RSSArchive for March, 2010

Alaskan King Crab from Kirin Mandarin Restaurant in Downtown Vancouver

We had dinner with TS and JS (Eating Club Vancouver) and ET and Christina (Doesn’t Tazte Like Chicken) earlier this month at Mis Trucos. During the dinner, I brought up the fact that I have NEVER had Alaskan King Crab before. Christina was raving excitedly about the King Crab dinner she had recently and I asked if anyone would be interested go to for it next.

Everyone said “YES!” without any hesitation.

So there and then at Mis Trucos, Christina made a call a certain Ah Joe in Kirin and make reservation for the following weekend. That was very efficient of her. Oh … Christina and ET are regulars in fine dining it seems. They don’t have to call Kirin for reservation … they ask for Ah Joe. And Ah Joe will personally pick a prize crab for them.

So we went to the Kirin in downtown. This one is on Alberni and Bute. For a moment I thought I was at the wrong place because it looked very different. Apparently, they had just renovated the restaurant.

So from Alberni, the only indication that Kirin is here is that little sign above the door. The entrance was plain looking and really unimpressive. It is just all glass on metal frames.

However, the moment you walk in it is a different world. It exudes classiness all round. The decor is elegant and the service is impeccable. ET and Christina was talking to Ah Joe like they are old friends. Ah Joe is a real person pleaser and an excellent captain who attended to us the whole night.

We met at 6PM because some of us had to get somewhere else later on that night. It was early and so we were among the first customers there. Little did I realize that by 7PM this entire restaurant is teeming with customers … many of them having Alaskan King Crab too.

ET pointed out that this place is also popular with Japanese tourists who travels in tour groups.

Our table were reserved and all decked out for the Alaskan King Crab with crab forks and scissors even before we arrived. I was kind of impressed with that. I thought earlier that all tables were set out like that but no.

This is what we came for primarily. That is $14.80 per pound. At minimum you are looking at an eight pound crab … so … we are looking at a minimum of $120 just for the crab.

I was embargoed from mentioning the weight of the crab because ET said we were given a good deal. I can tell you it looked huge and it is huge.

You know, I have been hearing of restaurants cheating about the crab sizes in many places. I was told that you gotta to be careful with places that advertises to be cheap but they will give you a lighter one. Unless you had this like dozens of times, you will likely not know the difference. So, I guess the best thing is never look for the price alone but go to a restaurant that is reputable.

It is standard routine to bring out the crab and show it to the customer before they take it back to the kitchen to cook it.

The crab is the main course. We had an appetizer first …

The “appetizer” is the Peking Duck 2-Way. This is one of the national dishes of China.

The “1st Way” are just the skin of the duck. There are no meat here; only skin … awfully nice thin crispy skin. The skin were pre-sliced and served on a bed of crackers underneath it. I wished they had brought the duck and slices the skin right in front of us (like they do in Man Ri Sung — you will like this restaurant).

Strange isn’t it? Today Peking is known as Beijing and yet the name of the dish will never change to keep up with the times. I had never heard of anyone referring this as the Beijing Duck.

Peking Duck is a DIY kind of dish. Half the fun is assembling it. The pancakes were served warm in a steaming basket. On the side is hoisin sauce and scallions.

According to Peking Duck purists, the duck has to be slaughtered when it is 65 days old. I am not sure if Kirin observes this. Even if they did I would not know any difference.

Yeah, it is a hand food. No need for chopsticks. Assembly is simple … spread the hoisin sauce on the pancake, pick a piece of scallion and a piece of duck skin … wrap and roll … and eat.

If no one is looking you can pick two pieces of the duck skin and quickly wrap it up before anyone sees you. People will notice eventually because at the end they will find one piece short. You need to have a poker face to pull this off.

The “2nd Way” also requires DIY assembly.

The meat of the duck is stir fried with vermicelli and other unidentified stuff. On the side are very cool and fresh and crisp lettuce — perfectly formed.

Another hand food, this is kind of messy to eat because the crisp lettuce tends to crack apart at times spilling the food all over the palm. It was messy for me … and I liked it.

The two Peking Duck dishes costs $40.

Tada! The real dinner is served.

I could feel everyone putting their hands together and clap when the crab is brought to the table. No one actually clapped but I felt that they did. It is a sight to marvel.

The Alaskan King Crab are only caught during harsh winter months, mostly in the waters off Alaska. It is lucrative fishing for these prized crabs but it is also very dangerous. Fishing for king crabs is the second most dangerous job in the world after lumber.

