Sherman's Food Adventures: June 2022

District Eleven

Normally, whenever we have "fusion" cuisine, it can be quite the turnoff to many people.  However, I feel that it is both unfair and close-minded to not give new things a chance.  Such is the case at the newish District Eleven on Main Street.  If this location seems familiar, think former Rekados, Beefy Beef and Chi House Chi Pot.  Now, not all the food at District Eleven is fusion, in fact, much of it is traditional Vietnamese (and some are variations of Japanese dishes).  So there is a little of something for everyone in a modern space that is open late.

We didn't go late, in fact we went to their Happy Hour that lasts until 7:00pm (most people come here much later...).  One of the best dishes I tried was also seemingly the simplest in the Accordion Cucumber Salad featuring baby cucumber, pickled red beets, spicy house dressing, crispy shallots and crispy vermicelli.  Beyond the fresh crunchiness of the cukes, the flavours really popped.  Plenty of tanginess and kick that made this appetizing.  The pickled beets only added extra crunch and acidity.

Onto something traditional, we had their Bun Bo Hue.  This was loaded with meats, yet it was missing the pork blood and pork knuckle.  I don't hold this against them because there are rarely any places that include it (probably not popular ingredients with most people).  This was plenty spicy, aromatic and flavourful, but I would've liked to see some fermented seafoodiness.  Meats were generally tender except for a few pieces of undercooked tendon.

Another classic Vietnamese dish we tried was the Bo Luc Lac served with baguette (you can choose rice as well).  Since they used AAA tenderloin, the beef was super moist and tender.  It also helped that they cooked it just enough that the centre was still medium-rare.  Good caramelization from the wok fry ensured that there was some smokiness and sweetness to go with the savoury elements.

One of the Japanese-inspired dishes at District Eleven was the Aburi Crispy Rice with half sashimi grade salmon and half imitation crab meat.  I found the deep fried rice patties to be crunchy, yet not hard.  On top, I much preferred the salmon as it as moist and nicely torched.  It was aromatic due to the scallion oil on top.  As for the imitation crab, I found it too saucy, yet it did taste good with chili mayo.

Staying with the Japanese-type items, we tried the Creamchi Udon with udon, garlic, shallots, cream, house-made kimchi, herb butter, tobiko, mussels, tobiko, shiso and seaweed.  This was sorta like a mentaiko udon but not.  It was much more flavour-forward rather than being subtle.  There was more saltiness and of course, spice from the kimchi.  This was pretty rich, but tasty at the same time.  You can choose to have a bowl of rice to soak up the rest of the sauce at the end if you wish.

Lastly, we ordered the Lemongrass Chili Miso Black Cod with pickles, nori, crispy sushi rice and scallion oil.  Other than the cuke salad, this was my other favourite dish as the sablefish was prepared perfectly being buttery and flaky while sporting a nice sear.  Lots of flavour here including the scallion oil and the spicy fermented flavours of the chili miso.  Loved that it was reasonably-priced at $18.00 as well.  In fact, the prices are all fair considering the portion sizes and overall tastiness of the dishes.  This is worth a visit and I will be returning to try more items.

The Good:
- Eclectic mix of dishes that somehow works
- Reasonable pricing
- Great place for late night eats that doesn't involve wontons nor Denny's

The Bad:
- Not the most spacious parking lot
- Could use a few more items on the menu

Singapore Hawker

For all the different cuisines that I indulge in, there is one that I never get to enough (of course this is based on availability as well).  Singaporean cuisine should be represented much more than it is within the GVRD, but here we are with only a few here and there.  Now we all know that there are many Singaporean dishes available in Chinese restaurants, but that is not quite the same.  So to get my fix, I finally visited Singapore Hawker out in Coquitlam.  This counter-service spot is constantly bustling with dine-in guests as well as plenty of takeout.

I gathered up the fam including the grandparents to check the place out sans my son (as he is now too cool to eat with us...).   We started off with the classic Roti Canai accompanied by the usual curry dip.  This was a pretty solid version with flaky flatbread with discernible layers.  It was a bit crispy while chewy on the inside.  It fairly light, so it wasn't too heavy nor dense.  The dip on the side was flavourful and adequately spicy.

Since my daughter loves Satay, we got the mix of beef and chicken that totaled 6 pieces. As you can see, they were not scrawny with plenty of meat on each stick.  I thought they were charred enough for caramelization and some smokiness.  The chicken was a touch dry, but not overly so.  I actually preferred the beef as it was still juicy and plenty tender.  Loved that they didn't skimp on the peanut satay sauce.

