Monday, February 28, 2011

The Apron - molecular gastronomy


The Apron

3099 Corvette Way, Richmond (inside Westin Hotel)

The Apron on Urbanspoon
Food: 2.5
Service: 4
Price: Fair ($28 menu)

I always attend Dine Out Vancouver every year, and this year was no exception. However this year, nothing really intrigued me except this one restaurant: The Apron. The 1st reason was that the menu looked good, and the 2nd reason was because I heard the chef likes to use some form of molecular gastronomy, which I been wanting to try.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Faubourg - another worthy dessert shop



2156 W 41st Ave, Vancouver

Faubourg on Urbanspoon

Food: 4
Service: 4
Price: Fair

Although taste is subject, but I have yet to find a girl who didn't love some sort of dessert. So when a friend told me about this new dessert shop in Kerrisdale, I was all too excited. In fact, I dragged R out on a week night to try it.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shabu Shabu - Sushi Express Chain


Sushi Express Shabu Shabu Restaurant

36 Minquan West Road (Exit 1 of Minquan MRT station and turn right)

Food: 4.5
Service: 3

Price: Cheap

There are 2 types of stores that Taiwan is in no shortage of, one of them is 7-11 (there seems to be one on every block) and the other one is shabu shabu hot pot restaurant. So of course, R and I had to visit at least one of them.

Sushi Express is a huge company that started with just AYCE conveyor belt style sushi restaurants, but now they have expanded to include a AYCE hot pot and as well as a set meal restaurant. The hot pot restaurant we visited charges $300NT/person ($10) and they do not charge any form of service tax. However we were there around 11am, so they informed us that it's only $500NT/2 people before 12pm, that's only $17.
First up is the veggie section, lots of fresh leafy green and various type of cabbages.What more impressive is the amount of other types of food they offered. There was around 10 different kinds of meat/fish balls. They also had seaweed, tofu, sticky rice cake, and various type of non-leafy vegetables.
Now on to the seafood, there was fresh salmon head, scallop, prawns, clams, squid and many different kinds of fish slices. At this point, I was already in awed by the sheer amount of choices I had, but that's not all.
They also had a meat slicing station offering lamb, pork, chicken and beef. There were good quality meat which was sliced super thin so it cooks easily. I particularly enjoyed the beef, pork and surprisingly chicken too. Since it was sliced so thin, the chicken cooked really fast and was super tender.Now before you even start cooking, there is also a big sauce station, where you can mix and match different ingredients to make your unique sauce. Just to mention a few things being offered here are: soy sauce, sesame paste, vinegar, egg, chili and green onion.
As I mentioned this is shabu shabu, so R and I each had our own pot. We had 3 type of soup bases to choose from: original, miso or spicy. I went with the spicy and R went with the original, both were very good. There are 2 things worth mentioning: 1. they had a huge jug of soup base right on each table, so you can add soup to your pot at anytime. 2. There is a built in garbage can (the plastic bag silver can) right on our table, so we can easily dispose of tissues and shells.Did I mention there was more. We can also get sushi as seen above, or order freshly made sushi cones as well. Also there was pre-made snack size salad being served.
Just in case you still have room after all that food, there is desserts too. For the day we went, they were serving green tea mousse and Japanese cheesecake.
Well, if you are not in the mood for cake, there is also ice-cream too. Also I forgot to mention, there is also a drink bar, where you can choose between, pop, coffee, tea or juice.

If you think this is an unbelievable deal, raise your hand. Remember, all this is only for $10 or less per person depending on the time. Personally, I was surprised by the sheer amount of choices I had. I think even if I just eat 1pc of each item, I would be too full. Anyways, this is just way too good of a deal to pass up, so I am passing it on instead. Make sure you mark it down if you plan to visit Taiwan, cause it's so worth it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Montana's - 2nd chance


