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.

Thai Express on Urbanspoon

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La Belle Sammich – Sammich

July 13, 2013
Sammich, Victoria BC
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Pea & Mint Soup
Goatabella Sammich
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ImageIt does not seem like the west coast has really caught on the sandwich and panini craze as much as back on the east. So, I was excited to stumble upon Sammich, this cute little sandwich shop on the outskirts of The Bay Centre in downtown Victoria. The owner was so nice and the little cafe was just such a happy, uplifting place with yummy treats freshly baked and displayed behind clear glass cases.

My Pea & Mint Soup was lovely on a sunny day but one with a chilly sea breeze. It was refreshing yet with a touch of creaminess and sweetness. The peas were mushy but it had a great thickness. I really liked that it was not overly minty. Image

The Goatabella Sammich came with goat cheese and spinach, grilled zucchini, roasted peppers, and portobello mushrooms. The vegetables were nice and sweet and the focaccia airy with a crispy crust. I could have used more vegetables as the goat cheese was melted and strong in flavour. For those who like goat cheese but want a lighter meal, this would be idea. 

I would definitely come back here for a nice light lunch. It is hard to find a fresh sandwich at a reasonable price these days and the combinations are by no means generic.

Sammich on Urbanspoon

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Sippin’ on Guava and Lemons – Blenz Coffee

July 8, 2013
Blenz Coffee, Richmond BC
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Veggie Roll
Rocky Road Bar
Guava Lemon Shaken Iced Hojicha Green Tea
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ImageI biked over to Steveston and decided to stop by Blenz Coffee for a snack and a cold drink. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon that I just could not resist sitting there, sipping on something cold, and enjoying watching passers-by in the quaint little village.

My Veggie Roll was flaky but the filling lacked a little flavour. It had a hint of tomato but I could not really taste the rest of the veggies as it was all mushed together.

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The Rocky Road Bar had mostly chocolate and marshmallows, which made for a sticky and overly sweet treat. A bite or two is delicious but too much can just be a sugar overload.Image

Finally, my Guava Lemon Shaken Iced Hojicha Green Tea was so refreshing. The guava lemon flavour was tangy with a touch of sweet and the green tea was very nice. Nothing beats iced tea on a hot summer day.

The café had some flies inside so I question how clean it is. Considering it is a café, it should not be unsanitary at all – it is not hard to keep a small café clean where all you do is make lattes and bake a few things. The service was friendly, though, and the scenery just wonderful.

Blenz Coffee on Urbanspoon

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Waves of Spritzers – Waves Coffee House

July 3, 2013
Waves Coffee House, Richmond BC
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Sticky Toffee Pudding
Tomato & Spinach Panini
Date Square
Sparkling Pomegranate Spritzer
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ImageWaves Coffee House is a lovely little local coffee chain, certainly giving Starbucks a run for its share of customers. This particular location has a spacious interior with huge windows to allow the light to come into the store. With couches and tables, and free wifi, this is easily a working place.

The Sticky Toffee Pudding looked so tempting. The sticky toffee layer on top was delicious, as were the different layers of crumble and cake underneath. It was extremely sweet but with that deep toffee flavour.Image

The Tomato & Spinach Panini was light and tasty. The panini bread was nicely pressed and had a nice herbal note. The tomato and spinach made it somewhat refreshing, while the sun-dried tomato mayo and pepper jack cheese made it creamier.Image

The Date Square tasted okay with a light hint of date flavour in the paste. The granola crumble was quite dense but I wish it was a little chewier rather than crumbly. More date paste would have made it more like a date dessert rather than granola dessert.Image

Finally, their new Sparkling Pomegranate Spritzer was very refreshing. Tangy, sweet, and carbonated, it was a perfect summer drink. The cold beverage certainly did it for me that afternoon.

I definitely would not mind to grab a sandwich, soup, dessert, and later a beverage while I sat there for the whole day with my laptop. That would actually be very productive and… well… delicious.

Waves Coffee on Urbanspoon

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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.

Olive Garden on Urbanspoon

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Japanese Temptations – Tampopo

June 2, 2013
Tampopo, Philadelphia PA
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Fresh Crunch Roll
Vegetable Bowl w/ Chicken Breast
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ImageI have heard of Tampopo, a casual Japanese restaurant a few blocks off campus, since last year but not until recently did I go with a group of friends from dance after a weekend lesson. I liked it so much that I went back for dinner that night as well.

The Fresh Crunch Roll is one of their special rolls for the summer. Inside the cucumber-wrapped rice were ebi, unagi, and avocado. It was certainly a sweet and crunchy mix that was very much to my liking. The thick cucumber was a much better wrap than the regular nori, making it very fresh, just like summer. The sweet unagi paired well with the creamy avocado and the ebi added a chewier texture.Image

That evening, I went back for the Vegetable Bowl w/ Chicken Breast. It was a total of seventeen vegetables – bean sprouts, broccoli florets, broccoli stems, carrots, red peppers, green peppers, celery, mushrooms, snow peas, bok choy, and a couple others that I cannot recall – with a sweet teriyaki-soy sauce over brown rice. The chicken breast was sliced and a little tough and dry. It was lightly seared and tasted okay only when I soaked it in the sauce. Still, it was such a satisfying meal.

Tampopo on Urbanspoon

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Locally Creative – Local 215

May 23, 2013
Local 215, Philadelphia PA
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Pork Fritters
Duck Buns
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ImageLocal 215 is one of the few food trucks using local products and making gourmet meals out of a truck. Their brown truck may not seem as pretty but their food cannot be found elsewhere in University City. However, the taste to me does not justify their higher prices. It was not bad by any means, just not as outstanding as I had expected.

The Pork Fritters were fried to the perfect crispy texture on the outside. Inside were, besides shredded pork, pistachios and capers. The fritters did not have any pronounced flavour. I did like the hoisin sriracha dipping sauce that had a touch of sweetness but was very flavourful with a small kick.Image

The famous Duck Buns were decent, with juicy, tender pieces of duck. Sandwiched in between the pita-like flatbreads were pickled veggies, cucumber, and a sesame chili aioli. The aioli lacked a little flavour and the buns overall were a little greasy. They were also messy to eat and got soggy quickly.

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Happy Mother’s Day – 九记-No. 9 Restaurant

May 12, 2013
九记 – No. 9 Restaurant, Richmond BC
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干煸四季豆 (Minced Pork & Green Bean in Chili Sauce)
豉椒牛肉饭 (Beef w/ Black Bean Sauce on Steamed Rice)
柠檬虾球 (Lemon Prawns)
鱼香茄子 (Minced Pork w/ Eggplant)
宫保鸡丁 (Diced Chicken & Cashews Marinated w/ Chili Peppers)
干炒牛河 (Soy Beef Rice Noodle (Dry))
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ImageGrandma liked 九记 (No. 9 Restaurant) during her last lunch there so we went there for Mother’s Day. It was one of the few restaurants that did not have a wait. It has been there for as long as I can remember, way back when there were only a few Chinese restaurants in Richmond. We did not like it back then. Now, it’s just place for a quick meal and family gathering.

We started with the 干煸四季豆 (Minced Pork & Green Bean in Chili Sauce) which was actually pretty decent. Deep fried green beans are just something you can’t do at home. The minced pork had quite a good, spicy and savoury flavour.

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The 豉椒牛肉饭 (Beef w/ Black Bean Sauce on Steamed Rice) was very generic but perhaps that’s why it was quite satisfying. The beef was tender and the black bean sauce thick and covering the rice. The peppers and onions were still crisp.Image

The 柠檬虾球 (Lemon Prawns) were not my favourite. The shrimp was still tender but the batter had no flavour. The lemon sauce was very sweet and made it kind of weird. It was like eating dessert with an entree.Image

The 鱼香茄子 (Minced Pork w/ Eggplant) was not as good as the previous time, according to my mother. It was not cooked long enough so while the eggplant were tender, the flavour did not penetrate the thick, long pieces. The sauce was good but it was just lacking some more time in the wok.Image

The 宫保鸡丁 (Diced Chicken & Cashews Marinated w/ Chili Peppers) was not authentic at all. There was a lot of cashews, though, despite somewhat lacking chicken. At least they did not just put in a bunch of peanuts. It needed more of a kick from the chili peppers.Image

The 干炒牛河 (Soy Beef Rice Noodle (Dry)) was actually more like a beef dish with accompanying rice noodles. It had a decent soy sauce flavour and the beef was plenty and flavourful. It was such a large portion that it did justify the price.

Overall, the portions were all humongous. The food is by no means fine dining quality, but for a casual restaurant serving up comfort food, it was decent enough!

