I believe that food like good music and a good book is a solace to a person's soul. Food is both a science and an art - a yin-yang balance to your body and also an appreciation of colors, textures and sensory experience.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nuba - 3166 West Broadway

Nuba (Kitsilano) on Urbanspoon

My classmate from graduate school treated me for an awesome lunch last week (or was it the week before?). We went to a Lebanese restaurant which was newly opened at West Broadway. I understand that Nuba has a chain of restaurants in the Lower Mainland and the West Broadway outlet is their new addition to their chain. It was my first time eating at Nuba and I must say that I had not had Lebanese food in ages.

I ordered Chicken Tawook which came with salad, hummus, pita and rice. The chicken was well seasoned with paprika and other spices and was very well marinated. I like the fact that there were burnt grilled bits in my chicken - a bit of carbon always add some texture to the food. And the chicken was surprisingly tender.  I recalled the server asking me whether I wanted hot sauce to my chicken and I readily agreed. I find the salad so refreshing and it provided a nice balance to the well-seasoned chicken. My favorite part of the meal was dipping the hummus on the warm pita bread. I totally approve!! We ended our meal with a nice cup of latte. I was totally satisfied with my meal.

The presentation was lovely. I think the cream sauce complimented the spice in the chicken quite well.

As you can tell- I am totally in love with my grilled chicken!   

I think the green dip was my hummus. I can't remember now. It was creamy and yet not too rich.

My friend's meal - I know it looks dry but she seemed to totally love it. She made up her mind very quickly that she wanted the cauliflower. 

Her salad looks so inviting - so moist: it speaks to me. Hahaha!

My friend ordered Najib's Special which was some crispy cauliflower marinated with sea salt and spices. I was so tempted to try but it would be so rude. I am so Asian at times - I love communal eating and trying food from other people's plate. After all, variety is the spice of life and all the more so with food!!

I had an enjoyable conversation with my friend - we talked about research, family, conferences, and even cultural issues. Once again, great food and excellent company. I love Vancouver!

Overall Experience:
Deco: 4/5 - the restaurant had this modern feel to it. I felt quite comfortable. Lighting there was great - not too harsh and it relaxed my frazzled nerves.
Quality of food: 5/5 - I totally approve!! I like the fact that it was not high in sodium. I will come back here for the chicken and the hummus! Would love to try the lamb too!!
Value for $$: $$$/5 - its pretty reasonable. If I ordered the chicken pita, its $9.50 but for an additional $2.50, I had the plate - which is pretty substantial. And it included the hummus!! I think its cheaper to eat here during lunch than dinner. You get a better value for your $$.
Overall Experience: 4/5. Service was impeccable and food came promptly. Worth another visit. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

La Bodega Restaurante & Tapa Bar, Howe Street

La Bodega on Urbanspoon

A close friend came back to Vancouver for a visit and we decided to have a feast on tapas at Howe Street. I must say that its been a LONG time since I had tapas so it was a welcome change and delight. One of the things I enjoy about eating tapas was that its really great way to share food with a group - you basically have a range of interesting food to savor - vegetarian, meat dishes and seafood. However, communal eating might be a challenge if individuals in your group have specific food allergies and dietary preferences. But it always can be managed and everyone can have a good meal and a great time. We ordered a wide spread and I was stuffed by the end of it. But of course, food always taste so much better when it comes with great company and fellowship. I had a blast!

The chorizo sausages were wonderful - they were supposed to be salty and went well with warm bread. It was moist and tender.

The baby artichokes with vinaigrette dressing was a welcome delight from the traditional salad dishes. I recommend this.

The grilled pork loin went extremely welcome with the bread. It was well seasoned. The pork was pretty tender.

The calamares were pretty average though - its a bit too chewy and not crispy enough -  I do like the dip - it was green in colour. Not sure what was the mixture but one of the reasons, I ate so much of the calamares was because I was so enamored with the dip.

The chicken livers with chilpotles and cream was my least favorite dish. I much prefer eating pork liver rather than chicken liver though. Personally, this is a dish that I would not order again. I felt that the chicken liver was a bit dry and crumbly and the only saving grace was the sauce to soften the meat.

Arroz Blanco which is a rice and black olive dish was light and flavorful. The rice was pretty moist.

Top on my list, however is the seafood and sausages Spanish rice paella which had a lot of ingredients - shrimps, clams, sausages and spices. The rice itself was aromatic and was so flavorful, probably because of the infusion of spices and the rich ingredients.

A downside - the food can be pretty salty. Someone in the group commented on that but I was so famished I did not realize it until the end of the meal. I felt dehydrated when I got home. So, the high sodium factor was a minus point for me.

Overall Experience:
Deco: 3.5-4/5 - the restaurant had a warm and cozy feel. Great ambiance.
Quality of food: 3.5/5 - deducted points because of the high sodium
Value for $$: $$/5 - Some of the dishes are pretty pricey. But the thing that irk me the most was the service. One of my friends do not take seafood so we asked whether it is possible to substitute the seafood in the paella dish with something else. I guess it was not possible to do so because the restaurant cooked the tapas in bulk. However, the irritated look and response from the server annoyed me. She could have done a better job in explaining the situation to us.
Overall Experience: 3.5/5 - if I have to just evaluate the food and the overall service. 5/5 because of the wonderful friendship and fellowship!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Late Night Feasting at No. 9 Restaurant, Richmond

No.9 Restaurant 九記 on Urbanspoon

This 24 hour joint is a life savior when hungry pangs hit you in the middle of the night. One of my favorite dishes from No. 9 is  Szechuan chicken and fried spinach. I find this dish less oily compared to other fried spinach dishes I tried elsewhere. The combination of spice and the crispy spinach is simply divine. And I always amazed that the spinach always looks so green. Another of my favorite dishes  is their noodles and soup dish - I usually order shui gow. I love the taste of shrimps and pork in a dumpling. Good wholesome goodness. Their fried rice is pretty awesome too - chicken and salty fish.

