Myung Dong Kal Gook Soo – Burnaby, BC


Myung Dong Kal Gook Soo
103 – 4501 North Road
Burnaby, BC
(604) 420-6447

As the evening air outside begins to descend into a temperature zone that requires more layering of clothing and household duties that require preparations for the coming winter season, it marks the beginning of something that I enjoy a lot – hot food, especially those of the “soupy” category.  Beefy stews, hearty vegetable soups, bowls of noodles in flavorful broth and so on.  Autumn/winter comfort food at its finest.  Plus, with the incoming crop of this season’s vegetables, many of which over the past few years I’ve grown to actually like more of, it makes for fun times in the home kitchen or eating out.

Over the years, I’ve found on my travels abroad that those nations which have a tendency to experience harsher winters – full of freezing temperatures, perhaps suspect household insulation but with a rich food culture – do satisfy my cravings for warm/hot edible delights.  I can still remember the first time I visited South Korea over a decade ago, it was March.  But with bone chilling temperatures coupled with a heavy weight of dense, moist air which made the prevailing air temperature feel many times colder, it hit me like nothing I’ve ever felt before.  My immediate impulse was to warm up and quickly with something to eat.  And on that particular occasion, I ended up in a little spot that served up kalguksu.  Its an experience I’ve never forgotten and ever since, when I feel the chill in the air and have a craving for comforting Korean food, it reminds me of that time.

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Capital City Brewing Company – Washington, DC


Capital City Brewing Company
1100 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC
(202) 628-2222

Hot summer weather.  And cold beer.  Goes well together don’t you think?  I must be mentally trying to keep the summer alive with today’s post, reflecting on my July visit to the east coast of the US.

As an escape from the humid heat that was still blanketing the city even in the late afternoon, a group of us ducked into the nearest, air conditioned gastropub for a quick hit before our dinner plans.  As we were expecting some vehicles to pick us up, we had plenty of time to kill.  And with the drivers taken care of,  a license to drink as well.  The formula for a good start to the night!

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Sandbar – Vancouver, BC


Sandbar Seafood Restaurant
1535 Johnston Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 669-9030

Much like an undercover agent infiltrating a tightly closed society, there are times when I deliberately jump right into the most touristy spots I can think of to try and get a sense of what drives non-locals to visit such eating establishments.  More often than not, these kind of places are always touted and raved about by the native city’s mainstream media and publications, that surprisingly have far reaching audiences.  Chalk it up to the incredibly connected and digital world we live in.  In the past twelve years,  I’ve had the pleasure of setting up a home base in four major cities now and in each one, I’ve conducted a similar exercise just for fun.  Here in Vancouver, The Sandbar rated high on my list of tourist traps.

However this time, I had some out of town visitors in tow with me as I guided them around the markets at Granville Island and rather than bother with making a long stroll back to the vehicle we came in, I popped inside up and up the stairs to see if we could get a table on short notice.  Being that it was a beautiful summer day, I had my doubts we could get one on the outdoor patio and that ended up being the case.  Instead we were seated just inside, but the view of the water below was pretty much obscured.  For visitors, provided you get a good stroll around the Island ahead of dinner, I think you can pretty much picture the view you could have if seated on the rail on the patio.

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29th Avenue Cafe – Vancouver, BC


29th Avenue Cafe
4441 Boundary Road
Vancouver, BC
(604) 558-2271

Situated in a completely unexpected location is the reincarnation of the former Yoshoku-ya that lived along Denman Street downtown and was home to many fans of the homey Japanese-Western cuisine of the same name.  I was surprised to spot the bold signage trumpeting its opening on a drive along busy Boundary Road and popped in for a dinner earlier this summer.  With ample parking in a lot nearby (or on the street in front or behind in a residential area), visiting this place with a vehicle is much more easier on one’s sanity than it was back in its previous spot in Vancouver.

If you happen to walk by, the big glass windows can give you a clear sense of what to expect – a no nonsense, rather simple decor with ample spacing between tables so as not to feel overly close to strangers.  I guess when you leave the downtown core, the cost per square foot for rent drops dramatically, thus allowing a proprietor to be more generous with the elbow room, which is certainly appreciated by some.  Added to the welcoming tone is a big poster of the dishes you can find on the menu, including an array of photos of the actual plating as well.  I imagine this can come in handy for those who have no idea what is meant by the advertised yoshoku cuisine.

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Churchkey – Washington, DC


Churchkey
1337 14th Street
Washington, DC
(202) 567-2576

So a Canadian, a Texan, a Colorodan, and a native Virginian walk into a bar…

Nope, not the opening line of some tacky joke but what happened on my summertime visit to the Churchkey gastropub in the funky neighborhood of Logan Circle, that I grew to love during my time in America’s capital city. In desperate need of some shelter from the sweltering heat, along with some food and liquid sustenance, the four of us ducked into this two floor establishment well before the big rush of customers came not too long after the sun went down.

The burly fellow who was checking ID’s at the door gruffly noted they didn’t have a happy hour (or at least when we entered).  Alas, that didn’t stop our crew from going inside, as one member had heard this place had a wicked beer selection.  Now if you’ve been following along lately, you’ll probably remember that I’ve cut back my consumption of this popular adult summer season liquid, but this day was an exception.  Why is it that the hotter the weather, the stronger my craving for ice cold  beer becomes?

