Carribean Days Festival - Coquitlam

It was certainly a weekend of festivals. We have been to the Fusion Festival in Surrey in the past and choose not to endure that crowd on this particular weekend (although it is a great festival). There was also the Bubble Tea Festival but seriously, who cares? Instead, we ended up at the Caribbean Festival in Coquitlam. We haven't been to one of these in a while (not since North Vancouver) and kind of enjoy the tropical feel.

The weather was pleasant (not too hot ) and the air was full of music as we knew it would be! Of course, the highlights of the festival were the music and the food (and the parade but more on that later).
We were there long enough to see a couple of acts. It was a little hard to figure out who was on the stage unless you happened to catch the whole act and were there for the introductions. The official festival website had a schedule but the conditions on the ground seemed to be fluid.
We did manage to figure out that this was Sweet Pan. I initially identified them as a distinctly un-Caribbean-looking senior's steel drum band but it turns out that some of the members have Caribbean roots.
We kind of found this to be more of a market than a festival with booths from Save On selling Chinese cooking wine (among other unrelated items) and lots of vendors selling clothes and hats of dubious origin which may or may not have been from the Caribbean. 
Of course, there was the food but as is usual for any event or festival, it was a little bit challenging. There were 4 or 5 trucks that were selling jerk chicken or some variation but all of these had huge lines.
We chose to bypass the standing in the sun thing by getting something to eat from a non-jerk chicken truck (these entertained relatively short lines). We knew that Cazba could be relied upon for some tasty eats even though Iran is nowhere near the Caribbean.
We ordered Koobidah and a sort of Frittata (can't remember what it was called) but ended up with 2 Koobidah (Oh well. They were well organized but clearly crazy busy so what are you gonna do?) We found some shade under a tree and were happy that our standing in line in the sun had ended! The food was tasty but not Caribbean as mentioned, so kind of a pointless posting!
Here and there we found other more authentic tastes of Trinidad and Tobago for instance.
We missed the parade, unfortunately, which likely would have been the highlight of this whole affair. In fact, I always yip about being early to things and planning ahead to miss the heat and most of the crowds but I clearly failed to do that this time. We'll try harder next year so that there is a valid reason for a posting about the festival. In the meantime, here you go!


El Companero

We've been in Abbotsford more often of late, as we are trying to help my Mom with some things around her house. As a result, sometimes Abbotsford becomes the logical place to find some lunch. There have been new places popping up around there lately and one that I have wanted to check out is El Companaro's.

Located on South Fraser Way close to the 5 corners (downtown), when we arrived on Saturday at lunchtime, we were able to get a table right away. As soon as we sat down, our server (and the manager/owner) brought us complimentary chips and salsa.
They weren't house-made but they were pretty good and the house-made salsa was tasty enough.
The thing that convinced us that we should try this place was the presence of Quesabirria Tacos on the menu. Of course, this is no longer a novelty as most Mexican joints boast some form of birria these days. EC's version was decent. The cheese skirt on the outside was masterful and that is one of the most important features. The broth was beefy but not the best we have had.
The tacos themselves had a generous amount of tender brisket but we thought that they could have profited from a bit of salt. Other than that the pickled onions and cilantro finished things off nicely.
We shared a Pulled Pork Enchilada Plate which was again pretty good. The housemade sauces were nicely done. Again, the pork as well as the rice and beans could have done with a bit of salt. I don't think we are suffering from a post-covid lack of taste bud action. Sometimes people in kitchens are afraid of oversalting which would not be a great thing either but salt heightens flavours. 
We had a couple of tacos with Blackened Shrimp and Fish. These were some good tacos. A nice cross-section of crispy spicy, tart and fresh ( cabbage and cilantro) made it a nice experience. Somehow, I forgot to photograph their bottle of house-made hot sauce. They make it in heat levels 1 to 10! I chose 6 which packed a punch already so I'm glad we didn't order #10 which boasts Carolina reapers and ghost chilis! Good God!
We love to finish our meal with a couple of churros. We don't usually indulge in deserts but churros are an exception. Mharie figures these might be the best we've had (do we say that often?). On the side was some premium vanilla ice cream and a butterscotch sauce (?) Very nice!
This is a comfortable enough place, prices are reasonable and the hot sauce lineup is interesting and impressive. Our host was friendly and helpful and enthusiastic about her place. Aside from that, this is a pretty straightforward menu with nothing that made us feel like we were in the heart of Mexico. It is maybe geared to making the meat and potatoes folks of the Fraser Valley (Sorry. I know the populace has changed in the last 20 years) feel like they are tasting something exotic. I guess that's OK.
Food             3 out of 5
Comfort        3 1/2 out of 5
Service          3 1/2 out of 5
Value             3 1/2 out of 5

The Filipino Noodle Joint

Many of us have more recently become familiar with Filipino cuisine than we are say, with Indian or Chinese food. Of course, we know that the cuisines of those countries vary largely from region to region such that we have Cantonese, Sichuan and Shandong among many other distinct cuisines from China. Why then am I surprised that the regions of the Philippines also have their variations, either of national favourites or their own unique dishes? At the Filipino Noodle Joint, you can try familiar dishes but with a bit of a regional twist, namely the region of Ilocos!

Ilocos is an area north of Manilla and on the west coast. As fans of You Tubers Jan and Ann, we have followed along as they explored this beautiful region of the Philipines.
The Filipino Noodle Joint is located in Vancouver's Chinatown, in the Chinatown Plaza foodcourt on Keefer a block west of Main. 
As the Chinatown Festival was in full swing on this particular weekend, we enjoyed live music with our lunch. I'll admit, that I am not an expert when it comes to Chinese music but we enjoyed most of what they played with the exception of the drummer occasionally raining down hell on the cymbals.
We started with Ilocos Pancit. I have read that there are 24 varieties of pancit in the Philippines so I will not bother reviewing the differences. The stir-fried egg noodles were perfect in this being just slightly al dente. The dish came with a generous amount of bagnet (Ilocos version of lechon kawali, which is boiled and then deep-fried pork belly) which as you might guess was crispy and rich. There was also a serving of Ilocos Longanisa which is seemingly a little softer and fattier than the generic longanisa. Mharie was less than in love with this version of the familiar sausage. The fried egg on top was a nice touch.
Ilocos Miki with Bagnet Toppings also made it to our table. We found the chicken broth and noodles to be on the light side and might have profited from some salt but the toppings (bagnet again and some vegetables) made it a nice savoury soup with some interesting textures.
Under the menu heading, Baon Boxes, we decided to try Dinakdakan, a word I cannot seem to say or spell. First of all, Baon means, "food on a journey" in Tagalog and there is likely a similar word in Ilocano. It is approximately a bento box. Look up a recipe for the traditional dish, dinakdakan, and you will likely be startled by the ingredients. Fear not, we are quite certain that the FNJ recipe does not contain pigs' brains and we could not taste liver. Also, the main ingredient was again pork belly and not snout. A delicious creamy dish (my favourite of the visit) we could taste the calamansi, ginger and chilli. Very nice! Also served with rice, pancit, eggplant and spring rolls, this is a substantial meal for $18.
Finally, we tried Guinumis, a coconut drink with toasted puffed rice. Complete with sago pearls and gulamon (a gelatin sort of thing but made with seaweed - vegan!). This was less sweet than the usual boba and pearl tea and all that stuff. Also, the rice gave it some interesting texture. I liked it but my wife was less keen.
Just up the road outside, the festival continued and there were plenty of food trucks and other things to do. We were glad that we tried this Filipino place this time.
Food                 3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort            3 1/2 out of 5
Service             3 1/2 out of 5
Value                3 1/2 out of 5


Lee Yuen Seafood Restaurant - White Rock

So we had a bunch of family members to take out for lunch. My original idea was dim sum at Lee Yuen which has proven wonderful in the past but it turns out that Lee Yuen Seafood in White Rock (not at the Guildford location) has a very good brunch/lunch offer as well. We decided to give that a try. Located on 152nd at 18th there is parking available at the back.

For 10 people, I thought that 10 dishes was appropriate (I seem to have overshot the mark but leftovers are much better than not enough). The deal they offer (among others) is $185 (about $10 more than what their website says) is for 8 dishes and a free-range chicken).
The chicken turned out to be Hainanese Chicken or something very close to that. Nicely moist and served with an excellent garlic oil sauce. The 8 dishes that I chose are from a list that you can see on their website. I tried to order a nice cross section that would make everyone at least a little happy.
Sauteed Gai Lin with Garlic as everyone needs their vegetables. Nicley just cooked and garlicky. No surprise but just very well done.
The Vegetarian Delights also provided the more plant-leaning members of our party another option. This dish included a nice variety of mushrooms including one that I could not identify. It was whitish and a little similar to a wood ear in shape and texture. Add in some tofu, baby corn, broccoli etc., etc. and you have something both tasty and healthy! Very Nice!
The Deep Fried Fish Filet with Corn Sauce proved to be pretty popular. The fish was crispy and just nicely salted. If you've never tried this, the corn sauce (basically creamed corn) is a very nice accompaniment. Try it at home!
More greens but this time as a base for sauteed squid. Again, no surprises here but I know my wife would like this so I assumed it would go over well with her sisters as well.
Deep Fried Jumbo Prawns with Spicy Salt is one of the plates that we polished off completely. Not surprising as the prawns were of very good quality and delicious. Not too spicy but you had the option of including the dried chilli to bump it up.
I'm in the habit of steering clear of beef these days (add that to veal and octopus on my list) but for the sake of the hard-core carnivores, I ordered a few meat dishes including Beef with Ginger and Scallion Hot Pot. This was a tasty dish with lots of ginger flavour. I think this one got polished off as well.
I ordered a couple of pork dishes. Both the Sweet and Sour Boneless Pork with Pineapple and the Honey Garlic Spareribs (you know what that looks like) are a little cliche but these were very good and everyone liked them.
We ordered steamed rice and a fried rice dish (not pictured) and congee to cover everyone's rice needs. Management also brought us a huge complimentary bowl of chicken soup which was less photogenic than some things I have seen but was quite delicious.
We had a lovely meal and a lovely visit in this comfortable restaurant (that is us at the back on the left). The staff was quite attentive and very friendly and you know that a big party can be challenging! The total with tax and tips was $280.00 which for 10 people is totally reasonable (not to mention that Mharie and I ate leftovers for at least a couple of days!).
Food                  4 out of 5
Comfort             4 out of 5
Service              4 1/2 out of 5
Value                 4 out of 5

Mary Brown's Chicken

I'm not a huge fan of the Daily Hive Dished page. They post articles abbreviated for people who prefer only to look at pictures with text rather than actually read. Also, I'm still annoyed that they posted one of my pictures without giving me credit and then ignored me when I pointed it out. Still, I glance through their stuff to keep up with new places, festivals, etc. Recently, DH posted 2 articles, one about fast food fried chicken (10 worst to best) and chicken sandwiches (10 worst to best) and the number one in both categories was the Canadian chain, Mary Brown's Chicken.  So, we thought that it would be a good idea to give them a try to determine whether they were really worthy of being called number one. And not only that, we like fried chicken!

In Abbotsford, MB is located in the Cabello's strip mall near the freeway on McCallum Road. It was quite busy when we arrive at about 1:00 on Sunday but take-out service was tolerably quick. We ordered enough to get a handle on what they do here and headed home to try it out.
We started by trying their Dill Pickle Chips, mostly because it was something you don't see everywhere. Unfortunately, these were terrible and MB should be ashamed of themselves! The pickles themselves were shaved so thin that you could see through them (if you could actually separate them from the batter). Is this a local vendor trying to save money on the terribly expensive pickles? If you look at the website photo, you will not see what is in our photograph above. All batter and way too hard. Ridiculous!
We ordered a 3-piece meal which came with wedges and a salad. We chose their feature corn salad which was tasty enough. We asked for one spicy and two regular pieces of chicken and spicy wedges. The chicken was decent. The pieces were of good size and even the white meat was relatively moist. The spicy piece did have a bit of punch. The wedges by contrast were not so spicy even though they appear to have gotten the same treatment as the spicy chicken. We liked the meal but neither Mharie nor I would rate it ahead of Popeye's (my favourite from DH's list) or Churches (Mharie's favourite from the list).
We ordered a Nashville Mary Combo to try out their sandwiches and it was not bad. It certainly wasn't Nashville spicy but it had some flavour. The white meat was decently cooked and not dry. There were some dill pickles (maybe they were supposed to be in the Pickle Chips?) but not a whole lot of other condiments. It was an O.K. sandwich but we have no terms of reference in comparing it to the others on the list.
The Abbotsford store has a few tables but with the number of people waiting inside, your chances of sitting down and eating are slim.
The DH article was admittedly about Canada's popular fast food joints. Locally, we can make a lot of much better choices including, Down Low, Win-Win, Jolibee (finally), Fritou and even Hi-Five. Better yet, go find some Karaage or Korean fried chicken.
Mary Brown's Fried Chicken is not terrible but I'm not sure how they topped the lists other than by the mere fact of being Canadian. Clearly, the testers did not try the Pickle Chips.
Food             3 out of 5
Comfort        2 1/2 out of 5
Service         3 out of 5
Value            3 out of 5

Delphi Cafe

Not sure how I had not noticed this place for so long. Maybe the name threw me. Wouldn't you assume that this is a Greek cafe? When I finally looked at the menu on Google, I realized that they were serving some pretty creative items and it is more of a breakfast-to-lunch type eatery.

Located in a strip mall east of  200th on Willowbrook Drive, it's not much to look at from the outside. All that changes when you get inside. Mind you, getting inside can be a bit challenging as they don't take reservations here and this place was busy on Sunday morning at 10:00 am. Fortunately, they will take your name and number at the door and text you when a table is ready. They told us 25 minutes but it was closer to 15. By the time we left, the line of people who chose to stand outside and wait was significant. Plan accordingly.
So they serve a lot of the expected dishes like bennies (although some with pretty creative twists), pancakes, pasta, burgers and sandwiches. They also delve into the less known like Chicken Toast. Really just a riff on chicken and waffles but we loved the slight variation, the fruit on the side and even pickled onions. The chicken was perfect but my wife found the 5 spice flavour (we think that is what it was) a little off-putting. Still, a very good meal.
We also were intrigued by and ordered the Japanese Style Omurice. Interestingly this was served with a tasty farmer's style sausage which was pretty lean and had a good slightly chunky texture and flavour. The egg itself is a kind of swirled omelet (look it up on You Tube) affair over a pile of saffron rice and vegetables. It was all served with their demi-glace gravy which was strong and beefy! Wonderful!
We also ordered Locomoco to go. This is a dish that is Hawaiian in origin and we have had it only once before (haven't been to Hawaii since 1984!). A lot of the same elements as the Omurice but with a tasty beefy hamburger patty, cheese and a fried egg.
So we love the variety on this menu. This place is Korean run (I asked) and that's why we see that bit of fusion.
Again,  you're going to find this place pretty busy. Plan to spend some time browsing in the Dollar Store or Staples. Still, we think it was worth the wait! The staff were very friendly and attentive and the kitchen got things done pretty quickly. This is worth a visit if you want to brunch with friends or are just looking for a very good lunch.
Food              4 out of 5
Comfort         4 out of 5
Service          4 1/2 out of 5
Value             4 out of 5 


It's about time. A restaurant with so many accolades (a wall of certificates near the washrooms and a front door full of recognitions) should not have waited this long for us to darken its door. Torafuku is located along a questionable stretch of real estate ( Main Street between the Ivanhoe and the American) which surprisingly houses quite a few decent eateries. We made a reservation, which may or may not be necessary on any given day, for opening time on Canada Day.

It's not like it's any kind of leap for us to come here as Torafuku is an Asian fusion joint that serves all kinds of stuff that we love, starting with dumplings.
Called, I Love Dumplings on the menu these were just really good. The usual pork filling, very tasty, thin wrapper and typical toppings, herbs and chilli vinaigrette. A great way to start a meal.
We ordered 2 Kick Ass Rice Bowls. The first was The Chicken And Crack Rice meaning, fried chicken, crack salad and rice. Don't be alarmed by the crack salad. I didn't think to ask about the name but the salad is some good vegetables with parmesan and a bit of lemon flavouring. The fried chicken was another of those great things that we would eat every day if we could. Crispy and hot and perfectly tender. You are likely familiar with the rice part.
The other bowl was the Duck Rice Bowl. The soy braised duck leg was very tasty but a bit on the chewy side. I guess that is almost always the case. The bowl was nicely rounded out with tofu, egg and radish and even some greens.  Nice variety and a satisfying lunch bowl.
In addition to the food, we found that the decor and even plates reflected some serious creativity. We had individual serving plates that appear to be shards of pots, each shaped a little differently and then finished was a grey colour. I loved these things.
The dining room has a sort of an industrial feel with a polished concrete floor and even a concrete communal table and wall design. Our server was friendly and the kitchen seems efficient. That's probably not surprising given the accolades this place has collected. Pricing for lunch is very reasonable.
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 

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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...