Friday, May 19, 2017

Everything for $4.95... and they weren't kidding! (Warehouse Group / Restaurant Review)

I've walked by this place many times, and have always took a second look at the sign that says (Everything $4.95). Knowing that it's in Downtown Vancouver, and that just Vancouver in general is not exactly the cheapest... I've always stared at the sign and moved on. That said, the place is usually very busy so that's also another reason why I never came. However, I was feeling adventurous today and the place wasn't that busy (as it was early on) so I came.
   The restaurant itself has a couple of heated outside/ patio seats and when you walk in, there is a sign that prompts you to wait at the entrance for your hostess. The menu is also outside and after taking a close look, there is a wide variety of food options. From appetizers to burgers to even Asian noodles, they have it all. The variety is actually pretty big and they have a decent selection of appetizers too. The one thing I noticed with their menu is that for every item, there seems to be the option to upgrade (like upgrade to add fries to a combo or upgrade fries to soup.. or add an avocado to your meal). It's pretty cool. The prices for upgrades did not seem too expensive either (around $1-$2 for upgrades.
     Once I lined up, the hostess came and took me inside. I can tell that they are very busy and they seem to be a bit on the understaffed side. It took a good few minutes for the waitress to come around with water and drinks. While I waited, I had a look at the menu and took in the vibe of the place. It's setup like a pub, so the insides are darker and the waitress and waiters were also younger. They have very vintage decorations like an old juke box and signs that they collected from different places. It also reminds me of a ski-shack for some odd reason.
     The waitress came and took my order. Since I was here with my mother and I wasn't too sure how big the portions were (I thought to myself "$4.95... how much can that get you?"), so I decided to get 3 items between the 2 of us. My mother being the health nut that she is decided to get the Asian noodles while I decided to get their chicken wrap. We decided to get the fish tacos to split in case the food we got were not enough.
     I noticed that the waitress, when she came around to ask us for our order, she would ask us if we wanted an upgrade for extra. For my mom's noodles, she offered to add avocados to it for only $2 more, so we said yes. For my wrap, she told me that fries were included (at this point... I thought... "oh man... $4.95 with a fries.. I hope the quality is alright").
     After she took our orders, it took the orders around 20 minutes or so to arrive (given that they seem to be understaffed, it was understandable). When the orders came.. I was decently amazed. The portions were NOT SMALL AT ALL! The noodles were a big bowl and so was the wrap and fries. Even if you go to the supermarket, the prices would be higher (for example... I once bought a chicken wrap from a supermarket... for $6 and it didn't even come with fries).
    My mom gave me some of her noodles for me to try, and to my surprise, the quality was decent too. It reminded me of the noodles I once had in Taiwan (except with a Vancouver twist to it). Who knew avocados tasted so good with the noodles.
    The next thing I tried was my own wrap. The wrap itself was not exactly massive or fancy but it was good. It had all of the essentials of a chicken wrap (the chicken, the sauce, lettuce and mildly grilled tortilla). The fries were also good (it wasn't too greasy but slightly on the dry side). For $4.95, the portion was very good.
    The next thing I tried was the fish tacos. The fish itself in the tacos were a bit on the smaller side and it wasn't as fresh as some other places... however, the other contents of the taco was really good. Also for $4.95.. it was definitely a bargain.
    Once we finished, the bill came and for 3 plates of food, in Downtown Vancouver, it was only around $17 for everything! That is an incredibly good deal! I would definitely come back again because of that. I would recommend this place if you were taking your date to out for lunch... but the place is pretty loud. It would be hard to have a good conversation... that said... when things are cheap and good.. who needs conversation anyway right? :p

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Starting to lose its flare? (Uncle Willy's Metrotown)

