Kenzo Japanese Noodle House – Burnaby, BC


Kenzo Japanese Noodle House
6907 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 522 9969

Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon

September 2010 re-visit post here
<a href="December 2009 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Located in a very visible commercial building along Kingsway at the intersection with Griffiths Avenue, not far from the Middlegate Shopping Centre, Kenzo Japanese Noodle House is a pretty well known spot for those living in the area.  I am sure the commuters who utilize Kingsway daily are also very familiar with this place due the lack of obstruction from the road right into the business’s front window.

Initial impressions gained from scanning the photographed items above the cashier station/beverage case/bar led me to think that the proprieters were Korean, given the Hangul descriptors I saw for the food images (along with the English text).  As a ‘noodle house’ I was surprised to see a few non-noodle dishes displayed there, as well as in the menu booklet that I was given as I saw down.

The interior was quite clean, with the sunlight coming into the windows making for a very bright scene, even thought it was becoming close to sundown.  Around me were other tables filled with diners, from couples (young and old), a mother with her children, and two guys who were friends and out for a meal together.  The booth that I sat in had a light colored wood counter, but I thought the seats were a bit close to the table’s edge so it made for some effort in squeezing in, or is that just that my growing girth is the problem here…?

With the intent of using this visit to sample their ramen offerings, I quickly scanned the choices and asked for the SHIO RAMEN.  There were other variants such as the shoyu (soy sauce), miso and some others that had spicy elements in the broth.

Toppings were a few thin slices of pork, bamboo shoots, green onions and a full boiled egg.  The noodles were a variety I have seen in the cases of restaurant supply stores, and have bought myself in the past.  The broth was light, a chicken-stock base and had not been topped off with any oil.  How would I describe the dish overall?   Very ‘plain Jane’, it reminded me of the kind of ramen that you find in Tokyo at a small ‘mom & pop’ kind of neighborhood place, your school cafeteria, etc.  Frankly, I am able to make a better home version using store bought dried noodles (brand: Myojo Chukazanmai), adding some other ingredients to boost the soup and making a greater effort with the toppings.

For what it is, a simple dish of ramen, I suppose its not completely inedible, but if you live on the eastside and are willing to make the drive further westward to places like Menya or the popular Vancouver ramen-ya around Robson & Denman, you can get a more authentic and flavorful bowl.

Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Wild Rose Brewery and Taproom – Calgary, AB


Wild Rose Brewery
Bldg AF23,#2 – 4580 Quesnay Wood Drive SW
Calgary, Alberta T3E 7J3
(403) 720-2733

Wild Rose Brewery on Urbanspoon

My personal philosophy puts a premium on balance. I believe that balance is one of the key elements in all aspects of life. This doubly applies to food. and drink. The flavours in a dish, the beer that you drink, people find things that are in balance to be more pleasing, and harmonious. Philosophically though, i’ve always wondered. Can a place that focuses primarily on wine, or beer, still serve great food? Do places excel at both? Or does an establishment that focuses most of their energy on producing great beverages, have a limited amount of energy to spend on the food? Wild Rose Brewery in Calgary is an interesting case study.

Wild Rose Brewery is great at brewing beer. Located in the Currie Barracks complex, they are a craft brewery that produces a variety of beers served across Alberta. They maintain a taproom that fronts their brewery, allowing patrons to sample their current production lineup. With some highly regarded and award winning beers,Wild Rose is doing some exciting things.

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As was pointed out to me in an earlier post, i am certainly no expert on beer. So i will spend very little time discussing Wild Rose Brewery beer. I will say, however, that this is a fantastic brewery. Their philosophy of fresh ingredients, combined with classic brewing techniques results in some excellent interpretations. Rather than dumb down your standard beers, they brew some true interpretations of classic global beers. Their Imperial IPA is phenomenal, and seasonally, the Stout and Pilsner are must tries for me.

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Coco et Olive – Vancouver, BC


Coco et Olive Fine Foods & Café
3476 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 736 7080

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As I heard from my Alberta-based friends over the weekend complaining about the snow on the ground and the ongoing colder weather, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them as I strolled outside in nice sunny weather this past week along West Broadway in over 10 degrees Celsius weather.   With a clam breeze in the air, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to stop into a little café and grab something warm to drink as well as a bite to eat.

Coco et Olive is probably best known among those who live in this end of Vancouver.  And by end, I truly mean that.  It really is far from the hustle and bustle of the more central and thus busier sections of this strip.  In the daytime on weekends, and lunch hours during the week, its filled with people from the neighborhood who clearly have more than their share of free time.

My assumption of this is based on the fact that a) there’s a lot of older folks who probably don’t have to work for a living anymore due to age, and b) younger uppity people who look like they are well off and don’t need to work.  Ah, I wish I could be one of the latter… minus the attitude of course!

