Sherman's Food Adventures: January 2022


I have to admit that the location of the ol' Copper Chimney in the Hotel des Soleil is often a forgotten entity.  For myself, I didn't even know it existed before I actually visited it a long time ago.  I thought the food was fine but not enough for me to go back.  Apparently this sentiment was shared amongst others as the place didn't get good ratings and ultimately shuttered to make way for a new concept.  Rather than Indian food this time around, they went classic French in a spot named Alouette.  We gathered the whole family for this outing to celebrate Viv's birthday.

We ended up sharing a variety of small plates including the Beef Tartare prepared tableside will all of the individual components  including cornichons, shallots, chives, dijonaise, egg and a pecorino crisp.  This was pretty good where the beef was appealing in colour and was buttery tender.  There was the right ratio of ingredients where we got the impact without it overshadowing the beef.  Hence there was good acidity, tang, creaminess and brightness within the dish.  This was served with a side of bread on the side.

Served with toasted brioche, the Foie Gras Terrine was also accompanied by cherry mostarda and hazelnut dust.  We really enjoyed this as the foie gras was creamy and rich.  It tasted good on its own but the mostarda added a punch of sweetness.  The brioche toast fingers were a light and crispy vessel for the heavy foie gras and we wished there was more of them as we ran out of toasts before the foie.

Our next dish was along the same lines being the Wild Boar Rillette with confit boar, shallots, pickled mustard seed, watercress puree.  This was also on point with tender boar seasoned with fall spices.  Good acidity from the mustard seeds and aromatics from the shallots.  Once again, there was more rillette than bread (which is a good thing).  Maybe we should've been more aggressive with the rillette with the bread.

Yet another item with bread was the Brandad au Gratin with halibut potato purée, radish, garlic scape, egg yolk, herbs, créme fraîche and roe.  As you can see, this was a generous portion but I'm not sure our table was necessarily enamored by it.  Flavourwise, it was fine being mild and not overly salty.  However, the potato and fish mixture was a bit too dense and ate very heavy.  It should've had a more whipped consistency.

Our last starter was the classic Salade Niçoise with tuna, potato, green beans, olives, tomato, frisée, anchovies, egg and dijon vinaigrette.  This was a pleasant enough salad with all of the traditional components.  Egg wasn't overcooked, potatoes were tender, beans still had crunch and there was plenty of anchovy.  There was enough tangy vinaigrette as well.  However, the tuna did not look appetizing as it was sliced too thin and was broken.  Texturally, it was not as rare as it should have been either.

For our mains, Viv selected the Moules et Frites featuring BC mussels, pastis, fennel, tomato, leeks and herbs.  For us, we personally enjoy local mussels as opposed to PEI mussels, so this was a positive.  Yes, they were plump and cooked perfectly.  Plenty of aromatics in the broth including the briny nectar from the mussels.  The side of frites were on point being crispy with some potatoey goodness left inside.

For myself, I ordered Le Burger with 6oz, double smoked bacon, raclette, tomato, rouille, butter lettuce and egg on brioche accompanied by frites.  Okay, this was a really good burger.  The patty was large and juicy with a crispy char on the outside.  That thick slab of smoked bacon was a meal in itself - meaty and purposefully salty.  Oeey gooey cheesiness was provided by the raclette and of course the egg yolk provided more richness.  I actually couldn't finish all of it because it was so big.

My son inexplicably had the 6oz Bistro Filet with roasted whole garlic bulb, shallots, red wine peppercorn sauce and frites.  Nothing wrong with the dish itself but that wasn't enough food for him!  So I gave him half of my burger...  As for the filet, it was perfectly medium-rare and buttery tender.  Sauce was balanced with the red wine cooked down nicely where the peppercorns came through.

My daughter went for the Duck Cassoulet with confit duck, lardon, sausage, cannellini beans, carrots, celeriac, tomato and onions.  There were a few issues with this as the duck itself was super salty.  Texturally it was fine with rendered skin and tender meat.  Secondly, the cannellini beans were too firm.  They could've benefitted from more cooking because they should be creamy in the middle not hard.

My dad opted for the Bouillabaisse with scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams, crab, halibut, fennel, celeriac, tomato, saffron, fresh herbs, rouille and sourdough.  Although this was $49.00, the amount of seafood qualified the price.  However, one dungeness crab leg was not fresh.  The rest was fresh and prepared very well.  The broth was pretty salty though as it obscured the saffron as well as the beautiful seafood sweetness.

