Sherman's Food Adventures

Swiss Chalet (Burnaby)

Oh wow, have we reached the very end or are we scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel?  Can you believe this, I've never eaten at Swiss Chalet.  No joke!  Now that isn't that much of a oddity as I've never seen the need to dine at this blast from the past.  In fact, I think the bulk of the clientele are from a certain vintage.  Viv has been there a few times and has actively urged me not to visit the place.  Hence, this is probably the main reason it has taken that long to blog about it.  I literally had to drag her and the kids out there for dinner!

So to start things off, we ordered the 4-Cheese Spinach Dip with tortilla chips.  I've often wondered why restaurants never give enough chips for the amount of dips (maybe they fear wastage?).  Well, this was the case here too.  Positive note, there was plenty of dip...  It was pretty standard being creamy and cheese with soft bits of spinach strewn throughout.  Nothing special, but at the same time, totally fine as well.  For Viv, she didn't go for the chicken nor ribs, rather, she had the Chicken Pot Pie with a side of green salad.  Not trying to sound completely indifferent, this was a standard chicken pot pie.  There were chunks of tender chicken in a thick chicken gravy with the usual veggies.  This was topped off with a piece of puffed pastry.  Once again, it did the job with very little fanfare.

For myself, I decided to go for the classic Half-Chicken Dinner with fries, roll and Chalet sauce.  In terms of roast chicken go, this was decent.  The skin was attractively hued and well-rendered.  I thought the meat was past the point of being juicy though.  Costco chicken has a better texture in my opinion.  With that being said the Chalet chicken was far from being dry.  As much as Viv doesn't like the Chalet sauce, I thought it was fine and helped provide moisture and flavour.  The best part of the dish was actually the fries, nicely crispy and potatoey.  My son went big and had the 1/3 Ribs and 1/4 Chicken with fries.  Once again, the ribs weren't necessary something super memorable, but for a standard chain restaurant par-boiled then flame-grilled version, this was fine.  The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and well-sauced.

For dessert, we got the Mini Cinnamon Sugar Donuts to share.  I wasn't a huge fan of these as they were completely oil-soaked.  It was like eating an oily sponge that tasted of old oil.  Not even the sugar or chocolate sauce could do anything to mask it.  Donuts withstanding, the rest of the food was fine, but nothing particularly special.  I must admit it was better than I expected and the fries were on point.  Yet, as I soaked in the 90's decor and atmosphere, I couldn't help but think that Swiss Chalet needs a complete overhaul in order to attract a younger demographic.

The Good:
- Fries are on point
- Kid-friendly
- Predictable

The Bad:
- Nothing special to set it apart
- Decor is woefully in need of a refresh
- Not as inexpensive as they advertise to be

Chi House Chi Pot & BBQ House

I'm sure most people have heard of Happy Tree House BBQ with locations on Kingsway and in Richmond.  For those who do not, it is a place where one can get skewered meat, large cast iron heated plates of whole fish and a side of really loud Asian pop music.  Well, they aren't the only show in town as with anything there are many similar outfits.  One of the newer ones is Chi House Chi Pot & BBQ House on Main.  For some reason or another, this particular location has changed hands many times from Rekados to Beefy Beef to some other Taiwanese spot that I do even remember!  Let's see how long this one will last...

Beyond the skewers, we tried their Cold Skinned Noodles which were essentially equivalent to cold noodles in spicy sesame sauce found at Old Xian.  I would say this version was pretty decent with slippery noodles dressed in an aromatic and mildly spicy sauce.  I would've liked the noodles to be chewier and more spice, but this was still good nonetheless.  Our first order of skewers was the Beef @ $1.95 each with a minimum order of 5.  These fairly tender and not overdone, but I would've liked to see more charring and caramelization.  Spices were impactful with unmistakable taste of cumin and chili.  I liked how they had a reasonable minimum of 5 unlike the stupid 10 at Happy Tree.

Onto some seafood, we chose the Scallop and Mini-Abalone @ $4.75 and $4.95 each respectively.  I thought these were "okay" but nothing special.  The scallops were golden brown but a bit overdone, so it was on the chewier side in spots.  The abalone were fairly chewy, but not so much that it wasn't pleasant to eat though.  I could see how the abalone were almost $5.00 each, but didn't understand why the scallops cost just as much.  Living up to its namesake, the South African Big Prawn came in at $2.95 each.  By virtue of being frozen, the head wasn't really great to eat but the actual meat was fairly meaty and sweet.  Again, these were a bit too overdone.

