Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thyme to Indulge Catering

As often happens on weekends, J and I had trouble deciding what to eat for brunch. J loves trying different places so she set out on a mission to find a new place to eat. She stumbled upon an article listing restaurants with "to-die-for breakfasts in Vancouver". That is how we ended up eating at Thyme to Indulge Bistro. (I found the article a little suspect, as a majority of the restaurants listed were on Main Street)
Crab Cake Benedict
Croque Madame
Croque Madame
Kids Scrambled Eggs and Sausage
Various Macaroons

Nestled next to the Dairy Queen on Main and 13th, the restaurant is small and doesn't really stand out with its small storefront. We found street parking nearby and waited over 30 minutes for a table (our fault for arriving during the peak of the brunchtime rush).

Once seated, we put in our orders and admired the interior decor. With bright white walls and plenty of natural light from the windows, the interior was very welcoming. It was also quite busy.

Service was pretty good with attentive servers. Our order took a little longer than we expected (a table that was seated after us and ordered at the same time received their food ahead of us by a bit), but the quality of the food made up for the wait.

Crab Cake Benedict - What is there not to love about crabcakes and eggs benedict? The cakes were deliciously moist and crispy on the outside, and the eggs were cooked to perfection. My personal favourite was the toasted focaccia that the eggs and cakes were served on. Forget English muffins!

Croque Madame - I have had this dish at a few different French restaurants, and I have to admit that Thyme's is the heartiest. The sauteed onions, peppers, and spinach made it stand out amongst its competitors'. My only criticism is that the bechamel sauce made the bread a little soggy. Nonetheless, the dish was superb.

Kids Eggs and Sausage - What you see is what H got. Eggs. Sausage. 'Nuff said.

We also got H a couple of macaroons which she took apart with great amusement.

Overall, I was quite satisfied with our meal. I wouldn't describe it as "to-die-for", but it was good and I would definitely go back. Next time though, I will aim for 12:30pm or much earlier to avoid the crowd.

Food: Great. The standout feature of Thyme is the food. A definite recommendation.

Service: Good. The staff are friendly and attentive, but the food did take a little longer than expected.

Setting: Good. The location is busy, but the restaurant itself is quite nice.

Value: Good. Prices are reasonable and the food is great!

Thyme To Indulge Catering on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 2, 2015

Kongee Dinesty 金津粥品專門店

After a year long hiatus, I'm back with more reviews, and I'm starting with a newly opened restaurant in Richmond called Kongee Dinesty.

The restaurant is in an easily accessible plaza on Garden city and Capstan Way. The plaza is now filled with restaurants, but even at lunchtime there were plenty of parking spots. 

The interior is quite new and reminds me of Dinesty (same owner maybe?). It's bright, spacious, and plenty of daylight comes through the interestingly dressed up window that makes it near impossible to see into the restaurant from outside. 

We were given the lunch menu so it was quite limited. We ordered just a few dishes to see if it was good and we weren't disappointed.

Sampan Congee - A congee staple at most establishments, it was average to good. J doesn't meat pig's ears, so I don't know why she orders this. H didn't really care for it but she didn't complain either.

Sweet Chinese Donut - A favourite of mine. It was decent here, but tasted a little too doughy. H loved it though. I liked how it wasn't overly fried. 

Pan Fried Turnip Cake with X.O. Sauce - This dish was the main event of my meal. The turnip cake was cut into cubes and pan fried in sauce. The cubes were a little on the thick side, so you get a lot of soft turnip cake in every bite (as opposed to the crispy outside). It could be cut a little thinner to increase the ratio of crispness. The sauce was tasty, but they could have been a bit more generous with it. The one thing I didn't like was the bean sprouts. They were flavorless and seemed to be added to the plate as more of a garnish than part of the dish. 

Chinese Donut Wrapped with Rice Roll - in a nutshell I was disappointed with this dish. Maybe I was getting full and they served this nearly 20 minutes after everything else we ordered. However, I found that the doughnut was too doughy, and the rice wrap was a little below average. They provided a bit of sauce, but it felt a little stingy too. Overall, I probably wouldn't order it again. 

H also got a glass of warm soy milk, which was just okay. 

Service wasn't bad. There were probably 6 staff waiting tables and hosting, but there were also a few times we had to wait to flag someone down. The restaurant only has about 20 tables, so they can probably do with being a little more attentive. 

Overall, I think I will go back because it's new, there's lots of parking, and they have a more extensive dinner menu that I haven't even looked at yet. For now, I do recommend trying it out, but time might change that recommendation. 

Food: Good. Based purely on lunch, it was close to just being average.

Service: Good. There were plenty of servers, but at times they weren't very attentive.

Setting: Good. It's a new establishment.

Value: Good. Their prices are quite reasonable and the food is pretty good.

Kongee Dinesty 金津粥品專門店 on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kumare Restaurant & Bakery

Our friends wanted to get their Filipino food fix, so we booked Kumare Restaurant & Bakery for a Saturday night dinner.