Uncle Willy's have been here for a while, I remember that it's been here ever since I was a child (not to date myself or anything). There have not been much change since I was a child. The tables, arrangements, even equipment and utensils have not changed. From the outside, it is obvious that minor repairs have been done (such as the addition of the "buffet" sign) outside. Once you enter, the signs look exactly the same as it has years ago.
   I decided to come here for lunch just to see what it is like years after (and if there was any change). The facilities appear to be a bit on the vintage side of things, but the prices were fair. The lunchtime price was around $13 per person. When you arrive, you would pay for your entry first, then you will be given your receipt. I then proceeded to look for food. The plates, utensils and even bowls seems like they haven't changed for 20 years (then again.. is it customary for restaurants to change plates within 20 years?). The utensils do look worn, but then again it is still usable.
    After grabbing utensils, the food options begin with soup. There were two types of soup (one is the tomato and the other was the chicken soup). I tried the chicken soup, which had rice in it as well, and I liked it. The salad bar came after the soups and it had things like salad (potato salad, coleslaw, caesar and more). The food and salad from the salad bar is typical in the sense that all of these things can be found in the deli at the supermarket, so it's not anything too special.
    The next section of food contains a miscellaneous selection of meats. During the hour that I was there, they had a few dishes that changed. One dish I liked was the casserole (I think) that was wrapped in cabbage. It had some rice in it and meat as well. They also had things like perogies, gravy and pasta, fried chicken, curry potatoes (these are good) and a variety of meatballs. The taste of these are relatively fair.
    On the far hand side, there were also three dishes of fried noodles, asparagus with vegetables and meat. The asparagus seemed a bit dehydrated... otherwise the other dishes were pretty fair.
     What was the most interesting was the drinks section. It seemed like the coffee machines haven't been maintained for a while.. and what was coming out of it was just hot water. The soda machine seems to have been there for a long time as well.
     The dessert section was pretty sweet. I've always liked their dessert section. They have a good selection of desert and reduced sugar desserts (which is great for someone like myself who does not have much of a sweet tooth).
   Overall, I would come here again, but I would not come here too often. The quality of the food is alright, however, the facilities are starting to become a bit run down. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Inexpensive and to the point buffet (Agra Tandoori Restaurant Burnaby)

    If you are looking for a buffet that gives you your Indian food craving but don't want to pay too much, this is the place to go. Con Agra is a bit out of the way in terms of public transit, but there are many offices around so you see many business people eating here during lunch hours. The restaurant itself isn't too big. It can probably fit around 30-40 people, so it can get busy.
    I was there this morning (it's Tuesday) and their buffet is only $9.95. I had a flyer coupon that took $2.00 off of the original buffet price, which made my meal to be $7.95 (which I thought... is cheaper than getting takeout at the food court.. and I get to eat all I can eat).
    When it comes to the selection, the restaurant only has about 10 dishes. The first is the garden salad with a selection of 3 sauces. There is not much to write about for this as it's just regular caesar sauce, and hot sauce. The only thing that was special was the spicy pickle sauce that they had.
  The next set of dishes after the salad was Indian fries and rice. I must say, the Indian fries were pretty good. It was like regular fries infused with curry (but it wasn't as greasy as curry).
  After this, there was a choice of daal, vegetable curry, butter chicken, beef curry. The vegetable curry was pretty good and so was the butter chicken. I mixed it on top of the rice and the infusion of the curry into the rice was just right. They also had tandoori chicken and these circular egg like things. I

Overall, this place is limited in terms of how much selection there is for the buffet. Given the price, it is much cheaper than going to the food court to get take out of butter chicken... and you also get so much of it. If the options aren't enough for you, they have an a la carte menu too! Overall, I would definitely come back here again. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

The server that smiles only when you pay her/ pretty decent All You Can Eat Hot Pot (MaThai Hotpot Restaurant)

It was a cold night so a group of friends and I decided to look for hot pot. After driving through the Richmond area, we saw the sign outside of MaThai Hotpot for All You Can Eat hotpot for $21.95. To be honest, I was not too sure about how the concept of All You Can Eat for hot pots work.  If you think about it, soup fills you up and it's also cheap. By that rationale... you would get full really fast via hotpot, but I learned that there's more to it than that.
    The restaurant itself wasn't big, in total it could probably hold roughly 40 people. When we got in, there were only 2 people working that night and they seemed tired. We quickly got seated and the menu was brought to us. It was confusing at first because there were separate pricing for things (despite it being All You Can Eat). After asking one of the servers, we found out that we had to buy the soup base separately, and the All You Can Eat portion only referred to the things that go in the hot pot (like meat, fish and etc...). Apparently you can get more than one type of soup base (but they cost separately).
   We all decided to get the pork soup base. When the soup base came, there were huge pieces of pork in there. Compared to some other hot pot places I've been to, which adds the soup base using powder, they actually have the real meat in their soup bases. We started to order the things to put into the hot pot (I want to call them condiments, but that just sounds like ketchup... so let's just call them "things we put in hot pot for now).
   We decided to put an order for about 3 of everything to see what we are dealing with. In terms of the selection, there were many to choose from. From meat (lamb, beef, pork, chicken) to fish (shrimp, squid, and assortment of fish balls) to dim sum (such as dumplings, XiaoLong Baos) to things such as deep fried buns, potato cakes, nuggets to fish skin to quail eggs. In terms of vegetables, there was a fairly good selection as well. They also had skewers as well.
   After we put in our order, the first wave of food started coming. The portions were a bit smaller than we expected. 3 orders of meat really amounts to only a few pieces of meat in reality. The vegetables came in buckets, but the other items were similar in the sense that each portion/ order was small. After all of the raw foods came, the fried foods and grilled ones started coming too. The part I loved the best was the fact that the fried and grilled food was freshly cooked (hence why it took longer to come). You can also taste the freshness as it just emerged from the fryer. The food itself tasted pretty good, but it wasn't too special.
   That said, the portions were not too big, so we decided to go for seconds. Then we went for thirds... I think the server looked a bit annoyed with us (but understandably they were under staffed). When it was time for the third round, we decided to get more of everything just so we have enough food to fill us and we don't need to make another round. We ordered about 20 pieces of nuggets (of which only 4 came). By the time the 3rd order came, the server notified us that it's our last call (there was a time limit of 2 hours we can be at the restaurant.
   At that time, my friends and I were getting full.. so we decided to get our bill. It was funny when the server came with our bill, she wrote on there explicitly "+tips". When I got up to go pay her, I saw her smile for the first time in the entire time that we were there. The minimum amount of tips we had to give was 12%.
    Overall, I would say the service was a bit lacking, but it's understandable as they are busy and the food was relatively good. The price, after tips came to about $30 per person, which sounds about right for All You Can Eat Hot Pot. That said, for a meal, that tends to be a bit on the expensive side, so I'm open to come again, but not too often.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

