James Snacks

One of my early significant food person experiences happened just under 20 years ago. That experience opened me up to the world of Asian mall food courts, a world that I could not believe I had been living without. Published perhaps in the Province Newspaper, long before blogs and foodie sites became the things they are today, was a review of James Snacks, a little tiny place in the Empire Mall food court. They did basically one thing and that was clay pot rice. And why had no one told me about clay pot rice before? Why had my world of Chinese food been revolving around almond chicken and sweet and sour pork? This new dish was quite a breakthrough.

Happily, James Snacks is right where it was 2 decades ago (I think more accurately, 17 years ago based on my discussion with the proprietor). Empire Mall is another Richmond mall parking nightmare (not as bad as some) but we got figured out and located the somewhat tired little food court. This would be closer to what I would call a community secret than say, the Aberdeen Mall food court and there was plenty of available seating despite COVID limitations.
We ordered a couple of bowls and waited our 25 minutes (great food takes time). You see, the whole point of clay pot rice is that the hot bowl builds up a delightful rice crust that is crunchy and wonderful. Top that with a comforting stew or whatever you order and you have something amazing. I ordered Frog's Legs and Ginger and was belted by the aroma of ginger the moment that I lifted the lid! Yes, frog's legs taste a little like chicken but maybe just a little more oceany!
Mharie ordered the Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce. Also a wonderful bowl of warmth. I even like the lettuce that gets nicely steamed on the top and holds moisture in the bowl.

James Snacks does have a couple of other things that they offer but the clay pot rice is definitely their specialty. Mom and Pop have been here since the beginning and deserve to be supported.  I believe that there are a lot of hidden gems in this kind of ageing and less flashy mall that we need to suss out!
Food              4 out of 5
Service          4 out of 5
Comfort         3 out of 5
Value             4 1/2 out of 5




Wasuta Pasta

OK, so it's a little hard to get there but not impossible. The address, on River Road, is not to be confused with River Parkway. Start at Cambie and River Road and drive west right to the cul-de-sac. Be aware that 7080 is a big u-shaped complex that wraps around 7100 River Road, so that is confusing. Then Wasuta Pasta is upstairs in a building where you would not expect to find a restaurant. Once you get there after all that, you are in for a treat as this is Italian - Japanese cuisine, a fusion made in heaven.

We arrived early and had a reservation also but this was not a bad idea. By the time we finished our meal, the place was full.
We started with a Crab Cream Croquette. These were creamy things which I assume were mashed potato-based with a sprinkling of crab enough to bring up memories of the sea (not full of big chunks). The texture was delightful and I would order them again. They were finished with a light tomatoe sauce.
We ordered the Spaghetti Mentaiko Carbonara. We had enjoyed this (or at least the mentaiko part) at SPAGHeTEI on Robson (yes, that's how it was spelled) many years ago. Mentaiko is spicy cod roe and provides the egg part of carbonara. The roe itself was amazing being just a bit salty and did I imagine smokey? The pasta itself is housemade daily in the best Italian restaurant tradition! The pasta here was a big deal!
I was going to order the pasta with uni but our server advised us that this was also a cream-based sauce and somewhat similar. We took the cue and ordered off of their daily specials menu (longer than the regular menu). We tried Sakura Shrimp and Shirasu Spaghetti. We opted for the squid ink pasta because, why not? I don't think the taste is appreciably different but it looks cool!
The tiny shrimp were oceany and salty and very seafood forward while the wee whitefish (shirasu) were a milder flavour but the whole thing thrived together. Add a perfectly poached egg and any food person will be in heaven.
Each entree came with a salad (including garbanzos) and a selection of olives. I got them all as Mharie is not a big olive fan (a foodie in training really). 
Finally  Affagato with Matcha Ice Cream for dessert. Like an idiot, I pounded the expresso which I was supposed to pour over the ice cream! Still very nice!
Very nice place with outstanding creative food but still comforting. The menu of daily specials is longer than the published menu. I tend to make up my mind in advance but found that I had to be open to some of the specials. Nicely comfortable with very efficient as well and polite and kind staff. We really feel like this is a gem.
Food                 5 out of 5
Comfort            5 out of 5
Service             5 out of 5
Value                5 out of 5








Bubble Waffle Cafe at the Amazing Brentwood

We're not big fans of mall food (the exception being Asian malls as in Crystal, Aberdeen, etc.) but the Stupendous Brentwood seems to be offering a different kind of experience. The mall is currently very much a work in progress and if you wander off the beaten path into the older areas, you will find that it is anything but amazing and maybe even a little depressing. However, there has been some excitement generated by the dining part of the rebuild and we wanted to take a look for ourselves.

