All posts by dennis

I eat, drink, photograph, tweet, write, yoyo, design & run. Let's have fun!

A Love Letter to Northern Vietnamese Food at Hanoi Old Quarter on Victoria Drive

Mr. Red Cafe has expanded again, with a new sister restaurant on Victoria Drive called “Hanoi Old Quarter”. It’s yet another chapter in owners Rose and Hong’s mission to share authentic Northern Vietnamese food with the people of Vancouver. It’s a 34-seat establishment with a small menu, about half of which are new dishes that are exclusive to this location. It’s worth checking out if you like what Mr. Red Cafe are doing with the lighter, cleaner flavours of Northern Vietnamese cuisine.

Note: I love how this group of restaurants is able to build flavours without resorting to MSG. While it’s true that there’s nothing wrong with MSG (and there are places that use it judiciously), I find that it’s often used as a crutch, propping up weak-ass broths that have no backbone to begin with. If you’re building flavours using actual (often expensive) ingredients, of course you’ll need to charge more. I think it’s worth it.

Note #2: Please don’t come here and ask the restaurant to not charge tax if you’re paying cash, like this asshat.

Continue reading A Love Letter to Northern Vietnamese Food at Hanoi Old Quarter on Victoria Drive

Edomae Sushi at Sushi Jin

Korean-run Sushi Jin on Nelson near Granville opened up in November 2018 and has been buzzing lately because of a glowing profile/feature/article (I wouldn’t call it a review) in Pendulum Magazine and very complimentary Google reviews. I’m more receptive to Korean-run sushi places now that I’ve had a rewarding first visit to Sushi Bar Shu. Korean-run Japanese sushi doesn’t have to mean cheap and cheerful Sushi Garden-type places anymore — it can be more refined, scaled-back, and adhere more to traditional sushi-making principles.

*Sushi Jin has responded with comments on Instagram that further explain some things I mention in this review. Worthwhile to read and see that every detail is deliberate.

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Happy Hour Quickie: Say Eight at Tacofino Ocho

I didn’t intend to review Tacofino Ocho but I wanted to try their grilled whole rockfish served with tortillas for ages, so you might find this quick post interesting. We ended up also having their big slab of pork belly which was excellent!

Explanation of “say eight” — comedian Brian Regan visits the emergency room and nurse asks him to rate his pain (skip to 5:00 mark):

Supporting documentation:

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Dinner Quickie: Omakase Nigiri Set at Shima-Ya on Victoria Drive

My guestimation is that Shima-Yahas been around since 1999 April 5, 2007, around the same time as the London Drugs complex opened up at Victoria Drive and 41st. Small, Japanese-run places like this are getting rare these days, with the disappearance of neighbourhood family-run joints like Vanya, Takarabune, and Aotoya (Blue Door). Shama-Ya is still around, still run by the adorable Japanese couple. It’s a small 20-seater place that I’ve eaten at or gotten takeout from occasionally since they opened. Good, old-school, rustic sushi at a fair price. A definite cut above your non-Japanese-run sushi place. I figured I should write a bit about it before the owners inevitably retire. (I keep on thinking it’s going to happen soon, but the owners persevere with the help of their daughter! Enjoy this place while it’s still around!)

Continue reading Dinner Quickie: Omakase Nigiri Set at Shima-Ya on Victoria Drive

Premium Choice: A Sushi Lunch at Tetsu Sushi Bar on Denman

My previous sushi meal at Sushi Bar Shu ignited the sushi fire within me so I went to another favourite, Tetsu Sushi Bar in the west end. Incredible indulgent lunch for $54 and a very different experience from a full-on, served one piece at a time omakase meal. I lunched solo, and I loved having this personal, scaled-down yet still incredible experience. A must-do for local high-end sushi lovers.

Continue reading Premium Choice: A Sushi Lunch at Tetsu Sushi Bar on Denman

Omakase That Needs Your Appreciation at Sushi Bar Shu in Marpole

Are you looking for that interactive omakase experience? One where you can actually chat with the chef? Sushi Bar Shu (website, Instagram) has it. But a few caveats:

  • If places like Sushi Bar Maumi, Tetsu Sushi Bar, Sushi by Yuji, Matsuzushi (Port Moody), Octopus’ Garden, etc appeal to you, then you’ll appreciate this omakase-only experience. If you need tempura, noodles, rolls, or are price-sensitive, DO NOT COME HERE.
  • Sushi Bar Shu is run by an all-Korean staff. I was sorta skeptical that a Korean chef would be experienced and dedicated enough to provide an omakase experience that was respectful to the Japanese omakase experience, but I came away completely convinced that the chef/owner Kevin Shin is serious. Keep in mind that this place is not Korean sushi (which is its own legitimate thing). This is real-deal Japanese (Edomae) sushi.
  • Because the staff are Korean, you will need to be accomodating to the Korean accent. They are all fluent in English, but you do need some sensitivity in this matter. I could understand about 80% of what the staff said, and that’s coming from having a few Korean friends and family members. If you’re keen on the details of everything you’re eating, you will be rewarded by conversing with the chef, but I felt to be polite I had to let some details slide, lest I ask the same question again and again 😛
  • The experience and style are different from any other omakase place in town. To me this is a huge plus. This restaurant is about exploring their way of doing omakase. You can actually chat with the chefs here. Other places (while great in their own right) aren’t always conducive to chatting.
  • Reservations HIGHLY recommended. For all intents and purposes, they only have nine seats at the bar.
  • They opened in December 2018, and the chef seems intent on improving and tweaking the restaurant and the food. So what I experienced probably will change over time.
  • There is NO liquor license. Yet. Only beverage available is tea.
  • The nigiri here is on the smaller side. It’s about quality over quantity. If you want quantity, I suggest going to Samurai.

Huge thanks to @chengsophia and @thedallah for posting about this place.

Continue reading Omakase That Needs Your Appreciation at Sushi Bar Shu in Marpole

Lunch Quickie: Com Vietnamese in Richmond

It’s hard not to talk about CơM Vietnamese Restaurant without comparing it to the other Vietnamese elephant in the room, Anh + Chi. But after three years after the opening of Anh + Chi, the restaurant landscape has changed. Food costs and rent have only gone up. Paying more for a meal out has become the new normal. But “ethnic” food is still battling the perception that it should always be cheap (see Eddie Huang’s “full fucking price”). Vancouver has gotten used to its cheap but often mediocre hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurants but places like House Special, Anh + Chi, Chau Veggie, CơM, DD Mau Chinatown, Dundas Eat + Drink, and others are slowly trying to carve out a space for “fancier” Vietnamese with cocktails and designer interiors. Whether they are actually offering something new that’s worth the higher price tag or simply presenting the same food in a cleaner, more Instagrammable environment is up for debate.

In a nutshell: good (but not perfect) Vietnamese food in a comfortable space but awkward location. More positives and negatives. Large menu deserves another visit.

Continue reading Lunch Quickie: Com Vietnamese in Richmond

Lunch Quickie: Horin Ramen + Sake on Robson

Horin Ramen + Sake opened up in late 2018, occupying the space that used to be the short-lived Sanuki Udon (review here). They’ve got an impressively TIGHT menu with only ONE kind of ramen (with five variations that only differ in toppings), two kinds of gyoza, and that’s basically it! With such a narrow focus, they should nail this style of tonkotsu ramen, right? Mostly yes…but the detailed answer is a bit more complicated.

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First Look: Good Pizza & Beer, Aw-pho Pho at Sing Sing Beer Bar on Main St.

As Wicca says, the beef pho we had here was “aw-pho” (as in “awful”, for the dense people). I try to stay away from superlatives, but that bowl of beef pho we had at Sing Sing Beer Bar was the single worst dish I’ve had in the last year. The chef here is vegan.

Disclaimers about this review:

  • Sing Sing were open less than a week a week and a half when we visited, so the food and menu will probably change. Hopefully the pho will improve.
  • I post this because people like you and me deserve to know how the food is tasting now, if we’re considering risking our hard-earned money on a place with a gloriously wacky concept.
  • Consider this a rough guide to what works and what doesn’t right now.
  • NOTE: the room got dark really fast, so my photos of the food are horrible. The food actually looks way better in-person.
  • There’s some connection to Donnelly Group that I haven’t been able to suss out yet. Sing Sing is a venture by the people behind Back and Forth Bar (the ping pong bar) in Gastown. Could it be Donnelly Group lending support to places that are actually cool? Instead of overwrought and soulless?
  • NOTE 2: I wrote this while high, so I’ve gone back afterwards and added a few notes, as noted. 🙂

If you don’t want to read or scroll, here it is in a nutshell:

Good beer list, very fair beer prices, great pizza, the pho is a crime against Vietnamese culture, and the room is VERY LOUD.

Continue reading First Look: Good Pizza & Beer, Aw-pho Pho at Sing Sing Beer Bar on Main St.