I believe that food like good music and a good book is a solace to a person's soul. Food is both a science and an art - a yin-yang balance to your body and also an appreciation of colors, textures and sensory experience.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Simple Food and Simple Folks

Sometimes, friends will call me out for a meal and I will have to decline because I had my meal. This inadvertently will start a conversation as to what I made for dinner. Well, I had my fair share of cooking - sometimes elaborate meals but most of the time, I whipped out something really quick - like this dish.

I will fry potato croquette bought from a Korean H-mart at downtown and my customary fried egg. I love fried egg especially when the egg white becomes so crispy. I am always terrified that the oil will splatter on me. But its worth it. I love seeing the egg white sizzle and then slowly transform from a white liquid into   brown cripsy bits. And yet, still leaving the egg yolk relatively soft. Yummy. And of course no fried egg is complete without the customary dark soya sauce. In Vancouver, you can get a fairly wide range of dark soya sauce. Do not get the chicken rice dark soya sauce if you want to eat it with fried egg. There are some brands of dark soya sauce in the Asian supermarket which apart from being salty, serves no purpose at all. The dark soya sauce I have on hand is the tiger brand (http://www.chuencheong.com/) Its made in Singapore and Malaysia. I like it because its not that salty, is a bit caramelized and goes so well in a number of dishes.

My favorite potato croquette - I like this version: believe its curry. I drizzled Hoisin sauce on the potato - sometimes, I eat it with Japanese mayo.

I like having my fried egg drizzled with dark soya sauce. The combination is fantastic.

There is nothing like a nice pot of Chinese tea to complete your meal. On hindsight, there is so much carbs in my food - rice and potato.

 Until next time ... ciao :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Szechuan Chongqing Seafood Restaurant, West Broadway

Szechuan Chongqing (Broadway) on Urbanspoon

 This is a favorite place with my group of friends because you don't have to wait for a table and the service is pretty good for a Chinese restaurant. The servers are pretty well dressed - they have this white and black suit-like attire - I totally approve. Also the deco is pretty pleasing - its' not the top end of Chinese restaurants but at least you can have a private conversation, without fear of inconveniencing the person at the next table. Or without fear of someone eavesdropping on your private life! This restaurant is pretty spacious - spotted a private room.

Caution - I forgot to bring my camera and so the pixs did not turn out looking the way that I wanted. Camera phones are pretty handy but you can't take a good macro shot as the camera lens is way too small. It doesn't help that my hands are pretty shaky so the pixs turn out blurry. Fortunately, someone was there to lend a hand with the photos and save my dining experience. Another point - we did not order your typical Szechuan fare as some friends do not take spicy food.

The Szechuan Chongqing beef fried with spinach had an interesting twist - the spinach was crispy. I like it. This is the less spicy version but if I had to eat it by myself, I will go for the spicy stuff! The beef was well marinated so I enjoyed this dish.

Its a bit oily but I was enamored with  the crispy spinach.

Next is the General Tao's chicken - a personal favorite of a friend of mine. It has a crispy feel to it. It kinda reminded me of sweet and sour pork, minus the gravy. I do like the texture of this chicken.Yummy!

At first glance, the dish looks pretty ordinary but its so yummy. 

The sweet and sour pork is something  I personally would not have ordered myself. But the whole point of dining out is that it should be communal. Everyone should be given a chance to order a dish that they like and to share. I am a BIG fan of sharing food!! Sadly, the sweet and sour pork was a thumbs-down for me. The flour coating on the chicken was too thick and the meat was a tad too hard - they should have made it something along the lines of General Tao's chicken.

I would rate this sweet and sour pork as below average. Gosh - am I harsh??

Oh, and before I forget, we need our carbs. So besides sharing some steamed rice, we had seafood chow mien with gailan. Silly me - I kept on saying green leafy vegetables to the server. The word gailan failed me. Shame on me! Anyway, I do like the fact that they were pretty generous with the seafood. They should have cut the kailan into smaller pieces though. It was really difficult to chew the long stems. Felt like a rabbit or something.

Swimming with seafood and gailan. 

And finally Chinese cookies - with compliments from the restaurant.  Sesame fried dough balls - unhealthy. A strong cup of tea to neutralize the oil helped - I love the tea here and I like the fact that they do fill it up unlike Lin's.

The finale -By then, I was pretty stuffed. 

Overall Experience:

Deco: 3.5-4/5. Pretty comfortable set up, relatively spacious. I understand that the male washroom has ice in their urinal to help in controlling the smell. So, an extra half point for that. I never heard of it before though :)
Quality of food: 3/5. Its average. I would prefer if the food is a little less oily.
Value for $$: $$/5 - its between CAN$18-CAN$20 per head (inclusive of tip). I don't suggest that you go for the buffet dinner which is about CAN$24 per person (minus tax) unless you really can eat a lot. Their lunch dim sum is a better value for $$.
Overall Experience: 3.5/5 - I rate them slightly higher than Lin's because of the better service and they do give you some Chinese cookies. I do miss this particular server. He practically remembers most of his customers but I don't see him anymore.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lin Chinese Cusine and Tea House, West Broadway & Granville

Lin Chinese Cuisine 林餐館 on Urbanspoon

The award wining Lin's is one of my favorites places when I need my fix for Chinese food and don't want to travel to Richmond. Their set lunch is a pretty reasonable deal - you get a main course, steamed rice and soup for less than CAN$10 (before tax). They are famous for their dumplings and hand-made noodles. One of the things I enjoy in this restaurant is to see the proprietors and their staff making the dumplings and the noodles by hand.

