Monday, October 20, 2014

Kim's Restaurant Revisited

I've tried to suppress my rice noodle cravings, but a combination of being sick and the cold weather made me break. I needed something to boost my energy. I was thinking stir-fried rice noodles. The one with sauce. It has been quite a while since visiting them.

Out of all the Chinese restaurants in Ottawa that I've been to, only Kim's Restaurant makes the stir-fried rice noodles with enough smokiness. I've only experienced only one so-so rendition of the noodles here once out of the 10ish times I've eaten in. We've done takeout twice and the food didn't taste good at all. Speaking of not tasting good; Grandpa ended up trying this place with my parents sometime earlier this year. Or was it last year? The point is, he wanted to see what the hype was after I repeatedly told him that that dish was great. Let's just say that they left the restaurant unimpressed. I wasn't there, but he said that the noodles were terrible because they were black. Dad agreed and said that it was way too smoky. I got a bit defensive when I heard the news. What? Their noodles are great! How was it too black?

Determined to prove them wrong Wanting to confirm that the restaurant still made a solid plate of rice noodles with chicken, we headed out to dinner.

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We pick and chose the three dish meal which included soup, rice, and dessert. There was a tepid bowl of black eyed beans, chicken feet, and pork soup to start. Other than that, we had the fish fillet with black bean sauce, shrimp with eggplant, braised beef brisket, beef with asparagus, and rice noodles with chicken (replaced the bean sprouts with choi sum).. I really enjoyed the fish fillet. I know they use a cheap fish like basa but the fact that they didn't drown it in the sauce made it better because it kept the fillets crispy. There was plenty of sauce for rice too. As for the braised beef brisket, we were all deeply disappointed in three things. Firstly, there wasn't enough flavour infused into the beef. Secondly, the dish was watery and didn't have the thicker gravy sauce. We really enjoy the New Hong Shing's version of the braised beef brisket (the one in the pot). Lastly, the daikon tasted sour so we asked the owner. She took away the dish and let us choose another dish to replace it. The beef and asparagus was the dish that we chose. It was very salty, but when eaten with plenty of rice or rice noodles, it was fine. Of course, I wasn't surprised when the rice noodles arrived with a delicate aroma of wok hei. There wasn't enough of the sauce sadly. Since there were dishes like the black bean fish fillet and the salty beef with asparagus, it all worked out.

As we're enjoying dinner, I had to ask the question: How do the noodles taste? My parents' answer: good.

Huzzah! 

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To cap off the night, we were given some warm silken tofu for dessert. Apparently my parents had the silken tofu last time they dined with Grandpa. This was new to me. Mom didn't say the exact words, but essentially said that this was the best silken tofu dessert it Ottawa. The dessert was silky and fragile, and when drizzled with the simple syrup, that was lightly imbued with ginger, the warm dessert was like a warm fuzzy hug.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Seafood Banquet at O Mei

Mom had a hankering for seafood. We were in the Richmond Hill and Markham area all weekend so there were lots of options. She flip flopped between a Chinese buffet to a Chinese restaurant. I was pushing for something a bit more special, so once she settled on the latter, I did a few searches and found a candidate. We couldn't get a reservation for a decent time, so we went for the second option instead.

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There were a few restaurants that served lobsters a few different ways. The place we chose, O Mei, just happened to be very close to where we were staying. O Mei's specialty breaking down a giant lobster of your choosing and cooking them into four different ways: steamed, stir-fried, deep-fried, and added into fried rice -- all with one lobster. Fancy, eh? Our family is used to the ginger and onion sauce. We actually make it at home. This was taking it to the next level. It was just what I was looking for.

We arrived a bit early for our reservation and were seated promptly to the rear corner of the store. The menus were all in Chinese. Luckily two people knew how to read it. Our server arrived and began talking really quickly in Cantonese. When we responded in Mandarin, he quickly stopped and immediately rambled on in Mandarin. When we asked questions, he replied so quickly, I started to think he was being timed. Jimmy ordered and the waiter disappeared with the menus but returned shortly after with a huge lobster.

