Leon’s Wonton & Noodle House
10634 97 Street
Edmonton’s Chinatown district while a long standing one, is not as large as the editions that thrive in other major Western Canada centres such as Calgary or Vancouver in my mind. At least it doesn’t seem that way in terms of the variety and choice when it comes to dining in the zones often flanked by the distinctive gates that signify you are “officially” inside Chinatown. My sense of the heart of the Alberta capital’s version is 97th street, stretching from the south end at Jasper Avenue and up to perhaps 108th~110th avenue to the north. The relatively smaller size thus gives a more cozy and neighborly atmosphere to the place, almost like if you live and work here, you would know everyone on each street corner. When I see some of the elderly ethnic Chinese seniors strolling the streets or sitting inside some of the businesses (no doubt run by their younger relatives), I must say some have probably lived their whole long life in this east Asian cultural bubble in Edmonton.
Leon’s Wonton & Noodle House is one such place that brings to mind this tradition. The proprietors (a couple, she in the front of house, he cooking in the back) have been in this city for over twenty-five years, after emigrating from Vietnam. Some supporting articles that can be viewed inside the restaurant under the glass covered table top’s which mentioned their history and business operations. A loyal following seems to exist as far as their customer base is concerned if you were to read and believe the narratives and quotes. My kind of place. Homey, simple, comfortable, lots of choice if you come here often and so you don’t get sick of the menu, and modestly priced.
3803 Calgary Trail NW
Thought it was open now didn’t you?
Well, as of 10pm MST last evening, this is what the front door looked like.
Still covered up with ‘opening soon’ paper noting just the information of a local contractor doing the work inside apparently, I’m not exactly sure when the doors will open to customers as it was difficult to see through the small bit of uncovered space at the entrance in the freezing Edmonton night I might add. With some flurries coming down, this was a quick drive by and shoot, as the trigger finger on the shutter felt like it might just fall off from the cold.
1056 91 Street SW
True to its name, Mini Mango is a tidy little space set up within a strip mall (of which there are many in Edmonton) on the city’s southside. But contrary to so many Vietnamese noodle joints that I’ve frequented, this establishment has applied some more modern touches, thus resulting in a chicer, compact environment that should appeal to those who are less inclined to visit more hole-in-the-wall type of restaurants. Four and two-top seating arrangements, a corner booth, and even a special section with high stools for solo diners completes the picture here, though I imagine they do get their fare share of take away customers. According to my local contact, the lunch hour here can get hectic, and seemingly a popular place for the stay-at-home moms who perhaps want to have a mid-day meal that is more on the “exotic” side. Such is the life of Alberta suburbia I suppose…
The system in place was very much like Famoso, that I’d visited a few days earlier. Step up to the front counter, place your order, pay there, and then go to your seat and your food would be brought out to you. I don’t think I saw any menu cards or booklets at the tables themselves and my only reference of what there was to eat was the sign board pinned to the wall in the employee-only area connected to the kitchen. Appetizers hitting on things like Vietnamese spring rolls and salads were interspersed with a few other Asian-themed dishes such as kimchi and “Thai” deep fried prawns in wonton wrappers.
X.O. Vietnamese Style Food
Yaohan Centre, 3700 #3 Road
The food court in the Yaohan Centre is probably the first time I’ve ever experienced an Asian mall food court in the GVRD, thinking back on it now it probably goes back a good decade or so. While my memories are somewhat faint, I recall the supermarket there (before the arrival of the T&T’s of the world), as the only place that had those distinctly Asian food products and ingredients all under one roof. Strangely, I can also remember once upon a time, there being a ramen place in this exact food court and having it there are a youth.
Its pleasing to know this place is still around and seemingly prospering. I usually stick to one side of this area where the fast food chinese stalls are, and the noodle place on the corner. And thus this time, I thought I’d venture to the opposite end and see if there was anything of interest. After doing a walk-by of all the spots, passing on some barbecued duck, noodles, etc. the hot pans of simmering curry dishes at X.O. Vietnamese Style Food caught my eye. Kind of an unusual combination I thought. Though they did have the typical Vietnamese soup noodle item that I have way too much of these days.