McDonald's Waffle Fries Review

I must say, when I saw the posters for waffle fries come out from McDonald's, I was jumping with joy (I guess the new product hype). I must give credit to McDonald's for their efforts to re-invent themselves. Recently, they rolled out kiosks where people can order and buy things without human interactions (all the introverts must be celebrating). I found that this idea was very nice because it allowed people who didn't need an overly customized order to order quickly and pay with their card. The added bonus was that the kiosks also accepted coupons.

I ordered the waffle fries from the kiosk and they were about $2.80 for each side order. It seems a bit on the expensive side considering that I am used to paying only for small fries. That said, the waffle fries come in only one size. It took the order no time to get ready.

The first impression was that the portions of the fries were not very impressive. As with the natural geometry of the waffles, there seems to be many spaces inside the fries and there's only a few actual waffles of the fries. In addition, the taste of the fries was a bit on the dry side. It was also on the saltier side, and there were in inconsistencies with the sizes between each waffle fry. Perhaps it was the way it was prepared, the waffle fries wasn't anything too special to write home about. It would be an alright snack, but I would opt for waffle fries that is more full on the flavour side. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A surprising find - Ricky's All Day Grill Victoria

I must say I was surprised by Ricky’s and the value of their meals for the quality and quantity. This was the first time that I ever ate at a Ricky’s. I’ve always associated them to be expensive (to be honest, I am not exactly sure why I associate them with being expensive). However, since it was Thanksgiving and there was really nothing interesting in the area beside fast food, my mother and I decided to give this place a shot and make it a onetime thing if it was too expensive. After walking into the restaurant, I was greeted by the hostess who was very nice and pleasant. My first impression was that the place had a small town but a big city restaurant to it. We were seated followed by the waitress asking what drinks we would like. My mother being the hipster she can be asked for hot water while the happy-go-lucky me asked for just water. A few moments later, the waitress came back with a miniature kettle of warm water and a cup for my mother and a cup of cold water for me. It was interesting how for the warm water, she gave my mom a small kettle.
While the waitress was grabbing us water, we looked through the menu. I must say, the selection is pretty interesting. They had a Turkey Dinner on special which included salad, turkey, soup and dessert. It looked fancy, but as I was running the Victoria Half-Marathon the next day, I wanted something a bit on the lighter end. Flipping through their menu, there were a good variety of food that is good for anyone from vegetarians to non-vegetarians. The main categories included burgers, wraps, pasta and a wide variety of appetizers. They also had a good assortment of sides that came with the burgers / wraps which include salad, fries and/or onion rings, potato wedges and tumbleweed chips.
Upon seeing the tumbleweed chips as an option, my attention was grabbed. I had a hard time choosing, so I decided to go with something that had chicken, which lead me to get the Zorba the Greek Chicken Wrap. My mother got the mushroom sandwich. The pricing for these were pretty fair at about $13 per order. We also decided to get a side order of flatbread to get a bit more carbs in my system before the race the next day (which was about $7).
Soon after we placed our orders, the food came. I must say, I was very impressed with the portions. The tumbleweed chips look so good. The wrap was also very good as the cheese and chicken made the right blend. The tumbleweed chips were good too as they were freshly made, and the taste of fresh chips is just so fantastic… Unlike the chips you get at the store bagged, fresh chips have more flavour and fullness (vs more dry store bought chips).
Before we left, I had a nice conversation with our waitress. She is a local and she was telling about how her son is graduating school in media production and how she is excited about her some coming home. I guess that is also one part of why I love this experience at Ricky’s so much. The fact that you can have conversations with the people too, which adds more meaning to the food. Overall, the atmosphere is great, people is nice, price is fair, I would definitely come back again if I was in town.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dining with the sea and the mountains (BC FERRIES PACIFIC BUFFET REVIEW)

