Burnaby

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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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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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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Sushimoto

Right next to the Holdom Skytrain Station in central Burnaby, is a comfortable, friendly, slightly surreal sushi joint called Sushimoto. It’s a somewhat sleek and very unique venue.

Aside from the great fare, the room is full of interesting knick-knacks. Some traditional Japanese, some quirky eye candy. There’s the requisite paper lanterns but there’s also a cool collection of action figures.

The detail on Tony Montana is freaking eerie…right down to the five o’clock shadow!

I’ve been meaning to hit this place up for quite awhile. Since I first saw their vibrant menu and then read the continuing stream of positive commentary, it was obvious that this was a spot to go to for stellar eats.

Sushimoto offers up some pretty decent lunch specials. One of them is the Maki Roll, Miso Soup, Sunomono Combo. For $9.99 you choose from one of eight specialty rolls and your choice of Vegetable, Tako or Ebi Sunomono.

Quite a substantial sunomono. Nearly double the size I’ve become accustomed to in a combo setting. Clean, cool and very fresh.

The Red Hot Chili Roll really hit the mark. Great sushi rice to start…perfectly cooked and seasoned. A nice, creamy scallop filling topped with spicy tuna and drizzled with spicy sauce & mayo. It has a bit of zip…no serious heat factor, though.

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Newsflash! There’s actually good Dim Sum in North Burnaby!

A couple of Fridays ago, my mission was to get the gang in the mood for Dim Sum. Part of that mission was also to do a reasonably priced Friday lunch. Nothing scares fellow diners off more than a continuing string of expensive meals. When I brought up Wah Lun Chinese Restaurant on Hastings in North Burnaby, the idea was met with, “Why don’t you try it on your own gut first“. You see, the internets are full of so-so opinions about this place. There are also a bunch of positive comments out there and because Burnaby is sorely lacking in decent Dim Sum restaurants, I figure it’s best to check out each and every one. In the end the “Let’s all give it a shot” sentiment won out.

So, on an absolutely horrendous rain-soaked day, seven hearty souls trundled to the northern reaches of Burnaby to see what was really up at Wah Lun.

The checklist menu here has most of the usual suspects as well as a boatload more. What jumped out right away was the assortment of interesting dessert items. Not just egg tarts and coconut jello here. Unfortunately, no one had room after the dim sum feast.

After many, many dim sum lunches of late, I figure I’ll order at least one or two items I’ve yet to try. There’s always the must-haves, but variety is…well, you know. One item here that caught my attention was the Deep Fried Crispy Seafood Salad Roll. Damn tasty. Not what we’d expected, tho.

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JB Malaysian

For this past week’s Sunday brunch we decided to mix it up a bit and veer away from the usual dim sum. Jefe came up with JB Malaysian in Burnaby. He hails from Malaysia, has visited JB several times and gives it a solid thumbs up. On that recommendation, Matty and I joined him for a mini-Malaysian feast.

JB Malaysian’s location is rather unfortunate. It’s just on the east side of the Royal Oak/Kingsway intersection. Traffic tends to fly past it’s tiny storefront. The lack of street parking isn’t helping neither. This particular room was the location of Penny Farthing many moons ago. Sure miss their killer fish ‘n chips…the real deal, right down to the newspaper wrap. Asian 54 and Miki Ramen then came and went in rapid succession.

The room is quite small seating maybe 25. We arrived Sunday afternoon to nearly a full, bustling house. Great sign, that.

We started with a couple orders of Roti Prata. Right about average, these were. Nice and greasy, a good chew but not near enough of the stretchiness of Bo Laksa King’s heart-cloggingly amazing version.

The accompanying curry dip was also workmanlike. A good depth with a hint of heat. It reappeared in the Kari Ayam (Malaysian Curry Chicken).

A fairly solid bowl. A bit too mild for my liking. I was hoping for more flavor bursts i.e. fennel seed, ginger, lemongrass to jump out…coconut, maybe? The chicken itself was OK. A few more minutes braising time would’ve done this dish a world of good.

The only other time I’d had Gado Gado was at Kedah House. Because it was part of their buffet, all the items were separate. So, if you’re like me, and had no idea how it’s assembled, your first try would be a minor, albeit tasty, disaster. JB’s Gado Gado was truly delicious. Big hunks of chewy, fried tofu covered with bean sprouts and julienned cukes, smothered in a rich peanut sauce and sprinkled with powdered peanuts. Great fresh flavors and textures. It’s not the most authentic version but it’s got enough decent elements to make it work.

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