The fishermen makes enough money during the short fishing season that they don’t have to work if they don’t want to for the rest of the year. Guess how much money they make.  At the peak years, captains make $150K while crew members make $80K.

Oh … a quick question for you. There are no meat in the large body shell isn’t it?

I think all the flesh is in the legs, not in the body.

Anyway, the Alaskan King Crab is served in two separate dishes, which is the most popular way that people have it.

The first dish is steamed with garlic.

The garlic is a mix of minced raw garlic and deep fried garlic. It is simply marvelous. It is like one of those food you just have to eat it with your eyes closed and savour every lip licking bite.

It is the size and the succulent flesh that make the King Crab the king of crabs. All the pieces were pre-cut nicely so there is very little work getting to the flesh. All you need is to hold the leg with one hand and the crab fork on the other to dig out the flesh.

The flesh … OMG … you gotta just eat it at least once in your life. ET said that this is a combination of dungeness crab and lobster.

Please give me a minute while I wipe the drool on my keyboard.

For this piece I pile on the minced garlic … lots of it.

Mid way through this meal, I suddenly realized that I actually had King Crabs before. As a matter of fact I had FOUR full plates of it in a casino buffet restaurant in Reno (see here). But that king crab is just steamed and served cold with melted butter as dip. This one is classier.

They so thoughtfully gave us each a bowl of lemon water to cleanse the palate before the next serving of the King Crab. Strange no one drank this. I guess the crab must have been really delicious.

I like the second King Crab dish better …   More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Shabusen Yakiniku House on Burrard and Robson, Vancouver

It was Arkensen’s birthday some weeks ago. So, the birthday boy gets to choose where he wanted to go eat. We already know what he wants. His favourite food, other than fried rice, is sushi. Quality is secondary to quantity. He loves lots of it. Sometimes he would eat and eat until he suddenly stops and tell us he feel sick. That’s my boy!

Sigh … Suanne and I had resigned to fate that my two boys will never take over chowtimes some day. Just last weekend, I asked if he reads chowtimes at all. Sheepishly, he told us “not a lot”.

“Oh? Like once a week?”, I asked.

“No. Longer than that”, he smiled.

Arkensen hardly ever reads chowtimes it seems. He just have no interest in food. However, I think someday when he is much older, he will be able to look back on what his dad wrote about him and be able to recall the hundreds of meals we had together. This will be priceless I know. His younger brother on the other hand reads chowtimes everyday.

Anyway, there are not many good Japanese AYCEs (All-you-can-eat) around. Last fall, we had a great time at the Shabusen Yakiniku on Granville and so I thought this time we go to this other Shabusen in downtown.

I did not have a good start. When I called for reservation, the person on the line sounded quite brusque. He sounded like he was unhappy to entertain my questions regarding parking and prices. In my usual self, I shrugged it aside but that first impression was not good. Anyway, it was Arkensen’s birthday and if he looked forward to eating there, I’ll go.

We were there early as we usually like to start meals before the crowd came in. At 11:30AM, the place was quiet but it was not for long. The place was filled with customers at peak lunch time.

Service was good, prompt and polite, although impersonal. There were none of the brusque behaviour I encountered earlier on the phone.

The interior has the same elaborate decor like the other Shabusen on Granville. We like it.

The restaurant is large too and they have great seats. There is even a section where you get to sit in a boat! That was kind of fun but that boat/table is meant for larger parties.

So we got seated by the window overlooking Burrard Street. If there is anything I am most impressed about both Shabusens, it is their location, decor and views.

Shabusen is a Japanese sushi and Korean BBQ AYCE restaurant. The AYCE menu is simple and is all on the 1-pager menu.

Our strategy this time was to concentrate on the BBQ and get only a bit of sushi. Or at least that was what our intention were.


The BBQ was lovely. The last time we had EIGHT bowls of the meat but this time we only had TWO. This is all because we totally over ordered the sushis and was forced to bail out the boys when they started saying they felt sick!

What a waste! Suanne and I was looking on gorging ourselves on the BBQ.

If you had never tried the Korean BBQ here before, I think you will like it. Sure, the meat here isn’t top notch but it is tasty with the sweet sauce and marinates. They even have a big bottle of sweet sauce that we use as a dip. So you can just imagine how moist the meat were.

Moreover, we love the nice smell of the BBQ. One thing though, you need to have … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Golden Great Wall Szechuan on West Broadway and Heather, Vancouver

Note: I would like you to read down to the very bottom of this post.

Up until two weeks ago, the 8GTCC team had been trying to work together through emails. While it had allowed us to brainstorm ideas and such, I find that the discussions quickly became unfocused. So, I thought the best way is to bring everyone together and meet up. After all, not everyone had met everyone in real life.

I wanted to have a dinner meeting. I also wanted to be at a place where not only the food is good, the restaurant will be supportive that we stay and hog a table as we stay on for discussion.

We went to the Golden Great Wall Szechuan Restaurant on Broadway. That is a perfect place because the Golden Great Wall had once invited us to their restaurant but for some reason, we did not. I knew they would be supportive and happy to host this dinner-meeting. Moreover, it would be a convenient location as it is just a short walk from the Broadway station on Canada Line.

When I made the reservation, I told the restaurant that this is not a review visit and that we expect to pay for the dinner. We just needed a place for dinner and then to meet without being shoo’d away.

The Golden Great Wall has a large dinning hall which is big enough to host a respectable wedding dinner even. The restaurant is run by a father and two sons team. The restaurant was opened by Benny Liu about 8 years ago. Today, he is assisted by his two sons, Douglas and Tony.

I can see that Benny is an experienced restaurateur in the way he speaks to his customers and us.

I observed that for a Chinese restaurant, the Golden Great Wall has a lot of Caucasian customers and they mostly came in as a family. I think this is because the restaurant is located just next door to the Holiday Inn.

The entire team trickled in right on the dot at 6PM. Not everyone had met everyone before but everyone felt like they know each other already.

The moment we were seated, we were served flower tea … or what fmed referred to as “performance tea”. It’s pretty fancy. The tea pot is clear that you could see the tea starting off as a ball and slowly unfurling into flowers. Good to look at. Taste wise, it is no way superior than other more common Chinese tea.

I had met everyone before except for Dylan and I kind of like the composition of the team. There are seven of us … fmed, LotusRapper, Dylan, Joe, Keev, Suanne and myself. We have food experts, professional menu architect, food writer and Chinese literature expert. We even have a lawyer who can write rock solid indemnity forms in case we need to protect ourselves from food poisoning. LOL! Seriously, the most important thing of all, it is a cohesive and committed team.

I was quite impressed with Golden Great Wall. Apparently they were prepared for our visit when we did not even expect them to. While they gave us the menu for our ala carte selection, they have also prepared a menu specially for our table.

We were so busy talking to each other, we did not really have the time to look over the ala carte menu. So, I just decided we will go with what the restaurant had prepared. There were no price and so I asked Benny Liu. He said “$10 per person”.

That’s too cheap! But am not complaining. I think Benny just arbitrarily gave me that round number just because I said I want to pay for it. [Thanks a lot Benny!]

Almost all of us went to have the same beer. I never had Chinese beer before. This is Tsingtao and is the top selling beer in China. In terms of volume sold, they are #1 in the world. No surprising isn’t it?

It has 4.5% alcohol content. Too much for me … made my head woozy for a while.

Since Douglas once told me they have excellent Xiao Long Bao, I asked for a basket to try. Apparently they did not bill us for this and just added this to the set dinner.

Benny was great. With every dish served, he was there explaining and have us insight on the food served. I actually wished this is standard in every restaurant … I mean beside just giving a 1-2 sentence description.

Benny said that the chef who made this XLB is from Beijing and has 40 years of experience.

I missed quite a lot of what he said. He said he uses local flour to make this and that the broth inside came from pork skin after cooking for 2 hours.

The XLB is respectable. I do find that the dough skin is a bit too thick.

The first dish is called Appetizer Two Kinds.

This is a well presented dish. I am not sure about you but I find this sort of presentation really brings delight to most people. It does to me. LOL!

One of the appy is Szechuan beef and beef tripe. Benny called this Fuqi Feipien which is literally translated as Husband and Wife Slices of Lungs. Funny name isn’t it? This dish came about from a husband and wife food vendor in Chengdu who made this popular. It has a tingling spiciness from the Sichuan pepper corn and is chewy and tasted peanuty too.

This is balanced by cold cucumber which is lightly salty.

In the middle of the appy is a pagoda. No one touched it. We are all grown ups. But I so wanted to take a bite of it just to see what it is made of.

Ringing the Appetizer Two Kinds are cute little birds made with … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Trans-Herbe’s Four O’Clock Tea

Full Disclosure:
This post is written based on the free samples provided by Trans-Herbe.

Commercial break of sorts, guy. And no, we are not paid for this post.

I was trying to understand the finer points of tea a few months ago. I was really focusing on Chinese tea and went out to buy some fancy thingy to brew Chinese tea. When Trans-Herbe wrote us an email asking if we wanted to try some samples, I said yes. I was rather intrigued with their unique tea.

