Tung Hing – Vancouver, BC


Tung Hing Bakery
1196 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC V5V 3C8
(604) 875-3394

Tung Hing Bakery on Urbanspoon

I had mentioned in an earlier post that Banh Mi provides (for me) the best value in a lunch time meal. Where else can you get a filling, fresh and healthy lunch for under $3? It makes a great “recession” meal. Look at this monster below…a full 12 inches worth of goodness….all for a paltry $2.75.

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Tung Hing is located on an unassuming stripmall on Kingsway that is occupied by an insurance company and yet another Banh Mi joint and bakery. This downtrodden part of Kingsway is strewn with Vietnamese businesses of all kinds. There may be over a dozen Pho joints within a stone’s throw of each other. There are also quite a number of Ca Phe (Vietnamese coffee houses) and Delis that also serve these sandwiches. None of these places have offerings that can compare to Tung Hing’s.
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Upon entering the bakery, you are greeted with an golden array of Chinese-style pastries in a glass display case. These pastries lead me to believe that the operators are Vietnamese of Chinese descent. The pastries they sell there are also very good and very fresh. You can get all the favourites here (coconut or cocktail bun, custard bun, egg tarts, and so forth).
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I can smell the aroma of freshly baking bread…a indication that a fresh batch has just come out of the oven. This busy bakery seems to supply Vietnamese baguettes to other Banh Mi joints in the surrounding area…I have seen deliveries of bags and boxes full of this stuff going out the door on occasion. You can see the baker manning the small deck ovens in the back of the store in the picture below.
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The sandwich bar is on the right side of the store. I like this arrangement  –  the bar  is visible behind a glass divider and in front of the ovens. This gives me the opportunity to watch the Banh Mi as they are made from start to finish – the bread leaves the oven, it goes on cooling rack, it is deftly slit open and filled.
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Today, I was promptly greeted by the friendly sandwich ladies. I most often order the the Dac Biet (“Special”)…in this case a sandwich with Cha Lua (Vietnamese white “ham”) , Char Siu (Chinese-style BBQ Pork unusually sliced lengthwise and is much more tender and moist than the Chinese rendition), and liver pate. Fresh-tasting daikon and carrot pickle, cucumber, some onions, herbs, pepper, and finally a dash of soya or the soya-like Maggi seasoning to round it out. The sandwich is then traditionally wrapped in wax paper and strapped with a small elastic band.

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A good Banh Mi like this has achieved a balance…a perfect equilateral triangle really: the Bread (a light and airy crumb and crispy crust); the Meats – (not too much since we aren’t trying to make a Reuben here); and the Vegetables (a good daikon and carrot pickle, some crisp cucumbers and so forth). Since Tung Hing makes their own bread (an excellent rendition of a “French” baguette), you are almost guaranteed freshness in this department. The bread is often still warm from the oven when you get it.

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One thing Tung Hing has over the other Banh Mi joints in the area: I have never seen them run out of Banh Mi as often happens at other purveyors (this  actually means they have run out of baguettes).

I dare not say that this is the “best” Banh Mi in town since food is such a subjective topic. I can safely say it is my favourite Banh Mi joint. It certainly rivals the favourites such as Au Petit Cafe on Main St. It’s worth heading eastward on Kingsway just for this.

Tung Hing Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Terra Breads (Kitsilano) Bakery & Café – Vancouver, BC


Terra Breads (Kitsilano) Bakery & Café
2380 West 4th Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 736 1838

Terra Breads Cafe on Urbanspoon

Aside from the occasional pickup of some French baguettes and loaves, and multigrain breads, my forays into the original location of Terra Breads in Kitsilano and their bakery in the Public Market on Granville Island have been limited.  So on this day I thought I would expand upon the range of my usual purchases and check out some of their pastries and sandwiches.  Actually I was torn between trying out their daily changing savoury focaccias (on this day it was a simple tomato & pesto variety) but decided on a sandwich, in order to see if any of their other artisan breads suited my tastes.

