Sai-z Japanese Restaurant – Vancouver, BC

[Update: July 2009.  After a brief concept change to a lower priced izakaya-style menu, has now closed its doors, changed ownership and renamed]

Dare to be different. Amid the hundreds of restaurants offering sushi in the greater Vancouver area, in all forms from the horrifically bad but cheap all-you-can-eat, to very good but preferably-on-expense-account options, it is clear that some have taken a step to differentiate. When it comes to their creations, some have been quite bold and have included ingredients that would make die hard traditionalists cringe and scream bloody murder. Sai-z is clearly one of them, incorporating a creative blend of traditional and non-traditional ingredients in many of their dishes. Case in point, their use of fruits such as mango and papaya in some of their sushi rolls!

Located on popular West Broadway, which is lined with numerous restaurants thus competition is fierce, Sai-z is located across the street from a boutique cinema theater. When the weather is warm, the sliding doors are opened, and there is a narrow patio that has a few tables right on the sidewalk. Stepping inside, the waiting area leads to the main floor area with table seating that has a mini grand piano off to the right. On this night, there wasn’t a live performer, but I am told that it does take place on certain nights. The crowd was quite young, mainly twenty-something groups of friends or couples on dates. I think the relaxed mood of the place probably is conducive to intimate outings and conversations, compared to say the boisterous izakaya scene downtown.

Scanning the special summer set price offering and not finding it to our interest, my dining companion and I chose from the regular menu. After placing our order for drinks, a one-spoon otoushi of a marinated mixture of tuna and green onions. Unfortunately, this was bad, quite literally – it had a terrible fishy smell to it. Not the best of starts.

Seeing the uni chawanmushi peaked my curiosity, so I had to give this a try. A large piece of uni was floating on top of this steamed Japanese egg custard, and deep below were some other seafood ingredients such as scallops, fishcake, prawns, as well as some mushrooms and thin slivers of yuzu peel. The base stock that was used was quite rich, perhaps too much for my personal liking. The addition of the uni certainly didn’t aid in lightening things up. It tasted okay, but I guess I like my chawanmushi simpler.

Another hot appetizer we had was this noodle wrapped and deep-fried shrimp served with a spicy mayo dip. The contrast between the crispy exterior and the plump, juicy shrimp inside was superb! The overall flakiness of it made it a bit messy to eat at times, as bits would fly off while biting through the crust. The dip was a mixture of shichimi and Japanese mayonnaise, adding both a creamy and spicy element to the total dish (and a mix that I’m finding appear more and more around Vancouver’s izakaya scene). This was a great pick up from the hot appetizer section.

Next up was the sushi selection. By-passing some of the unique choices, we settled on a single roll, called the Double Smoke Roll. This was comprised of a combo of unagi (smoked eel) and smoked salmon. Pieces of fake crabmeat, tempura bits and sprouts also added some more texture and flavor, with the outside of the roll dressed with a sweet teriyaki-like sauce. I thought the dual smoked flavored would be overpowering, but was pleasantly surprised that it was not. Each piece was densely packed, making it feel more filling than it already ways. A solid offering.

A platter of assorted nigiri rounded out our meal, sixteen pieces of maguro, shake, ebi, hamachi, hotate, tobiko, uni, unagi, a California roll and a dynamite roll. The size of the rice ball was “very Japanese”, by that I mean it was smallish and loosely compacted. Personally, this is what I am used to and prefer. So I was glad that it wasn’t that usually tightly bound, poorly flavored, monster-sized ball of sushi rice that you find at too many places in this town. The fish was good, each fresh and succulent, and not too big that it would take more then one mouthful.

Sai-z definitely feels and looks unlike your regular run of the mill restaurant specializing in Japanese food in Vancouver. I think it may be remnants of a previous tenant (Italian, Greek?) but the inner chamber looked very inviting with it high ceiling. There seemed to be a second deck above as I could hear some people upstairs dining as well. The open sushi bar that lines the back wall was quite long, and I could picture people wanting to sit up there and take in the show. Service was a bit lacking at times, with servers spending more time standing by the sushi bar than paying attention to diners. Our server in particular was quite anxious in clearing away our plates each time, which bothered me as it seems she was more interested in doing that than any other service task. Finally, pricing was perhaps above average, and thus might turn off some folks who are used to more quick dine-and-dash sushi joints.

I’ll certainly go back, though probably not often just given the price point. There are still a slew of menu items that I’d like to try out, so that gives me another reason to return.

Sai-z Japanese Restaurant
3116 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-732-7249
Hours: [Lunch] Fri-Sun, 12pm to 2:30pm; [Dinner] Sun to Thu, 5:30pm to 10:30pm; Fri & Sat, 5:30pm to 11:30pm

Sai Z on Urbanspoon

University Village [Leona Mediterranean | Curry Point | Donair Town] – Vancouver, BC

To recognize the return of university students to the campus at UBC this week, I thought I’d take a quick look at some of the eating options for these youth at the University Village, as they begin or continue their journey in nourishing their minds through academia…

First off, Leona Mediterranean.  Here they serve mainly curries and simple wraps, as well as some platted offerings.  I ordered the special of the day, a chicken leg stewed in a tomato-base, served with a side of cooked vegetables, rice and choice of one salad (I chose the Greek).  The chicken had been marinated okay, and the sauce had both a sweet and sour flavor, not surprising since it was coming from tomatoes.  The rice, a long grain, was a little dry which made me wish more of the sauce that chicken was stewed in had been provided.  The carrot, green bean, potato mixture was decent, with flavor properties like the chicken.  The salad was fresh, nice crisp cucumber and green peppers.  All in all, an adequate and filling meal, which felt healthy.

Next, the Curry Point.  Its located in the far end of the hall, so difficult to spot when you come down the stairs.  It’s part of a chain comprised of three outlets in BC.  The others being in North Vancouver and one on the Island in Nanaimo.  Here you can choose from various curries, getting as little or as much variety as you wish.  The non-veg curries included some Murg Makhani (aka Butter Chicken), the veg ones had among others, Chana Masala.  I elected a non-veg and a veg to complete my pairing, that came with some rice as well as a piece of naan (which was too soggy).  The Gosht Masala (beef curry) had boneless beef, all in the garlicy, tomato paste gravy – but lacking any spicy heat.  The daal (lentil curry) suffered from the heating pan system, as they were breaking down much more than they should, and at the end tasted really chalky.  Again, not much spice at all in the flavoring here, probably “dumbed down” for the local crowd.  I’d pass on this joint, even if it is fast food Indian.

