Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stonegrill - lack of service


Stonegrill @ the Met

259 - 4820 Kingsway, Burnaby

Stonegrill @ the Met on Urbanspoon

Food: 2.5
Service: 1
Price: Fair

I haven't been to Metrotown for ages, so I was totally unaware of any new opening. Apparently a new Stonegrill location has sprung up right next to the new Disney store (what, there is a new Disney store??). Anyways, since K and I had some major catching up to do, we decided to check out this new restaurant, and get some shopping done after :).
Stonegrill is located on the first floor right underneath the food court. Their doorway was so narrow, I nearly missed it. The restaurant was actually quite nice, as it was spacious and very bright due to the huge floor to ceiling windows. The decor was contemporary and upscale. Overall, the restaurant definitely looked nice, but the same can't be said for their service.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

La Petite France - solid dessert, lovely shop


La Petite France

2655 Arbutus St, Vancouver (map)

La Petite France on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.5
Price: Fair

Although all these deal coupons are suppose to save me money, but I think I actually end up spending more than I normally would. Once again I fell for one of these, and this time it was the LivingSocial deal for $6 you get $12 worth of food at La Petite France. This was another dessert restaurant that I been wanting to try. I even went by once only to discover that it closes early (around 6-7pm).

This time around, I decided to go in the early morning. R and I got there around 11:30ish, and the place was packed.I think a lot of people were there for brunch, as they do have a actual food menu. Their crepe looked amazing, as well as some of the breakfast sandwiches. Since we had somewhere to go for lunch, thus we just decided to stick with desserts.

For the drink, R got the double shot Americano, and I went for the hot chocolate. I am not sure, but I think they used Illy coffee beans. R certainly enjoyed it. Sorry, I can't remember exactly the cost, but the prices are at par with other places. When the waitress brought over my hot chocolate, she specifically pointed out where the sugar stand was. Although she was talking to me, but I automatically assumed she was talking about R's Americano. It turn out, she was indeeded talking to me, because this hot chocolate was non-sweeten. It was made with pure cocoa powder, so I had to stir for quite awhile before it got all dissolved. Although the drink was really strong, but I wished they used milk instead of water for a creamier taste.
They had quite a few desserts in the display case. After the server went through what each one was (she was really patient), I decided on Sacher ($5.50) and orange and white chocolate creme bruless ($2.75).
Sacher was described to me as a chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache and raspberry filling. Although the raspberry layer was rather tart, but it was balanced out nicely by the sweet and rich chocolate ganache. Overall it was a tasty dessert.

For the creme brulee, I loved the addition of the orange flavor for the caramelized sugar top. As for the white chocolate, I really couldn't detect it. Although the custard was creamy and used real vanilla, both R and I thought there was a lack of eggy flavor.

We loved the floor to ceiling windows that provided ample natural lights and the simple yet elegant decor. The service was personal and friendly. The food was solid, or more precisely the desserts were. Although judging from the amount of people who ordered from their regular menu, I would say it certainly looks good. Overall, I definitely recommend this place to any dessert lovers, just make sure you go early enough.

PS: I know I writing about these deals after they already passed, and thus you won't be able to take advantage of them. Would you prefer for me to post food deals that I think are worthwhile (meaning that I probably purchased it) while they are still valid?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Age Chinese - convenient location for good Chinese food


New Age Chinese Cuisine

5411 Kingsway, Burnaby (map)

New Age Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.5
Price: Fair

We needed a Chinese restaurant around Metrotown area, and a search on Urbanspoon didn't really yield too many options, as many didn't have favorable rating. However one restaurant did caught my eyes and I seem to recall hearing good things about it, so off we went to New Age Chinese Restaurant.

The restaurant was not hard to find, because all you need to look for is Best Western Hotel, as it is located directly next to the hotel.
I think this was the hotel restaurant prior to being acquired by New Age. The place looked more modern than traditional Chinese restaurant. The staff member here are also on the younger side as well, I guess this also may be the reason why service was not bad.

The first dish we had was the braised beef brisket hot pot ($10.75). This was also my favorite dish of the night. The beef brisket was just right, that it's soft enough, yet not mushy. The bottom of the dish was layer with lettuce which is really typical for Chinese restaurants.
Since I love eggplant, I chose to go with eggplant with shredded pork and basil leaf ($10.25). This dish was quite oily, but at least it was also very flavorful. Although they used basil leaf, but I didn't really detected in the sauce. I think maybe they didn't cooked it long enough or maybe they added it late during the cooking process.
Although the fish in spicy sauce ($13.95) was not authentic, but it was till rather good. The fish slice were of nice size and quite tender. The sauce lacked depth, as it was purely just dried chili pepper with oil. It did not consist of any Sichuan peppercorn. The bottom of the dish was layered with lots of vermicelli and big bean sprout.
The diced chicken in plum sauce ($10.50) was really delicious. It was tender and full of flavor. Each piece chicken and onion is coated nicely by the slightly sweet plum sauce. This kind of dish is perfect over rice.

