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2010-05-16 10:30 pm

Bo Laksa King - Renfrew-Collingwood, Vancouver

Got way too behind to even think of catching up with all the places I've been, which got discouraging. So, fresh start now that I'm freshly married and back in Vancouver. I have a couple of places from our honeymoon I'd like to review, but I'll get back into things with a Vancouver review.

THIS IS A REVIEW:
Bo Laksa King is a great place to have laksa, said the internet! Hmm, ok, thought I, but what the heck is laksa? Oh well, it's near to where we're going to be anyway, let's try it!

They serve it to you in two bowls, as shown above. You squeeze the lime and pour the soup over the whole thing. That was the helpful instructions of the one-woman team running everything.

If you don't know what laksa is either, it's a Chinese-Malaysian specialty. Bo Laksa King's version is a rich, curry and coconut milk soup over shrimp, fish balls, tofu puffs, chicken, a hard-boiled egg, and your choice of rice vermicelli or yellow wheat noodles. We chose yellow wheat at the nice lady's recommendation. ($7.50)

Bo Laksa King has a nice combo deal where you can get a wrap with your laksa $2 off, so we got an Asian Beef Wrap:


Bo Laksa King does most of their business takeout, which they have to, because it's just a counter within a tiny grocery, and there's only three tiny tables outside. But I have to say that eating there, or at least nearby, might be worth it. The contrast between the hot beef and sauce, and the cool crisp vegetables, was lovely, and that's the kind of thing that just doesn't survive a trip home. ($4.50)

Our favorite part of the meal, however, was the Roti Canai ($5.99 for a large).

Once again, I would hate to have to take this very far before digging in. Hot, hot, hot and so stretchy and crispy and fresh and OMG, I want another order now. *salivates* Just by itself it would be worth the price, so to have that bowl of curry chicken dipping sauce is just... gah. Hungry now.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Bo Laksa King
Location: 4910 Joyce St Vancouver BC
Prices: <$10 per person. No drinks, but it's in a grocery so you can buy a cold drink.
Service: Very, very friendly, but there was only one person there and she was doing EVERYTHING (taking orders, cooking, cleaning up, bringing you your order etc), so you must be patient!
Food: Amazing Chinese-Malaysian food at great prices. With a smile!
Recommended?: Yes, and please send me an order of roti canai while you're there?

Bo Laksa King on Urbanspoon
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2010-02-23 04:32 am

Cow Boss Knife Cut Noodles - Shida Night Market, Taipei

"Cow Boss Knife Cut Noodles" is my own translation of 牛老大刀削麵, the Chinese name of the shop.

I went here a bajillion times because I lived not too far away. It was always busy, but never to the point where you had to wait in line, or anything like that.

They specialize in knife-cut noodles, as the name suggests. Knife-cut noodles, or dao xiao mian, are made by taking a block of dough and slicing the noodles directly into the pot.

Knife-cut noodles have always had a special place in my heart because my grandfather always made noodle soup in exactly that way. He didn't cut the noodles on a board or put them through a pasta machine etc. Cutting the dough right into the boiling broth gives the noodles a special texture that has to be experienced.



Here's one of my typical student dinners, and it's making me homesick. (Yeah, I consider Taipei my heart's home.) If you squint at the receipt, you might be able to barely, barely make out that I ordered a large bowl of their standard, the beef noodle 紅燒牛肉麵. It cost me $120NT, or about $4 at the exchange rate back then. Probably more like $3.75 now.

Whatever you order, of course, comes with unlimited cold black and barley tea and, IIRC, a small bowl of soup. I usually drank the barley tea.

The plain beef (what I usually ordered) is very lean, so if you like more tender beef, you should pay a little extra to get tendon meat. Which... hm... yeah probably most Westerners are a little off-put at the idea of saying "I'd like to eat some tendon!" Honestly the texture overwhelmed me a little bit when I first tried it. It's got that melt-in-your-mouth fat, instead of marbling. Taiwanese in general like fat on their meat more than modern Americans. Taiwanese chicken tastes better... brace yourselves... because the chickens are fatter. Ditto for pork, folks. I heard fellow former Taiwan people lament that meat in the States just isn't the same... while they reach for skinless chicken breasts with a sticker on them proclaiming how lean they are! Fat. It tastes good, yo. What a concept.

Anyway. This place also sells wontons, chow mein, fried rice and meat on rice, dumplings, and stir-fried year cake, which OMG I want some RIGHT NOW. I may have to see if either of the two Taiwanese restaurants in Pittsburgh make it.

Hmm, anything else... oh, I guess I should say, the entire menu is in Chinese, and nobody there will speak English, so you might want to print out some Chinese to take with you. I'll translate some key phrases here and you can pretty much mix and match.

紅燒 - hong2shao1 - "red cooking" (broth, ie, primarily meat flavored)
番茄 - fan1qie2 - tomato (broth)
牛肉 - niu2 rou4 - in this context, lean beef ($100NT small bowl)
牛筋 - niu2 jin1 - beef tendon ($120NT small bowl)
半筋半肉 - ban4 jin1 ban4 rou4 - half tendon half lean beef ($110NT small bowl)
麵 - mian4 - noodles
湯 - tang1 - soup (without noodles)
素 - su4 - vegetarian (there is no vegetarian knife-cut noodles, but there are vegetarian fried rice and fried year cake)
飯 - fan4 - rice (in this context, that means plain rice under a piece of meat or whatever)
炒麵 - chao3 mian4 - fried noodles (chow mein)
炒飯 - chao3 fan4 - fried rice
水餃 - shui3jiao3 - dumplings (you buy them $5NT per each, or about six dumplings per US dollar)
湯餃 - tang1jiao3 dumplings in soup
抄手水餃 - chao3shou3 shui3jiao3 - stir-fried dumplings
餛飩 - hun1tun1 - wonton
排骨 - pai1gu3 - ribs
豬腳 - zhu1 jiao3 - pigs' feet
雞腿 - ji1 tui3 - chicken drumstick
木須肉 - mu4 xu1 rou4 - moo shu pork (yes, moo shu pork is really Chinese)
炒年糕 - chao3 nian2gao1 - fried year cake
大 - da4 - large
小 - xiao3 - small
碗 - wan3 - bowl

Hmm, that will cover most of the menu (and actually be helpful for a lot of places). For example, if you want vegetarian fried rice, take "vegetarian" and add "fried rice" and you get su4 chao3 fan4 素炒飯. If you want a bowl of tomato half-tendon half-beef noodle soup that's fan1qie2 ban4 jin1 ban4 rou4 mian4 番茄半筋半肉麵! And say you want a large bowl, da4 wan3 大碗. Obviously, some things don't go together, for example, you can't get ribs with your wonton soup. But I hope it's a little helpful.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: "Cow Boss Knife Cut Noodles" 牛老大刀削麵
Location: 42 Longquan St, Da'an, Taipei 台北市大安區龍泉街42號
Prices: $60-150 NT ($2-5 US)
Service: Busy, busy, busy. Don't make them wait.
Food: Satisfying, hearty portions of good Taiwanese food. Yum.
Recommended?: Worth a visit, but not worth going out of your way for, perhaps. I was a regular here, but I lived close by.
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2010-02-23 02:43 am

Yee Shun Dairy Company - Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

When I was living in Taiwan, I was confounded by the popularity of "milk flavored" products. Milk flavored pudding. Milk flavored popsicles. Milk flavored ice cream.

