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Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Pestle Rock Thai

In Eating Out, Food on May 30, 2014 at 16:03

I was so glad to be introduced to Pestle Rock Isan Thai in Ballard (thanks IC)!

This was not the every day Thai restaurant we encountered.

I asked the cook what “Isan” meant, and she told me that it was the Northern part of Thailand.

The foods were delicious and uniquely represented the northern region of Thailand.

I had not “studied” a Thai restaurant menu as intensely ever as the one at Pestle Rock.

When I read the menu, every dish looked a little familiar and a little different — whether it was in the ingredients, or in the spices they used.

My girlfriend and I pigged out.

There was just too many new dishes to try — it boiled down to that we had to go back with more friends!

My favorite was the special coconut fried rice, Yum Kao Rod.  It was one of those amazing sensorial experience.

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The coconut rice was crispy, as if each rice granule was fried, baked or crisped but not too much that we knew it was still rice.

Every bite was burst with flavors of ginger, galangal and other aromatics.

It was also tossed with coconut flakes for another crisper harder dimension.

I had never seen this dish serve in any other Thai restaurant and it was just a wonderful treat!

Next we tried the Thai sausage.

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It was SO hot!!!

Tender, soft meat with fresh spices and herbs.

My friend had to get Thai ice tea and I was toughing it out with water!

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We also had soup which was similar to Tom Yum but with pork ribs and potatoes.

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It was flavorful and the meat fell off the bones.

Not only that we decided to go for dessert — even though our stomachs were stretched to their limit — we went for 2 desserts!

We could not decide which one of the desserts we wanted more since both were rare!

First one was grilled coconut sticky rice with black bean and either banana or taro.

We opted for taro.

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The taro flavor was very mild and the coconut sticky rice was unsweetened, chewy and carried the sweet beany flavor of black beans.

The addition of coconut flakes added crispiness and dryness to the otherwise moist and gooey rice.

This dessert had an excellent play with texture.

Then we had the egg custard with sticky rice.

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This dessert took some getting used to.

The egg custard was very soft, very sweet steamed egg that laid on top of the mildly coconut flavored sticky rice.

On top of that was fried shallots, pungent and oniony.

I had such a strong association of shallots with savory food that it was difficult for me to make the switch for this dessert.

I will most certainly return for the coconut fried rice and the many more dishes they had to offer!!

Pestle Rock Isan Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Ready to cook some Malay, Indian, Chinese food along with mooncake?

In Food Media, Games on May 28, 2014 at 15:25

This is a special post for game lovers!

I have a Microsoft Surface and found these amazing food games available written by Afzainizam Zahari.

So far, he had made 5 games for the Surface and other platforms: Japan Food Adventure, Kopi Tiam, Mooncake Shop, My Donut Days and Happy Burger Days.

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Checking out Izam’s website, he had written 6 other food related games on other platforms.

They were all time-management games.

The graphics were nice and cute; the games — fun, challenging and educational!

These games actually gave rough idea of how a dish was prepared, and I found this aspects also very educational.

I had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Izam about his games, his inspirations and our common interest — food!

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Game writer – Afzainizam Zahari with his fried rice!

Izam grew up in Singapore where a great mix of people and culture existed.

According to Izam, food was a big part of life in Singapore, and it seemed to be something that everyone was familiar with; the familiarity would make an easy draw for people to sit down and play these games.

Even though Izam graduated with a biology degree, he was fascinated by electronic games since he was young and started writing games during university.

At the time, the mobile game market was controlled by large telecom corporation and in order to publish games on their network, it required a huge sum of money for upfront investment, and Izam’s game writing adventure went on hiatus for a while.

With Apple iPhone, publishing required very little money, and he started creating and publishing his first game in 2009.

Izam chose the food topic of his games based on food that he liked or food that had special significance in his life.

He drew his game inspirations from many places: films, music, people and personal experiences; for example, the creation of Mooncake shop was a cascade of inspirations.

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Customers waiting for teas and mooncakes. At this level, I was making regular and green tea mooncakes!

He first saw the mooncake box displayed in the shop, and it reminded him of a Hong Kong movie by Wong Ka Wai which he had seen that was set in the 1960s.

One thing led to another, Izam made Mooncake shop game in a nostalgic setting with graphics and music to go along with that theme.

