Monday, April 19, 2010


If you're looking for a fancy, upscale steak house that's trendy looking and all that, you could probably take a date out to Chop. The interior design is nothing I've seen before, though during my visit, the washroom was somewhat unfinished (still pretty fancy though). Chop is probably on par with places like Joey's and The Keg, but not quite there compared to Gotham's.
The Chop Platter - $35, had a good assortment of snack foods, including kettle-chips made in house, steak cubes that were pretty damn good, chicken wings, lobster and prawn fritters, and these things called tuna pillars, which was essentially ahi tuna wrapped in a pastry.My new favourite drink - Chivas Regal - 12 yrs....I had a double.

Peppercorn New York - $32
Top Sirloin Oscar - $29, this one served with jumbo prawns.
I had the large Aged Canadian Prime Rib - $33, but in retrospect, I should have tried the 22oz Bone-in Rib Eye Chop for $39. Mine was pretty good, cooked exactly the way I requested - fat and bloody, and it came with freshly grated horse radish, mashed potatoes, and some veggies that were a little raw. But who cares, when you order a pile of meat like this, the veggies are supposed to be unappetizing. I think they were an affront to all things vegetarian, as if to say "The meat is so good, we don't care if the veggies are crap". The choice of serving plate was fancy (mimics a grill), but probably not the best choice as it made it difficult to cut the meat. petite Filet Minon served with scallopped potatoes - $29
Some funky archetecture.

I love the trough-style sink in the men's washroom.

For me, I'll probably still report back loyally to The Keg for my all-time favourite chunk of meat - the Keg Size Prime Rib, but I'm definetly be tempted to go back to Chop and try that Bone-In Rib Eye. For $39, it's worth the gamble for such a massive hunk of yummy goodness. The atmosphere was definetly cool enough to want to go there with some friends and have a fun night.

Chop on Urbanspoon

Angel Cake Cafe

*UPDATED - May 22, 2010 - WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER-see bottom of post*

I've finally found an alternative to Alleluia, currently my favourite Hong Kong style cafe, and that would be Angel Cake Cafe. Living in Richmond, I'll probably still go to Alleluia, but if I'm ever in the Fraser Street area, I'll definitely drop by Angel Cake Cafe.
Their menu has all the typical Hong Kong cafe stuff, including the combos and mix and matches. Prices are a bit more expensive than Alleluia, but you really get what you pay for as I'll tell you about later.

I ordered the two item combo that goes for $11.95 compared to Alleluia's $8.50. Angel's combo comes with a soup, that's only slightly bigger than Alleluia's, but both taste good.
I think Angel's Ice Lemon Tea is a bit lacking compared to Alleluia's. It's not to say it was no good, just that Alleluia's Ice Milk tea and Ice Lemon Tea are superior by far.
My combo came with a peice of garlic toast, which was actually quite good. Alleluia's combo does not come with this.
A pasta dish was ordered, and very typical of Hong Kong cafes, they never do the noodles al dente. Still, the sauce was rich and creamy, and I think they used a lot of butter and garlic which is a lot better than the typical white sauce used in such places (most places have white sauce that taste of flour and milk).
I ordered the cutlet pork chop (deep fried pork chop cutlet) and rib-eye steak with onion gravy.
What I was not expecting was a baked potato with bacon bits, green onions, and sour cream, all wrapped in tin foil. Wow. Also, the veggies weren't just mixed veggies from Green Giant, but actual veggies, grilled just right.
As I said, my expectations were't very high, but I was really surprised to find that they actually cooked the meat to exactly the way I wanted - fat and bloody, or blue-rare. A few of my recent steak experiences in some medium to high end restaurants have been a bit disappointing in the overcooking of a perfectly good peice of beef. Angel got this one right, thanks!

Another item that Alleluia's combo does not come with was this coconut pudding desert, which was also suprisingly good. The evapourated milk on top was a perfect combination.
Overall, I can't say I like Angel over Alleluia. They both have good points. For $3.45, I get real vegetables, a slice of really good garlic toast, and a desert. Like I said earlier, if I was ever in the area, I would definitely go, however being in Richmond, I'd probably stick to Alleluia.

*UPDATE May22,2010*

I just had one of the worst experiences with customer service today, and to my great disappointment, it was with Angel Cafe.  When I first went to Angel Cafe, the service wasn't particularly good, but I brushed it off because the food was pretty decent, and you really can't complain about the price.  I even told my friends that this place has great, cheap food, but the service is pretty bad.  During my first experience, the host/manager (the man with the shaved head and glasses) did not give me a good impression.  He seemed so pissed of with his own life, he would be better suited washing dishes in the back, and away from the customers.  Anyways, he seated us in the take-out section of the restaurant and basically left us there for what seemed like an eternity before we had our orders taken.  We were ignored for a good long time, but we weren't in a hurry so it didn't really bother us.  The food came shortly after ordering, but after that, it took forever to get the bill, and on top of that, he forgot our desert and we politely reminded him.  He was not pleased, even though we were pretty nice about it.  Anyway, all this, I brushed aside because when I go into a place like this (typical HK style cafe), I have pretty low expectations as far as customer service.  Probably about as much as I have going into Hon's or a food court (with the exception of Alleluia - where the servers work pretty hard).

