Sherman's Food Adventures: July 2021

Little Minh's Kitchen

This was a little while ago, but I finally got around to finishing up this post on Little Minh's Kitchen.  Located in the Marine Way Market complex off of Marine Drive in Burnaby, the place is a bit hidden, but I also believe it is a hidden gem as well.  The place benefits from plenty of parking spots, a spacious and clean dining room and friendly staff.  Of course the most important thing is the food and I guess we'll get right into that.

As part of any entree, one can get a Spring Roll added to their meal for no extra charged if ordered online (for dine-in and take-out).  I'm sure you have noticed, very few places use rice paper for their spring rolls anymore and that doesn't really bother me.  These were good with a crispy exterior that wasn't greasy while the filling was packed with pork, taro, vermicelli, onion, carrots and wood ear.  A good start to the meal.

For myself, I had the Bún Bò Huế which was also quite good.  Although I would've liked to see just a tad more brininess in the broth, it was still flavourful (with the unmistakable essence of lemongrass) and balanced.  There was a noted spiciness which was not overwhelming.  As mentioned with the spring rolls, yes, this was missing pig's blood and knuckle, but again, that didn't bother me as there was enough tender meats to make up for it.  You have to remember that restaurants are not in the business of pleasing the small percentage of people who demand complete authenticity.

Viv went for the Phở with rare beef, brisket and meatballs.  As you can see, the broth was clean and clear.  There was a background sweetness accented by a slight meatiness.  It wasn't overly salty, so that made it a bit lighter, which was fine by us.  Within that broth, the noodles were al dente and not clumpy.  As evidenced, the amount of meats was enough and were tender.

My daughter went with the Phở Ga which was also a very clean broth.  It was light with the natural sweetness from the chicken.  Again, this was not salty, which was a good thing in our minds.  Even though the chicken breast couldn't be considered juicy, it was still moist and not chewy.  Unlike most other places, they included tender bouncy chicken meatballs as well.  There was more than enough noodles and they were the right texture.

For my son, he went for his standby, the Lemongrass Chicken with Rice (and a fried egg).  The chicken thighs were nicely charred while being well-seasoned.  They were tender and moist being cooked just enough.  Rice was chewy and not overloaded with moisture.  A well-executed dish.  Overall we enjoyed our meal at Little Minh's and the service was really friendly.  We will be back for more in the future.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Nice people
- Lots of parking

The Bad:
- For those nitpickers, maybe some key ingredients missing. For me, who cares?

Tendon Kohaku

Even though Japanese Tendon (no, not the Chinese offal dish...) hit our city over a year ago, I wasn't all that interested in trying it out.  Much like my prejudgement on Hello Nori, I dismissed it as an expensive fad.  However, as I spoke to more and more people, it became apparent that I could be wrong (just like Hello Nori, which I ended up liking).  So I ended up visiting Tendon Kohaku for lunch to see for myself.

I guess the obvious choice was to order their largest bowl in the Anago Tendon with rice, Kohaku Tendon sauce, anago, 2 prawns, chicken, French beans, shiitake, lotus root and soft fried egg.  Okay, I'll admit when I'm wrong.  This was pretty delicious with crispy tempura which was light and not greasy.  It was aggressively sauced, but was neither soggy nor salty.  It was on the sweeter side and provided just enough flavour for the rice.  I particularly enjoyed large piece of eel.  So buttery.

If one wanted something a bit lighter, there is the Kaisen Don with salmon, tuna, scallops, ikura, green onion, cucumber, sesame seed, wasabi and kaisen sauce.  Although the pieces of fish were a bit uneven in size, they were fresh and buttery.  There was more than enough it for the amount of chewy rice underneath.  This wasn't seasoned that aggressively, but then again, it let the ingredients shine.

So for those who can't decide one way or another, there is the Sashimi Aimori Tendon with rice, Kohaku Tendon sauce, 2 prawns, chicken, French beans, kabocha pumpkin, kaisen sauce, salmon, tuna, scallops, ikura, green onion, cucumber, sesame seed and wasabi.  This was the best of both worlds and my pick of the menu.  The sashimi mix helped balance out the fried items real well.  The combination of flavours worked well too.