My own personal favorite among his games were the Japanese Food Adventure and kopi Tiam.

The graphics in Japanese Food Adventure completely reminded me of my favorite anime from my childhood, Dr. Slump – Arale Chan.

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Preparing curry rice with fried shrimp while the impatient sumo wrestler showed up for soba!

Players got to serve sushi, made curry rice with fried shrimp, serving soba to grumpy Somo wrestler — it was so much fun albeit a little stressful at time as time management game tended to do.

Izam lived in Sapporo, Japan, for a while, and felt right to write the Japanese Food Adventure as an homage to time spent living and working there.

It was one of Izam’a biggest project, and he personally drew out all the characters and food items for the game.

It took a long time to complete the project but it was a special project for him and it worth every minute spent.

Izam did not want to make his games as the simple “serve-food-in-restaurant” time management game, and he wanted players to be able to “cook” the food accurately and yet with simple steps.

For my favorite game, Kopi Tiam, which also happened to be Izam’s favorite of all his games — he researched through watching You Tube videos and pouring through recipes to learn the steps to prepare the dishes.

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Little India in Kopi Tiam — serving drinks such as Milo, coffee and teas, and pratas and soup tulang

He had learnt a lot about cooking through his research but still did not think it was a good idea for him to cook them!

The game was complicated and had many more levels than his other games.

It was separated into Malay village, Little India, China Town and extra game levels on breakfast and special foods.

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China Town serving chili crabs, dim sum, Hainen chicken rice and with drinks such as sugar cane juice, grass jelly drinks and dessert of Iced Kacang

Izam enjoyed the breakfast level tremendously and to prepare soft-boiled eggs, youtiao, porridge and kaya toasts in the game.

I just loved that there was so many different kinds of food to prepare!

Of course, it also brought back great food memory from our recent SE Asia trip (Eating in Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia).

I was only half way through my progress in Malay Village, and I was serving satay, mee rebus and mee soto, 2 types of nasi lemak along with drinks such as cendol and bandung.

I believe there was 6 more food to learn along the journey to the end of the Malay Village level.

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Malay village with satay, mee rebus (soup noodle), and proudly serving drinks including cendol, bandang coffee and teas

He is currently working on a spin-off from the Mooncake Shop game, where the bunny, Yutu, from the previous game would be the star.

Izam’s favorite foods were rebus, satay, Kway Tiao, soba, chicken rice and maggi goreng to name a few, but honestly far too many to list!

 

 

 

 

Pizza Versus – Humble Pie and Mercato Stellina

In Eating Out, Food on May 23, 2014 at 16:00

Two newish pizza joints in our Greater Seattle area, and I had the chance to visit them just couple days apart.

Passed by Humble Pie all the time in International District – couldn’t miss it as it was where the big wood-fire stood stoically by Rainier Ave.

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It had a very casual, lay back, neighborhood friendly atmosphere with picnic table seating.

They grew their own chickens on site and all the ingredients for the pizzas were as organic and as local as they could get.

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That day, DH had the pull pork pizza and I the mushroom and egg.

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It was delicious and it was the bready and doughy kind.

The bottom was very crisp thanks to the high heat wood-fire oven, and the mids of the crust remained moist and chewy; it was not as fluffy as Tutta Bella’s yet still good.

The flavors were amazing.

This was my first experience of having a BBQ pizza without BBQ sauce!

The pull pork was a little drier but it oozed out barbeque smokiness and sweet aroma that no sauce was necessary.

The pickled onions were tasty crunchy and vinegary, and the tomato sauce was just tangy enough to be a great supporting actress.

Honestly, I believe my mushroom and egg was the winner of the 2; it felt like a harmonized choir in my mouth.

At the bass and tenor, there was the strong earthy mushrooms lightly sautéed, coupled with delicious truffle oil – the flavors were deep and grounding.

At the soprano, the fresh crisp arugula was delivering its sharp and distinctive flavor.

Finally alto, the egg:  it was subtle but gave the most creamy buttery texture in the mouth with the runny egg yolk.

Both pizzas came with light and great texture cheese which was perfect for my personal preference – it lightened up the pizzas in grease level and allowed the other ingredients to shine.

My only wish to Humble Pies pizzas was to have more toppings; it felt like there was too much dough.

