Spurned on by the new David Chang Netflix series “Ugly Delicious”, I went on a quest to find the best sheng jian bao (aka SJB). Everyone knows XLB (xiao long bao), the soup-filled steamed pork dumplings that Din Tai Fung made famous worldwide, but these fried versions (often using a leaven yeasted dough) are an underappreciated creature. And frying anything makes it better, right?
With some input from my passionate Instagram followers, I made a list of four places to try:
Shanghai Dimsum House Ltd. (Crystal Mall, Burnaby)
Shanghai Fortune Cuisine (Crystal Mall, Burnaby)
Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant (Richmond)
R&H Chinese Food (Lansdowne Centre, Richmond)
I could easily add many more places to this list (e.g. Wang’s Shanghai in Vancouver) but I’m just one guy with a day job (not this) so if I forgot your favourite place, just leave a comment and I’ll consider it for next time(?)!
The folks behind Wildebeest, Bufala, and Lucky Taco have added another thoughtful expansion to their mini-empire in the form of the anti-sports bar sports bar Bells & Whistles located on Fraser just south of Kingsway. The food is typical sports bar/pub grub/comfort food like burgers, wings, nachos, onion rings, etc, but done with atypical care and better ingredients, served in an atypically bright and family-friendly environment, with a very atypical craft beer menu with absolutely NO macro beer in sight.
Admittedly, the pricing for the food and beer is a bit high (especially for the neighbourhood), but in the week and a half they’ve been open, it’s been absolutely packed. I guess that shows that people have been wanting something like this for a long time and are willing to pay for it. For myself, I really appreciate their approach — casual accessibility, eyes on quality, no “Bells & Whistles” despite the name — but if things were maybe a couple bucks cheaper across the board, I’d come back more often, and with less hesitation.
Aotoya (aka Blue Door) is a slightly dingy, Japanese homestyle hole-in-the-wall on Victoria Drive, located beside longtime institution Supreme Pizza (get a pepperoni, mushroom, and Italian sausage pizza and one of their crack-laden pastas). If you can deal with Aotoya’s sometimes slow service and slow kitchen, you’ll be rewarded with good-to-great Yōshoku-style food that’s got uniqueness and charm. For fans of places like Hi Genki.
I like this trend of coffee shops stocking craft beer (e.g. Matchstick in Chinatown) and doing dinner service (e.g. pop-ups at The Birds & The Beets). Bows X Arrows on Fraser & 26th is now doing both. It wasn’t until they brought on ex-Latab chef Kris Barnholden (Latab review here) that their dinner service piqued my interest. Add in collabs with Juno Kim and Doug Stephen (Merchant’s Workshop), and I got very excited indeed. So did dinner end in a happy ending?
L’Abattoir’s happy hour has actually been in effect since July 2014 but flew under my radar. Definitely one of the BEST dining values around, matched with assured execution, balanced and flavourful dishes, and experienced professional service. Recommended!
Note: we were busy talking the entire time, so my descriptions below don’t get into as much detail as I usually do. Doing proper reviews actually takes a lot of focus and attention!
The new JINYA at TELUS* Garden is like the old JINYA, except given a slick, glitzy, hi-tech makeover. (Review of the old JINYA here, for comparison. Old JINYA location now occupied by the new second location of Marutama Ramen.) This new location shows what’s possible when you have big ramen chain money behind it. The results are positive, and the crowds immense. For now.
* Fun fact: The TELUS style guide requires all instances of the word “Telus” to be spelled in ALLCAPS. So it’s “TELUS”, not “Telus”. This is also like how I’ve seen “JINYA” written in their menu and on their website. Just a note for all your writers and journalists out there… HAH!
WARNING: I use the word “whores” (in a gender-neutral way) in this post. If you’re easily offended, click here to go to Disney.com now.
Belgian beer-focussed brewery Dageraad Brewing in Burnaby just had their 3rd anniversary party on Saturday, May 13. I went, had tons of fun, plus some achingly good beers. Here’s a quick photo recap of the event, plus a sneak preview of their new tasting room.
Man, I was really missing Juno Kim’s pop-up events. He used to do a Monday night dinner series at 33 Acres (which I wrote about here and here) but he stopped doing them in early 2016, so it’s been more than a year since I last had any of his food! So, between his stints catering food styling for iZombie, he’s started a monthly brunch pop-up at Field & Social downtown, so now’s your chance to once again eat his food. Tickets for this brunch series have been selling out pretty fast, so follow Juno on Instagram to learn about upcoming events.
I went to the second monthly brunch with Wicca and hungrySLIF. The word “brunch” doesn’t quite describe the food though. Eggs appear only once.(Actually there’s egg in two dishes.) There’s no bacon (not the typical kind, anyways), no hollandaise, no waffles, no stereotypical brunch elements. It’s really just a 6-course share plates meal with none of the overwrought greasy excesses of your typical brunch. When was the last time you got an amuse-bouche with your brunch?
Transparency Report: As I’ve said before, I always pay my own way. However, we were comped the beer and two cocktails. (Very much appreciated!) Tickets were $49 each, which includes tax and tip but excludes drinks and Eventbrite fee. We all paid full-price.
The folks behind Chinatown-based currywurst purveyors Bestie have a side business called Sunday Cider. It makes me really happy to think that local BC apples are being pressed and fermented right within city limits (their production facility is near Clark Drive within walking distance of Strange Fellows). They held a one-off cider event on December 11, 2016 (on a Sunday of course) called “Cider Sabbath”:
Wildebeest totally made up for their “Budweiser incident” (background info here and here from late May 2016) by putting on this great Brassneck vs Four Winds beer pairing dinner — a Southern-style menu by Chef Alessandro Vianello paired with beers from arguably the best two breweries in BC! Five courses and 10 beers for a very reasonable $69 (plus tax and 18% gratuity). There are actually a lot of these kinds of beer-pairing dinners going on if you know where to look, but I usually pass on them because I’d end up poor! But this one I couldn’t refuse.
I didn’t take any notes, so my writeup isn’t as detailed as usual. I was more into just enjoying the food, beer, and company that night. Actually, I’m lying. I took two little notes, which I’ll bury in this post.