Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Food Court Redeemed – Thai Express

July 16, 2013
Thai Express, Richmond BC
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Shrimp Spring Roll
Tofu Pad Thai

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ImageEver since Thai Express landed in Richmond Centre a few years back, my faith in food courts had been restored. It is seriously a great little stall with fresh, made-to-order generic Thai dishes. The flavours are usually pretty good, though!

The Shrimp Spring Roll was like one of those from Vietnam, with vermicelli, lettuce, carrot, bean sprouts, and shrimp inside, wrapped in rice paper. The peanut dipping sauce was sweet and lovely.Image

The Tofu Pad Thai had great flavour. No, it’s not real tamarind and instead, was more of a ketchup-based sauce. Still, it was good, and I did not really expect authentic. The portion was decent. I could have used more vegetables and the tofu did not really stay crispy but rather had soggy batter. The noodles were not overcooked though and it was still pretty good!

Now that Richmond Centre has built the Dining Terrace food court, the dining environment is so much more elegant, with comfy booth seats, high seats, group tables, couches, and convenient trash stations. This is certainly one of the best food courts I have been to, especially thanks to the decor.

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Victoria’s Prince of Italian Dining – Pagliacci’s

ImageJuly 12, 2013
Pagliacci’s, Victoria BC
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Marlene Dietrich
Prince of Tides
The Prawn Broker
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This popular Italian dining spot does not look fancy from the outside. Inside was more of the old, almost antique-looking photos and decor. What initially drew me in was the creative names for everything from cocktails to appetizers to entrees. Some were so hilarious! It was so crowded on a Friday night but being set on some of the best Italian food around, we decided to wait.

I started with the Marlene Dietrich martini, with Canadian whiskey, Cointreau, orange, lemon, and bitters. The description quoted Marlene Dietrich saying “Darling, the legs aren’t so beautiful, I just know what to do with them.” I just could not resist after that. It was a good mix of bitter, tangy, and sweet.Image

My entree was the Prince of Tides, a spinach salad with seared scallops, portobello mushrooms, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and crispy pancetta, with a basil pesto dressing. My only complaint was the salad was overly greasy from the pancetta and the scallops. Otherwise, all the ingredients were some of my favourite foods ever. The scallops were perfectly cooked and the mushrooms were tender.Image

Dad got The Prawn Broker, a pasta dish with jumbo prawns in a coconut milk and cashew curry sauce with mango chutney and cream over a bed of spinach fettuccine. The prawns were succulent and juicy and the cashews provided a nice, crunchy textural contrast. The pasta was nice and al dente and the sauce was addictive – sweet, tangy, and creamy. It was a great blend of Indian and Italian!

I would come back to Pagliacci’s in a heartbeat to try some of their other seemingly amazing pastas and interestingly-named cocktails. This is definitely a ‘hidden’ gem in Victoria and a must for anyone who appreciates a good pasta!

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Warmed Up by the Bowl – Le Petit Saigon

July 11, 2013
Le Petit Saigon, Victoria BC
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Seafood Noodle Soup
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ImageWith so much food at the conference centre and a chilly sea breeze throughout town, we opted for a warm bowl of pho noodle soup at Le Petit Saigon.

The Seafood Noodle Soup included fish, prawns, and squid but was otherwise very bland. The seafood did not have much taste and the broth was just okay. The noodles were way overcooked and in very short pieces. Maybe it was because it was almost closing time but the quality should not have to suffer. For around $10, I expected something better with more, fresher seafood. 

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Thai on the Island – Baan Thai Restaurant

July 10, 2013
Baan Thai Restaurant, Victoria BC
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Lychee Martini
Som Tum Goong
Phad Thai Gai
Macua Pad Moo

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ImageI recently went with my dad and his colleague to Vancouver Island and though it was a great opportunity to try some of the Island’s best restaurants.

Our first night after checking in at the hotel led us to Baan Thai Restaurant, which is apparently the best Thai restaurant on the Island. About half of the restaurant was filled and the service was very friendly. The food was quite good overall, despite being a tad bit pricey for some of the dishes.

I started with a Lychee Martini. I just love lychees and so the sweetness with the Smirnoff vodka, Soho, and white grape juice tasted quite pleasant.Image

My Som Tum Goong – green papaya salad with prawns – was absolutely mouthwatering. I asked for extremely spicy and boy, that turned up the heat. My mouth was not just burning but probably charred by the end. I loved it though! The prawns were tender and there were loads of green papaya shred. It was a tad pricey but a great-tasting dish.Image

Dad ordered the Phad Thai Gai – stir-fried thin rice noodles with tamarind, ground peanuts, and chicken. A good pad Thai is hard to find and this was average. It had a good, sweet and spicy flavour but a little bland. More sauce would have helped. Also lacking was the amount of scrambled eggs. I always love the eggs in my pad Thai and so does Dad. The chicken was a little dry as well.Image

Finally, we shared the Macua Pad Moo – stir-fried eggplant with pork. The pork was okay but the eggplant was soft and delicious. It had a nice spicy and sweet flavour with a little soy taste as well. It was a little greasy but considering they were eggplants, I totally understand.

It’s hard to find good Thai food in BC so I’m not surprised this is considered the best on the Island. While it was not the best I’ve ever had, it was certainly above average and satisfied my cravings for overly spicy foods.

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Seafood Fusion – Baker One

July 7, 2013
Baker One, Richmond BC
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Seafood Omurice
Black Pepper Seafood Pasta
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ImageAs we wondered through Aberdeen, a friend and I decided to stop at Baker One for lunch since we did not want to eat at the food court or go into some high-end Chinese restaurant. This seemed like a cute little café, very clean and bright with the tall glass windows.

I had the Seafood Omurice with the tomato sauce and fried rice on the inside. It tasted fairly good, with the tomato sauce tangy and sweet. The egg omelet was delicious with the sauce and the seafood – squid, scallops, mussels, and prawns – were tender as well. The fried rice on the inside went nicely with the egg and the sauce, so, overall, it was quite nice for ‘high-end’ comfort food.Image

My friend ordered their special of the day – Black Pepper Seafood Pasta. The seafood was the same – three squid rings, three prawns, two scallops, and a mussel – but the sauce was a little bland. It had a good black pepper taste but was otherwise not very flavourful with just a touch of olive oil. The pasta was al dente but the portion was small so for a similar price, the omurice was much more worth it.

I can see why this place will not get full on a regular basis. The food is quite basic and not much of a fusion in comparison to the other HK-style cafes in the area. However, their entrees are at least $4-5 more expensive, perhaps due to the location in Aberdeen or the more elegant décor. Either way, the food must deliver and for the price, it is just not up to par with other places.

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Pork and Pineapples – Boston Pizza

July 5, 2013
Boston Pizza, Richmond BC
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Chicken and Mushroom Fettucini
Pulled Pork Pizza
Hawaiian Pizza
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ImageI met up with three other people for a late night dinner at Boston Pizza. It was a nice place to hang out and chat. For the two and a half hours we were there, the large table beside us went through two rounds of ‘Happy Birthday’ so we joined in as well. I had a voucher for a 2-topping individual pizza but since they made a mistake with my order, we actually got two pizzas in the end.

To start, my friend ordered a Chicken and Mushroom Fettucini, baked with cheese and upgraded to three-cheese toast. The pasta itself was creamy with the alfredo sauce. The chicken was okay but a little bland. The mushrooms did not stand out too much either. However, the tomatoes cut through the cream just a little. The cheese on top was a little too much for me so the dish became too rich. The three-cheese toast was delicious, though. With all these additions, the dish was over $20, which is a little pricey.

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Our first pizza was the Hawaiian Pizza, with smoked ham and pineapple. It was savoury and sweet, with a nice and chewy but not overly thick crust. The pizza was really good but not worth $10.20 as it was quite small. Image

The second pizza was the Pulled Pork Pizza. Although more exotic, it still was not worth $12 due to the sheer size. The BBQ flavour was really nice and sweet though, and the pork was decently juicy. The green onions on top cut through the sweetness and added a slight zing.

