Summer is the season of (among other things) superhero movies. SB is a huge fan of superhero movies, so we started off the summer with Iron Man 3, with our next selection being Man of Steel. We were planning to watch it at our cheap neighbourhood movie theatre, with a quick, cheap lunch beforehand. And what could be cheaper than $4.95 lunch specials?
X-Site Grill and Bistro, on the eastern end of Hastings Street, epitomizes cheap food for me. $5.95 dinner specials, and $4.95 lunch specials (with the purchase of a beverage). I generally like nothing more than cold water to accompany my meals, but I was curious about what kind of food they could be serving for less-than-McDonald’s-prices, so I indulged in an iced tea to be able to order one of their lunch specials.
Because we were both quite hungry, we decided to order a Calamari ($6.95) to share. As far as calamari goes, this was decent, but not exceptional. The tzatziki sauce was oddly thick, and lacked any real tang–it simply tasted like sour cream. I love sour cream as much as the next person, but I wasn’t satisfied. The squid itself was tender, but overseasoned and seemed saltier and saltier the more we ate it. The dish was served warm, and the batter wasn’t quite crispy, but it was fine for what it was.
SB decided on the New York Peppercorn Steak ($9.95), a 60z New York strip served with Dijon peppercorn sauce, rice pilaf, roasted potatoes, green salad, and garlic bread. The steak was a bit small, as expected, and came out closer to medium rather than the medium rare we’d requested. As such, it was a bit too chewy–but what can you really expect? At least the peppercorn sauce added a nice kick. As for the sides, the salad was crisp and fresh, while the garlic bread was warm and toasted. Considering how expensive even a fast food meal is nowadays, this is a good deal for just $10.
As for me, I had the lunch special Chicken Souvlaki ($4.95), which was served with rice pilaf, roast potatoes, Caesar salad, pita bread, and tzatziki sauce. The chicken was both juicy and tender, and nicely seasoned. There wasn’t really anything to complain about here, except for the croutons in my salad. I’m a huge crouton aficionado (if such a thing exists), and I like my croutons to be salty, cheesy, and garlicky, with a nice crunch. I often force/coerce my friends to get extra croutons at those build-your-own-salad-bars so that I can satisfy my crouton craving. Anyways, I find most croutons to fulfill my requirements, but these croutons tasted oddly burnt. Each one I had tasted burnt, with no other recognizable taste. You probably don’t care about croutons as much as I do (I don’t think anybody does), so let’s move onto the other sides. Other than the croutons, nothing was particularly amiss, with the lettuce being crisp and the rice being well-cooked, and the tzatziki sauce was the same as the one served with our calamari. The pita bread was warm and slightly crispy, and not doused in oil as it is at some Greek restaurants. Overall, this was just a lot of food, especially considering the price, and enjoyable, despite the crouton mishap.
There really isn’t that much more to say about our meal here. The service was a bit lacklustre–despite the nearly empty restaurant, it took us a long time to flag someone down for the bill. Still, the food was cheap and did the job. This area of Burnaby isn’t exactly known for its fine dining scene, so if you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive bite to eat, X-Site will probably do the job.
X-Site Grill and Bistro
4625 Hastings Street
So, Mui Garden closed down, leaving my family in despair. Maybe despair is a strong term, but my family is picky about what we eat, and when it comes to Chinese food, there are many restaurants we can’t dine at due to our aversion to MSG. I’d heard great things about No. 1 Chinese Restaurant on the corner of Hastings and Boundary, so my family drove out there for dinner one night. We arrived early and were seated promptly, but the restaurant quickly filled up, which is always a good sign.
The interior of the restaurant is a bit odd. Beside me there was a mural of a landscape that vaguely reminded me of an amalgamation of Switzerland and Greece. Apparently the spot was formerly occupied by a European restaurant, and the new owners opted not to paint over the themed mural. I personally hate murals (the minimalist in me prefers a plain wall), but a restaurant should be judged primarily on its food.
