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Okonomi Sushi on Columbia and 4th Street, New Westminster

We get quite a number of restaurant recommendations via email. You all probably know that already.

Just so you know too, we are careful about recommendations especially when it came from people we do not know. Who knows right? It could be someone related to a restaurant trying to get us to visit and write about the restaurant. We have to be careful because increasingly, we get feedback that people visiting places after they are featured on chowtimes.

Well, we do check all the reviews available of the recommended restaurant on the internet. We tend to ignore any reviews done by one-off reviewers and trust reviews by people who had contributed a lot of reviews.

So when Tyler sent us an email out of the blue telling us about Okonomi Sushi, the first thing I did was to check Dinehere.ca (see this link). I did not quite like the reviews … many 1-off reviews with 5-star ratings and the only review highly-credible review (Bonka with 373 reviews on dinehere!) rated Okonomi with an average score.

But we went nevertheless.

And we found Okonomi as “interesting” as Tyler described it. This is surely not the traditional sushi house everyone is familiar with.

From the outside, many people will probably not aware that there is a sushi house. All you see is a small 2 feet tall sandwich board that says Sushi Okonomi, which people may at a glance thinks it says “Economy Sushi”. They have a small round lighted sign but it is mounted so high on the wall that many people would have probably missed that too.

It is located just outside the Columbia Skytrain station. Getting off the station onto 4th Street, it is just to your right.

So what is so different with Okonomi Sushi. Let me sum it up with a few words … wine glasses, sofas, classical music, purple sushi, kneeling waitresses, cheap prices, large portions.

In short, I think this restaurant will invite scorn from the sushi purists. I also think this restaurant is a fun place for those in search for out of the ordinary experiences — the good and the bad. LOL!

Walking in, the first thing that struck us is the musty smell. It wasn’t bad but it is noticeable especially having walked in from the street. It is like walking into an old building (which this is an OLD building). It must be the carpet.

The place is spacious. I am not sure what this place used to be. It doesn’t seem like it is configured to be a restaurant. Maybe it is a hotel lobby or something. But it sure is spacious and the tables sparsely arranged.

The music … it is very loud and it is classical. Strange, I thought but it sets the mood. Decorations are tacky … paper lanterns, paper umbrellas and paper fans. Take away these paper decors, yeah … it does look like it’s just a hotel lobby.

We asked to be seated at the sofa. It is not really conducive for dining but it’s fun to do this for a change. The sofa is just too low and too deep. It is nice to be able to sit back for a chat after the meal … that’s what this is good for.

I thought the table was too small for the sofa. The length was shorter than the length of the sofa. It make me think that they might have tried to mix and match whatever is available to them.

Window seat too … overlooking the Columbia Street and getting a glimpse of the Fraser River.

To think that New West used to be the capital of British Columbia, today it is one of the more depressed cities in Metro Vancouver.

You ask for water, you get it served in wine glasses. Nice.

Service is very nice and polite but understaffed. There was just two waitresses working the entire floor. What stunned me was when they came by the tables, they kneel. Maybe it’s because the tables and sofa are lower than normal and they did not want to “tower” over the customer.

Ah … remember this post I made the past few days? … About how waitresses get more tips if they briefly touch the customer or kneel next to the table? You reckon they read chowtimes? LOL!

The waitress came by several times asking if we are ready to order.

“Not yet”

Their menu is huge with 200 items or so. It is interesting and we needed time to sort out what we need to order … you know, regulate what Arkensen and Nanzaro order so that we don’t all end up with California rolls.

First question I asked: “Are you Japanese?”

“No, Koreans”, the waitress smiled. Sweet smile, I must say. Pretty smile, I must add.

Second question: “Are you newly opened?”

“Four months only”.

I thought it was pretty good considering the number of customers they already have. I want to add that the vast majority of their customers are caucasians. Makes me think this is a westernized sushi house. I am just calling this out because I know some readers are sushi purists (snobs? LOL!) and this is something they want to know.

The Okonomi Complete Meals is the section which we focused on. They are set meals costing between $12 to $16 mostly. They are pretty good selection (see the second image of the menu from the left).

The Okonomi’s Complete Meals comes with edamame and miso soup …

… and Chawanmushi.

And the Chawanmushi is … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Burger Burger on 6th Street, New Westminster

Nanzaro was happy when I told him that we are not going out for Asian food for a change and asked him what he wants to eat. The instant reply was “gourmet burger”.

He loves burgers. He used to love sushi. Twice a week he will call me at work just to ask me to bring something back for him. It used to be sushi, in particular, spicy tuna roll AND California roll. Nothing else, he doesn’t want any fancy rolls … just spicy tuna roll AND California roll. Oh … he is so fussy with his sushi. We must make sure that the wasabi and ginger does not get packed along with the sushi. He will refuse to eat the rolls if it is contaminated with “wasabi” or ginger.

And then for the last three months, he doesn’t want sushi anymore. Now he is always asking me to bring home a Big Mac … and it must be a combo. The drinks must be a medium Coke with no ice and the fries must be a large one. He is a creature of habit.

Gourmet Burger? So I brought him to a place I heard a lot of. A lot of people liked it but I did not know much else about it. For some reason, I thought Burger Burger is a “gourmet burger” restaurant just like Splitz Grill or Burger Etc.

I was rather taken aback when we arrived at Burger Burger. Suanne and I was looking at one another rather puzzled and for a split moment we were wondering if we should just go somewhere else. The place did look beat up and was not particularly tidy.

No, it wasn’t a problem with me. It is just that I went with one expectation and did not expect to find Burger Burger to be a hole-in-the-wall. For some (odd?) reason, I was thinking that this is gonna be like Burger Etc.

The inside were rather untidy. Sorry, I am just telling it as I find it. There were papers and magazines strewn on some tables. There were some left over burger baskets and drink cans uncollected. The windows were stained with finger prints and oily marks — more so because this is a burger place where people eat greasy burgers with their fingers. The plastic Coca-Cola clock on the wall was chipped. The floor is a bit sticky too.

It is truly a burger shack in every sense of the word.

The place is not really big with about 7 small tables that seat two. I like the chairs. It is so retro. I don’t think you can find these kind of chairs these days.

So much for not wanting to go to an Asian place. Apparently, Burger Burger is owned and operated by a Korean couple. They are really friendly people especially when I was so undecided on what I wanted.

Click on the image above if you find it hard to read the menu. We pretty much focused on the Burgers section and ignored the rest of the menu. It doesn’t do justice to get anything else but burger in a place called Burger Burger.

They have all sorts of burgers including Bulgogi, Teriyaki, Salmon, and BBQ Beef Bun.

Besides what is on the board above, they also have combos which included fries and a drink.

Nanzaro decided really quickly. He immediately said he wanted the Burger Special Combo A. I was curious why he chose that when I don’t think he knows what is in it. You know his answer is? He said anything with “A” is better … just like AAA beef is better. *shrug*

This is really cheap. It is only $5.69 and it included a drink and fries too. The Korean lady told me that this is their … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Tamarind Hill Malaysian Cuisine in New Westminster

Suanne and I consider Ed and Christina from Doesn’t Tazte Like Chicken as people with sharp mouth. No, I am not saying that they talks a lot. That is a literal translation from the Cantonese expression “Tsim Tsui”. They know food very well alright.

We had been meeting over dinners once every few weeks. It was our turn to select the location and this time, Suanne and I picked the Tamarind Hill Malaysian Cuisine located in New Westminster. The choice was a hands down choice for us as we know Malaysian food very well.

Tamarind Hill is located on 628 6th Ave. It is located right in front of the Royal City Center’s 7th St parkade entrance. There are lots of street parking but I warn you to be careful about trying to park at the Royal City Center and walking over to the restaurant. We tried to park at the parkade and noticed that there was a guy sitting in a car watching for non-customers parking in the parkade. Never wanting to take a chance, we drove out and parked in the street. Be warned.

We were all surprised to see how popular Tamarind Hill was on the Saturday night. It was unbelievably packed that night. Moreover, most of their customers were white which is unexpected for us to learn how popular Malaysian food is. We love the place. See above … they do have the coolest looking waiting area, don’t you think?

The dining room is really tight though with chairs and tables packed close one to another. We were so close to our neighboring table we could smell their food … and I am sure they can do ours too.

We got there a bit early and got ourselves drinks while waiting for Ed and Christina. Suanne ordered the non-alcoholic Mango Colada ($3.75). No rum in this one but I am sure Suanne would love it with a little rum … except that “officially” she does not drink alcoholic stuff.

I don’t know why. Even thought Tamarind Hill is a Malaysian restaurant, for some reason I felt that they are more Singaporean than they are Malaysian. The owners who came to speak to us briefly (because we have cameras!) looked and sounded more Singaporean than they are Malaysian to us.

For that reason, I ordered the very Singaporean Tiger Gold Lager. It came with a chilled glass, I liked that. It came in a really small puny bottle, I did not like that! You can’t get smaller than the 330 ml bottle. $6.

Ed and Christina left the ordering to us. For starters we ordered 2 roti canai to share. It was $5 and not bad at all. It was flaky and puffy as good roti canai is supposed to be. The curry they gave was too little but understand that it’s because Canadians will treat this as a dip. For me, I always like to drench my roti with curry.

We had three mains to share. The Beef Rendang (Suanne’s recipe here) was excellent. While I had better ones before, I know I should not hold Tamarind Hill to standards of Malaysia and Singapore. it is somewhat watered down but the plus side is that there are lots of gravy. It was not spicy at all even though it is basically a curried dish.

Because this is a dish that is slowly cooked over hours, the beef tends to breakdown a lot. To me, the hallmark of a good Rendang is the meat basically remain intact. Tamarind Hill’s Beef Rendang is quite springy … and that is good. $12.

The Eggplant, Okra and Green Bean costs $11. It is a stir fry dish with onion, garlic and tomatoes in spicy sambal chilli, shrimps and dried shrimps. We liked it a lot. It has a very unique blend of taste and is best with steamed rice. I like the way they managed to preserve the purplishness of the eggplant which shows that they are not over-cooked.

