Shang Noodle House – New Westminster, BC


Shang Noodle House
350 Gifford Street
New Westminster, BC
(604) 527-3388

I suppose its kind of fitting as I’m about to head off on another trip – this time to the gambling capital of America – that I visited Shang Noodle House which is connected to a casino.  Having the image of folks who are serious gamblers as not really caring much about taking a long break to eat between their money chasing activities, nor perhaps about the quality of food they consume while gambling, I don’t have high hopes for restaurants that are located right next to gambling establishments.

Seemingly dedicated to serving noodles in a bright, contemporary setting, it was refreshing to enter the doors and see this rather clean, well-lit seating area.  Anchored in the middle of the floor was a prep station (and sushi conveyer belt?), although with the high counter I couldn’t really see what was being done over the wooden bar. Fitting with what you find in many a bar near casinos, was a set of flat panel displays showing various sports, hanging on above for a good viewing angle.

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Baja Miguel’s – Las Vegas, NV


Baja Miguel’s
@ South Point Hotel and Casino
9777 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 796 7111

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Earlier in some other posts, I alluded to the fact that I was not in an overly hungry mood during my recent trip to Las Vegas, often sticking with just one big meal and a snack to carry me through the entire day. On one of those days, my main was a shocking one, especially when it came to volume. I often have to remind myself when going to the States, how large portions can be and to remember to downsize any order whenever possible (e.g. large to a medium for instance in the case of a soft drink).

Baja Miguel’s is located on the second floor inside the South Point Hotel and Casino. As I knew nothing about the building, I thought I’d take a chance and do a walk through to see if there was anything special about it, as I kind of felt sorry for it being located so far south of the main action on The Strip. As a result, I can confidently report there was nothing significant about the casino floor, and clearly no special attractions that would interest those non-gambling visitors either.

The customers that were inside the restaurant seemed to be a different group from what you’d find in the core of the city’s gambling area. A lot more roughly dressed, older (eg. over 40’s), and clearly tourists from mainly other American states, and with looks on their faces that they were here to grab a quick bite before heading back to the main floor gaming areas. At this point, as we were getting shown to our booth seats, I figured it was too late and frankly I was not that overly energetic to do a 180 degree turn and go find something else in the city. Decor-wise, it reminded me of a late ’80s chain restaurant that could use a serious renovation, though it was quite spacious and well lit.

I suppose one nice immediate touch was the delivery of a big basket of tortilla chips that were accompanied by a trio of dips (guacamole, another liquid-y bean sauce, and salsa). I think for the Latino man who brought it out to our table, this was his primary task, as I saw him make the same drop off at other tables when customers arrived, but never any of their food orders. Our server was a pleasant middle-aged woman with a rich Southern accent, I’m guessing she was from nearby Texas. Our glasses of water (with lemon wedges) and other drinks were asked for and brought out promptly by her as we started into the menu.

Scanning the large lunch menu booklet, it was divided up into sections labeled Botanas (Appetizers), Sopas Y Ensaladas (Soups and Salads), Platos Combinados (Combination Platters), Burritos, and what they called Traditional Favorites. Nothing really stood out for me, so I went with what they dubbed a Burrito El Patron, which included the choice of either chicken or charbroiled steak, added with jack and cheddar cheeses, rice, beans and sour cream and rolled in a flour tortilla.

When it came to the table, I was in awe at how big it was, covering the width of the entire plate and as thick as a generously stuffed sub sandwich. As I selected the steak, I was pleased to find they were generous with it, and the nice smoky, charcoal scent coming from them was nice as I was fearful of something just seared on a hot plate in the kitchen. The cheese that smothered the burrito was also not light handed, and I was happy that the tortilla was plenty soft and not stale nor brittle from being heated up too long. The overall flavor though I felt was weak, just not bold enough in the seasoning of the meat and the sauce was just as bland.