The casual atmosphere at Boston Pizza is great but it is just so expensive. The food is good but not good enough to justify the high prices. These are more like fine-dining menu prices but this is no where near top notch fine-dining. 

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Canadian Rock ‘n Roll – Kisha Poppo Japanese Restaurant

July 1, 2013
Kisha Poppo Japanese Restaurant, Richmond BC
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Salmon Sashimi
Chicken Teriyaki
Spicy Tuna Cone
Seafood Yaki Soba
Rock’n Roll
House Special Roll
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ImageNone of us wanted food until 9pm. Since it was Canada Day, many places closed early or just plain closed for the day. Thinking sushi was probably our best bet, we headed to Kisha Poppo after calling to make sure they were on their regular Monday hours – thankfully, they were. The restaurant was more than half filled when we got there so clearly, it would have been a bad decision to close.

We started with Salmon Sashimi. They were out of sockeye so we settled for Atlantic salmon. It was still very fresh but the presentation was a little lacking. Image

The Chicken Teriyaki was nothing too special although it had good flavour with enough sauce covering the slightly fried chicken filet strips. It came with carrots, broccoli, and bean sprouts, which, covered with the sauce, were quite good.Image

The Spicy Tuna Cone was okay. It had a decent kick but did not taste like the freshest tuna. The rice was okay; this was just your average cone.Image

The Seafood Yaki Soba could have used more seafood but the soy flavour was good. It was still sizzling like crazy when we got it. There were some shrimp, salmon, and maybe some other fish, but more seafood was definitely needed just so that it was not all noodles and vegetables.

The Rock’n Roll was the best dish oImagef the night. Kisha Poppo doesn’t really have special rolls so you have to be picking them out of the maki roll section. This one was probably their best roll – and one of the more expensive at $8.95, which is actually not too bad. It was a unagi and cucumber roll with smoked salmon and avocado on top. The flavour from the unagi was good and the salmon was not bland either. The avocado provided a nice creamy texture.Image

Finally, the House Special Roll had a variety of sashimi – salmon, tuna, and some other fish – kani, and cucumbers inside. It was huge pieces but did not have much flavour. Unagi, pickles, or even tamago might have been a nice addition.

Located away from the Asian centres in Richmond, Kisha Poppo has your generic casual Japanese fare at reasonable prices. They also have all you can eat options and is a good choice if you are on the other side of town. 

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The Must-eat Mushroom Ravioli – Olive Garden

June 15, 2013
Olive Garden, Philadelphia PA
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[Breadsticks]
Garden-Fresh Salad
Ravioli di Portobello
Seafood Brodetto
Lasagna Primavera with Grilled Chicken
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ImageA friend from China was in town with two other of her friends so a group of us headed to Olive Garden since Philly Chinese food was just not going to cut it and the Japanese restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed during lunch hours. I always had a little something for Olive Garden as it was the first place I tried a mushroom ravioli after reading Twilight. That was way back when in Florida, too. Image

To start, there were of course the unlimited [Breadsticks]. They were incredibly soft, airy, and warm, with just the right amount of butter on top to give it a slight flavour.

The Garden-Fresh Salad, which we asked to have dressing on the side, was quite fresh. I did not like the olives or the hot peppers but everything else was simple and refreshing.Image

Then, onto what I was craving: Ravioli di Portobello. The light cream sauce is slightly sweet from the sun-dried tomato sauce but with a hint of the smoky cheese. The portobello raviolis were cooked to the perfect texture, al dente and not soggy after being in the sauce for a little while. This is as light a plate as any cream-based pasta can get.Image

The Seafood Brodetto was also quite delicious. It was loaded with shrimp, scallops, tilapia, mushrooms, and spinach and had a light white wine and marinara-saffron broth. The bowl was hearty and comforting but light and flavourful. The garlic ciabatta bread that came with it was perfect for dipping and we even had some breadsticks left to soak up all that yummy broth.Image

I also had a bit of the Lasagna Primavera with Grilled Chicken, with zucchini, squash, and bell peppers in a tomato-basil broth with parmesan drizzle. This was another very light pasta dish. The vegetables really brought out that freshness. The chicken was a little bland so you really had to eat it with everything else together, especially the sauce and cheese.

