Tags: beef tataki, chicken, duck, Japanese, miso soup, photography, sablefish, sushi, Vancouver
During the winter holidays, Kim invited me to attend a food photography workshop during the first week of January. At the time, I was in the process of purchasing my first dSLR and was kind of in a tizzy in figuring out the logistics of the camera prior to the workshop. Before New Years, my new toy arrived! YAY!!! Fresh out of the box, I quickly assembled it and got ready in taking test shots and took it to one awesome restaurant in the north shore on New Year’s to take some food pics. (Which I will post sometime later)
Once the day of the workshop arrived, I was joined by Sherman, Kim, and Victoria. The photography workshop was taught by Jackie Connelly and was held at Irashai Grill. Let’s just say that that day, I learned a lot about photography techniques and styles. I just need more time to practice as I am still learning!
After the workshop was completed, we were given the option of staying at Irashai Grill for lunch or to go else where if we wanted to. Since I haven’t been to the restaurant and have heard some talks about this restaurant and wanted to practice our photography techniques we learned in the workshop, we decided to stay for lunch.
The first dish we ordered was the Beef Tataki Carpaccio ($12).
This dish was thinly sliced seared beef on top a bed of daikon, greens and carrot and was drizzled with herb olive oil and citrus ponzu sauce. When presented a beautiful dish like this, you’d expect the beef to be tender. Let me tell you that it was not, it was rather chewy and made me wonder what cut of beef it was because it tasted like a big chunk of steak seared lightly and cut into thin slices. I could not taste the “beef” meat taste and the citrus taste. It seemed like all I could taste was the oil, no citrus, even when I tried dipping the beef into the dressing.
The next dish we ordered was the Summer Roll. ($13.50)
The Summer Roll consists of prawn tempura, cucumber, mayo, masago with marinated tuna and avocado on top with sweet soya drizzled all over. The rolls were aesthetically pleasing and it was tasty. After taking a bite into one of them I could taste was the creaminess of the avocado and sriracha kick (see the red dot on the avocado?) complimented the tuna and the shrimp. What I found lacking is the contrast of textures for this roll. Even though it has prawn tempura in it, it didn’t have a crunch to it. The rolls held up well but I found that it was too much rice for a roll.
When the Oyako Don was served, it came with a miso soup. Since I was still in the mood for taking even the most mundane pictures of food, I took the picture of the miso soup and thought out loud how I would make miso soup look “sexy”. Now, making the food “sexy” and “work it” are part of our conversations in food photography.
Oyako Don is comprised of chicken, egg and onions on top of rice ($9).
To be honest, this dish was disappointing as I felt that it was lacking an element to this dish. I would expect the rice to have at least some kind of flavoring such as a touch of mirin, dashi and soy or sauce from the chicken and onions. This dish can easily be replicated at home.
The next dish to arrive was Aigamo Duck ($16).
The Aigamo duck was grilled tataki style duck breast with chef’s secret sauce. OMG, this is one tough duck. I’ve never had a duck that was tough and chewy like a piece of overcooked steak. Mind you, the duck was cooked to how we wanted, medium rare. We were all wondering why such a piece of duck that is tender be so tough? We pondered if it was the way it was cooked or the way it was cut. It still remains a mystery to us.
The last and best dish to arrive was Grilled Sablefish served with yuzu miso sauce ($14).
The sablefish was tender, flaky and moist. The skin was nice and crispy and the fish had a slight caramelization to the surface. I’d say I’ve never had a bad sablefish ever. You can’t really mess up sablefish.
Overall, I had a great time at the photography class and learned a lot from Jackie Connelly. In terms of the food at Irashai Grill, it was aesthetically pleasing, but the food didn’t live up to it. To be honest, it was alright, nothing special. The items on the menu were a bit pricey for what you get. Ther are several other Japanese/izakaya places in town that I’ve frequented and would prefer over it.
Value: Not worth it. Some items are hit and miss in terms of quality.
Ambience: Sports bar style izakaya in Coal Harbour.
Tags: chicken, chilli, pho, shallot, Vancouver, Vietnamese
On December 8th, Ben from Chowtimes tried out a restaurant in a humble neighborhood where it had an honorable mention of being the most authentic tasting pho on this side of Vancouver. One of the things that Ben has heard was that this restaurant serves horse meat pho. At that time when Ben wanted to ask if they sell this exotic pho, he was intimidated by the bossy owner lady. After I commented his post, I was given the mission of asking if they sell horse meat.
With a mission on my mind and a few reasons to go, I decided to check it out. On that day, I had a cold (kinda recovering) and I had to visit the dentist. I felt lazy that day and didn’t have time to make brunch so I decided to trek down there.
Lam Hoa Quan is located on Victoria Drive between East 34th and 35th. Basically the sign that you see here is the same writing and color as the awning.
As I entered into the restaurant, I was promptly seated by the window near the door. I was given the menu and some tea to start. Even though it was an hour before noon, the restaurant had quite a number of customers eating there. There were 2 servers there, one male and one female (possible boss lady?). Since I knew what I wanted to order, I waited patiently for the male server. Once I made eye contact with the male server, I made my order and asked if they sell horse meat pho. The male server was nice enough to explain to me that they used to sell horse meat pho about a year ago. Since it was not such a popular item, the restaurant decided to eliminate it from the menu. After saying that, he enthusiastically told me that they have goat on the menu.
Now you have it Ben, they don’t serve horse meat, but they do serve goat.
