Sherman's Food Adventures: March 2024

Salumeria Enoteca Lombardi

Having arrived in Florence and just barely meeting our Airbnb host in time, we made our way to the Mercato Centrale for some lunch.  We settled on Salumeria Enoteca Lombardi due in part that we weren't super hungry but knew we had to eat. Okay, we were well-aware that is is a tourist trap.  You can see it from far away, as it is located right at the market entrance and there are more tourists dining there than locals.  However, upstairs was unbearably hot and completely packed.  Since we love meat and cheese, we just went for it.

We ended up with the Salumi e Formaggi Platter for 4 people at 50 Euros.  Was it pricey?  Sure it was, but again, we knew what we were getting into.  This consisted of prosciutto toscano, sopprasata, salami, toscano, bresoala, pancetta, provolone, olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes and a side of bread.  This was a good amount of sliced meats and they were more or less good.  Being Tuscan prosciutto, it was definitely salty, but had some more complex flavours.

On the side, we found EVOO as well as Aged Balsamic for the bread and to compliment the meats and cheeses.  Sure, these may not seem important, but for some of the saltier meats, the balsamic provides some balance.  As for the EVOO, definitely great to drizzle on the bread for both aroma and moisture.  So yes, we could've been more creative with our lunch spot, but ultimately, the meats and cheeses did the trick.  Sometimes simple works best and in this case, it was better than being in the sauna upstairs.

The Good:
- Located downstairs and is less hot than upstairs (during the Summer)
- Meats & cheeses were more than acceptable
- Divided amongst 4 people, it really wasn't that expensive

The Bad:
- If you are hungrier and need more food, then this isn't the place

Kosoo Cardero

Okay, here is the trifecta of Kosoos with the original location out on Cardero off Robson.  I've been here before a long time ago, so it was a good time to see what they are doing lately.  Jackie and I were here specifically to try their new menu items featuring a quad of big share dishes.  Unlike their other 2 locations, the original Kosoo focuses on more typical Korean dishes whereas the one in Coquitlam is a BBQ and the one in Chinatown is a "pocha".  No, it isn't a food stall, but it serves that type of food.

Before we got to the featured dishes, we began with a classic in the Tuna Kimbap.  With all the rage these days with the viral Trader Joe's "can't find" version and also Attorney Woo Young-Woo's favourite food, Kimbap is a very popular dish.  I'm happy to report this one here is very good.  Boasting a huge clump of tuna, and being rolled not too tightly, this ate almost fluffy, yet with a certain firmness.  The rice as chewy, yet not dense while the veggies were fresh with a slight crunch.

So another Korean restaurant staple is the BBQ Galbi and we always seem to get it.  Must be the fatty tender texture and caramelized sweetness?  Well, this particular plate happened to be all of the above where the meat was indeed fatty and succulent.  Was really good wrapped in the provided lettuce with peppers and bean paste.  I thought the marinade on the meat was aggressive, but it just stayed on the right side of sweet.

When the Crab Fish Cake Tang hit the table, it was immediately impressive just to look at.  It was chock-full of fish cakes, radish, cabbage, shrimp, mussels, mushroom, flower crab and jalapeno.  So you could imagine that the broth was super sweet and full of depth.  That it was, benefiting from the crab juices too.  Honestly, that was the purpose of the crab as trying to eat any of the meat was a challenge.  However, the fish cakes were delicious and had good mouth feel.

So the previous dish is part of their new menu that features 4 shareable items including the Cream Cheese Dakgalbi.  This consisted of chicken, prawn, mussel, onion, green onion and rice cakes in a special cream sauce.  I found this rather heavy and thankfully most of the ingredients were seafood and cabbage.  Naturally, being a share dish, you would only be eating a portion of it.  Would go well with some form of plain noodle in my opinion.  Definitely creamy and the seafood was perfectly cooked.

Going in the opposite direction, we had the Spicy Treasure Chicken with cheese, onion, green onion, cabbage and rice cake in a red pepper paste sauce. Like the previous 2 dishes, this was really large and could easily feed 3, maybe 4 people (with some rice).  The overall flavour profile was sweet and spicy with plenty of garlickiness.  There was wealth of tender chicken that was complimented by the onions and melted cheese.

