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 Hotels.com 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)






Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cheap Lunch Time Bento Boxes (Sushi Bella (West 4th))

If you are looking for lunch and something with a decent portion this is the place to be! I was walking on West 4th and I noticed this place had a lunch specials menu. The place wasn't too busy, but I must admit, I didn't really like the lighting when I first walked in as it was dark and the air felt a bit moist. When my mom and I were sat down, the waitress brought us the menu. It was also then that she pointed out the lunch specials menu that was separate on the side.
   After looking through the menu, the prices and selections seem pretty average and decent (so for a California roll it's around $3.50-$4.00 which is average). So there wasn't anything too special that I noticed.  However, I noticed that on the lunch special menu, the things listed on there seem to be bento boxes, but they were only for $7.95 each. The bentos seem to include rice, a side of sushi, chicken teriyaki and also a salad. In addition, they have a special lunch time sushi combo as well which included 18 pieces of sushi. The price and description sounded very tempting so we decided to get this combo.
    When the combo came, I was decently impressed. The portions were pretty big and the quality was not too bad. The sushi combo was pretty big with 18 pieces of sushi and the bento was pretty big too. The only thing that was a bit off was the fact that the teriyaki felt more like cutlet styled (like deep fried) rather than pan fried. Otherwise I think it is a good deal and I would definitely come back again for this deal.



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Free Breakfast, full kitchen with Paul Mitchell Shampoo, one of the best! (Residence Inn Downtown Bellevue)

When I look into hotels, area is a big thing for me because of safety reasons in addition to price. This hotel was on sale on Hotels.com when I saw it (for ways to save on Hotel bookings, please scroll to the bottom). When I was looking hotels in the Seattle region, but many were already booked. The ones that wasn't booked were either sketchy looking motels or really expensive ones in Downtown Seattle.
   This hotel is located right in the heart of downtown Bellevue and is 10-15 minute walk from everything that includes Bellevue square, the Bellevue transit center and etc... The location is relatively clean compared to other parts of Seattle. I was on a trip with my cousins and we were carpooling. The parking wasn't included, so we had to buy a parking pass separately, which was $12 per night.
    I booked two rooms, and each room was one that had a bed and a sofa bed. When I arrived into the rooms I was very impressed. The room had a very comfy "at-home" feel. It included things like kitchen cutlery, plates, cups and napkins. There was also a toaster, fridge, microwave and sink. The bed was also very big and comfortable and there was a living room area with a big sofa that also turns into a bed (but the bed wasn't as comfortable as the actual bed). The TV was a large screen one that is placed on a rotating stand that you can either turn around to face the bed or face the sofa. There was also a dining table that had an internet port.
   In addition, the shampoo and soaps that were used here was made by Paul Mitchell, which was of a higher quality. The fitness center was pretty big with a full set of weights, treadmill and arm machines. The pool was also pretty big too.
   The continental breakfast included cereal, an assortment of breads, milk, an assortment of juices, waffles, scrambled eggs, sausages, warm oatmeal, toast, cereal, and coffee. It was pretty nice and they opened up the lounge area for the guests to enjoy. Overall, the hotel is a excellent one and is one that I would stay at again. For the price of $139 and the things that it come with, it is pretty good value.
 
If you would like to book a hotel, a great way to save is to sign up for Ebates: Canada (http://tinyurl.com/m6slqmh) or USA (http://tinyurl.com/k9suug9) then use Hotels.com on there to book your hotel. You get 3 discounts, which includes the rebates from Ebates, Hotels.com buy 10 nights get 1 free and individual hotel rewards.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Fair and vintage hotel (Red Lion Hotel, Portland Airport)

The immediate area around this hotel is a bit on the wild side and it can be dark. However, just a few minutes by car away is Cascade Station. The area surrounding Cascade Station is pretty cool as it is relatively newly developed. I decided to book at Red Lion Hotel thinking it was just across the street from Cascade Station. I was travelling with my cousins in Portland and we checked into the hotel around 11 at night. When we arrived, everywhere was closed and the area around this hotel was dark. It was not as close to Cascade Station as I thought (it was about a 5 minute drive away so it still wasn't THAT far). The outside of the hotel feels a bit more like a motel as the hotel rooms are on the ground level and upper level.
There are two separate buildings (and from the looks of it, the second building of hotel rooms was placed in as an extension). The hotel from the inside does look like a hotel with the exception that the rooms are on the ground level. It also do have an outdoor pool, and a fitness room on the first floor. The fitness room isn't very big. It does have a set of weights, 2 treadmills and an exercise bike. The facilities are a bit on the old side and the area immediately surrounding the hotel does feel a bit dark. I also thought there was breakfast, however, I just found out once we arrived that it was not included. Once we finished checking in and got settled in our rooms, I can tell that the hotel does make an effort to maintain its rooms. The sheets were clean, but the coffee machine and furnishings were slightly on the old side.
I am not sure if I've spent too long in the car from my trip or just my body is funny, but my bed felt slightly lop sided (but not too much). In the rooms, there was a coffee machine and a cup that had an assortment of tea and coffee. Usually you would expect glass cups or paper cups with lids, but here they just give you a couple of paper cups. The washrooms also had a dryer and soap and lotion. The stay itself was pretty pleasant. However, my cousin said that he kept hearing the horns of trains. The light rail does pass by near here, so that may be a concern. Also, the location of the hotel is right under the flight path so you will hear airplanes land and take off. Personally since I am a nerd, I actually love these things, especially the airplane take off and landings. Each room cost about $120, and I would say the quality is fair, but it can slightly be a bit lower (considering there isn't any breakfast).

 If you would like to book a hotel, a great way to save is to sign up for Ebates: Canada (http://tinyurl.com/m6slqmh) or USA (http://tinyurl.com/k9suug9) then use Hotels.com on there to book your hotel. You get 3 discounts, which includes the rebates from Ebates, Hotels.com buy 10 nights get 1 free and individual hotel rewards.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Vintage with a bit of an Abercrombie and Fitch feel (The Local Downtown Victoria)

After walking along the edge of the harbour, I noticed there was a pub with a patio that looked pretty cool. It had it's servers all dressed in beach flashy coloured (but not swimming suit) clothes so I decided to go in for lunch.
At first, the insides reminded me of an antique shop and the big moose coupled with the dark lighting sort of gave it an Abercrombie and Fitch sort of feel. When the waitress took me to my seat, she also brought the water and the menu.
In terms of the menu options, there were not much to choose from as compared to other pubs but they did have a decent (maybe around 20 of each type) selection of burgers, misc (like steak and fish and chips) and starters. They also had 2 selection of soup. All of the options for the burgers were around $15.
 I decided to get the most simple option that I can see and that was the grilled chicken burger (they call it something fancy but it literally was just a grilled burger). I also decided to choose fries (I know, not healthy. It is however a good way to compare with other pubs on whether or not the food is good.) To compensate for the fat on the fries, I also decided to ask for no mayo in my burger.



When the food came, the presentation was pretty interesting. The burger and fries was served on a piece of wood with the name of the pub engraved on it. I thought that was pretty cool (though hard to wash).
 The fries tasted like they were freshly cut and fried while the burger tasted fresh. The cheese in the burger wasn't the processed cheese that many burger places use either. The quality was pretty good and for the location,15 dollars was not too bad. Overall I like this place and would definitely come back again!
The Local Kitchen on Urbanspoon