Shady Island Seafood Bar and Grill – Richmond, BC


Shady Island Seafood Bar and Grill
#112-3800 Bayview Street
Richmond, BC
(604) 275-6587

On an afternoon photo assignment taking in the sights and hearing great stories from a dedicated crew of skilled craftsmen ship builders and restorers in the picturesque, frontier seaport town better known as the Steveston Heritage Fishing Village, I decided to end my day with a self-rewarding pint.

Wharfs, piers, boardwalks… wherever they are, always seem to be a preferred base for those establishments that seem to cater to both locals and visitors alike, often with seafood and cold drinks on the menu.  Shady Island Seafood is no exception.

With a deck side view of the neighboring Fisherman’s Wharf, and a cool breeze drifting in from the water, this open section running parallel to the pathway made for a great spot for people watching.  But by then, my mind had switched off from wanting to photograph anything, and I resorted to my simple P&S camera during my meal for images of my meal.

Sticking as local as I could, I opted for a selection from Granville Island Brewing in their Cypress Honey Lager.  Crisp, clear lagers are my favorite beers.  This one was perhaps milder in tone and not as “sweet” as say other “honey”-branded beers I’ve had, so was a refreshing way for me to unwind.  I could have easily had a few more and spent more time watching folks stroll by, but alas, it was getting a bit chilly and I was without a coat.

Despite having been busy for most of the day, I wasn’t terribly hungry.  Perhaps it was the cups of coffee that I had earlier to keep me going that were keeping me feeling full.   So sticking with the stereotypical behavior of one visiting a waterside landing, I took the easy way out and asked for their Seafood Chowder.  Noted as “world famous” on the signboard, and as “mama’s award-winning” on the menu, it peaked my curiosity.

It definitely had “substance” and was very rich and creamy in texture, plenty of pieces of salmon, clams and potatoes, all encompassed in a vibrant red, slightly peppery, tomato-base.  I’ve not experienced many of these more east coast-style chowders, but I can say that I enjoyed it and will look to seek out more of them.

A fairly basic house green salad which was nothing to write home about, rounded out my small meal (not pictured).

The combination of unwinding alone and having a quiet, non-stuffing meal and the quaint surroundings led me to feeling pretty good about my light dinner.  Under different circumstances, would I have come away with such a positive impression – I’m not sure.  But for the view, the brew and a tasty bowl of chowder, I can’t say I had any complaints and would drop by again and check out their fish and chips (which seemed like a popular thing at their takeaway window).

Shady Island Seafood Bar and Grill on Urbanspoon

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken – Memphis, TN


Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
310 S Front Street
Memphis, TN 38103-4112
(901) 527-4877

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (Downtown) on Urbanspoon

Fried Chicken. In my travels, I’ve come across fried chicken in almost every culture. This was definitely surprising to me. Just as surprising, is that it often was really good fried chicken.

By the estimation of my fanatical, fried chicken loving sibling, Korean’s do the best fried chicken. But neither of us have explored a lot of the southern United States, and that’s somewhere that really appreciates their fried chicken.

The Front Street location of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is the downtown Memphis location of the original Mason, Tennessee shop. And from the lineups and the crowds, it really is world famous.
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Not much to look at, the place is completely full at all hours of the day. Clean, and tidy, the focus is really on one thing – the chicken. As has been accurately reported in thousands of reviews, this is not fast food. As the saying goes, good food takes time to prepare. And Gus’s serves good chicken!

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“Unlimited appetite”


I came across an article today by Michael Lewis that appeared in The New Republic, which reviews a new book about the billionaire Warren Buffett, penned by his official biographer Alice Schroeder. All the stuffy business and finance stuff aside which Buffett is best known for, the book also delves into the mind behind the man if you will, including a food-related story which describes the man’s diet.

“He confines himself to the diet of an eight-year-old, refusing to eat anything much beyond spaghetti, hamburgers, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Schroeder describes a bizarre scene in which Katharine Graham escorted Buffett to dinner at the Manhattan apartment of Sony Chairman Akio Morita. Japanese chefs served plate after plate that Buffett left completely untouched. “By the end of fifteen courses, he still had not eaten a bite,” writes Schroeder. “The Moritas could not have been more polite, which added to his humiliation. He was desperate to escape back to Kay’s apartment, where popcorn and peanuts and strawberry ice cream awaited him. ‘It was the worst,’ he says about the meal he did not eat. ‘I’ve had others like it but it was by far the worst. I will never eat Japanese food again.'” Buffett ate what he needed to eat to remain alive–and learned what he needed to learn to invest shrewdly.”