The best skewers of all were the Lamb @ $1.75 each (also minimum of 5) in original and special seasoning.  Honestly, we couldn't tell the difference between the two and had to ask for an explanation.  What we could gather, the special was cooked a bit longer to activate the spices.  Again, we couldn't tell.  The lamb was tender though with its classic gaminess accented by the aromatic and slightly spicy seasoning.  To get our one vegetable into the meal, we got the Eggplant with a tonne of garlic on top.  As such, the flavours were definitely impactful and appealing.   Texturally, the eggplant was soft without becoming mushy.  There was actually some bite left in each slice.

Lastly, we got the Tilapia Skillet in spicy with pepper.  For $41.00, we found the fish to be a bit small.  There just wasn't a whole lot of meat to it.  However, the fish was nicely prepared where it was soft and not overdone (but we did have to ask for the heat to be turned off so it didn't cook any further).  Although there was definitely spice to the dish, it wasn't too strong.  Good for those who like mild, but for us, we like it spicy.  For a total of $10.00, we added lotus root and fish tofu to the mix.  So compared to Happy Tree, Chi House does a better job in terms of a reasonable minimum for the skewers.  Also, if you like it quieter and better service, than Chi House does that well too.  However, flavours are a bit muted and your total can get pretty high if you order lots.

The Good:
- Reasonable minimum amounts for the skewers
- A quieter experience
- Attentive service

The Bad:
- Some of the flavours could be stronger
- Can get pricey if you order lots
- Don't bother with the parking lot

Earl's Happy Hour Brunch

Although I do not brunch very often, I do enjoy it whenever I have the chance.  However, up until recently, there weren't a whole lot of brunch places to chose from (there are some new and upcoming spots that will change that).  Another issue is that brunch can be pretty expensive.  Considering the ingredients involved, you'd think that the prices shouldn't be creeping up to $20.00 and sometimes beyond (at higher end spots).  Hence, it is a really pricey proposition when bringing the family.  Let's not even think about adding any beverages either (for the adults of course), since that can make brunch cost more than dinner.  However, Earl's offers all of their brunch items for $9.75 (was $8.00, the $9.00, so get it before it exceeds $10.00!) before noon on weekends.  I've tried it early last year and again more recently.  I guess it was time for a post...

The first visit, I ordered something really out-of-character in the Avocado Super Brunch with poached eggs, smashed avocado, olive oil and tomatoes, radish, spicy sriracha, toasted hemp seeds on toasted artisan bread.  Although there was sriracha (which I could taste), the whole thing was a bit too mild for me.  This would've been much better with a shot of acidity.  With that being said, it was still pleasant, felt healthy and was light.  Viv went for the heavier dish in the Chorizo & Mushroom Hash with avocado, crispy fried potatoes, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise.  Sure, there was plenty of potato which could be seen as filler, but there was also no shortage of chunky pieces of mushroom and fresh avocado.  The chorizo was meaty, yet mild while the eggs were perfectly runny.

My son went for the Eggs Benedict with ham, poached eggs, hollandaise, artisan bread and crispy potatoes.  Sure, ham and the choice of bread were not the classic components of an eggs benny, but they did the job.  Plating wasn't the best, but it ate okay with perfectly runny eggs and a fairly light hollandaise.  It was neither too thick nor buttery.  Due to the size of the potatoes, they weren't too crispy, but at the same time were still good.  Ordering the least expensive item (at regular price), my daughter had the Golden Waffles and Cream.  This was a fairly straightforward plate where the waffles were slightly crispy with a medium-dense centre.  Whipped cream and sliced strawberries completed the dish.  On the menu, it does state seasonal compote, so YMMV in terms of the fruit.

On my most recent visit, we ended up trying the Southern Fried Chicken & Waffles.  Okay, this didn't look like much as it was simply plated.  However, it ate a lot better than it appeared.  Naturally, the waffles were exactly like the previous dish being lightly crispy while a bit dense in the middle.  The real star of the show was the 2 fairly large pieces of fried chicken thigh.  They were tender and outright juicy with a crunchy coating that had a bit of spice.  If one was hungrier, the Country Breakfast sported 2 eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, crispy potatoes and toasted bread.  As evidenced in the picture, each items was prepared properly and yes, there was more than enough food for those with a bigger appetite.  So yes, the brunch at Earl's is well-priced during happy hour, however, it seems to be creeping up steadily over the past year.  