Curry Point (UBC) on Urbanspoon

Finally, Donair Town.  The surprise of the lot, as I was pleased with the tasty package I received, a pita filled shawarma, and I chose a mixture of beef and chicken (both soft and crispier bits).  Stuffed with some fresh lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and generous dollops of Tzatziki and garlic paste.  The regular size ($5.99) was my order and it turned out to be a fully stuffed package, not sure if I could have eaten the super size offering.

I liked how they wrapped it all up tightly, completely enclosed so nothing could slip out until the moment it was consumed.  Less of a mess, and was appreciated as I took it back to my car.  I could see a few kids carrying this out on my way down to the food court here, so know its a popular choice.

So there you have it, a trio of samplings for the back to school crowd.  Back in my days of school, they had nothing like these ethnic offerings, so am quiet envious about the choice today’s students have in their basic on-campus food zones.

University Village [Leona Mediterranean | Curry Point | Donair Town]
B1, 5728 University Boulevard
Vancouver, BC

Donair Town on Urbanspoon

Puspa East Indian Restaurant – Calgary, AB

Puspa East Indian Restaurant
1051 40 Avenue NW
Calgary, AB T2K 0G2
(403) 282-6444
Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10:30pm

It doesn’t always pay to be on the leading edge. In Jennifer Lee’s book, “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles”, she documents how migrant Chinese workers moved into the restaurant business in the early 1900’s. Rather than serve traditional Chinese food, which would be a tough sell, they served the invented dish Chop Suey; as both a big joke on all the “white people”, and to sell palatable Chinese food to a culture that was adverse to most of the qualities of authentic Chinese food. With increased global awareness, this challenge is not uncommon today either. New cuisines, as they enter a city, or another culture, face many different challenges. They are responsible for educating a whole new audience on the flavours and values that make up their cuisine, while serving something that will suit their tastes. The end result is often a watered down, blander, less authentic version of the cuisine. Sort of like Chop Suey.

Puspa East Indian Restaurant is located in a small stripmall in NW Calgary. While they were not one of the first East Indian restaurants in Calgary, they were definitely on the leading edge, having been around for more than 15 years. The restaurant itself is littered with old reviews ranging from 1994 to 2001, which always makes me nervous.

The decor itself is dated, but the environment is very clean. A smiling proprietor appears from the back a minute after I enter the establishment – apparently the only one serving today. I am promptly seated. And the proprietor disappears again.

During their lunch hour, instead of a buffet, they have lunch specials available. Basically a plate of curry available in a variety of meats, on a bed of rice and salad. Ringing in under 10 bucks, the price is definitely a good selling feature. I order the lamb curry, and a side of naan as well.

The naan arrives fairly hot from the tandoor. It looks great. Unfortunately, that only leads to greater disappointment.  It is a bit soggy, and completely flavourless,

The curry arrived as stewed meat with no distinguishable curry flavour.  The salad was limp. The rice was ok. The meat was recognizable as lamb. A bit tough and stringy, but I knew what i was eating.

Surpsingly enough, their menu actually has some interesting dishes on it. Unfortunately, in what i sampled, their food lacked the heat, spice and depth that make up the Indian food that i enjoy. Their longevity obviously speaks to some level of success, but for those of you who have developed a more distinguished palate when it comes to Indian food, this may be a place to pass on. With reviews from 2001 and prices to match, It’s too bad really that they havent managed to adapt their flavours for a more modern audience. Because really, a good Chop Suey can still be good.

Puspa on Urbanspoon

Bernard Callebaut – Calgary, AB

Bernard Callebaut, Head Office
1313 1 Street SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 266-4300

The theme for today is short and sweet. Bernard Callebaut, descendant from the Barry Callebaut family, is a chocolatier based in Calgary Alberta, and has redefined chocolate for an entire generation of Western Canadians. This is not a premium chocolate, like a rare wild cocoa criollo, but it has paved the way for better chocolate. Much like Starbucks lead the way for coffee, Bernard Callebaut has raised the bar from Laura Secord to something better.

At their head office location, they not only manufacture the chocolates that are distributed all around North America, they experiment and play with different ideas. One of these ideas is serving soft-serve ice cream –  made with iced milk. It comes in chocolate, and vanilla flavours. For $3.75 for a small, it is a decadent dessert. But it is served only seasonally in summer, and they shut the machine down every fall, until the coming of the following summer.

It’s really good. And time is running out for another year. Give it a try. It is both short, and sweet.

Bernard Callebaut on Urbanspoon

European Bakery and Deli – Calgary, AB

European Bakery and Deli
160-515 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T2S 0A9
(403) 806-3768

Meat on a stick. Meat wrapped in dough. Every culture has some variation of these tasty treats, and I have to admit, I’ve never really found one I didnt like. While im sure anthropologists have some theory for why these managed to develop separately in countries with no trade, or historical contact, the end result is really all that matters. When attending a festival, or travelling abroad, you can always count on finding a new local variant of meat in dough. Something a little less exotic, and a little more familiar, on one of your less adventurous days.

Hidden in a small recessed storefront, underneath an apartment building on 17th Ave SW in Calgary – better known as the Red Mile – the European Bakery and Deli, from outwards appearances, seems to be another in the long line of independent convenience stores. “Porn, liquor, and smokes” my University friends used to call these ubiquitous stores. With one drastic difference: Bakery really means bakery. Inside is a treasure trove of breads and other baked delights. Including Burek.

The first Burek i ever had was the Bosnian & Herzegovina version – rolled puff pastry filled with spiced beef, and coiled into a pie and baked. This was an extremely tasty treat – each bite netting a great combination of pastry and spiced meat – no bite was left wanting. This was a dish truly worthy of the meat in dough tradition.

I first heard mention from John Manzo (by way of Chowhound) , frequent Foodosophy commenter, that fresh Bureks were available in Calgary at the European Bakery and Deli. I was slightly disappointed to discover that they served the Serbian version – rounds of pastry and meat that more resemble a Calzone, but i quickly put that aside and looked forward to sampling a new meat in dough offering.

European Bakery and Deli had two Burek versions available – meat, and cheese. Cut like pizza slices, a very large piece of each was laid out in a to go container, with the corners thoughtfully cut to allow steam to escape. These are probably better eaten promptly, than allowing them to cool, and get a bit soggy.

