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Monday, June 06, 2016

Poor Italian isn't just for dinner, try it for lunch!

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Poor Italian It's been a long time since we have been to Poor Italian, and I decided that I was due for a revisit. We started off our lunch with an appetizer of Calamari Fritti. The deep-fried calamari was paired nicely with a mild Mediterranean salsa. Just add a squirt of lemon and you're set. I would have liked the calamari to be a bit more crispy, but my parents enjoyed it, just the way it was. Linguine Alle Vingole @thepooritalian #latergram We couldn't decide between the various pastas so we decided to share a few of them. My mom prefers seafood, so for her, we picked the Linguine alle Vongole. The sauce of white wine, garlic & EVOO was light enough for the delicate flavours of the clams. My mom loved it. Paccheri con Salsicca @thepooritalian #homemade pasta Their housemade pasta of Paccheri con Salsiccia was my stepdad's choice. Large tubes of housemade pasta were tossed with mild sausages, San Marzano tomatoes and peppers. It was all topped with fresh basil & some sundried tomatoes, and made for a very well-rounded dish. The pasta was done perfectly, with a good bit of toothsomeness. It turned out to be my favourite. Pappardelle al Ragu L'agnello. #pastalover
I picked the Pappardelle al Ragu D’agnello because I was craving a good lamb ragout. This was a simple dish with just noodles tossed with a San Marzano Tomato sauce and braised lamb. The pasta seemed a bit overdone here, but the flavours were good. Because the pasta is a bit thinner than the paccheri, it might have been done just fine, but just more tender that I would have preferred. Poor Italian Now, we normally don't do this, but we were having such a nice time together that we decided to stretch out the luncheon just a bit longer with dessert. I'm not a sweets fan, so we opted for the Lemon Ripieno, which is just a lemon sorbetto in a lemon shell. My mom loved the sorbet and the tanginess was just perfect. Although we normally come here for dinner, but for a leisurely lunch, this is a great option too.

Poor Italian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tasting at Teppan Kitchen

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I had never tried Pepper Lunch, but at our tasting for Teppan Kitchen through ChineseBites, there were plenty of comparisons being made. However, since I hadn’t been, this was not a concern for me at all. We were slated to try 9 dishes in total, so I made sure to come hungry! 
IMG_0348 First of all, let me say that this isn't a proper restaurant. It's a food court stall in the Harbour Centre, catering to the Simon Fraser University students and other office workers nearby. The deal is to get the food out, fast, hot and good. No real extra points added for presentation or customer service.

IMG_0353 Our first dish was the Citrus Grilled Pork Cheek Teppan Rice (added cheese + egg), which was a novelty to be, because although I’ve had fried egg in rice (and on pasta and pizza) before, I had never had cheese in my rice before. I was hesitant but was shockingly surprised. I actually really like this…the cheese and the egg gave the sauce a creaminess that I hadn’t experienced before. It is definitely a heavy dish, but if you’re a student looking for sustenance, this fits the bill!

IMG_0360 Second up was the Hainanese Chicken with Rice. Now this dish is loaded with memories for me, as I remember having this dish as a kid in HK. The chicken always was moist and the rice had a nice oiliness to it that the rice my mom made (at home) never did. Now I know it’s fat that makes the rice so good, but I don’t care. The chicken was really tender and the plentiful chilli and ginger-green onion sauces were great too. Unfortunately, the rice was a bit overcooked, probably due to the fact that they had to cook it in a big batch. I would recommend using long-grain rice for this dish to maintain the integrity of the grains. (since it wasn’t served “teppan style” anyways).

IMG_0364 And then we had the 'A' Grade Rib Eye Beef Teppan Rice (added cheese + egg). The beef in this dish was a bit tougher than the pork but mostly, the dishes were quite similar. There was a bit more pepper on this dish, but otherwise, it was interchangeable for me.