The collection of pastries pictured above are the Apple Focaccia with caramel, sesame and thyme, a Blueberry White Chocolate Bread, Macaroons, and a Blueberry Scone.  It wasn’t a deliberate decision, but I found as I was eating my way through them with some friends that there was an interesting mix of textures and flavors among just this simple set.  The sweet focaccia with its great crispy portions and a softer chewy texture on the inside was probably my favorite of the bunch – I would get this again for sure.  The Blueberry bread was a bit more crumbly but not as much as my beloved scones.  I think you can clearly get a sense that blueberries are among my most favorite fruits.  The Macaroons were an attempt to battle my lifelong dislike for coconuts (I can handle them when they are made of sliced almonds) in foods.  Funny how I don’t mind the inclusion of coconut cream in Piña Coladas though…

A pair of sandwiches were chosen.  The first of which was the Roast Chicken + Bacon on Pain de Campagne.  Described as a roasted, free-range chicken, double smoked bacon,  roma tomatoes, organic mixed baby greens, and tarragon mayonnaise, I was quite satisfied.  The smoky properties of the chicken and bacon were a perfect match, and the veggies adds a cruncy textural element that completed the composition.  The bread was a neutral variety that wasn’t overly bold thus not overwhelming the ingredients sandwiched between.

The second meat and bread combination was the Roast Turkey + Chutney on a Pumpkin Seed Bread and contained slices of roasted turkey breast, cucumber, cranberry walnut chutney, organic greens, and mayonnaise.  I personally didn’t enjoy this as much as the earlier one, mainly for the fact of that sweet chutney.  I think eating this while taking bites of the pastries might have influenced my thinking here, but I didn’t really want any sweet elements in the sandwich.  The bread used was interesting, I think I will pick up some next time and try out with other fillings and condiments.

At this location, you can elect to eat your meal at the communal table that is plopped right in the middle of the café, or along one of the bar counters facing the street.  It seems to always be packed however, and I’ve never seen an open seat, though imagine there is some pretty fast turnover, just not when I am there.  As we left with our purchases we walked a bit further along 4th Ave, and popped into the Take 5 Café for some coffee.  Again, a similar scene as all of the seats were occupied.  They had similar looking sandwiches there available to order (as well as some soups), which made me wonder if they bought from Terra Breads.  Anybody know?

Terra Breads Cafe on Urbanspoon

One More Sushi – Vancouver, BC


One More Sushi
222-2155 Allison Road
Vancouver, BC
(604) 228 9773

One More Sushi on Urbanspoon

Located on the second floor of  mixed commercial/residential complex just behind University Village at UBC, One More Sushi is impossible to see from the road.  With three other places (Suga Sushi, Osaka Sushi, Omio Japanese Restaurant) in the same general area that also serve up their take on sushi, it makes for a very condensed location for Japanese food.  As such, unless you knew about it from actually walking in the area, I highly doubt you ever knew it exists and most people probably satisfy their sushi fix at one of the other better known and more visible places.

As it occupies a more spacious area, the seating floorspace is clearly the largest of the sushi serving restaurants in this geographical area.  A long narrow entranceway leads into this space, with the sushi bar along one side that leads back to the kitchen area, as well as a bar station that is located nearby as well.  As the lighting was incredibly dark, and we were seated at the opposite end, I could not be sure but it appeared like there were private rooms at the other side of the room.  The decor was your typical, North American interpretation of what a Japanese restaurant “should look like”, with cheap pictures and paintings hanging on the walls.  One more thing I would mention is that the heating, or lack there of, made the place very cold – something that people who have gone there on multiple occassions have told me never changes.   So dress warmly!

