Manila Grille Doesn’t Make the Grade

I had been away from the beginning of winter and upon my return, I was happy to see that the Manila Grille, another Filipino restaurant, had taken over the former Cucina Manila’s spot on Joyce Street in Vancouver.

This past weekend was my first chance to try it out. The set-up is a bit awkward. From the door you see tables and chairs closely bunched together, then into the right corner is some baked goods, the cashier, then the bain-marie so you can pick your food (typical turo-turo style). It left myself as a new customer, a little confused about where exactly to line up. Some signage may help or having one of the staff greeting people upon entering as the restaurant isn’t large.

I hovered near the bain-marie and unknowingly jumped the line, but the gentleman that was supposed to be served first was quite understanding. The service from staff was fairly abrupt. The staff person was complaining loudly to us that she was short-staffed and while I can definitely understand that frustration, I don’t believe that the customers should bear the brunt of her wrath.

I ordered the 2-dish with rice combo. My two dishes included sinigang na baboy (sour tamarind soup with pork spare ribs and veggies) and chicken barbeque on a stick. Budget-wise it still met my mmmmura scale coming in at less than $10. Portion-wise, the rice was plenty, as was the chicken. In contrast, my small sinigang container was filled with two largely chopped pieces of daikon (which probably took up half of the container) leaving space for only a few pieces of spare rib and a couple of pieces of baby bok choy and string beans.

In terms of taste, I did enjoy the sinigang, but not the daikon. The broth was at the medium-range of sourness and was not fatty. The chicken barbeque looked saucy and I couldn’t wait to take a bite. Unfortunately, immediately after that bite, I realized that the barbeque was stone-cold. I had ordered it from the bain-marie, but I am guessing it must not have been in a heated portion of the food warmer. I was very disappointed. Luckily, I had a microwave at work otherwise, I would not have been able to eat it at all.

I had chosen dishes that were usually my favourite go-to’s for Filipino restaurant. Since both didn’t make the grade I would have to be hard-pressed to return.

Manila Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Startin’ up at Silogs

While not my blog’s main focus, I do try to go to as many Filipino restaurants as I can, especially since it is my main fare and I love to know where the best dishes are made.

Most Filipino restaurants are of two types – either you order off a menu, or it is turo-turo style (loosely translated as point-point) as most food offerings are already cooked and in warmers that are easily viewed and you just point at what you want adding rice as a side.

20161119_110704Silogs is a new start-up in New Westminster and they are trying to be different from those two main types and I think they can succeed. They are using the niche of specializing in the quintessential Filipino breakfast: ‘Silogs. Silogs is the end part of a Tagalog mish-mash that begins with the protein you choose. For example, longsilog is longanisa (sweet cured sausage), sinangag (garlic fried rice), and itlog (egg).

Silogs takes it to a whole other level offering not-so-common proteins such as the chopsilog that I had. It included a lightly-battered fried pork chop that was cooked well, not oily, nor heavy. The same could be said for their fried rice. My eggs were over-easy (as ordered). I loved their ‘Epic’ vinegar, which I’m guessing had either Tabasco sauce or sambal oelek or chili paste mixed in with the vinegar. It was the perfect dipping sauce to the chop.


As I was sharing with my little guy, I ordered Combo 1 which allows for two proteins. We went for the made in-house, skinless longanisa. It was a little peppery for him. It also had a slight glaze on it, which didn’t add anything for me. I would have enjoyed it much more without it.

D. ordered the lechonsilog but found the pork belly to be a bit average (her words).

Since it was our first time we made the unusual decision of having dessert a20161119_114724fter lunch. D. chose the leche flan which is sort of like a creme caramel. The portion was quite generous. In terms of taste, the caramelization on top was a bit bitter almost to the point of burnt and the texture overall wasn’t as creamy as I like.

Other than the food, at lunch time on a weekend, this seemed to be the place to be as we bumped into four different people that we knew. For full disclosure, one included someone who worked there, which I didn’t know beforehand. I think my avid fans would 20161119_110719agree that it did not bias my review either way.

On my Mmm…Sarap! rating scale, I would grade Silogs a mmmmura because the food definitely filled all three bellies for less than $25 and I was in a food coma afterwards as proof! I also like their quirky signs, including the license plates from Manitoba and the Yukon Territory where the owners have had previous restaurants.

Epic Grill Silogs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Some wonderful meals in Whitehorse

Before trekking out to Whitehorse I had asked one of my colleagues for some recommendations. Funny thing was, for one reason or another, I was only able to go to a couple of her recommendations. Despite this, I am happy to report that I had some wonderful meals in Whitehorse and ensured that I still hit local establishments.

My best experience was at The Wheelhouse Waterfront Dining restaurant. It was the last place I was able to enjoy a meal before returning home. It is the fancier and pricier restaurant in town, but I loved the ambience of the antique tins and wooden crates from all across Canada and the nautical elements.