Ok, we're a third way through! IMG_0368 The fourth dish wasn't a rice at all, but rather, we had the Seafood Linguine with Tomato Sauce. Now this was unexpected. There were loads of baby scallops in the dish, and the pasta was perfectly al dente. I also liked that there was enough sauce to go around everything.

IMG_0369 Our fifth dish was back to rice, but not a teppan dish, rather, it was the Curry Beef Brisket with Rice. I will be the first to admit that I’m not a curry fan, but out of all nine dishes we tried, this is the one that I had seconds (or thirds) of. The beef brisket was so tender and the rice was just a perfect complement to the whole dish. I surprised myself by how much I really liked this dish.

IMG_0372 The sixth dish went the noodle route again, with a westernized version of Wok Fried Udon with Chicken & Spicy Sausage. Now, if you’re looking for an authentic Japanese udon dish, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for something packed with flavours in an American style, then, you’re in for a treat. However, beware, this baby is spicy!

IMG_0375 Ok, time for another break...rounding up the last third. We had another pasta dish with their Smoked Salmon Linguine with Citrus Cream Sauce. Okay, I have to be honest, this was not one of my faves. It was creamy and just a bit too rich for me. Perhaps because we already had seven dishes. However, I have to say that I found it a bit too salty as well.

IMG_0378 The next was an interesting blend of Western flavours and Asian ingredients. Have you ever tried Beef Bolognese Rice with Corn & Egg? Well, I admit I probably have, in a desperate attempt at remaking them as bastardized leftovers. The combination was actually really pleasant, almost validating the midnight snacks I used to make. For some reason, the sauce on this came off a bit sour though.

IMG_0379
And finally, the finisher was the Seafood Laksa Noodle Soup, with a mix of noodles and udon. The dish definitely had some of my faves. I really liked how it was loaded with seafood such as shrimp and fish balls. But the refreshing bean sprouts and tofu were appreciated too. What really surprised me was the blend of rice noodles and udon…I did not expect that, and despite my initial misgivings, I actually enjoyed the mixture of textures.
This is a great place to grab a quick made-to-order meal. Priced right for students and office workers alike. And there's enough variety of flavours for everyone.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Ramen Gojiro

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A few months ago, yet another ramen place opened in Vancouver. Ramen Gojiro wasn't in the usual ramen hotbed of the Denman/Robson area. As with most new ramen places, there are lineups down the street. This was no different. Fortunately, Sean arrived early enough to beat the crowd and when Sherman and I showed up, our table was ready.Ramen GojiroThis is the Basic Bakamori, (with Chashu) but there is nothing basic about this gigantic bowl of noodles. The broth is a blend of pork and chicken, and their slightly thicker than usual noodles are made in house. Essentially, bakamori just means "more", and as their menu says, it's more meat, more noodles...more everything! 
The Chashu was sliced quite generously, and wasn't overly fatty. What surprised me, despite the picture on the menu was the abundance of bean sprouts! I was also overwhelmed at the size of the bowl, almost toppling out of the bowl. The broth had a sweet flavour, but it was overpowered by the garlic topping. It really was just too much.
Once you manage to get to the ramen itself, they were cooked just to my liking. Since the noodles seemed a bit thicker, it was chewy yet tender. Ramen GojiroThis is the normal sized Spicy Chashu. As you can see, the chili in the broth is apparent and there is considerably less bean sprouts as well. However, it was still pretty garlicky and seemed to overpower the spiciness that the could have been there. There is heat, for sure, but not overly so. The egg was cooked to a nice soft boil, and the yolk helped to thicken the soup. Ramen Gojiro - KaraageThis is the Spicy Karaage, with the same soup with as the Chashu one, just replaced with Karaage. I'm not a huge fan of crispy food served in soup, sort of like cripsy BBQ Duck in noodle soup. I always request it on the side. I like my cripsy food to stay crunchy, for as long as possible. However, once it arrives, if you take the chicken out, you might just be okay. karaageOr, you can order the Chicken Karaage as a side order, which is what we did. I found it just a touch oily and he batter was very crispy. It was a bit bland and could have benefited from a heavier hand with the seasoning. The chicken was tender and juicy, and makes a nice side dish. Ramen Gojiro-gyozaOur other side dish was the Gyoza. These were decent but actually oilier than the karaage. It was juicy and had a nice crispy skin. Nothing spectacular, pretty average but with a good filling to wrapper ratio.
Ramen Gojiro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Noodles at Bubble Waffle Kerrisdale

