2015 Year in Review — The Food I Ate Part 5: Entrees!

I probably ate more good entrees this year than I have before in my life. Let’s break ’em down.

30. Sunny Spot Cafe — ByongByong Beef Noodles — The noodles are hand crafted and quite good but the beef was nasty! Like a bad taco’s ground beef. It was also a bit cold like it’d only been half defrosted in a microwave. Come on, guys, great location, great specialty, all ruined by lazy meat handling.

Noodles good. Beef bad.

29. Stepho’s Greek — Calamari — Good price and a cubic ton of food but definitely not fresh or crispy enough to make the grade. I didn’t put this under the appy list because it was a full entree with rice and bread as well.

Heaping squid.

28. Cottage Bistro — Grilled Chicken — Too many peppers, I was expecting more of an entree with mashed potates and shit but it was closer to a stir fry. Big disappointment, I was treating myself!

27. Coastal Cookery (Powell River) — Fried Chicken & Waffle Sandwich — Heartburn on a plate, I didn’t really care for the pickled nature of the veggies on the sandwich either.

26. Sal y Limon — Beef Tongue — The word of mouth for this taco joint at the corner of Fraser and Kingsway spread like Syphilis in the 19th century. I had a few different sessions there but I’m splitting it up into each separate taco for the sake of quality control. Sal y Limon is good but they sometimes get carried away with their diced onions. They’ve got lots of authentic Mexican options and if you know me then you know I like to try the weirdest ones. Beef tongue was my least favourite, the beef was bland and the texture wasn’t what I hoped for. It might’ve been gamey but I’m never really sure what gamey is.

That’s a big onion chunk.

25. Sal y Limon — Marinated Pork and Pineapple — An interesting combination, Sal y Limon also sometimes suffers from poor tortilla syndrome (PTS). In the case of this taco, the dryness of the tortilla made the pork and pineapple combo too yellow and bland.

24. Justice Institute Cafeteria (New West)– Beef Broccoli and Rice — It was better than it looked, broccoli is a seriously great vegetable but JI’s rice is never excellent.

The hottest spot in New West.

23. Costa Del Sol (Powell River) — Shrimp Tacos & Chicken Enchilada — I took on a part time job with Science World this year on their ‘On the Road’ team. That means I go on trips to towns that have no science centres and put on science shows in school gyms. We’re put up in a hotel and given a daily per diem for food. My favourite thing is to do ‘splitsies,’ where I order something and whoever I’m travelling with gets something else. Then we share our meals, getting a chance to taste two specialties. At Iguana’s, I was mostly excited for the chicken enchiladas — my mother-in-law makes a mean one — but it was the shrimp tacos that made the grade. The enchiladas were super dry and I can’t abide a dry enchilada. The tacos were good but a little on the small side, particularly since we were splitting. One shrimp taco is never enough.

22. Justice Institute Cafeteria (New West)– Butter Chicken — Pretty decent. Lots of food for only 7 bucks but it’s really only as good as it should be. It doesn’t transcend its cafeteria setting like some of the JI’s other dishes.

21. Pad Thai Cuisine — Garlic Chicken — This shop on Broadway, just off Main used to be one of Vancouver’s hidden gems. Last year you could get a six dollar lunch special that was more food than you could eat. Their curries are supposedly really good but I don’t do curry. Over the last 12 months their prices have gone up and some of the magic from Pad Thai Cuisine is gone. The garlic chicken was a little too garlicky and the spinach and sprout combo made me yearn for mushrooms or some other vegetables with a little more depth. Like Broccolli. It’s still a mountain of food though.

Every restaurant should have quality food photography of their meals online.

20. IKEA — Pot Roast — The side garlic bread was my favourite part and it’s a bargain at 50 cents a slice. The pot roast itself was just okay but what can you expect from a furniture store?

Just quality vegetables.

19. Sal y Limon — Roasted Chicken — Now Sal y Limon is starting to cook. Sometimes you gotta get simple with a taco and bypass the crazy options for a sure fire hit. Roasted chicken tasted like, well, roasted chicken. It’s a good thing.

18. Granada (Powell River) — Steak and Prawns — A strange little joint in Powell River, Granada looks like it was designed by the Yanni fan club, complete with framed, mirror-backed posters of non-alcoholic beer. Apparently, Granada is one of the only places in town that doesn’t serve local Townsite Brewery beer so we opted for pina coladas and dry vermouth (I didn’t know you could have it by itself). The steak was decent and the prawns were good and you got ALOT of food for your money.

17. El Camino — Steak Tacos — Really good meat. Kind of small and simple but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as El Camino keeps the prices down so that you can try a few different kinds.

Not very visually stimulating but pretty good tasting.

16. Carlos O’Bryan’s Kamloops — Prime Rib — Pretty decent 8 0z PR for only 18 bucks. It came with a slew of sides that the waitress kept forgetting to bring and the garden salad was super shitty.

I wish I got it with Pachos. Instead there was this twice-stuffed baked potato that tasted like paper plate.

15. BC Ferries — Beef Dip — A pretty good beef dip but there’s still nothing that can hold a candle to the Justice Institute’s Cafeteria dip.