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Chez Mamane – Paris, FRA


Chez Mamane
23 rue des Cinq Diamants
75013 Paris
+33 1 45 89 58 87
Metro: Corvisart (0.1 km); Tolbiac (0.5 km)

The many immigrant communities that make up Paris have brought cuisines from all over the world – some of which are poorly represented in major cities in North America. My favorite discovery during my time there this summer was couscous, a typical north African dish that has regional subtlties (Moroccan vs Algerian vs Tunisian vs…) that I didn’t have nearly enough time to explore and decipher.

I started digging in before remembering to take pictures!

My favorite couscous spot was Chez Mamane, a small Moroccan style joint in the generally tourist-free and very cool little neighborhood of La Butte aux Cailles (“quail hill”) not far from Place d’Italie in the 13th arrondissement.  There are plenty of bars (Le Diamant was my favorite, but those with more experience recommend La Folie en Tête) and restaurants (among others, Chez Gladines is a very popular budget Basque restaurant) in this area, with a crowd that was decidedly local.  Chez Mamane was recommended to me by a friend who grew up in this neighborhood as having the best couscous in Paris and it sure seemed plausible to me.

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The Summer Night Market – Richmond, BC


The Summer Night Market
12631 Vulcan Way
Richmond, BC
(604) 278-8000

With school back in session, the leaves beginning to fall off the trees in my neighborhood, and the slowly shortening daylight hours, I’m reminded that the summer is winding down.  Albeit, the warmer temperatures are holding strong this week, so its feeling nice to have our summer season extend even longer this year.  And with just two more weekends to go before this year’s rendition of The Summer Night Market in Richmond comes to a close, I thought I’d type up some quick thoughts on my experience this year…

When things such as annual festivals or public gatherings grow over the years due to the success of the original or early years, its both a blessing and a curse.  On the plus side, its wonderful that a small concept can become something that’s sustainable and has organic growth and continued popularity.  More offerings, great number of attractions – all good things from my perspective, especially when something grows from something very small initially.

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Zaytinya – Washington, DC


Zaytinya
#701 9th Street NW
Washington, DC
(202) 638-0800

Hi readers!

As I am sure many of you are aware, the northeastern States have endured quite a few battles with Mother Nature this summer – including some blistering hot heat waves, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, and Hurricane Irene.  Fortunate for me, I was only around for one of those events and managed to get safely in and out of the nation’s capital, and enjoyed some good eating along the way.  While this will be a pictureless-post due to my not wanting to whip out my cell phone during this particular meal, I still wanted to put some thoughts down and share my experience at Zaytinya, which offers Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisine.

Mediterranean cooking is not something I indulge in a great deal but when I do, I am always pleasantly surprised by the boldness of flavors that can be captured by a talented kitchen.  In the case of Zaytinya, their celebrated chef is José Andrés, recently named this past spring as an “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation at their annual awards gala in New York City.  The restaurant is clearly on the popular destination list by locals and visitors alike.  Without a proper reservation, we had to wait a little while at the bar (where you can still get food), before a table opened up for us later in the night.

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Shibuyatei – Richmond, BC


Shibuyatei
#125, 2971 Sexsmith Road
Richmond, BC
To be confirmed: (604) 779-0053

Simple is best.  An adage that applies to many things in this thing called life, including something we all love, food.  Lately, I’ve been all about uncomplicated flavors and limited combinations of ingredients that tell a story on my taste buds.  Smart cookery and unpretentious offerings are my current targets when it comes to dining out.  Give me something that’s comforting too and well you’ve got something right in my wheelhouse.  An old stalwart, Japanese ramen, is right up there in my favorite foods of all time.

I’d been notified in July that a new operation was about to set up shop at a busy intersection in Richmond, formerly occupied by a sandwich business.  The end of July marked their opening and as a few weeks had passed (and having received some insights from members granted a pre-opening audience) I finally made my way out for a lunchtime meal.  Inside, remnants of the previous tenant were apparent from the still fresh business handover, with some temporary signage hung outside for the Tokyo-style of ramen being produced by Shibuyatei.

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Fraser Park Restaurant – Burnaby, BC


Fraser Park Restaurant
4663 Byrne Road
Burnaby, BC
(604) 433-7605

I’ve now had five separate meals at this surprisingly popular establishment (considering its location!) and felt it was time to weigh in with a post to join the multitude that exist about it when I look at the listing on Urbanspoon.  Meals during the morning breakfast hours as well as closer to the noon lunch time service have given me a good sense of what can be had here (with a sampling of some photos below).  And to sum it up simply, its a lot!  Portion sizes are truly on the generous size.  Perhaps fitting for the hard labour, blue collar working folks who I see frequenting the establishment often, mixed in with some people who obviously don’t work in the industrial businesses that populate this stretch of Byrne Road but are here simply for a hearty meal.

Through the regular menu items and the daily specials, a few have stood out for me in terms of the excitement upon ordering them, having them brought out in front of me so my eyes could understand what I was in for, and then of course the tasting of each dish.   I’ve sheepishly mentioned this place around to various people in my circles and have even brought some of them with me to eat.  The look on their faces when we pull into the parking lot says it all, its the last place they thought I’d bring them too.  Thankfully the food saves me each and every time.  As I’ve never had any complaints walking out about their disappointment with any of the meals.

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