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Bubble waffle Another Chinese Bites dinner! I had just finished my review of our last one at Boiling Point, and here we are off again! No complaints though, I wanted to give this new Kerrisdale location of Bubble Waffle Cafe a try. Bubble waffle First to come to the table was the namesake of the restaurant, Bubble Waffles! We tried quite a few different flavours, including Matcha, Oreo, Chocolate, Cheesecake and of course, original, which was my favourite. The edges were crispy and the insides were appropriately chewy. Yup, this hit the spot.
Bubble waffle
This is their Fish Sui Mai, and it looks like they were cooked on a skewer. I wished they have served it that way. The texture was really soft, almost mushy, but there was a strong fish flavour to each one. I could have had a bit of chili sauce here too. Bubble waffle Anyone who's been to Chinese Night Market should know this, Takoyaki. I am not usually a fan of this, but for some reason, I enjoyed these here, and the bits of octopus were plentiful. I can't get enough of katsuobushi either! Perhaps it was because I didn't have to eat it standing up? Or because it wasn't drenched in mayo? In any case, this was pleasant and I'd order it again. Bubble waffle More seafood in the form of balls, Deep Fried Shrimp Balls. I enjoyed these...balls and a stick...hmm. The outer coating had a good bite to it, and the inside was piping hot, juicy and although it had good shrimp flavour, it was rather one note. One tip, to eat balls on a stick, use two sticks to anchor the ball; trust me on this one.
Not much explanation needed here...where there are balls, there must be Sausages, right? Not much to say about these...a bit on the sweet side, sort of honey ham like flavour but with the texture of dry Bavarian sausage. 
These are the Taiwanese Popcorn Bites, essentially chicken nuggets. I liked these, they weren't too oily and had a good crunch. It's not something I would not order myself, but I'd definitely steal one or two if someone else orders them!
Laksa We all got to choose our soups, some of opted for spicy, which they have various versions of, from Thai, Laksa, and even Sichuan! The one above by Sherman includes tripe, quail eggs and fish balls. Traditional MissVancouverPiggy ordered the traditional House Soup, a fish based soup make with halibut heads. We all tried the soups prior to placing our order and this was one of my favourites. It had a mild fish flavour and a creamy texture. Century Egg
I ordered the Preserved Egg and Cilantro soup with fish, beef, fish ball and fresh bean curd. My only regret is that I didn't get some quail eggs too! This was loaded with chunks of the egg, and the flavour of cilantro permeated the soup, it was delicious! Century Egg 2 NomNomYVR ordered the same soup and loaded it with different toppings. The enoki looked too as does the fried fish cake.

If you enjoy customizing your own food, then this place is perfect for you. On a cold and rainy Vancouver day, this place would be one of my top three spots for dinner.

Incidentally, this place serves bubble teas as well. It's done in the Pantyhose Style, with a sheer filter, made to order, and the pulling action is to incorporate air and body into the teas. The tea they use is actually a blend of five different types of Sri Lankan teas. Try it next time you're there and see if you can tell the difference from other tea houses!
Bubble Waffle Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Hitting the new Boiling Point in Surrey!

