Flavour at a whole ‘nother level at Fat Duck

I love when I just come upon some great food by accident! Sometimes when you search for it, you get disappointed, so I love happy coincidences that bring good food and my mouth together.

I was working downtown and needed to eat lunch. Nearest food truck on my walking horizon was the Fat Duck Mobile Eatery. While it was a sunny day, it was pretty brisk (albeit by Vancouver standards), so I took it as a good indicator that there was a bit of a line.

20150113_124240I wasn’t feeling like having any sort of sandwich so I ordered the Dirty Rice Bowl, which is described on their menu as “infused rice with duck confit, braised pork butt & belly, pickled vegetables, scallions, cilantro, Kung Pao mayo and a sunny egg”, and all for just $10. From the first-bite my mouth was thrilled!

Every forkful brought on different textures with flavours that worked really well together. One bite might be from the crunchy pickled slaw. Another would be the tasty duck confit with perfectly cooked rice. Then you would take in a bit of the savoury pork belly that blended well with the Kung Pao mayo. The egg yolk added another dimension to the food as well. Then another bite would bring some crispy and fresh scallions into play helping to cleanse the palette a little and start the process all over again. I didn’t leave behind a thing. I haven’t had such a good meal for only $10 in a long time. Definitely makes the mmmmura scale.

Fat Duck Mobile Eatery Ltd. on Urbanspoon

Great Deal at Granada Pizza

As we are only six months into our new home, I am still hunting for restos in the neighbourhood. Last night was the search for delivery pizza not part of a chain. From a local flyer I found Granada Pizza in New Westminster. It’s funny. When I was searching for Granada on-line I came across a Facebook page for it that stated it may be permanently closed. Well I can tell you it definitely is open, and from the amount of flyers I receive about it weekly, I don’t foresee it closing too soon.

They have a “1 Large Pizza Special” on the front of their take out/delivery menu so I decided to try it. The special includes one large 3-topping pizza, 2 pieces of BBQ ribs, 1 large lasagna, 2 individual sized green salads, and 2 garlic toast, plus two cans of Coke for free (a common complimentary item in their larger specials, I soon learned), all for only $21.95 plus tax.

I know it may sound like a lot of food to order for two adults and a 15 month old, but I love eating bits of lots of things, so several things in a package is almost irresistible to me.

The food arrived at my pre-arranged delivery time and it was piping hot! The salad was very simple, with commonly packaged dressing. The garlic toast was only buttered on one side, but still a thick-cut slice. The ribs were a bit dry, but is basted in barbeque for serving, which helps. The lasagna tastes great, cheesy and meaty with a mild kick. My little one ate his all up.

After eating the salad, garlic toast, a side of ribs, and one serving of lasagna I was pretty full. I barely tasted the pizza and had plenty left over for the next day. While taste overall may be average, the food quantity and the price makes it a menu keeper for me and puts Granada into my mmmmura category (see my About page for further explanation). They have a number of other specials that I can try the next rainy, “don’t feel like cooking”, night.

Granada 2 For 1 Pizza Place on Urbanspoon

Try Tamarind Hill

To celebrate D’s graduation we went to Tamarind Hill in New Westminster. Having a Malaysian restaurant in our neighbourhood (only minutes away by car) is such a bonus!

Our friend Espie attended the graduation with us and joined the dinner. To accommodate everyone’s comfort level we ensured everything we ordered was at the mild-spice level, but you can definitely increase the heat as you wish.

I have to admit we had a mini-feast, celebrating a graduation deserves no less!

IMG-20140618-00741I couldn’t resist ordering the green papaya and mango salad. Even at “mild”, it was spicy but really refreshing on the palette. The fruits and veggies were very crisp and the flavours married well with the generous dressing amount and crushed peanuts. No complaints about the portion as it looked like a mountain when it arrived at our table. Mmmura for the price and portion.

We also ordered the roti canai with curry sauce. I completely underestimated what one order would entail, so I had ordered two and the result was a mound of roti! D. and E. only ate the roti, but I enjoyed it best with the sauce.

IMG-20140618-00743For our warm-up D. chose the Singapore laksa. I didn’t read the menu closely and thought it would be a Malaysian-style chow mein or pad thai. I was pleasantly surprised when a spicy coconut soup with vermicelli noodles, sliced tofu, chicken, egg, and prawns arrived. It was slurp-succulent! Again, definitely share-size, as I can’t imagine only one person being able to finish the entire bowl by themselves.

A new dish I had never tried was the sirloin beef with asparagus. Even at mild-level it is another spicy dish that definitely needs to be eaten with rice to help tame its flavours. I enjoyed it (even the leftovers the next day).

Some of the standard fare were the veggie spring rolls and nasi goreng (Malaysian fried rice). The spring rolls weren’t spicy at all unless you used their dipping sauce. From the aroma alone I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle its heat. I enjoyed the spring rolls regardless. They weren’t too oily, well wrapped, and the veggies were easy to feed to JD. The nasi goreng was very tasty, had lots of beef and shrimp included, and paired well with everything else we ordered.

Price overall was mid-range, but I plan to become a repeat customer as there were lots of other items on the menu that I want to try!
Tamarind Hill on Urbanspoon

Finally – Fliptop Filipino Fusion

It’s been a few months since I last posted. Relocating has provided a whole new area to start trying new food spots, however time to write about them is still what I need.

