Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spring Garden - Good Dim Sum in New West

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Spring Garden Chinese Seafood Restaurant

832 12th St., New Westminster

Spring Garden Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 3

Price: Fairly cheap


I been craving dim sum for some time now, but haven't had the chance to make my way out to Richmond. After a quick search on Urbanspoon, yielded a dim sum restaurant with good reviews in New Westminster. This is perfect for my meet up with D, as he is located in Burnaby and I am in Surrey, so it's sort of in the middle. Spring Garden was really easy to find with the big yellow sign and all. They had ample parking at the back of the restaurant. We made the reservation for 11:30, which in my book is already pretty late for dim sum (consider how early people go in Richmond). We walked in to find a empty restaurant which kinda concerned me, but the place soon filled up. By about 12:30, the place was packed. Knowing that most dim sum dishes have minimal veggie or none at all, so I ordered a Garlic green bean with minced meat for $4.99. Although it may sound expensive, but the portion size was fairly large. The beans were oil blanched so it had that crunchiness to it. The sauce was good, but they put dry shrimp in it. I dislike that part, but R loved it.
We ordered the typical Sui Mai ($2.75) which was okay, the pork was chewy, but there was a lack of flavor. The Rice Roll with Shrimp ($3.25) was good, as the shrimp was crunchy, but the rice roll was a bit chewy and thick.
The Deep Fried Minced Tofu and Shrimp Paste ($3.15) was not what I had expected. I thought it was deep fried soft tofu cubes, but sadly it wasn't.. I learned something, always read the English description, because the Chinese ones just sounds fancy, but it doesn't tell you anything. This was not bad, as the outside was crispy but a bit too mushy on the inside. The Pan Fried Pork and Chive Dumpling ($2.75) was okay. The skin was rather thick and chewy. The stuffing was generous, but the taste was average.
The Pan Fried Radish Cake ($2.50) was okay, I was never a fan of it. Both D and R seem to like it. On the other hand, I always loved the Steamed Spare Ribs ($2.50). This one was pretty good, the ribs were more fatty than some, but I like that. This one did not have any veggie on the bottom, thus the sauce was a bit oily.
The Rice Roll with Fish Puree ($3.25) was another dish that was totally not what I expected, because in Chinese it was called Fish puree Zhaliang. Zhaliang is a term for Chinese Donut wrapped in rice roll, but what we got was like deep fried bean curd wrapped around fish puree with rice roll. This dish sounded interesting, but really it was just okay.
This was one of my favorite for the day: Prawn with Scallop dumpling ($3.35). The shrimp was fresh, and the scallop was tender without being fishy. I also noticed they used mostly egg white to 'hold' the shrimp together instead of corn starch, which to me spoke quality.

Service here was actually not bad. They filled our tea pot often and the food came out relatively fast. I think the reason is because they are not as busy as restaurants in Richmond, and the the place is not that big, so they can be a bit more attentive in comparison.

Overall I like this place for for several reasons. 1) The food is certainly decent if not good. 2) It's closer to home. 3) I don't have to wait in line, at least not for long and 4) I don't have to fight for parking. With so many benefit, I will certainly be back for more when craving dim sum.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Italian Day on Commercial Drive

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Italian Day on Commercial Drive was actually 2 week ago (June 6th), but I been so busy, I almost forgot about it. As this is my first time attending this event, I didn't know what to expect.
This event was a combination of cultural performances and food fest. The section of Commercial Drive between Broadway and 1st Avenue were completely blocked off, so that people can freely roam the streets and enjoy everything. I saw people dancing on the street and enjoying different types of cuisine, despite being Italian Day.
I was expecting many Italian cuisine to be featured, but in fact, it was more of a multicultural theme going on. This is one many stand that sold the Italian sausage in a bun. I didn't particularly liked the bun, as I find it dry and tasteless. The sausage on the other hand was meaty and juicy. When I first arrived, Fratelli's Bakery had a only a few people lining up, but by the time I was about to leave (2pm), the place had a line up that was around the corner. The only thing I have to say is, always buy whatever you want right away instead of waiting till the end. I guess I will have to save the bakery for another trip.

