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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.

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.

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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"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.

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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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.

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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Part of the 2009 Izakaya Crawl.
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.

Name: Hon's WunTun House
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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VANCOUVER. You are irritating me with your lack of clearly defined neighborhoods. If you ask Pittsburghers what neighborhood a place is, they'll answer "Squirrel Hill" or "Shadyside" or "the Strip" or "Fox Chapel" or whatever without hesitation. People know these things. I ask Vancouverites what neighborhood a place is, and unless it's in one of the clearly defined areas like Kitsilano or Granville Island, they stare at me with wide eyes and make noises that sound like "West Broadway?" or "South Main?"

So I have zero clue how to tag this post. Officially the area it is in is called "Riley Park-Little Mountain." I asked my roommate, who grew up in this area, if she had any idea where "Riley Park-Little Mountain" was. She hadn't a clue. Neither did the boyfriend, who's lived in Vancouver for 3 years.

The boyfriend tells me that this area is sometimes called "South Main," or "SoMa" if you want to sound like an idiot. Look, I understand that you want to be SoHo, but you can't, alright? Stop it with the So prefixes for hipster hang-outs. Soma is a drug from Brave New World, not a place to buy $100 pairs of distressed jeans.

I hope you'll excuse this rant because HEY CHEAP DIM SUM!

Yes! All of that ranting was leading up to some of the best and most affordable dim sum I have ever had. The boyfriend and I met his aunt and her boyfriend there for lunch. When they got there (I was a little late) there wasn't an empty table in the place, and the average age of the table occupants was probably about 67, and everyone was speaking Cantonese.

If you aren't aware these three factors mean CHEAP and GOOD.

You can order from the menu if there's something you want in particular, or you can get something from the trays being brought around. We did a combination of both.

Prices range here from $2.30 to $4.75 per dish, with the cheaper dishes being things like shiu mai, and the more "expensive" ones being the staple or special dishes.

The pictures aren't very good this time as I forgot my camera and had to borrow Gordon's Aunt's. I'm skipping some other pictures that didn't turn out well at all, but I think this gives at least an idea of the portion sizes.

We were all quite stuffed and happy and the bill for four came to less than $30! This would be a great place to bring a big group and eat well without spending a fortune. The BBQ pork buns were probably my favorite, but the sticky rice was really good too.

Name: King's Chinese Cuisine
Location: 4488 Main St Vancouver BC 604 874-3525
Prices: $2.30-$4.75/dish, if you eat about like what I do, probably about $7.50/person
Service: It's dim sum, so you don't have a waiter, you just have harried people rushing about with trays.
Food: Large portions of authentic Cantonese dim sum with all the favorites and a few specialties.
Recommended?: If it were twice as expensive it would be worth the price. As it is, this is a steal. Fight your way through the Cantonese grandmas and grab a table.

King's Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon
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Vancouver is 17% Chinese. Its nearby suburb of Richmond is something like 40% Chinese (59% immigrant, and the source says that the majority are from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China). So you can get Chinese food in pretty much the same variety and quality that you would in Chinese-speaking countries.

Connie's Cook House (好味店) pretty much rocks it old school. Though Connie herself is Cantonese, the menu offers a staggering variety of dishes, from Sichuan Bean Curd (四川薑汁豆腐) to Shanghai Thick Noodles (上海粗麵). Everything you would expect at a North American Chinese restaurant is there too: hot and sour soup, wonton soup, General Tso's chicken, but alas, not my favorite inauthentic "Chinese" dish, crab rangoon. Crab rangoon cured me of my snobbery when I was a young Sinophile. When I was about 16, 17, I was very bratty about "OMG authentic Chinese food ONLY and if you don't eat it with chopsticks then GO HOME." Then I realized that deep fried wontons filled with cream cheese and fake crab meat is too delicious to give up. So I became a lot more relaxed, which was good for me.

I digress! Back to Connie's! I have been here twice, both times for lunch. Connie's has a very reasonably priced lunch menu. $6.50 for one of a variety of main courses, served with rice, a cup of wonton or hot and sour soup, and a hot pot of tea. Can't beat that with a stick.

I really like Chinese-style chicken broth so I always finish all of my wonton soup. Connie's is very good, not salty. The hot and sour soup has a nice amount of bean curd.

On the trip where I took pictures, I had vegetable fried rice (什蔡炒飯). A sizeable portion, done competently. Not greasy at all. The vegetables included were carrots, corn, peas, broccoli and mushrooms. Tasty, but nothing to write and tell mother about. It actually tasted a lot like the fried rice I make myself.

Gordon had Sichuan Chicken with Green Beans (四川豆仔雞), and his was a lot more special. The sauce had a kicky hot mustard and vinegar flavor, the green beans had just the right texture, and the chicken was tender.

