Sherman's Food Adventures: 2023


It was almost exactly one year to the day that I had last dined at Shaburina in Redmond (more like Bellevue).  So why am I blogging about it again?  Also, why did I revisit a restaurant, especially one out-of-town?  Well, we really enjoyed out last visit and just like Mr. BBQ out in Fullerton, we just had to go back.  Featuring all-you-can-eat Shabu Shabu, there are 3 options for dinner: Buffet Bar Only ($30.00), House Course ($39.00) or Premium Course ($55.00).  We went for the mid-priced option (like last time).

Included in the price is your choice of broth including original Kombu, Sukiyaki, Creamy Vegetable, Spicy Miso or the broth of the day (Mala).  I went for the Spicy Miso and yes it did have a kick, especially when it began to cook down.  I would say the spiciness did overshadow the fermented taste of miso.  Viv tried the Mala and it was less spicy and had more of a smokiness.  The kids had the Sukiyaki and Kombu where they were naturally mild compared to the spicy choices.  They weren't too salty which was good.

Similar to many hot pot-like places these days, there is a Sauce bar.  Here, you can create your own signature dipping sauce to compliment your food.  There are many options including Jingisukan, Chef's Special (looked like a sesame soy), Ponzu, Rotating Sauce (looked like a spicy vinegar) Sweet Chili, Goma Tare and various bottled items such as vinegar, sesame oil, sriraccha, chili oil and soy.  Of course, we find things like cilantro, green onion, fried garlic, fresh garlic and chili peppers as well.

Onto the meats, we actually asked for less to start because the last time, we had all 4 options per person and it was a bit too much.  They included Beef Shortplate, Beef Chuck, Pork Shoulder and Pork Belly.  I guess we were hungry this time since we got 6 sets of 4 when we were done.  We loved the shortplate as it was fatty and tender while the pork belly was just as fatty.  Overall, the meats were good.

The Buffet Bar consists of 2 sections including the predominantly vegetable and vegetarian-focused portion.  In addition to leafy greens, potato, tomato, squash and corn, we also find quail's eggs, tofu puffs, wood ear mushrooms, tofu and vegetarian wontons.  Everything here is fresh, well-organized and always refilled.

At the other side of the bar, we find an array of items including imitation crab stick, meatballs, Spam, shrimp, clams, baby octopus, bay scallops and various noodles including instant ramen, udon, mung bean noodles and egg noodles.  I believe this is a rather generous assortment of items that compliment the meats well, especially for the price.

At the end of the meal, we were served a Soft-Serve Ice Cream Cone to go.  Last time, the machine was broken, so we weren't able to try this.  I would say the ice cream was moderately creamy with a strong taste of vanilla.  It was the perfect thing to cool things down from the boiling soup (especially the spicy ones).  Overall, it was a delicious return visit to Shaburina and it won't be our last.  Prices are reasonable for the quality of food while the service is top-notch.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Good quality
- Excellent service

The Bad:
- Even though we got a bigger table this time, it is still a bit tight for space to put your plates, sauces and drinks

Donburi Station

Way back, a few years  before the pandemic, we had tried out Fremont Bowl in Seattle.  Located in the Fremont (hence the name), this lil' Japanese donburi joint offered up large bowls with lots of toppings at a reasonable price.  Furthermore, those toppings were not only plentiful, they were good quality and delicious.  A recipe for success right?  Well, they've opened 2 more locations under the Donburi Station name.  I've been to the one in Bellevue before, but this time around, I'm going to blog about it.

Before we got to the donburis, I decided to get some greens into my meal (even though it was mostly iceberg lettuce).  This happened to be the Seafood Salad topped with ebi, imitation crab meat and masago.  On the side, there was some ginger vinaigrette.  This was a fairly large portion of salad and in fact, quite a bit of creamy imitation crab.  Hence, this ate rather hearty and there was enough ingredients for the lettuce, tomato and cucumber.

For my son, it was without a doubt he would order the Chirashi Don consisting of tuna tataki, Atlantic salmon, unagi, ebi, akami, negitoro and escolar (in lieu of hamachi this time).  As you can see, this was a hearty portion of fresh fish atop a large bowl of sushi rice.  This is no different than the one we've had at Fremont Bowl.  I've had this recently myself back in January and I can attest that it more than enough food for one person.