To sample more of the menu we also got the Nagoya Chicken Wings.  These whole wings were fried up until crispy on the outside, yet still juicy and tender on the inside.  The skin was well-rendered and easy to eat.  The Nagoya sauce was not very salty, much like the Tendon sauce.  It was mostly sweet and complimented the chicken well.  There is also a spicy version, which I would probably order next time.

To compliment our rice bowls, we got the Ikura Ajitama as well.  I've been making ramen eggs at home all throughout the pandemic, so I know to get these to the ones you see in the picture can be tricky.  The yolk was uniformly custardy yet not cooked through.  Also, the eggs were not over-marinated so they did not get hard nor too salty while at the same time being flavourful.  Well done and delicious.
Lastly, we tried the Chawanmushi which was also prepared nicely.  Beyond the silkiness of the egg itself, the flavour of the broth was so full of umami without being over-seasoned.  There was the requisite shrimp and chicken hidden within and this made for a pleasant side dish.  Overall, I was surprised at the level of execution, especially since they just opened a few months ago.  I also liked how the sauces were flavourful without being salty.  I would come back.

The Good:
- Expertly prepared tempura
- Salt content is balanced
- Pretty good service

The Bad:
- If you don't like fried food, you might have limited options
- Not the best location if you are driving

Chef's Choice Chinese Cuisine (Dinner Service)

So we all know how the pandemic has put damper on eating out as well as putting restaurants in precarious situations.  Well, I was a little surprised with the opening of Chef's Choice on Broadway right smack dab during the pandemic.  As soon as we were able, we visited the place for Dim Sum and came away impressed.  We vowed to go back for dinner with my parents (as soon as we felt it was safe to do so).  For those who don't know, Chef's Choice belongs to the Chef Tony group and to the best of my knowledge, the head chef from Chef Tony resides at Chef's Choice at the moment.  That is something we kept in mind as we headed there for dinner.

We decided to get the 2 courses of Peking Duck where the duck was carved table side.  Nearly everything about this dish was perfect.  The skin was crispy and stayed as such even until the very end.  It was also light and airy.  There wasn't an excess of fat underneath most pieces.  As for the crepes, they were thin and not dry.  I liked how there was an appealing elasticity to them. Some of the best crepes for Peking duck in the city IMO.

In between the duck courses, we had the Lobster in consomme sauce with a noodle base. This was also very good with buttery lobster that was cooked just right.  The lobster was also fresh as the meat was bouncy and filled the shell.  There was just enough sauce to coat each piece of lobster and to flavour the al dente noodles.  There was a good balance of aroma, saltiness and sweetness.

We decided on the Duck Lettuce Wrap as the second course of the Peking Duck.  There is also the option of having a duck bone soup as well.  The stir-fry was predominantly duck with bits of celery, carrot, water chestnuts and green onion.  There was enough seasoning and the ingredients were properly textured (crunchy veggies and moist duck).  The one thing that made this different was the puffed rice underneath.  A firmer, more long-lasting crunch than the usual fried vermicelli noodles.

One of the most iconic dishes from Chef Tony is their Black Truffle Free-Range Chicken.  In addition to the black truffle sauce, it was also dressed with green onion, cilantro and red onion.  The chicken exhibited the classic tender, but with bite texture of free-range.  The skin was nicely gelatinized. Interestingly, I found this version a bit underseasoned.  However, when we ate the leftovers the day after, it had soaked in much more of the flavour including the onions and cilantro.

Of course we had to get our veggies, so we ordered the Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with garlic.  There was plenty of good wok heat going on as the pea shoots were cooked through completely while still retaining a crunch.  It wasn't overly greasy while the seasoning was just enough including the essence of garlic.  Not that this is necessarily their fault, but a few shoots were a bit old being stringy.