The Good:
- Inexpensive HH pricing
- Food is above-average
- Portions sizes are sufficient and then some

The Bad:
- Limited selections
- Pricing is creeping up there

Burgermania @ Glowbal

When one thinks of Glowbal at Telus Garden, the ritzy decor and prime location might immediately come to mind.  Furthermore, the seen or be seen game is strong as well as its bar situated prominently at the entrance.  Maybe Happy Hour comes to mind or possibly their satays and steaks.  But I'm sure burgers are probably the last thing you would associate with them.  But for a limited time, from March 11th through March 22nd, Burgermania has taken over the restaurant offering up unique gourmet creations with custom sides for each of them.  I recently sampled all of them with Jacqueline and Joyce, coming away both impressed and very full.

There are 5 different options on the menu including the massive Ultimate Burger featuring a large beef patty, fried mac and cheese, double smoked bacon, onion rings, fried egg, tomato, lettuce, pickle and truffle aioli on a brioche bun.  Yah, this was enormous with a well-charred patty that was moist and full-bodied with meat flavour.  The egg was runny and the bacon was lean and meaty.  This was actually hard to eat without making a mess, but then again, we wouldn't have wanted it any other way.  On the side, the sea salted fries were crispy while retaining potato texture inside.  My personal favourite was the Funky One with a beef patty, spicy duck confit, pickled cucumbers, chili lime aioli and cotton candy.  Predictably, the duck confit was what made this burger.  Each bite yielded the unmistakable delicious gaminess and richness of the duck.  The well-rendered skin helped in this regard.  Although I could detect some spice, it wasn't very strong.  This came with tater tot poutine which was rich from the gravy and legit cheese curds.  Only problem was that the tater tots were no longer crispy (yes, I know fries in poutine get soggy too, but tater tots are best eaten crispy).  Maybe gravy on the side?

We actually got everything served on a large wooden board that would cost $110.00 for the whole thing (as each burger was priced at $22.00 individually).  As such, we also had the Veggie Nation, which was surprisingly good.   Consisting of tempura portobello mushroom patty, guacamole, chipotle aioli and roasted eggplant, the burger was robust and fulfilling.  Crispy and full of umami, the portobello successfully replaced the meat and the complimentary flavours were layered so that the lack of meat was not a detriment.  Accompanying this was truffle fries which were texturally the same as the sea salt fries except for the restrained Earthiness from the truffle oil.  Another favourite of mine was the Mediterranean with lamb patty, hummus, tzatziki, fried halloumi and bell peppers.  The flavours in this burger were both impactful and legit.  From the gaminess of the lamb to the saltiness of the hallomi, I found that there was waves of Mediterranean flavours from each bite.  This came with crispy sweet potato fries.

Lastly, if one couldn't decide, there was the Sider Trio featuring the Surf & Turf (caramelized onions, braised short rib patty, tempura lobster, truffle sauce and slaw), the Mediterranean and the Funky One served with tempura green beans and cotton candy.  The only unique slider (that was not a mini-version of the Mediterranean and Funky One) was the Surf & Turf.  It also happened to be the best of the 3 with a thick slice of tender braised short rib and a tempura fried lobster claw.  To top it all off, the sweetness of the onions and creaminess of the truffle sauce made this a decadent little bite.  I wished it was a full-blown burger, but I'm sure it would cost more than $22.00.  Loved the tempura green beans as they were crisp inside and out.  Yes, as you can tell, I was pretty happy with the selection of burgers and sides we tried at Glowbal.  They aren't known for this, but I hope they keep it on their regular menu.  Definitely something I'd have again.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Well-thought out flavour combinations that were impactful
- A varied selection of sides
- Cotton candy!

The Bad:
- Only available until March 22nd
- Wish the short-rib and lobster could be had as a full-sized burger
- Loved the poutine, but soggy tater tots 

Smoke and Bones BBQ

Ever since Smoke and Bones BBQ was only a food cart and catering company, I've always wanted to try it.  However, it just became another place on my list that I just never got to.  Could it be that my trip to Texas that has spoiled me for BBQ?  Not sure, but even with the opening of their actual B&M restaurant on Marine Drive (in the old Hurricane Grill location) didn't elicit a visit.  Finally, we made plans to visit the place after late-night hockey on Friday at North Shore Ice Sports.  Unfortunately, they ran out of ribs the first time and that just meant we had to make 2 consecutive visits!