My mom originally ordered the Lamb Rack with lentil, olives, tomato, grapes, pine nuts, braised greens and lamb jus.  I say originally because she never finished eating this dish.  It is because the lamb was so rare, it was impossible to chew.  She felt bad sending back a $49.00 item, so she just let it be.  To their credit, the manager saw this and ask why she wasn't eating her food.  He saw the raw lamb and offered to send her out a new dish.  

That new dish took about 30 minutes (but they looked short-staffed).  It was the Chicken with sunchoke, braising greens, mushroom, bacon gruyere cumble and sauce espagnole.  Turns out that the chicken was pretty good (she was deciding between the lamb and chicken at first).  The skin was crispy and rendered while the meat was still juicy.  It was over-salted though.  Hence it really didn't need any sauce, yet the espagnole was tasty with rich meatiness.  In fact, even the sides were good as well.  Good textures and lots of umaminess from the mushroom and sunchoke.

Onto dessert, we only shared 2 since we had a whole cake from Remi Patisserie waiting at home.  However, the Crêpes Suzette was such a large portion, I'm not sure how even 2 people could share this after a meal.  Now size is one thing, the question is how was it?  Good!  The crepes were thin and fluffy while the peaches were flambéd tableside with brandy.  They were just sweet enough while the brown butter ice cream on the side added more sweetness.  I would eat this again.

Viv got her own personal dessert for her birthday which was the Cream Puff with vanilla pastry cream, strawberries, chocolate sauce and almonds.  This was also good with light choux pastry that wasn't dry.  The cream was lightly sweet while the chocolate sauce was silky.  Berries added tanginess while the almonds provided crunch.  The desserts were a good ending to a relatively uneven meal.  There were some highlights to go along with a few issues.  I would say the service was fairly on point tough as our server was friendly and attentive.  She even replaced my cocktail when I knocked it over.  The manager also replaced my mom's undercooked lamb.  The place was fairly busy and the food was slow to come out.  I'm pegging this on staffing issues and possibly it being a new operation.  I'm not ruling out a return, but I'll wait until they sort out some of the kinks first.

The Good:
- Most dishes were generous in portion size
- Fairly on point service
- Some dishes were very good

The Bad:
- Food came out slow
- Some dishes were not prepared properly
- Some dishes were too salty

Nancy Go Yaya

For a city that boasts some of the best Asian food in North America (and for some cuisines, in the world), it is quite disappointing that South Asia is so poorly represented.  I really enjoy dining on Malay, Indonesian and Singaporean cuisine, but there are only a limited amount of authentic spots.  So when a new one opens up in town, I'm all over it.  The newest is Nancy Go Yaya located directly below Kissa Tanto.  This is no coincidence as it is run by 2 of the co-owners of Bao Bei and Kissa Tanto.

Before we got to the good stuff, we had something that was surprisingly addictive.  The Satay Prawn Chips were impactful and spicy.  Dressed in satay spice and fried curry leaves, there was aromatics, nuttiness and heat.  The chips themselves were crispy and light, meaning they were fried perfectly in proper temped oil.  This was a bit steep at $6.00 but hey, things are worth it if they are tasty right?

The tastiest item was the Kaya Toast featuring pandan mochi toast, coconut jam, butter pat and grated salted egg yolk.  Beyond the beautiful green color of the toast accented by yellow, the toast itself was seared beautifully.  It was crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside.  Got the essence of pandan that combined with the aromatic coconut and sweetness.  Then there was the hit of butter and nuttiness of the egg yolk.  I could eat this over and over again.

Onto another sandwich, we got the Roti John with an added piece of fried chicken.  It consisted of curried egg, cheese, sweet chili mayo, herbs, achar cabbage slaw and crispy stuff in between a milk bun.  This was messy to eat and quite enjoyable.  Chicken was juicy and featured a light crispy coating.  There was good spice and aromatics going on as well as crunch from the slaw.  Milk bread was soft and wrapped around the ingredients well.

Also tried the Laksa featuring spicy coconut shellfish broth, fishcake stuffed tofu puff, bean sprouts, turmeric egg, prawns and housemade wheat noodles.  Although this wasn't a very big portion, it ate well.  I thought the broth was fairly flavourful, slightly spicy, briny and rich in viscosity.  The noodles were al dente while the fish cake tofu puff was texturally pleasing.  Not the best Laksa I've ever had, but a competent one.

For dessert, we tried the Pandan Chiffon Cake with muscovado cremeux and cornflake macadamia crunch.  Again, the roll itself was pleasing to the eye and the cornflake crunch looked inviting.  I found the cake to be a bit on the wetter side and semi-sweet.  Again, it was aromatic with the cremeux offering up the necessary rich sweetness.  Yes, that crunch had a great mouthfeel and was delicious.  Overall, we enjoyed the food at Nancy Go Yaya, however the question is would we return?  I would say it is quite possible, but I'm not rushing to do it.

