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Summer Vacation 2007: Going Home … and West Lake Vietnamese Cuisine

Updated: 7th October 2010, this restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.

That’s it … our summer vacation. Hope you all enjoyed following this series as much as I had blogging about it. I think when I look back over the years, we will remember this particular vacation like no other vacations we ever had — this time we had documented it.

Looking back over the past month blogging about this vacation, it is amazing we managed to do everything we did. Some of them counts for one vacation alone to most but being able to do all these within two weeks were unbelievable to us.

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In case, just in case, you want to re-read our entire vacation, I have categorized them under the following links:

  • We started off in Las Vegas where we had some of the best buffet. We managed to visit the Hoover Dam and the Fremont Street Experience made a lasting impression on us.
  • We then drove past Death Valley on our way to the Yosemite National Park. One word describe the entire trip … jaw-dropping!
  • Next came our visit to the Bay Area during which the high-point was the day spent at the Great America theme park. Our boys enjoyed this the most.
  • San Francisco was absolutely marvelous. We all love SF and did all the sights we wanted — Alcatraz, Fishermans Wharf. Chinatown and rode the Cable Car. Oh … the sourdough bread too!
  • We then moved on to Reno and Lake Tahoe for the final leg of the trip.

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We landed in Bellingham, WA in late afternoon. As much as we enjoyed the trip, it was really good to be back home again. Before we headed home, we knew already what we wanted to have — Vietnamese noodles. Despite all the great food we had during the vacation, we simply miss good old Asian food.

This restaurant is located in the Empire Square strip mall on No 3 Road in Richmond. It’s on the same strip mall as Hon’s.

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It’s strange why we had never blogged about the Westlake Vietnamese Cuisine restaurant before. We had been coming here for lunch at least once a month and is our boys’ favourite place.

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What we particularly like about this restaurant is the low prices and that they have a free drink with any set ordered. Their menu is really like the many HK-Style cafes around Richmond except that it is with a Vietnamese twist.

We tried the Salted Lemon Soda — it is really good. You can sweeten it with the included sugar syrup if you like.

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Their bean sprouts were blanched. We prefer blanched over raw ones.

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The House Special Beef Noodle Soup costs only $5.95. It does not come in a big huge bowl like those you normally see in other Vietnamese restaurants because its the Happy Hour Menu and considering that it came with a drink of your choice, this is really cheap.

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Nanzaro ordered the Spicy Noodle Soup with Pork Hock and Beef Flank for $6.25.

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I shared the Curry Rice with Chicken with Suanne.

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This costs $5.95 too. The curry gravy is thick and rich but not as spicy as I wished. They make really decent curries.

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The total bill was $22 which includes tips. You should try this restaurant if you had not yet.

Anyway, here ends our series on our summer vacation. I hope you are entertained … but do tell me your opinion on our series here. Is that too long, too tedious? What did you like and what did you prefer we blog less of? At any rate, thanks for the many comments.

West Lake Vietnamese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Reno/Lake Tahoe Vacation: Carvings Buffet in Harrah’s Reno

Believe it or now, this is the TENTH buffet we had in this vacation. One of the things that I was fixated with is to try Kobe beef which we did not come across in the buffets we had in Vegas. So, for this final buffet, we simply wanted to go to a place which had Kobe beef. We found one at the Harrah’s Cravings Buffet.

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What more … they have BOTH Kobe beef AND King Crab … and for only $13.99.

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The Cravings Buffet is organized by cuisine. Lots and lots of variety to choose from.

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We love the service … very friendly and prompt. Even the napkin says “We will earn your A today”. I am impressed with that and the fact that they try so hard to be the best. We were glad to be here.

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Hmmmm … we were pretty disappointed with the Kobe beef. This is supposed to be the rolls royce of beef. I heard that the cattle are fed with beer!! (Is that true?). The meat was tough and not as flavorful as I had expected.

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The prime roast beef was, on the hand, superb. Juicy and moist, they are a million times better than the Kobe beef. We did not go back for Kobe beef but went back for more for this. Oh yummy!

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Then we moved on to the all-you-can-eat King Crabs. Oh boy, oh boy! This is perhaps my last time to eat King Crabs for a long time. So, I decided to eat this like there is no tomorrow.

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We went for plate after plate full of crab legs. I think I had four plates altogether. Needless to say, I made a complete mess of the table. Eating crabs could be very very messy. You know, they really earned my “A” … they came by so often to clean up after me. I so thoroughly enjoyed this one.

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The prawns were equally good too.

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From the Chinese station, they make really authentic noodle soup. This the the beef rice noodle soup.

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The char siew egg noodle soup was pretty good too.

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Chow mein … all these noodle dishes are chosen by Arkensen and Nanzaro.

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What I like most from the Chinese station is the dim sum selection. If not for all the King Crabs and Roast beef, I would have gone back for more of these.

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They grill vegetables on the spot.

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From the Italian station, there was a good selection of freshly baked pizzas.

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The pasta selection was quite good too. As much as we like spaghettis, we did not try this — we simply could not.

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We could not resist the delicious looking chicken wings though.

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After I had the most marvelous crepe in Paris’ Le Village. I simply had to try this even though I could hard eat anymore. I asked the man at the cooking station for a banana Nutella crepe but he told me he will do better than that. He made me this instead. It was awesome.

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So I went back for more. I asked the man to make me another of his special and he made me this this time. I tell you … this man is a genius!

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After all that, we took a break with coffee and let all the food settle down before we go for the desserts.

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The chocolate king was really good,

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Good thing the delicious looking mousse were small.

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The fruit tart was equally great too.

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Alright, the whole meal costs only $64 including tips. This is simply one of the best buffet we had during this vacation. We highly recommend the Cravings.

Harrah, you have earned our “A+”!!

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Reno/Lake Tahoe Vacation: The Most Beautiful Drive in America

We earlier had no plans to drive to Lake Tahoe … after all, I was intimidated by the 70 miles drive from Reno that I read somewhere. This brochure below changed everything … the drive between Reno and Lake Tahoe is touted as the Most Beautiful Drive in America.

Mark Twain calls Tahoe “the fairest picture the while earth affords”.

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The view that greeted us was awesome. Not only is the blue lake looked beautiful but the fact that the lake is ringed by mountains gives us a great drive as we drive over the hills and down to the lake shore.

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Lake Tahoe is a immensely large freshwater alpine lake. It is also one of the deepest lake in the world. There are so much water here that it is enough to cover the entire state of California to a depth of 14 inches.

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Lake Tahoe is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides.

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The lake is said to be 99.99% pure. For a place where there are so many visitors, it was hard to believe that they could maintain this level of clarity. This is so clear that a white plate can be seen up to 80 feet deep.

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For us, the most spectacular drive is at this point where it is so surreal … the road is so narrow with steep drops on both sides. Moreover, on both sides, we can see water all round.

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Our favourite view is from the Inspiration Point Vista. At that bay there was this little island which has a small building at the top. The building is now abandoned.

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Reno/Lake Tahoe Vacation: Breakfast Buffet at Lord Fitzgerald

I guess we’re eating like there is no tomorrow. We had a good buffet the previous day at the Flavors Buffet and then the next morning, we decided to go for another one. Just to be able to cope with the guilt of eating so much, we decided we try to look for the cheapest breakfast buffet. The cheapest we found was the Lord Fitzgeralds Feast and Merriment Buffet which is just a short walking distance from our hotel.

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Well, the place is cheap alright. In order to get to the buffet, we had to walk the gauntlet of slot machines and smokey interior. All that stale cigarette smoke does not help with building an appetite.

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The breakfast spread was quite respectable. We did not expect much since this place is cheap. They even have a “cook to order” station — nice.

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What we like particularly about this place is that they have espresso and cappucino, albeit it was from a machine. Now, now … why did the other buffet places we been to not have this? Just for this alone, I am giving Lord Fitzgerald a few notch up in my rating.

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There are the standard stuff you’ll find in breakfasts. Because of the way it was arranged and presented, they don’t particularly look appetizing.

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No one in the family likes eggs except for myself. I simply love eggs and don’t understand why the others don’t. I think Suanne does not like it because she thinks it will make her fart more. The eggs benedict was quite OK. I find the egg a bit overcooked … slightly sifter would have been perfect. The biscuit is too dry and hard for my liking.

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Nanzaro does not particularly like eggs but he got this only because it was made to order … he gets a kick out of being like a grown up. I was there when he ordered this. The man at the station asked him what he wanted in his omelette and guess what he says … “Everything”! That comment cracked everyone up at the line. Someone commented that that’s the right way to have omelette.

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The scrambled eggs are OK. I love it with lots of pepper and a bit of salt. Better still, if I had soya sauce. The best thing you could add to eggs are soya sauce … don’t you guys think so? No, serious … especially those who had never had soya sauce with eggs … try it and I think you will like it.

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The meats are dry and hard. Oh well … we had to have protein for a balance diet.

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The sausage is OK and the bacon is a bit undercooked. We prefer them almost burnt to a crisp when it is crunchy and the flavor explodes in your mouth as you bite it. Bacon are NOT meant to be chewed!

