Phobulous – Edmonton, AB


Phobulous
8701 109 Street
Edmonton, AB
(780) 988-2696

As you leave the U of A campus headed towards 109th street, staring directly in front of you is a restaurant with signage reading, Phobulous Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine.

phobulous_interior

This may sound odd – but I found my first experience here to be unusual, only because I had never eaten Pho in a nice looking establishment with clean chairs, tables and stain-free walls.  This is a tiny little restaurant, walls adorned with some interesting art and a large menu full of options.

I am not a huge coffee connoisseur, but I do enjoy  Vietnamese style iced coffee.  Individually brewed in a Vietnamese phin filter over a cup containing sweetened condensed milk – waiting for this to finish brewing can be excruciating.  Once it has finished – stir in as much of the sweetened condensed milk to suit your personal taste, before pouring over the tall glass filled with ice.

phobulous_weasel_coffee

Phobulous serves a unique brand of coffee – known as Weasel Coffee.  Coffee starts its life growing on shrubs or bushes as a fruit, which is then harvested, the outer fruit separated from the bean, dried, roasted, ground and is then finally ready for use.  In some South Asian countries, they use a civet or weasel, which gladly goes to work eating only the ripest berries from the crop, digesting the outer fruit, while simultaneously chemically altering the beans characteristics removing the bitter notes.  Eventually it “discards” the coffee beans, which are then painstakingly collected by hand, and further processed.

If you ever watched the Flintstones cartoons, you may remember the clever uses the animals played in their daily lives.  (i.e. Octopus dishwashers, Pelican garbage can, bird-beak record player).  Harvesting of Kopi Luak/Civet/weasel coffee reminds me of this. Picture if you will – a weasel perched on the kitchen window, with its head outside munching on coffee berries. Wilma walks into the kitchen,  lifts the weasel tail – and out comes some freshly picked coffee beans…  🙂

I read an article about this a few years ago, when a friend of mine was describing something he called “cat poo coffee”.  Kopi Luwak was being toted as the worlds most expensive brew (some even offering a certificate of authenticity), but as popularity grew – oddly, prices seemed to drop.  Thus, it was not a surprise to find that an artificial process has been developed to simulate the weasel’s gastric effect on the beans, which is commonly being sold as the real thing.  Regardless of the type of coffee – when mixed with sweetened condensed milk, it’s all good.

Maybe it’s just the establishments I tend to go to – but this is the first time I’ve ever found more than one option for goi cuon (salad rolls).  Available are the classic shrimp and pork, vegetarian, grilled chicken or grilled la lop – wrapped together with rice noodles, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro and garnished with chives.

phobulous_goi_cuon

Photographed above are both the grilled chicken and the shrimp/pork.  Both were very good and prepared perfectly – the rice paper wrapper keeping its integrity and the fillings evenly balanced.  The dipping sauce is a thinned hoisin with crushed peanuts – providing a nice sweetness to roll.

In my past visits to this restaurant – I usually choose to go with the Pho dac Biet or humerously named Mother Pho. This is their fully-loaded Pho – served with rare steak, brisket, flank, tendon, beef balls, and tripe for $9.95 where the basic Pho Tai, named Pho Real is $7.95. For those who don’t quite get the joke – Pho is pronouced ‘fuh’ or as foot (without the ‘t’).

phobulous_motherpho

The broth is clear, with a great depth of flavour.  Noodles maintained a good bite, and quantity of toppings is fair.  The standard complement of bean sprouts, thai basil, lime, hoisin and sriracha were delivered as expected.

Hu Tieu Love? (The menu is full of this type of humor).
This Southern Vietnamese concoction is definitely worth another visit for me.  Pork-stock based broth, topped with chopped fried shallots and Chinese chives – delivers a sweeter, more complex broth as compared with the Northern Vietnam Pho.  Served with rice noodles, shrimp and plenty of thinly sliced pork – this was absolutely delicious.  I wish I could provide more commentary – but it was difficult trying to steal spoonfuls of soup without having my hand slapped away by my wife…

phobulous_hu_tieu

Located on the menu page labeled ‘Phobulous Introduces’ are a few interesting choices recommended by the server.  Ca-ri Ga (Chicken Curry Noodle Soup), Banh Mi Sate (Sate Sub), Bo Kho (Beef Stew) and Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Hue Noodle Soup).

The Ca-ri Ga, carried a mildly spicy broth of curry and coconut milk, served with large chunks of stewed carrots, potatoes, and tender chicken served over rice noodles.  Great flavours, very rich, and very good.

phobulous_cari_ga

The Bo Kho was fantastic.  The menu reads “A fragrant blend of star anise, lemongrass, carrots and tender beef brisket in a rich tomato broth served with rice noodles”.  Everything delivered as promised – and was good to the last drop. Anyone lacking solid chopstick skills will probably want to be extra careful, as the beef portions are rather large – and makes a big splash when dropped…

phobulous_bo_kho

Overall, I am very impressed with this restaurant.  I get the sense that the chef cares about the food being served both in presentation and in quality, service is attentive, and the atmosphere is great.  I will definitely be back again.

Phobulous on Urbanspoon

The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar – Seattle, WA


The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar
1301 Alaskan Way
Seattle, WA
(206) 623-3500

“One for the road!” my pal exclaimed as we toured the area around Pike Place Market in the evening hours before we made our trek back to Vancouver (following an afternoon at the ballpark and a light meal at Elysian Fields).

With the still blistery hot temperature of the day (an all-time high for Seattle) prevailing, we soon were desperate for some shade and relative comfort.  It was baffling how the ambient temperature seemed to drop a few degrees as we got closer and closer to the waterfront – much needed relief from the high 30C weather.  With only the desire to be in some more manageable environment and a cold one to kick back with, we stumbled upon The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar.  With its open patio, we figured it would suffice.  But a total tourist trap, I know…

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Fatburger – Edmonton, AB


Fatburger (South Edmonton Common)
1755-102 Street NW
Edmonton, AB AB T6N 0B1
(780) 469-8180

fatburger

What makes a good burger?  I’ve found this to be a tricky question to answer, because for me – there are too many variables (bun, patty, condiments, smells, sides, and atmosphere).

For example – an oversized bun, an overcooked patty curled up like a small dish, a slice of processed cheese, and ketchup squeezed out of a small package – served outdoors, with the smell of the BBQ, sun, and a park/campground/lake – makes for a great burger.  😉

The retro diner décor at Fatburger is nice, nothing over done.  With locations found throughout western Canada and the U.S., there are tidbits of information on how this chain started back in 1952 – through various photos and plaques on the walls.  There are plenty of booths and tables to sit and wait for your food to be served, with easy access to the self-serve drink station.

With only one till to order your food – it can be a little slow.  I’m sure this is done on purpose, as the addition of more tills wouldn’t make the burgers cook any faster.  Busy hours usually have a queue leading right out of the front door.

What I love about this place is that they have no fear of stating the truth.  With menu items named Fatburger, Double Fat, King Fat, and Crispy Fat Chicken – make sure you clear things with your doctor, as there is a possibility of becoming addicted to their burgers, which won’t do you much good in the long run.   For the health-conscious, there is a salad called the Fat Salad Wedge – with the first topping listed as diced bacon.

fatburger_doublefat

The burger shown above is the Double Fatburger with add-ons of cheese, and bacon.   Oh yeah – plus gravy on the fries!   My lunch companion opted out of the gravy, but added a fried egg to his burger and thoroughly enjoyed his Real Ice Cream Shake.

This is a well constructed burger:  the bun is just the right size – keeping everything together nicely.  The patties are packed loosely providing a nice texture, and the standard condiments are balanced nicely.   Overall – I thoroughly enjoyed this burger!  The gravy on the fries was good, although the fries themselves were not the greatest.

Definitely more expensive than your neighborhood fast-food joints, with your closest comparable being Red Robins.

Not trying to stir up any controversy, but there is a lot of advertising on how the beef is never frozen, and that they use the highest quality USDA approved beef.   I could not find anything to tell me whether this applies to the franchises in Canada?

Fatburger (SouthEd Common) on Urbanspoon

Ramen Ezogiku – Honolulu, HI


Ramen Ezogiku
2420 Koa Avenue
Honolulu, HI
Tel: (808) 922-2473‎

I admit, curiosity got to me when I saw the distinctive logo hanging from the banner outside this front entrance.  For our readers familiar with Vancouver, yes, this is the same chain that operates the two outlets in the Canadian city, both on Robson Street, going by the name of  Ezogiku Noodle Cafe.

Some more background…  The Tokyo honten (main branch) of Ezogiku is a tiny ten-person counter joint, located in the college-saturated station area of Takadanobaba, and competes with many ramen-ya and inexpensive eateries for the tight student wallet.  Offering a Sapporo-style miso ramen, Ezogiku has been around for over thirty-years and claims to be one of the first to bring true Sapporo miso ramen to the Kanto region.  Forgive me, but my first and only bowl there was way back in 1997, but I can faintly recall that it was pretty decent, a mid-thickness crinkly noodle and a miso soup that was on the heavier side on the fat meter.

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Elysian Fields – Seattle, WA


Elysian Fields
542 1st Ave South
Seattle, WA
Tel: (206) 382-4498

Preface: Being from Alberta, I know how at times it seems the province is actually part of Saskatchewan.  The seemingly large number of people from that Prairie province who live and work in Alberta, as well as those who actually make the journey to watch their beloved Roughriders football club play in cities like Edmonton and Calgary, further compounds this image.

On a recent day trip down to Seattle to catch the Toronto Blue Jays take on the local Mariners, I was surprised to find a row of ten young men decked out in full Roughriders fan gear – complete with those popular watermelon helmets, green body paint and colored wigs.  The curious and bewildered Yanks in the stands were coming down and taking pictures of these fellows, and as a Canadian, I was proud to see them showing love for our country (albeit, I am not a fan of that particular ball club, while my travel companion is).  Incidentally, the hottest daytime temperature ever in Seattle was recorded on this day!  Field level mercury was reported at 41 degrees C!

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Wild Tangerine – Edmonton, AB


Wild Tangerine
10388 – 112 Street
Edmonton, AB
(780) 429-3131

wildtangerine_frontage

If I was to open a restaurant of my own, I would experiment with some of my favorite flavours from around the world, and source out the best ingredients I could get my hands on.  Had this dream ever become reality – it probably would have looked something like this.

Wild Tangerine, centrally located on 104th Street is home to an unpretentious, fun and casual restaurant.  Described by others as  ‘east meets west’ or ‘Asian-Italian fusion’ – the menu is predominantly Asian flavours over local proteins, served with pastas, rice or vegetables.  A conscious effort has been made to use seasonal vegetables, and local meat which is antibiotic and growth-stimulant free.

wildtangerine_shrimplolipop

Anyone who has been here before, has probably had the shrimp lollipops.  A single large shrimp, skewered and wrapped in kataifi (shredded phyllo) – then fried to golden deliciousness.  Served with a side of wasabi yogurt, this never fails as a great starter.

Moving to the entrees – my wife chose the Thai Green Curry with Prawns & Tortiglioni.  Traditional gaeng kiow wahn (Thai green curry) is traditionally much soupier from the addition of water or coconut milk; however as photographed, expect more of a green curry paste stir-fry over pasta.  This dish provided a nice level of heat without burning-out any tastebuds.

wildtangerine_greencurry

So many cultures have devised a method of preparing pork.  Obvious favorites are bacon or pancetta, but for me – I whole-heartedly applaud the Chinese for inventing Cha-Siu.  Literal translation is ‘fork roasted’ but is commonly identified as the dark red BBQ pork found in Chinese markets.

So my choice this evening was the Cha-Siu Organic Pembina Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Tangerine Glaze.  The beautifully tender pork loin was served over a bed of gai lan (Chinese broccoli), and garnished with what I can only describe as carrot tagliatelle.  The tangerine glaze has a fantastic blend of sweet, sour, with a touch of spice.  Portion sizes were plentiful, but when something is this good – there is never enough…

wildtangerine_porktenderloin

Reviewing the dessert menu, we decided to share the the ‘Warm Gingered Bread Pudding, with banana ice cream’.  Presented with a carmelized sugar cap, the ginger provided a nice spice within the warm bread pudding (albeit more of a sponge cake).

wildtangerine_gingerpudding

As we were finishing up, we took a look through the ‘mobile cuisine’ options available in quick take-out containers.  An interesting selection of soups, sauces and stocks, ranging from $4 to $10.

Hmmm,  I think I just uncovered a secret from a recent dinner party…

Wild Tangerine on Urbanspoon

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice – Honolulu, HI


Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
525 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI
(808) 735-8884

One of the several pre-trip, researched spots on my food adventures in Hawaii was Waiola.  It was also noted by someone I know who has a residence in Honolulu that it was along the same road as some others I’d asked him about, so as far as location went, it was perfect.

In a pretty run down looking building, complete with some garish plastic banners and graffiti, Waiola is mainly about the shave ice desserts.  Nothing more refreshing on a hot summer Hawaiian day.  A few other customers came in while we were there, along with a delivery guy who brought in huge cubes of solid ice.

Stepping inside does nothing to improve the sense of it having a dated and in need of a refresh design.  But this is part of the appeal of the place, knowing that despite its popularity and well known name, they haven’t plugged the money into expensive furnishings or makeovers.  At the same time, they’re not avert to plastering the joint with pages from various media publications that have reviewed or profiled the place.

With anywhere from thirty to forty toppings and flavors, Waiola can probably meet any craving you have for a tasty shave ice.  With its distinct soft, fine shavings, I tell you they are addictive.  And you get none of that dreaded “brain freeze” from say a more liquidly-ice concoction.  We tried a trio of flavors.  Pictured above, the adzuki (Japanese sweet bean) and mochi (Japanese rice cake balls) combination.  Easily the version among the three we ordered with the most interesting textures with each bite, and the sweetness was not too strong.

In comparison, this pineapple-flavored very basic shave ice was cleaner in taste profile and probably more refreshing as there was less to have to chew.  The fine shavings once again proved to be excellent – and I enjoyed this one more than the one I had at Island Freeze days earlier, thus confirming that Waiola is one of the best shave ice joints on the island.

Lastly, another Japanese-influenced flavoring in the matcha with mochi provided yet another twist.  Almost like a blended coffee-like drink as the flavoring was “heavier” than just the pineapple syrup of the other dish above.

So as you can see, this was just a sample of a few varieties of shave ice to be had at Waiola.  I’m sure there are many more interesting combinations to choose from, and perhaps if you make a visit, you can try them out for yourself.  If there are any readers who have any recommendations, please do leave them in our comment box for this post!

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice on Urbanspoon