Nando's Chicken - Metrotown

Metrotown is not my favorite place. It's really crowded, the lights are too bright, the music is too loud, and it's way too big. Sometimes though, you gotta go. A couple of weekends ago we ended up there to see Fantastic Mr. Fox, but, as we eventually learned, it wasn't even open yet. So we spent hours looking for work clothes for Shane instead.

Anyway, we had an entertainment book coupon for Nando's, so that's where we went for lunch. Of course, this wasn't at a sit-down restaurant, but at a food court. We both had the chicken breast with one side. I choose fries, while Shane had the chicken with coleslaw. It was a good deal with the coupon, but I did notice the prices being a little high for a food court. This was our first time at Nando's and we were impressed at the grilling that was going on.

The food was pretty good, especially comparing with the other fatty options available. The chicken was great, with a real grilled flavour and charcoal-y bits; the flesh was juicy as well. This was nice, because we don't have a grill at home and can't really replicate this. It could have had more sauce though, since I could hardly taste it. I like the lemon they included as well. This gave the chicken a brightness.

Coleslaw. I hate it. I have never met one I didn't like. It's so heavy, so mayonaise-y. Yuk. But Shane thought it was okay.

Which brings me to the fries...I ordered 'piri' fries, and I couldn't tell the difference, because it looked like regular fries. But holy cow, those fries were salty. It was as if they were drenched in salt or something, because it was so, so salty.

So all in all, it was a mixed experience. the chicken was good, but other stuff, not so much. I'd be curious to visit one of their sit-down restuarants though.

Nando's Chicken (Burnaby Metropolis) on Urbanspoon

Arc of Justice

Earlier this month, John McWhorter of The Root posted an article on 10 books about race that haven’t gotten enough attention. I’m not so current with what’s out there, but as I went through his list, I thought, “of course this is important”, “of course this book has to be read.” So I went to my local library and got an armload of books.

I spent an entire weekend reading and finishing Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, by Kevin Boyle. The book is about the experiences of Dr. Ossian Sweet, a Black doctor who had the audacity to move into a house in a white neighbourhood of Detroit in the late 1920's. Dr. Sweet was this remarkable man whose parents had been slaves in Florida, and who, with hard work and determination, went to Howard University and became a medical doctor. There is murder, unbelievable racism, the rising influence of the KKK, and a grippping courtroom drama featuring Clarence Darrow.

The book is so well written that it reads like a brilliant work of fiction. I couldn't put it down. This book won the National Book Award in 2004, and deservedly so.

A recommended read, to be sure.

Red Robin - Lougheed

Last week it was rainy (like it is now) and Shane felt like eating a burger. So we opted for a place from the past, the Red Robin near Lougheed Mall. It’s really from Shane’s past ‘cause he actually used to work at a Red Robin when he was a teenager (which is funny because he can’t really cook meat – everything is well done with him). I used to go there a lot back in the day, but both of us haven’t been for a couple of years (mainly because the couple of times we tried, we were waiting to be seated and absolutely no one came to greet us, so we left after about 5 minutes).

Anyway, as soon as we stepped in, it was like traveling back in time; all the fixtures were brassy, there was the same old Red everything, the wildly colourful carpet and the crazy patterned fabric in the booths. We arrived around lunchtime, and surprisingly, the place was hopping—lots of kid’s birthday parties, teenagers, and families.

To drink, Shane opted for the strawberry ‘freckled’ lemonade, which, like all their pop at Red Robin, was bottomless. I find this awesome, even though of course I can usually only manage a couple of rounds. The beverage itself was a little too sweet, but as the ice melted and diluted the drink, it became pretty nice and refreshing. The strawberries were not fresh, but rather soggy and macerated; however it did give a subtle strawberry flavour to the lemonade.

I chose the Red Robin Bacon Cheeseburger (with pickles! This was 10-11 bucks). The burger arrived with “bottomless” steak fries, and it was big. The tomato and lettuce were fresh, and the patty was relatively juicy, though the meat needed more seasoning. The bacon slices were so pitifully thin that I could hardly taste the bacon, and they were so generous with the mayo that it was all I could taste. The mayo made the burger a big, soggy mess. I like messy burger, but it's not so nice when large squirts of mayo drip from it as you bite the burger.

The fries were quite good: crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Now, on to one of the best things about Red Robin: their Buzz sauce (hot sauce) that they put on their wings. It’s vinegary, salt, hot, and different from the usual Louisiana style hot sauce. Really good with the fries.

