Living out in the burbs definitely has its benefits, but sometimes it can be difficult to find new and exciting places to eat. (Going all the way out to the West End for ramen is always a pain). Generally my eating adventures have me journeying westward from my home base of Coquitlam, but sometimes my family likes to travel east into PoCo for some eats. Since we’re all big fans of Thai food, we decided to try out Tip Thai one night to see if it’d measure up to the Thai restaurants in Vancouver.
We started off with the Tom Yum Kung ($6.95) as usual. The soup consisted of halved tomatoes, prawns, and button mushrooms. It tasted like every other version I’ve had of this soup, sour and refreshing but also quite spicy. The broth tasted strongly of lemongrass, while the prawns were pleasantly fat and juicy. We used the soup to clear our palates when consuming the other dishes. I liked that they didn’t hold back on the spices, which made it taste that much more authentic and delicious.
And of course we had to have the Green Curry ($9.95), which is a personal favourite of mine. We were able to choose the level of spiciness for this dish, and we opted for medium. As expected, the curry tasted strongly of coconut milk, and was both sweet and savoury. It was full of large pieces of soft eggplant, and small pieces of moist chicken. The curry itself had a strong, spicy aftertaste, making it great to eat alongside the rice.
Instead of ordering a plain rice on the side, we had the Tip Thai Fried Rice ($9.95), Jasmine rice stir-fried with onions, tomatoes, and broccoli. This was a normal fried rice, really, with nothing blatantly Thai about it. But then again, it was a good dish to have at the table, especially if you’re not crazy about spicy foods. The rice itself was slightly salty, but other than that, it was tasty, if slightly unmemorable.
We had another Thai classic in the Pad Thai ($9.95), served with egg, bean sprouts, onion, pressed tofu, and topped with crushed peanuts. I was well-satisfied with the version here, which had none of that ketchup stickiness but instead the tanginess and sweetness from tamarind sauce. The noodles themselves were chewy and toothsome, exactly the way they should be.
We had more noodles in the form of Pad Se-Ew ($9.95), thicker rice noodles stir-fried with soy sauce, egg, carrots, cabbages, and broccoli. Like the pad thai, the noodles here were pleasantly chewy, while the beef was moist, tender, and easy to chew. The dish had an overall savoury, slightly salty taste, which was to be expected, I suppose. While I enjoyed these noodles, for me, nothing can ever beat a good pad thai.
And lastly, we had the Pad Pak Ruam-mit ($9.95), which was, for me, the least familiar dish out of the ones we sampled. Despite the unfamiliar name, the dish was rather simple, with vegetables and chicken stir-fried in garlic sauce. It wasn’t a bad dish to be sure, but nothing incredibly memorable, and to be honest, there was no real discernible taste other than the saltiness. If I were to visit again, I probably wouldn’t order this dish a second time.
Overall, the food we had at Tip Thai was decent, but nothing special, and quite typical of a restaurant its size. I suppose we should also factor in the location. Let’s face it: I wouldn’t expect mind-bogglingly amazing Thai food from a small restaurant in PoCo. In any case, though, the service was prompt, and the food arrived at our table at the speed of light, despite the presence of other patrons in the restaurant. So if you happen to be in PoCo and in need of a quick lunch or dinner, Tip Thai would be a decent spot. I mean, of course there’s better places for Thai food, but probably not anywhere close by.
Tip Thai Restaurant
2606 Shaughnessy Street
Port Coquitlam, BC
When first contemplating my visit to the UK, I wasn’t too excited about the food prospects. Nothing really sprang to mind when considering British cuisine, other than fish and chips and meat pies. Now I realize I was being close-minded, and that reducing British food to those two items would be like summarizing Canadian food as maple syrup and poutine (which I’m sure happens often enough). Like any country with large and diverse immigrant populations, the UK offers a variety of different cuisines to be indulged in.
While in Oxford, we had dinner one night at The Old Tom. The Old Tom was particularly interesting to me because while it serves Thai food, it still somewhat functions as the classic British pub (which to me just comes down to whether or not they serve Pimm’s). We were seated in an outdoor area behind the actual restaurant, where we could enjoy the summer air, although this was somewhat marred by the cigarette smoke issuing from nearby tables.
