at Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
If anyone asks how to find this place, just mention the eye-catching, replica Terracotta figures proudly standing guard at the entrance of the Northern Delicacy restaurant. With an open, well-lit, clean, modern looking dining space, it certainly is a welcome change from many of the more grungier, poorly laid out, hole-in-the-wall joints that one can find in this city by the airport. With wait staff that is for the most part more attentive as well, an eating experience here feels a lot less rushed, more pleasant and welcoming from the customer perspective.
As we were greeted and led to our table, we passed by a private dining room at the front of house, which was unoccupied on this particular evening. Curious, I wanted to know more about it and posed some questions. Our male server quickly replied that it required a $700 minimum group charge, to which I followed up by asking “how many could it seat?”. “15 people”, he replied, so doing a rough calculation that would come to about $47/head. Not cheap.
Without further adieu, this is what we ordered…
Mission Burger (by Mission Street Food)
inside Duc Loi Supermarket
2200 Mission St (between 18th St & 19th St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Food and cooking knowledge can come from a variety of sources. Being a detail-oriented person, I really enjoy shows that explain why, not just what. Aside from Alton Brown, who has really started turning me off with his over the top corny humour, one show that I really enjoy is the BBC classic “In Search of Perfection” with Michelin 3 star chef Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck. He really caught my attention with his episode on steak (it really works btw), and I’ve enjoyed the knowledge, and the hilarity of his exploits.
In his cookbook Further Adventures In Search of Perfection, Heston Blumenthal reinvents the burger to deliver what he feels is the perfect burger. While in principal, his ideas are fantastic, in practice, they are often so time consuming, and difficult to source the ingredients, that it just isn’t feasible for us “normal” people. I remember duplicating his steak recipe, and the total time required before i could put fork to mouth was almost 48 hours. His burger recipe, as tested by the dedicated hamburger folks at aht (serious eats), took over 30 hours. For a hamburger.
Enter Mission Burger, brought to you by Mission Street Food – a not for profit organization that donates their proceeds to charity. In the entire lunch counter revival I was discussing in the Villa Mexico post, they’ve set up a burger counter inside the Duc Loi Supermarket in the Mission.
There are a few very notable things about Mission Burger.
Lao Shan Dong Homemade Noodle House
Taiwan, one of the few countries that I have not visited in Asia. As such, my exposure to the island nation’s cuisine is still a bit hazy in my mind and my only experiences have been here in North America. Through the years and particularly in the Vancouver area, I’ve been taken to a few places that feature Taiwanese beef noodles. Lao Shan Dong is one of them, and I can count at least five trips to eat their variation of this dish.
Nestled in a commercial building facing the busy Kingsway road right across from Metropolis at Metrotown, there seemingly is always a decent crowd inside. Perhaps the constant opening and closing of the door results in the constant chilly temperature inside the glass window enclosed eatery – I never feel quite comfortable in there. Alas, a steaming bowl of noodles in hot soup can remedy that, but the initial waiting time is always killer. With the beef noodles taking longer than other dishes, such as the various mini appetizers that are marinated, pickled, etc. (pig’s ear, anyone?) that are displayed on one of the counters, I’ve on some occasions ordered these dumplings that seemed more boiled than steamed judging by all the water on the bottom of the plate. With a thicker skin, and a not so flavourful interior, I get these more for filler than anything else.
32 Church Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Just like some blog posts, sometimes, a meal has to be quick and dirty. You’re pressed for time, you have a group of hungry stragglers, you need to eat in proximity to your next destination – there isnt always time for the best find, the well researched location, or the perfect stop. Sometimes, you need places like the Border Cafe.
Stepping off the T from Logan at Harvard Square, I found myself still quite a ways from my destination, but starving. Skipping lunch on the airplane had seemed like a good idea at the time, but combined with a few delays, I definitely didn’t have the energy to haul my luggage across Boston for another hour. My companion points out a popular college spot just up the street – a small regional chain called Border Cafe. “It’s not the best, but it’s edible”. I would’ve settled for McDonalds at this point, so Border Cafe it is.
You know what Border Cafe is – almost every town has one. “Tex Mex”. It serves all the classic favorites – fajitas, burgers, beer, margaritas. It’s Chili’s, but a little more diverse, and a little less “McModified”.
The Border Cafe in Cambridge is in the heart of Harvard Square, which makes it a very popular destination for college students. The location is huge – and tables are fairly tightly packed together. If i was to estimate, i figure the capacity was at least 350 to 400 people. On two floors.
Sadly, yours truly is currently on forced exiled in the wintery tundra of Alberta, specifically the freezing cold city of Calgary where a few minutes of prolonged exposure to the outside elements can result in some unpleasant, numbing sensations on your skin and extremities. Winter in the prairies is not my cup of tea, despite my past of living in these brutal winter conditions for many, many years.
Perhaps taking a cue from the stalled offensive machine of the local National Hockey League club that is mired in a seven game winless streak, the below zero temperatures have seriously stunted my drive to explore the city’s culinary scene, and the changes wrought since I last lived here. But as fate would have it, sitting on the top of a pile of magazines in my hotel room was one that had the bold faced text trumpeting “Calgary’s Best Restaurants”. With a publication date of January/February 2010, it was fortunately not an out of date rag. Exploration in the comfort of my hotel room – perfect!
As I settled in, I began perusing the magazine, beginning with this note from the editor. Again, the mention of a respectable crew of commentators from the city was noted as those being responsible for the rankings inside. Fair enough, “let’s hear it” I thought, and I moved to the pages deeper in the approximately 80-page piece, seeking the wisdom of those “people who know Calgary’s restaurants inside and out”, and read about their choices for the “establishments that they felt would make a lasting impression of Calgary for visitors like (me)”.
Villa Mexico Cafe
296 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114
Lunch counters and gas station corners were home to some great food in the past, and are experiencing a come back. Low rent, high traffic locations, they seem like the ideal kinds of places for cheap, tasty eats. The idea of food in a gas station always reminds me of Crete Souvlaki in Calgary – one of the best tzatziki in town served out of a gas station.
Villa Mexico Cafe is located in a gas station in the swanky district of Beacon Hill in Boston. If you’ve ever walked around Beacon Hill, you’ll understand how different this is than the rest of the neighbourhood. The only indication that burrito’s are available inside, is a small sandwich board pronouncing the greatness within.
I don’t mean to carry a West Coast bias, but when it comes to burritos, I find that the East Coast just typically cannot compare. The East Coast has some great upscale Mexican eateries, but most of the time, I like my Mexican food fast and cheap. That means tacos, burritos, tamales, tortas.
553 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116-6306
For the most part, I value good food over service. I used to say to people that “food is all that matters – service is irrelevant if the food isn’t good”, but i’ve since backed off such a polarized view. After all, i realized that great service often colors one’s view of the food (it can be hard to separate the two – since you *want* to like the food more). And really good food with lousy service, sometimes isnt worth it. Depending on the situation of course.
A pricey, well regarded South End bistro with a special Sunday Brunch menu, Hamersley’s Bistro continually draws rave reviews for their food and service. Seemed like a nice place to meet up with family for a tasty meal. Especially when meeting the new “boyfriend” for the first time.
The inside of Hamersley’s Bistro has a nice, though formal feeling to it. White linen, columns, high arching ceilings, there is a tremendous amount of light that makes the space feel comfortable, yet a bit formal for my preference.
101-403 North Road
Yangnyeom Chicken is something I’ve discovered previously at Mexican Chicken Hof, and had neglected to follow up on at another nearby establishment that I was aware served it as well, until now. Honey’s Bistro is literally just up the street on the other side of Lougheed Highway, and I would say is a more visually common setting of what one might expect of a Korean Hof, albeit a slightly dated one. Part western, part eastern, it strides that unusual balance between these two worlds, though Honey’s leans slightly more to the west, and my guess is that it used to formerly be a more Canadian-style pub or eating house. The main thing though that gives the Korean-ness of it away are the flat panel displays on the walls, showing popular Korean tv and music programs.
Despite already haven eaten dinner nearby (a future post), I decided to pick up a box of fried chicken wings and drumettes- minus the sauce – to go. I wanted to first taste their chicken straight-up before considering coming back for the Yangnyeom version. Not surprisingly, I ended up eating some of it when I got home (and the rest the next day) despite having had dinner already. So much for dieting.
Maria’s Pastry Shop
46 Cross Street
Boston, MA 02113-2201
I’ve always wondered if there actually exists a gender-based predisposition towards sweets, and if there is, whether it is environmental, or genetic. Most huge sweet fans I know are mostly women. Now I have guy friends who love their sweets too, but they are few and far between. All this really means to me is when a member of the fairer sex tells me there’s a great bakery I *MUST* try, because they have the best cannoli ever, I don’t question it, I just go.
Located in Boston’s North End right off of Haymarket Station, Maria’s Pastry Shop is in an area that boasts a lot of pastry shops of reputation. Both Mike’s, and Modern are in the same vicinity, making for a great selection of pastry goodness.
O Ya Restaurant
9 East St
Boston, MA 02111
There has been a lot of talk, some criticism, and a lot of discussion about the sushi philosophy of some of our writers. While many people would classify me as traditionalist, or a purist, i still believe there exists flexibility and latitude for the itamae to do creative things with sushi. Creativity in blending ingredients works as long as it is done within the context of better presenting the flavours and textures that make sushi great, not masking inferior product with a variety of overpowering flavours.
