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Authenticity is perhaps the biggest lightning rod when it comes to fodder amongst hardcore food enthusiasts, especially for those online. It’s an odd criteria, a subjective crystallization of a certain trope of a certain group at a certain locale at a certain time, a tall benchmark that gets zealously applied, particularly when speaking of ethnic restaurants. The best compliment that any ethnic restaurant can receive? It was authentic.

Such was the online discussion about Bob Likes Thai Food, a relatively new restaurant on the Main Street of a city already littered with Thai-ish restaurants. Discussion boards, blogs, etcetera were all raving about the restaurant, emphatic about its authenticity, despite the fact that many of those opining have likely never been to Thailand for longer than that rite-of-passage backpack trip, if at all.

The key or at least starting factor in this judgment seems to be based on ketchup. Many Thai places around town use an abundant quantity of the condiment when making their pad thai: of course, no such use occurs in Thailand, or so I’ve been told. In fact, out of the sheer number of Thai restaurants in town, there are surprisingly few of them that don’t use ketchup, and so the pad thai/ketchup criteria has seemingly developed as a determinative criteria (particularly amongst those on Chowhound) as to whether a restaurant is authentic enough to be worthy of a visit.



No, Bob Likes Thai Food does not use ketchup in their pad thai ($12). Instead, their version is tangy with tamarind and fish sauce, and made with the standard bean sprouts, egg, tofu, and prawns, dusted with peanuts. Pad thai, I suppose, is one of those dishes where “more” is not more, and many places go horribly awry when the urge to add gets out of hand.



As one would surmise, there are many curries on hand as well, which you can eat in their loosely decorated room where reggae is king and the atmosphere akin to a Main Street living room (albeit cleaner and brighter, though just as conservative with luxuries). The green chicken curry ($10.50) is a dense layering of flavour upon flavour, indebted to lemongrass and wed to coconut milk. A roasted red duck curry ($13, not on the regular menu) is not nearly as spicy as the waitress had warned (she had already been back to the kitchen to report numerous complaints, which I suspect led to the anticlimax), and balanced out with pineapple and lychee. Neither curry were particularly generous with the protein, another slight disappointment that one must overlook.



What can’t be overlooked, however, is the mess that is the Swimming Rama ($9.50). The dish’s name is derived from the Hindu deity Rama, an avatar of Vishnu, who, in some depictions of Rama’s battle with the demon god Ravana, has a green body, which is represented by the leafy vegetables in the dish (at Bob Likes Thai Food, spinach). This then ‘swims’ in the peanut sauce and protein (at Bob Likes Thai Food, tofu), or drowned, in this version. A more sturdy vegetable than spinach would have had more of a fighting chance, but the limp spinach really needed a miracle to save it from sacrilege.



Salads fare a bit better. The green papaya salad ($6.50) is fresh and crunchy, heavily dressed and sweet, though with an ambitious amount of spice. The laab moo ($10), a salad originating from the Isaan region in northeastern Thailand, mixes ground pork, well-flavored with lime and chili, with not-quite-enough toasted rice: contrasts in flavour without a contrast in texture. Both, though, are worthy introductions to the restaurant.



At the other end of the meal, you’ll need to ask your server about dessert before they proffer. They don’t appear on the menu, and, at times, aren’t necessarily pronounceable by the non-Thai staff. Tai, the proprietor, came out to offer us Ka Nom Tom, traditional sticky rice flour dumplings coated with shredded coconut and with even more coconut in its centre, a delight to think about and even better to eat. The desserts don’t seem to be made on site, so expect the options to vary.

To be upfront honest about it, I’ve never been to Thailand, though I have eaten at many Thai restaurants. I’ve never been to the Mississippi Delta, though I have listened to enough blues records. I’ve never been in a Hong Kong triad, though I’ve watched a fair share of Johnnie To films. Point is, all of these things have given me a glimpse of someone’s view of a certain place and a time, and I measure their success in terms of how vivid that glimpse or depiction is. And though I’ve never run boats off Koh Samui or dodged scooters on the streets of Bangkok, the food at Bob Likes Thai Food gives a certain snapshot of it, and, authentic or not, it’s a lively one. And that, much more than authenticity, seems like a worthy criteria.

Joe.

Bob Likes Thai Food
3755 Main St
Vancouver, BC
(604) 568-8538
Bob Likes Thai Food on Urbanspoon

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UPDATE: THE CONTEST IS CLOSED.

Fans of tea!  Fans of free stuff!  We've got a giveaway for one of Libre's great tea glasses over at Slop Press.  Check it out and enter here.  Contest runs until midnight (Vancouver time) on December 25, 2010 because Matt's as jolly as Santa, but less rotund.

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Street cred is a hard commodity to come by, and when the tastemakers of today bestow their blessings on any one particular business, attention must be paid.

And so it is with Fatburger. Starting out as a mom and pop shop in Los Angeles, the franchise has enjoyed more intimate ties to the entertainment industry than most fast food chains. In the late 1990s, a fund connected to Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, had taken over Fatburger with expansion plans in mind. Magic Johnson’s group later took these plans to fruition, with a consortium of investors that included the likes of Montel Williams, Queen Latifah and Darren Star (of Sex and the City fame). Though Johnson’s investment group left the management side of Fatburger in the mid 2000s, giving way to Portland asset management group Fog Cutter Capital, a plethora of other hip hop celebrities bought in, with two of the Roots opening up in the Illadelph, and E-40 sticking to the West. Pharell partnered up with Fogcutter in the late 2000s to bring the chain to China, with locations opening up in Macau, Hong Kong and Beijing. Though Fog Cutter has gone through rough times as of late, having filed Chapter 11 for its California and Nevada locations, Yeezy still bought ten locations for Chi-City, another detail in the grand web of intrigue surrounding his dark twisted fantasy.

All that said, Versace sofas this is not.

There’s not much that can be said about Fatburger that wouldn’t be obvious. If there once was a mom n’ pop charm to the original location, that had necessarily disappeared with its conversion to a franchised chain, and there’s no sense in pretending that it hadn’t or chastising it for doing so. It’s a fast food restaurant with a plastic furniture, plastic cutlery, plastic everything, as it should be.

There’s five different sizes of the burger, each with a uniform set of toppings though cheese is included towards the larger end of the spectrum (assumedly because one has already thrown caution to the wind for fat content at that point). An Original Fatburger ($6.49) sits right smack dab in the middle, both in size and within the general genre of fast food burgers. It’s both too dry and too salty, served on a bun that seems otherworldly, tasting of nothing but caloric values. The classic grilled chicken ($6.99) is largely the same, with the main – sole – difference being the colour of protein. The sides are often a saving grace at fast food chains, but at Fatburger neither the fries ($2.79) nor the onion rings ($3.79) are quite fried enough to be crispy. Altogether, there's little to the meal that’s as fascinating as the Fatburger story as a whole.

Nor should there be. It’s fast food, and there’s little assumption that it should be more nor does the chain aspire to be. After a good day, Fatburger’s there to grab at two in the morning. And sometimes that’s all that one should ask for.

Joe.

Fatburger
(Numerous locations, including 111 Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver)
Fatburger (Dunsmuir) on Urbanspoon

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CHEZ MEME BAGUETTE BISTRO

Have you ever been to the restaurant La Bretagne the Original Creperie located downtown Vancouver close to where Kakurenbo or Cow's Ice Cream was?  Well the Creperie was known for having some of the best crepes in the city and the nice French lady from the Creperie has opened up Chez Meme Baquette Bistro in Burnaby.   

This place has been around for a while now but if you do not live in the neighbourhood it will take some pre planning to have a meal here.  Their hours cater to the people working in the area and local residents.  They are open Monday to Friday 8- 3pm, and every second Saturday of the month.

I was greeted by the French lady with a bonjour.  My French is limited and I wanted to respond back with a Wonder Years quote stating "Voulais vous du beurre".   The sandwiches ($8-$10) are served on a nice fresh baguette, with a massive plate of fries and all deserve writing a letter home about.  I have tried the beef bourguignon, shrimp cocktail and Nordique sandwiches all of which are very impressive.  The breakfasts look incredible but I have always elected to go for the sandwiches.  The brioche french toast looks mind blowing and will be the next thing I order.   If you want something to really blow your mind try the Nicoise (tuna) salad which is fantastic.    The salad is served with boiled eggs, tomato and lightly seared tuna (I believe tuna should only be served seared or raw).

If my poor writing doesn't convince you to go these pictures should.  That is one of the best looking tuna salads ever.

I highly recommend you take a long lunch and give this place a try or head out on the second Saturday of the month.

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GUU COCKTAIL PARTY

I totally forgot to post pics of the recent Guu Event.   Well here they are.  I borrowed/jacked some images off my homeboy Jaykin (http://jaykin.blogspot.com/) who was the MC that night.  It was a crazy time.  Much different than what expected.  Drinks pouring all night, staff wearing masks and a live podcast.  What what!!! Brought me back to my radio days!!

Make sure to grab some friends and check out the next one.