We started off with an order of the Vegetable Tempura (£3.95), which consisted of an interesting assortment of vegetables: carrots, onions, and red and green peppers. I’m not sure why they called this “tempura” on the menu, because the batter was clearly something different altogether. Although the items came out warm, it felt like they had used old oil, or that the items had been fried too long. The homemade chili sauce was both sweet and spicy. As far as appetizers go, this wasn’t terrible, but I probably wouldn’t order it again. I suppose fried items are just a pub staple.
Shawarma indulged in a classic in the Pad Thai with Chicken (£7.95), complete with all the usual suspects: rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, and ground peanuts. She was pleasantly surprised by this dish, as we honestly hadn’t expected anything great. Although the dish as a whole was slightly oily, it had that requisite tang from the tamarind. The noodles were slightly on the soft side, but the chicken was flavourless, although this was slightly ameliorated by the sauce. Pickles, who also had the pad thai, remarked that it was better than the version at Wagamama, although I guess that really isn’t saying much…
I opted for the Green Curry with Prawns (£8.95), with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, fresh chilies, sweet basil leaves, and peas, served with some steamed rice. The curry was on the sweet side, but still had a nice spicy kick. Like Shawarma, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this, as I hadn’t been expecting much from this small Oxford pub. In hindsight, I would have expected the curry itself to be a tad thicker, but it was nothing too troubling, and I was satisfied that they’d included five or six sizeable prawns. The rice was simple steamed rice and nothing too special, although it was clumped up a bit in places.
Overall, the food at the Old Tom wasn’t anything I would call exceptional, but it was more than acceptable, especially considering where we were. It’s necessary to have realistic expectations, right? I wouldn’t expect Oxford’s Asian restaurants to be on par with Vancouver’s. That being said, though, the Old Tom was a nice way to experience the quintessential British pub while having something other than conventional pub fare.
The Old Tom
101 Saint Aldate’s
Oxford, UK OX1 1BT
Despite my incessant raving about Japanese food on this blog, I would have to say that Thai food is also one of my favourite cuisines. I only discovered the magic of Thai food about a year ago, which is when my uncle visited us in Vancouver and we had dinner at Bob Likes Thai Food. From then on, I’ve been enamoured of Thai food, and regularly try out new places in Vancouver, although none have surpassed Bob.
While I was in London, this same uncle happened to be in town for work, and of course we decided to meet up. It was strange to see him in a city that neither of us call home, but after nearly a month without any direct contact with family, it was comforting to see a face that was so much like my dad’s.
We started off our afternoon by visiting Westminster Abbey. I thought I’d become desensitized to churches and cathedrals of all kinds, but I was wrong. Although it lacks the majestic Gothic beauty of the Notre Dame and the simplistic elegance of the Basilica de Sacré-Coeur, I thought Westminster Abbey was impressive simply due to its size. It reminded me of a scene in C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle, which is the last book in The Chronicles of Narnia. In the series’s finale, Lucy and Peter and the others find themselves in a magical, idealized version of Narnia, which appears to grow larger and larger as they venture further in. That’s a bit of a digression, but that’s how Westminster Abbey felt to me. It was also exciting to see the tombs of what seemed like every famous British person ever, from Queen Elizabeth I to Charles Dickens. Of course, in more recent news, the abbey was also the site of Prince William’s 2011 marriage to Kate Middleton.
Once we were done exploring the abbey, we stepped out into the muggy, sticky London weather. After taking a few tourist photos with Big Ben, we headed for an early dinner at a Thai restaurant that my uncle had visited numerous times before on previous visits to London. I was happy to be able to indulge in tasty Thai food, as my last experience with Thai cuisine in London had been nothing but disappointing.
Busaba Eathai offers a clean and spacious atmosphere for dining, with two arrangements of seats available. The first is a square wooden table with a wooden bench on each side, which is perfect for large groups. I also saw several of these tables seating two pairs of couples at opposite corners, which is a good option for maximizing the restaurant’s space while minimizing the awkwardness felt when sharing a table with strangers. The second type of seats, which we chose, were window seats that looked out onto a not-too-interesting London street. I liked our seats, which allowed us to have a quiet conversation while enjoying our food.
