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!


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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!


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.


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?


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

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.


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.


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 … (more…)

Continue ReadingGoto King Near the Joyce Skytrain station, Vancouver

Pinpin Restaurant on Fraser, Vancouver

No more Spain vacation blog entries for the next little while.  I will fast forward to the week we returned from Spain and for the rest of this week, I will go back to regular programming.  It is like Back To The Future kind of thing, OK?

Before we left for vacation, Rey lent us a great book about Spanish culinary.  It’s called Culinaria Spain — excellent book with lots of pictures of traditional Spanish food.  Our list of Spanish food to try were mostly made up of what we read.  Go on, click on the Amazon link on the left and take a look at the “First Pages” of this book.  He he he … you will see three of the things we blogged about … La Boqueria and Pa Amb Tomaquet.

That book is actually part of an excellent series of books.  If money grew on trees, I would go buy every book in the series. And I had to return that book to Rey.


We decided to meet at Pinpin because we wanted Rey to tell us more about Filipino Cuisine, especially when we had just returned fresh from the vacation in Spain.  You see, Filipino Cuisine had a strong Spanish influence having been a Spanish colony for 400 years.

Pinpin is located on 6113 Fraser Street.  Rey told us that Pinpin is the name of the street in Manila’s Chinatown.  There is another Filipino restaurant in Richmond called Little Ongpin which is also named after a street in Manila’s Chinatown.  Both Pinpin and Little Ongpin are Chinese-Filipino restaurant.  Whew … that means that Rey will not be showing us Balut or Pork Blood Stew.


It appears that Pinpin had just recently expanded and went through a make over.  Rey told us that they used to be on one just shop lot.  The older section of the restaurant still have the cafe look but this newer section looks great.


We did not even look at the menu and left it to the expert to order for us.  Having eaten with Rey before we sort of knew he would order a feast … and he did!  *clap* *clap* *clap*.


Crispy Pata — deep fried pig knuckle.  Meat lovers will surely love this.  I have to admit too … the Chinese Roast Pig (Siew Yook) is nowhere compared to the Filipino Crispy Pata.

What makes it great is the two steps in cooking … it is first boiled and then deep fried.  So what you get is a really soft tender moist meat with an unbelievably crispy skin.

We asked for a small portion for 3 people but still they gave us quite a serving.  This is $9.95.  If we come again, we will surely order this.


The dipping sauce that goes with the Crispy Pata is a mix of soya sauce, chili and garlic.   The next dish is absolutely amazing … (more…)

Continue ReadingPinpin Restaurant on Fraser, Vancouver

Dulcinea Chocolate Cafe on Denman, Vancouver

Updated 30th Oct 2010: this restaurant is closed.

You guys remember Rey? Well … if you remember, he’s the one who promised to bring us on a culinary adventure of Filipino cuisine. Rey is a Filipino community advocate and he wanted to create awareness of the third largest visible minority community in Vancouver by encouraging the creation of local Filipino content on the internet.

Last month, Rey introduced to us the Chinese Filipino food by bringing us to Little Ongpin in Richmond. In the second leg of the adventure, Rey next introduced us to Spanish Filipino food.


The Dulcinea Chocolate Cafe is located on Denman in Vancouver Westside. We were met by Mari and David, who opened this delightful outlet with their daughter since October 2008. So this place is just 6 months new. Mari and David are both of Spanish descent from the Philippines. Mari told us she is a chocolate lover … and the place was started out of her love of chocolates! She’s so friendly and approachable that I can see that she connects to her customers very well.

I was told by Rey that pure Spanish Filipino makes up only 2% of the population in the Phillipines. Despite the low number, the Spanish has a lasting influence in the Filipino culture having colonized the country for 333 years. That is why most of the Filipino names are Spanish names.


When Rey suggested Dulcinea and raved about their Hot Chocolate, we initially thought “what’s the big deal”? We soon changed our perception of hot chocolates after this experience.

The name Dulcinea came from the name of Don Quixote’s true love in the novel of the same name. We had always thought that Dulcinea was pronounced as Doo-See-Nea. A big sign on the wall says “Doo-see-nay-ah”. You learn something new everyday. The name Dulcinea means overly elegant sweetness — a perfect name for a chocolate cafe.


