Soup

Spicy Legend, the Lunch Menu

Sometimes the best meals are the unexpected ones. A few weeks back the plan was to hit Mezbaan for their inexpensive lunch buffet. No luck…closed, on vacation. Plan B was Congee Noodle King, just down the road. While waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive, we noticed Spicy Legend right next door.

I’ve heard mention of their excellent AYCE Hot Pot but the lunch-only menu posted on the door was flush with intriguing items. Unfortunately, it’s only available from 11:30 to 2:30. Click on the image for a much bigger and clearer view.

As this was an unexpected visit, I was without my DSLR. I took a bunch of iPhone snaps but they just didn’t do the food justice. We returned a few weeks later for another meal and a batch of somewhat decent photos.

Spicy Legend is a medium-sized, very colorful room. Lunchtime, it seems is fairly quiet…at least on our two visits. I’m guessing the crowds come later for the AYCE Hot Pot.

To get things started, spice-wise, we were given a complimentary bowl of Sichuan snack treats.

Although many are mild, a few are crunchy sticks of dynamite. Sort of Chile Pepper Russian Roulette. A fun, albeit, painful start to today’s meal.

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Okonomi Sushi

The latest addition to New Westminster’s growing Asian restaurant scene is Okonomi Sushi on Sixth St. They recently took over the spot that The Orange Room previously occupied. Okonomi has another location in New West down on Fourth St. I was a bit surprised to see a second one open so close. Then again, this stretch of Sixth St. is in definite need of quality Japanese.

Sherman and I arrived on a Monday at noon to a warm and inviting yet deserted room. Knowing we’d be eating large, we grabbed a four-top for extra room. Our very friendly server presented us with one of the heftiest menus I’ve come across.

Weighing in at around two pounds (at least it felt like that!) this menu is absolutely loaded with options, 199 to be exact. To get a good sense of the fare, we opted for the Okonamiyaki & Tempura combo as well as the Special Assorted Combo A.

As the main parts of our meals were being prepared, we were peppered with an assortment of appies and sides.

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Hanoi Phở

Normally, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside isn’t my first choice for grabbing some grub. That’s pretty obvious. Then, one day, I heard about Hanoi Phở and their excellent curried soup. Always on the lookout for this variant on Vietnamese soup, I made a point to scope it out on the way downtown. My first reaction was, “Wow. That’s one crappy location”. Two blocks from Main & Hastings, next to a methadone clinic. Yikes. Upon further investigation here, here, here and here, it became pretty clear that this is one of Vancouver’s better Vietnamese restaurants.

Despite it’s location and underwhelming signage, Hanoi Phở has one of the cleanest interiors I’ve come across in a Vietnamese venue. If your looking for immaculate restrooms, this place is for you! Just ask for the key at the front counter.

This is one impressive little joint. A burbling waterfall off to one side. All sorts of knick-knacks here and there. Soothing Andean panpipes on the stereo. Highspeed wi-fi is on offer as well as a fax/printer if you require it. A very colorful, warm and comforting space.

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New Age Chinese Cuisine, re-visited

After a couple of years of food-blogging, I thought it was time to hit up some old favorites and give them a fresh look. It’s always interesting to check out some different menu items and see if things are as good as I remembered. My main reason for going back to New Age is because of recent visits to Kalvin’s and Long’s Noodle House. At those two spots I had a couple of dishes that I noticed were also on New Age’s menu.

New Age Chinese Cuisine is primarily a Taiwanese resto with some Shanghainese thrown in for good measure. It’s quite an easy spot to miss as it’s located within the Best Western King’s Inn in Burnaby. There’s no street adverts for the restaurant…you’ve just got to know where you’re going.

This is the dining area you see when you first arrive. There’s three large tables and about five smaller ones. If you tack right at the service counter you’ll enter the much larger banquet area. There you’ll find several tables that hold ten or twelve.

Over the years I’ve dragged a Friday Lunch crew here about seven or eight times. This past Friday we arrived around 11:30 to a deserted room. As this was our first visit in many months, this gave me a bit of a scare. Plus the fact that the usual familiar faces were gone didn’t help neither. Not to worry. By the time we left, the entire restaurant was full up.

As mentioned, I really wanted to come back here because of a couple of interesting plates I’d got to try recently. By sheer coincidence, Jacky Chan, a co-worker and my personal Chinese food guru, visited Long’s Noodle House the night before and had their Wine Chicken. We had a bit of a concern that our fellow diners might not appreciate a cold, partially gelatinous chicken dish. After a bit of humming and hawing, there wasn’t a complaint to be heard.

Here, it’s referred to as Chicken in Shao Xing Wine Sauce. This must’ve been a big bird. Although a bit drier than Long’s version, it was much meatier and packed with just as much flavor. A touch salty but not overly so.

With a large proportion of meat and minimal bone, this was very easy to eat. Nice and clean…just the right amount of fat to keep the flavors locked in.

One dish that resonated quite well from the feast at Kalvin’s was their Chicken with Three Spice aka Three Cup Chicken. It was a great dish. New Age’s version, methinks, was even better.

Slathered in a combo of Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and soy, this dish is a must order here. What sets it apart from Kalvin’s is that the meat is much more tender and a lot less bony. It simply falls away…no bits of bone to contend with. The soft cloves of garlic don’t hurt a bit. Phenomenal stuff.