We decided to share three dishes, the first being the Tom Yam Talay (£6.90), a spicy, sour soup with prawns, squid, fish cakes, and vermicelli noodles. The soup had that strong lemongrass flavour that I always associate with Thai soups, being more sour and tangy than spicy. I loved that they weren’t skimpy with the seafood, and that the prawns were large and juicy. Considering the atmosphere of the restaurant and the quality of the food, I also thought that the prices were decent, especially considering that the restaurant was located near some tourist hotspots, especially the National Gallery.
Next, we made a very predictable choice in ordering the Pad Thai (£8.20). The rice noodles were accompanied by the requisite prawns, tofu, egg, ground peanuts, bean sprouts, and a wedge of lime. Fortunately for us, this was deliciously tart, tasting of real tamarind sauce as opposed to ketchup. As with the soup, the shrimp tasted fresh, retaining their natural snap and sweetness. The noodles were toothsome, and the other ingredients all tasted as they should. It wasn’t a life-changing plate of noodles, but it was certainly memorable.
Lastly, we indulged in more carbs with the Crab Meat Egg Fried Rice (£7.20). I suppose if I had to pick a disappointing dish out of this meal, it would be this one, but only because the other dishes were excellent. There was nothing inherently wrong with this dish, as the rice was slightly moist, and the crab meat added an unexpected dimension of flavour. It simply didn’t have any special appeal, and tasted like any other version of fried rice. I’ve found this to be the case with fried rice at many Thai restaurants, and maybe it’s my fault for continuing to order it despite this. Still, for the price we paid, this was a decently sized portion, and quite satisfying, although ultimately unmemorable.
Overall, I had a great time catching up with my uncle over the food at Busaba Eathai. It was by far the most satisfying experience I had with Thai cuisine in the UK, as it tasted quite similar to the Thai food available in Vancouver. Although I personally have never been to Thailand and therefore cannot vouch for the actual authenticity of the food here, my uncle enjoyed our meal as well, and he’s been to Thailand numerous times and knows much more about Thai cuisine than I do. In any case, if you’re ever in London and have an intense craving for Thai food, I would heartily recommend the dishes that I tried.
35 Panton Street
London, UK SW1 Y4EA
Sightseeing in London can be a battle. A battle against the oppressive July heat, against the huddled masses of tourists on the Tube, against the sticky humidity that leaves you feeling like you just spent days in the jungle when you’d only showered an hour before. Sometimes when I stood in line for hours at a particularly popular tourist attraction, I became lost in thoughts about how I was just another cow in a herd of tourists, and sometimes I started devising an escape plan in case the swarms of tourists around me succumbed to Black Friday syndrome and proceeded to simply stampede their way into whatever monument/museum/palace I happened to be at, much like the wildebeests in The Lion King. Still, these morbid thoughts didn’t stop me from visiting every tourist attraction in London that I could manage, including, of course, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Dolph, Pickles and I arrived at Buckingham Palace by walking from Green Park station through Hyde Park. We were an hour early, but of course there were already swarms of tourists lining the gates. We managed to get decent spots near the gate to observe the changing of the guard, and the Guards band played the title song from Skyfall, which was fun. To be honest, it was a lot of waiting, but it’s not everyday that you get to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. In any case, we spent the rest of the day doing some more touristy things, including purchasing tea at Fortnum & Mason and visiting the National Gallery, which houses, among other pieces, Van Gogh’s Armchair. I’m not much of an art critic, but I have a special love of Van Gogh, so I was a happy camper. One of the best things about London is that many of the museums and galleries, including the National Gallery and the British Museum, are free, which is always a bonus when you’re on a tight budget.