Although this restaurant does not serve any specific Chinese food, but it does provide a good mix of their own version of traditional dishes. The food here was tasty, and the service was not bad. Given the easily accessible location, I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone who is in the area.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bo Laksa King - definitely king of Laksa


Bo Laksa King's Bubbles and Bits

2546 E Hastings St, Vancouver

Bo Laksa King's Bubbles and Bits on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.5
Price: Cheap

Bo Laksa King has been on my list for awhile now. A couple of month ago, I actually made my way to their original location by Joyce station only to discovered that they have moved to a new location on Hasting street. Although the old location at the time still had a few stuff they were offering, but they didn't have their most famous Laksa, so R and I just decided to wait and try the new restaurant.
Since I was attending a seminar in the area, I finally made my way over there.
The new restaurant looked a lot like a bubble tea shop, except it had a full menu. The restaurant was not big, it only had a few tables that can maybe accommodate up to 20 people at one time.
The food seemed like it took forever to come, but maybe it's because I was in a hurry, since we only had 1 hour for lunch. First up was the small Roti Canai ($3.99/small). The roti itself was flaky but it lacked that buttery taste. The curry dip was really disappointing to me. It was quite watery and missing the rich curry flavor.
Next up was my Thai Chicken Basil Fried Rice ($7.50). I loved this fried rice, as it really did bring back memories from back in the days when I use to live in Thailand. The rice was moist and flavorful. The chicken was tender and delicious. The basil really added that authentic taste. Also, did I mention this portion was huge, I only manage to finish about 1/2 of this. In a nutshell, I give this 2 thumbs up for taste and value.R went for their famous Laksa ($7.50), after all this is why we decided to try it in the first place. The broth was rich and creamy with a heavy coconut accent. The curry and dry shrimp paste was mild in comparison. Although milder than some other, it was still a very flavorful dish with a nice spicy kick to it. They also didn't skimped out on the toppings, as it was loaded with fish balls and tofu puffs. Overall, this was a solid dish.

As I already mentioned, the restaurant was rather small, so I am guessing there were maybe around 1 or 2 chefs at the back. Our orders took almost 20 minutes, but I guess the table of 6 that came in before us probably had something to do with it. Either way, the food here was definitely commendable, but just make sure you don't have somewhere else to go if they are busy, cause it could take awhile.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ming & Sing - food court style Chinese food


Ming & Sing

#106 - 18640 Fraser Highway, Surrey

Ming & Sing (Hillcrest) on Urbanspoon

Food: 3
Price: Expensive

Ever since Stanley Cup playoffs began, cooking is just too time consuming. So that only left me with 2 choices, I either dine out at a restaurant with TV or buy take out. This is how I ended up at this Chinese take out restaurant. Although I consider this type of food bad Chinese food, but there is something "special" about it, because I always seem to crave it once in awhile. XD

Awhile back when we were visiting Memphis Blues in Cloverdale, we noticed a Chinese Fast Food joint called Ming & Sing. From far away, it looked like 'Ming Sing', which led me to think it it was opened by some celebrity, because Ming Sing in Chinese literally translate to celebrity lol. Anyways, the restaurant actually looked quite nice from the outside, and really clean in the inside. Despite that it's mostly for take out, there are tables and chairs provided for in house dining.
Food was quite typical, with Chicken as the main meat source for most dishes. There were maybe 3 or 4 dishes that were beef and pork. Prices were on the high side, because 3 items will set you back nearly $10. I guess because of the location, there really isn't any competition to bring the price down.
R and I decided to share 3 items, as we were planning to grab bubble tea later. Their portion was actually not bad, but then again it wasn't cheap. We ordered the sesame chicken, this was rather bland, because there were barely any sauce at all. Also deep fried chicken was not crispy. The 2nd item we had was the Sichuan chicken. This was much better, as the chicken was tender, flavorful and only mildly spicy. For our main, we got a combination of fried rice and noodle. Surprisingly both were not bad. The rice was not oily, but flavorful. The al dente noodles and crispy vegetables really made this stir fried noodle stood out.
Lastly, we got the Sweet & Sour Pork. Instead of just piling it on our rice, they actually provided a separate take out box for it. The pork was pre-marinated, so you can actually eat it without the sauce. In fact, I preferred it that way, because it was super tender and delicious. Also, it wasn't heavily battered either. On the other side, the sauce was rather generic.