Last one of these was the Cheese Bean Sprout Jeyuk Bokkeum.  Also in a spicy red pepper paste sauce, we found tender slices of pork belly mixed with cabbage and onions topped with melted cheese.  Lots of crunchy bean sprouts inhabited the centre of the cast iron pan.  Despite being pork, I found this one less heavy than both the creamy seafood and the spicy chicken.  This was possibly due to the large amount of sprouts in the dish.

Last dish was the Truffle Japchae which was extremely earthy.  They didn't skimp with the truffle sauce and that showed in terms of taste and smell.  The noodles were chewy and were not clumpy.  The meatballs on the side were fairly tender and meaty.  In general, the 4 new menu items we tried were very large in size and should be shared by a group of 4 or more.  I would find it hard to eat even a 1/4 of the dishes because that would be rather monotonous.  Maybe order a few or all of them and share amongst a big group.

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

The Good:
- New menu items are large and stuffed with ingredients
- Pricing is fair considering the portion size
- Love the vibe at night

The Bad:
- New dishes (other than the Tang) are quite heavy, need to share with a larger group, otherwise, it will become monotonous

Old Xian's Food (North Road)

If you've ever seen those viral Biang Biang noodles before, you would know that the best place to get them is Old Xian's Food.  I originally tried out their Kingsway location many moons ago.  It has been quite some time that I haven't been back.  So much so, they've expanded to 3 locations with one in Richmond and the newest, out in Coquitlam on North Road.  Too bad it is in the same plaza as Sushi California, because we all know that parking is a real issue.

No matter, we arrived early and snagged one of those precious parking spots.  We already had a game plan as to what to order, but somehow we got 2 of nearly the same noodle with the Xian's Cold Noodles and the Sesame Sauce Noodles.  Yep, the only real difference here is the addition of sesame sauce (and of course less spicy stuff on top).  Hence, the white noodles, cucumber, sprouts, bran dough and the base sauce (vinegar, soy, sugar, chili oil) were all the same.  I enjoyed both of them as the crunch from the veggies contrasted well with the slippery noodles.  Balanced combination of flavours and with the sesame sauce added, that bowl was less spicy and a bit creamy and nutty.

Here we go with the Biang Biang Noodles!  This one was served with a Tomato Eggs and Soybean Pork.  These wide sheets of noodles not only look grand, the texture was so appealing.  So much chewiness and elasticity made for great mouth feel and eating enjoyment.  I found that the soybean pork sauce was more dominant with a meaty umaminess.  However, the texture of the tomato egg did come though intermittently.

Sticking with the Biang Biang noodles, we got the Cumin Beef Fried Noodles.  Being stir-fried, the texture of the noodles tightened-up and hence were chewier with even more elasticity.  They were definitely less clumpy due to being wok-tossed in oil and the accompanying ingredients.  In terms of flavour, there was predictably caramelization and infused flavours.  Due to the use of cumin, the dish was earthy and definitely had more aroma.

Since this is Northern Chinese cuisine, cumin is a common ingredient and it was evident in the Cumin Beef Burger.  Now this can be made with lamb too, but we chose beef for this one.  Interesting they used raw green peppers here.  I've seen it without peppers and also with cooked peppers.  My preference would be with cooked as raw is pretty powerful.  The beef in this was tender and fully spiced.  Now we did up getting the Cumin Lamb to make up for the lack of it in the previous dish.  With the cooked green peppers, there was more continuity with the flavours.  The aromatics from the peppers and onions added plenty of complimentary sweetness to the earthy cumin.  There was also good caramelization of the spices added some heat.

Possibly the best dish of the meal was not a noodle dish, rather, it was the Pickled Blackfish.  This was an individual order that also came with a bowl of rice.  This was so delicious with the tang from the mustard greens and some spice from the chilis.  Best of all, the sliced fish was so delicate and flaky.  I think this was one of the better versions I've had in town.  This was such a huge portion, one person may have difficulty finishing it!

