Saturday, 13 August 2011

Burnaby Palace (BOUNDARY RD)

Having been introduced to Burnaby Palace Restaurant earlier this year, it was my pleasure to return there for a proper Chinese meal. Tucked away on Boundary road a few blocks south of Grandview, I'd driven by it many times and never noticed it was there. My colleagues agreed that getting a couple dishes and splitting them was the way to go. I wouldn't have it any other way.

You can tell a lot about a Chinese restaurant from it's fried rice. This Chicken Fried Rice ($8) brought me back to China.
More than just soy sauce and rice, the wok had cooked all the flavour of the green onion and chicken into the rice with just the right amount of seasoning. While rice itself is heavy, the flavours of this dish made it light - anyone can eat it and enjoy it's almost Western-cuisine simpleness. No crazy sauces here.

The second dish was Ginger Beef ($11). I don't recall ever eating this in China, but this was the best dish there and I'm incredibly happy to have stumbled upon it.
The beef had a crisp but chewy texture on the outside, the result of the sweetness in the sauce caramelizing as it fried in the wok. The ginger in the dish was spot on, breaking through the sweetness but not overpowering the flavour of the beef. Even a non-ginger fan could eat this and enjoy it. A few more peppers would've added a bit more colour and contrast to the dish. Will gladly order again.

Last but not least, one of my favourite Chinese dishes - Twice Cooked Pork. It's pork belly that is first boiled with ginger and salt, then thinly sliced and fried up, hence the name. In Chengdu, this dish arrived with a lot of thinly sliced green peppers and leeks, heavy on the garlic. It seems like cabbage is the vegetable of choice for filler in Canada, and it's not quite the same.

Ordinarily cooked with bean paste, a bit of soy, and rice wine thrown in to start, the flavour of the sauce wasn't particularly mind-blowing in this case. I enjoyed it, but there wasn't enough garlic to bring it up to my authentic experiences in China. The pork was also cut larger and thicker than usual, sometimes requiring two bites to fit a piece into your mouth. In it's defense, the meat was tender and juicy, complimented by the decent but not amazing sauce. It is one of the better Twice/Double-Cooked pork I've had over here, but still not exactly what I'm looking for.

Overall, I really enjoy eating here, and will be going back to try some dishes outside my friend's comfort zones. The prices are good for the quality, the service was friendly and attentive, and the food arrives at a decent speed. Looking forward to eating here again.

Burnaby Palace on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 6 August 2011

The Reef (MAIN ST)

Last year while working on a feature film in the area, I had the pleasure of eating at The Reef on Main St.

Having lived in Trinidad for a year, I'm very fond of Roti and Jerk meat items. The Reef is a small taste of the 6 months I spent living in Trinidad at the age of 17. Sitting down is almost like going back there, serving a large variety of dishes ranging from Jerked Chicken Quesadillas to standard Curry dishes. All jerk and hot sauces are handmade here as well, both of which are an excellent addition to any meal created here. Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic) is essentially mandatory for every meal, GET ONE.

Wanting to try something new from the culture I missed so dearly, I went for the Ackee Saltfish ($15). Essentially a combination of fish, ackee fruit, and tomatoes all mixed together, it's kinda like scrambled eggs, minus the eggs. Ackee fruit is known for having the taste of look of eggs.

Thank God that the flavours were so good. Having never tried it before, the ackee fruit tended to have quite a mild flavour. The texture in the mouth is a little bit closer to a Papaya than eggs, and the "egg flavour" is sweet and really not that strong. It's something I will be picking up next time I see it at a market to sample it's raw flavours.

Not being a common fish, the Saltfish gets sent over from the East coast. Every bite of this dish allowed the flavour of the Saltfish to come through in it, even if the fish wasn't prominent on the fork. A couple larger chunks allowed me to really examine the fish, and while it's not market fresh the fish had good flavour and worked very well in the dish.

Served on the side were beans with rice, pretty plain but standard Caribbean fare, acting more as filler than anything else. The coleslaw was citrus based, light and with the right amount of seasoning.

Last, but definitely not least is the Johnny cake, sitting on top of the mound like the king of the hill. A basket of these come to every table when you sit down. Essentially a deep-fried dumpling, these things are warm and chewy, just like a good dumpling should be. These are so good you could eat them plain, but a little butter on top makes them even better.

