G-Men Ramen – Richmond, BC


G-Men Ramen
#1101-3778 Sexsmith Road
Richmond, BC
(778) 296-3779

December 2009 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Yes, another ramen post from yours truly.  I suppose its become my staple and fallback.  And if you have not guessed by now, my preferred comfort and post-drinking meal.  Old Tokyo habits never die…

G-Men Ramen opened in March of this year to some fanfare given its backing from the Gyoza King Group – operators of the famous Gyoza King joint in downtown Vancouver, as well as Nan Chu in Richmond and Gyoza King’s Robston Street neighbour, Chico Coffee & Dessert Bar.  Creating their latest enterprise as a ramen offering and in the heavily Asian population of Richmond sounded like a smart decision, given this demographic’s tastes for noodles.  I decided though to give it a few months leeway and smooth out its operations before visiting.

As noted on the operating hours sign posted at the front entrance, you will be in for a surprise if you come mid-week and find it closed.  Actually, my first visit on a weekend afternoon resulted in a seriously disappointing announcement by one of the servers that they had RUN OUT OF SOUP!  A serious violation of the ramen-ya‘s code of honour and no doubt a black mark on their record for true rameniacs.  Despite her plea to come in and try one of their non-soup noodle dishes or other items, I declined and pledged to come back.

On each of the three occasions that I’ve come here so far, there has been a lineup or active wait list to get in.  I’d say an average of about 15-20 minutes.  Even when its been brutally hot outside (plus 30), the string of people exists, much to my amazement.

Though not pictured above, on my last visit I noticed that there was a hand written mark next to the four ramen options now, noting that the Tonkotsu (in reality a Tonkotsu Shoyu) and the Miso (Tonkotsu broth) were only available in the evening, and the other two (chicken-based broths of Shoyu and Shio) could only be had for lunch.  I suppose that is their solution to minimizing their soup stock supply run outs.  I’m hoping they resolve that and allow for all four options at all times of day, and never run out.

As one would hope in a ramen-ya, there is a counter bar here (four stools), plus table seating for at least another 25 behinds.  Only with the bar, it doesn’t give you full viewing access to a food prep station behind the counter, like you get at say Kintaro.  Instead, the kitchen area is further back and behind a barrier wall, with only a small cut out window where you can see the master in the kitchen.

Design-wise, it’s clear the developers are going with a retro theme, of Showa-era Japan.  Much like what you see at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum.  Overall, it has that outdoor stand-type of feel (yatai) that reflects the roots of ramen.  The hand picked driftwood adorning the windows are also apparently the manager’s personal design touch.  The from-a-previous-time Japanese motorcycles placed in the window and outside the front door, are also some nice aesthetic touches to complete the theme.

Once inside and seated, upon seeing the old school television program playing on the flatscreen above the counter bar, I made the connection as well as the play on words with the place’s name.  You see, G-Men, is derived from the G in Gyoza and the Japanese word for noodles (e.g. men).  And one of the most popular televisions shows of the mid ’70s in Japan was a cop drama called G-Men 75. The owner must clearly be a fan of that bit of pop culture and of that time in Japan’s modern history.

As some readers might have caught on, there’s been a rush of hiyashi chuka dishes in Vancouver this summer.  G-Men was not left out of this trend as they had a separate menu sheet displaying their version.  It was a bit unorthodox in terms of its toppings, and quite plentiful.

So much so that they overwhelmed the noodles that were completely hidden from view when the plate was brought out to the table.  The fried garlic chips were very much something I hadn’t seen before on this dish, but they added a nice crunch to the otherwise mainly soft textured toppings.  The flavored sauce was a soy/rice vinegar mixture, though for my tastes the soy sauce could have been stronger. All in all, I’m holding a favorable opinion of it, though wasn’t totally blown away.

Lastly, the Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen.  Off the top, I have to say this is my current ramen favorite in town, when it comes to the kotteri (heavy) type.  An even balance with the shoyu base cuts the heaviness of the pork broth, resulting in a more fluid soup.  The thin slices of chashu, of which there were too, nice and rich and fatty.  I’ve sampled it twice now and can guarantee I will be back for a third and more.

