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Lee Garden Seafood Restaurant

Lee Garden Seafood is a somewhat new resto in Burnaby that replaced the infamous Grand Buffet. For many years, Grand Buffet was a solid, go-to spot for a cheap fill…the Uncle Willy’s of Asian fare. As the years went by, it slowly deteriorated into an unseemly dive with barely warmed chaffing dishes of nastiness alongside crunchy, past-due sushi and frostbitten ice cream. On our final visit, I pulled a ladle of soup from the tureen with a foot-long hair attached. Rock-bottom. They shut down, thankfully, a couple of years ago. This past spring the space was transformed into a rather luxurious new restaurant. Miss Vancouver Piggy captured the room beautifully in her post.

As is tradition in our office this time of year, we say goodbye to our summer students with a feast. This time around we went with a rather major meal at Burnaby’s newest Dim Sum joint.

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Lee Garden is an extremely popular spot. On most days the parking lot is full by 11:30 a.m. with the overflow lining the side streets. Most dim sum items are in the $5 range so it ain’t bargains drawing in the crowds. It seems cleanliness, good eats and great service are the main attractions.

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Har Gow will always be ordered. It’s a standard to go by. Here it’s labelled Lee Garden Special Prawn Dumplings. And these were pretty special. There’s a sizeable amount of fresh, firm prawn encased in a light wrap all steamed to a perfect degree. I haven’t come across many better executed.

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Another standard, of course, is Sui Mai (Steamed Pork Dumplings). These were prepared very well. Tight, fresh ground pork, still juicy and full-flavored. The haphazard tossing of tobiko seemed odd. Why finish a nice dish so sloppily? Sherman noted this in his post as well. It’s very strange that a higher-end establishment would allow this kind of inconsistency to hit the table repeatedly.

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From the Chef’s Specialty menu, we went with the rather inexpensive Pan Fried Noodle with Chive ($5.98). Nothing special but tasty, nonetheless. A good noodle cooked right.

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Deep Fried Pork & Shrimp Dumplings. I love these mainly for the crisp and chewy wrap. The minced ingredients are on the minimal side but it is one addictive morsel!

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For another crunchy, grease-laden treat, we grabbed a couple plates of Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls with Garlic. These were well-packed with crisp prawn and almost enough garlic. A sweeter dip would’ve helped but that’s just me being a gweilo.

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Taqueria Playa Tropical

I’ve got to admit it. I’m slightly ashamed. Over the past twenty-five years I’ve trekked across a good chunk of Mexico attempting to discover it’s wide and varied cuisine. In all that time I’d barely cracked the surface. Back home, it turns out, there’s a spot just three blocks down the road that I’ve been sorely neglecting.

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Taqueria Playa Tropical has been putting up Mexican fare in uptown New Westminster since 2011. Since their inception, they took over the space next door and doubled their size. When I heard they expanded, I knew full well that good eats were afoot. I dragged Uncle Ben from Chowtimes away from a busy day to join me in a mini-Mexican feast.

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Right off the bat you’re served complimentary tortilla chips and squeezable salsa. There’s not too many restos that will toss you free anything.

Most would prefer salsa fresca or salsa crudo, but these ones hit the spot. The Salsa Roja con Chipotle has a mild, smoky punch. Really good. But the Salsa Verde beats it hands down. It starts off sweet and garlicky then the slow burn works itself in. Very, very addictive stuff.

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Having had Ceviche on only a few occasions, I’ve not a lot to go on. This version is quite solid. Very fresh. The whitefish is firm. Avocado, cut fresh. A good whack of cilantro and it’s quite tangy from a load of lime. Nicely done.

Taqueria Playa Tropical puts up some mean tacos. Today’s highlight, really.

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Private Home Chinese Cuisine 一點心意南北私房菜

To me, places like Private Home Chinese Cuisine are the perfect type of Chinese restaurant. If I’m on my own I can choose from a good variety of lunch specials. Here they are eight bucks and you get a small mountain of food. And with a group there’s plenty of spicy Sichuanese to choose from as well as an extensive Shanghainese menu. In the past few months I’ve made this a regular lunch spot and now it’s become a Friday Lunch favorite.

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For a while, Private Home had two locations in Burnaby. We visited the Imperial St. location last year but came away very unimpressed. Of the eight or so dishes we’d tried, not a single standout. It was just one big table of bland. The newer location on Kingsway, near Highgate Mall, is nothing like that. If you want heat, look no farther.

The first half of this post is from a few months back (with crappy iPhone photos). We went mostly from the Sichuan side of the menu. We dragged along a couple of teens from a high-school job shadowing program. We gave them fair warning but there was no fear.

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Sliced Chicken with Hot & Peanut Sauce. Served cold and bone-in, this is bursting with flavor and texture. The chicken is poached to perfection…tender and still juicy. The slather of chile sauce and oil, nice and salty, yet not overpowering. A good hit of numbing peppercorn. The cilantro and peanut giving freshness and a good crunch. A solid starting point.

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The Xiǎo Lóng Bāo (soup dumpling) are fairly standard. Some plump and full, others starting to sag. As you see the friendly grandma preparing them beside the cash register, you know they’re as fresh as can be.

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When we asked for a recommendation, we were told the Pepper and Pork with Spicy Sauce was a top-seller. Not quite what we’d expected. I mean, I love me jalapeñoes and all, but this is borderline nuts. You know how sometimes you get a tame, milder jalapeño? Well, these aren’t them. These are the fiery ones. As the pork was on the bland side all the flavor came from the peppers. After a few bites this just became painful.

The other side of that coin was the Shuizhu Niurou (Water Boiled Beef with Assorted Vegetables).

