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
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
In the last week of November, my uncle decided to visit from Korea–for something like five days. That sounds short (and it was), but maybe you’ll see it in a different light once I reveal that he’s a flight attendant. The life of a flight attendant is quite tiring, as you can imagine, and he really just came to get some rest. Still, since it’s not like we see him everyday, we wanted to take him somewhere nice for dinner, although it wasn’t like we could introduce him to some brand new cuisine, since he’s travelled most of the world already. I did have a coupon for Tropika from ChineseBites, but my parents weren’t convinced when I mentioned Tropika is Chinese-run. Still, it got us thinking about the possibility of Southeast Asian food, and we ended up driving out to Bob Likes Thai Food, serving up (relatively) authentic Thai food on Main Street.
In comparison to Korean and Japanese food, I don’t have as tight a grasp on Thai food, and I was glad to have my uncle with us. Bangkok is one of his favourite cities to visit, and he became the unofficial judge of authenticity and taste that night. It was also my brother’s first time trying Thai food, so it was a special night in more ways than one.
First up, we had the Chicken Satay ($4.50 for 2 skewers). We had 2 orders. (I was hoping they’d add an extra skewer for free considering we were a party of five, but oh well). This was the requisite chicken marinated in a blend of spices and coconut milk, served with a peanut dipping sauce. Out of all the dishes we sampled, I felt the least enthusiastic about this one. The chicken was surprisingly tough and dry, and it was too salty for my tastes. I did like the peanut sauce though, which was quite thick and flavourful. Still, it wasn’t enough to liven up the dryness of the chicken.
My uncle insisted we order the Tom Yum Koong ($5 for a small, $10 for a large), so we decided on a small. The broth tasted strongly of lemongrass, and the soup included prawns and button mushrooms. We thought it would have tasted better if it came out a bit hotter, but it was good nevertheless. My brother, having never had tom yum koong before, was a bit put off by the taste of lemongrass at first, but he grew to really enjoy it, saying that it complemented the curry very well. Although I thought the lemongrass flavour was strong, my uncle insisted that it was quite mild compared to what he’d actually enjoyed in Thailand, so I suppose they are catering to Vancouver tastebuds a bit.
Speaking of that curry, we had the Green Curry Chicken ($11.50), a coconut milk-based green curry with chicken, basil, eggplant and bamboo shoots. It was coconutty and gingery, and tasted much better than it looked. The chicken and eggplant were in large slices, although we would have preferred thinner slices in hindsight. Although the curry itself was thick and tasted mostly of coconut, the aftertaste was surprisingly spicy, and eating it together with our jasmine rice and the tom yum koong was perfect. This was probably one of our favourite dishes of the night.
The five of us were very impressed by this dinner at Bob Likes Thai Food. The washrooms were clean, and the waitresses were attentive, filling the water regularly without being obtrusive. Despite my limited knowledge of Thai cuisine, I found the flavours satisfyingly bold. Still, I saw a lack of seafood on the menu, which would be my one complaint. But still, my final verdict is: In Hye likes Bob Likes Thai Food.
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
It’s weird, but I take the bus along West 4th three days every week, but I can count the times I’ve gotten off on a stop that isn’t UBC or VCC-Clark on one hand. Still, I do take notice of the many restaurants, and promise myself to try them out sometime. So on a Friday after my econ midterm, Yvonne, Dolph, and I wandered off the bus and into the Kitsilano location of The Noodle Box.
The Noodle Box is actually a franchise–there are two locations in Vancouver (one in Kits, and one in Yaletown), with five locations in Victoria. I’m always a little wary of chain restaurants, to tell you the truth. Still, they can also promise a solid meal in times of uncertainty. I liked the interior of the restaurant–it looked clean and modern. Also, I could see a bottle of Sriracha sauce from where I was sitting–yumm.
I chose the Thai Green Curry, which came with a plethora of bean sprouts, choy, green onion, and too many kinds of veggies to count! The noodles were at the bottom, and were satisfyingly chewy. I was a little surprised by the appearance of this dish, as I expected more of a traditional curry, but I still enjoyed this. I chose to have this with the chicken (the other choices being prawns, beef, pork, or tofu), and surprisingly, the chicken was moist and flavourful. The portion size was also quite large. I would have liked more noodles though…
Dolph chose the Pad Thai with chicken. She thought that the taste of ginger was too overpowering, and like me, she would have preferred more noodles for the price she paid ($11+). The sauce was tangy and vinegary. Like my curry, the noodles were accompanied by a lot of veggies: carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, etc. Dolph was not too impressed with this version of Pad Thai, but I suppose we have to consider that it is western-infused Asian food, and not to be compared with authentic Thai food.
Yvonne had the Singapore Cashew Curry, again with chicken. Now…the noodles. They tasted very strange, and um…stale? I’m not sure if they were fully cooked. Yvonne expressed that while she enjoys chewy noodles, this was more…crunchy? The chicken was flavourful, but the dish as a whole was dry. The veggies were crunchy, with the combination of ingredients creating a great texture, except for the noodles. I liked the taste of the curry, as you can decide the level of spiciness. (Dolph and Yvonne both chose Mild, while I had Medium, although I still used some Sriracha sauce). But we couldn’t really get past these strange noodles when evaluating this dish…
Dolph also ordered some Malay Style Fried Rice to take home to her family. It came in a cute little Chinese takeout box–although I’m not sure how (or if) they managed to fit the generous portions into such a small box. I’m pretty sure it’s more worth your money to eat in.
As a whole, the three of us weren’t too impressed by our experience at Noodle Box. Service was fine–but it is a pay at the counter, then pick up your order system. The food was fine, but nothing to write home about–I guess I’m not a huge fan of inauthentic Asian foods. The prices are also a little on the higher side, but you do have to account for the restaurant’s location in Kits.
The Noodle Box
1867 West 4th Avenue