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[Begin conversation]
Joe: So you didn't like Red Wagon at all?
Matt: It was ok.
Nothing special.
Joe: It reminded me of places we used to go to in Calgary.
The mismatched plates, furniture...It's odd because, on one hand, it seems like they don't care. But on the other hand, it takes a lot of conscious effort to purposely find mismatched plates, etc
Matt: It felt like a Chinese diner.
Joe: Was the pork belly good?
Matt: It was ok, part of it was really fatty, like 3/4 fat.
Actually it was decent.
Lots of fat but tender, and a little crispy.
Potatoes werent too flavourful nor was the soup.


Joe: What soup was that?
Matt: Borsht.
Joe:  I had the pulled pork benny. The eggs were well-cooked, but I suppose you're supposed to assume that people will poach eggs properly. The pork was alright, definitely slow-cooked for a long time, but not nearly as good as Re Up's.
Same with the smoked salmon benny. You don't really ever expect people to mess that up, and they didn't. But the potatoes were bland.
Matt: Potatoes were bland.
My pork belly was ok.
Joe: Did you have problems with the server?
Matt: Service was great.
Joe: When we went, at the end the server asked if we wanted to break any bills for change...like, for her tip.
Matt: Our server kept us in the loop when tables were becoming available and was very informative.
I liked her.
Joe: So, overall it sounds like you didn't have many problems with Red Wagon, but you still wouldn't go back?
Matt: The food was not good enough to make me return.
I love my potatoes and they were bland
It was an ok experience, just not fantastic as I was hoping
Joe: Yeah, it was pretty meh for me.
I was expecting to be blown out of my mind after all that hype.
Matt: I was hoping it would be good, it was just all right.
[End conversation]

Red Wagon Cafe
2296 East Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 568-4565
The Red Wagon on Urbanspoon

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While you're out and about starting/finishing/cursing your holiday shopping and building up an appetite in your fervour/anger/bone-shattering-depression, let Vancouver Slop be your shining star over a culinary manger. To make life a bit easier in your travails, look for our logo on any particular restaurant, café or other business, an indication that the business has satiated even our fussy and prima donna tastes. Sort of like other famous eating guides, except with fewer suicides.

Our inaugural choices? Look no further than Yuji's and Green Lemongrass.

The Slop.

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Did I tell you about one of my new projects?   It is a podcast called Breaking Bread Sessions and it is basically a design / food podcast where we break bread and chat with influential people in the design world.  It may take until the 20 minute mark but some really interesting stuff comes out of these interviews.  They are candid and raw and we make no apology for the quality.  

We have had some good internet press with Hypebeast and many other street blogs but we just got some press on the VANS website where my dog got on there to.


You can check the podcast at breakingbreadsessions.com

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A buzzer lets you know when your takeout is ready at Well Tea.

There's a whole genre of Taiwanese eateries scattered across town, referred to commonly as "bubble tea joints" or "Taiwanese-style cafes." Both of those terms don't accurately describe these restaurants, and I'm doubtful that any general term can apply to their organized chaos. Bubble tea plays a large part, in that they are invariably offered in variables; equally important are snacks, noodle bowls, set dinners and fried things of all sorts. If there's any one common theme that ties any of them, it's the voluminous variety.

The only other common feature - which depends heavily on the bankroll of the proprietors involved - is the environment. A modern, albeit very Asian, sense of design is usually involved, in a glamourized contrast to hole-in-the-wall wonton noodle shops. If one refers to Wong Kar Wai's 2046, then we're dealing with 2015 (or a 2005 version of it). There's a sense of movement, a sense of displacement at each, as though eating at an airport or train station, with the volume of traffic, the volume of patrons, to match. They're places of flux.

And so it is with Well Tea, one of the more popular Taiwanese eateries in town, with locations in Richmond, near UBC and in the BCIT building downtown. It's the latter that we went to, where the interiors are the least stylized, not having changed significantly from the former Hon's experiment that it replaced. The constant movement is there to great effect: no one seems content to stay in one place except for the large number of students present, and even they're only stopping for a quick breather. This is reflected in its staff, all pleasantly functional and no more, not that anyone should expect for something grander.

This chaos is reflected in the menu. There's pages and pages of it, on the walls, on a television screen, on the takeout menu.  They're not all Taiwanese options (teppanyaki and other faux Japanese fare is avail) and in that sense they are all Taiwanese options.  It seems like more of a map to everywhere and nowhere than a menu, and remember the annoyance you are causing if taking a minute to decide what to order. There's surely a protocol in place as to what one orders and what one doesn't, but don't for one second assume anyone should explain it to you.

