gracecheung604 | write on time: April 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Asakusa

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One day last month, I was craving sushi. The choices in my neck of the woods are limited so I'm always on the hunt for new offerings. B told me about Asakusa, and we decided to head there after making a quick call to ensure they had what I was craving...Tako Sunomono and Ikura.
Served in a "soup" cup, the vinegary broth smothers a generous portion of vermicelli, cooked nice and soft, but not overly so. Five generous slices of tako adorn this salad, as well as cucumber strips. A light dusting of black and white sesame complete the dish. This was exactly what I was craving!
Not wanting to over order as is our custom, we went for something simple. A Sushi Combination with Tuna, Ebi and Salmon, two pieces of nigiri each. We also added a Spicy Tuna Roll, as well as a Chopped Scallop, and my beloved Ikura.
Another thing we saw that they had on the menu was the Amaebi, the last time I had these were at Guu, and we asked them to deep fry the heads. Unfortunately, these shrimps were frozen, and headless. The actual sashimi was good, but I was disappointed with the lack of fried heads? Am I morbid? 
The Spicy Tuna Roll is essentially a tuna maki, done inside out with the rice on the outside instead of the nori on the outside, topped with some spicy sauce. It's not quite what we expected but still good.  
The sushi here is pretty generous...see how big the tuna is compared to the tiny amaebi tail? I really like how the rice is completely smothered by the tuna. This place is good value for the dollar, and the service is friendly. They offer takeout discounts too, if you order ahead of time.
When you're in the Burnaby area, I'd recommend this place over Sushi Garden, which is frequently overloaded with people, leading to long wait times and rather hurried service. 

Asakusa Sushi on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Q4 al Centro

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Looking for a new lunch spot in the downtown area? Check out Q4 al Centro, which opened late 2010. I have been a few times since and here are some of my favourite dishes.
One of their most popular appetizers is the Radicchio Bocconcini. Grilled with a slice of prosciutto, the saltiness is well-balanced by the sweetness from the sauce. The secret is cherries - who knew?!
For one lunch, I tried their Rigatoni Bolognese. I've always loved their Spaghetti Bolognese and was eager to try this incarnation. On the bottom , you have the original, on the top is the Rigatoni. How could you go wrong either way when the pasta is served with a red wine tomato ragu, and a combination of braised beef, veal and pork?! A few shavings of parmigiano reggiano and really, it's amazing!
Since we were facing the amazing pizza oven, we had to try a thin crust pizza. We selected the Forno Chicken, with chicken breast, zucchini, and whole olives. The charring on the crust is perfect and the toppings don't overwhelm you at all. A nice balance of crust to topping ratio here.
Fettucine con Rucola, it's fettucini loaded with shaved beef tenderloin, arugula, fresh tomato and parmigiano reggiano. The fresh tomato really adds to this dish by bringing a lightness to the meatiness.
This is the famous Spaghetti Q4. If one of you is having this, make the other one try it. Loaded with crushed garlic, the ground chicken and black beans are tossed with spicy olive oil. You'll walk out of the restaurant with a new swagger!
I'm not a huge fan of desserts since I don't really have a sweet tooth. If you're like me, you should try their Ciliegie Filate - layers of mascarpone cheese with phyllo pastry stacked in between. And then they top it with a load of sour cherries. So rich, but not heavy at all. Don't be shy, just stab into it!
Here is another great dessert, the traditional tiramisu. Served with a biscotti and a chocolate straw, it's perfect for someone with a sweet tooth.
One more great thing about this place? They offer free valet all the time. It's such a treat being able to dine downtown and not have to worry about parking.
Q4 al Centro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dinners at Grand Dynasty