We ended up wandering into Blue Lagoon, a small Thai restaurant nearby. It was a relatively small restaurant, and we were the only patrons when we walked in, which was relatively early, possibly around 5 PM. The three of us spent a short amount of time perusing the regular menu before deciding to order the 2 course set dinner, which was on special for £10 and included a set of three appetizers and a main dish of your choice. We then waited for our food to come, and in addition to the usual awkwardness of being the only table of patrons at a restaurant, I found the waiting process particularly awkward here. For one thing, there was a server who was leaning against a wall opposite our table for the longest time, without doing any work. We had the uncomfortable feeling that he was watching us, and while it’s generally considered a good thing for a waiter to be keeping his eye on you, it was excessive here to the point that we found it uncomfortable. In any case, onwards to the food…
First to arrive, of course, was our plate of Appetizers: some chicken skewers, spring rolls, and toast with prawn paste. Considering that this was essentially a plate of grilled and fried foods, it was oily and satisfying. It also came out piping hot, which is great except that I hadn’t expected it and ended up burning my tongue. In any case, I found the toast with prawn paste especially interesting, since I’d never had it before–the toast was crunchy and was also topped with sesame seeds, which added a nice texture. The chicken was moist, while the spring rolls were fried up nicely, and the peanut sauce was a good balance between creamy and chunky. Greasy food is so comforting after a long day of walking.
Our main courses arrived soon after. Pickles had chosen the Yellow Curry, which was accompanied by a bowl of rice. We were disappointed to see that the rice was short-grain, as opposed to the long-grain rice that is usually served at Thai restaurants. Pickles also found that the yellow curry wasn’t aromatic enough, and that there wasn’t enough of a signature curry flavour to it, either. I generally enjoy the strong flavour of coconut milk in yellow curries, but it wasn’t too apparent here.
Dolph went for a classic in the Pad Thai. Out of the three of us, I think she was the most satisfied with her meal. The noodles had a very pleasing, chewy and bouncy texture. Although the prawns were more on the mushy side than having a natural snap, she thought that the plentiful amount of prawns included more than made up for it.
I, meanwhile, opted for my usual favourite, the Green Curry, which included aubergine, chicken, and red and green peppers. I liked that it tasted strongly of coconut milk while still retaining a nice spicy aftertaste. However, soon after finishing this meal, I felt light-headed and a bit queasy. You could blame this on the heat and the fact that I’d been walking all day, but I do have strong suspicions that our meal had copious amounts of MSG, which I suppose is to be expected. Too much MSG makes me feel light-headed and thirsty, though, which is pretty much what happened here.
Would I recommend a meal at Blue Lagoon? Probably not. Although the food was passable, it wasn’t authentic Thai food. Plus, the service was awkward to the point that it was a bit intimidating. I actually had a much more pleasant experience at another Thai restaurant nearby the next week, so I would recommend you pass on Blue Lagoon.
London SW1Y 4DG
Mid-April: that time of year when university students (in Vancouver, at least) are drowning in final papers and exams. Luckily enough for me, my exam schedule this year ended relatively early (although this resulted simply because I had all four of my exams within three days). SB’s last exam was on the day after mine ended, so we decided to celebrate by having dinner–and for this celebratory dinner, I chose Baan Wasana, recommended to me by my friend Chris.
Baan Wasana is located in this charmingly quaint area of Kerrisdale, across the street from Faubourg and just a few bus stops away from Oakridge Centre. Compared to other shops in the area, its storefront may appear a bit shoddy, but the inside is clean, pretty, and surprisingly upscale. However, the prices are still affordable (around the $10 mark), so we ordered our food without feeling too overwhelmed.
First, we shared the Satay ($8.75 for 4 pieces). We chose to have chicken, but pork and beef were also available. These skewers were served with Thai peanut sauce and cucumber relish. The peanut sauce was a bit thin and watery, and we would have preferred it to be thicker and more flavourful. The cucumber relish was vinegary and refreshing, especially in contrast with the chicken. Meanwhile, the chicken itself was quite moist, and while I’m not enough of an expert to identify the different spices used, I could still taste the different spices that the meat had been marinated in. The meat also came off the skewers quite easily, although we would have preferred to be given knives, as the only utensils provided were forks and spoons.
Moving onwards to the entrees, SB had the Raad Naa ($10.95), which was a stir-fried rice noodle dish in soya gravy, with Chinese broccoli and chicken (or pork). Neither of us had even heard of the dish before so we weren’t sure what to expect, but here goes. The gravy had a very strong savoury flavour that we guessed was due to the use of MSG. (And after the meal, both of us did get quite thirsty, which was also probably due to the use of MSG). The gravy was quite thick and gloopy, and would have probably congealed if left alone for a bit. The noodles themselves were very soft and not at all chewy, lacking what I love best about flat rice noodles. This was an acceptable dish considering that we randomly picked it from the menu, but we probably wouldn’t order this again.
