Naanbites – New Westminster, BC


Naanbites
805 Boyd Street
New Westminster, BC
(604) 527-9997

As might be the case with many people raised in North America, one of my first forays as a child with Indian cuisine was through one of my school friends who came from a family with heritage from that part of the world.  I remember to this day on his eight birthday, being invited over to his home and being exposed to an array of brightly colored and incredibly spicy food that I’d never seen nor tasted before in my young life.  I think the few of us who were invited over all experienced the same shock at it all, that is until his mother remedied that by bringing out something from the kitchen that was milder tasting and had an ingredient that all kids love – chicken.

And so butter chicken will be and probably will remain a lasting dish when it comes to Indian food.  And despite its rather stereotypical image as a “safe” choice among the amazing variety you get in dining out in Indian restaurants, I see it chosen all too often.  And I’m guilt at times.  But more so when its at a lower end establishment, cause I know they can’t seriously mess this up.  Case in point, this little place I came across in Queensborough, called Naanbites.  Based on the name alone, I thought it might be some kind of place just making some creative/fusion bite sized snacks featuring naan bread.  Alas, I was wrong.

Continue reading

Little Monk Pretzels – Burnaby, BC


Little Monk Pretzels
Metropolis At Metrotown
101-4820 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 434-1090

The other day I made soft pretzels at home as I suddenly had a craving for it on a lazy weekend afternoon.  In a wild coincidence, on a shopping outing at this busy mall recently, I came upon this little stall called Little Monk Pretzels near the end where you find the Superstore, that makes pretty much the same thing I had baked up in my kitchen.  With a few other fast food/treat options in this alley of  Metropolis at Metrotown, I’m sure it catches quite a few customers coming out of their grocery shopping excursions with food on their minds.  Now what monks have to do with pretzels, its unknown to me, but seeing a group of customers congregating right in front of the food stand, it got me curious…

A rather simplistic production, as I could see a man in the back who was laying out pre-made dough, all cut up into bite sized pieces and running them through a little oven-like machine that operated with a conveyer belt.  After getting a verbal order from the people manning the cash machine, he would run some product through – on this day its these little balls of soft pretzels that were most popular.

Continue reading

Leon’s Wonton & Noodle House – Edmonton, AB


Leon’s Wonton & Noodle House
10634 97 Street
Edmonton, AB
(780) 429-8865

Edmonton’s Chinatown district while a long standing one, is not as large as the editions that thrive in other major Western Canada centres such as Calgary or Vancouver in my mind.  At least it doesn’t seem that way in terms of the variety and choice when it comes to dining in the zones often flanked by the distinctive gates that signify you are “officially” inside Chinatown.  My sense of the heart of the Alberta capital’s version is 97th street, stretching from the south end at Jasper Avenue and up to perhaps 108th~110th avenue to the north.  The relatively smaller size thus gives a more cozy and neighborly atmosphere to the place, almost like if you live and work here, you would know everyone on each street corner.  When I see some of the elderly ethnic Chinese seniors strolling the streets or sitting inside some of the businesses (no doubt run by their younger relatives), I must say some have probably lived their whole long life in this east Asian cultural bubble in Edmonton.

Leon’s Wonton & Noodle House is one such place that brings to mind this tradition.  The proprietors (a couple, she in the front of house, he cooking in the back) have been in this city for over twenty-five years, after emigrating from Vietnam.  Some supporting articles that can be viewed inside the restaurant under the glass covered table top’s which mentioned their history and business operations.  A loyal following seems to exist as far as their customer base is concerned if you were to read and believe the narratives and quotes.  My kind of place.  Homey, simple, comfortable, lots of choice if you come here often and so you don’t get sick of the menu, and modestly priced.

Continue reading

X.O. Vietnamese Style Food – Richmond, BC


X.O. Vietnamese Style Food
Yaohan Centre, 3700 #3 Road
Richmond, BC
(604) 231-9878

The food court in the Yaohan Centre is probably the first time I’ve ever experienced an Asian mall food court in the GVRD, thinking back on it now it probably goes back a good decade or so.  While my memories are somewhat faint, I recall the supermarket there (before the arrival of the T&T’s of the world), as the only place that had those distinctly Asian food products and ingredients all under one roof.  Strangely, I can also remember once upon a time, there being a ramen place in this exact food court and having it there are a youth.

