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Friday, October 23, 2015

Revisit: Sushiholic

Earlier this week, I revisited Sushiholic because I was craving Japanese food, and I was a little tired of getting take-out from Kita. Although they don't take reservations for groups of less than four, we were seated fairly quickly. If you don't want to take a chance and don't feel like waiting, get take-out...they do lots of business that way too.
I always start with a Tako Sunomono, and they do a great job here. There is plenty of tako and the shredded carrots marry well with the vermicelli. The tangy dressing is refreshing and a great palate cleanser. 
Sushiholic Their Salmon Sashimi is also a decent size, and the fish it cut perfectly. It's not too thick and is served nice and cold, just the way it should be. 
Sushiholic Since it was a rather cool night, we opted for a Tempura Udon to warm our bellies. This was excellent, the noodles had a nice bite to it, and was served piping hot. I added some of the 7-spice powder or shichimi togarashi for a bit of extra heat. The broth was flavourful and not oily or full of MSG. I would have like a bit more veggies but that's probably a personal preference and not really a complaint. 
Sushiholic The Tempura was lightly battered and deep fried to a golden crisp. The veggies were tasty, and super crunchy. There could have been another prawn, but what was served was delicious. 
SushiholicFor more sushi, I had to have my Ikura. This was plentiful and I loved how it overflowed out of the nigiri. The Uni was fresh as well and creamy too. The Unagi is always a favourite, a bit sweet with a hint of umami from the sauce. 
Sushiholic And to round out dinner, we got their Prawn Gyoza, and this never disappoints. The skin has a nice crunch, and I really do love the whole prawn, complete with tails. 
I would say that the Sunomono is a must do, as well as the Prawn Gyoza. They have a huge selection of rolls too, but I always find that the more fanciful the rolls are, the further it moves away from "tradition". I can eat a dynamite roll but something like their Awesome Roll sort of freaks me out! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Taste of Yaletown 2015 - Complete Breakdown of all Three Menus at Minami

I had the chance to try out the Taste of Yaletown a few weeks ago (it's on until October 29!) at Minami , which has three menus, one for lunch and two for dinner. 

The Minami Zen Platter, available at lunch, is only $25 and gives you a taste of their legendary dishes as well as some new tastes too. Starting off with the Signature Sushi, you get a nice assortment of Aburi nigiri, a roll as well as the oishi sushi all featuring their renown aburi-style of searing the fish. 

The platter also includes Aburi Bincho, accompanied by a creamy gomae sauce with a touch of heat from the wasabi-masatake. 

There is a light salad, the Minami Chopped Salad, with some baby greens, miso tofu, crisps and some chopped chicken. The umami-soy vinaigrette is a light dressing that complements the salad quite nicely. The Ebi Fritter is light and crispy, with a bit of chili aioli and balanced with a soy-balsamic reduction. 

Rounding out the plate is a bit of spiced couscous. And the other item on the platter is the Kurobuta & Kobe Meatball, bathed in miso-chicken jus with a few fingerling potatoes. And for dessert, you have a choice of ice cream for sorbet. All in all, this is a great deal for $25.

TOY2015-Minami TOY2015-Minami Their dinner offering is $45, although they do have a $35 option for vegetarians, which I will review next. The appetizer is the Minami Appetizer Trio, with a serving of the Aburi Sushi Sampler, a light Citrus Salad as well as a Brome Lake Duck Confit Drumette. The Aburi sushi is just tasty as you would expect, and the citrus salad is fresh and light. I loved the Aburi grapes! The Duck Drumette is crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, perfectly executed. 

TOY2015-Minami For the main course, they have a unique Surf and Turf. For the Surf, you get their Sakekasu-Saikyo Miso Baked Sablefish, which is melt in your mouth tender. The fish flakes off easily and it has a rich and sweet flavour. I could eat this everyday! Partnered with the sablefish is a serving of marinated Japanese eggplant, I had never had this before but it sure was tasty. 

For the Turf, you are treated to Fraser Valley Pork done two ways. The first part of the duo is a Braised Pork Cheek, which is super tender. The second part is a complete textural change, with a Crispy Kakuni Pork Belly. The skin is crunchy, not just crispy. There is a bit of salsa on top, with a miso Asahi glaze. Both items rest on a bed of rapini and the greens definitely benefit from the juices of both the sablefish and the pork. It's one of the best Surf and Turf plate I've had. 

