Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sai Kor - 2006-09-06

No MSG... Cool.

The adventure continues with our first Chinese restaurant. I have a soft spot for Chinese restaurants. I'll never forget when I was a kid and we were driving back from somewhere in the interior. It was getting late and, for whatever reason, we were coming in on the Lougheed Highway. I seem to recall Dad just "preferred it". Anyway, we were in Mission and hungry and we stopped at the local Chinese restaurant. I remember Dad saying that "Every small town's got a good Chinese restaurant". I also remember enjoying that meal as much as any I have since.

Sai Kor reminded me of that place. Well, truth be told it reminded me of most Chinese restaurants. A huge menu with a bunch of the standard sweetandsourlemonblackbeanszechuanhoneygarlic porkchickenbeefseafoodvegetablechowmeinandrice creations plus a few chef specials set in a room of sparse decor (except for the divider from the kitchen which was a big rice paper styled wall) and naugahide padded chairs. When we walked in the place was extremely quiet. I wasn't sure it was even open until a lady approached us. I had the feeling she was one half of the proprietership. I never saw the other half... he was busy in the kitchen.

We ordered up our food, enough for ourselves and some to take home for Kristin. Prawn Chop Suey (to feed Tristan's prawn habit), Beef & Broccoli, Mushroom Fried Rice and Honey Garlic Chicken Balls plus a Kokanee beer for me and apple juice for the boy. The juice came in a box. The beer in a bottle. I thought I was going to have to drink it from the bottle when she returned with a glass and offered it to me.

Things were looking up...

Soon a couple of pretty gruff looking white guys showed up. They were obviously regulars - they didn't even need the menu. They were reading the North Shore News to each other while they waited for their food; some review of a pizza restaurant with a relationship to boxing. Anyway, they ended up being the only other patrons the whole time we were there.

Amidst a shuffle of slippers the food showed up and we dug in. Everything was perfect. A little greasy (as good Chinese food should be, IMHO) and very flavourful. In particular the Honey Garlic Chicken Balls were deep fried goodness that, if given the chance, I would live on. Well, at least for a day or two.

Anyway, the impression I had was that this restaurant really specializes in the "Lunch Crowd". I sure hope so. If their business is as slow as it was this Wednesday night then they won't last long. Would I come back? Perhaps for lunch, definitely for take out.

Sai Kor Restaurant is at 1927 Lonsdale Avenue between 19th and 20th. They do free home delivery on a minimum $12 order within a 5 km radius. Call 604-988-6800.

LERS Score: 4 (For Take Out)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Gen Sushi - 2006-08-16

Yet another sushi bar. Actually, sushi will be a recurring theme of this blog as there are a ton of sushi restaurants along Lonsdale. Of course the one I'm looking forward to the most is Sushi and Pizza down by Keith Rd, but that's for another day (and at the rate we're going, another year!).


When we got to Gen Sushi this evening the restaurant was about half full and it was easy to get a table. That did not last long. It filled up quickly, which is always a good sign. The inside of Gen Sushi is... well... it reminded me of some small town Chinese restaurants I've visited in the past. Very sparse and almost cafeteria like. Fortunately the service was attentive and friendly and the food was good.

Shortly after ordering our drinks Tristan announced he needed to go to the washroom. I asked the waitress where it was and she helpfully pointed out that it was down the hall past the kitchen. As we wandered past the food prep areas I was pleased to note the general cleanliness and sense of organisation despite the cramped quarters.

For dinner we started with the sake (salmon) and maguro (tuna) sashimi. The slices were generous and thick and definitely fresh. Tristan gobbled up six of the ten pieces... good thing I love him! We also ordered several pieces of saba (mackerel, which is my favourite), six ebi (prawns, which are Tristan's favourite), tobiko (flying fish eggs), unagi (eel) and a really tasty scallop roll. To drink I had a large Sapporo draft. Tristan tried the unagi and the saba and liked it so much we ordered pieces of each for him. As we were finishing off dinner we decided to order a bento box and dynamite roll to go for Kristin. In character they got the to-go package and the bill to us quickly, and I was quite pleased at the price.

The competition for sushi in Vancouver is very high, with a sushi bar on just about every corner. I would happily go back to Gen Sushi, although given the choice there are other places I would likely go to first.

Gen Sushi is at 1933 Lonsdale Avenue, a couple of doors down from Panago.