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Bubble Waffle Cafe

I’ve said it before. And I’ll say it again. The food court in Crystal Mall is a wonderland of delicious fare. Yes, there’s the mediocre. But with some perseverance and a bit of research, one can find a great lunch. As I’m already loaded with perseverance, all it took was discovering Selina’s Vancity Noms post on Crystal Mall’s latest treasure, Bubble Waffle Cafe.

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Normally, upon seeing the words “bubble” or “waffle” on a food stall sign, I’d quickly veer away to seek out one selling some form of spicy soup. “Bubble” and “waffle” don’t quite conjure up thoughts of Laksa, Szechuan, Thai or any form of chile-laden soups. It turns out, Bubble Waffle serves up some seriously spicy soups in many varieties.

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Bubble Waffle has it all going on. And at great value to boot. There’s fifteen or so soup bases to choose from. All come with crunchy cabbage, cilantro and silky tofu. You load on two toppings of your choice. Pick a noodle and voila! A customized bowl of somewhat healthy soup.🙂

I have a personal favorite that I just can’t stop ordering.

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Malaysian Laksa with Fried Shrimp Ball and Fried Fish Cake. On the menu checklist it’s listed as Curry Sauce. The sign at the counter says Malaysian Laksa. Confusion, yes! Seriously freaking delicious? Yes, as well! There’s incredible flavor going on here. Rich coconut milk teeming with chile oil, dried shrimp, curry, garlic topped with snappy fish cake and bouncy shrimp balls. I’ve tried this with the rice noodle. They don’t quite hold up to the heat. The ramen, on the other hand, stay nice and chewy here. A killer bowl, through and through.

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Wahh Tee Burmese Restaurant

We are blessed with a huge variety of southeast Asian restaurants in Greater Vancouver. There’s a phở joint seemingly around every corner. Excellent Thai food can be a had with a short drive. There are several good Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian choices as well.  One cuisine we haven’t seen much of is Burmese. It doesn’t even appear on Urbanspoon’s cuisine list! Perhaps it just wasn’t offered as a choice. It’s time to put it on the list!

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Wahh Tee is a tiny, four table, sixteen seat resto on Joyce St. in East Van. A few years back, just two doors down, Burmese restaurateur Bo Han staked his original claim to fame, Bo Laksa King. He then moved on to a bigger shop on Hastings. But that, unfortunately, is no more. *big sigh*

Today I got together with über-foodie Lotusrapper and Uncle Ben from Chowtimes to see what Wahh Tee has on offer.

One big letdown was that Burmese Fermented Tea Salad (Lahpet Thoke) wasn’t available. I was so hoping to try the highly-caffienated appetizer I’ve heard many rave about. Instead, we opted for Pennywort Salad (Min Kwa Yuet).

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Apparently pennywort is an extremely healthy herb. Regardless of the “healthy” aspect, mixed with lime, garlic, shrimp and bean powder, this is quite a delicious way to get your vitamins. Our friendly server stated that you’ll feel healthy just thinking about it!

Uncle Ben’s first choice, Myanmar Biryani Rice, was available but the chicken curry was not. Fortunately, Ben knew that pork was a better version.

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Chef Alex Chen Pop Up Dinner at Longtail Kitchen

Yup. It’s time to crank up the old blog. After two and a half years, it’s time to dive back into the pool. I’ve returned to my old stomping grounds and it seems to have come alive with a variety of interesting and inspiring venues. New Westminster looks to have been revitalized and I can’t wait to check out what’s new and visit some of the better, long-standing spaces I have neglected.

Recently, a good friend tipped me off to Longtail Kitchen’s Longtable Series. Longtail Kitchen is Chef Angus An’s New Westminster spin-off of the famed Maenam.

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Longtail Kitchen is a cozy resto of about twenty seats located in the Quay at New West. I’ve yet to dig in to their mainly Thai menu but from the word on the street and this wall of deliciousness, I know I will soon.

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Every so often Chef An opens his space for an interesting variety of dining experiences.

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This past Saturday, Chef Alex Chen put together a five-course Malaysian feast. His bio states that “He enjoys re-creating dishes from his childhood that were cooked by his mother”. Judging from this night’s menu, it appears Chef Chen was paying full attention to his Mom’s repertoire.

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Although being a small space, the folks at Longtail made the most of utilizing it. Two long tables sat the crowd quite comfortably. The close proximity made for quick introductions and good conversation. I was seated next to Chef Chen’s wife and their two wonderful little kids. When their daughter was asked what her favorite food was, she responded immediately, “Steak!”. Awesome.

Another great part of the set-up was this.

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Red 6…Hot Pot Heaven at $8.

In this day and age, a bargain is hard to come by. Sure, there is a lot of cheap stuff out there but to find something substantial, satisfying and reasonably priced, all at the same time, is a rarity.

When Becky mentioned great big, spicy hot pots at Red 6, I made sure to check it out promptly.

Red 6 is a tiny Mom & Pop shop in Parkcrest Plaza on Broadway in Burnaby. The room seats maybe twenty and on a cold, rainy day it’s packed. The main attraction here are the ridiculously huge, steaming hot pots.

This past Thursday was particularly wet and chilly. After Becky described the bountiful, spicy bowls on offer here, we grabbed The Gut and the three of us dug in.

The standard set for the Assorted Hot Pot consists of a choice of meat…beef, pork, chicken or fish.    You can also opt for the seafood version (shrimp, mussel and fish ball). You choose rice or noodle and one of seven types of soup.

The Gut went for the Miso Soup with chicken. It looked darn good and due to the long amount of silence, I’ll assume it tasted just as good.

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