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It's not exactly peak of Hot Pot season (I save that for the depths of winter), but since I received an invite to Boiling Point's new Surrey location via Chinese Bites, I was definitely game! 
  Boiling Point 
In addition to the various choices of Hot Soup Pots, Boiling Point also has various Bubble Teas. There are teas, juices, milk teas as well as slushes. Add-ons include Boba (Pearls), Pudding, Aloe, and Lychee Jelly. I opted for the plain Milk Tea with Boba; you can also customize it with the level of sweetness as well as the amount of ice.Boiling Point 2 What's in Store! Can four people (Rick, Diana, Sherman and I) really do eight hot pots?! Why the heck not! Boiling PointBefore the pots arrived, we were treated to two new appetizers, introduced just this month. The first one being the Kimchi Tofu. The tofu was smooth and cool and the contrast of spiciness of the kimchi gave the dish a nice balance.Boiling Point This Garlic Pork Belly was the better of the two appies though. The garlic flavours really came through and the belly was soft and tender. I found it a bit overcooked, but with pork, I guess it's better to be safe than sorry. Boiling Point We were given an opportunity to be one of the first people to try out the Pomelo Hot Pot, soon to be introduced to the public on May 1. The pomelo sauce comes from Japan and is quite unique. Despite the mild-looking soup, this was really tangy...almost sour. The kamaboko (fish cake) and tofu were gently cooked but the soup itself was just a bit too intense. All pots come with your choice of rice or vermicelli. Bear in mind that many of the pots already come with ramen or vermicelli. Many of the pots are also customizable in terms of heat.  Boiling Point 3 Our next tasting was the Korean Bean Paste Hot Pot. This one has an innate heat due to the Korean bean paste. Those of you that have been to their Burnaby or Richmond location might be more familiar with the Kimchi Hot Soup, this is their new incarnation of that. Loaded with sprouts, veggies, kimchi and mushrooms, the proteins came from the pork belly, kamaboko and filets as well as a lobster fish ball. The greens on top are crown daisy and give the dish a very earthy taste. It's also available as an add-on, if you're looking for something other than the napa and cabbage that accompanies most of the pots. The wok noodles as well as the rice cakes give the soup a hearty feel. Boiling Point 3 The next one we tried is one of the most popular items on the menu. It's their Beef Hot Pot, and it come loaded with lots of napa cabbage, enoki mushrooms, tofu and tofu skin. One thing I didn't care for was the imitation crab stick, but I did enjoy the beef and beef balls. This would be excellent with the flaming spicy heat if you're up for it. Boiling Point 3 On to the next! We're halfway through!! This is the Thai Flavour Hot Pot and it's one of the three larger pots. There are three on the menu and they are larger than the other lower priced ones. (hint: great for sharing). It's loaded with seafood, such as Fuzhou fish balls (made from cod or haddock with a minced pork filling), shrimp, octopus, cuttlefish, clam and crab. There is also a bit of cabbage, taro as well as enoki mushrooms, and a few pork slices. This would be a good one to have with the vermicelli. The soup is more sour than "tom yum", which I was expecting. Add some heat and make it your own!   Boiling Point 4 We opted to go a bit spicy with our Lamb Hot Pot, and I did find it had a good amount of heat. The egg was bit lost in the pot as we bursted it and it just served to thicken the soup. This is the second soup that contained Maitake Mushrooms, and I really enjoyed them; the flavour is mild but the texture has a good chew to it. Oh, and just a heads up...there is pork blood in this dish...not something you'd expect in a "lamb" hot pot.  Boiling Point 4The Japanese Miso Hot Pot (larger pot) was mild compared to all our previous pots. This would be a great one for the kids, with lots of easy to eat ingredients, such as fish filet, mushrooms and udon. All kids I know just love noodles so this is a really child-friendly dish. The soft tofu is soothing and the Fuzhou fish ball and fried tofu skin give a good variety of textures. Untitled This was our second to last hot pot, the Curry Fishball Hot Pot. Served with sliced pork, fried tofu skin and various veggies such as enoki mushroom, mountain yam and string beans, there was also plenty of fish balls. The soup was more watery than I wanted, but let it boil at the table to reduce it a bit. Incidentally, this pot is no longer offered in the US, so it's a Canadian exclusive.  Boiling Point 6 We made it! The final pot is the Taiwanese Spicy Hot Pot (a larger pot), and it's not for the faint of heart. It's available in Flaming Spicy only, so buyer beware. It also has some interesting ingredients, such as pork intestine, pork blood, along with some beef and tofu. This left my mouth burning and almost a slight adrenaline rush. Not sure if it was primarily due to the soup, or the fact that we had eaten eight pots!
One thing to note is that all the pots can be customize with optional add-ons, such as quail eggs, fermented tofu and instant noodles too.   
Boiling Point 5Now to cool off after all the hot soups, the polar opposite in the form of Snow Cubes. They are perfect to cool off the palate and come in various flavours. We had the strawberry, taro, pudding and matcha. My favourite from a previous visit at the Burnaby location was the strawberry. 
This place is fun and makes for a nice leisurely lunch. The smaller pots are just $10.99 with the larger pots at $14.99. 

