House of Wings – Burnaby, BC


House of Wings Restaurant And Lounge
7155 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 540-6465

Sports on big screens + beer + wings.  A trademark trio of any proud joint that offers the key staples that satisfy the average athletics loving, red-blooded Canadian male when out for some drinks with the boys.  Throw in some pretty girls as service staff and a win for the home team, and you pretty much have paradise.  Yes, men are easy to please.

With the Canucks season long over, the tv sports scene is in a state of limbo, as its still early in the MLB season and football is still months away, so the likes of MMA (such as last night’s UCF 114, and the upcoming UFC 115 in Vancouver) are what keep most of these places busy with thirsty customers on a late weekend evening.  And to fill the seats before the rush, is that phenomenon called happy hour (with 37 cent wings).

With a name like House of Wings, frankly they better do a good job with these chicken appendages.  As the other wings place down the road was busy with a public fund raising event, it became the default choice for this quick stop with tee.

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Lattanzi – New York, NY


Lattanzi Ristorante Italiano
361 West 46 Street
New York, NY
(212) 315-0980

My experiences in New York City are very limited and thus the confidence and knowledge I have about where the good places are to eat is still very much a work in progress.  So much so that I didn’t even realize that I’d stumbled upon “Restaurant Row”, a stretch of 46th street in the theater district, which is home to a compact area of assorted restaurants.   With no set plan and aimless wandering on a photo walk just to get a feel for this part of town, we came upon this area with empty stomachs and just as the sun was setting and the scene was turning dark.   It was later that I learned that there is a general consensus that this area is not considered the best of what NYC has to offer, but I did appreciate the look and feel of this strip, especially for its cozy setup and ease of access to several restaurants to eat at.  For the lazy visitor to the city, its a welcome arrangement.  And in the mood for Italian, Lattanzi appeared before us and we stepped inside.

Without a reservation, we were asked to have  a seat at the bar just down the stairs from the street side entrance, and it was about fifteen minutes before a table opened up.  Typical New York, as the other patrons enjoying a drink included a pair of talkative and flirty cougars who were pounding back martinis and clearly were inebriated, and a trio of artsy-types going over some sketches of what looked to be an interior design project.  To complete the Italian experience, the bartender was a greasy, slicked back hair fellow, with a notable Italian accent.  While waiting, it was interesting to see the clientele of this place dining inside –  some older couples and groups, obvious casually dressed tourists, and then several really attractive models and their entourages had overtaken the second floor area.

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Ristorante Avanti – Santa Cruz, CA


Ristorante Avanti
1711 Mission Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

(831) 427-0135

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.

I recall that the brilliant food writer Jonathan Gold once wrote that he’s been to Campanile in Los Angeles hundreds of times.  When I read that maybe 10 or 15 years ago, I couldn’t even fathom such a concept.  But now the combination of steady employment and living in one place for a good chunk of time has conspired to generate a small handful of places that I’ve been to so many times and with which I have such a relationship that it’s less a business and more an annex of my own home.  One of them is Ristorante Avanti, owned and run by Cindy and Paul Geise for over twenty years and still going strong.

What leads me and the many other regulars to return so often? I suspect it’s the combination of well-executed food with a menu that has both dishes that I know will be available when I’m in need of something tried, true and delicious, and a rotating list of daily specials that ensures there’s always something new and exciting to try.

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Alvin Garden [Revisited] – Burnaby, BC


Alvin Garden
4850 Imperial Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 437-0828

Wow, its been over a year since gastro first introduced (it seems, to the world) this Hunan Chinese restaurant on the pages of foodosophy.  Much has been written about it since in the blogosphere, and it now has its share of fiery (to match the food) fans.  Pretty impressive for a place with a somewhat odd sounding English name, Alvin Garden.

Despite passing it numerous times since but never having solid plans to venture in with a group, I recently broke the barrier and visited as a solo lunch diner, just to get myself a small sample.  Well aware the experience in Chinese cuisine is best shared across many plates and with as large a party as possible in order to get a full range experience, I temper this report by saying that I only had one of their single plate, lunch specials.   As I looked around, there were just two other tables of two occupied this noon hour and from what I could tell, they were all doing the same kind of ordering.  With lunch deals in the seven to eight dollar zone, its not a bad idea.

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Pho Hoa – Seattle, WA


Pho Hoa
618 S Weller Street
Seattle, WA
(206) 624-7189

The International District of Seattle is sort of a dodgy place in the very late evening hours.  Whenever I’m there, I always get accosted by some homeless folk, and it happened again this time strolling through there seeking a place to eat.  As we navigated the streets and noticed that we were approaching the closing time of several restaurants in the area, we quickly popped into a familiar sight from Vancouver – a Vietnamese pho joint.