A stealthily tasty item was the Nyonya Sambal Egg featuring a deep-fried hard-boiled egg topped with a generous amount of sambal.  As you can see, the egg was perfectly cooked where it was didn't sport a dark ring.  The outside of the egg was lightly chewy while giving way to tender egg white and crumbly yolk.  The best part was the sweet, salty, plenty briny and slightly spicy sambal.  We used the excess to eat with everything else.

One of our favourite dishes was the Hainanese Chicken with chicken oil rice.  Boneless and ample in portion size, the dark meat chicken was super succulent and tender.  The skin was not flabby while the meat was flavourful on its own.  Although the chicken rice was decently flavourful, it could've used a bit more oil.  Furthermore, the rice itself could've been chewier.  Beyond that, this was still delicious and reasonably priced at $12.95.

Another rice dish was the Kari Lembu (Malaysian Curry Brisket) served with steamed white rice. I make this at home quite often, but minus the considerable oil slick.  I realize that the flavour is all in the oil, but maybe a little less would've been nice.  Ate quite greasy.  Now the brisket itself was on the leaner side, yet most pieces were still tender.  The curry itself was mildly spicy with plenty of aromatics.

For our veggies, we decided on the Sambal Green Beans.  We chose mild because not everyone wanted spicy.  Even with that, there was a flavourful amount of spice.  Interestingly, even though we could see the sambal (as well as the dried shrimp within it), the dish was not as impactful as we would've hoped.  Despite that, the beans were perfectly crunchy while cooked all-the-way-through.  There was still good aromatics to the dish though.

For our noodle dishes, we had to get the Char Kuay Teow and it was a generally a good decision.  I would've liked to see more whole pieces of flat rice noodle (many were broken), but the dish was quite good.  As you can see, the caramelization from the wok fry was appealing.  Beyond the colour, the dish had a light smokiness balanced off by equal amounts of sweetness and savouriness.  Mixed into the noodles was shrimp, squid and fish cake.

The other noodle dish was the Singapore Laksa with tofu puffs, prawns, egg, fish cakes and fish balls.  I asked for this to be medium and it did have a flavourful kick.  I would've liked it to be even more briny, but it wasn't bland by any means where the coconut broth was rich and aromatic.  There was plenty of vermicelli noodles as well as sprouts and the other listed ingredients.  Good value at $12.95.  In fact, most items were $12.95 while be well-portioned.  Such a great value especially with increasing prices at most restaurants.  I'll definitely be back.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Inexpensive
- Efficient staff

The Bad:
- Tight seating
- Parking in the area can be hard to find  

The Keg (Burnaby)

I'm sure some of you are wondering why I'm posting on The Keg of all places.  Well I've said it many times over - I don't mind dining at chain restaurants (and apparently the Edmonton Oilers management team too).  I'm certainly no food snob and really, not all of my meals are necessarily a hole-in-the-wall or fine dining.  Sometimes, we just have to hit up the ol' standbys and be content.  This was partly not my decision anyways as my son wanted steak and sorry, we aren't going to Elisa (although I love the place).  So we headed over to our local Keg instead.

Now everyone knows that their Sourdough Bread is pretty good and also the 3-cheese butter that goes with it.  Normally, that butter is a "secret", but apparently, they are serving that by default now (so you don't actually have to ask for it anymore).  Served warm, the bread was soft and lightly chewy inside with a slightly crunchy exterior.  With the melted butter and cheese, we had to be careful not to eat too much of it, so we had enough appetite for dinner.

We started with some appies first including the Spinach & Crab Dip served with tortilla chips.  Don't let the seemingly small amount of dip fool you.  It was actually more than enough for the chips on the plate.  It was cheesy and creamy with enough crab that we noticed it.  Chips were not overly thick and crunchy.  Not the best crab dip I've ever had (that would be the one at the shuttered Coquille), but it was still good.

Next, we went with the classic Tuna Tartare with seasoned ahi tuna and fresh avocado.  Strangely, I always order this but every time I find it underseasoned.  I mean it isn't necessarily a bad thing as I can taste the natural flavours of the fresh tuna, but just a bit more oomph would go a long way with this.  The light and airy crisps were the perfect vessel for the delicate tuna and avocado.

