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

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Richmond

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

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Tenku Bakudanyaki – Small venue, big balls

Tenku Bakudanyaki - Trailer
Tenku Bakudanyaki brings to Richmond a very innovative offering from Japan. Super sized takoyaki. Or literally translated from the name, grilled bombs.
Served hot off of the back of a mobile kitchen, these tennis ball sized spheres contain almost a dozen different ingredients (squid, cabbage, shrimp, mochi, shrimp, …), and are covered in okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, and a variety of toppings. We had a hard time finding their truck because we just didn’t expect it to be smack in the middle of a parking lot on the southeast corner of Elmbridge and Gilbert.

A few topping flavors are available on the menu, all for $5 each (same price you’d pay in Japan), along with a daily special. We went with the original and the special of the day, garlic mayo (dried garlic sprinkles)

Tenku Bakudanyaki - Original Tenku Bakudanyaki - Garlic Mayo
There’s a good variety of flavors served in that small take out box. Because of the large number of ingredients, every bite is kept interesting. One’s not enough for a meal, but luckily Aberdeen is just minutes away.

P.S. The owner said he has plans to expand to several locations. I hope he meant outside of Richmond. They’re already on twitter @Bakudanyaki (and a lot less annoying than @Japadog).

P.P.S. There are a few bakudanyaki chains in Japan. If you’re wondering what they’re like, check out herehere, and here.

Bakudanyaki Tenku on Urbanspoon

Strawberry Cones Pizza & Pasta at Aberdeen

Strawberry Cones - Pizza from Japan
When I got word of a second “first in Canada, straight from Japan” restaurant opening up at Aberdeen food court that serves Japanese fusion pizza, I was hoping to find a fun and tasty venture of Beard Papa or Japadog caliber. Their online menu is absolutely gorgeous, and they seem to have done well for themselves back east judging from the byline. Kudos to their marketing team back in Japan.
Though I too wondered what the name “Strawberry Cones” has to do with pizza. According to an interview with their spokesperson, strawberry=customers, cones=success. Well, its their name, and who am I to argue.

Strawberry Cones - Pizza at AberdeenOur lunch group of 4 arrived just after their opening, and after a few minutes of staring at their dancing mochi commercial on TV and careful consideration of how much room we should leave for chicken wings at Wo Fung, we ordered two of their small pizzas and a curry croquette.
They were done after about 20 minutes and came in colorful packaging characteristic of Japanese products. The amount of witty Engrish banter on the box and the bright colors makes me wonder if their target market segment is young families with small kids or adolescent preteens with a hefty sized lunch money.
Strawberry Cones - Pizza at Aberdeen

Upon opening the box, we found the beautifully garnished pizzas in their ads were delivered to us naked. Herb seasoning, hot sauce, and seaweed for the Terimochi pizza came in separate packaging, possibly meant to add customizability for the diner as well as efficiency for the preparation process. The way the seaweed is packaged reminds me of a popular local herb. Here it is the small sized Terimochi after a sprinkle of seaweed. What looks like scallops standing on the crust is mochi, and the instead of pasta sauce, this one is brushed with teriyaki sauce.
Strawberry Cones - Terimochi Pizza After Sprinkle

Here is the Ultimate Seafood Mix.
Strawberry Cones - Ultimate seafood pizza

I didn’t take a picture of the curry croquette because (I was told) they’re out of any type of sauces besides ketchup and mayo, leaving the croquettes looking like hashbrowns. The staff looked highly inexperienced, so these pizzas probably don’t look like what the franchise intended.

The taste of both pizzas were rather dull, as if something was missing, and personally I’d rather have cheese in the crust than mochi. As is, I don’t think the pizza can compare even to chained pizza establishments. For about $10 each the price is not right, but given that the prices for these back in Japan are actually higher, it almost seems like a good deal. Almost.

I will give Cones another go in a few weeks(and that is my recommendation to others) when they’ve got their act together at this location (or possibly another if this pilot store goes well for them, like Beard Papa’s) before dismissing them as junk however.

Strawberry Cones on Urbanspoon

HK BBQ Master – Got skillz

HK BBQ Master - Window shoppingThese animals did not die in vain.

No, they’ve been processed with great culinary craftsmanship to become delectable meals for the fortunate patrons of the HK BBQ Master. The food is great despite the obscure location. Located on the west side of No.3 Road in Richmond, in the South east corner of the parking lot under Superstore, its about as visible as a smile on a dim sum restaurant waitress. I would not have found this place if not for the suggestion of a supportive commenter (please keep them coming!).

HK BBQ Master - Crowded interior

The Master is a small restaurant specializing in Hong Kong style BBQ meats, with seating for just over a dozen people. I got there around 11:30 and found it empty, but within minutes the tables filled up and a line started to form at the front for both seating and take out.

HK BBQ Master-2

The sound of a butcher knife hitting a chopping block droned on non stop for the whole time I was there while golden brown ducks flew off the hooks into styrofoam containers. Business is good for the Master.

Ordering is easy. Pick however many types of BBQ meat you want with your rice. 2 being the optimal portion according to the waitress, so I went with the roast duck and crispy skin roast pork.
HK BBQ Master - 2 Item Meals
My fiancee had the duck with the honey glazed (char siu) BBQ pork
HK BBQ Master

I get roast duck pretty often from Asian supermarkets (the bones make excellent soup stock), and none have compared to the juicy bites from this place, though that might also be cause I rarely eat it fresh off the hook.
The crispy skin pork was amazingly good. I never liked this dish as the two times I’ve tried it previously it always tasted too…pork…to me. But this one was tres tender, and simply delicious. The char siu pork was excellent as well, we opted for the lean version, which was packed with flavor.

Likelihood of returning? Actually I already did. Got half a duck to go and ate it for dinner. But yeah, worth multiple encore visits.

Happens to be winner of some award for best BBQ shop.
HK B.B.Q. Master on Urbanspoon

Aberdeen Food Court – Full of Hidden Treasures

We’re pretty big fans of Aberdeen mall food court, and every visit has reaffirmed that there’s good eats to be had among its dozen or so venues. On my last visit, I was looking for some chicken wings, but Wo Fung was fresh out of their deep fried goodies. Turns out it was a blessing in disguise, as I was forced to seek out other stalls I’ve never tried. i.e. everything on the right side. :p

Aberdeen Food Court - Leung Kee & Mambo Cafe

So we got in line for some Leung Kee and Mambo Cafe. The menu from these two places, when combined, probably looks a lot like the menu from a typical HK cafe. We had the BBQ duck rice from Leung Kee

Aberdeen Food Court - BBQ Duck

And the chicken steak + pork chop combo from Mambo cafe.
Aberdeen Food Court - Steak combo

Both were about $6 with drinks included, and the portion was very generous.

This left no room for dessert, but we were merrily on our way with our bellies full and wallets unscathed.

Likelihood of returning: there’s no escaping it

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