Eventually, we found our way to the food court, called Tables (but still just a food court) which has a more than a comfortable area for dining and generally enough room that you can find a place to sit down and eat. We decided that we would try Bubble Waffle Cafe. There are a few BWCs around so this is not their first rodeo.
You can grab a menu and check off your choices (so as not be a blockage in the process by standing and staring at the menu when you are at the front of the line) and they will call out your number when your food is ready.
As usual, we ordered too much and had a fair bit go home with us. I have arrived at the conclusion that it is not Taiwanese food if we are not eating Deep Fried Chicken Nuggets and these were very tasty.
Additionally, we ordered a couple of combos. Each combo comes with a drink and/or a waffle at various adder prices. I chose the Hainanese Chicken with Laksa. I am still trying to figure out the allure of Hainanese chicken and I suppose it is just very moistly cooked chicken that is not too bad. The attraction must be in the home cooking feel and the sides can be nice also (oil rice etc.) Anyway, I was not unhappy with the laksa either so overall just fine.
Mharie had a Deep Fried Squid with Rice combo. The squid was on the tender side but crispy and there was a sweetish sauce (hoisin or hoisin based) that came along with it. Got our vegetable for the afternoon also!
The waffle was only a couple of extra bucks with a combo so we decided to try it since it is in their name. Sure enough, it was a little sweetish and on the light side and quite pleasant. You can get your waffles dressed up with chocolate or other flavours and it would be a tasty dessert! We notice that they are not cheap with the beverages either. The iced coffee and milk tea were both refreshing.
So far the Amazing Brentwood seems semi amazing and we will go back to try out some other eats that are on offer. In the meantime, we are good with Bubble Waffle Cafe. They serve exactly what we expected and the pricing is reasonable.
Food                 3 out of 5
Comfort            3 out of 5
Service             3 out of 5
Value                3 out of 5.







Predator Ridge Golf and Country Club

Even I had heard of Predator Ridge. They have hosted professional tournaments over the years and attracted some pretty impressive names in the world of golf. Predator Ridge is a full meal deal with accommodations, dining and 2 full golf courses not to mention the community that is springing up around them. It's a good 45 minutes north of Kelowna.

This is a beautiful place that frequently obliged us to stop our carts and photograph the vistas around us. Once again, although the weather was threatening at times, we endured no rain.
I lost more balls here than over the last couple of days. A lot of them ended up in the water. Nevertheless, at times I actually felt like a golfer!
Since we were going straight from the course to the dining room, I was concerned about the possibility of being rained on and so brought extra clothes, however, as mentioned, it did not become an issue.
At our table, we shared a couple of appetizers. The first was Fried Cheese and Sausage. It sounds a little pubish but when you factor in that the sausage is of duck and pork and that the aioli is of tomato and tarragon, you have something a little impressive. Very nice! Lots of flavours here!
And then there were Garlic Dry Ribs with lemon pepper. Also pretty tasty!
For my main, I enjoyed the Pan Seared Arctic Char. This came with decent gnocchi and a mix of sauteed mushrooms and some nice vegetables. Perfectly cooked fish is always a pleasure.
I noticed around the table that many of us preferred the beefier options like the 1 Lb Rib Eye or the Slow Braised Beef Obie with peppercorn sauce (pictured). The menu offers a lot of options from burgers to bowls to pasta so no one was left without a choice that suited them.
Dessert had a few decent options also. I had the Banana Peanut Butter Gelato Bars because, why wouldn't I? The banana was present in the form of gel. I'm not sure how they make that but it was good!
Black Currant Cheesecake, I believe.
All this in a lovely dining room overlooking a beautiful golf course. You could ask for more but you might seem a little ungrateful. And so our adventure was coming to an end. After breakfast on Sunday morning, we packed up our gear and headed for the airport.
Thanks, Kelowna (and bosses who paid the tab)!










Kelowna's Central Kitchen and Bar and The Harvest Golf Club

 Friday. for me, started with a long morning walk taking advantage of the lakefront and enjoying the views.,

Our group met in the Lakeside dining room at 8, where they serve a pretty good cross-section of breakfasts to suit most tastes.
I'm not usually a breakfast guy but the idea of running out of gas on the golf course didn't strike me as the best strategy either. The Muesli with Local Berries seemed like and was a good idea. Served with a slice of sourdough toast, I was good to go.
Today we chased the little balls around 18 holes at The Harvest Gold Club. I found the wide, open fairways to be suitable to my type of "hit the ball everywhere but where you intend" kind of golf. It was another enjoyable day and the weather, although sometimes threatening, never broke into downpour.
Back at the hotel, we had some leisure time for a nap or a walk or a dip in the pool. Before dinner, we ended up at the Eldorado Hotel Lounge and ordered just enough appetizers to spoil our dinner. The general rule however was, no rush, we'll get there when we get there. This Margherita Flatbread, among other things, kind of hit the spot. 
We jumped on our giant bus and were whisked to Central Kitchen and Bar for dinner. It's a noisy place with sports on the TVs and a DJ making even more of a cacophony. That being said, there are a few interesting things on the menu. 
It's hard to go wrong with the burgers here. The My Boy Blue features blue cheese, mushrooms, prosciutto and hot sauce. Spicy and substantial. Missing in action were the crispy fried onions from my burger and one of my table mates' burgers.
If you are feeling less carnivorous, the Central Poke Bowl looked pretty good. It hosted ahi tuna and all the good stuff that make up a decent poke bowl.
It could be a fun place and I enjoyed the food but I'm not sure if this is the place for meaningful conversation. 
Stay tuned for our best day of the weekend.









Kelowna's Hotel Eldorado and Tower Ranch Golf and Country

Management at Berts Electric were good enough to reward some of their responsible type employees with a bit of a golf long weekend. You may have come across events of this nature in the past while perusing this blog. Anyway, on Thursday morning a group of us showed up at Shell Aviation in Abbotsford, were loaded onto a smallish chartered plane and flown to Kelowna.
From there, we were transported on a too big bus to the Hotel Eldorado (our home until Sunday) where we dropped our bags, grabbed a snack and then headed straight out to Tower Ranch Golf and Country Club.
In this group of a dozen guys from Bert's, I rank near the bottom as far as golfing skill is concerned however, I still love the game, being outdoors and hanging with my peers. I felt like I might have improved over the course of the three days when I was able to apply suggestions like, "keep your head down!"
The views from the hills of Kelowna are more than a little impressive and the fauna is close by. More views later. After finishing our first 18 holes, we went back to our rooms and cleaned up for dinner.
There is nothing like a dining room on the water and the Hotel Eldorado is all Lake Okanagan front. We were seated in a room to ourselves and our long-suffering server began the ordeal of looking after us for I'm not sure how many hours.
The Vintage Room at the Hotel Eldorado serves a pretty straightforward menu but I generally try to search out the items that I feel will test the kitchen's skill set. That being said, I notice that the Tomato Burrata Salad does not claim "house-made" burrata. Still, it was a very nice salad. The burrata was creamy and rich and the basil, beet and balsamic reduction made me happy.
Usually chicken would be the last thing that I would order but Chicken Leg Confit is slow-cooked in duck fat! The result of the duck fat was some silky-rich chicken with some very crispy accents from a visit to a saute pan I assume. The polenta and vegetables that were served with the chicken made it feel a little like a home-cooked meal. Very nice!
On the HE dessert menu, there are a few homemade sorbet and ice cream choices which were very tempting. However, I couldn't pass on the Buttermilk & Rosemary Panna Cotta with Lychee granita, raspberry and rose tea. It is hard to imagine so many diverse flavours playing together nicely but this was a winner. You don't expect rosemary in your dessert but the mild piney accent was just there without taking over.
Our group would be fed quite a lot by the hotel kitchen folks and it was always a pleasant and friendly experience complete with the beautiful water view in the background.
Stay tuned for Friday's adventures.






Bar Oso - Whistler

Bar Oso is certainly the place in Whistler that we recommend the most highly. Admittedly we have not been to that many places and we kind of have a low bar for our Whistler expectations but this place is both charming and the food exciting. The service was stellar also. So if you are not planning to read any further, you have our overall impression which was very good.

Bar Oso does not take reservations and is very small. The trick is to be prepared for a 1 to 2 hour wait. Leave your number, have a plan for an hour or two, and be prepared when they text you. 
We already had our hearts set on the Fresh Charcuterie Board. The chef who is originally from Madrid brings inspiration from his home to create the house-made pates etc. and this board was spectacular. We ordered the "plus cheese" to add some variety. Mharie and I meticulously went taste by taste so as to miss nothing. We each had our favourites, her's being the duck liver pate and the 12-month-old manchego while I zeroed in on the Valdeon blue and the rabbit rillette. Our server restocked our crostini when it looked like we were going to run out!
We wanted a little taste of Ibirico Ham which came on a skewer with Manchego Cheese and a tomato (tasty) and tried Brandade on a crostini and Sobrasada on crostini. Sobrasada is a spreadable salami that was mixed with a bit of honey and was spectacular. Don't miss that!
Finally, we had the Wild Scallop Crudo. With a white garlic sauce, prosciutto bits and white grapes this was another tasty dish with some nice creaminess and just enough very fresh scallop to provide a taste of seafood.
Bar Oso is not cheap but in Whistler where nothing is cheap, it felt like good value. We  paid somewhere around $85 with tax and tips. We just took our time and enjoyed every bite which we should be doing every time we dne out. Don't overstay you welcome though as things are a little snug and you know there are people waiting!
Food              5 out of 5
Service          5 out of 5
Comfort         4 out of 5
Value             4 1/2 out of 5





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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...