Sherman's Food Adventures: January 2024

Hải Phòng

Here is another ol' favourite of mine that I just really haven't gotten a chance to revisit as of late.  I've been to Hải Phòng on Kingsway many times over the years.  Whether it be with the family or with friends, it was a dependable spot for Vietnamese fare.  Well, things have changed as the next generation has taken over and there have been some subtle renovations to the dining space.  Well, there have been some changes to the menu as well, hence, we were invited to try a wide range of dishes.

Before we get to the sexier items, there is nothing wrong with the classics.  We had the Spring Rolls first and yes, this was prepared with wheat wrapper rather than rice paper.  However, it is really personal choice as to which wrapper is used.  These were really good with an almost fluffy texture beyond the initial light crunch from the exterior side of the wrapper.  The filling was airy, but not crumbly.  It was sweet and had the unmistakable brininess of fish sauce.

One of the more interesting dishes of the meal was the Lotus Salad with lotus rootlets, carrots, shrimp, pork, fried onions cilantro and peanuts with fish sauce.  Without looking at the menu description, I was expecting the usual lotus root slices, but being rootlets, it was a totally different experience.  I really enjoyed the crunch and juiciness of salad as well as the ample amount of meat (who doesn't like meat in their salad???).  Add in the fish sauce, then there was also the usual sweet salty brininess that helped whet our appetites.

Whenever we have a chance to order wings, we do so!  Thus, we got the Garlic Butter Chicken Wings served with lemon pepper dip.  This was a large portion and a great value especially for only $11.95.  Not only that, the wings were also very good!  Beyond the crispy batter we found juicy and moist meat inside.  The quick toss in garlic butter made things rather aromatic and of course buttery.  The aggressive amount of black pepper added much more bite to the dip.

So one of my favourite items was actually a last minute add on to our order.  The Chinese Sausage Omelette was exactly like its description.  It was scrambled egg and sliced Chinese sausage with some white onion and green onion.  As simple as this was, it was super delicious and aromatic.  Naturally, the fats from the sausage as well as the copious amount of oil used to fry this up in the hot wok created lots of umaminess and crispy textures.

For some reason or another, I've had a few versions of Banh Khot lately.  Whether it be from Banh Mi Tres Bon or Pho 101, there has been big differences between them.  The one here at Hải Phòng was much more robust with lots of coconut milk creaminess and density.  It was aromatic and featured a firmly crunchy bottom shell.  It was also sweeter and had more seasoning in general.  Nice large half shrimp on top.

I guess we couldn't ignore the more classic soup noodles such as the Phở Dặc Biệt and the Bún Riêu.  I found the pho broth to be fairly meaty, yet with a clean taste.  It wasn't salty per se, but it did have enough flavour.  Noodles were al dente while the meats were plentiful.  As for the Bún Riêu, it also had a clean and sweet flavour.  I actually prefer this one over the popular one at Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen since it wasn't as "porky".

Staying with the theme of soup, we had the majestically served Vietnamese Hot & Sour Soup.  Loaded with prawns, fresh pineapple, bean sprouts, tomato, okra, taro stem and topped with fried garlic and herbs, this was a meal in itself.  The tamarind broth was pleasantly sour and sweet.  It also had a balanced spiciness that made for a wealth of flavours.  This was one of my favourite dishes of the meal.

Initially, I was a bit apprehensive with the Vietnamese-Style Beef Sashimi as it didn't appear to be very tender.  However, I was very wrong about this.  The beef was buttery soft while the dressing did the heavy lifting.  It had sweetness, acidity, saltiness and aromatics.  As much as there seemed to be a really unbalanced ratio of meat-to-sauce, it really wasn't.  Every piece of beef was completely seasoned.

Back to something more standard in the Lemongrass Chicken & Pork Chop with fried egg on rice.  As you can see, this was a very generous portion of food with beautifully charred meats.  Hence, there was a certain smokiness and caramelization going on.  Yet, the meats were still tender and succulent.  They were also marinated well with flavours throughout.  Broken rice was great too being chewy and slightly dry.

Another super delicious item we had was something that was off-menu.  Sure, they had the Vermicelli Sheets with various proteins, but not the beef short rib.  However, I assure, you, this can be ordered regardless.  These sheets were made from vermicelli noodles, which were texturally appealing.  Fluffy and slightly chewy, the noodles complimented the caramelized short rib in the lettuce wraps were constructed.  Fun and delicious dish!

As if we hadn't already experienced some bold and mouth-watering flavours already, we then got to try the Vietnamese Braised Pork & Fish.  This was also a custom dish as both proteins are usually separate, but we combined both for this one.  Oh man, the intense caramelization of the sauce created rich sweetness complimented by intense savouriness.  This was so good with white rice!  The pork was super tender with some appealing firmer parts while the fish was cooked through but still delicate.

Now here was the dish we were waiting for - the Tamarind Crab!  Yes, this live crab was cooked to perfection while tossed in a sweet and tangy sauce.  I've never had crab prepared this way before and I wish I did sooner!  Such intense flavours that we normally do not get in Cantonese prepared crab.  So in general, this meal reintroduced me to the classics, yet at the same time, exposed me to some dishes I've yet to try.  They were so appealing and full of flavour.  Will need to come back sooner than later.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Has all of the usual dishes but also many unique ones you don't normally see
- Intense flavours
- Reasonably-priced

The Bad:
- Not a fan of that parking lot as it can get pretty full

Paella Guys: Live the Experience (Dine Out 2024)

With memories of their Paella cooking class still fresh in mind, I was looking forward to the Paella Guys Live the Experience as part of the Dine Out Vancouver Fest.  Rather than being in their commissary kitchen, they take over a quaint spot at Dageraad Brewing just next door.  Seated at a communal table, it is a night truly to be with friends and to make new ones.  This I did since Jackie was stuck at Metrotown due to a shutdown of Skytrain.  The people around me were fun and we had great conversation.

Onto the food, much like the Paella cooking class, we were presented with a collection of tapas to share.  This included Marcona Almonds, Tortilla de Patatas, Anchovy Marinated Olives, Spanish Iberico Meats and Jamon Iberico.  These were a nice start to the meal and as I've said before, Marcona almonds are the best!  So light and crunchy.  Meats were solid but the tortilla was my favourite as it had just enough potato to compliment the fluffy egg as well as some onion for sweetness.

Now the tortilla was delicious, but the Empanada Gallega de Atun was even better in my opinion.  These little pies featured a light and flaky crust that was a good match for the tuna filling.  With olives, tomatoes and peppers, the filling did have some antipasto sauce vibes (yes, I know that is Italian, but you get the idea).  For my beverage (extra cost from the meal) was the Japanese-style Dark Larger with wild rice.  Despite the dark hue, this was still refreshing and crisp with more depth.

Usually, I'm as excited about a salad as a root canal (I've had one, so yah, I'm serious).  However, this Ensalada Mediterranea was absolutely stunning to look at and super delicious to eat.  When they were preparing it, they tossed in a good amount of salt.  This really helped bring out the flavour of the vinaigrette as well as the natural sweetness of the beets, tomatoes and corn.  As such, I went back for seconds!  A salad!  Beneath the vibrant veggies, we found a mix of crisp greens.

Onto the main event - the Paella Mixta with bomba rice, chicken, red peppers, mushrooms, onions, shrimp, prawns, tomatoes, garlic, pimenton and house-made seafood stock.  As big as this paella was, the entire thing was perfectly cooked.  Beyond the al dente and super aromatic rice, we found pieces of socarrat that was both nutty and provided a nice mouth feel.  The chicken thighs were still tender while the shrimp and prawns were just barely cooked through.

