Sherman's Food Adventures: May 2022


So here we go with another AYCE in experience while I was in Bellevue.  This time around, we decided on Shaburina, which is a "Japanese-style" Shabu Shabu.  I put this in quotations because authentic Shabu Shabu would have far less ingredients and only one type of broth.  However, I'm glad that they extended the format with different broth options and many things to choose from at the buffet station.  For the non-Wagyu option (House Course), it is $39.00 per person inclusive.  I found this to be a fair price and a good value with all things considered.

Each person has their own personal hot pot (with the heating element built into the table) with a choice of Broth.  I ended up choosing Spicy Miso while my son had the Sukiyaki.  Both Viv and my daughter chose the featured broth of the day being Chicken & Scallop.  Predictably, the most impactful of the 3 was the spicy miso as it did have a kick (not scorching hot though) with the fermented flavour of miso.  Sukiyaki was pretty basic and only good for those who aren't adventurous.  The best was the chicken and scallop as it was super sweet with savoury elements.

Without even needing to ask, everyone received all 4 meats including Rich Beef, Lean Beef, Rich Pork and Lean Pork.  If you were wanting to take full advantage of the other ingredients at the buffet station, then you might want to share the meats to start rather than having a full serving for each person.  We struggled to finish it all.  Now the rich cuts look alarmingly fatty, but rest assured, they were sliced thin so after cooking it wasn't too bad.  In fact, that made the meats more tender and buttery.  I actually loved the lean pork (looked like shoulder meat) the most though as it was strangely the most succulent.

I was actually quite impressed with the Buffet Station as it included a good variety of ingredients including shrimp, clams, baby scallops, squid, quail eggs, spam, tofu puffs, various fish cakes and meatballs, wontons, different types of noodles and kimchi.  As for the veggies, they consisted of Shanghai bak choy, chrysanthemum, napa cabbage, spinach, sprouts, tomato, squash, green onion, white onion and corn.  Again, plenty to choose from and things looked fresh.

Lastly, there was the requisite Sauce Bar that sported ponzu, sweet chili, sesame sauce, cilantro, jalapeno, Thai chili, garlic, peanut, fried garlic, white onion, green onion, fried shallots, sriracha and a variety of oils.  If you look at the picture, you'll notice a soft-serve ice cream machine.  Well, you do get an ice cream cone when are finished, but it wasn't available the night we ate there. No biggie though as we enjoyed the broths and the fresh ingredients that came with it.  This is a place we will be visiting again.

The Good:
- Delicious broth
- Good quality ingredients
- Great service

The Bad:
- Tables are far too small for all the plates, sauces and ingredients 


Seattle Fish Guys

I love poke.  My kids love poke.  Heck, Viv loves poke.  There is a dirty joke to had somewhere here, but I'll refrain...  So if we all love poke, then there was no doubt we'd give the Seattle Fish Guys a visit while we were down there.  Now this place isn't a restaurant per se.  It is actually a fish market that also serves to-go items including poke.  They do have a small outdoor dining space, which is generally packed.  We were lucky to grab a table and also a bunch of goodies to eat.

This included a 6 piece order of Prawn Tempura accompanied strangely by unagi sauce.  Who am I to judge as it worked well with the tempura.  As for the tempura, the batter was a bit thick, but wasn't heavy.  Since it was fried and was sitting in a warming display case, it was a little hard and not uniformly crunchy.  Mind you, it wasn't soggy either.  Inside, the ebi was still buttery and had a nice meaty snap.


So of course we got the Poke and for this one, we choose salmon and scallop.  It also came with cucumbers, wakame and rice.  We had a choice between raw baby scallops and cooked whole scallops.  As you can see, we picked the latter and these were so appealingly delicious.  There was the hit of sesame oil that complimented the natural sweetness and beautiful chewy texture of the whole thing.

For the other Poke, we had salmon and tuna.  Much like the previous plate, the salmon was in large chunks.  Texturally, it was buttery and soft without being mushy.  However, it was not seasoned properly as it was pretty much bland except for the natural sweetness of the fish.  On the other hand, the tuna was flavourful and slightly creamy.  It was soft and delicate while having the freshness of the sea.