Its pleasing to know this place is still around and seemingly prospering. I usually stick to one side of this area where the fast food chinese stalls are, and the noodle place on the corner.  And thus this time, I thought I’d venture to the opposite end and see if there was anything of interest.  After doing a walk-by of all the spots, passing on some barbecued duck, noodles, etc. the hot pans of simmering curry dishes at X.O. Vietnamese Style Food caught my eye.  Kind of an unusual combination I thought.  Though they did have the typical Vietnamese soup noodle item that I have way too much of these days.

Continue reading

Chihuahua’s – New Westminster, BC


Chihuahua’s Mexican Food & Pizza
881 Carnarvon Street
New Westminster, BC
(604) 522-4100

After my recent satisfying experience at La Taqueria, I wanted to continue my quest of discovering the very best of tacos in the greater Vancouver area.  On a complete whim, I was in New Westminster and passed by a place that I remembered as being Mexican (as far as the signage goes) and slowly crept by in my car until I found it once again.  Without any information other than my faded memory of the store front, my decision to stop and walk inside was based on the silhouettes of several people eating inside that came into my eye.  Had it been empty, I might have been less inclined to stop.  Do you ever do that?  Base entering a restaurant upon how busy the place is?  Love to hear from you in the comments box if so/if not, and why/why not…

The moment I stepped inside, I had a good vibe.  All of the folks inside were Latino, and the female served burst out with a “hola!” upon seeing me.  I knew I was just going for take away so headed straight to the front counter, that was fronted by a large heating case apparently for pizzas – of which there were none on display as the folks ahead of me took away a box that probably contained the last few pieces.  As I took in the small menu sheet that was taped up on the glass which listed all of the available offerings, a fellow came in asking when the next pizza would be ready – six minutes called out the male employee – and headed back out for a smoke only to return some time later.  The whole pizza thing made me lose some hope that I’d be getting a true Mexican experience.  But I guess there is nothing you can do when you try to be more than one kind of eatery, serving what appears to be the native Canadian crowd who wants cheap, fast food, and those who have the cultural ties to that part of the world and probably come here for a taste of home.

Continue reading

Triple O’s – Burnaby, BC


Triple O’s
6038 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 568-4538

I can imagine the instantaneous reaction this post will receive. So I’ll come out and say it.

The fast food burger that I’m enjoying of late is from Triple O’s.

Having not grown up in British Columbia, I don’t harbour the long lasting childhood memories of others, who have had the food from White Spot and the like that seems to be true of many Vancouverites, from their very early days (and perhaps teenage years?).

Continue reading

Georgio’s Cafe & Pizzeria – Burnaby, BC


Georgio’s Cafe & Pizzeria
5236 Rumble Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 568-6061

Situated practically across the street from Burnaby South Secondary School means a couple of things for places to eat in the area, of which there are a handful.  The lunch hour can be a mad hectic time for non-students to try and get in for a bite to eat.  As well, the eateries seem to make the wise decision of having special menu items which are priced and portioned accordingly for this hungry younger market.  Thankfully, they aren’t limited to the kids and us adults can indulge in these quick, cheap eats too.  One of these places is called Georgio’s Cafe & Pizzeria.

Despite the rather convoluted smattering of text and listing of offerings in their windows that seem rather mundane, a quick glance at the makeshift sign was what drew me in.  “Filipino style BBQ”?  What’s that I thought.  Sitting inside was a pair of teenage girls apparently killing time on a break between classes perhaps.  A man was behind the counter and I could hear some others in the back kitchen.  As I was scanning the photo-included menu board, I quickly spotted the pork and chicken skewered barbecue items, thus answering my call to action.

Continue reading

Chicken Delight – Burnaby, BC


Chicken Delight
7624 6th Street
Burnaby, BC
(604) 521-2121

Another completely random, TOFTT kind of outing.  As I dug up the Urban Spoon reference for the address to be included in this posting, I was amused to see that someone had beaten me to this place – er, make that rather bewildered that somebody had actually decided on their own to have a meal here before my impromptu visit.  Surprise, surprise, it was none other than the adventurous author of I’m Only Here for the Food!