The Good:
- That Kaya Toast!
- Got this hole-in-the-wall vibe serving unique food thing going on
- Friendly service

The Bad:
- A bit pricey for what you get  

Afterparty Club Cafe

Sometimes, there are restaurants that serve amazing food but the decor consists of a few folding chairs and a mah jong table.  Oh, and the service?  Yah help yourself to the napkins (if there are any) and dirty utensils in a hopefully clean metal container.  Yes, those places have their charm, but most times, I want good food AND also an inviting decor as well as some form of service.  However, it is like you can't have both because you then have places that are high on style but low on food quality.  So I had to put this to the test when I got an invite from Afterparty Club Cafe.  You see, they have an impressive display of collectables when you first walk in and then further into the dining space, there are floor to ceiling shelves of books.  Very impressive.  But how about the food?

We ordered a few items, but they decided to throw almost the kitchen sink at us with a table full of food.  The Dirty Fries were still crispy even though we had taken plenty of photos before digging in.  There was good spice and they weren't greasy.   A touch greasy, the Fried Frog Legs were crispy and nicely seasoned.  The meat was tender and moist.  Something a bit unique was the Mentaiko Potato that featured mashed potatoes topped with a creamy mentaiko sauce.  I thought the seafoodiness of the sauce was appealing.  Mashed potatoes could've been creamier.  I found the Salted Duck Yolk Rice Cracker to be crispy and fairly well-seasoned, but a bit more salted egg yolk flavour would've really put it over the top.

Carved tableside, the Champion Pork Hock was quite the specimen.  After it was deboned and cut, there was a lot of meat for our table of 5.  The meat itself was tender and gelatinous while the skin was crunchy.  Some parts were a bit hard, but nothing got soft, which is good.  The way they prepared it, there wasn't a lot of fat underneath the crunchy skin, which I much prefer.  To add more flavour, I liked dusting it with the spicy seasoning on the side.

Presented underneath a glass klosche with smoke, the Beijing Smoked Duck Breast was accompanied by julienned veggied underneath and what was a sweet sauce akin to hoisin on top.  I thought the smoke was mild while the duck itself was natural tasting.  The skin could've been more rendered in my opinion, but it wasn't too fatty.  The duck itself was tender and quite moist.

Another dish served tableside was the Truffle Oil Diced Beef Rice prepared in a heated stone bowl.  The rice was mixed at our table and there was a moderate socarrat at the bottom of the bowl while the rest of the rice was fairly dry and nutty.  There was a decent amount of truffle oil, but not overwhelmingly so.  The beef was in small cubes and was fairly tender if not a touch dry.  Maybe bigger cubes would be better?

I used this rice to pair with the Westcoast Curry which was very mild and had the aromatics of coconut milk.  There was some soft veggies in the mix as well as nuggets of chicken.  I found the chicken to be tender despite being small in size.  In terms of viscosity, the curry was silky and medium-thickness.  It mixed with the rice well and did provide some flavour that was mild as mentioned as well as sweet.

Another saucy dish was the Tomato Braised Chicken also with veggies and a light sprinkle of cheese on top.  I guess the best way to describe this dish is to compare it to HK Cafe-type flavours of tomato sauces.  It was tangy, but also sweet with a touch of cheesiness.  The veggies were soft but soaked up the flavours while the chicken was tender and also took on the tomatoness of the dish.

Onto another item served in a hot pot, we found the Braised Cod Soup that also featured plenty of veggies.  Hidden at the bottom of the pot, there was a cod steak that was fairly flaky, especially since it had been sitting in hot broth for awhile.  The broth itself was generally light with only the slightest of fish flavour.  It was lightly sweet with equal parts of savouriness.  Not sure if all that onion belonged in the soup, but that's just my preference.

One of my favourite dishes of the meal was the Slow Braised Pork Belly with Abalone.  I found the pork belly to be equally fatty and meaty.  Generally I don't like chomping down on big chunks of fat unless it is prepared properly.  This was and the fat was more gelatinous than fatty.  Although there might've not been any in the glaze, if tasted like there was black garlic due to some umaminess.  Whatever the case, the dish was well-seasoned.

When we were presented with the Tea Tankotaki, it looked more like oden than an udon dish, but alas it was.  Underneath all those processed fish products was indeed udon.  I must say there was a good array of some of the most appealing fish dumpling/balls that one can find.  As for the broth, it was clean and light with a touch of sweetness.