Our last savoury dish was the Sweet & Sour Pork Belly.   As much as this dish sometimes doesn't get the love it deserves, we nearly order every time.  This was excellent with crispy pieces of medium-sized pork.  The meat was juicy and tender.  There was just enough sauce to coat each piece and it was a touch on the sweeter side.  It possibly could've been just a tad more tart, but that didn't make or break the dish.

For dessert, we were served the daily sweet soup and also the Brown Sugar Sponge Cake.  We had this during their Dim Sum service as well and it was fantastic.  The brown sugar gave added a rich sweetness that wasn't overbearing.  Texturally, the cake was fluffy and moist.  Overall, the dinner at Chef's Choice was nearly flawless.  Food was carefully prepared and done properly.  Sure, the prices are on the higher end, but you won't go away disappointed, so it is worth it.

The Good:
- Excellently prepared food
- Attentive service
- Free parking at the back, a bit tight, but it's free!

The Bad:
- It'll cost you, but worth it IMO
- Restaurant is not big, so larger parties might be tight 



Once considered a dirty word, fusion cuisine is more of a thing these days.  For me at least, I always accepted it because some of the most iconic foods are fusion such as Vietnamese (with its French influence) and Macanese (with its Portuguese influences).  If we look at Europe, Alsatian cuisine has both German and French influences.  In North American, we have the French-influenced cuisine of Louisiana.  Of course we see Asian influences in most of the West Coast cuisine we have here in BC as well.  I could go on and on, but you get the point - without experimentation and mixing of cuisines, we won't innovate and have all the delicious food we know today.  Locally and recently,  we've already seen Say Mercy and their combo of Italian and American BBQ, now we see Italian and Chinese at Miantiao in the Shangri-La found in the former space of Market.  As part of the Kitchen Table group, Miantiao joins such Vancouver staples such as Ask for Luigi, Di Beppe, Pizza Farina and the Pourhouse.  If you ever set eyes on the menu at Miantiao, you will immediate see the influences of Chef de Cuisine, Justin Song Lee, formerly of Crowbar and Superflux.

To get a sense of the menu, we ended up going for the "Let Us Cook For You" family-style dinner for $105.00 per person (14 plates in all including dessert).  Things started off with the Oysters on the half shell with Bloody Mary mignonette.  These were actually poached and chilled so they weren't raw.  However, they were still buttery and delicate with the usual brininess (although I would've preferred them raw personally).  I found the mignonette to be tomatoey as expected, but it did have enough acidity.

Onto the next course, we had the Mouth-Watering Frog cooked in spicy self-sauce and Sichuan pepper.  I believe this is a take on Sichuan Mouth-Watering Chicken, but it lacked the heat.  The usual elements such as the ginger, garlic and Sichuan peppercorns were there though and it was still tasty.  We could've done with more spiciness.  As for the chilled frog legs, they were tender and moist and essentially was a blank canvas for the sauce. 

Moving onto some greens, we had the Chicories with sour ginger scallions, grana padano and champagne vinaigrette.  Yes, if these look like endives to you, then you are correct (same thing).  These were fresh with a bright bitterness and crispy.  We thought the dressings and scallions provided enough pop and acidity to keep our tastebuds interested.  We could've used more of the scallions as not every leaf had enough of it.

At first, I was a little apprehensive about the Beef Heart Crudo because the last time I had it was not very good.  This one was pretty solid with a combination of long pepper, preserved mustard greens, toma and walnut crunch.  As much as I noticed the tender beef heart, it was well-seasoned with the salty tang of the mustard greens and the complex hit of the long pepper.  The little nuggets of toma added texture as well as the crunch from the walnuts.

Something familiar to me was the Kohlrabi with century egg, lemon, parmigiano and crispy butter.  It reminded me of the Turnip Caesar I had at Superflux.  This was a bit different due to the type of turnip and the addition of century egg.  But really, we didn't notice it much.  There was enough lemon that the dressing was rather acidic.  We enjoy acidity, so it didn't bother us.  The crunch from the kohlrabi itself and the crispy butter provided texture.

