Saturday, January 29, 2011

Taco Luis

I wonder if it's the cheap and tasty food-court Mexican food or the charasmatic owner that brings people to Taco Luis.  On my lunches, I sometimes go by Lansdowne food court and I always see a line up in front of Taco Luis.  It never fails though, that this place is always busy.  Even during Nibbles and Bites (food festival at Thompson Community Centre), Taco Luis drew a crowd.

Ah, memories of my childhood came rushing back.  My parents occasionally took us to Lansdowne and it was always a treat to get a crispy beef burrito from Taco Don (not even sure if that chain is around anymore).  The recipe is a bit different (they've got a bit of cheese in the ground beef and they cap each burrito end with a Mexi-fry), but when you only dish out 3 bucks for two beef burritos, who really cares? 

Taco Luis (Lansdowne Centre) on Urbanspoon

Wonder Wok

I swear my parents should start a food blog, with all the places they try.  They always manage to source out some pretty decent food and some obscure food court like the one in the Richmond Public Market.  The last time I was there, I thought I'd seen it all, but last weekend, they introduced me to yet another place they frequent.

Like some of the places in the Yaohan food court, this place has the two or three items on rice combo.  And if you have to have Chinese food at a food court, try the ones at Yaohan, Aberdeen and RPG.  I've had Chinese food at Richmond Centre, and even Granville Island, and there's something just not right.  Not to mention completely overpriced.  Despite the tacky name, Wonder Wok actually puts out some tasty cheap food.
Crab is a pain in the @$$ to eat, but for some reason, I was craving crab that day and this one was just beggine me to buy it.  Obviously, it wasn't cooked that moment, but the shop had the decency to reheat it for me and even offered to add some spice when they threw it back on the wok.
Deep fried pork chop with jiao do you say jiao yian in English?  I guess you could call it seasoning salt?  Anyway, this happens to be one of my mom's favourite here because it's a bit spicy and has a bit of kick.  For me, the pork was fried just right (must have just come out of the deep frier) and wasn't too tough.  Usually if it sits on the heater too long, it will overcook in time.  Since the pork was tender, it's a good indication that the turnover for food at this place was pretty good....and the fact that there were quite a few people there to get food.
My mom's got a sweet-tooth so this is another one of her favourites - honey garlic pork spare ribs.  They were actually quite good too.  The meat had a slightly crispy coating under the honey sauce, and the pork underneath was tender and still moist. 
The deep fried squit happens to be one of my favourites.  It's a nice dish with a meal, and even better with a bottle of sake, haha!

Another good drinking snack - deep fried smelt.  This dish is cooked well, but lacks in seasoning.  I would prefer it to have some seasoning salt on it and if I ever have leftovers, it's easy to just sprinkle some seasoning salt on it and throw it in the toaster oven to reheat. 
Deep fried prawns.  These did have some seasoning on it, and these fat prawns were pretty damn good. 

As far as portions are concerned, they pile on the food so high that you would never be able to close the lid the food comes in.  Ordered some green stuff just to make myself feel better about all that deep fried stuff.

The crab was okay, the meat in the legs were pretty dry, but at the joints where the legs would be attached to the body had loads of edible meat that was still quite tender (the leg meat was a dry and stringy).  But what really made the crab meal was the stuff under the shell.  I don't know how to describe it in English, but in Japanese, they call it Kani Miso.  My dad calls it cheese, and I've also heard it refered to as crab brains.  Whatever it is, add some seasoning salt and a deep frier and you have a helluva combination.  It made the meal, and I would order it again just to eat the stuff under the shell.

Wonder Wok is within walking distance to my workplace, and for times when I forget a lunch, it's a nice alternative to Tokyo Joe's or Taco Luis (Lansdowne).

Wonder Wok (Richmond Public Market) on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gyudon Ya

rI have to give it to the Koreans, they know how to prepare beef well.  So, you'd think that the Korean owned Gyudon Ya would have a chef that knows beef.  Unfortunately, that's not the case.  Vancouver's Yoshinoya knock-off has Japanese staff, and even Japanese names for the menu items, but the beef bowls aren't quite J-Grade. 

The beef is colorless, almost sick looking.  Sure, it's salty enough, but the chef really relies on seasoning for flavor here.

 The short rib bowl was brutal.....tough, lean beef, without a trace of juicy fat....blech.

Gyudon Ya is pretty sub-standard compared to Yoshinoya, but given the price, it's hard to complain.  It's edible, unlike Little Japan, so, yeah, if I happen to walk by, and really hungry, I may toss them $6 for some Asian fast-food. 

But here's the good news folks, a little bird told me that the possibility of a Yoshinoya opening up shop in Vancouver, and Toronto is on the horizon.  Until then, show me a better place for six bucks.

Gyudon Ya on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Red Top Restaurant - Merritt

Sushi in Merritt, what the....I'd say it's a safe to guess that Red Top Restaurant may be the only game in town as far as Japanese food is concerned, but I really don't know.  I'm not often in Merrit and the last time I was there, I was going up to Kelowna for a car show and my car broke down (numerous times) of my stops landed me up overnighting in Merritt.  On the way back, my group decided to make a pit stop in Merritt for food and we pulled into Red Top Restaurant.  From the outside, there was no indication it served Asian food, let alone Japanese/Sushi.

When we pulled in, our group of 1st generation Honda Civics grabbed a lot of attention from the locals.  Once we got inside, we discovered that though it was a Japanese/sushi restaurant, our cars were pretty much the only things in town that were made in Japan.

I didn't try my standard guage for a good sushi restaurant (Chirashi don) this time because I didn't think it was worthwhile.  How fresh could seafood possibly be this far inland?  But still, I was craving some sushi, so I just settled on a bento box.  It came with a decent assortment of sushi that was recently defrosted (so that's about as fresh as you're going to get), some tempura, a green salad of some sort, some deep-fried gyoza (very un-Japanese), and miso soup. 

Some of my friends stuck with the safer items like California rolls, tempura, salad and deep fried gyoza.  Kill it with hot oil.

My meal was pretty filliing actually, and I didn't get sick after eating it so the seafood must have been recently defrosted and probably stored well.  I was surprised to get ika (squid) as part of the nigiri sushi assortment, but it was a nice surprise.  The salad was pretty basic, and the batter for the tempura was slightly undercooked.  Deep-fried gyoza.......sigh.  Only in Chinese and Korean restaurants.    The miso soup  was pretty standard.  Anyway, it wasn't too expensive overall, so yeah, I'd probably go back if we stopped through Merritt again.

One thing that kind of irked me was that they didn't have Korean food on the menu.  Why Korean?  Because half-way through our meal, a busload of Korean tourists entered the restaurant and filled the place up.  The little steel rice bowls came pouring out of the kitchen, along with the little steel chopsticks, all the side dishes (sweet potato, bean sprouts, KIM CHI, etc).  WTF?  If I knew there was Korean food available, I would have ordered that!  It's not that I have a preference for Korean food over Japanese, but the Korean food served to the tour group looked pretty damn good....Oh well, next time I'm there, I'll see if I can get some Gahl Bee and a steel bowl of rice.

Red Top Sushi Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ramen Sanpachi

Well, looks like another Hokkaido-style ramen shop has popped up in Vancouver.  Meh.......I was referred to this place by a friend, who told me this place has good ramen.  She doesn't even like ramen all that much, but if she liked it, a lot of people who are new to ramen, or seldom eat it, will probably like Ramen Sanpachi.  

Hokkaido style ramen is a bit lighter and probably more suitable for people who don't really like the heavy stuff........but its not my cup of tea. 

The place is open pretty late though, so this place will be able to pick up where a lot of other ramen shops don't.  Anyway, the first thing I noticed when I stepped into the place was how sterile looking the place was, sort of like Aji-sen.  The place was brightly lit, and the furniture and decor seemed very Ikea-like.   I felt like I was eating in an iPod rather than a ramen shop.  Most ramen shops I've been to in Japan would resemble something more like G-men, but with less character.

The Menu looked promising, and the place was licensed!  Personally, I like to have a glass of ice water with my ramen, but some like a cold beer I suppose.  I like G-Men because they automatically give you ice water, with a pitcher too!   

We had the Chashu Ramen and Butter Corn Ramen, and when we tried to order Gyoza, the were out.  Out of Gyoza???  Gyoza and ramen are a golden combination, how could they be out???  What was shocking still  was that if they still had gyoza available, it would only be  Deep fried gyoza only?  What, are we in some kind of strange AYCE sushi restaurant suddenly?  I've never encountered deep-fried gyoza in any of the ramen shops, during all my trips to Japan.  But who knows, maybe deep fried gyoza exists in some obscure corner of a ramen shop in Yokohama or something.  Another thing they were out of was takenoko (bamboo shoots), something that's essential in a bowl of ramen.  I couldn't believe it, but anyway, in lieu, we got 10% off.

When the Butter Corn Ramen came, the block of butter was titanic.  Seriously, this thing was as big as the Titanic and probably would have won against the ice berg.  I took half of the block and dumped it into my Chashu/miso ramen because I thought that my broth looked a little "lean".  The broth for the butter corn ramen was also miso-base, and came with a lot of corn.

The Chashu ramen came with lots of chashu, and though it tasted alright, it was a little on the lean side (for you health nuts out there, you'd love it).  The ramen in both bowls were plenty, along with the veg (a bit too much for my personal liking - way too much moyashi).  For me personally, I thought the broth wasn't fatty enough, even with the butter, and not quite salty as I would like to have it.  For those of you who like your noodle soup light on fat and taste, this place is for you.

Not much of a review here, but my first and probably last visit to Sanpachi was heavily distracted by something that happened while I was there and positively ruined my experience here: 

For you authenticity nuts out there, Sanpachi's got at least one foot in the door.  Near as I can tell, the ramen chef is Japanese, along with much of the staff.  Sanpachi Ramen may have it's roots in Japan, however the owner of this location was probably made in ROC or PRC.  How do I know this?  I found out because the table next to us was occupied by a very peculiar group of people.  One young woman who was showing a bit of defiance in the beginning (but sobbing by the time we left), an older gentlemen with a huge gold Rolex sitting on the side quietly while this nasty old ba-ba (short, impolite way of saying obasan) was reaming out the young woman in a very Chinese-fashion (the way my mom used to when I was little, in public and broad day light, tear me a new one when I was bad).  From what I gathered, the nasty ba-ba was probably the younger woman's mother or other such rich relative and financier of operations.  The younger woman was apparently the owner of Sanpachi Ramen (maybe in name only) who was soon to be kicked out of her home or soon to be cut-off. 

Nasty ba-ba switched between Chinese an English while she lectured the younger one, and kept on repeating "The owner of Sanpachi owner has no money!  Shame of you!  Shame of you!"  Shame on me for eavesdropping?  I wasn't dropping any eaves as the nasty ba-ba was yammering so loud that other customers in our section were shaking their heads and I was considering asking for another table.  The servers were clearly embarassed because they couldn't say anything to the owner's mommy.

Anyway, sweet family bickering aside, it was pretty unprofessional to have that kind of discussion at the workplace (even if it is in another language), all the while eating and dining over a bottle of wine (yes, they had a bottle of white wine while eating at their ramen shop), whilst entertaining customers like myself with their bickering.  The snot running down the young woman's nose was almost enough to turn me off my meal. 

I apologize for reducing this entry to the level of a trashy tabloid magazine, but those people really irked me.  The chef and staff may be Japanese, but if the person in charge keeps running the place this way, they are going to run it into the ground.  My suggestion to the staff that work at Sanpachi Robson, find another employer.  Public humiliation of your child/"owner of the company" is perfectly acceptable in a dim sum restaurant like Po King or shopping mall (lol, like my mother used to do to me when I was a kid), we're used to seeing something like that, but not in a Japanese restaurant. 

Sanpachi on Urbanspoon

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