The verdict? Not bad. The meat one was quite good – the outside was baked to a wonderful golden brown, with a satisfying, crispy bite. The pastry inside was soft, not flaky, but contrasted well with the crust. The meat itself was a bit sparse, many bites missing the required blend of dough and filling. It was also a bit under-seasoned, and could have used with a few more spices, and salt. The cheese offering was a bit worse – filled with feta, it came out a bit mouth-blistering salty. Once again, some spices, or hot sauce, would have been a welcome relief from the blast of salty, sticky feta. However, at the price (~$3.50), it’s really hard to complain about something handmade, that can easily serve as a large snack for a hungry person. If you have no shame like me, next time, i would bring tomatoes, banana peppers, and some spinach, and stuff the cheese Burek with them, making a better balanced, tastier meal.

What have i learned from all this? Surprisingly, a lot. Im surprised that a few regional differences in a Burek would result in such a difference in taste. Considering these version both come from the former Yugoslavia. I never expected there to be such variation. After all, in Asian cuisine, a dumpling is a dumpling to me, and i love them all. While i will continue to search for Bosnian Bureks, the ones available fresh at the European Bakery and Deli are worth the occasional drop in.

European Bakery and Deli on Urbanspoon

The Philosophy of Theft and Plagiarism –

Culprits: www(dot)martiniboys(dot)com
Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Miami, NYC
Open 24hrs. Thieving for 23 of them.

I first came across the concept of online plagiarism through one of my favorite blogs, Chez Pim, when she highlighted a thief that was stealing both her pictures, and content, and representing it as their own. While i definitely felt for her indignation, I didnt really understand her level of anger. She wasnt asking for much (attribution basically), but still seemed quite angry. Apparently, it has happened again recently, and once again, there is quite a mixed response. I figured with such a popular site in the blogsphere, theft is definitely an issue, but never with us. Well, i can tell you theft is not reserved for just the big sites. Those who often patronizingly tell you that “you don’t understand until it happens to you”, here’s another story to add to your large arsenal of “I told you so’s”. I finally understand where she is coming from, and that understanding is courtesy of Canadian-based lifestyle site, martiniboys. The L’Epicerie entry by Foodosophy has been plagiarized.

I was googling L’Epicerie today to check to see if they had a website with a list of products online. Out of my own curiosity, i was interested in seeing where we ranked in the google search results. Chowhound, understandably, rated first. They are a wonderful resource with a lot of traffic, and inbound and outbound links. Then i noticed that Martiniboys ranked second – ahead of Foodosophy!? – and that they had a review of L’Epicerie as well. I was interested in seeing what they thought.

Foodosophy - ripped off!

Foodosophy - ripped off!

The first thing that caught my eye was the picture that they used. Im not a great photographer like Shokutsu is, but I recognize my own work. And i remember struggling with the right angle to take that picture in my car, in weird light. And the very flat color that the picture was finished with. While i had been warned by Shokutsu that photograph theft was a huge problem online,  I didnt think anyone would ever want my photos. While i’ve seen a lot of incidents of photo theft, maybe this wasn’t. I figured, well, maybe they took the same picture. It is cropped after all…

As i started to read their review, I caught a strange vibe – the structure was very similar to how i write. On a closer examination of the first paragraph, it was an exact paraphrase of my post. Maybe this was still an accident? People can have similar writing styles after all.

Reading on, I realized that they had taken every concept from my post, and re-worded it. Even errors and omissions. Arugula is not an ingredient that is usually on the foie gras sandwich. My typo, Moutarde spelt as Moutard, should have been corrected. They also introduced factually incorrect information. I wasn’t going to say anything MARTINIBOYS, but Teatro is not French, it’s Italian. And the Rilette at L’Epicerie is DUCK, not the traditional pork, which you would know if you actually ventured inside, instead of wikipedia’ing everything. Or been there at all. Ok, this was no longer an accident. I have been violated.

How do i feel about this? Im upset. Really upset. Why would i go from “understandably upset, but nothing to get mad about” to “im really pissed off and i’ll be contacting the DMCA and a lawyer to proceed with legal action”?  I’m mad because by participating in the blogsphere, I finally understand how much work it takes. A few hours to write a posting. Some time spent fact checking to make sure i havent said anything erroneously. It takes time to process the photos so they look somewhat attractive. Put it all together, it is a lot of time spent. Im especially upset because they arent just a small independent blogger out sharing information with all the other readers and contributors – and decided our photos looked better than theirs – but they are a site where people are paid, and advertisers pay for traffic that should be generated by original content. Lastly, im really upset, because Shokutsu warned me when we first started, and that my blind faith in humankind has once again let me down. Im the fool, I laughed at him. I told him “your photos are nice, but really, who’s going to steal any of our stuff? We’re just a few people who like writing about the food we love, and some of our experiences”.

I expect they will catch wind of this soon enough, and likely pull the offending post, but i’ve done my best to document the trail. While im hoping for a retraction, and a published apology, I don’t expect to get one. If they’ve stolen from us, i’d guarantee they’ve stolen from other sites as well. So consider this a warning to the rest of you. Check their site to see if any of your content has been stolen. And report them. Contact their advertisers. More importantly, don’t allow them to profit off of your hard work. It’s a sleazy practice, and it should be put to a stop. Sorry Pim – I didnt fully understand why you were so upset, but i do now. I’m sorry Shokutsu that i doubted you. Im sorry martiniboys that i believed people were better than this. And mostly, im sorry i had to dedicate my time and energy to posting something like this, instead of talking about the things i love most. Food and Foodosophy.

(Aug 27, 1:31pm MST) Edit: Sorry, i realized i hadnt linked the original article. Here is the original link.

House of Tofu Soup – Burnaby, BC

[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

(Pukchangdong) House of Tofu Soup
4563 North Road
Burnaby, BC
Tel: 604-420-5254
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-9:30pm; Sun, closed

When a place puts in its name, one dish that its supposed to specialize in and do very well, I tend to have high expectations.  After all, if its in the name, they better have game.  Unfortunately, the House of Tofu Soup did not live up to what I was hoping for in terms of their soondubu (Korean Soft Tofu Stew) and I came away quite disappointed.

The House of Tofu Soup is off to the side of North Road heading south coming off the Lougheed Highway, and its quite easy to miss the turnoff into the space as the building is recessed a bit from the road.  The letdown was probably amplified by the small but near-full parking lot outside the establishment, which raised my hopes thinking that if it was busy then that was a good sign.  Opening the front door and scanning inside, the place was fairly busy and even after my dining companion and me were seated, a couple more groups of people came in.  I was sort of expecting more traditional floor-style seating, but it was just tables in the main space, and some more off to the side that were partitioned off by a barrier.  I’d say about 90% of the people there were Korean/speaking Korean, and was a mix of young groups of friends, older women, as well as some families.