If I have company, I usually order their kung pao chicken or their beef with green onion (which comes in a hot pot). This time around, its time for a change.

The main course is sauteed soy beans and bean curd sheets. I was disappointed with this dish. For CAN$13, I expected better value for my money. But then again, good quality bean curd is expensive in Vancouver. Its pretty plain though. I must say that it was a surprise change to have endamame with bean curd. In most Chinese cuisine, snow peas rule the day.

I am used to eating bean curd sheets in a desert form. Like this barley and bean curd desert with ginko . So, this is a nice change but still CAN$13- heart attack!! That said, I miss ginko nuts - excellent source of brain food.

This dish is not cheap. Maybe, I am cheap. For CAN$13, I rather order a meat dish.

Strangely, the appetizers came after the main course. The customary xiao long pao or what Lin's also refer to Shanghai juicy dumplings. I like it, especially since I know they hand made the dough of the dumplings. This is good stuff!!

For CAN$5 (before tax), you get 6 pieces of xiao long pao. Which is alright.

I love the burst of juices inside the xiao long pao. Should have taken the picture on my spoon instead of a plate. The remaining juices were wasted :(

Finally, its time for desert - 8 treasures sweet rice. This desert is HUGE and looks so pretty. But in terms of taste, I would say that it is average. I guess I had eaten better stuff. But still, I was taken in by the colors and the I like the red bean that goes with the sweet rice.

The desert looks more colorful when you see it rather than on this picture.

Smashing up the desert to ensure a good mix of the toppings and red bean.

Service at Lin's is what you find in most typical Chinese restaurants in Asia. Its brusque and no pleasantries are exchanged. You have to proactively to ask them for refill of Chinese tea etc.

Their Chinese tea is pretty insipid, despite it being left in the teapot for sometime. I wonder why. The teapot is pretty but the thing which irks me the most was that the sprout of the teapot was broken. A big no-no for me.

I should have taken a pix of the broken tea sprout. But I can't stand things that are ascetically not pleasing.

Overall Experience:
Deco: 2/5. The place is clean but I deducted marks because their tea sprout was broken.
Quality of food: 3/5 - I have eaten better Chinese food and I was kinda disappointed with my main course. But I really like their kung pao chicken and beef with spring onions though. I am such a creature of habit!
Value for $$: $$/5 - Lin's is not cheap for what you are getting. Their lunch special is a much better deal though.
Overall experience: 3/5

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hitoe Sushi - A Third Place and a Home Away From Home

Hitoe Sushi on Urbanspoon

Hitoe Sushi is tucked at a little corner at West 4th Avenue. It is a unpretentious family run restaurant with good and solid Japanese sushi. The ultimate litmus test for any sushi place is to order the California roll - the ingredients were fresh and the sushi was pretty firm. The sashimi were simply divine - I highly recommend it. I think the price was pretty reasonable - around CAN$13-$18 (before tax). Of course, you can always get cheap, on-the-go sushi elsewhere but for this quality, you get a pretty decent deal.

One downside - the menu is mainly sushi and sashimi. Not much selection of cooked items such as yakitori and my favorite tempura - As you can tell, I am a BIG fan of fried and crispy food!

Can't remember what set was ordered. The California roll was good - firm and not too soggy.

I remembered liking the salad dressing.

The presentation of the boxed set was elegant.

The proprietors of the shop were a couple - very friendly. Noticed that they had a lot of take-out orders from residents and people working around the area. The lady boss was a good host - she constantly refilled your tea and you never really had to ask her for more tea.

Why third place? Ray Oldenburg said that third places are an informal social gathering places for local communities. Hitoe is definitely a third place - I saw families ordering take-out and the lady proprietor chatted with them and gave candy to little kids. There is an air of ease and familiarity between customers and the proprietors. I can imagine the little kids will grow up to be teenagers and young adults and will still come back to Hitoe. The lady proprietor even displayed a little plasticine model of little sushi and other Japanese food delights done by her daughter.

Overall Experience:
Deco: 3.5/5 . Its a family run restaurant, so not much of a wow factor. But I give them high marks for great presentation and their lovely little tea set. They tried to create a homely environment.
Quality of food: 5/5
Price of food: 4/5
Overall experience: 5/5. I love this place!! I wanna try their version of fresh crab California roll the next time

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Food at Well Tea, Richmond, Vancouver

Well Tea 茶井 (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

The food at Well Tea in Richmond is pretty presentable. Loved the deco. Love the yummy chicken with three spices set and the pork with fermented sauce and fried rice. The pork looks a bit terrifying at first because the meat looks red - it has to do with the seasoning. Its really delicious though - its well seasoned and goes very well with the fried rice. And I loved my drink too - matcha coffee bubble milk tea. I wanna try the deep fried chicken nuggets next. I am a big fan of fried chicken :)

This chicken dish is so flavorful - I loved drizzling my steamed rice with the sauce from the chicken dish.

How it looks like in a set - vegetables, Chinese beans, tofu and steamed rice

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The portions are pretty generous

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See what I mean - the seasoned red pork sitting on a bed of rice. Lovely!!

This egg dish is a bit of a disappointment. Can do without it. Nothing spectacular.

The macha coffee bubble tea was pretty light - I personally liked it - it complimented the well flavored and seasoned food.

Overall Experience:

Deco: 3.5-4/5
Quality of food: 5/5
Price: 4/5 (its pretty decent, about CAN8 for a set meal before tax. I am not giving it a perfect score because the drinks are kinda pricey).
Overall Experience: 4/5

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