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Eat Snap Repeat

Vancouver's tastiest food blog. Defunct since 2010 :(

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.

London,UK: Jamie’s Italian

TheNakedChefIf you’re reading this blog, you probably watch (and love) the Food Network. It’s okay to admit. I love it too. I was there when Emeril Lagasse BAMMED his way into mainstream popularity. Remember those classic Iron Chefs? I loved how the dubbing made Chen Kenichi (Iron Chef Chinese, of course) sound like a complete doufus. Hilarious. One of my favorite shows was Jamie Oliver‘s The Naked Chef. It was fantastic.

The Naked Chef originally aired in 1998. Since then, Jamie has starred in numerous TV series, written numerous cookbooks (I own a couple), opened a few restaurants, and is now totally rich and famous. After all these years though, he’s still broadcasting the same message he had back when he was The Naked Chef: great food is a result of fresh, simple ingredients.

Jamie's ItalianI’m in London. Last Sunday, I spent a fun and tiring day with family on the southern coast of Britain. I was excited when they proposed we reward ourselves with dinner at Jamie’s Italian. It’s probably not what you think though. Jamie’s Italian is created by Jamie Oliver, but it’s not his flagship restaurant; it’s actually a chain. There are currently 5 locations in and around London – Oxford, Bath, Kingston, Brighton, & Canary Wharf – with many more in the works. There’s even plans to open one in Hong Kong next year (“wah!”). Suffice to say, I didn’t see Jamie in the kitchen, but it was still exciting to experience his vision of what affordable, quick, and friendly Italian food should be.

Jamie's Italian

Inside, the decor is casual and colorful. There’s fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and bread scattered throughout the restaurant. You can tell that they’re trying to appeal to younger crowds with a fresh message.

Jamie's Italian

We started off with 2 antipasti platters. They were each £6.50 per person (~$11.50cdn). The meat platter had thin-sliced cured meats (delicious!) while the veggie platter had chargrilled veggies. Both platters contained fresh Italian cheeses, pickles, olives, and Italian salad.

Jamie's Italian

The starters were nice and my entrée was even better. I ordered a Sausage Pappardelle“Slow cooked Italian sausage, tomatoes, red wine, and parmesan with crunch herby breadcrumbs” £9.95 (~$17.60). I really enjoyed this. It sounds strange, but with its al dente texture and odd shape, the pasta was a lot of fun to eat. The delicious meat sauce certainly helped. I realize that this isn’t the pinacle of Italian cuisine, but when you compare a dish like this to the super-cheesy, super-saucy, uninteresting dishes you find at a lot of North American chain restaurants (e.g. places that rhyme with “Coston Rizza” and “Molive Harden”)… well, there is no comparison.

Jamie's Italian

For dessert, we shared a Tiramisu£4.75 (~$8.40). Despite being a non-coffee drinker, Tiramisu is probably my favorite dessert. And this one did NOT dissapoint. Generous dallops of fresh marscapone cheese sandwiched between espresso-soaked (the stronger the better imo) lady fingers. With Tiramisu, I find that the messier it looks, the better it tastes (that sounds dirty..).

Jamie's Italian

All in all, a really great meal.

Perhaps one day we’ll see a Jamie’s Italian in Canada. As the chain continues expanding, I do hope that they maintain the fresh philosophy that Jamie Oliver is known for. The world has enough crappy restaurant chains serving cookie-cutter meals as it is.

Jamie, keep it pukka.

In-N-Out Burger (California)

In-N-Out California

My recent trip to California has been nothing short of spectacular. Good weather and open roads do wonders for the soul and appetite, and I admit, I’ve let myself go. Over the course of a week, I had more than a month’s worth of my usual intake of red meat.
I’ve not felt an ounce of guilt eating at In-N-Out though. Three things I love about In-N-Out

  1. The beef. High quality. Never frozen.
  2. The fries. Freshly cut to order.
  3. The menu. Burgers + Fries + Drinks. That’s it.

For a late dinner I ordered up a double double (two patties and two cheese), which contains their special sauce, a thousand island type dressing with mayonnaise, kind of like a fancier mayo+ketchup combo. Bun was toasted, adding an extra dimension to the taste. I usually slather my burgers with ketchup to mask the taste of dry beef, but there was no need here.
In-N-Out California
The fries, cut from fresh potatoes in front of our eyes, did not taste greasy, and each bite has a lot more substance than most restaurants.
In-N-Out California

Its hard to imagine this is fast food. A must try if you visit California.

psst, there is a secret menu.

and pssst

Adonia Tea House: Non-imaginary Afternoon Tea

Adonia Kerrisdale Tea House

Like most boys, I used to play with toy cars. I owned hundreds and my favorites were the Hot Wheels Color Shifters. These looked like the rest, but magically changed colors when heated & cooled! Radical! The girls back then didn’t like my cars; they were more interested in drinking imaginary tea with their imaginary friends. Boring.

I never understood the appeal of those tea parties. Still don’t.

Adonia Kerrisdale Tea House

But I have a secret. Promise not to tell my cars? (yes, they can hear/talk/feel) I love afternoon tea. I still don’t  “get it”, but I can appreciate great food when I see/taste it and there are few things finer than afternoon tea.

Many places in Vancouver serve afternoon tea. I haven’t been to most, but I really like Adonia Kerrisdale Tea House located @ 2057 West 41st Avenue in Kits. The staff is friendly and they do all the little things (quaint decor, fine china, fancy music) that women people have come to expect.

Adonia’s afternoon tea is $23 per person (or $14 for a “mini afternoon tea”). It includes a pot of tea and a platter of food that includes cucumber, tuna, and smoked salmon sandwiches, cupcakes, biscuits, and other goodies. Adonia has a large selection of teas. I went with the a Mando Indica black tea (pictured above).

Adonia Kerrisdale Tea House

Food started off with cocktail shrimp. There were 4 of us so 1 each. A little strange to start with an item like this, but it was tasty.

Adonia Kerrisdale Tea House

Next up, my favorite: fresh scones! Again, only 1 each. I would’ve preferred an entire basket to share. The best scones I’ve ever had were in England. There, they serve them with jam and clotted cream. On this side of the Atlantic, they substitute the clotted cream with crème fraîche. Still great, but not the same.

Adonia Kerrisdale Tea House

The platter of sandwiches and goodies arrived next (the one pictured above is for 2 people). Quality over quantity here. The sandwiches may be small, for instance, but they are made to order with quality ingredients. It’s more filling than it looks too.

Adonia Kerrisdale Tea House

For dessert, cookies and panna cotta topped with fruit coulis. Delicious and, like the other goodies, not overly sweet.

All in all, a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. It’s not quite lunch. It’s not quite brunch. It’s… unique. And considering you’re getting multiple courses and tea, it’s fair-priced in my opinion. Recommended! (especially if you’ve never had afternoon tea before)

Adonia Kerrisdale Tea House on Urbanspoon

This is a lot more satisfying than sipping air from plastic cups. Now, if only they made Color Shifting tea cups – that’d be totally awesome. Vrooom!

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