We also had the Scallops and Bacon because my son absolutely loves both scallops and bacon.  Perfect dish right?  Well, this was prepared quite well with slightly crisped up bacon (mostly the edges) and plump buttery scallops wrapped within.  This would've been flawless if the bacon was a bit less fatty, yet that is really hard to control and I'm not pinning it on the restaurant.  Served on the side was some cocktail sauce.

For myself, I had the Iceberg Wedge Salad with tomato, crispy smoked bacon and blue cheese dressing.  As you can clearly see, they didn't hold back with the blue cheese as there was a big chunk on top.  Hence, this made for a very sharp-tasting experience.  If you like blue cheese, this would be more than satisfying.  The iceberg was fresh and crisp while the bacon was crunchy and smoky.

Onto the mains, I went for one of my favs - the 12oz Baseball Top Sirloin prepared medium-rare.  Since the steak is so thick, it can only be ordered medium-rare or rarer.  I found this to be perfect because it was between rare and medium-rare, which is my preference.  Hence, it was juicy and mostly tender.  Being top sirloin, it had a bit more chew.  The nicely charred steak was seasoned properly as well.  I have never been a fan of Keg fries and this didn't change my mind.  I would prefer them to be thicker and much crunchier (these were soggy).

Both Viv & my mom ended up with the 10oz Prime Rib with baked potato, horseradish, au jus and fried onions.  Personally, I would've ordered the 18oz size because I like it thick cut, but they don't have the appetite that I have!  Even though it was fairly thin, the meat was still juicy (despite what the picture shows) and tender.  It was dry-brined enough that the flavours penetrated the meat.  Baked potato was soft and tender with all the fixins'.

My son had his favourite cut being the 12oz Peppercorn New York Striploin with twice-baked potato.  Usually, he just gets the regular striploin, but for some reason, he went peppercorn this time.  Good choice because this meant more flavour with a smoky pepperiness.  The steak itself was thick and prepared perfectly medium-rare.  On the side was the classic twice-baked potato which was crispy on the top and soft in the middle with plenty of bacon bits.

My dad didn't have any red meat and went for his usual fish dish being the Salmon Neptune.  This was actually quite good as the fish was flaky and moist.  We found cream cheese, crab and green onion topping rather rich, but it helped seal the moisture in the salmon as well as providing a firm "sauce" of sorts.  It was served with asparagus and extra veggies in lieu of mashed potatoes.  They were vibrant and barely cooked through.

For dessert, there was no doubt as to what we were ordering for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, the Billy Miner Pie is "the" dessert to have at The Keg.  Secondly, it is complimentary to the birthday person (it was my son's bday).  So here it is, the full Keg experience.  No, it really isn't that fancy, but it is fancy enough that we were happy with the food, price point, ambiance and service.  Not bad for a chain restaurant and since it was packed, other people must have the same opinion too.

The Good:
- Well prepared steaks
- Okay pricing with all things considered
- That sourdough with 3-cheese butter

The Bad:
- Pricing is reasonable, but you will still spend some $$$ there

Breakfast Table

On my search for interesting brunch spots in Vancouver, it has brought me to the Breakfast Table located in South Granville. On a side note, I've always wondered why the area is called South Granville.  I guess it is because it is South of False Creek/Downtown.  But it gets a bit confusing to people who are unfamiliar because it would make sense that South Granville would be located near Marine Drive.  I digress.  So the Breakfast Table has some pretty high ratings across the board including Google, Yelp and Facebook.  With that in mind, our expectations were somewhat high.

There were many things on the menu that caught our eye, but for me, I had to get the Brome Lake Duck Confit atop shiitake XO fried rice with 2 poached eggs and seasonal vegetables.  I enjoyed the duck as it was moist, tender and well-seasoned.  The skin was nicely rendered and prepared crispy.  Underneath, I found the rice to be chewy and perfectly textured.  However, other than the umaminess of the shiitake XO, there was little else to flavour the rice.  This could've used more salt or soy to create impact.  Eggs were perfectly runny while the vegetables were not overdone.

Another interesting item was the Beef Bulgogi Hash featuring kimchi, sauteed mushrooms, spinach, potatoes and Sweet Ass Chili Sauce.  Unfortunately, the hash was far too wet where there was considerable moisture on the bottom of the bowl.  This was probably from the spinach and mushrooms.  As a result, the potatoes were soft and squishy.  This also served to water down the flavours.  On the positive side, the eggs were nicely runny while the beef was tender and full of flavour from the chili sauce.  It had slight spice while nicely sweet.

