Monthly Archives

May 2014

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Bincho Soho

May 31, 2014

I mentioned before that I was looking for a kushiyaki/yakitori bar in London. Bincho looks like the closest thing to what I wanted so on a Saturday night we went with a couple of friends to try it out.

Kushiyaki is skewered food, cooked over a charcoal grill. And yakitori is specifically chicken kushiyaki. Though the two terms do tend to be used interchangeably. The point being that this is not a restaurant where you structure your meal into courses. Each skewer ranges in price from £1.50 (for chicken thigh) to £2.60 (for the eel) and you have to order a minimum of two of any type. So just order some drinks and get started.

Order a few items. See what you like, see how hungry you are, and keep ordering more until your done. Don’t order loads at once or they’ll be cold by the time you get to them. And since items come out so quickly there’s no need to.

Chilled Sake, served in this little box, they overflow the glass every time they pour so the box catches the overflow.

Chicken liver and salmon. The liver was perfectly cooked. Sweetly glazed and crispy on the outside. Soft and creamy on the inside.

Baby spinach and bacon salad. With I think a parmesan dressing? Very well dressed. Each leaf had been given some attention. Would definitely recommend it.

Bone in chicken wings.

Beef rib, and asparagus wrapped in pancetta.

Soft boiled quail eggs, chicken thighs, and big chunks of beef tongue.

Whole tiger prawns, beef rib, and pork belly.

Is this the yakitori bar of my dreams? I’m not quite sure. It can get expensive quickly. Between four of us with drinks and a lot of food it came to £180. I think I’ll have to go back, maybe by myself or with just one other, sit at the bar. Have a few beers and snack to see how that feels. If I worked around Soho though I could easily see myself doing that at least once a week as a light dinner. You can sit at the bar right in front of the grills which lets you see everything making those impulse decisions for a couple of skewers of chicken hearts much easier.

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Lido Chinese Restaurant: Dim Sum

May 25, 2014

I cannot tell you how elated I was to find an excellent dim sum place in central London. I’m Asian and from Vancouver so no surprise that dim sum is my absolute favourite type of weekend lunch. Lido Chinese Restaurant is in the heart of Chinatown next to Leicester Square. I won’t deny that this area is a tourist trap. And it’s even in the main strip with all of the red lanterns. But trust me on this, I’ve eaten a lot of dim sum in my day, and this place is both delicious and best of all, it’s CONSISTENT. I’ve now been here more than five times and it never fails to impress guests and my insatiable appetite for dumplings.

When I mention dim sum to the uninitiated, they tell me they’ve never tried it because they don’t know what to order. In traditional dim-sum places, there will be people pushing around carts of food which you can then order straight off the cart. But you have to know what you are looking for or it just becomes a case of pointing and eating. The dim sum menu at Lido is very handy indeed – illustrated colour photos and English descriptions. Oh you shouldn’t have. Every time we go, we literally just tick off everything our little heart desires and it never comes to more than £15-20 per person including beers and tip. BARGAIN. And I guarantee you will come away very satisfied. What stands out for me are the turnip cakes, Har Gau (prawn dumplings), Siu Mai (pork dumplings), mixed meat glutinous rice in lotus leaf, Prawn Cheung Fun, Shanghai dumplings and Char Sui Buns.

You can order off both the dim sum and the a-la-carte menus so you can get a nice mixture of both. This is great if you have vegetarians on your table. I won’t lie and say that dim sum is great for vegetarians because it’s not – the best things on the dim sum menu have meat or prawns/seafood in them. We ordered the Beef & Vegetables Fried Ho Fun noodles (sorry, vegetarians) to accompany our meal and it was delicious. There is a “dry” option for this dish but the sauce adds so much flavour to it and is not overwhelming at all. When it arrived we thought we weren’t going to touch it (HAH!) as we had already filled up with dumplings but this disappeared pretty quickly despite everyone groaning about how their zippers were about to pop.

If you have room after your dumpling feast I urge you to try some dessert. The best two items on the menu are the mini egg tarts and the mango pudding. OMG. I wasn’t expecting much for some reason as dessert in Chinese restaurants often disappoint me. But we exclaimed about these the entire time we were devouring them. The mini egg tarts are the perfect size, regular ones would be much too heavy to eat post dim sum. These arrived warm and the crust was perfectly light and flaky. The mango pudding wasn’t overly sweet and had pieces of actual mango in it. And best of all you can make a reservation in advance. Because queuing outside a restaurant for more than an hour is for eggheads obviously. Hallejujah.