I'm not sure why I'm ending this post off with the APC Salad, but probably there isn't much to say about it.  I mean the greens were fresh and there was enough vinagrette.  Prawns were sweet with a snap too.  maybe the egg could've been cooked less, but it was a pleasant salad.  I guess that would be the theme of the food too.  It was pleasant enough with a few highlights.  Considering the decor and ambiance of the place, the food is decent enough to put it into the good category.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Appealing decor and dining space
- Food is decent

The Bad:
- Faces a lot of competition in Richmond

Between 2 Buns

The smashburger trend has been around for quite some time.  I remember having one in San Diego at aptly named Smashburger over 10 years ago.  Yes, there have some versions of smashburgers in Vancouver before and in fact, Rogue has one on their menu (which isn't bad by the way).  However, there is finally a place that I can honestly say that does it right and generally only serves just smashburgers.  Located in the old location Bestie, Between 2 Buns keeps things simple and does it well. This post actually is an amalgamation of 3 separate visits.

To get a baseline of sorts, one must try the Single Cheeser with pickles, cheese, shredduce and sauce on a vegan brioche bun.  Now you can also order this with meat and cheese only, but no other alterations are allowed.  For me, this was good, but since the meat patty was so thin, it felt like more bun than anything.  Loved the crispy edges of the meat and also the salty American cheese on that soft brioche (with a bit of chew) bun.

This brings us to the Double Cheeser with the same stuff as the single but with 2 patties and 2 slices of cheese.  This was much more fulfilling and meaty.  Again, the crispy bits combined with the fatty and meaty bits made for fantastic textures and meaty saltiness.  This balanced off the bun much better than the single.  Hence, my choice would be the double if you want to get the full benefit of the smashed patties.

Now if you wanted a bit more to the burger, there is also a bacon cheeser and something with more spice, the Jalapeño Bacon Cheeser.  This not only featured the same ingredients as the previous 2 burgers, but added bacon, pickled jalapeños and fried jalapeños.  As you can see, this burger was messy (like it should be) and each bite yielded a dripping mess.  As much as I thought that the spice, tang and extra textures made for a more layered burger, I would still go for the Double in my opinion.

So at certain times, there are things on the menu that aren't beef such as the veggie burger and the Vegan Fried Chicken Sandwich.  Okay, I was a bit skeptical of this, but I have to admit, it was pretty good.  The Beyond Meat chicken patty could've fooled me and was crispy.  It was bathed in a spicy sauce that was impactful and the vegan cheese was sorta just there.  Pickles and shredduce completed the package.  I would eat this again, seriously...

Now they did have this one collab with Backyard Chicken to produce a Spicy Chicken Burger with pickles, shredduce, hot mayo, chili dust and Chinese chili oil.  This was pretty good with a large chicken thigh which was juicy with a crispy coating.  The layers of spice were quite evident and discernible.  Good heat in general and all sandwiched between 2 soft brioche buns.  Hope they do this collab again.
Of course we have to have some sides right?  They only have one in the Fries.  These are starch-coated, so they are extra-crispy.  Personally, I like fresh-cut without anything on them fries, but with that being said, these were more than acceptable.  An order is enough for 2 people to share.  So you can see that I like the place as I've been there a few times already.  If you haven't been, I suggest you give them a shot. Don't let the lineup discourage you, it moves fast.

The Good:
- Love the texture of the smashed patties
- That bun is a good compliment to the meat and cheese
- Food comes out fast (as the patties cook fast), so the wait isn't bad

The Bad:
- Limited seating if you want to dine-in
- You will come out of there smelling like a smashburger (could be a positive to many)

Food by Fanta (Brunch)

Brunch and Langley does not resonate with many people who do not live out in the burbs.  For some reason, many of my Vancouver friends feel there is some barrier that prevents them from leaving the city to search for good food.  Well, since I've lived in Vancouver, Coquitlam and Burnaby, I can safely say that there is indeed good food to be found by crossing a bridge or two.  Mijune and I have visited Food by Fanta out in Langley for a Thai feast before (run by the same owner as nearby Ban Chok Dee), but this time around, we were invited to try out their brunch menu.

We were started off with the Grilled Cheese Chicken Waffle with BBQ sauce, cheddar, mixed greens, avocado herbal mayo & microgreens.  So this was their take on chicken and waffles where they added cheese and coated the fried chicken in sauce.  In that respect, there was more flavour going on rather than dousing it in syrup.  The waffle itself was soft with a bit of crispiness on the outside.  Chicken was moist and the sauce was tangy and sweet.  Best to be eaten in one bite with all of the elements together.