LERS Score: 5 (Probably)

Panago Pizza - 2006-08-02


Panago Pizza is a large chain of pizza joints in Canada. Like Bella Pizza we've ordered pizza from the Panago on Lonsdale several times. I was hoping they would have a decent seating area to enjoy our pizza but, like so many pizza places these days, this was not to be the case.

We headed over in the Prius and parked across the street. Getting pictures of the restaurants on the west side of Lonsdale is getting a bit challenging with the sun setting behing them... anyway, I dared a wander into the middle of the street to snap a shot of the sign, then headed on in.

The inside is clean and spartan. There are a few funky bar seats at the front window where, if you have no where to go or the rain is coming down too hard, one can sit and eat. We ordered a Primo Shrimp pizza and a bottle of San Pellegrino to go and headed out to eat. Tristan wanted to go to a park so we drove up Lonsdale to Osborne where you'll find Clarisbrooke Park. We sat at a picnic table, opened up our flat box full o' food and chowed down.

I gotta say, I really like Panago pizza and the Prima Shrimp is one of my favourites. Tristan, who is always game for sea food, gobbled down a couple of slices then politely excused himself and ran over to the playground. Ah, yes, I remember the days when I was able to eat and play like that without losing my meal!

Panago Lonsdale is at 1981 Lonsdale Ave just south of 19th avenue. Call 604-310-0001 for delivery.

LERS Score: 4 (For Take Out)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bubble Tea House - 2006-06-17

Bubble tea is one of those weird things that has totally caught on around here. Originally from Taiwan, it's a drink with big "bubbles" of tapioca that kinda look like fish eggs floating around at the bottom. Served in a sealed plastic cup with a fat straw for slurping up the tapioca balls, it makes for more of a fun treat than anything else. I've tried it before, but never actually bought my own, until yesterday. Tristan and I just happened to be out running errands and decided we could use a snack, so why not try it?

We parked the car, wandered in and, once again, I was the TWG in an asian eatery. Despite the mention of "snacks" on the awning, the only thing on the menu is bubble tea and related drinks. Unfortunately they accept cash only and, being a credit card kinda guy, I did not have any. Fortunately my bank is a couple of blocks down the street. Unfortunately we were experiencing one of those torrential downpours the North Shore is famous for. Not to be deterred by a bit of rain, we trecked on down to the bank, got some cash then trecked on back.

The atmosphere at Bubble Tea House is extremely casual. There's a few tables at the back and a couch that could be in a dormatory living room along one wall. In a bookshelf near the front door is a collection of graphic novels, all in kanji so I couldn't fulfill Tristan's request to read him one. The clientele comprised teens and twenty somethings, hanging out and drinking bubble tea while chatting or reading the graphic novels.

The menu is scribed on a huge chalk board behind the counter and is very extensive. I ordered a lemon green tea with bubbles (note: all drinks are also available without bubbles) and for Tristan a blueberry slushie. We sat at the groovy tall stools at the front window and watched them prepare the drinks. There's a whole bunch of powders and syrups and buckets of stuff that they mix together with various mixing machines and, finally, pour into a plastic cup then drop into a sealing machine were a taught plastic seal is applied. Pop the big straw through the seal and you're ready to slurp. The initial sensation of pulling a tapioca ball up through the straw and chewing on it is... interesting. Definitely more fun than tasty and I can certainly see the appeal for young adults.

As for me? I can now honestly say that bubble tea is not really my thing.

The Bubble Tea House is at 2137 Lonsdale Ave across from London Drugs.

LERS Score: 3 (Someone Else's Idea)

Ricky's Urban Diner 2006-06-14

Moving right along (well, we'll step back to the BubbleTea House next entry) brings us to Ricky's Urban Diner at the corner of 20th and Lonsdale. We are skipping Dirty Ron's 'cause I don't see any need to review a mega franchise...

Ricky's Urban Diner is one of those local franchises that you'll find all over the lower mainland (and other parts of Canada). Kinda like White Spot. We've been here several times and always enjoyed ourselves. The classic diner motif and rock'n'roll on the juke box is just plain fun. The food is always decent and the service good. Plus they are really kid friendly with a great kids menu and a basket of toys for the wee ones to pick from after the meal.

