I moved! Sorta. Well. I definitely moved out of my small studio apartment of 6 years. Gave up that address. I’m physically in Toronto now and settling in for a mind-boggling duration of a few (four) months. Most of my stuff is still in Vancouver. So when I reached a certain point in packing up my apartment, I no longer could or wanted to eat at home. And there was that little thing of my father finally visiting and there were dinners galore (but I’ll only show the ones in restaurants)!
I saw my friends pretty much individually before I left and managed to see Kitty and Cari Ann on Sunday, four days before I left. We arranged to meet at Milestones near my place after Cari and I completed volunteering and Kitty was done with church.
I’m generally ambivalent about Milestones’ menu–it does have something for everyone but always a little disappointing, like they don’t have what really suits my current craving. I thought I would try their new pear and coconut pancakes which Cari and I thought would be risky but she pointed out how the grilled salmon wrap sounded good and I got stuck on the idea.
I would not have ordered the wrap had it not been wrapped in naan and all the other ingredients sounded (and were) perfect with roma tomatoes, arugula, and lemon poppyseed dressing. The black pepper naan was just perfect, too.
What a trooper NPY was on the last days I was in Vancouver. I had an exam on the Friday before I left and he persuaded me to stay over at his place so that he could drive me there for the 9 a.m. sitting. And although I did not know exactly how well I had done, I ordered that we would celebrate with Vij’s. I wanted him to try the famous lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry. His only exposure had been to leftover sauce and my homemade version sans fenugreek.
So, it was a no-brainer ordering the lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry, although it is $27. You get unlimited rice and naan although they try to curb you ordering ordering a smaller second portion from the kitchen when you need a refill. Plus, from the two complimentary “amuse-bouches” that Vij’s is famous for serving up, I wasn’t that hungry. So I ordered the portobello in porcini cream curry, an appetizer with plenty of sauce for $13. We would fill up on carbs soaking up the sufficient amount of sauce.
Since what NPY tried last time was so long ago and a small portion, I did not know there is some heat to the famous fenugreek curry whereas I thought it was non-spicy. We did enjoy the creamy and tangy sauce and most of the lamb popsicles. I also enjoyed the porcini curry which was sinfully rice and flavourful. It was spicier than the lamb popsicles and only I ate it.
I ended up going to Duotian practically back to back on Saturday and Monday. On Saturday, NPY and I went with his sister and her boyfriend. It was an impromptu and casual double dinner date that I enjoyed very much. If the sister ends up with someone like this boyfriend, I really do think we could all hang out together more.
I love how one of the toppings for the DIY noodle soup is vegetables and I practically insist upon it. Was only disappointed the time I ordered “fresh” tofu (right) and it turned out to be the tofu sheets which is free in the other soups (see left).
And of course we ordered claypot rice at both meals. I have been honing my claypot choices and finally zero’ed in on the Chinese sausage trying the lean one one meal and the fattier liver sausage the next. I love them both which is why I don’t keep that stuff in my house! The night we went out with NPY’s sister+boyf, we laughed because the guys, in charge of the claypot, ended up ordering exactly the same toppings. Granted, the claypot permutations are fewer than the noodle ones.
When I went with my family the second day, I went with my aunt and uncle, grandmother, and freshly arrived-in-town father. I felt a tad guilty when it did not seem that some people did not take to the DIY concept so well and I like to think that my father rolled with it quite well. Grandmother seemed to think it was fussy, uncle was overwhelmed as he does not understand Chinese, and aunt seemed overwhelmed too but made choices.
So I finally got to try the DIY congee. The selection seems small and for the popular choice of century egg, you have to pay $1 extra. With so many options on the table, I did not really dwell on the congee which was not bad. Sadly, I did not get a chance to try the green onion pancake which looked good. My aunt also selected the spicy beef brisket noodle soup for my father, commenting he would like the brisket. It was a pre-set creation by Duotian and we did not have to selection broth/noodle/topping. It was overly salty but delicious.
At the corner of Canada Way and Boundary road is this Chinese restaurant, Burnaby Palace, that I would not know about if we didn’t use to often drive down Boundary to reach our friend’s place and, oh, I am affiliated with the restaurant through my family. When a restaurant facility is available, that is just where your family ends up having their special dinners.
We kicked things off with stir-fried crab. I will always say it that as an East Coast girl, our crabs were rubbish and I have no idea how to eat one. Give me a lobster and I’m cracking at it. So I struggled and chomped down on the joints and spit out the fine shell. It was quite sweet but so hard to get to. The next course was geoduck which my relatives entreated that we eat while it was hot. It was immensely fun to explain to my Caucasian uncle from where this meat comes but he’s Swedish and adventurous and was not fazed. It’s really just mollusk meat. It has the texture of a cross between squid and abalone. There were also small bits that I will call “roe” which were more fragrant in the seafood sense. I liked those as it reminded me of lobster roe.
The next course was “water fish” sharkfin soup. We were first serve just bowls of clear and sweet broth. I could taste the sharkfin flavour and it was quite a treat. When we polished off the broth, the next round of soup was the actual ingredients and we got sharkfin and meat. Out of politeness, we inquired what it was and they answered (translated literally) “water fish”. Never heard of that fish and it sure doesn’t taste like fish soup. That’s because “water fish” is sea turtle! Thus began me grimacing with every bite I took from what appeared to me was a flipper. I closed my eye and bit into the gray “flipper” and it was not horrible. A bit jelly in some parts with real meal in others. There were little bones in the meat that freaked me out. The next course was very normal, Burnaby Palace’s specialty dish, Cantonese-style sweet & sour pork. I think they get a lot of BCIT (university) business and cater this dish somewhat to their tastes as a proper version is more neon maroon than this which I describe as neon red. In any case it is a delicious lightly-batter morsel in a well-balanced sauce.
Now, the tea-smoked duck (oops, I took a picture late) is also one of the restaurant’s specialties and more authentic, as far as I know. I love duck in many incarnations (but not confit) and the tea-smoked duck is wonderfully infused with flavour and moist. It was better the first time I had it or I was getting really full this time. Our final dish was quite a treat with abalone, sea cucumber, Chinese mushroom and gai lan. They were getting me to eat all sorts of different stuff with the sea cucumber (which is just fine).
So my father was visiting and I was leaving soon and NPY took a little longer lunch and took my family out to dim sum. Since he works in the west-side and we wanted to impress, we selected Sun Sui Wah on Main Street. My Aunt Three (who married into the family) knows what is good and took the reins to order, thankfully.
Aunt Three ordered the BBQ pork pastry and it seemed Big Uncle and my father wanted spring rolls. I would not have ordered spring rolls except I guess it was “research” on my father’s part. The pork pastry was a little bland–good pastry, could be more flavourful BBQ pork. The ingredients in the spring roll were all mixed and bordering on bland. Stir-fried soya rice rolls came next. The food comes heaped on small bowls for effect.
Then the rest of the dishes came and NPY must have been happy they were so carb heavy! We received the claypot rice with chicken, mushrooms, and sausage. Grandmother had to remark on the sad state of the claypot that it was served in and while the rice was fluffy and fragrant, the “grown-ups” deliberated how it was made. Since the rice did not stick to the pot, they did not think it was actually cooked (for very long) in the claypot. We also ordered lotus leaf chicken, Singapore vermicelli, spare ribs in ginger sauce, and sticky rice. NPY really liked the lotus leaf chicken while I found there was too much meat jelly in the mix. I never got to try the noodles, alas. The spare ribs were mostly bones, to our chagrin. And the stick rice was delicious.
The crowing glory, I thought. We ordered fried sesame balls with black sesame and golden egg yolk bun. No picture of the latter because I was too busy eating and enjoy it but it was so delicious. The egg yolk was more delectable than I’d ever had it and it was significantly easier to eat their version which did not truly run all over the place. I was equally pleased with the fried sesame balls for the glutinous rice flour exterior was perfect in thickness and the sesame seed were toasted golden and the black sesame was rich like butter.