Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Banh Mi Quest: Banh Mi Tres Bon

A couple weeks ago we were in Richmond running some errands when we realized it was lunch time. A quick google search showed that Banh Mi Tres Bon was on the way so we stopped by for lunch. We were a little skeptical at first because it seemed too hip and the Banh Mi trio seemed like a gimmick. We were wrong.

The decor was, as I mentioned above, hip, clean, and very different from a typical Vietnamese restaurant. They had a bunch of Banh Mi to select from, but no regular grilled chicken, so I decided to go for the trio: Cold Cut, Meatball, and (lemongrass) Chicken.

Cost per Sandwich: $11 for 3 mini sandwiches
Bread: 5/5 - Fluffy, moist, and had the right level of crispiness. Had good texture and flavour.
Sauce: 4/5 - Creamy, flavourful, and wellseasoned, but the lemongrass chicken could be saucier.
Filling: 3/5 - Good amount, good texture, but needs more pickling because it's quite subtle.
Meat: 5/5 - Good amount, well seasoned, and flavourful
Value: 4/5 for the trio, others would be 3/5

It was definitely worth going out to Richmond to try the trio and get a taste of everything, but on the whole a little pricier than other places.

Bánh Mi Très Bon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 24 September 2018

Banh Mi Quest: The Trip South

We recently had the opportunity to travel south to Texas and Louisiana. Before our trip, we did some food research and found out there was a huge Vietnamese population down there who'd introduced our Southern neighbours to the "Vietnamese Po' Boy," aka the Banh Mi.

We only had one week, so we tried some of the highest rated destinations while we were there. Obviously, that skewed our perception a bit, because I now think the South has better Banh Mi than in Vancouver. This was quite humbling because as a Vancouverite, I was always so proud of our Asian cuisine.

Here are the six places we visited:

Roostar Vietnamese Grill (1411 Gessner Rd #1, Houston, TX 77080)

Cost per Sandwich: $4.99 USD
Bread: 5/5 - Freshly baked in house, the exterior was perfectly toasted and the inside fluffy and soft
Sauce: 4/5 - Creamy, flavourful, and well balanced
Filling: 4/5 - The vegetables were fresh and nicely pickled
Meat: 4/5 - The chicken was grilled perfectly and moist. There was so much meat it was a bit overwhelming.
Value: 4/5 - After taxes, just a bit on the pricey side, even though it was very delicious


Don Cafe (9300 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77036)

Cost per Sandwich: $3.50
Bread: 3/5 - The bread was a bit over toasted and dry
Sauce: 4/5 - Different and unexpected, but in a good way, and still creamy
Filling: 3/5 - A bit lacking in vegetables
Meat: 3/5 - Not quite as much meat, but still fine
Value: 4/5 - This was a darn cheap banh mi and still decent, despite the 30 minute wait


Sweet Basil Vietnamese Noodle House (4026 Dowlen Rd, Beaumont, TX 77706)

Cost per Sandwich: $7.95
Bread: 4/5 - Solid bread, not too hard
Sauce: 4/5 - Good amount and tasty
Filling: 3/5 - A bit too much and the cilantro was just thrown on top, so not very well balanced
Meat: 4/5 - Well seasoned and grilled
Value: 4/5 - A bit pricey, but comes with a lot of french fries on the side


Bao Vietnamese Kitchen (8342 Perkins Rd, Baton Rouge, LA 70810)

 Cost per Sandwich: $5.99
Bread: 3.5/5 - Fine, seems fresh, but not as fluffy and soft as we hoped
Sauce: 3/5 - Solid taste and texture
Filling: 3/5 - Fine, carrots were a bit limp and not crunchy enough
Meat: 3/5 - Fine, but only had lemongrass chicken
Value: 3/5 - A bit pricey for an average banh mi


Megasin Kitchen (611 O'Keefe Ave, New Orleans, LA 70113)

Cost per Sandwich: $6.00
Bread: 3/5 - Fine, but a bit dry
Sauce: 3/5 - Evenly spread, but not amazing
Filling: 2/5 - Fine, the ginormous uncut cucumber was off-putting
Meat: 3/5 - Fine, not as much chicken as other places
Value: 2/5 - A bit pricey for an underwhelming banh mi


Dong Phuong Oriental Bakery (14207 Chef Menteur Hwy, New Orleans, LA 70129)
We made a special trip out here because the bakery was featured in a Food Network show. Apparently, a lot of other Banh Mi places pick up their baguettes from here.

Cost per Sandwich: $3.25
Bread: 5/5 - Other restaurants buy their bread from here, it's that good
Sauce: 4/5 - Well seasoned, creamy, but a bit sweet (we got BBQ chicken)
Filling: 4/5 - Nicely pickled, bordering on too much filling
Meat: 4/5 - Grilled nicely, and still maintains moisture, also too much
Value: 4/5 - Even worth the extra cost to get out of the city

Friday, 27 July 2018

Old Beijing Roast Duck

We went to Old Beijing Roast Duck for my mom's birthday. They've been there so often they're now friends with the owner. Naturally, I thought we would be in for a treat. I was wrong.

We ordered a 12 course meal for 10 adults and 2 children. We ordered the Emperor Roast Duck, which I understand was supposed to be made four ways.

First up, Duck skin and kiwi slices on a chip, with a dab of jam underneath. I didn't particularly like this though others at the table were amused at the "novelty" of it all. The best part about duck skin is its fatty richness. Once you add the kiwi and jam, it just cuts the fattiness and you're left with skin that has little flavour to begin with. I also felt that prepping and serving it on the kiwi made the skin less crispy.

These ribs were two things: Sweet and Dry. The meat was not moist and did not fall off the bone. They sprinkled some "smoky snow" on it, but all I could taste was the sweet sauce.

These are zoodles, served with some mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and chili. Rather bland, but I suppose it was refreshing.

Duck second (and third?) way, as pieces of meat for your wrappers. Unfortunately the wrappers either weren't cooked enough or stale because mine was rock hard. It also didn't come with the duck itself, but much later when we had to ask for it.

Chinese version of a meat platter. There some liver and duck feet skin in there. Nothing had much flavour to it. Everything lacked seasoning.

The sea cucumber was cooked nicely.

The eggplant had a great sauce to it. It's not as spicy as you think it looks.

Steamed buns with an urn of fatty pork. At least these buns were steamed perfectly.

Tripe. Not much to say about it.

Taro root was cooked and seasoned well. It was the only dish where I went for two pieces instead of one.

Duck (third or fourth?) way: slices of meat stir fried with peppers and onions. This also lacked seasoning and had very little flavour.

Lastly, when they started giving us new plates for "Dessert," I was expecting something big, like a pancake or some kind of cake. But all they gave us were two of these dinky melon trees.

Sometimes my parents go to a restaurant for the food, sometimes for the deal, and sometimes because they're friends with the owner and get really good service. I have no idea which of the three they went for because the food tasted bad, it's overpriced for Chinese food, and we didn't really have the caliber of service I was expecting.

Not recommending. Definitely not returning.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

'Appy Hour at The Flying Pig (Olympic Village)

B and I have been on a Happy Hour binge lately. Our latest visit was to The Flying Pig, where we've been for brunch and dinner before. It's always been solid: good service and good food.

It's amazing how different food is when served at Happy Hour and at Dinner. When we visited during Dinner, the Truffled Jumbo Macaroni was delicious and left you wanting more. During Happy Hour, it was bland and average. There was a good amount of it though, so you'll definitely be full.

B liked the Beef Carpaccio, but I thought the greens on top made it too bitter and overpowered the flavour from the beef.

I don't know why I keep doing this, but it's never a good deal to order a Meat & Cheese Board at a restaurant unless you know they cure their own meats. Based on the selection, I would've been better off going to Costco and getting a variety pack.

The Beef Short Rib Croquette was fine. I actually thought we ordered the Mac n' Cheese Bites from Dubh Linn Gate because the texture of the Croquettes were gooey and not meaty at all.

When these P.E.I. Mussels arrived, B's first words were "This must be the smallest serving of mussels I've ever seen." One of them was closed too, so we couldn't eat it. But we got 2-3 each. They were fine, we were just disappointed that they didn't catch the closed (dead) one.

Overall, we think Brunch and Dinner is good at The Flying Pig, but wouldn't return for Happy Hour.

The Flying Pig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 4 June 2018

Rustique Bistro

For dinner on the second night, we were originally going to go to Tuscany, but was told nothing was available for two people. I didn't really want to eat pasta anyway, so we decided to go to Rustique.

As we've been drinking beer all day, we weren't really hungry, so we ordered an appetizer and a main dish to share.