So the question is "Did this satisfy my craving for bad Chinese food?", and the answer is "Yes". The food was actually not bad, but just the price. For $10, I could have had much better Chinese food in Richmond, then again this is in Surrey, borderline Langley. Overall, I would recommend this place if you are in the area and craving this type of food, but just be prepare to pay more. :P

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

900 West Lounge - another Fairmont afternoon tea


900 West Lounge @ Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

900 W Georgia St, Vancouver

900 West Lounge on Urbanspoon

Food: 2.5
Service: 3
Price: Expensive

As I have said many times, taste is totally subjective. Although taste maybe a huge factor on how I grade my food adventures, but I think past experiences and expectations also plays a big part. I guess this would be the case with this particular afternoon tea at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, because I expected to be at par with other Fairmont afternoon teas.

Once again it was another online deal (Dealfind) that lead me here. Just like the last one from Fairmont Pacific Rim, this was also a 2 for 1 deal ($36/2 ppl). I know this has nothing to do with food, but this deal actually sold more than 10,000+ vouchers, comparing to the 2000+ vouchers from the previous deal. I am not sure if it was intentional or someone just dropped the ball and never capped the deal. On top of that, this deal is NOT valid on Sundays. So that means it's only valid one day on the weekend. I am not sure about you, but I for one works during the week days, as I would assume most people do. So if you bought this deal, you better reserve soon, because I hear the wait time is about 2 month now. Anyways enough with my ranting and let's move on to the food.

I have just been to the afternoon tea at the Fairmont Pacific Rim a couple of month ago, so the memories are still fresh in my mind. Therefore it's only natural that I drew comparison between the 2. First, I loved the tea cups here, it was more traditional. Second, I love how they didn't only provided the sugar and cream, they also provided a small jar of honey as well. For my tea, I went with the ice wine tea(a delicious fresh and piquant white grape flavor with hints of exotic fruit that pleasantly lingers on the tongue). The tea had a fragrant grape aroma with a slight grape taste. It was really refreshing and tasted even better with honey. I highly recommend this tea.

Although my tea was delicious, but I would have preferred to see and smell it first like the Tea Box presentation seen at the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Since these tea pots are actually made of metal including the handles, they are really hot to the touch. Remember my little rant above, well because they had too many people that day (not surprised), they can only offer us napkin as handle cover instead of the real ones. These fell off really easily, and I did get slightly burnt once.
The food came after about 15 minutes after the tea. I loved the traditional two-tiered serving tray. Usually there are 4 desserts, but here they only had 3 plus the scones. There were 4 savory sandwiches, which is comparable with other places, but Fairmont pacific rim had 6 savory treats (2 sandwiches and 4 'sushi').

Here is what we thought of the sweets:

Scones: Best ever hands done. These scones were buttery, warm and soft. Despite being so buttery, it wasn't oily at all. To push it over the top, added the delicious jam and devonshire cream, and I am in heaven :)
Lemon tart: Although the shortbread like crust was good, but the lemon custard was too sour for me.
Eclair: This was quite sweet, due to the milk chocolate cream filling.
Special cheesecake: I love cheesecake, but this was the biggest disappointment. It was way too sweet, and didn't really have any cream cheese taste to it. Also the white chocolate shaving outside was a bit overkill since it was already so sweet.

Overall, I think the scones are too die for, but the rest was a bust.
For the sandwiches, here are our thoughts

Smoked salmon on dark rye: The smoked salmon was good, nothing really stood out, but nor was it bad
Croissant with ham & brie: The croissant was buttery and flaky and the brie just enhanced the flavor of the sandwich. They also spread some mustard in this which I was not a fan of (personal preference).
Cucumber & watercress: I didn't like this, as it was rather bland. Also, I found the bread to be stale.
Curry chicken on baguette: Although the curry chicken was good, but the bread was soggy. Maybe because we ate this near the end.

All in all, both R and I found the savory treats to be on the weak side, and we both much prefer the ones we had at Fairmont Pacific Rim.

The tables and chairs here all looked like miss matched antiques, but it works. This place certainly did have that British flare. However the only problem I had was with the lighting. It was rather dark because there weren't any natural lights at all. Service was not bad, some were more friendly than others. Our waiter never bothered to explain what each piece was like some others were doing.