On our previous trip I had that Cantonese staple, beef chow fun (乾炒牛河). I can never make shahe noodles myself (they stick to the wok or break or burn!), so I like getting it when I go out. Connie's does it well. Gordon had the House Special Chicken and liked it a lot. I'm afraid I can't remember what was in it though. XD I remember it was spicy.

We've had the same waitress both times and she's very friendly and attentive. She actually recommended me some Taiwanese restaurants when I mentioned that that I loved Taiwanese food. Because of her, we discovered No 1 Beef Noodle House in Burnaby, which sells my favorite Taiwanese desserts! A place that recommends their competitors??? That's rare these days!

Connie herself makes frequent appearances, and asks how everything is.

Connie's Cook House is licensed. Delivery is free after 5pm ($20 minimum), but there is a 10% discount on pick-up orders. Connie's does not use MSG. Lunch specials are served from 11:30 until 4pm.

Name: Connie's Cook House
Location: 2135 W 4th Ave Vancouver, BC V6K (604) 484-6289
Prices: lunch for $6.50; dinner prices from $10-15
Service: Very concerned that every guest is having a good time.
Food: Large portions of tasty and ungreasy North American Chinese food. There are options for the fans of more or less authentic Chinese food.
Recommended?: This is a great kind of every day place, especially for lunch. On those terms, I recommend it. :)

Connie's Cookhouse on Urbanspoon
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In April of 2008, I took a break from Taiwan to go see my lovely boyfriend here in Vancouver. I flew in and out of Seattle because flying in and out of YVR costs anything from an arm to a firstborn child.

On the way back, my boyfriend went with me, as he had not been to Seattle for some time, and I had never actually gotten to see the city. Despite the fact that I was soon returning to Taiwan, I developed a craving for xiaolongbao (小籠包 a soup dumpling originally from Shanghai) and had to have some OMG now.

My boyfriend, who loves Chinese food even if he can't speak a word of Chinese, was game. We were in the International District (or ID as the cool Seattle locals call it), checking out a bookstore. I picked up a book whose cover claimed it to be a guide to Seattle dining and flipped to the back to look at the cuisines. Under "Chinese" was a listing for "Shanghai Garden". I figured with that name, they had to have xiaolongbao. I flipped to the actual blurb in the book and it claimed that the restaurant not only served authentic xiaolongbao but also was known for wheatgrass daoxiaomian (刀削麵 knife-shaved noodles).

This was a cute coincidence because I had just had my first ever shot of wheatgrass juice that trip in Pike Place Market (I loved it; I'm planning on doing a mega-review of all the places we hit there sometime). Not only that, but the restaurant was not two blocks from where we were standing. Who were we to fight fate? We walked over.

The book was not lying when it said the food was authentic. This is a good restaurant to visit if you have a stereotype of Chinese food being greasy, salty and unhealthy because the food here was fresh and light. The food was so amazing that I said "Shoot! I forgot to take a picture of that!" both after our appetizers (xiaolongbao) and our soup (egg drop for me, hot and sour for him, IIRC) had disappeared down our gullets.

But, by the main course I was ready by God. Here you can see their "barley green" (from the leaves of the barley plant, basically the same thing flavor and nutrition-wise as wheat grass) daoxiaomian with beef. The light, almost gravy-like sauce was mostly absorbed into the noodles, which had just the right amount of resistance to the teeth.

The waitress had a very cute personality and chatted with me about Taiwan. She attentively made sure our tea pot was always full. The food came out fast, but at a Chinese restaurant I expect that.

The restaurant had nice high ceilings which gave it a rather airy feeling, which I found refreshing on the spring day. I also liked the large tropical fish tanks they used as decoration.

Our meal ended with fortune cookies, which I don't eat (I'm not a sugar cookie person) but my boyfriend happily munched on.

Daoxiaomian seems to be a type of Chinese cuisine many Westerners aren't familiar with, so if that's the case for you, I highly recommend you try it, and Shanghai Garden does it perfectly. Daoxiaomian is made by scraping noodles off a block of dough directly into the boiling water. This results in a thick, chewy texture that is unlike any other kind of Chinese noodle.

My grandfather (a German-American who loved to cook) used to make noodles the same exact way, holding the dough over a big pot of soup and slicing them right in. So my first time trying daoxiaomian in Taiwan was strangely nostalgic. "These are Baba's noodles!" I exclaimed. Yep, my brother and I called our grandfather Baba, which you might know is the Chinese word for "daddy". Maybe he was more Chinese than he knew! :3

Name: Shanghai Garden
Location: 524 6th Ave S Seattle, WA 98104 (206) 625-1689
Prices: $13-20; serves beer and wine
Service: Prompt, attentive and smiling. Nice clean restroom.
Food: Fantastic, healthy Chinese food in Shanghai-style. Don't miss their xiaolongbao or barleygreen daoxiaomian.
Recommended?: Emphatically!