To continue with the raw stuff, we got the Sashimi Plate featuring salmon, hamachi and red tuna.  It also came with rice and a boatload of wakame.  We found the fish to be supremely fresh and appetizing.  The hamachi was so buttery soft with a minor bite.  It was sweet with plenty of that hamachi flavor goodness.  Salmon was like in the poke and the tuna was soft with a more robust texture.  Went well with the rice and wakame.  Only wish is that they included wasabi.

One of the most interesting things we got was the Dungeness Crab Sandwich with mac salad and oyster crackers (supposed to be Hawaiian chips, but I guess they ran out?).  I cannot stress how much fluffy crab there was in this sandwich.  So much so, I got the full effect from the crab flavor and texture in each bite.  I wished the bun was a bit softer and smaller, but really, this was a tasty sandwich.  Side of mac salad was solid too.

As if we didn't have enough rice already, I picked up a Miso Black Cod on rice as well.  This was pretty solid for something that was premade and sitting in a warming tray.  The rice was a little on the dry side, but I didn't mind it.  Presented in a generous large piece, the black cod was fatty, soft and flaky.  It was flavorful from the marinade, but could've used a bit more since it was the sole thing flavoring the rice.


Lastly, we picked up some Spam Musubis for good measure.  In terms of appearance, they were a bit flat-looking (curiously taking on the shape of the mubushi mould I bought on Amazon...).  I found that the Spam was seared nicely, but a bit thin.  However, with less rice, the ratio was still okay.  Would've liked more of a glaze on one of the musubis though.  Overall, I thought the food was solid given the price and portion size.  I would say I've had much better poke elsewhere, but not again, this was good value and fresh.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Large portions
- Fresh

The Bad:
- Food is good but not great
- Usually a long lineup (moves fast though)

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse (Bellevue)

Another chain restaurant?  Did I just forget to eat at more interesting places in the States while being away for over 2 years due to the border closures???  Well, no of course not.  However, by virtue of being a chain restaurant doesn't mean I will never dine there.  In fact, I've always wanted to try Fogo de Chão.  C'mon, it is AYCE meat!  I've had Brazilian Churrascaria before in the States and of course in Vancouver as well.  However, I wanted to see if Fogo is any better than our local offerings of Rio and the long-shuttered Samba.

Luckily I made a reservation because the place was packed.  We were quickly seated and hit the Market Table for some meats, cheeses, salads, fruit, veggies and Fogo feijoada.  Unfortunately, we couldn't enjoy the Iberico Ham as there was no knife available.  I asked an employee why there was no knife and she said we couldn't cut from the leg anymore.  There was still meat, but I guess it was too close to the bone?  I really didn't understand.

Now before we got to all the meats, we were served some sides including Mashed Potatoes, Cheese Bread, Caramelized Banana and Fried Polenta.  Of course these were essentially fillers, but it wasn't as if they weren't good either.  Their version of warm Pão de Queijo was soft and starchy inside (due to the tapioca flour).  The mash was actually quite tasty and smooth while the bananas were a bit bland.  Crispy polenta was somewhat hard, but also flavourful.

With all that out of the way, onto the meats!  So for those who have never done this type of dining before, there is a card on the table for each person.  Green means keep the meats coming and red means stop.  We were inundated with meats from the get go including Chicken, Spicy Pork Sausage, Pork Rib and Picanha.  We didn't really care for the chicken as it was really dry.  Sausage was meaty and tasty though.  Pork rib was also a touch dry, but still tender.  Loved the picanha (prime portion of top sirloin) as it was juicy and tender with a nice fat cap. 

So the next meats to come along included Top Sirloin, Bacon-wrapped Chicken and Steak, Parmesan Pork and Bottom Sirloin.  Both cuts of sirloin were juicy and super tender.  There was enough seasoning too.  The bacon-wrapped steak was flavourful and smoky while also tender.  Once again, I found the chicken to be dry, yet still tasty due to the bacon.  Also dry was the pork, but it was flavouful due to the parm.