Dessert Miami toy2015 To top this meal off, there is a Mixed Berry Sakekasu Bar. It's a miso pecan-walnut crumble, paired a vanilla-sakekasu & rhubarb-ume ice cream, and with a salted caramel sauce drizzled on top. It is as tasty as it is beautiful. There is a lot of Sakekasu in this menu, and I didn't really know what it was. It turns out it is the lees which are leftover after all the liquid is removed from the fermented rice used to make sake, and is a key component of the umami taste.

TOY2015-Minami The $35 Vegetarian Menu starts off with a Minami Garden Trio. There is the Minami Garden Plate with fresh veggies and a delicate quinoa and avocado roll wrapped in soy paper, and some spinach shira-ae, a crumbled tofu. There is also a Kaiso (seaweed) Salad, which is paired with some frisée and a soy vinaigrette. I loved the little lotus chips on top. And to finish off the trio is the Miso-Tofu Sansai Gyoza, pan-fried to perfection. 

TOY2015-Minami The entree is a serving of Crispy Tempeh, surrounded by a whole gamut of vegetables, such as a roasted mushroom medley, fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions, haricot verts. The dressing is made with maple-sherry vinegar and soy-balsamic reduction, topped with some Aburi corn and bell pepper salsa. The dessert is the same as the $45 menu above.

So whether you want to stop by just for lunch or a night out, I'd say any of the three menus are worth a try. I've already booked my table for the 24th; dinner before the Canucks versus Red Wings game! Note that not all menu items listed above are available throughout the year, some are just here for Taste of Yaletown 2015. 

Note: I was hosted for this tasting by the nice folks at Taste of Yaletown.

Minami Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

New Menu Tasting at Pearl Castle Cafe

Finally, after a long hiatus, ChineseBites is back! This time, we were invited to revisit to Pearl Castle Cafe to try out some of their new menu items. We were treated to their new bubbleteas as well as some of their new rice and hot pot dishes. The owners provided the food and drinks for our group.
13 bubble teas at Pearl Castle Cafe The three drinks in the back are the new ones, all topped with a fluffy ball of cotton candy, only available at their main location (Continental Centre) as of Mid-June. The first one is Sunset Love, a fruity concoction of orange, pineapple and peach juice, topped with the cotton candy. The Blue Sky is next, topped with matching blue cotton candy with a base of blue tangerine, calpis (an un-carbonated soda with yogurt-like flavours from Japan) and pop. The last of the new ones is the Young Girl's Dream with a billowy pink cotton candy. It also has calpis and pop, but is mixed with a bit of grenadine. The cotton candy does deflate over time, so be sure to start with that! 
Of the ones in the bottom row, I had the first one on the left, the Pudding Milk Tea. I found it a bit sweet, but I still liked it. I would have added some pearls though. The next one is Coconut Red Bean. Two green teas follow, one is a Peach Lemon version, and the next is with Red Bean. The next two are new offerings as well, both featuring jelly noodles. The first is a Black Tea sweetened with brown sugar followed by the Wintermelon Juice.  There is a Green Lattea (pun intended!), as well as a Taro Green Milk Tea, also new this season. The Roasted Rice Lattea completes the lineup.
Ferraro Rocher Chocolate Milkshake at Pearl Castle Cafe And last but not least, the one on the far right is the Ferrero Rocher chocolate milkshake...complete with the chocolate as well as Nutella. Amazing...and uber sweet. And if you look at the bottom of the Wintermelon Juice, you'll see the Jelly Noodles.

