Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Snowy Dessert - Korean Shaved Ice Bingsu

Snowy Dessert is located on Whyte Ave just beside Dorinku, and they just had their soft opening on July 10. For the first 2 weeks, you can get a 10% discount if you follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

In addition to bingsu (Korean shaved ice), they also serve taiyaki and drinks.

Currently only red bean and chocolate taiyaki flavours are available.

I ordered the large injeolmi bingsu ($12). The shaved ice was made with milk instead of water which made a real difference to the taste. It was a lot creamier and enjoyable even when it started melting. The injeolmi (Korean rice cake) was soft and chewy, but hardened when left in the ice for too long. The red bean topping was very sweet. I guess bingsu is supposed to be shaved ice with toppings, but I think it would've been better to have layers inside the ice so that people wouldn't run out of toppings when they eat from the top down. Another small complaint I have is that the spoons were sticky and gave me the feeling they were not cleaned or handled properly. Hopefully this will not be an ongoing issue.

On a second visit, I tried the small green tea bingsu ($9). I've noticed that there's basically no difference in amount of toppings between the large and small size, so the small size is better value unless you really like the shaved milk ice. This time there were actually almond flakes and matcha powder layered in the ice. Not sure if that was intentional or not, but I thought it was a nice touch.

I had a red bean taiyaki ($3.50 each or $10/3) and it was a pretty decent size. It was unlike other taiyaki I've had in the past that was more spongy and cake-like. This one was very crispy and flaky. Its buttery layers reminded me of a croissant or danish. At first I thought there was barely any filling, but actually all of the red bean was concentrated near the tail area. This was a good pastry, but I prefer the cake-like taiyaki more.

Snowy Dessert Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse

I went to Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse with my family for Father's Day brunch this year. I'm not sure if it was any different from their regular Sunday brunch buffet which they have every week for $29.99/person.

The buffet consisted of a bunch of cold items including salads, fruits, and cold cuts. Nothing spectacular, but there was a good selection and there were also a few hot items. The warm French toast was quite tasty.

The servers brought the various cuts of meat available that day to the table. I don't remember all the cuts we had that day, but there were some beef cuts, pork belly, sausage, and chicken drumstick. All of the meats were supposed to be medium-rare, but I found most of them a bit overcooked and quite tough.

Each person gets a double-sided cardboard coaster thing that's green on one side and red on the other. Green side up means "I want more meat!" and the servers will come by to serve the meat. However, I've noticed that the servers don't actually care whether your card is on green or red. They come by anyway if they see you looking, so my plate was piled up with meat within a few minutes.

There was a 1.5 hour time limit, and our server came by several times when time was almost up to politely ask if we needed anything else. We were waiting for them to refill the fruit in the buffet, but it took a really long time. Our server was great though, and made sure to let us know the minute it was refilled.

I think the price is a bit steep for the quality of food, so I wouldn't recommend this place unless you have never had a rodizio experience or you can eat a lot of meat and get your money's worth.

Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Sunday, July 02, 2017

Max's Restaurant - Filipino Cuisine

The other day I saw a picture of a vibrant purple ube (purple yam) ice cream cone on my Instagram, and I decided that I had to try it. A quick google search showed that ube ice cream is usually part of a Filipino dessert called Halo Halo, and I could find it at an authentic Filipino chain restaurant called Max's Restaurant in the west end. Then I realized that I had never been to a Filipino restaurant in all my years of dining out, so I was intrigued by the idea.

I visited on a Friday night with no reservation, which was a bad idea since I was told the wait would be half an hour. After I was seated, it was another 15 minute wait just to get the order placed. And then it took more than 45 minutes for the food to arrive! I was starving by the time I finally got to eat. The soup that came with one of the meals basically tasted like canned chicken soup, only worse because it was super starchy.