Sure, the other broths beckon, as well as the more izakaya-like donburi.

The thing I noticed at our table and scanning the bowls of nearby dinners, is that G-Men gets it right with the careful allocation of thicker noodles to the likes of the Tonkotsu Shoyu and Miso broths, and a thinner strand for the Shio and Hiyashi Chuka.

Finally, a look at the gyoza.  Being the backbone of the group company that runs the place, I was slightly taken back by the lack of oomph I got from these morsels.  They were so-so, nothing to write home about, and frankly I think my homemade ones taste better. 🙂  I wish they had come out in a more timely manner though, as they came out at virtually the end of the meal, when the noodle dishes were almost all gone.

Still a few things to work out is what I get from my multiple visits here.  The constant flow of customers probably doesn’t quite enable them to take it easy and re-group easily and the servers are doing their best.  Perhaps the kitchen could use some more help in cranking out the bowls as well.

On another note, I am still kind of amused by the way locals here take in their ramen.  I’ve never seen such a leisurely group of customers, taking their time well after a meal to sit around and chat even though they can see people clamoring at the front door.  You see, ramen to me is fast food.  Order, get it, eat it, leave.   And do it all quickly.  Say what you will about the danger of wolfing down a steaming bowl of soup, but to allow others to partake a solid ramen, is something you have to acknowledge.  I’m thinking a few times eating in really popular ramen-ya where waiting customers are literally standing right behind you waiting to get a seat, is what’s needed to entice the crowd to speed things up, especially when there is a lineup.   Oh well, rant over. 🙂

G-Men Ramen on Urbanspoon

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Nobu – Las Vegas, NV


Nobu –  Las Vegas
4455 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89169
Tel: 702.693.5090

Nobu, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant chain following in the footsteps of the original ‘Matsuhisa’.  This chain – was created by Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert deNiro.  This high-end chain of restaurants has a presence in cities across the globe.

My first ever visit to Las Vegas was work related – to attend one of their massive conventions.  Lucky for me, my boss (at the time) shared a love for Japanese food, which resulted in my required attendance for dinner at Nobu.  Located inside the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel, Nobu is tucked away just off the main floor casino.  I didn’t have much time to peruse the menu – as we had decided prior to arriving that we would be having the ‘omakase’ (Chef’s choice) dinner.

They offer two different versions of ‘omakase’.  The first ~$100 included a selection of regular menu items, filtered by preferences and general likes/dislikes as questioned by the server.   The second version ~$150 included some more exotic items, and higher quality ingredients.  This posting covers two separate dining experiences about a year apart – covering both.

BASIC OMAKASE:

After enjoying a round of cocktails to get the evening started, the fun began:

The first dish to arrive was a bluefin toro tartar with black caviar.  Chopped toro sashimi, formed in a circle mold, sitting in a sauce of soy, wasabi, garlic and onion.  This was by far – my absolute favorite!  (My dining companion had issues with caviar, which they gladly accommodated.)

Bluefin toro tartare with (and without) caviar

Bluefin toro tartare with (and without) caviar

Second to arrive was kampachi sashimi, each slice topped with thin slices of jalapeno pepper.  I’ve had this (since) prepared both as-described, and with the ‘new-style sashimi’ twist – where the sashimi is drizzled with smoking-hot oil.  In both cases – the cool buttery kampachi and kick from the jalapeno, match spot-on.

Kampachi sashimi with Jalapeno

Kampachi sashimi with Jalapeno

Third dish, was a seared tuna salad.  Specifically – I believe this was seared ahi-tuna, with two small pieces of maki (snow crab wrapped with daikon), dressed with a ponzu & daikon dressing.  Unanimous decision –  this was superb.

Seared tuna salad

Seared tuna salad

Fourth, was announced as Nobu’s signature dish – black cod in miso.  Baked black cod in a sweet miso sauce, garnished with a fried shiso leaf, and umeboshi.  My dining companion selected this as their favorite at the end of the evening.

Black Cod with Miso

Black Cod with Miso

Fifth to arrive was the rock shrimp tempura with creamy spicy sauce.  The sauce is a spicy mayo, where the spice heat-level is quite low.  Of all of the dishes – this was the least interesting.  Still very addictive, but it seemed a little too common for this setting.

Rock Shrimp in creamy-spicy sauce

Rock Shrimp in creamy-spicy sauce

Next a plate of Nigiri Sushi arrived – with a basic selection of items.  Well made, and presented – as expected.

Nigiri Sushi

Nigiri Sushi

Lastly – a small bento box arrived containing the dessert course.  Removing the lid, uncovered a flourless chocolate cake, green tea ice cream, and a white chocolate sauce.  The photographed dish was the special birthday presentation they provided – containing the same items – but with a nice birthday flair.

Flourless chocolate cake with green tea ice cream

Flourless chocolate cake with green tea ice cream

Overall – this dining experience does sit as one of the more memorable.   Each dish was very well done, tasted great, and all parties enjoyed every single dish!

SPECIAL OMAKASE:

Again, starting the meal with a round of cocktails, we eagerly awaited the food tour to begin:

Trio of Ceviches:  An oyster shooter (fresh oyster with a citrus sauce and an egg yolk), Lobster Ceviche & Caviar:  (not my favorite – it seemed as though they forgot to add a sauce), and bluefin toro tartar with caviar (similar to the basic omakase – one of my favorites)!

Trio of Ceviches

Trio of Ceviches

Next was a kampachi sashimi, dressed with diced shallots, grated daikon and yuzu.

Kampachi Sashimi

Kampachi Sashimi

Another sashimi dish arrived next, containing seared salmon with micro greens, dill, and a light miso dressing.

Seared Salmon

Seared Salmon

Then came the sharkfin.   I don’t have a photo of this dish, but probably for the best as I’m sure this may trigger some comments that eating this promotes cruelty to sharks.  It was prepared in such a way that it looked like a semi-opaque, gelatinous noodle, served in a shallow dish coated with a similar looking sauce.  No real discernable flavor – just a unique texture.   Not something I’d ever intentionally order or crave to eat.

Next, we started moving to some more substantial eats.  Lobster, seared fois-gras, shiitake mushrooms, and white asparagus puree.  Superb!

Lobster, Fois-gras, shiitake, and white asparagus puree

Lobster, Fois-gras, shiitake, and white asparagus puree

Then came the wagyu beef, grilled asparagus and ponzu.  Believe it or not – I was on the fence with this dish.  Was it good –  definitely yes.   Does wagyu beef taste better than all other beef – this is where I have trouble answering yes…      However, the tender, fatty beef and ponzu sauce – was an absolute perfect match.

Wagyu Beef

Wagyu Beef

Next, we were served a small bowl of asari miso (soup with baby clams), and an offering of nigiri sushi.  Compare this selection against the basic omakase, and it’s clear how they step-up to a completely different league – amaebi, escolar, giant clam, kampachi, o-toro (amazing).

Nigiri Sushi

Nigiri Sushi

Finally – the dessert course.  A nice (not too sweet) selection of biscotti, and caramel flavored quenelles of what I thought was marscarpone.

Biscotti & caramel quenelles

Biscotti & caramel quenelles

Overall – the special omakase seemed as though it was a parade of expensive ingredients, for the sake of nothing more than to try and use them…  If I’m faced with the decision between the two options again – I am almost certain I would choose the basic omakase, as there wasn’t a single item that I didn’t like.

Las Vegas is now full of celebrity-chef endorsed restaurants – but if you win a few on the casino floor and have a couple hours to enjoy a nice meal – I’d suggest giving Nobu’s omakase a toss of the dice.