The last round of meats consisted of Lamb Picanha, Lamb Chops, Striploin and Flank Steak.  I really love lamb and the picanha was super juicy with lots of gaminess.  The rack of lamb chop was medium-rare and super moist and and tender.  I hated the striploin as it was well-done.  That totally destroyed such a lovely cut of meat.  On the other hand, the flank steak was perfect being medium-rare, juicy and meaty.

So we never saw the following cuts of meat, even though we were there for an hour and half: Filet Mignon, Bone-in Rib-eye, Beef Ribs and Double Bone-in Pork Chops.  Not sure if they even had them?  We didn't see any and never got any either.  This was partially tempered by an amazing piece of Grilled Cheese featuring Coalho with honey.  These squeaky slices of cheese were delicious and texturally addictive.

I ended up with an extra slice of lamb because, well I love lamb (as I've mentioned many times) and the other cuts never arrived (or was available).  In the end, we enjoyed our meal despite not having some of the best cuts of meat available.  Also, a few were too dry for our liking.  However, I understand that they have to put the meats back on the BBQ when they have cut all the exterior "more-cooked" portions.  One thing is for sure - you come for the experience and you really take the good with the bad.

The Good:
- Plenty of meats coming around
- Good quality and generally well-prepared
- Good service

The Bad:
- Some meats were not available
- Some meats were very dry
- Not sure why we couldn't eat the Iberico ham

Red Lobster (Lynnwood)

Okay, why am I dining at such a defaultish chain restaurant as my first real restaurant experience in the States since 2019?  Well, I truly do like their cheddar biscuits and also, my kids have never been there before.  Seeing how they are now starting to love seafood, it was as good of a time to head to Red Lobster.  Looks like we weren't the only ones as the parking lot was littered with BC plates.

So here we are, the famous Cheddar Biscuits in all its glory.  Kid you not, these are some of the best I've had and no, I'm not going to let haters in cyberspace take that way from me.  Hate away!  I love them!  These featured a lightly crispy exterior that gave way to an airy and fluffy center.  Intertwined with the fluffiness were pops of cheddar.  The topping was a bit salty, but that didn't detract from the pleasure of eating it.

We did end up ordering one appie in the Bacon-Wrapped Scallops (didn't want to order more since some of our meals were large).  These were really good with huge scallops encased in fairly lean bacon.  In fact, the edges of the bacon were quite crispy and there wasn't a lot of flabbiness.  Beyond being huge, the scallops were cooked beautifully being still delicate and moist with its classic sweet bouncy texture.

I was trying to decide which soup to order and went head with both the Clam Chowder and Lobster Bisque.  So they arrived barely lukewarm, which was not appealing at all.  At the very least, the clam chowder was pretty decent in terms of viscosity, taste and amount of ingredients.  It did have some briny clam hints while it was creamy and satisfying.  However, the bisque was terrible.  It felt artificially thick and was super salty.  It tasted like roux with little else other than salt as a seasoning.  No lobster aroma at all.  I would avoid this.

For my main, I went basic with the Fish & Chips.  I thought the portion size was a bit small, but then again, it was one of the least expensive items on the menu.  The fish itself was flaky and moist with only the thinnest layer of batter on the outside.  It was a bit oil-logged though, which made it somewhat unappealing, but it was crispy.  The fries were standard-issue chain restaurant fries and even with that, they were not fried properly.  I found that they were limp and not crunchy.  The tartar was bright with sharp onion flavour while the slaw was crunchy but overdressed.

Viv also went light with the Lobster-Topped Stuffed Flounder with rice and broccoli.  On the menu, it stated that the fish was stuffed with seafood, but in reality, it was mostly on the bottom of the fish and a bit too pan-fried.  Again, this was a very salty concoction which totally required the fluffy rice/quinoa on the side for balance.  The fish was soft and tender though.  Side of broccoli was perfect though being cooked through while still crunchy and completely seasoned.

