Day 1 – Eating in Vancouver & Vicinity

Note: I planned this trip a while back – I did not leave Calgary because of the flood! Although it was strange that’s what every single person asked me in Vancouver when I told them I was from Calgary…

For some reason I visit Vancouver every year.  At least once.  Well, this year was no different and since I had an extended long weekend because of Canada Day, I decided to take the week off prior and go binge eating/shopping in Vancouver and Seattle.  Since there are so many great places to eat, I had a really hard time narrowing the places that I wanted to visit.  I didn’t want to just go somewhere and eat – I wanted to eat the best dishes at the best restaurants, period.  It was really tough eating three meals though – not doing much, not exercising… not the best for your digestion.  Yet I’m hungry all the time when I’m at work! Go figure…

So instead of doing one separate post per restaurant, I am doing one post for each day.

Day 1

Breakfast at Shanghai River

My mom and I had a deal – for every sushi meal we eat, we have to eat at a Chinese restaurant the same number of times.  As we don’t have a proper Shanghai restaurant in Calgary, it is a must visit when we go to Vancouver.  As soon as we landed and picked up our rental car, we drove straight to Shanghai River.  I’ve been here last year and thought everything was excellent so I didn’t mind visiting again.

Soup Dumplings with Crabmeat – $8.00

I have mentioned in a previous review that the soup dumplings are not the best here – there’s a lack of soup but the taste is all there.  I ordered these anyway b/c my mom hasn’t tried them before.  These were tasty and love the fact that they were piping hot.  There was just a small bit of crabmeat in them but the pork was firm and had a good bite to them.  The skin (wrapping) is nice and thin and did not break easily.

Shredded Chicken and Starch Sheets with Sesame Sauce – $6.95

My favorite dish! I don’t know why but I love starch sheets! Maybe it’s because they’re jelly and noodle like, and I love noodles.  The starch sheets were soft, slippery and not overcooked.  The sesame sauce here is great – not too thick and goopy with just enough to mix everything together.

Housemade Soy Drink – $2.50

We saw someone ordered this so we decided to try it as well.  Lightly sweetened and fresh taste – I’m glad we weren’t served the Sunrise stuff.  I only say that because that’s what we would get in Calgary.

Deep Fried Marinated Black Cod – $9.95

I noticed that black cod is very popular in B.C. and Seattle restaurants – is there a reason why? Just because they’re closer to the ocean? We ordered this b/c we love the smooth, buttery texture of black cod.  This was marinated and then deep fried served with mayonnaise but it was not needed.

Stir Fried Snow Pea Tips – $8.95

Very simply stir fried and flavored with broth.  I thought this was decent but my mom said they were too “old” as there were a lot of grisly stringy fibres between bite.

Deep Fried Shrimp Mousse on Crab Claws (3) – $9.95

Our family really enjoys deep fried shrimp mousse (balls or on a claw) and since the price was so reasonable here, we decided to try it.  These were standard but good, though I was not happy that it was served with plum sauce.  I would rather eat it with the red vinegar (I know, I’m so Asian!).

Marinated Jellyfish – $8.50

This was nicely marinated and flavored with sesame oil.  The jellyfish retained a good crunch to them so they were cooked to the right doneness.

Overall it was a great meal.  Good pricing, adequate service and tasty food.  I think it will be a must visit place for me from now on.

Shanghai River 滬江海派料理 on Urbanspoon

Snack at Excellent Tofu & Snack

We weren’t super hungry so I figured tofu dessert would make a great snack or filler in between meals.  Since I read that this place was very popular for their housemade soy items, and my mom misses the desserts in HK, I thought this would be a real treat for her.

Tofu Dessert (Hot) with Black Sesame – $4.00

This was a real treat – silky smooth tofu with black sesame dessert.  You control the sweetness by adding as much (or as little) syrup provided in a squirt bottle on the table.

Curry Fishballs (5) – $1.50

Very standard tasting but it was cheap.

Melon Tapioca Dessert – $5.00

This was my mom’s order.  I didn’t try this but she said it was light and refreshing.  It was a feature item and it looks like there’s a good amount of melon and tapioca mixed in.

Black Soy Bean Drink – $2.00

I ordered this for my toddler.  I liked how it wasn’t too sweet and the soy flavor is quite concentrated.

Tofu Dessert with Taro and Coconut Milk – $4.50

My mom decided to try another dessert and this time went with a tofu one.  She ordered this cold and said it wasn’t as good – I personally think tofu dessert taste better hot.  She said the chunks of taro were not soft enough and would’ve preferred them to be diced up like the melon.

During our stay a lot of people came in to dine in and takeout.  It is definitely a very popular place.  I wish I made another visit before I left Vancouver but we ran out of time.  Do note they accept cash only.

Excellent Tofu & Snack 好好豆品專門店 on Urbanspoon

Dinner at Octopus Garden

I came here specifically for the Omakase.  I’ve never experienced one before and since the reviews were very favourable, I decided to give it a try.  For $65, some may find it steep but I figured I would probably order at least $50 of food myself so eh, why not? They also have a $100 one – I’m curious to try that one next time.  My mom did not do the omakase as there’s only so much raw food she can tolerate so she ordered a la carte.

Course 1 – Starter Sashimi Salad

Mixed greens in a tangy vinaigrette topped with two slices each of tako and herring roe.  Very fresh and simple tasting.  Great starter!