On our first go around, we decided to try their BBQ Brisket Chili with a blend of smoked brisket and sausage, beans and spices.  This was super hearty and thick where the smokiness of the brisket really coming through.  We didn't think the chili was particularly spicy, but it did have layers of flavour which were balanced.  Not that it wasn't heavy enough already, but they dumped a considerable amount of melted cheese on top as well.  The most surprising item we had was the Smokehouse Pulled Pork Nachos layered with melted cheese, roasted corn, black beans, jalapenos and green onion.  The ample amount of tender pulled pork made this hearty and noticeably smoky.  They weren't kidding about the layering as each tortilla chip yielded a bite of something.  One of the best nachos I've had in town recently.

Onto the main event, we got the BBQ Platter featuring pulled pork, chicken, sausage, double order of beef brisket (ran out of ribs), coleslaw, fries, corn bread, pit beans, hot potato salad, pickles and white bread.  Being that we were practically there at last call, some of the brisket was on the drier side.  However, it was still good with a smoky bark that gave way to fatty meat.  The pulled pork was just as good as in the nachos while the sausage was tender and smoky with a beautiful snap casing.  Chicken wasn't as dry as it appeared and had well-rendered skin.  I thought the sides were excellent where the fries were crispy with a fluffy centre.  The hot potato salad was killer featuring fried potatoes tossed in sour cream, bacon, corn and green onion.

On our return visit, we had the nachos again (so good!) and also tried their BBQ Pit Wings with sauce on the side including buffalo hot sauce, sweet and spicy glaze and ranch dressing.  These were really large and executed flawlessly.  The skin was well-rendered while the meat was juicy and moist.  They ate well all by themselves, but the dips further enhanced them.  Loved the hot sauce mixed with the dressing.  Since we didn't get ribs the first time, we got a full rack of Pork Back Ribs with fries, cornbread, beans and colesalw.  Charred and smoky, the ribs also featured a beautiful bark.  The ribs themselves were fall-off-the-bone tender, but at the same time retaining enough meatiness.   There was a significant char on the outside creating an even smokier caramelization.  With a heavy BBQ sauce glaze, there was plenty of moisture and tangy sweetness.  From these 2 visits, we convinced that Smoke and Bones is one of the better BBQs in town.  We will be back from some nachos real soon!

The Good:
- Legit BBQ
- Sides are also quite good
- Other items on the menu like the nachos and wings are well-executed

The Bad:
- Like any BBQ, better get the meats at the optimum time (not late like we did)

Sushi Ville

So we all know about the Aburi Salmon Oshi served at Miku - arguably the best in town and also the most expensive.  However, what if I told you about Sushi Ville on Commercial Drive that charges nearly the same price for their Sockeye Salmon Aburi Salmon Oshi (only $1.00 less than Miku)?  I'm sure most of you (me included) would expect it to be just as good or better for that price, considering that Miku also offers up a premium location, great service and higher-end decor.  I spotted the place after visiting Elephant Garden Creamery next door and went back the next week for dinner (and more ice cream afterwards!).

With dry ice bubbling and graced with a toy penguin, the Atlantic Salmon Sashimi was way more gimmicky than necessary.  I give them props for trying to be different though.  They didn't really need to do that as the salmon itself was quite good.  In medium-sized slices, the fish was buttery and lightly sweet.  It was fresh and bright (as much as flash-frozen then defrosted fish can get... Health regulations...).  My daughter wanted the Chicken Yakisoba and I begrudgingly ordered it.  You see, she usually takes a bite of something and never finishes it, but she did put a dent into this one.  However, I thought it was pretty average at best.  I found the noodles dry and lacking in flavour.  There needed to be a more aggressive stir-fry as well as more sauce for moisture and tang.

If you are familiar with the Seafood Salad at Sushi Town/Garden, you will know that it is much more salad than seafood.  The one at Sushi Ville is the complete opposite as there was much more in the way of ingredients than lettuce.  In fact, I thought there should've been more salad as some bites were devoid of greens.  Hence, the one here ate more robust and had more flavours than just the dressing (which was served on the side).  I liked how they put effort into neatly arranging the ingredients on top.  Okay, the Assorted Tempura looked like any other order of this dish I've had in the past.  The batter was light and crispy while the yam and sweet potato were large.  Ebi was buttery with a meaty snap.  So all good.  But the last piece I ate was a banana!  ???  I wasn't expecting that.  But it was good!