Nobu (Hard Rock) on Urbanspoon

Joey’s Global Grill & Lounge – Edmonton, AB


Joey’s Global Grill & Lounge
9911 19 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB T6N 1M4
(780) 465-1880

Joey’s South Common is the upscale version of the more common Joey Tomato’s found throughout this and other cities.  Taking advantage of a beautiful summer day in Edmonton, we slid out of the office a good half-hour before noon to ensure we could grab a table on the outdoor patio.  Good thing we did, as most of the tables were already filled by the time we got there – although this could have been due to the sunny Friday afternoon in which we chose to visit this establishment.  The outdoor patio is equipped with a full bar, water features, shade umbrellas, and plenty of staff to keep drinks refilled, and the plates moving.

After perusing the “world-inspired” menu, the ‘Baja Fish Tacos’ caught my attention.  My lunch companions ordered the ‘Tandoori Chicken Flatbread’, and ‘Viva Salad’.  We shared a laugh when we got to reminiscing about a lunch at this same restaurant years ago, when I ordered this same salad — but distinctly recall it being called the ‘DIVA Salad’ (as I had to endure quite the verbal onslaught from my friends at the table that afternoon).  Maybe other customers shared this experience, resulting in the name change?  Who knows!?

The service on this day was very quick – replacing drinks just as they crossed the half-way point – and the food arrived surprisingly quick considering how busy the patio was.

My trio of tacos arrived on a clever taco stand, with a plentiful side dish of Mexican hot sauce (which was actually mild, even for my low heat tolerance).  Flavor of the tacos was quite tame — which made the sauce a must.  Overall – not the worst fish tacos I’ve ever had; however, the biggest drawback to my meal was the unfortunate luck of sitting downwind of my companion’s tandoori chicken.  Don’t get me wrong – I am an Indian food junkie — but if 75% of what we perceive as taste actually comes from the olfactory receptors – I was smelling Indian food, while putting Mexican on the actual tastebuds…

Baja Fish Taco

Baja Fish Taco

The tandoori chicken flatbread looked great, and as mentioned – smelled great.  The server commented that this was her choice of the trio, but two of our group didn’t find it all that exciting.  Comparing this to your average Indian restaurant, I would have to say this falls short.  Maybe to those who haven’t experienced really good Indian food – this might suffice as a nice introduction to the cuisine?

Tandoori Chicken Flatbread

Tandoori Chicken Flatbread

Last, but certainly not least is the ‘Viva Salad’.  I’ve been a big fan of this salad (as far as meal-worthy salads go).  The apples add a nice sour note, the Craisins provide a nice sweetness, and the roasted chicken is tender and seems to absorb just the right amount of the balsamic dressing.  Maybe it was the heat, but the lettuce was a bit on the wilty side, but still within a tolerable state.

Viva Salad

Viva Salad

I find my experience(s) at Joey’s most fun when the intention is to go for a few drinks and a couple bites.   Every experience I’ve had for lunch or dinner, has resulted in at least one individual who was a little let down with their meal, while another is satisfied.  Maybe this is due to their attempt to bring such a variety of world influences to a single menu – which makes them the restaurant equivalent of a “Jack of all trades, and a master of none”.

Joey's Global Grill (SouthEd Common) on Urbanspoon

Foodosophy – Taxing to Eat


Scanning the news today, I began to wonder how quickly the tide changes from a mood of doom and gloom to sunshine and joy… based on some events that took place in recent days.

News media are happily reporting on the gains made on the TSE today (Thursday) as the Bank of Canada has come out suggesting the recession is over (and noted a 3% rise in economic growth for the Jan-Mar 2009 period), and the Canadian dollar crept up to 92.04 cents U.S.

And today, the BC government has announced they will harmonize the province’s 7% sales tax with the national 5% GST beginning next July. Allegedly done to give the business community a competitive, equal footing with other markets, but to me, I had to look at how it affects me… Mr. Joe Regular. And keeping with the dominant theme of this site, I wondered just how this will affect the power of my dining out dollar.

Brian Bonney, director of provincial affairs with the B.C. and Yukon branch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, was interviewed in a Vancouver Sun article and this comment was attributed to him in explaining a very key point for us restaurant fanatics.