Chicken Delight only stood out as I drove by looking for a quick daytime bite to eat because of its gaudy, outdated colorful signage.  You know the kind, complete with windows plastered over in uncoordinated posters trumpeting various deals, combos and specials you can get inside.  A funny thing though, after I stepped inside (and became the only customer) I learned that one of the items on their posters wasn’t even available.  False advertising at its finest.  Its you can’t order it, take it down please.

Continue reading

Nando’s Chicken – Burnaby, BC


Nando’s Chicken (Burnaby South location)
5761 Marine Way
Burnaby, BC
(604) 451-0020

It was out in my familiar Kerrisdale neighborhood where I first saw the sign for Nando’s Chicken.  At the time, I was completely unaware that it was a chain of part dine-in, part take-out food enterprises.  From the outside, that particular outlet on W 41st Ave. looked to me like  a regular restaurant and so it wasn’t until I saw it later in a few other places that I began to wonder about its setup.  As an aside, a visiting friend from the UK told me upon seeing the store front that they have these in the UK and he was surprised to see them here as well.

The south Burnaby franchise where I had my first ever Nando’s meal is in a shopping area along Marine Way, which bears a striking similarity to the commercial area known as South Edmonton Common in the provincial capital of Alberta.  Kind of lost amid the big box stores and rows of business, it has set up shop in a smaller part of the strip malls in the area, with a Starbucks (surprise, surprise) nearby as well.  Getting a quick meal while driving in the region, I got caught up in the obvious lunch hour rush of customers, and was surprised to see a decent crowd eating inside as well as those waiting for take away orders.

Continue reading

Paradise Donair – New Westminster, BC


Paradise Donair
723 – 12th Street
New Westminster, BC
(604) 522-0789

First entry from this outpost of New Westminster!  This city has its charms, despite its reputation as not being the most safest place to be, especially at night.

I ventured out, in the daytime, as I was in the neighborhood and found this little donair shop on 12th street.  I saw some folks coming out of it with take away bags and some eating at the tables out front.  Must be good or cheap I thought, so parked my car on the street and stepped inside.

Inside, I was greeted by a cheery man, who had the air of a person who had pride in their work and his product.  Love meeting folks like that, in any walk of life.  The space was tiny, basically just a counter from which to order at and at which he put together the food.

Continue reading

Rasoee – Vancouver, BC


Rasoee
104 – 2138 Western Parkway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 221-9355

Classes are out for the winter break at UBC.  Though I’m sure there are some who have to stay behind and get through the end of year festivities on their own for whatever and various reasons.  Instead of a hearty turkey dinner with family, I’m sure some might make their way to University Village, for whatever might be open to serve those unfortunate souls spending this week on their own…

In November, Rasoee set up shop in a former video rental store space.  Its a quick and easy, mainly take away franchise chain with origins in Toronto.  Over the last seven years, it has expanded to other cities out east (Burlington, ON), as well as out here in the western provinces (Calgary, Edmonton, Whistler and Vancouver).  This particular location has a very small counter where you could eat your meal in-house so to speak.

Continue reading

Ono Cheese Steak – Honolulu, HI


Ono Cheese Steak
2310 Kuhio Ave
Honolulu, HI
Tel: (808) 923 8080

Taking in something from far away and making it one of their own seemingly is done many times over when it comes to food on the Hawaiian Islands. I suppose it makes sense given how remotely situated the lands are geographically from just about every other society on the planet. And of course, the reach of mainland America (e.g. military) and the influx of so many immigrants the world over that have infiltrated so many aspects of Hawaiian life, especially the food scene are also to “blame”.  Finding cheese steak sandwiches in Honolulu was just another example of this phenomenon.

After doing a completely touristy activity by travelin out of Waikiki to do the hike at Diamond Head and checking out some beaches further west on Oahu island, the return bus dropped me off on busy Kuhio Avenue right in front of this establishment.  Having not eaten yet that day (it was already the afternoon) and discovering that “ono” means “delicious” in the Hawaiian language and not the surname of an ethnic Japanese resident proprietor, I figured it was worth checking out.