3003 St Johns Street
Port Moody, BC
In an attempt to bolster the registry of locations outside of the usual haunts in the GVRD, a quick lunch stopover in Port Moody while on the hunt for other sweet goodies took place that led me here, to Namoo Sushi. Funny sounding name indeed, but namoo means tree in Korean (and is also the symbol I see on their business card). The location is in a commercial building along the main thoroughfare of the old section of this quaint city. Parking was available just outside.
My visit took place on a weekend, roughly after the 1pm time frame. A few tables were occupied but it seemed they were known/friendly with the staff. I saw a drop in customer come get some take away as well. Service was polite and attentive before and during my meal, I just ran into a bit of lack of attention when I tried to pay (stood way too long at the register with her seated in discussion with the chefs just meters away). I’m not sure how busy this place can get, and it was hard to judge how the wait staff would cope when it busier.
Hi folks! Another brief recap and summaries of re-visits to previously written about locations here on foodosophy. This one has a distinct Burnaby feel to it, so hope you enjoy…
Genji Japanese Restaurant
7533 Market Crossing
My first experience dining at this restaurant that is situated in the relatively new commercial shopping area on the southern edge of Burnaby along Marine Way was mixed to say the least. My brief recap that I’d posted as a regular post on Urbanspoon was as follows:
A newish-looking and spacious interior, perhaps a bit too large as near the entrance its quite barren and when there are few customers, it just feels really cool and library-sih quiet. Had an assortment of roll sushi with a friend who enjoys that kind of thing. Wasn’t horribly bad until our off-the-wall pick of one that had some white sauce. Had a bit of an annoying mix up, mainly due to language barrier with our server, that dragged on much longer than we thought it should as it was an communication mistake (on their part) and though we thought they might ding us on the bill, they didn’t. Not enough shines thru with the sushi to get me to come back.
Now I’m at times a forgiving fellow. Even when it comes to places to eat that I was less than 100% satisfied. Part of returning is to be fair, and also to see if things had improved at all. This time I went solo, as I did not want to burden a dining partner as I had the first time. For sushi in this part of town, choices are somewhat limited, so Genji Japanese Restaurant has that going for it, for now…
This post is another reflection from my summer travels to Asia and in particular the two weeks I spent in South Korea.
The tradition of bringing back some local treats and gifts when one travels in an Asian country, especially when you have been to a more rural area and the city folk you left behind want to know what’s there, is one that I enjoy. Especially when I’m one of those who are stuck in the rat race and urban jungle, and get to taste some goodies brought back from someone’s travels. On this particular trip, it was the other way around, as I decided to purchase some sweet snacks that were reputed to be the best representation of what Gyeongju has, and I was told, would be appreciated by the Seoulites who would be on the receiving end of my generosity.
As with many food gifts, packaging is key, especially when one is challenged by a large display full of various types. As people “eat with their eyes”, I can see why so much effort is spent on making the containers, boxes, etc. as appealing as possible and thus help boost sales. Convenience for me is often key (especially when I’m traveling by air) and so a slim package such as the one above is much favored. This particular pair of items was bought in a gift shop just before departing Gyeongju city. A last stop kind of place to get your fill of this resort area before returning to the more populous (and non-touristy) places around the peninsula.
After a busy day this past summer checking out various tourist sights in Seoul, I hopped back onto a train back to the suburbs to where I was spending some nights sleeping early on in my journey. On the short walk back to the residence from the station, I noticed a boisterous establishment that seemingly was a pub/fried chicken kind of joint. I suggested to my travel mate that we go check it out – despite having finished eating a hearty dinner an hour before – but was told there was a better place they knew about, and the family I was staying with vouched for it. Sounded good to me. It allowed some more time to digest our dinner and was really convenient too, as all it required was a phone call, as they delivered! A change into some more comfortable clothes later and soon enough the door bell was ringing.
Reportedly there is an outpost of this popular Korean-style fried chicken known as Kyochon Chicken in Koreatown (Los Angeles) as well, but its the first I’d heard of it. Not being able to read anything around me probably had something to do with it. The logo I’d seen before though around the Korean capital city. It seems to be mainly a delivery/takeaway kind of business model. I think the places that serve Korean chicken that I’ve seen here in the GVRD are kind of like that (lots of “to-go” orders), but have seating areas as well where the beer (that goes so well with these things) flow freely. As this was a second dinner, I just asked that we get a dozen or so and I wanted to try the original flavor, so not enhanced with the sweet-spicy sauce that really makes Korean-style chicken so yummy.
Konbiniya Japan Centre
1238 Robson Street
The Japanese konbini (or shorthand for convenience store) is a marvel in and of itself. If you’ve ever been to Japan, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Seven Eleven, FamilyMart, Lawson’s and the like rule the modern day and ultra-convenient corner store market there. Selling a wide variety of items, not limited to simple fast or packaged food, and providing services as well, they are an all-in-one stop for many urbanites. Frankly I love them and what they offer puts the North American equivalents to shame…
This is going back a few weeks to when I was downtown with some visitors from the eastern US. I stopped by this store on the way home, out of curiosity about what new items they might have. When I lived in Japan, my most favorite section was the drinks. Always changing, always new and exciting flavors would pop up and I’d strive to try them all. Maybe its the industrial designer in me too, but I loved examining all the different packaging, materials and containers they would be in. The ubiquitous PET bottle was always the most popular vessel, but even that had its little quirks and shapely traits. This one I picked up was one of them, with its slightly wavy contours that made for holding with your fingers feel more natural with its grooves for your finger tips. Those little details, again I’m a fan.
Beefy Beef Noodle
4063 Main Street
I think there is a strong love of beef noodles in this city judging by how fast and furious the reviews of Beefy Beef Noodle came about not long after it opened its doors. The poor availability of parking in this area really turned me off from going, although I’d driven by several times over the past year thinking that I might drop by if an empty spot was seen. Lucky for me on this day, there was one. Inside, the place was quite busy at it was approaching the end of a weekday lunch hour. Strangely though, the crowd was very young. I felt like there should have been a high school or two right next door.
I supposed you could call this a Taiwanese cafe, if there even is such a term. While I was not really interested in wolfing down a big hot bowl of noodles, I decided instead to try out another stereotypical dish in this genre, the crispy salty peppery chicken with rice. Served with some light pickled cucumber and nut sides, as well as some steamed white rice, it was a good deal at under eight dollars (if memory serves right). My really casual server was mingling around with her co-workers and appeared distracted for some reason, so getting this out to my table seemed like a chore. I don’t really expect much from the wait staff in HK cafes either, so I should not have been too disappointed, but for some reason I was by the lack of attention.
Osaka Island Japanese Restaurant
7615/7617 Edmonds Street
In the earlier days of this entity known as foodosophy, I was apt to try out on a whim, many random places for the sake of getting more posts in. Especially for sushi. Well, who’s kidding who, I still do it. Case in point, this lunch time stopover at Osaka Island along Edmonds Street, just off the busy Canada Way corridor. From the outside, it looked decent and apparently new. A ‘lunch special’ banner hung above the door as well, and since I was seeking something simple for takeway, this appeared to fit my needs.
Aside from two other customers, both dining solo, I was the only other person inside. We were easily outnumbered by the staff. I counted at least five I could see and seemingly more in the kitchen. They all seemed to be speaking a south Asian language that I believe is either Lao or Cambodian. A pretty advanced POP system was installed at the front counter as I perused the menu and gave my take out order. One of the special sets that would allow me to sample some raw and cooked items. Given a cup of hot tea to drink while I waited, I scanned around. Yep, very clean and tidy. Decorated with an abundance of some very stereotypical paraphernalia that many Canadians assume to be associated with what a “true Japanese restaurant” should have. But I digress.