To an American like me, "milk flavored" means WHO FORGOT TO PUT IN THE ACTUAL FLAVOR?

But then, my first experience with "milk flavored pudding" was a Yoplait pudding at 7-11. It was underwhelming to say the least. So I thought the entire concept was ridiculous.

Then I went to Hong Kong and picked up a booklet at the airport, "Eat Your Way Around Hong Kong." Man, let me tell you, BEST BOOKLET EVER. Every single suggestion I took from that thing was rock solid. And Yee Shun Dairy Company was no different.



My bowl of milk pudding was homemade and supremely creamy, presenting the natural milk and egg flavor. In fact, for something of this quality, you don't want a strong flavor distracting you. You ought to be savoring the texture.

It cost HK$20 (~$2.50US), and came with that glass of tea at no extra charge. :)

Incidentally, if you're wondering why it has been literally months since my last post, I had digital camera problems. I'm still sort of having them, but I don't want to abandon this blog, so I'm putting up a few posts with images I had already uploaded.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Yee Shun Milk Company 港澳義順牛奶公司
Location: Ground Floor, 85 Percival St, Causeway Bay 2576 1828
Prices: 30 HKD tops, I would guess.
Service: Indifferent.
Food: Dairy desserts and snacks, especially known for steamed milk and milk pudding.
Recommended?: Yes!
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2009-08-23 06:36 pm

Japadog - Downtown, Vancouver


THIS IS A REVIEW:
Japadog isn't bad, it's just suffering from a case of terminal overrateditis. It's the #1 restaurant on Urbanspoon, it was featured in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations", and the line-up is always long.

But for all that, it's just hot dogs and sausages, with some Asian toppings. The quality of the meat is comparable to other hot dog stands. You won't be rolling around on the sidewalk in orgasmic delight after biting into one.



The Betrothed and I both had the okonomi, which is a kurobota (fatty pork) sausage with bonito flakes, fried cabbage, okonomiyaki sauce and mayo. The toppings on most of their items are likely to be carried away on a windy day, so you might want to wait for a calm one to try it out.

It was good, but it was hard for it to match the expectations we had built up for this place. The bun, for example, is just a bun you can get at the supermarket. The sausage was tasty, but nothing like as good as the ones at Aree's Dawg House. There was not enough fried cabbage and too much bonito. The sauces were really good and well matched, I will give them that.

I'd recommend this for a hot dog if you're going to be in Downtown, but I wouldn't make a special trip here.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Japadog
Location: Burrard St between Smithe and Robson; three other locations
Prices: $5 or so per hot dog
Service: Efficient and smiling.
Food: Tasty tube meat with Asian toppings.
Recommended?: The food is good but the trendiness is out of proportion. However, the low price means that this is an easy way to do something that many celebrities have done, lol. Check out what some of them have ordered. Does your favorite star take the turkey terimayo or a plain and boring dog with nothing? Only one way to see!

Japadog (Burrard & Smythe) on Urbanspoon
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2009-08-21 02:12 am

Belgian Fries - Commercial Drive, Vancouver


THIS IS A REVIEW:
I'm on Team Fritz in the Fritz vs. Belgian Fries debate, but this is still a good place for poutine in Vancouver.

The menu is a bit bigger than Fritz's, with some more exotic combinations. In addition to fries fries and more fries, they also sell such healthy fare as deep-fried Mars bars and other desserts.

The gravy is vegetarian based (probably miso) like most places in Vancouver.



We got two larges (each about $8) which was probably a mistake lol, but at the time we were really hungry. The one on the right is topped with so-called "War", which is apparently a favorite in the Netherlands (they call it "patatje oorlog"). It's a peanut satay sauce and mayo, along with onions. Maybe this is the way the Dutch like it, but I thought there was too much mayo compared to the other ingredients. Also it was a hot day so it was a little heavy. Somehow poutine's gravy doesn't feel as heavy as the creamy peanut and mayo. But I liked the combination in principle.

Our other choice was a little more conventional, poutine Galvaude. This Quebecois treat is the good old poutine combination of fries, gravy and curds, with peas and shredded chicken. The big weakpoint comparing Belgian to Fritz is the fries; the fries at Fritz are simply better. But the gravy is comparable. The curds in our poutine were not as melty as I like them but still pretty delicious, and I liked eating it with the chicken and peas. The Boyfriend liked it too.

Oh, and you, faithful reader, should know that The Boyfriend is no more.

Because later that day he proposed to me! <3

So now he is... The Betrothed. *tiny cymbal crash*

And we're almost reaching the end of my time in Vancouver!

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Belgian Fries
Location: 1885 Commercial Dr Vancouver BC (604) 253-4220
Prices: $5-10 for most dishes. Also sells beer and coolers.
Service: Done take-out style. It was fine.
Food: Fries with various toppings done well. But to my mind, they overemphasize the toppings at the expense of the fries.
Recommended?: If you only have time to do one, I say go to Fritz European Fry House downtown. But this place is still good. I also had really good poutine at the Naam, of all places.

Belgian Fries on Urbanspoon
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2009-08-19 12:53 am

Felico's - Richmond, Vancouver


THIS IS A REVIEW:
Recently The Boyfriend and I went to Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, on an errand. While we were there we planned to go to a Chinese restaurant in the area. The task of picking the place was supposed to be my responsibility, but I didn't have time to do it and still make it there on time, so I called up a friend and asked her for her advice. She mentioned a place and we walked there, but it was closed Mondays.

We sort of walked around after that and ended up picking, of all places, Felico's, a Greek restaurant. We agreed that there was a sort of delicious incongruity in Chinese food fanatics coming to Richmond, Chinese central of the Vancouver area, and not eating Chinese.

It was actually a rather cool and overcast day, so I don't know why I ordered a frozen mango margarita, but I did.



It was alright, neither fantastic nor horrible.



The pita bread, on the other hand, was fantastic. It was so warm and fresh like it had just come from the oven. Mmmmmm.



We ordered two dishes. Here is the Oreftika Platter, which is their appetizer combo and costs $19.95. I don't know if the picture does it justice but this thing had an overwhelming amount of calamari. Since The Boyfriend doesn't like calamari it was all for me, and it was a bit of struggle, because I like calamari but this was like five squids worth. We ended up taking most of it home, which brings me to something that really irritated me: there was a good amount of hummus and tsatsiki left, but they didn't pack it up. They did, however, carefully pack up the au jus that went with our lamb dish that neither of us gave a crap about. So it definitely wasn't that they didn't have those mini sauce take-out containers. Grrrr. It was really good hummus!

I also wasn't a big fan of the spanakopita and the stuffed grape leaves were too meaty for my taste. They were more like grape leaf wrapped meatballs. Which is good, but not what I think of when I think of this dish. Too much beef, not enough rice.



The other dish was the Kleftico ($16.95), lamb in mustard sauce served with roasted veggies. The Boyfriend was skeptical at the idea of mustard on lamb but it was quite good. Very, very fatty but so tender and juicy. It put me in mind of the traditional Sunday dinner, something that would be the highlight of your week.