My dining companion went with a much more simpler plate in the Chicken Quesadillas, grilled with cheddar cheese, and served with sides of sour cream, guacamole and salsa. I had a few bites of it, and while the tortilla was again very nice, the chicken was quite stringy and when eaten alone, you could tell it was not really seasoned. Now to me, there is nothing worse than flavorless chicken meat, even if it is wrapped in a good tortilla and they expect you to eat it with the supplied sides to give the added flavor. Lastly, I did appreciate they did not overly compress it in a hot press as you find in a lot of bad North American chain Tex-Mex places, and it becomes the thickness of a centimeter.

It was not until we started eating, that we noticed a small card inside one of those clear plastic table stands, that showed there was a daily lunch special for just under $9. In hindsight, I had wished our server had mentioned this, as quantity-wise (soup plus choice of two entrees among an enchilada, flauta, taco or chili relleno), I think this would have been a much more palatable option.

To conclude my thoughts on Baja Miguel’s, I would say that it was not horrible, but just an average place in the true sense of the world. Clean, decent service and attitude, and plentiful servings but not overwhelming tasty. A step back from the down-home, but more glamorous restaurants in the more well known casino hotels. Basically, a first visit will be your last, unless you are actively seeking mediocre…

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Bambu Noodle House @ Stampede Casino – Calgary, AB


Bambu Noodle House
421 – 12 Avenue SE
Calgary, Alberta T2G 1A5
(403) 514-0900

Casinos are interesting studies for the foodie.  In a society that increasingly emphasizes food, casinos, in theory, should be home to great restaurants. After all, it is in their best interest to keep you on the premises for as long as possible. However, restaurants don’t generally contribute to the bottom line of a casino – gaming does. So the dichotomy between wanting to keep you there, without giving up premium gaming space makes for some interesting results.

Bambu Noodle House is one of three restaurants open inside the new Stampede Casino. Positioned as a Pan-Asian noodle house that serves up the best in Chinese, Vietnamese,  and Japanese cuisine, the theory is actually quite sound. Not meaning to stereotype, but a lot of Asians gamble. And Asians like Asian food. At all hours. Seems like a great fit. I myself am hoping for the equivalent of a Pho stand – simple, cheap, and tasty.

The space is pretty nice from a far – dramatic reds, backlit walls, high ceilings, polished concrete – it’s designed like a modern day bistro. On closer look, most of the finishing values are pretty cheap. Laminate. Cheap cloth. Exposed wiring. Nothing really grievous, but not as sexy as it first appeared.

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I seat myself at the bar – and eventually am delivered a menu. The first thing i notice is things aren’t that cheap. appetizers run in the $6-$8 range, and entrees from $7-$14. The second thing i notice is how the line is setup – it’s 3 woks over high intensity burners, a deep fryer, a grill, and some steaming stock pots. Everything is stainless. It looks like a fairly efficient operation for one person to operate.

Looking at the stir fry “rice bowl” next to me, I decide to opt for the Pho. The stir fry actually looked pretty reasonable in the wok – it was heated very hot, smoking oil, quick cooking time. The ingredients did look a bit…sad though.

My bowl of Pho takes 20 minutes to deliver. A bit frustrating, especially for lunch, and somewhere that is relatively quiet (maybe 6 other patrons?). The first thing that comes out is the garnish plate. Oh dear. It did not bode well.

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Yes, that’s it. I didnt eat anything before snapping the picture, which is in extreme close up to try and fill the frame  – that was the extent of the sprouts, and basil i got. Four leaves, about 25 sprouts.

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The Pho itself arrived long after the garnish plate, and was just as disappointing. The broth was a wonton broth. The noodles? Thin chinese rice noodles. The beef was cut thickly, and was the wrong cut of beef for Pho. There was broccoli in it. And the entire bowl? Really really bad. Tasted like dirty dish water. I ate the ingredients, took three sips to make sure i was tasting the same thing, paid and walked out. 35 minutes to get my order, 3 minutes to finish. Not the most flattering ratio.

That’s really all i have to say. Since that time, i noticed they’ve removed the Pho from the menu. But some other menu items havent changed. The prices have gone up, and a new Chinese emphasis is there. In theory, with the equipment they have there, they should be able to produce some good chinese. However, based on the quality of the ingredients, and the expertise of the staff, I have no hopes of this place ever producing passable food. I wouldnt eat here ever again. I’d rather eat a chocolate bar.

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