Although it didn't look it, the Crispy Sweetbreads atop smoked tonnato was fantastic.  Tender and properly prepared, the sweetbreads retained an appealing bite.  The panko coating was super crispy and not greasy at all.  We thought the smoked tonnato was super flavourful bordering on salty (but still okay).  The tuna was a bit obscured by the intense saltiness, but it didn't stop us from enjoying the dish.

Moving onto the pasta courses, we began with the Tajarin with aged quail ragu and crispy brown butter.  Yah, this was really good with perfectly cooked fresh pasta.  It was supremely al dente and made our mouths happy.  Completely enveloping the pasta was a rich buttery ragu that sported plenty nuggets of tender quail.  There was less gaminess than I was expecting, but it still tasted great.  Again, the crunch on top added the necessary textural contrast.

Our next pasta was the Spaghettoni with lamb, pistachios, fermented black bean and mushrooms.  If we thought the tajarin was al dente, the thicker spaghettoni was even more so.  No matter, as we prefer harder al dente pasta anyways.  It was plenty flavourful from the salty black beans and mushrooms.  It wasn't salty though.  Also, we found the lamb a little lost in this despite there being enough of it.  The nuttiness of the pistachios did work in this dish.

Our last pasta, the Spicy Duck Rigatoni, was a bit of a miss for us.  So far, the fusion aspect of the meal worked more or less, but for this one, the chili oil sauce would been more effective with a Chinese noodle such as biang biang.  With the robust chewiness of the rigatoni, the sauce didn't work.  Also, the spice level and overall seasoning was too subtle to make an impact.  We didn't really notice the duck either.

Served as a large flat piece, the Beef Tongue was topped by a chive brown butter with cumin, chili and rosemary.  There was also plenty of acidity here which was fine by us.  As for the chive brown butter, this was bright, acidic and ultimately super tasty.  It helped lighten the heaviness of the beef tongue.  As much as most of the tongue was tender enough to chew, it could've been just a touch more tender, especially at the base of the tongue.  This portion was not edible and I had tried chewing it for quite awhile.

Now the dish we had been waiting for...  A Chef Justin classic - The Cabbage Bolognese!  Oh man, this is pure genius...  The tender layers of cabbage (that were not mushy) were the perfect substitute for lasagna noodles.  In between, the tender meat bolognese was flavourful and full of aroma.  As if that wasn't delicious enough, the black vinegar based sauce combined with olive oil kicked the flavour quotient up a few notches.  For us, this is the crown jewel of the menu.

Just before the desserts, we had the Stir-Fried Green Beans with crispy shallots.  This was a miss for us as the beans themselves were a little old being stringy and some parts were tough.  Secondly, they were overdone where the texture was lacking crunch and vibrancy.  On the other hand, the dish was well-seasoned and the crispy shallots were both aromatic and provided a nice crunch (much like many of the other dishes in the meal).

For dessert, we were served the Cannoli Nostra featuring a pistachio mascarpone cannoli and a lemon ricotta "spring roll" cannoli with balsamic macerated strawberries.  We found the pistachio mascarpone cannoli to be too hard in texture, but the filling was aromatic and just sweet enough.  We much preferred the spring roll cannoli which was crispy and light.  The lemon ricotta was airy and semi-sweet.

As if this wasn't enough, we had one more dessert in the Coconut Panna Cotta with lychee, sago and mango sorbet.  Texturally, the panna cotta was on point being silky and not too sweet.  The lychees and sorbet on top added the necessary complimentary sweetness and flavours to make this a refreshing dessert.  A real nice finish to a relatively uneven meal.  To be clear, we did enjoy our meal as whole, but there is much more refinement of the menu that is needed here.  I am a huge fan of Chef Justin, so I know things will be worked out, but if we looked at the 14 dishes we had, only half we would order again.  The dishes were a bit clunky and given the Downtown location in a high-end hotel, the menu seems more suited for a more casual spot in Kits or Main/Fraser Street.  For some people, I can see them misunderstanding the intentions and combinations of ingredients.  So when I've heard some people say the food "sucked", I would like to disagree and say that is a bit too harsh.  I think the food is fine and the restaurant is still in its infancy.  But if I had to judge it solely on this one visit, it has some work to do.

