Alright at Aioli’s

I am so glad we hit the Aioli Seafood Restaurant on our recent trip to Parksville.

Firstly, going out to dinner with our toddler is still challenging so having something close, really five minutes walking distance, was an immediate plus. Secondly, the kids meals were quite reasonable ($7.99) which included a variety of pretty standard main choices, a drink, and ice cream for dessert. The portion sizes for both the chicken nuggets and the chicken fingers were decent, given the range in age of the two kiddos we were feeding. Third, the decor was interesting and captured the imagination of the kids and adults alike. Personally, I loved the nautical elements, especially the various boat models on display. They were all different and came from different time periods, so it had an eclectic feel without seeming over-decorated or cliche. The place were a tad short on high chairs (as other families were also dining at the time) but we were able to survive the meal with the kiddo in a booster.

20160719_174352For my own meal, I loved the lobster tail grill dish. I know the lobster wasn’t local but it was Canadian. It also included a generous portion of wild West Coast salmon and six skewered shrimp. I really enjoyed the amount of seafood. In addition, they had a great vegetable medley which include six different vegetables: bok choy, broccoli, carrots, snap peas, squash, and zucchini.  I was also able to substitute the mash potatoes with white rice, so it ended up being an ideal dish for me. Very satisfying!

Perfection at Panaderia

I am a little ashamed to admit that although I have worked in the neighbourhood for over a decade I only recently tried the Panaderia Latina Bakery. I was talking about it with some colleagues of mine and we agree that there is something about the physical structure of the sky train being between where we work and the bakery that feels like a psychological barrier that seems so far to cross.

I am happy to break this barrier for this killer sandwich. I had a barros luco, which I have learned is a very popular hot Chilean sandwich made of beef and melted cheese. This version included thickly sliced beefsteak tomatoes on Pan Amasado, which has been described as Chilean country bread. Of course the bread is baked in-house. If I can describe the sandwich in two words, I would use “heft” and “melt-licious”. This sandwich has some weight to it, they definitely do not scrimp on the beef. Melt-licious is probably self-explanatory once you feast your eyes on my food pic. Just separating the two sandwich halves easily resulted in cheese pull that definitely delivered in my first bite. The price is comparable to higher-end burger places, but well worth it!

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Flavourful Freebird

Tried a cute little kiosk-esque resto at the Quay today. I admit, I had a hint about Freebird when I saw a news article a while back mentioning Longtail’s owner has brought something else to the same food court location in New Westminster. Having an hour to kill waiting for an event gave me the opportunity to remember this news bite and take an actual bite of their fare.

Freebird focuses on chicken, one of my favourite proteins. FYI – My experience (and the prices) are a bit different than described on their website. I was told that the chickens were organic. I was presented with two options in how I want my chicken prepared, which came with accompanying sides. I chose their rotisserie half chicken, which came with your choice of sauce, chicken-fried rice, and papaya salad. I can’t remember the specific name of the sauce, but I do know it was tamarind based, mixed with at least chilli and fish sauce.

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It was a good size to share. The chicken was very moist and had a unique flavour, definitely not typical of mainstream rotisserie chicken. After consulting with my personal chef, we concluded that they may include lemongrass perhaps during the brining process. Light or dark meat, the flavours were on-point and juicy. The skin had great colour and tasty to boot. The sauce was a nice addition, but the chicken could stand on its own. The sauce wasn’t overly sweet or sour. The papaya salad was not only a bit of a palette cleanser in between chicken bites, it announced itself with its level of heat! I didn’t try the chicken fried rice, but both D. and the little guy seemed to love it.

If you’re at the Quay and doing a quick walk around on the main floor, don’t walk by Freebird.

 

Rack of…pork anyone?

People often tell me that I am lucky because D. can cook. My usual response is, “You’re right,” and I add, “Not only can D. cook, but she can cook really well.” Which is why I can’t resist sharing pics of some of her creations.

Tonight’s dinner featured a rack of pork. D. roasted a whole rack of pork chops for about two-and-a-half hours. After cooking, she let the meat rest before cutting into these double-cut portions. End result? Perfectly cooked chops and still juicy. Given that she was also taking care of our ever-energetic little guy at the same time is a feat in itself, but in addition, she made roast potatoes and an accompanying gravy from scratch. As a reverse presentation style, she had a gravy “river” with the chops and potatoes arranged on top. Roasting also created a great outer bark that I savoured. Lucky, lucky me, indeed!

