Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Fishy Food Courts – Ivar’s Seafood Bar

July 19, 2013
Ivar’s Seafood Bar, Bellingham WA
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Shrimp Cocktail
Fish ‘n Chips

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ImageI was shopping by myself in Bellis Fair Mall while my parents headed to Costco. Deciding I have had enough after 20 minutes and not wanting to wait for my salad from Costco, I went to the food court and settled for Ivar’s Seafood Bar.

The Shrimp Cocktail was simple yet refreshing. The shrimp were tender and sweet and the cocktail sauce tangy. The celery made it crunchy and light.Image

The Fish ‘n Chips were not good, though. Everything was freshly fried so the French fries were crispy on the outside and piping hot. However, they were still frozen fries. The fish was also not the best. The cod was not great, though. It was flaky but not moist enough. The batter was more like a powdery mixture and very thin. It was not sticking together either, just way to thin. The pieces were small and skinny as well.

I guess fish and chips is best left to piers and docks. Only then will there be quality and quantity combined for the best value. 

Ivar's Seafood Bar on Urbanspoon

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One Fish, Two Fish – Red Fish Blue Fish

July 13, 2013
Red Fish Blue Fish, Victoria BC
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Cod Fish + Chips
Tomato Basil Chilli Cod Tacone

Seafood Poutine
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ImageEach day just got hotter and hotter but I had to leave Victoria soon and I was not about to do so without having tried the most popular fish and chips in the city from the establishment of Red Fish Blue Fish, housed in a cute little shack on the edge of the water. I waited for around an hour on a sunny Saturday but my hard work paid off – the food was fabulous!

I started with Cod Fish + Chips. The batter on the cod was thick, crunchy, not too greasy, and had just wonderful flavours and texture. The fish was flaky and moist. The chips were fresh but the fish was fresher. The tartar sauce was nice and tangy, and the coleslaw was crunchy and by no means overdressed. Image

The Tomato Basil Chilli Cod Tacone was a daily special. The seasoned cod was grilled to perfection with the fish still flaky and moist but also very flavourful. I loved the coleslaw with the fish and the soft taco shell. The lime pickle aioli added another layer of flavour, making it tangy and fit for summer.

ImageThe Seafood Poutine, with shrimp, fish, and tuna belly bacon bits in a light, creamy miso-clam gravy, garnished with green onions and crispy shallots. It was quite salty but the texture was great and it was decently rich.

It is no wonder that there is always a long line down the dock outside Red Fish Blue Fish. They honestly need to speed up their ordering and cooking process as the line is just ridiculous. Very inefficient, if you ask me. The food, at reasonable prices, though, is just fantastic!

Red Fish, Blue Fish on Urbanspoon

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Here’re Your Fish & Chips, Canada! – Pajo’s

July 1, 2013
Pajo’s, Richmond BC
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Halibut Fish & Chips
Cod Fish & Chips
Salmon Fish
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ImageHappy birthday, Canada! As anyone going to the Salmon Festival in Steveston knows, besides the salmon grill, Timothy’s frozen yogurt, and screamers, one of the most popular food places with a crazy line is at Pajo’s. This time, the line is not out the door… it’s off the dock. I love how you have to go down a little bridge to a tiny dock where the restaurant is to get your food!

The Halibut Fish & Chips were absolutely delicious. One of the best things with too many people lining up is that you are guaranteed incredibly fresh food. The fish was soft, flaky, and moist. The batter, while not beer-battered as my new-found foodie friend, Sam, pointed out, was still thin enough and crispy. It was a little greasy but not too bad.Image

The Cod Fish & Chips were also good but I prefer the halibut as the cod was a little less flaky and a little drier. The batter was still good. The chips, or fries rather, were crispy and mushy on the inside. The tartar sauce was also tangy and creamy.

ImageThe Salmon Fish was totally different. Salmon tends to be dry when cooked and this was no exception. It was a lot fishier than the halibut and cod and I did not like that flavour together with the crispy, oily batter as much. It just does not taste refreshing – well, as refreshing as fried fish can get anyways. 

The best fish and chips in Steveston did not let me down on Canada Day. It’s very fairly priced as well and they try to keep the line moving. Eating it almost right on the water also makes it a great experience!

Pajo's Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon

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Shrimp Simple and Complicated – 粵之醉-Rainflower Restaurant

May 18, 2013
粵之醉 – Rainflower Restaurant, Richmond BC
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天天老火例汤 (Daily Special Soup)
清蒸游水虾 (Steamed Live Shrimp)

秘制香叶老虎虾 (Pan Fried Tiger Prawns with Basil)
家乡杂菌牛仔柳 (Pan Fried Beef Tenderloin with Mushrooms)
黑鱼火腩豆腐煲 (Black Cod Hot Pot with Tofu)
[Cookies]

[Sweet Bean Soup]
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ImageA family friend and his daughter went out to dinner with us since we have to met each other in quite a while, let alone had a nice chat. He picked Rainflower Restaurant, which I had always wanted to try despite never hearing any compliments. Not surprising, the place that is known for dim sum was quite empty on a Saturday evening. Even so, it took very long to get our dishes as the kitchen could not keep up with the minimal demand.Image

The 天天老火例汤 (Daily Special Soup) was very generic at best. I liked the winter melon and carrots but it could use more of those little almonds.Image

The 清蒸游水虾 (Steamed Live Shrimp) were very fresh. The shrimp were so juicy and succulent – I loved the bite. The dipping sauce was a little generic but had a nice soy flavour nonetheless. 

ImageThe 秘制香叶老虎虾 (Pan Fried Tiger Prawns with Basil) was delicious although very expensive. The basil flavour was light but present and the sweet soy flavour really came through. The shrimp were again very succulent and had a lovely bite to them. They were fortunately not overcooked.Image

The 家乡杂菌牛仔柳 (Pan Fried Beef Tenderloin with Mushrooms) was not very special. The shiitake and button mushrooms were good and juicy. The beef was okay. The flavour was just sort of salty and did not have any particular flavour. It was a little oily but also a tad sweet, which I do like. Image

The cod in the 黑鱼火腩豆腐煲 (Black Cod Hot Pot with Tofu) was tender and flaky with a nice, slightly soggy exterior. It did soak up the sweet soy flavour so it was all good. The cod was in cubes and was firm enough to stay together. The tofu was mediocre and the portion was extremely small.Image

For complimentary dessert, we got almond cookies and fried dough cookies. They were crunchy and lightly sweetened, going well with the sweeter red bean soup. 

Overall, I think the restaurant is seriously overpriced. I cannot say anything about the dim sum. While I love the slightly sweet flavour of most dishes, the taste still does not justify the small portions and extremely high prices.

Rainflower Restaurant 粵之醉海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

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The Only Lake Around – 太湖海鲜酒家-Tai Lake Restaurant

 

ImageNovember 21, 2012
太湖海鲜酒家 – Tai Lake Restaurant, Philadelphia PA
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清炒菜心 (Sauteed Chinese Choi Sum)
麻辣玉带茄子煲 (Scallop & Eggplant in Spicy Sauce)
铁板烧汁雪鱼 (Cod Fish with Spicy Sauce on Sizzling Platter)
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Wanting to try a new restaurant that is neither of the BBQ Cantonese style or the spicy Sichuan style, I searched up Tai Lake Restaurant just as Dad and I passed by. Seeing the place was quite busy, we stepped inside. It was quite a nice, upscale restaurant considering the surroundings outside. 

The 清炒菜心 (Sauteed Chinese Choi Sum) was just what I needed: sauteed green vegetables at its simplest and best. It was so refreshing and wonderfully plain. Crunchy and juicy, it was so comforting.Image

As soon as I see “scallop,” “eggplant,” and “spicy,” I knew I had to get the 麻辣玉带茄子煲 (Scallop & Eggplant in Spicy Sauce). Three of my favourites finally came together in a small stone pot. The sauce was a bit disappointing though, not very spicy and just a simple savoury gravy sauce. I would have preferred a sweet and spicy garlic sauce. There was plenty of mushy eggplants and succulent scallops, though.Image

Finally, the 铁板烧汁雪鱼 (Cod Fish with Spicy Sauce on Sizzling Platter) had a good sauce, sweet and spicy. However, the pieces of fish fillet were battered and deep fried. It made a healthy dish – somewhat, at least – unhealthy. The crispy batter was okay but became soggy after a while and prevented the flavour from getting into the fish itself. The sauce was lovely, though.

It was not cheap, but considering the quality of the food and the atmosphere, it was very reasonable. I think Tai Lake is a great place to take friends on a night out for some decent Chinese food in Chinatown. 

Tai Lake on Urbanspoon

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BBQ by the Bay – Hog Shack Cook House

ImageJuly 26, 2012
Hog Shack Cook House, Richmond BC
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Burnt Ends
Hot Prawn & Mushroom Salad
Black And Blue
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As I was reading my newsfeed on Facebook this morning, a little update from Hog Shack Cook House caught my eye and notified me that Burnt Ends were available today. That made me super excited, as I still had a Groupon voucher I was saving just for when they have this off-the-menu dish, since so many online reviewers claim it is a must-try at this restaurant. After phoning in at night to confirm they still had it, we went down to Steveston on this very sunny and warm evening.

Burnt Ends are seriously burnt and VERY smoky. The meat was succulent and the smokiness was incredibly strong. The BBQ flavour was not too overwhelming, especially in the larger pieces. The smaller pieces of meat were very delicious and melted in my mouth. However, some pieces were mostly fat, which none of us ate. A few of the bigger pieces were slightly on the dry side and the sauce had not seeped into it as nicely, leaving it a little bland and just plain smoky. When the pieces were nice and juicy though, the flavour was that of a fine smoky BBQ sauce. I was a little surprised how the meat can be so smoky yet not completely charred. The portion size was very decent as well. For $16, the platter came with the choice of two sides. We selected the Yam Fries and Corn Bread. The Yam Fries were sweet and delicious. They were more of a flatter, wider cut but were quite large yet still crispy on the outside. Well, after a while, they got soggy and they were not served piping hot to begin with. While they had the crunch, they were good. The chipotle mayo served alongside for dipping was full of flavour and had quite some heat to it, which I really appreciated. The one piece of Corn Bread was decent in size and had the sweet aroma of corn and butter. However, I found it to be on the dry side even though the flavour was good.Image

The Hot Prawn & Mushroom Salad was decent in size for $14. There were about eight prawns and quite a bit of mushrooms on top of a bed of romaine with a few tomato chunks. The prawns were tender and the mushrooms somewhat flavourful after being sautéed. I just found the mushrooms and prawns to be on the oily side, which is not necessary for simply sautéing. The oil also collected on the bottom of the dish, which made the greens on the bottom too oily to eat. The cheddar cheese strips were large and slightly melted due to the heat from the prawns and mushrooms but did not add much flavour to the dish. For a restaurant besides the harbour, I expected fresh ingredients when it comes to seafood, but I think the ones we got were frozen tiger prawns.Image

Finally, deciding two dishes were not enough for the three of us since we were all really hungry, we ordered the Black And Blue, blackened blue cod fillet served with sautéed vegetables and Spanish rice pilaf. Mom wanted to try the rice because it looked appetizing in the online photos. I was also in the mood for sautéed vegetables, since so many reviewers said Hog Shack made them really tasty. The cod was nicely blackened while still succulent and somewhat moist inside. The char made it crispy and slightly chewy. The tomato sauce was bland and without much seasoning to flavour it. The Spanish rice was mediocre and I have had better. There were actually a few chunks of rice that were stuck together, which made me wonder when it was made. The vegetables were great though. They were still on the raw side, especially the zucchini since it was not at all mushy yet. The carrots were sweet and the broccoli soaked up the flavour. They were slightly buttered but not much and were a nice, crunchy treat for me.

The servers were nice and the ambiance casual and relaxing. The windows made way for a lot of light and it was a typical little restaurant by the water. This to me will make me want to go back, because the food alone will probably not urge for a return trip if the atmosphere was not something special.

Hog Shack Cook House on Urbanspoon

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Generically Overrated – 新瑞华海鲜酒家-Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant

ImageJune 14, 2012
新瑞华海鲜酒家 – Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant, Richmond BC
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蟹肉鱼肚羹 (Fish Maw with Fresh Crab Meat Soup)
特色拼盘 (Appetizer Platter: Jelly Fish, Sliced Marinated Beef, Chicken Knee, Bean Curd Rolls & Sea Weed Rolls)
{扒时菜 (Pan Fried Vegetable)}
豉汁凉瓜炒咸肉 (Pan Fried Bitter Melon & Salted Sliced Pork in Black Bean Sauce)
红烧乳鸽 (Roasted Squab)
蒜茸开边蒸虾 (Steamed Prawn with our House Special Garlic Sauce)
清蒸石斑 (Steamed Rock Cod)
[糖水 (Dessert Soup)]

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Originally planning to try their very popular dim sum, a friend’s family invited us to Sun Sui Wah for dinner. I figured it was a good chance to get a feel for their food, especially since I do not remember my previous visit here years ago with the same family. Regardless, they have their famous Roasted Squab anytime so I was just hoping they would order that dish so I can finally try it for myself and see whether the restaurant is really as good as more people claim it to be. I was sadly disappointed.Image

First up was the soup course with the traditional 蟹肉鱼肚羹 (Fish Maw with Fresh Crab Meat Soup). The ingredients were plentiful, with the fish maw, or fish belly, and shredded crab meat. The fish and crab were very tender and chewy and were not very rare to find. However, I was missing the freshness of the seafood in the soup. Clearly, it was free of MSG, which I am certainly happy about. However, that delicious, fishy aroma did not come out. There was nothing special about the dish. The flavour had to be coaxed out with the red vinegar. In a fish maw soup with fresh, high quality ingredients, you should be able to drink it without the vinegar or MSG and it should taste very refreshing.