The Good:
- Definitely interesting food
- Plenty of acidity and textures
- That cabbage bolognese

The Bad:
- Some dishes are a bit clunky and lack refinement
- Would this restaurant be more well-situated away from Downtown?

Pizza Coming Soon

With a name like "Pizza Coming Soon", one would expect something like, I don't know... pizza?  Rather, think Japanese snacks and adult beverages into late night.  If the location seems a bit familiar, it was once a Bino's (which explains the decor) and then for the longest time, Mitzies (one of the OGs of HK-style cafes in the GVRD).  After a failed attempt to visit the place when it first opened, I returned on a Monday night with Maggi to check it out.

We started things off with the Fries tossed in ramen seasoning, aonori and wasabi mayo.  These were quite good where the the fries were crispy, even after sitting for awhile.  Although there was enough ramen powder for some effect, I personally would've liked to see more of the MSG goodness saturating each fry.  The side of mayo was indeed laced with enough wasabi for some spice.  At first, I thought $6.00 was steep, but that is what everyone charges for a side of unique fries anyways.

The best dish of the meal had to be the Katsu Sando featuring a fried pork cutlet, thicc (yes, thicc) milk bread, cabbage slaw, wasabi mayo and tonkatsu sauce.  That bread was fantastic - light and airy.  Although the pork cutlet was lean, it remained tender and moist with a crispy coating.  There was enough tonkatsu sauce to provide that salty and sweet tang.  I found the slaw a bit underdressed, but it did offer up a fresh crunch.

Now one thing that was way overseasoned was the Softshell Crab.  Nothing wrong with the crab itself as it was fried perfectly with a crispy exterior and soft custardy interior.  However, it was tossed with far too much togarashi.  It ate salty and frankly kinda killed any natural crab flavour that existed.  The mayo on side and the lemon did help, but the damage was already done.

On the same note, the Miso Eggplant Bowl was also far too salty.  Seemed like there was more miso than necessary.  Eggplant itself is rather delicate with some bitterness, however, we literally could tell what it was other than the texture.  On that note, it was prepared properly though with a soft texture that wasn't mushy.  The fried shallots on top added a nice crunch while the scallions on top did provide some relief from the salt.  Rice was nicely chewy underneath.

I thought the Okonomiyaki was decent with a fluffy texture and enough moisture while not being wet.  I wished there was more seafood though as I didn't notice it very much.  Maggi thought it was oversauced with wasabi mayo and tonkatsu sauce, but I thought it was only marginally too salty.  Possibly by this point, my expectations were lower? Overall, this was fine and probably would've went well with a beer.

Our last dish was the Periyaki Chicken which as you might've guess is a mashup of Peri Peri and Teriyaki chicken.  This was charred nicely with rendered skin.  I though the chicken was quite moist, even the white meat.  The charred lemon did add the necessary acidity for the dish as it also was bordering on salty.  We felt the Peri Peri sauce could've been significantly spicier to counteract the salt.  However there is one caveat to this though.  Most people would order cocktails or beers to go with the food here.  In that way, I could understand the aggressive seasoning in most of the dishes.  We opted not to drink for our meal and that may have been a contributing factor.  With that in mind, the food was decent at Pizza Coming Soon, but probably a better bet to have with drinks before or after a night on the town.

The Good:
- Eclectic place
- Good service
- Interesting menu

The Bad:
- A bit too salty for us
- Some items were priced too high 


Sushi Tree

For those who love sushi, I'm sure that the basic Inari Nigiri is something that you see on the menu and rarely order.  Hey, I actually like Inari, but even with that, I bypass it and go with the seafood more often than not.  However, the Inari that we see here is not the only way it can be presented.  We finally see a place in the Lower Mainland that is offering different variations of Inari sushi ready-to-go and reasonably-priced considering its size and plethora of toppings.  I was actually tipped off by several IGers who had posted the photogenic Inari sushi from Sushi Tree in Coquitlam.  So I made my way out there to grab some for the fam on hot day in Vancouver.