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My first time having a dinner at Grand Dynasty was a few weeks ago, and it was so good that I decided to bring my parents here for dinner, along with B and T. Here is a combined post of those epic dinners. 
For an appetizer, we got the Shredded Chicken with Sesame Sprinkles. The dish is basically steamed boneless shredded chicken, tossed with sesame oil and sesame seeds. Sprinkled with fried wonton skins, green onion and thinly sliced red peppers, this dish is tasty and texturally very rich. A great appetizer.
Quack Quack - my all time favourite...Peking Duck. They serve it whole here and after they present it to you, they remove the skin tableside, and serve it with hoisin sauce, and celery and green onion sprigs. You get some steamed pancakes to wrap the whole thing in. 
The crepe is quite unique - see the specks of sesame here? I'd have to say this is the first time I've seen this in a Peking Duck crepe. Love the fact that it's so thin...you can see the print of the plate it's resting on. 
For those of you unfamiliar with Peking Duck - here is the "before" shot. Load the crepe up with a slice of the crispy duck skin, grab a blob of hoisin sauce and a sprig of green onion. Then, just wrap it all up and enjoy. 
We also go the Pan Fried Beef Filets, Chinese style. It's thinly sliced beef with a tangy sweet sauce. My stepdad loves this because it's one of the few meat dishes we'll order at dinner. Honestly, Chinese dinners consist more of poultry and seafood, and less red meat, in general. 
Needing a side of carbs after all the chicken, duck and beef? Try the ever-reliable Sliced Beef with Pan Fried Noodles. It's a dish you can find in many Asian cafes, and almost a comfort food. The flat rice noodles are tossed with sliced beef in a light soy sauce mixture and thin slices of onion and bean sprouts. 
And another standby? Sweet and Sour Pork...This is a favourite of both my stepdad and T...just something about this dish that appeals to the young and old. It's essentially deep fried morsels of pork, tossed with green and red peppers and a rich juicy sweet and sour sauce. They elevate it a bit here and serve it with cantaloupe and honeydew melon balls.
This is round two of the duck. They take all the meat off the duck and toss it with assorted veggies and pine nuts and serve it with a side of iceberg lettuce. Just scoop some of this into the lettuce (taco), add some hoisin sauce, and roll up to your heart's content. The addition of pine nuts is what brings this dish to the next  level for me...usually most placed add deep fried vermicelli for the crunch. 
Oh, yes - King Crab time...if you haven't had this before, you need to try it next time it's in season. For our group of 4 adults plus one child, they brought out a 7.5 pounder and they will cook it anyway you like. There are a variety of things they can do, such as steaming with garlic, or with egg whites and wine. They can also toss it in a spicy salt mixture, black bean sauce, or other spicy sauces. 
We got the legs steamed with garlic and broth, and I love the way they make it easy for you by half-shelling them. No work required, just grab and use the little fork they give you to pick out the meat. Order a bowl of white rice and scoop some of the sweet garlic sauce/broth into it...best way to have rice, ever.
We got the crab knuckles deep fried with special spicy sauce...which is really more of a breading as opposed to a sauce. It is not crazy spicy, unless you end up with one of those little Thai Chillies in your mixtures...and then, all bets are off! 
In order to have some veggies, we ordered their Pea Shoots, just simply steamed in broth. I have to admit that this is the one dish I loved but found way overpriced. $18 for a plate of veggies...oh no...Considering the two servings of duck were $33, this seems way out of what in terms of pricing. 
Nevertheless, I have zero complaints about the service and the food here. In fact, I am tempted to visit this place for dimsum, just to see if they have anything different to offer. I love the fact that it's close to home too. 
Oh, one caveat, as of Mid-April, they still don't have their liquor license yet...it will save you a bit on the bill. :)
Grand Dynasty Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paseo - Cuban Sammies

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On a recent trip to Seattle, we stopped off at Paseo as recommended by some of my fellow tweeters (Coby and Dilara). Once we arrived, we knew that this would be a good choice, people were lined up in the rain! Tiny on the inside with seating for about 20.
The outside isn't much to look at, but who cares, we're here for the food! We were told that their Cuban sandwiches are to die for, but once we got there, B got enamoured by the other entrees...
He wanted something more than "just a sandwich" so we ended up with their Half Chicken Dinner (yes, I know it's lunch time). I heartily agreed once I saw other people eating this. It's a half chicken, served with  a yummy romaine lettuce salad, lots of purple cabbage, some pickled beets, a cup of black beans and a cob of corn.
The two scoops of rice on the other side of the plate are so cute - and the chicken is so perfectly grilled and then baked. I love the old school Chinese-looking plates that this is served on. So unexpected! The chicken is so juicy, and the beans are amazing.
And....the reason we come to this place to begin with - a Cuban sandwich. Never having eaten one before, we  tried the biggest sandwich on the menu. The Midnight Cuban Press - it' a roast pork sandwich loaded with banana peppers, smoked ham and swiss cheese. And then they grill it for you in a hot press. Oh my goodness, this would cure any hangover...two bites and you're a new (wo)man.
Eat this while it's hot - we only finished half at the restaurant and finished the last half later in the day, and honestly, fresh is best! The crust of the bread is nice and crispy, with a soft middle and loaded with meat. Oh, I can't wait to go back! One note: cash only...so hit up an ATM first! 

Paseo (Fremont) on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Tea at the Fairmont

