Spring Rolls

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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Le Saigonnais…Upscale Vietnamese in New Westminster

New Westminster isn’t exactly a mecca for Vietnamese food in Greater Vancouver. Until now, we’ve had only three fairly average joints to speak of. When I heard of a new one advertising “Authentic” Vietnamese cuisine, I dragged Darciberger down to Columbia St. to see if Le Saigonnais was the real deal.

Unfortunately, the previous occupants, Royal City Thai, closed their doors. They put out some decent Thai food but I guess not enough New Westers gave them a go. It’s always sad to see it happen but in this case, it made way for some pretty damn good Vietnamese.

Le Saigonnais‘ menu is chock-full of authentic Vietnamese fare…not your average joint by any means. The fact that they used Vietnamese titles in a very non-Asian area gave me great hope. Of the four Vietnamese restos here, they’re the first. Bringing authentic Asian fare to this area is always a challenge. Here’s to hoping that it’s the beginning of a trend.

Their version of Bún bò Huế was pretty solid…stacked with flavor and loaded with meat. The broth was spicy enough but it lacked the lemongrass kick. The addition of beef balls in lieu of the pork knuckle was unique. It dropped the authenticity level down a notch but didn’t detract from the bowl a whole lot. The ultra-tender beef slices, great broth and chewy round noodles made up for things quite well.

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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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Talay Thai

A couple weeks back, while waiting on a table at Red Star Seafood, we noticed Talay Thai right across the street. Even with a reservation, we’d been waiting almost thirty minutes. We were three empty stomachs dying for a feed. The thought of Thai curries and spicy noodles was starting to overwhelm us. Just as we were about to head over, the hostess called us in. Ah well, dim sum it is…

Talay Thai is a spot I’ve been meaning to hit up for a long, long time. With a continual stream of raves around the web, I got to figuring that this place was a sure thing.

This is one vibrantly colored, tiny room. It’s about as clean as you could imagine, to boot. The moment you enter there’s a warm, comfortable vibe. I’m sensing a great feed!

Por Pia Tod ปอเปี๊ยะทอด (Vegetarian Spring Rolls). Nothing too spectacular yet really well made. Knowing the plum sauce is homemade gave these a step up. It’s not too often a place will take the time and effort to create their own.

The Satay Chicken were sensational. Just plump enough to withstand the grill time without getting dry. A good, long marination gave these so much flavor that the peanut sauce was almost unnecessary.

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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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Phở 24 Express…Burnaby’s Newest Vietnamese

Phở 24 Express is Burnaby’s newest Vietnamese restaurant. It took a long while. Last June, this spot was Numero Uno Pizza. The new façade went up quite quickly when Numero Uno vacated. For a couple of months I waited and waited with baited breath for more phở in Burnaby. They teased me by wallpapering the windows with their menu. How cruel is that??! I’d drop by occasionally to check on the progress only to be teased yet again. Finally, around New Year’s, they opened their doors.

Phở 24 Express is a reincarnation of Gold Train Express II out on West 10th in Point Grey. Years ago it was my go-to spot before work at Provence. They made a killer bò kho as well as some great ph. It’ll be interesting to see if they’re still as a good as I remember.

On my first of three visits, this past Thursday, I went with the Bún Cà Ri (Curry Chicken Vermicelli Soup).

I gotta say, this was a fantastic bowl. A solid curried broth jacked with lots of black pepper. Several big hunks of dark-meat chickennary a bit of gristle or bone. Plenty of roasted peanuts and chips of roasted garlic…great textures and an abundance of flavor. My only quibble was with the vermicelli. A bit too thin…verging on angel-hair…next time I’ll ask for the egg noodles. Can’t say enough about the broth, though. Great stuff…bowl drained.

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Dim Sum at Spicy Court Chinese

During a recent visit to Sun Sui Wah we decided to start a gluttonous run through the vastness of Vancouver’s top Dim Sum spots. Next stop…Spicy Court Chinese on Cambie at 41st.

Upon arrival, it was obvious that street parking nearby wasn’t gonna happen. That meant only one thing…scary underground parking. Having read about Spicy Court’s parkade, I got a tinge nervous. A parkade four levels deep with tiny stalls and no exit…yikes!

Spicy Court’s spots are on the third level down. Being Sunday at peak hours, this is a ridiculous situation.  With the upper two levels completely empty, Spicy’s spots are near fully packed. Can’t y’all work something out?

Funny. It was much easier getting out than getting back in some twenty or so dishes later.

As with Sun Sui Wah, we arrived on an early Sunday afternoon, absolutely famished. Even worse, Benzie and I had to wait for a couple of stragglers. Being somewhat polite diners, we held off ordering for fifteen minutes. When they still hadn’t shown up, we chucked the politeness out the door and started ordering like it was a death row meal. As the first plate arrived, so did the other half of our crew.

Before the dishes arrived we were sure to grab a saucer of Spicy Court’s fermented bean chili paste. This has a nice, dense flavour with a mighty kick. Perfect for virtually any dish. Especially this one:

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