Apparently the dish to get here is the Deep Fried Tofu with Golden Garlic ($8.50). I had no idea what to expect from this. After all, what’s so special about tofu, right? But we all fell in love within a couple bites. The outside layer is a bit salty and crunchy, but the tofu inside is incredibly smooth and silky. My mom has sensitive teeth and often has to be careful about what she eats, but this was perfect for her. This came out piping hot, so keep that in mind before you take a bite. All the dishes we tried were delicious, but this was the most memorable for me.
The dish I was least satisfied with was the Wonton Noodle Soup ($4.95). The main reason is that I’m not a huge fan of MSG, and I could taste it in the soup, plus I was terribly thirsty and headachey afterwards. Other than that, I found the noodles a bit tough, and thought that they could have been cooked a bit longer. The wontons consisted of a pork and prawn filling and a smooth, slippery skin. The skin was also quite thin, which I liked. I’m not sure I would order this again, though, since I have a low tolerance for MSG.
Next up is the Spicy Szechuan Fried Beans ($8.95). The green beans were fresh and actually tasted like real vegetables, which was nice. I often find that fried veggies lose their crispness, but not here. I also liked how the accompanying pork was julienned, which made it easy to pick up and eat, unlike the ground version found at other restaurants. Also, the beans weren’t saturated in sauce, which was great, and in reality the flavour was quite mild, although there was some heat. I really appreciated how this wasn’t too salty, which made it an enjoyable dish for all of us.
We usually make an effort to order a dish with prawns, since my mom really likes them, and here we ordered the Pan Fried Prawns with Peanuts in Chili Sauce ($12.95). They were fine, but didn’t stand out in comparison with the other dishes at the table. The prawns had a nice snap and retained their natural sweetness, while the veggies tasted crisp and natural. I actually expected these to be spicy, but I didn’t think that they exhibited any real heat. This dish was more than fine, but I didn’t end up eating much of it, since we had a lot of other great dishes at the table.
Next up, we have the Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles ($7.75), with a vermicelli version also offered on their menu. If given the choice, I always choose rice noodles–I much prefer the broad, chewy noodles to the thinner ones. In addition to the huge heap of noodles, the dish included some bean sprouts and bits of fried egg. The curry sauce was subtle and not too overwhelming, and the prawns were once again satisfying. This was a great portion size, especially considering the price, and easily fulfilled my carb quotient for the meal.
The last item we ordered was the Rock Cod and Tofu with Pork Hot Pot ($9.95). Doesn’t it look delicious in the photo? Well, looks don’t lie, because this was a solid dish, to say the least. I loved how the fish was just a little bit crispy on the outside, and flaky and moist on the inside. The tofu was a bit sweet from having soaked up the broth, but was both chewy on the outside and smooth on the inside. We’d ordered a couple sides of rice, and eating these hot, steaming pieces of tofu and fish alongside the warm, white rice was heaven. This was also a great value for the price, and we would definitely order this again on another visit.
Overall, I have nothing but great things to say about my family’s experience here. The food was well-executed and served in sizeable portions, and the prices were quite reasonable. As far as service goes, it wasn’t exceptional, but the servers were friendly enough and always made sure that our cups were full. I would definitely recommend that you pay a visit–and make sure to order the tofu when you’re there!
No. 1 Chinese Restaurant
102A-3701 Hastings Street
“I want sushi,” declares SB, for possibly the five millionth time in the six years I’ve known him. Generally I try to be creative and take him to new sushi places, in order to have some varied posts for the blog. But on this particular day, it was rainy and dreary, and we simply decided to have lunch at the Lougheed Highway location of Sushi Garden, which we’d been to a million times. I hadn’t yet blogged about Sushi Garden, and since I’d just purchased my new camera, it seemed like the perfect time.
The big joke about Sushi Garden is that SB and I have been here so many times and we basically order the same items every time. We usually start off our meal by declaring, “I’m going to try something new today!” and then revert to our usual choices. I suppose we’re just creatures of habit. In any case, SB ordered his usual in the Spicy Tuna Don ($9.50). And, as usual, it was satisfying, with the sauce being really spicy (resulting in SB breaking out in a sweat and drinking all of his, as well as my, water). He wasn’t as satisfied this time, however, because the tuna tasted a little frozen, and hadn’t been properly defrosted. The rice and the lettuce were standard, while SB personally felt that there were too many cucumber chunks. This sounds like a lot of complaining, but on the whole, I thought the quality and quantity was fine, especially for the price we were paying. Sushi Garden is definitely not the place to come if you’re expecting quality food and quality service (although some of their waiters are very nice and accommodating). Their focus is most definitely the quantity.
And look, we actually tried something new this time in the BBQ Salmon Roll ($3.95). I usually dislike these larger rolls since I have trouble eating them in one bite and have to take them apart, but oh well. There wasn’t much comprising this roll, with the insides literally being just cucumber and the BBQ salmon itself. The only way I can think to describe this is…dry. The salmon itself and the rice were both so dry that it wasn’t even counteracted by the natural water from the cucumbers. The roll also fell apart easily, which is a common problem with these larger rolls. There’s a reason that SB and I stick to our usual rolls at Sushi Garden–the new ones always end up disappointing us. But for $3.95, what could we expect, right? I would not order this roll again, but felt that some kind of sauce would help, or even a little bit of mayo on the inside of the roll or drizzled on top. Due to the dryness, there was no real flavour, and everything ended up being one bland, dry mush.
Despite our negative experience with the BBQ Salmon Roll, I’ve always been satisfied with my regular choices at Sushi Garden, like the Alaska Roll ($3.50) and Negitoro Roll ($2.95). The picture of the Alaska Roll is from a separate trip long ago, as my camera didn’t want to focus on the one we had this time. First, the Alaska Roll: thinly sliced salmon on top, with avocado and masago inside, drizzled with their house sauce. I haven’t been able to figure this sauce out yet, although I can tell it contains pureed apple for sure. This time, there wasn’t a sufficient amount of sauce, although what sauce there was, was drizzled mostly on the rice, which ended up being soggy. It was still decent, though, and we both enjoyed it. As for the negitoro roll, the seaweed was soggy and hard to break off, with the toro being very, very cold. Still, we both liked it, since the toro was sweet while the green onion had a satisfying crunch.
And here’s the last of our favourite rolls, being the Spicy Chopped Scallop Roll ($3.50). (Funny story: we order these so often that I forgot to write down the prices at the restaurant, and SB had them memorized…) Once again, this had some soggy seaweed, but lots and lots of filling. I personally love scallops and this was what I was looking for. The sauce wasn’t too spicy and didn’t overwhelm the natural flavour of the scallops. The cucumbers did their thing, adding some variety to the texture.
I bet you’re getting sick of all this sushi, so I did have one cooked item, the Kitsune Udon ($4.95), just some noodles in the typical overly sweet broth, with some fish cakes and button mushrooms. Likewise, I’ve had this so many times, and don’t have many thoughts about it. It’s quite one-dimensional, although the noodles were nicely chewy. And for a price like $4.95, how can we complain? All I really wanted was something warm to fill me up, and this did the job.
So what’s my conclusion on Sushi Garden? It’s not the place to go if you want authentic sushi, or quality sashimi. I would say it is better than many smaller neighbourhood sushi places, and they have a good variety of raw as well as cooked items. The service is usually indifferent, but what can you expect at these prices? Maybe it’s just my high school nostalgia kicking in, but despite Sushi Garden’s shortcomings, there’s a reason I keep going back.
4269 Lougheed Highway
Of the many thoughts running through my head when I drive down Hastings Street, two are relevant to this post: first, “Oh hey, what happened to Anducci’s?”, and second, “I’m really craving some pizza”. Well, it turns out the Anducci’s on Hastings and Fell has closed its doors, and a new, rather upscale looking pizza joint has replaced it– Cotto Pizzeria.
Samson and I decided to make a visit there after work one day, since it’s so close to the skating rink. We parked on one of the side streets before realizing that the lot landmarked by the run-down ex-Subway building was actually a parking lot for the pizzeria. Oh well, it wasn’t raining (yet). We were greeted by a few hostesses at the front of the glitzy, busy restaurant, who sat us at a table near the bar (which boasted a pretty large wine collection).
We started our night with two glasses of wine from their Freshtap system– for Samson, a glass of Blasted Church Big Bang ($7.50), a red wine blend from BC, and for myself, a glass of Casa Bianco ($5), a pinot bianco-trebbiano blend from Italy. We thought that the pricing was pretty reasonable, and for me especially. It was a good way to try some wines, since it’s not like we were going to a winery anytime soon. Samson felt that his glass was lightly spicy, but didn’t have a very full body, which he didn’t mind, but he probably wouldn’t order it again. As for me… well I’m no wine connoisseur, so all I can say was that the wine was crisp and pleasant to sip at, with a bit of a citrus note. I don’t know if I’d order it again, however, since there are so many wines one can try… this one didn’t really stand out from the others that I’ve had.
I have to say, the Bread our extremely attentive waitress brought over was some of the best I’ve had, even though it wasn’t served warm. The outside was just crusty enough to emit a nice crunch when you bite into it, but didn’t explode into a pile of crumbs on the table; nor did it hurt the top of my mouth. The inside was chewy and pillowy soft at the same time, and it went pretty well with the dip they gave us (I think it was some sort of hummus with truffle oil). On the side of each table are bottles of olive oil, one infused with rosemary and garlic, and the other… well, we’re not too sure about the other one, because it just tasted oily. I’m guessing it’s supposed to be some kind of pepper, since it’s red. We obviously liked the rosemary/garlic one more, and I definitely enjoyed dipping my bread into it (the only problem is that the bottles are a bit leaky).
Good bread is often a sign of good things to come, and that it did, in the Fior di Latte ($8), which comes with your choice of ingredients–we chose Prosciutto San Danielle and Roma Tomatoes, but there’s also the choice of Roasted Crema di Balsamico and Eggplant Caponata, Cauliflower and Salsa Verde (I know about half the words in those two ingredient descriptions). We were expecting the portion size to be bigger since it cost $8, but the ingredients and presentation were superb, so I guess it justifies it a little. The fior di latte was very, very light, and was salted just a tiny bit for added flavour; it paired well with the fatty prosciutto, whereas the balsamic roma tomatoes helped offset the fattiness. I would want to order this again since it tasted so great, but the price is holding me back a little.
We also shared a half order of their Canneloni Spinaci ($12 half, $22 full) which was a little different than what I expected. Instead of the thicker, denser noodle I usually imagine as the wrapper, this was a thinner, eggier noodle, reminiscent in ways of a crepe. The ingredients in the middle (spinach, ricotta and marscapone cheese) were pretty standard, if not a wee bit on the bland side (but I like blander tasting things). I’m a little conflicted about my opinion of this dish– while I did enjoy the lighter noodle, which didn’t make me feel extremely bloated, I did wish that there was a little more substance to it, as I was hoping for more. Perhaps their regular-sized portion is a little more filling?
And to the main reason of our visit– the pizza! The restaurant boasts a lovely looking woodfire oven at the front of the restaurant, so OF COURSE you can’t pass up the chance to eat food made from it (and it is a pizza place after all). There were quite a few pizzas to choose from, and we narrowed it down between the Pizza Funghi and the Pizza Cotto (both $15), which included Yukon Gold potatoes, Sloping Hill pancetta, fried Brussel sprout leaves, gorgonzola dolce and fonduta (not sure what that last one is). Judging from the picture and the bolded font, I’m sure you could guess that the Pizza Funghi won. The toppings on the pizza we chose included a variety of roasted mushrooms (button, crimini and shitake among others), caramelized onions, goat cheese and chives, which rested on a nicely leoparded crust. I don’t believe I’ve had Neapolitan-style pizza before, but based on other food blogs’ reviews of such dining establishments, I think this one holds up. The crust was thin where there were toppings, but not too thick on the edge, and the ingredients didn’t make the pizza dough soggy or too limp. The mushrooms added a spongey texture (in a good way) to the dish. For the price, I’d say this is a pretty good deal– the pizza is cut into 8 large slices, and I was pretty full by the time I was finishing up the last piece (granted, I did have some pasta and bread).
We had originally wanted a “cheap” meal, so I have no idea why we ended up ordering dessert as well– maybe because I simply couldn’t pass up the delicious sounding combination of Panna Cotta ($8) and lemon curd. The panna cotta was full of vanilla flavour, and the lemon curd was appropriately tart but sweet. The addition of meringue reminded me of my mom’s yummy lemon tarts, and the shortbread complimented it all as only a buttery cookie can. Scrumptious things aside, we felt that this portion was a on the small side, as desserts go–I definitely didn’t want to share this one, and I probably could have gobbled up 3 more as well (I don’t know if that’s a testament to how small it is or how much of a pig I am).
All in all, I did like our visit to Cotto– the atmosphere is nice, catering to different crowds (mid-thirties set, families, couples on dates), and the food was pretty decent, though a little on the pricey side considering the neighbourhood. Since it’s so close to my workplace, I can definitely see myself making a future visit– I’d want to try out some of their other pizzas (the Pizza Cotto does sounds really good), as well as the other wines they stock.
Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria
6011 Hastings Street
My school schedule this term actually isn’t half bad– with classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only, I have plenty of time for finishing up school work at school (anyone else find that they can’t focus at home?), plus I can teach and volunteer during the week as well! A side benefit of this schedule is that I have more time to actually go out and eat… which means more blog posts too!
So Samson and I decided to go out one Wednesday night for a quick dinner– with no particular place in mind, we turned to the Hastings Heights, a sure place to find food nearby. Lucky for us, Chad Thai on Hastings and MacDonald was open, and we had heard great things from David, so we decided to try it out.
The restaurant is small, with maybe 15 tables total. Of these, only 1 was occupied when we entered, so we had our pick– a seat near the window, of course! A friendly waitress, who I can only assume is the owner/manager of the family-run joint quickly brought over menus and water, and let us know about the daily special.
There was so much on the menu, we were really unsure of what to pick! We ended up with the daily special and two salads (one cold and one warm), as well as some rice on the side. First up was the Som Tum, or green papaya salad. This version had plenty of shredded carrots, radish and peanuts as well as tomato chunks, green beans and dried shrimp, but was a little under-stocked on the green papaya. The dressing was pretty typical– tart from the lime and tamarind, sweet and spicy– but I appreciated that we were able to choose the degree of spice (we had the mild for everything, since we were new to the place). This was definitely a good starter, as it was crisp and very refreshing.
Next up was the Nam Tok Moo, a warm pork salad with bits of pounded roasted rice (which didn’t taste too much like rice, because it was the tiny bits were all spread out and covered with sauce), dressed with slices of red onion, and plenty of green onions, mint and cilantro. The pork slices were thinly sliced and had just enough fat to make it deliciously textured without being overly unhealthy. The dressing for this salad tasted a little bit like a spicier fish sauce mix, which was again tart with a hint of spice. We probably could have ordered this in the hot (I definitely would next time I come here).