Now I know many well-off people who are thoroughly taking advantage of their personal circumstances, who also hold a high degree of respect for great food, and for them, dining out and traveling great distances to taste new things is a passion. I also know of many who are of more limited means (yours truly among them), who do try to seek out the same kind of stimulation, albeit perhaps in a more second-hand or lower tier kind of way. And lastly, I know of those who seem to really detest having to eat or have no interest in trying things they are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, and this spans both rich and non-rich people. To this day, whenever I meet someone new, who despite appearances (e.g. tall, big body structures who would seem at first glance, not the type to shy away from a plate of seconds anywhere) who have very limited diets, it shocks me.

I do realize that food and enjoying eating is not everyone’s cup of tea or a source of enjoyment in their life. For some reason though, I pity them. As a human being, with the taking in of valuable nutrients to keep us alive a necessity, why not make the mundane exciting and new, by challenging one’s self to explore all this great world that is full of countless cultures has to offer through their cuisine.

If you had endless means to satisfy your passion for food, dining and travel… would you too limit yourself to a diet you knew only as a child? Or would you go to the ends of the earth to take in something totally new? Better yet, tell me what you would do and eat, and where? (SMILE)

Truong Tranh – Vancouver, BC


Truong Tranh
Kingsway and Victoria Dr
Vancouver, BC

Truong Tranh on Urbanspoon

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It is heartening to see the signs of a maturing ethnic restaurant scene. To me, one of the first real indications of maturity is the emergence of regional cuisines within a dominant national cuisine. Vancouver has been experiencing this type of emergence in its Chinese scene for quite a while. Restaurants that serve Hunan, Sichuan, Hakka, amongst others having been coming out of the woodwork over the last decade. Much more recently we have been seeing regional Italian – wooing diners from the typical “red-sauce” joint.

Vietnamese regional cuisine isn’t very common here in Vancouver. Here, this cuisine has been defined (and caricatured) by pho joints. However, if you dig a little deeper, you will find these little places that serve regional specialties front and center in their menu. Truong Tranh is such a place. Here, pho takes a back seat to Northern specialties such as banh cuon, xoi, bun rieu cua, and bun oc.

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Truong Tranh has a section of their menu reserved for xoi – Vietnamese sticky rice. My particular favorite dish here is their xoi thit – or — to use the more familiar Colonial name — Porc au Caramel. The pork (belly in this case) is tender, deliciously fatty (“unctuous” would be the ideal description here), and the sauce is an intensely flavoured concoction of fish sauce, black pepper, garlic, and caramel sauce – nuoc mau. This caramel sauce imparts a sweet and pleasant bitter undertone to the dish. It is a great accompaniment to the xoi.

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Banh cuon is a common breakfast dish in Northern Vietnam. I reported about another restaurant — Trahn Xuan that serves an authentic example of this dish. Like at Trahn Xuan, the banh cuon‘s rice wrapper is made fresh to order here. Most Vietnamese restaurants are content to serve this dish using store-bought Chinese-style rice rolls.

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The banh cuon pictured here comes with cha lua (pork loaf)  and pork floss (looking a lot like burlap). It always comes with an herb plate and nuoc cham.

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Bun oc (fresh water snail soup) is a dish that is difficult to find in Vancouver (and in most cities in North America). The examples of this dish that you do find are often made with canned snails (Truong Tranh is no different). This particular example is strongly flavoured with pickled bamboo shoots – very tasty to those who are accustomed to it – but oddly medicinal to first timers.

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There are so many Vietnamese restaurants out here in this city. I’m sure that there are a number that have surprisingly regional menus.  I am hoping that these places are just the tip of the iceberg. This refrain rings familiar — Vietnamese is so much more than pho — (remember when we used to say Chinese restaurants are more than just chow mein and sweet and sour pork?).

Truong Tranh on Urbanspoon

Café D’Lite – Vancouver, BC


Café D’Lite
3144 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 733-8882
Mon~Thu: 11am to 8pm | Fri~Sat: 11am to 9pm | Sun: Closed

Cafe D'Lite on Urbanspoon

Perhaps its relative geographic obscurity on the far west side of the city, the unassuming and some would say uninviting exterior facade or just the power of rumors, but it seems to me that Café D’Lite has a unique impression in the minds of many Vancouver diners in that although popular, reports of its demise seem always front and center.  Call it the Mark Twain of the city’s restaurant scene.

