Motomachi Shokudo – Vancouver, BC

Motomachi Shokudo
740 Denman Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 609-0310

Total visits over the years to this west end ramen-ya is about five for me personally.  I hadn’t taken the time to properly put up a post yet since foodosophy started, but recently  I had the opportunity to meet with a visiting out-of-town friend and he suggested that we go there for some ramen, so I was happy to oblige one more time.  With the sister flagship business of Kintaro closed for the day (though peaking into the windows there, the staff was busy prepping soup stock and I could see bundles of noodles laid out on plates on the main counter), there was no need to juggle our choice.  I am well aware both have their fans and detractors, and to each his/her own.  For yours truly, after double dipping in both outlets of Daiji Mastubara’s ramen empire over the years, I’ve come to prefer the newer sister for its lighter broths and flavor combinations.

Much has been said already about the more refined and visually appealing setup in this location compared to the one just down the street.  In an image conscious city like Vancouver, I find it somewhat fitting that the usually dour and bare bones design of a noodle shop has been upgraded at Motomachi Shokudo.  On a first time visit, the differences are really noticeable, despite it being a relatively small dining area, with a few tables (including a communal one) and a bar counter to eat at.  Clientele wise, I see more females and people apparently on dates here than one would normally associate with a ramen-ya.  Stretching this impression to Japan, where its almost unfathomable to see a single woman eating by herself in such a place due to societal and cultural taboos, its even all the more “odd” to see here.

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The Grove Yerba Buena – San Francisco, CA

The Grove Yerba Buena
690 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 957-0558

Unfortunately I did not bother to shoot a photo of the exterior of The Grove’s outlet in Yerba Buena, so this below capture from Google Street View that shows the location before they set up shop was the best I could do.  Suffice it to say, its easy to find being just three blocks from the Montgomery Street BART station, and just a block from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  Next door is a coffee house and the general area is populated by numerous large hotel chains for the business and leisure traveler.  After overpaying for some ridiculously priced hotel breakfast the previous day, we opted to drag our overworked behinds out onto the streets and by sure luck we found this place where things were more relaxed, both in terms of atmosphere and prices.

Something about the west coast lifestyle that pervades in this beautiful city must have impregnated itself in my mind for breakfast, as I was on the hunt for something nutritious and light.  Coupled with a smooth tasting Americano, my order ended up being a simple plate of fresh ingredients,  highlighted by two small poached eggs, two thick slices of grilled zucchini, and tomato bruschetta.  Given the backup in the kitchen, a number sign was given to me and it was brought out to my table by a server in a few minutes time.

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The (B-Tsai) Dessert House – Calgary, AB

The Dessert House (B-Tsai)
101-111 2 Avenue SE
Calgary, AB T2G 0B2
(403) 263-7789

Bubble Tea, everyone’s favorite summertime drink, originated in Taiwan. The OG version was a basic black tea, condensed milk, honey, and tapioca balls. While many people swear by the original version only, there are now an infinite number of variations other than milk tea, including fruit tea, fruit milk, fruit juice, and fruit slush. For me, the key to any good bubble tea lies in good bubbles. They must’ve been boiled long enough to get rid of any chalky texture. And not been sitting too long to be “too soft”. The Taiwanese have a term for this correct texture – “qiu qiu”.

Don’t get me wrong. The flavour obviously matters as well, but it’s secondary. The freshness of the fruit matters the most (after texture), but in most slushes and juices, the sweetness is often adjusted by the inclusion of simple syrup, making it a bit less important. With powder drinks, it matters less, as it’s all a matter of shop preference for how much powder is included.

In Calgary, my favorite place for bubble tea is The Dessert House (B-Tsai Desserts). Due to high volume and years of experience, they have the most consistent bubbles, and freshest fruit juice. They recently moved locations from their smaller, cramped location, to a cavernous location across the street. Their hours have stayed the same, but the prices have gone up. Definitely the most expensive bubble tea i’ve ever had, but as an occasional treat, it’s worth it. The best of the fresh fruit is the seasonal fruit specials. For example, currently it’s all berries – blueberry, raspberry, blackberry. You can mix flavours for 50 cents more.