Lumpiang Shanghai
The restaurant is in a small plaza and there were just enough parking spaces for the size of the restaurant. When we arrived, we were seated pretty quickly but it took a long time between visits from the servers to place our order. The place was quite busy, but the servers clearly weren't very attentive that night. The food also took a very long time before they were served, but it could have been due to the number of large parties dining that evening.

We ordered 6 dishes and split everything 'family style'. Following is what was ordered.

Chicken Pandan
Lumpiang Shanghai - Deep fried bite sized spring rolls made up of ground pork, shrimp, and onions. Served with a side of sweet chili sauce. The sauce was the best part of the dish. The spring rolls had a light, thin, crispy skin, but the stuffing was very 'mystery meat'-like. The ingredients were very well-ground up so the texture was very bland.

Chicken Pandan - Fried chicken marinated in coconut milk and wrapped with pandan leaves. The chicken was very tasty and juicy. I thought the coconut milk flavour was too light, and overall the dish was too greasy.

Kumare's Rice
Kumare's Rice - Shrimp paste (bagoong) fried rice garnished with shredded mangoes. The mangoes had little to no taste and didn't add much to the rice and could have been left off completely.

Adobong Sitaw - String beans, shrimp, and pork braised in soy sauce, garlic, and vinegar. The sour nature of the sauce made this a favourite at our table. It went well with the garlic rice and the flavours were well received. I never thought I would enjoy minced pork with vinegar.

There were also 2 pork dishes that I honestly can't remember the names/descriptions of. The grilled one was actually quite good and very flavourful. The only thing I didn't like about it was that it was extremely greasy. The second pork dish was a little overwhelming in terms of the 'porkie' taste. The sauce it came with was good, but it was a little light in taste and heavy on cream.

Adobong Sitaw
After all the mains, we also ordered a couple of Halo Halo desserts which I didn't end up trying because I was feeling sick (not from the food, just in general).

Foodwise, all the dishes were very tasty but they were also consistently too greasy. I'm not sure if this is something common with Filipino restaurants as 3 of 3 that I have tried in the Lower Mainland are all pretty greasy.

Grilled Pork
The restaurant location wasn't bad as they practically have their own parking lot in front of the restaurant. The interior was a little confusing as it feels modern with dark colours and dim lighting, but the nature of the food they serve is more family-oriented. 

Despite the hit on service and the greasiness of the food, I still recommend Kumare Restaurant & Bakery because the food is good. Although, I would also recommend the greasiest dishes in moderation. 

Food: Very Good. This one could have slipped down to Good, but in moderation the greasiness can be overcome. 

Braised Pork
Service: Poor. The servers are slow and aren't really attentive to all the tables in a consistent manner. The kitchen is also quite slow with serving up orders. 

Setting: Average. Just enough parking out front, and tables that can be easily arranged for large parties. 

Value: Good. Their prices are quite reasonable and the food is pretty good. 

Halo Halo
Kumare Restaurant & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Ginger Indian Cuisine

Ginger Indian Cuisine left me very pleasantly surprised.

Butter Mekhani
J ordered the usual Butter Mekhani which she shared with H. The portion size was generous and the dish was thick and very rich with flavour. It tasted great and went well with the naan and rice. It didn't taste over complicated with too many different spices. Since H shared the dish, she had to order it non-spicy. 

Daily Special
I ordered the Daily Special which is basically 2 types of curry on a plate instead of 1 (plus a samosa). That night it was Korma and Kadai Paneer (if memory serves). I asked for my dishes to be spicy. I felt that both were a little thin but they were tasty nonetheless. Again, the ingredients in the both curries gave them a rich taste, but they didn't taste too heavy in spices. The samosa was average. I thought it was very light on stuffing. 

The Naan was quite good. It wasn't too thick and it was cooked well and lightly crispy. It wasn't the best I've had in the Lower Mainland but it ranked near the top. We also ordered the Paneer Naan, which is naan stuffed with a combination of cheeses, cilantro, and spices. It was quite heavy and really could have served as a substitute to naam plus rice. It was very good, but in hindsight I probably would have skipped ordering rice. 

Service was pretty good. It wasn't very busy at the restaurant but many patrons came and went and also commented very positively about the food. Many of the other patrons shared my sentiments in that it was like a gem of a restaurant to find in Richmond.

The restaurant is located in a small plaza on Bridgeport Road near Costco. The other shops in the plaza are all closed at night so there was ample parking. The interior of the restaurant was moderately well-lit and they had a TV on one of the walls playing the hockey game.

Paneer Naan
Overall, I would go back to Ginger Indian Cuisine. I know of several good Indian restaurants in Vancouver, but this is the first one in Richmond that I have tried that I enjoyed enough to want to go back. I recommend it!

Food: Good. I would almost rate it Very Good, but I did feel that my curries were a little thin.

Service: Good.

Setting: Good. Ample parking and there`s a TV for the hockey game.