Shane ordered the Guacamole Bacon Burger, and he had the same issues as I did – the lack of meat seasoning, the thin slices of bacon, the way too much mayo. Of course, his burger was extra soggy because of the guacamole, but that’s Shane’s own fault really.

Alas, we were too stuffed to even order a second helping of fries, or even get dessert. I remember Red Robin used to have the greatest banana splits, with pineapple, strawberry and chocolate sauces and an entire banana in a huge oblong metal bowl. I’m sorry to say that particular item has been off the menu for years now....

Red Robin’s burgers are generally pretty good based on our previous dining experiences, so I’m guessing maybe they had an off day. Those burgers are not the same calibre as Vera’s or any of the gourmet burger places of course, but there is something cool about Red Robin’s history and their huge portions (and ‘bottomlessness’ !).

We’ll probably won’t be back for a long while, but we’ll be back...eventually.

Red Robin (Lougheed) on Urbanspoon

This One's for Mary

...who told me to snap this picture. These kids are taking a picture of the famous Vancouver landmark, the 'steam' clock.


Last week, a few of my co-workers and I checked out the new Gastown restaurant and drinking spot, Pourhouse. Of course, we couldn't try any of their drinks because we had to go back to work, so we just opted for a nice lunch.

The restaurant is a little hard to find; there isn't a huge sign to indicate that a restaurant is there, and only recently has its name been on the door. The restaurant feels cozy and posh, with tablecloths, cushy booths, and has an old timey feel with it's exposed bricks, radiators, and shiny dark wood.

I ordered their crispy cheese sandwich, with the house tomato soup ($12). The grilled cheese itself was good, though I'd say that Burgoo's version is better (and my husband's version quite a bit better than that). It was very classic, with regular bread, but it was a little too overdone (the other side of the sandwich was black). There really wasn't anything to distinguish it from any other grilled cheese. However, the tomato soup was excellent. It had a very concentrated, tart, tomato flavour, and really went well with the greasy cheese. Some people might find the soup to be a tad strong and vinegary, but I loved it.

Now, the following are pictures (some very bad) of my co-worker's dishes. Of course, I can't say much about the taste, but they all seemed to like the food.

The sloppy joe ($16). Brigid liked this, though it wasn't very sloppy joe-like.

Another crispy cheese, but with the fish soup. The fish soup apparently was excellent.

Beef Brisket sandwich with mushroom soup

Pork and beans

Halibut. We all tried the bean puree, which was very good

After the meal, we settled down with some Americanos. Overall, we had a great time. The prices are a bit high for lunch, and the servings are on the small side, but we all left satisfied.

Pourhouse on Urbanspoon

Lhy Thai

Inspired by a pretty good Thai dining experience at Maenam, I wanted to try some other Thai places that I'd heard about. One of these places was Lhy Thai, which is on Edmonds street in Burnaby, so when our friend Linda called us out for dinner, this was the place we chose. I was curious about the restaurant from Sherman's review of it, and from one of Shane's co-workers, who used to go there regularly when he worked close by.

We arrived on a dark and rainy weeknight, so there were plenty of seats. However, the restuarant did get a lot busier later in the night. The restaurant on the inside feels a little cramped, because there are a lot of tables crammed into the space, and the room was filled with a lot of Thai kitch, pictures and plants all over the place. However, there is nothing pretentious about this place, and the restaurant was definitely very comfortable.

Shane and Linda had a beer, but I opted for Thai iced tea, which was on the menu. It arrived in a small glass, but the taste of the tea was pretty similar to what you'd get in Thailand (it just needed to have a bit more punch). However, for $3.99, it was pricy for its size.

One of our appetizers we got was the spring roll ($5.95). These were large and crispy, with a tasty vegetarian filling. It came with a side of Chinese style sweet and sour sauce, which I didn't care for. I would have preferred that the spring rolls came with the traditional Thai nam jiim (fish sauce, lime, garlic, fresh chilies, cilantro).

Next, we ordered the pork satay ($5.95), which came with a side of pickled cucumbers and a peanut sauce. The satays were pretty good, though not exceptional. The pork had a nice grilled flavour and the peanut sauce was finger licking and very tasty. The cucumbers were refreshing, and cut the richness of the sauce nicely.