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Tried Thai New West

After more than a week of this viral thing I was trying to kick, I was craving something that would awaken my taste buds and appease my new found appetite so I decided to bring my family to Thai New West. We had gone before, a while back I guess, but I never blogged about it.

Unfortunately upon entry we were informed that they do not have high chairs or boosters for our toddler, which in itself almost turned us away. We knew this would mean a definite dining challenge for us even armed with a tablet and snacks. This was strike one for this resto, but we decided to try anyway.

My cravings had my order already in mind. Chicken satay and rice for the little guy, shrimp Pad Thai, lettuce wrap with beef and p20160401_172112apaya salad for D. and I.

The chicken was supposed to be the “safe” dish to feed the little guy, but unfortunately it wasn’t to his taste. The shrimp crackers were also supposed to be a saving grace but it was too spicy for him. It also ended up that the shrimp crackers were the spiciest thing on the table that night.

Which leads me to the papaya salad which was the next dish to arrive. I took the pic after taking out a portion of salad for my plate, that was how eager I was to bite into 20160401_172106it. It was refreshing and the papaya and the peanuts provided different textures of firmness to the dish, but…no zing. It wasn’t spicy at all. That is when I recalled that while we ordered we were never asked what spice range we were going for even though they mention it in their menu, and while we were there they asked folks on the phone who were ordering for pick up. Perhaps they did this on the assumption that the little guy would be eating from all of the dishes, but they never actually asked. You know what they say about how you shouldn’t assume. Strike two.

20160401_172054I chose the beef lettuce wrap for a different protein (there was only a beef or chicken option). Average in taste, no zip once again, but this ended up being a blessing in disguise because the little guy would eat this with the jasmine rice. Unfortunately it meant D. picking out some of the chopped up veggies before feeding, which meant a prolonged eating experience.

Finally, the dish I had been waiting for was the Pad Thai with tiger 20160401_172548prawns. When it arrived at the table I admit I was underwhelmed at the serving size. I was glad D. and I had ordered another dish and a salad because the Pad Thai could have easily been eaten by one person. Also, they served it with the smallest wedge of lime I’ve seen in a long time. The picture here does not do it justice, but the dish was desperately needing some citrus. A positive is that the tiger prawns were cooked perfectly, very plump and delectable.

After what seemed like an eternity, the little guy was finally full from the beef and rice and I went to settle the bill. After giving a reasonable tip the dinner totaled out to more than $60. I can’t justify that cost with the experience that we had so it is strike three and we’re out. I continue to be on the look out for a Thai restaurant that I can return to time and again.

 

Searching for sushi in my neighbourhood

I am still discovering local restaurants in my neighbourhood as I near the two-year mark of living in South-East Burnaby.

Osaka Island has been our go-to for sushi. Unfortunately, nothing really stands out. The food is average, as is the speed and service. It is spacious, which is important when you have to add a high chair at the end of a booth. We eat dinner early so we never have to wait for a seat. Parking is free and generally available. Primary reason that we return? It’s nearby.

Last night we decided to try something else and came upon Kojima Sushi. Probably the same distance-wise but a few other features to highlight. We were seated promptly and easily re-seated elsewhere when we requested. They provided child-friendly dishes and cutlery, which is always appreciated to help reduce noise (think silverware drumming on the table). They have a wide array of combinations that could pretty much satisfy any mixture desired. Service was quick and efficient.

We had ordered Combo B which included 1/2 California Roll, 1/2 Spicy Tuna Roll, Chicken Teriyaki & Udon, a Rainbow Roll, and an assorted tempura (10 pcs). After a few minutes, I was worried it wasn’t enough food, as the chicken teriyaki was solely for the little guy, so I added a miso soup and Tako Yaki (fried octopus ball-6 pcs). As the food began to arrive, we quickly realized it was probably unnecessary to have added more items on. The udon was larger than expected in a combo. Another surprise was the assorted tempura included salmon, although I didn’t like how the prawn tempura came out. The Rainbow Roll hits my mmmmura scale. It is a California Roll topped with assorted sashimi, which is a two-for-one with me given that I normally order sashimi in addition to sushi. Having it on one roll saves money and fills me up just the same!

It was a challenge finishing all of the food, even with the little guy doing his part. However, I am happy to report that D. and I were up to the challenge and nothing went to waste! I think we’ve found a new go-to.