This creativity is the foundation of many fusion, modern, or new school sushi restaurants, many of which i’ve not enjoyed. Even though my first high end sushiya experience happened at Matsuhisa in the mid 90′s, and was thoroughly enjoyable, I never really bought into the idea of modern sushi. Yet, here i am at O Ya, a place many consider to be the top modern or fusion sushi in North America, hoping to better understand the potential of modern sushi.
I’ll let the photos tell the story…
O Ya is hidden on a side street in the Financial District near South Station.
63 Salem St
Boston, MA 02113-2273
Ever walk by a place and just get a good feeling? In Boston’s North End, I was walking down a side street after having indulged in a Maria’s cannoli, and saw a small, stately window that read “Neptune Oyster”. I popped my head in, hoping to try and oyster or two, but was told the wait would be 20-30 minutes, at 6pm! I left as I had other dinner plans, but resolved to make it there someday.
I finally made it back a few days later. Really, I just came back to eat. In the interim, I had looked into more about the restaurant – and realized it was lauded as one of the best seafood restaurants in Boston by many different boards and publications. A true temple of seafood that represented the local catch quite well. I was determined to try as much of it as possible.
The space itself is tiny. A row of tables along one wall, and bar seating at the other. There are no reservations, so you have to come early, or expect to wait a long time. Bar seats are usually all that are open. Be prepared for a lot of bumping if you sit there.
Mon Mom’s Cafe
821 12th St
New Westminster, BC
On the quick and easy breakfast trail in New Westminster, I chanced upon Mon Mom’s Cafe located along 12st Street. Situated in a wooden building reminiscent of structures popular from an earlier era, it certainly has its charms and nostalgic sidewalk appeal. The slow pace of things on the road outside took a turn as I stepped inside the place which was full of chatter and customers. The sounds and smells of a breakfast diner never fail to disappoint me.
With breakfast plate offerings (eggs, toast, ham/sausage, French toast/pancakes) in the $4 to $4.75 range, and omelets in the $5 to $6 range, great value can be had. Preferring French toast over pancakes, I ordered one of the choices from the top half of the menu and sat back to take in the scene. Families, groups of working class men, single diners taking up the smaller tables near the front window, it was all a regular mix of common folk out for a relaxing morning meal.
7357 Edmonds Street
Original post below:
Simple, honest food without pretense but with the tasty flair that only the cuisine of southeast Asia can provide is something that I’ve had a craving for lately, as its been much too long since my last visit to that part of the world (sadly, over a year ago now)…
Located in a dilapidated building along Edmonds Street, very close to the new Burnaby Public Library, is this quaint space known as Lhy Thai, that served as a quick fix for me recently. Inside, the dining quarters are cramped to say the least and you won’t be coming here for the decor. Coupled with the widely unnecessary array of low quality posters that could easily be mistaken for being ripped out of some promotional material for Tourism Thailand encased in cheap frames all over the walls, and the stacks of books near the bar enclosure, and the place feels even more claustrophobic. Where I was seated, I had a decent view into the kitchen area, which I noted was staffed by all female, Thai-speaking cooks.
Eclair de Lune Bakery
1049 40 Avenue Northwest
I first caught wind of Eclair de Lune when I went to Debra’s Chocolates for the first time (Debra’s is now Epiphanie Chocolate on 11th Street SW). I didn’t realize there was a bakery on Northmount – in fact, I didnt even realize Northmount Drive intersected with 40th Avenue (they both run east-west except for this one stretch). It boggled the mind a bit, but i finally found it. A small, north facing bakery with a simple sign – Eclair de Lune.
The interior of Eclair de Lune is small – barely fits their displays. A cooler, a coffee station, and a few display cases. Most of the space is filled to the brim with pastries and baked goods. There are constantly people baking in the back. Facilities look tight, but they make due.
The Hot Dog Corner
c/o Crossroads Market
1235 26 Avenue Southeast
Fried crisp and golden, salted
Potato chips. The under appreciated younger sibling of the french fry. Thinly sliced, crisp, lightly salted, with a satisfying crunch. Surprisingly enough, they are not all that difficult to make at home. A good oil thermometer and a mandolin pretty much do the trick. Yet, unlike the french fry, they are difficult to find fresh. My favorite in Calgary may have been L’Epicerie, though sadly, Dominique no longer makes them. I was ecstatic to find out that they do serve them at the Hot Dog Corner in the Crossroads Market.
Right in the middle of the food court in Crossroads market, I’ve never seen much of a lineup at The Hot Dog Corner. Loaded with odds and ends, they definitely try to offer a lot of different things that might be missing at other vendors. However, they do serve fresh chips. Fresh being a relative term. To be honest, they are pretty hit and miss – depending on how long ago they were fried. They sit under heat lamps after frying. A few hours doesnt seem to affect the outcome too badly. When they’ve been sitting out all day, or as i’ve suspected in the past when they are pre-boxed, maybe multiple days, they really suffer. However, when they are good, they are quite good. A little inconsistent on the seasoning, but crunchy, not too oily, crisp bites of potato goodness.