In the mood just to share a few appetizers and get a sample of their sushi, our table chose a basic spinach Gomae, which had a weak flavored but really thick consistency to their sesame paste/dressing.  Not the good first food impression we were hoping for.  This was followed by a serving of the Agedashi Tofu.  It had a very thin layer of coating and the tofu itself was fresh and very soft.  Perhaps they could have fried it a bit longer and provided a more flavorful broth to accompany it.  Two appetizers in, and I was disappointed at how lighthanded they were with the depth of flavor in both.

Not my selection, but this is the Yam Tempura Maki.  I don’t tend to like sweet things in sushi nor maki in general, so I am not the best person to be commenting on this plate.  The piece I had confirmed my preferences, not that I can’t eat it

Lastly, as I was somewhat hesitant to try any nigiri, I elected to go with the Chirashidon.  That way I could at least try to get a semblance of the quality of their product, freshness and skill in cutting.  It came in a rather smallish bowl which was fine as too many places put this in a large one and compensate by filling it with too much sushi rice.  It turned out the ingredients themselves were simply average – not horrifically bad that I couldn’t eat it, but not overly enthusiastic at the same time either.

Apologies for the poor quality of pictures, as they were taken with my mobile, but I hope you were able to form some image in your mind of what each dish looked and tasted like.  With its seemingly strong level of popularity with the student crowd at UBC, I imagine One More Sushi will continue to be a relatively busy place despite its shortcomings and pumping out just average/sub-standard fare.  I just know it won’t have me coming back, One More Time…

One More Sushi on Urbanspoon

Ba Le – Vancouver, BC


Ba Le French Sandwiches
701 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC V5T 3K6
(604) 875-6322

Ba Le French Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

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I have not yet found a lunch meal with a bigger bang for the buck than a Vietnamese sandwich. Bahn Mi, for me, is the ultimate in fast foods. You can walk in to a Bahn Mi joint and walk out within a couple of minutes with a fresh, (relatively) healthy and incredibly satisfying meal..all for less than $3 CAD.

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I have two “go-to” Bahn Mi joints in Vancouver: Tung Hing on Kingsway (which is my favorite, if you must know – I will post on Tung Hing soon)  and the subject of this posting – Ba Le – also on Kingsway….right at “The Triangle” formed by the intersection with Fraser St.

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I judge Bahn Mi joints by the quality and freshness of their bread. Tung Hing, for example, bakes their bread on premises…and you can get a sandwich prepared with beautifully crusty bread pulled out of the oven just a couple of minutes prior.

Though Ba Le does not have a bakery on-site – their bread is still quite fresh (the crispy crust explodes with crumbs and the interior crumb is soft and fluffy.)

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What they lack in baking facilities, they more than make up for in their filling: Ba Le makes their own charcuterie. Their specialty is their Vietnamese “bacon” – the rolled pork belly you see below. They have other fillings as well Cha Lua (the ubiquitous Vietnamese “ham” or “spam”, Char Siu Chinese BBQ pork, Liver paste and a number of others. Their pickled carrot and daikon (which is traditionally part of Bahn Mi) is very fresh tasting.

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Kingsway (which has quickly become Vancouver’s “Little Saigon” ) is dotted with very good budget Vietnamese restaurants and there are a quite a number of worthy destinations on this street. Ba Le is certainly worth the stop if you just happen to be in the area.

Ba Le French Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Rice Bar – Vancouver, BC


Update – February 11, 2009

I passed by and noticed the signage had been replaced by a new one: Sun Sushi (Eat In and Take Out).  This makes it the fourth sushi place within a three block radius along this section of 10th Ave.

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Original post – January 27, 2009

Rice Bar
4512 West 10th Ave
Vancouver, BC
(604) 222 8868

Rice Bar on Urbanspoon

Housed in a space that used to be a cozy, free Wi-Fi cafe known as Think!, the Rice Bar emerged in its place and is what could best be described as a Hong Kong-style cafeteria… minus the constant flow of customers and a packed room.  When I first saw the nameplate go up outside, there was a small part of me that was hoping that this would perhaps be something refreshing for this neighborhood – such as a specialty Japanese sake drinking establishment – given the ‘rice’ plus ‘bar’ naming.  But alas, it was not to be.