I wanted to get the chicken larb ($8.25) as a kind of test, since it's definitely not a common thing for people to order in Thai restaurants, and because when it's good, it's really, really good. One of the best memories from a trip to Thailand was ordering this dish in Northeast Issan province from a street vendor and eating it with sticky rice. When it's good, the larb is pungent with garlic and lime, fresh with herbs, tongue-numbingly spicy, and instantly addictive. So how did this larb from Lhy Thai hold up? It was surprisingly good. Of course it didn't have that level of spice and the sourness of the dish was tampered a bit by the addition of sugar, but overall, it compared relatively well. The best thing I can say about it is that I would order it again. It was great with rice.

Next came the green curry with chicken ($8.50). The curry was a little watery, but had excellent flavour (it's not too good when the curry is too thick with coconut milk either); there was a nice complexity to the curry, which was really good. The contents of the curry, bamboo, peppers, chicken, were pretty standard. This went really great with rice.

We also tried the pad thai with shrimp ($8.50). If you've ever eaten pad thai in Thailand (off the main 'tourist' drag, of course), you'll know that what passes for pad thai in Canada is not really authentic. It shouldn't be red and sweet, for instance, and should always be served with a wedge of lime and a handful of chives. So this pad thai was just ok. It was red and sweet, but not overly so. It also had way too much ground peanut (peanuts should just give a small textural contrast and a bit of flavour and shouldn't dominate). Hey, it tasted good, you know? But pad thai-wise, it was a bit of a disappointment.

We were really full, but how could we say no to dessert? So we ordered each dessert they offered: Mango with sticky rice, coconut ice cream with coconut meat, and deep fried bananas with mango ice cream. Yum, yum, yum. Linda loved the banana dessert and declared the mango ice cream a really good match to the deep fried banana. How can you go wrong with deep fried banana?

The mango with sticky rice was good, though with a few small flaws: the mango was the Mexican variety and was not too ripe, so it didn't have that ripe mango aroma and sweetness which is so essential to the dessert. However, the sticky rice with coconut milk was good, although the coconut was missing the pinch of salt that gives the dessert such a strange and amazing out of this world quality.

The best dessert of the night, surprisingly, was the coconut ice cream with coconut meat. The ice cream was delicious, and the coconut meat was an unusual addition (though it makes sense, of course!). It was simple and delicious.

We love Lhy Thai. It's not the most authentic Thai place, but it's authentic enough to bring really good memories of Thailand. The Thai couple who run it are really kind (they even gave us calendars at the end of the meal!). The prices are also a bit of a throwback (the dishes are mostly around $8, surprisingly enough). I'd be happy to return to try other dishes, for sure.

Lhy Thai on Urbanspoon

February Baby Sweater

Those of you not into knitting may not know Elizabeth Zimmerman. But for many knitters, both beginners and experts, Elizabeth Zimmerman is something akin to a knitting God. She was a very instinctive and intuitive knitter, and taught a lot of students to be so. She wrote a great number of books, among them Knitting Without Tears, Knitter's Almanac, and The Opinionated Knitter, all of which can be found here.

One of her most popular patterns is the February Baby Sweater, from Knitter's Almanac. There are so many beautiful examples of it that can be seen here. The pattern takes up just 2 paragraphs, so there was quite a bit to decipher. To be honest, I don't even know if I knitted the sweater the right way (alas, I added buttonholes after the yoke, not during like I was supposed to--but then again, Elizabeth doesn't mention buttonholes until it was too late). I'm not around babies, so I had no idea how long to make the body and the sleeves.

It turned out quite a bit bigger than I expected, but then this is mainly because I used a US7 needle size. The little girl that it's for, a friend's daughter named Charlotte, will have to grow into it. Hopefully it doesn't fit her in a freakish way....


In an earlier post, I'd mentioned that in the North Road - Lougheed Area, there were a couple of Japanese restauants run by Japanese people. One of them was Fuji Sushi, and the other one is Matsuzushi, which is in the same area as Insadong and Pho 99, on the corner of Lougheed and North Road. The restaurant is much more causual than other Japanese restaurants, and feels a lot more like a cafeteria than any thing else.

The interior of the restaurant is very simple--basic tables and chairs, a wall of photographs of menu items on the one side, and a self-serve station where you get your tea, chopsticks, and soy sauce bowls. The restuarant definitely needs renovation, but the feeling of the place is quite friendly and warm. Plus, right next to the eating area, there is a small store of Japanese grocery items.

We got the chicken karaage ($6.50), which turned out to be one of the better fried chicken I've had. There wasn't much of a crust, but the chicken pieces were seasoned wonderfully. The pieces were crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside. So good. Almost as good as my mom's!

