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Kumare Restaurant: About Time Vancouver Has A Fancier Filipino Restaurant

The Filipino community in Vancouver had been quietly growing over the years that not many of us realize. It might come as a surprise to some that Filipinos overtook China as Canada’s leading source of immigrants in the last couple of years.

This is a staggering statistic because if you compare the population of China (1.3 billion) and the Philippines (92 million), the percentage of Filipinos overseas is staggering. A total of 11% of the country’s population live and work outside of the country.

Yet with the such a large and growing community in Vancouver, the Filipino cuisine is so poorly represented here. You get lots of turo-turo (literally translated as “point-point”) restaurants all over town. But when one wants a nice, fancier sit down Filipino restaurants to entertain friends and guests, your best and perhaps only bet is Pinpin on Fraser.

Well, not anymore.

There is a new kid in town. And it is about time Vancouver deserves fancier Filipino restaurant like Kumare.

We stumbled on Kumare very much by accident yesterday. It also happened that they were opened for the first time yesterday too. We had earlier planned to go for dinner at S&W Pepper House on No 3 Road in Richmond because we did not have spicy Sichuan food for some time already and we had enough materials to blog about. It was supposed to be our “off-day”.

As I was on Park Road and about to drive into the S&W Pepperhouse parking lot, we happened to see lights at the end of the strip mall. I remembered Crispy Lechon telling us about the impending opening of a new Filipino restaurant around this area and thought this might be it. Well it seems like they were opened for business which we found out later on they were opened for the first time yesterday. So this calls for a change of plans. Spicy food got to wait and we need to make this a “working day”, much to the chagrin of our boys. :-)

“Why do you always have to blog? Why do you always have to blog, huh?”, asked Arkensen.

“Tough luck, buddy. Too bad you have food bloggers as your parents”, I smiled giving him the same answer to the same question whenever we go to a place not to his liking.

Nanzaro was just annoyed because he was gearing up for hot and spicy food the whole day and Filipino food is NEVER spicy. LOL!

BTW, take a look at the license plate of the car above.

Kumare is certainly quite unlike all the Filipino restaurants you see in Metro Vancouver. It has that bright, modern look to it. Well, it is not quite the level of the fancier Chinese banquet halls but it is a move in the right direction. Here is a place that you could bring your friends to entertain them in fancier and elegant setting.

We were surprised to find that even though they had opened just for dinner that day, the place was almost full. I guess word gets around fast and perhaps there is such a pent up demand for a restaurant like this. Most of the diners appears to be Filipinos and so this is a good sign too.

The dining area seats 36 people with some room to expand with more tables in the future.

Service was prompt, friendly and eager. There were six people working the floor that day which we thought was a lot of people. I guess all hands were on deck on their opening day.

When we got seated, we were handed the menu in a pocket binder which they told us is still temporary. They told us that besides Filipino food, they incorporate some Thai cooking in the menu. The menu is simple and has all the familiar Filipino favourites in it. You can order most of the food either as a set (i.e. served on rice in a single plate) or you can have it served family style with rice ordered on the side. The prices are good too with most dishes between $7 and $9.

They even have a limited breakfast menu which is basically the “-silogs”, you know, dishes like long-silog, tap-silog, bang-silog and such. The suffix “silog” came from the sinangag (garlic fried rice) and itlog (egg). All the breakfast items are $8.50.

Even without looking at the menu, I already know what I want. The litmus test has got to be the national dish of the Philippines — the adobo. So I got this one called the Adobo Tostado which is $7.50.

This is braised pork served with mixed vegetables and garlic rice. The sauce on the pork has a very light vinegarish flavour which was delightful. I know some like it with sharper vinegar taste but this is perfect for me. I was thinking that the sauce would be excellent with some kind of … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Talay Thai Restaurant on Granville and 68th, Vancouver

Here is one more restaurant that is recommended by a Friend of Chowtimes. This one came from Jaime who wrote to us saying:

Hi Ben and Suanne,

I actually wanted to recommend both of you to try a new Thai restaurant that opened up less than an year ago on Granville. It’s right next to Rogers and took over a Japanese restaurant that used to be there. It’s called Talay Thai and it’s down to earth, authentic Thai food. The owner, cooking staff, and waitresses are all Thai. Their food is very well flavoured and it’s a great place to have authentic Thai food in a casual setting. My best friend and I discovered this place while doing our regular restaurant scouting missions haha. Because I’ve only gone there twice, I haven’t tried much, but what I can recommend is their green curry (I tried it with chicken), prawn cakes, and fish cakes. The last time I came, I saw many tables ordering Thai iced tea and it looked amazing! Next time I go, I will order myself a glass of that! Oh, and if you go for lunch, they have lunch specials and they serve it with a really tasty springroll. This is probably the largest single portion of a spring roll I’ve had in a restaurant.