With an eclectic arrangement of furniture as seating, and an airy bistro feel, its really easy to feel at home and want to lounge about alone with a cup of coffee (they serve Intelligentsia) or with friends sharing any number of sweets and sandwiches on the menu.  But with a full house and nary a seat to take, I chose an order to go.  [The associated pictures you see here are just simple plated shots once I was back in my kitchen]

The ordering process is straight forward, as the cashier will jot down your order on a notepad and go through the motions of pulling it from the case and if the line is busy, another staffer will handle the grilling.  As simple as that is, I sensed a lack of flow among the staff.  Some confusion among orders despite the written list, an absence of speed as there clearly is not enough space under the griller when more than a few sandwiches are on deck, were just some of the amateurish things I picked up on the service front.

On this day, there were about twelve different sandwiches on board, though some had nothing next to the name plates in the refrigerated case next to the ordering counter.  I did notice as time passed that re-fills from the back kitchen soon made their way into the display area.  The casual feel must pervade from the back, as people would walk in and out from the hidden room to the entrance door.  They seemed like staff, or perhaps friends of the owners (heard a lot of French flying back and forth), but they all seemed to be treating the place as if it were someone’s home, and not really concerned they were cutting in front of paying customers who were scanning the sandwich offerings.

Making your mind from the tantalizing choices is an exercise in both judgment and restraint.  After pacing in front of the case, I ended up picking the Lemon and Herb Chicken ($6.99), as well as a White Tuna Panini.  One of which was chosen as a sandwich & soup combo – an added $3 to the price – and the selection was a Moroccan Lentils soup.

Being handmade, you could immediately see the hodgepodge of sizes for the same kind of sandwich.  Overall, the paninis, of which I preferred the softer texture of the tuna spread as well as the flavor combination, were fairly good, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say they were outstanding or the best paninis I’ve ever tasted.

As a sweet dessert to round out the pair of meals that I was taking back home, I asked for two of the Almond Croissants.  They just seemed to beckon me, sitting on top of the sandwich display case, as I waited for my paninis to be grilled in the press.  I must say, they were absolutely fantastic.  A perfectly light flaky and crispy crust, and an oozy centre of almond cream, with an ample spread of sliced almonds on top.  I will definitely be back for these, and to try out some of the other cookies, scones, cakes, tarts, and brownies that are made in-house…

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Koon Bo – Vancouver, BC


Koon Bo
5682 Fraser Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-232-1218

Koon Bo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The idea of a Signature Dish is a well known concept for aficionados of Chinese Food.  It is no different in many other cuisines, I suppose, but in this city, the opportunities to sample such dishes seem boundless. Word of mouth is usually how I hear about a particular restaurant’s specialty so I try to keep an ear to the ground.

It is not uncommon to patronize a restaurant solely for one particular dish. Debates around Who Makes the Best What are rampant in Chinese community. Traditional dishes such as Soup Dumplings, Pulled Noodles, Peking Duck, just to name a few, require skilled and experienced cooks to be able to produce exemplary renditions. And then sometimes a restaurant’s signature dish is a unique, but un-traditional take on a classic often created by a mom-and-pop operation.

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Koon Bo has been operating at this Fraser Street location for over twelve years. It has gained a good reputation as a solid Westernized Chinese restaurant that serves the usual – Chow Mein, Wonton Soup, Lemon Chicken, and so forth. But whenever you mention Koon Bo to anyone – the response is usually: “have you had their shredded chicken salad?”

Chinese Chicken Salad is a North American take on certain “traditional” styles of Chinese cold chicken dishes. Bang Bang Chicken, a dish originating from Sichuan province is the most likely inspiration. The dish as we North Americans know it can be traced back to California – perhaps from the 1920’s. The typical preparation is fairly standard – cold shredded chicken and blanched or fresh vegetables are tossed together in a sweet sesame oil dressing then topped crispy noodles. I would often see it prepared with iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, celery, almonds, pineapple, raisins, and other distinctly un-Chinese ingredients. It is really sesame oil dressing that gives this dish that Asian-ness and brings it all home.

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Koon Bo’s version is unique in the addition of jellyfish shreds and a house-made sweet pickle. I couldn’t quite determine the main component of the vegetable pickle – it looks somewhat like shredded Mustard Green (Ja Cai) or Chinese Turnip. Instead of the usual pungent preparation (as in Tianjain Preserved Vegetable) the pickle is very, very sweet (almost cloying). It works very well in this dish.

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The shreds of jellyfish are a textural element and add little to the flavour – it merely adds an interesting crunchy-chewiness. The crispy deep fried noodle topping completes the experience. Here, they use wider wheat noodles rather the more commonly used Chow Mein noodles (or, as in certain parts of North America, La Choy crispy Chow Mein Noodles from a can – gasp!)

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Today, we also ordered a bowl of rice and some good old fashioned Chicken and Chinese Mushroom Chow Mein to fill out our lunch. The Chow Mein was good – but not particularly memorable. The Chow Mein not unexpectedly took a backseat to the salad – still it certainly hit the spot.

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Koon Lock, just up the road, serves a very similar version of the Chicken Salad. Someone told me once that the proprietors of the two restaurants are related – brothers perhaps.

As a postscript about Chinese Signature Dishes – I note that the the new (Vancouver-based) Chinese Restaurant Awards has been specifically designed around the concept of signature dishes….they have 25 Signature Dishes chosen by a panel of judges. (Koon Bo’s Chicken Salad didn’t make the list…they actually won an award for a Spot Prawn dish that I have never had) I think that these awards is a good first step in truly recognizing the significance of this cuisine in this city.  Considering the incredible influence Chinese cuisine has on this city’s gastronomy, it gets remarkably little coverage in the mainstream food press.

Koon Bo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

York Fresh Pizza – Vancouver, BC


York Fresh Pizza
3630 West 16th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 731 1112

York Fresh Pizza on Urbanspoon

Pizza… I think we can all agree is a clear cut winner when it comes to good and generally cheap eats.  Its been profiled already a few times here on Foodosophy, and I am sure it will again in the future.  From the classic bubbly-crusted thin style Neapolitan to the thick crust/deep dish-style that Chicagoans prefer, through to the floppy variant favored on the east coast, and all of the other types that lie somewhere on that matrix that is the world of pizza, it is a true gastronomical delight.

Depending on my mood, and more so the strength of the pangs of hunger that hit me, my preference can range from thin crust with very basic toppings all the way (and back again) to the thicker crusted and heavily topped selections out there.  On days, when until the even hours my entire day’s diet has consisted only of a cup of coffee, the latter more heavily mounted style clearly takes precedence and due to shear luck, I found my way to discovering York Fresh Pizza.

Entrenched inside the first floor of an older structure along W.16th Avenue, just before the turn onto Dunbar Street, this pizzeria could easily be missed when driving down this road, especially when one is more concerned about navigating the curve on to the more populated Dunbar.  With limited seating inside the waiting area in front of the counter, it truly is a more take away/delivery type of pizza joint, although the available by-the-slice options seem to be popular with the youth market (while I was getting my order, the place was packed with a bunch of rambunctious local teenagers).

The House Specials caught my attention as I tried to make my choice, and being it was my very first visit, I thought I would choose from there.  In the end, I decided on the York’s Special, complete with a primarily meat-heavy lineup that included the following: salami, sausage, pepperoni, bacon, green peppers, onions and mushrooms.  Talk about hearty!

You can also be creative and “make your own pizza” by choosing anywhere from 1 to 4 toppings (made up of 5 difference cheeses, 2 types of seafood, 9 types of meat, and 16 types of vegetable) in a small (10 inch) to large (14 inch) size, with prices ranging from $10.48 all the way up to $23.81; with discounts on the price per pizza if you buy 2 or more.  The House Specials, of which there were six, ranged in price for a small ($14.29) to large ($25.71).  Of course, you could also ask for more extra toppings ($0.95 for a small; $1.90 on a large).

I was generally quite satisfied with the overall package, as the large amount of toppings was generally spread over the entire face of the pie, and made each slice a meal in itself.  That didn’t stop me from having my fair share (the image is of a large size), with plenty left over for the next morning.  The crust was just right, with a good crispiness to it but not overly so that it was brittle and crumbly.  The base crust was also spot on, not too soft so that it wouldn’t be able to handle the weighty toppings, and not overcooked so that it became a hard sheet of cardboard.  If I had to raise a negative point, I’d say that perhaps the tomato sauce was a touch on the blander side.  But with all the flavors on top, I hardly noticed.

Judging from the busyness of the dine-in area, the trio of drivers who were being shuttled in and out the kitchen space by the two busy managers who also seemed to be manning the phones, it would seem that York Fresh Pizza has its loyal followers, and I think that in my part of town, it will be on my top three list for delivery in the coming year.

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Prata Man Singapore Cuisine – Richmond, BC


Prata Man Singapore Cuisine
180-9020 Capstan Way
Richmond, BC
(604) 278 1348

Prata Man on Urbanspoon

My travels in the past three years (2006-2008) have taken me to Singapore a whopping six times.  And those are round trips from North America.  If I threw in the short haul trips back and forth from there to neighboring countries as well, that figure could climb up to twelve to fifteen.  Yes, the Lion City and I are good friends.

If you’ve ever done the flying, you know its a long haul.  A big part of what makes it all worth it though, is the great food culture that can be enjoyed there.  And for me, a great roti prata is one thing that I look forward too each and every time, morning, day and night…

The ultimate Singapore-style roti prata for me, is that delicate, light and crispy variation found in the famous places at Jalan Kayu, which I’ve commented on previously.  But unfortunately, Prata Man does the opposite, with its thicker, moister pancake type.  It felt almost like a green onion cake, with the oil having been absorbed and really noticeable when trying to tear it apart or when taking a bite.  These were massive too, IHOP pancake large.

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Rocky’s Burger Bus – Calgary, AB


Rocky’s Burger Bus
1120 46th Ave. SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 243 0405
Monday-Friday, 10am-3pm

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When people talk about restaurants as institutions, it usually refers to a place that has maintained their longevity, and quality. In Calgary, people usually talk Peter’s, or Caesar’s, or Chicken on the Way.  They certainly have had their longevity, but I question the quality. For me, there are places not as well known that I also consider to be true Calgary institutions – and Rocky’s Burger Bus is one of them.

Rocky’s Burger Bus is literally that – an old transit bus parked in the middle of an industrial area in SE Calgary. Most people have heard of it, but many people I’ve talked to don’t seem to have an idea of where it is. They proudly serve AAA Alberta beef, and their customers proudly eat it. On any given day, +20 or -20, come lunch time, there is a huge lineup. Get there early or late. Lunchtime is a zoo. You’ve been warned.

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The menu is a pretty basic thing, consisting of all your typical greasy spoon items. Burgers. Fries. Onion rings. Poutine. Smokies and hot dogs. Bacon on a bun. Milkshakes. Pop. It’s nothing earth shattering, but you don’t expect that from a place serving greasy spoon out of a bus.

The big thing here is burgers. Hand formed patties made from fresh 100% Alberta beef, cooked on a griddle in their own fat and juices.  They make them by the hundreds, and cook them when they are ordered. If you peek inside the bus, you’ll see dozens of burgers cooking at any one time. The smell of beef is unmistakable.

The burgers themselves are a generous size – i’d guess 1/3 of a lb, precooked weight. Maybe as large as a 1/2 lb. They come in 3 configurations – plain($4.50), with cheese ($5.00), or with cheese and bacon ($5.75). You can also make it a double for slightly less than double the price. Standard condiments are mustard, relish, and onions. They are juicy, and lack the texture of having been mixed with a lot of filler, even though they are all cooked to well done. The buns are standard store bought buns, and aren’t good, but don’t detract from the burger.

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In most cases, i have some issues with well done. I like my burgers medium. Meat that has been freshly ground does not have the contamination issues that store ground has. So not only are burgers cooked to order generally better quality, but they taste better too. Canadians, however, seem to be very bacteria phobic, and prefer them all well done. Or establishments use inferior beef, and can only cook to well done. Regardless, it is typically a sign of a very average burger. But I will concede that these are a decent well done. Not bone dry. Retain some flavour. It’s about as good as i would expect well done could get, without the inclusion of a lot of pork fat :)

Any good burger place has some critical accompaniments. For me, the most important is fries. Fresh cut, they are fried to a crispy consistency., yet retain a nice bite with great potato flavour. The interior structure of a well cooked fry is important. It cannot be hollow, and it cannot be like mashed potatoes. These are an excellent representation of fresh cooked fries, though for $3.00, i would like a lot more fries. The order is a bit skimpy.

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Fries, of course, can be improved with an excellent gravy, and this is where Rocky’s Burger Bus shines. Made from what i gather are the beef drippings off the griddle, this is probably the best gravy i’ve had in Calgary thus far. Beefy, rich, fatty, not overly thickened from flour or corn starch, the gravy stands out on its own merits. Definitely a bit oily, it isnt for the faint at heart. But I do prefer the gravy to the malt vinegar and salt, which says a lot.

Of course, thanks to our Quebec cousins to the East, there is another way to improve fries. It’s to add gravy, and cheese curds! Poutine, rated the worst food for you on the planet by some health study a few years ago (right above deep fried mars bars, which are also delectable), is considered a point of Canadian pride, and a staple for all grease lovers. The Rocky Burger Bus rendition of Poutine is excellent. Real cheese curds, complete with a little squeak, and a nice quantity, along with their rich beef gravy, and crispy fresh cut fries makes for an excellent poutine. Not quite on calibre with Montreal, but a fine rendition for the West.

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In your mind, an institution or not, Rocky’s Burger Bus delivers on the vast promise that a greasy spoon in a bus should. Greasy beef, crispy fries, and an otherwise artery clogging menu that tastes so good, a food coma is almost a given. Even though there is no seating, and large lineups, they consistently serve up quality burgers and fries to the masses that visit day in and day out. And I believe  it’s the consistency, the quality, and really, the bus, that make it an institution.

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