When we arrived we were quickly shown to our table and offered to order drinks. I ordered an Okanagan Springs pale ale for myself and apple juice for Tristan. As usual the drinks were promptly brought out and we placed our food order. At first Tristan wanted macaroni and cheese, but quickly changed his mind when I informed him that there were mussels on the menu. For myself I ordered the Mighty Mushroom Burger (queue cheesy monster truck ad effects) - it is a diner, after all. While waiting for the food Tristan suddenly disappeared under the table. Things were getting awfully quiet, so I checked up on him only to learn that he was busy picking some gum off the underside of the table! Ugh... Four year olds... He absolutely denied having put any of it in his mouth, so I gave him the standard lecture about "gum & germs". Yes... I remember getting mine almost forty years ago...

When the food showed up we dug in heartily. The french fries at Ricky's always remind me of the french fries they used to serve at Spanish Banks and Locarno beaches in the summer (and may well still, I haven't been there in a long time). Smell is one of those great triggers of memories, and I was certainly enjoying mine. The burger was big and sloppy, just the way I like 'em, and the mussels very tasty.

While we were eating a couple of police officers showed up and sat at the booth next to us. Of course what four year old can resist that! As soon as the last mussel was consumed Tristan excused himself and hopped off the bench to say hello. Soon after the waitress showed up with the toys and, despite my efforts to get him to select the Groucho Glasses he instead selected a little pinball toy.

Ricky's Urban Diner is at 1995 Lonsdale Avenue at the corner of 20th St. There is parking in the back if you can't find it on the street.

LERS Score: 6 (Definitely) - This is a great family restaurant.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Spicy House Korean Restaurant 2006-06-07

I've never had Korean food before. When we first moved back I read a glowing review about Spicy House Korean Restaurant so I've been looking forward to this visit for quite some time. So, once Kristin was off to her Dragon Boat practice Tristan and I loaded up in the car and headed on over.

Walking into the place I had a good feeling that I was in for something special. Despite the North Lonsdale location I happened to be the TWG (Token White Guy), which is always a good sign for an Asian restaurant. We sat down and immediately were presented with menus, a carafe of water and utensils (chop sticks and spoons wraped in paper). The menu was very full, written in Korean script with the anglicised names and translations. All kinds of strange and wonderful things popped out at me: Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi soup with tofu and pork), Albab (Assorted fish eggs, vegetables miced in hot pot), Dakdongjib (Chicken gizzard), etc, etc. I knew this would be a tough decision...

For Tristan we ordered the Sogoki Dupbab (Marinated beef on rice) that was not supposed to be too spicy, and for me the Ojinguh Bokkum (Fried squid with vegetables and noodle with spicy sauce), which the waitress warned was very spicy, and to my delight a Hite beer, product of Korea. While waiting for the food to show up we occupied ourselves tearing apart the chopsticks and playing table hockey with the lid from Tristan's apple juice. The Hite beer was a pale lager style with almost no real beer flavour. I think they're trying to out Budweiser Budweiser... But it was still beer and I was thankful for it when my Ojinguh Bokkum showed up!

Because when she warned me it was spicy, she was not KIDDING!

I like spicy food, especially spicy Asian food. I find that the Asian burn is much more rounded than the Mexican burn and tends to tail off while still leaving flavour on the taste buds. My usual reaction is to get an itchy scalp (I've only met one other person who reacts to hot food the same way). Well, by the time I was half way through my scalp was beyond itching and just plane sweating! It was quite the sensation. And through it all the flavours of the food were still able to be enjoyed.

As expected Tristan's beef and rice dish was pleasantly mild and flavourful. We were also served four side dishes: the omnipresent kimchee, an unidentified spicy shredded vegetable, potatoes and a delicious fried tofu (that Tristan pigged out on).

The service was very good, the price reasonable and the atmosphere pleasant. They have two large tables with the surrounding benches that I noticed people taking their shoes off before sitting around. I assume this is a traditional Korean style setting. I also noticed portable gas stoves keeping hot pots hot at several tables. I think next time I'm going to have to try that...

Overall a very good dining experience that I would happily revisit, especially with a larger group to sit at one of the big tables. Spicy House Korean Restaurant is at 2039 Lonsdale Ave, across the street from London Drugs.

LERS Score: 5 (Probably)

HaRu Sushi 2006-05-20

I love sushi.

I've been a hard core fan of sushi since Tojo was still running the Jinya on Broadway (long before he opened his world famous Tojo's up the street). North Vancouver has a lot of sushi bars. In fact it seems like there's a sushi bar on every corner! Our personal favourite that we've found close to home is Yama Sushi in Lynn Valley.

