Goto King Near the Joyce Skytrain station, Vancouver

ChowtimesNoWord32x32Full Disclosure
This blog post is written based upon a free meal provided by a chowtimes reader who has a connection to the owner of the restaurant. More details below.

Last Saturday we had eight chowtimes readers joining us for a lunch and learn. While Suanne and I were the one organizing this, it was Rey who picked up the tab for this.

Rey is an advocate for Filipino community and in the course of his community work, he has amassed some goodwill barter from the businesses of the Filipino community. One of this is with the Goto King restaurant on Joyce. Since he has a lot more credit accumulated than he could ever eat, he offered to donate some to eight chowtimes reader — which we accepted. After all, we could not resist this as long as it benefits our readers.

Frankly, we mulled over this unusual arrangements for some time because well, it was unusual. Having known Rey for sometime, I know his intentions and how he goes around helping people without asking anything in return. By sharing this with chowtimes readers, he is also able to further promote Filipino culture and food.

Then I thought about how our readers will perceive this because I know some of you would be suspicious about free stuff for chowtimes. This is not about a free lunch just for Suanne and I but it is more for our readers who are willing to come together to meet like minded foodies and learn too. I was also thinking that this would be a great opportunity to have multiple reviews done not just by me but also reviews directly from foodies, not food writers or bloggers. Just see how my thoughts compares with the rest.

Oh … I wish I did not have to go into this long lengthy preamble and having to explain this to everyone. But this is necessary since it involves free stuff — and it’s also an unusual arrangement. LOL!

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Goto King is located very near the Joyce Skytrain station. Goto King is actually opened by the Cucina Manila restaurant next door. Cucina Manila is a Filipino-Filipino restaurant while Goto King serves Chinese-Filipino fare. Rey briefly introduced Liberty, the owner of Cucina Manila, to us and later told us that Cucina Manila is on an expansion spree. There are plans to open a Filipino restaurant in Richmond and a lechon (similar to Chinese roast pork) restaurant a few doors away.

Goto King is actually the name of a popular food outlet (over 70 outlets) in the Philippines. However, the Goto King in Vancouver has no affiliation to the Philippines. He he he … that reminds me of the Ba Le Vietnamese sandwich name which you find all over North America. Anyway, Goto is not pronounced as “go to” but goh-toh. Go To in Tagalog means congee.

The Goto King restaurant is not very big. With 11 of us in total, we practically took up 1/3 of the restaurant. It was a busy day at the restaurant too as expected it being on a Saturday noon time. There wasn’t a line at the restaurant because they turn the table pretty fast.

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Goto King is not a gourmet restaurant. They serve day-to-day Filipino food. I would call this no-frills comfort food with reasonable prices.

It was a good thing we had Rey who explained every single item on the menu (and also gave us a primer on the Filipino community and culture). Without him doing this, we would not have known most of the items on the menu.

When I said no-frills, I mean no-frills. It is almost like Hawkers Delight — just cleaner, and slightly pricier. By that I mean that you get your own drinks from the cooler and they don’t come around clearing each plate as you finish it until you ask.

In Goto King you don’t get that “how is it going guys? The weather is beautiful today isn’t it?” kind of service, if you know what I mean. Here, they will stand by the table with pen on the order chit waiting for you to say what you want. Just an observation because we like exchanging pleasantries … LOL!

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Someone ordered the Shanghai Lumpia (deep fried spring rolls – 12 pcs) $5.95. They have several types on the menu (fresh lumpia too). The spring rolls are smaller than those you normally find else where and is served with garlic soy sauce and sweet chili sauce.

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I so wanted to order something else but seeing that everyone already staked their claim on the more delicious dishes, I went with Goto (congee). Only Jane and I had the congee. Jane has the real thing … the real Goto … the real one with tripe ($6). This is what Jane had to say:

Jane: I think it was more flavorful than the usual congee. The tripe was tender and good too, but some of the pieces were so soft and tasted like belly/fat. Maybe those were fat indeed? I’m not sure.