Dulcinea started off as a Spanish Chocolate Bar in the Vancouver Westside neighborhood. Mari told us that the place evolved quickly since they started six month ago … from starting to serve tapas, then soup, sandwiches … and Dulcinea took life on its own when customers requested for certain food and Dulcinea responded.

We went to Dulcinea at 4PM. It’s an odd hour, I know but Rey wanted us to treat this like a Merienda. I had always heard that the Spanish culture has a really odd day … like taking a nap after lunch, having dinner at 9:30PM and Meriendas in between meal times.

We half expected the place to be empty at 4PM and thought that Rey suggested that time because Mari and David would be the least busiest. We were amazed that even at 4PM, Dulcinea was packed … with people … having … Merienda! The crowd actually taper off at about 5’ish.


This is it … the above is what Dulcinea is famous for. Their signature Hot Chocolate which is called the 1528. It is a shot of thick chocolate. It is like the espresso of chocolates … but much more thicker. Any thicker it would not be drinkable! Even the spoon provided is designed to scrap off the thick chocolates from the sides of the cup.

The 1528 costs $2 per shot. If you have never tried it before, go to the counter and ask for a small sample. They pass out samples and once you take a sip, you’ll probably want one for your own.

Now … if you want a solo cup of the 1528 … listen here … FOR FREE … just go and tell Mari, David or whoever at the counter that “Chowtimes Loves Xocolatl” and you will receive a solo cup of the 1528. Serious! I suggested to Mari and David that they put in a little fun promotion to benefit readers of chowtimes and was surprised to hear a yes from them. I suggest you know what a Xocolatl is (see below) and how it is pronounced (pronounced as choco-latl).

Consider this is like Suanne and I buying you a cup of hot chocolate. 🙂

Update 05-Apr-2009: The offer for the free 1528 had now expired. Mari and David expressed their thanks to everyone who had taken time to visit their store and tried the 1528. However, Dulcinea will continue to offer samples of the 1528 (just not a solo cup of it). There could be more offers coming. Just stay tuned. I hope those who had the 1528 enjoyed it!

Oh … 1528 … that is the year that the Spanish took cocoa from Mexico and shipped it back to Spain. That year was the start of Europe’s love of chocolates. Nice name, I thought.


If you’re not into thick hot chocolates, there is the Classico … a more watered down version but still really rich and creamy.


I had the Hot Chocolate with Chai. These are not very large cups like I am used to (i.e. we drink Milo at home and we make really big cups and gulp them down real fast). Here I find that I took my time to savour every sip.


The Xocolatl (how do one pronounce that again?) is quite exciting. I’ve never seen a dried chili served with hot beverage before. This one is a hot chocolate with chili nutmeg and cinnamon. The chili wasn’t that hot. Be brave and go try that one. You’ll probably love the contrasting flavours here.


What’s chocolate without fondue? It’s something about fondue that makes it the favourite of just about everyone. I think it’s because it’s a fun food to have with friends. We noticed that the grapes were frozen … not sure why only the grapes were frozen while the banana and strawberry wasn’t.


Besides the delightful hot chocolates, Dulcinea has absolutely the best cakes and pastries one could find in Vancouver. This is coming from our resident cakes fan, Suanne. Our fav has got to be the Lava Blanco above which is chocolate mousse with white choc inside of it.

Instead of ordering each item by itself, we actually ordered the sampler which gives us a little of everything we wanted. (more…)

Continue ReadingDulcinea Chocolate Cafe on Denman, Vancouver

Little Ongpin on No 5 and Cambie in Richmond

A few weeks ago, Rey sent us an email introducing himself to us as an advocate for the Filipino community. Rey works with a Filipino foundation (the Ugnayan Foundation) whose goal is in promoting the Filipino culture through raising awareness and Filipino related content on the internet. Filipino Culture includes, among others, Filipino Cuisine!

Suanne and I jumped onto Rey’s invite especially when we know so little about Filipino Cuisine and Cultures.