Before my pho came, a dish of bean sprouts, shallots, lime wedge, hot pepper slices, and basil arrived at the table. I was quite amazed at the condiments that I was given. Usually at other pho places, they only give the bean sprouts, lime wedge, Thai Basil and/or the hot pepper.
Another condiment that arrived at the table is the pepper salt. This is used for the chicken in the pho. What you do is squeeze the lime into the pepper salt and then mix it all together and then dip the chicken into it for extra flavoring.
And now, time for the pho!
What I ordered was the Pho Ga Dac Biet (House Special Chicken Noodles). It’s perfect for such a cold day and such a fitting remedy for the cold that I have been trying to fend off. The Pho Ga was quite flavorful. The broth tasted like the chicken had aromatics added to it and was then simmered on low heat to create such a savory broth. As for the chicken, it was perfectly cooked and was firm. Same thing goes for the noodles. I ate the noodles with a combination of the condiments of shallot, red chili, cilantro with a bit of soup. Let’s just say that this combination is very delicious!
Overall, Lam Hoa Quan offers authentic tasting pho without the addition of MSG. I totally recommend the Pho Ga Dat Biet as it has a delightful full-bodied flavor soup and the chicken was cooked perfectly.
Lam Hoa Quan
5073 Victoria Drive
Service: (Didn’t get the boss lady. HAHA!)
Value: The Pho Ga Dat Biet costs $7. Slightly expensive than most places and this is the large size. Overall, totally worth it.
Ambience: Medium-sized cozy Vietnamese restaurant with TVs.
Tags: beans, chicken, Chinese, Coquitlam, dinner, fish, pork
That’s exactly what Sherman, Kim, Jenny (My Secret Eden), Ricky and I did on a chilly autumn evening. I’ve never heard of this place before but from what I heard, it serves pretty good Chinese food on the other side of town. So…is it as good as the Chinese food I eat at home?
Normally when I choose a cuisine, Chinese would be at the bottom of my list. Why is that, you might ask? The reason is that I grew up on really good Chinese food cooked at home by my mom. The only time anyone would find me at a Chinese restaurant would either be because (1) I’m having dim sum (2) it’s a high end Chinese restaurant, (3) formal engagements, or (4) it has a type of specialty dish that I am very interested in trying.
Poco Ocean is a family run Chinese restaurant located near Coquitlam Centre. I have heard that the chef was a chef at the governor house for two of the Governors of Hong Kong or was the personal chef to the Governor of Macau. I’m not really sure if any of the rumors are true but the chef was sure a humble person and did come out to take some pictures.
Once you step into the restaurant, you get a clear view of the Chinese menu on the wall, however, English menus are available. Below said signage is an advertisement for chicken wings (more on that later). The walls of the restaurant are hung with caricature drawings of the chef and his signature dishes.
So now… on to the food!!! Since the majority of us can’t read the Chinese characters, Jenny was given the responsibility to order the dishes for us.
We were first served the complimentary pork bone soup with soybean. The soup was good as the umami-ness (or sweetness) was present. To get that kind of “sweetness”, the pork bone soup has to be simmered in low heat.
The first dish that came out was the honey garlic chicken wings. These wings were juicy and the unbattered skin was crispy. It had the perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness with hints of garlic.
The second dish is braised pork hock with siu choy and shitake mushrooms. The braised pork hock was very good. The pork was fall-off-the-bone delicious and the sauce had a slight hint of sweetness to it. You know what the best part is? The skin! Everyone at the table agreed and took a portion each.
This dish was everyone’s favorite of the evening, 3 cup chicken. This dish was sweet, salty and fragrant from the sesame oil and Thai Basil. The chicken was juicy and cooked to perfection.
The next dish that arrived was fried tofu with scallop, which arrived on a hot plate. (Whoo~ Look at the steam!) This dish was really good but the major disappointment was the scallops. As I picked up a scallop with my chopsticks, Sherman, exclaimed that the scallops were “Seng! (in Cantonese, it means not so fresh seafood or fishy smell). When he said it, I dropped the scallop onto myself and didn’t bother to eat it. HAHA thanks dude! :p Anyway, the tofu was delicious. The tofu maintained slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Even though this was a dish with sauce, the tofu didn’t end up being soggy.
Since we ordered so much protein, it was time for us to have some veggies. We decided to get long green beans with mushroom. The green beans were tasty but it wasn’t anything special. The beans were oil blanched and cooked to the point that it starting blistering. The beans weren’t mushy and still retained a bit of texture to it.
The last dish we ordered was fish with tofu hot pot. I can’t recall kind of fish it is, but it had an interesting texture. In the sauce, it had cilantro and dried orange peel. It was an odd combination. As for the fish, the first thing that came to mind was jiggly-wiggly. If you were to pick up the fish with the chopstick it wiggle it around, the fish retained it’s shape. The fish was soft and meaty and had an adequate amount of batter surrounding it. The taste of this dish was ok, as it was nothing special and a bit weird since most of us occasionally taste the dried orange peel taste, which isn’t quite an appealing taste.
Overall, the food at Poco Ocean is quite good. I would say the food are almost on par with what my mom makes at home but WAY less oily. The food blogger dinner was a success and I certainly enjoyed the dinner with the other food bloggers.
*Photo credit to Kim Ho from imonlyhereforthefood.com!
2755 Lougheed Hwy
Port Coquitlam, BC
Value: Expensive Chinese food considering it’s not all seafood. But it’s still good.
Ambience: Family style Chinese restaurant with tables placed close that you might need to squeeze your butt through.