The tea came in a few very nice sounding names … particularly the Earl Grey Chocolate Berry and Apricot Passion Fruit Rooibos. You see, Trans-Herbes specializes in formulating and conditioning herbal and flavoured tea. They are based in Quebec and so they are local.

From their website (here), they do carry a LOT of products that they make. I wish they had sent us the full range of 50 different types of tea. Some of them have very intriguing names … to name just a few:

  • Tropical Mango Green Tea
  • Cucumber and Lemongrass Green Tea
  • Apple Caramel Spice Black Tea
  • Energie Acai Super Berry
  • Chamomille Citrus
  • Lime Ginger Mint Herbal Tea
  • Licorice Spice Herbal Tea
  • Ginko Ginger Herbal Tea
  • Lychee Ginger White tea

Each box carries … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Ramen Instant Noodles — Closest to Kintaro’s

This was a few weeks ago when we had dinner with Christina, ET, TS and JS at Mis Trucos.

During the dinner, Christina told us that there is a Ramen Instant Noodle that tastes just exactly like what you would get at Kintaro’s. I find that hard to believe to tell the truth. Would you?

But I think Christina is a super sales woman in her past life or something like that. She is like the salesman who can sell a comb to a monk. After the dinner, the next thing she did was to send us an email with a picture of that packaging!

She was so convincing and persuasive that I felt like that monk. I just got to check that out!

The Instant Ramen Noodles Picture from Christina

The problem is the packaging is all in Japanese and we don’t even know what it is called. So, I printed the picture of the packaging (above) and went to look for it in T&T. Christina said that this could only be bought from T&T or Osaka supermarket. She even said that it is “located near the end of the aisle that is closest to the cashier and that it is on the 2nd rack from the bottom”. Aren’t you just amazed with that? LOL!

So, with the picture in hand, I went to look for it in the T&T in Metrotown after work. It was not easy looking for this because every other instant noodles bowl looked the same.

After like eternity, I finally located one that looked like it. But the box is different from the picture that Christina sent me. You know how I confirmed this is the right one? I cross checked the bar code.

I can’t read Japanese … can anyone tell how this is pronounced?

This ramen is expensive. It is $3.80 a bowl. And there was only one bowl remaining on the shelf. Despite the price, I think this particular brand must be popular.

On the way home, I deliberately stopped by the roast pork shop in Parker Place to buy a pound of roast pork. I wanted to make that ramen a bit more like Kintaro’s ramen which has char su too!

I like the roast pork from Parker Place the best. They are consistently good. Often there is a line of people waiting to buy from their roast pork. Last Chinese New Year, we waited in line for one hour (!).

Peeling back the lid, it looked just like any instant noodle bowl except that there are some dehydrated vegetables pieces (wood ear) and some kind of dehydrated meat like stuff (perhaps vegetarian meat) in it.

For flavoring, there are three sachets … one for the soup base, one with more dehydrated garnishings (green onion and sesame seed) and another with oil.

Since we could not read the Japanese instructions, we figured we just pour boiling water and then cover for 2-3 minutes.

And this is what it looked like … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Weekend Musings (27-Mar-2010)

OK, you know that we just came back from a 5-day vacation in Portland and that we came back to find our PC would not start up. That was very strange because it was running fine before we left and we shut it down completely before we left. It just won’t start up again and it failed to recognize the hardisk.

This PC had a good run but had its fair share of problems. I had the CPU heat sink replaced once and two hard disks replaced too on the PC. So rather than monkeying around the machine, I decided enough is enough.

Actually, I took it as an excuse to get a replacement machine without Suanne grilling me about it. LOL! Oh … am loving this notebook. With 8GB of memory running on a 64-bit Windows 7 operating system on a Core i5 processor, this is very much faster. So editing images ran very fast … snap, snap, snap!

The problem with the notebook is that it only has 640GB of harddisk space. It does not have a SATA connection, nor does it have space to install another internal harddisk. At the rate that the files are growing, I need at least 1TB more on this notebook without sacrificing disk access time. Anyone has any suggestion over this problem? I already have a WD Book thingy with USB but it is just for local backup.

We are not quite back to action yet as we need to recover almost 1TB of files from the backup disk.

My world would be perfect if the Canon 40D start giving me problem …

Update on The Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine Project

I think we are pretty much set at this point. At this stage, I can report the following:

  • The 1st cuisine had been selected, researched and write-up completed. It is undergoing final edits.
  • The restaurant had been selected which we feel is the best for the cuisine concerned.
  • The menu (a 10-course dinner) had been carefully identified and cost is much lower than we thought.
  • The target date had been identified.