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I had the other version. It is called Arroz Caldo and has chicken primarily. Also $6, I find this congee filling and packed quite a bit of flavour as compared to the more bland Chinese version. I like that they have lots of ginger and chicken in it.

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The condiments on the table are fried garlic chips, fish sauce and soy sauce. We all like the fried garlic chips which many of us added to the rice and congee. The fish sauce is rather salty quite unlike those we had in Vietnamese restaurants.

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So I added lots of the fried garlic chips. Nice … real comfort food.

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A lot of us got the Sisig Pork  $7. It came served in a sizzling hot plate. This was what I was eye’ing for but what can I do right? LOL!

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It was topped with a raw egg. Not really knowing what to do, those of them who got this stared and waited for the egg to cook.

It didn’t cook.

The lady boss came around and asked everyone to stir the egg into the sisig — which everyone did immediately as the hot plate was cooling already.

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This is how the Sisig Pork looked like post-stirring and pre-eating.

And this is how Rodney (who knows Filipino food very well) and Marcia (who is new to Filipino food) has to say about the Sisig Pork:

Rodney: The Sisig dish is presented exactly the same on a sizzling platter. The outer skin is usually crunchier as Filipinos are generally fond of it being crunchy and more burned as this can also be eaten as a snack / appetizer (called “pulutan”) which is munched alongside the local beer.
Marcia: I had the crispy pork dish.  Tasty but not quite crispy enough and had some gristle.

Gristle? What does the work gristle mean, Marcia?

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Most of the rest including Suanne had the Chicken Inasal ($7).  It is marinated fried chicken served with garlic rice and pickled vegetable on the side.

The skin-on chicken is crisp and nicely fried. It was also a big meaty piece of it too.

Here is Rodney’s take on the Chicken Inasal. BTW, Rodney is apparently a big time food reviewer on Yelp.ca

Rodney: The Chicken Inasal is our first time to eat this dish, but then with the description that Rey provided being marinated overnight, I felt that it tasted bland. I could have just easily mistaken it as a Crispy Fried Chicken dish.

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I noticed that they serve a lot of rice with the food. That tall mound of rice adds up to quite a meal. I thought it was quite flavorful and with a dash of soy sauce and a bit more fried garlic chips, I could even eat this alone.

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With the 11 of us, we ended up ordering only four different types of main dishes. That is because most of us went for either the Sisig Pork or the Chicken Inasai.

The dessert part was a bit more varied. The Sapin-sapin above is $2.00. It is a colourful glutinous rice cake and very sticky …

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See how sticky and soft it is? It takes a bit of an effort getting a spoonful.

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Suanne and I shared the Pichi-pichi ($1.50). Less colorful than the Sapin-sapin, it is rice cake coated with shredded coconut, and served cold.

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Jane had the Ube Hamalaya ($2.50). This is her description of it:

Putri: My dessert, Ube Hamalaya? was just okay. Mine was only like taro cake, and tasted like taro paste used for stuffing chinese taro buns.

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Then there is the Maja Blanca ($2). This one is like corn custard topped with toasted shredded coconut.

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The Cassava Cake is $2. I thought that Goto Kings desserts are really nice … and cheap too.

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The Suman de Lihiya is $2.

Its is described as Glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves and pandan flavoured. It is served with coconut jam on the side.

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This looks a lot like like the Chinese ‘gan sui jung’ but wrapped in a less elaborate manner.

So, that’s it. We all learned a bit from Rey … and enjoyed the food … and more so enjoyed each others company. Thank you Marcia, Nancy+Ron, Aileen+Rodney, Waii+Henry and Jane for coming out to join us in this lunch. Suanne and I really hope to meet up over food again some other time!

After the lunch, Rey brought the group to visit a Filipino grocery stores. Thanks a lot Rey, for the lunch and taking the time to educate us on the Filipino culture and food. Suanne and I appreciate it a lot.