I’ve dined there several times over the past few years as its the closest spot for me in satisfying any cravings for Hainanese Chicken Rice (their “house special”), but on my most recent visit I decided to get a take away order as I was in a hurry.  Pictured above is the large size ($11.95), which is more than enough for one hungry person.  Unfortunately, the non-dine in order of this does not include the soup as a takeout item – I didn’t ask but assume its their lack of appropriate styrofoam containers.

While the absence of the soup was a letdown, it was not as large as the disappointment I felt when I returned home and opened up the package containing my meal and realized that the traditional condiments were not really there.  As the image above attests, there was a small dallop of chilli sauce, with a small spoonful of a ginger sauce added in the corner of the container, but no dark soy sauce!  In hindsight, I wonder if you had to ask or pay for that separately…?

The chicken itself was a bit lukewarm, probably from the time it had spent layered over top of the rice (which itself, was not so flavorful and somewhat drier than I like), but the meat’s texture was tender.  The thin layer of skin was not overly gelatanous, which can be good or bad depending on your personal preference, and the boneless factor made for easy eating.  All in all, not the best version of this southeast Asian creation I’ve ever had (too many great ones I’ve eaten in Singapore have ruined me), but not horrible as to not wanting to ever have it here again.

I must try to remember to order some of their other dishes such as their Singaporean Laksa or their Malaysian curries.  As long as they continue to operate and get the customers that are aware they are still in business, I’m sure I’ll be back and among them.

Cafe D'Lite on Urbanspoon

My Chau – Vancouver, BC


My Chau
1715 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 874-6880

My Chau on Urbanspoon

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When I walk into an ethnic restaurant for the first time, I make an attempt to determine if they have a specialty – a particular house dish for which they are “famous” within their community. I look for clues in the menu or on chalkboards and also I look around at the other tables to see what the other patrons are having.

The first time I entered My Chau a couple of years ago, determining their specialty was easy  – it was their chicken pho (pho ga) with a side of deep fried chicken leg. The place was packed for lunch and almost every single table had a plate full of this beautifully deep fried chicken leg that comes with bowl of a chicken pho. I knew then I had to have it.

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This place is truly a hole-in-the-wall in the best meaning of the term. The restaurant is a mere sliver – perhaps ten feet across and seats no more than perhaps 20-30 people. For such a tiny place, they have an extensive eight page menu.

East Vancouver has a number of places that serve a good beef pho (pho bo). My Chau differentiates itself from the crowd by specializing in pho ga and thus have developed a quite a following. It fills up quickly around lunch time – often with well-dressed and affluent Vietnamese side by side with working class folk looking to have a good pho ga.

Their chicken broth is light, but flavourful – and very nearly transparent in its clarity. It is also quite light in salt. I do not detect that “round” MSG flavour that so many bowls of pho in this town exhibit. The accompanying chicken leg is fried perfectly – with a crisp, golden skin and tender meat. I suspect that the legs had been used to make the broth prior to being deep fried. It may explain the excellent crispiness of the skin. It is delicious and perfectly seasoned.

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The noodles are perfectly cooked – loosely separate, al dente, fresh tasting and nicely “ricey”.

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The other food I have had here has been very good (The hu tieu – dry noodles – in particular). However, it is their pho ga that beckons.

My Chau on Urbanspoon

Surya Indian Restaurant – Calgary, AB


Surya Indian Restaurant
1207 11 Ave. SW
Calgary, AB T3C 0M5
(403) 290-1777

Surya Restaurant on Urbanspoon

East Indian lunch buffet. In a town like Calgary, it seems like most places of South Asian cuisine need a lunch buffet to compete. I’m not sure if it’s the vast quantity demanded by patrons, or if it’s the wide selection everyone likes, but all I know is most locations with a dining room, whether they start with one or not, end up with a lunch buffet.

Surya Indian Restaurant is located on the main floor of an office building in the Beltline. The first time i ate there, it was ala carte, and it was really quite good. That made the lunch buffet a must try.