Next, we had assorted sushi and maki rolls: toro ($1.60), tako ($1.60), avacado roll ($3.50), spicy salmon roll ($3.50), and ume shiso roll ($2.75). Of course my favorite roll is the ume shisho roll, and I'm always happy when I get it. The sour and salty of the plum with the herby shisho leaf just go so well with the rice. The sushi pieces were just okay. The octopus (tako) could have been a lot more tender and flavourful, and the toro tuna was a little too soft. The other rolls were good; the spicy salmon had a real kick, and the avacado was nice.

One of the very special things about Matsuzushi is their special dessert, DEEP FRIED ice cream sundae ($3.00). This huge crusty ball of ice cream arrived in a cute little bowl. The hot outside batter was almost fritter like, with a panko (or cornflake?) crust, and the inside was a cool vanilla ice cream. All this is topped with chocolate sauce. It was a real taste experience: hot, cold, crunchy, soft. So good. Worth every calorie, we swear.

In terms of quality and price, Fuji sushi is better, but there is something extra special about Matsuzushi, like the ex-marathon runner owner (he has pictures of himself running on a small corner of a wall), like the karaage, and the fabulous deep fried sundae. The servers and the chefs are always really friendly. Plus, where else can you shop for Japanese grocery items right after you have your dinner?

From the store attached to the restaurant: umeboshi, tea, and Mario's green tea ice cream!

Matsuzushi on Urbanspoon

Ravishing Beasts - Museum of Vancouver

On Saturday we went to the Museum of Vancouver to see the special exhibit 'Ravishing Beasts', showcasing the taxidermy collection from the museum's archives. I wasn't at all familiar with taxidermy, but always had a curiousity about stuffed animals. The exhibit seems like a relic of an era, a weird mixture of the science, Imperialism, and the obsession of collecting nature and conquering death.

The dog was probably my favorite specimen in the exhibit. It really did look alive, as if it were patiently waiting for its owner to reappear.

These birds (starlings, waxwings, and some other type) were disturbing, because these birds were clearly dead, not posed as if alive like the other animals in the exhibit.

These is part of an installation by an artist featuring bottled animals. This was really creepy, because the animals were just stuffed in the glass. Some of the animals had their heads peaking out from the liquid.

The beaver has the most curious expression--it seems both sad and happy.

Seeing the animals which are obviously dead was both fascinating and unsettling; they are so still and also seem so alive, as if they were stopped forever in a moment in time. It's weird because I was very close to these specimens, but haven't been nearly as close to most of these animals in real life. Of course, the exhibit also showcases the skill of taxidermists, and an art that is of a past era.

It's definitely worth going, if you are interested and in the area. The museums permanent collection of Vancouver history is quite fun and interesting as well.


After looking at stuffed dead animals at the Vancouver Museum, we walked a few blocks up to 4th Avenue. Maenam has been on our radar for a little while, ever since it opened with a rave review from the Georgia Straight. I was excited to try authentic Thai flavours, as the Vancouver scene is a little lacking in stellar Thai restaurants. As I’ve mentioned before, I was born in Thailand and grew up there before immigrating to Canada when I was a child. Our family never went to Thai restaurants when I was growing up, because the food was so bad. But from my mom’s cooking and a couple of long trips back to Thailand as an adult, I declare Thai food to be my favourite cuisine ever. Like you know how sometimes someone asks you if you could choose only one type of cuisine to eat for the rest of your life? Well, for me it’d be Thai food, hands down. There is a freshness, flavour and depth to Thai food which I’ve never found anywhere else. And for me it was only in Thailand that you can get that kind of flavour (ok, there was this restaurant in San Francisco....). So we went to Maenam hoping, hoping this would be IT.

Maenam is right in the heart of Kitsilano on 4th avenue, between the tree streets Cypress and Maple. The restaurant inside is modern and clutter-free, with sage green walls, grass wall feature, and warm wood floors. There is a row of banquette seating along one mirrored wall, and a few tables near the window and in the middle of the room; there are seats for about 35 people, upon estimation. One thing that struck me was the restaurant’s beautifully shiny cork tables, which had a really beautiful organic swirly pattern.

We arrived as soon as they opened, and were the only customers for a while (it was also one of those horribly rainy and wet Saturdays).