I ordered Max's platter which consisted of a Max's chicken leg, pancit bihon (rice noodles), garlic rice, and a caramel bar. The fried chicken is Max's signature dish and it's what made the chain famous to begin with. Maybe that's why I found it so underwhelming. The skin was crispy, but the whole thing was so overcooked that it was tough and chewy. The garlic rice was good, and the pancit bihon was decent, but it was no different from any stir-fried noodle dish you could get at Good Buddy or any other mediocre Chinese restaurant. The caramel bar was not even removed from its plastic packaging to be served, so that basically told me it was something they took out of a box and threw on the plate. It was a soggy thing with a texture somewhere between cake and fudge.

After the disappointing and very greasy meal, I finally got to try what I came for — the halo halo dessert with ube ice cream. I suppose they were trying to jazz up the presentation with the paper umbrella, but that hardly helped since the other toppings looked so carelessly thrown together. Tastewise, everything tasted like it came directly out of a can. In fact, I could probably recreate this at home after doing some shopping at T&T. The flan was hard and chunky, and I found out that I didn't like the flavour of ube ice cream.

After this meal, my dining partner and I both had stomach pain and indigestion issues. This could be due to the extremely long waiting time followed by such a greasy meal. In any case, I would not recommend this restaurant.

Max's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Monday, June 26, 2017

Chocorrant Patisserie and Cafe

Chocorrant is a French bakery cafe located on 124 St just down the road from Duchess Bake Shop. There isn't a lot of variety here as they currently only offer 4 cakes: (left to right) the most popular lemon cheesecake, chocolate crunch, caramel apple, and espresso. They recently discontinued the passion fruit almond tart, but they are working on something new to replace it.

I think what sets Chocorrant apart from other French bakeries is their innovative croissant flavours including chocolate, strawberry milk, and matcha. They also have a savoury mushroom danish which I have yet to try.

I tried both the strawberry milk and matcha croissants, along with a London fog and a regular latte. I've also tried the matcha latte on another visit. The drinks were average and not comparable to most coffee shops, but it was nice to have something hot to go with the cakes and pastries.

I had imagined fluffy and flaky croissants filled with strawberry jam and matcha cream, but they were not like that at all. They were crispy on the outside, perhaps even a bit crunchy as they were quite browned. They did not have a very fluffy interior texture and were in fact more on the doughy side. There was not much of a filling, but just a thin layer of flavouring that was rolled in with the dough. Having said all that and despite being different from my expectations, the croissants were actually not bad and I quite enjoyed the matcha flavour.

Chocorrant used to offer a dessert sampler that includes all 5 cakes, but this is not available until they come up with a new creation to replace the almond tart. However, on my visit, they were nice enough to give me a sampler with an extra cake of my choice instead of the almond tart. So I got to try all of their current selection. My favourite was definitely the most popular lemon cheesecake. It was light and refreshing with a good balance of sweetness and tartness. I didn't find the other cakes too special; the chocolate crunch was just a regular moist chocolate cake and the espresso tasted just like a regular tiramisu cake.

Chocorrant Pâtisserie + Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Miga Korean Cuisine

Miga is a relatively new Korean restaurant on the southside (34 Ave and 93 St) right next to Ginseng Korean BBQ. The place has a more modern and refined ambiance compared to other Korean restaurants like B-Bim-Baab, but it's also much smaller with limited seating.

The meal starts with complimentary banchan, Korean side dishes to be enjoyed with rice and the main meal. But I found myself picking away at them while waiting for the entrees to arrive.

The topokki with cheese in hot plate ($32) seems to be the most popular dish here. It comes with two bowls of rice, so it's enough to feed two people or to share with a larger party. The fried wontons with minced meat filling and fried vegetable fritters made great appetizers. The topokki (rice cake) was cooked with fish cake, cabbage, and glass noodles in Korean spicy sauce in the traditional method. But in a modern twist, the rice cake could be eaten with egg and melted cheese served on the side of the hot plate. Just make sure you let the egg cook first!

Look at that gooey, stringy cheese!