On the occasions that I’ve passed by this past year, I’ve rarely ever seen people inside, either eating in or ordering takeout.  I thought it would not be long before the place was re-invented by another business on this relatively secluded, very west side shopping street.  Surprisingly, I believe its been many months now since it opened, and recently I thought I would give it a chance to see what it had to offer but I was not expecting much…

“Order Here”, the sign on the counter clearly states.  Too bad there’s no human to take my order.  All I can hear is the sounds coming from the small tv screen on the back wall, I think it was some Chinese television drama, as well as the C-pop coming out from the wall speakers.  A shame that’s the only source of noise to be found.  If not for that, I think I could have heard crickets.

After a few minutes, a person appeared and I was able to place my order.  I had hoped to get the Pork Ribs that I had heard a little about, but alas they were out.  Strange, it was still the early evening and had already run out.  In its place, I decided to go with what I thought would be a fairly safe bet in the BBQ Pork.  I know there are those who like it to be fattier, or perhaps a mix of lean and fat, but I prefer the healthier variety and find that the BBQ flavor is retained better in the leaner cuts.   I was asked for my decision on the sauce I wanted with it, and opted for a soy-based one thinking it was the most natural fit with the flavor of the pork.  As you might be able to tell from the image above, it was a simple few spoonfuls that was put on the rice, which the pork covered up.  It did nothing for amping up the taste profile.

The Chicken Wings I ordered thinking that I would easily get sick of the BBQ Pork after a few slices.  And at these prices (both under six dollars), I thought having a double dip wouldn’t be hard on the wallet.  The wings were really crispy, and had a nice salty and textured coating that I enjoyed.  I’m not sure exactly what else was in the breading but it did have some other flavor properties that you don’t get in western-style chicken wings.  I could have easily gone for another batch of three, and they could have deleted the rice.  I preferred these less greasy wings, compared to the ones I had at Wo Fung.  I’d come back for these.

Speaking of the rice, in both containers, it was pretty bland and really dried out.  I know this is more Chinese style, but I find it so lacking in flavor that I hardly eat any of it as I think its more suited for fried rice.  And the minuscule drops of “sauce” with the BBQ Pork didn’t help in this regard.  Each “main” came with the choice of a soup, salad or dessert.  I elected the bamboo shoot soup with both, as the salad would have been a boring mixed greens and I am not a big fan of Asian desserts.  The soup upon opening the lid, I thought would have a sour element, but it had none at all.  It was nothing more than average and very lukewarm by the time I got back home.

The Rice Bar has dedicated so much of its area to seating.  Tables with chairs, a counter with stools that lines one wall, another seating area by the front window, etc.  Its sad that there is no one to use them.  I am not sure what else they could do with all this space however, as their counters are already a pretty good size, and its not equipped to handle the actual cooking stations (which are in the back room).  I wouldn’t want to be the owner of this problem…

Any of you turn right around out the door after entering a restaurant that is dead empty?

And do really quiet places make you always choose to take out when you could just as easily eat-in?

Rice Bar on Urbanspoon

Angel Seafoods – Vancouver, BC


Angel Seafoods
1345 Grant Street
Vancouver, BC V5L 2X7
(604) 254-2824

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Whenever I have the hankering for homemade sushi and sashimi, I head on over to Angel Seafoods. Angel is located in an industrial zone between Clark Drive and Commercial Drive in East Vancouver. Sushi restaurants from all around Vancouver source much of their sashimi grade fish from Angel. I happen to live nearby so it is a regular stop for me.

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Angel is in an odd setting. It doesn’t look like a typical fish store. It is located in what looks more like a warehouse. Upon walking inside, you will encounter their working clerical office. It feels a little strange at first….it is as if someone grafted a grocery store onto an insurance company office.