For our main dish, we had the Khao Soi curry noodles, which actually included two types of noodle– a flat egg noodle reminiscent of Chinese ho fun, and a crunchy noodle topping. With the noodles came an abundance of moist chicken pieces, as well as cilantro and green onion garnishes and sides of pickled radish, hot sauce and a lime wedge. The best part of the dish was the curry soup, which was very coconutty and creamy– the stuff of comfort foods. I liked this so much that I had a craving for it the next day, and it’s rare that I want the same dish two days in a row.
In addition to this, we actually ordered a bowl of Coconut Rice as well so we had something to soak up the sauce (for this and for the Nam Tok Moo). This was one of the best bowls of coconut rice I’ve had– it was very aromatic and sweet, and the rice was decently fluffy and not too hard, like it had been sitting in a cooker all day. Size-wise, this was a pretty good deal too: for $3, we received a huge bowl of it, and could barely finish it all.
We decided to deviate from our regular routine and ordered dessert at the restaurant instead of going to a different place. Now, I forgot to take a picture of he Vanilla Ice Cream with Topping, but basically we got a big bowl of ice cream with palm seeds on top (this photo is from khiewchanta.com, a Thai recipe site that also conveniently has pictures of the more ethnic ingredients used in Thai cuisine.) This was a real treat on a hot day– the ice cream was a little on the icy side (which I actually appreciated) and was very vanilla-y as well, though I don’t believe they make their own ice cream here. We decided to be adventurous and chose palm seeds for our single topping, and I’m glad we did. These chewy, translucent gelatinous balls changed up the dessert texturally, and while they didn’t have too much of a flavour profile beyond “sweet”, I really enjoyed them! So much so that I ended up buying a can of palm seeds from PriceSmart Foods (the exact brand above) so I could replicate the dessert at home.
Overall, both Samson and I felt that this was a very satisfying meal, as the food was obviously prepared with care by the kitchen staff (I feel like maybe there was only 1 cook back there… I didn’t hear too much coming from the kitchen aside from cooking sounds). The woman who greeted us and the teenaged boy who served us were both friendly and helpful, even when I made the weird request of asking for more cilantro for my noodles. They took the time to explain dishes to us, and really contributed to making our visit a great one. I could see also that the locals like to come here– lots of people came to get take out orders, and while not many tables were filled that night, I could tell that the patrons there enjoyed themselves as much as I did (one family actually ordered two of the same dish because the son loved it so much he wanted it for lunch the next day… maybe I should have done that!). Our meal came to about $25 each, which is a little bit on the high side for the neighbourhood and kind of establishment, but for the quality of food and service, I would gladly spend my money here again.
4010 East Hastings Street
One of the perks of transiting to work is that you really get to notice all the stores and restaurants around you that you don’t normally pay attention to. I had such an opportunity this summer, when I was commuting to work at McGill Park in North Burnaby. Five days a week, I would trek down the Heights, wearing my blue City shirt and listening to my favourite song (which happened to be from the Tangled Soundtrack. I work with kids, ok?), and I would almost always notice a shop or restaurant that I didn’t pay attention to before.
Los Compadres (or A Little Taste of Mexico, I’m not sure which since both names are displayed, but Urbanspoon goes with the former) was a restaurant that I’ve been past countless times on my way to church, but I’ve never really had the desire to eat there. Maybe because I would pass by when the blinds were drawn/restaurant was closed, or maybe because it’s a little morbid eating next to a funeral home… whatever the case was, at the beginning of summer I found myself walking in during dinnertime, where I grabbed a take-out menu to peruse on my way home.
I didn’t get the chance to go there until the middle of August, when Samson, Darek and I were looking for a place to grab a quick bite before we went shopping for our camping trip. Since this was close by my park and sort of on the way to Superstore, we decided to stop by.
We were seated right by the street (the windows open up all the way), and given menus to look at by the sole waitress working. We ordered an appy and 3 mains– first up was the Pico De Gallo, which came in a modest portion with a basket of tortilla chips. The veggies in the pico de gallo were fresh– peppers and onions were crisp, tomatoes were diced nicely– and there was just enough seasoning from the fresh herbs. The chips were adequate, and were a manageable size (I hate it when the chips are too big for the dip, so you end up with a tiny bit of salsa/whatever and way too much plain chip that you can’t double dip. Not that we really care about double dipping.) Although I wish there was more pico de gallo to go around, we didn’t expect too much since it was only $3.50.