They also serve combo meals (which offers a range of options including BBQ meat dishes and other cooked food). 99 also offers your typical Hong Kong fare such as  Hong Kong style French toast glazed with honey or peanut butter.

The chicken looks oily - but trust me, this is still a less oilier version compared to other similar dishes. The texture of the chicken was succulent and there was a definite kick to this dish.
The bed of crispy spinach provides a nice contrast to the chicken.

The "more chicken than spinach look" - Yummy!

This bowl of noodles is comfort food to me.

I always prefer the thicker and flat version of noodles.

Fried rice paradise.

Pretty generous serving of ingredients. 99's version of fried rice is not too wet and dry. I like it more than the noodles actually.

Deco: 1/5 - this is a no-fuss food joint . I tend to get paranoid about dropping my scarf on the floor because it looks so grimy
Quality of food: 4/5. I am quite happy with the general quality of the food.
Value for $$: $$$/5. I love the wide range of food offered and the prompt service. Sometimes when the servers are not harassed, they will even joke with you.
Price of food: 3/5 - the food is not exactly cheap for a no-fuss place. For example, the Szechuan chicken costs about CAN$13 and the fried rice CAN$12. But the portions are pretty generous.
Overall Experience: 3.5/5. I generally enjoy the food here. The servers are also prompt in filling up your tea cup. It satiates my late night hunger pangs.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Well Tea: A Miss This Time

Well Tea 茶井 (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

So, I decided to go to Well Tea at Richmond to satisfy my craving for bubble tea. It was such a HUGE disappointment. For an entire day, I felt totally dehydrated probably because the food was laced with way too much MSG. Also the quality of the food seemed a little more greasy than usual.

Ordered the fried fermented pork with fried rice again because I was so enamored by it the first time. It felt good in the beginning but somehow, I felt quite sick mid way eating this. Have no idea why :(

I usually like sauce on my food. But maybe, this time round, the sauce had no much MSG. It really wasn't as good as the first time.  

Also ordered chicken nuggets - Taiwanese style. This was so-so and was nothing to rave about. Me sad. I feel that the Corner 23 Taiwanese place was so much better.

Apart from being crispy, this dish is pretty average. It lacked the WOW factor.

The Milo bubble tea was served in this transparent tea pot. The sprout of the teapot was broken. I acknowledge that the glass of this tea pot is thin but still serving in a broken teapot is a BIG no-no for me. Particularly since I am an avid tea drinker.

Milo always bring me wonderful memories of my childhood years. But this Milo was pretty sweet and thick.

Quality of food: 2.5/5 - I don't know whether it was the chicken or the pork but for an entire day, I felt so so thirsty. Too much MSG.
Price of food: 4/5
Overall experience: 2.5/5 - Sorry Well Tea: Its really a thumbs down for me. The heavy dose of MSG left me with a lingering migraine. I am afraid that it will be a LONG time before I am back for a visit again.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Food: An Ode to the Past

Friends have commented on why I chose to write a food blog. I usually retort that I love food. However, beneath the surface, food to me triggers all sorts of memories. Some of the happiest and sadness moments around my life centered around food.

When I was young, I used to watch in amazement as my grandmother pounded her concoction of traditional Peranakan/Hokkien spices in this grey mortar. The sound of the mortar was  rhythmic and the smell of the  blend of the spices was something out of this world. My grandmother will patiently squat and pound the spices for a very long time. Next came, the frying of spices. I saw this being repeated so many times in my life. Me intently watching my grandmother, hoping that I can steal some of her food. Or me lying down in my bed daydreaming and inhaling the smell of spices. Sometimes, I fell asleep and woke up with a coughing fit because my grandmother was happily frying the spices - yes, it was THAT potent. Today, whenever I smell a particular blend of spices, I am reminded of my childhood and am immediately transported back to time.

I never recalled my grandmother using a blender in her entire life. She insisted on pounding her spices and when we lived in an apartment, she literally used sheets of newspapers as a base to pound her mortar - a feeble attempt to prevent neighbors from complaining about the pounding noise. She claimed that pounding breaks down the spices gently and as such, food will taste much better. She finds that the blender tends to cut the spices too thin and smooth. My grandmother was indeed a fantastic cook. To this day, memories of certain smells will trigger my memories of her and her delightful array of Peranakan food. My mother, I would say, can cook pretty well. But it can never come close to my grandmother's cooking - part of it is just the smell is different, even though the food is same. 

Years later, I remember flying back from graduate school in Vancouver to attend my grandmother's wake. It was surreal looking at her unresponsive body - still, she had a beautiful face. To me, my grandmother was an elegant and beautiful woman. My family hired two kitchen chefs to cook a storm and as a thank you gesture to family, neighbors and friends who attended her wake. Apparently, my grandmother gave explicit instructions years ago that we have to serve good quality food even at her funeral. I guess Mama was saying "I want to share my life with you. Food is a gift of hospitality. Thank you for coming". Till this day, I find myself saying the words "Thank You" instead of the casual thanks. I guess it must be my Mama's influence. So, thank you Mama for the memories - the smell of the food of our people, your patience and love manifested in your culinary skills and your attempt to pass down our heritage. I love you.

My mama when she was young. She looked so stately.