Sushi Tree is a small store and it is strictly takeout, so do not go during peak hours or you will be waiting outside.  Currently, they only have small boxes, so no platters for a get-togethers or parties at this time.  Only 5 fit to a box and really, this is plenty for one person.  Underneath all of them is a mix of sushi rice and a touch of quinoa.  I decided to grab the Chopped Salmon and Spicy Salmon as a starting point.  I kid you not, these were an even 50-50 ratio of rice-to-toppings.  Now some of them weren't exactly that proportion, but most were.  The salmon was fresh and buttery.  I found the spicy to live up to its namesake.

They also offer an array of cooked items as well including Prawn Tempura, Unagi and Beef Teriyaki.  Since the tempura was not made-to-order, it was not exactly crunchy anymore.  Furthermore, the unagi and beef were only lukewarm.  Therefore, I recommend that you bring a cooler with you to grab these (if you are traveling some distance) and then reheat when it comes time to serve them.  I found that that these were pretty predictable and good for what they were.  Plenty of flavours from the truffle mayo, unagi sauce and teriyaki in the beef.

Continuing on with cooked items, I also got the Chicken Teriyaki, Spicy Pork and Corn.  The one in the middle was the sole raw one being Masago with pickles.  Similar to the beef teriyaki, the chicken was typical.  The chicken was tender and cooked right while the sauce was gingery.  The spicy pork was a bit greasy and only mildly spicy.  The meat was juicy though.  I found the corn to be quite good with bursts of sweetness.  Although I didn't think I would enjoy the masago as much as I did, the addition of pickles really brought the thing alive.  Nice tang and crunch.

One Inari that I thought should have not been cooked was the Scallop.  Not that they were overdone or anything, but the sweetness and buttery softness of scallops was missing.  The cooked Shrimp featured the classic plump bounce texture.  It had natural shrimp flavour as well.  Despite it being a defaultish item, I really liked the Imitation Crab as there was lots of it and they kept them in strands rather than chopping it up.  I enjoyed the texture of it.

Back to raw, I also got the Spicy Tuna.  It was more of a negitoro-style mix with spice.  Like the spicy salmon, this was noticeably spicy.  Could be due to the Korean influences here.  There was so much tuna on top, it looked to be more ingredients than rice.  Something that seemed rather basic was also quite tasty in the Wakame.  It was nicely seasoned with sesame oil and acidity.  Addition of red pepper not only provided colour, it gave some different sweetness.

When you have something like this, it is only natural that it would be paired up with Egg and Spam.  Well, if they were together, it would be like a musubi.  I guess you could take alternating bites between the two (and have some nori snacks ready?).  Anyways, the eggs were fluffy with a touch of truffle oil.  As for the Spam, there was a good amount on top and was dressed in sweet teriyaki sauce (much like a musubi.

Originally, I wasn't going to order the Cooked Tuna nor the Avocado.  However, the nice people there threw these into my order for no extra charge.  Turns out that the tuna was tasty.  Think tuna fish sandwich meets sushi.  Went well with the chewy and properly-seasoned sushi rice.  As for the avocado, it was creamy and ripe which also went well with the rice.  Now at first I was concerned with the sweetness of the Inari, but I found that the individual ingredients stood up well and the Inari (wasn't too sweet itself) only became a vessel for the contents.  Overall, we enjoyed these and I found them unique and a good value.  They have other options too that rotate in and out including Aburi Salmon and Smoked Salmon.  I've tried these as well and I would say pass on the aburi as it is a bit too cooked for my tastes.  I'm sure they will have more coming out and I will gladly go back to try (I've been there 3 times already!).

The Good:
- Unique
- They are large with plenty of topping, good value
- Lots of options

The Bad:
- Maybe the scallop should be raw
- They need larger trays for party orders

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