As those familar with Korean cuisine know, after placing your order an assortment of free and refillable side dishes (banchan) are brought to your table.  Again, this was a letdown and was our second hint that things were not up to snuff.  The cabagge kimchi was not flavorful and was lacking real taste and heat, the sweet potato/onion was again lacking flavor, and the vinegar-flavored seaweed was stringy but lacking the chewy texture that I prefer.

Thinking that the soondubu alone would not fill us up (or rather me who was in a much more hungier state having skipped lunch), we decided to order an appetizer of fried mandoo (dumplings).  As a filler, I could accept that it was just a frozen product that was deep fried and perhaps in too hot an oil bath, and the insides were just passable on taste.  My usual dining companion cringes when I order things like this, and this was one occasion that I knew they were right.

The mixed soondubu that I chose had both meat and seafood ingredients, along with an ample amount of soft tofu.  This last characteristic was the dish’s lone positive, as more often than not, many places will skimp out on the quality and quantity of tofu.  The other ingredients though, aside from the decent sized shrimp, were few and far between as I scrambled to dig out a few slices of beef, some tiny clams, bits of green onion and that was about it, from the bottom of the bowl.  As a result, none of the all important seafood flavor had incorporated itself into the broth, and now I realized why they had been generous with the tofu, perhaps an attempt to cover up the lack of a deep flavor in the soup?  With both of us unable to stomach even a half of the bowls, we had them dumped into containers to-go, and at home I tried to invigorate the flavor component of the broth by adding some clams and extra prawns, which helped a little, but probably at too late a stage in the cooking process to rectify the weakly flavored broth that I had to begin with for this reclamation project.

I hate to disparage a place based on one meal, but I am afraid if that meal is what is being advertised as the house special, then it better come fully locked and loaded.  Unfortunately, the soondubu at the House of Tofu Soup is as they say in the ad game, a complete bait-and-switch.

House of Tofu Soup on Urbanspoon

Grizzly Paw Brewery – Canmore, AB

The Grizzly Paw Brewery
622 Main Street
Canmore, AB T1W 2B5
(403) 678-9983

Located just outside Banff National Park, Canmore is a large town in the Bow Valley, nestled against the Rockies, serving as a destination for outdoor activity and adventure. The town has re-invented itself, moving from a small coal mining town to a tourist destination for outdoor enthusiats. While Canmore actually boasts a high number of drinking establishments, the town is still a combination of old and new places to imbibe. The Grizzly Paw Brewery falls squarely with the new. Located on Main Street, it is almost impossible to miss.

Starting as a Brew Pub in 1996, the Grizzly Paw now brews under a microbrewery license, distributing their beer around Alberta . With 8 hand-crafted beers on tap at any given time, they have a good selection of beer to meet everyone’s tastes: pilsner, to wheat ale, to ambers, browns, stouts, and seasonal beers. The beer itself is brewed with a purpose – sacrificing little in quality, they follow fairly traditional techniques to produce subtle, flavour-filled beers.

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Congee Noodle House – Vancouver, BC

[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Congee Noodle House
141 East Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-879-8221
Cash Only

This well known “Chinese greasy spoon” on East Broadway just off the connection to Main Street, was recommended to me by some locals a while back and this report is based on my second visit.  Despite the word order of the restaurant’s name, I’ve tended to go with noodle options rather than the popular congee offerings – mainly because I just associate congee as something that I eat when I am very ill, not in the mood for chewing food and want something that’s very easy on the stomach.

It’s not that I think the congee here is poor or anything, on my first visit I did sample some from my dining companion’s bowl and thought it tasted okay.  But, I guess congee is just something that does not excite me, what with it being in its simplest form, just really overcooked rice that has turned to a gooey slop.  Even on past trips to places like Hong Kong where I saw many places serving this dish, I would pass, despite strong suggestions from native friends to give it a try.

With me, breakfast porridge is the same deal, I won’t go out of my way to have it, and just look at it like “why should I have to eat that stuff?!?!”.  The Congee Noodle House is a place you might just drive by if you aren’t aware as there is a bus stop in front and usually causing a screen.  It has a small parking space in the back, very important in this part of town when street parking is limited.  They even have a security camera trained on the lot that you can see on a TV screen once inside the restaurant – that had to be a first for me, being able to see my car (not through a window) while I ate.  The inside is spartan with several tables of various sizes spread about.  Entering from the backside where the car lot is, brings you right by a part of the kitchen area enclosed by see-through partitions, and where servers come to pick up their food.

Don’t expect the best level of service, as clearly the waitresses are trained to get you in and out as soon as possible, especially when the place is busy – which is quite often depending on the time of day/night you arrive.  Knowing the prices are very reasonable generally makes me accept the abruptness of service – like getting asked to give my order before I’ve even sat down, and having to wait a long time to get some tea after managing to flag another female server down.

The meal on this day split between three of us consisted of a trio of dishes.  I’d enjoyed some barbequed duck on my first visit, so we chose a marinated duck version this time that was served in a bowl of rice.  I kind of wish the kitchen would have drizzled some more sauce on top, as the dry rice was quite abundant vis-à-vis the duck and could have used some more taste being soaked in once you got towards the middle of the bowl.  The skin was nice and crispy, just the way I like it, and the meat juicy, tender and flavorful.

The second dish that came to our table was a simple beef brisket and veggies on rice creation.  No skimping on the volume here, as the chunks of beef were plentiful, though I could tell by finishing a third of this plate, I was getting tired of the taste.  It was kind of bland, just all about beef and not exciting at all.  Just filling, which I suppose is the point of a rich dish like this.  I wouldn’t order this dish again, given the opportunity for a mulligan.

The pan-fried seafood noodles came last.  Again, nothing to write home about, just good and simple hunger-satisfying food.  As with the beef brisket dish, the bok choy appeared again, along with Chinese mushrooms, some squid and scallops.  Was getting hints of MSG in this dish despite claims by the menu saying there was none of that used in this place.  Never believe what you read I guess.  I could see many other dishes were being ordered and taken to tables around us, many bowls of congee as well as things I didn’t even recognize.  Some plates of deep fried chicken seemed to be a popular choice as well by the Chinese customers who greatly outnumbered the non-Chinese.  It seems that always happens to be in well known Chinese restaurants, I know there are really good things on the menu but I have no clue what they are and most likely they are the ones written only in Chinese characters on the menu, if they even are on the menu.

To sum, the Congee Noodle House is good for what it is, and once you try it you know what to expect.  No frills, straight up food offerings, with the need to fight for a parking spot as well as attention from servers.  So will I give the congee a try in the future?  Perhaps.  But I’ll probably have to be in a sick, weary state and uable to physically keep anything down, to find that urge.  I guess some things never change…

Congee Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Sage Restaurant, River Cree Resort and Casino – Edmonton, AB

Sage Restaurant
River Cree Resort and Casino
Whitemud Dr. and Winterburn Rd, Edmonton, AB
(780) 484-2121

Alberta is known for many things, principally among them are oil, mountains, and beef.  However, while I see the economic impacts of oil, and can visually measure the mountains, I often fail to comprehend the “Alberta advantage” when it comes to beef. In a province that has the reputation for producing some of the best beef in the world, I have always had difficulty finding a great steak, outside of buying one at a butcher shop and BBQ’ing it at home. Many restaurants tout their AAA Alberta beef, other restaurants shamefully import USDA Beef to serve to unsuspecting customers. In general, most of the beef is good. But it is not the world-class beef that I have always expected in a province that has plentiful room, feed, and fresh water.

I will try and avoid a diatribe, but I would like to point out that when you are determining the quality of the beef, the grade isn’t everything – it only refers to marbling. Breed, how the cow was raised, what it fed on, exercise, how it was slaughtered, how it was butchered, and how it was aged all have a significant impact on the end product. Unfortunately, very few places serve hormone free, naturally raised, grass fed, dry-aged beef. In general, most restaurants in Alberta don’t. Too costly. Sage isn’t one of them either. So to compare apples to apples, we need to compare standard steaks. Wet aged. Typically grain-finished. Where the only significant variation is in the marbling. This is where Sage excels.

Sage is located on the Enoch reserve on the western edge of Edmonton. Located inside the River Cree Casino, turn right from the main entrance. If you turn left, you end up walking 4/5’s of the way around – it’s a big circle after all! It immediately stands out against the backdrop of slot machines, tables, and smoke. Yes, smoke. While the rest of Alberta is smoke-free, apparently civic laws don’t apply on the reserve. Thankfully, smoking is not allowed in the restaurant, but some wafts of smoke do drift into the restaurant. If you are sensitive to smoke, aim for a table as far away from the entrance as possible. However, this is really the only detriment to an otherwise classy and modern design.

On my first trip to Sage, I was very impressed with their available starters and salads. Solid winners, and classic steakhouse dishes with a twist, their menu has constantly changed- unfortunately in many cases for the worse. My favorite appetizers are gone. But what’s left is still solid, if you need that much food.

I’ll typically start with a salad instead – easier on the system before you put down 16oz of beef. On this day, it was an endive and frisee salad, with walnuts. Perfectly dressed, crisp greens, this was an excellent salad. Most of their salads are.

But let’s get serious here – it’s about the meat. Their catch phrase is “Steak. Seafood. Fresh.” For me, when you’re in Alberta, you’re really here for one thing. Can you see the ocean? No. I guess that leaves steak. Canadian Prime beef – also known as AAAA. Canadian Prime is the top 0.7% of all beef in terms of marbling. Compared to USDA’s 2%, not many cuts make a Prime rating.  I have to acknowledge that they also offer USDA dry-aged beef, Wagyu beef from Washington State, and Alberta AAA. Prime only comes in Strip and Ribeye. It would be a waste in tenderloin (which is AAA). It’s better if you order the Canadian Prime. It’s local.

Perfectly cooked, Canada Prime striploin. Medium-rare really is medium-rare – warm, and red throughout. Rare is too cold – the fat still hasnt “melted” into the meat. You want pink? Order medium. You want it cooked through? Go buy a piece of cardboard and save your money. This steak is loaded with flavour – great marbling through out ensures a nice even flavour. It tastes better than your average Alberta steak. You really can taste the difference.

While everything is essentially ala carte, their side dishes are excellent as well. Typical steakhouse style, truffled mac and cheese, rich mashed potatos, asparagus, and mushrooms populate the menu. They are decent value – and it’s worth getting one or two to share. Just note that butter is the primary ingredient in most of them.

Aside from the steak, what really stands out for me is the service. I’ve had professional, consistent service there every time. Never too intrusive, but around enough that all my needs are met. In my latest visit, I was there for a special occasion. I had requested a chocolate-based dessert brought out as a surprise when i made my reservation. They followed my instructions to a tee. More impressively, the dessert was not even on the menu – they had made it special. And it was excellent.

Excellent service. Good steaks. Sounds like a winner yes? Well, I wish they had a better aging program. And that they served exclusively Canadian beef. And the smoke is annoying – i won’t argue that. But like so many things these days, it’s about compromises. And in this case, the pro’s outweigh the cons. If you’re going out to eat a steak, this is the best location to do it in the Edmonton area. If you’re looking for the best Alberta has to offer, come on over for a BBQ. Im taking reservations starting at 7pm 🙂

Sage Restaurant (River Cree Casino) on Urbanspoon

Modern Club – Vancouver, BC

[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Modern Club Japanese Restaurant
3446 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-739-0170

okonomi = “as you like”
yaki = “cooked”

Probably to most, Modern Club is an unusual sounding name for a place that is supposed to be specializing in okonomiyaki, a centuries old Japanese creation that consists basically of a batter mixture of flour and water that is mixed with various ingredients all cooked together on a hot plate/grill and formed into a circular disc/pie-shape (incidentally, I always cringe when I hear okonomiyaki being described as a Japanese pancake, so let’s avoid that terminology here), and topped off with some sweet okonomiyaki sauce, shaved bonito (katsuo) flakes, even finer seaweed flakes (aonori), and Japanese mayonnaise.

Okonomiyaki took an interest route to its modern day state, with its origins reputed to have begun way back in the Edo Period (17~19th Century) of Japan, with a Japanese sweet known as funoyaki, which had a similar base batter made of flour and water, that was thinly spread out and cooked, then flavored with miso and sugar.  It has undergone other transformations over time, including variations called dondonyaki, betayaki, choboyaki, and even one that still exists today in the Kanto region of Japan (eg. Tokyo) known as monjayaki (the more liquidy batter version of okonomiyaki), before finally coming to be known in present-day as okonomiyaki.

