Momofuku Noodle Bar – Toronto, ON


Momofuku Noodle Bar
190 University Ave
Toronto, ON
(647) 253-6225

In a recent discussion with the Foodosopher, we touched on the topic of this website, our former haunt where we used to regularly pen our thoughts on our latest eating adventures and released them to the oblivion of the internet. Was anyone still reading it? A good question. The WordPress stats seem to indicate there is still a stream of traffic coming mainly from search engines, much to my surprise. So let’s see what happens with this post, a testing of the waters so to speak…


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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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Pho Century – Burnaby, BC


Pho Century Fine Vietnamese Cuisine
6701 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 544-5028

Billed as a “Place for Noodle Lovers”, this second location of Pho Century recently popped up at the intersection of Kingsway and Sperling, basically directly across the way from the National Nikkei Heritage Centre where the beloved Hi Genki is located.  I’ve never visited their first outlet (which is also on Kingsway – at Willingdon), so have no point of reference to compare, but this just opened spot sure took me a bit by surprise.  While carved out inside a shabbier looking building that I think housed some kind of ESL/math school run by Chinese until recent times, they had really spruced up the tiny interior with a clean and fresh modern look.  Parking is brutal – limited to a few spots right in front – and street parking nearby is hampered by the ongoing construction of a tall condominium building right across the street, with all the trucks and machinery needing to get through.

As you can see from the signage, there is a grand opening going on, with special dine-in pricing of 10% off, which is slated to end January 15th.  So perhaps by the time you read this post, it could be over.  Nevertheless, the price point for their main dishes are reasonable – case in point, the small pho is $6, and the large bowl is $7.  Congees, and barbequed (insert any meat here) with rice dishes also fall in the $7~$8 range.  There were also some Viet Subs (chicken, meat ball, minced pork, Vietnamese ham) available priced $3.95 and up; apparently they are only here at this second location. Combo plates with rice or vermicelli run in the $7 to $11 zone; this “touch of everything” caught my attention for my lunch.

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Cheontong Son Kalguksu – Gyeongju, KOR


Cheontong Son Kalguksu
206-3 Cheongun-dong, Gyeongju City
North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
+82 (0)54-745-3010

Returning to another report on another stop from my August stay in South Korea.  I remember this lunch well, as we were racing to leave Gyeongju City as the powerful typhoon ravaging the coast was approaching fast and already the rain was falling horizontally due to the swirling winds.  We spotted Cheontong Son Kanguksu from the road as we approaching this area that was populated by a few restaurants.  The lights seemed to be on inside but nobody could be seen, so one brave member of our party stepped out into the falling rain and knocked on the door to see if they were indeed ready for customers.  Perhaps it was the weather and the lone female proprietor felt sorry for us, as it seems she was still doing her preparation work, but she let us inside and told us to make ourselves at home.

The wet, humid weather made it perfect for something hot to try and warm up our cores.  Kalguksu or hand-cut wheat noodles served in a bowl of rich, mainly seafood (shellfish)-based flavorful broth, topped with a mix of thin sliced vegetables.  While the ambiance was nothing special, perhaps even on the dilapidated side and I could spot a few flies spinning around in the air, I was just grateful to be indoors and away from the storm.  Although being in a fully glass encased building was not something one should probably do when powerful winds are ravaging all around.

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Huaxi Noodle Stall at Crystal Mall – Burnaby, BC


Huaxi Noodle Specialists
Crystal Mall Foodcourt

4500 Kingsway
Burnaby, BC
(604) 438-8620

In recessionary times such as these, it is great to have a solid rotation of tasty and inexpensive meals in your back pocket…and lucky for us, the Vancouver area is blessed with many places that can quell lunchtime hunger pangs for around the $5-6 range. More often the not, I choose a noodle soup – it is a quick, complete, filling, and often quite healthy meal. A fairly recent addition to my regular “Pho, Ramen, Chinese, Taiwanese Beef Noodle” rotation is a real keeper: the Huaxi Noodle Specialists in Crystal Mall.

My usual order is from a short list of Guizhou soup noodles – often the beef tendon (#9) or plain beef (#8). Guizhou is a sorely underrepresented cuisine here in town. It is also one of the Great Eight Culinary Traditions that define Chinese classical cuisine. It is very similar to the cuisines of its neighbours in China – Sichuan and Hunan, and thus its flavour profile is also very similar: heat from chilies; sour; and salty dominate. This soup is essentially Guizhou cuisine in a bowl – hot, sour, and salty.

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Phobulous – Edmonton, AB


Phobulous
8701 109 Street
Edmonton, AB
(780) 988-2696

As you leave the U of A campus headed towards 109th street, staring directly in front of you is a restaurant with signage reading, Phobulous Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine.

phobulous_interior

This may sound odd – but I found my first experience here to be unusual, only because I had never eaten Pho in a nice looking establishment with clean chairs, tables and stain-free walls.  This is a tiny little restaurant, walls adorned with some interesting art and a large menu full of options.

I am not a huge coffee connoisseur, but I do enjoy  Vietnamese style iced coffee.  Individually brewed in a Vietnamese phin filter over a cup containing sweetened condensed milk – waiting for this to finish brewing can be excruciating.  Once it has finished – stir in as much of the sweetened condensed milk to suit your personal taste, before pouring over the tall glass filled with ice.

phobulous_weasel_coffee

Phobulous serves a unique brand of coffee – known as Weasel Coffee.  Coffee starts its life growing on shrubs or bushes as a fruit, which is then harvested, the outer fruit separated from the bean, dried, roasted, ground and is then finally ready for use.  In some South Asian countries, they use a civet or weasel, which gladly goes to work eating only the ripest berries from the crop, digesting the outer fruit, while simultaneously chemically altering the beans characteristics removing the bitter notes.  Eventually it “discards” the coffee beans, which are then painstakingly collected by hand, and further processed.

If you ever watched the Flintstones cartoons, you may remember the clever uses the animals played in their daily lives.  (i.e. Octopus dishwashers, Pelican garbage can, bird-beak record player).  Harvesting of Kopi Luak/Civet/weasel coffee reminds me of this. Picture if you will – a weasel perched on the kitchen window, with its head outside munching on coffee berries. Wilma walks into the kitchen,  lifts the weasel tail – and out comes some freshly picked coffee beans…  🙂

I read an article about this a few years ago, when a friend of mine was describing something he called “cat poo coffee”.  Kopi Luwak was being toted as the worlds most expensive brew (some even offering a certificate of authenticity), but as popularity grew – oddly, prices seemed to drop.  Thus, it was not a surprise to find that an artificial process has been developed to simulate the weasel’s gastric effect on the beans, which is commonly being sold as the real thing.  Regardless of the type of coffee – when mixed with sweetened condensed milk, it’s all good.

Maybe it’s just the establishments I tend to go to – but this is the first time I’ve ever found more than one option for goi cuon (salad rolls).  Available are the classic shrimp and pork, vegetarian, grilled chicken or grilled la lop – wrapped together with rice noodles, shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro and garnished with chives.

phobulous_goi_cuon

Photographed above are both the grilled chicken and the shrimp/pork.  Both were very good and prepared perfectly – the rice paper wrapper keeping its integrity and the fillings evenly balanced.  The dipping sauce is a thinned hoisin with crushed peanuts – providing a nice sweetness to roll.

In my past visits to this restaurant – I usually choose to go with the Pho dac Biet or humerously named Mother Pho. This is their fully-loaded Pho – served with rare steak, brisket, flank, tendon, beef balls, and tripe for $9.95 where the basic Pho Tai, named Pho Real is $7.95. For those who don’t quite get the joke – Pho is pronouced ‘fuh’ or as foot (without the ‘t’).

phobulous_motherpho

The broth is clear, with a great depth of flavour.  Noodles maintained a good bite, and quantity of toppings is fair.  The standard complement of bean sprouts, thai basil, lime, hoisin and sriracha were delivered as expected.

Hu Tieu Love? (The menu is full of this type of humor).
This Southern Vietnamese concoction is definitely worth another visit for me.  Pork-stock based broth, topped with chopped fried shallots and Chinese chives – delivers a sweeter, more complex broth as compared with the Northern Vietnam Pho.  Served with rice noodles, shrimp and plenty of thinly sliced pork – this was absolutely delicious.  I wish I could provide more commentary – but it was difficult trying to steal spoonfuls of soup without having my hand slapped away by my wife…

phobulous_hu_tieu

Located on the menu page labeled ‘Phobulous Introduces’ are a few interesting choices recommended by the server.  Ca-ri Ga (Chicken Curry Noodle Soup), Banh Mi Sate (Sate Sub), Bo Kho (Beef Stew) and Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Hue Noodle Soup).

The Ca-ri Ga, carried a mildly spicy broth of curry and coconut milk, served with large chunks of stewed carrots, potatoes, and tender chicken served over rice noodles.  Great flavours, very rich, and very good.

phobulous_cari_ga

The Bo Kho was fantastic.  The menu reads “A fragrant blend of star anise, lemongrass, carrots and tender beef brisket in a rich tomato broth served with rice noodles”.  Everything delivered as promised – and was good to the last drop. Anyone lacking solid chopstick skills will probably want to be extra careful, as the beef portions are rather large – and makes a big splash when dropped…

phobulous_bo_kho

Overall, I am very impressed with this restaurant.  I get the sense that the chef cares about the food being served both in presentation and in quality, service is attentive, and the atmosphere is great.  I will definitely be back again.

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Toride – Tokyo, JP


Toride
Shinsencho 20-23, Shibuya-ku
Tokyo, Japan 〒150-0045
+81 3 3780 4450

With the chilly weather and ongoing fog that has engulfed the west coast, it has me craving for a good bowl of ramen. Unfortunately, when it comes to ramen, my thoughts go back to Japan. No offense to the ramen operators in Vancouver, but there is just something that cannot be matched by the “real deal”. As I think about it, its not only just the difference in the taste, quality of ingredients, dedicated “masters” who put so much into their creations, but also the atmosphere that I have a yearning for on a cold winter’s night.

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