Talay Thai is nearby and we had not done enough Thai dine outs lately. So we thought this would be great to check out Jaime’s recommendation.

Talay Thai is located on the southern end of Granville, near the intersection with 68th Ave. It was just next door to the Ming Tak HK Style Restaurant which we had blogged before (see link here).

As we walked into the restaurant, there was a sign extolling the fact that they serve authentic and traditional Thai food. It also said that it is operated by two Thai women, Dtua and Dtoon and they hail from the Chalnat Province (central Thailand, north of Bangkok).

The service is very good. It is very typical of Thai hospitality. The waitress was very polite, soft spoken and have a charming smile. And very pretty too. Actually she was the second most prettiest woman in the restaurant that time we were there.

Do you all agree that Thais are gentle and soft spoken people, particularly the women? I always find that their speech is like sing-song. Let’s see … I think the only Asians that are polite and gentle are the Thais, the Japanese and the Koreans … in that order. The roughest womenfolk in Asia are … I think I better not get there. :-)

Am just kidding OK?

The inside of the restaurant was pretty cozy. They have booths. Some big, some smaller ones. The bigger ones are configurable too. The seats are wooden benches with thrown pillow — much like those you see in Korean restaurants.

The (2nd prettiest) waitress told us that the word Talay means “sea” on the Thai language. So dishes with the word Talay means mixed seafood.

The names of the dishes are in their Thai name rather than being translated into English. If you notice the menu above, many of the dishes are served with a choice of:

  • Chicken, beef or pork (the cheapest)
  • Prawn or fish for $1 more
  • Talay (mixed seafood) for $2 more

In Talay Thai, I guess you got to pay $2 more for a Talay version.

First thing first. We order the Thai Iced Tea ($2.50) that Jaime was talking about. It was pretty unique and we enjoyed it.

It is made with red tea with milk and served unstirred. It does make it look a lot more appealing. After stirring, it turned orangey. Good drink. Good recommendation, Jaime.

For starters we ordered the Tom Yum Soup and opted for the prawn version which is $9. I don’t know … I always order tom yum with prawns. That is my favourite version.

The soup was good — sourish and savory. This hot and sour soup has in it mushroom, lemon grass, tomatoes, lime leaves, green onions and cilantro. The only thing is that it is … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Tangthai Cuisine of Thailand on Robson and Denman, Vancouver

Updated: 27th July 2012: This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Complete Disclosure:
Suanne and I were invited by the Tangthai Cuisine of Thailand for a tasting session. This post is based upon the complimentary tasting session.

Some of the best Thai cuisine restaurants that we had tasted was at Tangthai on Broadway. I still remember that visit to Tangthai. It was just the day before we went on a 3 week gastronomic vacation to Spain (Barcelona, Seville and Madrid). It was a rush for us but we went nevertheless. Our mind was clearly not on blogging but it turned out to be more than we expected.

We were impressed at the tasting during summer at Tangthai Broadway and how Dhitichaya Ruengsamarnwong worked so hard to bring authenticity to her restaurant and her food. See our previous blog posting on Tangthai Broadway here.

Since our last visit, Tangthai had just opened another restaurant with the same name. This new one is located on Robson at the intersection with Denman.

With floor to ceiling glass walls in front, Tangthai on Robson looks a lot more inviting. As we walked into the restaurant, Suanne and I were surprised that Dhitichaya pasted a poster of our review on the entrance of the restaurant. We are just small time bloggers and seeing our post in a poster form was simply surreal. LOL!

Location wise, this new Tangthai restaurant is way better than the one on Broadway. There are lots of foot traffic for sure.

Assisted by her husband, Deo, the main person behind Tangthai is Dhitichaya Ruengsamarnwong. It is such a long name that I am sure that most people will find it hard to remember. So, Suanne and I just called her by her nickname, Sonia.

The Tangthais of Vancouver is an offshoot of a successful Thai restaurant called Padthai in Edmonton.

Tangthai tries to differentiate itself by being authentic. It is pretty evident as we walked through the doors and greeted with Thai carvings and statues.

The dining area is adorned with wooden panel carvings. Even the carved table tops were made in Thailand and shipped to Canada. While it was a very nice and pleasant dining area, it is still a little rough around the edges. This is coming from a perfectionist me although I understand that they had just started operation just a few weeks back.

Tangthai has a two level dining area. At the time we were there, only the ground floor is opened to the public. Sonia told us that the upstairs dining area is just days from opening as they put in the finishing touches. I felt that the upstairs dining area would be a great place for people-watching because it overlooks the busy Robson street.

Suanne and I were not alone this time.

When Sonia contacted us that they wanted to invite us to a media event of sorts to introduce the new Tangthai restaurant, we expressed that we will not like to go to an event that we just jostle with hoards of people and sample minuscule morsels of food. I think food bloggers should be treated with more respect than that! So, I suggested that it would be more meaningful for us if we have a proper sitdown dinner and sample proper food in a proper setting. Sonia liked the idea and then said “bring along your friends too”.

So we brought along friends … quite a lot of them. Blogger friends!

Suanne and I decided to invite some of the very best and most prolific Vancouver area food bloggers along for this tasting. Can you recognize any of them above? The ones that attended are:

I’ll put up a link to their reviews here the moment they post theirs. There were a couple other bloggers who could not make it unfortunately.

We started off with something called the Prawn Skirt ($9 for four). We had this before and it is good. It is like spring rolls except that they used better ingredients. It is stuffed with prawn, minced crab meat and water chestnut which gives a very distinct texture.  With the sweet chili dipping sauce, it is a good combination.

Too bad we were eating this with friends. This is because I can only do one dipping on the sauce. If I am with Suanne, I will dip into the sauce before each bite.

The Prawn Skirts were followed by another appetizer. This is Beef and Chicken Satay (4 for $7).

Hah! I did not know that Thais have satay. As far as I know, only Malaysia and Indonesia lay claim to having invented the satay. One of these days Malaysia and Indonesia could go to war over this claim. OK I am exaggerating but at times this is a heated topic.

But Sonia insisted that satay is as much Thai as it is Malaysian or Indonesian. I give her the benefit of the doubt.

There are a lot of similarities to the Malaysian satay but there are also some subtle differences that makes it unique.

It appears that the marinate used is largely similar particularly the use of tumeric which gives it the yellowish tint. I told Sonia that there is a big flaw on her satay and that is the absence of chicken skin. LOL! No seriously. In Malaysia, the best satays have the skin on the skewer which makes it more juicy. I understand why she did not have it because Vancouverites are such health freaks.

The peanut sauce is smooth and creamy unlike the original Malaysian version which is peanuty and chunky. My expectations are biased to the Malaysian version but in all fairness the satay is pretty good.

Tom Kha Kai. That is spicy chicken coconut soup ($4).

Tangthai uses lean chicken meat in the coconut milk based soup. The soup was rich and lightly spicy. We find that this soup is thicker than what we normally get elsewhere. This is delicious. Personally, I would have prefer to try Tom Yam simply because Tom Yam is a national dish of Thailand.

The first thing I noticed when the dish came was the food carving.

One of the thing we vividly remember from our last visit to Tangthai Broadway was their very impressive food carving. It seems like they had tone this down a little and not as spectacular here.

This dish is called Pla Rad Prik  ($16). This is deep fried tilapia with sweet and sour sauce. The sauce is more on the sweet side than it is sour which I prefer for fishes.

Tangthai deep fried this so crisp that the some parts of the bones and fins are brittle enough to eat.

No one touched the head. Good!

I know Suanne would want to pick the flesh. She always does but in the presence of people she did not. Not me.

I had it … all mine!

Sonia told us that this is a new dish she had just introduced to the menu. So we are kind of a guinea pig of hers for this new dish. LOL!

This is called Pla Mul Pad Prik ($16) or Stuffed Squid in Green Curry Sauce. Nestled among the squid is pieces of fig.

Sonia said that this is a common dish in Thailand. This dish has a pronounced lemon grass flavour. Although lacking in color, it is quite spicy. I would say unexpectedly spicy despite knowing that it is curry.

The squid is stuffed primarily with … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Tangthai Cuisine of Thailand on Broadway and Fir, Vancouver

Updated on 20th April 2010: This location is being closed.

This is a complementary meal from Tangthai.

OK, I admit.  I am still on vacation mode!  Suanne and I had a wonderful time the past three weeks in Spain on a Gastronomic Tour.  We will share with you some of the wonderful experiences we had … and YES! … we tried El Bulli’s molecular gastronomy food … finally!  More about that next week.

Just the day before we left for Spain, Suanne and I were invited to a new restaurant which belonged to a  friend of a dear  friend.  It was so new that it was just opened the week before our visit.

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Tangthai is an offshoot of a very successful Thai restaurant in Edmonton called Padthai.  Tangthai is located on Broadway near the intersection with Fir.