Montana's Cookhouse
1046 - 2929 Barnet Hwy
, Coquitlam

Montana's Cookhouse (Coquitlam Centre) on Urbanspoon

Food: 2.5
Service: 3.5
Price: Fair

Do you believe in 2nd chance? Well, I usually don't, but this time it's an exception, because I had a birthday party to attend to. The first time I went to Montana's was at least 4 years ago, and at that time I was less than impressed with their ribs. In fact, I thought it was down right inedible. Anyways instead of complaining (which I probably should), I just paid the bill and never came back.
The reason J chose this restaurant was because they are having he All You Can Eat ribs promotions, where you just added $1 more to turn their full slab portion into AYCE. Well, nobody can say I didn't give them another chance for redemption. :P
First up was the calamari appetizer (~$9). Although it looks good and was rather crispy, but it was tasteless. The only flavour came from the Thai style sweet chili sauce, which I find a bit weird.
As we had tons of people order ribs at our table, I thought I get something different. I ordered the baked chicken penne (~$14). The pasta was not bad, a bit on the soft side. The garlic cream sauce was a bit mild for my taste. I did like the chicken, as it was tender and flavourful.
Although there was a no sharing policy for the AYCE ribs ($24), but they really couldn't keep track, consider more than half of our table ordered it. So R ordered the regular ribs in the new Chipotle Honey BBQ sauce instead ($18). Well, the ribs are definitely better this time around, BUT it's still not as good as some other. Although I loved their new flavour  but the meat was just not tender enough. Usually the meat would be fall of the bone soft, but these required some gnawing. I also tried all their other flavors, but none stood out. In the end, I still preferred their chipotle honey.

Service here was good. Since it was J's birthday, they did bring out the huge antler hat and sang an unique birthday song. I must say, that was definitely the highlight of the night. Although I had tons of fun that night, but it was more about the company than anything else. If I really wanted ribs, I think I would go else where though.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lin Chinese Cuisine - another place for XLB


Lin Chinese Cuisine 林餐館 

1537 W Broadway, Vancouver (Map)

Lin Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Food: 2.5
Service: 3.5

Price: Fair

There is no secret that I love Xiao Long Bao, and always out looking for good ones. So when I noticed an award for Best XLB plaster to the wall of Lin Chinese Cuisine, I immediately added the restaurant to my "must try" list.

Their XLB won the Northern Dim Sum category of the 2009 HSBC Chinese Restaurant Award. Because of this, I really had some high expectations for these juicy buns. One steamer of 6 will set you back $4.99.

The XLB was good, but definitely not the best I've had.The skin was thin, but not as thin as the ones from Ding Tai Fung. The soup was good and meaty, but a bit on the oily side. Overall, these were good, but I've had better at Ding Tai Fung, Shanghai Village, and Shanghai River.

Next up, we ordered their pulled roti with curry sauce ($4.99). The roti was quite flaky and crunchy, but I did not really like the curry sauce. It was clearly thicken by corn starch, because there were some glutinous chunks in there.
We got 2 order of M's favorite pan fried pork buns ($4.99/order), but she was disappointed with them. The ones she like are filled with soup. These were more like steamed buns then pan fried, because the wrapping was simply to thick.
We got half an order of tea smoked duck ($15). This was rather disappointing, because the duck meat was not juicy, and the skin was really dry.
The braised spicy eggplant($9.99) was definitely my favorite dish of the night. It was soft and infused with the spicy garlic flavour.
The lion head meat ball ($12.99) was another dish that didn't really wow us. Although the flavour was good, but the meat was not tender enough. Although the outside was cooked, but the most inner part looked a bit raw. Also usually the meat ball itself would be flavourful, but here it is all about the sauce only.
We got an order of Shanghai style rice cake for $9.99. Although the portion was good, but the flavour was average. This was most just soy sauce flavoured.
The last dish was an accident, because we never intended to order this. However, we were all happy with this, because it turn out to be delicious. This would be their grilled pork chop with onion ($12.99). The pork was tender and the flavour (onion/soy/sugar) was great.

The food here was mostly average, but surprisingly their service was a lot better than many other similar Chinese restaurants. The waitress was very responsive, and the manager constantly checked on us and try to explain each dish. To be honest, I came here with high expectation, but my experience was only satisfactory. However they do have some good dishes that I particularly liked.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dazzling Cafe - must try dessert cafe


Dazzling Cafe (mint)

No. 3, Lane 248, Section 4, ZhongXiao E. Rd, Taipei

Food: 4
Service: 3

Price: fair

I know the Hello Kitty Cafe seemed a bit too much for R, but I enjoyed it. Secretly, I think he enjoyed it just as much as I do XD. With that thought in mind, I decided we should check off another must visit cafe from my list.
Dazzling Cafe is a very popular cafe that is famous for their toast box desserts. There are actually 2 locations, one has a pink theme, while the other has a mint theme. Of course, one look at the picture above, it's clear that I visited the latter location. The restaurant was very spacious and bright. The even had a very pretty tree display right in the the restaurant. Overall, I loved the atmosphere here, it was very welcoming.