Taiwanese Sausages at Pearl Castle Cafe Now...onto the food! The little Taiwanese Sausages are less fatty than the North American ones. Made with pork, and simply seared, this was a good start to the meal. I can see this going really well with a beer.
Wonton with Chili Sauce at Pearl Castle Cafe Another favourite appetizer of mine is the Wonton with Chili Sauce. The wontons were a touch dry and the skins seemed a little thick, or perhaps a bit underdone? I love my food extra spicy, so this didn't have enough heat for me, but might be hot enough for some. 
Deep Fried Tofu at Pearl Castle Cafe Next up is a trio of fried appetizers. This is the Fried Tofu, simply battered and deep fried. These are pretty standard but the side of kimchi was refreshing.
IMG_4387 I've never actually tried Abalone Mushroom, but I'm willing to try it, now that it's deep-fried! The breading is light, and the mushroom inside was really juicy. I really liked this, and would like to try making this at home, probably not deep-fried, but maybe braised with other mushrooms?
Deep Fried Fish Cakes at Pearl Castle And last of the deep-fried goodness is the Fried Fish Cake. It's dense, chewy and a great blend of sweet and salty. The texture was super bouncy and really didn't need any accompaniments. Oh, and I liked that none of their fried dishes were overly oily. 
Milk Seafood & Pork Hot Pot at Pearl Castle Cafe This is their Milk Seafood & Pork Hot Pot. A mixture of seafood, prawns, squid and fish are slow cooked together with some pork in a creamy milk-based soup. The whole pot is then kept heated at your table. Add the soup to your rice and this pot is comforting, soothing and very substantial for one person. I'd get an extra bowl of rice and just share this between two people! 
Three Cup Chicken at Pearl Castle Cafe This is a real old-school way of braising chicken, the Three-Cup Chicken, so named not because each of the ingredients are measured in cups, rather, it is so named to indicate that the three sauce ingredients (sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, and soy sauce) are used in equal amounts. Basil is also an essential part of this dish and it's definitely present here as well. These little nuggets of chicken are soft and tender. I liked that some pieces were bone-in, giving the dish a rustic feel. 
Abalone Mushroom with Three Spices This is another dish featuring the Abalone Mushroom Braised with Three Spices. This was really juicy, and after trying the mushroom done in this manner, I'll definitely be giving it a try at home, a great idea for Meatless Mondays!
Garlic Sauce Chicken at Pearl Castle Cafe Looking to ward off vampires and the common cold? Give this Garlic Sauce Chicken a try...just at a glance, there are over a dozen whole garlic cloves and loads of finely chopped garlic. And you can be sure there are more than what the eye can see. It's very similar to the Three-Cup Chicken, with the added extra of the garlic and green onions.
Kimchi Seafood Fried Udon Kimchi rears its head again in this Kimchi Seafood Fried Udon. With all the dishes so far being served with rice, this noodle dish was a welcomed change. Not too spicy and loaded with seafood, this was more sour and spicy, but the texture of the noodles were bang on. 
Taiwanese Beef Noodle at Pearl Castle CafeYay, another noodle dish! This time is the Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. I know everyone is still raving over ramen, but for me, these noodles are where it's at. The soup has hints of cilantro and star anise, a very pleasant blend of flavours. If you haven't tried this before, you'll be in for a surprise. 
Spicy incense pot at Pearl Castle Cafe Now onto the NEW items! First up is their Spicy Incense Pot. Loaded with seafood and various veggies, this potful really packs a punch...those chilies, man, they'll get you every time. If you are sensitive to heat, I highly recommend staying away from the actual chilies themselves. They render much of their heat into the heated pot. And I suggest you leave this towards the end of the meal, because the flavours of this will likely overwhelm more delicate dishes. 
Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice Another new dish is the Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice. This was tasty, but I've never been a fan of fruit in savory dishes. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed the dish with the pineapple chunks. After adding a few sprinkles of hot sauce, this dish takes on a whole new flavour. 
Curry Coconut Seafood & Pork Hot Pot at Pearl Castle Cafe An offshoot of their fan favourite, the Milk Seafood & Pork Hot Pot is their Curry Coconut Seafood & Pork Hot Pot. It's essentially the same dish with the addition of curry flavours and coconut milk. The flavours are really mild, so if you think you are not a fan of curries, give it a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the sweetness underlying the whole dish.
Marinated Chicken with Rice at Pearl Castle Cafe This is one of two new rice dishes, the Marinated Chicken with Rice, served with a side of tofu and some veggies, this is easily a one-pot wonder. I didn't really care for the warmed salad, but other than that, the dish had enough interesting textures and flavours to be worth a try. I would have like a bit more sauce and for the chicken to be a touch crispier, but other than that, no complaints.
Marinated Pork with Rice at Pearl Castle Cafe Whew! And for the final dish, we have the Marinated Pork with Rice. Essentially the same flavours and accompaniments as the chicken dish, it is similarly satisfying. 
Many patrons of Pearl Castle Cafe have a short list of their favourites but with the addition of these new dishes, give them a revisit and you might find a new favourite! 

Address: Continental Centre, 1128-3779 Sexsmith Road, Richmond
Phone Number: (604) 270-3939
Website: on Facebook
Pearl Castle Café 圓香生活餐飲 on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 22, 2015

Dim Sum at New Starlet

I have always had a hard time trying to find a good dim sum place in Burnaby, but Sherman found one and brought me one day. He's been there before but it's new to me. New Starlet is located on Kingsway, just a bit east of Royal Oak. The two of us tackled eight dishes, yeah, sounds about right!Shrimp Dumpling New Starlet The Shrimp Dumpling (Har Gow 蝦餃) were quite large, and there was lots of shrimp inside the delicate wrapper. As you can see at the 10 o'clock mark, the skin was translucent and quite thin overall. I liked the filling because you could detect large chunks of shrimp, instead of some places where the shrimp is diced superfine and mixed with other filler...not here. Chicken Feet New Starlet Now you either hate this or you love it, there's just no "I don't mind it" attitude when it comes to Chicken Feet (Fung Zaau 鳳爪). Delicately spiced with some peppers and sitting atop of peanuts, I found this to be quite good. The feet had a good balance of skin, cartilage and bones. For extra heat, a few peppers are placed on top, should you dare.
Rice noodle rolls New Starlet
For some reason, I find rice noodles in all forms very comforting, whether it's rice noodles in soup, or plain noodle rolls simply pan fried with soy sauce and sesame seeds, or as you can see above, these Shrimp Noodle Rolls (Har Cheong Fun 蝦腸). Plump shrimp snuggled in thin sheets of rice noodles. Topped with the accompanying soy sauce, this dish has a great blend of flavours with the sweetness of the shrimp and the saltiness of the soy. Sticky Rice New Starlet Carbs, bring on the carbs! The Sticky Rice (Lo Mai Gai 糯米雞) is a small package of chicken, some ground pork, Chinese sausage, salted egg yolk and shiitake mushrooms wrapped completely by a layer of sticky rice. The one novel thing about this New Starlet version is that they actually use a few grains of wild rice too. Then the whole rice log is wrapped in lotus leaves and then steamed. I like to add a bit of hot sauce to bring all the flavours out. Sui Mai New Starlet Along with the Shrimp Dumplings, another dim sum staple is the Siu Mai (燒賣). Essentially, these are open faced pork and shrimp dumplings. The wrappers are wonton wrappers but you just don't close the whole thing up. It's a mixture of pork, shrimp, Chinese mushrooms and if done right, they can be quite juicy. Done wrong, and you feel like you're eating a dry meatball. Fortunately, the fatty pork gave these nuggets lots of moisture and the end result was good. Bean Curd Roll New Starlet Beancurd Skin Rolls (Fu Pei Guen 腐皮卷) is a steamed roll that has many of the same ingredients as a Siu Mai with the addition of bamboo shoots and veggies. The bean curd skin is filled and then rolled tightly as if it was a spring roll. Some places deep fry these, but New Starlet steams theirs. I prefer it this way, as it's much less greasy. The resulting juices from steaming makes a great sauce as well. The filling was just a touch bland but nothing a bit of hot sauce can't fix.Steamed Pork Ribs New Starlet This rather bland looking Black Bean Pork Spare Ribs (Pai Gwut) was probably the most disappointing dish of the day. The black bean flavour was imperceptible, and the actual pieces of the pork were just a touch too fatty. I'm fine with a bit of fat, but not actual pieces of fat with a small bite of pork attached to it. Mini Clay Pot Rice New Starlet Our last dish was the BBQ and Cured Meats with Rice in a Claypot. The meats include Chinese sausage, cured duck and pork as well. The soy sauce gets poured tableside and everything is mixed together. An alternative would be to move all the meats off to another plate and serve yourself the rice first. The meats had a good flavour and the rice had a nice texture, but the one thing missing is the crusty bottom that's expected of claypot rice.Dim Sum New Starlet This is the whole shebang...not bad for two people...mind you, I had plenty of leftovers for dinner!

Take Note:

  • Go early to avoid wait
  • Reasonable prices
  • Plenty of parking 
New Starlet Seafood Restaurant 新星海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cotto Enoteca - Revisited