My overall impression of the place was a mixed bag. They did some things really well but there were a number of things that irritated me needlessly. I'm somewhat of a stick in the mud so when I noticed that they hadn't charged me for my tea (I got mint tea) I brought it up to the waitress. In this kind of situation, when a restaurant makes a mistake and undercharges on a minor item, I'm used to them just waving it off, but she said she would fix the bill. I wouldn't have a problem with that either, except she took forever to fix it! We were standing right there and she couldn't seem to figure out how to add the tea. I was thinking "Surely at this point she will wave off what is essentially the cost of a tea bag?" But no, we had to wait for at least five minutes as she and another person (a manager?) wrestled the machine into adding the tea.

Even more irritating was the aforementioned failure to pack up the hummus and tzatziki. Even thinking about the hummus now, I want some. It was so full of garlic!

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Felico's
Location: 8140 Leslie Rd Richmond, BC (604) 276-8282
Prices: $7-11 for appies, $15-25 for entrees, as well as three platters for two around $35
Service: See above.
Food: Very good Greek food in an upscale atmosphere.
Recommended?: I'm undecided. I guess I would say I liked it. But there's this niggling dissatisfaction at the same time.

Felico's on Urbanspoon
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2009-08-09 01:10 am

Pizza From Hell (Hell's Kitchen) - Kitsilano, Vancouver

THIS IS A REVIEW:
It's difficult to say "great" or "awful" or "mediocre" about this place. The pizza was really great yet with a significant drawback: it was really, really, really oily. I don't just mean greasy to the taste. I mean looking at the pizza one could see little pools of pure oil on the surface. To eat the pizza, we had to pick up a slice, hold it up and let the oil drip off, pat the thing on both sides with clean paper towels, and then eat it.



It's a shame because the toppings were so good. On Tuesdays Pizza From Hell, the take-out portion of Hell's Kitchen, does a good deal: buy one, get one free pizza. Since the pizzas are ordinarily rather expensive, this is the perfect time to try them. We ordered a 15" Sergeant Pepperoni (fancy pepperoni and wild mushrooms with thyme) and a 15" Aphrodite (pesto, chicken, almonds, asiago cheese and sun-dried tomatoes). Each would ordinarily be $21.45, so we got the pair for that price.



I really don't know why they were so very very oily. I've never seen anything like it.

Once they were blotted with the paper towels, the taste was pretty good, but more prissy people than us would perhaps be sickened at the concept of needing to blot one's food, lol.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Pizza From Hell (part of Hell's Kitchen)
Location: 2041 W. 4th Ave Vancouver BC (604) 736-4355
Prices: all their 15" pizzas are around $20
Service: The door was locked when The Boyfriend went to pick up the pizzas, and someone had to open it for him. Dunno what that was about.
Food: Good quality ingredients, nice combinations, but whence cometh the oil?
Recommended?: TBQH I have not been particularly impressed with the pizza joints in this city. You might as well go to Fresh Slice.

Hell's Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-31 01:02 am

Wang's Beef Noodle House - Marpole, Vancouver


THIS IS A REVIEW:
Vancouver's weather lately has been oppressively, unreasonably hot, and because of this I was craving my favorite Taiwanese summer food: 涼麵 liangmian, or cold noodles.

I Googled for it, but I wasn't finding anything but Korean and Japanese style cold noodles. Then I had the brilliant (or obvious, or possibly a combination of the two) idea to search in Chinese, and I found a page talking about Wang's Beef Noodle House in Marpole as having great liangmian. This was about 1am, JUST LIKE IT IS NOW, because the heat makes it so hard to stay asleep. I immediately resolved to kidnap The Boyfriend when he got off of work and take him to this place.

We got there about 3pm, a slow period for most restaurants. I kicked things off by responding to the waitress's question of how many with “兩位" which means "two people", and after that I never actually spoke to the waitress in English.

I glanced at the menu only to find the liangmian and immediately ordered a bowl. The Boyfriend had been hoping to order salt and pepper chicken (鹽酥雞) but it wasn't on the menu. The waitress recommended him (through me) several dishes, so here's the scoop if you want it: the #1 and #2 rice dishes, which I can't remember what they are; the #3 and #5 dim sum, which was the scallion pancake beef rolls (餅夾牛肉) and I think a kind of dumpling; and of course, the beef noodle soup!

If you can't tell by the fact that I don't remember the names of the other dishes, we ordered the beef rolls. The Boyfriend also ordered a bowl of liangmian since he had never had cold noodles Chinese-style before.



Was it good? Was it good. WAS IT GOOD.

The picture is post-stirring and eating a few bites because I was just overcome with "DO WANT." It's a very simple and healthy style: cold noodles topped with a mildly spicy sesame-ginger sauce (and I think I also detected some peanut), topped with julienned cucumber, carrot, and cilantro. I am not a fan of cilantro so I scraped all of mine into my boyfriend's bowl; the waitress noticed and said I could tell them next time not to put it on.

I had asked the waitress upon coming in if the song that was playing was by Fahrenheit (a Taiwanese boy band) but she checked the iPod and found that it was Super Junior M (another boy band). Not long after we received our bowls, she asked me who my favorite singer was. I told her Landy Wen Lan (溫嵐). She immediately went and changed the iPod to play all Landy all the time! <3 So I spent half the time eating and half the time singing along, which amused The Boyfriend greatly.



I know I gushed about the liangmian but the bing jia niurou was EVEN BETTER. As a matter of fact, it was the best beef roll I have ever had, and I'm speaking as a girl who lived in Taipei an entire year, ate out at least two meals every day, and absolutely adores scallion pancake. It was the quality of the beef and the sauce that made it soar to unimagined heights of deliciousness. The absolute perfect combination of crispy, thin scallion pancake, tender beef, and rich, savory sauce.



Go ahead and drool at that picture a little. I'll wait.

Finished? Okay. While we were eating, I noticed that a family eating nearby had ordered a bowl of what was most certainly mango baobing. However, it hadn't been on the menu, at least not that I saw (it's quite possible I was blinded by "MUST HAVE LIANGMIAN NOW" though). I asked the waitress how much it was for a bowl, and she said $4.50. We said "Ummmmmmm yes bring that now plzkthx."

She went back to the kitchen to tell us our order, but then came out to say that the mango was sold out. Awwww. But that's okay because she'll go get some more! If we're willing to wait a little? Surprised, we agreed.

Sure enough, about ten minutes later I saw her come back in the front door with a plastic shopping bag containing two mangoes. Now THAT is service!

Also I have to point out here that in addition to our 超可愛 (super cute) waitress, there was another waitress who was freakin' hilarious. I spent any time I did not spend eating and singing along with the music translating her brusque scoldings and quips for The Boyfriend. For example:

Other Waitress: Where were you?
Our Waitress: We ran out of mangoes. I went to get more.
Other Waitress: These mangoes aren't ripe enough!
Our Waitress: I think...
Other Waitress: You don't know how to pick mangoes!

Okay it is not nearly as hilarious written down. Probably a lot of it was that it took me right back to certain balls-busting Taiwanese women I knew, who were undisputed masters of their domains and the terrified souls who cowered within them.

They were also gossipping about whether a certain Chinese singer were gay, and she snapped, "Well, of course he is! Who else would wear so many clothes?" LMAO.

