Sun Bo Kong Vegetarian Restaurant

So I started the year promising more vegetarian-friendly details in my reviews and then, nothing! Well, that changes here with Sun Bo Kong.
Located just across the street from Po Kong Vegetarian and just a few more steps from Do Chay, this would seem to be the most vegetarian-friendly block (Kingsway between Knight and Fraser) in Vancouver, so far. 
Their menu declares, " Eat Right. For the love of our animal friends and for our beautiful planet." Very nice! We arrived Sunday morning for the dim sum menu although they offer a full menu of vegetarian delights. We started with the familiar Deep Fried Taro Dumplings. This was crispy and hot on arrival and had a savoury filling of what I assume included mushrooms and bamboo shoots among other things. I always believe that when vegetarian restaurants offer some deep-fried dishes they will be able to reach my heart.
The Pumpkin Congee was chock full of tasty Kombucha squash. Rich and comforting, this dish would not have profited from meat.
Definitely at the creative end of the scale, was Mango Green Tea Mini Pancake. Halfway between rice roll and dessert, this pancake being almost tortilla-like while the filling was cold and sweet. Definitely, something we would order again and just a bit off the beaten path.
Also in the rice roll area, were the Red Rice Rolls. other than the obvious (being red) this came close to the rice rolls we are used to. Again, they had a mixed filling but must have included some Chinese donut as they had some crunch.
The Xia Long Baos were a bit of a miss as far as purists might be concerned. They were tasty and I would try them again but the soup had completely leaked out by the time they reached us. I think the problem might have been with the dough as they were quite sticky and were difficult to get off the paper in the steamer. Still, they were texturally and even in the thickness of the dough, decent enough. Just no soup!
Another deep-fried dish was Deep-Fried Bean Curb Skin stuffed with Burdock. Served with vinegar on the side, these again fulfilled our fatty, crunchy cravings.
Finally was another near-miss with Siu Mai. Listed on the menu as corn and oatmeal, for some reason, I was expecting a different texture but they were definitely of an oatmeal texture. Not bad just not something I would order again.
All in all, it was nice to know that this Chinese custom is available for the vegetarian community. The back corridor has a few pictures of well-known vegetarians and their sentiments that should give us pause to reflect. The foodie community needs to come out more to promote this healthy, earth-friendly and humane style of eating. Meatless Monday just seems a little weak these days. I will be the first to admit that it is not easy but seems more and more the right choice to make.
For what it's worth, we give Sun Bo Kong Vegetarian 3 1/2 out of 5.
Sun Bo Kong Vegetarian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hoi An Cafe

We have been excited to visit Hoi An Cafe for some time (and I apologize in advance for all the missing punctuation marks). Not only is it another restaurant from my favourite list, "Never Heard Of It" by but it would be an opportunity to try something just a little bit different! HAC is another Vietnamese restaurant, it is true, but it is a Vietnamese restaurant featuring the cuisine of the central part of the country. We all know that Chinese food is not just Chinese food. Chinese food varies among a great number of regions. The same is true of Indian food. We even get that poutine is representative of Quebec and not of Canadian cuisine as a whole but did we know that Vietnamese cuisine also varies by region?
Anyway, we arrived on Saturday not too long after opening (we're calling it brunch) and were seated right away. By the time we left, there were still a few tables available but evidently, the "never heard of it" does not apply to the local community.
We started with Banh bot loc la chuoi a steamed tapioca dumpling with shrimp and pork, served with fish sauce.
This is the same dumpling that we had at Do Chay about a week ago (except for the pork and shrimp thing). These were easily on par with the others with a delightful texture and a salty meaty filling offsetting the subtlety of the tapioca.
Next, we had Bahn beo nhan uot. These were rice cakes, evidently steamed on their plates and then topped with pork and a shrimp puree and served with fish sauce. This is the most unique thing that we have sampled in a long time! It was texturally pleasant  with the rice cake being soft but firm enough to provide a platform for the topping. Wonderful! Try this!
Next up was Cao Lau, a yellow rice noodle (yellow thanks to Tumeric) with sauteed pork and garlic sauce. The pork was garlicky and tender and between the noodles and peanuts, we were again impressed.
Like Pho (but not from southern Vietnam like pho) this dish came with some adders including shredded banana blossoms (which Marie often uses in Filipino cooking unbeknownst to me).
Finally came Com Bo Kho, a chunky beef stew that I had always attributed to French colonialism and which I assume involved central Vietnam just like the south (shame on me for this gap in my history knowledge). Our server assured me that it was authentic to the central Vietnamese aspect of the menu. I can only say that it was excellent like everything else that we enjoyed here!
Not vegetarian-friendly at all unless you are plain rice friendly (just being honest). The folks here are lovely and the service is attentive. You need to put HAC on your bucket list (unless you are vegetarian, as mentioned).
For what it's worth, we give Hoi An 4 1/2 out of 5.

Hoi An Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Red Accordian

About 100 years ago, I ate at La Gavroche ( a true Vancouver institution) with someone that I barely remember. I had never eaten at Fat Badger or Forkhill House, two restaurants that also occupied the same location as La Gavroche. Marie and I recently ate at Red Accordion, a fourth eatery that also occupies 1616 Alberni, as they were featured on Vanfoodster's 6th Annual Burger Challenge, topped Nosh and Nibble's top burgers list and currently are lighting up Instagram. The really cool thing is that if you drop into Google Street View and move back and forth (and change lanes) you can see all 4 restaurant signs on the same building. How amazingly cool is that!
As you can see, Red Accordion is in a chic old house, surrounded by west end towers. Inside it is furnished with eclectic furniture (some not that old as my ex-in-laws owned the same stuff) and art from local artists (cw price tags).
Timing is everything as we arrived just as Happy Hour was finishing and dinner service was beginning. The Beet and Citrus Salad was just $10 on the HH menu and made us very happy (see what I did there?). I know beets are all the rage right now but I have always loved them. Red and yellow beets paired nicely with the citrus-forward dressing and orange slices.
I am usually cranky about ordering poutine ( Really? French fries and gravy are our national dish?) but this one featured smoked pork hock and I could not pass on that. Marie and I scoured this dish clean with its three-cheese sauce and pickled onions. It was amazing and also part of the HH menu at $10. I love that they served it in an Indian dish in which butter chicken might arrive!
Marie and I shared a TRA Burger, winner of Vanfoodster's 2019 Burger Challenge People's Choice Favourite and Nosh and Nibble's #1 of 15 outstanding burgers in the Vancouver area. We were expecting (and did experience) great things! House-made ketchup for starters! Does that tell you something about the kitchen? And these folks have a way with frites. We left nary a crumb.
The burger featured Brandt Lake (Alberta) Wagyu beef and is cooked in a pan (finished in the oven) rather than on the flat top so that the meat juices will not be lost and can be poured back over the finished product. The bun is also house-made to accommodate said juices. It was firmer than the fast-food buns we are used to and delicious! The pancetta is a star here and is surprisingly impactful. Just try this! At $22 it is not cheap but worth the coin.
This is not, however, a burger joint as the menu runs the gamut from pasta to squid to burrata to charcuterie. There are a few choices here for the vegetarian including a Cauliflower Ragu. The service was very friendly and enthusiastic about what the kitchen is turning out. This place seems worthy of the attention it is getting.
For what it's worth, we give Red Accordion 4 1/2 out of 5.
Red Accordion Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yoko Sushi - Fleetwood

A craving for sushi and Korean food at the same time can often be satisfied with one stop. While I think of nigiri as Japanese and Korean sushi as being more along the lines of rolls (eg. Kimbap), I have no problem ordering nigiri at a Korean sushi place. Actually, as far as I'm concerned anyone can serve anything that they want if its tasty and well prepared. That doesn't mean that I would order sushi at Denny's.....Anyway...
Yoko Sushi is located on 160th, just north of Fraser Highway. Their menu is a mix of Japanese and Korean items if you were wondering why the confusing preface above. I honestly do not know if the owners here are Korean, Japanese or otherwise, and it just doesn't matter.
We started with the Calamari appetizer which did not arrive looking like we expected (didn't properly read the menu description). It was, however, crispy yet tender which is what we all hope for. The batter while not tempura style was not too thick and worked well with the larger rings of squid. The Thai dipping sauce was also tasty and a good partner.
I ordered a la carte nigiri but nothing too far off the beaten path. My weakness is for the Toibko and it was fresh and popped nicely. All the pieces seemed well-assembled but I had to add my own wasabi.
Marie had the Fish Katsu. It was crispy enough and we guessed tilapia. I came with a sort of tartar sauce, rice, a green salad with a sesame oil dressing and miso soup. It was fine if not mind-blowing.
I ordered the Dol-sot-bibim-bap. The crusty rice on the bottom was well developed from the heat of the bowl. This is something that is sometimes missing but is a highlight for us (I had to share it). The veggies were crisp and fresh and the beef and egg rounded out a decent dish.
Yoko is not a destination for the vegetarian although they offer a tofu teriyaki dish and the usual veggie tempura and a couple of other things. We arrived early on Sunday afternoon and didn't have to wait for a table. Service was decent and friendly. Just a decent place to eat with lots of expected choices.
For what it's worth, we give Yoko Sushi, 3 out of 5. 

Yoko Sushi & Noodle House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Our 2020 quest to push vegetarian options to the forefront, thus doing a little bit for the planet, brought us to Beetbox, on Davie near Thurlow.
Beetbox is the sister restaurant to Juke Fried Chicken in Chinatown but someone figured out how to make the fried chicken without chicken!
Still, you're better off if you don't try to compare it to chicken. It looks a little like it but it is deep-fried seitan. Crispy and tasty enough on its own, if you are thinking chicken you will think something is wrong. We really enjoyed this sandwich which was completed with lettuce pickles and miso aioli. More like dark meat if you still insist on thinking about a bird.
We also tried their Crispy Gordita which a little bit resembled something you might get at Taco Bell but again nothing had to die. Black beans and oyster mushrooms were the main ingredients with some slaw, avocado and 'cheez'. I would eat this all the time instead of the Taco Bell version and be perfectly happy. It was tasty and filling.
Of the dozen or so hot and cold sides, we decided that the Crispy Fried Brussel Sprouts were the most off the beaten path. Served with Tahini and pumpkin seed dukkah  (a salty herb and spice mixture) they were very good but not at all crispy. Beetbox offers a burger, house-made chorizo and sides of the healthy and 'less healthy' varieties. 
Casual but not uncomfortable, I like the painted bricks that they used for counter bases. The most expensive items on the menu are $12. So you can eat inexpensively and in good conscience too.
For what its worth, we give Beetbox 4 out of 5.
Beetbox Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Do Chay

I don't really do New Year's resolutions but I do use the day as a marker to reinforce good habits that I may have been getting lazy about or straying from and maybe start some new ones....OK. I guess those are resolutions. I also admit this may seem a little late for resolution talk but I often run behind on posts.
So here is what I've been thinking about for this year:
1) I am already religiously walking 10K per day but intend to add a weekday brief core and arm workout just to round things out a bit. I am many years past being concerned about a beach body or washboard abs but I do like to feel fit.
2) I intend to pick up my guitar which has been feeling lonely, on a daily basis, even for just 15 minutes (starting with a lot of scales until I get my fingers back).
3) I am going to put down the effing devices and turn off the effing TV and of paper!
4) I plan to be more serious about my weekday vegetarian philosophy. Henceforth, Monday to Friday will also be a sugar, white flour, and white rice or pasta free zone. That is about the only diet and health extremism that I subscribe to (the Keto diet was recently declared to most unhealthy diet by a group of medical experts...real ones, not pseudo health practitioners). Also, I intend to put my money where my mouth is. I will be taking the responsibility of this platform (No, really! A lot of important people read this!) a little more seriously by exploring vegetarian and vegan restaurants and options more frequently. I have often repeated the idea (that I heard from someone else) that eating less meat is one of the best things that you can do for the planet. It is also one of the best things that you can do for your health, pocketbook, and for the sake of killing fewer other animals. So to that end....
Do Chay is a Vietnamese restaurant on a stretch of Kingsway with a lot of Vietnamese restaurants. To my knowledge, it is the only vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in the area. The menu at Do Chay (which means roughly, vegetarian stuff) is based on the owner's experiences at a Vietnamese Buddhist temple.
DC was a little too busy to be a Buddhist Temple but we picked up the vibe anyway.
We started with Glass Dumplings which have been garnering a lot of attention from foodies (I think everything here has been getting attention). Inside the banana, leaf wrappers were tapioca dumplings with jicama and mung beans. Served with roasted peanuts and onions and a vinegar dip, these were sublime. They were subtle with a springy (weird word, I know) tender texture. 
Next up was the Lotus Stem Salad. This was also wonderful with more of the peanuts and onions, crisp veggies, wood ear mushrooms, lotus stems and what I believe was deep-fried seitan. All served with an oil and vinegar dressing possibly with soy and ish sauce (evidently fish sauce for the vegan).
Desert Island Noodles were served with a coconut sauce and a perfect vegan meatball which I would not be able to deconstruct (perhaps seitan again). Shredded tofu, tomato, peanuts and plantain are also contributors. All of the dishes served here were artfully arranged and beautiful but the tiny slices of star fruit in descending order of size truly impressed us.
Finally, there was the sweet and spicy bowl. Tempura broccoli and cauliflower were stars here and proved that a vegetarian restaurant can deep-fry things. Under the tempura were sauteed king oyster mushrooms. All served with rice and a chilli tomato sauce which was decidedly not spicy but sweet and definitely tasty.
The greatest compliment of all to Do Chay came from my 'less enthusiastic about vegetarian food' partner Marie, who declared that she would gladly have returned later for dinner! Not a huge place but probably with comfortable seating for 24 to 36 people, they were busy enough on Saturday at noon but we did not have to wait for a table. Our hosts were friendly and efficient as was the kitchen. We will definitely be back!
For what it's worth and for taking vegetarian food to a different level, we give Do Chay the coveted 5 out of 5!
Do Chay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rio Brazilian Steakhouse - Coquitlam

I don't always get to pick where we are going to eat...I know, right? Well 'somebody' wanted to go to Rio Brazilian Steakhouse. I had been to a Brazilian steakhouse in Vancouver many years ago and found it to be a bit meh. The appeal of a meat fest is somewhat limited and I didn't feel like there is anything involved that couldn't be replicated on a grill at home. So I am big enough to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by this place in Coquitlam.
Located a couple of blocks west of Coquitlam Centre on Barnett Highway, RBS is housed in one of those many repurposed Bino's (or maybe Dino's?) buildings from many years ago. Spacious inside, it was not too busy on Sunday afternoon. 
There is a seriously decent salad bar in one corner of the restaurant where we started our journey.
Included on the salad bar are many of the usual choices but some creative ones as well including a couple of hot dishes such as white fish fillets in a cream sauce which I did not try. There were two different kinds of pickled green beans that I could have loaded up on alone and written a contented review.
Soon meat began to arrive on skewers. Not too surprisingly, the $26 lunch meal is limited to the more pedestrian roasted meats. So our choices were top sirloin, tri-tip, roasted pork, chicken legs, chicken hearts and pork sausages. Dinner which is about $10 more (?) includes lamb, some more premium beef and a few other choices. No worries though as my favourites items came from a second buffet area which had some more traditional Brazilian dishes.
There was a braise/stew of pork, pork sausage, bacon and black beans. It was rich, rustic and meaty and I would order it off of an a la carte menu. I think this was Feijoada, a national dish of Brazil.
Next to that was rice and more black beans. I loved the cast-iron Dutch ovens.
There was pork belly and kale (the greens were way over-salted).

And finally some garnishes including pork cracklings, an impressive hot sauce and toasted cassava flour. These Brazilian dishes made this a bit more of an adventure for me compared to meat roasted on spits. I could have skipped to this part and been perfectly happy.
The folks who brought the skewers around were accommodating and friendly and our main guy was actually from Sao Paulo so he knew what he was talking about. In fact, ownership of the two locations is also a Brazilian family. Lots of room here and pleasant surroundings.
For what its worth, and despite my original misgivings, we give Rio Brazilian Steakhouse, 4 out of 5.
Rio Brazilian Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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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...