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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. 

Summary
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. 

Naan
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!

Summary
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.

Takoyaki
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.

Summary
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.

Summary
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. 

Summary
Food: Good

Service: Average

Setting: Good

Value: Average


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

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chongqing Restaurant 重慶飯店

Chicken Corn Soup
It's been quite some time since we went to Chongqing Restaurant on Kingsway (10 months!) so we decided to head there for lunch after H's gymnastics class. We arrived around 12:30pm and the restaurant wasn't very busy (yet).

Hot and Sour Soup
I asked for a high chair so the server directed us to sit at a table near the entrance so there's more walking room around the chair. However, the new booth he gave us was in direct sun. Even with the blinds down and closed, J and I were feeling the heat and asked to move. With a much cooler booth, we sat down and put in our orders.

Seafood Chow Mein - standard chow mein with some seafood included. It wasn't bad but it wasn't memorable either.

Seafood Chow Mein
Tan Tan Noodles with Pork Chop - I ordered this one because I like comparing Tan Tan Noodles at various restaurants. I have to admit that I really liked the way they made it. The soup is very thick but there's enough of it that the noodles don't absorb everything. This is important for me since I spend a long time feeding H while I eat. Some places, the noodles absorb all the soup and it's like eating dry noodles. Anyway, the noodles are good and the soup is a bit spicy. I would like to try the Deluxe version next time, which comes with ground meat in the noodles. The pork chop that was served on the side was pretty good. It's dipped in a curry sauce before being fried, so there's a curry taste to the meat which is actually quite original. H really loved the pork chop and ate all but one piece that she let me have..

Tan Tan Noodles
Pork Chop (c/w Tan Tan Noodles)
All lunch special menu dishes come with your choice of soup: hot and sour or chicken corn. We ordered one of each since H can't handle spicy. The chicken corn soup was very thick and had some egg swirl, shredded chicken and bean sprout tips. It was a little too thick and would have been better if there was more substance to it.

Service wasn't bad overall. It was very apparent that they didn't turn on the AC until sometime later when someone probably complained or the employees realized it. It also get pretty busy in there as the lunch crowd started to arrive.

I'm going to make an effort to try out Chongqing for dinner as they have a lot of Szechuan dishes that I really want to try and the food is pretty good.

Summary
Food: Good. Everything is average or better (more better). Soup can be skipped.

Service: Good. Nothing to write home about.

Setting: Good. They have their own parking lot and there's quite a bit of street parking nearby. The restaurant is pretty clean.

Value: Good. The lunch specials were $8.45 and a decent size. Food is good too.

Chongqing Restaurant 重慶飯店 on Urbanspoon




Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Malay Curry House 馬拉星

Malay Curry House is quickly becoming one of my go-to restaurants for a hot bowl of noodles. They are located on Kingsway a block from Boundary and they specialize in Malaysian style curries. They also have a killer Hainan Chicken that's boneless and comes with your choice of 2 sauces from a pretty lengthy list of options.

My favorite items on their menu are the curry soup noodles. They have a kick and very deep flavours from the various spices that they use. On my last visit, it was a little bit on the salty side, but it was still very delicious. You get your option of a couple of different kinds of noodles, but I usually go with the oil noodles because they are thicker and don't absorb too much of the soup which I like drinking along with the noodles. You can get mixed noodles as well, which is what J usually does. You also get to choose what kind of meat you want in it. I tried the lamb and I have to say that I still prefer the beef brisket. The lamb was mostly bone and fat, so it took away from the dish. The beef on the other hand, is very good. The meat is on the fatty side, but they more than make up for it in the quantity that they give you. Their soup noodles all come with napa, fish cakes, and tofu puffs.

The Hainan Chicken is one of their specialties and they actually run out of it sometimes. When we go with a larger party, we usually order a half or whole chicken in advance to ensure that we have one for the kids. They serve their chicken boneless which is great for the kids, and the chicken oil rice is flavourful while not being too oily. The chicken comes with some pickled carrots, radish, and a couple of chunks of pineapple. Soup is also included but it's very light and a bit salty so it's nutritional value is questionable at best.

The sauces are the highlight of the chicken dish. The standard choices with Chinese oil chicken are present and they make them quite well. I am referring to the ginger and chives sauce, and the sweet chili sauce. I tried the lime sauce one time and while I was impressed, I still fall back on the standard sauces.

J has ordered a variety of their other soup noodles and she hasn't been disappointed yet. She loves variety and doesn't like eating at the same places very often, so it speaks volumes when she wants to revisit a restaurant within a couple of weeks.

Another feature that I like about Malay curry house is that you can add a cold drink to your meal for fifty cents. They only have one flavour available at a time, but so far it's always been something fruity like peach or passion fruit tea. It's quite good and balances the heat from the noodles very well (especially in the summer).

The restaurant is decently decorated and pretty clean with several tables and a bench by the window. It is quite spacious and I think they could probably fit a few more tables in there without much problem (although I can't comment on the legality of cramming more people in there).

Service is where a lot of people get turned off by the restaurant. The servers are not well trained and very inefficient. They are slow to respond to customers and they don't monitor the dining room very often. On one particular visit, our server took orders from 2 people at a time from our table of 8. She took 2 orders and went to the kitchen, came back for 2 more orders and went to the kitchen again, and then returned to take another 2 orders. It was quite bizarre and very inefficient.

We have had orders mixed up before too. I had ordered oil noodles and my friend ordered mixed noodles, but we ended up with each others' noodles in the soups that we each picked. They also forget small requests like additional plates or bowls. We end up just walking to the counter instead of requesting them from the servers.

Finally, and this is the biggest problem and probably a deal breaker for many people, the restaurant (or just the servers) often make mistakes on the bill. I know friends and relatives who have eaten there and been billed for more items than they ordered, or billed more for what they did order. This happened to me on both the last 2 visits I made there. Less than a month ago, we were billed for an extra meal. On my last visit, the prices on the bill were higher than on the menu, and we were billed for an entire Hainan chicken instead of just the meal. The number of mistakes we have experienced and have been reported by friends and family are quite high, but I will leave it at that. Make sure you read your bill carefully!

Summary
Food: Very good. Great noodles and Hainan chicken.

Service: Poor. Service is not great, even by Chinese restaurant standards.

Setting: Average. Parking on nearby streets and the dining room is spacious and clean.

Value: Good. Great food and decent prices.

Malay Curry House 馬拉星 on Urbanspoon