Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gyo-O


 I've been paying random visits Gyo-O ever since their opening several years ago.  The GyozaKing Group's produce is not exactly the restaurant where you will be spending most of your evening at. Its tight space and specialization of kaisendon is reminiscent of sushi joints in Tsukiji area in Tokyo and makes Gyo-O more of a go to place to grab a quick bite for those on the go.

Although they are known for rice bowls and udon, the composition and flavours stand out from others.   I especially love the fact that most of their rice and noodle bowl comes with 1 perfectly poached egg.

Rice bowls

Chicken chili don--chicken karaage with chili sauce, tartare sauce, and chopped scallion over rice.  Fried chicken with creamy tartare and spicy, yet sweet hot sauce, how could you go wrong! Forget the calorie content, a flavourful bowl of fried chicken on rice is just plain satisfying.
Kaisen yukke don is my favourite here.  You get chopped up pieces of mixed sashimi (salmon, tuna, scallop, squid, roe), mixed with a sauce and topped with a poached egg and seaweed.  Add a little bit of wasabi if you love getting the heat up your nose, and mix everything together. A bowl of protein-rich deliciousness is born.  There is a whole lot of rice in the bowl, almost bottomless actually, which makes it quite filling on its own.  Somehow, I always end up finishing almost all of it.

Udon
Gyo-O is known for their bukkake udon, which consists of cold udon noodles served with a variety of toppings and a dashi/soy base sauce.
Tuna and salmon sashimi bukkake udon.  A nice refreshing noodle dish for the summer.

Crunchy, chewy fishcake tempura bukkake udon.

If you get bored easily, try the spicy udon soup which comes with 3 pieces of shrimp tempura, 3 pieces of tuna sashimi and 2 pieces of chicken karaage.  It's not really spicy at all, but the broth is flavourful.

And no matter where I go...

I will always get this every time I see it...

Deep fried softshell crab 


Gyo-O on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Happy Cake Day!

Yesterday we brought home a DQ strawberry cheesecake just to help ease the heat stroke.  Sometimes, you don't need a reason to celebrate :)






Friday, August 26, 2011

Kam Do Bakery makes delicious egg tarts

 
Just before I finished telling my sister how much I love it when company comes over and brings food with them, Jbear walked in with a box of giant egg tarts.  He must be a mindreader or some sort.  It was my first time trying the big egg tarts from Kam Do Bakery and I was thrilled to find out how tasty they are.  

Located right beside Richmond Centre on No. 3 road, I found myself overlooking the chinese bakery.  Even though I could see it from Brighouse Station every morning, I never knew what tasty treats were in store all along until Jbear showed me the way.   It was a busy afternoon at the bakery and I was disappointed to learn that they were sold out of the giant egg tarts.

After I got home, I was once again bummed that we didn't buy half a dozen.  Normally, egg tarts are best eaten fresh out of the oven or lightly baked in the oven.  Kam Do egg tarts still taste amazing without having to be reheated.  The inside is soft, almost pudding like with a subtle amount of sweetness.  I would recommend going for the giant egg tarts but since they are sold out by the afternoon, you might want to head there first thing in the morning.



Kam Do Bakery on Urbanspoon

Pho Lan

Why is it that some of the best food often come from hole-in-the-wall places?  Pho Lan is no exception.  The backdoor entrance reminds me of a scene from the movie Bridesmaids where the girls were taken to a backdoor Brazilian restaurant.  It was somewhat intimidating.  Like most hole in the wall places, there should be no expectation for ambience or friendly customer service.  For a quick meal, good food, and low prices, those 2 are not on the top of my list here.  Be grateful that your meal arrives in a timely manner, and that they bring you whatever you ask for.
Back entrance

Front entrance


 My favourite dish here, deep fried spring rolls for $2.50 each.  For twice the average price, they are also double in size .  The wrap is made with rice paper, the same one on the salad roll, so it is more crispy with a chewy taste.  The filling is stuffed with seasoned ground pork, carrots, mushrooms, and glass noodles.  Yummm... Their spring roll is a must try.

 
Two more of my vietnamese staples; vermicelli bowl and pho.  Vermicelli noodles served with thin slices of grilled lemongrass beef, fresh veggies, a spring roll topped with ground peanut and green onion. This noodle bowl may be comparable to anywhere else, but the giant spring roll makes all the difference.
Steak and meatball pho in spicy soup known as #10.  For me, it's the broth that makes the pho.  The spicy broth is rich, savoury, and flavourful (not sure if it's also due to msg magic?).  It's spicy, but not extremely so there's always room to adjust the heat according to your taste.  The noodles are not soggy and there's a substantial amount of meat and the beef balls have sesame oil flavour in them.   It's just as good as the ones from Edmonton, the pho capital of Canada.

Pho Lan on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 22, 2011

Butternut squash soup recipe


Today I am sharing a simple recipe for making a hearty, velvety butternut squash soup that tastes as delicious as at the restaurants.  I think you will love the delicate and natural flavour of butternut squash that really come through in the soup.  Butternut squash is also a very nutritious fruit (I feel weird writing that, but they are because they have seeds), containing high amounts of beta-cerotene, potassium, fiber, Vitamin A, B6 and C.

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash
1/3 julienned onion
500 ml chicken stock
2 tbsp. butter
250 ml milk
salt and pepper
olive oil or truffle oil
heavy cream or creme fraiche to garnish

Preparation:
Cut up butternut squash, peel and seeded.  In a large pot, melt butter and sauté onion until softened.  Add butternut squash and chicken stock.  Bring to boil until softened.  In a blender, puree the mixture together. Transfer the mixture back into the pot.  Add milk and stir the soup.  Add salt to taste.  Leave to simmer at low heat for about 20-30 minutes.  The longer you leave the soup to simmer, the more velvety smooth it becomes.  Drizzle with olive or truffle oil and cream and serve immediately.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Toshi Sushi


The lineup at Toshi is comparable to waiting for a table at a busy dim sum restaurant on a Sunday Morning.  
It was eternal with no hope, no future.  With 13 tables ahead of us at 6 pm, P and I couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel, yet it was impossible to give up now since we felt like we've come too far.  As more customers pour in to this little modest sushi restaurant, those put their names down saw the long list ahead of them and accepted their fate.  Wow, some loyal customers they have here.  This place MUST be something special.  As time went by, somehow, the two of us managed to entertain ourselves with discussions that wouldn't end so quickly ie. religions, politics, philosophies, purpose on this earth, etc.  We figured all that out and my name was still not being called!  At a near state of vegetation, the sweet sound of my name was finally called out.  We gathered what little energy we had left and staggered to be seated at the sushi bar.  It didn't help that we got front seats to salivate over the delicious looking sushi flying out from the bar. There, we got to see the master sushi chefs at work and saw what each dish looked like.  The tuna tataki and overstuffed cones seemed tantalizing.  Since we had an hour to think about what we wanted, we didn't have to take a second look at the menu.   There was no more time left to waste, it was 7 something pm, I needed some food pronto............ T ^ T

 It didn't take too long for our box roll ($7.75) to arrive.  It had the same concept of a rainbow roll with different type of sashimi layering over top.  The filling had avocado and topped with sockeye salmon, scallop, shrimp, and thin slices of lemon.  I really liked the lemony touch to go with the sashimi topping. The downer was that the sushi rice was compressed, which means there was more rice as fillers.
 My new favourite sushi, ikura! and it was topped with quail egg for only $2.25 each.  There was an initial concern how fresh the ikura would have to be if it was going to mix with raw egg.  After the bite, I was relieved the roe was fresh.  As the ikura bursted out, it blended with the egg yolk to form a thick, creamy, and salty liquid concoction.  If you're not a fan of either of the combination, you might find the thick liquidy texture kinda gross. Probably not something I should have a lot of, but it was interesting and I should've gotten more than just 1. For the quality, the price is a deal and a half.

 The dinner box for $16.95 could easily feed 2 people, or should I say girls/moderate eaters, etc.  It would not be possible for me to finish this by myself, well, maybe if I didn't order anything else.  But, the dinner box is a great deal as it comes with 6 well portioned dishes of Japanese staples; tempura, sashimi, nigiri sushi, a maki roll, a sunomono, and a surprise meat dish.  Average Japanese bento box gives you a sliver of each.  The box came with miso soup, but not a bowl of rice.  P and I shared the box and didn't need any more rice as we got enough from the sushi and rolls.
 The special dish of the day was a rolled up chicken breast with asparagus stuffed inside with a teriyaki glaze.  I thought this dish was only so-so.  The chicken was tender but it could definitely use more sauce.  It was extremely filling too.
Three pieces of tempura, 2 shrimp and a yam. The shrimp tempura was SOOOO crispy.  It gave a loud crunch as I bit into it.  The batter wasn't too thick either. I love love love it.
 Six pieces of sashimi, sockeye salmon, tuna, and octopus.  They were fresh and delicious.
 Their california roll was done the "old school" way as the crab meat was not shredded.  I prefer this method better as it had better 'imitation crab' texture and became really creamy when blended with the avocado.  There were fresh and good size 4 pieces of sushi, tuna, red snapper, squid, and shrimp.
 I'm not a big fan of sunomono, but I found this particular one really nice and refreshing.  The vinegar wasn't overwhelming for once and there were many little shrimp swimming in the dressing.

 Here, we ordered a simple baked eggplant with miso glaze ($5.25).  It was baked until it was extremely softened (mushy, rather) and achieved a perfect state of caramelization.  I haven't had an eggplant that was this mushy in a while, and it's not a bad thing at all.  The texture was almost like a grilled, caramelized banana.  It went really well with the chicken that needed a little something extra.

We wanted to try more food, but after the dinner box we struggled just to make it through.  The food was authentic at a reasonable price.  If you are able to withstand long, eternal waits, I would recommend this place.

Toshi Sushi on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wild Salmon

 I feel fortunate that my educational institution provides me with not one, not 2, but 3 tasty establishments to go to for lunch.  Wild Salmon is another unique restaurant at VCC which offers aboriginal cuisine with a contemporary flare.  Like JJ's restaurant, Wild Salmon is run and operated by culinary students under the supervision of instructors and instructor assistants.  Unfortunately, the restaurant does not operate all year round and is coming to an end this August 26th, which is why I'm publishing this in a hurry in case others may want to go try it.
Click to enlarge
 The benefit of dining at culinary school, hard to beat price point! $4 for appetizers and $11 for all mains.

 Special cocktail of the day, fresh watermelon daiquiri for only $4.  Yes, please! It was refreshing and I definitely taste the alcohol.

 Instead of bread and rolls, we were served fried bunnock bread, an aboriginal style scone.  It was crispy on the outside and airy, doughy, chewy inside, much like a chinese doughnut.

 The corn chowder was prepared similar to a regular corn chowder, except it was better.  The corn had been fire roasted prior so it had a smoky, barbecue corn flavour. The soup was hearty with natural sweetness of the corn.

 I could probably eat about 10 of these spicy seafood croquettes.  Although they were not spicy at all (or maybe because I'm Thai), the croquettes were lightly breaded and fried until golden crispy. I'm not a huge fan of cooked salmon but these were seasoned nicely and the inside was very tasty.  The smoked tomato "jam" accompanying the croquettes was refreshingly sweet and slightly tangy.  The croquettes didn't need any sauce or salt and pepper, they went with the tomatoes hand in hand.

 Johana, steak lover, went for the bison brisket as her main.  The smoked bison had more robust, yet sweet and smoky flavour and chewy texture.  It was served along side of crispy roasted root vegetable and a slice of grilled sage bannock.  A glass of oaked red wine would complement with this dish very well.

 I had trouble deciding my main and was glad I went for the sunflower seed crusted halibut.  The fish was cooked to perfection.  It was tender, flakey and had the right amount of seasoning.  The crispy sunchoke added crunch to each bite.  The watercress sauce was a vibrant green colour and went very well with the halibut.  I absolutely love this dish.

All of the desserts on the menu sounded delicious.  J and I decided to share bunnock bread pudding topped with scoops neopolitan ice cream ($3).  The presentation was so cute! The taste was impressive as well. A perfect ending to our meal.

The bill came to $42 before taxes and, as you can see, we each had a 3 course meal and a cocktail.  It was a wonderful dining experience as we got to try a style of cooking we had never experienced.  The service was attentive and the food was exceptional.  I highly recommend trying Wild Salmon before it's too late.  They are only opened for lunch on weekdays starting at 11:30 am, and there is only one week left so hurry!

Wild Salmon (VCC) on Urbanspoon

Don Guacamole's

As I had no interest in returning to Don Guacamole, I didn't even have an intention to write about this place until I kept being reminded, "People have the right to know about this place.  They must be warned..."
So, I will do my duty as a food blogger to document not only the good, the bad, but also the mediocre as well, even though at times it is really difficult to care about every single restaurant I've ever visited.  In the end, I'll let the readers be the judge.  So, here it goes...

One sunday evening, my sister and I set off to Don Guacamole on Robson for some Mexican cena.  As we arrived, there was also a steady flow of patrons coming in which was a good sign to us and we had high hopes for some authentic Mexican food.  It didn't take long for us to order; 4 tacos, chicken flautas, chile conqueso.  And we weren't even hungry :)



Tortilla chips and 3 kinds of salsas arrived the table while we wait for our meal to arrive.  The dark roasted chili dip had a sweet and strong smoky and spicy flavour, very similar to a thai roasted chili paste nam prik ta dang.  We both dig it.  The salsa verde had a lot of lime juice and cilantro in it.  I'm a fan of salsa verde in general so they didn't go wrong here.  Another bowl was house-made salsa which was lacking fresh herbs, it was refreshing and couldn't go wrong there either.  Perhaps, the chips and salsa were the best dish that evening.
Contrary to our beliefs that chili con queso is a creamy, spicy cheese sauce served with tortilla chips, which was how it was served to us in the past, Don Guacamole's chili con queso was straight up chili stuffed with cheese.  I was somewhat disappointed I didn't read the description better but still gave it a try.  It was a wrap of two large peppers grilled and softened with soft melted cheese stuffing, the topped with sour cream.  Wait a minute, isn't this chili relleno?? It didn't taste terrible, but it sure wasn't want I wanted and I probably wouldn't order it again.
Tacos shouldn't be too hard to miss right? We ordered 4 tacos with 2 beef tongue, 1 pork carnitas, and pulled pork.  The tacos arrived looking authentic, but after tasting, they were depressingly bland.  I had high hopes for beef tongue but all the tacos ended up tasting the same and I couldn't even tell them apart. C'mon, they could've at least thrown in a wedge of lime :( For the same price of $10, I would rather head over to La Taqueria where I can expect more flavours from delicious and authentic Mexican tacos.
The last, and most forgettable dish of the evening, chicken flautas were even more dry and boring than the previous dish.  I'm not trying to slam it or make it sound worse than what it was but the chicken inside was extremely dry and, once again, flavourless.  The only visible seasoning I saw on it was the black pepper.  The flautas were topped with a pile of iceberg lettuce, cubed cheese and signature guac.  Their guac tasted refreshing with a lot of lime flavour, but I wouldn't have paid $8 just for a bowl of it.  I wish they threw in more spices (other than black pepper) in the chicken and tomatoes, red peppers, or cilantro on top and maybe they won't taste like a bunch of cardboards.  In the end, I dressed it up with the salsas that we had, but it didn't make a huge difference.  The flautas alone tasted equivalent to something from 711, I'm not kidding.  My sister said she'd rather go to Taco Bell. 

In summary, I thought the dishes lacked flavours and failed to impress.  It would take a lot to convince me to come back again.

Don Guacamole's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tapenade Bistro

As fall may be quickly approaching, my (food) partner Merh, along with her actual partner J, and myself sought out for the ultimate patio-dinner experience to enjoy one of the very few days of summer we had this year.  This led us to Tapenade Bistro in Steveston where we all have heard numerous reputations.  Located just across the street from fisherman's wharf, the restaurant specializes in Provencal influence cuisine blending with a West coast flare.  With an extensive list of scrumptious sounding appetizers and entrees, it would be a while until we can finally make up a few choices.  

The first one was easy and I felt like I hit the jackpot.  Soup of the day was prawn bisque ($8).  It was a no brainer for me, I had to have it.  Served with succulent pieces of spot prawn, the prawn bisque was spot on (pardon my lameness).  The flavour was rich with natural sweetness of the shellfish.  I scraped the bowl until it was bone dry.

J ordered duck confit ($12.50) as a starter.  With the fried duck leg rested on top of chickpea puree grape tomatoes, and chickpea panisse, a fried chickpea flour cake made in the southern France.  The duck skin was crispy and the meat wasn't too dry. The acidity and sweetness of the grape tomatoes went well with the duck chickpea puree.  It was our first time trying a chickpea panisse, and texture wise, it was very similar to a falafel.
My appie-size mussels and frites ($12).  I had a really hard time picking one broth out of the three.  In the end, I decided to go with something soundingly simple, Breton, a creamy white wine broth.  I was happy with my option as the broth was savoury with a ending dry note. Maybe I was already getting full from the soup, but somehow the smaller portion of mussels managed to fill me up to a desirable level.   I was missing the fries that should have come with it, but the bread still did its job as a dipping substitute.  After trying out various places such as Twisted Fork, Salade de Fruits and Chambar, I couldn't help but compare mussels and frites among these places.  With taste and value in mind, I still reign Salade de Fruits supreme for their jumbo portion of moules et frites at $12.99 for lunch and $17.99 for dinner.

Truffle and pasta lovers would being calling for Linguine Boscaiola.  This rustic italian dish is made with ground striploin and mouthwatering creamy sauce with parmigiano-reggiano, cognac, and truffle cream.  The truffle was really fragrant in the dish and, thus, everything was cleared in a short time.  J went for an appie size ($12), but if you're hungry, order as a main ($20).

Merh couldn't pass on bouillabaisse ($28), one of the most well-known traditional provencal cuisine, and she was quite happy with the decision.  A large plate of seafood stew had almost everything from the sea, bathing in a light tomato broth topped with toasted baguette and rouille.    I'm guessing this dish would be great for a diet since its low in sodium, calories, and saturated fats, and it would fill you up.  Merh complimented how the broth was lightly seasoned and, thus, letting the natural seafood flavours come through.

It didn't seem like we had that much to eat, but we were all very stuffed.  The selections of desserts did sound promising, (pot de creme, creme brulee, white pepper panna cotta, it goes on...), and I regret passing on the offer.

Tapenade Bistro on Urbanspoon