Something that is not commonly found in the GVRD is Northern-Style Sweet & Sour Pork.  This version features thinly sliced flat pieces of pork coated in a light crispy batter (akin to Korean-Style).  This one did indeed feature a light batter and the pork was lean, yet still tender.  I found the sauce to be more sweet than sour being quite mild.  The viscosity was bang on being thick but not goopy.  Overall, not bad, but could've used more tang.

Lastly, we had the Hot & Sour Soup which did not contain any pork or shrimp.  That didn't matter as this was still robust due to the generous amount of ingredients.  Lots of crunch from the wood ear and bamboo shoots as well as silkiness from the egg and tofu.  The broth itself was the right thickness to coat a spoon but be drinkable.  Lots of vinegariness and spice.  Overall, this meal at Old Xian met our expectations.  It is a great place to grab hand-made noodles (especially the biang biang) and other complimentary dishes.

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

The Good:
- Love the hand-made noodles especially the biang biang
- Excellent pickled mustard greens and fish
- Reasonably-priced for what you get

The Bad:
- That parking lot  

Kokoro Mazesoba (Ironwood)

Okay, I've been to Kokoro Mazesoba on a few occasions, starting with their Downtown location.  Then I made it out to their Burnaby spot afterwards.  For those who don't know, they specialize in mixed noodles with a variety of toppings.  There is no soup with this and once you are finished, you can get a bowl of rice to soak up the remaining sauce and ingredients.  Jackie and I visited the new Ironwood location in Richmond recently and we did a good overview of the menu.

To begin, let me talk about their drinks first.  We had the Blue Hawaii Lemonade, Strawberry Iced Latte, Kokoro Grape Refresher and Japanese Crown Melon Milk.  These were all non-alcoholic and fruity.  I found the lemonade and refresher to be the refreshing as it helped us eat more food.  The strawberry iced latte was sweet and milky while the crown melon was also milky and mildly sweet.  It was the most aromatic of the bunch.

So with the appies, we got them all including the 10 pc Pork Gyoza and Takoyaki.  Served in the cast iron pan it was prepared in (maybe not this particular one because it is upside down), the gyoza were nicely seared with a crispy skirt.  Dumpling wrapper was fairly thin and had good elasticity.  Inside, the pork filling was juicy and tender.  As for the takoyaki, it was pretty typical with a slightly crispy exterior giving way to a soft interior with bits of chewy octopus.

We also got the Ebi Mayo as well as the Karaage Bao.  I enjoyed their ebi mayo as the shrimp were quite large and prepared properly.  They were lightly battered and fried until crispy.  The shrimp were meaty and not overdone either.  The best part was that the coating of sweet mayo was not overdone, so enough for flavour and moisture without a gross amount.  So the steamed bun was filled with 2 large pieces of crispy chicken karaage.  The meat was juicy and seasoned but the spicy glaze and chili mayo added some more impact.

On the topic of karaage, we got both the Spicy Chicken Karaage and the Chicken Karaage.  Well, the spicy karaage was coated with far more glaze than the one found in the bao, so it was much spicier and of course saucier.  Chicken was the same as expected.  For the regular chicken karaage, the batter was predictably more crispy due to the lack of sauce on the outside.  The chicken was still juicy, but less flavourful.  However the side of chili mayo did help with things.

Getting to their specialty, we did a comprehensive overview starting with one of their basic bowls in the Shio.  This featured their made-fresh daily multi-grain soba topped with slow-braised pork chashu, bamboo shoots, nori, spinach, minced garlic, ground saba, green onion and sesame.  Due to the amount of green onion, that was the dominant texture and flavour.  Hence, the bowl was green-tasting and "fresh".  The noodles were chewy while the pork was super soft and tender.  Amping up things, the Zenbu consisted of the same ingredients except adding minced pork & beef, egg yolk, half soft-boiled egg, chives and nori sheets.  This was much more fulfilling in terms of meatiness and silkiness.  The minced meat and egg yolk coated the noodles creating both texture and flavour.    For me, this is my personal favourite whenever I dine at Kokoro Mazesoba.

Onto two very different bowls from the previous ones, we had the Carbonara and the Mentaiko Cream.  With the carbonara, I personally do not think the red onion is necessary (and you can omit this if you want) because it is so strong that it overwhelms the delicate flavours.  So with me picking out the onion, the carbonara was quite tasty.  Creamy and cheesy while having chewy noodles and the tender chashu.  As for the mentaiko, it was similar to the shio except with the addition of fish eggs and egg yolk.  This of course made this silky and briny.