Stix Noodle & Grill (903 Commercial Drive)
Stix Noodle & Grill on UrbanspoonObviously, a sausage and bun won't fill me up, so when I smelled some really good BBQ, I immediately got in line. These pork and chicken skewers were from Stix restaurant. I wanted to try both, but they were out of porkwhen it was finally my turn. The chicken as very tender and juicy, and full of flavor. Now I wish I waited around for the pork, but there was no way I want to get back in line and wait it out.

Libra Room (1608 Commercial Drive)
Libra Room on UrbanspoonWe actually passed by the Libra Room food stand, when walking down Commercial, but we wanted to see what else the event had to offer. Unfortunately by the time we decided we wanted to try it, the line up was almost half a block. After 20 min, I finally got to the front, only to find out they were out of the sausage cream sauce pasta, so I settled for the seafood tomato sauce pasta ($5). These pasta was cooked to the perfectly (imo). The sauce was great with huge pieces of seafood. The prawn and squid were both well done, but the scallop was over cooked.

Belgian Fries (1885 Commercial Drive)
Belgian Fries on UrbanspoonThe weather started not so bad, but that it didn't hold out and thus changed to pouring rain, so we decided to head indoors. I been meaning to check out Belgian Fries, so we decided now would be the perfect time. At this point, I was pretty full, so R chose a medium Deluxe poutine to share for $7.69. This was loaded with delicious mushroom, red pepper and real bacon. Since the bowl was over flowing, there was no way to mix it, so I am really glad they loaded gravy in the middle before topping it off with more fries. The poutine was really good and huge, the only complaint I have is that the fries were relatively skinny, so it soaked up the gravy fast, and thus led to some soggy fries near the bottom.

The event was a success, as the place was packed by about 1:30pm. I only have 2 pieces of advice for anyone who wants to go next year. 1. Go early and 2. don't hesitate when you want to buy something. This is because by the time you checked out the whole event and finally decide on what you want, the line up will be huge and the many will be out of items by then. At least that was true for the food related restaurants/stands.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rosen's - a local BBT type place

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Rosen's

#105-15976 108 Avenue, Surrey

Rosen's on Urbanspoon

Food: 3
Service: 3

Price: Fair (but on the cheap side)


Rosen's is really a local restaurant, the kind where you won't know about until someone told you. The reason is because it's located in the middle of a residential area. The restaurant is a Taiwanese bubble tea place. There is really not much in terms of ambiance, because this is the type of place where you go, if you are looking for a nice home cook meal.
We started with their salt/pepper chicken nuggets, which was actually good. It was rather authentic with the addition of the deep fried basil leaf. The nuggets were crispy and juicy. Also they used dark meat instead of white meat which I prefer, but it did have the occasional skin mixed in. However this dish is main dish on the menu, but you can order it as a side for around $5-6 if you ask.
I went for the half and half (tendon and brisket) beef noodle soup ($7.50). The soup was slightly salty, but nice and rich. The noodles were chewy and hand cut, which I find really good. There were lots of brisket and tendon in the soup. The brisket was undercooked, because it was too chewy and tough, but the tendon were prefectly soft.
R ordered the Pork Hock Noodle Soup ($6.50). Although the pork hock was tender and flavor, the soup was not. It was rather bland and thin. I liked the noodles, it was smooth and soft.
We went on another day and I had the braised pork belly combo for $6.50. Now, Bubble World in Surrey also have this dish for $6.95 (see here), and it wins hand down. This doesn't even come close. The pork was still rather tough and the flavor wasn't as good either. The side dishes are very simple, the broccoli was just simply blanched with no flavor. I would definitely rather spend that extra $0.45 and drive further if I want this dish.
This time R went with the Spicy Hot Pot with Pork blood and Intestine combo($7.50). According to R, this was just good , but nothing stood out. Also, the base was suppose to be spicy, but really it wasn't.