“Under the new tax system, the HST will apply to all goods and services to which the GST currently applies, with a few exceptions. So restaurants, for example, will have to start charging 12 per cent on meals when they currently only charge the GST on the meal and the combined PST and GST on alcohol.”

OUCH!

Let’s just hope a corresponding reduction in base prices coincides with this tax hike on restaurant meals.

Weigh in readers…

Dadeo New Orleans Diner and Bar – Edmonton, AB


Dadeo New Orleans Diner and Bar
10548A 82 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB
(780) 433-0930

While there are differences between Cajun, Creole, and Southern food, I couldnt name many off the top of my head. Local and native versus European influence is how i was taught to distinguish between the two, but with Dadeo, this dilemma is solved. They offer both.

Dadeo is an eclectic diner on Edmonton’s spirited Whyte Avenue.  They serve lunch and dinner every day except Wednesdays,  and are open late. I have always found the biggest oddity with them is not the bright, kitschy decor, nor the menu, but the fact kids arent allowed. They function as a restaurant, but are licensed as a bar, so they maintain a strict 18 years and older policy. Unfortunate for the times that i wish to meet friends with kids for lunch, this is very inconvenient, as they serve some good, simple fare.

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The Dadeo menu is an all things to all people kind of menu – which frequent readers will know i dislike. However, what it means is some homework, and some reconnaissance need to be done in order to navigate the extensive menu to find the real treasures – because really good comfort food does exist.

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My favorite entree at Dadeo is the Combo Fabio. Half St. Louis ribs, half fried chicken, it’s a great sample of two good entrees. The seasoned fried chicken has crispy seasoned skin, but invariably ends up a touch dry. The ribs are tender and moist, and doused in sauce. Not my preferred BBQ style, but there is something satisfying about the messy satisfaction of eating wet ribs.

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Po Boys are Cajun style sandwiches served with a variety of fillings. Pictured is crab cake. Often decent, occasionally a bit dry. The blackened catfish is usually quite good, and the blackened chicken is a safe choice as well.  They are on special for lunch as well – so that is the best time to indulge.

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My first memory of Dadeo involved an angel hair pasta with seafood and bananas foster. This classic dish for two is a heart attack waiting in a bowl, but oh my what a way to go. Banana’s with rum flambeed in a pound of butter, brown sugar, and poured over ice cream. The table side service is a nice touch, and the taste is to die for. Rich, decadent, best shared with one or two people.

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Every Edmontonian i know loves Dadeo. I have to say, at this point, it is likely more institution than great dining experience, but it is still worth trying unless you frequent the Southern United States. The food is solid, hearty, and comforting. Definitely heavy, greasy, and good value. These values appeal to Edmontonians – as the long lineups and wait times are a testament to the popularity of Dadeo. It’s not the best food in town, but I never complain about ending up there. Definitely worth a sample, along with a beer. I’d pass on the chili beer though – neither Cajun, nor Creole, it is interesting, but hard to stomach more than a few drinks. Save the room for your meal, you’ll be glad you did.

Dadeo New Orleans Diner and Bar on Urbanspoon

New Brighton Pool Concession – Vancouver, BC


New Brighton Pool
North Windermere Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 298-0222

fries

(This is a bit of a “drive-by” post, but I think it is worthy.) We are now in the midst of our summer here in Vancouver, and to me, that means it is time for some fries at the public pool.

The concession stand here at New Brighton Pool in East Vancouver serves my favourite concession fries in the Lower Mainland. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside with just a tinge of delectable greasiness. Most concession stands at Vancouver parks serve up atrocious fries – very greasy and tasting of old, unfiltered fryer oil. Not here….it tastes fresh every time.

Adding to that gastronomic experience is the view that is quintessential East Van – the industrial port in the near distance, bounded by train tracks and the Horse Stables at the Track by the PNE to the south. Summer in the city.

Where is your favourite concession chip stand?

Puka Dog – Honolulu, HI


Puka Dog
Waikiki Town Center
2301 Kuhio Avenue #2
Honolulu, HI 96815
Tel: (808) 924-7887
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10AM to 10PM

Refreshing twists to orthodox food or dishes is a delicate balancing act when it comes to yours truly…

For some things, I am a devout traditionalist and really appreciate those who respect the “old way” and cringe at words like fusion, or “east meets west”.  At other times, I am much more lenient with a chef’s creative inspirations and open minded to trying something “different” from the classic interpretation.

I can’t say I have a hard and fast rule to describe where this fine line exists, but it could be that it rests with just how “common” a food item may be.  The more “everyday man” food it is, the greater the probability that I will accept a variation that is above and beyond the standard image I hold of it in my mind.  Dear readers, would you say you hold a similar or contradictory mentality when it comes to “new ways of doing food”?

—–

It was by just sheer chance that I came across Puka Dog while strolling along Kuhio Avenue.  Previous to me stepping in front of the doors, I had never heard anything about this place and thus was unaware that it had a cult following and had received some press from the likes of the Travel Channel (as the manager of the store keenly mentioned to me when he asked what brought me to his counter).

I responding that the lettering on the glass window facing the street suggested to me it was something unique and thus curiosity got to me.  The influence of Japadog in Vancouver probably got me thinking this way –  another way of presenting and flavouring simple hot dogs?  That’s something I just had to try.

The ordering process is your basic conveyor line approach.  Walk inside and the cashier takes your order.  Step one, choose either the Polish sausage or Veggie dog –  the latter being a much thinner wiener from what I saw (and apparently harder to get cooked right in their grill).  Next, select the heat level of the “garlic lemon secret sauce”: Mild Original, Spicy Jalepeno, Hot Chili Pepper, or Hot Hot Habanero.

Then the flavouring choices diverts into two paths: Tropical Relishes or Traditional (ketchup, mustard, regular relish).  Not sure why you’d want to go with the latter, as that doesn’t really make the whole experience happen, but some in line I heard did.  The Hawaii-influenced relishes include Mango, Pineapple, Papaya, Coconut, Banana, and Star Fruit.   I elected to try the Mango relish and added a side that came in a small cup of the Hawaiian Lilikoi mustard, as recommended to me, and it indeed was a good match when pasted in with the small ice cream cup wooden spoon.

Watching the construction of the dogs is interesting.  As seen from the above image, the buns first of all, are not your regular hot dog type.  The soft texture reminded me of the delicious Filipino bread rolls better known as Pan De Sal.  Each long single bun is wrapped in paper and literally pierced on one side down the middle (with “puka” meaning hole in Hawaiian) by placing it on this rack of hot steel tubes that look like mini missiles that heat and toast the core.  The sausages are placed in a grilling deck that shoots them out once they are fully cooked in a nearby resting tray.  The key here that really surprised me was just how evenly crispy the sausage was, even at both ends.  Taking that first bite, it was like a cap tearing off the tip of the dog – great for crispy food lovers.

Once the bun is ready, some squirts of the garlic lemon sauce (from plastic bottles) and the relish (from the multiple relish taps that line the counter much like beer taps in a bar) is deposited in the bottom of the bun.  Next, the wiener is inserted with some tongs, and then more of the sauces are added in from the top. With multiple orders, I could see how painstaking a process this is, in making sure you are putting in the right type of garlic lemon sauce and relish into each dog.  Nothing worse than expecting a mild tone and finding an erroneous inclusion of hot Habanero sauce!  Eating it feels very much like consuming a donair or Shawarma as you work your way down the bun trying to keep all the insides from dripping out of the paper envelope.

As much as I enjoy your standard fare hotdog with ketchup, mustard and relish, this Puka Dog was so unique not only in its flavoring combinations but the texture and cut of the bun and the all-around crispy wiener, that makes me proclaim that perhaps its my new favourite type of hot dog.  I only wish they had an outlet on the west coast of Canada.  If you are ever on Oahu, or Kauai (their first branch), I recommend you give it a try as the hype is well deserved!  Oh, and don’t forget the fresh squeezed lemonade.

Puka Dog (Waikiki Town Center) on Urbanspoon