Japadog (Waterfront Station) – Vancouver, BC


Japadog (Waterfront Station)
600 W Cordova St
Vancouver, BC

Much is already out there about the Japadog phenomenon.  Your truly has had his fair share of dogs at some of their outlets, but this one at the Waterfront Station was a first timer.  Melding in with the throngs of visiting tourists fresh off the cruise ship and wandering around Gastown was interesting to say the least, and I could do some casual observing of how they interacted with our fair city.  A few minutes near the Japadog cart was a key highlight.  I’m sure many of them had no clue what was going on or being offered here.

I haven’t bothered to keep up to date with the latest flavor combinations but this #6 on the menu board, the Gokudare, seemed something fresh.  I should have investigated further.  But alas, I got drawn to the classics.  This time the #2, Kurobuta.  I love how they have dubbed it the MVP – the Most Valuable Pork.  I’m torn if that’s the result of a clever play on words or some odd Engrish creation…

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Myung-Ga Sonmandoo – Coquitlam, BC


Myung-Ga Sonmandoo (Hand Made Dumplings)
455 329 North Road
Coquitlam, BC
(604) 939-8828

In an area already congested with places to eat, its always nice to discover the pending opening of yet another place to try some new food.  In the shopping complex anchored by the H-Mart Supermarket, while getting some groceries there in early-December, I noticed a place with some paper up on the windows and some temporary signage signifying something was about to occupy the place shortly.  From what I could make of it, it was going to be about dumplings.  Yum.

And so at the end of 2010 I was back as the doors were now open and I quickly had my virgin meal at Myung-Ga, which was indeed offering dine-in and takeout service for its sonmandoo (or hand made dumplings).  It was  a small, narrow space with an open kitchen up front where you can see workers making the various dumplings they have right in front of you.   A small window from the sidewalk allows you to peak inside, if they have the shade up.   The steaming is also done right there, so if its chilly outside, you can get a noticeable amount of fog indoors with the constant opening and closing of the main entrance causing the ambient air temperature to fluctuate.

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Japadog (Robson Store) – Vancouver, BC


Japadog (Robson Store)
530 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 569-1158

September 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Over the years, I can say I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made it to the front of the line at a Japadog stand and ordered something to eat.  If I were to add the occasions when I saw a lineup and avoided it all together despite wanting a ‘dog and the instances when I’ve actually gotten into the queue only to give up part way through due to time (and my thorough disdain for standing in lineups), I would need all the digits on both hands and feet.  With this in mind, upon hearing that the minds behind this incredible food business success story began planning and finally were able to open the doors to their first non-cart venture, I was anxious to see what the setup would be, as well as the new menu offerings…

However, my trips to the downtown core and becoming few and far between of late, as I simply detest the traffic (the auto and human kind inclusive).  Perhaps its the slowly warming weather that’s making me testy when I have to dodge traffic on both the roads and sidewalks – as well as growing numbers of out-of-town tourists gawking at maps, suddenly stopping and pulling suitcases too if you ask me.  But in spite of these obstacles and mental anguish, I decided to bite the bullet and see if the storm of their launch had subsided somewhat, which would enable me to place and order and get my food and spend as little time as possible waiting as I could.  Choosing a sunny Saturday afternoon when other people had the same idea apparently, was what destroyed my dream of a quick in-and-out visit.

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Halal Cart 53rd and 6th – New York City, NY


Halal Cart
6 Ave & W 53rd St
Manhattan, New York, NY 10019
(212) 586-7000

Lineups are strange things. I’ve seen people get in line for something they had no idea they were lining up for. Lineups make the destination seem more desirable – a general herd mentality really, that if all these other people like it, then it must be worth lining up for. Or, lineups are really an indication that a place is worth eating at.

Out of all the street cart vendors that exist in New York City, my favorite are the Halal carts. They typically serve a couple types of meat – gyro, lamb, beef, or chicken, and make sandwiches or platters. So when i passed by an insane lineup at 9:30pm at a Halal cart at 53rd and 6th, I had to know what was going on. I swore that by the time i came back, if there was still a lineup, I would try what was there. At 11:30pm, the lineup had actually gotten longer.

From first apperances, this cart was nothing special. They served chicken, and gyro, and offered platters and sandwiches. Platters were $6. I didnt really understand why I was willing to brave the lineup.  A patron filled me in on what i was missing out on.