The first thing you notice with Surya is that their selection is enormous. While many lunch buffets usually have 6-8 choices, Surya has 12 dishes, plus a variety of salads, rice, chutneys, desserts, and naan of course. They also have pappadums – which makes me really happy. The selection is fantastic – about the same as Glory of India. The quality is excellent – as good as Glory of India, if not better, and better yet, the price is much cheaper (13.99 last time i was there) than Glory of India. The keep refills low, and refill often.

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Selection is varied – includes many meat dishes (usually 4), a load of vegetarian options, and a lot of starches.

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Thahn Xuan – Vancouver, BC


Trahn Xuan
2200 Block of Kingsway at Nanaimo St
Vancouver, BC

Trahn Xuan on Urbanspoon

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I love pho. It is a delicious, nourishing lunch time meal….however, I am in a pho phunk. I think may have had too much pho lately.

I live in an area in East Vancouver which is dotted with great Vietnamese restaurants. The Vietnamese triumvirate of pho, bun, and bahn mi are my usual suspects in this area…but I needed a change.

I have been aware of Thahn Xuan (literally a hole in the wall on Kingsway) for quite a while. It is located adjacent to a Pho Hoa franchise location, an adult video store and a massage parlour. I never thought much of it because it looked very much like the many Vietnamese “Cafes” (… often smoky gambling dens in disguise) that dot this section of Kingsway.

This place serves Northern Vietnamese food that is not pho-centric…as a matter of fact, in spite of the signage on their window that declares they offer pho, they don’t actually serve it. They have a small menu – less than ten dishes listed on the photocopies taped up to the wall. Their specialties are bahn cuon (Vietnamese Rice Rolls), bun oc (Freshwater Snail Soup) and bun rieu cua (Crab Cake and Seafood Soup). it.

I have to admit I felt some excitement (…these kinds of things excite me). This type of restaurant is not common here in Vancouver – a Vietnamese restaurant that doesn’t serve pho, com, bun or bahn mi? What is this? Here in North America, this type of place is more common in places like Westminster and Garden Grove, Vietnamese enclaves in Southern California.

I have been back a number of times since my first visit here a few weeks ago and have tried all their specialties.

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Bahn cuon, a common breakfast dish in Northern Vietnam is their main specialty. Bahn cuon is rice roll stuffed with minced pork with a side of nouc cham dipping sauce and the requisite herb salad. From my observations, this is the most commonly ordered dish here.  I have seen it at many other Vietnamese joints in town, though here at Thanh Xuan, they don’t use the usual premade Chinese rice rolls – you can watch them make the rice noodle sheets fresh to order in the back. These sheets are thinner, more translucent and chewier than the more commonly used Chinese variety. The herb salad is well appointed with about four or five uncommon greens.

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Another dish I could recommend is the bahn rieu cua – soup with a seafood-stock base with house-made crab cake and various greens (notably the anise-flavoured Vietnamese celery). The crab cake is usually made by grinding or pounding whole mud crabs, shrimp, and pork into a cake-like consistency (see photo). The best bowls of bahn rieu I have had outside of Vietnam were served in Southern California and they also included cubes of pork blood, tofu puffs, and other accoutrement that Thahn Xuan’s version lacked. Still, this was a very good rendition.

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The food here is good – but not exemplary (even compared to some Vietnamese places as far north as Seattle – and I won’t even bother comparing it to places in Vietnam). Still, this is a welcome addition to my list.

I am seeking more places like this – places that serve uncommon (for this city) Vietnamese dishes. Song Huong (whose proprietors are ethnically Hue – a people from the middle section of Vietnam – serves a killer Bo 7 Mon and some good Hue food. Co Do, which recently closed, used to serve great Hue food (they had a good bun bo Hue and nice little starch dumpling appetizers). Truong Thanh just down the road on Kingsway at Victoria is another very good Northern Vietnamese restaurant with a non-pho centric menu. (Look for an upcoming report on Truong Thanh here on Foodospsohy).

Anyone out there know of any regional Vietnamese restaurants that are worthy of a visit? I would love to know about them.

Trahn Xuan on Urbanspoon

Book Kyung Ban Jeom – Vancouver, BC


Book Kyung Ban Jeom
1638 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 629 8822

Book Kyung Ban Jeom on Urbanspoon

Competing for the highly demanding dining dollar along this section of downtown Vancouver that has in recent years become the domain of East Asian eats, is the uniquely positioned Chinese-Korean cuisine of Book Kyung Ban Jeom.