So I forgot to take a picture of the bi-bim-bap before I mixed it up with hot sauce. Can you blame me? I was too busy stuffing my face with the topokki cheese dish. Anyway this is the mountain vegetables with beef, egg and rice bi-bim-bap ($14). It's also available in a hot stone bowl for an extra $2. After the topokki dish, this tasted pretty mild and didn't have much flavour. I probably wouldn't order this again.

Recommended Dishes:
- topokki with cheese in hot plate

Miga Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Co Do Hue - Best Spicy Wings

Co Do Hue is a Vietnamese restaurant with 3 locations in Edmonton. I dined at the West End location and realized it was a self-service establishment. Customers need to order at the counter and get their own water, cutlery, and sauces.

The best dish here, in my opinion, is the spicy crispy chicken wings ($10.95). If you can only order one item, get this one! The seasoning is what makes these wings so addictive. It's served with sauteed onions, peppers and spices, and the level of spiciness is just right — enough to give a good kick but not so much that it kills your taste buds.

The shrimp salad rolls ($8.75) were huge but mostly stuffed with vermicelli and lettuce, so it was quite bland since the shrimp to other fillings ratio was way off. The shrimp also did not have any flavour. I value quality over quantity, so I'd take the salad rolls at Grain of Rice over these anytime.

The special beef noodle soup / pho ($11.95) was pretty standard, and I liked how the beef was served pink. The broth was also quite savoury and comforting.

Hue's spicy noodle soup / bun bo hue ($11.95) was served with a generous amount of shredded cabbage on top which I found a bit strange, but good for my daily vegetable intake. There was also a lot of beef brisket, pork sausage and meatballs to go with it. Compared to other bun bo hue, this broth was a bit weaker and didn't have the intense piquant flavour I was expecting.

Recommended Dishes:
- spicy crispy chicken wings

Cô Dô Hue Dine in & Take Out Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Grain of Rice - Modern Asian Cuisine

Grain of Rice is an Asian restaurant, but differs from other Asian restaurants in that it is a no tipping establishment (just like Cafe Linnea), and it has a very limited menu of less than 10 items in order to ensure quality.

Instead of getting the full order of YinYang rolls which includes both deep fried spring rolls and salad rolls, I wanted only the salad rolls ($7) stuffed with sweet and juicy prawn. These were seriously the best prawn salad rolls I've ever tasted. I could tell they were made fresh to order, and everything from the translucent wrapper to the crisp lettuce and soft vermicelli was just perfect. The best part was that there was no skimping! Each roll was fully stuffed with two big and meaty prawns — the freshest I've ever seen in any salad roll.

Beef and rice noodles ($15) is a very common Cantonese dish, so I was curious to see how this unconventional Asian restaurant would execute it. Surprisingly, it was prepared in a very traditional method. The noodles were cooked well, and the dish had a lot of "wok hei". "Wok hei" is a term in Cantonese literally translated as "breath of the wok". By stir-frying over high heat and stirring constantly, the wok imparts a unique flavour to the dish by lightly charring the ingredients. Unfortunately the thinly sliced beef was not tender, but this may be due to the cut of beef, as flank steak is usually rather tough.

The vermicelli bowl ($15) is the most popular item here. I'm not too crazy about Vietnamese style vermicelli, so I rarely order it. I got it this time since the menu was so limited, and I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed it. The vermicelli was served slightly warm with fresh lettuce and cucumber, and extremely fragrant lemongrass chicken. For those of you who are health conscious, you'll be happy to know that this is free range chicken breast meat.

Grain of Rice is open for both lunch and dinner, but please be aware that dinner prices are slightly higher. They do post promotions on Instagram, so keep an eye out for that @grainofriceyeg.
Current specials are:
Tuesday night - $10 beef and rice noodles (with drink purchase)
Wednesday night - $10 pho (with drink purchase)

Recommended Dishes:
- vermicelli bowl
- salad rolls

Grain of Rice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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