I’ve always seen the signs for the buffet when I board this route from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, however, I never been interested in eating here as I get turned off by the price. That said, if compared to buffets in Vancouver and other places, the pricing is relatively similar. In addition, I was starving after I finished running in the Victoria Half-Marathon, so I decided to go for it during lunch and boy was it good! Coming into the buffet, the dining hall is pretty big. However, the best part of the dining hall is the environment as it’s at the back of the ferry (if you are on Coastal Celebration) and you have a view of the sea as you sail. It’s not exactly 360 degrees but it is close to 300 degrees.
The view is pretty magnificent. After paying for the entry into the buffet, your host will take you into the dining area to be seated. The environment is more on the quiet side even with the dining room all full. The also had faint elevator music (I am not sure how to deUnlike buffets that I am used to going, they don’t ask you if you would like a drink (which is good because the drinks usually cost extra, so I don’t get it anyway). Here at the Pacific Buffet, there is a selection of coffee/tea and 6 different soft drinks to choose from. Of course, being the caffine addict I am, I went straight for the coffee.
 When it comes to the selection of food, it is fair. There isn’t a huge variety, however, there is a fair bit. The main entrees already have at least 8 dishes. The dishes range from shrimp to salmon to pork curry to spring rolls. They also have rice, and teriyaki noodles. My favourite dish was the vegetarian ravioli. The perfect blend of mushroom inside the ravioli coupled with the cheesy sauce made it a mouth watering combination. I also liked the pork curry and spring rolls. It had a fresh taste to them. Besides main entrees, there was a salad bar that contains a large variety of condiments on the side for you to choose from.
There was also bread (baguettes that were sliced up with a selection of either margarine and butter). The condiments ranged from shrimp to different dried nuts and lemons. Personally I didn’t have too much of this. The most impressive however, was their dessert selection. As a marathon runner and health nut I shouldn’t be advocating for this (because they only had 1 variety of fruits when I was here – watermelon), but their cake and sweets selection was NICE. There was a table just for cheese cake, whip cream and strawberry sauce. In addition, there was another counter for a variety of cakes and macaroons. YES… macaroons, that was the first time I’ve ever macaroons appear at a buffet. Have I mentioned the views?! Sitting here is just absolutely gorgeous. Surrounded by islands and mountains with the sea and the sun reflecting the trees off the water… it is absolutely gorgeous. Overall, I would say the Pacific Buffet is worth coming to. The price is fair and also it is a great place to view the scenery and have a great meal.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Great service but average hotel (Arbutus Inn Victoria)

It was a week to the Victoria Marathon when I realized that I forgot to book a hotel. I did a quick search on and the one that was the closest I can find was Arbutus Inn. It’s located about 2.5km from Downtown Victoria. On the map it seemed relatively close, however when you actually arrive downtown and you walk to the hotel, it takes a good half an hour.
From the exterior, the hotel looks like any other motel/inn in the area. The only exception was that this hotel also doubles as a car rental place for National Car Rentals. Walking into the lobby, the heater was turned on full blast (I understand that it is cold outside… but the temperature inside was like the tropics compared to the comfortable type of warmth). The hotel front desk was split into two parts where one part was for National Car Rentals and the other was for the hotel check in. Both side of the hotel front desk was staffed with people. The lobby also has a vending machine for food and drinks and basic amenities for a bit of a higher price margin. When I checked in, the hotel check in lady was very nice. I explained that I was running in the marathon the next morning and I had to leave early. After hearing that she immediately helped me look for bus routes (I was already expecting to walk and knew busses don’t run that early but that was still a very nice gesture of her). After checking in and authorizing my credit card for deposits, I proceeded to my room.
The interior of the building takes on a slightly retro feel and a retro smell of wood. The lobby is actually located on the second floor as the building is built on an incline. As I walked upstairs towards my room, it nothing out of the ordinary besides the look of a retro hallway.
The room itself was very tidy on first inspection. It was a bit stuffy but everything was there. The washrooms had all of the basic amenities such as shampoo, soap and etc… The room also had an air conditioner, fridge, microwave, a hot water boiler, TV and coffee packets (where you boil hot water and pour it over the coffee packets). The only “A-HA!” moment I had was while I was showering.. I realized that the air vent wasn’t on. My first instinct was: “Who on Earth designed this place? It’s making this bathroom feel like a sauna”. I wasn’t until I finished showering, I noticed a small knob (very vintage feeling too) that you can turn on to activate the ceiling fan in the shower…
Overall, the hotel stay was fair. The facilities is slightly on the old side, but the surrounding area is pretty decent in the sense that Mayfair mall is just across the street. If you are looking for food or anything, it is convenient. I would say that the cost of the stay was a bit on the expensive side (At $180 or $212 including tax), however, I am sure if you booked earlier enough the cost would be lower.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Air Canada Business Class from Vancouver to San Francisco (SF Trip Part 1)