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Pojang Macha – Vancouver, BC


Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, Pojang Macha emerged from site of what I had assumed was simply a makeover of the previous tenant – a decent Korean restaurant specializing in soondubu – that I had eaten in from time to time over the past year.  Peeking inside one day during the construction lull (a sign outside said “re-opening in September”), I saw drapes of orange plastic tarps everywhere and assumed things were underway for a flashy new setup.  To my utter surprise, on a return visit this month after the doors were re-opened, I discovered that this bright drapery had not been torn down and was in fact the intended motif!

The inside of the restaurant was literally covered with the colorful tarps along every single wall.  The entrance even had a tarp covering that was partially peeled back, to suggest it was perhaps still under construction, but again, this was part of the intended design.  Scattered around were some upturned and painted drum cans, that had been converted to tables with large steel circular plates attached on top.  Around them were stubby blue plastic stools.  In the center of everything were two long wooden tables, that had a pair of stainless steel tubs placed inside, with some narrow skewer sticks that were visibly floating on top.

After getting over my initial bewilderment, I finally realized what was going on.

In Korean, a pojang macha could be described as a street side vendor/cart/stall.  You can spot these all over the major streets, especially in the high traffic areas around bus and train transportation hubs, as well as in residential neighborhoods.  Most look like little kiosks, with the same one-side opening you find on sandwich trucks that patrol the lunch hour of many industrial areas of major North American cities, that offer up sandwiches and hot drinks to mostly blue collar workers.  The pojang macha in Korea take it a step further in the winter months, by putting up sheets of plastic (sometimes clear, sometimes colored), surrounding the cart/stall, creating a warm bubble that keeps out the cold wind and captures the hearty smells of food that are prepared inside.

In essence, the folks here had re-created this, but inside an actual building structure.

I could sense a real determination to stick to this unique theme here, as there was even a creative play on the menus.  Instead of using regular sheets of paper in a booklet, the menu items were hand written in a dark marker onto what almost appeared to be like car hubcaps – some round circular aluminum discs, with everything only in Korean script.  Along one wall were also some narrow sheets of paper with handwritten items – again all in Korean.  Fortunately, I was with someone who could read it all and explain it to me.  [I later noticed when a pair of large Caucasian males, dressed up in full on biker gear and looking totally out of place, walked in and comfortably sat down at one of the large common tables, that they had received menus in English).

Even the banchan (side dishes) came out in a never before seen fashion – on a segmented aluminum plate, much like you’d find in a military mess hall.  The hot brick of tofu dressed in a watery, spicy sauce was my favorite of this lot.  Some salted edamame, sticks of celery and carrots, a vinegar dressed seaweed, and some sweetly flavored potato cubes completed the offering.

The bossam dish – a plate of nice, thick slices of boiled pork belly, served with a side mixture that was comprised of kimchi, scallions, red peppers, and little dried shrimp, was our main dish.  Now this really reminded me of the small plate dishes that are popular in drinking establishments in Korea, called anju.  The instant envelope created by wrapping a piece of the pork along with the spicy toppings inside a leave of cabbage was a hit at our table.  I wish I had been in the mood to drink some soju, as this would have gone down very well together.

Lastly, we decided to sample a bowl of the korean odeng (cut up, and flat pieces made of a cooked mixture of fish paste and flour), including some udon noodles.  The combination of the chewy ingredients in the odeng and udon, and the flavorful broth made for a heartwarming finish to our meal.

Once you get over the initial surprise of the decor, and if you are have even a remote familiarity to the street versions in South Korea, I am sure this place will bring a smile to your face.  At least, tip your hat to the owners for boldly going in this direction, and bringing this piece of Korea to Vancouver’s dining scene.  I am sure there will be some who don’t get it and I could see why that would happen.  I hope this small article can serve in a small way to explain to any unsuspecting visitors, about this concept of bringing street food inside.  On the evening that I visited, there was a group of older Korean gentlemen who seemed to be relishing in this transformation of street culture from their homeland, to pairs of young couples who seemed to be there for the food and conversation, as well as the a fore mentioned bikers.

Example of an outdoor pojang macha in Seoul

Example of an outdoor pojang macha in Seoul

After recently dining in a place that had invested heavily in the design and was somewhat lacking with the food, it was a refreshing change to see quite the opposite come through at Pojang Macha.  I guess it just goes to show that there is always that balance with restaurants, between the importance of the food being served, as well as the place its being served in.  At times, the finest ingredients and creations from the kitchen meld well with creatively designed spaces, and other times not.  Most often, there is an imbalance between the two.  In this case, I think I will always side with preferring solid food over beautiful architecture or interior design.  How about you?

Pojang Macha
595 E Broadway
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 569-0852
Hours: Seven days a week, 5pm to midnight

Pojang Macha on Urbanspoon

Summer Night Market – Richmond, BC


[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Richmond Summer Night Market
10-acre site located at 12631 Vulcan Way
Richmond, BC
Operating until October 5th, 2008
Hours: Fri/Sat, 7pm-midnight; Sun, 7pm-11pm; Holiday Sun, 7pm-midnight; Holiday Mon, 7pm-11pm

According to the organizers, the Richmond Summer Night Market features over three hundred vendors, and generates on average 14,000 visitors per night.  After some early worries that it would not take place in 2008, a new group took over the reins to make sure it would happen – no doubt delighting regular visitors to this unique part of the summer nightlife in Richmond.  I decided to check it out on a sudden whim, figuring a holiday Monday would bring in the crowds and give me the best sense of how successful this event really is.  Getting to the general area about a half hour after its official opening, it was relatively easy to find a parking space near the grounds.

As with any kind of exhibition, be it indoor or outdoor, I usually begin by walking the space, up and down the rows, checking out every corner of action before making any kind of really in-depth exploration of one particular vendor or booth.  After scoping out the entire scene, I immediately realized the tents selling non-food items, well let’s just say, its not for me.  Maneuvering quickly back to the food section, which basically amounted to three rows of vendors, frying, grilling, pouring, etc. a decent variety of Asian-themed street food.  Getting there on an empty stomach, I knew the strong smells coming from the places grilling meat on skewers could not be avoided, and after scanning a few (albeit neglecting what appeared to be the busiest one as I was just that hungry), I plopped down five dollars for three lamb meat-on-a-stick.  Since it was easy, I added an order of some rough chopped grilled squid as well for a couple more Loonies.

The lamb skewers were too dry for my taste, and the marinade quite weak too considering the rich color.  A disappointment, and knew I had made the wrong call by by-passing the more popular grill station a few booths down, that had a more interesting flavor combination like curry, and a more energetic grill master talking up the gathering crowd.  The squid had a nice chewy texture, not too tough and perhaps a bit on the raw side, which probably helped it from becoming a rubbery mess.  A sweet chili sauce was squirted onto the plate as it was handed to me, giving it some nice added flavor.  I washed it down with a bubble tea from another nearby booth – sorry no image taken of it.

Moving along, I thought being Richmond and all, that I needed to get me some Chinese offerings, as well as to continue my main goal of fueling myself.  Noodles, always does the job at making you feel full, so I went to a booth that served up a combo plate selection of chow mein and I chose to pair that with what they called a duck wrap, instead of some pan-fried dumplings (with plans to make a big load of gyoza at home the next day, this was an easy call).  The noodles as you would expect from a hot plate sitting there all night, were way overdone and I could get a taste of several burnt bits.  The duck wrap was a pleasant surprise, although it tasted more of the thin sliced mushrooms inside than the duck, which was further masked by the sweet sauce that was drizzled on top.

Next up or rather down the gullet, was a tray of steamed shrimp dim sum.  These were a mistake, the wraps being way too thick and gummy, they were pipping hot though I will give them that.  By this point, I was very, very full.  Did that stop me though from picking up a dessert?  Of course not.  A booth called Taiwanese Snacks, was selling custard, Nutella, and red bean circular, waffle-like cakes.  The lineup there was long, probably due to the fact their production line was slow.  Nearby, a Korean booth was selling a similar item, though made in a mold shaped like a fish (Taiyaki, in Japanese), also for one dollar a piece. [Sorry, no images of these as I was wolfing them down in my car on the drive home].

So as you can see, a very filling dinner was had on this visit, and I left just before it started getting dark.  Granted you’re not getting the best quality stuff at a gathering like this, with vendors having limited resources and facilities to prepare anything genuine, but its still a refreshing scene to take in, especially when the weather is so nice as it has been this summer in Vancouver.  I believe there is a similar operation down in Chinatown too, so perhaps I will go there just for comparisions sake.