Overall I would recommend this place to locals who haven't tried it yet, as they do have some good dishes, but also some mediocre ones. In conclusion, if you are not from the area, then I don't think it's worth the drive, as they are far better choices in Metro Vancouver (such as Corner 23).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Guilford Sushi House - cheap and decent

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Guilford Sushi House

10330 152nd Street, Surrey

Guildford Sushi House on Urbanspoon

Food: 3
Service: 3

Price: Cheap


A couple weeks ago, there was a black out in my area, thus it forced me to dine out. I was originally heading to Hong Ma No for some noodles, but it seems that everyone had the same idea. So instead I opted to try something else. R and I noticed a sushi shop in the same square, so we decided to check it out.
The first thing we ordered was their assorted tempura ($7.20) consisted of 3 pieces of prawn and 3 pieces of sweet potato. The batter was a little too thick, and not airy enough, but both the prawn and sweet potato were really fresh. We also got an order of the gyoza for $3.55. There were pretty standard. Usually gyoza would be accompanied by a ponzu (vingar + soy) sauce, but here they give you some spicy soy sauce. This actually worked out well, but then again I personally prefer spicy dips over sour dips.
As for the rolls, we chose Spicy Chopped Scallop($3.50), SSSR ($3.50) and the Tama Unagi Roll ($4.95). The spicy chopped scallop roll was was pretty much a regular scallop roll with a few drops of Vietnamese chili sauce on top. The scallop used was actually quite fresh. The SSSR (smoked salmon and shrimp) roll was decent. The Tama Unagi Roll was good, there was a detectable sweetness from the egg and the teriyaki unagi. All the stuffing in these rolls range from decent to good, but I can't say the same for the rice. It was very soft and mushy, and it does not stick together very well.

As I mentioned, they used Vietnamese chili sauce on the scallop roll, this was not surprising, because the restaurant is run by Vietnamese people (you can tell from their conversations). With that being said, the food was actually quite decent (maybe not exactly authentic). The price is a steal, so I think I will come back for more and would recommend.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Old Country Buffet - any cheaper it would be free

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Old Country Buffet

Bellis Fair Mall, Bellingham WA

Old Country Buffet on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5

Price: Cheap


A few weekends back, I had to go down to the States to pick up something I bought online. Since the lineup at the borders has been really long lately, R and I went extra early. Because we went so early, Hagen's wasn't opened yet, so we headed down to Bellingham for some shopping first. The mall was also not opened yet, except for the few big retailers. Good thing I decided to check out Target, cause if I didn't, I would have missed out on this great place for breakfast.
The Old Country Buffet is located right outside Target, and they had a sign that said 'Breakfast Buffet $4.99'. Since R and I didn't have breakfast, we thought why not. The restaurant was rather large with lots of tables and even some cozy booths.
This $4.99 breakfast buffet had everything you can think of. They had the regular stuff: bacon, sausage, eggs (different style), toast, hash brown, french toast, waffle, pancake, pastries, hot/cold cereals and some fresh fruits. They also had a few things that are not normally associate with breakfast, such as salad bar, soft serve station (with all the fixings too), and even a self served taco/burrito bar.
R loves egg, so he was pretty much in egg heaven. They had poached, scrambled, chopped boiled egg and omelet. I loved their freshly made waffles with some real strawberry sauce. The waffle was crunchy on the outside, but airy and soft on the inside.
With this kind of pricing, I was surprised that they had a fresh to order omelet station. Although the selection was limited (red/green pepper, tomato, onion, ham, cheese, olive), but the fact they had one was already impressive to me. I asked for it to be a bit undercooked, and it came out great. The only problem was the size, it was a rather large portion, and this filled me up real quick.

There is also a fountain bar here. However it's $1.49 extra to get all you can drink. Basically, you get free water, but if you pay for the drinks, you can get anything from the fountain bar (coffee, juice, milk, pop). We both opt in on the drinks, but only to find out that the juice is always gone in a flash, so all you are left with is just pop, milk or coffee. Also the chocolate milk was way too sweet (added too much syrup). We both thought the drinks wasn't all that impressive, but I guess for $1.49, you really can't complain much.
I am not much of a sauce person when it comes to breakfast, usually a bit of salt & pepper with some ketchup will do. However here at the buffet, they had a whole station dedicated to sauce and this does not include the salad dressing and cheese sauce.

Overall, the value here can't be beat. We were excepting way less than this for $4.99, but got a whole lot more. Also the food here is certainly decent and some of them are actually quite good. Therefore if you want a hearty good breakfast, I certainly recommend stopping by.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eat ! Vancouver - an annual event for those who love to eat

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Eat! Vancouver is a 3 days annual event that promote different food manufacturers and local restaurants. I been meaning to attend this event for 2 years now, but there always seems to be a time conflict. So this year I made sure to mark my calendar, and finally made my way there on the last day. This event featured lots of local and foreign food manufacturer. Almost all of them had some samples out on the table where you can get a taste. I was pretty full from just sampling, as I had some good chipotle sausage from Freybe, and some good vegetarian meat from Gardenia. On the other hand, there are something that were just not my thing, such as the Immunity shot from Happy Planet. It must be a acquired taste :P
There are quite a few restaurant booth at the show as well, to name a few: Milestone, Maurya, New India, Goldilock, Wok Box and Gramacy Grill. They are all featuring a few dishes for people to try, these dishes ranges from $1 to $2.50. Both the Panini (from Fishworks) and the Curry combo plate (from Maurya) were pretty good, and both were only $2.50. I especially enjoyed the Maurya butter and tandoori chicken. The chicken was flavorful, yet tender.
There was also a competition going on during the show. There food above are real, but they have been specially treated and coated to preserve it. I think the judge was judging on the presentation of each dish. Some of these were really pretty to look at. The pretty ribbons/fruits are made from candy, and they are standing on chocolate columns.
Recently there is a buzz surrounding a cafe called Bonchaz, and I heard they were at the show. So I made sure to stop by there booth to check what it's all about. The people there says "Bonchaz is oven baked milk bun topped with a crisp golden crust and a hint of fresh ground coffee". To me, this tasted a lot like a Chinese Pineapple bun, except it's softer with more choices for flavor. Since they are freshly baked, it was very yummy, as it was moist and not overly sweet. They were also handing out free coupon for a free bun (no purchase necessary), and since I showed interested in their food, they handed quite a few extra to me.

Since I have extras, I am sharing it with my readers. All you have to do is email me your name and address (will not be using it for any other purpose), and I will send it to you. One per person. I have a total of 8. I will also be handing out a few more on Facebook (click here for detail).

Overall, this was a good event, as you can see and taste some of the new products that are coming out. Also, you can also sample foods from different restaurants, and then judge if it was interesting enough for a real visit. The only things I didn't like about the event was the narrow walk ways and the disorganized lineup at the restaurant booths. The convention center is huge, but they only rented 1/3 of the venue. Also, they were way more people than last year, because the amount of people there on Saturday alone equaled to the amount of people present at last year's show. So my only advice is to go early for next year, because by about 2:00pm, the place was jam packed with line up everywhere and it was very hard to walk.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Japadog - The Store is finally open

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Japadog (Robson Store)

530 Robson St, Vancouver

Japadog (Robson Store) on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Price: Fair, but expensive if you add the combo

Japadog has become very well known thanks to the Olympics and the media. I think the idea to start an actual store instead of just a hotdog stand emerged when there was rumor that streets vendors weren't allowed during the Olympics. Originally Japadog (the store) was planning to open before the Olympics, but I guess that didn't pan out, and now it has finally opened its door on May 28th. From what I heard, the line up was about a block long on that day.
When I went last Sunday at around 3:30, the place was relatively slow with only a few people in line. From the menu, you can see they revamped it with more options and now includes dessert dogs. I was mildly curious with the 'Age Ice', because if that hot dog is only bun + whip cream, then at a price of $2.99 is really a ripoff.
The store is pretty small, maybe it can accomodate about 10 people dining in, so really it's still very much a take out place. They had these nice metal art pieces on the back wall, they are really quite pretty.
Since R and I already had lunch, we thought we share one combo. I have only tried their Okonomi before, and since R doesn't eat beef, we decided to go with the Oroshi combo ($8.02 with tax). The bratwurst was good, because it was juicy and flavorful. The meat was also coarsely grounded which provided a better texture. The grated raddish on top created a nice medium to soak up the soy sauce, instead of letting it soak into the bun.
They now serve shake fries, it essentially fries shaked with a flavor of your choice. For the flavors, they have a choice between aonori, teriyaki, japa shio, and butter & shoyu. Since R like seaweed, we went with the aonori. The fries weren't bad, it was crispy with a seaweed taste, but I thought it was too salty.

Although, I think Japadog do taste good, but the price tag is just too high. If you look at the menu, their combos with tax start at about $8 and can go up to $10. I mean for a $10 meal, I think they are better options out there. Therefore, I think I will just keep Japadog on my snack list, as I think the hotdogs are worth it, just not the combos.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Swallow Tail - underground 'restaurant'

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Swallow Tail Secret Supper Club

Address is only revealed a few days before reservation.

Food: 3.5
Price: $49 donation for the 5 course meal

A new form of "underground restaurant" has hit the scene and gaining popularity fast. I guess with people always on the look out to try something new, this certainly fits the bill. Since I have never been to one of these, I jumped on the chance when Jonathan extended a invite for a dinner at Swallow Tail Secret Supper Club. The blogger who attended this dinner are Chowtimes, Follow Me Foodie, Food and Tell, I'm only here for the food, Le Petite Foodie, Sherman's Food Adventures, Vanfoodies and Victoria's Food Secret.
Once we arrived, we were all just hanging around the back yard waiting for the dinner to start. Before we were ushered inside, Robin (the chef) served us amouse bouche : Farmhouse BC gruyere & sour apple tart on handmade puff pastry with apple reduction. I thought these were pretty good, the creamy cheese and the tart apple work well with one another. We were ushered into the basement where the rest of the dinner will be served. The basement was lit by dim lighting, it give you a very intimate feel. Although the table was nicely set and lined to give you a hint of professionalism, but the mixed matched chair/table gave it away that this is indeed someone's home.
The meal started with a Stinging Nettle soup with Arugala ,Sweet peas and Garden Rosemary. I have never had nettle and had no idea what to expect. On the side note, Robin told us these nettle are home grown from her backyard. Personally, I thought the soup tasted mostly of the sweet peas.
The 2nd course was the Cedar smoked romaine with pecorino/parmesan, portugese olive oil vinegrette and garlic croutons. As fancy as the name sounded, but it's essentially a ceasar salad with a cedar smoked flavor. Because it's smoked, part of the romaine was slightly warm, but it still retained that crunchiness.
We were given a break between the 2nd and 3rd course, I'd say the previous courses are more like appetizers, and now here we start with the main. This would be Baked live Dungeness crab with Averill Creek BC pinot gris, garlic and crab butter with red pepper and star fruit. Although the crab was really fresh and sweet, the highlight was actually the garlic and crab butter. The butter was so good, we wanted to added it to everything (LOL).
The meat portion for our main was BC bison tenderloin with red onion jam, creamed parsnips with garden rhubbarb, sauteed leeks with cattails in BC chardonnay, cleavers and chive flowers. Wow, that is alot of ingredients for this dish. I thought the braised bison was very well done, as it was tender but flavorful. The cream parsnips on the other hand was rather bland.
To end the meal, we were served dessert: Beer battered crepe blintz with cream Earl Grey tea creme anglais, apples & huckleberries, Amontillado Sherry reduction(pepper, lemon rind, vanilla bean).The crepe blinz was rather thick, but maybe it was intended that way. The taste was a mixture of sweetness and tartness (from the apples). Overall, the dessert was average for me.
We were also served tea with dessert. The tea was a cream Earl Grey from Limbert Mountain Farm. The cream Earl Grey was delicious, it was smooth with a hint of vanilla taste. The best part of the tea was the fragrance, it was lovely.

In the end, it was a good meal, but as always the companies plays a big part. The food was good, and the ingredients are certainly interesting and fresh. However, I think a 'donation' of $49 is slightly too high. Overall, I think if you really want to try an underground restaurant, you can search around, as there are quite a few nowadays. Personally, I think they are interesting, but not all that exciting.