For appetizer, we ordered the French Paté. As you can see, it's quite obvious that they had store-bought paté, which is kind of disappointing. Don't get me wrong, I love the Freybe paté that you can find at local grocery stores, but if you're going to be an upscale restaurant, you should make your own paté.

For the main, we ordered the Bouillabaisse. I would never normally order Bouillabaisse because I'm not a fan of tomato soup. But we saw another couple eating mussels and clams and really enjoying the sauce, so I thought they ordered the Bouillabaisse and was really enjoying it. I was wrong. They ordered the daily special, was which a seafood salad.

The Bouillabaisse was not a good dish at all. The tomato broth was bland, the vegetables undercooked, the potatoes overcooked, the shellfish gritty, and the cod was so rubbery neither of us got past the first bite. The only thing I liked was the bread on top. This restaurant has a 4.5/5 star rating on Google, but if it weren't on Bowen Island, it'd probably be more like a 1/5 star rating.

Rustique Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Doc Morgan's Pub & Restaurant

For lunch on the second day, we were still quite full from the breakfast, so first we went to Bowen Island Pub to get a couple pints then, we went to Doc Morgan's for another beer and appetizers if we felt like eating.

One thing we noticed about Doc Morgan's is that it's the only restaurant so far that had good service. The server was attentive and on the ball. If you make eye contact, they will acknowledge you. We went to the Bowen Island Pub, the service was horrendous. You try to make eye contact with the server, and you do, but then she just walks off and you can't order or ask for anything.

We started with two beers and then we noticed all the other guests ordering the Famous Wings. We decided we also had to try it, if everyone else was. We ordered the Honey Garlic wings.

B was skeptical at first - just because you call something famous, doesn't make it good. But he admitted he was wrong after taking a bite. We think it must have been cooked over a flame, because the skin had that crispy exterior of a flame-cooked wing. The sauce was real honey and garlic, not some pre-made sauce. There were also huge chunks of blue cheese in the sauce. We were quite impressed.

Loved the service and the wings. We will definitely return if we ever come back to Bowen Island.

Doc Morgan's Restaurant & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Snug Café

For breakfast the morning after we arrived we went to The Snug Café, again because of the good ratings and the because it was actually open for breakfast. It was really busy, full of people who are trying to catch a bite before the ferry. We were told we would wait 20 minutes for our breakfast.

After all the meat I've been eating, I thought I'd go with the Buttered Spinach Eggs Benedict. That was a mistake. Hollandaise sauce is buttery to begin with, so spinach drenched in butter shouldn't be offered as an option. The butter in the spinach was very overwhelming, to the point I couldn't even taste the lemon juice in the sauce. Everything just tasted like butter.

The potatoes on the side were kind of mushy and didn't have the crispy edges that you look for in hashbrowns. The egg was cooked well though, and still runny.

B ordered the Full English Breakfast, which included two eggs, hashbrowns, toast, and a choice of sausage, bacon, ham or roasted tomato & mushrooms. B asked for his eggs cooked sunny side up and chose bacon. B didn't like his breakfast at all. He said the toast was not toasted, the bacon overcooked, and the eggs not cooked consistently (one was runny, one was not).

Overall, it did the job, but we didn't want to return the next day. We decided we'd rather wait and go to Starbucks after taking the ferry back to Vancouver.

The Snug Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Barcelona Tapas & Wine Bar

This past weekend, we went to Bowen Island for a weekend getaway. We decided to go to Barcelona because it was well reviewed and opened late. We tried a couple Spanish beers, a few of the tapas, and one large plate.

I had the Alhambra, which is a pale lager, and B had the Estrella Damm Barcelona, which is also a lager. Both were fine lagers and solid house beers.

The Lengua de Res (beef tongue) came first. The beef itself wasn't very flavourful but was tender and had good mouth feel. The alioli had strong onion flavour, but not in a bad way. The toast was a little burnt and very noticeably bitter.

Next came the Chipirones a la Plancha (baby squid), which was fine. The squid didn't have the crunch that fresh squid normally has and the peppers lacked flavour, but the dish as a whole worked well together and B really enjoyed it.

The last tapas we ordered was the Atún y Romesco en Pan (albacore tuna), which was pretty good. If we had to be picky, we would ask that the bread be toasted.

