Posted in Restaurant Adventures

Steamed Crab in Vancouver's Chinatown

Steamed Crab 1

This was a very nice dish I enjoyed at a Chinese restaurant on my summer trip to Vancouver. The restaurant kept their own crabs alive in a tank (see the inset) allowing me to choose my ‘victim’ for the kitchen to prepare in a style of my choice… This was the first time I have been able to do this, and I really enjoyed it.

As to the type of crab … during my visit to Vancouver’s Chinatown, I saw several tanks of crab in various fishmongers… all the same type of crab… and in some notices, they were identified as 大肉蟹 which would be pronounced as ‘dà ròu xiè’ in Mandarin and could mean either ‘pork crab’ or ‘big meat crab’ depending on whether you treat the first two characters as stand-alone, or a compound. I asked my server what the crabs were called and she first said ‘Vancouver Crab’ but when I asked her what she called them, she said something that was so close to the aforesaid Mandarin rendering that I am pretty sure that it was the Cantonese equivalent (it was a Hong Kong style restaurant, after all). Anyway … I recall having Dungeness Crab in BC some 12 years ago and these looked the same so, upon comparing the shell markings to those in pictures of Dungeness Crab at Wikipedia, I am convinced that this is what I was served…

As to the preparation, I was given the choice of several different ways (all steamed) amongst which were included: black bean sauce, garlic sauce, ginger and scallion, and some sort of cream sauce… I chose the garlic. In retrospect, I think I probably should have gone with the ginger and scallion as ginger really does work well with crab (and fish in general), while the garlic came across as a little oily tasting after vigorous steaming. Still, I enjoyed it immensely, and, while it was a very messy dish to eat, the meat was so succulent and sweet I could have eaten two of the sizeable beasts. My final thought on completing this meal was to regret the unavailability of live crab in my own community so that I could reproduce the experience myself…

Posted in Restaurant Adventures

Pork Rillettes at Play, Food & Wine

Pork Rillettes

Rillettes is a specialty of French cuisine that can be thought of as something of a cross between the rustic Confit and a fine Pâté. Like a confit, it uses salt and fat to preserve meat but, as with the confit, the preserving process produces a lovely result that is prized in and of itself. It has been many years since I last made a batch, and I am still planning to post the recipe when I finally do again, but, for now, I am just going to share with you the very pleasant version I had at Play Food Wine in Ottawa not long ago…

This rillettes dish came with slices of pickled cucumber. They were clearly not a lactic acid ferment type, but were made using a very mild and slightly sweet vinegar. What set these apart is that the pickling medium also included some finely shredded seaweed of some sort (Wakame, perhaps), and this added a different level of flavor that was both unexpected and very good.

The rillettes here were quite bit more finely processed than others I have had. My own have tended to be quite granular in consistency, and others can be composed of tiny shreds, but these were very smooth and quite unctuous, almost like a pâté, in fact. The mix was not heavily seasoned, indeed, other than the expected salt, the only thing I could identify were some tiny brown mustard seeds. These, surprisingly, were softened to the point that I had absolutely no sensation of biting into seeds and their flavor had obviously been given up to the blend. The result was anything but bland, though, and the pork really spoke for itself without a lot of additional enhancement. I have to say that my own efforts, thus far, haven’t exceeded this particular dish.

Posted in Restaurant Adventures

Uni at Wasabi in Ottawa

Uni - 2017-07 1

Uni is sometimes referred to as the roe of the Sea Urchin but is actually the gonads of the creature and can produce roe or milt (semen). It is a delicacy in Japanese cuisine but it is seasonal, and not always easy to obtain, so one frequently sees it on the menus of Japanese restaurants only to find, on ordering, that it is not currently available. I came across some recently at Wasabi in Ottawa’s Bytown market, where they were available as a sushi selection, or as a sashimi preparation served, as you see above, in little cucumber cups. Each cup held four or five individual gonads and you can see an individual piece in the inset.

The texture of uni is not for everybody. It is very soft, with a silky mouthfeel and is rather like the white of a soft-boiled egg, or, perhaps, a very firm custard. When tasted, without any sort of additions, it is very reminiscent of the tomalley, or liver, of a lobster. Some would say it has a fishy taste, but I rather think of it has having a generic ‘sea flavor’ coupled with a distinct sweetness. Tomalley can also have an underlying faintly musky pungency but, with uni, it is sweet all the way through except at the very end where a similar pungency comes across as an almost bitter aftertaste. It is brief however, and does not really affect the overall pleasure of the taste at all.

In this preparation, the uni was served with a wedge of lemon, a small mound of wasabi (hidden behind the inset in the above picture), and a little dish for soy sauce. I tried soy first and, while it was pleasant, I found that the sweetness of the soy masked the delicate sweetness of the uni, thus robbing it of some of its impact. The lemon was an even worse choice as, not only did the acid mask much of the good flavor, it also made the final bitter quality more pronounced and I am surprised that anybody thought that this would be a good accompaniment. As for the wasabi, however, this worked really well. Despite the sharp, intense power of the root, it didn’t mask any of the sweetness at all and really complimented it nicely. I should like to try the delicacy in a sushi preparation sometime, but the sashimi along with just a little wasabi is terrific.

Posted in Restaurant Adventures

Chinese BBQ Pork and Duck at Gain Wah

Chinese BBQ

Not long ago, I posted a review of Gain Wah restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown. I mentioned therein that, as I was leaving, the very friendly owner who was manning the BBQ station offered some barbecued duck to try. It was absolutely delicious and I told him I would be back. Well… I did just that and ordered the plate you see above which, for the princely sum of just $7.50, gave me a generous helping of both duck and pork along with a little dish of plum sauce on the side. Now, though I have been tempted by Chinese BBQ on various occasions, this happened to be my first real experience (aside from the gratis sampling two days earlier). Now… I have to say that I am a convert. The duck was not quite as good as the first taste, as that had been freshly cooked and still piping hot, but both meats here were exquisitely succulent and flavorful. There was a slight hint of 5 spice powder here and there (which I can take or leave), but, otherwise, this was perfect and the plum sauce really wasn’t needed for either. I have had thin slices of BBQ pork tenderloin in fried rice and noodle dishes once in a while, but that cut is exceedingly dry and nothing like the lovely, slightly fatty portion here. I am going to have to experiment in my own kitchen…

Posted in Restaurant Adventures

Review: New Mitzie’s Restaurant

179 East Pender Street, Vancouver

New Mitzi 1

Date of Visit: July, 2017

New Mitzie’s is almost dead-center in the middle of Chinatown. It has a large menu that is pretty well equally divided between Chinese and Western cuisine and the Chinese selections are largely the sort you find in any westernized Chinese restaurant across the country. While perusing restaurants online, I saw that they have General Tao’s chicken listed and, having still never had this popular favorite yet, I gave the place a try… Continue reading “Review: New Mitzie’s Restaurant”

Posted in Restaurant Adventures

Review: Kent’s Kitchen – Vancouver

232 Keefer Street – Chinatown

Kent's Kitchen 1

Date of Visit: July, 2017

I passed by Kent’s several times while wandering around Chinatown and wanted to give it a try but it always seemed to be packed. One morning, just after 11am I happened to catch it when there were only a few patrons present. It was a little earlier than I had intended for my lunch but I didn’t want to lose the opportunity and so I stopped in for a quick bite… Continue reading “Review: Kent’s Kitchen – Vancouver”

Posted in Restaurant Adventures

Review: Juniper – Vancouver

185 Keefer St, Vancouver – Website

Juniper 1

Date of Visit: July, 2017

I happened to stop by at Juniper for a beer after traipsing around Chinatown on a hot afternoon. The place has a huge list of unique cocktails, a pretty decent wine list, and also a handful of craft beers. I ended up having two beers and, after perusing the menu, I decided to come back for a meal… Continue reading “Review: Juniper – Vancouver”