Anywhoozle, back to the mango baobing! It was, to be precise, mangguo niunai bing (芒果牛奶冰), which means "mango milk ice", but here "milk" actually refers to sweetened condensed milk.

Once again, Wang's did not disappoint me. The most difficult part of making baobing is getting a good texture for the ice. It's not supposed to be hard crunchy granules of ice like in a snowcone. Chinese restaurants in North America that use snow cone makers for their baobing are the bane of my culinary life. It's supposed to be shaved ice, with a softer texture, something that won't hurt your teeth, and that melts relatively quickly on a hot day, forming a delicious super-cold liquid mixed with the condensed milk and fruit flavor.

Despite the other waitress's scolding, the mango tasted perfectly ripe to me. Another bane is restaurants that use canned mango in syrup. This was quite demonstratively not the case at Wang's.

The entire meal with tax came to a little over $20. The entire meal, as long as I didn't look out the window, I could imagine I was in Taipei. The music, the food, the sound of a Taiwanese woman bitching people out... ahhhhh. Nostalgia.

I want to go back. ;_;

But, while I can't go back to Taipei right now, The Boyfriend and I have resolved to come back here before I leave. Which is in two weeks, so that should let you know how much we loved this place.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Wang's Beef Noodle House (王記台灣牛肉麵)
Location: 8390 Granville St Vancouver BC (604) 266-7966
Prices: <$10 person
Service: Our waitress did everything short of carry our food out to us on her knees. When the restaurant ran out of an item we wanted, she actually went so far as to run to the market and buy the ingredient needed. See, Hapa Izakaya? That's how you do it!
Food: Not only is it authentic Taiwanese food, if this restaurant were in Taipei, I would patronize it above others. It ranks with the best of Taipei.
Recommended?: No, not at all. Haha, just kidding. C'mon, did you read the review or not? GO HERE.

Wang’s Beef Noodle House on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-29 11:55 pm

Vancouver Izakaya Crawl: Run-Down Post

Okay. Apologies for the massive spam, but I figured this was the best way to give "the whole experience" and be able to link to individual reviews. :) I'm posting in reverse order so that when someone loads up the page (or the tag) they can scroll from top to bottom and follow the order of restaurants we visited.

This post is the overview post.

So, the Boyfriend had a friend coming to visit from another province, and we wanted to do something that can only be done in Vancouver, for food. Her landlocked province is not a good place for sushi, so that was her suggestion.

I started Googling around looking for sushi reviews and came across the concept of an izakaya crawl. An izakaya, if you don't know, is kind of like a Japanese pub: small dishes of food, and sake and beer.

An izakaya crawl, therefore, is like a bar crawl gone Nippon.

Of course, in order to visit a lot of izakaya in succession, you have to be somewhere where there are a lot of izakaya, ideally somewhere where those izakaya are in walking distance. Vancouver is perhaps unique outside of Japan in having an area with a high density of izakaya: the stretch of Robson St. between Burrard and Denman, and then Denman between Barclay and W. Georgia. Many are true izakaya, but one can also mix it up by visiting some sushi places, some other Asian places, even a Western tapas restaurant.

Here's our timeline:
17:30 -- Guu with Garlic
18:25 -- Tapastree
19:25 -- Kingyo
20:25 -- Hon's Wun Tun House (my roommate joined us starting here)
21:15 -- Hapa Izakaya
22:00 -- Gyoza King (roommate left after here)
23:10 -- Zakkushi
24:00 -- finish line!

Altogether we shared 29 different dishes and I think I tasted 19 or so different alcoholic beverages, of which 5 were actually mine, but because it was all spread out I never got more than buzzed, which surprised me. In fact we didn't bother with a taxi home, we took public transit.

Alcohol was easily half the bill in the places where we drank, and non-alcoholic specialty drinks were often expensive too, so if you want to save money and still have the excitement of an izakaya crawl, drink water at most places.

Best overall restaurant of the night was without a doubt Kingyo, and worst was hands down Hapa Izakaya. Best value was the potstickers at Hon's; biggest splurge was the sashimi trio at Kingyo. Best and worst atmosphere was Kingyo and Hapa once again, but Guu with Garlic probably would have given Kingyo a run for its money if we had gone later in the night. Best service goes to Kingyo for the individual attention we received despite sitting at the bar and how busy they were, and worst was probably Gyoza King, due to a language barrier more than anything. Best drinks is a tough one. Guu with Garlic had the best Japanese drinks, but Tapastree had the best and most interesting cocktails. And one last star to Zakkushi for having the sweetest music, and also for seating us and being patient with our indecisiveness when I know they just wanted to close the kitchen and go home, lol.

I'd recommend any of these for your own crawl except Hapa Izakaya, and I'd recommend a crawl to anyone who like trying lots of dishes and drinks. I think you could probably fit more than seven places into your crawl if you were willing to keep going past midnight (several places are open until 1 or 2am). We debated hitting Toratatsu at that point but decided we would rather take public transit while the buses were still running more frequently.

Another recommendation is to sit at the bar whenever you can. Watching stuff being prepared is part of the fun.

A third recommendation is to wear nice socks, because if you choose to sit Japanese-style at a place, you'll take your shoes off.

If you have any questions about making your own izakaya crawl, don't hesitate to leave a comment. We did ours on a Tuesday night, so reservations may be more important on busier nights.
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2009-07-29 11:53 pm

Guu With Garlic - West End, Vancouver

Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.

THIS IS A REVIEW:

We were totally pumped to start our izakaya crawl, so made a reservation at Guu with Garlic for 5:30pm, which is when they open, and arrived there at about 5:15pm, sitting outside on their wooden bench and contemplating their cell phone charm vending machines. As it turns out, the reservation was unnecessary. The place seats more than the entrance appears because there is an outdoor patio. Inside, there is the option to sit at a table, at the bar, or in a Japanese-style near the window.

Despite the name and the logo, Guu with Garlic does not use a lot of garlic. I didn't taste it in any dishes we ordered.



The energy was there right from the beginning, even when the place wasn't that full. Orders are shouted to the chefs working, and there's a lot of banter going on in Japanese between serving staff and chefs. I don't speak Japanese, but it seemed like a lot of call and response was going on, getting everyone revved up for the long night ahead. By the time we left it was full and there were people waiting outside, so if you're not getting there at opening, reservations are a good idea.



We started with drinks. I chose the Cherry Blossom ($6) for my froufrou girlie drink of the evening: peach schnapps, crushed strawberries, and ramune, a Japanese soda. The labels on the ramune are personalized for Guu, which was cute.



The Boyfriend and Ann (the friend) split 250ml of a certain kind of shochu for $25. Very tasty!



Our first dish of the evening: kurokke ($4), aka croquette! Mashed potato and chicken, deep fried, topped with worchestershire and bechamel sauces. We were all pretty hungry so this was a nice way to kick it off and soak up the alcohol hopefully.



Next up: one of the specials, scallop, prawn and squid yuzu ceviche ($7.20). A Japanese twist on the South American raw seafood favorite, this one was made with a Japanese citrus fruit for some East-West fusion. My favorite was the scallop.



The third dish in our initial order was tako wasabi ($3.50), which as the name suggests, is tiny pieces of octopus (tako) and wasabi mixed with soy sauce. This is one of Ann's favorite dishes, and although I didn't like raw tako at all the last time I had it, I liked it a lot this time. Maybe this octopus was fresher, or maybe it was the smaller slices, but the texture was a lot nicer.