Not sure why the Pork Gyoza was served on a cast iron plate when it wasn't sizzling nor hot.  I guess it looked way better than a plate though.  If the cast iron plate was actually steaming hot (like Pepper Lunch), this would've been more impressive.  No matter, the gyoza were actually good featuring a thin dumpling skin and a slightly crispy bottom.  Inside, the pork filling was quite substantial and almost juicy.  Nice balance between pork and cabbage too.  By this time, we were wondering where our order of Nigiri was.  In big font on the wall, it did state that they make everything to order, so we'd have to be patient.  Again, this was plated with the chopped scallop, tuna, unagi and tamago arranged neatly.  As much as this was fine, this was one of the weaker items we had.  The rice was a little dry, tamago was subpar and the unagi was weird with all the stuff on top.

Finally, our specialty roll arrived shortly after this.  The Crunch Shrimp Roll is supposedly their best seller and I foolishly ordered it.  It was essentially a fried California roll with shrimp and seafood on top, then baked and finished with mayo.  I found this rather dry, hard and greasy.  I'm sure this may have something to do with my personal preferences, but I really should have stuck to a basic house roll or something like that.  Finally at the end, we got our order of Aburi Salmon Oshi.  You know what?  It was actually pretty good with a caramelized sauce and nicely charred thinly-sliced jalapeno on top.  Rather than salmon in middle, we found shiitake which added a different taste to the oshi.  Now is it better than Miku for the same price?  No it wasn't, so they might consider dropping it a few bucks.  In the end, the food was a bit hit and miss, but they do have the potential to be better.

The Good:
- They do try to be a bit different
- Service was friendly
- Pretty large menu

The Bad:
- Sushi took forever to arrive
- Pricing should be lower 
- Should put more effort into some of their dishes in terms of execution rather than appearance.

Johnny Rockets (Oak Street)

My first taste of Johnny Rockets was at their Laguna Beach location.  It was a novelty of sorts because of the retro decor and their selection of burgers and shakes.  I went away satisfied, yet with no concrete memory that would make me want to rush back.  Strangely, the next time I encountered a Johnny Rocket's was on my cruise aboard the Allure of the Seas (I'm not counting this as an actual visit).  Back when it first opened, I visited Vancouver's first Johnny Rocket's in Downtown.  Again, I went away satisfied while not exactly planning my return.  With 2 hungry kids, it was by necessity that I visited their newly opened Oak Street location.

My daughter had her eyes on the Route 66 sporting a Certified Angus Beef patty covered with Swiss cheese, grilled mushrooms, caramelized onions and mayonnaise on a brioche bun.  This was actually very tasty and well-prepared.  Lots of buttery mushrooms as well as caramelized onions complimented the moist and flavourful beef patty.  I personally would've liked to see a softer bun, but it was far from dense.  For her side, she skipped the fries and went for the Chili instead.  This was pretty textbook chili that was very mild.  It was thick and full of beef and beans complete with cheddar cheese on top.  One could have raw onions as well, but my daughter omitted those.

For myself, I had the Ultimate Cheeseburger with leaf lettuce, tomato, pickles, sweet heat sauce and 2 slices of cheese.  As you can see in the picture, the burger was neatly constructed with extreme care.  I've rarely seen a burger come out looking so uniform with everything in its proper place.  Despite my previous experiences, this burger was fantastic.  Meat was nicely charred and moist while all of the ingredients were fresh.  Fries were even on point being crispy while light and potatoey on the inside.  For my son, he went for the Smokehouse sporting breaded onion rings, smoked bacon, cheddar and smokehouse BBQ sauce.  Lots of crunch in this burger as well as the advertised smokiness.  The bacon was done right being crispy and yes smoky.  To be honest, I didn't have high hopes on this visit to the new location of Johnny Rockets, but they seem to be a well-oiled machine here and the results are good.

The Good:
- For this location, well-crafted burgers
- Fries were also good
- Staff were friendly

The Bad:
- A little pricey, but competitive
- Bun could be a bit softer