And, of course, I had the requisite Pad Thai ($10.95), which came with a choice of either prawns, chicken, or veggies. You can also choose the level of spiciness that you would like. (Having been warned by Chris, I ordered it mild, and it stil had a strong spicy aftertaste after each bite). As you can see, I chose the prawns, of which there were four. These prawns were on the large size and had a nice snap to them. Although this dish looked promising, and I ate quite a bit of it, it was a bit lacking. The noodles could have been chewier, and the pressed tofu was served in tiny pieces that made it difficult to really taste anything. Moreover, this pad thai simply didn’t have the X factor. It lacked that tangy, sour taste that I strongly associate with pad thai, and in the end, it simply wasn’t memorable. It wasn’t a bad plate of noodles by any means, but it was not outstanding.
Would we visit Baan Wasana again? Perhaps. If we were in the neighbourhood and I didn’t feel like spending a lot of money, this would probably be a good option. Both of us were quite full at the end of our meal, and our bill totaled to less than $40 after tax and tip. Although the food was acceptable here, it didn’t completely satisfy my craving for Thai food.
Baan Wasana Thai
2143 West 41st Avenue
Some meals I enjoy more than others for a certain novelty factor. I think that’s the reason I love going out for breakfast or brunch, simply because I rarely have the time for it. Going out for lunch on a weekday is kind of unusual for me as well, considering I have school five days a week, work, and some extracurricular activities. Faced with weekends over-scheduled with studying and work, SB and I decided to have lunch on a Friday, at a spot near campus. I was craving Thai and so decided on Thai Terrace, a small restaurant near the intersection of Broadway and MacDonald, easily accessible through the 99 B-Line.
What drew me to Thai Terrace (in addition to my obvious love of Thai food) is the reasonably priced lunch specials. The lunch specials are all $8, and include an entree, side of rice, a salad, and a soup or a spring roll. That’s quite a reasonable price, especially considering the neighbourhood, so I was willing to give it a try.
So here’s the Salad that we both received as the start to our meals. It simply consisted of pieces of lettuce, julienned carrots, and corn. I’m not exactly sure what the dressing was, but it tasted strongly of apples, which I enjoyed. I generally enjoy salads as long as the ingredients seem fresh, and this was decent. The corn was a nice touch, and made it a bit more special than any old regular salad served at any old regular restaurant. Also, I thought that the little dish they served it in was adorable. Do the plates and cutlery really enhance your dining experience? Maybe not for some people…but I’ve probably inherited my mom’s love of plate ware.
As the second accompaniment to my meal, I chose the Soup. They didn’t specify exactly what kind of soup this was, but it tasted strongly of coconut milk and lemongrass. It was very thin and watery, and I would perhaps describe it as more of a broth than a soup. It tasted homey and was a comforting way to start the meal, although I would have appreciated more ingredients than the diced green onions and chunks of tofu that were included. The portion size is not bad–I ended up finishing maybe three quarters of the bowl.
For his entree, SB chose the Pad Num Man Hoi, with a choice of either chicken, beef, or tofu sauteed with oyster sauce over a bed of boiled broccoli and carrots. He thought that the chicken was sliced too thinly, perhaps to compensate for the ingredients not being perfectly fresh. Still, he was satisfied with the veggies, as the broccoli was crunchy, while the carrots were chewy. The oyster sauce was quite oily. The meal was also served with some rice and a spring roll, the alternative choice to the soup.
The spring roll was quite crispy, while the sauce was extremely sweet and syrupy. The rice was standard. I thought the portion size was a bit small, especially in comparison to my meal. After this, SB still downed two slices of pizza before he was satisfied (although he does have a big appetite). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this option if you’re starving.