Hey guys, it’s been a while since I posted. Life has been busy with new pursuits and goals,but I will try my best to be updating you! Recently I embarked on a quick trip to San Francisco. I was flying with a friend of mine from Air Canada so it was a new experience for me to be flying in Business Class. If I had to describe the whole experience of flying Business Class, I must say that it does make you feel special in a certain way that you get your own lines at check-in, expedited boarding and specialized baggage tags.
 In the airplane, the seats themselves were wide and the amenities included personal headphones (the quality could be better as they don't exactly fit in my ears nor does the sound comes out balanced when plugged in). The seats themselves were made of leather and every seat also had a pillow. In the front seat pocket is what everyone on the airplane gets - a copy of Enroute, the emergency evacuation procedures, a vommit bag (I'm not sure if that's what you call those wax lined bags you get... I've always assumed it's for vommit..). What was different was that an entertainment guide was included as the Business Class seats had a personal TV.

 Upon boarding, the flight attendant would offer you either orange juice or water. Personally I don’t really understand why those two are the options that is offered (I mean it does make sense to offer something like coffee or tea to wake people up) After, the flight attendant brought around the Business Class Menus.
 With regards to options on the menus, there were 2 main entrees to choose from. Either the omelette with sausage or the “healthy option” with fruits. The menu wasn’t too specific as to what the “healthy option” included, so I decided to go with the omelette option. As soon as the cabin door closed and the flight attendants were doing their final pre-flight checks, the service director came by and asked for my meal choice.
 Outside the airplane window, there were water droplets. I was looking forward to being airborne and see those water droplets zoom by. One of the best parts about being in an airplane is feeling the thrust of the engines as the magic of flight takes place. Here is a video that I took during take off. Being the first flight in the morning, it was beautiful to see the sunrise over Vancouver.  
 Once airborne, the service director came around and gave everyone a warm towel to wipe our hands with. I am not exactly sure if this has any anti-bacterial/anti-viral effects to wipe our hands with a warm towel, but it felt classy so I went with it. Afterward, she came by to collect the warm towel and then place an Air Canada tablecloth our tables and then came by to give us coffee/tea/ drinks and then individually to deliver us our meals.   The presentation of the meal itself was definitely a surreal feeling - actual bowls and plates vs aluminum. Second thought, in North American flights like this short hop, food isn’t even usually provided. Not only was there food, but it was presented on ceramic. In addition, the utensils were all Air Canada branded silverware. It was wrapped inside the cloth you would put around your lap (or use it for other things like wiping your mouth).
 When it comes to the food, the omelette was pretty good and so was the sausage and cream.The potatoes tasted like potatoes (I know that’s stating the obvious, but potatoes can be very dry or crunchy if not cooked properly…), which was good.
The fruit cup was pretty good too. After when the service director delivered the meal, she came around with a basket of warm bread. The bread itself were smaller than usual dinner rolls you would find at stores. I think this idea is great because definitely having smaller portions do reduce food waste. Also eating a lot during a flight isn’t a good idea anyway.
 Once finished, she came by to collect the utensils and the empty plates. With in a few minutes after that, we have arrived at our destination, San Francisco. The flight was beautiful in scenery and relatively smooth. In addition, the service and people working for Air Canada is fantastic. I love how personable the flight crew was. In general, there is definitely an added comfort with sitting in business class, Besides having a bigger seat, priority boarding and food that is served with real utensils and ceramic, Business class does have an added comfort compared to the economy class.

Landing in San Francisco (video to the right)