Humble Pie on Urbanspoon

I wanted to go to Mercato Stellina for lunch then realized a while back that they only opened for dinner.

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Tucked quietly at the edge of old Bellevue downtown, Mercato Stellina had lovely outdoor seating and was opened by the folks who had Cantinetta.

It was a treat as we went with friends and got to try 4 of their pizzas: funghi, spicy salami, speck and prosciutto.

First, crust.

Mercato’s was the thin kind, a bit dry and hard.

I was really looking forward to the funghi with truffle oil and sage but was disappointed.

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The sautéed mushrooms looked and tasted not so healthy and flavor a little strange.

The truffle oil was great but the sage addition did not work well for me.

The sharp tallegio cheese was dry and sharp which was a nice compliment to the truffle flavor.

The spicy salami was quite spicy and delicious; paired really well with the slight tart and sweet tomato sauce — but the pizza had too much cheese for my taste and was a little greasy.

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The prosciutto meat was also lovely, fatty and tasty, and work classically great with fresh arugula and the nutty parmesan cheese.

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My speck was probably the most exciting of the 4 pizzas.

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speck with pear, gorgonzola and mint

The meat itself was dry with a lovely smoky, deep and surprisingly gamey flavor; paired with thinly sliced sweet pear, tart yet sweet balsamic vinegar and the bitter strong character of gorgonzola, it was a winning flavor combination.

We also had the baby kale salad with Italian tuna and a lovely tangy dressing; and tried our friends’ super tender meat balls which had a nice tomato sauce but the flavors inside the meatball was a little bland.

Mercato Stellina on Urbanspoon

Between the 2 pizza places, personally I preferred Humble Pie — the winner of this round of pizza vs.

Vancouver Food Day Part III

In Eating Out, Food, North America, Travel Food on May 21, 2014 at 12:42

My favorite Hong Kong style café in Richmond BC – Lido!

The must-get in Lido was the Hong Kong style milk tea.

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Hong Kong style milk tea with corn beef and egg sandwich

Black tea flavor was strong and the milk was silky, velvety smooth and creamy.

The milk tea came unsweetened and each person could adjust their sweetness-liking accordingly.

It was truly a little luxury in a cup and I savored every sip of it.

Alas, no establishment in the Greater Seattle area produced such delicious milk tea — it made crossing boarder a must!

Lido also served excellent Hong Kong style coffee and milk tea mix, yin yang 鴛鴦, which was exceptionally authentic, down to the use of not-so-great coffee.

Perfect balance of tea, coffee and milky goodness, it was another must-try.

To eat: my favorite toasted corn beef and egg sandwich.

At Lido, fantastically fluffy eggs and salted corn beef was sandwiched between 2 slices of perfectly toasted white bread.

Every bite was exciting — first there was the crunch of the toast, followed by soft pillowy eggs and flavored with corn beef.

My only wish was for more corn beef in the sandwich.

These drinks and sandwich brought back nostalgic memory of having these same food with the street vendor in Hong Kong market.

Lido was also famous for their pineapple buns, which were often sold out.

I found pineapple bun with satay beef on the menu and had to try that!

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The pineapple bun was fluffy, sweet and lovely as usual.

The best part of the pineapple bun was the top where the sweet flakes fell off as one bit into it.

It was unmistakably buttery and soothing.

The addition of satay beef introduced a sweet salty competition in the mouth.

The satay flavor was very strong albeit a little too salty, and the beef was super tender.

It was a little messy to eat and nonetheless enjoyable.

Lido Restaurant 麗都餐廳 on Urbanspoon

Another place I loved right next door to Lido was Excellent Tofu and Snack.

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They made some really smooth tofu here.

Usually I came for the plain tofu, or tofu fa 豆腐花 with ginger syrup.

The tofu was silky –  upon close inspection, there was no bump on the surface of the tofu.

It had a nice soy bean flavor and each spoonful would melt away in the mouth – it gave away exactly like the inside of seared foie gras.

I believe tofu fa was one of the greatest dessert in the world.

It was healthy — completely vegetarian, low in fat, high in protein and as long as we did not overdo on sugar or syrup, it was also low-calorie.

The shop offered this simple, light and healthy dessert in hot or cold form.

Each tiny table in the store or the counter area had small tubs of brown sugar which was customary to add into the tofu dessert for extra sweetness (also textural crunch), or when someone ordered the tofu plain with no syrup.