Without a doubt, it is a lesser known variant of popular food in South Korea, with most North Americans probably unaware of this genre of food from this country.  The local blogosphere also suggests that most of the coverage on Korean food in town centers all too much on barbecued meats.  It is as if to say that Italian cuisine is simple spaghetti, or Japanese food is only sushi.

To help spread the word of something other than bulgogi, kimchi and bibimbap, I thought I would introduce two of the major staples of Chinese-Korean food, both of which they do well at Book Kyung Ban Jeom.  I’ve dined here several times and the clientele has been mixed, so I do believe that its not just local Koreans eating here, so I take that as a positive sign that Vancouverites are open to trying a new element of food from this region.

Pictured above is the tangsuyuk, which is a mixture of red peppers, onions and crispy deep fried pieces of pork, all coated in a sweet, and slightly sour sauce.  Texture is key here with the veggies not at the overly-cooked through and thus soggy state, as the slight rawness of it complements the outer coating of the pork pieces.  It comes out pipping hot and the small serving ($14.85) is more than enough to share between two people, and is offered in a large size as well.  Goes well with soju if you happen to be there at night.

Of all the dishes in Chinese-Korean cuisine, the wheat noodles slathered in a savory soybean-based sauce with chopped vegetables and small bits of beef that is better known as jajangmyeon ($9.45) , is probably what comes top of mind.  The sauce and toppings appear on top of the noodles for presentation purposes, but its important to mix it all together – much like you do with bibimbap.

I am not sure how to best express this in English, but the “bite” or general “chewiness” of the noodles is what makes or breaks this dish, as is the case with other noodles from other cuisines.  In Japanese, the expression “koshi” is often used to describe this.  Something to note when sharing this dish.  The noodles are very long and entangled as they are and with a slippery coating due to the sauce, it makes it difficult to try and transfer them into smaller cups for individual servings.  You may end up giving up and eating from the same communal bowl, for those that cringe at doing such a thing, be aware.

As one of the more spacious and better naturally lit Korean restaurants on Robson, Book Kyung Ban Jeom is very inviting when you glance in from the sidewalk and enter the main foyer.  If you are open to trying the Korean twists on some Chinese-inspired dishes, this is a solid place to venture out of your Korean food comfort zone.

Book Kyung Ban Jeom on Urbanspoon

Otto – New York City, NY


Otto Restaurant Enoteca Pizzeria
1 5th Ave
New York, NY
(212) 995-9559

Otto on Urbanspoon

Otto: Italian for eight. In NYC, it means another Batali/Bastianich enterprise.

If you’ve read Heat, it’s hard not to remember Otto. The incident where Batali, angry at Bill Buford who has been pulled off the line and is standing in a corner, marches into the kitchen and stuffs his mouth with a large piece of griddle pizza and states “this is the taste America is waiting for”. Based on the crowds, apparently this was the taste they were waiting for.

It’s ostensibly a pizza and wine bar. But it has a fairly extensive menu. And is huge – this place is a stadium with the noise to match. It is quite hit and miss in my books. Pizza’s are good. Cooked on a griddle (not in an oven), they develop an interesting taste. A bit bland though.

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The antipasti’s have their fans too. The vegetables were small servings of marinated or tossed vegetables. Have to say, at $4 a pop, it just wasn’t worth it.

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The charcuterie was a bit of a disappointment. Cured meats were decent, but lacking in anything that blew me away. Lacked any punch or really interesting flavour.

Desserts, on the other hand, were spectacular. The cheese platters (uhmm, clearly taken a bit late in the meal) represented an excellent cross section of Italian cheeses.

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And the gelato. I have to agree with my dining companions – some original, and surprisingly tasty flavour combinations. The best of the best was the Olive Oil gelato. Yes. Seriously. A total knock out. Creamy, fruity, a bit pungent, this was fantastic. All the subtlety of olive oil brought out in this chilled medium.

Otto is a reasonable place to eat. They take reservations, they seat a million, and the prices are pretty reasonable, especially for the location. I feel like they try to channel you to drink wine, which isnt a bad thing, but at the end of the day, you have some decent food at decent prices, and some sparkling dishes in a monstrous sea of choices. Experiment a lot or pick carefully. You will hopefully find some of those diamonds too.

Otto on Urbanspoon