To be honest, i’d take Dragonball in Vancouver any day, especially at the price. The prices themselves are a bit ridiculous – while i understand inflation, $8 for a large seasonal fresh fruit with bubbles is a bit extreme. The Dessert House does have other items – a lot of Hong Kong style snacks (think tapas style), ices, and jellies. But for me, they are all about the Bubble Tea, if you can afford it. Order the seasonal fruit. And take a seat, as it’s so busy, it’ll take a while. But to get your vitamins in a tasty form, it is well worth it.

The Dessert House (B-Tsai) on Urbanspoon

Gold Wonton – Calgary, AB

Gold Wonton
5441 Falsbridge Drive NE
Calgary, AB T3J 3E8
(403) 285-8399


September 2008 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Hot Pot, Fondue, Shabu Shabu. All variations of the same theme.

Chinese Hot Pot, better known in Western Culture as Chinese Fondue, is one of the most regionalized meals available in China. Drawing its origins from the ancient Mongolian hot pot developed by the northern tribes, any type of meat, vegetable, or starch is conceivably a hot pot ingredient. With a variety of different broths to dip in. one could go as far as to say no two hot pots are ever the same.

The appeal of hot pot is the interactivity of the meal – it is a highly social activity. Suitable for 2 to 20, it is a slow-paced, interactive meal. In today’s modern age, it also happens to be a very healthy form of cooking. Lightly dipping various fresh ingredients in broth to cook, and then dip in a variety of different sauces, is the extent of the requirements for a good hot pot meal. Usually, it’s quite affordable to boot. A relative triple threat on a culinary scale.

With restaurants like Treasures of China going downhill, the hot pot scene in Calgary was in a very poor state. Hot pot was mostly an afterthought, a dish available on expansive menus that served a variety of dishes and cuisines. And it was getting expensive. Where would one go for hot pot!?

In the NE of Calgary, is a restaurant that specializes in hot pot. Gold Wonton. Not sichuan, peking, shanghai, cantonese cuisine… hot pot.

Gold Wonton is a fairly simple place. Clean in decor, they have basic booths and tables. Every booth has a hot plate in the center, and a control knob to control the temperature. The hotpot comes with a divider, giving you the ability to order two broths. There is, of course, an extra charge for changing up one of the broths.

The menu itself is the most complicated part of Gold Wonton. Able to order all you can eat (AYCE – $22.95), or by the plate, there are an infinite number of selections available – yes, wontons as well. Different broths, different ingredients. It is important to note though, that many premium ingredients (fatty beef, crab, lobster) are only available with an extra surcharge. An often hefty surcharge charge indeed. AYCE is the better option for first timers, or for a diverse crowd. If you know exactly what you want, you may be able to save a few dollars ordering by the plate. I prefer the flexibility and the variety of AYCE. Different flavoured broths, while requiring a small extra charge ($4 on average), are well worth the investment.

The ingredients are very fresh. Thinly sliced and well prepared, there are no complaints. “Gold” Wontons are good, the fish balls and cuttlefish particularly good. Even the tofu is fresh! There are a huge variety of broths. Different flavours, and spice levels to suit everyone. There are also a wide variety of sauces, including my favorite, the classic Sa-cha, vinegar, and soy sauce. The only common complaint is cost – for premium items, which taste better, you pay more. A lot more. There is nothing wrong with the quality of regular ingredients, it is only that premium ones are better. And the price becomes fairly sticker shocking for a meal as simple as hot pot when you go the premium route. Otherwise, you have a great hot pot.

Hot pot is one of those meals that spans all cultures. No matter what a person’s diverse tastes are, chances are, there is something they will like about hot pot. When you go for hot pot in Calgary, try Gold Wonton. It’s fresh, and it’s good. Just make sure you bring your wallet. It isn’t cheap – which for hot pot, is not so golden.

Gold Wonton on Urbanspoon