at Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
If anyone asks how to find this place, just mention the eye-catching, replica Terracotta figures proudly standing guard at the entrance of the Northern Delicacy restaurant. With an open, well-lit, clean, modern looking dining space, it certainly is a welcome change from many of the more grungier, poorly laid out, hole-in-the-wall joints that one can find in this city by the airport. With wait staff that is for the most part more attentive as well, an eating experience here feels a lot less rushed, more pleasant and welcoming from the customer perspective.
As we were greeted and led to our table, we passed by a private dining room at the front of house, which was unoccupied on this particular evening. Curious, I wanted to know more about it and posed some questions. Our male server quickly replied that it required a $700 minimum group charge, to which I followed up by asking “how many could it seat?”. “15 people”, he replied, so doing a rough calculation that would come to about $47/head. Not cheap.
Without further adieu, this is what we ordered…
Mission Burger (by Mission Street Food)
inside Duc Loi Supermarket
2200 Mission St (between 18th St & 19th St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Food and cooking knowledge can come from a variety of sources. Being a detail-oriented person, I really enjoy shows that explain why, not just what. Aside from Alton Brown, who has really started turning me off with his over the top corny humour, one show that I really enjoy is the BBC classic “In Search of Perfection” with Michelin 3 star chef Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck. He really caught my attention with his episode on steak (it really works btw), and I’ve enjoyed the knowledge, and the hilarity of his exploits.
In his cookbook Further Adventures In Search of Perfection, Heston Blumenthal reinvents the burger to deliver what he feels is the perfect burger. While in principal, his ideas are fantastic, in practice, they are often so time consuming, and difficult to source the ingredients, that it just isn’t feasible for us “normal” people. I remember duplicating his steak recipe, and the total time required before i could put fork to mouth was almost 48 hours. His burger recipe, as tested by the dedicated hamburger folks at aht (serious eats), took over 30 hours. For a hamburger.
Enter Mission Burger, brought to you by Mission Street Food – a not for profit organization that donates their proceeds to charity. In the entire lunch counter revival I was discussing in the Villa Mexico post, they’ve set up a burger counter inside the Duc Loi Supermarket in the Mission.
There are a few very notable things about Mission Burger.
Lao Shan Dong Homemade Noodle House
Taiwan, one of the few countries that I have not visited in Asia. As such, my exposure to the island nation’s cuisine is still a bit hazy in my mind and my only experiences have been here in North America. Through the years and particularly in the Vancouver area, I’ve been taken to a few places that feature Taiwanese beef noodles. Lao Shan Dong is one of them, and I can count at least five trips to eat their variation of this dish.
Nestled in a commercial building facing the busy Kingsway road right across from Metropolis at Metrotown, there seemingly is always a decent crowd inside. Perhaps the constant opening and closing of the door results in the constant chilly temperature inside the glass window enclosed eatery – I never feel quite comfortable in there. Alas, a steaming bowl of noodles in hot soup can remedy that, but the initial waiting time is always killer. With the beef noodles taking longer than other dishes, such as the various mini appetizers that are marinated, pickled, etc. (pig’s ear, anyone?) that are displayed on one of the counters, I’ve on some occasions ordered these dumplings that seemed more boiled than steamed judging by all the water on the bottom of the plate. With a thicker skin, and a not so flavourful interior, I get these more for filler than anything else.
32 Church Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Just like some blog posts, sometimes, a meal has to be quick and dirty. You’re pressed for time, you have a group of hungry stragglers, you need to eat in proximity to your next destination – there isnt always time for the best find, the well researched location, or the perfect stop. Sometimes, you need places like the Border Cafe.
Stepping off the T from Logan at Harvard Square, I found myself still quite a ways from my destination, but starving. Skipping lunch on the airplane had seemed like a good idea at the time, but combined with a few delays, I definitely didn’t have the energy to haul my luggage across Boston for another hour. My companion points out a popular college spot just up the street – a small regional chain called Border Cafe. “It’s not the best, but it’s edible”. I would’ve settled for McDonalds at this point, so Border Cafe it is.
You know what Border Cafe is – almost every town has one. “Tex Mex”. It serves all the classic favorites – fajitas, burgers, beer, margaritas. It’s Chili’s, but a little more diverse, and a little less “McModified”.
The Border Cafe in Cambridge is in the heart of Harvard Square, which makes it a very popular destination for college students. The location is huge – and tables are fairly tightly packed together. If i was to estimate, i figure the capacity was at least 350 to 400 people. On two floors.
Sadly, yours truly is currently on forced exiled in the wintery tundra of Alberta, specifically the freezing cold city of Calgary where a few minutes of prolonged exposure to the outside elements can result in some unpleasant, numbing sensations on your skin and extremities. Winter in the prairies is not my cup of tea, despite my past of living in these brutal winter conditions for many, many years.
Perhaps taking a cue from the stalled offensive machine of the local National Hockey League club that is mired in a seven game winless streak, the below zero temperatures have seriously stunted my drive to explore the city’s culinary scene, and the changes wrought since I last lived here. But as fate would have it, sitting on the top of a pile of magazines in my hotel room was one that had the bold faced text trumpeting “Calgary’s Best Restaurants”. With a publication date of January/February 2010, it was fortunately not an out of date rag. Exploration in the comfort of my hotel room – perfect!
As I settled in, I began perusing the magazine, beginning with this note from the editor. Again, the mention of a respectable crew of commentators from the city was noted as those being responsible for the rankings inside. Fair enough, “let’s hear it” I thought, and I moved to the pages deeper in the approximately 80-page piece, seeking the wisdom of those “people who know Calgary’s restaurants inside and out”, and read about their choices for the “establishments that they felt would make a lasting impression of Calgary for visitors like (me)”.
Villa Mexico Cafe
296 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114
Lunch counters and gas station corners were home to some great food in the past, and are experiencing a come back. Low rent, high traffic locations, they seem like the ideal kinds of places for cheap, tasty eats. The idea of food in a gas station always reminds me of Crete Souvlaki in Calgary – one of the best tzatziki in town served out of a gas station.
Villa Mexico Cafe is located in a gas station in the swanky district of Beacon Hill in Boston. If you’ve ever walked around Beacon Hill, you’ll understand how different this is than the rest of the neighbourhood. The only indication that burrito’s are available inside, is a small sandwich board pronouncing the greatness within.
I don’t mean to carry a West Coast bias, but when it comes to burritos, I find that the East Coast just typically cannot compare. The East Coast has some great upscale Mexican eateries, but most of the time, I like my Mexican food fast and cheap. That means tacos, burritos, tamales, tortas.
553 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116-6306
For the most part, I value good food over service. I used to say to people that “food is all that matters – service is irrelevant if the food isn’t good”, but i’ve since backed off such a polarized view. After all, i realized that great service often colors one’s view of the food (it can be hard to separate the two – since you *want* to like the food more). And really good food with lousy service, sometimes isnt worth it. Depending on the situation of course.
A pricey, well regarded South End bistro with a special Sunday Brunch menu, Hamersley’s Bistro continually draws rave reviews for their food and service. Seemed like a nice place to meet up with family for a tasty meal. Especially when meeting the new “boyfriend” for the first time.
The inside of Hamersley’s Bistro has a nice, though formal feeling to it. White linen, columns, high arching ceilings, there is a tremendous amount of light that makes the space feel comfortable, yet a bit formal for my preference.