The team will be doing a final scoping on Monday next week and once we get the logistics finalized we can announce the plans in detail. The awesome project team is excited over this project. We hope you are too and will take the time come out to learn, eat and enjoy each other’s company.

Oh yeah, I think I mentioned this earlier too. If all things go well, we will also have a TV crew attending. They will be there as a part of the documentary they are doing regarding food blogging and chowtimes. Do you think I should perm my hair, get my teeth whitened or something?

At Home …

Poor Suanne is sick the moment she got home from Portland. She had been coughing and coughing a lot that it hurts. And she blames me for giving her the germs. *shrugs* What that means is we are homebound this weekend — no eating out. Since I can only make instant noodles and fry eggs (yeah, I can even crack an egg with one hand), I think I will just go out and get take-outs.

Nanzaro offered to make fried rice. I told him no thanks. Although he is quite adept to making his own fried rice, it is pretty much a hit and miss … mostly miss. Shhh … don’t tell him that.

That sucks … not being able to eat out on weekends.

Anyway, the weather looks great today isn’t it? Hope you have a great weekend … and as always … eat well!

An old YouTube video for your weekend enjoyment:

And if you are interested to know how that video is made:

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Yakko Sushi on Kingsway Near Metrotown, Burnaby

We had a great time in Portland. It was just a short 5-day spring break and was virtually unplanned. We just booked the hotel room without deciding on the actual itinerary and all. We wanted to check out the Portland food carts and came away having a different view having seen them. Most of them are just so-so ho-hum sort of operations — and dirty too, if I dare say. Instead, I found the variety of ethnic food a discovery.

When we got home on Wednesday, the PC would not boot! Believe it or not, we have 2 PCs and 2 notebooks at home. It had to happen to the main PC which we do our work … the beefiest of the lot with TBs of harddisk. That PC had been problematic for the past year with blown sink cooler, power supply and replaced the hard disk twice. This time we are not going to go through the hassle of fixing it. That two year old PC is telling us it wants to retire.

So, I went to get a new notebook yesterday … a beefier notebook with 8GB memory and 64-bit operating system. Oh boy, Photoshop ran very fast on the notebook. I am a happy camper now. I will spend the next few days transferring the hundreds of gigs of pix and get things back in order again before I get back to regular blogging.

Oh I digressed.

I had blogged about Yakko Sushi before. That was two years ago and I still remember that visit. We went there right after completing the Vancouver Sun Run.

This time I was there with LotusRapper. He is the most prolific commenter on chowtimes and had been following the site for four years. Suanne and I consider him to be a loyal supporter.

LotusRapper was raving about Yakko Sushi for a while. Yakko Sushi is located on Kingsway and across the street from Metrotown.

Yakko Sushi is small and cramp. The tables are mostly partitioned with tall wooden walls. Those partitions is the most telling thing that this is a Korean owned restaurant. I see these sort of partitions a lot in Korean restaurants. I guess Koreans like to eat in privacy.

Service is fast and polite. Come to think of it, Korean (and Japanese) waitresses are soft-spoken whereas Chinese waitresses are not usually like that.

They served us Miso Soup … for free! I like that.

Can you see what is “wrong” with the picture above? The Miso Soup came with a spoon in it. The Japanese would drink the soup right out of the bowl without using the soup spoon. As a custom, the Chinese would usually not encourage drinking directly from the bowl. I guess Koreans are like the Chinese too.

I remember when I was young, my mum used to chastise me for drinking soup directly from the bowl even when we are at home. So, I grew up feeling that it is uncivilized doing that … that is until when I started going to authentic Japanese restaurants and felt pretty cool slurping the soup directly from the bowl.

The menu though is Japanese. I find that the menu is pretty standard — even unimaginative. Not that it is wrong or something like that. I am saying this because I came expecting some really different, out of the ordinary food. LotusRapper set my expectations too high. LOL!

The menu is just what you will find in most Japanese restaurant but their prices are pretty … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Roast Prime Rib with Dijon and Thyme

Ben was hinting me that he does not have prime rib at home for a long time. So, I went out to buy a prime rib for dinner. I got a small one which weighs only about 2.5 pounds for our family of four.

Coincidently, I just saw a roast prime rib recipe in the Province paper at the Gourmet’s Guide by Eric Akis. So, I adapted the recipe with the ingredients I have in my pantry.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 pounds prime rib roast
  • 2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • coarse sea salt to taste
  • coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups beef stock

Prep time: 10 minutes; Cook time: depends on the size and doneness; Serves 4.

More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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