We asked if the restaurant had Thai iced tea (a deliciously sweet and bright orange concoction of strong tea, evaporated milk and sugar that’s sold everywhere in Thailand), but they didn’t, so we just settled for water and a regular tea. The lunch/late night menu is small, with small plates at $8, and larger plates $12-14 . We decided to share a few plates.

This is the green papaya salad or som dtam ($8), and I was really excited when this arrived. It looked fabulous, with crunchy shreds of green papaya, carrot, pieces of long bean, tomatoes, all topped with peanuts and dried shrimp. It looked like the real thing. However, tasting it was a disappointment, because the salad was so mild. It was overly sweet, and normally with a good som dtam you'd get really pungent, strong, assertive lime, fish sauce, chili, and garlic flavours--like every bite would knock you out. This was so diluted, so pale, so felt definitely like the dish was 'dumbed down'.

Next we shared the Fried Rice with Sausage ($12), which came generously piled on a large plate. I was excited and amazed at this dish. The Thai sausage (Naam) that is featured here is amazing, and so incredibly true to the what they have in Thailand. In Thailand, Naam is really popular, and it is basically a seasoned pork that is left to ferment until it acquires a pleasing sour flavour. This sausage is a little unusual in that it is very dense and dry in texture, so I imagine this might need some getting used to. But for me, it was so familiar and so good. It went with the fried rice really well, which was seasoned with a slightly sweet soy based sauce. Also served with the fried rice, as is the custom in Thailand, is the nahm jim dipping sauce, which is basically lime, fish sauce, garlic and fresh chili. The nahm jim is wonderful, sour, salty and strong, exactly like what you'd find in Thailand.

We also shared the Muslim Oxtail Soup ($14). This soup was pretty good, with a nice warm heat to it from the dried chili. The pieces of beef from the Oxtail were delicious and tender. It was good with a scoop or two of white rice. Athough it was a good dish, I would have prefered the flavours to be a little stronger. However, this was enjoyable and perfect on a rainy day.

The fried rice and the soup were both enormous, so we were both really full. But we couldn't resist sampling a dessert. We decided on rice donuts with Thai iced tea ice cream ($7), which sounded the most interesting. The donuts were soft and fluffy, but unfortunately, the thick coating of sugar obscured any flavour the rice flour would have given to the donut. It tasted like your usual donut, except a little softer in texture. However, the standout was the ice cream, which tasted exactly like the Thai iced tea you'd get back on the streets of Thailand. Even though it arrived either not frozen enough or partially melted, the taste was amazing. It had a spectacular Thai iced tea (Cha Yen) flavour. Yum, yum, yum!

So in the end it was an experience filled with really high highs and low lows. I'm looking forward to the future of this restaurant though, because if they can bring in more authentic Thai dishes instead of the usual fare (or at least do the usual stuff really, really well), this place would have a spectacular future to be at the forefront of the Thai restaurant scene.

We would definitely come back here, no question, to see what else they have on the menu.

Maenam on Urbanspoon

Denny's - Coquitlam

I've got a soft spot for Denny's. It's the kind of unpretentious, unambitious restaurant that reminds you of an earlier time. Unlike White Spot, which has aspirations of grandeur, there is something also a little timeless about Denny's, because it seems the same as it's always been. The service is always friendly and the servers aren't the cookie-cutter types that you find at other chain restaurants.

The Coquitlam location is very central, right on the corner of Austin and North Road. The decor is earthy and warm, with lots of wood and cushy booths. We arrived in the morning, so we opted for breakfast. There is lots of choice for breakfast, and you can easily add your own components to your breakfast with their 'grand slams'.

I choose the Belgian Waffle Slam, which came with two eggs, two sausages, two strips of bacon, and a large waffle. Ok, the waffle isn't exactly Cafe Medina standard (far from it), but it was crispy and tasted all right with the syrup. The sausages weren't that great because they were strangely soft, but the bacon was cooked well. I'd requested eggs 'over medium', but they arrived actually soft (many places seem to get this wrong for some reason).

Shane got the Fabulous French Toast Platter, with 3 slices of French toast, along with 2 slices of bacon and 2 sausages. The French toast was quite good--the slices were very thick and had a nice buttery flavour, with a slight touch of cinnamon. They could have been a little more eggy, but each slice was crisp and golden on the outside and tasted great.

In terms of breakfast, Denny's is quite standard; it certainly doesn't stand out because of the food. Instead, it stands out because of its relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It's the kind of place that allows you to linger over a cup of coffee and the daily paper. There is something pretty special about that.

Denny's (Coquitlam) on Urbanspoon