Lido Chinese Restaurant
41 Gerrard Street
London W1D 5QJ
020.7437.4431
www.lidochinatown.com
Lido on Urbanspoon
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Phnom Penh (Vancouver)

May 20, 2014

Pretty much everyone told us that we just HAD to go to Phnom Penh. So even after a late afternoon poutine binge, give or take a few hot dogs (OH GOD), we had to cram in a visit to this renowned Cambodian/Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown on our second last night in Vancouver. Now you’d think with such a large Asian population the Chinatown in Vancouver would be a lively, colourful neighbourhood. For as long as I can remember it’s been a bit rundown and sad, next to a notorious drug-addled part of the city. But fans of gentrification can take note that it’s now firmly entrenched in the burgeoning hipster takeover of Vancouver and there are jam jar cocktails, beards and $7 cups of artisanal coffee to be had! We arrived at 7:30pm on a public holiday and there were clumps of people hanging on the sidewalk outside. So we weren’t surprised when she said it would be at least a 45 minute wait. A quick look inside told me that it was 98% Asian – that’s how you know an Asian restaurant is good. Hah!

After salivating like a pack of feral wolves at the door for almost an hour, finally we were seated. First thing we tried was their famous Marinated Butter Beef – rare, thinly sliced rib-eye marinated in a vinaigrette and covered in garlic and herbs. This was heavenly and unlike anything I’ve ever eaten at a Vietnamese restaurant. It doesn’t look like much but this is a must-order.

We refreshed our palates with the Green Papaya Salad with prawns. This had a bit of a spicy chilli kick to the fish sauce and came sprinkled with beef jerky on top which tasted a bit odd. The salad itself was refreshing and complemented our very meaty first course well. They also have Vietnamese dishes on the menu like Pho but I recommend sticking to the Cambodian food which is what they’re famous for.

Onto the other famous Phnom Penh dish – their fried chicken wings. I was pretty excited to try this as everyone knows it ain’t easy to make quality fried chicken. The seasoning is difficult to get perfect – one wrong shake and it just tastes salty, greasy and unsatisfying. The best fried chicken doesn’t taste heavy and the batter has to be the right consistency – a bit of crunch but not TOO much. These wings were the biggest hit at the table. They were perfectly done, just as fried chicken was meant to be! Don’t leave without ordering this one.

I hate to gush but this fried rice was to die for. I am a big fan of adding chinese sausage or “Lap Cheong” to fried rice as it adds a unique flavour that you can’t replicate any other way. This rice had a nicely soft and moist consistency without being too greasy. Fried rice is another dish that seems easy enough to make but is hard to get just right. The five of us were too stuffed to try one of their Moo Shakes – looking around pretty much everyone in the restaurant was drinking one. The Mango Moo Shake comes highly recommended – it looks like a similar consistency to mango lassis – so I’ll have to try that next time I’m back. Apparently you can make a reservation if you have a party of six or more – otherwise prepare to wait in line as I’m told this place is always filled to the rafters – for good reason!



Phnom Penh
244 E Georgia Street
Vancouver, BC V6A 1Z7
1.604.682.5777

Phnom Penh 金邊小館 on Urbanspoon

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Lucky’s Doughnuts @ 49th Parallel (Vancouver)

May 20, 2014

I love donuts. It’s my biggest weakness when it comes to sweet things. When people fantasize about cheeseburgers or fillet steaks, I fantasize about eating an entire bag of Tesco custard donuts. Sick I know. So when I arrived in Vancouver, a notoriously ‘foodie’ city, I went on the hunt for the best donuts I could sink my teeth into. Sure, Tim Hortons is a national treasure with to-die-for Boston Cream donuts, perfectly formed with a custard centre, and the infamous “double double coffee” – filter coffee with two sugars and two creams. But after a couple of years away, I discovered the holy grail of donuts in Lucky’s Doughnuts, a project from 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters on Main Street. Fellow coffee and donut fiends, they spent two years brainstorming ideas, taking pastry courses and of course lots of field research (eating donuts, obviously).

The first time we went we tried the Tiramisu (a coffee pastry cream filled with bismarck, topped with mascarpone whipped cream and cocoa) and the Cinnamon Sugar. I’m not a huge fan of overly fancy doughnuts as they’re usually sickly sweet but this Tiramisu was light and fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness in the centre. The Cinnamon Sugar was a lightly sprinkled old-fashioned style donut, perfect for when you just want a bit of sweetness. The texture reminded me of coffee cake and it went perfectly with my soya flat white.

We obviously had to return a second time with more people to sample multiple flavours. This time we went with the Blueberry Coffee Cake, Earl Grey with Lavender, and as a testament to how good they were, the Tiramisu and Cinnamon Sugar again. Another friend joined us and had the Orange Honey Pistachio doughnut. Yum. The Earl Grey was very unique – it had a creamy bergamot-flavoured centre with a lavender icing. Made fresh everyday, you can choose from eclectic flavours like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Salted Caramel and Coconut Bismarck alongside classics like the Long John and plain glazed variety. Bonus points for a quality flat white.


Lucky's Doughnuts @ 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters
2902 Main Street
604.872.4901
www.luckysdoughnuts.com
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La Belle Patate (Vancouver)

May 19, 2014

Fresh hand cut fries, gravy and cheese curds. The classic Canadian poutine is a thing of beauty. And not the easiest thing to find outside of Quebec. A quick Google search of the top “poutinieres” in Vancouver led us downtown to Davie Street and La Belle Patate. Decorated with Montreal Canadiens paraphernelia with a creative poutine menu, hot dogs and Montreal smoked meat sandwiches, I started salivating as soon as I walked in the door and it didn’t disappoint.

Three of us went all poutine purist and ordered the classic poutine while Hansel ordered the smoked meat poutine. They had a nice selection of beers so we went with a nice Mexican Sol as a nod to our sunny holiday fervour mood. Oh and an all-dressed Steamie hot dog cause who doesn’t love a hot dog? The fries were cut to a nice medium size, substantial enough to bite into with a bit of cheese curd and the gravy was warm – my only complaint is that it could have been a bit hotter. I was surprised to find that all of the gravy is vegetarian as it had a nice rich flavour to it – exactly how I remember poutine tasting as a kid. I’ve seen some attempts at poutine where just melted cheese is used – and while melted cheese is always welcome, it cannot in conscience call itself poutine. This is the real deal!

They have a menu of “Specialty Poutine” like the All-Dressed – all the fixings of a regular poutine plus pepperoni, green pepper and mushroom. I’m not sure how I feel about the world of pizza and poutine colliding. But the addition of smoked meat is a true delight. Small pieces of what tasted like smoked corn beef added a new dimension to the cheese/gravy/fries hybrid of joy.

My personal favourite was the all-dressed Steamie hotdog – with sauerkraut, mustard and green relish. The photo does not do it justice. We had originally only ordered one to taste but after a bite we all rushed to order our own. The hotdog bun was super soft which helped all of the flavours seamlessly meld together. It was an ideal accompaniment to the poutine. I definitely could have eaten another one but I’m a hotdog fiend (and an insatiable beast on holiday). Totally stuffed, went for a nice stroll down to the beach at English Bay after our satisfying meal. Next time I have a poutine craving I’ll definitely be back.


1215 Davie St
Vancouver, BC V6E 1N4
Canada
1-604-569-1215
www.westcoastpoutine.wix.com/labellepatate

La Belle Patate on Urbanspoon

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Zakkushi on Main (Vancouver)

May 18, 2014

One thing that I really miss in London is a good kushiyaki bar. Kushiyaki means food that is skewered and grilled. Yakitori is specifically chicken treated in this way. I’ve tried a few (though not Bincho yet) and found them lackluster. There is something deeply weird about visiting a kushiyaki “bar” and being seated at a table with a white tablecloth with no grills in sight, by the time your skewers make their way out of the kitchen they’re often cold. It just doesn’t make any sense. Charging £4 for a single, cold, skewered chicken thigh that definitely wasn’t cooked over charcoal really misses the whole point. It’s meant to be simple, cheap, food that you eat with a couple of beers at the bar.

So while we were in Vancouver we tried to find something that would feel like my old Auckland favourite Tanuki’s Cave.

Zakkushi was the closest thing we could find. Really it is an amalgamation of sushi and izakaya style restaurants. But I was happy enough. Their kushiyaki was pretty good.

We started with some seaweed salad, and spinach dressed with sesame oil

Then between four of us we ordered six different types of Kushiyaki. Each dish is made up of two skewers so ordering two of each type meant we could all try a portion.

Chicken wings, marinaded eggplant, and green garlic wrapped in thinly sliced pork. All very good, and arrived at the table hot and straight off the charcoal grill. The chicken wing had been interestingly deconstructed as well.

Okra with dancing bonito flakes. You either enjoy okra or you don’t. Jen doesn’t (ugh, slimy). I do.

Rice grilled with a a soy and butter sauce. A delicate taste. Was hoping that these would be more obviously buttery.

Same kushiyaki as above, along with some pork gyoza.

Pork belly/bacon and asparagus. It’s a good combination with thick pieces of pork.

And some chicken thighs with the teryaki sauce. With most of the grilled meats you have the option of having them grilled with either just salt or teryaki sauce.

Japanese mayonnaise is amazing stuff. If you haven’t tried Kewpie mayo I exort you to click that link and get some right now. Well I’m not sure what was on these ebimayo prawns because it didn’t taste like Kewpie. The mayo tasted sweet. A bit like thousand island dressing? It was the only disappointing thing we ordered.

Finally we finished the meal off with some sashimi. Very good tuna. Simple. Zakkushi isn’t quite my platonic ideal of the place to eat kushiyaki but the skewers are good. Maybe I’ll make a reservation at Bincho when we’re back in London and see if they manage it. And thanks to cousin Ben for some of the photos. He took the really nice ones 🙂

Zakkushi on Main (Vancouver)

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Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant: Dim Sum, Vancouver

May 18, 2014

This is the perfect place to go for dim sum in Vancouver when you don’t have a care in the world and you’re not trying to impress out of town guests. You’re in a tent dress and you have nothing to lose. I’m not denying that there aren’t quality places in Richmond with dim sum that probably tastes even better with grander surroundings and a gilt-edged spoon to stuff your face with. But I like this place for the slightly grubby street it’s on, the winding stairwell plastered with posters of local Chinese singers and the exterior that has all the ambience of an immigration office. I even spotted my mom’s friend on one of the posters. LOL

Happy dim sum times. I will never forget this meal. NEVER.


Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant
3489 Fraser Street
Vancouver, BC V5V 1K4
www.frasercourt.ca

Fraser Court Seafood Restaurant 紅日大酒家 on Urbanspoon

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Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar (Vancouver)

May 14, 2014

I’ve always been fascinated with Southern style cooking. Chewies calls itself a Steam & Oyster Bar (and they do have some amazing oysters) but most of the menu is good old-fashioned New Orleans cuisine. Gumbo, buttermilk fried chicken, shrimp and grits… it’s the dream of every glutton. So when we heard about Chewies Chicken and Waffles brunch special, we cleared the schedule. Take note that their amazing brunch menu is only available on Saturday and Sundays – we were disappointed when we showed up at 11 on a weekday but were quickly appeased by the food and the outstanding, super spicy Caesars (Bloody Marys). Starting off with the B.C. Dungeness and Louisiana Blue Crab Cakes with fire-roasted red pepper remoulade and lemon oil, I must say I have never had a crab cake so tenderly stuffed with actual crab. It was almost creamy on the inside and nice and crispy on the outside. These were demolished in minutes.

Next starter was the Seared B.C. Humboldt Squid (pan seared squid, cucumber & jalapeno salad, mint vinaigrette). I definitely preferred the crab but they managed to perfectly grill the squid so it didn’t have that tell-tale “rubbery” texture and the refreshing salad complemented the lightly seasoned dish well. Washed this down with the best Caesar I’ve had in years – garnished with a seasoned prawn and flavoured with real horseradish. Super spicy and DELISH!

There’s no way we could have left without sampling the oysters. They came fresh with all the fixings – tabasco sauce, their own house made sauce, lemon, vinegar and horseradish. Fresh and on ice – these made me miss living in Vancouver even more.

I was so excited to try the Southern Fried Chicken – it came with buttermilk mashed potatoes, greens, chicken gravy and honey butter. It came perfectly battered and the meat was tender but personally I found it a bit too sweet and it somehow didn’t go with the rest of the sides. I imagine this would be heavenly on top of some buttermilk waffles though. Next time.

Now the Fried Oyster Po’Boy sandwich was a revelation. Fanny Bay oysters served on crusty French baguette, house made tartar sauce and iceberg lettuce with a dill pickle on the side. This was to die for. It came with a generous portion of hot fries, seasoned with cajun spices. This was such a treat. I had to be dragged away from the cajun fries and actually had to lie down in the car for a few minutes after this satisfying meal. Take me to New Orleans!



Chewies – Kitsilano
2201 West 1st Ave. V6K 3E6
Phone: (604) 558-4448
<a href="Chewies – Kitsilano
2201 West 1st Ave. V6K 3E6
http://chewies.ca/">www.chewies.ca

Chewies Steam & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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Wang’s Beef Noodle House (Vancouver)

May 9, 2014

Day one in Vancouver. Jen and I land after being awake for 36 hours. We are immediately loaded into a car and taken for some Taiwanese noodles before being put to bed. Above is the red roasted beef brisket with fat noodles. Very tasty.

The satay sauce you can see in this photo was really spicy and vinagry. I’ll have to attempt to recreate it. Maybe by adding some Gochujang?

Jen’s mum ordered the entire menu, but we were already full and tired from crappy plane food so didn’t eat anything but our noodles. Address below Wang's Taiwan Beef Noodle House 王記台灣牛肉麵 on Urbanspoon