For dessert, we had the Tarta de Santiago.  I've had this before and yah, this was just as delicious as last time.  This almond tart had aromatic and buttery crunchy edges with caramelized sweetness.  Inside, the almond was nutty, buttery and purposefully sweet.  Loved the obvious taste of lemon in these as it brightened things up.  Overall, this was a fun night that was more than just the food.  Yes, it was fantastic (and also plentiful, because you can have seconds), but the communal table, live music and vibe were the things that made this a unique experience.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- This is how we should eat this food, with friends, music and drinks
- Excellently-prepared Paella
- Unique

The Bad:
- Once again, the parking situation in the industrial parking lot is challenging

Roadside Spicy Pot

Saying things are expensive right now would be an understatement.  From consumer goods to food, inflation has hit prices hard.  Sure, some things are coming back down, but as a whole, our dollar doesn't stretch very far.  I've highlighted some of the best values in town recently, yet here is another in Roadside Spicy Pot.  Normally, hot pot can be an expensive night out since you have to pay for the broth and then to be completely full, you will have to order lots of dishes.  Well, at Roadside, they have some reasonable pricing but also some killer deals as well.

One of best values are their 59 Cent Skewer specials.  Like really, you could just get full on these skewers alone, but I would urge you to try their other selections too.  Now there are a few skewers that cost a bit more like shrimp and chicken wings which are $1.00 yet the majority of them are really only 59 cents!!!  They are kept in a refrigerated display where you can choose yourself.  As you can see, we got quite a few and my favourites were beef tripe, beef tendon, duck tongue, fried gluten and spicy beef.

Another one of their crazy specials is the $2.99 Half-Lobster Tails.  Sure, they aren't very big, however, they are freakin' lobster tails!  Some of the regular priced Seafood Dishes we had was the fish slices, scallops (complete with the mantle) and squid tentacles.  As you can see in the picture, things were well-portioned and appealing.  As for the broth, we had one that was the Classic Spicy and the other was Tomato.  Although I love spicy, the tomato was really good too as it had plenty of natural flavour that helped elevate each ingredient.

Now looking at the picture of our spread, we also had quite a few meat items including their 4th Anniversary Promotion $1.99 American Wagyu Beef.  Just like the skewers and the lobster tails, this is a fantastic deal.  It is a full plate of the Wagyu Beef, not per piece!  We also got some sliced lamb, fatty beef and also some pork jowl.  Also you can see we really loaded up on the skewers.  Anyone could do that affordably.

Sure, these are the same skewers in the previous picture, but I want to highlight the spicy dishes (cooked) that we also tried.  They included Sweet Potato Noodle, Spicy Tender Beef, Spicy Clams and Spicy Beef Tripe.  Naturally, these all had a similar flavour profile being spicy, a touch smoky and earthy.  My favourite was the tripe as I just enjoy the chewiness.  Clams were also good as they were buttery and briny.  Beef was tender and soaked up the spice really well.  The noodles were slippery with a chew and also took on the flavours.  We were also served some spicy oil dip and also the spice rub.  Both really helped elevate the already tasty boiled items from the hot pot.

For dessert, we were served the Brown Sugar Rice Cakes and oh boy, were they super delicious!  Beyond the crispy exterior, we got a soft and sticky inside that had a great mouth-feel.  As much as there was a brown sugar drizzle on the outside, it was balanced in terms of sweetness.  Really enjoyed this dessert and in fact, the entire meal was excellent.  Add in the fact that they offer up some pretty good specials, it isn't expensive eating here.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Reasonable pricing
- Ingredient quality is solid
- Love the decor

The Bad:
- They are going for the street food decor, but the seats are not great to use for an extended period of time

Liuyishou Hot Pot (Burnaby)

Haven't been out to the Burnaby location of Liuyishou in a few years I believe.  But really, I should be coming here more often because it is not only not too far from where I live, it is also one of my go-to spots for hot pot in the city.  I classify Liuyishou as one of the more premium hot pot establishments, yet at the same time, they are reasonably-priced given the quality of their food as well as the presentation.  Their sauce bar is also quite good with many options and little bites.

This time around, I was invited to try some new items as well as the classics.  Of course I have to talk about the Sauce Bar first because that is a big part of the hot pot experience.  There are all the essentials there including garlic, cilantro, green onion, chilis, soy, vinegar, sesame oil and the sort.  Other than that, the snacks and fruit were quite good too.  We found spicy daikon, pickled veggies, honeydew, oranges, seaweed and braised duck necks.

Onto some cooked appies, we had the Deep Fried Chicken Wings as well as the Grilled Lamb Skewers.  Gotta say those mid-wings were gigantic and also succulent inside.  They were juicy and well-marinated while the skin was completely rendered and crispy.  As for the lamb, the cubes of meat were also tender and moist with hints of cumin and spice.  Talking about spice, there was some of that on the side that added some heat to both proteins.

So we had a few more things that were cooked including the Deep Fried Dragon Beard (Pork), which was majestically presented on a hook.  This was super crispy while not greasy.  The meat was fairly moist with enough seasoning.  However, the spice rub at the bottom of the plate added that extra bit of impact.  Served in its own golden egg, the Deep Fried Eggs were delicious on its own being crispy and fluffy.  However, it was also great being dunked into the hot broth as it took on some awesome flavours.

On the topic of broth, we had their signature Liu's House Special Soup Base (aka Spicy Fatty Cow Tallow Broth) as well as their new Golden Chicken Soup that came with a plate of bone-in chicken.  As expected, the spicy broth had some serious heat and real depth while the chicken broth was mild and sweet.  As you can see, we were also served the Liu's Beef & Lamb Platter (that neatly fit around the hot pot) along with Shrimp, Snakehead Fish Fillet, Fresh Meatballs, Tofu Skin Rolls and Fresh Noodles.

So we can't forget about the Deluxe Aged Beef Platter (aka Wheel of Meat) that just looked plain cool at the table.  Yes, the meat was sliced thin and was buttery soft when dunked into the hot broth for only a few seconds.  For dessert (other than the fruit at the sauce bar), we were served some Golden Durian and Custard Balls. My favourite was the durian as it was pungent enough without being overly so.  They were also not too sweet.  Nice and crispy outside!  Overall, this was predictably a solid visit to Liuyishou.  The classics were the same while the new things we tried, such as the chicken broth, dragon beard and fried eggs were delicious.  They even not have an AYCE option.  Need to come back soon!

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Consistent food quality
- If you like aesthetics, they got that down pat
- Reasonably-priced IMO

The Bad:
- The platter around the hot pot is cool and practical in terms of meat to hot pot vicinity, but the heat actually cooks the meat while it sits there

Shoku Van

As exemplified in my Okeya Kyujiro post, high-end Omakase prices in Vancity are $300+ these days.  Depending on what you value most, this could be highly worth the cost or insanity.  Well, I'm not here to argue that point.  Rather, I'm here to provide a more cost-effective option with Shoku Van.  Their Dinner Kaiseki is only $58.00 per person and I feel it was enough food for me to be fully satisfied.  This location of Shoku is located in the former Raga and directly across the street from Toys R Us.

Instead of courses, the menu lists "5 steps" and that immediately brought back memories of NKOTB.  So Step 1 (We can have lots of fun) consisted of Spring Mix with apple dressing, Chawanmushi and Tempura.  Salad was fresh and the dressing was lightly sweet with some acidity.  Tempura was excellent with a thin crispy batter.  Silky without too much excess moisture, the chawanmushi was sweet and aromatic.

Moving onto Step 2 (There's so much we can do!), we found Sashimi (Salmon, Hamachi & Madai), Nigiri (Aburi Kia, Bluefin Tuna & Jumbo Prawn), Atemaki and Miso Soup.  In general, this was a solid collection of items where the fish was fresh and had a clean, pleasant taste.  I was surprised with the addition of bluefin akami.  Sure, it is the leanest cut, but still it was buttery and sweet. Of note, the hamachi was lighter in colour, which is generally an indication it is the farmed version.  That didn't matter to me though as it still ate well.

So Step 3 (It's just you & me) was the most filling course with Hire Katsu, Garlic Butter Prawn, King Oyster Mushroom, Grilled Pork Belly, Grilled Unagi and Grilled Scallop with assorted vegetable. There was also a variety of condiments on the side to build your own lettuce wrap.  Again, this was a solid collection of food where the katsu was crispy and the scallop was buttery.  Some things could've used a more aggressive sear though.

From here we got to Step 4 (I can give you more) where we found the Ichiban Dashi Vegetarian Udon.  I found this to be pretty standard with a light broth that had the usual savoury and sweet elements with a touch of umaminess.  The noodles were not overdone while the temperature of the broth was still fairly hot.  To complete the bowl, we found inari strips,  shungiku and narutomaki.

Last but not least, we had Step 5 (Don't you know that the time has arrived?) with 2 scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream.  I found the ice cream to be a little on the icier side, but still creamy.  This was a nice portion size to finish off a pleasant meal.  Naturally, we can't compare this to some of the more premium Omakase spots in town, but if we look at it for what it is, the Premium Kaiseki at Shoku is a good value.  Food quality is definitely more than acceptable and makes for an affordable multi-course meal.

*All food and beverages were complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Good food quality for the price
- About that price, it is completely reasonable
- Nice people

The Bad:
- May not meet the needs of some people wanting a more elevated experience, but really, consider the price...

Kamei on Broadway (Dine Out 2024)

A year ago, I was reintroduced to an ol' favourite in Kamei on Broadway.  I've had so many memories at this location especially from my childhood.  Hey, they were the only game in town when it came to Japanese food!  Well, this time around, Jackie was invited to try their Dine Out menu and she asked me to tag along.  Hey, I wasn't going to say no because I enjoyed my last meal there.  Also, Jackie is really cool and fun to be around (maybe she reads this and she gets me to tag along more often! LOL).

Anyways, their Dine Out 2024 menu will set you back only $48.00 and includes a Miso Soup to start and a choice of appetizer including the Karaage Taster featuring Chikuwa Cheese, Chicken Karaage and Vegetable Croquette.  As you can see, this was quite the dish of food.  I found the karaage quite good since the chicken was juicy and the batter was light and crispy.  The chikuwa cheese was pretty typical, but had plenty of melty cheese inside.  The croquette was soft and creamy with a crunchy panko batter.

Another appie option is the Sashimi Plate with one piece each of salmon, tuna, hamachi and hokkigai.  This was good where all the pieces had a nice sheen with an essence from the sea.  As for the other choice, it was the Aburi Salmon Inferno.  Essentially bite-sized aburi salmon oshi (minus the mayo) with some tobiko on top, this was very tasty.  Aside from the visuals, the salmon was torched nicely being smoky while buttery.

Onto the mains, we also had 3 choices including the Meat Lover's Trio sporting beef short ribs, chicken teriyaki and pork belly chashu on top of rice in a hot stone bowl.  Oh this was a good amount of food as there was 2 pieces of each type of meat.  About that meat, the short rib was nicely grilled and marinated while the chicken was moist and tender.  Pork chashu was fatty and buttery as well.  The sauce had plenty of umaminess and saltiness to season the rice.

Possibly the best value of the 3 choices is the Alaskan Sablefish with rice and seasonal vegetables.  We all know expensive this type of fish can be and the fact they include 2 large pieces makes this a steal for the price.  We found the fish to be flaky and super buttery.  It was supremely fresh and lightly seasoned.  There was some miso sauce on the plate to help provide more impact.  Veggies were cooked just right being still crunchy.

Now the third option is no slouch either in that Uni Cream Miso Udon with grilled black tiger prawns.  This was definitely luxurious due to the creaminess of the sauce as well as the addition of an onsen egg and a dollop of uni.  I found the onions provided a complimentary sweetness while the pops of bininess from ikura added seafoodiness.  The udon was tender but still had a chew.  Prawns were large and meaty.

Providing 2 very different dessert options, we have the Mochi Ice and the Oreo Cheesecake.  For me, I love fruity things so the mango ice was a nice finish to a fantastic meal.  The warm mochi helped melt the ice a bit (made it somewhat of a drink) while keeping a soft and pillowy texture.  There was a some ice cream and red bean for some extra sweetness.  As for the cheesecake, it wasn't as heavy as it appeared and wasn't as sweet either.  So as you can see, the Dine Out menu at Kamei won't leave you hungry as the portion sizes are substantial.  Beyond that, the food is well-prepared and flavourful.

*All food was complimentary for this blog post*

The Good:
- Large portions
- Tasty dishes
- Well-priced

The Bad:
- As mentioned in my previous post, the place could use a refresh

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