Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beautiful Island - undecided

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Beautiful Island

1-4648 Imperial Street, Burnaby (map)

Beautiful Island on Urbanspoon

Food: 3
Service: 2
Price: Fair

Recently, I joined a bunch of people who loves to play beach volleyball. R and I often join their Friday night game that usually starts around 5:30, thus eating before hand was not a good option, so that mean we usually eat after the game. Good thing we play around Kingsway, so there are tons of late night eateries.

The restaurant that we decided upon was Beautiful Island. It is a Taiwanese bubble tea type restaurant that serves up the regular fare. The restaurant is spacious, but with minimal decor. They had big menu with tons to choose from.
R started with a drink: the honey lemon jelly drink. The drink tasted like a lemonade loaded with jelly and pearls. It was wasn't too sweet, but not that impressive either.
M had the fried chicken cutlet on ice, and A had the fermented fried pork cutlet on the right. Both weren't impressive, just okay. The portion here are not big at all, M is a big guy and this potion was no way filling. I believe the prices for both dishes are around $6.5 to $7.
Two things I notice about this restaurant is its speed to bring out food and the inconsistency in the portion size. R ordered pork hock (~$6.95), and it came about 25 minutes after the 1st dish was brought out.
The portion here was much bigger in comparison. There are two generous piece of stewed pork hock. Although the sauce was delicious, but the pork hock was rather chewy. I would prefer a softer texture, as this was a bit tough to chew. Yes, I understand we had a big group (around 12 people), but how they forgot my dish is beyond me. The waitress specifically wrote down each item as we were ordering, and I wasn't the only one who ordered this dish. I waited around 50 minutes after ordering, and finally had to ask for it. Both dishes came out after about 5 minutes. This would be there signature dish: braised ribs with shallot (~$7.50). Although the sauce was good, but I couldn't really detect the shallot taste. The rib meat was tender in the middle, but a bit dry around the edges.

The food here was decent, and service was generally okay, but the whole forgot 2 people's order issue still baffles me. Also they never bothered to check if everyone had their dishes or not. This restaurant definitely still have some kinks to work out for their food and service, so I am undecided whether I want to come back or not, but if you do want to check it out, this place is cash only.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Grilled Fromage - perfect meal after a hike

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Grilled Fromage

38134 Cleveland Avenue, Squamish (Map)

Grilled Fromage Diner on Urbanspoon

Food: 4
Price: Fair

Every summer, I do one annual hike at Stawamus Chief in Squamish. It is usually just a day trip, were I bring lunch and eat it at the top. However this year it was different, because R and I went the day before the hike to camp there, so we can get a head start the next morning.
It was a great idea to start early, because by the time we were coming down, the trail was packed with tons of people. The hike is about 3 hours (up and down) for a moderate hiker (like me), but it totally worth it to relax up there and enjoy this gorgeous view of Howe Sound. Anyways, this year, I only brought a few snacks to munch on, so by the time we got back down(1pm), I was ready to eat a horse. It just so happen recently Kim went to a cheese sandwich shop located in Squamish and blogged about it, so I made sure to put that on my list to try and off we went.
Click to Enlarge
Grilled Fromage is a grilled cheese sandwich shop with 57 different kinds to choose from. The menu is listed on the wall, and it took at least 5 minutes to go through all the kinds they offered. Choosing one was even harder, because there were several that sounded delicious. In the end, I ordered no. 49: The Advocat ($6.90). This sandwich was a combination of spicy salsa, avocado and Monterey Jack cheese served on sour dough. You have the option to make it a combo, so I added potato salad to my meal for around $1.50 extra. The sandwich was delicious, it was grilled perfectly, crunch, yet not dry. The combination of Monterey Jack cheese, avocado and salsa all worked in harmony. The only thing was that the sandwich was a bit greasy to the touch. The potato salad was fresh and tasty and yes, they serve all sandwiches with a side of Cheezies and a few sweet grapes.R chose no. 54 : Billy($6.90). This was a combination of goat cheese, baby spinach, and sun dried tomato served on multi-grain bread. Personally I didn't love it, because I prefer gooey/melty cheese over the spreadable type. However R loved it, he thought the sandwich was great, and the flavors worked well with one another. One thing I did like about his sandwich was the bread, I preferred the multi-grain over the sour dough.

