Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

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.

Baan Thai Restaurants on Urbanspoon

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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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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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Red Eggplants and Chicken – Lovash Indian Cuisine

April 29, 2013
Lovash Indian Cuisine, Philadelphia PA
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Chicken Tikka
Bengan Bhurta
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ImageLovash Indian Cuisine is another one of those food trucks that I was aware of since I first got to campus but never got around to trying. They are the only Indian food truck left so I was excited to see what they have to offer. While they are priced slightly above the Chinese options, I do enjoy having the different flavours.

The Chicken Tikka was freshly cooked on the grill with yogurt-marinated chicken and assorted vegetables. The chicken had spices on the outside but the inside was a little dry and bland. The vegetables were nice but I found them a little greasy from the grill. At least there was celery to celebrate National Celery Month! I think a sauce would have been better so maybe the tikka masala next time would be better.Image

Being a fan of eggplant, I had to try the Bengan Bhurta. Unfortunately, it came out of a warmer tin rather than being made to order. The eggplant was half mashed and the sauce it came in was quite good with a light, creamy tomato flavour but still some spices mixed in. It went well with the rice.

Apparently, the menu gets changed once in a while so it will be nice to try some other dishes. Indian food is just another one of those that I crave every once in a while and the only food truck specializing in it is Lovash. 

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From Tokyo to Beijing – 大学城-Beijing

March 15, 2013
大学城 – Beijing, Philadelphia PA
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本楼炒饭 (House Special Fried Rice)
麻婆豆腐 (Ma Po Tofu)
左宗鸡 (General Tso’s Chicken)
麻辣牛肉面 (Spicy Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup)
西兰牛肉 (Beef with Broccoli)
茄子鲜鱿煲 (Squid with Baby Eggplant in Garlic Sauce)
炸云吞 (Fried Wonton)
上海鸡卷 (Chicken Spring Roll)
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ImageOur group from Tokyo decided to get together to celebrate a birthday for someone and realized we wanted to be on campus and could not go to any Japanese restaurants, since all of us would be complaining anyhow. That’s how we ended up at Beijing, which personally I do not frequent because the prices are higher and tastes are worse than Sang Kee in my opinion. Still, it at least tasted somewhat Asian.

The 本楼炒饭 (House Special Fried Rice) was decent enough, but since it was such a generic dish, it would have just been totally unacceptable for them to screw it up. The rice was not overcooked and not too greasy. The pork and chicken were both a little tough and dry and there could have been more meat and vegetables. Image

The 麻婆豆腐 (Ma Po Tofu) was no where near authentic. Instead of chilli oil covered sauce, it was like a sweetened gravy with the slightest bit of spicy from the red peppers. There was no peppercorns either. The tofu was soft and I like sweet dishes, but the name was just very misleading. Image

The 左宗鸡 (General Tso’s Chicken) was okay. The chicken was fried nicely but I thought the batter was a little too thick with not enough actual meat inside. The broccoli tasted nice with the sauce, despite the sauce being a little greasy. Image

The 麻辣牛肉面 (Spicy Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup) actually had a decent amount of spice. The noodles were slightly overcooked but the ground beef mixture was flavourful. A little greasy perhaps but this dish was not too bland.

ImageThe beef in the 西兰牛肉 (Beef with Broccoli) was very tough to bite but not exactly dry, just a little too sinewy. It had decent flavour though, with a slightly sweetened gravy sauce. The broccoli was actually cooked nicely and was also sweet.Image

The 茄子鲜鱿煲 (Squid with Baby Eggplant in Garlic Sauce) was quite good, with basically just eggplant, squid, and some cabbage lining the bottom. The ingredients were plentiful – not too much filler – but the flavour of the garlic sauce was again lacking. There was almost no spice and it was more of a gravy than a sweet sauce. That’s just how they make it here though.Image

The 炸云吞 (Fried Wonton) was actually a decent appetizer with tender shrimp filling and a sweet and sour dipping sauce. I liked the sauce, which cut into the greasy aftertaste of the fried wonton wrappers. Image

The 上海鸡卷 (Chicken Spring Roll) were a little disappointing. Nicely fried and with a lot of filling, the filling was rather bland, especially when it came to the shredded, slightly dry chicken. The vegetables did not offer much in the way of flavour. While I did not like the spicy mustard, I did like eating the spring rolls with the sweet chili sauce.

The dinner was enjoyable and the service friendly enough. It was great to catch up with everyone. Beijing is as convenient as you can get on campus so not having to travel much was definitely a plus, especially on a cold night!

Beijing on Urbanspoon

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Meal of 270 Flavours – 東方見聞録

March 8, 2013
東方見聞録, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
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居酒屋の定番!! 大盛り枝付き枝豆 (Izakaya-Standard Large Green Soybeans)
茄子の浅漬け (Pickled Eggplant (Tsukemono))
浪速のたこ焼き (Takoyaki (Grilled Octopus Balls))
季節の浅漬け (Seasonal Pickles)
葱めんたいのせ出し巻き玉子 (Japanese Omelette topped Green Onion and Marinated Pollack Roe)
明太カルボうどん (Salted Cod Roe with Carbonara Udon)
選べる胡瓜 (生姜醤) (Cucumber (Ginger Miso Sauce))
揚げピザ&カマンベールディップ (Fried Won-Ton with Camembert Cheese)
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ImageCasey and I were not feeling up to some hardcore partying so we decided to venture out and try our own izakaya at 東方見聞録 near the Shinjuku station. We had seen so many ‘270 yen’ restaurants in the past week. I loved the idea! It was just like having a large variety of a tasting menu. Each item was only 270 yen, with special items – actually quite a few of them – priced slightly higher. It was certainly an interesting experience and I would have loved to try a few more of these if we had more time!

To start, we were served 居酒屋の定番!! 大盛り枝付き枝豆 (Izakaya-Standard Large Green Soybeans). These were boiled perfectly and had the perfect amount of saltiness. The edamame were easy to get out of the pod and soft but not too mushy. Once you start eating these, it is really hard to stop until other plates of food are presented before you.Image

From there, we proceeded to 茄子の浅漬け (Pickled Eggplant (Tsukemono)). I love eggplant and this was decent, but it was not my favourite preparation. The small eggplant was very tender, not too dry, and had a good, firm and chewy texture. However, I found the flavour a bit disappointing. It was salty and a little sour from the pickling whereas I had expected something a little sweeter.Image

The 浪速のたこ焼き (Takoyaki (Grilled Octopus Balls)) were excellent, though. They had crispy exteriors and a piping hot, slightly gooey center. There were not too much octopus inside but the flavour was bang on with the sauces and bonito flakes.Image

The 季節の浅漬け (Seasonal Pickles) were very refreshing with its mix of cucumbers, daikon, and ___. These were a little sour but not as salty as the eggplant, which made it nicer in my opinion. I would suggest them for a nice palate cleanser.Image

The 葱めんたいのせ出し巻き玉子 (Japanese Omelette topped Green Onion and Marinated Pollack Roe) was one of my favourites for the night. The egg omelette was firm but soft and airy. The texture was just excellent, as was the flavour. It was quite sweet, which was perfect for me. Put that together with the salty Pollack roe on top and the sweet and savoury sauce, it was just delicious.Image

The 明太カルボうどん (Salted Cod Roe with Carbonara Udon) was also a very nice dish, and one of the only ones that was more like an entrée. The udon noodles were cooked nicely to al dente, and coated in plenty of the creamy carbonara sauce. What I loved was the spicy roe in the carbonara, giving the creaminess a little kick.Image

Wanting more vegetables, we went with the 選べる胡瓜 (生姜醤) (Cucumber (Ginger Miso Sauce)). The cucumbers were certainly refreshing, especially with the ginger miso sauce. It was coarsely pureed ginger flavoured with miso, a little bit too salty but had a nice gingery kick.Image

Finally, the 揚げピザ&カマンベールディップ (Fried Won-Ton with Camembert Cheese) was another very interesting dish. The fried wontons were crisp and lovely and I thought the camembert cheese dip was a very creative twist. Perhaps not my favourite dish but it was certainly an interesting one. Wontons and cheese, who knew?

The meal was not exactly a filling one, since it was more like small bites of various items. It was a great experience though. My only complaint was that smoking was allowed inside and we almost ended up beside some heavy smokers. The food, though, was exquisite – a splendid final dinner in Tokyo!

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Sweet n’ Salty – Street Food Philly

February 25, 2013
Street Food Philly, Philadelphia PA
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Miso Eggplant Sandwich
Lemon Curd w/ Shortbread Cookies
Pecan Bar w/ Bourbon Cream
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ImageIt was only a matter of days before I returned to Street Food Philly. Their menu constantly changes and everything just sounds so delicious.

On this occasion, I tried their Miso Eggplant Sandwich, which was fried eggplants, sautéed spinach, grilled slices of firm but still soft tofu, and tomato miso sauce on a long roll. The eggplant was a little thin for me, as I prefer more eggplant than batter. The tofu tasted good with the sauce but the spinach were overly salty. It was okay with the whole sandwich not having much other strong flavors but I prefer my spinach light and healthy-tasting.Image

The Lemon Curd w/ Shortbread Cookies was actually great with all the sweet fresh strawberries and blueberries. The shortbread cookies added a crunchy, buttery sweetness to contrast the smooth and sour lemon curd. It was a tad too sour but not overwhelming.

ImageThe Pecan Bar w/ Bourbon Cream was huge but then again, it was $3. The pecan in the syrup glaze was sweet but I love sweet things that are over the top so it was great. It was sticky and crunchy at the same time. The bottom crust was not too sweet and quite dense. I could not taste much bourbon in the cream and it was not sweet so it was rather light but very bland. It was luckily not greasy but I did not think the bar needed that much of it.

I really do appreciate the variety Street Food Philly provides. It was a good change from Penn’s food trucks so get ready for more!

Street Food Philly on Urbanspoon

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My Oh My, Morocco! – Marrakesh

February 2, 2013
Marrakesh, Philadelphia PA
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The Three-Salad Platter
The B’stella
Spicy Chicken with Cumin Sauce
Tajine of Lamb with Almonds and Honey
Marinated Berber Beef Shish Kebab
Couscous Grand Atlas Topped with Vegetables, Chick Peas and Raisins
Basket of Fresh Fruits
Moroccan Pastries
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ImageAfter hearing about the exotic experience at the popular Marrakesh, I was so excited to go there with our dance team. It was cold and snowing, but we stood outside the door for over thirty minutes since our party was huge and they needed time to clear out two rooms for us. The traditional Moroccan restaurant was quite obscured, and you had to knock on the door for them to let you in. Inside, it was very crowded and decorated in a Moroccan style. I loved the atmosphere, with everyone sitting down on couches around a stainless steel plate-like table. The server brought out rosewater for us to wash our hands. There were no eating utensils. The bread that was passed around in a huge basket was used as the vessel for eating all the food. For $25, $30 after tax and tips, we enjoyed a seven-course meal and were so stuffed. I loved the entire experience of the most traditional, family-style Moroccan food.

The first course was The Three-Salad Platter, which included zaalouk (cooked eggplants in tomato sauce), oasis carrots with cucumber, and cucumber and bell peppers in Mediterranean seasoning. The cucumber and peppers salad was refreshing and tasted similar to a Greek salad. The carrots were like that of a carrot salad in Mediterranean cuisine, with the carrots flavourful and slightly mushy. My favourite was by far the large chunks of mushy eggplant. Each piece was literally a quarter of a medium-sized eggplant, so tangy, so sweet, and absolutely delicious!Image

Up next was The B’stella, or rather a pastilla, which was a layered pie made from phyllo pastry, stuffed with chicken, eggs, assorted nuts, almonds, parsley, and onions and topped with confection sugar and cinnamon. Never have I tried chicken with eggs, cinnamon, sugar, and nuts, all in the same bite. I do not regret it, as it was amazing. It was freshly out of the oven and piping hot we had to wait a while before digging in, and digging in we did. The dough was flaky, thin, and crisp. The top was sweet and spiced with cinnamon but the center was savoury and bouncy from all the eggs. The chicken did not have much flavour but made the filling a bit more substantial. I did not taste much of the nuts but the overall flavour was multi-layered. Savoury and sweet, flaky and bouncy, it was a gorgeous pie.Image

For the third course, which was also the first main course, our table unanimously chose the Spicy Chicken in Cumin Sauce. According to their online menu, there are three versions of non-spicy chicken, but we were only offered the choice of spicy or non-spicy. The cumin sauce was incredibly red and hot. It was not like chili pepper hot but rather spices hot. However, when eaten with the chicken and bread, it was certainly more than bearable. The chicken was quite tough and dry on the inside and rather bland. Only the parts near the surface were juicy and tender, soaking up the flavour of the sauce. The skin was quite thick and fatty, relatively unappealing. If it were not for the sauce, this would not have been good.Image

Since we had so many people, we were able to get two different choices for our second main course. The first was the Tajine of Lamb with Almonds and Honey. Again, we were not offered the other preparation for the lamb with onions and chick peas. The lamb was delicious, though. It was moist, succulent, and cooked to tender perfection. The honey gave it a slightly sweet undertone. The almonds did not add much to the dish for me, but each large bite of lamb was absolutely phenomenal.Image

The most disappointing course of the evening was the Marinated Berber Beef Shish Kebab. The peppers and onions were nicely grilled with a char on them. The large cubes of beef, however, were extremely tough and very dry. They had some spices on the exterior but the inside was bland and sinewy. It was not just I could not chew through it, but I could barely bite into the meat, it was that tough.Image

The last main course – I know, there was so much food, but bear with me! – was Couscous Grand Atlas Topped with Vegetables, Chick Peas and Raisins. The couscous was nothing special. It also had shredded chicken that was slightly dry and bland. While I did not like the potatoes, I did like the soft sweet potato, chick peas, and plump, juicy raisins. The dish lacked moisture and did not shine compared to some of the other dishes.Image

Next, they served us a Basket of Fresh Fruits. This was actually quite refreshing and pleasant. Oranges, apples, strawberries, bananas, and large red grapes were a nice touch. However, I was disappointed we never got the hot mint tea that everyone was raving about online. I was rather looking forward to that.Image

Finally, just as we were about to leave, they served a plate of Moroccan Pastries, or rather the most delicious baklava. It arrived late because they ran out and had to make a new batch. These just came out of the oven and were warm and dripping with overly sweet syrup. I could eat the sweetest things, so it was no problem. More than one or two would have made anyone go on a sugar high, though. A bit more chopped nuts would have been nice to contrast the stickiness and the flaky phyllo dough. As over the top as these were, they were certainly addicting.Image

The belly dancer that came by was very entertaining, and being a dance team, we had a lot of fun with the three moves she taught us. It was a most enjoyable evening, being a BYO and all. I just wish the restaurant was better lit so we could see the food clearer. Apart from that and the tight squeeze around the table, it was a great night spent with fellow team members – a fine Moroccan experience!

Marrakesh on Urbanspoon

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Lovely Lunch on a Lovely Day – Lyn’s Breakfast & Lunch

January 18, 2013
Lyn’s Breakfast & Lunch, Philadelphia PA
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Egg & Cheese w/ Vegetable
Eggplant Spinach Parm
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It was yet another incredibly chilly but sunny day. I loved being outside under the sun but out of the wind. The warmth on your skin was quite pleasant, contrasting the cold sting in the air. I decided to grab lunch from Lyn’s since they are usually gone by early afternoon and I have classes on the other days so I never really get a chance to go.Image

The Egg & Cheese w/ Vegetable was actually quite decent. I love the melted cheese with the egg whites, which again did not have an additional charge. Seriously, all the food trucks need to do this. The vegetables – mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes – were also covered in the gooey cheese. This was just so simple, cheesy, and good.Image

The Eggplant Spinach Parm was also quite good except the eggplant parm. The eggplant was so thin that there was almost no eggplant and all batter. It was pre-fried so the batter soaked up a lot of the marinara sauce and it all became a soggy mess. The melted mozzarella was good with the marinara, though. I also did like the wilted spinach. They certainly are not stingy when it comes to ingredients but the eggplant really needs to be better.Image

Besides the eggplant, I think most of the items at Lyn’s are pretty good price and quality wise. The lady taking orders was also smiling and very nice. I would certainly be back, especially since they offer different kinds of bread and bagels for their breakfast sandwiches. 

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Fast ‘n Friendly – Ollie’s Noodle Shop & Grille

December 2, 2012
Ollie’s Noodle Shop & Grille, New York NY
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Roast Duck (火鸭)
Shrimp Lo Mein (虾捞面)
Pepper Steak (青椒牛肉)
Broccoli, Zucchini, Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (紫兰三素)
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Before getting the whole team to pile into a Megabus and head back to Philly, most of us crowded into a local westernized Chinese restaurant often populated by Columbia students – Ollie’s Noodle Shop & Grille. Apparently, our team came here last year too. It is much like Sang Kee and other casual Chinese establishments. The atmosphere was light and cheery, with large windows and casual yet simple tables and chairs.

Our first dish was the Roast Duck (火鸭). The duck was mediocre. The skin was crispy enough but not the crispiest I have had. The meat was not tough but not particularly fatty and juicy either. It definitely was not melt-in-your-mouth duck meat. I did like the cabbage and spinach under the meat, though, soaking up a little flavour. The rice that had soaked up some of the duck broth also had a light, savoury taste that made it decent.Image

The Shrimp Lo Mein (虾捞面) was too salty. The noodles were okay; they were not overcooked but could have been more al dente with more of a chew. The shrimp were also a little overcooked. I would have liked more vegetables in this dish. Also, it was quite greasy and just tasted of soy sauce and salt.Image

The Pepper Steak (青椒牛肉) was actually the best of the four dishes. The beef was succulent and the bell peppers and onions still had some crispiness to them while coated in the same sweet and spicy sauce. This went really well with the steamed rice.Image

Finally, the Broccoli, Zucchini, Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (紫兰三素) was way too greasy. There was about a layer of oil over the entire dish, hiding the flavourful sauce underneath. The sauce was spicy but not sweet and aromatic enough. Also, because there was so much oil, the sauce did not coat and get into the eggplant, broccoli, and zucchini. While all three vegetables are my favourites, I do not like them bland and drenched in grease.

Ollie’s definitely need to cut back on the oil and salt. The prices are reasonable and the service was extremely fast and quite friendly. The atmosphere was light and uplifting. However, overly greasy food seemed to wipe all the pros away.

Ollie's Noodle Shop & Grille on Urbanspoon

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