Kenzo Japanese Noodle House on Kingsway and Griffiths, Burnaby

It was one of those rare moments that everyone in the family collectively agree on what to eat.

Usually the weekend would start with us asking the boys what they wanted. I don’t know why we always do that because we almost always end up over-ruling them. Arkensen would say anything sushi – he doesn’t care where as long as it is sushi. The problem is mummy does not like raw food. Nanzaro first choice is usually a HK Style Cafe and hates the fact that mum and dad always want to go to somewhere new. As for Suanne, she will just say “anywhere you all want” and then when the suggestions came she will rule them out one by one. Don’t ask her. Me … I am always indecisive. I got such a ridiculously long list of restaurants-to-try that it ceases to be of much use.

This time it was surprisingly unanimous. When I suggested “ramen”, I got an all-round “yeah”. And then when I suggested that I drive all the way to eastern reaches of Burnaby, the boys even said “sure, OK”. Normally they would protest if we ever drive across the bridge out of Richmond. Hmmm … I was wondering if they are hiding bad grades from us, or failed to complete their homework or something. They are not normally that agreeable.

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So with the boys’ blessings we drove all the way to Burnaby to Kenzo. It was quite a drive from home. All the way from south Richmond to the far reaches of east Burnaby, that drive must have been 40 minutes.

I had always wanted to try Kenzo but even though it was near my office, I did not. This is because Suanne loves ramen and I wanted to save this place so that she can be there too.

I had always assumed Kenzo is a Japanese restaurant. It was only before we walked in that we realize that there are Korean scripts on the signboard too.

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The place is clean but is cluttered in some corners. You know little things like newspapers lying at a corner and such. Nothing big. We like the heavy wooden furniture. We gave it a shake — it was really sturdy ones.

Kenzo is more Korean than it is Japanese. I overheard the waitress speaking to a customer in Korean. Other tell tale signs are the presence of a Korean service bell on the table and the stack of Korean newspapers by the door.

One other thing which I felt is also a characteristic of a Korean restaurant. You tell me if you agree. It is the presence of wooden partitions between tables. I see this in many Korean restaurants which provides a little privacy and at the same time allow them to put tables together.

Service was OK. There is one waitress overseeing the entire restaurant. So she does appear harried. She served tea which was a bit different from other places. It was nothing new but it is one of those rice-tea. Not sure what it is called though.

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Nanzaro was quick with his order. Being the youngest in the family, he had always been the lowest in the pecking order of things. Of late he is being a lot more aggressive in asserting himself. When he saw that item on the menu right up on the top called “King of Kings”, he immediately said he is ordering that.

The King of Kings is $10 and is described as Hot Netsu Ramen with 5 toppings. I had not heard of Netsu ramen before but anyway the broth is the lighter one and spicy. The toppings includes hard boiled egg, seaweed, vegetables and pork.

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The bowls are really large. Ramen had to be large to be … Continue reading

DB Bistro Moderne on West Broadway, Vancouver

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

The one meal I had always looked forward to each week is Friday dinner with Suanne. It is not that you don’t already know that if you had been following this blog.

The one place we had always wanted to go to is DB Bistro Moderne. Frankly, we held back from going there because it is not exactly cheap and requires a special occasion to justify it … until now.

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DB Bistro Moderne is located on West Broadway. It is just next door to its more illustrious sister restaurant, Lumiere. Just a few doors away is a place called Moderne Burger. DB Bistro Moderne and Moderne Burgers are two totally different and unrelated restaurants. Just thought we point out the obvious.

Before DB Bistro Moderne came to being, this was Feenie’s which we blogged about oh, so long ago. It is a long story and so I won’t go into that. Needless to say, it is stuff that one could creatively write a story about Feenie’s rise to fame (and fall). Did you know I worked with Rob Feenie before? A few years ago, I was the Project Manager for the launch of a range of high end home appliance in Canada. We had Rob Feenie do a demo and invited the media and public. Gosh, I still can’t believe the bucks the company paid for a 1 hour appearance.

Enough of Feenie … today DB Bistro Moderne is inspired by another great chef, Daniel Boulud of New York.

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I had no idea. We had assumed that DB Bistro Moderne a lot like Feenie’s. We were wrong. This is certainly more upscale than Feenie’s ever was.

As usual, Suanne and I went very early at 5:30PM. That was the time that DB Bistro Moderne opens for dinner. We were the first one there. So it is kind of misleading seeing a lot of empty tables above. The place was absolutely filled by 6PM.

With dim lights and soft music, the ambiance was beautiful and it was perfect for a dinner date. The place is very dim for picture taking but who other than us takes pictures in dinner, right? Wrong! When we were there we could see TWO other tables taking pictures of their food too. Gosh, I have a feeling that this is getting so common that restaurants is so used to this nowadays.

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As expected, service was excellent … and very French-y. Too French-y for us. We were surprised by some Amuse-bouche. As much as we tried to understand what it is called, we couldn’t understand, despite asking twice. Rather than end up looking stupid, we decided not to get the server say it a third time. Some Frenchy name. All we got was that it is some kind of cured fish. There you go. But nice touch!

Our server told us that their special of the day is Prime Ribs. Well, it was not just called Prime Ribs but a very longish description that really captivated us. It is one of those sharing plates. You know, big big portions for two people that many restaurants are doing these days. Our server was doing such a great job in describing that I was having half a mind already of ordering that. Then she said “This is $40 …”. Oh … interesting … now we are talking.

And she added “… per person”. Hmmm … on second thought maybe we’ll get the burger instead.

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Le Bread came next. Pardon my French but this is what I call Le Bread de la Excellente. Very good, very nice.

There is even three different types and served with butter. The first is cheesy and crusty. The second was herb-y and soft. The third was regular baguette.

We gobbled that down rather quick. The server came and asked if we wanted more. “Of course” we said. We had more.

Two things was on my mind before I came. It was “foie gras” and “burger”. I was quite set on getting that. We finally decided get between the two of us a selection from the prix fixe menu ($35) … and a burger and … a foie gras appetizer.

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Foie Gras. I said I can’t remember if I had this before. Suanne said I had and I had forgotten. Whatever right? If I can’t remember, I might as well not had foie gras before. Well, at least not as big as this.

I think they call this Torchon. Twenty one bucks. This was not on the menu and we were told this is the special of the day. The foie gras is made in a pate with a fig in the center … and …

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… served with fig puree and 2 very crispy toast. Two very, very toasty crispy toast. Four would have been perfect’er.

Smoooooth … is how we say the foie gras is. Now I can say I had tried foie gras before … that is until I forget again.

Très joli mais vingt-et-un bucks … courtesy of Google Translate.

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The above is called the country duck terrine. It is the appy part of the $35 Prix Fixe menu.

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With onion compote, whole grain mustard, home made pickles scattered all over the plate, we debated how to deal with this. They even had sea salt and pepper placed in the corners of the plate that we almost missed because it was dim and that there was just a small portion on the side.

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This is IT.

This is what I always wanted to try. I call this the twenty-eight bucks burger. They call this the New York’s Original DB Burger.

I don’t think I had ever tried a more expensive burger in my life. For twenty eight bucks it had to be perfect. It WASN’T!!!

Well, let me explain … Continue reading

Excelsior Restaurant on No 3 Road, Richmond

Updated: 18th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed.

Excelsior had always been there for as long as I remember. Or at least I think it had always been there for a long time. I don’t really know.

For some reason we had not gone to the Brighouse Square strip mall for anything other than the rare trip to Staples or pickup some pastries from the New Town Bakery.

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I could be wrong but I assumed that Excelsior is a long timer in Richmond. It opened in the days when there were more HK immigrants.

What I find strange is that there is only ONE review on Excelsior (by Yum-O-Rama) and nothing on Dinehere.ca, Urbanspoon or Yelp. And yet when we stand in front of the door, we see impressive age-faded newspaper reviews showing high-end food. Those must have came from their glory days.

The place was absolutely full. It was so unexpected. The first thing they asked is if we had a reservation. When we said no, they hesitated for a moment and then showed us to the crappiest three-seater table by the corridor which connects two separate dining areas.

We were not unhappy about it really. Just glad that they gave us a table. Boy, was this restaurant popular!

A lot of their customers are families. Many of them are multi-generation families out for a family dinner.

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Excelsior is decidedly Cantonese. I just can’t classify them properly. The decor, tables, chairs and even the bowls shows their age and had seen better days. At a glance, they are like any HK Style Cafe. But they don’t serve the normal HK Style Cafe fare.

Their menu was exciting. At least to us it was. There were so many new things that we had a hard time deciding. Looking at the variety on menu, Suanne said that it looks like we are going to come here several more times. The prices are on the higher side compared but quite affordable.

We discarded the main menu and focused on the two that says “Chef Recommendations” and “Special Stylish Dishes”. That is their more popular dishes. We took an awfully long time to decide what we wanted. We shortlisted EIGHT dishes but forced to narrow it down to three since it was just three of us at this dinner.

Service was OK. It was fast … rushed and somewhat impatient. After all, it is a HK restaurant. What do you expect. At least they were not rude. They are not really good with English for sure. We ordered with the English names and they had to cross check it with the Chinese name at the back of the menu.

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They came by with free soup. I am not sure how it works and if everyone gets this regardless of what is ordered. I see every table getting this.

It was a nice touch. Not many restaurants does this anymore. The soup was flavourful. It even had boney pork pieces in it.

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Most tables ordered this. We figured this must be their specialty.

This is called Steamed Chicken with Soy Sauce. We had the smaller portioned half-chicken ($13). The whole chicken is $24.

It was simply the best we had ever tried. Bar none. Such simplicity … such simplicity that they don’t even care to … Continue reading

Cranberry Nut Loaf

Stella shared this lovely Cranberry Nut Loaf with the members of the South Arm Cooking Club for seniors. She was given a cook book by one of the members of the South Arm seniors titled “A World Community Cookbook’, Simply in Season. This recipe from extracted from this cookbook.
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Stella insisted that everyone must try her cake because it is very rare for her to bake. Of course, we will never resist such a healthy cake loaded with flax seeds, cranberries and nuts.

Ingredients

Dry:

  • 1 cup (250ml) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (250ml) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) flax seed meal
  • 1 1//2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet:

  • 3/4 cup (175ml) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Additions:

  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) sweetened dried cranberries (coarsely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) walnuts or pecans (chopped)

This recipe yields 1 loaf.

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Hearty Bean and Barley Soup

I did not get to taste this Hearty Bean and Barley Soup in the South Arm Cooking Club for Seniors as Charlene made this second soup for the seniors to bring home. A mixture of kidney beans and spinach give this soup a triple-punch of nutrition in the form of iron, fiber, and calcium. You can also vary this soup by adding shredded chicken or different vegetables.

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This is a great soup to freeze in 1 or 2 cups portions to reheat for the future. If you intend to freeze it, do not add the spinach. You may add the spinach just before you serve the soup after reheating. You may need to add an extra half cup to one cup of water to the leftovers, since the barley will continue to absorb liquid over time.

Ingredients

  • 1 (19 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dry rosemary, minced
  • 2 boxes less-sodium chicken broth (8 cups broth)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 16 ounces bag spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese to serve, optional

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Paul, Chris O’Brennam and Marcel made this hearty soup adapted from Cooking Light.

Prep time: 15 mins; Cook time: 50 mins

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Beet and Cabbage Borscht

This Beet and Cabbage Borscht soup is a wonderful winter treat. It uses vegetables that are readily available and inexpensive. Borscht is originated from Ukrainian and is popular in Eastern and Central Europe.

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The cheery colour of the Beet and Cabbage Borscht is more like a stew than most soup. Borscht is another soup that freezes well.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 medium size beets, peeled and diced
  • 1 small russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups finely chopped green cabbage (about 1/3 of small head)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (we used chicken broth)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • salt, pepper and sugar to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • low fat sour cream or plain yogurt, optional

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Sydney, Frank and Ken prepared this delightful coloured soup adapted from Bon Appetit.

Prep time: 30 mins; Cook time: 40 mins; Serves 6

Continue reading

Hamburger Stroganoff

Charlene prepared this recipe with extra-lean ground beef instead of sirloin strips which makes this comforting dish a bit more affordable and a bit lower in fat. When choosing recipes for the Seniors Cooking Club, Charlene always look out for low fat, low sodium, low sugar and low budget recipes. In fact, we should all adopt such healthy factors.

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Stroganoff is usually served over noodles but it is also delicious served over rice, or on toast for a simple dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sherry, optional
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (we substituted with soy sauce)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream (or full fat plain yogurt)

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Frances and Helmut paired up to make this comforting Hamburger Stroganoff.

Prep time: 20 mins; Cook time: 35 to 40 minutes; Serves 4 to 6.

Continue reading

Guide to Winter Root Vegetables

Charlene introduced some winter root vegetables to the South Arm Cooking Club for Seniors for this meet. We often leave out vegetables that we are unfamiliar with when we do our groceries shopping. A session like this will help us to learn more about some of this winter root vegetables and hopefully we’ll try them in our next groceries shopping trip.

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For this session, Charlene picked four winter root vegetables, i.e. Rutabaga or Swede, Turnip, Celery Root or Celeriac and Parsnips. Can you tell which is which from the above picture?

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June, Christina and Chris Morris prepared and roasted the above winter root vegetables for everyone to try.

Ingredients

Here is what Charlene shared with us.

The first winter root vegetable introduced here is Rutabaga. It is also known as Swede or Yellow Turnip. Rutabagas are nutty, sweet and slightly peppery. They are delicious mashed with potatoes, cubed and roasted or boiled. When buying rutabagas, choose the smaller ones and they are less woody. The skin of rutabaga is quite tough to peel.