Immediately at the entrance, there was a large board hanging overhead that listed the variations available.  About a dozen choices were listed, split between those based on steak or chicken as the main protein.  The standard toppings such as sauteed onions, garlic, cheese, etc. and my personal favorite mushrooms were all on hand.  Heck, you could even choose to drop the meat and swap in spinach and have a vegetarian version.  But from my recollection, nothing particularly Hawaiian in nature or a local taste twist.  I believe there were three sizes as well, of which I elected to get the smallest one (7″), knowing I was going to venture across the street to get some dessert (more on that in a future post).

Apologies for the section missing from this image of my small mushroom cheese steak, but I had a difficult time snapping a shot without one of the employees who was working directly in front of me noticing.  So I waited a while until another customer came in and she was distracted, but by then I had to take a bite.  The bread had been lightly toasted, and the ingredients clearly fresh and hot as it was made-to-order.  I could have used more cheese in the mix and perhaps more seasoning of the meat itself.  [I understand that Ono’s does have some that are pre-made and available for sale in other locations such as convenience outlets next to gasoline stands.]

I’m not sure though if it was the really hot weather or the fact that I was more dehydrated than hungry but I didn’t come away thinking that this was a fantastic representation of a philly cheese steak. Not that I’ve had the real deal in the City of Brotherly Love, but I’ve had pretty good ones in other places in continental North America.

And compared to the earlier reviewed and tasted Puka Dog, this meat in a bun was a far-back second place finisher, and had none of the unique, local taste combinations.

Ono Cheese Steak on Urbanspoon

Puka Dog – Honolulu, HI


Puka Dog
Waikiki Town Center
2301 Kuhio Avenue #2
Honolulu, HI 96815
Tel: (808) 924-7887
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10AM to 10PM

Refreshing twists to orthodox food or dishes is a delicate balancing act when it comes to yours truly…

For some things, I am a devout traditionalist and really appreciate those who respect the “old way” and cringe at words like fusion, or “east meets west”.  At other times, I am much more lenient with a chef’s creative inspirations and open minded to trying something “different” from the classic interpretation.

I can’t say I have a hard and fast rule to describe where this fine line exists, but it could be that it rests with just how “common” a food item may be.  The more “everyday man” food it is, the greater the probability that I will accept a variation that is above and beyond the standard image I hold of it in my mind.  Dear readers, would you say you hold a similar or contradictory mentality when it comes to “new ways of doing food”?

—–

It was by just sheer chance that I came across Puka Dog while strolling along Kuhio Avenue.  Previous to me stepping in front of the doors, I had never heard anything about this place and thus was unaware that it had a cult following and had received some press from the likes of the Travel Channel (as the manager of the store keenly mentioned to me when he asked what brought me to his counter).

I responding that the lettering on the glass window facing the street suggested to me it was something unique and thus curiosity got to me.  The influence of Japadog in Vancouver probably got me thinking this way –  another way of presenting and flavouring simple hot dogs?  That’s something I just had to try.

The ordering process is your basic conveyor line approach.  Walk inside and the cashier takes your order.  Step one, choose either the Polish sausage or Veggie dog –  the latter being a much thinner wiener from what I saw (and apparently harder to get cooked right in their grill).  Next, select the heat level of the “garlic lemon secret sauce”: Mild Original, Spicy Jalepeno, Hot Chili Pepper, or Hot Hot Habanero.

Then the flavouring choices diverts into two paths: Tropical Relishes or Traditional (ketchup, mustard, regular relish).  Not sure why you’d want to go with the latter, as that doesn’t really make the whole experience happen, but some in line I heard did.  The Hawaii-influenced relishes include Mango, Pineapple, Papaya, Coconut, Banana, and Star Fruit.   I elected to try the Mango relish and added a side that came in a small cup of the Hawaiian Lilikoi mustard, as recommended to me, and it indeed was a good match when pasted in with the small ice cream cup wooden spoon.

Watching the construction of the dogs is interesting.  As seen from the above image, the buns first of all, are not your regular hot dog type.  The soft texture reminded me of the delicious Filipino bread rolls better known as Pan De Sal.  Each long single bun is wrapped in paper and literally pierced on one side down the middle (with “puka” meaning hole in Hawaiian) by placing it on this rack of hot steel tubes that look like mini missiles that heat and toast the core.  The sausages are placed in a grilling deck that shoots them out once they are fully cooked in a nearby resting tray.  The key here that really surprised me was just how evenly crispy the sausage was, even at both ends.  Taking that first bite, it was like a cap tearing off the tip of the dog – great for crispy food lovers.