Two out of our three mains were tacos– we ordered both soft and hard shells, with fillings of chorizo, pork, chicken or beef, of which you can choose two of if you’re ordering the 4-taco option (not too sure what the protocol is for 2 tacos). Since we had 4 options for meat, we decided to split them half-half between the two different kinds of tacos. The Hard Shell Tacos were filled with pork and beef , as well as the usual fixings of lettuce, cheese, tomatoes as well as a light drizzle of sour cream. I’ve never actually tried hard tacos before, since I always deemed them too messy to eat properly (and I’m a pretty messy eater as is… don’t really need crispy bits of taco flying everywhere too). The veggie fillings all tasted quite fresh, though the meats were a bit on the dry side. This was compensated for by the generous amount of lime juice and hot sauce, though.
Our Soft Shell Tacos, filled with chorizo and chicken and topped with tomatoes, onions and cilantro, were a tiny bit of a disappointment. The fillings themselves were fine– the chicken was surprisingly not too dry, the chorizo had a good amount of heat, and the toppings were fresh– but the tortillas were on the dry side. Much like La Taqueria, Los Compadres serves their soft shell tacos on a double tortilla, and these were a bit too thick. I think part of the issue too was that there was no sauce accompanying the meat (like the De Cachete at La Taq, which was super juicy), so the tortillas seemed even dryer than usual. I ended up moving half the filling onto the 2nd tortilla so that I didn’t have to eat two of them at once.
The Chicken Enchiladas were tightly rolled and smothered with mole sauce, which had light hints of chocolate. With the enchiladas, I found the sauce to be overwhelming– while I didn’t want them to be super dry, I also didn’t want them to be drowning in such a thick sauce. Because of this, I couldn’t really taste much of the flavours in the enchilada, but the chicken seemed a little drier here. On the side was a generous portion of Spanish Fried Rice and Refried Beans, as well as a garden salad. The rice was actually quite chewy, but was on the blander side of things (there seems to be a problem with extremes here), while the beans tasted… beany. I mean, they’re mushed beans– what can I say about them? The veggies were again crisp and fresh, if not a little plain since it didn’t come with any dressing.
On the whole, I think that Los Compadres was an alright choice– given the neighbourhood, I don’t think you would be able to find Mexican food nearby other than Tacotime at the Brentwood food court (which is more tex-mex and… just not very good). I thought that the ingredients were of good quality, but that some dishes could use more sauce, and others could use a little less, but that’s really just me. Our dinner didn’t set us back too far, and I would consider stopping by here again if I was craving Mexican and didn’t want to venture too far from home.
Los Compadres Mexican Food
4280 Hastings Street
Aren’t there certain restaurants you associate with a certain period of your life? When I was seven, I lived near Seattle and the one restaurant I remember visiting was this Korean-Chinese one that Bill Nye had once visited. I don’t remember much about the food, but on a trip a couple months ago to Seattle, we stopped by this same restaurant, and I was surprised at how mediocre I found the food. Hm…well, Sushi Town is definitely a restaurant I associate with my high school days, due to the proximity. Before Sushi Garden opened on Lougheed Highway, it was also my family’s almost exclusive option for takeout. I no longer live in the neighbourhood, but made it out there for a somewhat nostalgic trip to Dolph’s favourite restaurant (harharhar) with SB, Keith, and Dolph (of course).