To accompany my dessert, I ordered a French Strawberry Milk Tea ($5). The portion was certainly generous, as it came in a pot. The tea was creamy and smooth with a detectable strawberry flavor. I think they used some fresh strawberries, because there were actual strawberry bits floating around. Although this was good, but I preferred the one I had at Hello Kitty Cafe. R chose the Pomelo Tea ($5),this too came in a nice tea pot. They certainly do pay attention to details here, as they also had some green clementines slices and other fruit bits layer in the cup. The tea had a tangy taste, but it was balance out nicely by the addition of honey.
I ordered a toast box called: Party in Your Mouth ($7.50). The presentation was certainly impressive. The toast box was topped off with macaroon, raspberries, strawberries, real vanilla ice cream, custard cream, strawberry sauce and a side of honey.
At first, I wasn't sure how to tackle this delicious looking piece of 'artwork', until a waitress walked over and offer to help cut it up. She skillfully sliced the 2 corners of this box, and let all the topping just topple over. It is then we noticed that there were actually bread sticks underneath. So basically you are suppose to take these bread sticks and eat it together with the toppings. These bread sticks are pretty much the bread that was originally from the hollowed out box, except it has been basted with butter/honey and then baked. They were crunchy and sweet on the outside, yet still soft in the inside. They were perfect for dipping it in the sauce/custard/ice cream. R ordered the Chocolate Banana toast box ($7.50), which was just as delicious. The only difference was that his topping was very minimal comparing to mine. One other thing about these desserts were that even the box had been brushed with butter/honey and then baked. So the 'walls' also tasted exactly like the bread sticks. As delicious as it may be, the portion was simply too big, unless you came here really hungry. :P

Service was not bad, but there was a major difference that I noticed. It would be considered rude here if a waitress constantly informed the diner on how much time they had left. However it's commonly seen in Taiwan. From the several restaurants I been to, most of them had informed me of my remaining time. So don't be offended or too surprised if that happens in Asia, apparently it's the norm.

Although Dazzling Cafe is not the only one serving the toast box, but from my research, it is the most popular one. Now after visiting it, I totally understand why so many people liked it. First, the ambiance was very inviting, and the food was delicious. If you are a dessert lover like me, this is definitely a must visit cafe. Although they seem to have some very delicious looking entrees as well, too bad I didn't have the stomach to try it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sanpachi - another new Ramen in downtown


Sanpachi Ramen

770 Bute Street
, Vancouver

Sanpachi Ramen (Robson) on Urbanspoon

Food: 3
Service: 3.5
Price: Fair

Personally if I were to open a restaurant, I would look for a place with lots of people, but also minimal competition. So it's somewhat surprising to find yet another ramen shop opening in downtown Vancouver. I guess choices are always good for us consumers.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Taiwan - Luo Dong Night Market


There are well over 10 different night markets all over Taiwan. Although majority of them are located throughout Taipei, but it seems each city has their own special night market. Since we were already in YiLan (accommodation blogged here), we just had to visit their famous Luo Dong night market ( 羅東夜市). This was on a typical Monday which was considered a 'slow' night, because apparently on weekend, the crowd will propel you forward and you will have no choice but to go wherever they are going. So my suggestion would be try to avoid all night market during the weekend.
The first stand that we saw with a lineup was this deep fried bun filled with local famous green onion and grounded pork. There was maybe around 5 people ahead of me, but apparently during the weekend, the line up could be well over 20 people.
The green onion bun was fried fresh, so the wrapping was nice and crispy. They rolled it quite thin, so it was not doughy at all. Since I took a bite from the green onion side, you can barely see the meat underneath, but trust me it's there and tons of it too. Both R and I really enjoyed this and would highly recommend.
This lineup we saw was for this Chinese angelica lamb soup. It was super long, around 20 people at least. Although there were several close by stalls selling the exact same thing, but it seems most people are willing to wait for this one, so we did the same.
We got the lamb soup with vermicelli, you can choose a variety of different noodles. A bowl cost $60NT which equivalent to $2CAD. Although also very cheap, but honestly I didn't really like it. This had that Chinese herbal medicine taste due to the usage of Chinese angelica, I guess this was more of a acquired taste.
Since we did have afternoon tea at around 2pm, we weren't that hungry, but when I saw this braised pork belly shop with 30 years of history, I just had to try it. The story was that they started as a street cart, but because it sold so well, they have upgraded to a store. Now people from all over the place come to try their delicious pork belly. The pork belly on rice along with miso soup cost a measly $45NT, that's only $1.50CAD. Also you can always ask for more braised sauce for your rice. This pork belly was excellent, it was soft, yet not falling apart. The sauce was great with a hint of sweetness. This once again falls under the category of highly recommend.

Unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time to spent in YiLan, but I am very glad to have gone to their local night market, as it's a totally different experience from the ones in Taipei with many different kinds of food. So I think Luo Dong Night Market should definitely be on the list of places to visit, if you ever decide to visit YiLan. :)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Taiwan - YiLan B&B


I know this blog is mainly centered around food, but as I said once in awhile I will be introducing other things, so today I will be talking about a accommodation recommendation instead. Although Taipei is a great city for touring, but R and I did take one week to tour the rest of the island. Our first stop was YiLan in the upper east side of the island. Typically we would stay in a hotel, but here Bed and Breakfast are much more common and some even outshine hotels (such as this one).We stayed at the River Forest B&B (水岸森林) which was highly recommended. It's not the most convenient one if traveling by train/bus, but they were very kind to offer pick up/drop off service at the train station.
When I first saw this place, it looked more like a 4 star resort than B&B. There are several colorful buildings located on their huge property, but we booked the bubble rooms, which is located directly over the lake.
We arrived around 1pm, but unfortunately our room was not ready yet (check in time was around 3pm). Because it was consider slow time of the week (Mon-Thu), we were offered complimentary afternoon tea. The afternoon tea was served at the lakeside cafe. They offered us fresh mint (grown on site) tea along with some sweet/savory treats. The warm waffles and sandwiches were excellent, but the prettiest snowman cake was not, it was overly sweet. Our room was quite spacious and very well designed. I love the floor to ceiling window and the large balcony door that lefts in lots of natural light. Our king size bed was really comfortable too.
The bed was facing the TV directly, which is very beneficial if you just want to lounge around the room and relax.The room was very well designed, as right behind the curved wall of the TV, there are 2 closets on each side (I am guessing his/hers closets). Also in one of the closets was bathrobes/slippers.There is a reason why our room is called the Bubble Room, because there is a half circle glass bubble that provides viewing of the lake underneath. Since they provided us with free fish food, we were able to get lots of fishes to swim by our room. The bathroom was equally spacious. It had a standing shower/steamer and a jacuzzi tub as well. The jacuzzi tub was conveniently facing the room, so you can technically watch tv while you bath, but unfortunately you won't be able to hear much, because the glass window is quite thick. They also provided all the toiletry which is actually from Crabtree and Evelyn. The also provided some complimentary snacks and drinks. I actually really liked the snacks, these were super thin (1mm) YiLan cookies (yum).
The balcony was very nice too, although small, but they did fit one table and 2 chairs. This was our balcony view. This was also where we try to throw the fish food under our building to lure the fishes over, so we can view them from our glass bubble.
As much as this place seems like a huge resort, but it is after all a B&B. Breakfast is served at the 2nd floor restaurant next to the pool. It seriously looked like a nice tropical resort than anything.
I think typically they serve a buffet style breakfast, but since there were so little people there that day, they served us a single portion type along with the choice of juice, milk, tea or coffee as drink. The breakfast was quite plentiful with soup, sandwiches and a few bits here and there. There was actually a sauce in the urn underneath the egg which R discovered a little too late XD.

Everything was great about this B&B, but the price. It wasn't actually that cheap to stay here. We paid $3,900NT ($130 CAD)for one night stay on a slow day. It's more expensive on the weekend. Although the price is a bit high, but I think it's worth the price. The only real problem is that they only take reservation through bank transfer (wiring half the amount first), so basically if you don't know anyone with a TW bank account, then you are out of luck. I hope they can accept credit card soon.