Below is the full write from those who attended … produced verbatim:

FromRodney:

Here’s my opinion on the restaurant: Interior is typical of Filipino restaurants overseas which are canteen-style –  – simple and compact. This is reminiscent of suburban restaurants when traveling outside the city. However, the structure is not representative of modern Filipino restaurants which are elegantly decorated and usually big to accommodate a large family gathering. In any case, the compactness of Goto King helps in drawing Filipino crowds, first and foremost, and feel right at ease with the setting.

Service is of course friendly, quick and attentive. They’re ready and always at stand-by within an arms reach.

With regards to food, I was a bit disappointed as I didn’t find the taste representative of the Filipino cuisine that I’m used to in my area. I have to caution you though as Rey has mentioned, each region/province has their own interpretation. I grew up in Manila (which is the main city) so I experienced with a more colourful taste on the same dishes.

In other words, the general taste of the dish is, to put it kindly, watered-down for the Western palate. More subtle and less strong.

I’m used to Filipino dishes that are more heavily marinated. Heavy on the sauce. Heavy on the seasoning – like spices including pepper and salt. What I experienced was a tame version.

Finally, the serving size is a little bit small as well. Filipinos are used to a more generous amount good for sharing as a family-style. But then again, Rey and the server did mentioned that their servings are meant for one.

For me, a better representation on the taste and serving size was Pin-Pin restaurant over at Fraser St. I enjoyed the experience there.

From Marcia:

I really enjoyed the company and variety of food.

I liked the fact that it was authentic and that the menu didn’t have English explanations.

The desserts were interesting, despite my two choices not being available.  We tried each others
and that was fun.

It’s too bad we couldn’t do it family style but that’s a small quibble.

The best part was that all/most of us were foodies and the synergy was great.  Ray was perfect – informative and communicative.

All in all, a wonderful lunch.

I hope we can do such a thing again.

From Henry and Waii

We really enjoyed the get together. We really liked how Rey explained the food items and the stories behind them. It puts them into context.

In addition to this, the visit to the grocery store was quite useful in terms of their stocking of specialty items, and I know know where to get ingredients to make my own desserts.

As for the food from the Goto King, as Rey had mentioned, it is an ‘everyday’ food which is quite interesting and I would go there again. I found the rice to be a bit bland, I had to add a lot of dried garlic to flavor it. The rest of the food looked good and was quite flavorful. The desserts were the best part, it was sweet enough, but not too sweet. Their variety of desserts are of a decent variety.

A lot of their desserts contained coconut of somesort, which is good. However, others may think that’s too much coconut.

In addition to this, the visit to the grocery store was quite useful in terms of their stocking of specialty items, and I know know where to get ingredients to make my own desserts.

As for the food from the Goto King, as Rey had mentioned, it is an ‘everyday’ food which is quite interesting and I would go there again. I found the rice to be a bit bland, I had to add a lot of dried garlic to flavor it. The rest of the food looked good and was quite flavorful. The desserts were the best part, it was sweet enough, but not too sweet. Their variety of desserts are of a decent variety.

From Jane:

Hi Ben and Suanne,

Anyway, my food was pretty good. I think it was more flavorful than the usual congee. The tripe was tender and good too, but some of the pieces were so soft and tasted like belly/fat. Maybe those were fat indeed? I’m not sure. My dessert, ube hamalaya? was just okay. I don’t know why but I liked the maja blanca better than mine. Mine was only like taro cake, and tasted like taro paste used for stuffing chinese taro buns. I didn’t really pay attention to the service though.

So again, I’m glad to know you and Suanne. It’s interesting to meet one of the city’s food bloggers. Congratulation for being selected for the EAT magazine.. =D

Have a wonderful weekend!

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  1. Wow everything look so good. I ate there when they just opened. My only complaint was that my congee was not as hot as you would get from a chinese restaurant. But I like how u can spice it up with crispy garlic chips. I saw the other table having the bulalo (beef soup with beef bone marrow)and it looked really good. I would order that next time I go there.