Overall, R and I did enjoy the experience, as our high back sofa chairs was rather comfortable. However, since this was a food experience, so I will have to say this didn't really live up to my expectation. As I have said, taste is subjective, so please do try it for yourself if you really enjoy afternoon teas, because your experience could be the total opposite of mine. ;P

Monday, May 9, 2011

Toe Dam - must get the BBQ eel


Toe Dam Korean Fusion BBQ

#250-329 North Rd, Coquitlam (map)

Toe Dam Korean Fusion BBQ on Urbanspoon

Food: 3
Service: 3
Price: Fair+

If you want Korean food, Coquitlam is THE place to be. With so many choices, sometime it's hard to make a decision on where to dine. Anyways, after a few games of pool, a bunch us of didn't really know where to go, but I did know I wanted Kam Ja Tang (aka Korean Pork Bone Soup).
Since we had no idea where to go, we just headed to the open square mall by H-Mart. It turned out the first restaurant we walked in had the Kam Ja Tang, and that's how we ended up at Toe Dam restaurant. The restaurant had no open area, it's all individual booth/room. I actually like this layout, because it gives diner more privacy. Despite the individual booth, we had no problem getting a hold of the waitress, because like all Korean restaurant, this one also had the bell system.
The side dishes were pretty standard, but they didn't carry my favorite potatoes which was disappointing. Refill of side dishes are still free here.We ordered 2 set of the pork belly (minimum requirement) for $14.95/set, and it came with all the fixings (lettuce, garlic, jalapeno and sauce). The pork belly was of a nice cut and quite thick. It was fresh and and perfect bite size. Of course we had some 'professional' BBQ chef, so these turn out nice and juicy. On a side note, you can always ask for more lettuce, but if they are busy, it may take awhile.
The pork belly came with a side of miso soup, so the menu claim, but this was more of a kimchi tofu soup. The soup was actually quite sour due to the kimchi. Let's just say I was not a fan.
We ordered a side of BBQ eel ($14.95), These were so delicious. The sauce tasted like a combination of BBQ and teriyaki sauce with a touch of sauteed onion. It was prefect over the nicely grilled yet still super tender BBQ eel. I highly recommend this dish.
Lastly, we ordered a medium Kam Ja Tang for $28.95 (large is $39.95). The soup was rather disappointing, because it lacked flavorful. Typical Kam Ja Tang is usually cooked with Perilla seed to intensify the flavorful, but here it is mostly a kimchi based soup. Although the meat was fall of the bone soft and good, but the potato was undercooked. I think they should have stewed it more before bring it out to us.

Overall, the meal was good. The service was average and the the price was acceptable. Since they claim to be more of a BBQ restaurant (it's in their name), then I think I would recommend, because their BBQ was indeed very good (including the eel). So if you are ever looking for some good Korean BBQ, give this place a try.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Red Wagon - great brunch


The Red Wagon

2296 East Hastings Street, Vancouver (map)

The Red Wagon on Urbanspoon

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.5
Price: Fair

Even since I joined this food blogosphere, I have met some great people. Because of our love for food, we often gather together to try new restaurant. So when TS of EatingClubVancouver suggested we should do another gathering, I was more than happy. The question is where should we go? There was no better person to ask for recommendation than Sherman, since he had probably eaten at half the restaurants in Vancouver. In the end, we went with Red Wagon because we wanted to do brunch.
The Red Wagon was easy enough to find with its big white block letters on a red background. The restaurant doesn't really stand out in anyway, but there was a line up when we got there at 11:30am, which was a good sign. We were told the wait would be 20 minutes. While we were waiting, I though the decor and setting looked more like pho restaurant. Does anyone know what use to be here?
R ordered the Pull Pork Benny ($10). This was great, the soft poached egg was at the perfect consistency, and the hollandaise sauce was buttery and smooth. The pull pork meat was tender and flavorful. The home fries were average, they could be crispier.
 I got the crisp pork belly($10.95) that came with 2 eggs any style, grill tomato, home fries and toast. Even before I dug into the pork belly, I thought it looked dry, and I was right, it was more like smoked meat. Although the skin was crispy, but the rest was just too tough to chew. Also this was suppose to be pork belly, but where is the fatty part. On top of it, it was rather salty. Despite the mishap with the pork belly, I still loved the egg. It was at the perfect consistency for easy over. The whole wheat toasts were great and came already buttered, they also give me a side of jam for them. 
 JS ordered The Reuben ($9.50): a homemade corn beef on rye bread with a side of chips . I didn't get to try this, but I didn't hear any complaints against it either. Remember at the beginning how I speculated that this could have been a pho restaurant, well the plate just proves it even more. :DLastly was TS's Pull Pork Pancakes with Jack Daniel Syrup ($12). Once again I didn't try this, but I am pretty sure this was not disappointing, consider the amount of people who ordered this. In fact, the people who occupied this table before us all ordered this, talk about lack of varieties, but I guess that shows how good it is.

The food here was solid, and the service was great. Prices are definitely in the acceptable range for the portion and quality. However there isn't any ambiance per se (unlike Cafe Medina), but it does have that typical neighborhood diner feel. Anyways, they don't take reservation, so make sure you go early.