Friday, April 01, 2016

ChangAn

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Last month, I was fortunate enough to give Chang'an a try, courtesy of the ChineseBites group. The meal was complimentary but all opinions are my own. The restaurant has taken over the scenic location of the old Stone Grill, with a great waterfront view. Eats Jan/FebWe started off with some Pita Bread, and it reminded me of an homage to traditional Western restaurants, where they start each meal with bread.It's definitely the first time I've been served bread as a starter in the Chinese restaurant. The Guo Kui Pita 鍋盔 itself was kind of plain but the bean spread, with just a punch of heat, made it much better. And I do like the spun sugar garnish! Eats Jan/Feb For the Appetizer Platter, we tried the following: Tossed Cilantro, Scallion & Red Peanut Salad 陕西大拌菜, Marinated Mushroom 迷你小香菇, Crispy Beef Tongue 脆皮牛舌 and Honey Grapefruit Spare Ribs 西柚蜜汁糖醋排

Here are my three favourites. I've always loved cilantro and when it's the key ingredient in any dish, I'm sold. The mushrooms were so tiny but packed with flavour. The one thing I couldn't get enough of was the spare ribs. Sweet with a touch of citrus from the grapefruit, the acidity definitely tenderized the meat. What I didn't really enjoy was the tongue, it was too heavily breaded and the texture of the tongue was lost. We then started on the first of our two courses of Chang’an Roasted Duck 長安炙鴨.Eats Jan/Feb Eats Jan/Feb Our first glance of the Chang’an Roasted Duck 長安炙鴨 - doesn't that look so good? The skin looks crispy and juicy, and I couldn't wait to get my hands and mouth onto this! Eats Jan/Feb We then started on the first of our two-course Chang’an Roasted Duck 長安炙鴨. The skin was served with sugar...something new to me. The blend of salty and sweet was interesting.  Eats Jan/Feb We also had the Chang’an Roasted Duck 長安炙鴨 meat with the traditional pairing of crepes and hoisin sauce. This was succulent and very satisfying. Another pairing was with pears and a homemade strawberry jam (sorry the pic got cut off on the right). The salty and sweet was again, intriguing, and I was glad to have tried it.  Eats Jan/Feb The Imperial Hot & Sour Soup 回坊酸辣湯 was probably named that because of the regal serving apparatus. The soup was definitely more hot than sour, but the consistency was nice and thick...the prawn in the middle of the urn was a pleasant surprise. I don't think I've ever had a Chinese Donut with soup before (congee yes, soup no), and it was unexpected. The donut itself was rather dense, but when you dunk it into the soup, it does soften up. It wasn't needed, but an interesting touch. Changan part two The presentation of the House Special Fried Chili Lobster 香辣龍蝦 is quite unique. I loved it. It was ornate and unique.   Changan again This is the actual House Special Fried Chili Lobster 香辣龍蝦 portion that we ate. There were fried cauliflower, lotus roots and what appears to be McCain's French Fries. The spicy flavours were pronounced and texture was light and tender. However, for a table of 10, the serving size was a bit light. Changan part two This was the Szechwan Peppercorn Sliced Beef 鮮椒木桶肥牛, served with enoki and tofu noodles. Rhe presentation reminded me of a traditional tofu dessert, but no...this was anything but sweet. We had a few more dishes to go! It was actually tongue numbing...but in a good way. I loved the spice and although the beef wasn't too tender, the enoki and tofu skin present were, and they absorbed the juices wonderfully. Changan part two This is the Chang’an Gourd Chicken 長安一品葫蘆雞 dish. Battered and deep-fried whole, the bird was super juicy. The carved it for us after presenting the bird as whole. Perhaps it was the batter, but in any case, even the usually drier white meat was tender. The flavour was a bit mild, so the serving of wok salt on the side was much appreciated and enhanced the dish greatly. Eats Jan/Feb The Braised Sea Cucumber 長安蔥燒海參 was next. Just remember it by numbers...