The service we received was great and we all had a nice time chatting even after we were pretty much finished with our food. This may not be top-notch, fine Italian dining, but for the price, it was a great meal with friends.

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The Italians Like their Red Fruit – Italian Tomato

May 13, 2013
Italian Tomato, Richmond BC
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Penne Pescatore
Whole Wheat Linguine Da Vinci

Penne Paesana
Calamari Fritti
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ImageHaving heard of the extremely large and filling pasta portions at Italian Tomato, my friends I decided it was a good option for us as we were quite hungry after two games of bowling. The décor was nice but since we wanted to sit and chat, we took a long time to eat. The waitress was clearly getting impatient, but it was not like there were many others in the restaurant waiting on our table.

My Penne Pescatore was quite lovely. The tomato sauce was nicely seasoned and had a nice, tangy flavour. The small scallops were tender and better than the tiny shrimp and clams. I did like the mushrooms as well. Three of my favourite foods mixed into one. The penne was al dente and picked up the sauce very nicely – one of the reasons I prefer penne to other pastas.Image

The Whole Wheat Linguine Da Vinci had a light, creamy flavour. The sauce was not very thick. The whole wheat linguine was good, as were the spinach and tomatoes. I can’t say I like the chicken that much, though, as it was a tad bland and tough. There also was not as much chicken as you would expect in such a large plate of food.Image

The Penne Paesana was good with the smoked salmon, scallops, clams, and shrimp. The light dill cream sauce did not seem to taste as good with the seafood as my tomato sauce did. However, the seafood was still nice, and again, the penne was just wonderful.Image

Finally, the Calamari Fritti was nicely fried with a good tzatziki sauce. It was not overly greasy but was definitely a bit overpriced for such a small portion that would be nowhere near $11.95.

A final note: they offer smaller portions that are $2 cheaper, but when I asked the server, he told us it was half the amount of pasta. Clearly, that would be a huge rip off, so definitely go for the larger plates!

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That Tiramisu! – Al Porto Ristorante

May 11, 2013
Al Porto Ristorante, Vancouver BC
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[Bread Basket]
Linguine Pescatore
Calamari
Mussels
Tiramisu
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ImageFor a long-time friend’s 20th birthday party, we went to Al Porto Ristorante in the lovely, historic Gastown. While sunny weather is always nice, there is a certain magical feel to Gastown in the drizzly rain. The restaurant was large, with great friendly servers and traditional decorations. 

We started with a complimentary Bread Basket that I thought could have been better to match the sophistication of the restaurant. The bread was not exactly fresh out of the oven, although it had a nice crust and a soft, airy inside. However, I loved the focaccia. It was so soft and a little chewy.Image

The Linguine Pescatore was a common dish amongst our group. The seafood was fresh and nicely done: mussels, clams, prawns, squid, scallops, salmon, and halibut. Unfortunately, there was only one scallop, which is my favourite seafood… ever. The fish added a nice touch since you eat it with the pasta unlike the shellfish, which you usually eat separately. The linguine was al dente and the tomato sauce very flavourful with a touch of cream.Image

The Calamari was served with a chili aioli and a red onion bruschetta. The squid had a thin but crispy batter with the chewy seafood nicely done on the inside. I liked the chili aioli but would prefer the bruschetta. I thought it was an interesting touch for calamari.Image

The Mussels were steamed with garlic, shallot, and Italian parsley in a tomato broth. The broth had a decent herb flavour but could have been thicker with more seasoning. The mussels were okay, nothing outstanding.Image

Finally, since it was a birthday night, we all had a small bite of Tiramisu. It was a lovely bite. Coffee, liquer, lady fingers, sponge cake, cocoa powder, and most importantly, mascarpone. It was fresh, sweet, soft, moist, and absolutely scrumptious!

It was a really nice dinner, at a nice, fancy, but not over the top restaurant. I think a seat by the window would be a lot nicer and would actually be a great place to enjoy an upscale brunch of light dinner in the glow of the setting sun. 

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