Anyway, being as I like to think I know good sushi and love to try new places I was somewhat excited about the opportunity to try a new sushi bar close to home. I've been told that most sushi bars in the area are run by Chinese and Koreans, not Japanese, and that the best ones are run by Japanese. HaRu is one of the few Japanese run sushi bars. Unfortunately my experience there has left me seriously doubting the "Japanese sushi bars are the best" theory. I'll take Oscar's sushi (at Yama, who happens to be Chinese) any day!

The trip was not a complete disaster. On this visit Kristin joined us (since she happened to be available). She was not exactly in the mood for sushi so she ordered one of the bento boxes. It looked good and she seemed to enjoy it. Tristan, a sushi veteran now, had his standard six pieces of ebi and four pieces of sake with a bowl of edamame. The edamame was bland and over cooked. The sake (salmon) that I tried was limp and rather tasteless. They did not have quail egg for my tobiko, the saba was too fishy tasting with a tough skin and I didn't even go near the uni (after all, it is May...).

The service was sketchy at best and the one waitress, who appeared overly-harried for a small crowd, managed to drop a whole plate full of dishes on the floor and scare the crap out of the whole place.

Given the sheer number of sushi restaurants in town I see no reason to come back to HaRu and will be surprised if they stay in business much longer.

LERS Score: 1 (No Way)

Monday, May 15, 2006

LERS Score

I decided we need to have some form of rating scale. After a bit of thought (well, a couple of minutes, anyway) I've decided upon a 6 point scale indicating the likelihood of ever coming back. I'll call it the LERS (Likelihood of Ever Returning Scale) Score:
  1. No way
  2. Not Likely
  3. Someone Else's Idea
  4. For Take Out
  5. Probably
  6. Definitely
Jay

The Journey Begins: Bella Pizza 2006-05-10

Here is where it all starts. Bella Pizza. We've ordered delivery from them before and always enjoyed it. This was our first time eating there.

The inside is dark and a bit dingy. Tristan had to use the washroom and the staff was very pleasant and helpful and directed us through the kitchen to the washroom at the back. I was surprised at how cramped the quarters are in which they make the pizzas.

I ordered a medium Mastrepiece pizza (Pepperoni, Back Bacon, Onions, Mushrooms, Capicollo & Green Peppers) for myself and a
Tristan in front of Bella Pizzaslice of cheese pizza for Tristan. They don't have a liquor license so we ordered an orange soda and apple juice then proceeded out to the sidewalk and sat at one of the cafe tables they have enclosed in a fenced off area. We played table hockey with the apple juice cap while waiting for the pizza to arrive. The table had a few tiles broken out of it, and the whole area was pretty grubby.

When the food showed up it was as good as I expected. While not my favourite pizza in North Van I'd easily rate it in my top 5 as far as the
pizza itself goes. But as a pizza joint to eat at? Hmmm... I think I'll stick to delivery.

Bella Pizza is located at 2045 Lonsdale Ave across the street from London Drugs. 604-983-3636.


LERS Score: 4 (For Take Out)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Introduction


Welcome to Eating Lonsdale, a blog about a culinary stroll down Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver.

The idea for this blog came about last Wednesday when my wife, Kristin, was at her dragon boat team practice in Deep Cove. I decided that rather than eating at home it would be fun for Tristan, our four year old son, to go out for pizza at Me & Ed's parlour on Lonsdale at 20th. Well, to our chagrin it was closed, so instead we wandered over to Bella Pizza next door. While sitting at the grubby cafe table on the sidewalk, enjoying the evening mood and the time spent with my boy, I happened to notice that the next two or three business were all restaurants and how fun it would be to try them too. In fact there must be twenty or thirty restaurants along Lonsdale; some obvious with their big signs and glitzy presence, some almost hidden away in their modest unobtrusiveness.

Thus the idea was born, and here I am on a Saturday morning creating my first blog.

The plan is for Tristan and I to visit each eatery on the west side of Lonsdale, working our way down to the waterfront, then work our way back up the east side. With each stop we'll write a short review and post a photograph or two. I should point out that I'm no culinary expert, but I do love my food. I've eaten in everything from greasy spoons in Carvers, Nevada to three star restaurants in Europe, and have enjoyed many wonderful meals in the most unexpected places. Hopefully this journey down Lonsdale will introduce us to some dining gems right here in my home town.

I hope you enjoy sharing this journey with us.

Jay MacDonald