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Look to your left and you will find a long room of chest freezers containing a boggling assortment of Japanese seafood – sashimi grade fish, kasu (sake lees) marinated fish, roe, dried seafoods of all sorts. They also stock rice, and other sundries. At the front desk is a list of fresh items – often including oysters and fresh uni (sea urchin roe)…make sure to ask for what’s fresh in the back. It changes nearly daily.

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The prices are quite reasonable – definitely lower than at other sources of frozen sashimi like T&T, the Chinese supermarket and Fujiya, the Japanese grocery just down the road.  Today I picked up an assortment of fish for tomorrow night’s family sushi night. We are having Yellow Tail, Albacore, Salmon, and  Toro. This little haul set me back about $25CAD….not bad. I just need to make sure my knife is sharp.

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BonQuLa Fusion Restaurant and Café – Richmond, BC


BonQuLa Fusion Restaurant and Café
Olympia Center, #165-8460 Alexandra Road
Richmond, BC
(604) 214 0027

BonQuLa Fusion Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Lately, I’ve been giving more thought to and being more patient in checking out some places that I’d been following through word of mouth and online sources – especially those that have recently opened or are rumored to be still working out the finer details of their operations.  This does clash with the need for frequent and new reviews on Foodosophy however, so my balancing act is indeed a difficult one.  And lastly, my time and ability to venture to some of these places that are further away from my home base, also comes into play (the city of Richmond being one such example).

One uniquely positioned restaurant that I’ve been aware of for over a year and was following comments on through Japanese message boards has been Richmond’s BonQuLa Fusion Restaurant and Café. When it comes to Japanese home-style cooking and yoshoku ryori (Japanese interpretations of Western food) in Vancouver, I find getting the thoughts and opinions of ex-pats and foreign exchange students yearning for a taste of home, is the best method of pre-dining reconnaissance that one can do.

For those who have only been exposed to the North American classics such as sushi, tempura and chicken teriyaki, yoshoku is at times difficult to convey to those less familiar as they just simply refer to in their minds the western equivalents.  As such, I hope that places like BonQuLa continue to flourish and help spread the word that there is a lot more to Japanese cuisine that what is commonly portrayed in the media and the countless imitation Japanese restaurants that abound in greater Vancouver.

Early sentiments after it initially opened in June 2007 that I’ve heard were a mixed bag.  Most of the negative impressions that were left were based on the speed of service (both of food coming out of the kitchen and the waiters).  A lot of these complaints were from lunchtime customers, which I know are more demanding given the limited amount of time they have to grab something to eat.  On this visit, I think there are still some remnants with the service aspect, in particular the middle-aged Chinese woman who was lacking some knowledge of the menu and struggling with explaining some things and generally not “all there”  (as well, a bit of an English language issue).  The other server on hand, a young Japanese man, was interesting to observe when he came to our table, as we picked up on those little Japanese service nuances that you get when dining out in Japan.

More recent commentary has been a lot more positive, with many highlighting their satisfaction with being able to get such cuisine and at such a good quality, in Canada.  Even in published interviews, the female Japanese chef (a 2001 immigrant to Canada, graduate of the prestigious Osaka Music College, former piano instructor and graduate of Vancouver Community College’s Culinary Program) herself mentioned that they had some growing pains in their early days, adjusting to operating a business in Canada, with all the uncertainly that comes with entering the restaurant game.  With plenty of time having passed, I decided it was time to give this place a visit, as frankly I’ve not been over enthused by other yoshoku offerings in the city to this point.

Immediately upon being seated, I knew this place was indeed trying something different.  The interesting set menu booklet that featured a group of complete meals (appetizer through to dessert) were handmade, and utilized some recycled Japanese children’s books!  The background music pipped over the speakers was a mixture of slow and uptempo jazz, which fit into my image of the more old school yoshoku restaurants in Tokyo that I frequented.   BonQuLa was more modern in style but at the same time, very relaxed and homey.