According to the company’s website, “in 1983, the first Pho Hoa restaurant opened in San Jose with a tiny kitchen and a few seats”.  Its now branched out to many other areas across North America and surprisingly even into some countries in Asia.  Not really knowing this, it was kind of strange to run into the familiar signage on the streets of this city in the Pacific Northwest.

It seemed that we were not the only ones with some late night hunger pains, as inside the place was occupied with a few larger groups of Asian youths.  With some pressure to get our orders into the kitchen before they gave up on the night, we began with a duo of spring rolls – one deep fried, the other fresh.  In hindsight, I suppose ordering anything cooked in a vat of hot oil at the end of a restaurant’s business hours is not wise, as the oil is probably very stale and infused with a lot of impurities.  I didn’t notice any foul scent nor was it overly colored, so it seemed like we lucked out.

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Hayashi Sushi – New Westminster, BC


Hayashi Sushi
1065 Columbia St
New Westminster, BC
(604) 527-1194

Hayashi Sushi is located in a newish commercial shopping area off Columbia Street that cuts through this riverside town.  Nearby are New West stalwarts such as Burger Heaven and Cockney Kings Fish & Chips (the subject of a future post in the foodosophy backlog).  It is a mid-sized, Korean-operated, Japanese cuisine restaurant, with takeaway options.  For this visit, that’s exactly what I did.

After placing my order, I waited in a nearby booth and was offered a cup of hot tea to pass the time.  The restaurant started filling up with other dine-in customers while I waited, so seemingly is a frequented place by locals.  With only one man behind the sushi counter, my large order of various pieces of nigiri sushi took some time to prepare.  Some of them are pictured below, but it was not the entire lot, as by the time I got it to our group for eating, some were more anxious than others and couldn’t wait for me to finish taking pictures. 🙂

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Bobby Van’s – New York City, NY


Bobby Van’s Steakhouse
135, West 50th Street
New York, NY
(212) 957-5050

New York City has a plethora of eating options but for some reason, steakhouses come top of mind for me. From old school style establishments to the hip and trendy, steakhouses in this city seemingly have something for everyone seeking out a piece of grilled meat.

Having spent the greater part of the day flying to the east coast, further extended by the weather delays into the airport, I was in a glum mood trudging along the streets of midtown Manhattan in some windy and rainy conditions. With a hockey game on the tele that I was missing, I knew I had to find a place to eat that was showing the game. As we came upon the doors of Bobby Van’s (I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of the name of this place and the Canucks misfortunes), I could make out a long white marble topped counter bar, a packed house and some overhead screens, one of which was showing the end of the Montreal-Philly game.

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Steveston Cafe – Richmond, BC


Steveston Cafe
12111 3rd Avenue
Richmond, BC
(604) 277-9511

An early morning visit to Steveston village precipitated the need to indulge in that classic weekend jump start – bad coffee and breakie in a greasy spoon – as we were in dire need of some sustenance and were tired of driving and walking around.  Just another random stop resulting in a brief foodosophy posting, I swear if not for the sake of filling up space on this blog, I’d probably never step foot into them. 🙂

Situated across the street from the relic buildings of an old cannery and a museum featuring the same, as well as a pub next door, the Steveston Cafe is a definitive example of a small town breakfast joint.  Nothing extravagant on the outside, and indoors, full of young families, and older folks who are probably on some kind of fixed income support and appreciate the low prices of diners like this.

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Toe Dam – Coquitlam, BC


Toe Dam Korean Fusion BBQ
#250-329 North Road
Coquitlam, BC
(604) 939-5515

September 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

The further and deeper that I explore Coquitlam’s exploding community of Korean restaurants, the more I realize there are still hidden spots yet uncovered and also some that I’ve seen many times but have yet to venture inside.  Toe Dam Korean Fusion BBQ was one of these latter types, until I finally made a dinner visit this month after missing the dinner cut off time at nearby Mi-Ae Deli (another recent favorite haunt of mine here)…

It is located in the same shopping complex as the mega H-Mart grocery store, as well as a few other places reported about here on foodosophy.  So parking is generally ample, if you make your way further down into the lot away from the entrance of H-Mart and avoid the many shoppers there.

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Distrito – Philadelphia, PA


Distrito
3945 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 386-1072

In what many people incorrectly assume to be strictly a cheesesteak city, Philadelphia is home to a blossoming restaurant scene, with a wide range of eclectic fine dining. Nothing may better represent this scene than Iron Chef Jose Garces’ restaurant Distrito. An homage to Mexico City culture, Distrito is a combination of ethnic flare with fine dining ingredients, and solid technique.

The Mexico City theme is prevalent throughout – complete with a VW Beetle to sit in! The decor is odd, eclectic, and not at all to my liking. But it doesnt really matter. It’s kitschy, and unapologetic. However, it feels like the designer is trying a bit too hard – 250 seats is a lot of pink, green, and neon. And the decor doesnt fit the price point in my mind.