Value: Good. The price weren't outrageous and the quality is good.

Ginger Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hanafubuki Sushi 花吹雪

We had a dinner-for-two voucher for Hanafubuki Sushi, so we picked a night and went to try it out. We were a little surprised when we found the place because the dining area only seats 6. Luckily for us, one of the three tables in the restaurant was empty, so we didn't have to wait.

Our voucher was good for 2 miso soups, a share plate of takoyaki (equivalent to 2 orders), and a dinner plate for each of us consisting of 2 pieces of aburi toro sushi, a side salad, and a Magma roll (BBQ salmon, cucumber, avocado, imitation crab, and cream cheese topped with baked yam, green onion and specialty sauce).

The food quality was pretty good. The salad and the greens in the Magma roll tasted fresh. The takoyaki was a little soggy but delicious nonetheless. I thought that a single order would have been sufficient as J and I were counting how many we each already had as we got down to the last couple.

Magma Roll Dinner
The aburi toro was fresh tasting and stole the show from the Magma roll which took center place on the dinner plate. The ingredients in the roll didn't go together quite well. There was a little too much rice which took away from the other ingredients and flavours. Also, the specialty sauce was a little bland, which didn't complement the baked yam or the green onion well. The BBQ salmon could have used more seasoning as well. All in all, most of the ingredients were either dry or starchy (naturally, not in a bad way), so it really depended on the sauce to bring it together, which is where it didn't really shine.

The quantity of food was good, even though I was quite hungry when we arrived. Service was good and attentive (although one would hope so when there are only a maximum of 6 people in the restaurant). Parking is typical for Robson Street, so expect to pay a couple of bucks for a parking meter.

Overall, the food wasn't bad but the location and size coupled with the un-extraordinary food aren't screaming for me to make a return visit anytime soon.

Food: Average. Good quality but the execution was lacking on the Magma roll.

Service: Good.

Setting: Average. Very small restaurant (6 seats total).

Value: Average.

Hanafubuki Sushi 花吹雪 on Urbanspoon

Matoi Sushi

When we're out in Coquitlam visiting our friends, we usually head to Matoi for dinner. It's a Japanese restaurant run by Japanese (rarer than it sounds in the Lower Mainland).  The food isn't spectacular or anything, but it's always fresh and the quality is good and consistent.

On our latest visit I ordered the beef teriyaki dinner box which comes with salad and rice. The variety in the box is fairly typical for a dinner box, but as I mentioned it's the quality of the food that keeps me going back.

The teriyaki is not overly salty or drowning in sauce as some places tend to do. The tempura has a good amount of batter (not too much and not too little) and it always comes out looking bright light yellow, indicating the oil used is pretty fresh.

If you're picky about the rice used for the sushi and maki rolls, it's also good to know that they use Japanese rice and a good ratio of rice to rice vinegar. Some places use too much or none at all and try to pass it off as Japanese.

Service is pretty average. It's not bad but it's not anything to highlight. It's not hard to get a server's attention as the dining area is a large room with a couple of semi-private rooms along one wall. 
The restaurant is in a plaza with plenty of parking available so you never has to fight for parking or worry about paying a meter. 

Overall, Matoi is good Japanese restaurant that is consistent in qulality and service. If you don't feel like restaurant gambling and leaving your dining experience to chance, I definitely recommend this restaurant.

Food: Good. Fresh ingredients and consistently good quality.

Service: Good.

Setting: Good. The restaurant is clean and parking is quick and easy.

Value: Good. You pay for the ingredients and quality. 

Matoi Sushi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pearl Castle Café 圓香生活餐飲

This review is for the Pearl Castle chain, although my most recent visit was the Richmond Centre location.

Milky Seafood Hotpot
Pearl Castle was a long-time favourite of mine, but in recent years they have spread themselves quite thin and lost the focus on quality. They regularly raise their prices and keep opening new locations. 

My most recent visit was to the Richmond Centre location. Their menu is pretty consistent across locations and they have quite a bit of variety. I decided to try their milky seafood hotpot for a change and was a little disappointed. 

Milky Seafood Hotpot
The pot was rather large but most of it was soup and lots of cabbage. There were a few pieces of seafood in the pot including a shrimp and a mussel. The soup was rich with milk and pretty flavorful. However, overall I wasn't impressed and probably won't ever order it again. 

Service is standard for a Chinese restaurant, and the setting is pretty average. The only bonus for the Richmond Centre location is that it's in a mall so parking and shopping are readily available. 

Overall, I would recommend the Pearl Castle chain of restaurants, but I would stick with the Sexsmith location and some of the other dishes that you everyone else ordering like the crispy peppery chicken nuggets or the three spice chicken.

I find that in general, the Minoru (Richmond Centre) location is slower on service and the food quality isn't at the same level as their original location on Sexsmith. 

Food: Good

Service: Average

Setting: Good

Value: Average

Pearl Castle Café 圓香生活餐飲 (Minoru) on Urbanspoon