Course 2 – Uni (Sea Urchin) Shooter

Our server was kind enough to bring us two of these – one complimentary for my mom.  Luckily for me she doesn’t eat uni so I got to enjoy both of them! A blend of rice, fresh uni, quail egg, dashi and topped with a dab of wasabi, I’d pick this shooter any day over an alcoholic one! The uni and quail egg was really creamy and went down my throat nicely, and the dashi provided a bit of sweetness yet the wasabi also gave it a bit of a kick.  Looks simple, yet the flavors were anything but.  I told hubby about it afterwards (he couldn’t make this trip with us) and he sounded a bit jealous, lol.

Course 3 – Assorted Sashimi

Ultra fresh sashimi that is skillfully cut.  I was so surprised and happy when this was placed down.  Six kinds of sashimi; two slices each (toro had three).  Even though each piece looked small, it was enough to just put the entire slice in your mouth and delicately savour each piece.

Wild Salmon and Tako

The wild salmon was nice and firm and had a pleasant sweetness to it.  The tako had a very nice crunch and not chewy like you would sometimes encounter.

Toro and Hamachi

The toro was creamy, flavorful and smooth.  Hamachi was firm and smooth, and tasted very fatty – with a much more bold taste than tuna.  I think some people don’t like hamachi because of the sharper flavor.

Butterfish and Tai

I have always liked butterfish and they are very hard to come by in Calgary.  I noticed that it gets labeled as white tuna sometimes but it’s not even the same fish! The butterfish was very oily and firm… hmmmm.  I don’t care if it can make my stomach flip after.  I can’t get enough of it! The tai (snapper) was not your regular type, but I couldn’t remember what it was either.  It was quite firm and had a sweet aftertaste to it.

Course 4 – Lobster Miso Soup

I don’t care much for miso soup, but one made with lobster? This was definitely worth caring for! The broth was milky, creamy and not really salty like regular miso soup is.  It also has the bean curd sheets as opposed to tofu puffs.  I don’t have a preference for either one but this was certainly different.

Course 5 – Assorted Nigiri

My eyes sparkled as this was placed in front of me.  Here we have (if my memory serves me correctly) bluefin tuna, snapper, hamachi, lightly seared ika, tako, anago and tamago.  Each piece was delicately made and of course, fresh.  My mom said she saw a tear coming out of the corner of my eye as I was eating this b/c it was THAT good.  Tears of joy, mom! The one piece that really stood out for me was the seared ika (squid) – it’s interesting how it has scalloped edges.  I never liked ika before b/c I often found it too chewy but since the first time I had it seared at Red Ember in Calgary I’ve enjoyed it much more.  The one here was sweet, crunchy, and had a clean bite with no stringy fibres in between.

Course 6 – Australian Wagyu

I wasn’t sure what the hot entree would be and then our server brought this out.  He actually brought the raw meat and the hot plate out separately and cooked the meat in front of us – about 10-15 seconds per side? According to wiki, The Australian Wagyu Association is the largest breed association outside Japan.  So if I can’t get true wagyu outside of Japan, the Australian one should be a comparable match? So, how was this? Buttery.  Smooth.  Juicy.  Tender.  Flavorful.  Hmmmmm.  I think I need to eat it in steak form! I am quite happy and satisfied from this tasting portion though!

Course 7 – Housemade Black Sesame Gelato

To end the Omakase on a sweet note, this delicious housemade gelato was brought out.  It was creamy and lightly sweetened yet very concentrated with black sesame flavor.  This was such a delightful treat!

A la carte

Sashimi Salad – $10.00

My m0m wanted some greens, and plain greens are just boring! But when topped with fresh sashimi… ^^ This had the same dressing as my omakase starter salad.  I see chunks of hamachi, wild salmon, snapper and butterfish.  My mom really enjoyed this salad and had no trouble finishing it.

Grilled Mackerel – $9.00

My mom loves grilled fish and she is always raving about the grilled fish head she had at Sushi Hachi last year, so I always make sure to order some kind of grilled fish when we dine at Japanese restaurants if available.  I think this was just very simply grilled with salt.  The meat was smooth and flavorful.  The fried things were tempura mushroom and pepper.

Agedashi Tofu – $6.00

I ordered this for my toddler since he loves tofu.  Lightly fried cubes of soft tofu, they were not the least bit greasy.  The dashi had enough flavor and my toddler happily gobbled everything up.

Wild Salmon Sashimi (8 pcs) – $12.00

My mom’s favorite sashimi is salmon, and we see more of the farmed variety in Calgary so when the wild one is available, we prefer to order it.  This time it was my mom with the tear of joy – delicately sliced, firm and sweet tasting of lean salmon slices.  She liked it so much she couldn’t stop talking about it for a couple of days afterwards!

Overall an excellent meal.  Food was absolutely delicious and the omakase was worth every penny.  The restaurant does not cheap out on quality and aim to provide you delicious and high quality food for the price they charge.  To be honest, when comparing to Calgary, I did not find the prices high at all.  Of course, when you live in Vancouver and there’s more sushi restaurants than Starbucks the competition can be fierce.  Service was excellent and we felt taken care of from head to toe.  I will be sure to try their other omakase next time I return to Vancouver!

Octopus' Garden on Urbanspoon

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