The various stages of this dish’s development over time have been impacted by the introduction/availability or lack there of, of ingredients – the Great Earthquake that ravaged Tokyo in 1923 that caused food rations, the introduction of western Worcestershire sauce, etc. being interesting contributing historical factors.  Today, you can find okonomiyaki appearing in various ways, most due to the regional differences that have evolved through its long history – an interesting trait of many popular items in Japanese cuisine, which derives or is influenced by the cultural and traditional forced compartmentalization of geographic regions in pre-modern Japan by the rulers of the day, but alas that could be an entirely separate topic, and one that could probably be applied to many other parts of the world as well.

Back to the Modern Club.  From the outside, it appears almost like a cafe of sorts, with its small sidewalk patio and open wooden framing tucked into the side of a continuous row of buildings on Dunbar Street.  The space came across as bistro-like inside, so not sure if there was a previous tenant in this spot that the owners simply took over, or if it was designed this way.  My visit here was a planned trip and luckily on this night, they were offering all of the okonomiyaki dishes for a special price of $9.95.  I could see the prices on the menu were much higher, in the $16-$18 range, so was happy to receive the discount.  I’m not sure why the prices were cut this night, but reading about complaints on other sites about the high prices, perhaps they were influenced somehow by this negative feedback.  Or perhaps I am just deluding myself into assuming us online bloggers exert any power over restaurants’ operations.

In Japan, most single proprietor okonomiyaki places are really down to earth, a complete lack of a pretentious atmosphere, as after all this is very much home-style cuisine.  And most importantly, they let you cook it yourself, which is a big part of the overall experience.  Getting that bowl full of ingredients, mixing it around, layering on a fine coat of oil to the hot teppan (grill), gentling guiding the mixture onto it as it starts to sizzle, and then shaping it into a nice round shape – all takes some practice and talent, especially when it comes to the flipping over part of this DYI task!  Alas, at Modern Club, the choice to cook at your own table it taken completely out of the picture, as all the tables had no such teppan on it to do your own cooking.  There was a large central cordoned off teppan towards the side of the room, where the cook prepared it for you.  I imagine most North Americans have grown to accept those cook-you-own-meal barbecue places, but have yet to be fully taught on the finer points of self-made okonomiyaki, and would probably have no idea what they are doing, so perhaps this setup is just fine.  Though if this place really wants to be known for okonomiyaki, I think they should invest in the necessary tables and bring a fresh element to this dish and this place, I am sure the sizzle alone would be great for word-of-mouth!

For my meal, I chose the mixed okonomiyaki and added the choice of noodles – thereby changing the proper naming of this dish to modanyaki (hence the tie-in to the restaurant’s name) – although the choices were soba or udon noodles when traditionally it would be specific yakisoba noodles or chukamen (kind of crinkly, ramen style noodles).  I went with the mixed edition mainly to see just how balanced the ingredients were inside.  My dining partner did the same, though was right when they expressed some hesitation that perhaps we should have just gotten one and shared, as when it did come out, it was a pretty big pie!  Throw in the fact that I had half downed a bottle of Sapporo beer (the very same one that appears on the header image for this month) and had nibbled away on some simple chicken karaage, and I was putting myself in trouble from the get-go before I had even a single bit of the okonomiyaki!

First impressions, it looked not bad, nice and thick, almost Hiroshima-style like in that it almost passed off as being layered since it was so puffed up, though it could have used some more sauce and was missing both the bonito and seaweed flakes!  This easily filled the plate it came on.  First bit, boy its dense!  Loaded with the udon noodles, made it even more so.  Amply filled with cabbage too, which was a disappointment, as it felt like that was the main ingredient in this supposedly mixed okonomiyaki.  A few more bites and I realized that they were using way too much vegetable oil inside and to cook this on the hotplate, it began to sag badly and collapse as I cut it into quarters on my plate – shouldn’t do that.  It did have a few nice juicy prawns and some cuts of bacon (I would have preferred whole strips of bacon as you get in Japan, and not the small one cm cuts of it), but other than that the added ingredients were lacking in number – “Where’s the Mix” I say!  By the time I managed to finish half of it, mainly to prevent myself from possibly growing hungry later that night, I was done with this dish.  My dining partner was even less enthused and finished just a quarter.  To save face, we got them to wrap them up but soon found their way into the trash once we got home – they were even more soggy a short 20 minute car ride later.

Let’s be frank, if you are looking for a real authentic okonomiyaki, your best bet is to travel to Osaka (Kansai region) and find one of any of the restaurants serving this as their specialty.  You’ll only know the true taste of okonomiyaki by doing so.  Though giving credit where credit is due, you have to applaud Modern Club for making an attempt here, to bring to the table something from home kitchens in Japan, to Vancouver, which is overpopulated by bad grab-and-dash sushi, and even worse bastardized renditions of classic Japanese cuisine that seems to be assumed as the standard.  So they do have a niche, and seeing the smattering of couples who were dining that same night, I guess they have some fans in the Dunbar area.  I won’t be going back though.  That is unless they take my idea of trying to hit a home run by introducing the teppan tables and letting us create our own!

P.S.  Here is an image of an table-made seafood okonomiyaki that I had in Tokyo a short while ago.  It was a very simple teppan place, and a lunch special for about $10.  Interestingly, they even had some fine rice-shaped bits of cereal for some added crunch inside, which I thought was a great secret ingredient.  As you can see, a much thinner package, not loaded up excessively with cabbage inside and filled with an assortment of seafood.

Modern Club on Urbanspoon

Delicious Country – Calgary, AB

Delicious Country
1325 1 Street SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 514-0555

Sometimes in life, you’re faced with the prospect of a long night with your can of Chunky Soup, or wandering out into the city and dining alone. Shokutsu is a big proponent of dining alone. I am a bit less enthused about it, but do so anyway – that can of Chunky can live to see another day.

On a weekday, when it’s late, there are generally very few options for food. With the exception of many of the diners in town (Denny’s, Blackfoot Diner, etc..), your general choices are Chinese, Chinese, and Chinese. The higest concentration of these restaurants is Chinatown. And lately, there has been a lot of turnover in several locations.

Delicious Country is in a location that used to be any number of iterations of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. A location that has consistently failed,  their focus on Chinese (by way of Fujian Province) has the potential to generate a lot of business. Good Chinese restaurants are not generally lacking for business.

Inside, the decor itself has been cleaned up a lot. A very simple black and white decor, with condiments on the table, and some jade and sculptured pieces on the walls, they’ve done a great job of cleaning up what used to be a tacky, questionably clean location.