No.9 Restaurant 九記 on Urbanspoon

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Deep in a Japanese Coma – Ninkazu Japanese Restaurant

ImageMay 9, 2013
Ninkazu Japanese Restaurant, Richmond BC
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Eda-Mame
Green Salad
Salmon Sashimi
Tuna Sashimi
Spicy Seafood Cone
Chicken Teriyaki Roll
Spring Roll
Deep Fried Gyoza
Shishamo Karaage
Chicken Karaage
ImageChicken Udon
Beef Udon
BBQ Beef Short Rib
BBQ Chicken Wing
BBQ Korean Pork
BBQ Salmon Kama
BBQ Yakitori
Oyster Motoyaki
Salmon Teriyaki
Fruit Jello
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ImageWow, another very long chat late into the night. Seven friends met over dinner and exchanged gossip and stories for hours around a large table at Ninkazu Japanese Restaurant. We were all deep into food comas by the end but unfortunately, there was nowhere to go but home at 11:30, especially with early mornings for some the next morning. Image

The Eda-Mame was standard, which means no where near as good as the ones I have had almost everyday in Tokyo. It just was not flavourful enough – lacking salt while boiling – and the doneness was inconsistent.Image

The Green Salad was the most pathetic way to celebrate National Salad Month. It was such a small portion, with iceberg lettuce, what tasted like a carrot puree with a tangy dressing and sesame seeds, shredded carrot and red cabbage, and some scallions.  Image

The Salmon Sashimi was good, with a nice texture. It was actually quite fresh and the fish was really bouncy but firm. Vancouver’s salmon sashimi rarely disappoints, even the regular kind.Image

The Tuna Sashimi was less impressive. It did not taste as fresh and the fish was not as firm as I would like. It was more mushy than the salmon.

The Spicy Seafood Cone was not extremely spicy. I found the seafood a little dry and the flavour was not bold enough to stand out amidst all the rice in the cone. Image

The Chicken Teriyaki Roll was actually good. The chicken was tender. The teriyaki sauce was sweet and had a good consistency. The vegetables made it refreshing and there was just the right amount of sauce drizzled over it. Image

The Spring Roll tasted like it came out of a package. It was fried nicely but you cannot really screw that up anyways. The vegetable filling was not exactly amazing. This was more generic than anything. Image

The Deep Fried Gyoza looked better than they tasted. The filling was a little small and the wrappers, while very crispy, tasted a little too greasy.

The Shishamo Karaage was a nice change. I have not had these little fish in a very long time. I really like the lot of fish eggs inside each fish. They were the best part of this little thing.

The Chicken Karaage were simply deep fried without much seasoning or anything for that matter. The chicken wings were juicy on the inside but these were just mediocre. Image

The Chicken Udon had one small piece of fried chicken cutlet over udon noodles. The chicken was okay. The broth was decent and the noodles were just a tad overcooked.

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The Beef Udon was pretty bad. The udon and soup were good enough but the beef was incredibly tough to chew; it was just too sinewy and did not have much flavour. ImageImageImage

The series of BBQ included Beef Short Rib, Chicken Wing, Korean Pork, Salmon Kama, and Yakitori. The short ribs were tasty and sweet. The chicken wings were a lot better than the deep fried kind. Clearly, the sweet sauce makes all the difference here! The Korean Pork was dry and tough. There was not much flesh on the salmon kama, or salmon head, and it looked quite intimidating! Finally, the yakitori, or chicken skewer, was actually very flavourful from the spice marinade and very juicy. This was one of the better dishes of the night.Image

The Oyster Motoyaki was creamy but a little too heavy. You really need to be partial to these motoyakis to be able to stomach more than one. The oysters were small and not very fresh either.Image

The Salmon Teriyaki was a little dry but at least it was salmon with the lovely sweet sauce.

Finally, we all ended with Fruit Jello. These were generic, colorful, and kind of fun to play with. They were very jiggly and for someone in a deep food coma at midnight, it might be just the tad bit fascinating.Image

Ninkazu will satisfy your regular craving for generic Japanese food. If you are looking for anything remotely close to fine dining, go somewhere else. If you are just seeking out a place to catch up with friends over A LOT of food, this would be the place for you.

Ninkazu Japanese Restaurant 仁和日本料理 on Urbanspoon

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Eggplants in the Oven – Pitruco Pizza

May 3, 2013
Pitruco Pizza, Philadelphia PA
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Eggplant Pizza
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ImageFinally, I managed to track down Pitruco Pizza at The Porch. They are now coming to University City more often, which is delightful news. I can finally get more freshly made, delicious, and creative pizzas!

The Eggplant Pizza was just wonderful. I love roasted eggplant. LOVE IT! It was savoury and sweet, both a little bland and having loads of flavour at the same time. That’s the magic of eggplants. I also liked the marinated peppers. They were covered in a little too much oil, which I did not like much. However, the whipped ricotta and the fresh basil were very refreshing, offering a nice contrast. The dough was also decently chewy but I wanted a little more tomato sauce for the places where there were not too many pieces of eggplant or peppers. 

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