"This is 8 and a quarter pounds", he said showing the live lobster. Upon first glance, the huge lobster looked closer to 10lbs. Mom thought it was too big as well, so we asked for a smaller one. The other lobster arrived. It looked much closer to 8lb but it was apparently 7.5lb. "We'll take it." We thought we were ready for what was to come. We didn't know exactly what or how many dishes we ordered. In hindsight, I'm not sure why we didn't just ask one of the waiters to be sure. With this uncertainty in mind, we sat in our chairs and O Mei began the ride.

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A lazy susan-sized plate of steamed lobster claws with garlic and bean thread noodles arrived. It was lightly seasoned and tame compared to how we normally prepare lobster. The noodles were great with the lobster.

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Next up, stir-fried lobster with Maggi. This was new to all of us and was a favourite. It was more on the sweeter side, which was a pleasant surprise. We were all so impressed with this rendition, we wished there was double the amount on the plate. Andrew took the head and picked it clean after failed attempts by Dad, Jimmy, and myself. There wasn't any of the guts aka tomalley (had to google that) though. The kitchen saved that for the last lobster dish.

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The waiter came to change our plates, which were already filled with empty lobster shells before the third dish arrived. The lobster was deep-fried and topped with chopped bits chilli, onions, noodle bits and lots of fried garlic.  This was reminiscent of the salt and pepper pork chops at the New Hong Shing. Mom couldn't believe they used so much garlic in this.

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And the finale: Chinese fried rice with the tomalley. Why not? At this point, we all began to slow down a bit. Andrew was hilariously just getting started. While everyone else kept trying the dishes as they arrived, he kept his own steady pace. That was the end of our 7.5lb lobster. To sum it up, the fried rice and steamed dish were alright. It was all about that Maggi seasoned lobster.

I began to sip some more tea in anticipation for the desserts. We all were.

But then this happened..

Friday, August 22, 2014

Can't Get Enough Dumplings

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I just can't stay away from this beautiful restaurant. Just look at it. We've written about this at least five times dating back to 2009 (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th). I try my best to visit the Northern Dumpling Kitchen when I'm visiting Toronto and the Greater Area of Toronto (GTA). I used to try to visit House of Gourmet for my noodles but I haven't been there in over two years (!). During this trip back in May, I wanted to bring VN and have her try soup dumplings for the first time.

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This was the first full day visiting VN in Toronto. With empty stomachs, we drove up to Richmond Hill for brunch. There were probably two people there when we arrived. It didn't matter. I knew this place was solid. We placed our order after quickly going through the menu.

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The bowl of lamb noodle soup arrived first, then the pan-fried chicken dumplings and stir-fried snow pea shoots arrived shortly after. Although the dish looks greasy, it was refreshingly light -- which we needed that day.

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For the untrained eye, the pan-fried chicken dumplings look so ordinary. But unless you've read or heard about these soup-filled dumplings, you'll probably burn yourself and make a huge mess. Actually, those things will probably happen even if you know. I love how the dumplings are crispy, chewy, tender, and juicy, all at the same time. Even Mom was impressed with these when she tried them -- and that's a rare thing.

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The dish was a steamer of xiao long bao, which were filled with the same soup as the chicken dumplings. These pouches were gobbled up with so much joy with only a bit of ginger and vinegar. VN was impressed at how the dumplings tasted so good.

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After lunch, we needed to go shopping for dinner. But first, we needed some dessert. Ding Dong Pasteries & Cafe to the rescue!

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Our family usually just gets a box of assorted baked buns when we go to Chinese bakeries. Getting these sticky rice balls filled with peanuts and sugar was like a blast from the past. Mom used to make these once in a while and she'd fill them with toasted sesame seeds for more flavour. These were very enjoyable.

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On our travels in Chinatown, we came across the Banh Mi & Che Cali under renovations. We were hoping to get some che (Vietnamese dessert) for after dinner. In the end, we checked out Fong on Foods Ltd. and then went to Nguyen Huong for some banh mi, steamed rice cakes, and che dau (sticky rice black bean pudding). We got most of the things we needed and headed back to VN's place.

While the 11th season of Top Chef, we prepared dinner relatively quickly. There was a funny bit when the fourth episode, Captain Vietnam, began. As if they were challenged to make Vietnamese-related food while we were making cuon.