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Caffé Vita – Seattle, WA


Caffé Vita Coffee Roasting Company
813 5th Ave N
Seattle, WA
(206) 285-9662

There is just something innate about living on the we[s]t coast that seems to drive the people here into the warm embrace of a welcoming hot cup of good coffee more so then perhaps other parts of the continent.  Some sources peg Seattle as averaging about 160 days of the year with a measurable rainfall and getting 92cm of the wet stuff per year (compare that to say Los Angeles, which receives just 30cm).  No wonder this gem in the Pacific Northwest is often referred to as Rain City.

An unproven theory that I hold is that when the outdoors are unpleasant but still tantalizingly temperate enough to make one long to be outside in non-rainy weather, it makes for an ideal environment for the development of  a strong network of neighborhood cafés.  For what better way to pine for better weather and gaze outside at it hoping for a shift in Mother Nature, than in the company of friends and neighbors, all huddled together in a homey place buzzing with the hum of active conversation that signify the free sharing of thoughts and ideas, with everyone sipping on a cup of aromatic and deep flavored coffee.

Does that paint a warm and fuzzy picture?  I sure hope it does…

Doing a quick scan of the online community for some favored coffee houses in Seattle produces a plethora of results.  Luckily, I left this legwork to my traveling companion and we found that we were starting our day in a neighborhood with one on the list nearby.  Good for us, as we both needed an early caffeine jolt to get started that morning.  And so with that, we quickly made our way to Caffé Vita in the Queen Anne section of town, and found it nestled into a quiet street-side building, across from some newer condominiums.  Apparently, this location was the original base (established in 1995) of this four-café operation, which also has its own roasterie.

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Foodosophy Restaurant Update – May 2010


Previous monthly recaps (1, 2).

While there is still general interest in checking out the new hot spots as well as venturing into random finds, it seems lately there is a draw also to those places we’ve been to before that were either eye opening on first glance or generally consistent in subsequent visits that keep bringing us back.  Here’s a few more updates on previous foodosophy write ups…

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Campbell Apartment – New York City, NY


Campbell Apartment @ Grand Central Station
15 Vanderbilt Ave
New York, NY 10017
(212) 953-0409

Hidden away in a corner of Grand Central Station is one of the most fascinating bars in New York. It isn’t trendy, modern, or cutting edge, but it’s an oasis of calm at the heart of a bustling train station, and its unapologetically retro style gives you a glimpse into a piece of New York’s history. That bar is the Campbell Apartment.

Once the office for railroad tycoon John W. Campbell, Campbell Apartment was a private salon for a businessman who loved to drink. During the prohibition era, he was able to entertain clients and friends in his office, conveniently attached to Grand Central Station.

The space was renovated in 1999 to recapture the grandeur and design of the 1920’s space – dark wood, high ceilings, leaded windows, leather chairs and a very prominent bar. The detail and preservation of many of the original structures is an architecture geek’s dream.

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Icelandic Fish and Chips Organic Bistro – Reykjavik, Iceland


Icelandic Fish and Chips Organic Bistro
Tryggvagötu 8 / 101 Reykjavik
+(354) 511-1188

Food in Iceland lacks a definite diversity. With little arable land, and short growing seasons, there is a definite lack of vegetables. Greenhouses powered by geothermal energy provide the majority of the fresh local produce, and the rest is imported. However, what they lack in vegetables, they make up for in abundance with fish. Their coastal waters are some of the richest in the world, and makes up 70% of their exports – this is an island where fish and fishing mean a lot.

While there are an abundance of fresh fish, that doesn’t guarantee a great meal. Transforming that ingredient into something tasty lies in the hands of the chef.  At Icelandic Fish and Chips, they have it figured out.

Across from the harbour in Reykjavik, Icelandic Fish and Chips bills itself as an organic bistro. Their menu is basic – they offer 3-4 fish of the day, whatever was caught that morning, and some basic sides like salad, fries, onion rings, and baked goods. Prices are very reasonable – fish falls between 1000 ISK and 1300 ISK – comparatively cheap relative to other restaurants in Reykjavik.

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Asa Sushi – Burnaby, BC


Asa Sushi
7608 Royal Oak Avenue
Burnaby, BC
(604) 419-0233

It has been a while since this visit, but one that I’ve not forgotten for its hilarity. I thought it would be an amusing way to begin the work week, by examining some seriously dysfunctional sushi preparation…

Cradled at the far edge of a small commercial complex that houses a convenience store, a bakery and what I think was a veterinarian office, is Asa Sushi. With very few sushi options that were open for a quick takeaway in the same area (another across the way was closed on this day), but still not willing to give up on having this for something to eat, I headed inside. A crawlspace of a joint, with a few tables and chairs and surprisingly at least six customers.

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