Today, the short little bald man really pissed me off.  I arrived with a group of 12 people today, and understandably, there would be no way we were going to get seated together.  He seated 4 of us, while the rest of us waited.  A few other customers started trickling in and were in the line up with us.  Couples got seated ahead of us, understandably, but then a customer in a poorly fitting suit (with running shoes to go with his ensemble) came in, seemingly quite familiar with the manager.  I heard this customer asking the manager for a table for 11.  Ok, I thought to myself no problem, after the rest of OUR group gets seated first. 

We're all hanging around the waiting area to get seated, (1/3 of our group is already seated and have ordered their food).  Another group comes in (group of 4) and wait a bit.  The manager proceeds to seat the group of 4.  WTF?  He already split up our group, so why not seat another 1/3 of our group?  We don't question this because maybe he's working to get the remainer of our group (8 people) seated together.

In another part of the restaurant, we see the waitresses working hard to clear some tables.  Ok, good, the manager managed to redeem himsef because he's going to seat the rest of our group (8 people) together.  The manager goes outside and calls in the group of 11 and seats them...........we're speechless, but we bite our tongues for a bit longer and wait to see if they have another table of 8 for us.......nothing happens......we flag down the manager and ask him about it.  He gives us a dirty look and says that the group of 11 had a reservation, and suggests that next time, we should make a reservation.  I'm stunned, did this little twinkie of a manager just lie to my face, while giving me a dirty look and blaming me for not being able to get seated?  Because I clearly heard the customer in the crappy suit and running shoes come in and ask for a table for 11, and not confirm a reservation.  The little manager didn't even bother trying to explain the group of 4 he seated ahead of us.  Please keep in mind that we are not expecting to sit together, we were willing to sit seperately.  Twinkie already seated 1/3 of us, logiclally, another 1/3 would get seated next if a table for 4 became available, and so on. 

Suffice to say, I'm never going to Angel Cafe again, unless that idiot of a manager is gone.  That was the worst example of customer service, bar none.  I honestly have not experienced such bad customer service, not even in the Yaohan food court.     

Angel Cafe on Urbanspoon


There are about 20-30 people lined up at Japadog at any given time. It's a strange phenomenon that as far as I know, has happened only in Vancouver. The first time I had a hot dog from Japadog a few years ago, I thought it tasted great, and it was an interesting concept - Japanese condiments on a hot dog. Little did I realize that the word would spread like wildfire and the popularity of this little hotdog stand, run by a mom (with a baby strapped to her back as if it was still edo period) and pop would swell to epic proportions.
This is a shot of the line at night.
Among some of the famous people that have frequented Japadog are Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations, who actually featured Japadog on his episode on Vancouver!

You could probably get most of the special ingredients at a Fujiya or Izumiya, Konbiniya, or even T & T, but to be honest, the price of these hot dogs don't cost (much) more than any other hot dog stand in Vancouver.

The hardest working people I've ever seen at a hot dog stand, and for that, I think this company will succeed. Actually, they are already seeing plenty of success, so much so, that they've opened up at least two other hot dog stands as well as a permanent location on Robson, close to Beard Papa's (a shop that sells Japanese cream puffs).
Myself and one of the staff of Japadog.

This picture does not do it justice, I took it with my work phone and it's pretty low resolution. I'll repost a better picture as soon as I find one. This is the Kurobuta Terimayo.

If you happen to see a Japadog stand with little or no line up, definitely seize the opportunity to grab a Japadog, it will be a glorious experience.

Japadog on Urbanspoon

Benkei Ramen on 5th

It's been a while since I last went to Benkei Ramen Robson. It's not that I disliked Benkei, it's just that it was on Robson Street, the worst possible place to look for parking, it was far away from home, there was always a line-up, and there were sometimes inconsistencies with our orders. Besides that, two other ramen shops (Menya and G-Men) that were a little closer for me and not downtown.

But Benkei has been busy, and they've undergone some changes. Benkei has opened up a few more locations (which I haven't tried yet) and I was invited, along with other bloggers, to the grand opening of their newest shop on 5th Avenue in Vancouver and try out some ramen.
5th Avenue is kind of in the middle of nowhere, and it's probably the last place you'd expect to find a ramen shop.....which is good - less crowds, and probably more parking.
I haven't been to the other locations, but this one seemed to be decorated a lot better than the first one on Robson. There are no more cheap, made-in-China (or where ever they are made) Japanese swords hanging off the wall. As a student of Japanese sword arts, I take offense to those gaudy wall-hangers and their very existence. Nice improvement, Benkei, I really like the new look!