At first, we thought the potatoes were soft because of the moisture, but they were just as squishy in the Spicy Black Tiger Prawn Benedict.  As for the benedict itself, the poached eggs were once again, appealingly runny.  The English muffins were toasted well and that was a good thing because the saucy prawns and onions on top really softened them up.  Again, the same chili sauce was employed here although it was delicious, the amount of onions (and subsequent moisture) lessened the impact.  Prawns were big and perfectly prepared being meaty with a sweet aromatic snap.  As for the Hollandaise, it had a silky viscosity and was mild-tasting.

Lastly, we tried a mini version of their Gluten-Free Vanilla Bean Waffle.  This was really good and I didn't miss the gluten one bit!  Due to the combination of organic ground millet, brown rice and coconut milk, this was aromatic and of course coconutty.  It was not overly dense and had a nice texture.  This coconut whipped cream added even more coconut flavour and maple syrup was served on the side.  Overall, we thought the food was decent, yet a bit underseasoned in spots (some parts of the dishes were flavourful, when the other parts were not).  There is definitely potential here.

The Good:
- Interesting menu
- Proteins were done right
- Well-portioned

The Bad:
- Good flavours with some things and others were under-seasoned
- Potatoes were squishy (told we could've asked for them to be crispier though)


Wong Ga Ma

Boy, haven't been back to Wong Ga Ma in 8 years!  Even though I really enjoyed that visit, I never returned until now...  Call it the curse of "too many good restaurants to visit" phenomenon.  I guess it is also with regret I ate at some places that were mediocre during that time.  Maybe I do need to dine at some of my favourites more often.  Then I know my money is going towards something guaranteed to be tasty.  I have done that with Mauna Sushi lately, so maybe it is a start of a trend...

Anyways, the menu at Wong Ga Ma is pretty standard with all the usual things like tofu soup, noodles, rice dishes and grilled meats.  However, one has to order at least one soup because they are good!  As such we started with the Bbeodagi-Gamjatang that sported 3 large and meaty pork bones.  This thing was served boiling hot (like it should be) and topped with perilla seeds.  The soup was fantastic being meaty and full of depth with a background spiciness.  Loved the pork bones as the meat melted in my mouth.  It was served with a hot stone bowl of rice that eventually sported a crunchy socarrat.  The trick is to soak it with the soup after you eat the rice.

We also got the Yuk Gae Jang with shredded beef, green onion, bracken, bean sprouts and potato starch noodle.  This was noticeably spicier and due to the use of beef, featured a completely different flavour profile than the gamjatang.  It was not porky and had an almost meatier and robust taste.  As for the beef, it was actually rather tender despite being a little bit dry.  Both the bracken and bean sprouts added a crunch texture to the whole thing while the noodles were slippery and soaked up the broth.  This was also served with a side of hot stone bowl rice.  Best to leave the rice in the stone bowl for a while without touching it to create that socarrat.

To get something noodley, we ordered the Spicy Cold Noodle Soup.  This was a bit clumpier than usual, but I was able to get it to loosen up after some aggressive noodle tossing with my chopsticks.  Texturally, the noodles were on point though being the usual chewiness with a tonne of rebound.  Great mouth feel and the ample amount of spicy sauce kept things sweet with some heat.  Completing the dish was pickled cukes and daikon, half boiled egg and sliced beef shank.

To add even more meat to the meal and to go with the rest of our rice, we got the Kalbi served on a hot cast iron plate.  As much as it arrived sizzling, the short ribs were not exactly caramelized.  Hence, the flavours were not very intense and there was a lack of smokiness.  The ribs themselves were meaty and fatty.  Naturally, some parts were more tender than others, but that is the way short ribs are.

We must not forget the Kimchi that is included with our meals.  It consisted of the usual napa cabbage kimchi as well as daikon radish.  These were pretty solid being packed with flavour and spice.  It was just tangy enough and the textures were appealing.  Loved the crunch of the daikon.  Overall, it was another solid meal at Wong Ga Ma.  Would've liked to see the ribs prepared a bit better, but the soups were the real treat.
The Good:
- Solid eats
- Must get soup!
- Good kimchi

The Bad:
- Not too sure about the ribs

Chakra Indian

I'm very lucky to work in North Delta, where it is close to some of the best Indian food that can be found in the Lower Mainland.  I've had my fair share of good meals along Scott Road where you can never run out of tasty Indian eats (mostly Punjabi cuisine).  Now the same cannot be said about the neighbourhood that I live in.  Ah yes, North Burnaby, not really the hotbed of anything really (maybe some Italian), I am hard-pressed to find good Indian food.  However, we decided to try our luck out at Chakra out on Hastings.  In fact, after my first visit with Milhouse, we were sufficiently satisfied that we brought out more people to sample more dishes.