  2. Wow… Nice find. The arroz caldo ans sisig look good. Definitely have to try this place out!

  3. good article.

    i have yet to find a really good filipino restaurant in vancouver or richmond. i’ve tried quite a few and none of them even came close to the “real deal” back home.

    goldilocks on west broadway is not bad, but extremely pricey.
    one of these days, i have to check out this goto king place. 🙂

    thanks for the article.

    1. Have you tried Pampanga’s at Fraser and 41st? Very authentic IMHO.

      1. Hi Chupa:
        Oh, that’s a new restaurant isn’t it? I think it is where it was a Malaysian restaurant once (used to be where the Kedah house was located).
        Ben

        1. Pampanga has been around for awhile.

          There is also a new Filipino place in Vancouver Chinatown on the south side of Pender near Gore. It was a Chinese pancake place until recently. I had the greens cooked in black sauce flavoured with little fish. No idea what this dish is called but it was very addictive.

  4. We saw these 2 establishments (Go-To King and Cucina Manila) when we were on our way to Bo Laksa and were definitely interested in trying them out.

    Just want to point out a couple of typos/corrections in your post:
    It’s ARROZ CALDO (not Arrov).
    It’s CHICKEN INASAL (not Inasai).

    See ya Friday!

    1. Hi TS: Thanks for spell checking for me! Yeah, looking forward to Friday’s dinner!
      Ben

  5. wow, that sapin-sapin is so pretty! i want to try some of that. oh, and gristle usually refers to grease… in an animal fat kind of way

  6. Those are really terrific photos.

  7. Hi actually Pampanga is beside the former Kedah House,I have eaten at both.btw the K.L has arrived.

  8. Hi Ben,

    Had not seen this til today.

    Gristle is not grease but tough fibrous connective tissue.

  9. Ewww, pictures look disgusting.. what the hell??? Shit!!! Normal food please normal!!!!

    1. Hi everyone: I deliberately made sure that the comment above is approved. So, what do you make of the state of mind of Javid? Quite sad, don’t you think? Ben

  10. I’m sure glad I don’t have trolls like this commenting on my site …

  11. Hi Ben Dont tell me his ip is the same as last time for Kumare.Whats the IP addresss so that We can get his street address.You know How I hate Trolls

    1. Hi Pinoty Gourmet: Different IP. I’ll let him/her be. No need IP addresses. The words alone shows a lot of a weak character and lack of love in his/her life. Some need positive affirmation and help more than others. There are always anger, hate and insecurity in the world. Just don’t be part of that ugliness. *shrug* Let’s move on. Ben

  12. Hey Pinoy Gourmet,

    This is a slightly off topic question from Goto King, but do you have suggestions on where can I get really authentic phil-style roasted pork as “take out”? My better half keeps telling me it’s very different (better) from Chinese roast pork, but can’t quite tell me why lol. I can imagine it might have to do with seasonings perhaps (I know the chinese variety tends to season the bone side really well), and the technique of how the skin is roasted (?). I’ve had phil roast pork at b-day parties but usually it’s the entire darn piggy. And usually in that situation, i just zero in on the tail 😉

    Thanks for suggestions.

    1. Hi Eric Y: I am also in search of the real Filipino Lechon. From what I saw on No Reservations, the big difference is that the pig is roasted over low(er) heat resulting in a smooth skin. This is unlike the Chinese way in which the skin is blistered from high heat. I think the pig is also stuff with herbs and such. I had never tried it myself but I would love to someday just to taste for myself why Filipinos swear theirs is better. There is a Filipino Lechon place near the Joyce station but I heard that it is not good … too Chinese. Ben

  13. the closest authentic filipino lechon i’ve tried so far is from fraser street. i think the name of the store is called fraser street bbq or fraser bbq. the last time i bought a lechon from there was probably 4yrs ago – at least.

    each time i go home, i make sure i have lechon. 🙂

  14. There is Manila Barbeque on Joyce,They have Chinese and Filipino style Roast Pig.I dont know how authentic it is though

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