We decided we wanted one more dish before we left, something that would really say "POSERS TO THE LEFT", lol. Ann and I kinda railroaded Gordon into compliance with us as we ordered nankotsu karaage ($4): fried chicken knees. Ahhhhh, night market food, I missed you! Yet this simple dish was taken to a level of elegance with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dip into the salt and pepper. Mmmm.

That was the end of our visit to Guu with Garlic. With some food and booze in our tummies, we left for our next stop: Tapastree.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Guu with Garlic
Location: 1698 Robson Street, Vancouver BC 604-685-8678
Prices: $3.50 to $10 per small plate. If you planned to eat until you were full, you'd spend at least $25 per person, is my guess. GwG is also open for lunch, where you can get a meal and a pint of beer for around $10, which is a steal.
Service: Friendly, enthusiastic and busy, busy, busy. This seems like a good place to mention that the music here was pretty fabulous too. Nothing wrong with classic rock.
Food: Tasty and served up to you quick. Putting liquor into ramune with fresh fruit is an inspired summer combination.
Recommended?: Yeah! I'd say get a reservation later in the evening, I bet it's really hopping then. Sitting at the bar looked like a lot of fun too.

Guu With Garlic on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-29 11:50 pm

Tapastree - West End, Vancouver

Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.
THIS IS A REVIEW:
We were surprised by Tapastree. I just copied down the names and opening times of a bunch of izakaya places in the area and printed them out. I had no idea that it was actually Western tapas. In Vancouver "tapas" actually is used more to describe Japanese food than anything else.

Tapastree is on Robson past Denman, and thus away from the hustle and bustle of the main shopping area. It's a more quiet, tree-lined feel, and we took advantage of the lovely weather by sitting on the patio. After frantic Guu with Garlic, this was a nice change of pace. We were glad that we had decided to dress up for our night out, because Tapastree definitely has a more formal air.



They brought us some bread with whipped butter containing what we decided was probably sundried tomato. Fresh bread, but not warm.



We ordered cocktails and a dish of mixed olives ($5). My cocktail, the Pan's Labyrinth, was sparkling wine, elderberry liquor, and...... something else.... dangit! I didn't write this part down, and their online menu doesn't include their cocktails! Which is a shame, because their cocktails were all fascinating combinations. Behind it you can see Ann's drink, which was called a Rock'n'Rolla and had apricot liquor in it... and some other... things?



This one was called "Ain't No Sunshine" and I know it had ginger beer in it. Man, I'm going to have to call them and ask what was in these things. I think they were all around $8 each.



Duck confit, $12. The Boyfriend has always told me that he does not like duck, but he grudgingly tried this dish and then said, "Hey, this tastes good!" So apparently he just never had duck prepared right before. The sweet, tart cranberries were a perfect balance to the rich flesh of the fowl, and a little greens never hurt nobody.



Lamb chop in a gorgonzola demi-glace, $6. I don't like gorgonzola but this sauce was amazing. At the end of the night, it was actually this dish out of everything that we each named as the most memorable. When I took my first bite, I leaned back in my chair with my eyes closed and swooned. Then I said "Everybody shut up, I'm having a moment here," just savoring that first taste.

We knew we had to keep our pace down if we didn't want to get full too quickly, so with these three dishes we said adieu to Tapastree, and walked to Kingyo to continue the crawl.

To eat here as a meal, I think you would want at least three dishes per person.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Tapastree (the website kinda sucks and is out of date)
Location: 1829 Robson St. Vancouver BC (604) 606 4680
Prices: $5-13/small plate, so for a meal that would be like upper 20s/person. An extensive wine list, with by the glass being around $9, and everything up to $500 bottles of wines. A really fascinating cocktail list with most cocktails around $8.
Service: As a more upscale European-style place, the waiters are smooth and professional, not overtly friendly. Left me feeling like I ought to be discussing a terrible blight affecting fields in Provence. "Not tragic? Darling, it ruined the view from my villa! I was so depressed I flew to that little spa in Geneva I was telling you about..."
Food: The lamb chop was out of this world, and the cocktails were complex and sophisticated. My favorite was probably the Rock'n'Rolla.
Recommended?: A great place for a unique evening or anyone who's ever thought "Man, I wish I could order one of everything!"

Tapastree on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-29 11:47 pm

Kingyo - West End, Vancouver

Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.

THIS IS A REVIEW:

After our relaxing stroll through Europe at Tapastree, we were ready to dance our way through Shibuya at Kingyo! The exterior may look all business, but inside Kingyo is as cute as a button.



See? CUTE. That was my drink, a combination of shochu, tonic, shiso (a Japanese herb that tastes kind of like mint) and a dried red pepper. Kingyo is another website that doesn't believe in putting its drinks on its menu, and I lost my notes for this restaurant, so I don't remember what the name of the drink was or how much it cost. :(



Ann ordered a glass of Osake Junmai sake, which is made right here in Vancouver (note the maple leaf on the wooden glass!). The presentation of the pour was lovely, the waiter filled the glass and kept pouring so that it filled the wooden glass too. ^_^ Since we were sitting at the bar, we decided we had to get some classic Japanese bar food: edamame! A nice portion for $3.50.



We ordered a sashimi trio omakase style, although our bartender told us ahead of time what the trio was, but again, lost my notes, not sure what it was, woe. I do remember that they were all imported from Japan, which felt vaguely scandalous, but whatever, I get to be extravagant so seldom. This was a night for pulling out the stops. (The 3-kind omakase was $21.) Despite their journey, it all tasted like it had been swimming in the ocean that morning. Identity check from anyone more experienced in sashimi, please?

We had a super good time at Kingyo, and it was our favorite stop of the night. We loved how our server went into detail about different dishes, despite how busy they were. Our bartender was also super helpful, and recommended several places in the area, including Zakkushi which was right down the street. I know I've mentioned it before, but an easy way for a restaurant to impress me is for them to recommend their direct competitors. It shows how confident they are in their quality and how much they want their customers to have a good time, no matter where.

Incidentally, and I know the ladies care about this one, their bathroom is super awesome-looking and stocked with all the amenities--mouthwash, menstrual pads, toothpicks, Q-tips, etc etc!

Anyway. We were full of good feelings when we asked for the check to make our way to Hon's WunTun House.

oh but wait there is a present



Awwwww. Cute as a BUTTON, Kingyo!

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Kingyo Izakaya
Location: 871 Denman St Vancouver BC (604) 608-1677
Prices: $3.50-$10/small plate. Probably about $30/person to eat until one was full.
Service: They just acted like they were pleased as punch to have us there, lol! All the enthusiasm of Guu with Garlic in terms of shouting and energy, but with this absolutely adorable earnestness.
Food: With sashimi, of course, it's all about freshness, and this was very fresh and high quality, and attractively presented as well. Delicious!
Recommended?: Our favorite place of the crawl, so yeah, big thumbs up!

Kingyo on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-29 11:43 pm

Hon's Wun Tun House - West End, Vancouver

Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.
THIS IS A REVIEW:
After visiting three upscale places, we were getting too full of ourselves. We needed to come back to earth and get our bellies a little full instead.

