Benkei Ramen on Thurlow

Benkei Ramen on Thurlow opens up

Finally had a chance to check out the freshly renovated Noodle Express, er…I mean newly constructed Benkei Ramen on Thurlow today along with Ed and a few coworkers.
The lineup was already out the door when we arrived, but somehow within a few minutes we were able to get a table for 5 ahead of a few couples ahead of us.
The interior is pretty much the same as its sister location further down Robson with slightly more seats (not very comfortable). The menu is still straightforward, with its different variety of soup bases in the front and toppings/extras in the back. Benkei Ramen (Thurlow) menu
Though everyone else got it, I HAD to get something other than plain miso ramen, cause its what I had for dinner pretty much the whole week (orz), and ordered the Akioni (red devil) spicy miso with the works (but no butter, so its all healthy). It wasn’t that spicy though, so anyone could take the extra flavour kick. They were out of the Akioni right after we ordered, so apparently its pretty popular. No surprises here. Its just as good as the other location.
Benkei Ramen - Akioni with all the toppings

We’ll be back. Often.

Benkei Ramen (Thurlow) on Urbanspoon

Viet Sub on Robson

Viet SubI look forward to lunch so much sometimes that I wonder if I go to work just for the lunch. I’m sure anyone who toil away in an office for over 1/3 of their waking hours can relate. But depressing statistics aside, the lunch breaks at work have been a pretty fun affair. We have a regular group happily venturing out everyday (‘happily’ only on non-raining days) and have a sizeable rotation (of which I’ve meant to blog) of restaurants we go to to keep things fresh.
Viet Sub on Robson is one place we’ve been going to for a while now.

These guys makes some great subs toasted and rolled in front of your eyes.
Viet Sub

The special sub is the well rounded choice I usually go for, but they also have some good pho noodle soups. The ingredients are typical to viet style subs, and the taste is exceptional. Fast, cheap ($~4/sub) and friendly.
Viet Sub Menu
There’s a specials board on the wall behind the door with more menu items(I haven’t seen anything move from either menus though).
Viet Sub

There’s almost 0 seating capacity in here, so its take out preferred. Which is great, because there’s a new Beard Papa’s right next door you can go to get a cream puff for dessert. Perfect combo.

Viet Sub Vietnamese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Turkish cuisine @ Anatolia’s Gate

A friend from work was leaving the country indefinitely, so me and another friend (a native of Turkey) decided to take him out for a meal, a last exploration into Vancouver’s vast ethnic food offerings.

We ordered their mix plate of starters, which includes a large sampling portions of their cold dishes. (chickpeas, carrot, eggplant, tomato dips) These went perfect with their famous Lavosh flat bread. I ordered another plate of these to go for dinner.

Anatolia's Gate

Though we had only 3 people, we ordered their group set meal (Padishah’s Table, $20/person), which was the biggest medley of food I have ever seen in my life. My favorite was the Lahmajun, a thin crust pizza with ground meat on top.

Anatolia's Gate

Being a sendoff meal, we took our time eating, sipped on our ayran between bites while shooting the breeze. About an hour later, we finished the huge plate of food and were completely demolished. The only thing that could bring us back to consciousness was a shot of Turkish coffee. Brewed with the fine grinds in the cup, this coffee had bite.

Anatolia's Gate

The meal, nay, feast, did the occasion justice. From what my Turkish friend says, the food is true to regular restaurants found in his home town. It drew many nostalgic tales of home out of him, and in turn, us.

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”  -James Beard

(map)

Anatolia's Gate on Urbanspoon

Food for thought.

I want to share some interesting bits from a book I’m currently reading. “How we decide“. A rather average book among the heaping pile of the pop psychology titles being published recently.

The book details many psyc experiments to do with how the brain works. Some might sound familiar to those who’ve taken some PSYC-100 courses in school. I found these of particular interest to a food blogger such as myself. You’ll see why.

strawberry jam1. An industry study measuring the quality of several strawberry jams invited a panel of professional food tasters to rate a selection of jams on a numbered scale on the characteristics of sweetness, taste, enjoyment, spreadability, and a few other criteria. Result was that brand A was the best, and brand Z the worst. Years later, a professor attempted to repeat the same test with his students, and got the same results. However, when the test was given with an extra criteria of “why”, as in “explain why did you think the jam is highly spreadable”, the results were reversed. Brand Z, the cheapest jam in the group, got the highest score.

2. In another test, all subjects were given a word puzzle test after ingesting an energy drink, labeled as providing higher alertness and energy. Half of the subjects paid the full price for the energy drink before the test, while the other subjects were told to pay only half. The result of the test shows that the group that paid the cheaper sale price scored 30% lower on average.

3. A group of students were asked to do a blind taste test of 5 different bottles of wine. Although among the 5, one $5 wine was presented once as $5, then again as $45. Not surprisingly, the $45 wine rated as being far superior than the same bottle labeled at $5. This test was given again to wine experts, those that frequently consume and judge the quality of wines, and received the same results.

Egg Tarts from Golden Gate Bakery (San Francisco)


While visiting San Francisco’s chinatown, our friends/free tour guides insisted that we must try the best egg tarts in town. We did. They were, in fact, the best we’ve ever had. Custard is airy and fragrant, and shell is soft and flaky. Sorry, I couldn’t resist biting mine before I took the picture.

IMG_0854

Lineups are found here constantly, waiting for trays coming fresh from their back alley oven. Here:

_MG_2800
From which you can also make purchases from. Its bout 2 blocks away, and very well hidden. Hard to describe the location, but google street view helps.

They didn’t seem to like me taking pictures in their store, though its no mystery what the inside looks like.

One of those must try places when walking around Chinatown in San Fran.

Si Chuan First – It hurts so good.

I’ve been training myself to eat spicy food. It all started around a year ago when I was on vacation in China. While looking for restaurants to dine at, I found that spice (chili) was an important player in many of the dishes favored by the locals. Most of the spicy dishes had heat beyond my capacity, and I was left to believe that spicy food was just not my thing, that I would go on living a dining life that was contently void of the red bits.
After returning to Vancouver, it became clear to me that I had missed out. I’ve rejected a style of cooking that was in every way as significant as, say, sushi (of which I can’t imagine life without). Saying no to food is not a habit I want.
From then forth, I was determined to remove “too spicy for me“, “just a little“, or “I’ll have the mild” from my restaurant ordering vocabulary. I had a plan. When given the choice of mild/medium/hot, I’d pick hot, and where there were chili’s on the menu, I’d favor the chili.
It wasn’t pretty at first. Stacks of tissues, glass after glass of water, red faced choking at times, panting like a dog. Now, a year later, I seek for the red stuff. ‘Hot’, on most menus draw little sweat from my brow, and “can I get some hot sauce” is not an uncommon saying when dining out.

Some people hold the impression that when food is spicy, it just masks all other tastes. I use to feel that way. But that also means building up a tolerance for spice was the only way for me to start detecting the layers of flavor in dishes, and to be able to tell the difference between using spice as flavor cover-up, and flavor complement.
Si Chuan First
A friend introduced Si Chuan First to me when we went together for one of their 6 person set dinners, which includes over a half dozen different dishes typical to the region (not all of them are pictured in this post). Though we went with the medium spice option, the plates all had generous helpings of red chili and chili oil. Perfect. It was what I was looking for at the time, as Golden Szechuan in Richmond and Alvin Garden in Burnaby had both left me disappointed a week prior.

The cold dishes come first. The correct way of serving in China. The tangy bean noodles, roasted peanut shavings, and fragrant cillantro prepares the palate for the main dishes. The spice level on these two were mild, and I suspected them to turn it up the heat with the more pungent, meat dishes. My glass of water remains untouched at this point.
Si Chuan First
Get ready to sweat.
Si Chuan First

In the next few dishes, flavors are fuller. Mouths already watering from the introduction, will hopefully cushion the blow of the chili. I’m on my second bowl of rice now, glass of water’s had a few sips, tea gone, beer half ingested. Brain thinks mouth is being attacked, releases dopamine in response. My dinner mates must be feeling the same, as a heightened sense of energy can be felt at the table. Voices become louder, movements faster. Chopsticks race from dish to dish.
Si Chuan First
That’s lava.
Si Chuan First

You’ll find no relief here.
Si Chuan First
 
The meal finishes with a small desert and emptying of glasses. It felt like a hike, with scenic stops of varying flavors, and tests of endurance. It hurt so good.

I returned a week later and had their 4 person set meal, which has a few dishes removed, but still a broad sampling. The dishes are well prepared, and would stand well along any level of spiciness. My next visit will no doubt be ordered with 大辣 (lots of spice).

 

Si Chuan First (map)
Richmond
6611 Buswell St
Richmond, BC V6Y

Best enjoyed with a few salivating friends.

-Dan

Si Chuan First on Urbanspoon

Cafe TPT (London, UK) – Table for 1

Y’know… I don’t think I’ve ever watched a movie in a theater alone.
On the introvert/extrovert spectrum, I’d probably be here:
[introvert]—-ed——————-[extrovert]

So it’s not that I dislike doing things on my own; there are just certain things that I feel are much more enjoyable in the company of others (preferably good friends & family).  Going out for movies is one.  Eating out is another.  Nearly all of my pasts blog posts, and Dan’s too, have been about meals we’ve enjoyed in the company of friends.  That’s just how we roll.

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

I’ve been working abroad for the last month (London’s Chinatown pictured above) and have eaten most of my dinners alone.  I’m fairly used to it now, but meals simply don’t tastes as good when you’re dining out alone.  That’s my opinion. I’m interested in yours – especially if you disagree! Do you mind eating out alone? I’m not talking about getting take-out (or “take-away” as they call it here), cooking a meal at home, or eating fast-food: those are easy.  I’m talking about a normal dining experience at a proper restaurant*

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

One of the best ways to combat homesickness is by eating something familiar.  I did just that the other day when I went to Chinatown for some simple wonton noodles.  Chinatown is in Soho and is in the heart of London’s West End; it’s a total tourist magnet.  As such, Chinatown is home to a bunch of horrible restaurants cashing in on unsuspecting tourists.  Thankfully, there are also some fairly good places.  Cafe TPT, a run-of-the-mill Hong Kong-style cafe, is one of them.

But this post is less about the food (the noodles were very nice and came with some tasty freshly-sliced BBQ pork – £8.60 with a drink), and more about reflecting on the whole dining-out-alone-experience.  The food can be awesome, but the meal will still feel unsatisfying to me.  I’m not entirely sure why.

Lack of dinnertime conversation? Doesn’t normally bother me.
Lack of sharing options? I like sharing food, but it’s not essential.
Am I too clingy?
Maybe, but I don’t think so.
The correct answer is usually the simplest one so it’s probably just “because I’m not accustomed to eating out alone“, but I’d like to think that it’s something more compelling.

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

Note the book in this picture.  I’ve discovered that dining out alone is a lot easier when you have a book to read.  Not only is it less boring, but you also look a lot less creepy when you’re the only person in the entire restaurant eating alone**

One of the reasons I like going to a movie with a bunch of people is because, after the movie, we can talk about what we thought of it.  For, example:

Friend: “Wow, District 9 was amazing. What’d you think of it Eddie?
Me: “Yea, that was intense. I loved it.

And then I feel great because not only did I see a kickass movie, I have assurance (via my peers) that it was indeed a kickass movie.

I bet, subconsciously, the same thing is happening when I go out to eat.  It’s only a great meal if I think it’s a great meal and my friends agree with me that it was a great meal.  My Cafe TPT wonton noodles were great, but since I didn’t have any friends to bounce my satisfaction off of***, I left less than 100% satisfied.

Agree? Disagree? Am I over-analyzing?

Cafe TPT (London Chinatown)

PS: Aww… my green onions looked like hearts <3!

*I realize that HK Cafes are slightly fast-food-ish. I cheated.
**Tho the creepiness returns once you pull out a camera and start taking pictures of your food.
***this sounds a little kinky.

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