Fourth Street Bar & Grill
55 Fourth Street
San Francisco, CA
Why not. Another quickie post from the road. Again with a 30 minute or so brief break for something to eat in the midst of a major business event that I was attending, I headed a few blocks away with a travel mate and we stumbled upon this sports bar looking place, known as the Fourth Street Bar & Grill. It probably knew there would be tens of thousands of code monkeys and propeller heads in the vicinity given the nature of this massive gathering just several streets to the south, and had come up with a bare bones kind of lunch special menu to keep the masses fed, quickly and to allow the kitchen to maintain some semblance of sanity and order. I think there were five or six deals on the small board at the bar where we placed our orders and paid cash up front.
After grabbing a drink, alas no beer for me though many others around me were partaking in some mid-day suds, I was handed this little cell phone-sized plastic device that would serve as the beckon to let me know when my food was ready. I like these contraptions, so much better than the chaotic system of calling out orders in a busy food court (like I experienced recently at Crystal Mall in Burnaby, BC) and having no clue if they were talking about yours or someone else, if you could even hear over the buzzing drone of the crowd. No puzzlement, you know when its your turn to go up, rather than having to hover near a busy counter and peering over the folks around you to see if your meal is next to come up to the pass.
Hogtown Bar and Grill
Level 2, Post-Security, Domestic
Toronto Pearson International Airport
Your truly up in the air again, headed east and also down to the southeast. In other words pretty much as far away from Vancouver and still remaining in the continental US of A. As such, I thought I’d quickly spit out a brief post of a desperation meal I had at our country’s largest and busiest airport while waiting to board a transfer flight. Situated right in the open with seating clearly seen by all the people passing through and mingling near the close by gates, it has its benefits as you can easily know when you plane has arrived and its time to book…
A friendly, one might say overly for an establishment of this level, waiter-type was our lone human interaction. Rattling off a few suggestions, of course dropping in a few of those dreaded “oh, its one of my personal favorites” that seem to spill off the tongues of so many servers these days, my dining mates both got some kind of chicken wrap item, while I opted for this. Supposed to be some kind of breaded chicken breast sandwich. Instead of the accompanying fries, I asked to swap with their soup of the day which was a chili.
Dae Bak Bon Ga
1947 West 4th Avenue
One of the earliest posts that I personally wrote about here on foodosophy was for a restaurant of the same name, Dae Bak Bon Ga. Its actually the mother ship if you will of this secondary location in Kitsilano, that’s been open for a while now and I’ve tried a few times already. Among a certain circle of native Korean friends, this is their chosen favorite for a taste of home here in Vancouver. As such, I trust their word and try to remember all the Korean dishes that I ate this past summer when I visited South Korea and from my previous trips to that peninsula. Upon my first visit to this 4th Avenue spot, I did pick up that the service level was an improvement over many other Korean restaurants around town and there was a notable level of “refinement” and focused attention on customers aura that seemed to consume the place. It was though in their very early days, so perhaps that might have had something to do with it.
As this meal was a farewell of sorts for a member of this particular circle of friends, we opted to have a round of drinks to begin with. This was soon followed by our opening dish of bossam. It was a nice thicker slice cut, generously spread across the plate. A decent balance of meat and fat in each piece as well, and it had been steamed quite thoroughly and thus who like it more “well done” and less soft and fatty, this would be up your bossam alley. For those unfamiliar, its practice to wrap up a slice or two in the tender lettuce or cabbage that accompanies this, and add a smearing of the spicy paste mixture (often with some dried seafood ingredients) you see in the top left of this image to complete the flavor package. Nature’s always the best eating vessel supplier. The wrapping helps cut through the oiliness you may experience as well, and as its been steamed and cooled as well, you miss a bit of the crispiness but has the greater flexibility and malleable properties to better suit it as a foldable envelope.