With it being January and the start of a new year, mochi (Japanese rice cake) was a welcome sight on the appetizer listings in the main menu, only this had been incorporated with shrimp, and done in an agedashi-style (complete with a flavorful soy-based broth).

Our dining group was split into those who ordered from the main a la carte choices, and one who decided on taking a much more robust set menu selection.  With the latter, which was had the New York Steak as a main, one of the appetizers (the other was a trio of tasting items pictured earlier in this post – the homemade sesame tofu was divine! –  as well as a uniquely plated tuna salad – no image available) was this tray of Assorted Tempura.  Coming with a finely ground mix of matcha and a touch of salt, rather than the more stereotypical bowl of tentsuyu (dipping sauce), it really accentuated the crispy tempura and reminded me of this flavor combination one sees in Western Japan.  Given that the chef is originally from Kobe, its clear she has retained the tastes of the region.

The Ground Beef Steak with Teriyaki Sauce was my main target on this night, knowing its a great example of yoshoku and being at the top of their menu, I figured they had confidence in doing it well.  It came with a bowl of steamed rice, miso soup (light and not overly salty at all), some marinated pieces of konnyaku, simple green salad, and a deep fried shrimp and some onion rings.

The ground beef steak made from AAA Sirloin was beautifully done, a light and juicy ground meat patty, without any excess filler.  Topped with some slivers of deep fried potato and served with some bean sprouts and cabbage on a hot circular plate.

Pictured above is the Omurice Curry with Pork Tenderloin Cutlet.  The curry itself was spicy but a touch on the fruity, sweeter side, and was packed with flavor.  You could tell a load of vegetables had been cooked for many hours to generate that much flavor in each spoonful.   The cutlet was again much like the beef patty, the right level of heat making the interior meat tender and not dried out from overcooking.  Even for a hungry person, the amount of rice in the omurice was  more than plenty.

Perhaps this dish, the main component of the New York Steak set was the only letdown on the night.  I think our fried who had ordered it was expecting a more teppan-style, cooked and cubed, whereas this one was more almost steam-cooked making the meat more moist.  As a result, perhaps it was overdone and the meat itself wasn’t that great to begin with, thus there were some tough parts among the cuts in the hotplate.

Lastly, the dessert that was part of the New York Steak set menu was a homemade Matcha Purin (pudding).  It had a solid creamy texture without an overpowering sweetness (that you find too often in those instant packs to make purin), and was topped with vanilla ice cream.   The rest of us were given a choice of a mango, matcha or coffee flavored jelly, that was served in a mini wine glass, and topped with some vanilla ice cream, corn flakes and whipped cream.

The adage of “good things come to those who wait” certainly held true in my opinion by finally making the decision to dine here.  Our whole table enjoyed the outing and everyone remarked how happy they were with their food.  Luckily we were all in the mood for sharing and thus each of us had the chance to sample a bit of every dish that was at our table.  The balance of flavors really stood out for us, when they needed to be bolder they were, and the dishes that have flavorings requiring a more subtle level were similarly accurate.  The completeness, heart felt effort put into the food put out by the skilled chef was clearly felt by us all, whenever we found a new ingredient appearing or sensed by our palates.  In my research, it did not entirely surprise me that the chef had an non-food related artistic background – whenever I come across such a dedicated “artsy” person, it always seems to be that if you are talented in one creative area, that can easily translate to another.

Despite the name of the restaurant being derived from the Japanese characters contained in the words heibon (hence the ‘bon’) which means ordinary, kuu (hence the ‘qu’) which means eat, and lastly raku (hence the ‘ra’) which means enjoy; there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about BonQuLa.  For outstanding yoshoku, and I still have yet to check out the well heralded lunch items (e.g katsu sandwich), BonQuLa is an excellent location to fulfil your cravings for this often overlooked segment of modern day Japanese cuisine.

BonQuLa Fusion Restaurant & Cafe on Urbanspoon