Now that it's a bit wet and cold here in Vancouver, it's a good time to go and revisit Cotto Enoteca for some comfort food. Pasta and Pizzas from a wood-burning oven...what better to warm you up, right?!Cotto Polpette - Cotto Enoteca Starting off with an appetizer of Cotto Polpette, our hunger was immediately satisfied. The house made meatballs are smothered in a tomato sauce, and served with a few pieces of baguette. I liked it better when these were served with pizza bread, but it will do for now. Affumicato - Cotto Enoteca In no time at all, our Affumicato pizza was delivered! A slightly crispy crust and a chewy base, this pizza was topped with both mozza and gorgonzola cheese. The meats were speck bacon and sopressata, which made each slice a bit too salty for me. But that's the nature of cured meats. I sprinkled on some additional parmesan as well as some chili flakes and really enjoyed it afterwards. Tagliatelle Frutti di Mare - Cotto Enoteca We also ordered a few pastas to share as well. For non-meat eaters, this Tagliatelle Frutti de Mare is perfect. As you can see, there are large chunks of salmon and halibut, as well as plenty of prawns and clams. It's a bit rich due the cream based alfredo, so it's best to share. The portion shown here is a "small" portion, but trust me, it's enough to satisfy!Pappardelle Carbonara - Cotto Enoteca
I am definitely a fan of long pastas (as opposed to penne, farfelle or fusilli) so I just had to reorder my all time favourite, Pappardelle Carbonara. I order this every time I come, from the first "soft opening" to now, and have never been disappointed. The noodles are thick and slippery, flavoured by the clingy cheesy and eggy sauce. Bits of pancetta and garlic studded the dish, and the Dessert - Cotto EnotecaAnd for a sweet finish, the Budino. I'm not normally a sweets person, but this light butterscotch pudding was really good, not overly sweet and when combined with a layer of chocolate mousse, it had a very light airy feel. I do love the honeycomb crumble, and actually, I love lots of honeycomb. The one savory flavour in this was the salted rosemary caramel, which was highlighted by the fresh sprig of rosemary. It's perfect for sharing and goes well with an espresso, or maybe glass of grappa...
Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Penang Delight-FUL!

I've been wanting to try Penang Cafe every time I visit Kimura on Rupert. It's always packed and the aromas wafting out whenever the door opens is amazing! My mom is a bit hesitant to try new places, but my stepdad is more than willing treat his tastebuds to new things. So with my mom visiting my sister in Hong Kong, I kidnapped my stepdad and we headed to there for a new taste experience! Penang Delight - Hainese ChickenWe started off with the basics...their Hainanese Chicken. The chicken is flavourful, with a bit of soy and some sesame oil as well. The chicken is deboned and makes it easier to inhale. I'm not a fan of chicken skin and the steaming method of cooking makes it so easy to peel the skin off. It's flavourful (yes, I snuck a few pieces in) but I just can't get over the texture of the skin.
Panang Delight - chicken_coconut rice And if you get Hainanese Chicken, it's almost de facto that you partner that up with rice...and Penang Delight offers both Coconut Rice and Chicken Rice Because we couldn't decide, we opted for one of each. The Coconut Rice on the left is fragrant with coconut milk, and although you might worry that the rice comes out "sweet", it doesn't. The aroma is sweet but the rice itself has be bit of salt in it to make it as savoury as you'd expect. The Chicken Rice is rich...instead of making rice with water, the liquid used for this is the chicken broth from the poaching of the chicken. Yes, it's a bit fatty, and thus, the colour of the chicken rice, just a bit darker that you'd expect. The flavours from stir-frying the rice with some garlic and ginger before adding the stock make the rice perfectly toasted and so rich.Penang Delight - Hokkian Mee Another classic dish is the Hokkian Mee, sorry the KL Hokkian Mee (KL=Kuala Lampur).  It's reminiscent of a classic Shanghainese dish. Thick noodles smothered in a rich sauce made with oyster sauce and soy sauce, tossed with veggies, pork, chicken and a few shrimp. It's not rocket science, but it's one of those things that is truly "greater than the sum of its parts". Add a bit of sambal chili paste to it for a kick and it's perfect! Penang Cafe Bak But TehAnd after all the rice and noodles, we decided to scale things back with a nice mellow soup, Bak Kut Teh. It's a slow cooked pork bone soup that is meaty in flavour but surprisingly light in texture. As you can see, there are a few bits of veggies, tofu and mushroom added to the mix, but the star ingredient is the pork bones. Ask for a bit of soy sauce on the side to dip these meat morsels in, you'll love it. The soup is hearty, rich and flavourful...a delightful way to end your meal.
I do need to revisit this place soon as I was remiss in not ordering their Roti Canai, which I love, and many have told me that it's a "must try". Perhaps I'll just do a takeout order next time I'm in the area!
Penang Delight Cafe 馬來檳城美食 on Urbanspoon


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