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Did you get the latest "daily deal" for Tea at the Castle (Fairmont Vancouver)? B and I did and we went the other day. If you're not sure what's in store for you, here is my review of their Victoria Tea Service. First off, they present you with a list of teas that you can try. Traditional teas include their Breakfast tea, Earl Grey, Orage Pekoe, Camomile, Jasmine, Peppermint and Darjeeling. 
Not one for the ordinary, B tried the Maple Maple (with a hint of caramel) and I tried the Lemon Rooibos (you can have it cold!). If you're not in the mood for something hot, try this or the Angel Falls Mist (Strawberry and Lemon), both are available cold. In fact, I had the Rooibos cold first, and then as we settled into the sweets, I asked for a tea cup and had it hot afterwards - can you say "Best of Both Worlds"?
After the tea was ordered, our waiter brought the sandwiches and sweets! Served on a two-tiered tray, the selection is overwhelming. Savory sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and a wide array of sweet pastries.
I rotated the tray to showcase my two favourites...Smoked Salmon on rye and the Pastry Swan.
This was the first thing we tried was the Egg Salad on a Baguette. Since I'm not really a fan of egg salad, this was a passable offering for me. I loved the presentation more than the actual eating of it.
Ahh...home-baked scone with a light dusting of powdered sugar. Oh my goodness, cut this baby in half and pour the clotted cream on it. Spread some of the strawberry jam on it all, and it's heaven in a bite. 
Another savory offering is the Ham and Brie Croissant...ooops, is my brie showing? This is served warm, so if you can remember, please eat this first while it's hot! The croissant is amazing flaky and the brie is a good gooey compliment to the salty maple ham. Oh yeah, this is one of the highlights for me. 
Another definitive tea time offering is the Cucumber and Watercress sandwich (crustless, of course). Thinly sliced cucumber with tiny leafs of watercress. There's a bit of mayo to hold everything in place, not too much, but just enough to moisten the sandwich. Three bites into this and suddenly, you're drinking tea with your pinky up. 
And the last of the savory sandwiches...Smoked Salmon with dill cream cheese, with a slice of cucumber tucked in between. The rye bread that this is served on is untoasted and thinly sliced, making it an easy bite. Though it looks like caviar topping the salmon, it's not, I don't know what it was exactly, but it doesn't pop in your mouth like good caviar should. 
After all the sammies (plus chicken wings and dry mix noodles at Phnom Penh less than two hours prior), I could only tackle one of the sweet pastries. I chose the Frangipane Fruit Tart, loaded with almond flavoured filling, the tart was topped with a slice kiwi, a raspberry, a blackberrry and half a strawberry. Not a fan of almond filling, but the rest of the tart was amazing.
Ask them to pack up what you can't finish. So for us, later on that evening, I had the macaroon and I swooned. It's so good - just a small tiny baby macaroon, but was so moist and tasty. The next day, I tried the Passion Fruit Pastry Swan - essentially a passion fruit cream puff. Still good even the day after. 
I would totally recommend getting the latest reservation possible and foregoing dinner. It might not look like a lot of food, but the two scones with clotted cream will fill you (happily) like you never expected.
I've had tea at Urban Tea Merchant as well with my mom, and although it's cheaper, I think you get better value for your money here. Have you tried? What are your thoughts?
900 West Lounge on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Quattro Kits with Family and Friends

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This restaurant has been one of our family's favourite restaurants for years and years. I decided to come here to celebrate my birthday a little bit early, since my mom was going to be out of town during the actual date.
It's a perfect traditional way to start any proper Italian meal...wam bread with EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Just be careful, if you indulge in too much of this, you're not going to make a dent in the rest of the menu. And that would be regrettable and unforgivable!  
Their antipasto platter isn't on the menu here, but it's definitely one of their signature dishes.  
Selection includes prosciutto, marinated peppers and mushrooms, smoked salmon, chorizo and prawns. There was also their ridiculously good radicchio and mozza cheese. You have to try this. The portion here is for two people, but for an appetizer, easily feeds three!
One of my favourites here is the lamb - it's a generous portion and served with whipped potato mash.
There were carrots and a grilled cheesy tomato slice all drenched in a fig and port reduction. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, I'm glad whoever wanted one got their own, because I really didn't want to share! 
Done simply, it's a traditional thin crust pizza with a little tomato sauce, slices of parma prosciutto and shaved parmigiano reggiano. A light sprinkling of arugula and you're done! The saltiness of the parm and prosciutto mix nicely with the arugula. It's call the Italiano, and the red parm, white parm and green arugula is truly representative of their flag! 
We also tried their Fusilli con Rucola. The fusilli is handmade and it's cooked perfectly here - al dente with lots of ridges to hold all the yummy sauce. The shaved tenderloin is great with the fusilli, as there aren't any chunks of meat to contend with here. Everything is made for spearing with a fork
With a sauce made from fresh tomatoes, there is lots of shaved beef tenderloin and arugla, with a very generous sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano. As you can see from this close up, there is a lot happening on this plate and they really like hanging out together. Every bite has fresh flavours and it's not too heavy either. 
We topped this fine meal off with two desserts, the Ciliege Filate. Sheets of phyllo pastry are layered with whipped mascarpone cheese and cream, and sour cherries soaked in a red wine reduction. It's almost too pretty to eat, but we managed to overcome that. We just crushed the pastry and loaded up with the mascarpone cheese and cherries. So good.  
The other dessert we got was something simple...just a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a chocolate straw and a biscotti. As with the ciliege filate, it had a cape gooseberry on top. The tartness of the fruit really heightens the sweetness of the vanilla ice cream. 
They also have $10 pastas three times a week (Sun-Tues) and I really can't think of a better deal for dinner. It's available for dine-in and to-go. I can't think of a better way to spend $10 for dinner, can you? 
Q4 on Urbanspoon

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