Heading back to The Reef after being away for a year was great. I enjoyed it so much I went back the next day. If your on Main Street, be sure to check this place out. Their menu runs along the lines of Caribbean pub food, but it's tasty and simple, there's something for everyone.  They also have some decent drink specials and even a brunch on the weekends.

The Reef (Main) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Raglan's Bistro (LOWER LONSDALE)

Raglan's in Lower Lonsdale is a Tiki bar that serves large bowls of intoxicating tropical beverages. Being here for lunch, I held myself back and opted for food instead. The "bistro" has a wicked surfer/reggae vibe, and is apparently named after a famous surfspot in New Zealand. I decided to go for something a bit more expensive than my usual lunch fare, and therefore a bit more unique.

The Hawaiian Tuna burger ($15)  is a seared slab of tuna with a Chipotle mayo and a slice of pineapple on it. At $15 (most expensive "burger" there), I was expecting to be blown away. Well, the Chipotle mayo was delicious (great with their yam fries) and added a nice element to the burger. The sweet fresh pineapple really made my tastebuds tingle and offset the burger beautifully. Sadly, the Tuna wasn't seared, it was definitely cooked through. It was either overcooked or freezer burnt, having that stringier texture but not chewy, so I'm betting on the former. The tuna still tasted good, just not full of as much flavour as everything else on the burger, being overpowered by the pineapple.

The French Fries were hand-cut and covered in salt. They were a little soft to my liking, but tasted fine and the size was decent. The couple bites of fresh coleslaw in the corner was better than the fries. Crisp and with a bit of tang, I wish there was a much larger portion and less fries.

I enjoy Raglans. The large tropical punch bowls are always a winner with friends and the food is normally quite good. The atmosphere is awesome here. They often show surf videos on the TV screens around the joint, the music is always relaxed and summery, and the bright colourful decor on the walls of mixed surfer paraphanelia and random traveller bits-n-bobs really adds to what makes this place a great place to be. I've had their incredibly large AND delicious pulled pork poutine before, and the burritos are also a great place to start. While the prices are higher than most bars, it's definitely a good place to check out at least once with friends.

Sherman has a great review of Raglans!


Raglan's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, 1 August 2011

Five Guys Burgers and Fries (WEST VANCOUVER)

I had the unexpected pleasure of dropping in to Five Guys with Fries at Park Royal in North Vancouver. This wasn't a planned trip, photos are simple iPhone snaps, but were here for the food anyway. If you don't know Five Guys with Fries, it's a very successful chain much like In-N-Out, simply good burgers, minimal side options and only fountain drinks.

First off, $7.99 gets you a 2-patty burger, with all toppings of your choice FREE, including fried onions or mushrooms.

Fresh Onions
Grilled Onions
Grilled Mushrooms
Jalapeno Peppers
Green Peppers 
A.1.® Steak Sauce
Bar-B-Q Sauce
Hot Sauce

Every burger is custom built for you, with exactly what you want on it. We ordered the Cajun fries with it as well, and any drink is unlimited refills.

Well, after a short wait, our number was called. When you order fries, they fill your cup up inside your bag by dumping a huge shovelful in, there is always more fries than your cup can handle so you have this hot burger buries in yummy fries. It's another little thing they do here that makes your remember it, kind of like the cups of peanuts they have for you to munch on while you wait. Other locations let you throw your shells on the floor, but not this one.

The Cajun fries had a very nice spice on them, and the freshness of the hand-cut potatoes made them well worth eating. A large order is more than enough for two people to eat.

The burger. Well, needless to say my photos don't do this puppy justice. I was shaking so hard from the delicious, perfectly seasoned double patty that I could barely hold the camera still. I wanted another bite. 
All the ingredients I ordered were on the burger and balanced with each other perfectly, they portioned the toppings well. The hamburger buns were smaller, like ones you'd use at a backyard BBQ, but that added to the charm of the burger. Buns are just there to hold the good stuff together, too many places use big bloated buns, these are perfect.  

For the price your paying, your getting a pretty damn good meal. It was over $30 for one large fries order, 2 normal drink, and 2 double-patty burgers. There's a reason this chain has grown so large down south, and it's due to it's incredibly good burger quality. Nothing fancy here, no pineapple slices or teriyaki chicken, just SOLID burgers.


Five Guys Burgers & Fries (West Van) on Urbanspoon