$50 (cost), 48 hours (braised) and 20 (spices used). The texture is gelatinous but with a slightly tougher outer layer. The sweet and salty blend of flavours works really well since the sea cucumber isn't rich in flavours on its own. However, not everyone is a fan of the texture, so I ended up eating an extra half from someone who didn't quite love it. Thanks, Sean!! 
Changan again 
The next dish Sweet & Sour Lychee & Prawns 貴妃荔枝蝦球 were supposed to be sweet and sour but ended up being sweet and sweet. The sweetness of the lychees overpowered the sour flavours, and the crunchy honey-roasted cashews added additional sweetness. 
Changan again The next up was the Qin Style Roast Lamb Leg 秦味烤羊腿. The leg was more like pulled pork but was a bit dry. The chunks were generous and since I love playing with my food, this was an easy sell for me. Oh, and take a close look at the crispy pockets! I love sesame seeds and they did not disappoint! The smokienss of the lamb was definitely intensified with the buns.  Changan part two This is the Pork Belly Mini Sliders 老陝臘汁肉夾饃, the pork is stewed in slow heat in the aged sauce consisting of over 20 spices (20 seems to be a theme here) with clove, ginger and cooking wine. This is another take on "meat and bread". The meaty and fatty pork was shredded nicely and had good depth of flavour. I thought it was good, but the buns were a bit on the dry side. I like fluffly buns and these fell a little flat. Changan again The next course was a Braised Whole Chili & Spring Onion Cod 蔥椒魚 was a nice and spicy! I loved the creaminess of the soup, and the spice of the whole chilies. Further adding to the freshness of the dish was the copious amounts of green onions, sure to brighten any dish. The fish was tender and sweet, and cooked perfectly, not mushy yet flaked easily with a gentle push. 
Changan again This King Mushroom Casserole 石板菌菇 was interesting...simple and impactful.  I find that most braised mushrooms are rather bland and watered down, due to the liquid coming out of the mushrooms themselves. However, this was not like that at all. The flavours were intense and the texture had a good chew to it still, no mushiness in the mushrooms!
  Changan again This was the last savory dish I had, the 5 Spice Duck Ribs 椒鹽鴨架. The bones were crispy and crunchy, but unfortunately, there just wasn't enough meatiness to them. The spices were good, but I'd probably choose the other option of Noodle in Duck Soup the next time. 

There were two other noodle dishes but there was no way I could eat and enjoy them. Photos and descriptions are posted below for your reference but no commentary from me, because I didn't really try them. Changan again Biang Biang Noodles 油潑辣子麵 Changan againThree Sauce Noodle 三合一臊子扯麵Changan again This was the dessert which finished our meal. Yellow Bean Cake, Red Bean Cake 豌豆黃, 紅豆年糕. Both were quite mild in flavour and not at all cake-like in texture...more like a stiff pudding. 
Of all the dishes that we had, I would say that dessert is not the strong suit. Serving sizes are also a hit and miss, but the duck and sea cucumber were definitely highlights. 
Chang'An Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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