There were many flavors or combination possible with this simple food: the addition of red bean, grass jelly, barley; coconut flavor, peanut flavor, taro flavor, options were limitless.

This last visit, I went for something different, almond tofu.

I usually enjoyed the “fake tofu” almond tofu.

The fake one was made with agar, evaporated milk, almond extract and sugar.

This real tofu almond tofu was delivered with sweetened almond syrup.

On top of it, I had the full make up with the addition of fruit cocktail.

It was so delicious!

The shop also sold fresh soy milk and tofu curd for cooking.

I loved their tofu so much that I brought a box from Seattle to buy their tofu curd and transported them back.

Unfortunately it was an utter failure — due to its silky soft nature, the tofu curd did not survive the car ride and turned into tofu mush.

If I recalled, I made the tofu into a very mushy ma po tofu — never again.

Excellent Tofu & Snack 好好豆品專門店 on Urbanspoon

Top Gun

In Eating Out, Food on May 19, 2014 at 10:22

For belated Mother’s Day celebration, we brought DH’s mom to Top Gun.

I knew my mother-in-law really loved whole fish with bone-in; and I could trust that Top Gun would deliver a great dish for her.

Decided that we were going to get steamed fish before we arrived.

However, the restaurant threw a little curve-ball on us — upon inquiry, the smallest fish they had that night was a 3.5 lb Ling Cod.

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Honestly way too much fish for 3 of us.

At the end, we decided that we were going for it, and asked for the fish to be served 3-way.

It was customary to get live fish, lobster or crab in a Cantonese style Chinese restaurant and had the live seafood divided and prepared as multiple courses.

Usually restaurants would make soup, stir-fried, steamed, or deep-fried (e.g. salt and pepper) with the fish.

For lobster or crabs, restaurants would offer up stir-fried with ginger and scallion, steamed, or deep-fried; sometimes they could make fried rice or noodle with the meat or inert, even bake in shell etc.

We picked our 3-way: soup, stir-fried with vegetables and steamed.

First was the soup.

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Absolutely loved it.

It was done in a traditional way that was milky, aromatic and creamy.

My grandmother made this kind of fish soup as well and the secret was frying the fish first.

Cooked along with cilantro, gai choy (a bitter Chinese vegetables), carrots, Chinese mushrooms and silky tofu, this soup was irresistible.

It was sweet, creamy, milky and a lovely white peppery taste to temper the fishy-ness.

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Next was steamed.

My love was the sweet soy sauce that accompanied the fish.

I could eat lots of rice with just the sauce and a little of the crisp green onions and ginger.

Fish itself was again tender.

This was my mother-in-laws favorite as she enjoyed working around the fish bones and savoring them.

It was too much work for both DH and I for the most part, and we were certainly digging around for meat.

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Lastly was stir-fried.

The tender Ling Cod fish fillet was lightly sautéed with green onions, carrots, celery, straw mushrooms, snow peas and most importantly ginger.

Every piece of the fish melted in the mouth with a light hint of sweetness just naturally from the fish.

The aromatics of ginger and green onions gave the flavors and the crisp and cooked just right vegetables delivered crunchiness to the overall dish.

I still have not master stir-frying fish fillet at home unfortunately; usually they would fell apart brilliantly — the skill in Chinese cooking I have yet to learn!

This was DH’s favorite as there was no work required to eat the fish fillet.

Overall, the Ling Cod was not a meaty fish, and positively for bone lovers.

I believe my mother-in-law had a good time — and it was all worth it.

Top Gun serves dim sum for lunch and it is the only eastside restaurant I am willing to go for dim sum; it is however, with eastside price tag as well, especially compare to our usual dim sum fort, Jade Garden.

Their dinners were great as well with my favorite such as Singaporean noodle, stir-fried broccoli with fish fillet and tofu clay pot.

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L: Singaporean noodle — R top: pork chop in peking sauce — M: garlic fried bok choy — L bottom: eggplant with oysters

 On our recent to-go gluttony, we had my super spicy heavily curried flavor (how I liked it!) Singaporean noodle with shrimp, bbq pork, egg, green onions, onions and crisp bean sprouts.  It was always dry as how it should be and delicious.

I craved for the sweetness and slight tangy sauce of the pork chop with Peking sauce; with Top Gun’s, I could even feel the crispness of the very tender pork chop underneath the super addictive sauce.

Bok Choy was fresh, crisp, sweet with garlic, and the eggplant was a bit on the greasy side but flavor still lovely with satay sauce and oysters.

Top Gun was a decent all round Cantonese style restaurant, and the owner would be opening Dim Sum Factory soon where dim sum would be served from 8 in the morning to midnight!

I can’t wait!

Top Gun Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House and Strawberries

In Eating Out, Food, My Farm on May 15, 2014 at 10:51

The Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee in the International District was truly a hidden gem.

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Set in a historic hotel built in 1910 by Japanese architect, the building had a long history in Seattle and stood as an iconic witness of the past.

Once we stepped into the café, it felt like we had stepped back in time.

The beautiful hard wood floor and counters, and the many items that were on display brought the history of early Japanese immigrants to live.

My friend had donated a lot of their old pictures on the wall from her parents’ most beloved collection.

It was as much a little museum as a comforting café.

The Panama hotel had the oldest surviving Japanese bath house in the building and they offered tour to visit the site — on my to-do list.

This charming place served great coffees, and even better teas.

The day I was there with out-of-town guests, I had an herbal tea called the Scarlet Red with rose hip and currant, which was bright red, aromatic, soothing and yet slightly tart.

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Aside from the usual cookies and pastries, they also served Japanese Confectionary by Tokara.

They were pricey for their sizes; however, this would be a case to admire quality and not quantity.

Not only that we were consuming delicious little snacks and treats, we were presented with a beautiful art form.

The day we were at the café, there were 3 types of wagashi – traditional Kyoto style sweets.

Tokara made their sweets based on seasonal appropriateness.

Each one of the wagashi was elegant and exquisite.

Each was hand-made, and I could taste the special care and tremendous time it took to make each one of these treats.

All of them had smooth red bean filling which was excellent and not sweet at all.

My favorite of all was the brown one, it had a slight chewy but slippery texture: imagine Chinese wide rice noodle in soup, and reduce the thickness of the noodle by 70%, that was how delicate and slippery the outer skin was.

My second favorite was one with the leaf wrapping.

It was for cherry blossom season and the pink cherry blossom flavored sticky rice soaked up the leaf flavors – perfect texture with most unusual flavors.

The last one was the white one with painting.

The outer layer’s texture felt like a very thin layer of cake and it was just beautiful to look at.

My sister’s favorite at Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee was their tea lattes.

Aside from matcha lattes which were getting more popular across the board, they also made hojicha and genmaicha latte as well.

Panama was most certainly a quaint quiet place to spend an afternoon in.

Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House on Urbanspoon

This season’s first 4 strawberries from my yard!

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DH and I shared the 4 strawberries and they were juicy, full of bursting ripe strawberry flavors.

I could taste the sun in the strawberries!

After couple years of vegetable-growing hiatus, we have gone back in full force!

Started seeds on beets, arugula, green onions, green beans, English cucumbers and carrots; I have also bought starts for tomatoes, parsley and thyme.

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I am really looking forward to this growing season!

In our old house, I had to battle with limited sun exposure, which limited what I could grow; and we also had huge slug problems.

My beloved English cucumbers would not bear any fruit because every time a beautiful leaf came out it would be eaten by slugs.

Now, we have a brand new gardening canvas.

We have plenty of sun but also occasional deer problem.

We planted apples, pear, strawberries and cherries; and deer came by and ate a third of the strawberry flowers and 98% of the pear flowers — very bummed out.

We are left to try natural deer deterrent with these really stinky packets in our garden – it might have worked, but my gut feeling tells me that the deer probably has not returned.

Tis is nature, and I will give me more materials to write about in our food growing adventure!

 

 

Restaurant Roux

In Eating Out, Food on May 12, 2014 at 16:36

My girlfriend’s treat for my birthday was at Restaurant Roux (Thanks ST!).

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The restaurant was tucked along Fremont Ave and had a warm, lay-back, comforting and homey feel.

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Overall, it was a fun eating experience.

We were really excited with the unusual ingredients on the menu: frog legs, pigs’ ears and gizzards.

Along with the unexpected offer, we had pasta from Il Corvo and octopus.

Here are the breakdown:

The first plate to arrive was the fried chicken gizzard — oh so good!!!

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It was fried just right with the crunchiness of the gizzards and their fibrous texture — yet still moist.

The coating was light and delicious.

Gizzards, chicken’s or duck’s, were one of my favorite snack food growing up.

My mom made the duck gizzards as a cold appetizer just with plain salt and “lo shui” , braised flavor.

I would eat them non-stop.

Since I moved to the States, I rarely found them served anywhere.

The last time I had them was at Ezell’s fried chicken which was a huge let down.

It was over-fried resulting in  dry and chewy and cardboard gizzards.

This time, we were in luck!

This chicken gizzards were perfect snack with drinks as well.

Next we had the pigs’ ears, buffalo style; most definitely a first for me as my past encounter with pigs’ ears had been in Chinese cold appetizer.

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The pigs’ ears were sliced thinly in strips, coated with a fairly thick coating with strong buffalo spicy flavor and melty blue cheese.

We were disappointed with it because the enjoyment of pigs’ ears were robbed by these strong flavors, its crunchy coating and the thinly-sliced application.

We were not able to savor the best part of pig’s ears — the crunch from the cartilages.

It was a nice snack if one wanted pigs’ ears without really eating pigs’ ears.

Both my girl friend and I preferred the Chinese pigs’ ears preparation which had thicker cuts with detectable cartilage and no coating.

Perhaps a lighter flavor and less coating would also let the pig’s ears shine through more.

The frog legs arrived and I was immediately salivating!

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The aromas of the dish was royally appealing: every one of my taste bud was ready for business!!

The frog legs were very tender and flavorful.

Lots of butter, tomatoes, garlic and fresh parsley, the dish was fresh and sweet.

I could not get enough of the sauce!

Flavors were cooked through and through into the frog legs; the dish just screamed rustic, rich and delicious!

I had not had frog legs’ for a very long time, and certainly not in an American restaurant establishment.

I was grateful the Restaurant Roux offered this dish and made it so well!

Octopus followed the frog legs.

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The flavors of the grilled octopus was very nice, simply salted and a bit of charred flavor.

However, it was a little overcooked for my taste, at the cusp of just turning chewy from tender.

The potato salad with pickled celery on the bed was excellent.

Potatoes were cooked tender and savory with horseradish-like flavor.

Lastly, we had the most excellent Il Corvo spaghetti with oysters, bacon and melted leek.

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Another to-die-for aromas from this dish!

The sauce was buttery, dense with flavors of the earth and the sea, and came across sweet.

The symphony of smokiness and meatiness of bacon, the plump and sweet small oysters, and the sweetness of aromatic leek worked fantastically well together.

Every bite was creamy and luscious.

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We had cocktails with our meal — unfortunately I already forgot their names!

They were very strong and quite delicious.

The orange one above did not work for me as it reminded me too much of cough syrup.

Our waitress was very nice and swapped out mine to the one my girlfriend was having which was sweet, bitter, smooth with a hint of lime flavor — extremely delicious, palatable and great compliment to our food.

Flavors were awesome at Restaurant Roux, but one note of caution: the food were exxtremely salty.

I remained very thirsty on the drive home and continued drinking water well into bed.

I wish the salt usage could be dramatically reduced — the meal would be perfect!

Restaurant Roux on Urbanspoon

Santouka Ramen

In Eating Out, Food on May 8, 2014 at 10:50

Second attempt, finally got to Santouka.

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My girlfriend and I arrived right at 11am when they opened on a Monday and there was already a line.

Luckily, we were able to get seated fairly quickly.

The shop was not big — seat maybe about 40 people.

A very simple menu was offered: tonkotsu ramen with shouyu, shio, karamiso and miso base.

Eggs were extra; and there was toroniku – special pork cheek meats that were highly coveted.

We ordered different soup bases so we could try their variety and found ourselves comparing Santouka to Jin Ya throughout our meal.

I got the toroniku ramen with karamiso, egg on the side, and my girlfriend had the shio ramen.

We also had the pork bun as the appetizer.

Pork bun came first — and I would say overall, it was a disappointment.

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The pork was fantastic — tender and fatty — but a thin slice, tucked in a bun that was on the hard side (not fluffy) with a wimpy stick of cilantro which was yellowing and some sweet miso paste.

I would actually call the pork bun bland.

I was not expecting flavor and texture bursting in my mouth (e.g. Taiwanese gua bao) since this was a Japanese style pork bun; however, I still expected better bun quality and more flavor.

Next was our ramen.

First, I had to try my girlfriend’s Shio Ramen since it was the plain unadulterated tonkotsu broth.

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It was delicious!

Creamy, rich flavors of pork and pork bones, and without stickiness in the palate.

The flavors were subtle, and yet one could tell that it was a broth that was cooked over a long period of time, and that every ounce of the pork that was used had transformed into the broth.

Fantastic milky color, the broth was clearly the star, and what Santouka was famous for.

With the accent of fresh green onion, thinly sliced peppers, and pickled plum, it was a delicate, tasty broth to savor on.

For broth: Santouka vs. Jin Ya, Santouka 1.

My karamiso was delicious as well; however, as expected, the miso covered up the elegant and gentle pork flavor.

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L: karamiso ramen — R:toroniku pork cheek meat

I wish they would offer a spicy version without miso; and their spiciness delivery was fairly low.

Moving onto the noodles.

I actually found my noodle too cooked, and too soft, and was not Q Q bouncy anymore.

It was the yellow egg noodle traditional ramen — it was not bad, but just expected a top notch ramen store not to overcook their noodle .

For noodle: Santouka vs. Jin Ya, Jin Ya 1.

Then, the pork.

The regular chashu was quite fatty, soft and tasty!

The meat portion was small, but their quality definitely shone through the bowl.

It was well-flavored – simply salted, and very little soy sauce flavor; quality meat was used to create the chashu and their website said they used rib meat only.

Just when I thought the chashu was good, my toroniku was out of this world!

Super tender, not very fatty, and amazingly melted in my mouth.

The texture of the pork cheek was clearly visible with a nice thin roasty skin and small layer of fat.

The portion on the pork cheek was generous and well worth the up charge for them.

I was just amazed by how buttery melty the pork was even without much fat!

For meat: Santouka vs. Jin Ya, Santouka 1.

Finally, the must-try egg.

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Very disappointing, as my egg was not runny at all; it was flavored nicely with sweetened soy sauce, but it was 60% cook through in my yolk.

For egg: Santouka vs. Jin Ya — no winner!  They both failed to deliver a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg.

It was 2 to 1 on the score board for Santouka vs. Jin Ya from a taste point of view.

Lastly, price.

Santouka was quite a bit more expensive than Jin Ya, so I was definitely sticker-shocked.

With my toroniku karamiso ramen with egg on the side plus tips and tax, it was $20.

Super expensive.

Not sure I will be going there often as it was very pricy (especially compare to Vancouver, where there was delectable and cheaper ramen); it would be an option if I have a severe case of ramen craving and do not want to drive 3 hours.

Santouka is still the best ramen option in the Greater Seattle area.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka on Urbanspoon

Vancouver Food Day Part II

In Eating Out, Food, North America, Travel Food on May 5, 2014 at 10:39

Went to Guu Garlic, and we were disappointed.

The dishes were not as good as they used to be — very sad.

We ordered many small dishes to share.

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L: sweet shrimp sashimi — R top: roasted garlic — M bottom: fried shrimps — R bottom: chicken wings

The ama ebi, sweet shrimps, was ok and was not popping crunchy fresh.

The fried garlic and fried shrimps were not anything special.

Chicken wings with soy glaze was delicious but I was not wow by them.

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L: stir fried udon — R top: salmon sashimi — R bottom: beef carpaccio

In the past, I longed for Garlic Guu’s stir-fried udon.

I was expecting a delivery of my old favorite but not anymore.

It used to be cooked just right in noodle texture, this time around, it was overcooked and soggy.

It used to have this most amazingly mushroomy flavor that I loved, and that was gone — resulting in just a regular beef udon stir-fry.

The wild salmon sashimi was fantastic, fresh, sweet and firm, and my friend said the beef carpaccio was excellent.

To be fair, food was not bad; they just had turned ordinary — without the little something that made them special anymore.

Or perhaps, we were just there on a off night.

I will still go when my friends go, but I will not long for the place anymore.

Guu Garlic on Urbanspoon

 

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Nero waffle bar, on the other hand — I will be returning in a heart beat — really wish there is one in Seattle of that quality!

The waffles were definitely one of the best I ever had!

