Old Xi'an's Food

Growing up, Chinese food was Chinese food to me. No one had yet explained that China was a vast country spanning regions and cultures, many with unique cuisines owing to influences that included their history, peoples and climate. Xi'an is a city in Shaanxi, in central China towards the north and grows wheat among other things but no rice. As a result, their food tends toward noodles and bread.  It was also greatly influenced by the fact that it was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road and eventually came to have a significant Muslim-Chinese population. Old Xi'an's Food is located in the Continental Shopping Centre on Cambie in Richmond, and as you might guess, specializes in the cuisine of Shaanxi.

We arrived Saturday just before noon and were able to get a table right away. There were quite a few diners but they do a bustling Fantuan business also.
I have a weakness for Cumin Lamb and when combined as a Chinese burger (roujiamo), it is indeed a wonderful thing. Served in a flatbread bun the slowly stewed lamb is full of cumin and a complex mixture of spices that I would not attempt to identify. An inexpensive treat that is a street food favourite in China.
Also off the snack menu was Spicy and Sour Shredded Potato. Just a touch spicy and with a slightly crisp and firm texture that makes you ask if the potato is raw (it is not). The presence of black vinegar is what creates the sour taste and makes this a refreshing side dish that can cut through the richness of some other dishes. We enjoyed this very much.
We tried the Xi'an Cold Noodles. complete with bamboo shoots, cucumber and sprouts this was a refreshing but slightly spicy dish of noodles finished with chili oil and small chunks of bread. Very nice!
The Pita Bread Soaked in Lamb Soup was very good. This was not a hugely boldly flavoured dish but there was a generous amount of tasty tender and fatty lamb, with thin noodles, small pieces of pita and lots of little surprising flavour tidbits. There were a few wood ear mushrooms as well as pickled tiny beans and what we think were banana blossom stems
Finally, we had Soy Bean Minced Pork with Bian Biang Noddles. This was our favourite of the things that we tried! The rich and tasty mixture was an excellent topping for these special noodles.
The noodles are made in-house and are wide and have a wonderful chew. Don't miss out on them. This was obviously far more food than two people can eat and we ended up taking quite a lot home but it was great the next day. 
Pricing is quite reasonable. I think we spent about $60 including tips for what turned out to be 2 meals. As a bonus, not to be taken for granted in Richmond, the parking is not horrendous. Service was quick and personable. Comfy enough, this is not a huge place but it is quite pleasant and as mentioned they do take out. When someone asks me to recommend something in Richmond, I have a lot to say but Old Xi'an Foods might be at the top of my list from now on.
Food                  5 out of 5
Service              5 out of 5
Comfort             4 out of 5
Value                 5 out of 5

Nancy Go Yaya Eating House

When, from down the block, we could see Nancy Go Yaya Eating House was surrounded by film crews, all I could think was, "Great! Now Ryan Renolds is screwing up our lunch plans!" It was not the case, however, as while much of the block was under siege, businesses were not closed even though shooting for something called Balista was taking place.

Just before noon on Sunday, NGY was quite busy but we managed to get a table for 2 fairly quickly. We scanned the menu (I already know well in advance what we will be ordering), hopped up to the counter, placed our order and then took our number and waited, again briefly for our food to be delivered.
Like every other Instagrammer / blogger who has preceded us, we ordered the Kaya Toast because who wouldn't order something with green bread? I guess this is kind of a breakfast thing but we ended up saving it for our dessert as it was very rich and sweet. Pandan is an herbaceous South East Asian plant that can be used for wrapping things to steam (the same way banana leaves are used) but is also sold as an extract or powder. In combination with mochi, voila...green toast! Served with coconut jam, butter and salted egg yolk, you have something pretty tasty!
We tried a couple of curry puffs and that was not a mistake either. I should have shown section view (sounds a little architectural) as this flaky pastry crust was filled with curry chicken, potatoes, and egg.
Not spicy but rich and comforting.
Laksa is one of our favourite things in the world and this was delicious but not cheap. At $19 it's almost $4 more than Laksa King but admittedly, this is a fancy step up from LK so we expect to pay a bit more. Good, mild curry flavour, wonderful noodles, a couple of prawns, egg and amazing fish balls.
Nasi Lemak has gotten to be another one of our favourite things (should put a tune to that lyric) because of all the bits and pieces that come together to produce something great! Peanuts, anchovies, cucumber pickles and sambal are the toppings you can mix together to top the rice and stewed beef in any order that you want, and that gives you salty, spicy options. I said yes to the fried chicken on the side option because who wouldn't. The chicken was great! It's called Cereal Chicken which is probably in reference to the coating which is maybe a mix of breakfast cereals?
This is a chic and comfortable place. The staff were open to our whining about a small table and we were able to get a booth. The service was helpful and sharp. The only thing that I could quite understand was the name of the place...there is no Nancy here...go yaya does not mean going crazy as I assumed but suggests a sort of tongue-in-cheek arrogance...I still don't get it. This place deserves a visit.
Food               4 out of 5
Comfort          4 out of 5
Service           4 1/2 out of 5
Value              4 out of 5

Holy Mochi Donuts - Vanfoodster's Best Donut Challenge

We figured out that we could try all 4 of the Best Donut Challange entries during the March 4 to 27 window so off we went! The fact that I am either all or nothing in my approach to these challenges must say something about the state of my brain but I'm not going to worry about it just now.  We placed an order a couple of days in advance and got a pickup time on Saturday afternoon.

Apparently, people have been walking into Mindful Juice Bar expecting to be able to pick some donuts out of a display case like Tim Horton's. This just indicates that we are not very good at following instructions, as a species. Go to the Holy Mochi Donuts website and figure out how to order some donuts. You will find it to be worth the effort and planning.
These are not exactly cheap donuts but I believe that is a good thing. A box of 6 which gives you a taste of all their flavours will set you back a cool $20.00. Part of the reason that we are so out of shape (again, as a species) is cheap sugar. If I pay, 3 1/2 dollars for a donut, I will scarf down fewer of them. A sweet should be a luxurious treat rather than a meal! And that is what small batch and handcrafted leads to. It gets you a better product but sometimes you pay just a little more. Get over it.
I find these donuts to be a little chewier than their North American counterparts (they seem to have been made popular in Japan by the chain, Mister Donut, and are also known as pon de ring). To be honest, I kind of like that substantive feel. Unfortunately, I have no measuring stick as I'm pretty sure we have never had mochi donuts before. The flavours do stand out and are quite distinct and we liked that too.
Their Best Donut Challenge entry is called, Browned Butter, Strawberry Delight and A Belly Full of Nice Flight. Full marks for whoever does the naming but also for whoever had the inspiration to build this. Browned butter glaze, bits of pretzel and salted caramel were the big players in donut number one. If you haven't yet figured out how well salty and sweet play together, this will work for you. Another stand-out contributor, this time to donut number two, is a vanilla bean glaze rather than just a vanilla extract product. It really does make a difference. We also really like the crispy strawberry candy. These folks (two women according to their Instagram) make their delicious product at Core Kitchen in Langley, the same place as our friends, Mr. Siapao. And again, no, don't go their expecting a display case. Go to their website and place an order!
Food                 4 out of 5
Service              NA
Comfort             NA
Value                 4 out of 5

Eggcetra Breakfast Cafe

It was a beautiful Sunday and we ended up at Eggcetra Breakfast Cafe if for no other reason than they have Chicken and Waffles on the menu. Just off King George Hwy between 152nd Street and 32nd Avenue, we were able to get seated right away just before noon but this is a busy little place.

The system here is that after you are seated and look at the menu, then you go up to the counter and order, then they bring you your food when it is ready. Casual and convenient.
We shared a Smoked Salmon Benny which was quite good. The eggs were perfectly poached with those bright yellow Born 3 type yolks. The salmon was of very good quality and generously portioned. We liked the hash brown batons. The English muffins were a bit tough to cut through. I'm not sure how that is overcome.... do they need to be double toasted?
Of course, the main event was the Chicken and Waffles and this was the best that we have had in a long time! The waffles were crispy as was the chicken. The chicken (boneless thighs) was moist and perfectly cooked. On the side were syrup, sriracha mayo and honey whipped butter. Honestly, we could not stop raving about this dish. I love it when a plan comes together!
Just to maintain our habit of ordering too much, we decided to try the soup of the day. This was a very nice Minestrone with a piece of garlic bread on the side. Not bad.
I'm happy that our table was not larger or I might have charged into the lunch menu a little more. I was particularly tempted by a Pear and Prosciutto Sandwich as well as some other things that would likely have been pretty good. Eggcetra is a cheery little place with friendly staff. I felt a little close to my neighbours which is probably just a symptom of being separated by plexiglass for so long. A great place for brunch on a sunny day in White Rock!
Food                 3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort            3 out of 5
Service             3 1/2 out of 5
Value                3 1/2 out of 5

Side Hustle Sandwiches

I'm not sure how literal the name Side Hustle Sandwiches is. I should have asked if this place was a bar first and maybe someone just decided that putting stuff into buns or between slices of bread would be a good way to make a few bucks and satisfy customers who had come for the craft beer? If so, good thinking!  All I know for sure is that this was another one of those places that I came across on Google Maps and was smitten by their menu. I mean, I like sandwiches and these sounded good!

Located on East 8th, a block west of Main, this is a stupid area for finding parking. Fortunately, it was a beautiful Saturday and we did not mind having to go for a little walk. We arrived just as they were opening and had no problem getting seated. They screwed me up by having more on their menu than their website menu shows and having specials as well! So much for my carefully choreographed sampling order.
We ordered 3 sandwiches and 2 sides (for 2 people) which confused and delighted our servers. These days I always advise staff that I will be ordering too much but it's not because the advancing years are affecting my mind (although they clearly are). The first sandwich was called, Hock Ya Bud, a smoked pork hock, egg and cheese on a brioche bun affair. Please note that it is only served from 11 to 1 as you don't want to miss this! The menu mentions house-made ketchup but I failed to ask how much of the rest of the menu is made in-house. You probably don't even need me to tell you that this was amazing! How could it not be? Watch out for exploding perfectly runny egg with your first bite!
The Pozole Sopa was a weekly feature with pork butt and I am going to go ahead and assume that huge amounts of pork butt had been prepared in the kitchen for both of their weekly features. This was a warming and rich soup with lots of garlic and even hints of orange. Very Nice!
We had to try their Midnight Smash Burger. While my photo shows the nicely cooked patty (could have been a little crispier around the edges for my smash burger tastes) it does not show the cheddar, house-made pickles and other goodies that contribute to a very nice and beefy burger.
Pretty good Peoples Elbow Mac n Cheese. The topping was nicely garlicky bread crumbs.
Finally came another weekly feature item, Japanese Luau Pork Bottom. House Teriyaki, pork butt, grilled pineapple and crushed jalapeno potato chips were all contributors to our favourite sandwich of the afternoon. Just a little sweet and again very rich on really good brioche, this should be on their regular menu! BTW, prices here are really quite reasonable for what you get! Check out their online menu.
Our server (whose name I did not get because I am too self-involved and socially inept) was great and friendly and accommodating! The vibe (do people still say vibe?) was wonderful here. Mostly communal tables and a bit of a basement bar feel with Wrestlemania on one television and hockey on the other! The music is evidently a house playlist and features local talent and we loved it. Hearing a Five Alarm Funk song reminded me of the Jazz Festival and the fact that it will be back this summer! That alone was enough to leave me in a good mood for the rest of the afternoon! Find the time to visit Side Hustle Sandwiches and you will not be sorry!
Food                  4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort             4 1/2 out of 5
Service              4 1/2 out of 5
Value                 4 1/2 out of 5

India's Most Wanted - Aldergrove

Just opened in Aldergrove is our 6th Indian restaurant (more if you count the pizza joints that also serve butter chicken), India's Most Wanted. We have waited patiently as watched this place build from the ground up.

Seriously, this place took at least as long as Jollibee to get up and running. We are happy though as they offer some variety compared to the typical Fraser Valley Indian joints. We ordered for take-out on our first foray but management was anxious for us to dine in as fresh to the table is the best quality and they seem pretty serious about providing a first-class experience. This definitely means that we will be doing a follow-up visit (which as you may know, we rarely do!).
I was impressed right away by their Shuruaat Snacks menu. The list is creative and reasonably priced so we felt comfortable trying several things. The Potato and Cherry Croquettes are certainly something that I have never heard of before and so we needed to try them! They were crispy enough and came with a sweet and spicy sauce and we enjoyed them.  The cherry flavour was subtle enough that it more or less evaded us completely.
Innocent Idli in Sambar was both creatively named and typically a south Indian dish. It was this that made us realize that the strategy at this restaurant is to serve dishes from all over the continent and not the mainly north Indian cuisine that we are used to (management confirmed this for us). This was a very good version of idli, the little rice pillows that soak up a lentil soup!
Assorted Papadum with Trilogy Chutney was another treat and not something we see on menus very often. The green (cilantro/jalapeno-based?) packed a bit of a punch while the other two were one sweet and one savoury. We assume that the pinkish cracker was made from rice while the papadams are usually made with lentil flour. All in all, these were very tasty and no two bites needed to be the same!
I know, I know, butter chicken again but Mharie likes it a lot and it's a taste that we can comment on with some authority! This was some of the best that we have tried. There was a generous amount of chicken and it was not overcooked (often a bc problem) while the sauce was just mildly spicy and leaned towards the savoury rather than sweet. Very nice!
Lamb Biryani is another one of those good places to start and we again declare it to be very good! Decent chunks of tender lamb were mixed in through delicious and earthy rice. Just enough spice to make it interesting.
We ordered some Garlic Naan on the side and it was amazing. You should try this for sure. Also, a nice portion of raita came with the meal. I can't really say what it was to accompany specifically but it was refreshing and delicious.
Kheer Ke Tamashe (traditional Indian rice pudding ) was a portion large enough for 2. We rarely order dessert but it's hard to pass on rice pudding and it was a perfect way to complete an amazing Indian meal. Of course, we couldn't possibly eat all this food at once so we enjoyed some tasty leftovers the next day.
They have a beautiful dining room and it is our intention to come back and try everything on the menu that is labelled for dine-in only. Also, my brief interaction with the folks here makes me sure that they will provide gracious service and good advice and we look forward to experiencing that. We'll let you know soon, how it goes!
Food                 4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort            NA (looks comfortable though!)
Service             4 out of 5
Value                4 1/2 out of 5

Curiously, we recently noticed that we were rated #35 on Feedspots, "Top 60 Vancouver Blogs and Websites." Even after reading about their modus operandi, I am not sure why we are on the list but I'm not accusing them of making a mistake either! On their top 60 are quite a few blogs and websites that we already read regularly. Check it out by Googling Top 60 Vancouver blogs to follow in 2022!

About Us

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...