SB started off with the Red Roll, (please excuse the poor photo!) one of their specialty rolls with chopped scallop and cucumber on the inside, and spicy tuna on the outside. Looks like Sushi Town has been expanding their menu–the only specialty roll I remember is their signature Awesome Roll (below). (EDIT: Never mind. I guess I was blind because apparently it’s always been around.) The texture of this roll was all soft, with the mushy tuna and the scallops overwhelming any sense of crispness from the cucumbers. I found that the flavour of the chopped scallop was itself overwhelmed by the spicy tuna. Also, I wasn’t impressed with this aesthetically. As you can see it looked a little…messy? They have a high turnover rate here due to popularity (it was very full when we visited on a random weeknight), but I wished they would take more care into making their food, especially the rolls.
Continuing with their specialty rolls…Dolph and I decided to share their signature Awesome Roll. Like I remembered from high school, it came out looking messy (yes, there’s an actual roll underneath all those bonito flakes!). This roll has imitation crab meat, cucumber, avocado and masago on the inside, and salmon, green onion, masago, and bonito flakes on the outside. I really like the addition of bonito flakes here. They’re not only quite different from what you usually see, but also great presentation-wise. Taste-wise…I felt like there were too many ingredients, so that I couldn’t taste much of anything. The sauce itself is overly sweet, and there’s no need for soy sauce. We tend to order the Awesome Roll when we visit Sushi Town, since it’s their signature roll, but personally I do it more to see those bonito flakes than anything else.
Dolph and I also ordered the Fantastic Roll, which is one of their new specialty rolls. We had a hard time deciding between this and the Delicious Roll…haha. This roll had shrimp tempura and imitation crab meat on the inside, with spicy tuna and tempura bits on the outside, as well as other ingredients. I enjoyed the attempt to add extra texture with the tempura bits, but the roll fell apart as you ate it. As with the Red Roll, the spicy tuna overwhelmed the other ingredients. The shrimp tempura had obviously not been freshly fried and was simply lukewarm, not adding much flavour to the rest of the roll. I felt like I was just eating the Red Roll again, except with tempura bits…I wouldn’t go so far as to call this “Fantastic”, but I guess “Acceptable” Roll just isn’t catchy enough?
For those of you who know SB, you’ll know his ability to handle spicy food is…uh…not that well-developed. So he ordered the Mild Spicy Tuna Don, which is their new mild version of this popular menu item. He remarked that the sauce was sweeter than usual, but not in a bad way. Still, it appeared to be quite spicy, as the sauce definitely has some sriracha mixed in. The portion size was more than fine for the price, and both the tuna and cucumbers tasted fresh. I love the addition of cucumbers and green onions here, which add more texture, considering how mushy tuna can be. The rice was vinegary and sweet–nothing to complain about here!
Keith ordered the Dragon Roll, which is a standard roll with avocado on the inside and unagi, or eel, on top. He didn’t have much to say about this roll, except that the avocado was the overpowering ingredient, leaving no other real flavour to it. I had a piece and thought that the rice was a little too gummy for my tastes. The eel tasted fine–well, a positive side effect of Sushi Town’s popularity is that they have a high turnover rate of ingredients, so the food is usually quite fresh. Well, there are also definitely negative side effects of their popularity… It’s so loud inside that you have to yell at your fellow diners to be heard, but eh.
To wrap up, Dolph and I also ordered a Negitoro Roll, which you’ll know is one of my favourites if you’re a regular reader. It was sweet and simple, with the fresh toro contrasting with the crunchy green onion. There was nothing amiss, but to be honest, I didn’t see how they could mess this up. The rice was sweet and vinegary (but a little gummy, as mentioned before).
Some general points about Sushi Town. I’ve been here many times (especially during high school), and the service usually leaves something to be desired. That said, it was fine this time–not overwhelmingly friendly or welcoming, of course, but the waitresses were relatively polite, filled our water and tea regularly, and weren’t brusque. Here the prices are low due to its proximity and popularity with students from both Burnaby North and SFU. Sushi Town can’t compare with the high-end places, obviously, but it’s fine for what it is: a cheap neighbourhood sushi joint.
5935 Hastings Street