Sai Woo - Dine Out Vancouver

 We have meant to visit Sai Woo for some time. It's quite exciting when one of Chinatown's old-time storefronts is restored somewhat in the flavour of the original. Sai Woo's menu does not imitate the menu of Sai Woo Chop Suey that was around from 1925 to 1959 but the neon sign, original floors and walls recall the era. 

If I understood correctly, Sai Woo has been in the hands of 2 owners since its restoration in 2015 (?), but the head chef has remained. Now sharing a common owner with Kosoo, a Korean place on Robson, the KFC has made its appearance on their menu.
So once we were comfortably seated in this beautiful place, we decided to try their Kosoo Fried Chicken in addition to the DOV menu (someone recently asked me why I am not considerably fatter and the answer is walking 10km a day!). Not surprisingly, the chicken was amazing being crispy and tender as is the goal. We ordered the soy-garlic version and the delightful garlic flavour stayed with us for quite a while!
So the DOV menu offers 2 choices each of appetizer, main and dessert. We love that because it means we can try 6 dishes. The servers always ask which dish is for which person but we always tell them that it doesn't matter because everything migrates at our table! The Root Vegetable Salad was excellent, slightly pickled beets, turnip and radish with puffed buckwheat, a yogurt dressing and herbs. Doesn't sound too Chinese or even Korean but it hit the spot!
The other first course was charred and raw Kale Salad with radicchio, feta, anchovy dressing and a brilliant variation on cracklings! Very nice!
More chicken, this time Sai Woo Fried Chicken Chow Mein. Not my Dad's chow mein at all. It was a little bit spicy with some Asian greens and crispy shallots. The chicken again was brilliant. A lovely dish.
The Pork Belly Fried Rice again returned to the Korean side of things with Gochujang grilled pork belly. Wonderful and again, just a bit spicy. The fried rice itself was rich with preserved mustard and Asian greens as well as preserved olive and egg.
You may have noticed that we are not really dessert people but DOV encourages us to try some things. The Sai Toast was a sort of bread pudding with cashews and was very nice. I loved the little taste of a lemon herb that was from the mint family.
And finally, there was Cassava Cake with caramel and coconut which was rich and comforting. The DOV menu at Sai Woo is only $30 per person which we find to be one of the best DOV deals out there.
Again we have to comment that this is a beautiful and comfortable place. The staff were excellent and friendly and the service was perfect. I loved the soundtrack which featured kind of cool jazz mostly instrumental and not imposing itself over our conversation.
Sai Woo is certainly one of our new favourite restaurants!
Food                     4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                4 1/2 out of 5
Service                 5 out of 5
Value                    4 1/2 out of 5

Sai Woo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Win-Win Chick-N - Vanfoodster's Fried Chicken Sandwich Challenge

The first time that we visited Win-Win at their original location in Steveston a little over 2 years ago, I was ebullient in my praise for what seemed to me to be the best fried chicken that we had ever tasted in Metro Vancouver! On our visit to their second, South Vancouver location, I still hold their chicken in the highest esteem (if you can esteem fried chicken) with a couple of provisos!

Located at Main and S E Marine Drive, location two is bare bones just like the first outlet. They have room to have 2 or 3 tables and still follow COVID rules but choose to remain open only for take-out, not unlike many other places. 
We made the trip because we wanted to try their entry in Vanfoodster's Fried Chicken Sandwich Challenge and I can tell you that the WW Crispy Chicken Sandwich (right off their regular menu and a steal at $11.99) is spectacular. It was freshly fried as we heard the order relayed to the kitchen and so the dark meat chicken was crispy and hot while being moist and tender. There are not any unnecessary ingredients on the sandwich. A little mayo and lettuce on a great soft bun and whatever spice mix is on their chicken. Fantastic and our favourite of the challenge so far!
We also ordered a 3 piece snack which comes with one side. This was the same wonderful chicken but it had spent some time (I don't know how much) under the heat lamps. As a result, much of the crispiness was gone. Still delicious and perfect inside but a little less impressive. If you go, insist that your chicken comes straight from the fryer!
For our side, we chose Filipino Style Macaroni. If you have never tried it, do so. It is something a little different being on the sweeter side with ground beef and hot dog slices. Strange but true and kind of tasty!
We were a little annoyed that their bathroom was either out of order or only for staff (although it was in the public area). We were told both stories which makes me feel like maybe one or the other is untrue. To be honest our front counter interaction was a little disappointing as we encountered either shitty teenager attitude or someone who has never been taught how to talk to customers. If you read this blog, you will know that I rarely if ever, crap on anyone or anything. We have literally written about our experiences in over 100 restaurants (whether take out or dine in) since the pandemic began and realize how tough it is for people in the business. That doesn't mean we're going to tolerate disrespect in return. Maybe someone was having a bad day but really, is that an excuse? Nevertheless, this is still the best fried chicken that money can buy around here. Don't miss out!
Food                 4 out of 5  ( the soggy knocked it down from a 5 last time)
Comfort            2 out of 5  (no bathroom for customers)
Service             2 out of 5
Value                4 out of 5

Win-Win Chick-N Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oak and Thorne - Dine Out Vancouver

Under the umbrella of the Joseph Richard Group, there are about 20 establishments in the Metro Vancouver area. I kept seeing the same Dine Out menu as I browsed and realized that it was all from this group of restaurants. It sounded pretty good and there is a JRG place close to home on this semi snowy weekend which would be easy to get to!

Sort of partly hidden in Walnut Grove next to the Sandman Inn, we all have Google Maps so it was not a problem. It is essentially a pub and sports bar but we liked this place. It is a little cavernous, a little worn but still welcoming and comfortable.
So we opted for their dine-out menu times one which started with Crispy Maple Pork Belly with Spicy Mustard. Really it was the sight of Crispy Pork Belly on the menu which convinced me that this wasn't run-of-the-mill pub food and that we should take notice. And this was very good! Fatty and rich as pork belly tends to be, it has a nice crispy exterior and went beautifully with the maple and mustard flavours.
The next course of the DOV menu was the Calamari Burger. Sounds pretty creative and tempting but the reality was just OK. The squid itself was crispy enough but the rings were very small and pretty chewy.  The tzatziki, red onion and mint saved it a little bit and the bun wasn't bad either. It came with fries that were of the coated variety and stayed crispy. The third course was a S'mores Peanut Butter brownie the photo of which I managed to lose. Use your imagination. Who doesn't love a brownie?
We went off-script to try a couple of other things also. I always order Deep Fried Pickles when I see them and these came with a nice little salad. The coating stayed crispy on the pickles which was impressive. Sometimes these things can get soggy. It came with horseradish and chipotle dips. Nice!
Finally, always on the search for a great Cubano, we gave this a try. The centre was as expected with roasted pork, ham, cheese and some dill pickle. I was a little disappointed that the bread was toasted grilled cheese style rather than in a press. The bread itself was ok but still not the French Bread that we were hoping for. It was a tasty sandwich overall and since we're not in Miami, I won't complain (any more than I already have).
We really liked the feel of this place. Our server was friendly and the kitchen was efficient. They are doing pretty well with the social distancing. 
Food                        3 out of 5
Comfort                   3 1/2 out of 5
Service                    3 1/2 out of 5    
Value                       3 out of 5

Oak & Thorne Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

White Spot

I lived in New Brunswick for 3 years a long time ago, and a little snow (or even a lot of snow) would never have moved us to change our plans. Now I look out the window and see a few flakes and I am all of a sudden afraid that the end result will be widespread chaos instead of what experience tells me will become slushy and disappear by the end of the day. Still, better safe than sorry. We decided to keep it a little closer to home than usual. Someone gave Mharie a $50 gift certificate for White Spot and they have been advertising the return of their Chicken Pot Pie lately so maybe this would be a good day to use that certificate!
We had to go at least as far as Langley to get groceries and there is a WS at Willowbrook Mall. Yes, my photo is the back of the restaurant rather than the road view but it is to show that they have carhop service here which is pretty cool. I don't know if that is a feature at very many locations. It seems like a bit of history!
We decided to start with Crispy Brussels Sprouts. This dish probably makes people think that they are eating healthy but Ceasar dressing, Parmesan and bacon beg to differ. Ridiculously rich and melty, don't miss this.
When the Impossible Burger first came on the scene we drove most of the way to Seattle to try it at (exactly 3 years ago) at Ram Restaurant and Brewery. What stood out to me at the time was the IB's ability to take on a nice crust that we all love on a hamburger. Now finally at WS where they cook it on a grill rather than a flat top, I still feel like that is what makes it better than Beyond Meat.
I still might prefer a good black bean or some other creative plant-based patty but of the major meat substitutes, Impossible Burger still wins! We ordered the Avacado Impossible Burger with Onion Rings and coleslaw and it was all really tasty! Some of the best onion rings that we have had in a while!
Finally, came the Chicken Pot Pie which triggered some fond childhood memories. Not that my Mother made chicken pot pie (sorry, Mom) but bought the arguably terrible frozen ones by Swanson (?)  once in a while as a treat which I loved! WS does a little better than that!
We loved the crispy puff pastry lid and the creamy chicken stew filling. We had been thinking about a piece of cherry pie to wrap up but just ended up with no room left. A few months ago, our experience at a different WS was definitely on the meh side which really bothered me as this is our BC place! Our lunch in Langley restored some of my faith.
You've seen the inside of a White Spot before. It is warm and comfy enough and especially so on a snowy day. Our server was great and all social distancing rules are being carefully followed.
Food                  4 out of 5
Comfort             4 out of 5
Service              4 1/2 out of 5  
Value                 4 out of 5

White Spot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Donair Dude - La Poutine Week

We wanted to participate at least a little bit in this event and I kind of really like the name Donair Dude! Also, you can talk me into falafel almost anytime! It turns out there are quite a handful of DD locations around Metro Vancouver. We ended up at 96th and 128th in Surrey.

Easy enough to find in this strip mall by locating the giant red Quasada sign which neighbours Donair Dude. This is a line up and place your order, customize your order Subway style and mostly take your order to go although there are a couple of tables, type of place.
DD's entry for La Poutine Week is not startling but it is not too bad for a basic product. Halal beef or chicken shaved off the spit provides the topping for really decent fries, very good gravy and the right kind of cheese curds. The meat is tasty enough but not a direct contributor to the poutine. It could easily have been served on the side and really would go better on a pita. The rest of the dish was surprisingly good with the highlight being the beefy gravy!
We are always open to the healthier side of the menu too. This Tabouli Salad was quite good with parsley and bulgar being the main ingredients and with tomato, onion and a lemon and olive oil dressing. It was also quite good.
As I mentioned earlier, I can always eat falafel. In this version in a pita (toasted on the sandwich press) there are plenty of vegetables as well as tahini and spice. This is very much a meal on its own and most of it made the trip home for later.
Hummus and pita are another nice side. This one has roasted red pepper added to the chickpeas giving it a nice colour and flavour. It mostly made the trip home with us also as I ordered too much as is my custom.
This location has only been open for a little while. All the staff were friendly and helpful. Sure it's a fast food place but the level of fresh and healthy is a couple of decent steps up from most places where you might grab lunch or sustenance on the go.
Food                3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort           3 out of 5
Service            4 out of 5
Value               4 out of 5

Donair Dude, Whalley Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Free Bird Table and Bar - Dine Out Vancouver

For some reason, this month seems to be a month of multiple food events!  There is La Poutine Week which is a nationwide festival, which I can take or leave (I have expressed my poutine thoughts here often). There is the National Chowder Chowdown  Festival which is also nationwide and which celebrates our sustainable seafood industry. Dine Out Vancouver is also happening from Feb 8 to March 7 and finally, our friend Vanfoodster has launched his Fried Chicken Sandwich Challenge which is easy to be excited about! And we haven't even talked about the first-ever, Feast of Fortune, marking Chinese New Year. The problem is that we would like to participate at least a little bit in all of these but to complete the circuit, we would need to add a couple of meals per day. Another strategy is to combine multiple festivals or events into single stops. That is what we have accomplished in our visit to Freebird Table and Bar (or at least that is what I thought).

Freebird is located in the Executive Hotel at Westminster Hwy and Alderbridge in Richmond. It made a bit of a splash when it opened and I have wanted to check it out for some time. If you visit, drop into the hotel lobby and they will comp your parking in the hotel pay parking lot. We made a reservation which may or may not have been necessary. Tables are well spaced and social distancing rules are carefully followed.  
It is worthwhile to visit Freebird during happy hour as they have some pretty tempting deals, including Buck a Shuck. I ordered 6 of these small local oysters (that was a hard pass for Mharie) which were briny cold and sweet. Perfect!
So as mentioned at the outset, we came for the Dine Out Vancouver menu which offered a choice of 1 of 2 appetizers, 1 of 2 mains and dessert for $25.00 per person. This turned out to be a very good value as you will see. We started by trying both of the appetizers one of which was Corn Chowder. This was a rich velvety soup with a little taste of Mexican thrown in. There was lots of corn there too and we decided that we would recommend it if it appeared on the regular menu. Tasty!
The other appetizer offered was Pimento Cheese and Crudite! I have always wanted to try this and it was just OK. Basically, it is pimento mixed into cream cheese. Having never had it before (never been to the Carolinas) we had no frame of reference but it came with some nice vegetable and tortilla chips for dipping. We enjoyed it.
We tried both of the entrees that they were offering. One was Blackened Salmon Jambalaya. This was a tasty enough dish with slightly spicy Creole Rice, Andouille Sauage, some nice plump shrimp and the salmon. The fish was a little on the dry side but quite edible and the rub gave it a nice flavour. The rice was quite rich and enjoyable.
The other entree was Nashville Fried Chicken. I don't think that this is the same as their Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich (and here is where I thought I was also trying the Vanfoodster Fried Chicken Sandwich) as it had a measure of spice but nothing too serious. It was tasty, don't get me wrong but not spicy. They describe it as buttermilk braised but I think they meant buttermilk brined. The vegetables included the mashed potatoes were great and the dark meat was tender and delicious also but the breast meat got pretty dry. They lost points seriously on that. All in all, it was a very generous portion (a whole half chicken) and getting full, we found ourselves taking our dessert to go!
And who doesn't love Pecan Pie! By the time we got home, we were ready for dessert (didn't realize that there was ice cream which didn't travel too well) and it was wonderful!
So Freebird is a very nice space but unfortunately, my hockey team was getting pillaged just over my shoulder and it was hard to ignore. There are some TVs around if you want to watch but they are not omnipresent and dominating the atmosphere. Our server was amazing and friendly and right on top of things without being intrusive.
Food                     3 out of 5
Comfort                4 out of 5 
Service                 4 1/2 out of 5   
Value                    4 out of 5

Freebird Table and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yunshang Rice Noodle House

Once again, I suggest that if you are planning to dine out, that you call ahead and confirm that your chosen restaurant is open. I did not follow my own advice and with my eye on Old Street near Metrotown, we wasted a trip as they are not open for dine-in on the weekend. This is not even evident from looking at the front door, let alone their website or Google. Restaurants are struggling and it's hard for them to keep up with the necessary information flow so make a phone call. Fortunately, there are many places to eat and we had no intention of going hungry! At Crystal Mall, we decided to try Yunshang Rice Noodle.

If I understand correctly, there is a reference in the name to the Yunan province of China which often means spicy but we noted that the menu gave us a choice as to the level of spice. I am not sure what the Yang's Braised Chicken Rice sign in the above photo is about. They do offer it on the menu but I'm not sure why it gets its own shingle. Maybe it is a separate business working in the same space? 

Anyway, we were seated right away and perused the menu and ordered using our phones (pretty cool set up) and food amazingly started showing up. First up was Spicy Duck Tongue. We have never had duck tongue but like to try 'unusual' things from time to time We eat chickens feet all the time so nothing too far out there about this.
Tasty enough and not too spicy, these little guys are mostly bone and present a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, I have no manners and was not shy bout using my fingers. Mharie tried it but was not terribly keen so I had most of the little plate to myself. Interesting! It came with a little seaweed side which was quite refreshing.
Nothing too startling or different about Deep Fried Squid. These were pretty good. Not too chewy and we like the dipping sauce.
Our main choices were not too startling either. We chose Braised Brisket Rice Noodle Soup. This was tasty enough but some of the brisket was seriously chewy. We loved the noodles but they were not made in house. I am not sure where I got the impression that they were and maybe they just didn't have time to make them or they were made at one of their other locations? Communication with the staff was a little stilted. Still, a tasty dish that was just a little spicy with lots of mushrooms.
Finally, we had Braised Pork Ribs Rice which was listed under Yangs Braised items as per the sign outside. The pork was nice and tender. Again, it was a little bit spicy but rich with lots of vegetables and again mushrooms. I would have this again for sure.
This is a sharp-looking space and comfortable enough. They are pretty careful about the social distancing and we felt safe. It seems like a good choice for eats if the food court upstairs is too crowded or your first choice for lunch turns out to be closed to dine in. The website leaves a little to be desired and won't help you to figure them out but take a chance and show up in person.
Food                    3 out of 5
Comfort               3 1/2 out of 5
Service                3 out of 5
Value.                  3 out of 5

Yunshang Rice Noodle 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...