Spice Islands Indonesian – Vancouver, BC

Spice Islands Indonesian Restaurant
3592 West 41st Avenue
Vancouver, BC
(604) 266 7355

Spice Islands Indonesian on Urbanspoon

Recently lauded in a local city magazine as the top restaurant choice in a strange and contestable category dubbed as “best other asian”, Spice Islands Indonesian Restaurant fills a unique niche on Vancouver’s far west side, with a quaintly decorated room fitting to the type of clientele living in the area.

Seemingly understaffed with a male manager-type who was a one-man pit crew – handling hosting, waitering and busboy duties, and making occasional stops behind the open bar to prepare drinks. Service was friendly, though commentary on dish selections and suggestions came across a bit condescending – a pet peeve of mine with servers who without questioning, assume your understanding (or lack there of) when it comes to certain cuisine and/or your ability to handle some flavorings or strength of them (level of spiciness for example).

The Roti Prata was served with a light curry sauce, and was the highlight of our meal with just the right thickness and a chewy interior matched by a flaky, crispy outer crust – probably the best I’ve had in the GVA.

As one of the mains that were shared, the thirteen-spice slow cooked Rendang Daging had tender chunks of beef but they lacked a deep marination of flavor and the cook seemed to try to compensate for it by adding an overbearing level of heat.

Lastly came the Cumi-Cumi Baso, which was essentially a minced prawn-stuffed squid tube that was breaded and deep fried then covered in a tomato chili sauce. The stuffing was too rubbery and tasted almost artificial in a way, almost like a bland version of SPAM – a poor finish to our dining experience.

With not much in the way of competition for authentic Indonesian cuisine, it would seem Spice Islands has captured solid footing in this space. But for this diner, not enough to warrant a return visit at above-average prices for decent but underwhelming food.

Spice Islands Indonesian on Urbanspoon

Prata Man Singapore Cuisine – Richmond, BC

Prata Man Singapore Cuisine
180-9020 Capstan Way
Richmond, BC
(604) 278 1348

Prata Man on Urbanspoon

My travels in the past three years (2006-2008) have taken me to Singapore a whopping six times.  And those are round trips from North America.  If I threw in the short haul trips back and forth from there to neighboring countries as well, that figure could climb up to twelve to fifteen.  Yes, the Lion City and I are good friends.

If you’ve ever done the flying, you know its a long haul.  A big part of what makes it all worth it though, is the great food culture that can be enjoyed there.  And for me, a great roti prata is one thing that I look forward too each and every time, morning, day and night…

The ultimate Singapore-style roti prata for me, is that delicate, light and crispy variation found in the famous places at Jalan Kayu, which I’ve commented on previously.  But unfortunately, Prata Man does the opposite, with its thicker, moister pancake type.  It felt almost like a green onion cake, with the oil having been absorbed and really noticeable when trying to tear it apart or when taking a bite.  These were massive too, IHOP pancake large.

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Thasevi Prata – Jalan Kayu, SGP

Thasevi Food Original Jalan Kayu Prata
237/239 Jalan Kayu
+65 6481 1537

The Jalan Kayu area is very well known by locals at THE place for Roti Prata – usually just called Prata by Singaporeans (although some of my friends also swear by the places on Upper Thompson too, especially for the sweeter variants of this dish).  In fact, that’s probably all this area is noteable for as the street itself is nothing special without the main shops that sell this particular food, that originates from the Indian Paratha.  In the morning, it is a staple of the breakfast meal, and here at Thasevi Prata you can see young teenagers grabbing a snack on their way to school, middle-aged men eating before they head to work, and even seniors who have plenty of time on their hands to enjoy a relaxed morning.  Parking is limited to the stalls along the same street, or to a pay parking lot just up the road.  For me on this day, it was a stopover for a quick bite, on the way to wake boarding in the Straits of Johor.

The setup is very simple.  You go inside, place your order, give them your table number that is painted on your table, and wait to have it delivered to your table.  Many of the tables have used cigarette cans, so beware of that if you are adverse to smoke while eating and pick a table more near the centre of the area.  As well, don’t expect much for service, as the folks inside are quite busy and generally not a cheery bunch.  They have a tendency to make mistakes with orders (as they did again on this day) and they’re not so speedy with rectifying problems.  Try not to raise a big stink, as they’ve been known to respond aggressively.

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