Kishu River – Vancouver, BC

Kishu River Japanese Restaurant
3339 Kingsway Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 433-8857

After a long day that culminated in an early evening flight out of Calgary back to Vancouver, I’d completely forgotten that I had promised the week before to meet up with some friends for some last night drinks. In a rush to meet up with the crew, who’s whereabouts were uncertain other than I knew they’d be on the east side, I made a mad dash from the airport into the general vicinity.  Dying for something to eat as I’d had nothing since the noon hour, I headed southeastward on Kingsway until I saw Kishu River on the other side of the street.  Yes, after an uneventful eating experience in southern Alberta, I had a sushi craving that had to be satisfied, no matter what the risk…

Yes folks, another edition of “round and round we go, where we stop, nobody knows”.  Call it the shotgun approach or solo game of Russian roulette, I once again stepped bravely into an unknown establishment with no fear…. well perhaps a touch of hesitation.  The view from the entrance area sparked nothing in me to be pleasantly surprised nor want to head back out the direction I came from.  A couple of booths lined up on both sides of the room, with the sushi bar way at the back, and the access to the hidden kitchen to the back right.  Once spotted by the lone waitress, I was lead to my table and handed a menu booklet.  I quickly asked for some green tea and that was brought to me minutes later.

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Burger Burger – New Westminster, BC

Burger Burger
340 – 6th Street
New Westminster, BC
(604) 525-4229

May 2010 re-visit post here

Original post below:

Another sojourn into New West.  I’ve been expanding my food hunting journeys to the “far east”, as frankly for me its a largely unexplored area and the Vancouver coverage of eateries and restaurants is seemingly getting more saturated and repetitive – especially in light of the start of “the event” next week in town.  So I thought, what a better way to really get off the beaten path of reviews on those standard superstar places that are appearing in cyberspace and print media, than a return to a classic mom-and-pop joint.

Interestingly enough, despite its very generic sounding name, Burger Burger gets top billing on the commercial signage that stands at this complex along sixth street.  It totally reminded me of my high school years, where my buddies and I would always congregate at our town’s favourite hole-in-the-wall burger spot – which ironically stood across the street from a McDonald’s.  Even the yellow signage was identical, as well as the open facing flat top cooking area and fantastically priced burger-fries-drink combos.  Over a decade later, I am bewildered to see that a place like Burger Burger has prices that I am most familiar with when I was a cash-starved but always hungry teenager over a decade ago.

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Dosa (on Valencia) – San Francisco, CA

Dosa on Valencia
995 Valencia (@ 21 St)
San Francisco, CA
(415) 642-3672

It took a long time for me to come around on South Indian food. It was one of those things that I didn’t have a lot of exposure to growing up – most cuisine where I grew up, of the South Asian variety, was usually Northern Indian, or Pakistani. Then, even when given the opportunity to be exposed to food from Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu, Goa, and other South Indian cultures, I eschewed them for more meat-based cuisines. I was, after all, an unapologetic carnivore. Vegetarian food was to be avoided at all costs!

Times change, as thankfully have my opinions. Once I managed to try South Indian food, i was hooked. Fantastic flavours with lots of balance, heat, and texture. Even though they do have meat dishes, for the most part, I usually stick with the vegetarian. And of all the South Indian vegetarian dishes, my favorite is the Dosa.

The namesake restaurant, Dosa on Valencia (used to distinguish from their new outpost on Filmore), is one of several South Indian restaurants that have cropped up in The Mission over the past few years. Serving a wide variety of South Indian dishes, they don’t represent one specific cuisine, but a broad representation of many cuisines from South India.

The restaurant itself is actually fairly intriguing. They have been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand three of four years they’ve been in business – Michelin’s award for good value. The decor is upscale casual, and they have an interesting and diverse beverage menu – not your average South Indian eatery.

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Mon Mom’s Cafe – New Westminster, BC

Mon Mom’s Cafe
821 12th St
New Westminster, BC
(604) 524-2088

On the quick and easy breakfast trail in New Westminster, I chanced upon Mon Mom’s Cafe located along 12st Street. Situated in a wooden building reminiscent of structures popular from an earlier era, it certainly has its charms and nostalgic sidewalk appeal. The slow pace of things on the road outside took a turn as I stepped inside the place which was full of chatter and customers. The sounds and smells of a breakfast diner never fail to disappoint me.

With breakfast plate offerings (eggs, toast, ham/sausage, French toast/pancakes) in the $4 to $4.75 range, and omelets in the $5 to $6 range, great value can be had. Preferring French toast over pancakes, I ordered one of the choices from the top half of the menu and sat back to take in the scene. Families, groups of working class men, single diners taking up the smaller tables near the front window, it was all a regular mix of common folk out for a relaxing morning meal.

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Sushi Hachi – Richmond, BC

Sushi Hachi
8888 Odlin Cres
Richmond, BC
(604) 207-2882

I love sushi. All of us at foodosophy love sushi. I could probably eat sushi every day, if not for a few mitigating factors. The environmental impact of several of the non-sustainable fishes commonly served, and, the price. Sushi just isn’t cheap. It probably shouldn’t be either. As Anthony Bourdain mentions in Kitchen Confidential, there are fewer scary things than the words “discount sushi”.

The more sushi I eat, the less i’m willing to accept substandard sushi. This doesn’t mean i always expect top quality product, rare and exotic ingredients, perfect shari, and impeccable knife skills – the 3 digit price tag can be hard to swallow. However,  my expectations for any sushi experience are higher. I want…correction, demand, fresh. A nice, clean environment, some good knife skills, decent rice, and good proportion between neta and shari. Unfortunately, in most restaurants that qualify as affordable, there is usually one or more key aspects missing. That is not the case with Sushi Hachi.

In searching for the best sushi in the Greater Vancouver Region, I often hear people sing the praises of the quality of the fish in most establishments. More often than not, I don’t agree. As i follow recommendation after recommendation, I’m invariably disappointed. I went to Sushi Hachi on an off the cuff comment by smel and fmed on a chowhound post, hoping to find a place that actually delivered on the quality.

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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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Oodle Noodle Wok Box – Edmonton, AB

Oodle Noodle Wok Box
10803 – 82nd Avenue
Edmonton, AB
(780) 988-7808

The wok. An Asian cooking utensil typically used for stir frying at high temperatures. The heat and the technique are the keys for making a great stir fry. When done well, you get a crisp, flavourful, non-greasy blend of meat, vegetables, and starch. When done poorly, the end result is an oily, slightly charred, coagulated mess of food. As simple as stir fries look to be, properly using a wok isnt that simple.

Oodle Noodle Wok Box, not to be confused with the local Edmonton chain “Wok Box”, is a small eatery that focuses primarily on wok-fried takeout. Broken down, the name actually makes a lot of sense. They provide a lot of noodle dishes (“oodles of noodles”), cooked in a “wok”, served in one of the classic chinese takeout containers- a “box” – first brought to the Canadian conciousness in movies and television shows set in New York.


A former Mr Sub located on Whyte Avenue, Oodle Noodle Wok Box first opened shop in 2005, the first of the wok-fried stir fry locations to open up in Edmonton. Wok and Roll, Wok Box, and assorted other places opened soon afterwards. The location is nothing fancy – retaining a lot of the old fixtures from it’s previous incarnation. However, the counter does provide a good view of the kitchen – several employees dancing, singing, and stir frying in intense heat. Their enthusiasm is kind of catchy.


The selection of foods is pretty diverse – much like a culinary tour around Asia. From Japan, Mongolia, and China, to the flavours of SE Asia (Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia) and even including India, they provide simple wok dishes of chicken, beef, and shrimp, stir fried with differnt noodles, different veggies, and different sauces. A very basic concept, but by allowing you to switch certain choices, providing you with infinite variety.


The best part of the Oodle Noodle Experience? The price. $6.99 for chicken and beef. $7.99 for shrimp. They provide you with a very large serving of steaming hot food. The veggies are generally very fresh, and crisp. In general, each dish has some wonderful balance. Good acidity, spice, and sweetness. Nice texture contrasts of crisp and soft. The biggest issue is the whole dish is usually a bit oily, the result of inexperienced wok technique, and sometimes the sauce can be a bit overwhelming. Good flavour, but too much sauce leaves you with nothing but that taste in your mouth. Of all the dishes available, my favorite dish is the Jungle Curry Cambogee. I order this two times out of three.


Ok, so the boxes are cute. And the dancing is catchy. And the food is pretty good. That pretty much covers it all. Great value – definitely the best food, and value, of all the wok places in town. And with some great opening hours (open till 10pm weekdays, 11pm Fri-Sat), they are pretty much available whenever i have a craving for some hot, filling, satisfying food at one of the best prices left in town. Kind of makes me want to dance the next time im in line – and that’s something no one needs to see!