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Foodblogger Feast at Kalvin’s “Szechuen”

About a month ago, in the midst of a whole bunch of stupidity, Kevin from 604foodtography, suggested a big ol’ chowdown at Kalvin’s Restaurant. Within a day or so, thirteen of us responded with a resounding “Hell, yeah!“. From a rather depressing, unfortunate day, the focus was returned to where it should always be in the food blogging community…on the food! After all, that’s what we’re only here for…right?

Other bloggers at this night’s feast included:

Strange thing about Kalvin’s…the awning says “Kalvin’s Szechuen Restaurant” so I was all geared up for a fiery, chile-laden feast. Turns out they put up mostly Taiwanese fare. No problem…I’m game for anything! There were a few spicy dishes and some interesting Taiwanese I’d not yet tried.

This’d be one of those dishes I’d put in the “I’ll-try-it-one-time” category. The Fondue Spicy Pork with Organ Stew was actually quite tasty if you can get your head around the intestine part. It’s obviously a cultural thing that I’ve yet to adapt to. Texturally, it was fine. No excessive chewiness…not rubbery at all. For me, it’s all about the funky aroma. There’s a load of foods I love that give off strange, unique smells. It’s just that when the smell originates from that part of the animal, it can be difficult to adjust to.

The Pork & Ton Choy in BBQ Sauce also had a unique flavor to it. If you close your eyes, you’d swear you were eating a seafood dish. That was due, according to Kevin, to the use of a satay sauce or, as I later found out, it can be called “Shacha sauce“.  It’s a much different flavor to most satay sauces due to the addition of brill fish and dried shrimp. The ton choy itself was nicely cooked giving the dish a well needed fresh, crisp element.

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Lhy Thai

Back in ’94, when Lhy Thai opened it’s doors, it was the go-to place in Burnaby for great Thai. Soon after that, Boua Thai arrived. With it’s lower prices and heftier portions, Boua became our favorite lunch spot two, sometimes three times a week. It was that good. One day, in the middle of lunch, they were shut down. To this day it remains a mystery. I can’t wait to hear, one day, that Boua has been reincarnated. They were, after all, devout Buddhists! One can only hope…

After Boua closed we visited Lhy Thai several times only to be disappointed by bland fare and small portions. One time, I went on my own for a plate of Pad See Ew. It was the absolute worst plate of Thai food imaginable. Undercooked broccoli, overcooked beef, tough noodles and burnt garlic, to boot. The Tom Yum Gai was as watery as you could make it. I vowed never to return. Then, last week, Benzie and a buddy of his wanted to check out some Asian fare in Burnaby. They wanted to try Lhy Thai. I caved and wound up having one of the best meals of my life.

Lhy Thai is located on Edmonds just east of Kingsway. Not exactly a culinary mecca but there’s a few decent spots in the area. Even on a late Wednesday evening, right before closing, Lhy Thai was around half full. Most lunchtimes the place is packed…most tables reserved. Even the local MLA was seen waiting for a seat!

On our first visit, last Wednesday, I showed up with a dead battery in my camera. I had to resort to my trusty iPhone for a few unspectacular shots.

Some really good Spring Rolls here. They’re jam-packed with carrot, black mushrooms, cabbage and vermicelli. The sprinkling of crushed nuts on the sweet chili sauce was a nice little addition.

The Som Tam (Papaya Salad) was, to put it simply, outstanding. A cool, crunchy combination of shredded green papaya, chili, sugar, lime, fish sauce, tomato, peanuts and shrimp paste. Huge, bright flavors…extremely refreshing at the outset. As one gets to the middle, things start to intensify. Near the bottom, especially beneath the lettuce leaf, you know exactly why it’s labelled “Thai-style” on the menu. By the way, if you ever want things supremely spicy in a Thai resto, just mention “Thai-style” while ordering. That’s the real deal.

Along with those two appies our dinner also included:

  • Stuffed Chicken Wings
  • Chicken Satay
  • Tom Yum Gai
  • Panang Neua (Panang Curry with Beef)
  • Gapow Gai (Basil Chicken)
  • Phat Peaw Wan Gai (Sweet and Sour Chicken)

An absolutely incredible feast all around. So good, in fact, that I got together another gang two days later to try and re-create it for a Friday lunch.

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Long’s Noodle House

Long’s Noodle House has been on my “hit-list” for far too long. It’s a tiny, easy to miss spot on Main St. between 32nd and 33rd with a great reputation for their Shanghainese cuisine.

Don’t be too dismayed by the shoddy exterior. Long’s is another one of those places that puts emphasis on their food without much attention paid to aesthetics…my favorite kind of place!

We arrived during the noon-hour on a Monday. The restaurant was about half full. Before too long, it was packed. Our friendly server/owner, Sandy, was running the floor single-handedly. When I told her we were going to order about ten dishes, she didn’t bat an eye or even grab a pad of paper. As I reeled off our choices, she simply tapped a fingertip for each one. Amazing, really.

Our first dish is a must-order here. The Wine Chicken is served at room-temp in a beautiful ceramic crock. Chicken legs are poached in Shaoxing wine, broth, pepper, ginger and a bit of sugar. A great display of simplicity.

A sensational way to treat a chicken. Keep it simple and bring out the best of your product…works every time.

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