Meanwhile, I decided on the Pad Thai, as I usually do. Their version had the requisite fried rice noodles with egg, pressed tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts, with a choice of chicken, beef, tofu, or prawns for the protein. I opted for the prawns, of which there were maybe two…but what can you really expect for the price? The portion size was decent, but the noodles could have been chewier. I liked how it didn’t taste overwhelmingly of ketchup, as is often the case with inauthentic Thai food. The ingredients were all fine, with nothing being especially amiss, although the carrots had a strange texture and didn’t seem at all fresh. Overall, it was a decent pad thai, nothing outstanding, but fine for the price I paid. If Bob Likes Thai Food were closer to school, I would choose to go there in a heartbeat…but beggars can’t be choosers.
Overall, we weren’t incredibly impressed with our experience at Thai Terrace, but I wasn’t expecting much anyway. It’s more of a small, family-run place for those in the neighbourhood to get their Thai fix with polite, unobtrusive service, and fine for a quick lunch.
2872 West Broadway
More Thai food, you ask? After our lovely dinner at Bob Likes Thai Food, my dad insisted we try another Thai restaurant a bit closer to home. So on a rainy Saturday night all four of us (sans uncle this time) drove out to Go Thai with open minds. It’s a smaller, much less stylish operation than Bob Likes Thai Food, and even at first glance you can tell that the restaurant itself is quite old. The paint is scratched in places, and the water glasses, although clean, are noticeably scratched up as well. Despite this, the restaurant looked relatively clean and well-operated, and the kitchen floors (which we could see easily from our seats) were spotless.
We started off with the Tom Yum Gai ($7.95), hot and sour soup with exotic Thai herbs, sliced button mushrooms, and chicken. When the waitress first brought this over to our table, we smelled it before we saw it. For all of us, it strangely reminded us of the smell of Korean fermented bean paste (not a pleasant smell, in case you’re wondering). At first sip, it tasted strongly of lemongrass, and had an almost poisonously spicy aftertaste. Maybe it would be more accurate to describe as “hot” rather than “spicy”, as it left a burning sensation on my lips long after I took several sips of cold water. I personally have a high tolerance for spicy foods, but if you do not, I wouldn’t recommend this.
Go Thai also offers a varieties of curries, which you can choose to have either with beef, pork, chicken, tofu, or prawns. We opted for the Green Curry ($11.95) with chicken. This was a disappointment. The curry was very thin and watered down. We also felt that the ingredients weren’t integrated properly with the curry itself, as they felt like two separate components. The flavours were noticeably muted, with the only strong flavour being the coconut milk. Besides the chicken, there were also some green peppers and eggplant included.
And of course we had to have an order of the Pad Thai ($9.95). Added to the usual sweet and sour taste of pad thai was a strangely bitter aftertaste. It was also a little too wet, with the noodles getting lost a bit in the sauce, which was a bit too cold to be enjoyable. The noodles themselves were forgettable, not having enough bite to stand up to the other ingredients. As with the curry, we felt that the ingredients had been rather randomly thrown together. Although the peanuts and bean sprouts added some much needed textural contrast, I would say that this dish was a definite flop.
We deviated a bit from our usual favourite items and tried the Phad King ($9.95), which you can also try with the same proteins as above. As with the curry, we decided on chicken. This dish was mostly for my dad, as the menu description of sautéed ginger, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms sounded quite healthy. Sadly, though, my dad didn’t enjoy it, as the sauce was much too watered down. Although the taste of ginger was quite prominent, this was a mediocre, unmemorable dish.
Next up is the Go Thai Fried Rice ($8.95), with chicken, BBQ pork, egg, tomatoes, onions, and peas. When this first arrived, I felt suspicious: it looked awfully like any old fried rice you can get at your neighbourhood Chinese restaurant. And sad to say, it tasted exactly like your average Chinese fried rice. To their credit, though, the rice wasn’t overly oily or wet, and I would gladly have eaten this in any other circumstance, except that I had expected some bolder flavours.
As you can see, we weren’t too impressed by the dishes we sampled at Go Thai, which were all unmemorable. I found that the bold flavours found in Thai food were all muted, most likely to appeal to the clientele, but the food was simply too bland to enjoy. It’s not like Go Thai has much competition with its location in New West, but, to be honest, I would rather drive out somewhere further for more authentic Thai food rather than eat here again. It wasn’t that Go Thai is necessarily bad, it’s just that there is much better elsewhere.
502 East Columbia Street
New Westminster, BC