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)