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.

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Mr.Pickwick’s Fish and Chips – Vancouver, BC


Mr.Pickwick’s Fish and Chips
8620 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 266 2340

Mr Pickwick's Fish & Chips (Granville) on Urbanspoon

To me, in many ways, restaurants can themselves almost be thought of as people. They each have their own personalities, special abilities, unique characteristics, and even credentials. I suppose in some ways, all of the things that you read and hear before your first visit, do help to shape your impressions as if the restaurants were an actual human being that you are interviewing for a job in your company.  I’d like to ask our readers, how much stock do you put in all the accolades that restaurants receive through more “official” channels such as local print and online media, in doing your “reference checks”?

Personally, I’ve always taken these with a grain of salt, or two.  Or three… well, you get the point.  Especially when they are overtly displayed inside the establishment (okay, one or two clippings I don’t mind, but more than that and all framed with pride – a bit overboard) and/or digitized and clearly displayed on their website.  If you’re like me, then Mr. Pickwick’s Fish and Chips might not be called in for an “interview”, as their small space (one of two in the city) was covered in framed certificates from sources such as the Georgia Straight, The WestEnder, and other local business and tourist organizations.  The fact that the business also had a human face associated on all of their branding and signage, made it all the more “personal” – which I think contributed to me feeling like I was not going to like this “person”.

The order board that hangs above the main counter had sort of a retro look with the old school fonts and magnets that are used to list items and their accompanying prices.  The lit up photos of their most popular fish and chips combos, just your regular run-of-the-mill fast food variety.  Being able to see entirely into the small kitchen and prep area, made me think of those narrow spaces that some of those french fry specialty places in shopping malls operate out of.  I’m not sure how it is every day or during more busier times, but the space was occupied by a single person who was doing the phone answering/order taking/frying and bagging duties all alone.

The menu featured the standard choices of fish in the cod (source: North Pacific; incidentally I believe its the eastern Atlantic cod that is facing extinction), halibut (source: Queen Charlotte Islands), haddock and salmon.  These could be ordered as 1pc, 2pc, 3pc and even 10pc sets.  You can also “mix and match” by selecting the West Coast (halibut & salmon), East West (haddock & halibut) or Whitefish (cod/haddock/halibut) set deals. As well, there were other seafood options such as oysters, prawns, clam strips and popcorn shrimp.  Further, probably in an attempt to differentiate themselves, there was a section called “sides and treats” which featured yam chips, poutine, “Newfie” chips, deep fried dill pickles, Mushy peas, and even a Deep Fried Mars Chocolate Bar!

In the end, I went with the tried and true cod and in a hungry mood chose the 3pc set ($10.98).  Personally I find the fattier, buttery texture of cod which “flakes” in larger pieces better and is more pleasing in deep fried food like this, as compared to say halibut (which I tend to associate more as a grilled fish).   The batter was indeed light and crispy as advertised, and I was quite glad as there is nothing worst than a thick, cake-y layer of  deep fried batter that seems more thicker than the actual fillet of fish inside.  The side chips were similarly light but still crispy and definitely not over-fried.  They were not really seasoned however, but I suppose that’s what the self serve packs of salt and pepper were for, but would have hoped they would have done it when they came out of the oil nice and hot, so that it would adhere better.

The tartar sauce which they dub as Rayana’s Tartar Sauce was fairly standard and nothing too different from many other tartar sauces I’ve had over the years with fish and chips.   They did give me a generous two portions with my order though, and two slices of lemons in my take-out order, that was wrapped up in a large sheet of paper and placed in a bio-degradable plastic bag.  I think Mr. Pickwick’s Fish and Chips are playing up their efforts for sustainability, as in the waiting area they had clearly displayed that they were involved in the Oceanwise sustainable seafood program, as well as working in a network called Green Table, which includes restaurants that are working to reduce their operations impacts on the environment… hence all that eco-friendly “packaging”.

I really need to do more exploring in Vancouver for comparable fish and chip offerings, as it seems thats my thing these days.  If you have any, please do drop me a note in the comments section, and I will be pleased to go try them out.

Mr Pickwick's Fish & Chips (Granville) on Urbanspoon

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