Not long after arriving, we were given a tour of the shop, as well as the kitchen in the back where they boil the broth - the backbone of every good bowl of ramen.
The head chef here is examining the thickness of the broth.
Looks promising.
This is where they cook the chashu. Remember from my first post, I mentioned that their chashu was a hit and miss, sometimes it was just right (fat and salty), and other times it was off (lean and bland). I think they're cooking the chashu in one place, so all shops will have the exact same chashu. Benkei is definitely working hard on the consistency issue.

Ingredients for Gyoza.
The master chef showing us how it's done.
Kitchen looks clean and organized.
We were told this new 5th Avenue location will be responsible for training ramen chefs for all the other restaurants. More evidence that Benkei is serious about consistency.
So, of the five types of ramen on the menu, I decided to sample the first four.
Extra stuff is always nice, and I would love to have tried some but would have been too full to try all the different types of ramen. The next time, I will definitely order some extra toppings. Butter, corn, and boiled egg. Benkei's boiled egg was really good in that it was just a bit runny.....perfect with a bowl of ramen.
We got to sample two kinds of gyoza - shrimp, and pork. I liked the pork one. Haha, this picture only shows one because I ate it even before thinking about taking a picture.
The first type of ramen I tried was Shiro ramen. It's often sold out when I used to go to Benkei, so I never had a chance to try it. Now I know why it was sold it - it's awesome. It's like thinned out white sauce for pasta, nice and flavorful, buttery with lots of garlic, very rich - absolutely delicious. The only problem with Shiro ramen is you'll probably get "geri" after. I'd order it again for sure, but I doubt I could finish a full size bowl of Shiro ramen on my own (half-orders were offered on this day only so we had room to try different ramen).
Even as I'm writing this blog entry, I'm getting cravings for Shiro ramen from Benkei. When I have ramen, I'm not concerned for my health. Ramen is an indulgence, and I hate it when food is degraded for health reasons. If I want to eat healthy, I eat at home, when I want to indugle, I will go out to eat. Benkei, please do not change the recipe for this one!!! It's perfect the way it is!Next was Miso ramen, pretty much what I always order. The broth was still good, as I remember, but something was definitely different. It wasn't as fatty, and a bit less salty.

Looks like their chashu recipe has completely changed, and now it looks like the standardized Japanese interpretation of what BBQ pork should be. I think the cut has also been standardized (I remember one time, I got chopped up little bits of chashu - they may have run out and gave me end pieces). The chashu was leaner, and not as salty. I spoke to one of the reps about it and he said that people on the west coast are extremely health conscious and a "proper" bowl of ramen would not do well here. That's probably true......friggin' tree hugging, bunny loving, granola eaters - DAMN YOU! Well, they said that if I like a proper bowl of ramen, (fatty and salty), I could ask for it, and same goes for the chashu - they have fatty chashu on demand. I will try this next time.

Here's a comparison picture of what Benkei's Miso Ramen with extra chashu used to look like:
 I much prefer this version of their chashu, with nice, glistening fatty layers, however, at the time, there was a lot of inconsistency so sometimes it would be this good, other times, it was not even close.

The Shoyu ramen was pretty good. I don't expect this one to be overly fatty or extremely salty. I'd say this one was my second favorite tasting next to the Shiro ramen.

The last one was Shio heavy tonkotsu ramen. I don't usually order this, but some people like it. If you like the taste of boiled pork, this is for you. You can really taste the "niku" in the broth. For me, it reminded me of the first boil when I make BBQ ribs. It's not my cup of tea, but some people really like it.

Chashu gohan.....some people like rice with their ramen....not me. However, that being said, it tasted really good. I don't think I'd ever order rice at a ramen shop, but some people do, I've even seen it in Japan.

Well, my opinion of Benkei Ramen has definitely improved. And again, I stress that that I did not dislike it before, it was just a bit of a pain to get to and the inconsistencies put me off a little. So, they've opened a shop outside of Downtown, which is a huge plus for me, and they've seemingly taken care of the consistency problem - one master chef overseeing all the recipes, as well as one single main kitchen responsible for distribution of a consistent recipe.

Before leaving, I got to meet Minako-san, one of the mangers responsible for inviting us, as well as the owner - Kenji-san, who seemed quite happy to have us all there. I'm happy for him that his business is doing well. Vancouver needs some healthy competition because that leads to good ramen.

I will definitely go back, and quite possibly order the Shiro ramen if it hasn't been sold out. If they are, I'll order the Miso ramen, with extra fat in the soup, extra fatty chashu, and definitely hang out with my buddy "geri" after.

Benkei Ramen (East 5th) on Urbanspoon

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