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 my favourite things about being a student at UBC is…the simulating classes? Meeting a variety of different people from all over the world? The scenic campus? Well, all of these things, but most of all: the U-Pass. I love the carefreeness of not having to worry about FareSavers or DayPasses or whatever and simply boarding the SkyTrain or bus whenever I want to, wherever I want to, and just flashing that little blue piece of paper. Early in June I had to take a trip all the way to UBC (about an hour for me) to get my U-Pass, having been away in May. Since I was out in Kits, I decided to take advantage of the situation to visit one of the many restaurants on West 4th. Sam, Dolph and I weren’t in the mood for a whole meal, so we decided to jump off near Scoop!
I’ve personally never been into the froyo craze–Qoola is pretty much all I’ve had. Well, Scoop is a somewhat more rustic venue, with a variety of clearly labelled toppings you add yourself, and four possible flavours for your froyo itself: chocolate hazelnut, mango, green tea, and raspberry (in addition to plain frozen yogurt). The four flavours are created through blending plain froyo with flavoured syrup, which means that except the plain froyo, the aesthetic appeal is pretty lacking. Ah well. As you can see, there are a variety of different toppings, ranging from fruit to chocolate chips, and also a number of syrups for you to douse your froyo in. While I liked the variety of the toppings and the fact that you can add them yourself, I didn’t like how the containers appeared to have no lids. The area didn’t appear cooled, either. While my toppings tasted fine, I can imagine some will get stale since they’re left to the open air.
I decided on the Chocolate Hazelnut, with my toppings being strawberries, kiwis, honey graham granola bits, and dulce de leche syrup. Personally, I could taste very little of the chocolate or hazelnut flavour in the froyo itself–all I could taste was the addition of strawberries. Perhaps that’s my fault, but I do believe that the chocolate should have had a more pronounced flavour. I was satisfied with the fruit, though, since it seemed decently fresh, especially considering it’d been left in a lidless container for a while. I liked the textural contrast that the granola bits provided, and I could actually taste the dulce de leche syrup, which was a plus. I enjoyed my froyo, but for the lack of chocolate flavour I tasted, I might as well have had the plain version instead. For five dollars, I thought this was an alright deal considering the portion size and the location in Kitsilano. We all agreed that you could definitely get a fuller cup of froyo at Qoola for the same price. Personally, however, I think all froyo is quite overpriced–the prime example of that being Pinkberry, which SB persuaded me to try for the first time last week. (Six bucks for a small?? Are you kidding me?) Anyways, I digress. Moving on…
Sam’s cup consisted of the Raspberry, with mango, chocolate chips, kiwi, lychee jelly, mochi, dark chocolate syrup, and raspberry syrup. Drawing on our experiences at Qoola, she commented that the raspberry flavour could have been stronger, due to their method of simply blending raspberry syrup with plain froyo. Her toppings tasted fresh, although the mango was a tad sour (although that isn’t really the restaurant’s fault). She found that the mochi was less than adequate, being neither firm nor chewy enough (echoing Dolph’s sentiments from a previous visit). For Sam, like me, Scoop! didn’t prove a solid competitor to Qoola, especially considering the price difference.
And lastly, Dolph’s cup of Green Tea, with mochi, yogurt chips, mango, graham crackers, almond slices, and white chocolate syrup. Please excuse us for the photo of something partially eaten–Dolph sat down before Sam and I did and apparently couldn’t resist digging in? Unlike Sam and I, Dolph had previously been to Scoop! and commented that the mochi, like those on her previous visit, was limp and uninspiring. She found her toppings to be a little stale, and the price a little steep for what she got. Sam and I both sampled a little of her cup, and we found a stronger taste of green tea than the chocolate hazelnut and raspberry in our cups.
I do like the overall atmosphere of Scoop! The guy behind the counter seemed friendly enough, and it’s clear the owners gave some thought to the overall decor. It had an after school neighbourhood vibe, and there’s also a foosball table and board games available for your amusement. We didn’t touch the board games, however, as they seemed a little old and…well, we’re picky people. I personally am kind of a, um, germaphobe, and don’t relish the thought of touching games dribbled on with froyo. Although this definitely wasn’t a bad visit, I think in the end, the three of us definitely preferred the corporate cleanliness and value of Qoola. Guess this is why small businesses don’t last? …Although Scoop! (with its adorable name, sign, and that enthusiastic exclamation point) could definitely prove us wrong with a couple of improvements.
2050 West 4th Avenue