This very tiny store on Robson and stone throw from Garlic Guu had about 12 seats inside the store and 6-8 seats outside.

The minute the door was opened, one would be welcomed by the unmistakable creamy, dreamy aroma of sweet eggy waffles.

Nero served both the light and crispy Brussels waffles and the soft and sweet Liège waffles.

On the menu, there were equal numbers of savory and sweet waffle concoctions.

Our party actually stopped by Nero before Garlic Guu to kill time and put more food in the stomach; and I ended up sharing the strawberry cream waffle with DH.

If I knew I would be disappointed with Garlic Guu, I would have eaten another chocolate mousse waffle all by myself!

The Brussels waffle was the lightest I had ever had.

Took a significant bite, and it just disappeared in my mouth — light, airy and yet, the impact of the milky, eggy and buttery flavor was enormous.

The sweet hint of waffle carried through every bite and stayed pleasantly in the mouth afterwards.

The fresh strawberries were only for decoration as the waffle star was shining so bright that there was nothing that can dim its light  (and yes, lovely fresh strawberry flavors and fresh fruit texture).

I kept eyeing the delicious looking chocolate mousse with orange on the next table and I swore to myself that I would return soon!

Of course, must also try their Liège waffles!

Nero Belgian Waffle Bar on Urbanspoon

Vancouver Food Day Part I

In Eating Out, Food, North America, Travel Food on May 2, 2014 at 10:07

Vancouver eating trip was always the best!!!

I was often surprised by my own flexible stomach at which large amount of food were deposited in a short period of time.

We started our trip at Michigan Noodle Restaurant.

I had heard a lot about the wonton noodle in this place for a very long time and finally made the journey.

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L: mixed pan fried noodle — R top: stir fried pea vines — R bottom: won ton noodle and salt and peppers chicken cartilage

The wonton noodle was excellent!

The noodles were thin and Q Q — the best term to describe the perfectly cooked noodle with a slight chewy texture, al dente and bouncy.

I usually avoided ordering egg noodles because most places could not cook them properly and had a soapy flavor.

These egg noodle was prepare fantastically without soapy flavor, and I would most certainly eat this!

The wontons were ginormous, crunchy with very fresh shrimps and thin wrappers, every bite was a treat; accompanied by the expected fish broth accented with yellow chives, it was a memorable bowl of wonton soup noodle.

The pan-fried crispy noodle was delicious as well — the contrast of crisp and soft noodle was always an enjoyable eating sensation.

There were some ingredients in our mixed pan-fried noodle I had not seen for a long while – livers and kidneys!

I believed DH had avoided them all as he was not a fan of inert.

I am not a fan of liver but a huge fan of well prepared kidneys.

Kidneys at Michigan was not bad: cooked perfectly – still crunchy and not overcooked, but there was still a little “piggy” flavor in them.

I guess nothing beat the kidneys that my Mom made at home with large amount of ginger and no piggy flavor.

The pea vine was sweet and had a crunch.

I had accepted the fact that vegetables, especially Chinese vegetables, were of much better quality in Canada than in the States.

Fresher and higher quality vegetables yielded a much tastier simple stir-fried vegetable dish.

Well, I will just have to eat lots of vegetables, along with plenty other food the next time I am in Vancouver again!

Michigan Noodle Restaurant 麥之根雲吞麵世家 on Urbanspoon

Must have ramen in Vancouver!

Normally, I went to Motomachi Shokudo.

This time, we heard about this chicken soup ramen place, Marutama Ramen and decided it was a must-try!

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I LOVED IT!

The chicken broth was really thick and rich; it was very comforting as if someone had put a blanket on me and tucked me in bed.

I opted for spicy and it made the soup tingly in the mouth both from the hot broth and the peppers.

The noodle texture was fantastic; it was an option to choose how soft we wanted the noodle to be cooked and I picked the chewiest option and I got that exactly.

The egg was excellent with its light soy flavor, runny egg yolk that was cooked just right.

The pork was extremely tender, thinly sliced, well-flavored.

It was such a textural trip: bouncy noodle, thick velvety broth, soft tender pork and the resistance of egg white at the first bite opening up to runny creamy egg yolk.

Every bite was fun, every bite was delicious, and I could drink the soup forever!

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Marutama Ramen on Urbanspoon