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We had the components of the cuon out on the table: rice paper, hot water to hydrate the rice paper, nem nuong, pork, fresh mint, fresh thai basil, and the noodles which were waaaay over done. It was totally my fault. To be honest, if it weren't for that awesome hoisin-peanut butter sauce VN made, it would've been inedible. Seriously. When we bit into the cuon, the noodles mashed together to form something akin to paste. Gross, I know. We both loaded our wraps with the dipping sauce before every bite.

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Thankfully, dessert was a huge improvement from the noodle mishap.

~*~
Addresses:
Northern Dumpling Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Ding Dong Pastries on Urbanspoon
Nguyen Huong on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 18, 2014

Brunch at Pacific Mall, ChaTime

On the Friday of my trip to Toronto, JT (our cousin) and I went to Pacific Mall (aka P-Mall) for lunch.  JT was really hungry so we snaked through the top floor in search of something to eat. It was a tough decision. On one hand, JT wanted noodles with soup but also something stir-fried. I wanted almost everything! There were so many options and so little stomach space. We split up and decided to meet back up at a table by Beard Papa's.


JT returned with Singaporean curry noodles. It was slightly spicy with a hint of smokiness from the wok. JT inhaled the first half and then hit a wall. I can't remember what the restaurant is called, but it's from the place on the right side of the noodle-pulling place. You know, that place.


Since we both like beef cheung fun, I got an order for us to share from Good Taste Garden, a place in the same area as Beard Papa's. We both found the noodles were underdone and the filling was lacking in both the taste and quantity. I do remember that their cheung fun was solid a few years back.


Despite knowing that shrimp wonton noodle soup would be better if we go elsewhere in the Markham area, I gave it a try. The shrimp wontons were juicy and plump, however, they didn't have that sweet freshness taste.

We were beyond full and had to bring the Singaporean noodles back home. We waddled back down through the mall and visited a few candy shops. I was hoping to find the elusive green tea KitKat that I've heard so much about. There are green tea Pocky in Ottawa but not the KitKat bars, I suspect it's because the KitKat bars are a Japanese product. Through the interwebs, I found out that they usually do carry the sweet treats in the mall.


I spy, with my little eyes... Yaaaa! There it iiiiiis!

We left P-Mall with a few goods and headed to Chatime nearby to decide what else to do with our day. At this point, our little tummies were still full but we fought on. I'm not sure if I ever talked about Chatime, but their milk tea is freaking remarkable! I'm was elated when I heard that they were expanding around the GTA. And now apparently they have one at P-Mall? What the what?


Large pearl milk tea with less ice and pudding pour moi. I actually only wanted pearls. The pudding was accidental. The convo between me and the guy, who manned the cash, went something like this:

Me: "Hi, can we get a regular taro milk tea with pearls?"
Him: "Regular milk tea with pearls."
Me: "Can we also get a large pearl milk tea, but can you put in less ice?"
Him: "Huh? Pu*indiscernible audio* less ice?"
Me: Uh... *smile and nod*
Him: "Okay. No problem."

Yeah, so I failed. "Can you put in less ice?" Gah! "Less ice" would've been fine. Lesson learned. It's actually a similar lesson to the "mo' sauce" thing. Anyway, we grabbed our drinks and sat at one of the empty tables. For a few minutes, we just stared at the drinks while cooling off in the AC. I didn't mentioned it before, but that day was hot and sunny!

The pudding was like a softer version of grass jelly. It was odd. I don't think I'd get it again. The milk tea on the other hand, I wanted to order another one after I finished it. Greed. Pure greed. But the way I saw it was that Ottawa bubble tea places pale in comparison to this amazing worldwide bubble tea giant. JT didn't enjoy her taro milk tea because they blended up taro which resulted in a grainy texture. She preferred the powdered taro version.


Here's one of the treasures that we left P-Mall with. Aw yeah!

We headed back to JT's place for the night and ended up watching stuff like Kings of Pastry on Netflix. Man, is Netflix ever addictive!

~*~

Addresses:
Good Taste Garden on Urbanspoon

Chatime on Urbanspoon

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