Despite their gorgeous website, Hon's inside looks like a warehouse cafeteria. Absolutely huge, high ceilings, lots of tables with lots of people. The hugeness carries over to the menu, which could double as a bludgeon, and that's not including the separate vegetarian menu.



Potstickers are the signature dish of Hon's, and for their 37th anniversary they were selling them 6 for $1.37. We were mildly confused by the concept of celebrating a 37th anniversary, but we do not argue with cheap potstickers. Not much to look at, but so tasty! These ones are pork. In my opinion the vegetable ones were even better. It took me back to my time in Taipei, ordering a take-out of potstickers for 3NT each (about a dime). Hon's also sells their potstickers frozen to cook at home.



We also ordered dan dan noodles, a spicy Sichuan dish. Good, simple food.

We also received free barley tea (麥茶). My roommate joined us here and also got an order of potstickers. Altogether, three orders of potstickers and the noodles cost less than $10. Wow!

But, we had a 9:30 reservation at Hapa Izakaya, so we bid a fond farewell to Hon's and moved on.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Hon's WunTun House
Location:
Prices: Huge menu, so I'll just say that it's budget.
Service: All the servers looked harrassed, but we got our food without any mistakes.
Food: Not gourmet, but tasty. Cheap and lots of it.
Recommended?: The only must-try here would be the potstickers, so long as they keep that crazy price. But this would be a good place to bring a group of vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Hon's Wun Tun House (Vancouver West End) on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-29 11:40 pm

Hapa Izakaya - West End, Vancouver

Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.

THIS IS A REVIEW:
We didn't really need a reservation here, either. We came in and they were ready to seat us right away, but I mentioned my reservation anyway.

This picture is not an exaggeration of how dimly lit the place is. I am usually a fan of dimly lit restaurants, I think the mood feels more intimate and special that way. However, I was disappointed by the overall decoration of the place. It was kinda boring. There was no flair. All minimalism.

We ordered drinks: a Harajuku Girl ($7), a blend of vodka, butterscotch schnapps, sour raspberry schnapps, Calpis (a Japanese yogurt-flavored drink) and soda; an Umeshu Tini ($7), a blend of plum wine, vodka, lemon and sweet; two pours (about 4 shots, I would guess) of Takezake, the house sake chilled in a bamboo server ($16); and a Calpis Vodka Soda ($5.25 and exactly what it says on the tin). The Harajuku Girl was really sweet, almost to the point of being sickening, but some people like that in a drink. The Boyfriend and I split the Takezake and liked it, especially the fun serving method.

We attempted to order food. We started off by saying we wanted their Goma-Ae, a blend of green beans, tuna sashimi and feta. I can't tell you how it tasted because they were out--and then the waitress went into a long, long list of all the things they didn't have. The kind of list where at the end you want to say "Well, what DO you have?" She said that the next day they were having their staff appreciation day or something like that and were closed, so they didn't have as much stock as usual. This weirded me out because you would think that when you're talking about RAW FISH and RAW MEAT, either it's so perishable that it should be thrown out at the end of the day ANYWAY, or else one day in the freezer/fridge shouldn't make that much of a difference.

So we were rather put out, especially because some of the other things she named were the things other people wanted to order. So we called a time-out and regrouped, with some discussion of leaving immediately, but since we didn't want to rush our drinks, we decided to order two things anyway.

If you can squint you can perhaps see the Beef Tataki ($7.95) that we ordered, but here's a picture that shows it better:


Tataki is very briefly seared pieces of meat with ginger. Hapa's version was served with a sesame-chili sauce. It was okay. I'm not a super big fan of meat that is still mooing. I couldn't help but feel that the garnish and sauce overwhelmed the meat.



I apologize for the quality of this picture--I took two pictures, and one of them is too dark, and the other one is washed out. I wasn't looking carefully at the picture afterwards. Anyway, this is Renkon Gyoza ($6.90): dumplings with slices of lotus root for a crunch. I liked this quite a bit, but I felt like the serving presentation was kind of deceptive. It's three gyoza cut in half. For almost $7. I know Hapa is a much fancier place than Hon's, but after getting 6 whole potstickers there for $1.37, I felt like this was overpriced to an insane degree. Ground pork is not that expensive.

Overall we were dissatisfied. I felt bad because this was my roommate's first izakaya experience and it sucked, and she was originally planning to leave after this. She decided to stick around and follow us to Gyoza King.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Hapa Izakaya
Location: 1479 Robson St, Vancouver, BC 604-689-4272
Prices: $4-12 for small plates. Probably about $30/person to eat as dinner.
Service: When you read reviews for Hapa Izakaya, you will see one thing over and over: "The waitresses are hot." Personally, when any place of business's employees are ALL sexy/a single ethnicity/men/women/young etc, without a good reason why this should be the case (eg if a place requires its employees to speak a certain language in addition to English, thus making people of a certain ethnicity more likely to know that language), I don't think "Awesome!", I think "Illegal hiring practices." But then I'm a bleeding heart stick-in-the-mud. Maybe you LIKE objectification with your sushi. For what it's worth, our waitress (who was indeed good-looking) was apologetic about the restaurant being low on, y'know, food. IE the reason that I wanted to go to Hapa.
Food: There are some innovative combinations but they don't always work out in practice. The Harajuku Girl sounded great on paper but we all agreed it was way too sweet.
Recommended?: I don't know if this place is just overrated, or if I'm not the target audience, or whatever, but I was seriously unimpressed. And even if I was the target audience, I can't imagine not being irritated by the fact that THEY WERE OUT OF EVERYTHING. Well, not everything, but everything that we wanted.

Hapa Izakaya (Robson) on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-29 11:38 pm

Gyoza King - West End, Vancouver

Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.
THIS IS A REVIEW:

I can sum up the biggest problem we had at Gyoza King by telling you that their website does not have an English version. Yes, this is a Japanese expatriate hotspot. Weirdly, I felt like I was transported back to Hong Kong, trying to order from a street vendor who didn't speak Mandarin or English well. A conversation my roommate had with the waitress, as verbatim as I can remember:

"Does this come with rice?"

"You want a rice?"

"No, I mean, does this come with rice?" *points*

"You want a rice?"

"Yes, I want rice, but does this come with it already?"

"You want a bowl rice? Small bowl?"

*sighs* "Yes, I want a bowl of rice."

As it turned out, the dish she was asking about, the katsudon ($3.95), did indeed come with rice:


But it was okay. The Boyfriend and I split one bowl, and she had the other. I was pretty sure that the "don" in "katsudon" meant "on rice" but I wasn't 100% sure, hence her question.



Gyoza King used to have a reputation for being very adamant about not serving sushi or sashimi. But they've now relaxed, obviously, because while there wasn't any sushi, there were several raw seafood options on the menu on our visit, including raw oysters. Very fresh, with the only garnish being a tiny piece of lemon. Yum.



Of course you can't go to Gyoza King and not get gyoza! We got six of the shrimp and pork gyoza ($4.95). A nice crispy exterior and moist, flavorful interior. What more can you ask for?

We also got drinks but for some reason I neglected to take a picture of them? Oops. We all got chuuhai, a popular cocktail genre in Japan, which is a blend of fresh juice and shochu. I had grapefruit juice and Moonlight.

