Whenever anyone references Shinjuku, I am immediately transported back to the 1980s. No, not because I had been to Tokyo but because the Tubes released their song Sushi Girl on the album, Completion Backward Principle which became one of my favourites of all time."Skating down in Shinjuku, When I smelled love in the air." Anyway, Saboten was opened in 1966 in Shinjuku and while their Aberdeen Mall outlet was the first in Canada, we found ourselves at Brentwood (is it OK if I don't call it amazing just yet?) if only for better parking.

It's hard to imagine anyone not loving tonkatsu, including vegetarians (tofu tonkatsu is a thing but Saboten unfortunately, doesn't offer it). We made use of the self-serve ordering kiosk and watched for our order number to come up on the monitor.
We started with the Saboten Set which is a pretty sharp combination of everything that you need. It consists of one piece of shrimp, one of pork loin and one of pork tenderloin with rice, shredded cabbage, miso soup and pickles, tonkatsu sauce and sesame seeds on the side. The proteins were all nicely cooked with a crispy panko coating. Even the shrimp which logistics require is previously frozen has some nice texture to it. Very tasty!
They do Japanese curry at Saboten also so we tried the Shrimp Curry. Same set up as the other as far as sides go and again the shrimp were pretty tasty for what is basically fast food. It wouldn't hurt my feelings if the curry was a little bolder but Japanese curry is a fruitier and milder sauce than say, Indian of Thai curries.
Finally, we ordered Pork Loin Donburi.  The donburi was tasty and comforting with egg and onion in the mix. Also came with miso soup on the side.
One of my favourite and the most surprising thing was the pickles on the side. These were gingery which is a whole unexpected taste but great! They tasted like the pickled ginger that accompanies sushi but these were cucumber pickles. I asked where they are from (I wouldn't mind having a jar) but they come from Japan. We will have to look around for them.
We notice that there is no chicken, beef or tofu on their menu at Saboten but that is OK except it would be nice to offer a vegetarian option. They keep the menu simple and do pretty good at what they do! Their prices are quite reasonable also.
'Tables' has a ways to go with lots of new places in the works. It is comfortable and not hard on the eyes in terms of colours and lighting on so on. So far we find it to be a step above many of the Asian mall food courts as far as comfort and decor but it is too soon to decide about all the different edible offerings. 
Food             3 out of 5
Comfort        3 out of 5
Service         3 out of 5
Value            3 1/2 out of 5

Dhaba Dosa Indian Grill

I'm a little excited today as Dhaba Dosa marks a new leap eastward out the Valley of South Indian food, now in the Langley area. We have more than our share of North Indian or at least Punjabi food which is great but food from the south of India is quite unique and we love it. It is a huge oversimplification to group Indian food into south and north as there are many regional cuisines in the country of over a billion people.

Located on 196th at 60th, we arrived in the middle of Saturday afternoon (not at lunch or diner time) and were seated right away. 
We have become big fans of Indian street food. We started with Aloo Tikki Chat which is a spicy potato patty absolutely drowned in a mixture of chickpeas, onions, crispy noodles and chutney. This was excellent and wouldn't be a bad meal all by itself but as usual, I had set out to order way too much.
Next up was a very fine Lamb Biryani. With lots of tender lamb, well-seasoned rice and a surprise hard-boiled egg in the middle, Mharie declared this the best we have ever had (but we say that a lot, don't we?). A small side of raita came with this. It was very flavourful.
We ordered the Fish Chettinadu which was teeming with fish in a rich and spicy sauce. I could not tell you exactly what spices are used here but the flavour is very complex. It was a rich and warming concoction that came with a side of basmati rice and my mouth is watering even as I recall it.
I guess you could call it the main event as dosa is the uniquely south Indian dish that we love the most. This was literally the biggest crepe that we have ever had. I had always assumed that the griddle for preparing these things is of a set size but perhaps this is not the case. This crepe was large but did not suffer as to quality. It was hot and crispy and sturdy enough for its cargo. 
And inside the dosa was more tasty filling than we have ever seen before. We had ordered the Aloo Gobi Dosa which came with a filling of spiced cauliflower and potatoes. We did not regret our choice. Of course, the dosa came with sambar and two chutneys so that every bite would be unique.
This whole feast came to just over $60 and we literally took half of it home for dinner! 
The servers were really friendly and kept checking on us to make sure all was well. It's a nice room and the Indian music soundtrack is fine and appropriate! We were a little on the chilly side but the food warmed us! Our new favourite Indian restaurant? Probably!
Food             4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort        3 out of 5
Service         4 1/2 out of 5
Value            4 1/2 out of 5


I have to admit that this visit all hinged on the fact that Pourhuse has a Scotch Egg on the menu. So, even though it was served first, I am going to comment on it last, obliging you to read the whole posting first (in case you don't know how to scroll).

Pourhouse is located on Water Street in Gastown. It is in one of those beautiful heritage buildings that make Gastown what it is, namely a haven for tourists and overpriced tourist trap restaurants. I am not putting Pourhouse in that category. I'm just saying that you need to pick and choose.
Failing to follow our server's advice to order the Pourhouse Burger (always listen to your server), we went with the Double Bacon Cheese Burger. The trade-off was that this was a smash burger but the PB comes with pork belly confit! How can we decide on something like that? The DBC was a great burger! I admit that the whole smash patty thing has me in its grasp and this was perfectly done with the crispy bits and all. The only problem with this burger was that the bun was cold! I mean, it was a good soft bun but untoasted and not even warmed. Could that have been an oversight?
We wouldn't ordinarily order a burger with a portabello as the patty (unless it's Veganuary) but the Dirty Portabello Burger has a 'crispy' portabello! This was an inspired use of the mushroom. Bread crumbed and deep-fried it was excellent, being a sturdy piece of fungus and able to stand up to the treatment. They added some Swiss cheese, truffle mayo and so on and the result was full marks!
Once and a while, I cook frozen tots and home and they never turn out quite as crispy as PH's Truffle Tots. I assume that they deep fry them. Add some Parmesan, lots of garlic and serve with truffle mayo on the side and you have something kind of special from something simple. 
As promised, we started with the Scotch Egg (and I'm ending with it). Admittedly, this is why we came to PH. Now, we have never actually had a Scotch Egg before but the concept was so awe-inspiring that we just had to try it. A soft-boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, crumbed and deep-fried holds the promise of a fatty, crispy, comforting and delicious small bite. And to be sure, it did fulfill the promise and was a delicious start to our meal at Pourhouse. The only thing is that I felt like the sausage itself was not as flavourful as I had anticipated. The fennel sausage could have had a bit more Italian seasoning and even a bit more texture would have been nice. That being said, I have nothing to compare it to except my fantasies and they were mostly fulfilled.
So we really like Pourhouse. It's a beautiful place and our server had some real enthusiasm and understood the menu. There are lots of other choices here, something to suit everyone including a weekend bruch. If you're in Gastown, we recommend Pourhouse.
Food              3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort         4 out of 5
Service          4 1/2 out of 5
Vakue            4 out of 5

Monga Fried Chicken

Yes, we're always up for fried chicken that isn't the work of the Colonel! There is definitely an explosion of new places and new chains, some of which seem pretty good. Monga Fried Chicken is Taiwanese style, Monga being a district of Taiwan, so that can't be bad!

Located in the Aberdeen Square food court, as opposed to Aberdeen Centre, you can try to use the terrible parkade or walk-in unscathed by using Skytrain. We ordered some chicken to go.
They have some interesting flavours available and we decided to try the Chee-Z. It was actually a pretty decent piece of chicken with lots of cheese and tomato sauce and what I assume is seaweed powder. It is a significant slab of chicken that would actually have been better if it was thinner or pounded because it tended towards overcooked. Still, crispy and tasty and all that.
We tried the basic Popcorn Chicken which was also pretty good. Maybe not as good as J&G but they are definitely in the running. Crispy, salty, hot and well, you know.
You don't see Crispy Chicken Skin on many menus and as the most unhealthy of the fast-food deep-fried snacks, that is probably good. That being said, we are not dining out for our health and as long as you don't eat this 3 times a day, you'll probably be fine! You will never complain about them being dry. We all eat fried chicken for the skin so why not just go for it!
Finally, I ordered the Deep Fried Broccoli more out of amusement than anything. Like, oh sure, we're going to make this a healthy meal by ordering a vegetable! Surprisingly, it turned out to be not too bad! Broccoli is a sturdy enough vegetable that it stands up to the battering and deep-frying fairly well. We actually enjoyed it! Don't think that this is the way to get your vegetables though.
So this is another addition to the fried chicken wars and we think its pretty good.
Food              3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort         3 out of 5
Service          3 out of 5
Value             3 out of 5 

Chef Tony

As big fans of dim sum, we have had Chef Tony's on our list for a long time. We finally made a reservation for Sunday morning and it was worth doing. This place gets busy long before noon on the weekends.

Located in Empire Mall on Number 3 Road, plan to be a little frustrated by the parking and make your reservation expecting to spend some time driving around aimlessly (To be honest, there is a multi-level parkade at the back of the mall that you should try first). We were promptly seated in this beautiful room by uniformed wait staff. I was a little confused by the presence of a 'wash bowl' on the table. I guess more people are germaphobic than ever before since the start of the pandemic. I chose to assume that the utensils on the table were washed well enough that a bowl of warm water won't change much.
We don't usually order Siu Mai and Har Gow but at CT, these are signature items with little "up-grades". We like black truffle but my own personal disaster, making 'black truffle mashed potatoes' has taught me that a little goes a long way. Fortunately, the chefs at Chef Tony's, are not heavy-handed and the subtle flavour makes these siu mai quite special. 
Likewise, the Har Gow are made with the addition of matsutake mushrooms. Again, the very subtle additional flavour does not interfere with the delicate shrimp. And put together with a delicate skin, these were also some of the best we've had.
We ordered a plate of Deep Fried Squid which arrived at the table first and served to fill the little gaps between dim sum dishes (not that we didn't do any savouring between tastes). With a nice topping of chillies and garlic, the tender squid was very good.
One of the most exquisite dishes that we tried were these beautifully delicate pastries with abalone filling (what they were called escapes me). I tended to massacre them with my clumsy chopstick technique but the bits that reached my mouth had the wonderful abalone in a rich sauce. Amazing! 
Also "the best ever" were the Chicken's Feet. These were fat and profoundly tender with a salty soy sauce and we loved them!
I thought that these Steamed Buns with Salty Egg Yolk Lava might end up being more flash than substance but we ordered them anyway because, well look!
I'm happy to report that they were delicious as well as beautiful. The creamy egg yolk filling was salty and sweet and this served as a wonderful conclusion to an excellent meal. Highly recommended!
So Chef Tony's dim sum was a touch on the expensive but not to the amount that I expected. Considering the amazing things that we tasted, I would have to rate the value as high. 
One thing that we found was that the staff were more than a little on the reserved side. This may be the result of their professionalism or it may just be that it is sometimes awkward to interact with people who do not speak your language. We certainly understand that. Either way, we were not left floundering and the service was still very efficient and the food offerings were amazing.
Food             5 out of 5
Comfort        4 out of 5
Service         4 1/2 out of 5
Value            5 out of 5


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.

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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...