We also had a seafood dish which is simply called Mixed Seafood Asam Curry. Asam is the Malay word for Tamarind. The curry again was great with steamed rice which came at $1.25 per bowl. For $17, I wished they had more seafood meat in it. We noticed they even have cockles (Kerang in Malay) and did wonder how they managed to get hold of them. Does anyone know where we can buy live cockles?

Where Tamarind does best is their desserts. They were nothing but awesome. The Pandan Cassava Root Cake, despite it’s simplicity, was some of the best we had. The Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar) syrup adds a good touch of different sweetness to the already sweet cake.

If you only order one dessert, I strongly recommend that you order the Coconut Crepes. You will absolutely love this. The soft pandan crepes wrap is already great enough but the real treasure is in the Gula Melaka infused shredded coconut. $6 is perhaps their most expensive dish but worth every cent.

Ais Kacang is a very popular Malaysian dessert. It simply translated as Nuts/Beans with Ice. A customer came by and asked us what this was. As much as we tried to explain to them, I can see their eyes cringed purely by the looks of it. I have no idea why because to me this looked absolutely delicious. $5.50.

Cendol is another common Malay dessert. It is shaved ice and has this greenish phlemy looking thingy called cendol. I think the looks of it puts some people off but despite the looks and the reminder of phlem(!), it is really nice and refreshing. $3.75.

Total before taxes and tips came up to slightly over $90. It was a bit pricey but then we did order a lot of food. We enjoyed the meal a lot. The food was quite OK overall but then I want to say that I am holding them up to Malaysian standards. The service was great, sincere and attentive. Most importantly, the company was great (thanks again ET and Christina for coming out).

I think Tamarind Hill is perhaps one of the most successful Malaysian restaurant in Metro Vancouver. I recommend this restaurant but remember to save space in your stomach for their excellent dessert.

Tamarind Hill Malaysian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Top Gun Sushi at the Quay

Updated on 12 April 2010: This restaurant has closed according to Urbanspoon.

If you find no fish, you have to eat bread.
~ Ghanaian Proverb

The folks in the Service and R&R Project teams went to an all-you-can-eat sushi. They selected the one which is called Top Gun Sushi at the Quay. It is located on the second floor of the Public Market at the New Westminster Quay. I have never been there before but I have heard so much about Top Gun Sushi. Although it has ala carte but it is famous for it’s all-you-can-eat.

We went early and arrived at 11:30am to make sure we have a table. It was a great idea because the place was really packed, especially so because it’s a Friday afternoon. We had a great table by the window which overlooks the Fraser river.

The sushi was good, the selection was similar to the many all-you-can-eat sushis in the city. The prices are pretty cheap compared to some other places I went to. Here are the prices:

Adult: $9.95 weekday and $10.95 weekend Child (4-9 years old): $5.95 weekday and $6.95 weekend All-you-can-eat Salmon and Tuna Sashimi is just $2 extra — pretty good deal.

Here are some of the items we ordered (CLICK ON THE PICTURES FOR A LARGER VIEW):

So thanks a bunch for buying this lunch and for being such great project team members. I want to say that you are the reasons that our projects has consistently been successful. We delivered a lot didn’t we?

Top Gun on Urbanspoon

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Grand Pacific Buffet in New Westminster

Updated 17th Jan 2011: This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

“I heard” is good; “I saw” is better; “I tasted” is best.
~ Ben Yap

The chinese employees at my workplace organized a Chinese New Year lunch celebration today. We do that every year. This year, they have graciously invited Suanne too for the lunch because they wanted to also make this a farewell lunch for me. For the first time, the organizer decided that we go to a buffet for a change. We went to the Grand Pacific Buffet in New Westminster. The Grand Pacific Buffet is a buffet with Western, Chinese and Japanese food with predominantly chinese food.

There were a lot of varieties. The food is so-so but then it’s not fair to compare buffets to the normal restaurants. I was wary of MSG with the tell-tale thirstiness after the meal but nope, it was not at all. Suanne and I went for two full rounds and ended up sharing the dessert. The photos below does not tell much but anyway, these are our second round plates. It’s about $8 for a weekday lunch.

Good food goes best with good company. These people are not co-workers but has been friends to me for a long time. I was always the odd one out with this group because I do not understand their brand of Mandarin. It does not matter, as long as the food is good — they are the SME’s (Best Buy’s overused term for Subject Matter Experts) in Chinese food around Burnaby.

I have worked directly and indirectly with most of them on some of my projects. They are all awesome and great to have them in the team. I must say that one of the primary reasons that many of my projects were successful were because of these people. I will miss being around the office with them.

We raised our cups but I didn’t know what they were toasting (remember, I don’t understand their brand of Mandarin or for that matter, any brand of Mandarin?). But to me, my toast is for a great chinese new year ahead, success in their careers and may all their dearest dreams come true. Best friends deserve the best wishes!

So, here we are — Ben and Suanne smilling from ear to ear. It’s because we did not have to pay! Thanks buddies, for the treat. Oh … remember to invite me for the chinese new year lunch next year … this time I’ll pay … for my own, not everyone’s!

I’m bringing Dilly Bars for everyone tomorrow.

Grand Pacific Buffet on Urbanspoon

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