For the large plate, we ordered the Filete de Flanco con Mojo Verde (flank steak). I didn't research what mojo verde was, and just assumed it was some kind of green herby sauce. It was minty, which threw me off. I'm not a big fan of mint in anything except for cocktails or toothpaste, so I didn't really like the sauce, but B liked it. Once I scraped the sauce off, the steak itself was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It was tender for a flank steak and well seasoned. The accompanying brussel sprouts and potatoes were very buttery and salty, but I couldn't stop eating them.

Overall, we had a good experience. With the limited choice on the island, we would return if we're in Snug Cove again.

Barcelona Tapas & Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Revisit: Torafuku

I know we said we weren't going to return to Torafuku unless it's for a special occasion, but my mother saw my Instagram pictures and wanted to try it out. We ordered a few of the same dishes because they were really good: Lucky Dumplings, Big Bad Beans, and Gone Fishin' (Seabream). Then we also ordered some new ones to try.

First up, Taco 'Bout Awesome are duck tacos. The duck was cooked perfectly and we really liked the freshness of the vegetables. It also had a bit of heat to it. We loved and hated that it was overloaded with filling. Loved it because it was fresh, hated it because it was super messy to eat. Each taco only comes with one tortilla, so we had to order two, which came out to $24 for this light appetizer.

Next, I ordered The 3 Amigos for us because I knew the dishes won't be very filling, and my father would probably want some carbs to fill him up. I think we ended up having about a bite and a half each. The grains were cooked really well and the risotto had great flavour to it overall. The guanciale was a nice addition. My parents don't really like cheese, but enjoyed the crispiness of the parmasan.

I had wanted to try The Steak Out last time, so I took this opportunity to do so. Wagyu beef is supposed to be so tender it melts in your mouth (we had that as our last meal when we were in Japan). Although the beef was tender, it didn't really melt in my mouth. Also, like the duck we had the other day, it seemed that it wasn't sous vided long enough to really break down the fat and tendons. Great flavour and sides though, and I particularly enjoyed the spicy rice crispy coating on the potato.

Last comes The Mussel Man, which came with a side Chinese Puff Pastry for an extra $4. The Puff Pastry is like those scallion pancakes you find at Szechuan style restaurants, except without the scallion. This was the weakest dish of the bunch. Although the sauce was really good, especially with the Puff Pastry to dip in, the mussels were overcooked and chewy.

Overall, my parents really enjoyed the food. Though they didn't have to pay for dinner, they expressed concern over how pricey all the dishes were. If you want your Chinese parents to boast about their wonderful child for bringing them to this "貴夾唔飽" place to their friends, it might be a good place to bring them for a special occasion. As for B and I, we will likely not be returning for a very long while.

Torafuku Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Bodega On Main

Easter Weekend Part 2 - Happy Hour at Bodega On Main. We passed by Bodega on our way to and from Torafuku the day before and thought - we should try that next. Conveniently enough, we had a movie to catch at 7pm, so Happy Hour until 6pm was perfect for us. The price was also appealing.

We both ordered the Bodega Lager, which was a huge disappointment. B believes that, in this city and neighbourhood, no one should be serving bad beer anymore. Plus, we would've been happy with a good brew at $2 off. But paying $5 for garbage was a turn off.

First there was the Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes). Although the sauce was pretty good, by completely submerging the potatoes in sauce, the twice fried potatoes lost their crispiness. What's the point of frying the potatoes twice if there's no crunch to the finished dish?

The Jamón Serrano (cured ham) was also completely soaked, but in olive oil. There's not much I can say about the ham itself - it kind of reminded me of the prosciutto you get at Costco. I liked how the olive oil really balances the saltiness of the ham, but it was A LOT of oil. I think a simple drizzle would have sufficed.

We were quite disappointed with the Calamares Fritos (deep fried squid). Though the squid itself was great - good texture, you can eat it in bites - the batter was bland and boring.

The Pollo Frito (fried chicken wings) was as expected. You really can't ruin chicken wings. The fried skin had great texture to it and the meat was moist and cooked well.

Lastly, there's the Albóndigas (meatballs). The sauce was rich and the meat fell apart, but it tasted good. I was glad it came with the potatoes because the fried crispy texture of the potatoes helped balance out the softness of the meatballs.

Overall, we weren't impressed with the Happy Hour at Bodega; however, since our friends think so highly of it, we will give their regular menu a try one day. We would not recommend Happy Hour though: food and service was mediocre, but the atmosphere was great.

Bodega on Main Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato