Friday, December 30, 2011

Beef Kabab Wrap

Beef Kabab Wrap by raise my voice
Beef Kabab Wrap, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Lynnwood Mediterranean Grill and Cafe (87 Avenue and 150 Street) opened up just after Christmas. It's a small, clean, bright space with eat-in, take-out, and delivery.

I checked it out today for lunch. My beef kebab wrap was excellent. The meat was grilled to perfection, and the parsley, tahini sauce, pickled, pickled turnip, and tomatoes gave the wrap a very fresh flavour. It was also inexpensive, at around $7.

The place also has burgers, chicken fingers, donairs, and other Middle Eastern chicken and beef dishes and salads.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Pho Files: Vegetarian Rice Noodle Soup

Rice Noodle Soup by raise my voice
Rice Noodle Soup, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Veggie Garden Restaurant on 105 Avenue and 100 Street fills a gap in Chinatown in a number of ways. First, it replaces another Vietnamese restaurant that came before and second, it steps into the place that Oriental Veggie House left when it closed as the only fully vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown.

I ordered a rice noodle soup with tofu, mushrooms, dried bean curd, veggie ham, and veggie chicken. It was basically a vegetarian version of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) with the works. The large bowl was full of noodles, different kinds of mushrooms, and the various proteins. The veggie ham was definitely the winner - it looked and tasted similar to the real thing. The veggie chicken had a chicken-like taste, with a texture similar to skin. The few cubes of tofu were fried and the bean curd was chewy and sweet.

The broth is not as rich as its meat counterpart, and tasted as though it got most of its flavour from mushrooms. However, the result is much lighter and without greasy residue on one's lips.

As well, the soup here is a bargain at only $7 a bowl (most of the other menu items are less than $10).

Cilantro Cakes

Cilantro Cakes by raise my voice
Cilantro Cakes, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

Veggie Garden Restaurant is a new Vietnamese/Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown (10582 100 Street).

We had an appetizer of cilantro cakes. They were like green onion cakes, but with cilantro instead of the onion. The flavour of the cilantro was not as bold as green onion, but the cakes were delightfully crispy and served with a rather interesting pink sweet sauce. It almost looked radioactive.

Boba Island

Boba Island by raise my voice
Boba Island, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

I love bubble tea, and was thrilled to discover Boba Island (10588 100 Street).

Formerly known as The Tea Cottage, the new owner has made a radical transformation of the space. It is much brighter than before (with many different sets of lights), very clean, and has a small seating area.

Of course, the main reason to come to Boba Island is the drinks. There is a selection of bubble milk with flavours and sago (tapioca pearls), as well as ones made with fresh fruit. Most drinks are under $5, and there is a small menu of snacks on the wall, like onion cakes and pork balls.

I had a fresh avocado bubble milk ("boba," by the way, is another term for bubble tea). Often, the drink is ruined by using avocados that are over-ripe. I was happy to discover that my drink tasted fresh and perfect. Even the tapioca balls had a fresh, sweet taste to them (they are often flavourless and sometimes soggy).

If you love bubble tea, get to Boba Island. It's a delicious value.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Pho Files: Special Beef Noodle Soup

Special Beef Soup by raise my voice
Special Beef Soup, a photo by raise my voice on Flickr.

A late lunch of pho was in order yesterday. As I was in the Jasper Avenue area, Doan's was really my only option.

Doan's is quite popular but in my opinion is somewhat overrated. You're paying more for the same kind of food you can get in Chinatown, without much extra quality or portion size. I think it is the atmosphere which sells the place. Doan's has the ambiance of a fine dining restaurant.

All of the soups are grouped together under the same category on the menu, with only one or two basic pho options (as opposed to satay or other kinds of broth or cooking styles). I could only find one pho with beef, and it was the Special Beef Noodle Soup.

What made it special? It had four kinds of beef: medium, well-done, brisket, and beef balls. I would have preferred more of a choice in the matter, as I detest beef balls and they ended up being removed by my soup as soon as possible. Beef balls tend to be very chewy and full of gristle, and I simply cannot handle the texture. These were no exception.

The medium beef was served almost raw, but thankfully cooked quickly. As for the well-done beef - I would have skipped this too, as it is always fatty. Each slice had a huge strip of fat that made me feel like I was playing either doctor or butcher to remove.

Surprisingly, the brisket was the star of the bowl. It was well-done, had a rich flavour, and was reasonably lean. I would have been happy with this as the only kind of meat in the soup.

The portion size was average with a large bowl in most pho establishments, and the broth was rich and flavourful, if not a bit too salty.

Would I have this again? Yes. Would I go out of my way to Doan's for it? No.

Breakfast for Lunch: Bananas Foster French Toast Skillet

This edition of Breakfast for Lunch should actually be Breakfast for Supper, but who's keeping track? Not me! Anyways, I was pressured into going to Denny's yesterday evening. It's amazing the power someone has over me when they are the ones doing the driving.

While he gulped down his turkey dinner, I opted for something lighter, as I had a very late lunch. The Bananas Foster French Toast Skillet appeared to be exactly what I was looking for - more like a dessert. The French toast was indeed very sweet as it was cooked in a buttery caramel sauce, and topped with cooked bananas (which were a tad over-ripe). However, the meal also came with two eggs and a choice of bacon or sausage - I opted for turkey bacon, and ended up with sausage also (which my companion happily took from me).

In the future I would get the French Toast Grand Slam instead, as I found the caramel sauce just too sweet (tasty, but too sweet). This is assuming I get dragged to Denny's again, of course.