Once the bun is ready, some squirts of the garlic lemon sauce (from plastic bottles) and the relish (from the multiple relish taps that line the counter much like beer taps in a bar) is deposited in the bottom of the bun.  Next, the wiener is inserted with some tongs, and then more of the sauces are added in from the top. With multiple orders, I could see how painstaking a process this is, in making sure you are putting in the right type of garlic lemon sauce and relish into each dog.  Nothing worse than expecting a mild tone and finding an erroneous inclusion of hot Habanero sauce!  Eating it feels very much like consuming a donair or Shawarma as you work your way down the bun trying to keep all the insides from dripping out of the paper envelope.

As much as I enjoy your standard fare hotdog with ketchup, mustard and relish, this Puka Dog was so unique not only in its flavoring combinations but the texture and cut of the bun and the all-around crispy wiener, that makes me proclaim that perhaps its my new favourite type of hot dog.  I only wish they had an outlet on the west coast of Canada.  If you are ever on Oahu, or Kauai (their first branch), I recommend you give it a try as the hype is well deserved!  Oh, and don’t forget the fresh squeezed lemonade.

Puka Dog (Waikiki Town Center) on Urbanspoon

Bangkok Express – Edmonton, AB


Bangkok Express
6234 99 Street NW
Edmonton, AB
(780) 433-0795

Bangkok Express on Urbanspoon

In Canada, the distribution of good Thai restaurants is a bit of a strange thing. Some cities seem to have a great collection of Thai restaurants, and some don’t. Edmonton, oft-maligned for a variety reasons, certainly has a fantastic collection of Thai restaurants. Syphay in the south, to Boualong and Viphalay in the North, these are all great restaurants – though they are all Thai food by way of Laos. Even your generic Thai restaurant, Bua Thai, or Ban Thai are reasonably good. Why? I honestly couldnt tell you. However, what I do know is this does not mean that we don’t have our share of questionable places either. But for the most part, it’s all pretty decent.

Bankok Express is located in Argyll Plaza – an odd assortment of businesses and hotel, it can be pretty easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. Bangkok Express is conceptually more Thai than many other Edmonton Thai restaurants – serving fast, cheap, and fresh food. With no dish over 10 dollars, the price point is fantastic for a cuisine that shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. I’ve always been a bit offended by the prices at establishments like the King and I – nice decor doesnt justify double the prices for half the food.

img_0368

The interior of Bangkok Express is clean and cafeteria like. You order from a counter with an open kitchen, wait for your order to be called, and pick it up. Things flow fast, and are served fairly promptly, dishes hot. With a limited menu, there is very little time wasted. They could be a bit faster, but i appreciate the extra time they put into cooking everything.

img_0366

On cold days, i find nothing more soothing than a bowl of soup – preferably, something spicy. Any version of Tom Yum is a great soup for this – light, spicy broth whose heat and acidity evoke memories of warmth, and sunny days. My preference is usually Tom Yum Khaa, but the non-coconut version is usually good too. Unfortuately, the version here is not. The vegetables are reasonably fresh, but the broth is limp, the balance is missing, and it lacks a lot of the subtle undertones that make Tom Yum so memorable. Not enough heat. Not enough acidity, not enough fish sauce, and in general, just a poor bowl.

img_0363

I ordered the Pad Thai as well, and this was slightly better. The noodles were hot, and had a nice chew, and the peanuts were fragrant and fresh. But once again, the flavour was uniformly oily, and bland. From my standpoint, the brilliance of Thai food lies in balancing key, essential flavours. Pungent, heat, and acidity, along with the textures of crisp, and chewy. This dish lacked any pungency, any heat, and no real acidity. Thoroughly disappointing, considering how simple a wok fried noodle should be.