Gyoza King was a breath of fresh air, or perhaps a mouthful of tasty food, after our bad experience at Hapa Izakaya. I felt better saying goodbye to my roommate here than I would have at Hapa.

I should mention the atmosphere. Gyoza King is very small, and so reservations may be a good idea. We did not wait, and we sat at the bar, Japanese style with our shoes off. Nice warm lighting and almost a cafe feel.

Oh, and something funny happened on the way out. It was my turn to pick up the bill, so I went to pay with my credit card. The decoration of my credit card is an American flag, so I often have people strike up conversations with me about where I'm from--it's part of the reason I got the design, since I like to travel internationally. But I've never had something happen like what happened at Gyoza King. Here, again, as verbatim as I can make it through the language barrier.

Me: Here's my credit card.
Waitress #1: Ehhhhhhhhhhhh?!?! Kawaii desu!!!!
Waitress #2: Oohhhhh, kawaii!
Waitress #1: Sugoi ne?
Waitress #2: Chou kawaii!
Me: Uh, thanks. :)
Waitress #1: Here you go! *hands me the bill to sign*
Me: *gets my bill back and starts walking away*
Waitresses: *chattering in Japanese with lots of "kawaii!" peppered throughout*

It's just an American flag! LOL.

Next and last stop: Zakkushi!

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Gyoza King
Location: 1508 Robson St. Vancouver BC 604-669-8278
Prices: Pretty cheap. You could easily eat your fill here for $15.
Service: Friendly, but not the best English ability.
Food: Very authentic and tasty.
Recommended?: Japanese food has a reputation in the West as being dainty, expensive and tiny. Gyoza King shows that it can also be hearty, filling and reasonably-priced. I liked it very much.

Gyoza King on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-29 11:28 pm

Zakkushi - West End, Vancouver

Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.

THIS IS A REVIEW:

The bartender at Kingyo recommended Zakkushi, and my paper said it was open until midnight, so even though it was 23:10, we decided to give it a shot. We poked our heads in and asked if the kitchen was still open, and were welcomed in warmly.

Zakkushi, as the name indicates, specializes in food on a kushi or skewer, such as yakitori. At this point we decided we had done enough drinking, so we all asked for water.



This is one of the specials, and it's a kind of mushroom on a skewer... I think it was $1.30/piece with a minumum order of two pieces? LOL sorry I can't pin it down any more closely. It was a strongly flavored mushroom, very earthy, with a mild ginger garnish. Very nice after all the meat and fish we had been eating.



Not that we were tired of meat and fish! We ordered two cheese tsukune ($1.90 each). Tsukune is a chicken meatball, and these were topped with mozzarella. Ever since I went to Kintaro I've been a little obsessed with putting cheese on Japanese food, haha. This was a great combination. I loved the spices in the chicken.



This is another special that I neglected to write down the name of. I fail as a food blogger, lol. It's salmon and dill cooked atop the grill in a foil packet. So moist and delicious! The sauce is shoyu and vinegar, IIRC.



Since this was the last stop of the night we decided to get dessert! On the left is Dorayaki Ice Cream and on the right is Banana Gyoza, each $2.80. Dorayaki is a kind of sponge cake with red bean paste filling, and the ice cream is topped with a dusting of matcha powder. The banana gyoza are, of course, gyoza skins filled with sliced bananas and vanilla, mmmmmmmmmmmm, and its ice cream was topped with chocolate sauce.

The banana gyoza were amazing, but the ice cream for both was kind of icy, sadface. I'm not a big red bean fan so I left that one to my two companions, who both adore red bean.

The music here was pretty good too. More modern stuff, but a lot of it was stuff that we all liked and sang along to, even if some of them were guilty pleasures like "Lady Marmalade" lol.

All in all, this was a lovely end to the night. I'd love to come back here for dinner sometime with three other people; we'd hand the menu back and say "Yes, we'd like two of each kushi please". That would be 42 skewers altogether for $72 (assuming one was smart and ordered two of the kushi sets). We could eat the meaning of life, the universe, and everything! It would be awesome.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Zakkushi
Location: 823 Denman St Vancouver, BC (604) 685-1136
Prices: $1.30 to $2.20 per kushi, with a minumum order of two per variety; several other Japanese grill options; probably $15 to $20/person for dinner.
Service: Low-key and warm. Definitely not the frantic energy here of Kingyo and Guu. Definitely a good place to make your last stop on your crawl.
Food: Delicious meat on a skewer. Mmmm. There were vegetarian items, but this is a place to take the meat eater in your life.
Recommended?: Great for a crawl or for a meal.

Zakkushi Charcoal Grill (Denman) on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-23 02:12 am

All India Sweets & Restaurant - Punjabi Market, Vancouver


THIS IS A REVIEW:
As an apology to the vegetarians in the audience who were bummed that Kintaro has no vegetarian options, here's some pictures of a place where I went veggie temporarily.

Punjabi Market is also known as Vancouver's Little India, and although it's had some hard times in recent years with the South Asian migration to Surrey, it's still a lovely place to look at saris, jewelry, and sample Indian foods.

On my various trips to Vancouver I've hit several of the restaurants in here. Today let's look at one of the larger ones, the All India Sweets & Restaurant.

Like many restaurants in the area, All India sells a wide variety of Indian desserts at one side of the building, near where one pays the bill, but TBPH I've never actually liked Indian desserts that much; I've tried a few different things and everything I've tried has been SO sweet that I could never eat more than maybe one piece and only if I were in a really sweet tooth mood to begin with. So I'm afraid I can't tell you much about the Sweets half.

The Restaurant half I can do. :)



On this particular occasion, we both had the buffet. The buffet here is all vegetarian and only $11 all day. Since we were both really hungry we really got our money's worth. I took a picture of the buffet itself but sadly it didn't turn out, but here's one round of my plate. Some naan, some rice, some raita, some palak paneer, and some daal. Mmmm.

The buffet has a salad bar component with raw vegetables, and the hot food component with about 6 different dishes plus naan and rice, and two desserts. I actually did have about one half of one piece of gulab jumun, which fulfilled my dessert quota. The other dessert that day was a rice pudding.

Buffets can be tricky. Everyone knows about the kind of buffet that leaves food out forever or doesn't refill the more expensive dishes frequently enough. All India changed the food quite frequently; in fact at one point I was just about to get myself a helping of rice (the serving dish looked fine to me, about 1/4 full) and it was whisked away and replaced with a full, piping hot dish of rice. You don't have to go hunting in the palak paneer to find one or two lonely pieces of cheese floating in a sea of watery green liquid; I've had the palak paneer at this place before off the menu and it tasted exactly the same, with a good quantity of cheese.

Since it's the largest restaurant in Punjabi Market, this would be a good place to take a large group and sit and one of their long tables. Oh, and don't neglect to order the chai. It's only $2 with free refills.