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The french toast was particularly yummy. Soft and moist … just perfect.

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There is nothing much to say about the waffle except that they only have honey syrup to go with this. Tell me … what do you like your waffle with?

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I don’t know what this is called … it’s a rolled up crepe and have jams as a filling. Hmmm … this would have been great if they make the crepe at the station. Crepes are meant to be eaten hot.

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The boys love rice. They can have rice and noodles at every meal for all they care.

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We were stuffed when we got to the desserts. But we had nothing particularly lined up for the day except for a drive to Lake Tahoe, so we slowed down and try to be greedy and gobble more down. We told ourselves that we’re gonna skip lunch.

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The Lemon Meringue pie was surprisingly good. One thing about these kind of light pies, it does not fill you up as much as the other pies.

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The cheesecake expert, Suanne, says that this is not nice, not creamy. Failing grades for this.

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We ended up with some fruits.

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Oh, we tried to time this breakfast so that we are still there for when they bring out the lunch spread. Guess what … they actually cordoned off the entire area while they make the transition. I guess for that low price, they want to prevent people to stay on for lunch too.

The bill came up to $28.35 including tips. Not bad right? Frankly, if you ignore the smokey interiors and the dark decor, this place is a bargain.

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Reno/Lake Tahoe Vacation: Flavors! The Buffet in Silver Legacy

Nothing much we could do in Reno except to eat. Anyway, we had planned to max out every opportunity to pig out before we leave for home. It had been a couple of weeks since we left Vancouver and frankly, we are all beginning to feel homesick.

The dinner we had the first night in Reno was at the Flavors! Buffet at the Silver Legacy casino. Here there are hardly any queue at all. In Vegas, the wait times for tables could be up to 1-2 hours. This suits us perfectly fine … the selection is wide, the price is right and the place is very clean.

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This is the kind of setting we like … lots of choices and hardly anyone there. Well, I guess it’s because it’s not the weekend. I understand that Reno is very quiet during weekdays.

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Arkensen and I went first for the prime roast beef. They are simply some of the best we had ever tasted. Very juicy and succulent … and because there were hardly anyone around, the people at the carving station gave us the cut we wanted and as thick as we wanted. We went for this twice.

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The pork loin was equally geat too. The medallion cut is some of the largest I ever had. Man, that must have been one heck of a pig there.

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The salmon was nothing to shout about.

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Veggies … not my favourite but Suanne takes it.

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The skin of fried chicken was really crispy.

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And then there is the roast chicken.

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I am not sure what this beef dish is called … but recall that it was not really good at all despite the looks of it. We took a bite and set it aside — gotta leave room for more food.

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I would not have taken sausages because they were so huge — you know, one of those 9″ long ones. Just take one of these and I am already half full. The boys had this.

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They even had tilapias. Hey, you know, I think Reno had quite a lot of Chinese/Asian restaurants in the casinos — seems like a lot more than in Vegas. I figure that they have quite a sizable Asian customers … but where are they mostly from? Vancouver area, you think?

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The prawns were OK … a bit too small. Good prawns had to be big.

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The desserts were colourful and beautifully presented. Normally we don’t go for jellies but because it was so pretty, we had one.

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The pastry selection is quite limited …

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… but the chocolate pecan cakes were really good …

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… and so is this one.

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Ice-cream is just the standard ones. No big deal really.

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Had some fruits at the end.

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We paid $62 for the four of us, including tips. This is worth every dollar especially with the roast beef.

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Reno/Lake Tahoe Vacation: The Biggest Little City in the World

It is supposed to take about four hours driving direct from San Francisco to Reno. Since we made a 2 hr stop at the Jelly Belly Factory and then took a leisurely drive, the entire journey took double the time. Well, we were in no rush anyway. The plan today is just to get to Reno and then hit a buffet.

We made a stop but just can’t recall where exactly (maybe Truckee) where we learned that this is the stretch that President Eisenhower had traveled on as a soldier that spurred him to champion the Interstate highway system as it is today.

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We can’t help but contrasting Reno with Las Vegas. Really, Reno is a much more smaller city but the city’s economy is centered around casinos. Reno is definitely more walkable. One thing though about the casinos, the indoors seems to be way smookier than in Las Vegas.

We stayed in a nice hotel. It is much much cheaper here than in Las Vegas for sure.

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Reno is known as the Biggest Little City in the World. What does that title really mean?

Anyway, we walked around the few blocks in the city centre. Really there are nothing much to see and do except for some shops and of course, casinos.

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