Considering Bangkok Express is, according to published reviews, run by Thai people (i’ve never been able to distinguish based on language alone), i have to say im pretty disappointed with the outcome. It’s like everything has been taken down 3 notches in order to appease the clientele near their location. After reading many reviews, I was genuinely looking forward to this. “This is how we ate in Thailand!” they would gush. Makes me wonder where they were eating, as this food was really sub par. Thai food is generally fairly basic – and excellent eateries in town manage to demonstrate this on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, Bangkok Express is not one of them.

Bangkok Express on Urbanspoon

Rice Bar – Vancouver, BC


Update – February 11, 2009

I passed by and noticed the signage had been replaced by a new one: Sun Sushi (Eat In and Take Out).  This makes it the fourth sushi place within a three block radius along this section of 10th Ave.

——————————-

Original post – January 27, 2009

Rice Bar
4512 West 10th Ave
Vancouver, BC
(604) 222 8868

Rice Bar on Urbanspoon

Housed in a space that used to be a cozy, free Wi-Fi cafe known as Think!, the Rice Bar emerged in its place and is what could best be described as a Hong Kong-style cafeteria… minus the constant flow of customers and a packed room.  When I first saw the nameplate go up outside, there was a small part of me that was hoping that this would perhaps be something refreshing for this neighborhood – such as a specialty Japanese sake drinking establishment – given the ‘rice’ plus ‘bar’ naming.  But alas, it was not to be.

On the occasions that I’ve passed by this past year, I’ve rarely ever seen people inside, either eating in or ordering takeout.  I thought it would not be long before the place was re-invented by another business on this relatively secluded, very west side shopping street.  Surprisingly, I believe its been many months now since it opened, and recently I thought I would give it a chance to see what it had to offer but I was not expecting much…

“Order Here”, the sign on the counter clearly states.  Too bad there’s no human to take my order.  All I can hear is the sounds coming from the small tv screen on the back wall, I think it was some Chinese television drama, as well as the C-pop coming out from the wall speakers.  A shame that’s the only source of noise to be found.  If not for that, I think I could have heard crickets.

After a few minutes, a person appeared and I was able to place my order.  I had hoped to get the Pork Ribs that I had heard a little about, but alas they were out.  Strange, it was still the early evening and had already run out.  In its place, I decided to go with what I thought would be a fairly safe bet in the BBQ Pork.  I know there are those who like it to be fattier, or perhaps a mix of lean and fat, but I prefer the healthier variety and find that the BBQ flavor is retained better in the leaner cuts.   I was asked for my decision on the sauce I wanted with it, and opted for a soy-based one thinking it was the most natural fit with the flavor of the pork.  As you might be able to tell from the image above, it was a simple few spoonfuls that was put on the rice, which the pork covered up.  It did nothing for amping up the taste profile.

The Chicken Wings I ordered thinking that I would easily get sick of the BBQ Pork after a few slices.  And at these prices (both under six dollars), I thought having a double dip wouldn’t be hard on the wallet.  The wings were really crispy, and had a nice salty and textured coating that I enjoyed.  I’m not sure exactly what else was in the breading but it did have some other flavor properties that you don’t get in western-style chicken wings.  I could have easily gone for another batch of three, and they could have deleted the rice.  I preferred these less greasy wings, compared to the ones I had at Wo Fung.  I’d come back for these.

Speaking of the rice, in both containers, it was pretty bland and really dried out.  I know this is more Chinese style, but I find it so lacking in flavor that I hardly eat any of it as I think its more suited for fried rice.  And the minuscule drops of “sauce” with the BBQ Pork didn’t help in this regard.  Each “main” came with the choice of a soup, salad or dessert.  I elected the bamboo shoot soup with both, as the salad would have been a boring mixed greens and I am not a big fan of Asian desserts.  The soup upon opening the lid, I thought would have a sour element, but it had none at all.  It was nothing more than average and very lukewarm by the time I got back home.

The Rice Bar has dedicated so much of its area to seating.  Tables with chairs, a counter with stools that lines one wall, another seating area by the front window, etc.  Its sad that there is no one to use them.  I am not sure what else they could do with all this space however, as their counters are already a pretty good size, and its not equipped to handle the actual cooking stations (which are in the back room).  I wouldn’t want to be the owner of this problem…

Any of you turn right around out the door after entering a restaurant that is dead empty?

And do really quiet places make you always choose to take out when you could just as easily eat-in?

Rice Bar on Urbanspoon