A quick review that I can share is from last Sunday. I was finally able to try some of the food from Fliptop when it was at the Surrey Philippine independence day celebration. Currently there are only two Filipino food trucks in Vancouver, and I’ve already tried the other one earlier this year.

Between my sis, Jane, and I we tried the Thrilla in Manila “Fili” Cheesesteak sandwich, the pork bbq skewers, and the garlic rice.

Out of all three I loved the pork bbq the best. It was made with a classic Filipino marinade. I love that reddish sheen that comes from the banana ketchup. A finer detail was the skewer itself. Fliptop uses one that actually provides more of a “handle” to hold the edge, which I appreciated. Each skewer included 5 or so good chunks of meat, which is great for the price of only $4. And while I thought I was a bbq purist, surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed the julienned seaweed and daikon added on top, and a killer garlic aioli that brought it all together. I didn’t need any carbs (i.e. the garlic rice) as the dish felt complete on its own. Truly satisfying.

Fliptop Filipino Fusion on Urbanspoon

Birthday Breakfast

I treated D. to breakfast at the Red Wagon Cafe for her birthday last week. It was a Monday morning and we arrived around 9-ish so luckily no line up yet. Also, despite limited seating they graciously gave us a 5-seat table to help accommodate the space JD would need, so brownie points for kid friendliness! I also loved the rusty Coke and Orange Crush signs up on the walls and adored the miniature red wagons as well.

D. ordered the Crisp Pork Belly. Something I wanted to order as well but I conceded as it was her birthday after all. She readily admitted that she is now more critical when we dine out ever since she completed her Culinary Arts program. Her comments for this breakfast were that the hollandaise sauce was not the right texture, she didn’t like the taste of the gridled tomatoes and the confit pork belly was a bit salty. It made me glad I didn’t order the dish for myself, but then I promised to take her out for dinner to make up for this meal.

I ordered the Trucker. I was tempted by the Super Trucker but thought I should bring it down a notch. The star of the dish for me was the buttermilk pancakes. They were very tasty, not overly fluffy nor dense, and also medium in size, which made it easy for me to eat the entire dish which included two eggs, large-cut homefries, and your choice of meat and bread. I chose back bacon and sourdough.

Just beware the there are no free coffee refills here (usually standard for breakfast restos) a surprise I discovered when settling the bill.

The Red Wagon on Urbanspoon

J.J.’s Restaurant hidden inside VCC downtown

Last week was the end of D.’s scholastic culinary journey. But before she finished she really wanted to me to visit her at school and try something she made while on line in the kitchen. The last two months she had been cooking for the evening shift, which made it challenging to bring J.D., but D. asked Espie to join me and partake in D.’s cuisine, which was a big help.

The Culinary Arts section of Vancouver Community College (VCC) Downtown campus runs J.J.’s restaurant. I believe the majority of the staff (from servers to cooks) are students going through the culinary program. I think the servers are normally mid-way through the program, whereas the cooks are in their last two months. I don’t know how well known the restaurant is but I think it is a bit hidden inside VCC.

Service was excellent with tons of smiles and a lot of personal service. Simple things that win me over in restaurants (fine dining or otherwise) are servings of warm bread, soft butter, and constant water glass refills. J.J.’s hit all three and you might be surprised how few restaurants do that. The complimentary olive loaf bread was a highlight as it had the perfect balance of spongy texture and saltiness to get the appetite going.

D. explained that J.J.’s is fine dining is normally a la carte, one set price for a choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert. Although throughout the month they also have scheduled all-you-can-eat buffets.

The restaurant staff were very welcoming and friendly, even with my large stroller in tow. Baby was asleep for the first part of the meal allowing E. and I to choose our meals at leisure. (E. is welcome to comment on this entry, if she wishes too. Otherwise I will use “I” statements in terms of what I thought about the food and only comment on E.’s dishes if we shared them.) Unfortunately all of my photos turned out too dark, a camera-fail on my part as I did not set it to flash. I’ll try to describe the dishes more in the absence of photos.

For appetizers we chose the mixed salad and the scallop with pork belly and shared both dishes between the two of us. For full disclosure we should say that D. was the one who prepared the salad, but nonetheless and without bias, I enjoyed it. It was a large portion for an appetizer. The greens were fresh and crisp and the cucumber vinaigrette dressing was acidic enough to prepare the palate for the main course.

In contrast in terms of size, the other appetizer was minuscule, basically one scallop and one pork belly portion. It was well plated, with a tasty turnip puree laid out in wave shapes from one protein to the other. I ate the scallop with a slightly sweet glaze drizzled lightly over it, which was perfectly cooked, but hard to judge overall taste from just one.  E. and I shared the pork belly, (a two-bite portion) which was only slightly larger than the scallop. The combination of the savoury, well-trimmed pork, topped with salty but sliver-thin onion crisps made it a great bite. This should have been called an amuse-bouche rather than a full appy.

In between courses I had to breastfeed the baby, but the restaurant layout was spacious enough that this wasn’t a problem.

The entrees and desserts were of average fare so I won’t dwell on it here. I will say that the ice cream is made in-house, and you can tell the difference in its quality and taste. The baked goods, I understand, are created by a separate class earlier in the day, whose focuses is strictly baking.

For curious eyes who enjoy entertainment while dining there is also a large screen television in the middle of the room which shows the students in the kitchen preparing the food. That must up the ante for them, but probably results in better food for us!

JJ's Restaurant on Urbanspoon