Next we moved onto the Salmon Mazesoba and the Chicken Karaage Rice Bowl.  So for the salmon, it was same components found in the shio except with the addition of bite-sized raw Atlantic salmon and an egg yolk.  As you can imagine, this was a very subtle-tasting bowl with the umaminess of the ground fish and nori.  For something different, yet the same, the rice bowl featured many of the same things as the zenbu except with the addition of chicken karaage and mesclun greens.  I personally liked the minced meat and egg with the rice much more than the noodles.  I found it a better match where the rice soaked it up and hence had more impact.

Our last 2 items were their soup ramen including the Vegan Ramen and Tamago Ramen.  Interestingly, I thought the vegan ramen was quite good with a thick broth that was quite flavourful and creamy.  Could really taste the tomato and the depth of the soybean.  Seared tofu had a nice texture to it too.  As for the other, it was a typical pork bone broth which had good meatiness, yet wasn't heavy.  The pork chashu was fatty and tender while the tamago had a custardy yolk.  We had the thin noodles and they were al dente.  You can get more noodles if you want too.  So after all these dishes, it was pretty obvious to us that many of the components are similar.  However, that isn't a bad thing. With just a switch of some ingredients, the bowls taste remarkably different.  My favourites were the Zenbu, Chicken Karaage Rice Bowl, Carbonara and *gasp* Vegan Ramen.  Lots of choice and with the option of adding a bowl of rice to sop up the remaining sauce or add more ramen to your bowl, you won't leave hungry.

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

The Good:
- Lots of choice
- Interesting flavours
- Unfortunately we didn't get to have any, but their Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream is so good!

The Bad:
- You have to like onions of all kinds here (but you can opt to have them omit it)

Bahubali Biryani House

For the longest time, there was this Fijian restaurant sitting in this strip mall on the Southwest corner of Scott Road and Nordel.  I always wanted to try it, but it never seemed to be open and neither was there much information about it.  Well, no matter now as it has been replaced by a brand-new spanking Indian restaurant called Bahubali Biryani House.  Loved they have a green theme to the exterior, as it blends it completely with Dollarama next door!

Getting right to the food, we started off with something so addictive and delicious, I wanted to have the dish to myself.  Alas, I had to share the Crispy Corn with the rest of the crew.  These little plump and sweet niblets were lightly coated so that they were crispy without being heavy nor greasy.  They were nicely spiced with a bit of earthiness that paired well with the sweetness of the corn.  The acidity from the wedge of lime made this a bit tropical in flavour.

It always seems like we ordered Fish Pakora whenever we get the chance.  I guess it the contrast between the crispy spiced batter with the flaky and moist fish.  Well, the version here definitely fulfilled that criteria even though the fish came is thin strips.  Due to this, we felt it ate crispier but at the same time, the fish wasn't dry.  To bring down the spice of the dish (even though it wasn't spicy), the mint chutney on the side did just that.

Arriving on a sizzling hot cast iron plate, the Tandoori Prawns were definitely the beneficiary of some charring and caramelization.  Hence, there was some appealing smokiness and intense flavours.  To go with the nuttiness from the char, we also found that the spices were quite apparent with some earthy fall-flavours.  Furthermore, the prawns themselves were cooked just right with a buttery meatiness that was not overdone. 

Now a dish we usually do not order is the Murgh Malai Tikka.  I guess that is my own personal bias as I find it rather heavy.  Well, this version was a bit different than the ones I've had before.  Normally, the chicken is tenderized by the yogurt lemon juice marinade, but I think in this instance, it was marinaded quite aggressively.  Hence, the chicken became super tender and almost became pulled chicken in the end.  Maybe a bit to soft, but still okay.  Flavours were quite nice with a spiced creaminess.

We continued on with another chicken appetizer in the Chicken Majestic.  This is a Southern Indian dish that is marinated until tender and deep fried.  It is coated in a spiced yogurt mixed with curry leaves.   Well, they nailed it with their version with big pieces of tender chicken that had a slightly crispy exterior.  The creaminess of the sauce was appealing with a bit of heat and spice as well as some earthiness.