ImageSecond to arrive is the traditional Cantonese appetizer platter, the 特色拼盘 (Appetizer Platter: Jelly Fish, Sliced Marinated Beef, Chicken Knee, Bean Curd Rolls & Sea Weed Rolls). This was a huge disappointment. The dish is such a classic and I do not require it to be complicated, just delicate and pretty with a nice and refreshing taste. The jelly fish in the middle was chewy and bouncy, but somewhat bland. I find the julienne bell peppers had more flavour and were more refreshing. The chicken knees were fried a little too much. Although the flavour was okay and not too bland, it was quite greasy. The bean curd roll had no taste whatsoever. It was not even salty, just plain old completely bland. It was the least inventive part – just plain boring. The seaweed roll was actually decent. It was a stick of imitation crab wrapped in seaweed, battered, fried, and then cut up. It was crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside. The fake crab was okay but it got greasy after it turned cold. Finally, the sliced marinated beef was sweet and tender, with a nice flavour that I liked. It kind of tasted like BBQ pork with that sweetness, and was finely sliced.Image

Next on the table was the 扒时菜 (Pan Fried Vegetable), a dish that was not on the menu. They probably just asked for a vegetable dish and this was what the server told them about besides the other ones on the menu, most of which included mushrooms, bamboo, or some other sort of non-leafy vegetables. This was so plain that it acted like a palate cleanser and a filler for me. It was refreshing, non-oily, and a very light, simple dish. This was not a restaurant-worthy – and it was not on the menu – but I prefer this over something deep fried and greasy any day. They could have cleaned the baby bok choy a lot better though. Some of the bottom parts still had a little dirt in it which was totally unacceptable!

ImageThe 豉汁凉瓜炒咸肉 (Pan Fried Bitter Melon & Salted Sliced Pork in Black Bean Sauce) was nicely flavoured with the black bean sauce. It was a tad too salty though, since it was made with salted pork already – the Chinese version of bacon. The pork was half lean, half fat, which was a nice balance. The slices were thick enough to be chewy but thin enough to have enough flavour coated on it. The bitter melon was actually not too horrible. I never liked bitter melon, but the bitterness worked – somewhat – with the black bean sauce. It was no longer pure bitterness so I could actually eat a few slices, even though the slices were too thick and kind of inconsistent. Image

Next was the dish I waited for, the 红烧乳鸽 (Roasted Squab). This was another disappointment, however, There were barely any flavour other than the squab’s natural fat and some saltiness. It was the first time I recall eating squab, and I was surprised how fatty it actually was. The whole bird was coated in grease and the skin with the fat was really difficult to peel off. There were not much lean meat underneath it to be satisfying. The little bit I did get was coated in grease from the fat – something I certainly did not appreciate. Yes, it was more tender than a duck but still had a nice smokey flavour that you do not get with chicken. However, I would have preferred it to be chopped up a bit more, instead of just into quarters, so that it would make it easier to eat without getting myself covered in grease as well.

ImageThe 蒜茸开边蒸虾 (Steamed Prawn with our House Special Garlic Sauce) was perhaps my favourite dish of the night. Steamed with the garlic sauce, the prawns were extremely tender and chewy. They tasted very fresh and had that natural sweetness, which balanced out the flavour of the garlic sauce nicely. It was basically garlic in hot oil to bring out the nice, garlicky aroma. I love garlic so this dish worked for me. A little less oil to the sauce would be appreciated though.Image

The last entree of the night was the 清蒸石斑 (Steamed Rock Cod), which was another disappointment. The fish did not taste completely fresh. It was tender but could perhaps be steamed for one minute less. The sauce they poured on it did not make it taste too fresh and had the opposite effect. Instead of light and refreshing, the sauce made it dense and thus, took away from the scallion and ginger flavour. The meat was falling off the bone, which was nice. However, this dish is easily made at home and made a lot better, too!

ImageThey gave us complimentary 糖水 (Dessert Soup). On this night, it was a mix of peanuts, mung beans, and barley. I loved the slightly undercooked mung beans with the barley. Both were chewy due to being slightly undercooked, a texture I am very partial to. However, the peanuts did not need to be slightly undercooked as it still tasted kind of raw and hard. I generally do not like peanuts in soups, though. The sweetness was good, quite sweet but not overwhelming considering it is still a Chinese restaurant. It was not very thick and more watered down, but as a final course, it was not heavy.

Overall, I am really disappointed with the quality of the dishes at Sun Sui Wah. Nothing was particularly horrible, and they are not overpriced. However, nothing stood out either, which means no highlights and thus, I would probably not be returning for dim sum either. It seems like they have nothing special to offer, just an overrated, generic Cantonese meal.

Sun Sui Wah 新瑞華海鮮酒家 (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

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