20161016_192955In terms of the food, I had never had Artic char before. Their grill offering came with quinoa, which was putting me off. Thankfully they allowed me to substitute it with the braised mushroom rice that normally comes with their duck confit dish.  I did not receive the bruschetta that is listed on the menu, perhaps because of my rice substitution. Instead, my meal came with a side of vegetables. All together it was a superb dish! The Artic char was a hefty fillet topped with herb butter and arugula. My friend and I agreed that it tasted less like salmon and was more similar in texture to tuna. It was cooked well, moist, even without the herb butter. The braised mushroom rice was a great pairing to the Artic char. The rice wasn’t heavy and its flavour did not overpower the fish. There were ample mushrooms, which I can appreciate. The vegetables were orange carrots, purple beets, and red peppers. Adding a bit of the herb butter to them made them very enjoyable and I was able to eat everything on my plate. This is particularly noteworthy considering I almost never eat beets!

Baba Sweets & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Next up is our first unexpected surprise, brought to us by a colleague who was also working the event I was at. The Gold Pan Saloon is very much what one would imagine a sports bar to be, a long bar that wrapped around half the space, multiple screens featuring different sports (I stopped counting at five), but still a substantial seating area. Lunch was hopping on both days that we attended, a Friday and a Sunday. My first visit I had the seafood board which included deep fried mussels, shrimp, calamari, with sourdough bread and two dipping sauces. It also included salsa fresco which helped lighten the deep fried factor. We debated if it was too much food for one person, but since a woman at a nearby table had ordered it and did not seem to be having any trouble we decided not to split the dish. I enjoyed the variety and tapas-style offering. I savoured the chili sauce because there was a hint of heat, it was not sweet, and it had enough vinegar to act as a counterpoint to the taste of the mussels and calamari. My second visit I ordered the salmon burger. The patty retained the natural flavour of the salmon with a hint of dill and lemon without taking away its innate juiciness. Two not-so positive comments I have about the Gold Pan Saloon is that it is a pricier lunch (even considering we are talking about Whitehorse) and they aren’t consistent in their kitchen. The first visit my colleague was able to get a half-and-half order of salad and fries. When I tried the same thing on my second visit, I was told no and just got a full salad.

A couple of other honourable mentions include The Deck and Legends. At The Deck my friend and I split their Deck sampler and a two-piece fish and chips dish. You can probably sense by now that I love ordering a bunch of things so I can try a lot more dishes. We really liked the fish dish. The batter was light with great taste and the fries were very easy to munch on, not overly salty, nor oily. On the other hand, the sampler was a good amount of food, but nothing that stood out. It was the first time I had a jalapeno slammer, which was a jalapeno with goat cheese inside and bacon wrapped around it. It wasn’t spicy and the bacon definitely made it easier to eat the jalapeno. The wings and ribs were overdone so I didn’t enjoy the meat as much as I expected to.

Legends had good breakfasts at reasonable prices. I had all of my three breakfasts there because of my work schedule and location. For my first breakfast, I loved the bannock over bread option, although it was a denser bannock than I’ve had before. My second breakfast was a great bagel sandwich, where the bagel was soft, and having two types of meats, Canadian ham and bacon was standard and were not oily at all. Finally for breakfast three, being able to substitute more sausage links when I didn’t want to eat eggs anymore to accompany my large pancakes filled me up as I knew I wouldn’t be able to have lunch that day until much later than normal.20161014_072326.jpg

I hope that I am able to return to Whitehorse one day as there were so many other places that I wanted to taste their food fare.

Baba Sweets is spicy!

Trust me to go to a place called Baba Sweets and eat only savory items. Regular readers won’t be surprised as they know I don’t have a sweet tooth.

Happy to say I’ve made another great discovery in my neighbourhood. I was actually aiming to try a place across the street, but their opening hours listed on-line are different from real life. With Baba Sweets & Restaurant in Burnaby already open, it was that time or never for lunch that day, so in I went.

I ordered the butter chicken lunch special and added an order of chicken pakora. Only after the food was brought out was I asked if I had someone joining me. Sheepishly I said, “Um…no. I didn’t realize my order would result in so much food!”

The lunch special includes different choices of main which comes with a small Indian salad, half a plate of rice, and four pieces of naan. This was all placed in front of me, with my chosen butter chicken main, then a full plate of chicken pakora was added to my table. Needless to say, I had leftovers.

I really liked the chicken pakora. I decided to test my taste buds and went for medium spice, instead of my regular choice of mild. The menu describes it as boneless chicken marinated in yogurt, ginger, and garlic, that is fried served then with chutney. Medium for me was definitely spicy! However, the chutney was the perfect cooling compliment, so as long as I ate them together, I could enjoy each bite. I can also attest that when I had them for leftovers the next day, the heat and flavour had intensified overnight.

Price generally matched the amount of food you receive (note to self) so I’ll remember that the next time I order. I am certain there will be a next time.

Baba Sweets & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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!

Aioli Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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!


Panaderia Latina Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.


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.

Freebird Chicken Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato