don't need to order more to get full.

I revisited the place to get a refresher of what Italian food was like along the Drive before the boutique spots opened up.  Case-in-point, the Frittura di Calamari was enough for the table to share with a pile of perfectly fried squid and foccacia.  The light batter was crispy and properly seasoned.  The squid itself was tender while retaining a bite.  This was served with 2 sides of tzatziki.  I mention this is most places do not give you enough tzatziki!

We also went for the other squid dish in the Calamari alla Griglia with peppers and foccacia.  As expected, this was considerably different than the fried version.  The tubes of squid were tender with a slight chew.  They were kissed on the grill which added some smokiness.  I would've preferred a bit more seasoning and the peppers could've been grilled a bit longer.

Our last antipasti was the Melanzane Parmigiana or otherwise known as eggplant parmigiana layered with cheese and tomato sauce.  I really enjoyed this where the tomato sauce was bright and tangy.  This was a nice counterbalance to the amount of melted cheese.  I liked how the eggplant was tender and delicate, yet not mushy.  This was rather heavy for an appetizer, so sharing it was the way to go.

Moving onto the pastas, we started with a dish I've had before in the Chef Tagliatelle in a creamy tomato sauce with sautéed mushrooms, black olives and capers.  For a vegetarian offering, this was bursting with flavour from the tangy capers and equally salty and tang olives.  Due to the amount of moisture, the tagliatelle was a bit past al dente, but this was exactly the same execution the last time I had this dish.

Next, we had the Spaghetti Puttanesca with spicy tomato sauce, black olives and capers.  This had a similar flavour profile to the chef tagliatelle due to the ingredients, yet it was considerably more impactful due to the spice in the tangy tomato sauce.  Furthermore, the lack of cream meant this was much more in your face as the capers and black olives came through with less counterbalance from the cream.  Unlike the last dish, the spaghetti was perfectly al dente.

My favourite pasta dish, if not the best dish of the meal, was the Ravioli with Beef Shortrib in Truffle Mushroom Sauce.  The fresh made-in-house pasta was thin and completely al dente.  Inside, there was a generous amount of tender and well-seasoned shortrib.  I thought the sauce with a bit of the braising jus was just the perfect compliment to the ravioli.  Naturally, truffle and mushroom go well with shortrib.

Possibly drowning in a bit too much sauce, the Linguine Carbonara ate better than it looked.  I realize without enough moisture, carbonara can often become sticky and clumpy, but this was just a bit too much.  Surprisingly, the pasta remained al dente despite this.  Also, it was tasty with enough parm and pancetta for impact.  They are consistent though as this is exactly how I had it last time as well.

For our one gnocchi selection, we chose the AI Quattro Formaggi.  This was as cheesy as its description and definitely benefited from the gorgonzola.  It provided a sharpness that brought life to the dish.  Since it was baked, there was a layer of crusty cheese on top that added both texture and nuttiness.  As for the gnocchi, the little pillows were soft with just the right amount of chew left.

If you have read this blog enough, you know my favourite pasta dish is Linguine alla Vongole and yep, we got that too.  This was a good version loaded with fresh clams and tangy tomatoes as well as plenty of garlic.  Noodles were al dente with just enough moisture to keep them from sticking together.  Possibly, the dish could've used a bit of clam nectar to amp the brininess, but other than that, this was really good.

We went basic with the next pasta in the classic Tagliolini e Polpette.  Sporting 4 large meatballs, this was hearty and comforting.  The pasta was al dente while coated with enough tangy marinara sauce for both flavour and moisture.  I thought the meatballs were on the firmer side due to the lack of filler and the leanness of the meat.  However, it wasn't dry though being tender and moist.

Transitioning from pasta to a meat dish (that still featured pasta), we were served the Chicken Parmigiana with Tagliolini Pomodoro.  I was a bit confused because the pomodoro was a bit too similar to the marinara.  However, it was still fresh and tangy, so it wasn't a huge deal.  The large piece of chicken was tender and moist with a light breading and plenty of cheese.  This was probably the best representation of ol' skool along the Drive.  You wouldn't find this at the new small craft pasta shops down the street.  Not overly fussy, this dish was both satisfying and a reminder of times past.

We finally made it to the pizzas and unlike the ones you'll find at most Neapolitan-style joints in town, this one was loaded with toppings and tonnes of cheese.  The crust was still relatively thin and uniformly crunchy with some chewiness in the middle.  We ended up trying the Carciofi e Salsiccia and the Funghi.  Naturally, with spicy Italian sausage and artichokes, the first pizza was more zesty and tangy.  The funghi was more subtle with some woodsiness.  But frankly, it was more cheesy than anything else.

Not many places in town serve up the classic Calzone these days and we were ecstatic to try the Classico consisting of ham, salami, mozzarella and tomato sauce.  Similar to the crust of their pizzas, the calzone had a crunchy exterior giving way to chewy, properly seasoned interior.  There was plenty of filling that made this a dish that definitely needed to be shared.  I liked how that the crust stayed firm even though there was considerable moisture inside.

We ended off the meal with a combination of in-house desserts and prepared Gelato from Mario's.  I'm not going to get into the Mario's desserts but say what you want, they are solid nonetheless.  As for the in-house desserts, we had the Panna Cotta, Hazelnut Chocolate Semifreddo, and Mascarpone Cream.  I thought all 3 were good, especially the semifreddo as it was creamy, purposefully sweet and nutty aromatic.  So as you can see, the dishes here at Marcello's is a little more ol' skool complete with ol' skool portions and ingredients.  Still solid after all these years and offers up a different experience than the newer spots.  Most likely you will be more full too.

*All food and beverages were complimentary"

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Fair portions
- Huge menu and equally large dining space

The Bad:
- Some pastas were too saucy
- Not sure if this is necessary a bad for most people, but maybe too much cheese on the pizza?


Superbaba has been around for quite some time, first as a food truck, and now with a B&M location on Main Street (in the old Kam's Bakery location).  I'm not really sure why I never made it out to try their highly-regarded Lebanese fare, but hey, you can only try so many things and yes, this Covid thing kinda gets in the way.  Finally, I made it out with the urging of Mijune.  As per usual, I decided to get "one of everything" to get a good sense of the menu.

In actuality, one can get all options in either a wrap or a bowl.  We decided to get one meat in a bowl with the Steak Bowl (on a base of half rice and half salad).  It consisted of kebab spiced grilled steak, sumac onions, baba ganoush, pickled cucumber, tahini and shug.  I thought this was a considerable amount of food with plenty of tender beef on top.  I did find it a touch spongy though.  Flavours were varied and bright due to the spice, tang and aromatics.  Lots of textures too including crunch, creaminess and meatiness.

Our next bowl was vegetarian with the Falafel Bowl (also on a base of half rice and half salad).  This came with fried cauliflower, tomato & cucumber salad, hummus, pickled cabbage, tahini and shug.  Due to the addition of the tomato and cucumbers, there was an added layer of freshness and crunch.  This was further forwarded with the tangy cabbage.  This helped balance the robust texture of the crispy falafels.  I preferred this over the beef bowl.

For the chicken options, we went for the Chicken Wrap with Shawarma style grilled boneless chicken thighs, fries, shredded cabbage, pickled turnips and sumac mayo.  I found the chicken to be a bit dry especially for chicken thighs.  These were grilled like kebabs so there was depth-of-flavour but I would've enjoyed an actual chicken shawarma instead.  However, the wrap was still delicious where the fries were crunchy and the bright flavours came through again.  The combination of crunch, tang and spice made each bite interesting.

Now the first 3 items were good, but the Sabich Wrap was my absolute favourite.  It sported battered & fried eggplant, seasoned egg, cucumber, tomato, pickled cucumber, tahini, shug and amba.  The light tempura-like batter was crispy while the eggplant was tender but not mushy.  Combined with the made in-house soft pita, once again, this was study of textures.  We had different forms of crunchiness (batter and the veggies).  Coupled with the creaminess and aromatics of the tahini and shug as well as the tanginess from the pickled cucumber and amba, it was a party in my mouth.

As mentioned, they make their pitas in-house, so unlike the store-bought variety, they are fluffier and softer.  In addition to the ones they use for their wraps, they also have a side of Fluffy Pita available.  This smaller pita is thicker and goes well with something like Baba Ganoush (or hummus or yogurt).  We had baba ganoush here and it was delicious being nicely textured with a hint of smokiness.  The soft pita was so airy and light.  Makes a great snack.

Finally, for dessert, we tried the Turmeric Cookie which was large, flat and thin.  It was crunchy on the outside and dry chewy throughout.  It was aromatic and fairly sweet.  For some reason or another, the texture resembled a day-old cookie, even though I'm not suggesting it was day old.  As for the rest of the food, it was definitely fresh and incredibly delicious.  I would 100% return and recommend that you give it a try, especially the vegetarian items (I can't believe I said that, but it is true!).

The Good:
- Wealth of flavours
- Weath of textures
- Made in-house pitas

The Bad:
- Meats were fine, but the vegetarian options were the highlights, possibly would like to see actual shawarama preparation?


Major Joy Flavoured Chicken

If you haven't noticed, I've been on a fried chicken sammie spree for the past half year.  Yes, I take things seriously and I intend to try nearly all of the available fried chicken sandwiches in town to see which ones are the best.  So the latest adventure (well, when I originally post it on IG) brought me out to the newly-opened Major Joy Flavoured Chicken out on King George Hwy at 88th.  Located in the old Bear Creek Pub, this spot boasts 7 unique flavours for their fried chicken, grilled chicken and chicken sandwiches.  

I decided to make 2 separate visits since I certainly could not eat everything on the menu all at once (no, I'm not like Mijune).  So I got the most important thing right now (for me at least) in the Fried Chicken Sandwich in Major Hot as a major combo. Okay, the sandwich itself did not look all that interesting.  It did, however, eat decently with a good crunch and mild heat.  It wasn't majorly hot by any stretch of the imagination.  Instead, it was flavourful with a sweet heat.  The chicken breast was tender, but not juicy.  It could've used more coleslaw (there was so little, you couldn't even see it in the picture).  Overall, a decent fried chicken sandwich.   I ended up getting 2 small sides as part of the major combo being the French Fries and Chili Lime Corn.  Fries were pretty generic, but crispy.  I loved the corn as they were plump, sweet and full of impact from the chili lime.

On another visit, I got to try out their Fried Chicken in original, lemon pepper, tandoori and major hot.  I thought other than the major hot (which was pretty tasty from the sandwich already), my second favourite flavour was the lemon pepper.  Nice zip to go with the pepper which really worked with the bready batter.  I liked how the skin was well-rendered and the coating was uniformly crunchy and not greasy.  The chicken itself was not dry, but could've been juicier.  I wasn't a fan of the original as it was bland compared to the rest.

For our sides, we chose 2 of the major ones including Royal Chicken Stew and the Creamy Pasta.   Consisting of lentils, barley and chicken, the stew was quite mild, but comforting.  Naturally, the prepared creamy pasta featured overdone penne, but the creamy sauce was not bad.  Definitely something different other than the usual side dishes at fried chicken spots.  We also had 3 dipping sauces including tandoori, major hot and garlic.  I absolutely loved them all as they were all unique and tasty due to the spices.  Another way to amp up the chicken.  Pretty decent in my opinion if you were looking for flavoured chicken.  Personally, I'm still a fan of Church's, but Major Joy does offer something different and more options.

The Good:
- Lots of flavours
- Decent all around
- Nice people

The Bad:
- Chicken could be a bit more juicy (pieces and sandwich)


Often, takeout sushi is pretty standard fare found at your neighbourhood Japanese restaurant.  We all know of the "good value" spots such as Sushi Garden, Sushi Town and Nanaimo Sushi that offer up serviceable eats at a reasonable price.  However, when want quality such as Miku and Mianmi, then we are paying at least double for most likely less food.  It really depends on what the expectations are as well as the budget.  I'm not embarrassed to say I order from Sushi Garden every now and then as well as Miku.  Can't order from Miku everyday unless you have unlimited cash (and that you live nearby because they don't deliver to Burnaby!).  Now a new spot in Downtown called Sashimiya is something like a middle ground between the two (but definitely closer to Miku than it is to Sushi Garden), where it offers high-quality sushi and sashimi that is fairly priced.

I decided to put in an order for pickup to see for myself where it falls within the sushi continuum within the Lower Mainland.  To get a variety, I got the Sushi Platter consisting of Real Crab California Roll, Dynamite Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll and Nigiri (Atlantic Salmon, Hamachi, Aji, Kanpachi, Ika and akami).  This was good quality for $70.00.  The rolls were pretty good especially the fluffy sweetness of the real crab.  Nigiri was neatly constructed with supremely fresh fish that had a nice sheen and fresh smell.  By the texture of the ika alone, I could tell this was good as it wasn't slimy like most places.  Rice was nicely textured too.

For $100.00, the Family Sashimi Platter was pricey, but also worth the money in my opinion.  This sported Albacore Tuna, Ika, Uni, Saba, Tako, Atlantic Salmon, Chutoro, Aji, Hotate, Akami and Sea Bream.  As you can clearly see, the freshness (as fresh as flash frozen can get) of the fish was evident with a nice sheen and fresh smell (well at least I could smell it).  Textures were on point and due to the quality of the fish, there was more flavour and natural sweetness.  Love the butteriness of the chutoro as well as the salmon.  Uni was high quality and fresh as well.

One of their limited items is the Gokujyou Futomaki consisting of several different pieces of fish surrounded by a thin layer of sushi rice and nori while topped with ikura.  To be honest, this was a very good roll with the same fresh fish as the previous platters and since there was very little rice, it ate well.  However, for the price ($25.00), it was definitely an indulgence.  Probably better off just ordering more of sashimi if you didn't want a roll.  However, it was good and so was everything else.  Considering the quality and overall execution, Sashimiya is worth the price.

The Good:
- Higher quality ingredients than most typical Japanese restaurants
- Well-executed
- Does one thing and does it well

The Bad:
- Probably not the place to go if you are satisfied with your neighbourhood sushi joint

Blaze Gourmet Burgers

As simple as it may seem, a good burger is not merely slapping meat between 2 buns.  I've had my fair share of bad burgers and it has proven that fresh meat (a good mix that is), appealing condiments and fixins' as well as a complimentary bun can make all the difference.  Oh and cooking it properly helps too.  Recently, Blaze Gourmet Burgers has entered the burger world in Vancity, hidden within 12 Kings Pub on Kingsway at 12th.  The most popular way of getting your hands on these burgers is via food delivery or pickup.

One of their most popular is the Classic Blaze with 2 slices of real cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle and Blaze secret sauce on a brioche bun.  As you can see in the picture, the ingredients were top-notch and prepared well.  From the charred moist patty to the crispy lean bacon, the sum of the parts resulted in a delicious burger.  The 2 slices of cheese helped add more flavour and body while the soft bun held everything together.

Something a little different and definitely more messy (in a good way) was the Bacon & Brie consisting of its namesake as well as caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, grainy dijon mustard and Blaze secret sauce.  Again, the ingredients were both plentiful and good.  Lots of sweet onions and crispy smoky bacon.  I thought the creamy brie was so luxurious and made the burger decadent.  Grainy mustard added a nice tang.

My favourite was the Smoky BBQ Blaze sporting pepper jack cheese, double-smoked bacon, crispy onion frites, lettuce, tomato,smoky BBQ and Blaze secret sauce.  Again, this was messy burger, but packed with flavours and textures.  If you haven't noticed, there was enough bacon in each burger to be relevant in every bite.  That itself not only provided smoky saltiness, it added crunch.  The fried onions doubled that up in this burger in particular.  There was enough BBQ sauce to be impactful while the pepper jack cheese was also noticeable.

Changing gears, we tried the Impossible Blaze Burger sporting a plant-based patty, vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and Blaze vegan sauce on a vegan brioche bun.  If you have any reservations about this burger, I don't blame you.  However, I enjoyed this and really didn't miss the meat or any other animal products that usually go into the ingredients.  The meat patty was very similar to Beyond Meat except less dry.

Moving away from beef and simulated beef products, we had the Chicken Burger with banana peppers, jalapenos, cheddar cheese, pickle, lettuce, tomato and Blaze secret sauce.  Due to the shape of the chicken breast, the thinner tips were dry, but the centre was moist and juicy.  It was really crispy and held up well to the all of the wet ingredients.  Plenty of spice and tanginess from the peppers.

Trying all of the sides, it was obvious that they knew how to use their deep-fryer.  The Onion Rings, Fries and Yam Fries were all perfectly crispy and stayed as such even after sitting around.  I was really surprised with the Vegan Poutine where the peppercorn gravy had bite and the vegan cheese did as good of a job as non-dairy cheese could do.  Overall, there was lots to like about the burgers and sides at Blaze.  Best way of eating this is right away, but the easiest way to get these is by ordering for them online.

*All food was complimentary

The Good:
- Quality ingredients
- Proper execution
- Something for everyone

The Bad:
- No actual restaurant as of yet (maybe in the future)  

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