Taps & Tacos

Just before leaping headlong into No Meat May, we decided to take one last run at our previous goal in life, to try every birria taco available in Metro Vancouver. Taps & Tacos has been on our list for a long time and it was nice to finally get there.

Located just of Barnett Highway on Moody Street, the roads and parking are a bit of a pain here. Do yourself a favour and park right on Barnett and walk down Moody. Your legs aren't broken, are they?
We started with Queso Fundido which is basically chips and cheese dip but really amazing cheese dip! This is a delicious bowl of melted jack cheese. Topped with pickled red onion and pretty good salsa verde, and served with store-bought tortilla chips. We were a little disappointed with the chips and found the $18 price tag for this a bit much but I'm not saying it wasn't tasty. I also know that cheese is expensive so I guess I can't be that put off by the price.
Next, the main event, were the Birria inspired Tacos. The birria lived up to expectations as it was tender and flavourful chilli stewed beef. Served in corn tortillas with pickled cabbage and cilantro these were tasty bites. The broth served with them was also beefy and strong but way over salty. I am interested that they call these tacos "inspired". The birria itself refers to slow stewed-underground goat so I guess technically they are correct that this beef stewed dish only takes inspiration from the original. Still, we see the word birria thrown around all over the place and don't really expect a traditional authentic dish wherever we go.
Lately, when we think of Mexican food we've been thinking of torta. We tried the Al Pastor Pork Belly Torta and it was quite good. We loved the crispy melted Asadero cheese (what are always hoping for on the birria taco). Al Pastor generally refers to the carved spit roasted meat  (like shawarma) but in this case, the al pastor was represented by pineapple. The pork belly was in small manageable pieces and nicely offset by the salsa, lettuce, pickled onion and coriander. 
This dessert was a little more than amazing. Made with silken tofu, this Peanut Butter Pudding was vegan making it a good warm-up for No Meat May!. The topping was a tortilla crumble with chocolate. Very nice!
This is an airy and bright room with mezzanine seating as well as on the main floor. Lots of windows! We will leave review of the taps part of Taps and Tacos to others but I think that is supposed to be the main allure of this place. Our servers were very friendly and efficient and we didn't wait overly on anything.  The food overall is decent but the birria tacos that we were hoping for (more of a quesa birria, I guess) with the whole fried on a flat top with melted cheese thing, are served by their truck and not at the restaurant. Obviously, the truck is in different places at different times so you need to plan a little better than we did if you want that.
Food              3 out of 5
Comfort         3 out of 5
Service          4 out of 5
Value             3 out of 5

India's Most Wanted - 2nd visit

When IMW first opened, we tried some take-out one evening (it's an Indian restaurant, right?) but the manager, Gurmukh was quite anxious that we try their dine-in experience to really appreciate what they do. We loved the take out and so finally this evening, we were back and became true fans of India's Most Wanted.

Located on Fraser Highway, just west of downtown (not too difficult to find anything in our little hamlet) Aldergrove, a reservation could be in order on a Saturday evening.
We started off with a couple of items from their Shuruaat Snacks menu, the first of which was available for dine-in only, the Fully Loaded Gol Gappe. This is a small hollow crisp round bread filled with a delicious creamy mixture of potato, yogurt and chutney! Our attentive server and manager, Gurmukh, ensured that we understood to eat each one as a whole bite (like sushi) rather than try to take a bite. He was absolutely correct as the creamy mixture inside exploded with flavour and complexity. All I can say is that this is not to be missed!
Also, at Gurmukh's recommendation, we had the Gunpowder Prawns. Gunpowder is a spice mix usually with chillies and curry leaves. It was not overly spicy although the seasoning was definitely noticeable in the batter of the prawns themselves. They were served in shooter glasses with 3 sauces, namely mango, jalapeno and the chef's secret. It was so good that we allowed ourselves to scoop the remaining sauce with a spoon after consuming the deep-fried prawns. Excellent!
The variety and extent of the menu makes the decision making process a bit challenging but we managed to land on the Bengali Fish Curry. This was a mild but flavourful curry with coconut and cumin and a generous amount of basa.
Again with our new best friend and advisor's help, we ordered the Railway Mutton Curry. Though mutton can be tough, this was definitely not. Developed for the delicate palettes of the British Raj, this is not an overly challenging dish but still complex and delicious and leaning towards the tomatoey end of the spectrum. We would order it again but there are too many tempting things on this menu!
Of course, no Indian meal is complete without basmati rice and naan. The Garlic Naan here is amazing.
A lot of the food went into to-go containers as, while we were tempted to just keep eating, we definitely wanted some room to try a dessert! Rasmalai is flattened discs of a soft mild cheese covered in a thickened milk sauce and flavoured with cardamom.
It was light and wonderful!
Mharie and I have been to so many Indian restaurants! We love Indian food and love to explore the regional differences and I can say that I've never had Indian food that I didn't like! Still, we came to the unanimous conclusion that India's Most Wanted is our new absolute favourite!
The prices are reasonable. It is very comfortable and quite beautiful in the dining room! The staff are all, professional, informed and so friendly and attentive! And the kitchen works magic! We do not hesitate to highly recommend this excellent restaurant!
Food               5 out of 5
Comfort          5 out of 5
Service           5 out of 5
Value              5 out of 5


L.A. Chicken

There are lots of articles out there about the best fried chicken in Metro Vancouver. Many of the top places are the ones we expect and know about like Juke, Downlow, Popina, Win-Win and The Frying Pan. Then there are always a few surprising, maybe lower key and less well-known places that still crank out great fried chicken. One of these is L.A. Chicken. I think that there might have been an L.A. Chicken out in Abbotsford many years ago but this time we found ourselves in Richmond and we've wanted to try them for a long time.

Located on No.5 Road just south of Cambie, this is currently a take-out-only joint, unless you want to lean against the window counter. We decided to enjoy our meal in the park across the road in the sunshine (despite the chilly wind).
We ordered 8 pieces, half of which were allegedly spicy (maybe a couple were spicy?) and half of which went home with us. This was without a doubt, top-notch fried chicken. The flavourful coating did not have any tricks or gimmicks or 13 herbs and spices. It was pretty basic. The chicken was, you know, moist inside and crispy on the outside. We couldn't ask for more. We have had bad fried chicken (from the colonel for example), so know that this quality is not a gimme. We were sufficiently impressed! I wouldn't doubt that it is top ten in Metro Vancouver, but who can really say unless you try them all side-by-side? Still, no complaints at all!
We ordered too many fries and gravy as well. These are just ho-hum fries. Not terrible but the usual frozen after thought kind of thing. It's not what people come here for. The gravy was pretty good though!
Finally, since you can never have too many carbs on the side, we got some macaroni salad. This was maybe just on the positive side of middle of the road, but when is macaroni salad ever really that memorable? I would not make a special trip from Aldergrove to get L.A. Chicken but if it was in my neighbourhood, it might well be my go-to. Nice friendly folks who run an efficient ship.
Food            4 out of 5
Comfort       NA
Service        4 out of 5
Value           4 out of 5

Japadog - McArthurGlen

Of course, we've been to Japadog before! It's a Vancouver institution and one of Anthony Bourdain's notable stops on his visits to town. These days there are at least 10 Japadog locations including at the Santa Monica Pier, some of which are storefronts and others of which are trailers. We've just never written a blog post about them (shame!) but after dropping my brother at the airport (there is a Japadog in YVR) we were feeling peckish and well, why not?

The nice thing about McArthurGlen is lots of parking including EV charging spots. On a sunny day, you can stroll around the mall enjoying a coffee and laughing at the people in long lines for new shoe releases (or whatever).

I'm a big fan of Japanese Curry but not a big fan of poutine. Put Japanese curry on fries and you don't really have poutine you really just have curry sauce and cheese on fries. Call it whatever you want, I guess, it was pretty good. Not a bad mango shake either.
Proving that not every dog has to have a pork weiner (or is that the actual definition of a hot dog?) is the Ebi Tempura Dog. With Seasoned rice and seaweed, the nicely crispy and surprisingly tasty shrimp brings a lighter but very satisfying flavour to a hot dog.

One of the current specials at the MG outlet is the Menchikatsu Dog. This is a ground beef cutlet on a bun that did not quite live up to its billing as crunchy on the outside. Still, it was beefy and flavourful with katsu sauce.
The Yakiniku Rice Dog was the biggest score of this particular haul. The Arabiki pork weiner had some snap for a decent start. With seasoned rice, grilled beef and some variation of a katsu or teriyaki style sauce, this was almost a meal in itself. I would order this again!
I think that the Okonomi Dog is one of my early and all-time favourite go-to's. I guess it's mostly about the bonito flakes but the Kurobota sausage is one of their tastiest offerings. I like the sauce and fried cabbage as well. You can never go wrong with a classic!
The McArthurGlen location of Japadog has quite a bit of room for inside dining and some outside tables as well. They are counter service and pickup but service is pretty quick considering how busy they can be. If I'm eating fast food, I would always choose Japadog if there is an outlet nearby. There is a reason that they started with one cart on Burrard and have grown to an empire of sorts! Really decent food with some impressive variety at very good prices.
Food              3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort         3 out of 5
Service          4 out of 5
Value             4 out of 5

Grandt Kitchen Filipino Cuisine - Filipino Restaurant Month

Well, we have been to Grandt Kitchen previously but it was for a catered family event. I guess that should be a recommendation in itself but we decided to pay them a visit again during Filipino Restaurant Month to see them in action and find out about their everyday menu and service.
Located in a strip mall just north of Surrey Central on King George Blvd, parking was not an issue. We arrived just at noon on a Sunday and were seated right away.
We started with an appetizer off their FRM special menu. I can't remember what they called it but it was deep-fried tiny crabs with a vinegar dip. These were tasty and crunchy but I would be curious to know their source. I have seen tiny crabs in Kimchi in H-mart but I have never tried them or questioned where they are from. I wish I had researched that ahead of time. 
The one thing that we ordered off their regular menu was the Crispy Pata. Honestly, this must be one of the most unhealthy things in the world but it is so delicious. This is a pork hock slowly simmered and then deep-fried and is another example of using every part of an animal if you are going to use them for food. Meaty and fatty with crsipy skin, you should share it with multiple people!
Served with a side of atchara, a Filipino pickle featuring unripe papaya which offsets all the fat. The skin was ridiculously crispy and the meat so tender. Don't miss this but go jogging in the morning in anticipation.
Bulalo is not a regional dish, but I expect it has local versions. It is a soup based on beef shank and bone marrow and there are entire restaurants that specialize in it in the Philippines. The broth itself is beefy, rich and fatty. Depending on your luck of the ladle, there maybe be generous pieces of delicious marrow. The beef in our serving was brisket-like (I don't know for sure) and so tender.  Add some greens and not too much else and you are set. This bowl was $25 but is enough for multiple servings. We took a lot home.
The Filipino Restaurant Month's main offer to bring in the masses is an appetizer, main and dessert for $25. GKFC has certain dates for their specials but they bent the rules for us (and they probably will for you also). We chose the Grilled Pork Belly Combo which came with the relish, some grilled vegetables and steamed rice. The pork was ridiculously tender and very tasty and they were not cheap with the portions.
The combo comes with a couple of spring rolls which were very good. Most Filipino dishes come with some sort of vinegar dip. There is vinegar in every form in the Philipines and we have some spicy versions in our own pantry. Don't miss out on using the dips if you are eating Filipino food. We ordered a side of garlic rice as we thought we might run short of food! That was a hilarious notion!
The combo came with Boku Pandan for dessert. It was served with some vanilla ice cream which is a little bit non-traditional but was a nice touch. There were crispy rice bits on top which provided a nice texture bonus. This was quite good. The $25 meal deal also came with a beverage.
I have gotten in the habit of letting the server know that I intend to order too much! I feel a little embarrassed ordering what is inevitably dinner for 4, for the 2 of us! Admittedly all of this food complete with tax and tips came to $100 but it was more like dinner for 6 as worked on the leftovers for a couple of days!
This is a comfortable enough room, reminiscent of maybe a Mediterranean-style place that occupied the space before? I am just guessing and I don't know for sure. The staff were quite friendly and attentive, especially considering how busy they got as the lunch hour went along. This place is worth checking out!
Food                  4 1/2 out of5
Comfort             3 1/2 out of 5
Service              4 out of 5
Value                 4 out of 5

Royal Seafood Restaurant

I wasn't really aware of Royal Seafood Restaurant until I read a "10 Best Richmond Dim-Sum Restaurants..." article at nomsmagazine.com. We decided to pay them a visit one rainy Sunday morning to get warm and satisfy our recurring dim-sum cravings. Even though we forgot to order the dishes that the article recommended, we were impressed.

Located in the Garden City Shopping Centre at Blindell and Garden City, parking is not an issue. Seating was not an issue either but only because we arrived on the early side before noon. This place got pretty busy by the time we were done. Were not surprised that it is popular as you will see.
While we try to be adventurous most times that we dine out, I feel like we slide into a comfort zone when it comes to dim sum. Deep-Fried Eggplant with Shrimp Paste is one of our go-to's when we see it on the menu. It provides such a nice combination of flavours and textures. The highlight here was that the shrimp pieces were large and had good snap (not really paste at all). Perfectly cooked!
Chicken feet are another of our favourites. This one is with a spicy sauce that was not really spicy. We didn't mind. They were so tender with the perfect texture. We always scarf down the peanuts in the sauce as well.
Going a little off our beaten path we tried the Chicken with Ginger Steamed Buns. These were very tasty and ginger forward. We love the puffy steamed bun texture which provides a nice contrast to the other dishes we had tried.
Back to the texture items again, we enjoyed their Beef Tendon Chee Hou (that is how it was listed on our receipt although it is listed as Szechuan Sauce on the menu). The tendon were ridiculously tender and with a smooth and luxurious texture. The sauce was not very spicy but was rich and had just enough tang to it to make the dish wonderful. 
The Meat and Shrimp Puffs were also very nice. A familiar slightly saucy filling inside a deep-fried shell this time. Calling them a puff is appropriate. The outside crust is light and crispy.
We finished up with the Golden Yolk Custard Lava Buns. These sweet and delicious buns were a real treat. Mharie had to help me break this open as when I tried, I sprayed filling halfway across the table! Chopsticks are not great as cutting tools! Don't miss out on these.
RSR has a beautiful dining room with sharp-dressed and efficient servers. Prices are not bad with most dishes at around $8.50. We were a little surprised that tea was charged to us at $3 each. It's not a problem but isn't tea usually complimentary? Either way, we agree with Royal Seafood Restaurants being assessed as in the top ten dim sum restaurants in Richmond!
Food             4 out of 5
Comfort        4 1/2 out of 5
Service         4 1/2 out of 5
Value            4 out of 5

Sakura Days Japan Fair - Teriyaki Boys

It has been 4 years since we attended the Sakura Days Japan Fair at Van Dusen Gardens. I can't remember for sure but assume that it was cancelled in 2 of those years (you were here, right?) and I don't have an excuse for the 3rd intervening year. The bottom line is that it is nice to be back at VanDusen Gardens.

I will go ahead and say, I told you so to everyone who did not make an effort to get out of bed and get going in time to be there when the gardens opened at 10 (10?...already the middle of the day!). The gardens were quite busy right from the start (almost like we've been waiting 2 years to have something to do) but as the day went on, the lineups to get in and for food reached ridiculous lengths and forget about parking anywhere near the gardens. 
Our visit started off beautiful, if a little chilly, with the cherry blossoms in full bloom. We were hungry enough that it seemed like a good idea to get something to eat fairly early on and so we visited one of the several tucks/ trailers that were set up to nourish visitors,.
Teriyaki Boys is from Squamish and specialize in, you guessed it, Teriyaki in various iterations with rice and noodles.
We ordered their Ginger Pork with Tarutaru Sauce. I had to ask what tarutaru sauce is and a friendly young server explained it to me but their website just calls it tartar sauce. I could have figured that out. Anyway, it was very tasty with pork belly, the finely shredded cabbage that we love, and sauce all on rice. 
We also tried their Yakisoba (ordered a poached egg on the side) which was also nicely done. Nothing too fancy here just the stir-fried noodles, savoury-sweet sauce as well as some green onions etc.
Mharie's granddaughter was with us for the day and she had the Teriyaki Rice Bowl. She asked for them to hold the vegetables as many teenagers (she is not quite a teenager yet) are wont to do so no cabbage etc. It was still a tasty bowl but a little salty without the shredded cabbage and mayo to mitigate the saltiness. Our intention all along was to come back later and try some other things at different trucks but the length of the lines forced us to opt-out of that idea!
We enjoyed the Japanese artisans, haiku workshop, and Japanese performers at the Cherry Stage, as well as the rest of these beautiful gardens. It turns out this could well be called the Magnolia Festival as blossoming Magnolia trees might have been as amazing and common as the cherry trees.
Still, Cherry Blossom Festival is our thing in Metro Vancouver, isn't it? 
Our last stop was back at the Cherry Stage for Go-Taiko, a young people's group that performed on the Japanese drums. 
It was one of many moving performances that highlighted Japanese arts at the Sakura Days Japanese Fair.
It was a lovely day and a lovely festival. Don't leave it too late next year! Tickets were available online but it would be worth considering for the society in charge to provide windows to avoid the waits that many people must have experienced. We're glad that the wonderful cherry blossoms are available all over Metro Vancouver and even out in our humble Aldergrove.
Teriyaki Boys
Food             3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort        NA
Service         4 out of 5
Value            4 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...