Rey wanted to introduce to us Filipino Cuisine gradually, starting from the normal Filipino cuisine before graduating to what he calls the Fear-Factor food. His plan is to start off introducing Chinese Filipino food, followed by Spanish Filipino food and end up with Filipino-Filipino food.

For the Chinese Filipino food, Rey brought us to the only one Filipino restaurant in Richmond, Little Ongpin. Little Ongpin is located at the strip mall of the intersection of Cambie and No 5 Road. It seems like it is out of the way for many people but I somehow think that it’s strategically placed next to a major Catholic church.


Little Ongpin is named after the Chinatown district in Manila. It has a very neighborhood cafe restaurant feel to it — you know, the kind of places where one brings the whole family for a time out. It was busy and packed when we were there. I wished we could take the insides of the restaurant but we only managed to take a quick shot (above) when the tables were vacated.

Little Ongpin has a very friendly feel to it. I was quite amazed when two tables (one in front and one behind us) actually passed us their dishes to have a closer look when they overheard that Rey was telling us about Filipino cultures and cuisines. I was quite taken by surprised actually and really felt the homeliness of this place.


Filipino Chinese makes up about only 2% of the population of the Philippines. However, the Chinese in the Philippines had over the centuries inter-married and if this is taken into account, Chinese Filipinos makes up a sizable 30% of the population.

Many people does not realize this but the Filipino community is the third largest visible minority group (after Chinese and East Indians) in the Metro Vancouver with 120,000 people in all. However, you will notice that there is no “Filipino-town” here or for that matter anywhere else in the world. This is because Filipinos tries to assimilate to the local population.

The food served in Little Ongpin is a mix of indigenous Filipino, Spanish and Chinese cuisine.


We started off with a drink called Gulaman Sago. The main ingredient is Palm Sugar which is very similar to the popular Gula Melaka of Malaysia. This sweet concoction is served in shaved ice and is perfect especially in hot weather. The sweetness here is lighter than the common sugar and has a caramel taste to it.


Rey knew that Arkensen and Nanzaro loves fried rice. He ordered a common Filipino version of the fried rice — the Bagoong (pronounced as Bah-go-ong) Fried Rice for the boys to try. The main flavour is imparted by Bagoong which is shrimp paste and is common to the Malay Belacan. The smell of shrimp paste, as you might imagine, is pungent and some people might find it overwhelming. Not to us at all. The Bagoong is what give the rice the pinkish color.

The serving is huge … three times bigger than the normal fried rice we get in Chinese restaurant. This is because Filipinos food are normally share family-style. Generally single serving food is not common. I like that.

The Bagoong Fried Rice is served with toppings of eggs, chicken, green onions and mango. It was the first time I had rice with mango and it really blends well, just like pineapple would. I later learned that Mango is the national fruit of the Philippines.

So what was the verdict from the boys? Nanzaro, the family fried rice expert, said that “Hmmm … good. Better than Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice”!


Fried Lumpia is the Filipino version of the fried spring rolls. It was awesome. The best part of this is the sweetish and sourish dipping sauce. We asked Rose (the owner) about this sauce and was told that this had been with the family recipe for 50-60 years. And … shhh … it’s a secret! LOL!


Since I asked about Lumpia which I had heard about so much, Rey also ordered the fresh version of Lumpia. The skin of this is made of egg crepe. I prefer the crunchy fried version.

Lumpia is a Chinese Filipino food.


Here are the ingredients of the Fresh Lumpia. Sorry, I can’t quite make out what they are but I think they are primarily turnip. I can’t help by contrasting this to the Malaysian Popiah … the main difference is the crepe skin and the sauce it is served in.

Oh, one thing I noticed is the absence of chili. I would have thought that hot chili will figure a lot in Filipino cuisine since it is a chili growing region. Rey told us that Filipinos does not stand hot food.


Then came the main course — the Little Ongpin Assorted Chargrilled. This is a huge platter of seafood and meat which very much delighted all of us on the table. I never knew that the Filipinos were so big on BBQ but they sure know how to BBQ!

In the Philippines, BBQ are usually done over an open charcoal pit. (more…)

Continue ReadingLittle Ongpin on No 5 and Cambie in Richmond