Fat Mao Noodles - Chinatown

Although we have kind of nibbled around the edges a lot, it has been a very long time since we actually walked around what I would call the heart of Chinatown (Main to Gore between Union and E Hastings). I knew it had been changing but I was a little shocked to see a hipster barber shop, coffee shops and other decidedly non Chinatown businesses. Somehow it always seemed OK for Starbucks to be on the west side of Main but I was aghast to see Tim's on the east side. I wish Carol Lee and others who are dedicated to keeping the spirit of the area alive, success in their efforts to keep Chinatown as Chinatown (her Chinatown BBQ is further west on East Pender but still very much within Chinatown) .
After toodling around in the surprisingly steady rain (we were obliged to buy an umbrella), we ended up at Fat Mao. Not a long established local business but somehow keeping with the spirit if in a more modern version.
A smallish place with a short but interesting menu, Fat Mao is one of Angus An's group of creative eateries.
The menu leans towards Malaysian and we started with the Roti with Curry. No huge breakthrough here but it was tasty enough.
Its a good thing that this was a rainy ugly day outside because that's what this food is made for. I tried the Hot and Sour Pork Noodles which were wonderful.
There were 3 kinds of pork in the soup; ground, sausage and barbeque. I chose rice sheets for my noodle and these were brilliant. They were about an inch wide, almost translucent and had a wonderful chew to them. Eventually they seemed to absorb most of the liquid and became even tastier. There was just enough spice to make me sweat a bit and the sourness of the broth was fantastic. Garnished with peanuts, fried garlic and cilantro, this is one of those dishes that I expect to rave about to anyone who will listen!
Marie (also known as Laksa Girl) had the Southern Thai Beef Laksa, a slightly different version with the main difference being, obviously, tender beef shin, and a fairly generous amount. This was also on the spicy side and nicely cocnutty. Very good! Service was accommodating and friendly and the space is comfortable but casual. So far, I have been to two of Chef An's restaurants but suddenly it is my goal to visit them all!
BTW, if you're very tall, I notice that the front door at Fat Mao is about fourteen feet high. No need to duck your head!
Fat Mao Noodles Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Denji Sushi - Cloverdale

My brother is back in town for a couple of days. So what's for dinner? Well, you can eat my curried lentils and roasted vegetables at home or....how about sushi? Not surprisingly, sushi won out. So we headed up the road to Denji Sushi at Clayton Gate.
We liked it there. Our server was friendly and just attentive enough. Comfortable booths or tables and chairs, and nice and light with big windows.
Dave started with a Sunomono Salad. It was quite impressive with a lot of shrimp! I started with Miso Soup which was also quite well put together. It sort of indicated that someone was taking some pride in the small things in the kitchen.
I had a Sushi and Sashimi Combo that came with a California Roll. There was no Nigiri combo which is what I usually look for. Also, they teased us with a hand written sign that advertised Uni but alas they had run out! Still everything was fresh and tasty. The rice in the nigiri was both nicely seasoned and in nice proportion to the fish. It seemed a little expensive at $15.95. Little brother had the Chirashi Don.
This was another very nicely put together plate with a generous selection of tasty bites including snapper, salmon, tuna, tomago, shrimp and even octopus. Again, a little expensive at $18.95 but nicely crafted. This place seems like it probably has a lot of local appeal as we noticed quite a few
take out orders heading out the door while we were there. In Metro Vancouver, the land of too many sushi joints, this one can hold its own. 

Denji Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Taste of Punjab - Whalley

We couldn't find any Indian restaurants open during Vaisakhi (actually, we didn't try very hard) but we decided to lunch at Taste of Punjab on Sunday to keep up the celebration's theme all weekend!
Just by coincidence, we drove past the restaurant on Saturday and so I checked out their Zomato rating. Apparently, this is the greatest restaurant in the world as everyone seems to rate it as a 5 out of 5! Either that or everyone  who rated it is a friend of the owners. Actually, scroll down a bit and in contrast to the 5s you see a few hostile ratings of 1 and 2!. Let's try to keep our emotions in check people! Few restaurants deserve either a 1 or a 5! To be so extreme only confuses people like me. In the end, we have to find out for ourselves whether the restaurant is  good or not! It's a tough job but we are up to the challenge!
We started with a Mixed Snack Platter which was a nice assortment of different pakora and a samosa. We found all of them to be tasty, just salty enough, and obviously the pakora were freshly fried. The accompaniments were the usual tamarind sauce and a mint chutney. Here is where it got a little weird. The chutney was very bitter. I was not in a hurry to dismiss it as a problem. I am open to bitter flavours and asked our server if there was bitter melon or some such ingredient making this a variation on the typical Mint Chutney. I am afraid that I only confused her. Later I googled the question and learned that the mint stalks may turn a chutney bitter. At any rate, it was not supposed to taste like that....deduct points (especially for not addressing the problem when it was brought to the servers attention)!
Next up was Butter Chicken Thali. We found that their was a fair bit of tender chicken just under the surface. I still feel like this dish could be served by everyone as chicken with sauce rather than sauce with chicken but this plate at $10.49 including naan, rice and salad is not a bad deal.
Finally, trying to branch out from my usual lamb, we decided to try Masala Fish. This came with rice and was a very tasty dish. Lots of vegetables that were cooked just right and a rich sauce that made this very comforting!
Our server was friendly enough. I confused her again by asking if Taste of Punjab is a family run business. Still not sure of what the answer would be. Service was not speedy to the point where I almost got up to ask if they had forgotten about us. The place could have been a little cleaner. Our table cloth (over the edge of the table) bore serious evidence of what the previous diners had enjoyed. But still, we were comfortable and enjoyed our meal, other than the mint chutney thing. I might not be so picky if it were not for the ridiculous number of 5 ratings on Zomato. This restaurant is a solid 3 or 3 1/2 and perfectly fine.
Taste Of Punjab Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Manis - Whalley

After going to the Vaisakhi celebration, we had the idea that Indian food would be a good idea.... but  wait...everyone is at the parade. So maybe Indian food tomorrow. Something else today. Marie and I went to Manis a couple of years ago, before I was writing reviews, and we really enjoyed it. Today, on the return visit, we took Marie's granddaughter Juelle.
Manis is a pan-Asian eatery (leaning towards Malaysian) in a newish mixed use building on Whalley Blvd near 108th. Comfortable with chic decor, it was quiet at noon on Saturday (not too surprising as the rest of Surrey was a ghost town while Vaisakhi was going on).
We shared 3 dishes and had leftovers for dinner! All for roughly $40 including tax and tips. We asked for the Mee Goring to be non spicy. Juelle has not developed a taste for spicy just yet. Still this dish was richly flavoured with a generous amount of chicken. It was an  excellent version of Mee Goring! 
The Curried Chicken with Roti Parantha did have a nice little punch. The roti itself was decidedly ungreasy. The curry was rich was nice big  pieces of  very tender chicken and potatoes.I think this was one of their lunch specials.
And of course, Laksa is our go to dish! Believe it or not, VL's Curry Bowl is our benchmark for Laksa and this one stands up very well. There was a fair amount of chicken, shrimp and tofu with a very nice coconut curry broth. Maybe not quite as rich as VL's but memory can be subjective. In any case, we would rate it excellent!
Our server was very gracious and friendly and helpfully packed up our leftovers. I don't mind when folks bring us containers to pack our own leftovers but I do take note when some one does it for us. Its just a little extra measure of service.
Manis Pan-Asian Eatery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vaisakhi Celebration Surrey 2018

Vaisakhi marks the establishment of the Khalsa community of Sikhs  by Guru Gobind Singh on April 14, 1699. It has special significance for any persons who believe in the freedom to practice one's religion without persecution. My partner and I decided to walk in from a distance to the Surrey Vaisakhi celebration on April 21, 2018 and were thankful that we did as traffic ground to a halt in the surrounding streets.They told us there would be a lot of people there (possibly a half a million!) and they were right! Beautiful people in colorful costume as far as the eye can see!

I have been a fan of the Sikh community since I learned of their generous attitude towards persons  in need. One day several years ago, while exploring Vancouver's Chinatown and its environs, I came across a table that had been set up by a group of these people and they were providing hot meals to the city's most unfortunate residents, right at the corner of Main and Hastings. Now I know that many groups offer help on the DTE but the Sikhs were set up on the front line. It literally brought a tear to my eye. Langar (if I understand correctly) is the concept of the community kitchen in temples where a free meal will be served to any visitor regardless of their status or religion or other. It emphasizes the equality of all who share the meal together. A beautiful practice! And this attitude is carried over into the rest of the lives of the Sikhs.
The thousands present were entertained by music at various stages along the street. 
Many groups and vendors were set up including the Sikh Motorcycle Club who were helping young men to don the turban!
And in harmony with the principle of Langar, there was an abundance of food. My partner and I gladly tried a few of the offerings. We tried a mild but tasty Curry with Rice. It was a vegetarian dish with what I would call dumplings made of garbonzo flour.
Of course, there was Pakora. These were very good especially considering that this food was being produced and distributed (by volunteers) in enormous quantity!
And finally, we tried a simple dessert of rice, sweetened and with raisins and cardamom. Very nice! Thank you to our generous hosts! Now I have to admit that I am not a crowd person and it was not too long before, no matter how well behaved this large group, I started to feel the need for space! We had arrived at the south east corner of festivities and learned the the parade itself was probably still a couple of hours away! So I am sad to say, we did not see the parade. Still we were so impressed by the scale and good will of the celebration, that I think we will try again next year to actually view the parade! 
BTW, congratulations to brothers Sarjit and Baljit Singh Sabharwal who have made it their quest to make the celebration greener by promoting serving dishes of paper or sugar cane based which will biodegrade in a short period of time!

Little Donkey - Fort Langley

A perfectly blue sky on Thursday evening drew us to the river at Fort Langley. Its a wonderful place for a leisurely (or brisk) walk. Or why not a paddle? On the river, we saw folks kayaking, sculling and dragon boating!
Fort Langley is a lovely little strollable community of antique stores, coffee shops and restaurants, knick knack stores and even some serious BC history. We generally avoid it on the weekends but its not so busy that you should be scared away!
Little Donkey, one of said restaurants, is a place with a very nice story behind it. Check out their web site and read about Katerina and you will also want to visit this little family run  restaurant. The food menu is simple (i.e. burritos) but there are enough interesting choices to satisfy most folks. To be honest, I have never been a big fan of burritos. I kind of expect to get a giant tortilla filled with rice and not much else but that was not the case at Little Donkey.
Marie and I had a couple of burritos (they will also serve these things as bowls making them gluten free) and a Jarritos soda and were stuffed....but not with rice. We had a Fishmonger's Burrito which had a huge amount of tasty cod but was moist with salsa fresca, chipotle, tomatoes etc.! 
We also had a Currito Burrito which was mainly curried chick peas but with peppers, potatoes and other tasty bits (a vegan choice). It was an excellent mild curry. There are hot sauces at your table if you want to sweat! 
Little Donkey is an eclectic mix of tables, chairs and counters for eating and interesting what nots including an old timey record player and record collection. You can sit comfortably and watch the world go by through big windows or enjoy the soundtrack. We heard some Creedence, some Grateful Dead and Police and the music just seemed to top up the experience! Order at the counter and one of these friendly folks will deliver your food and drinks to your table. I am really happy for Katerina and her family. I think they have a good thing going here!
Please note that at the time I posted this blog, there was a Zomato rating of 2.9. The math on the rating is completely wrong. The real rating  based on 11 reviews could not be anything less than 3.9 or 4! Time to check your formula Zomato!
Little Donkey Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Uncle Lu - Richmond

Sorry Sanpoutei Ramen! You lost our business today! It is not your fault other than the fact that you located in Kam Do Plaza! When every single one of too few parking spots in a strip mall is reserved by one of the businesses, then there is not going to room for some customers. I should expect that on Sunday in Richmond and just stay away. Having worked myself into a bit of a lather about that, I realized that a larger parking lot and Taiwanese food might calm me down! Hello Uncle Lu with your very snazzy menu covers!
Uncle Lu is located in Continental Shopping Centre, where parking is not perfect but far more customer friendly than Kam Do. I always fall for colorful, picture laden menus with so many choices and combos and admittedly, we had a bit of a hard time deciding just what to eat. I have come to realize that almost anything can be made better by deep frying (some possible exceptions are coffee and non dietary items such as shoes).  That is certainly the case with Abalone Mushrooms!
These were wonderful and meaty. Just a hint of basil and crisp and hot. We did not regret ordering this as a starter.
My partner was craving soup (which explains the Santpoutei Ramen parking debacle) and so ordered Marinated/Deep Fried Chicken Soup With Noodle. At first she felt like the soup needed salt but when it had cooled a bit and she put some of the chicken in the soup (not sure if that is correct procedure or not) then it started to shine. Very good broth, nice chewy noodles, some sprouts and not too much else. Very pleasant!
I am a fan of Red Fermented Pork and I enjoyed this version. The bean curd flavour was strong but not overpowering and the pork was served in thin slices.. The side dishes were also tasty especially the bamboo shoots. Even the tea that was served was very nice. I think our server told us that it is Malt Tea (barley tea if I did my research correctly) which was a little like brown rice green tea but maybe with a bit of sweetness. I will have to try some at home.
I like the high ceilings and lanterns in Uncle Lu. Big windows keep it bright and airy. Our servers were friendly and nicely attentive. I am glad that the ramen thing did not work out!
Uncle Lu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sakura Days Japan Fair - VanDusen Botanical Gardens

Nothing spells spring, when BC residents slowly crawl out of their winter dens and desperately search for the sun (smirking to themselves in the knowledge that the rest of Canada will not be following suit for perhaps many weeks) like Cherry blossoms. Sakura Days at VanDusen Gardens celebrates Japanese culture...and lets us enjoy some Cherry blossoms at the same time.
This year, the sun poked through the clouds occasionally as we strolled the grounds but there had been enough rain in recent days that wandering too far off the paths occasionally led to getting wet socks. 
We listened to some lovely music, read some Haiku and I even attempted calligraphy when invited to do so. I have opted not to display the results here as I'm afraid that my attempt to write 'cherry blossom'  might be mistranslated, possibly even as something insulting!
Well, we might have come for the food also! A few food trucks were set up on site
Mogu Japanese Street Eats was very much on our radar. It turned out to be both thrilling and very disappointing. We tried their Sweet and Spicy Karage Chicken which was amazing! Sweet and slightly spicy as advertised but also hot and crispy! Unfortunately, they didn't offer anything else! 
Thats not to say there were no other trucks on site. We had a Yakisoba combo (with beef) from Teriyaki Boys. It was tasty enough and the noodles were great. No bargain at $12 but I think I don't think we expect bargains at festivals and from food trucks, do we?
From Zakkushi, we had 3 Teriyaki Chicken Skewers Sweet, with a nice little char, these folks had one of the busiest booths at the show. And close to a bargain at $6!
And finally, as it was chilly on Sunday morning, we tried a Green Tea Matcha from Ichyo's. it was very pretty and warming but a little too seaweedy for my tastes. Yes I said seaweed! I did a little reading (not a huge Matcha expert) and that flavour can be the result to too much heat or whatever or, it could just be the taste that is intended! I just don't know about that. All in all, a lovely few hours in a beautiful garden with some decent east too!
Mogu Japanese Street Eats 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...