Sonia is the person behind both Tangthai and Padthai.  When Sonia decided to open a restaurant in Vancouver, she wanted Tangthai to be the better version of Padthai.

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Suanne and I were quite awe by the decor and ambiance in the restaurant.  It was quite lavishly decorated with Thai art pieces … every single of which is hand picked by Sonia from Thailand.   Each of the woodwork art pieces are unique and one of the kind.

You can’t really see the carvings on the side of the table top from the picture above.  They were designed by Sonia who had them hand carved for Tangthai and shipped from Thailand.  There is no doubt that Sonia wanted Tangthai to project the authenticity of Thai culture and cuisine.

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I must say we had a LOT of food!  Sonia wanted us to try as many dishes so much that we had to ask her to stop!

Sonia calls the appetizer above the Golden Triangle ($8).  It is an deep fried egg wrapping stuffed with minced chicken, green peas, potatoes and carrot.  The dipping sauce served is sweet chili sauce.  Tastewise, it reminds me a lot of the curry puff I used to have except that this has a crunchy crispy wrapper around it.  It was very nice as an appy.

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Sonia made sure that not only each of her dishes tastes good, it also had to look good.  Tangthai’s appetizers were all garnished with food carvings.

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The other appetizers we had is called the Prawn Skirt ($9 for four).  It is like a high end spring roll except that they use better ingredients.  Stuffed with prawn, minced crab meat and water chestnut, it gives a very distinct texture.  We like this one a lot.

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We met the man behind the carvings.  His name is Kandy and is the chief cook at Tangthai.  Kandy had won numerous fruit carving competition in Thailand.  As a matter of fact, he WAS the chief cook at Padthai in Edmonton until Sonia decided that Vancouver deserves the services of her best cook. More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Charm Modern Thai on Hamilton Street, Vancouver

Updated: 4th July 2012; This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Suanne and I had an invitation from Charm Modern Thai a couple of weeks ago to check out the restaurant.  I had been following their Twitterings for sometime and seeing what they had, we thought we go try their food.  Moreover, we had not done many Thai restaurant reviews … so, this looks perfect place for our Friday dinner.

Lately I had been working like a dog with 12-hour days starting at 6AM.  I have just a few more weeks to go before a major project delivery — there was just so many loose ends to tie.  So I really needed to cap off the week and putting work behind me for the weekend by going out for dinner with Suanne.  I enjoy moments like this and it helps.

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Charm Modern Thai is located on Hamilton Street in Yaletown.  Hamilton Street is like a high end glutton square if you ask me.  This stretch is well designed for restaurants with raised platform wide enough for patios which seems to be a crowd puller in warmer weather.

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We initially opted to sit indoors.  Although pleasant and nice, the decor inside were quite dark.  It was also such a sunny day outside we asked for a change of table to the outside.

Service was great and the wait staff who attended to us was very helpful with our questions of the menu.  We actually spent quite a bit of time on the menu.  It was not a surprise to us because Charm Modern Thai were expecting Suanne and I.

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They had quite a number of specials going on every now and then.  So, it pays to ask for their specials.  Their lunch specials looks like a bargain.

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They have a $35 and $25 Set Menu.  Comparing the prices of the individual items on the menu, it is way much cheaper getting the Set Menu.  It is a four-course menu and is meant for 2 to 6 people.  Apparently they have another menu if the party is more than six people.

We opted for the more pricier $35 set menu.  After all, it included house wine and has better choices throughout the four courses.

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Too bad I did not know there are house wine before I placed my order.  I had on the onset ordered a Thai beer to try.  The Chang beer ($5) is low in alcohol content at just 5% but that was more than enough for me.  I declined the house wine and you know that Suanne doesn’t drink.  So, it was kind of a waste!

Suanne and I was so glad that the Chef came to our table and virtually hosted this dinner by being present as each dish was presented.  The Executive Chef’s name is Tipnari Kulwinanich but she told us to call her just Tiffanie which was much easier to address her!  This is what Suanne and I enjoy in doing reviews — being able to get to know more about the food and the people behind them.  It sure adds a dimension to the experience.  He he he … this is one of the perks of being food bloggers.

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Our first appy is the Rock Pepper with Garlic Prawns.  The were four pieces of prawns and served with a delightful mango salad in the middle.  The mango salad is flavored with sambal and Nam Prik Pao (roasted Thai Chili Paste) and had a tinge of spiciness added to the sweet-sourness of the mango.

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They gave us really big prawns.  It was delicious and absolutely delightful, especially the garlic and pepper bits.  Ordered on its own, this is $10.  We see that almost all tables around us had this distinctly presented prawns.