Shanghai Garden on Urbanspoon
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Mandala Iki Asian Bistro is apparently an offspring of Iki Japanese Restaurant on W. Broadway. Mandala Iki does sushi and Japanese cuisine but also "chinoise dish" as the menu says.

I'm a big fan of sushi and raw fish, but with several qualifications that you, discerning restaurant review reader, should know. I don't like the taste of nori, that dried salty seaweed wrap common in rolls, even though I like seaweed. And I grew up and go to university in Pennsylvania, a land-locked state. I don't believe that sushi can be gotten fresh enough there, so I only went out for sushi when dragged by friends.

No, my love affair with uncooked fish began in Taiwan. Because of this, however, I'm more or less clueless on the proper Japanese names for different kinds of sushi.

This brings us to the bad part of the review.

I was a little surprised that the menu offered no English translations of any of the Japanese terms like unagi, hamachi, etc, nor did many of the dishes have descriptions of what they contained. So I waited for the waiter to come back and said "Excuse me, do you have a cheat sheet or something with translations of the Japanese terms?" And he said "Uh, like what?" "You know, like, the kind of fish in the sushi. Like, what is hamachi, for example." "Hamachi is yellowtail." And he was giving me this look of condescension, like, that he was bemused by the idea of wanting/needing English translations of these things. So I was feeling embarrassed, and although I had planned on asking more (like, which one was the kind of sushi that doesn't have seaweed), I just quickly asked what two of the bowls were, since Gordon had expressed interest in them (Oyako Don and Chirashi). He told me, with the same look of disbelief, and a tone of impatience.

He really made me feel foolish. I was blushing. Excuse me, buster, but I'm from a landlocked state. I don't eat sushi there because I don't feel the fish can be brought in fresh enough. I ate it in Taiwan but the menus there were in Chinese. I apologize profusely for not knowing the terms in Japanese for the twenty or so different kinds of fish you offer.

I ended up ordering the Power Sushi Bowl (on special for $9, pictured above, half-eaten) because it was one of the specials and thus had a description, where it mentioned that the raw fish were tuna and salmon. Thanks very much! Sounds delicious! And it was. But the service was weird. Giving your customer the stinkeye because she doesn't know that saba is mackerel is not the road to a high tip.

Gordon got beef teriyaki ($8.50), and as you can see, by the time I took the picture he had already eaten most of it. Both dinners came with miso soup.

Mandala Iki and its parent restaurant are known for using brown rice. Their website is even However you can order white rice instead if you liked. Personally I liked the healthiness of my Power Sushi Bowl over brown rice. The salmon, in particular, was delicious, and the seasoned vinegared rice was just right.

We also ordered one of their sushi specials, a crunchy artichoke roll ($7).

A vegetarian sushi, this contained artichoke heart, cream cheese, and sundried tomato, and some kind of special sauce. It was wrapped with a rice paper, then brown rice, then rolled in pumpkin seeds. AMAZING. I don't even like sundried tomatoes and I thought it was amazing. However, it was a special, so it may or may not be there if you go.

Mandala Iki also has a selection of hot teas, including six different kinds of green tea, three of them organic, all for the ridiculously cheap price of $.75, with free hot water refills of course. I got the organic green tea and Gordon got the organic brown rice green tea, which I wasn't too keen on. The brown rice flavor was there and I felt like it made the drink less refreshing. Additionally, we got an appetizer of edamame ($3), since we both love it.

Dinner for two came out to about $30, and you can't beat that in Vancouver for the amount of food we got. Mandala Iki is fully licensed and carries wines, beers and sakes by the glass and bottle, but we did not have any on our trip.

The atmosphere fully fit the name "bistro." The restaurant is not large, and the place is cozily lit, with warm colors and framed kanji on the walls.

All in all I'd like to go back to Mandala Iki, but I would print out a sushi glossary before I went, and hope for a more welcoming and patient waiter--especially since my boyfriend has even less sushi experience than I do, and I was trying to convert him to my raw fishy ways.

Name: Mandala Iki Asian Bistro
Location: 2394 W 4th Ave, Vancouver, B.C. V6K 1P1 (604) 734-3715
Prices: $10-$15/person (if not drinking alcohol), lunch specials available
Service: My waiter was impatient with my questions, but service was prompt. He looked miffed when we gave him a 15% percent tip (you pay at a register), which under the circumstances I thought was generous.
Food: Large portions, reasonably priced, of delicious Japanese and Chinese food, with specials changing regularly. I often walk by here and the specials always look fantastic.
Recommended?: Food and atmosphere I recommend strongly, but I was not very pleased with the service, however that may have been just that one guy. I will go back.

Mandala IKI Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon


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