The second winter root vegetable is Turnip. The larger the turnip, the tougher and more strongly flavoured they become. Always choose the smallest turnips you can find at the grocer’s. Turnips can be creamed or made into an au gratin dish. It can be cubed in stews, glazed with carrots, or roasted but do no overcook them. Some cooks like to grate a turnip into their soups as a secret ingredient to give extra dept of flavour to the soup.

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The third winter root vegetable is celery root or Celeriac. This seemed to be the best favoured winter root vegetable among all the fours. It has a mild celery flavour to it. Celery root is the ugly stepdaughter of the vegetable world as it is rough and knobbly. It’s mild and aromatic flavour is delicious cooked or eaten raw. It is often cut into shoestrings and made into a salad with mayonnaise and mustard, remoulade. To prepare celery root, cut off the top and bottom of the root. Place a flat side on a cutting board and remove the tough peel in lengthwise strips.

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The last winter root vegetable introduced here is parsnips. This is my favourite. Parsnips resemble creamy-coloured carrots. They are sweet and complex. Their delightful flavour can be showcased on its own, whether roasted, in a creamy soup, or boiled and pureed to serve as a lush accompaniment to meats. Avoid gargantuan parsnips, as they tend to be woody in the middle.
Continue reading

Weekend Musings (23-Jan-2010)

We had wanted to eat light the past week. We were doing OK except we ended up having heavy dinners on two nights. Back to square one. Below are what we had last week which we will be blogging about next week. Can you guess what they are?

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There is going to be a lot more musings this week. Got lots on my mind that I want to unload for chowtimes readers.

12B Underground Kitchen

12B-Underground-88-150x150All plans are pretty much set. Dinner is confirmed for 31-Jan. That is a Sunday night. We might have three more places available pending confirmation. If any of you want to be put on the standby list, send me an email at ben@chowtimes.com. This is one dinner Suanne and I look so much forward to.

Chef Todd is a big boy now. He was featured in the papers last week. And then at the same time, he told me that the “donation” is now $65 instead of $50. Wasn’t too happy at all.

Anyway, for those of you who do not know of Chef Todd and the 12B Underground Kitchen, you can read of my experience here.

The Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine

Song_Dynasty_Elegant_Party-150x150It is still very much on our radar.

We just did not have time to get going on this project which I mentioned on the post here. I know I need to get some plans going or else this is going to turn cold … if not already. LOL!

We did go to the Richmond Public Library to get some books about Chinese cuisine. This makes for good weekend reading. Frankly, one can only learn so much from books. It is learning from the experts that makes the most difference. Some of you had sent me emails volunteering to help — I’ll call on you soon!

I just wanted to let you know I am serious about this project.

ben@chowtimes.com a Spammer?

Oh yeah. It seems that our emails sent from our @chowtimes.com account ended on spam folders of many email clients. I don’t know what is the best way around this but to ask you to check your spam folder and unspam/unjunk us. I think you only need to do it once and we’re OK.

Chowtimes.com Outages

We had been getting a lot of outages last week. This seems to be getting worse as the traffic on the site grows. Last month we had 173,000 pageviews. This month we are on track to surpass 196,000 pageviews. Also I have a lot of “stuff” on the site which makes it heavier than most WordPress blogs.

This somewhat worries me to tell the truth. We were kicked out by our old hosting company last year because we had too much traffic and overloaded the servers. Our hosting plan today is still cheap — just $13 a month. We are seriously thinking of proactively moving to a dedicated plan if the traffic growth continues.

At the meantime, sorry for all the outages. The outages are usually fixed within 30 to 120 minutes.

That’s it for today folks. Looks like it’s going to be another gorgeous day in Vancouver today.

Have a good weekend, eat well and enjoy this Coca-Cola viral video below.

Where Can We Find Shaobing in Vancouver?

This is a continuation quest for a reader, Michelle who wrote to me to find restaurants which serve Shaobing. I contacted a few of my Taiwanese friends and two of them recommended me to this place which sells traditional Taiwanese Shaobing. So, I made it a point to check out this place during my ladies meet day with Polly.

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My Taiwanese friend, Emily told me that Shaobing stuffed with Chinese donut is a very typical breakfast item.

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The place that my friends recommended is located on the second floor of President Plaza in Richmond, next to T&T Supermarket and across Aberdeen Center.

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It is a stall at a small foodcourt. The stall name is Yung Ho Soy Drink. Apparently, this name is quite famous in Taiwan.

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Yung Ho Soy Drink serves various types of shaobing, sweet and savory. Click on the images above to have a clearer view.

Without a doubt, I wanted to try … Continue reading