For myself, I went for something cooked in the Mixed Katsu Donburi with both chicken katsu and tonkatsu. Now one piece of katsu would've been sufficient, but with 2 of them, I was plenty satisfied.  Of course the chicken was more juicy and tender, but the pork was also decently moist.  On the outside, the panko was fried until golden brown and crunchy.  On side, there was some tangy and sweet tonkatsu sauce.

Viv ended up with the Volcano Donburi sporting spicy salmon, spicy imitation crab salad and masago.  Again, they weren't shy with the ingredients.  Hence each bite of chewy sushi rice was evenly balanced by the texture of salmon and imitation crab.  I wouldn't say this was exactly spicy, but with Japanese food, spicy is an accent flavour that doesn't overwhelm a dish.  That it did here with just a slight bite with the sweetness of the other ingredients.

My daughter ordered the Aburi Sake Don with sea salt and yuzu koshu.  This was lightly-torched hence no charring, but then again, there was no "sauce" to caramelize either.  Beyond the initial firmness of the salmon, the inside was buttery and soft.  The whole thing was rather mild-tasting except for the slight tanginess of the yuzu.  As you can see, Donburi Station serves the same favourites as Fremont Bowl, but with much more available parking.  A good spot for lunch if you are in the area.

The Good:
- Generous amount of toppings
- Tasty
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Not the biggest place, so might be packed during peak times

Jinya Ramen Bar (The Amazing Brentwood)

There was a time when I considered Jinya as one of more pricier spots for Ramen in the city.  How times have changed because most places are on par or even more expensive.  I guess the rising prices of food has caught up to Ramen as well.  Initially, we weren't planning on visiting Jinya anytime soon as there are many more other places I'd rather hit up first.  However, we wanted something quick and close by, so off we went to The Amazing Brentwood to hit up their newest location.

Before we got to the ramen, we started off with some appies including 10 pieces of the Crispy Chicken.  These were some ginormous chunks of chicken!  It appeared that most of the pieces were deboned drumsticks.  They were indeed crispy with a uniformly textured exterior that was not greasy.  The meat itself was succulent and juicy.  It was properly marinated and seasoned with garlic pepper but the side of ponzu dipping sauce as well as the slices of lemon added some punch.

We also got the Salmon Poke Tacos as well as the Jinya Bun.  Loved the crispy wonton shells for these small little tacos as they provided a perfect textural contrast to the soft fish.  As for the fish, the salmon was buttery soft and lightly seasoned.  I thought that it could've been more flavourful, but the lime did help the cause.  There was possibly too much onion as it became the dominant flavour.  The bun was quite good being soft and staying so even sitting around for awhile.  The fatty piece of chashu was fatty and tender.

For my choice of ramen, I decided on the Jinya Tonkotsu Original 2010 with pork chashu, spinach, seasoned egg, nori and extra thick noodles. This was a pretty rich broth with a silkiness due to the fat content as well as the collagen.  I found it flavourful with umaminess and a mushroomy finish.  To be honest, I generally do not like overly heavy ramen broths, but this was okay as long as I didn't drink a lot of it.  The noodles were firmly al dente and stayed as such until the last strand.  I found the pork chashu to be fattier than usual and since it was thick-sliced, it was sure not diet food.  Overall, this was still good.

For my son, he went for the Jinya Tonkotsu Black with pork chashu, kikurage, nori, seasoned egg, garlic chips, garlic oil, fried onion and spicy sauce (he opted for no spice though) with thin noodles.  Although his ramen featured pork broth as well, it was lighter with less saltiness than my tonkotsu original 2010.  Now that didn't mean it wasn't flavourful as it is was the beneficiary of the fermented taste of the garlic oil as well as the aromatics from the garlic chips and fried onion.  As with all of our ramen eggs, they were a touch past custardy and were a little light on the marinade.

Going even lighter, my daughter had the Yuzu Shio Delight with a chicken & pork clear broth, pork chashu, green onion, spinach, seasoned egg and nori.  This was fragrant and a bit floral while having only the slightest of meatiness.  For those who don't want the heaviness of a pork broth (especially the Tonkotsu Original), this would be for you.  Served with al dente thin noodles, this also helped keep things from being heavy.  I liked how the yuzu was restrained as it didn't make the broth too citrusy.  I'm not sure if the pork chashu was a good match for this broth.  Maybe chicken would've been better.