The menu is Chinese Heinz – 57 flavours with a variety of types of food ranging from Cantonese, Sichuan, Peking, Shanghai. There’s generally something for everyone on the menu, including one of my favorite comfort foods Mapo Tofu. Mapo Tofu is a popular Sichuan dish that combines meat, tofu, wok-fried in a spicy bean sauce. Chen Kenichi, from the original Iron Chef, has this as his signature Sichuan dish. On a cold day, nothing is more comforting and warming than Mapo Tofu. While the spice is often tamed down here in North America, it typically has a strong heat, with a big kick from all the Sichuang peppercorns.

Delicious Country does a very interesting rendition of Mapo Tofu. First off, it is a HUGE portion. This is definitely a meal for two. They use fresh tofu, which is a bit of a departure from the standard packaged tofu. The meat is well fried, and the spice – a small notch above your typical level of heat. Lots of chili oil, which is a bit different. This is slightly radioactive. I’m used to a bit more corn starch. But it’s tasty. Rice is ordered separately, making for one heck of a meal for one.

Dining alone is generally an accepted thing at most Asian restaurants. You won’t be asked if someone is joining you, and you don’t be stared at and treated like a second class citizen sitting at a table for 2. So the next time you’re craving some food, save that can of Chunky, and head down to Chinatown. If you happen across Delicious Country, give the tofu a try. It’s “Delicious”.

Delicious Country on Urbanspoon

Burma Superstar – San Francisco, CA

Burma Superstar
309 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118, USA
(415) 387-2147

I find ritual and routine are comfortable signposts in an otherwise hectic life. By creating rituals, they put the mind and heart at ease by helping surround you with familiar experiences that you enjoy, and of course, wish to repeat. Burma Superstar is one of those rituals for me. Any time i am in the Bay Area, I meet up with some good friends of mine, one whom happens to be vegetarian. Usually, trying to find a restaurant that can accommodate a vegetarian, and a serious meatatarian is a difficult prospect.  Burma Superstar happens to be one of those perfect compromises.

Let’s start with the basics. The room is a bit crowded. While things are tight, i do not find it uncomfortably so. .Service is extremely friendly – though they will often pretend to remember you, even when they don’t.  There are no reservations, so there are often long lineups, and a crowded “lobby”. Arrive during non-peak times for your best chance at a table. Let’s face it – San Fransisco is not exactly short on vegetarians. If you happen to end up on the list, and starving, there are a lot of other snack options nearby (including a crepe place across the street) that can provide excellent pre-meal snacks.

Once you finally get a seat, order a Ginger lemonade. A perfect balance of sweet and tart, with a nice ginger zing, it used to be non-stop refills. I believe too many people taking advantage of this has resulted in only one free refill being offered.

As you peruse the menu, you’ll notice that most dishes can come in a meat option, or a vegetarian option. Surprisingly enough, go vegetarian for many of your choices – they are just better.

Whenever we go, we always start with one of their signature dishes – the Tea Leaf salad. Like table side Casear salad, the server will toss together the tea leaves, tomatos, lettuce, fried garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts, and yellow peas if you ask. This is really a can’t miss – a salad with a really unique flavour with a fantastic crunch, and bursts of flavour with every bite. It is both refreshing, and does a great job of readying your palette for a variety of flavours.

There are certain dishes that we’ve found that appeal to both vegetarians and non vegetarians alike. The Tea Leaf salad is definitely one of them. Another big favorite is the Samusa Soup. Samusas are Burmese samosas – handwrapped and filled with curry spices, potatoes, and then deep fried. Even though it’s vegetarian, it is a very popular soup with both vegetarians and meat eaters – in fact, it was on almost every table the last time we were there. Made with samusas broken up with falafels, lentils, cabbage, and onions, this is a delectable, curry flavoured soup, with great harmony between flavour, texture, and heat.

For those who are wondering if I have gone veg, I am happy to report they carry a good selection of meat dishes as well. As I mentioned, most dishes come in your choice of veg or meat. The Burmese Curry, available in lamb, beef, or pork, is a slightly spicy, nutty, flavourful curry. But it’s nothing exceptional, especially when compared to curries of many other nations. It will hold its own though.

I’ll be honest though, in most cases, the vegetarian dishes are all better. The Poodi, for example, is a potato curry served with puri breads – great for dipping! I like this better than the meat curry.

Lastly, another signature dish, the Chicken Dahl. Our “final” dish we always order a new random dish. This has included tofu dishes, sea food dishes, veggie dishes, etc. Too many to list, but usually, quite hit and miss. It’s never bad (hard to go wrong with anything on the menu), but just not as exceptional as some of their other dishes.

First, let’s be clear on something. My distaste for vegetarianism is well documented among those that know me. While i can accept the idea that some people just don’t like meat, I refuse to accept that there is anything immoral, or wrong, with eating animal flesh. My point isn’t to stand on a soapbox, but to point out that any pseudo-vegetarian restaurant that can hold my interest is something special indeed. Burma Superstar is a rare place that truly appeals to both vegetarian, and meat eaters alike. If you find yourself on the west side, and need a good value restaurant that will satisfy that all the different types of eaters in your group, this is the place for you. This is not apologetic vegetarian food, nor is it mock meat. This is Burmese food, and it’s tasty, meat or no meat.

Burma Superstar on Urbanspoon

Summer Night Market – Richmond, BC

[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Richmond Summer Night Market
10-acre site located at 12631 Vulcan Way
Richmond, BC
Operating until October 5th, 2008
Hours: Fri/Sat, 7pm-midnight; Sun, 7pm-11pm; Holiday Sun, 7pm-midnight; Holiday Mon, 7pm-11pm

According to the organizers, the Richmond Summer Night Market features over three hundred vendors, and generates on average 14,000 visitors per night.  After some early worries that it would not take place in 2008, a new group took over the reins to make sure it would happen – no doubt delighting regular visitors to this unique part of the summer nightlife in Richmond.  I decided to check it out on a sudden whim, figuring a holiday Monday would bring in the crowds and give me the best sense of how successful this event really is.  Getting to the general area about a half hour after its official opening, it was relatively easy to find a parking space near the grounds.