So far, the meal had been so-so, but with my son's Seafarer's Feast, it got a whole lot better.  It consisted of a broiled Maine lobster tail, garlic shrimp scampi, Walt's favourite shrimp and grilled sea scallops with rice and broccoli.  Beyond looking quite grand, the items were prepared perfectly.  The lobster was moist, flavourful and had that desired rebound texture.  Shrimp was also on point with plenty of garlicky butteriness.  Fried shrimp was crunchy on the outside with a meaty snap on the inside.  Scallops were aggressively grilled, yet were still delicate and buttery with a bite.

My daughter's meal was similar with the Seaside Shrimp Trio consisting of Walt's favourite shrimp, garlic shrimp scampi and creamy shrimp linguine alfredo.  Predictably, the fried shrimp and scampi were the same as the previous platter.  In terms of the linguine, it was surprisingly al dente and bathed in a creamy alfredo that had a good amount of tender shrimp in it.  Now as you can see, the last two, more expensive meals, were quite decent.  However, the rest of the meal (other than the scallops and biscuits) was rather sub-standard.  Also, they really love their salt here.  Sure, I guess this was to be expected at a large chain restaurant and I should have reasonable expectations.  With that, I guess if you spend some money and order the good stuff, you can have a decent meal here.

The Good:
- Those biscuits!
- More expensive platters are actually decent
- The service we got from our server was excellent

The Bad:

- Other items were mostly meh and far too salty
- Hostess was very indifferent
- Worst lobster bisque I've ever had 


Shanghai River

In the past 10 years, I have probably dined at Shanghai River like 20 odd times.  You see, my parents love the place and they like to stick with their favourites.  Hey, I like the place too as the food is solid including their XLBs.  However, I haven't posted about the place since 2013 I believe.  I guess it is as good of a time to do another one to see how their are currently.  We only went for morning Dim Sum this time around, but will go back for dinner one day (it is pretty good too).

We always seem to order the same dishes and that always starts with the  Chicken with Wine Sauce.  I find their version consistent and well-prepared.  The free-range chicken was firm (as it tends to be), but was still tender.  The skin was nicely gelatized while there was some gelatin underneath it.  The wine flavour was definitely there without being overwhelming.  It had penetrated the chicken, yet the excess amount on the plate added more aroma and extra kick.

One of our favourite dishes is the Shredded Chicken & Vermicelli (Mung Bean Noodles) with cucumber and sesame dressing.  The texture of the noodles were slippery and full of bite (in a pleasant rubbery way).  Lots of good mouth feel from the chew.  The shredded chicken was tender and moist while the crunchy cucumber added brightness.  As for the dressing, it was thick, slightly sweet and plenty nutty.  Very aromatic and tasty.

Something that we normally do not order is the Deep Fried Bean Curd Skin with Mushroom (Mock Goose).  I can never understand why this dish is so expensive but I guess it might be the labour put into making it.  This featured crispy bean curd skin sheets that were probably a bit too crispy.  I would've liked it to be more moist with some chew.  Inside, the tender shiitake were nicely seasoned being on the sweeter side.

So one of the must-order dishes is their Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Soup Dumplings).  I would pit this against some of the best in town.  They are made-to-order (much like many XLB joints these days) and feature a relatively thin dumpling skin.  I wouldn't say it is Din Tai Fung thin, but it isn't as thick at say R&H in Lansdowne Mall.  Inside, the pork filling is tender and moist (while not falling apart either).  The soup is plentiful, sweet and meaty with a background Shaoxing wine hit.

A few under-the-radar items that are also quite good include the Homemade Sesame Cake (Shao Bing) and Chinese Donut.  They were also made-to-order where the donut was pretty much as good as it can get.  The exterior was crispy and light while not too greasy.  Inside, it was soft and airy (featuring air pockets) with a tender chew.  It was nicely salted where it stood on its own.  As for the shao bing, it was nicely baked with a nutty flavour.  It was crispy with discernible layers.  I do recommend you get the beef one as the plain is well, plain.