My parents also joined us for this meal and they split a Jinya Chicken Ramen with chicken chashu, spinach and fried onion.  I found this to have more body than the Yuzu Shio Delight as it wasn't a clear broth.  However, at the same time, it wasn't nearly as rich and heavy as the pork broth.  The cloudiness of the chicken broth added plenty of body still with natural sweetness.  Naturally, with no fat, the chicken chashu was not as tender as the pork, but it was hardly dry either.

Viv went for the Spicy Chicken Ramen with chicken chashu, spinach, spicy bean sprouts and green onion.  She chose spicy as the heat level and it was definitely that.  It wasn't too spicy so that we could still taste the sweetness of the broth.  Overall, we thought that this visit to Jinya was good and much better than we had expected.  Cost for ramen these days have crept up there, but Jinya has always been expensive, so I guess they are now on par.  With so many choices for ramen in the Lower Mainland, I still wouldn't choose Jinya over places such as Danbo, Hakkaido Ramen Santouka and Maruhachi though.

The Good:
- Decent ramen
- Excellent service
- Modern and spacious

The Bad:
- On the pricier side, but normal now  

M Cafe

Unless you live in Richmond, there seems to be a limited selection of good Hong Kong-Style cafes in the city.  Even with that, I personally believe there aren't enough HK-Style cafes in general and that includes Richmond.  This is especially true where I live, in North Burnaby.  Thankfully, there is a Happy Valley opening up in the ol' Swiss Chalet soon, but otherwise, I have to go all the way to Metrotown to the Boss for HK-style eats.  One other option is to head into Coquitlam and either hit up Copa or M Cafe, which we did this time around.

We've been here before many times, but I decided that an updated post was in order.  Like with all places like M Cafe, there is usually a soup included with most meals.  The choices range from borscht, cream of something and Clam Chowder.  This is what I had and if you've ever had a HK-Style version, you will know that it is less of a chowder and more like a cream of clams and veggies.  I found this just thick enough and loaded with clams and soft veggies.  Flavour was mild and it wasn't briny at all - a good version in the end.

For my main, I had the Dual Steak Combo and selected a chicken steak and a ribeye steak.  This came with crunchy fries, mixed veggies and I went for the black pepper sauce.  This was quite a bit of food where the chicken steak (deboned chicken leg) was juicy and well-seared.  The ribeye was medium-rare as requested and was sufficiently tender.  I found the black pepper sauce to be salty enough and quite peppery.

We had to get the classic Baked Pork Chop Rice.  This is a HK-style cafe staple with fried rice base topped with pork cutlets coated with a crispy breading.  I found the pork chops to be juicy and tender.  As for the tomato sauce on top, it was textbook being only mildly tangy (maybe could've been tangier) with plenty of sweetness.  It was thick enough to coat all the pork chops and some leftover for the rice.

Continuing on with the tour of HK-style cafe staples, we also had the Baked Spaghetti Bolognese topped with melted cheese and served with garlic bread.  For those who aren't familiar, this isn't an Italian bolognese.  Rather, think of a meat sauce with onions and carrots but with the addition of star anise (sometimes) and soy as well as some other Asian ingredients.  The sauce here was a bit tangier than usual, yet still tasty.  The noodles were al dente and overall, this was a solid.

We just had to also include the Baked Seafood Rice which also featured the same fried rice base.  It was topped with a mushroom cream sauce and assorted seafood.  Again, for those who don't know, the cream sauce found at HK-style cafes are mostly starch-thickened milk-based sauces.  With that being said, this was still flavourful and the sauce was just thick enough.  The seafood was not overcooked either.

Going for something more of a Chinese dish, we had the Curry Beef Brisket.  Although this can be found at most Cantonese restaurants, it is also another HK-style cafe staple.  This was served with a plate of rice.  Another solid dish where the pieces of brisket were mostly tender and not dry.  It appeared to be a mix where there was some beef finger meat too.  The curry itself was on the thinner side, yet was still plenty flavourful with only a mild amount of spice.

Another Chinese dish was the Scrambled Eggs and Shrimp on stir fried flat rice noodles.  My son actually wanted this one as scrambled eggs and shrimp is his favourite Chinese dish.  However, when it is served atop rice noodles, it is more of a starch-thickened sauce with egg drop and shrimp in it.  This was good though as the noodles were not mushy nor clumpy while the sauce had plenty of cold-water shrimp and delicate egg swirls.

Our last item was staying on the theme of classic HK-style items with the Clubhouse Sandwich served with fries.  This was stuffed with a fried chicken cutlet, bacon, fried egg, cheese, tomato and lettuce all on crustless toasted white bread.  It was fulfilling and the ingredients were on point where the chicken was juicy and the bacon was crispy.  As you can see, the food at M Cafe is pretty solid and they have all the favourites and then some.  Prices are reasonable for the portion size too.  Don't have to go to Richmond right?

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Fair portion size
- Reasonable prices

The Bad:

- Admittedly, Richmond HK-style cafes are better, but not significantly more

Northern Cafe

I often wonder why some restaurants get all the accolades even though it just seems out-of-place.  Michelin-star restaurant Barbara comes to mind as I never understood why it received its designation despite there being so many other worthy places.  Now we can write a whole post about this (and I did, but never posted about the restaurant), but let's get back to this particular post.  Northern Cafe has been around forever, located above a lumber supply yard.  The place is run-down and let's be honest, it is a dive.  However, there is a certain charm and the prices are quite reasonable.  Oh, and it is had be lauded as one of the best places to eat in the city.

We came here for Breakfast, but they also serve lunch that includes burgers and Canadian Chinese food.  Let's start with the basics being the Pancake Combo.  This was only $12.00 and it included 2 eggs, 2 pancakes and 2 sausages (can be bacon or ham too).  Eggs were perfectly sunny side while the sausages were meaty and not overdone.  Pancakes were a touch on the denser side, but still decent.

We also went for the Corn Beef Hash with peppers, onions, 2 eggs and toast (also a smattering of mac salad).  If you are wondering why the hashbrowns were so dark, we asked for extra crispy.  That it was while the inside was soft and potatoey.  Lots of corned beef too.  Eggs were done easy over and the toast was just right.  This was a bit more at $15.00, but it was quite filling.

Lastly, we tried the Ham Eggs Benny with shredded hashbrowns and also a touch of mac salad.  The eggs were beautifully runny while the amount of ham was generous.  English muffin underneath was toasted well too.  I found the Hollandaise to be rather thin and egg yolky.  May have needed more butter.  The hashbrowns were perfectly crispy.  This was $15.50.  Now I mentioned that the prices were reasonable and that they are, considering the high cost of eating out these days.  However, they aren't dirt cheap either.  With that being said, the food is well-prepared and the people are super nice.  Not sure I would classify this as a must eat in the city, but if you are in the area, it is worth a try just for the novelty and yes, the food is solid too.

The Good:
- Super nice people
- Inexpensive
- Solid eats

The Bad:
- Place is a dive, but I don't mind dives
- Not as cheap as you might think, but still good value

Wally's Burgers

Oh here is a blast from the past - Wally's Burgers.  I remember hitting up the original location on Kingsway near Earles back in the day.  That closed quite awhile back and I had the taste of Wally's again when they opened up a seasonal operation at Cates Park.  The current location in the same complex as the 88 Supermarket opened in 2010 and I did visit it once, but never blogged about it.  This time around, I decided why not, let's do a post!

To get things started, we had the Deep Fried Pickles with a chipotle dip.  These were some pretty large wedges that were juicy and salty-briny.  The breading was crunchy and not greasy while adhering to each wedge until the last bite.  I found the dip to be a good compliment to the salty pickle as it provided spice, cooling creaminess as well as the smokiness from the paprika.

I ended up having the Deluxe Bacon Cheese which probably had far too much romaine lettuce.  If I could redo this order, I would've added an extra patty.  The single within this burger was somewhat lost due to the amount of produce (the tomato was rather thick) as well as the bun.  I actually didn't mind the bun as it was soft (somewhat similar to White Spot), but the diameter of the bun was larger than the patty.  Bacon was nice and crispy while the fresh cut fries were fantastic being crispy and light.

For our other burger, it was much more appealing in the Hot Shot with crispy bacon, melted cheese, sauteed jalapenos, grilled onions and Wally's sauce. Due to the amount of ingredients, including the juicy and tangy jalapenos, this burger ate much more moist.  Furthermore, there was considerably more impact as it also helped there wasn't so much lettuce and tomato to dilute the flavours.

Just for kicks, I also ordered the Deluxe Spicy Chicken Burger which was nothing that memorable.  Once again, the amount of lettuce, onion and tomato watered down any spiciness there was in the first place.  The chicken was crispy, but inside, the meat was a bit dry.  I found the bun to be a little too heavy for the chicken and it was overwhelmed.  Overall, this visit to Wally's was indeed nostalgic, but other than the Hot Shot, the other burgers were "okay".  I guess if you remove the veggies (or get a burger without them) and also add another patty, the burgers would be significantly better.  I did think the patties were well-charred and tasted good.

The Good:
- It has got nostalgia
- Service was very good
- Fries are fantastic

The Bad:
- Combination of bun, the amount of veggies and the smallish burger patty means the actually meat gets lost


Britannia Brewing Ladner

Although there are 2 locations of Britannia Brewing in the Lower Mainland, I've never had a chance to visit either spot.  It finally took the Dine Around Delta to get me out to the Ladner store.  For those who don't know, Dine Around Delta is their version of Dine Out Vancouver.  It is running until March 19th and Britannia Brewing is offering a 3-course meal for only $40.00.  We came out here to try all of the options for that as well as adding in a few extra dishes.

There are 2 choices for appetizers including the Brant Lake Wagyu Beef Carpaccio with Dijon shallot aioli, fried capers, arugula and parmesan.  This was a large portion of thinly-sliced beef that was tender, yet retaining a meatiness.  It tasted great by itself where the creaminess of the aioli provided moisture while the fried capers and parm added saltiness (personally I could've done with even more saltiness though).  Even by itself on the regular menu, it is only $14.00!

The other option was the Beet & Goat Cheese Salad with pickled red and golden beets, whipped goat cheese, pistachio granola, gremolata and extra virgin olive oil.  This was another winner where the beets were tender, earthy and full of tanginess.  There was a considerable amount of creamy goat cheese accented by the gremolata.  To add texture, the crunch from the granola was welcomed.

We added an appie from the regular menu with the KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower) with spicy gochujang sauce, sesame seeds and lime.  Loved how the cauliflower was cooked through without becoming mushy.  The exterior was lightly crispy, but softened by the sauce.  There was just enough of it where it clung onto each piece without being saucy.  It was tangy, spicy and sweet.

Onto the mains, we had a choice of 2 including 1 lbs of Salt Spring Island Mussels in a Adrift blonde ale broth with double-smoked bacon, tomato, garlic, cream and fries.  The mussels were cooked beautifully being plump and tender.  The broth prepared well where the ale had been cooked down enough and the plethora of garlic and bacon added aroma and flavour.  The side of fries were starch-covered and crunchy. 

The other main offered in the Dine Around Delta menu was the Red Wine Braised Lamb Shank atop Mediterranean pearl barley, winter carrots and rosemary & garlic jus.  That lamb shank was perfectly braised where it fell off the bone.  Gelatinous and moist, the lamb was not too gamy.  At first, I thought it could've used more salt, but the olives and tomatoes in the barley helped add bursts of flavour.  Loved the roasted carrots as they were crunchy with a smoky char.

We added the Truffle Mushroom Fettuccine from the main menu just for kicks and it was a good decision.  First of all, the pasta was perfectly al dente.  Secondly, there was enough crimini and portobello mushrooms for woodiness as well as texture.  Lastly, there was the right amount of cream to cling onto each noodle without being too saucy.  The amount of truffle oil was restrained, which was a good thing.

Onto dessert, we were given 2 choices including Cinnamon Sugar Churros (with chocolate ganache) and Sticky Toffee Pudding with caramel sauce.  The 2 churros were crunchy and naturally sweet due to the dusting of sugar.  We found the sticky toffee pudding to be surprisingly not too sweet.  That is what we prefer as most versions are far too sweet.  This one had nice smoky sweetness while being moist.

Of course we couldn't forget the drinks where we had a Flight consisting of Peach Witbier, Adrift Blonde Ale, Amber Lager and Stout.  Really loved the stout as it was smoky with a coffee caramel finish.  For our cocktail, we tried the Westham Sour consisting of Empress gin, egg white, lemon juice and cranberry bitters.  Naturally, this was fruity and light.  It went down really smooth even though it was a sour.  So overall, this was a solid meal and considering the reasonable prices, it is somewhat of a rarity these days with such high food costs.  I would definitely come back.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

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

The Bad:
- Some dishes could use more salt  

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