Over all, this certainly isn't fine dining, but it is very tasty and a good value.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: All India Sweets & Restaurant
Location: 6507 Main St Vancouver, BC (604) 327-0891
Prices: $10-15 if ordering off the menu; $11 for the buffet (vegetarian); there is also an $18 set menu. Licensed for beer, wine and spirits; they have several Indian beers.
Service: Not the greatest, but if you get the buffet all you need to do is flag them down for refills on your drink.
Food: Competent Indian food with an extensive menu. A well-looked-after vegetarian buffet is the best way to go.
Recommended?: I quite like this place. No waiting, great buffet at a good price, nice atmosphere, even if the little tvs that show Indian music videos were busted that day. A great casual place. :)

All India Sweets & Restaurant (Main) on Urbanspoon
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2009-07-21 01:01 pm

Kintaro Ramen - West End, Vancouver


THIS IS A REVIEW:
Irasshaimase!
I've been to Kintaro twice, but I only have pictures from the first trip since my camera was out of battery on the second trip.

Looking at these pictures got me so hungry I had to take a break from writing this review to reheat myself some soup, lol.

Anyway. KINTARO! Best. Ramen. Ever. Okay, that's the review, stop reading and go get some.

What? You want some more information? Hmm, okay.

While I've never eaten ramen in Japan, I have eaten it in Taiwan, which is pretty close (no seriously, Taiwan has some of the best Japanese food anywhere, due to its past as a Japanese colony and the popularity of Japanese culture with Taiwanese people).

Kintaro ramen is the best ramen I have ever had anywhere on earth. Seriously.

The picture above is of what I ordered both times: cheese ramen. OMGWTFBBQPORK, I know, but just like the menu says, "Ladies love it!" LOL. Basically a big bowl of miso ramen with bbq pork slices and two kinds of cheese. I think a slice of mozzarella, and the shredded stuff tasted to me like gouda or something similar to that. Current price: $9.55.



My first time I went with a friend who got the vegetable ramen. Nota bene: All the broths are made with pork bone. So this restaurant is not suitable for vegetarians, or people who keep kosher or halal, because the menu is pretty much all ramen plus some gyoza and other appetizers. So. Getting vegetable ramen is not a vegetarian option; it's just if you feel like eating lots of veggies. :3 ($8.25)

The second time I went with my boyfriend, and he got the miso ramen, which is basically my cheese ramen minus the cheese. He thought it was the best ramen he'd ever had too.

Kintaro Ramen is BUSY. The place is small, and turnover is quick, but you still may find yourself waiting a while. No reservations, either. You may easily find yourself sharing a table with some other people.

The servers all speak English and Japanese, and the chefs speak to each other in Japanese as they prepare the ramen within your view. Your arrival will be greeted with a hearty "Irasshaimase!" and your departure with an equally merry "Arigatou gozaimasu!" In a place this hectic, you won't so much have one waiter as your orders being taken and brought to the table by whoever is free.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Kintaro Ramen
Location: 788 Denman St Vancouver, BC (604) 682-7568
Prices: <$10 for a bowl of ramen, which is all the food you need, really. Licensed for beer.
Service: Cheerful and busy, busy, busy.
Food: BEST RAMEN EVER. Were you paying attention?
Recommended?: So much!

Kintaro Ramen on Urbanspoon
thisisarestaurantblog: cute cartoon picture of food such as fortune cookies, soda bottle, etc (Default)
2009-07-18 02:36 am

Sushi E - South Cambie, Vancouver

THIS IS A REVIEW:


This place just opened this month, so I decided to check it out for take-out with The Boyfriend. We went in on the second or third day after it opened, and I'll be honest: they didn't really have their crap together yet. This was most clearly shown in the woman working the cash register. She had to ask one of the chefs for help with ringing up practically everything.

I've misplaced the take-out menu, but we ordered a sushi sampler and a sashimi sampler; each was around $9. They also gave us two free bowls of miso soup, which was nice of them; it's probably because of them just opening, or maybe as apology for the cash register tie up, lol.

I was disappointed. Yes, the price was kinda low, but as you may be able to see in the picture, the maki weren't fully closed. The fish tasted fresh but not particularly high quality, if that makes sense? Like, there wasn't a rotten or old taste, but there wasn't the good taste of the fish that I want either.

I actually ended up eating those rice cakes you see there to fill my tummy, lol, and later I sauteed some of the sashimi fish for dinner.

The quantity and price were right, but I dunno, for me, with sushi, it's go big or go cooked. The miso soup was actually the best part of the meal. I finished all of that.

However I'm not going to label this one "not recommended" either because they were clearly getting their bearings.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Sushi E
Location: 2328 Cambie Street Vancouver, BC V5Z (604) 873-2000
Prices: $5-15/person, I would say.
Service: Friendly but not yet well-organized.
Food: In a word, bland. The miso was pretty nice though.
Recommended?: Based on my one experience, no, but it's early days yet.

Sushi E on Urbanspoon
thisisarestaurantblog: cute cartoon picture of food such as fortune cookies, soda bottle, etc (Default)
2009-07-15 10:34 pm

Indian Oven - Kitsilano, Vancouver

THIS IS A REVIEW:
My qualifiers this evening were 1) take-out available and 2) somewhere on the way from my apartment to my boyfriend's job. AKA Kits and South Cambie in general.

My first thought was sandwiches; then I considered, in turn, pad thai, Chinese, donairs, and tonkatsu. At some point in my Googling and browsing I came across Indian Oven, whose website advertised that all take-out orders receive a 10% discount. (Nota Bene, the printed menus in the restaurant itself say 5%, but the discount given on my bill was clearly 10%, so apparently the discount has been increased.) The website also claimed (with quotes from local newspaper reviews to back them up) that they had the best butter chicken in the city.

I love butter chicken, so I called in for a take out order and in about 15 minutes I was walking out of there with a paper bag containing butter chicken (12.95), palak paneer (10.95), and naan (1.75).

Nota bene again, the $1.75 naan is for one naan, a large piece of naan granted, but you may want to consider getting more than one if you like naan as much as me and The Boyfriend.

I don't have any pictures, but take-away isn't particularly photogenic in these cases. Picture one of the pie-tin take-away containers containing orange-red sauce and white lumps, and another containing green sauce and white cubes, and you've got the gist of it.

The palak paneer was competent but the butter chicken was, indeed, truly outstanding. In fact The Boyfriend and I kept accusing each other of trying to eat all of it, lol. The best thing I can say about it is that it was assertive yet balanced. The creamy sweetness of the dairy was the field in which the kicky spices frolicked, if I can be metaphorical for a moment. And of course there's nothing worse than having a great sauce dumped over dry or tough meat, and the chicken didn't disappoint. It was very tender.

Indian Oven, as the name suggests, also is known for its tandoori, so that'll be something to try next time. I would skip the palak paneer; I've had it done better elsewhere in Vancouver. It wasn't bad, but perhaps it was outshone by the butter chicken.

THIS IS A SUMMARY:
Name: Indian Oven
Location: 2006 West 4th Ave Vancouver, BC. V6Z 1N9 (604) 730-5069
Prices: $10-20/entree, 10% discount on take-out
Service: I made a mistake when I was ordering on the phone and ordered saag chicken instead of butter chicken. The woman taking my order inquired if I was sure I wanted two spinach dishes, at which point I realized my mistake, so that was perceptive of her. In addition, the food was ready within the promised 15 minutes.
Food: Really good, especially the butter chicken, which is deservedly famous.
Recommended?: The place looked pretty empty when I came in to pick up, so I hope that they were doing a lot of take-out orders and/or were just having a slow night. If not, go here, because they deserve to stay in business.

Indian Oven on Urbanspoon