This little shop was great, they had so many choices that I am sure everyone will find something they like. They even had a couple for the lactose intolerant people. The prices weren't exactly cheap, but I like the concept and the taste. In a nut shell, I would recommend this place to anyone visiting Squamish or just there to hike the Chief, as it was one fulfilling meal. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Burgoo - love their grill cheese sandwich

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Burgoo

3096 Main St, Vancouver (Map)

Burgoo (Main Street) on Urbanspoon

Food:4
Service: 3.5
Price: Fair

I finally visited Burgoo after wanting to try it for some time now. Given the nice weather lately, R and I decided to take a patio seat, so we can people watch. We had all sorts of recommendations from people on what to order. So without further ado, here are what we had that day.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Spice Market - good buffet on a budget

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Spice Market Buffet (Planet Hollywood)

3667 S Las Vegas Blvd

Spice Market (Planet Hollywood) on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 4
Price: Fair

After our 1st lavish buffet, we decided to tone it down for the next one, that's why we picked the lunch buffet at Spice Market in Planet Hollywood. Initially we were planning to go for Earl of Sandwich (it's sooo good) which was also located there, but after finding a $5 off coupon, we decided to hit the buffet once more.
With $5 off, I believe the lunch buffet was only $16 per person including tax. So I would say it's a good deal for the selection. The one thing I did like was that each station was labeled, so you know immediately what they offer and where to find it. However the lighting here wasn't the greatest, as I find it rather dark.
We were wondering what they were serving up at the American station, and found a burger/fries made to order bar where you can choose your toppings and sauce. That is so typical of them. However I don't think it's a good idea to order burger and fries at a buffet, because how can you eat anything else after just one order of that. You can't have the same expectation when dining here as to compare it to The Buffet at Wynn for a several reasons, 1. price point are different as this was a lunch buffet, 2. execution was at a different level and 3. the decor was just not at par. Just base on my personal experience, I thought the food here was more than decent, if not good. The choices were great and the price was cheap (granted that if you find the same coupon, even without it, it was a good price).Although their dessert bar was not as lavish as the one at Wynn, but the selection was certainly decent. Taste wise, they do fall short, as most tasted generic, but not to say they tasted bad. What I did like was that they had a soft serve machine, but I was simply too full to try.

I would recommend the Spice Market Buffet for any budget traveler who wants a good buffet at a great price. For the price I paid, it was definitely worth it. However, if you are a big spender, or just want a more lavish experience, then I would recommend The Buffet at Wynn.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Po King - service aside, it was good

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Po King Seafood Restaurant

5665 Kingsway, Burnaby (Map)

Po King Seafood on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 1

Price: Cheap


Awhile back, R and I went to eat dim sum with D at Spring Garden in New Westminster. Near the end of the meal, D suggested our next dim sum meet up should be at Po King. Initially I was a little skeptical, as I've read quite a few unfavorable reviews on this place, but since D was really keen on going there, I went along with that plan.

I am so glad we had reservation, because it was like a Zoo in there when we arrived. The hostess (if I can even call her that) was barking orders and then literally dragging you by the arm to the assigned table. If that was not traumatizing enough (I saw the look on a non-Asian kid face, it was pure fear LOL), then you will have to dodge cleaning cart, push cart, and service people while waiting for them to clean the table. Just from this, I can see why people did not like this place.
First up is the Fish Paste filled Zha Liang (rice roll over Chinese donut). This was indeed better than the ones I had at Spring Garden. The donut was crunchy and rice roll was soft. The rice roll with beef was standard, nothing special here.
We also go the Taro dumpling and the deep fried glutinous dumpling. The size of the dumpling are bigger than anywhere else I have seen. The taro dumpling stuffing was a bit bland and the outer shell was quite oily. The deep fried ones were nice and crunchy on the outside with a hint of sweetness. The filling was generous and good. The shrimp and chive dumplings were stuffed to the max with prawns and chive. It was very filling just eating one of this. I liked the steamed spare ribs. It was moist and flavorful with plenty of meat on it. Of course at every dim sum, there must be some sort of steamed dumplings. I just know the left one is called 'Gold' Dumpling in Chinese, it consist of shrimp, cilantro and corn. Needless to say, I am not a fan due to the cilantro. The shrimp dumplings were huge, in fact the biggest I have ever seen. I know people don't usually complain when there is too much stuffing, it's usually the other way around, but this was seriously prawn overload. I know I said Po King serves big dim sums, but this one takes the cake, it has to be the biggest dim sum I have ever seen. This has to be about 1.5 the size of a tennis ball. Since we were way too full, I just took a picture of it, because it really did amaze me.

The food here was mostly good. Service on the other hand was below average, but I got to give them props for not kicking us out and filling our tea, because we did stay for about 3.5 hours just chatting. Prices are cheap considering the portion size, I think most dishes were around $2.50-$3 only. Overall, I would come back, simply because I am accustom to bad service at dim sum restaurants.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Buffet - Luxury AYCE

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The Buffet (Wynn)

3131 Las Vegas Blvd S, NV

Buffet (Wynn) on Urbanspoon

Food: 4
Service: 4
Price: Fair for the quality and if you eat a lot

If there is one place in the world that knows their buffet, it has to be Vegas. There must be at least 50 different ones to chose from. There are several top notched ones that I am aware of, and The Buffet (Wynn) is among them. Since we were conveniently staying at the Wynn hotel, so eating there first was an easy choice.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

S&W Pepper House - Good variety

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S&W Pepper House

4500 Kingsway, Burnaby (Crystal Mall)

S&W Pepper House (Crystal Mall) on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 3

Price: Fair

I actually been to S&W Pepper House before, so when my parents asked if I knew a good place for dinner near Metrotown, I immediately suggested this one. The restaurant is not that big, so reservations are highly recommended. Although I did make reservation, but it wasn't really necessary, only because we were there early (around 6pm). However the place was packed by about 7pm.
The first dish we ordered is the Stir Fried Pork with Pancake ($11.95). The stir fried pork was saucy and tender. The flour pancakes were the prefect compliment to the flavorful pork. The only problem was that there were only about 4 or 5 piece of the pancakes, so we had to eat the rest of the pork with rice.
The direct translation of this dish would be 'Water Boiled Fish", but it's far from that. It's more like fish sliced cooked in hot chili oil soup. The fish slices were tender, and acted like a sponge by soaking up the flavorful chili soup. This dish was $11.95, and while worth it in my opinion. Next up is a veggie dish that my mom ordered: Gai Cai stir fried with garlic ($7.95). This dish was slightly bitter, but that's due to the nature of Gai Cai. The veggie itself was nice and crunchy with a light garlic taste. Both my parents enjoyed this very much.
This would be the Spicy Rib Hot Pot ($10.95), which wasn't in their regular menu. They do have specials written on a board. After reading through them, I picked this dish. To be honest I was a little disappointed. Flavor wise, it was spicy, but nothing special and the rib could be a bit softer. The last dish we had was the Sweet and Sour Fried Fish ($16.95) or Squirrel Fish as the Chinese would call it. This was the big disappointment for me, the fish was a bit over fried, so the meat was rather dry. Also the sauce was not very balanced, and thus resulted in a sourish taste. Since it was also the most expensive dish, I think it's safe to say I will skip this the next time around.

S&W Pepper House definitely had some winning dishes, and a couple disappointing ones, but that's the same for every restaurant. The service here wasn't half bad either, they were generally friendly and helpful. Overall, I liked this place, and would definitely recommend to anyone looking for restaurant that server all types of Chinese cuisine, not just your typical Canton style Chinese food.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Saigon - pho in Seattle

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New Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant II

1529 6th Ave, Seattle (Downtown)

New Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant II on Urbanspoon

Food: 3
Service: 2.5
Price: Fair

Despite the many similarities between Vancouver and Seattle, such as traffic and weather, there are still differences that distinguish the 2 cities. For one, the restaurant scenes in downtown are totally different between the 2 cities. Vancouver has any type of restaurant and cuisine you can imagine, while it was hard to find a non-chain restaurant in downtown Seattle to grab a quick bite. Or maybe I just didn't know where to look. Since we only had less than a hour to dine, and wasted about 15 minutes trying to find something to eat, so the minute we spotted a pho restaurant, we decided that was it.
New Saigon was actually located in the basement, because the minute you walk in the door, you are faced with stairs. We were greeted by the server, who did not even smile once during our time there. First came the veggie plate for the pho. The bean sprout were fresh, but there wasn't a lot, consider we ordered 3 bowls of pho. However they were definitely not stingy with the basil and they were very fresh too. Some place in Vancouver have stop serving basil altogether (inflation?).
I ordered the rare beef with tendon pho (#5 for $6.95). The soup was good, not as meaty as I would like it to be, but it wasn't too watery either. The beef slices were tender, but the tendon could be cooked a bit longer. The noodle were a nice al dente texture.R went with the chicken pho (#13 for $6.95). Just from the photo, you can already tell the soup base was different. His soup was less meaty and more clear. This also translated into a more watery soup compare to mine. The shredded chicken was okay, it wasn't too dry, but it had no taste either.

Granted it wasn't the best pho in the world, but it was certainly decent. Also it's location was rather convenient and it was quick. As many people know, pho restaurants are not necessarily the cleanest places around, but this one wasn't bad at all. It was rather clean, but just a little dark. Overall, I would consider coming back.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bonchaz - Yummy buns

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Bonchaz Bakery Cafe

426 W Hastings St, Vancouver

Bonchaz Bakery Cafe on Urbanspoon

Food: 4
Price: Fair

I been meaning to visit to Bonchaz for awhile now, but unfortunately it's closed every time I am there (they close on Sundays). So finally R and I managed to go downtown on a Saturday, and we headed straight for Bonchaz Cafe.
I first encounter Bonchaz during the Eat! Vancouver event where they were handing out samples for everyone to try. After tasting a piece of their Apple Cinnamon bun, I was impressed, as it was soft and airy without being overly sweet. They are constantly baking new batches, so the buns stays fresh and warm. Being that it was a hot day, I went with a ice latte ($3.30). R on the other hand had a French Press Coffee($1.95). My latte was not too sweet, it was nice and refreshing. The French coffee had a lots of grind on the bottom, so be careful when drinking this. I had my heart set on trying the banana walnut, so I immediately ordered that one while R went for the matcha. I loved the banana walnut bun, as it was very soft with a slight crunchy top. The filling was filled with mashed fresh banana and lots of walnut bits. R's matcha bun was good as well, the filling was similar to a meringue with a slight matcha taste. However, this bun was not as fluffy as the banana walnut, because filling was more moist. Also the matcha bun had coconut shavings which I didn't like. Both buns were $1.75 each. When R noticed that they serve quiche, he immediately wanted to try (being the egg lover he is). This is a ham and onion quiche for $2.75. The pie crust was too moist and not flaky enough, and the overall taste was too salty for me. Also R thought there wasn't enough egg in this.

Overall, I really liked these new innovative 'Pineapple Buns'. They are fresh and tasty and comes in a variety of flavors. To me, they are like Beard Papa of cream puffy, you will always want one if you walk by it. Unfortunately that's also the only downside, because they are not conveniently located in the downtown core area, but it's worth the walk/drive.