Now another favourite of ours is the Hot & Sour Soup.  I find that their broth does have some depth compared to other places.  Furthermore, the amount of ingredients is the right ratio to the amount of starch-thicken broth.  Julienned carrots and bamboo shoots as well as wood ear mushroom added crunch to the soup.  The shrimp are cooked just enough to retain a buttery snap.  We got the hot oil on the side so we could adjust the heat while the vinegariness was on point.

Moving onto the noodles, we always order the Szechuan Beef Noodles.  This is another solid dish where the slice beef shank is nearly melt-in-our-mouths tender without falling apart.  The broth is meaty with a medium spicy kick.  I personally could do with even more heat, but I guess we could add some chili oil.  There is more than enough white noodles underneath that are soft with just a touch of chew.

Even though we ordered the Dan Dan Noodles, it really isn't my favourite version.  Don't get me wrong, it is still fine, but I find it a bit soupy and too mild-tasting.  It is much more peanutty than anything else (has something to do with the fact it is the Shanghainese version).  Due to the nuttiness, it is aromatic and features a thick soup/sauce.  There is plenty of ground pork to give it body and texture.  The julienned cucumber adds a bright crunch.

Our kids love the Fried Shanghai-Style Rice Cakes and of course we ordered it.  This could've used a bit more colour, however, it was still pretty on point.  The rice cakes were soft and tender without being overly so.  They retained an appealing chewiness.  The dish wasn't too greasy and the seasoning was just right with enough dark soy.  Tender julienned pork and slightly wilted spinach finished the dish.

Another stealthily tasty dish is the Sticky Rice with Ribs (Pork Spareribs).  On top of the ample amount of soft sticky rice, the pieces of spareribs were tender with a good rebound texture.  They were fairly well-seasoned being salty with a touch of sweetness.  I would've like them to be even more aggressively seasoned because the rice was rather bland.  So in the end, this was another solid meal at Shanghai River.  Since food is subjective, some might consider other Shanghainese restaurants as being better (and I agree with this statement).  Yet, Shanghai River still sits up there near the top because it is consistent and delivers good food.

The Good:
- Consistently good
- Nice dining space
- Covered parking (and generally enough)

The Bad:
- It is good, but it can be argued that there are better


Craffles (Yaletown)

So I'm sure you've noticed all the different waffle spots opening up in the past little while that include some rather interesting shapes.  Well, to be honest, I'm more into traditional-looking waffles personally.  However, at the same time, I am also on the look out for something different as well.  That brought me to Craffles with their newest location in Yaletown.  Their claim to fame is not only the variety of savoury and sweet waffles, but also the addition of crepes, acai bowls and monster milkshakes with a Brazilian twist.

Actually, the first thing we tried was straight-up authentic Brazilian in the Chicken Croquettes.  These were large and served up crunchy.  Beyond the thin outer layer, we found incredibly moist shredded chicken which was well-seasoned and aromatic.  It was also rather cheesy and that make the croquettes slightly creamy and rich.  With a bite of the outside, chicken and cheese, this was rather delicious and addictive. 

Before we got to the waffles, we tried their Brazilian Shrimp Stew Crepe.  Oh I really enjoyed this one as the stew was so flavourful and rich.  There was a certain sweetness complimented by the noticeable flavour of peppers as well as the briny shrimp.  Since they were stewed, the texture of the shrimp was soft (so don't be alarmed because it is supposed to be this way).  As for the crepe, it was medium-thick being tender with a chew. 

For our Belgium Waffle, we chose the Sweet Italian consisting of apricot compote, brie, prosciutto, walnuts and arugula.  This was indeed sweet due to the apricot jam, but the saltiness of the prosciutto provided the necessary balance.  There was a bevy of melty and creamy brie on top of the soft fluffy waffle (that still had a slight crispiness).  Walnuts and arugula added nuttiness and some peppery brightness.