Onto the mains, we got a few including the Butter Chicken, Guthi Vankay Curry, Goat Curry and Mutton Maratha.  The fan favourite of the bunch had to be the eggplant curry with tender and delicate baby eggplant.  The curry was nutty and tangy.  The butter chicken was more on the creamier side with only a slight tanginess with tender nuggets of chicken.  The other 2 curries featured goat and both were tender with the unmistakable gelatinous quality to the meat.  I preferred the goat curry more due to its robust flavour and fall-like depth.  On the side, we had Garlic Naan, Spinach Paratha and Rumali Roti.  Naan was blistered and crispy in parts on the outside while chewy and soft on the inside.  Paratha was soft and warm with a slight chew while also blistered.  As for the roti, if you ever have seen it made, it is cooked on a half-dome element and comes out as a huge round piece.  This was soft and a bit chewy with lots of elasticity.

Of course we couldn't finish the meal with a biryani right?  So we got the Hyderabad Mutton Biryani.  Bearing the city's namesake, Hyderabad, the biryani is cooked slowly while being spiced with saffron.  This particular version was really good with chewy and fragrant rice.  Didn't get a whole lot of saffron but definitely lots of meat flavour and depth.  There was a good spice to it too.  In general, the food at Buhubali Biryani was pretty solid and well-portioned.  Love the renovated dining space and also the ample parking available.  A great addition to Scott Road.

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

The Good:
- Developed flavours
- Nice dining space
- Ample parking

The Bad:
- Was the Murgh Malai Tikka overmarinated?


Kosoo Pocha at Sai Woo

What's with the name you may ask?  Yah nothing strange about Kosoo Pocha.  Kosoo is a chain of Korean restaurants in the Lower Mainland and Pocha refers to the type of food they serve (typically street food).  But what about the "Sai Woo"?  Yah, that name has been around for a long time (since 1925).  It was reincarnated in 2015 complete with a new replica neon sign.  Kosoo decided to keep it in the name of the restaurant even though there is nothing in common other than location and history.

Well, Jackie and I were here for late night Korean as well as so soju.  Starting with the Clam Bibimbap, this was the perfect compliment with our bevvies.   On the plate, we were spoiled by the considerable amount of plump clams that were tossed in a sweet and spicy marinade.  Combined with some seasoned rice and wrapped in crispy nori, these little bites were fun to make and a delight to eat.

We also had the Seafood Pancake with veggies, prawns, imitation crab, squid and clams.  I liked the fact that this pancake had very little green onion.  Sometimes, they put so much of it, it should just be called a green onion pancake. The outside was nicely seared and crispy.  Inside, some parts were a bit doughy, but mostly tender.  Lots of seafood to be found and the textures added some robustness.

Impressive in size, we got the Colossal Pan Fried Egg Roll topped with ketchup.  Yah, when they say colossal, they weren't kidding as it appeared to be 2 feet of rolled egg omelette.  This was fluffy and light while completely seasoned.  I liked how they didn't overload it with carrots and green onion as it overwhelms the delicate egg.  This one had just enough to compliment while letting the egginess shine.

The most impressive item was the Chef's Choice, that consisted of the daily recommended dishes.  This one included Deep Fried Sea Eel, Spicy Whole Squid Mixed Seasoning, Korean Omelette, Spicy Fish Stew and Kimchi.  The best thing in this combo was the eel as it was massive and perfectly prepared.  Outside was super crispy and inside was moist and buttery.  Add some ginger and gochujang and we had a nice little bite.  When mixed together, the rice noodles and the squid had plenty of texture while having a sweet spiciness.  In the pot, we found various fishballs and fishcakes sitting in a spicy seafoody broth.  Reminded me of oden to a degree.  We had cups on the side to drink the broth when poured out of the pot.  With this selection of eats, it is clear that Kosoo Pocha is a bit different that the usual Korean restaurant.  Featuring street-type eats that goes into late-night, Kosoo Pocha is a lively place from open to close.

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

The Good:
- Interesting and delicious food
- Nice vibe
- Portion sizes are large

The Bad:
- The area is still in transition

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