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They also gave me a bowl of lime water with just a small piece of lime in it.  It tasted just like water.  ;-) More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Thai Kitchen on No 2 and Blundell, Richmond

This is a review of a restaurant recommended by Rachel Bee. Rachel, who we had never met, sent us an email of a few of her favourite restaurants almost 2 months ago. We appreciate these recommendations because Rachel takes time to write to us about them — not everyone does that. Of the four of her favourite, we decided to check out something we don’t normally go for … Thai.

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The Thai Kitchen is located in the strip mall on the corner of No 2 Road and Blundell. Rachel told us of their amazing Lunch Specials ($6.95 with 35 different choices and includes spring roll). However, we were there for dinner instead. One thing that we really appreciate seeing in the restaurants we visit these days is “No MSG”. They boldly reminded their customers that.

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They have a steady stream of customers. And one thing we noticed is that their customers are almost all white. I had never seen so many white customers in an Asian restaurant and that leads me to think that Thai food somehow appeals to whites more. Actually, I do know that Thai restaurants are the more popular Asian restaurants in Bellingham and Seattle (read Mae Phim) too. You think my observation is just coincidence or do you think it’s true?

Anyway, Thai Kitchen do have a lot of take out customers. During the time we were there, there was easily ten separate customers coming in to pick up take-out food.

The interior is painted in a warm pinkish-red and orange.

Thai Kitchen looks like it’s owned and operated by Chinese as we heard them speaking in Mandarin. Moreover, they play Chinese oldies in the restaurant — including one of Suanne’s favourites … Teresa Teng’s The Moon Represents My Heart.

Credit: Toronto Pianist, Gordon Murray

For more, check http://www.youtube.com/user/loosewrists1

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We wanted to try their Spicy Prawns Soup. It is actually Tom Yum soup but Thai Kitchen chooses to leave out unfamiliar non-English names. Tom Yum is a hot and sour soup and is probably the most well known Thai dish besides Pad Thai.

More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Green Basil in Metrotown, Burnaby

When Suanne and I started blogging early last year, we were just checking out blogspot without the intention of really blogging for this long. Back then it was quite the fad … just like facebook today. We thought that the easiest thing to blog about is food since we encounter food every day. We told ourselves that we will blog anonymously. I think we had been pretty successful in keep ourselves anonymous … don’t you think? Actually, if you look hard enough, you will find there are just two pictures of me and about half dozen of Suanne (we have tons of pictures of our boys though).

There are several longtime reader of this blog. One of which is the mysterious LotusRapper. I see his name peppered all over Vancouver food related websites and forum. He seems to be an expert on food … if you had asked me to guess, I really thought he was a food critic for some publication or working in a food industry related job. Since both LotusRapper and I work around the Metrotown area, I got in touch with him to go check out this new Thai restaurant on Kingsway in Burnaby.

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Some of my office mates have rave feedback for the Green Basil. Some of them frequent this place quite often.

Knowing how busy this restaurant could be, we went just a tad before noon. It was a good decision because by noon, the place was completely packed. I think what really drew people to this new restaurant is their advertised Mon-Fri $6.95 lunch special.

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I ordered their $6.95 lunch special to check out what this is all about. It came first with some vegetable broth. It was quite OK.

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Next came the salad which is a bit too flat. Anyway, I don’t really fancy salad. The fried vege spring rolls was nothing special. It is not bad by any means — it was just OK.

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I wanted something really spicy and their Red Curry Pork with Green Basil and Coconut Milk sounded spicy enough. What more, they had the “3 red chili” symbol next to it. Actually it was not spicy at all — I was quite disappointed about it, not that it was not good.

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What sets this place apart is the ambiance. For serving $6.95 lunches, this place is fabulous. Just the perfect place to bring out of town visitors to the office when I could not expense the lunch. :-)

BTW, great to meet you LotusRapper … and being able to put a face to the famous LotusRapper handle.

Green Basil on Urbanspoon

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Tom Yum Noodle Soup

Eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.
~ Mark Twain

A quick blog today on a recent Tom Yum noodle soup that we tried. This is so far the best tom yum noodle soup we have come across. It’s at the swanky new Food Court in Metrotown, Burnaby. The stall is called Thai “something” … can’t remember what it’s called exactly. Anyway, there is only one stall which serves Thai food. Here is what it looks like:

Looks delicious right? I especially liked the big prawns and the fried tofu. The soup is not very spicy but with just the right sourness. Suanne and I normally share just one bowl and she always insists that I leave the soup alone for her. I tak-tahan, because she always sapu all the soup.

Pretty authentic, I must say. If you like spicy food and especially tom yum, you absolutely must try this out. It’s $5.62, inclusive of tax.

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