Oodle Noodle Wok Box on Urbanspoon

Food Junction – Singapore

Food Junction
5th Floor, Funan DigitalLife Mall
109 North Bridge Road, Singapore
Tel: +65 6336 8327 (Mall Customer Service)

Whenever I am in Singapore, as I am this week, eating and shopping tend to be my favorite off-time activities.  Where else can you get such an abundance of both, and at such a great level (in terms of quality and price) that is the envy of the world.  Granted, there are some places where this bar does come down a notch or two, but still thinking in terms of what you get in North America for almost the same thing and the large drop off in price found here, you are still getting away with a fantastic deal.  And for anyone that knows me, high tech gadgets and electronic goods are some of my most favorite things, and here in Singapore, they make sure to also have a well stocked food court in the IT-dedicated shopping centres.  What more could you ask for?

The Funan DigitalLife Mall (sometimes referred to as the Funan Centre, or Funan IT Mall) is a popular place for both locals and tourists alike, especially those looking to purchase a new laptop computer.  Frankly, I don’t know how one can differentiate between one store and another that is carrying the same product.  Price negotiation skills are paramount, in order to get the best deal in the house.  And after all that back-and-forth with salespeople, you tend to get hungry.  And after spending a small fortune on a new electronic toy, well perhaps your budget for your post-purchase meal needs to take a hit. No need to fret, as the Food Junction comes to the rescue!

This food court located on the fifth floor of the mall, is quite generic.  By this I mean, each station is not a separate tenant with their own restaurant/brand name.  Rather, the stalls are segregated by type of cuisine, and named as such (eg. Chinese food, Indian food, Korean food, etc.).  As you can see from the image, a simple, understated plate of Hainanese Chicken Rice.  Served with a bowl of steaming chicken stock soup, and a sampling of the dipping sauces one usually requires.  All this for SGD 3.80 (equivalent to 3 Canadian dollars at today’s rate).  Throw in the air conditioning in the seating area, and the fellows around who are quickly cleaning up tables and clearing away trays, and it makes the amount I paid feel even better.

For this quantity and cost, you are getting what you pay for.  It comes out quick, slapped down on your cafeteria plate by some young kids behind the counter.  For the dipping sauces, you pour what you want from the bottles into a small dish, and taking everything away on your tray to an available table on the floor.  The slices of chicken breast meat are thin, with the gelatinous skin on top very limited.  The rice was surprisingly good though, very fragrant and not over/under cooked.  The accompanying bowl of soup was very pedestrian.  But when you think about how much I paid for it, and the equivalent of what I could have gotten at say McDonald’s (yes, located down on the main floor of this mall), I’d say I made out well with a conservative sized meal that did put a dent into my hunger, after an hour of so of patrolling all the floors in this building looking at expensive toys.

Restaurace Stara Praha – Prague, CZ

Restaurace Stara Praha
Vítězná 11
Prague 5 – Mala Strana
Czech Republic
+420 251510217

If you’ve spent any time around Old Town, Prague, you quickly come to realize that all seasons are tourist season. Memories of cheap beer and affordable, hearty Eastern European fare are quickly dragged back into reality. In 2008, post-EU and the after the first, second, and third waves of tourism from Europe, North America, and Asia,  Old Town is essentially one large tourist trap. Even old time institutions like U FleckU and U Medvidku have pushed most locals out, with higher prices and annoying tourists. Locals have fled to the suburbs, where 20kr pilsners are still available.

Just across the bridge from Praha 1 in Mala Strana, lies a small bastion of Czech culture. Not quite the suburbs, but far enough off the tourist track that locals still socialize uninhibitedly. Here, Stara Praha, a restopub sponsored by Staropramen Brewery, maintains their commitment to cheap beer and good food. After days of eating heavy pork, doner kebabs, and rich Eastern European fare, I was craving some good old simple food. Nothing dressed up, nothing fused with French techniques to create Nouveau Czech dishes, but honest food. My first attempt was met with a completely booked service. Luckily, I was able to get away for a lunch later that trip.

In Prague, there are five major breweries of which Staropramen is the largest. To extoll the virtues of Czech Beer would require another essay completely. Let’s just say, all you have to know is it is tough to go wrong with any Czech Beers. Staropramen brews a particularly good pale, lager, and dark. Just like most other Czech Breweries. The Pale was particularly good – hoppy, well-fermented, slightly bitter, with fruit notes on the finish, this is the perfect beer to go with the heavier dishes served in Eastern Europe. I really liked the dark as well, though I find it a bit heavier, and only drink it on it’s own, or with snacks, not with a full meal.

The food at Stara Praha was fantastic – probably the best example of “home-cooked” Czech food i’ve had. I had two basic dishes. The first was drstkova polevka – tripe soup. Recommended by a poster on Chowhound, they were bang on in how extraordinary this soup was. The sharp spices cut through the days of accumulated pork fat that had collected within my system – alternating spicey bursts with the rubbery, crunchy chewy bits of tripe was perfect. Now i know tripe isnt for everyone, but this was one fantastic soup.

My entree was the goulash. This was honestly the first goulash i had in Prague that i truly enjoyed. Previous goulashes were bland, plain, and excessively oily, with poor quality, chewy beef. This goulash was peppery, and flavourful. The meat had been simmered for an appropriate period of time and was tender yet firm. The sauce was reduced to concentrate the flavours – and delivered with strong notes of pepper, tomatos, clove,  paprika, nutmeg, and allspice. A touch of sourness in the sauce, and in the dumplings, helped counter balance the excessively oily nature of the goulash itself. This was excellent goulash.

I have a definite love-hate relationship with food in Prague. While i think Czech food in general is underrated, I found it tough to find good honest food around Old Town. To some, this may sound like expecting great food in Disneyland, but I was hoping for less of an impact from the throngs of tourists – hoping against hope there would be some honest eateries left. Stara Praha is one of the few places in the central core that served a meal that was high in value – great food at great prices – and based on the lineups and full houses they entertained, it is not surprising to see that the locals feel the same way. With great beer and great food, if you find yourself in Wenceslas Square overwhelmed by photographers and touts, and craving a good meal, head west, past the Tesco, over the Vlatava, into Mala Strana. It’ll give you, and your wallet, a taste of how Prague was in the 90’s, before  Praha was “discovered”.

Bow Bulgogi – Calgary, AB

Bow Bulgogi House
3515A 17 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB T3E 0B7
Open Mon-Wed 11am-9pm; Thu-Sat 11am-11pm
September 2008 re-visit post here
Original post below:

There is something about the concept of the hole-in-the-wall establishment that most people find appealing. Maybe it’s the idea of a small, secretive place, quietly serving high quality food. The personalized service of a independently owned establishment. Or perhaps it’s the sense of superiority – the “i know something you don’t” attitude of the smug foodie. In many ways, Bow Bulgogi House qualifies as a hole-in-the-wall.

Located in a small stripmall on a busy commuter street in the residential SW, it is passed by thousands of commuters each day – many familiar with the bright yellow sign, but completely unfamiliar with the treasures that lie within. Ostensibly offering Korean and Vietnamese food, Bow Bulgogi serves up some of the most affordable, tasty Korean food in Calgary. A very small and busy location, reservations are highly recommended, lest you be faced with a very long wait.

Of all their offerings, the most popular is the ubiquitous “lunch special”. Once quite possibly the best  special on earth, recent price increases to match rampant inflation in Calgary means it is “only” a great deal. For $8.95, one gets 3-5 banchan and a bowl of “mystery chicken soup” to start. The main course arrives shortly after with paydirt – rice, vegetables, a deep fried dumpling or spring roll, and more importantly, a large serve of Bul Galbi/Calbi (BBQ beef short ribs), and BBQ Chicken.  To sum up the differences, a friend of mine put it best our last visit – “The flavour of the chicken is better, but the ribs are just so darn tasty, there’s no denying they are the best thing on this plate”. Sadly, this is only available at lunch, M-F.

Lunch special aside, Bow Bulgogi have what i would consider to be most of the standard Korean classics available ala carte for lunch or dinner. Bulgogi, Galbi, BBQ Chicken. Squid. Pajeon. Bee Bim Bap. Jap Chae. BBQ dishes are cooked for you and brought out, rather than cooked at the table. Their Banchan are distinctly average, and i would avoid the Vietnamese and Chinese inspired dishes on their menu at all costs. After all, when you go to a Korean hole in the wall, you should eat Korean food.

Bow Bulgogi is a small independently owned restaurant in an unlikely location. They serve up the best value Korean food in town. Compared to other Korean restaurants (Hangkang, Hikari, Sorabol, Dae Jang Geum etc…), they are also the cheapest. In many ways, they are your classic hole-in-the-wall. But what i’ve found is almost everyone in town knows about this place. And if you didn’t, you can add one more to the list of places you have to try. You’ll understand why after you go.

Bow Bulgogi House on Urbanspoon