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