We were presented next with beautiful Chor Muang Flower Dumplings filled with 2 x Chicken, 2 x Pork and 1 x Veggie seasoned filling with peanut, sweet radish, onion & cilantro.  Due to the similarities in flavour, it was mostly just a textural thing with the different proteins.  However, I enjoyed the vegetarian one the most where the filling was more harmonious rather than having some meat interrupt the crunch of the radish and sweetness of the palm sugar combined with the peanuts.

Onto something on the sweeter side, we had the Menagerie French Toast Brulée with pandan leaf custard & bacon bread, peach cream stuffed French toast with banana brulée, topped with coconut caramel sauce & syrup.  I liked how they didn't just make a standard French toast and went for it, especially incorporating Thai flavours.  The toast itself was soft and moist while seared evenly.  Lots of sweetness from the cream, custard, syrup and brulée.  Ate like a dessert and not that we were complaining...

Another mash-up was the Bechamel Taro Nachos with marinated tamarind prawns with avocado bechamel sauce served over fresh taro chips and mozzarella.  First of all, I love taro chips, so these crispy lattice versions were great on their own.  Well, these were topped with the aforementioned bechamel sauce as well as little nuggets of tangy prawns and cheese.  I think if there was some heat (spiciness), these would've been over the top.

One of the nicest-looking dishes was the Seared Mango Tuna with ginger marinated seared ahi tuna, served with fried taro strips, green mango salsa and avocado.  Yes, this ate as good as it appeared with tender rare tuna with a slightly crispy cornmeal crust.  The ginger did come through with brightness and the mangoes provided a nice crunch.  This was the entree version and more than enough for a meal.

Back to the sweets, we had the Soufflé Pancake with fresh fruit, topped with crème brûlée sauce.  With this dish, one pancake (the top one) was perfect and could rival many of the other ones in town.  The one on the bottom was a bit flatter and less fluffy.  So maybe this was just bad luck.  Anyways, as said, the top one was airy and light.  The sauce was sweet and had the richness of burnt sugar.

Moving back to appetizers, we tried the Ballerina Wings that were boneless and fried with tamarind-palm sugar sauce & tropical fruit salsa.  Being boneless, this made eating the wings much easier.  It also highlighted the crispy exterior even more so.  Inside, the meat was juicy and tender while the skin was semi-rendered.  Loved the sweet tang from the sauce as well as the extra sweetness from the mango.

We then went on to try some mains including the Sablefish Risotto.  Although the green sauce looked like green curry, it was quite sweet.  The risotto itself was overdone where it was soft and a bit gummy.  However, the sablefish itself was excellent.  As much as it is a forgiving protein to prepare, this was super buttery and flaky.  It was as fresh as it was prepared properly.  The charred lemon on the side was key to brightening things up.

Another dinner item we had was the Massaman Lamb Shank with hand mashed pomme purée, tamarind, carrot and broccoli.  So this was essentially a lamb curry and since they used the shank, it featured tender gelatinous meat.  The massaman curry was nutty and sweet which went well with the creamy potatoes.  Veggies were prepared properly being firm yet cooked all-the-way-through.

If you noticed 3 beautiful drinks in the background, they were part of the Rainbow Sangria Flight.  These were actually very light tasting and suitable for those who don't like strong drinks.  Onto the desserts, we were served 4 including the Mango Pannacotta Cheesecake with strawberry and raspberry.  This was my favourite because I like fruity desserts and also cheesecake.  This was a whole lot lighter but had the flavour of cheesecake.  Next was the Coconut Crème Brûlée made with coconut milk, palm sugar, egg and pandan leaf.  This featured a firmer custard that was aromatic and on the sweeter side.  Then we had the Poached Pear in red wine with crème Anglaise.  The pear itself was tender and full of wine flavour.  For me, it was a bit strong, but the crème Anglaise did help balance that off a bit.  Lastly, the Banoffee Crumble featured layers of banana, strawberry, cookie and cream crumble.  This ate like a parfait in some sense except with the egg custard.  But there was plenty of creaminess to go with fruit and crunch.  This was the sweetest dessert of the bunch.  So there you have it, a comprehensive look at Food by Fanta.  There is nothing quite like it in Langley and really, is there a Thai fusion brunch spot in Vancouver in general?   Definitely interesting and worth checking out.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Something different
- Thai fusion works in most dishes
- Cute spot

The Bad:
- Many dishes were on the sweeter side (I guess that would be a "good" for some people)

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