There are noodle dishes, rice dishes, set dinners, and more deep-fried options than a KFC. A deep fried pork chop in red "fermented" sauce ($7.25) is far more sweet than its mouldy translation may imply, is expertly crisp with the right amount of batter and without being overly dry, and comes with toothsome yellow noodles in a MSG, dong choy (preserved, salted vegetable) flavoured soup. Peek below the batter and the pork is a delirous pink, technicolour, which would be shocking at most other restaurants but fitting in this context.
Of the Taiwanese 'snacks,' Taiwanese sausage seems ubiquitous, and offered in multiple variations. It tastes somewhat like the common lap cheong or red Chinese sausage, though sweeter and as fatty as a chorizo. For $7.45, one is served a (un)healthy dose of it, hiding a bowl of soup and noodles beneath.


Well Tea's website makes mention that its chicken with three spices ($7.95) has won a Golden Chef Award at the 2010 Chinese Restaurant Awards, which is somewhat hard to confirm given the CRA's confusing website and more confusing award categories. The dish is also commonly referred to as "three cup chicken," referring to the three liquids that go into the marinade: soy, Chinese rice wine and sesame oil. There's competing origin stories for the dish, with some simply claiming that it arose as a Taiwanese peasant dish, and others claiming it was brought down to Taiwan by Shanghainese emigrants. A more elaborate tale places it in the Song Dynasty, when an admired general was taken prisoner. An elderly woman or man (depends on what website you end up on) either brings a gift of chicken and wine, asking the warden to cook it with the only other ingredients - sesame oil and soy - that he's got, or the elderly person brings it completely finished, and the warden is in such admiration at the gesture (and presumably the taste) that he makes the same dish on a memorial day set aside for the general. Well Tea's version isn't quite as history-making, though it does show off a nice balance of flavours, with an subtle, underlying taste of peppercorn, and cooked with spring onion and fried leaves of Thai basil. Why Well Tea chooses to offer three side dishes - bean sprouts with tofu, napa cabbage with egg, and more egg with carrot - that are as bland as they grey-toned is beyond me.

Of course, one can't go to a place like Well Tea and not try, well, a bubble tea. The sheer number of choices offered are dizzying: flavoured green teas, black teas, fruit juices, slushes, pearls, sago, grass jelly, kanten…it'd be almost breathtaking if you don't consider how much sweetener is involved. A simple honey lemon black tea ($4.00) tastes much like a Flintstone vitamin, and ended all curiosity about the other variations.

Joe.

Well Tea
551 Seymour Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 681-9777

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As you know I love Tenhachi.  Everything about this place makes me happy, from the radio control boat races, the mini golf, prehistoric wood and of course the food.   If you like Japanese cuisine then this place can't be beat.   They serve both imported and fresh local seafood at a reasonable price.

Since sea urchin was in season, I decided to order a sea urchin roe donburi but what caught my eye was the Amazake.  Sake lees heated up and mixed with sugar to make this amazing beverage.  This warm drink carried flavours that reminded me of almond tofu but with a kick of sake. The alcohol content in minimal maybe around 2 percent but this sweet drink is a perfect item to sip slowly on a cold day.  After a little bit of internet research people even say that  Amazake is believed to be nutritious and used to cure hang overs.  

Other Japanese items that you will see on the Tenhachi menu that you will not see anywhere else include sea urchin roe tempura, monk fish liver, herring roe on kelp, and the best miso soup in the city.

Just as a FYI
Lees refers to the deposits after the fermentation and aging.


Tenhachi
1125 W 12 th Ave
Shaughnessy Village Hotel
Vancouver, BC Canada

 

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Steaks Is High
If you haven't checked out SlopPress.com you are missing a ton of good stuff.  The feature on American Thanksgiving is funny as hell and super informative.    There are a lot more writers associated with the blog and we are certain we will get it on the top food blog list (if there is one).


To celebrate the launch of the website we created Slop Press Aprons.  I have sold a bunch to friends and they are love with them. For those of you in Vancouver you might have seen it on Urban Rush and now is your chance to get yours or get one for your loved one for a Christmas present.

They are available at two locations for 30 dollars

Walrus
3408 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC
(I ll be dropping them off on Thursday, December 2, 2010)

and at the
Margaret Booth (where Vancouver Slop blogger Vince is running) at Portobello West 
on Saturday (Dec 4) and Sunday (Dec 5)
12-6
www.portobellowest.com

If you can't make it to those sites, you can email me at Vancouverslop@gmail.com and we can ship one out to you for 30 dollars plus shipping.

And if you didn't understand where Stakes Is High is from please take a look at this.