As with any kind of exhibition, be it indoor or outdoor, I usually begin by walking the space, up and down the rows, checking out every corner of action before making any kind of really in-depth exploration of one particular vendor or booth.  After scoping out the entire scene, I immediately realized the tents selling non-food items, well let’s just say, its not for me.  Maneuvering quickly back to the food section, which basically amounted to three rows of vendors, frying, grilling, pouring, etc. a decent variety of Asian-themed street food.  Getting there on an empty stomach, I knew the strong smells coming from the places grilling meat on skewers could not be avoided, and after scanning a few (albeit neglecting what appeared to be the busiest one as I was just that hungry), I plopped down five dollars for three lamb meat-on-a-stick.  Since it was easy, I added an order of some rough chopped grilled squid as well for a couple more Loonies.

The lamb skewers were too dry for my taste, and the marinade quite weak too considering the rich color.  A disappointment, and knew I had made the wrong call by by-passing the more popular grill station a few booths down, that had a more interesting flavor combination like curry, and a more energetic grill master talking up the gathering crowd.  The squid had a nice chewy texture, not too tough and perhaps a bit on the raw side, which probably helped it from becoming a rubbery mess.  A sweet chili sauce was squirted onto the plate as it was handed to me, giving it some nice added flavor.  I washed it down with a bubble tea from another nearby booth – sorry no image taken of it.

Moving along, I thought being Richmond and all, that I needed to get me some Chinese offerings, as well as to continue my main goal of fueling myself.  Noodles, always does the job at making you feel full, so I went to a booth that served up a combo plate selection of chow mein and I chose to pair that with what they called a duck wrap, instead of some pan-fried dumplings (with plans to make a big load of gyoza at home the next day, this was an easy call).  The noodles as you would expect from a hot plate sitting there all night, were way overdone and I could get a taste of several burnt bits.  The duck wrap was a pleasant surprise, although it tasted more of the thin sliced mushrooms inside than the duck, which was further masked by the sweet sauce that was drizzled on top.

Next up or rather down the gullet, was a tray of steamed shrimp dim sum.  These were a mistake, the wraps being way too thick and gummy, they were pipping hot though I will give them that.  By this point, I was very, very full.  Did that stop me though from picking up a dessert?  Of course not.  A booth called Taiwanese Snacks, was selling custard, Nutella, and red bean circular, waffle-like cakes.  The lineup there was long, probably due to the fact their production line was slow.  Nearby, a Korean booth was selling a similar item, though made in a mold shaped like a fish (Taiyaki, in Japanese), also for one dollar a piece. [Sorry, no images of these as I was wolfing them down in my car on the drive home].

So as you can see, a very filling dinner was had on this visit, and I left just before it started getting dark.  Granted you’re not getting the best quality stuff at a gathering like this, with vendors having limited resources and facilities to prepare anything genuine, but its still a refreshing scene to take in, especially when the weather is so nice as it has been this summer in Vancouver.  I believe there is a similar operation down in Chinatown too, so perhaps I will go there just for comparisions sake.

Imaan East African Restaurant – Calgary, AB

Imaan East African Restaurant
#2, 3218 – 17th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta
Open Sunday-Saturday, 8am-11pm

Imaan East African Restaurant on Urbanspoon

In the quest for great food, sometimes you stick out a bit. Sometimes you stick out a lot. And sometimes, you feel like you’ve been transplanted to another time and place. You get a bit of that awkward feeling – everyone stops and looks at you and wonders why you have disturbed their sanctuary. You feel a bit uneasy and want to politely ask if they speak English, and then you remember that you’re in Canada. I call it Chinese Restaurant Syndrome(CRS).

On my way to lunch, I noticed a new sign up in a nearby strip mall. Imaan. “The taste of ancient kush”. Kush is an ancient region of East Africa, a kingdom of old that occupied the territories that now are Sudan. Not really knowing what Sudanese food was, I decided to stretch my elastic pants and eat a second lunch. On my way back, I stopped in at Imaan – East African “Fine Dining”.

Inside is a restaurant that looks like it drastically needs some work – roughly 2 months old the owner tells me. This is East African Fine Dining done cafeteria style! When we walk in, everyone stops and looks. Speaking something that sounded like Amharic, the owner pops his head out of the kitchen in a bit of surprise, and rushes over to help us out.

We’re handed menus, and he patiently explains some of their cuisine. Kushitic cuisine is very similar to Ethiopean cuisine.And Somali cuisine. East African Cuisine in general is my guess.  They serve it by way of Somalia. Everything is home cooked in the back. And most of the dishes sound vaguely familiar. Anjero, Muufo. We’re told they carry goat. “Try the Spaghetti – it’s good”! Spaghetti comes with anything else on the menu,so i definitely hope it is!

Not wanting to bring myself to a wafer thin moment, i order a side order of Suqaar, which is advertised as Beef and Chicken stew, and some Injera, i mean Anjero. The owner takes off to the back. The food is delivered in African time.

I don’t mean to digress, but for those who have been to Africa, they understand the concept of African time. For those of you who don’t get African time, let’s just say, don’t be in a rush, because really, you have no idea when anything will show up.  It happens when it happens. If you think waiting for an appetizer for an hour is frustrating, you’ve never been to Africa 🙂

Anyway, out comes a monstrous stew and some Anjero, which has a slightly thinner texture than Injera, and not as sour. Im quite happy with it – especially for $5 along with $1.50 for the Anjero. The stew itself is flavourful, and meaty.  Chock full of potato, carrots, and beef, im not 100% sure where the chicken component is (maybe the broth?), but they don’t come in chunks.

Apparently, this is not a monster order, but is a double order – oops.$10, not $5! My friend of significantly less girth had bowed out of secondsies, but they brought him food anyway.

At $10 for the dish, it wasn’t quite the insanely good deal i felt it was. But it was still quite reasonable. And quite tasty. The menu is an interesting mish-mash of food – most holding a very strange appeal to me. Pancakes, Omelets and Liver. Hmm. Ugaali,the local corn meal dish. Called NSima in Malawi, Pap in SA, Sadza in Zim, if it’s anything like NSima or Pap, i’ll pass. Bojiya – bean fritters and pepper – sounds interesting. The Firdhis Sampler looks good – a meal for two with rice, chicken, suqaar, spaghetti, and goat meat with a salad. For $24, this seemed to be the meal of choice among the more… regular crowd. I wish I had a greater appetite to explore, but it just creates more reasons to return.

I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what to say about Imaan. The food was good. The prices were very reasonable. The owners were friendly. The room was sterile, and we definitely felt out of place. It was a bit uncomfortable being stared at. I guess think of this as a scouting report – and when you’re in the SW, and feeling a bit adventerous, know that there’s a place that you might enjoy more than another burger. Give it a try and report back. We’ll be seeing you just now!

Imaan East African Restaurant on Urbanspoon