Onto the most outrageous thing we had - the Celebration Strawberry Cheesecake Monster Milkshake.  So is it necessary to have such a large milkshake with graham crackers on the outside of the cup?  How about the large slice of cheesecake on top with strawberry sauce and whipped cream???  Yes, this was over-the-top, but I liked it.  The milkshake was creamy and easy to suck through the straw while the cheesecake was rich and just sweet enough.  You will need to share this.

Finally, we had the Volcano Explosion featuring 2 liege waffles with chocolate, ice cream and enough whipped cream for 10 waffles.  This was all topped off by chocolate and caramel sauce and a sparkler.  Visually striking and attention-grabbing?  Yes.  I could've done with less whipped cream, but the waffles were good being chewy with pops of sweetness.  Again, you should share this.  Overall, the creations at Craffles were good and with some Brazilian influences, it was unique.  Portions are pretty large, so it is best to share things rather than trying to eat them all by yourself.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Brazilian items were tasty
- Large portions
- Instagrammable (if that matters to you)

The Bad:

- Hard to finish some things as they are too big, you would need to come with more people to share  


Texas Smoke BBQ

Yet another post that has been a long time coming.  I first visited Texas Smoke BBQ way back last September.  I paid for my order and made my way home to eat it.  I ended up posting about it on IG and didn't blog about it.  This was mostly due to being lazy and being busy during that time.  Fast forward to the end of last year and I was invited back to try everything right next to the food cart on a property across from Driediger Farms.  I gathered up some of the foodie fam to join me on this food adventure including Maggi, Joyce and Joyce.

So this post will be a combination of both since there was a unique item in each visit.  Furthermore, I can comment on the consistency of the product and the difference between takeout and eating it right there.  So other than the Smoked Sausage being cut differently, it was practically the same as it is one of the items that travels well.  It was firm yet moist with a appealing snap casing.  Balanced smokiness combined with the mildly seasoned sausage.

Predictably, the Smoked Brisket did not travel as well where it dried out slightly.  Eating it at the food cart location was more ideal as the brisket was juicier and more moist.  It had also a balanced smokiness with a noticeable smoke ring.  Tasty bark and the BBQ sauce was rich and smoky.  Now the best item in my opinion was the Smoked Beef Short Rib.  This was succulent and tender, yet retain the classic short rib meatiness.  It was just smoky enough and also had a tasty bark.  This was deceiving as you would think one could eat a lot, but it was plenty filling.

So this is where both visits were unique as the take out featured Dr. Pepper Burnt Ends and the dine-in featured Smoked Chicken.  I found the burnt ends to be flavourful and the beneficiary of being smoked twice (intense flavour and sweet Dr. Pepper).  It could've been a touch softer, but still good.  As for the chicken, it was quite juicy for being smoked.  Of course the dark meat was more tender than the white meat.  I thought the skin was nicely rendered.  Both times I had the Pulled Pork and even though it was on the leaner side, it was still tender and full-flavoured.  Once again, the BBQ sauce helped with the moisture and also the smoky tanginess.

So with all the meats out of the way, we can now talk about the sides.  If you scroll back up, we had some Smoked Baked Beans which were tender with a bite.  They weren't too sweet and of course were smoky.  The Sweet Corn Bread was fantastic being soft and fluffy while still having the robust texture of corn bread.  It was definitely sweet, but not overly so.  Very aromatic.  All the meals are served with Coleslaw, pickles, onions and banana peppers.  I found the slaw to be supremely fresh both times and crunchy.  Good way to counteract all of the heaviness of the meats and sides.  Could've used a bit more dressing though.  From these two visits, I can definitely say that the food is consistent and delicious.  Best to eat it right as you get it since they do have a covered eating area.  It is outdoors, so maybe do it when it is warmer.  They are planning to have some live music in the Summer months.

*First visit was on my own coin, but the subsequent visit was complimentary*

The Good:
- Consistent BBQ
- Reasonably-priced considering the high food costs these days
- Nice people

The Bad:
- A little out-of-the-way for people outside of Surrey/Langley, but worth the drive IMO
- Small eating area (but may expand in the future)  


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