New Lao Shan Dong Restaurant — The One Restaurant on Kingsway Near Intersection with Imperial, Burnaby

This should get you all excited.

This post is not about just any restaurant.

This restaurant is the newly opened restaurant by the same people behind Lao Shan Dong.

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A few weeks ago, I saw on Natalie’s Facebook of pictures of the food she had at a restaurant called The One. The pictures of the food was unique but I did not think more about it and thinking its just another nice Taiwanese restaurant. No plans at all in visiting.

Last week on the way home, I was walking past Lao Shan Dong when I saw a notice pasted at the door (above). Apparently, The One Restaurant is owned by Lao Shan Dong. I would not have visited if not for that sign. We knew that if The One has food half as good as Lao Shan Dong, this is going to be one successful restaurant in no time.

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So Suanne and I immediately changed our Friday date plans to check out The One.

The One is located on Kingsway near the intersection with Imperial. It is just across the street of Pho Hong which we blogged about recently. There are ample parking spaces in the small strip mall it was on. But I do think that given the size of The One restaurant, it will be a challenge if they do have full house.

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True to the theme outside, the interior is also adorned with tables and chairs in the clashing colors of black and red. The seats are plush but I do find some of them a bit small even for someone my size.

The interior is modern and spacious. It is also bright because of the ceiling to wall glass frontage on two sides of the restaurant. This is a refreshing difference from Lao Shan Dong which is always packed and cramped with nary a decor inside.

Nicole said that The One is upscale and indeed for a Taiwanese restaurant the likes of No 1, Beefy Beef, Corner 23 and others, this is definitely more upscale than them.

The One is opened for lunch and opened till late (to 2AM during weekends and 1AM on other nights).

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The One is a Taiwanese Cuisine restaurant. So you get the same type of food you normally find in Taiwanese restaurants.

The menu is more extensive than the 3 pager above. I did not take more pictures because … well … I was afraid. I was afraid that they think we are spies from the competitors. So I only managed to take pictures of 3 pages. What I can tell you is that the menu is broken into sections of the following:

  • Appetizer: marinated ear, tofu and stuff
  • Noodles: what else … the same TBN from Lao Shan Dong!!!
  • Dumplings
  • Soup: what else too … the same TBN soup, sans noodles, from Lao Shan Dong!!!
  • Meal Combo
  • Hot Pot
  • Fried Rice

On every page of the menu are the words “No MSG” … and that is good.

We did not get the TBN (short for Taiwanese Beef Noodles for the uninitiated) because we wanted to try their other stuff. But we did notice that they offer both the Beef Noodle Soup for $7.50 and also just the beef soup (no noodles) for the same price. I asked our waitress if the beef soup is more if don’t want the noodles. She sheepishly said you don’t get much more beef. She was honest.

Like all TBN places, they also have lot of drinks options … milk tea, bubble tea, coffee, fresh juice, herbal tea and slush. There is also a section for dessert and of course things like thick toast.

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This was what I was coming for … and what I saw on Nicole’s Facebook.

Not knowing what to choose, I randomly chose the one called The One Seafood Hot Pot with Rice. This is $13 — quite pricey but it also came with a drink and a small dessert.

I thought the hot pot was unique and definitely bigger than most.

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This is more like it … a boiling pot. Most other places have that token light at the bottom that does a little more than keeping the soup hot.

It was disappointing to learn that the soup base is milk. It did not occur to us to ask when we placed our order. Both Suanne and I personally hate milk as soup. As a matter of fact, Chinese rarely uses milk in cooking … did you know that? So you find that diary products are not big in traditional Chinese cuisine.

Normally Suanne would be the one who will finish off the soup but she declined saying that the one in Pearl Castle is better. Although it was not my fav kind of soup, I thought it was quite good.

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The Hot Pot has a lot of ingredients. That included prawns, mussels, fish cake, tofu, very bouncy fish balls (which bounced across the restaurant when I dropped it on the floor), other meat balls and octopus.

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The fish ball has stuff in it. I remember having this in one of the stalls in the Richmond Public Market. We like this a lot. It was kind of small … smaller than the ones we had in the Richmond Public Market for sure.

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Here is the drink that came with the Hot Pot. It is an … (more…)

Continue ReadingNew Lao Shan Dong Restaurant — The One Restaurant on Kingsway Near Intersection with Imperial, Burnaby

Tomoya Japanese Restaurant on Nelson and Kingsway, Burnaby

Updated: 15th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Karl (of The Friday Lunch) met up with me again for lunch around the Metrotown area. Karl is a great lunch partner … lots of things to say and we do share the same interests too.

BTW, I finally found out why he calls his blog the Friday Lunch. Karl goes out with his gang at work on Fridays. It is like a eating club of sorts. This makes me want to organize one too at work seeing how successful it was the last time I organized the Turkish lunch at Anatolia’s Gate. I had expected only a handful to come but 20 turned up. Those who went raved about the lunch that there were two other parties (those that could not make to  the first round) from my company who went.

Yeah, maybe I would organize another one soon.

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This round, Karl and I went to check out the Tomoya Japanese Restaurant. Tomoya is located just next door to Lao Shan Dong Beef Noodle place.

I walk past Tomoya EVERYDAY and yet I have never been there before. I have been meaning to try their food which is kind of unique. At one point, they were touting themselves as Japanese-French fusion food. During our visit, it seems like they are more Japanese than anything. Behind all these, I think they are entirely Chinese owned.

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We were there at noon on a Monday. So it was quite empty but it soon filled up very fast. I had read feedback of their bad service on various sites but seriously we did not have that sort of things happening to us. They even came up to fill our water.

You know and I know. One can only trust so much about reviews you find on sites like urbanspoon or dinehere.ca or yelp. For the most part, the feedback and reviews are useful information but at the end of it, it is up to you and I to make our own judgment … whether or not to trust the reviews. That goes too for chowtimes. LOL!

Seriously.

Back to Tomoya. Tomoya is small and compact. While the tables and chairs are placed very close to one another, I did not find it “intrusive” to the point that we are aware of our neighbor. The place has that cozy feel to it … like a place you could hang out in and take your own sweet time enjoying the meal. No rush-rush kind of place.

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You just gotta check out their menu. Very nice menu with pictures of the chef’s creations. Tomoya has very unique rolls and that is what they are famous for. They are not like Sushi Garden or Asakusa where they serve run of the mill sushis and makis.

It took us a while to get down to getting what we wanted. At the end we decided to get a couple of their unique rolls and the Black Sun. Oh … the Black Sun … you WANT to get the Black Sun. I had never quite seen anything like it before. Karl wanted the Tokayaki too … so we got that too.

Since these were called the “Chef’s Creation”, I was curious as to who the chef was. I asked our waitress who merely said that the chef is not here. I did not ask any further but there I was sitting and thinking that perhaps the original chef is no longer there?

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Free miso soup. Come to think of it, I don’t know how many Sushi places actually gives free miso soup. I had never paid much attention to this before but I thought that not many restaurant does. This is because I only remember ordering the miso soup in Japanese AYCE.

Not that I really want to know. I am just being myself … asking mundane questions. 🙂

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Mundane questions begets another mundane picture. I just love that shot above. The ginger looked good huh? BTW, how did the ginger get to be that red? Was that coloring?

He he he … another mundane question, I know.

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Ladies and gentlemen … mesdames et messieurs … señoras y señores … nushi men, xiansheng men.

The Black Sun … le soleil noir … el sol negro … hei taiyang.

I had never seen something like this before. As beautiful as it looked above, it looked better in real life.

Let me tell you how good it is by telling you what Karl “said” when he ate this:

“wow … mmm … wow … mmm … wow … mmm … www … mmm”.

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That’s what Karl said … seriously. He was mmm’ing and wow’ing with every bite.

The Black Sun is $9 and is a combination of … (more…)

Continue ReadingTomoya Japanese Restaurant on Nelson and Kingsway, Burnaby

Kura Japanese Restaurant on Kingsway and Wilson Ave, Burnaby

Updated: 16th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

There are so many Vancouver food bloggers these days that I could not even catch up reading all of them, let alone aware of all the new ones. However, there was one that caught my attention because he blogs about restaurants in Burnaby and a number of them along Kingsway. So, I had been following Karl of The Friday Lunch for sometime.

I like his easy to follow style with short to the point sentences. Not to mention too his selection of restaurants are exactly the type I normally go to. Since both of us work around the vicinity, we arranged to meet up for lunch and say hi.

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I suggest that we meet at Kura Sushi on Kingway. Kura Sushi had been a place that I wanted to visit for a long time because LotusRapper had recommended that place a few times. I had been trying to save this place up to go with Suanne but we never got round to that — and I think we will never get round to it given all the “To Try” places we have on the list.

I had walked past Kura Sushi many time before and had seen their menu. It does give me the impression that this is a very authentic Japanese restaurant (with higher than normal prices). This is reinforced by the heavy wooden door outside. This was a real thick heavy door, not a fake. Frankly I don’t know if this door works in their favour because it sort of felt less welcoming to the customer. That is just my opinion.

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The hand-written sign outside the restaurant sounded very convincing that they are the only branch of a some big time sushi restaurant in Tokyo. I was curious right? So, I tried googling various combination of Kura-Tokyo-Sushi but came up with some Kura Sushi which is a Kaiten Sushi joint.

Anyone able to tell me if there is actually a well known Kura Sushi in Tokyo?

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He he he … at a glance, the picture above looked like it’s some call center operation, right? It’s just that they have partitions between the smaller tables just to save space and provide some privacy. From the looks of it, there are a lot of office workers when we were there.

I like that tall ceiling and dark walls … and yet it was very well lighted where it matters.

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They have a large menu with pictures — making choosing difficult. I wish I could take pictures of their entire menu because I am sure many of you will like to see it. Given the number of pages, I thought I better not or else Karl and I freak them out. So, I just took pictures of their Lunch Special above.

What do you think? It’s a buck or two above the normal lunch special price range in many places but they all look a bit more better too.

Hmmm … LUNCH SPECIAL. Not sure about you but my benchmark price for lunch specials is $7-$8. Anything above this is expensive and anything below that is real cheap. What about you?

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The Miso Soup. We did not order that. I guess it is complimentary for all customers. As far as I know, not many Japanese restaurants serves complimentary miso soup.

You know, I can’t get over the idea after all these while that they don’t give a soup spoon with the miso soup. Yeah, I know … the Japanese drinks, no slurp, the soup direct from the bowl. I am saying this because in my research on Chinese cuisine, Chinese do not customary drink direct from the bowl in a formal setting.

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We decided to get a couple of rolls and two other “fancy” items instead of getting the lunch special. That is just me … I just don’t want to blog about lunch specials because they do not often represent the best the restaurant has to offer. Oh … did I say that just a few days ago?

Anyway … we got Beef Sashimi … a small order ($6). I would have preferred a bigger order ($10) but I guess it’s too much to order.

Isn’t the beef sashimi beautiful? It is simply one of the best looking sashimi I had ever see … and it tasted great and flavourful. When I was eating this, I was thinking if this is safe eating raw beef. LOL! If Suanne is here, she would comment that it is not safe because bacteria will multiply quickly on the surface. So I am curious how they are able to keep this safe. I am sure it is safe … but just wanted to know.

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Then we got the Geoduck. In Japanese they call this Muragai.

Anyone of you know how Geoduck ended up being pronounced as Guu-ey-duck and not G-O-duck? Don’t roll your eyes when I say this OK? Not everyone knows what Geoduck is. For one it is not a duck and does not resemble a duck. This is how Geoduck looks like. A little trivia here … did you know that the Geoduck has the longest lifespan. It is known to easily live up to 150 years!

When it came we were kind of delighted, or at least I was. I was thinking … oh wow, all this for just $8?!?

Sigh … my balloon was deflated when … (more…)

Continue ReadingKura Japanese Restaurant on Kingsway and Wilson Ave, Burnaby

Pho Hong on Kingsway Near Intersection with Imperial, Burnaby

Once upon a time … almost 10 years ago … when Arkensen and Nanzaro were just toddlers, Pho Hong was the family favourite restaurant. We used to eat there once a week, without fail. Always on a Sunday.

That was when we were attending the church nearby. So after service, we always go there for lunch … and always got the same thing. The #1 Special.

We were also quite poor then. We rarely spent more than $20 for eating out … a week!! So Pho Hong fits the bill.

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Pho Hong is cheap. Pho Hong is delicious. Most importantly Pho Hong serves very big bowls of pho. Between the four of us, we just need to order two pho specials and we would find it hard to finish. And all that for just $15. Those were the days when Pho Hong was the #1 restaurant to Suanne and I. Those were the days before chowtimes when it was OK to eat at the same restaurant week after week, ordering the same item over and over again. Those were the good days!

It must have been at least 5 years already since we last went to Pho Hong. Last week we drove all the way to Kingsway and Imperial in Burnaby for old time sake. The place looked the same as we remembered them … but showing a bit more age … rundown even.

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The interior still has that ghastly maroon wall paper. The booths at the center of the restaurant is still there. We like those booths which has overhanging plastic vines of grapes. I was told that Pho Hong used to be an Italian restaurant eons ago.

We were such regulars that the owners knew us. That was then. After all these years, we are just another customer to them. They don’t remember us anymore. Arkensen and Nanzaro is no longer the cute toddlers they once knew.

The one great thing about Pho Hong was the smell. Every time we go there, we end up having our clothes smelling of the beef noodle soup for the entire day. We had never come across another pho restaurant which does that even today.

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The #1 Special was what we order all the time. It used to be just $7.50 for a big bowl and it even came with a deep fried spring roll. Today it is $8.50. Inflation, I guess.

The #1 Special was always MY order and I always shared this with Nanzaro, being the younger one. Nanzaro would hate that I squirt Sriracha chili sauce into the bowl making it all red. I like it that way. So I always separated Nanzaro’s portion into a separate bowl before I do that.

This time Arkensen said he wants the #1 and it goes without saying that he is not going to share this with anyone anymore.

The #1 Special tasted just as good as it was back then. They serve the beef pinkish raw but with the soup close to a boil, it needed just second to cook the meat. The soup was flavourful but we felt the bowls were smaller … or maybe our appetite are now bigger. I am not sure.

The reason why we ordered the #1 was because it had everything … beef slices, beef ball, tendon & tripe.

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The spring roll which came with the “special” was good. It was served hot like they had just made it to order. We prefer the coarse kind of wrapper … I think the rice paper kind. But no complains because we like this too.

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The bean sprouts were OK — just OK. We had super fresh ones before.

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I ordered salted plum with Soda ($2.95). I like this because it is a very good thirst quencher and the glass was bigger than normal.

I had never thought of this until now … Suanne does not order drinks at all. She does not like flavoured drinks; opting for water or tea if she can help it. The thing is our boys did not order drinks too. They always asked for iced water and I did not think much about it.

So when I was sitting here writing this blog post, I asked them why. Gosh … now I know why but am not at liberty to tell you the reason. This because you-know-who said she will knock my head if I tell anyone. LOL! You ask you-kn0w-who if you want to know.

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For a person who used to stop me from squirting Sriracha Chili sauce into the pho, Nanzaro had graduated to eating spicy food.

His order was the … (more…)

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Hot Luck on Kingsway Near Willingdon, Burnaby

Some of my friends at work told me that if I wanted to try spicy hot food, I should go and try the new restaurant on Kingsway just next door to Saffron. And they warned me that their food is super-duper hot. This had been on my radar for a few weeks already and I knew it was just a matter of time before I go with Suanne and the boys.

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Last week, I had one of those heavy days at work. The first meeting started at 7AM and it is one after another with a large group of team members. And I had to run the meetings. It would have been easier if I am just an attendee. So by late morning, I was totally spent and decided to just drop everything and went outside to clear my head.

It was a good thing I had the camera with me that day. So I went to have lunch on my own at Hot Luck.

Outside the restaurant, there is a sandwich board that says that the Lunch Special is just $5.95. I thought it was awfully cheap. I can’t think of any restaurant like this that has lunch specials that cheap. Are you aware of any?

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The interior is clean, bright and neat. Some of the bigger tables even has white linen too. I was impressed particularly because they serve such cheap lunch specials here.

Hot Luck is a Sichuan cuisine restaurant. They had been opened for 3 months already and words had spread that their food is super hot.

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You know it is super hot when all the pictures on the menu are red in colour.

I was so enticed by their House Special and Combo Special items above. Unfortunately they are meant for a minimum of two people and up. I guess I got to come back another day to try them.

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If you look at the rest of the menu above, you will find that it is not as cheap as the sandwich board outside makes it out to be. Most of the Lunch Specials are $8. The main dishes are above $10.

Their food are not expensive but just that it is not as cheap as you might be led to think.

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As usual, I asked for their recommendation for a starter. The waitress said that their Spiced Beef with 5 Spices ($5) is one of their favourite and pointed to the table next to me. It seems like that table was not the only one that had this starter.

This is a cold dish. Even the dish it was served on was cold. The beef slices were not as hot as it looked.

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I did not want to get the Lunch Special because lunch specials being what it is are not true representation of what the restaurant serves well. After asking me if I can take hot food, the waitress said I should try their … (more…)

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Anatolia’s Gate Turkish Restaurant on Kingsway and Griffith, Burnaby

Suanne and I was thinking of going to Turkey and Greece for our gastronomic-slash-cultural vacation this year. It will be an easy thing to do for Suanne and I because it is just $500 for airfare and 3 nights free accommodation. That’s a great thing about working in my company because we get all these inter-line arrangements. The only issue is that the flight is on standby basis. It is easier to deal with, with just two people but with four people it is trickier … a lot more trickier. We’ll see how things go too because the boys summer plans are still not firmed yet.

So I had been talking a lot to Sena at the office. She is Turkish and I was so interested in learning more about Turkish culture and food in anticipation of the trip. I told her about this Turkish restaurant near the office that I wanted to visit. She was surprised because she had not heard of it before. I told her to get some people together for a Friday lunch. She did … 20 people! I was thinking of just 4 or 5.

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So we all drove over to Anatolia’s Gate. It is too far to walk from where our office is in the Metrotown area. Anatolia’s Gate is located across the street, kitty corner from the Middlegate Shopping Center (Google Map here). There are available street parking on Kingsway or the side road, so that was not an issue despite us driving there in a number of cars.

The name Anatolia invokes a lot of thoughts of Turkish history. The name Anatolia is another name for Asia minor and refers to that historical region in Turkey that used to be home of many many civilizations which includes Greek, Armenian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. I love history and look forward to going to this part of the world to see first hand for myself.

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Anatolia’s Gate has an open gas oven. You would not miss it because it is right in front of you as you step into the front door. According to Sena, this is all essential if they want to do Turkish dishes right.

The ovens are used to make the excellent Turkish flat bread pizza (called Lahmacun)  and Pide. They also use this to make Lavash.

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The interior is quite basic with well arranged tables. This allows them to easily arrange the tables for bigger parties like ours.

While Anatolia’s Gate is spacious, they recommend reservations because they do have big parties coming in every now and then.

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The menu is all foreign to all of us. We surrendered ourselves to the advice of Sena. You know how some of us decide what to get? We just have to point to an item on the picture menu and ask her about it … and she will go “Oh … wow” and raise her eyebrows before excitedly explaining it to us. I don’t have to even listen to her description … just judging by how long she drags out her “wow” and how high her eyebrows were raised is enough indication on what to get.

I just love having an expert telling me more about the food. I always find that the more I know of the food and the culture the more I appreciate it. That’s me — food is  not just something I enjoy but also the learning.

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Actually I was already dead set on getting “The Works” (my term). See above.

I almost did not pull this off because not many people wanted to eat so much. Moreover, at $21.50, it is understandably too expensive to spend on lunch. At the end, we got the minimum four to go for this.

This was gonna be a feast … and we regretted getting this.

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So anyway, I decided to get this thing. This is called Ayran which is made of yogurt and water and costs about $2-$3.

It tastes like the Indian Lasi (spelling?) to me and really thought it’s the same thing. Sena said that it is very Turkish. In Turkey apparently. they like to have this made bubbly, more bubbly than the one you see above.

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Our $21 per head platter includes the appetizers above. They are cold appetizers (called meze) and are mainly used as a spread on bread.

Our favourite was the red one at the top left corner. It is called ezme and has a more stronger flavour because of the spice chili used.

The dolma (top right) is stuffed grape-leaf. It is very popular around the region from Iran to eastern Europe to south Asia but this originates from Turkey.

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The above is some yogurt with herbs. I am not sure what this is called — just yogurt? Anyway, this is meant to go with Iskender kebab.

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Everyone gets the Lavash. This is interesting. It is bread all puffed up cooked on the open oven. A stab at the Lavash releases steam.

Sena said that the Lavash is not Turkish. It is Arabic but Anatolia made it because they had the oven necessary to make this.

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The Lavash and the Meze’s goes very well together. Everyone enjoyed this particularly when the Lavash is still hot. I could eat this entirely as a meal.

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This is it … the $21 per head Padishah’s Platter. It came in an delightfully huge platter with food piled high. Of course the four of us snickered at the others that we had all this food … but we also know that … (more…)

Continue ReadingAnatolia’s Gate Turkish Restaurant on Kingsway and Griffith, Burnaby

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 … (more…)

Continue ReadingKenzo Japanese Noodle House on Kingsway and Griffiths, Burnaby

X-Site Grill and Bistro on Hastings Near Intersection with Willingdon, Burnaby

It took us over a year to finally check out X-Site. We first came to be aware of X-Site when we posted our visit to the LA Grill in Richmond. Back then our readers were pointing out to us that LA Grill has the same concept with X-Site. So X-Site had been on our to-try list for a long time already but it has been so long that it dropped way down to the bottom of the priorities.

We had pretty much forgotten about X-Site until Novi left a note for us and reminded us of this place which serves $4.95 Lunch Specials.

Like Richmond’s LA Grill, X-Site is a gem of a place which everyone should take note of.

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X-Site is located on Hastings in Burnaby. That is the thing — it is so far away from home otherwise we would have visited this place earlier.

Suanne and I went to X-Site for our Friday dinner date. You know, I really enjoy dinners like this to cap off the week … slow, unrushed and put work behind for the week.

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Look at the interior above. You would not have guessed that they serve $5.95 Dinner Specials here. Where else could you get a $5.95 with choices like Top Sirloin Steak, Gourmet Burger, Chicken Souvlaki or Grilled Salmon? It is amazing to think how they can even make money at all.

But they had been doing this for many years already and that is why this place is so close to the hearts of many people.

The dining area is large and spacious. We expected X-Site to be very much like LA Grill but this is definitely much better and conducive for a nice dinner. The place is dim with the section at the back so dark I wonder how people are going to eat in that kind of condition.

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We observed that the kitchen, bar and till was manned by Asians but all the servers are young pretty Caucasians. That stood out because it was exactly the same thing that was glaring when we were at LA Grill. No, no … it’s not a problem. It was just an observation which makes me think that beside the facade one could be very surprised who the people are behind the restaurant. Does any of our readers know if LA Grill and X-Site are run by Asians? Who are they?

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Service was excellent. There is no difference from any other more expensive restaurants.

We meant to take our time for the dinner. You know, we wanted to order drinks and appy first before we decide what we want for mains and such. For a place that serves $5.95 dinners, I would somewhat understand if they want to turn the table as quickly as they can but we did not have such pressure at all.

Our waitress was perfectly fine and even asked if we wanted to just start with the drinks and appy first and decide on the rest of the meal later. We were impressed.

I ordered a 2 oz Martini called X-Site Perfect. Between Finlandia (vodkha) and Tangueray (gin), I asked for the gin. This is $5.50.

It was very strong. It was like drinking jet fuel. No, I did not like it at all.

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For appetizers, we shared a plate of Garlic Prawns which is $6.95.

We were kind of dismayed with the size of the prawns but otherwise, this is great. The garlic bread is fragrant that you could smell the moment they brought it to the table. It was excellent and particularly good when we wipe that bread on the garlic butter and white wine sauce from the plate of the prawns.

Like I said, the size of the prawns was a disappointment but this was a very nice appetizer for us. Enjoyed this.

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We did not get the $5.95 Dinner Specials because they are only available for Monday through Thursdays.

We decided to get a steak which costs $9.95. There were two choices: the NY Peppercorn Steak or the NY Teriyaki Steak. We thought that we try the Teriyaki Steak because Peppercorn sounded so common.

The New York Teriyaki Steak sauce is made with a blend of Japanese soya sauce, … (more…)

Continue ReadingX-Site Grill and Bistro on Hastings Near Intersection with Willingdon, Burnaby

Alvin Garden on Imperial and Nelson, Burnaby

I spoke too soon and now I am stumped as to what to do. I declared here that I wanted to start an exploration of the so-called The Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine and invited our readers to join us in the journey. And now we have 17 parties who had indicated they would be interested. I mean this is great but it also mean that there are more expectations to meet! LOL! Good thing, there are a few experienced foodies I can count on to help pull this off. I am going to need till the end of this week to put on my thinking caps. For those of you who had responded, I’ll draft some preliminary plans and let you know what they look like.

Anyway, this blog post is about Alvin Garden that we went to a couple of weeks ago.

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Alvin Garden had gained a lot of good reputation. The name itself sounded so western but this is a top notch Chinese restaurant. They are one of the candidates for the 8GTCC (my acronym for the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine) as they serve Hunan cuisine. Hunan cuisine is also known as Xiang cuisine and is characterized by its spiciness.

Alvin Garden is located on Imperial and Nelson in Burnaby. We were there during the Christmas holidays. I was at work and bored to death as hardly anyone was in the office during that entire week. So, I asked Suanne and the boys to come down to Burnaby for lunch.

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The interior of Alvin Garden is very clean and pleasant. It is very well maintained quite unlike many Chinese restaurants. I guess it must have been the holidays that there were only a few tables which were taken up by customers.

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They have good lunch specials. I had that several times before and they are pretty good. As you can see, it is just $7 or $8 only. They are simple dishes … mostly one type of stir fry with rice.

We ordered separate dishes because we wanted to try some of the better dishes. Since Hunan cuisine is spicy, we ordered mostly spicy ones. The waitress asked how spicy we wanted the food cooked and we said “very spicy”. I can see from her eyes that she wanted to dissuade us — sort of like thinking we will not be able to stand spiciness. We stayed the course and smiled … “very spicy please” with both Arkensen and Nanzaro nodding their heads in unison.

We ended up regretting it.

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The menu for the dish above is simply called the Spicy Flavoured Chicken. They have a nice name for this in Chinese. It is translated to something like “saliva dripping chicken” or “drooling chicken” or “mouth watering chicken”!

This is not for everyone especially those who are very health conscious. Look at the film of oil! And look at the lethally hot chili seeds too!

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This is by far our best dish we tried but is so very spicy that our lips and tongue got numb from eating it. But we did finish this off completely.

The chicken is very fragrant. This dish is only … (more…)

Continue ReadingAlvin Garden on Imperial and Nelson, Burnaby

Swish Swish on Kingsway and Nelson, Burnaby

Updated on 11th July 2010: This restaurant had been closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

I had been getting a steady stream of visitors these days at work. This time it was Lauren who flew in from Atlanta for a few days for discussions and planning. These sort of planning sessions are usually grueling as we try to get as much plans agreed within the few available days. So we normally work through lunch most of the time. We would get someone to order in quick lunches like pizza, subs and Chinese take outs.

Since we were ahead on the agenda, I suggested that we take some time and for once go out for a proper lunch on the last day.

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I suggested that we go to this new Japanese Hot Pot restaurant at the corner of Kingsway and Nelson — a place I had always wanted to go try. That restaurant is called Swish Swish. Most people driving past this busy intersection may not even notice Swish Swish. This is because it is unnecessarily obscured by pillars which serves no function and does nothing aesthetically to the building. I think it would do the building a world of good if they remove those ugly pillars.

Some of my team members were hesitant about going to this untested restaurant. Firstly this restaurant had been opened only for two months and none of us had ever been there before. Secondly, some of them were unsure if Lauren would be partial to having Asian hot pot knowing that most of our colleagues from the US are cautious about the type of Asian food we have here in Vancouver.

But Lauren insisted that she is excited to try it. So we went.

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The interior layout is odd and in a semi-secular arrangement. It does look compact because you could not see to the end of the restaurant from one end. Actually, it does hold quite a number of tables.

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The name Swish Swish is the literal translation from the word Shabu-shabu.

Here they serve two types of Japanese hot pots — shabu shabu or Sukiyaki. They are both hot pots … the main difference is in the type of broth served.

Sukiyaki’s soup base has more flavour because it is made with soya sauce and mirin while shabu-shabu’s broth is primarily water.

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Swish Swish is actually an All You Can Eat Hot Pot place — or at least that is what they started off as.

Their AYCE is $12 for lunch while dinner is $16. The lunch and dinner AYCE is basically the same except that they have lamb available only for dinner. In the mid-afternoon, they give a $2 discount off the lunch menu price. I think that should qualify it as one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, AYCE hot pot in Vancouver.

However, we did not get the AYCE.

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The AYCE would be too much food and will take too long to eat. Instead we had the Lunch Express which they had recently introduced to their menu.

I think it makes sense that they introduce this lighter version of the Japanese hot pot. Most of the lunch’ers around this area are office workers who have time only for quick lunches.

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Besides the Sukiyaki hotpot, they provide rice and appetizers. You can opt for udon instead of rice if you want.

I suggest that you ask for rice. If you opt for rice on the side, they also have vermicelli in the hot pot. However, if you ask for Udon, the Udon is served in the hot pot (without vermicelli).

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This is what I got … (more…)

Continue ReadingSwish Swish on Kingsway and Nelson, Burnaby