On our initial visit, we just had to get the standard, being the Butter Chicken.  This was quite good with tender morsels of dark chicken meat.  I realize that tandoori white chicken meat is normally used in this dish, but I really enjoy the dark meat more personally.  The sauce was creamy and rich with just enough tang.  There was also enough sweetness which provided some balance.  We asked for medium spice and there was some background heat.

Trying to get some veggies (sorta), we got the Palak Paneer.  It arrived with a bevy of paneer hidden within the spinach-based curry.  The paneer was soft and squishy just like it should be.  As for the curry, it was creamy and thick with layers of flavour including ginger, garlic and some spice.  I really enjoyed this version from its bright appearance to the flavours and textures.

One dish that we had ordered with both visits was the Lamb Rogan Josh since it was both delicious and full of lamb.  Just look at the picture, you can see the big chunks of tender lamb.  Of course this made this quite hearty and more than enough to share.  Beyond that, the curry itself was a good combination of discernible spices including the nutmeg, slight hint of cinnamon, cumin and cloves.  Of course there are a multitude of spices used in this curry, but these were the most obvious.

Much like the first visit, we needed to add one dish that had veggies in it (trying to give the appearance of being healthier), so we decided on the classic Aloo Gobi.  This featured abnormally large chunks of potato and cauliflower.  As a result, the textures were spot on.  The cauliflower was still firm (although cooked all-the-way-through) while the potato retained its shape (yet it was soft).  There was plenty of spices and flavour including a noticeable hits of onion, ginger and garlic.

Trying to get a variety of proteins, we decided to delve into seafood with the Prawn Vindaloo.  The biggest reason for choosing this is that we got the lamb rogan josh instead of the vindaloo.  Hey, we really wanted the tanginess of the curry.  It was almost a nice interlude between the heavier dishes such as the butter chicken and aforementioned rogan josh.  This featured deshelled prawns that were perfectly prepared being juicy with a rebound texture.

Since we had already tried the butter chicken, we had something different in the Chicken Tikka Masala.  However, the difference between the two wasn't as much as I hoped it to be.  Normally, tikka masala is much more tomato forward than butter chicken.  Although this was the case, I would've preferred it to be stronger in tomato tang.  It was quite creamy, just like the butter chicken.  About the chicken, it was breast meat in this version and it was a bit too dry.

Staying on the same theme of sorts, we had the Shahi Paneer which had similar traits to butter chicken as well.  It was just as creamy and rich, yet with a less tangy slant.  It was a bit sweeter, but to be honest, we didn't notice that much of a difference between that and the butter chicken curry. However, it was a touch less smooth.  The same soft and squishy paneer was in abundance hidden within the curry.

To change things up, we got the Lamb Tikka served on a hot cast iron plate.  This was well-charred where it was nicely smoky.  The marinade did come through with some spice, ginger and garlic notes.  Most of the lamb was tender and almost juicy.  There was the usual gaminess that was muted to a degree by the marinade.  With a squeeze of the lemon, it added acidity and the mint chutney on the side provided brightness and cooling.

In addition to the curries, we had actually grabbed a couple of appies including the Fish Pakora and Vegetable Samosas.  I found the pakoras to have an appealing texture where the batter was crispy and light while the fish was flaky and moist.  I would've liked a bit more discernible spices in the batter, but it didn't make or break the dish.  As for the samosas, they sported a crispy exterior that gave way to a nicely spiced potato and vegetable filling.  Definitely could pick out some spices where there was also a nice kick at the end.  As per usual, it was served with a sweet and tangy tamarind chutney.

Of course we couldn't forget about the carbs including the excellent Garlic Naan.  There was no absence of diced garlic atop the crispy naan that featured a soft interior.  It feature a nice elasticity and the naan itself was delicious even before we used it to soak up the delicious curries.  Overall, the food at Chakra is pretty solid especially considering its location.  North Burnaby is not known for good Punjabi cuisine but Chakra provides that option.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Nice people
- Reasonable pricing

The Bad:
- Super nice people, but service could be more attentive
- Not the nicest dining space, but it is clean

Search this Site