Get Dippin’.

14. King George Sweets & Restaurant (Surrey)– Butter Chicken — This butter chicken was really good and really cheap. For 9 dollars, you get a big helping that lasts at least two meals. You have to pay extra for the naan but it’s worth it to dip away. This is gonna sound bad, but it kind of reminded me of the sauce from Chef Boyardee.

13. Pink Pearl — Dim Sum — Pretty good but I couldn’t make heads or tales of how you were supposed to order and the wait-staff had no intention of helping me. They push their items on you so hard, you’d think the servers were making commission. Just gimme those shrimp scallop dumplings all day long though. The Deep fried Squid was great too. Thick.

What even is the stuff that surrounds a dumpling? Is it like a pasta relative? Rice based? I don’t know but I love it.

12. Cecil’s (Kelowna) — Perogies — While still the go-to eating experience in Kelowna, it seems like Cecil’s has changed their recipe. The dill cream sauce is still good but it seems darker and just a little different. When I bring visitors here they no longer have the shiny, shocked grin after the meal. Something’s wrong and I hope it gets fixed soon.

Not pictured: the bacon bits.

11. Sal y Limon — Lamb — I’ve never thought of myself as a lamb guy, I don’t like the way it smells on your hands after you eat it, but it worked very well in this taco. The thing with lamb is that it makes everything else inside take on a savoury, meaty shade.

I don’t know, maybe one of these is lamb?

10. BC Ferries — Dinner Buffet — The ferry buffet doesn’t have any business being as good as it is. It’s pretty standard with the chef cutting roast beef at the end of a row of options from coconut prawns to lemon tarts. Good but nothing special.

Spoon it out.

9. Justice Institute Cafeteria (New West) — Beef Dip — It’s thinly sliced yet packed onto a perfectly crispy baguette and complimented with those spiced fries that are kind of orange in a good way.

8. Sal y Limon — Shrimp — The shrimp option was my favourite from Sal y Limon. They were lightly breaded and saucy enough to overcome the dry-ish tortilla. Simple.

7. Tacofino — Fish Tacos — Tacofino is the heavyweight champion of trendy Vancouver tacos and for good reason. Their ingredients are fresh, the sauce is in good ratio and their tortillas are structurally sound. Those are the ingredients for a good fish taco.

Look how much better these things are topped than any other taco on this list. That’s why they top the list.

6. 88 Grand (Kelowna) — Buffet — I was pleasantly surprised by the joint that took over for Bonanza and Uncle Willy’s in Kelowna’s strip mall food provision. There were plenty of interesting and unique options like a sushi bar (not bad), Chinese food (quite good), and kid’s meal fare (chicken strips etc), as well as a decked out ice cream section. There’s nothing like a red jello square after a big buffet.

Is this bad for me?

5. Royal Zayka (Powell River) — Butter Chicken and Mixed Grill Tandoori– The mixed grill came out sizzling on an impressive cast iron tray but the fish, prawn, chicken, lamb combo tasted a little too burnt for me. The Butter chicken, however, was the best I’ve had. Typically, butter chicken is all about the sauce but, in this dish, the chicken was the star, so tender and flavourful, like it’d been perfectly barbecued. I dream of that chicken.

4. Forage — Octopus, Tuna Tataki, Kale Salad, Mussels, Carbonara, and Corn Bread — Another great meal, my parents were in town and we split each option four ways. The octopus was a little dissapointing, with flavour closer to canned tuna than the squid I was expecting. The tuna was good but the accompanying mint cucumber was even better. Forage’s kale salad is a classic, kind of barbecued and hearty. The Carbonara was a little bland but the Mussels made up for every dissapointment. The food was good and the evening was very fun. Kaitlin (who is vegetarian) even won a meat draw!

I searched high and low for photos of the octopus but, sadly, the plate I had has no google image search accessible. Here’s the kale salad to put you to sleep.

I had a very hard time deliberating and ordering the top three meals. If any of them had come in any other year that I’ve kept track of, they would’ve easily been at the top of the list. I’ve reordered it a few times with each one taking a turn at the top. It was a close race but here’s the photo finish.

3. Cimo — Prince George — Beef and Marscapone Ravioli in a White Sauce, Calamari, Ragu Bison, Whipped Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake — Science World splitsies paid off in spades at Prince George’s best Italian place. There were four of us on this trip and we stuffed ourselves trying all the best options by quartering each plate. Two very potent cream sauce ravioli’s plus maybe the best calamari I’ve ever had, tender and light but still very salty. The Ragu Bison was a basic spaghetti and meat sauce but was so texturally consistent — perfectly al dente — with each strand perfectly coated in meat sauce that it transcended its form.

Two raviolis and I was already feeling full.

2. Laughing Oyster (Desolation Sound) — Buffet — We tried multiple times to go to Powell River’s ‘nice’ restaurant, Alchemy, but kept getting turned aside due to Christmas parties. So on the last day, we asked where they would recommend. The girl at Alchemy phoned ahead to Laughing Oyster to make sure that we wouldn’t be turned away there too (it was a half hour drive). They said they’d keep the buffet warm so we headed out the dark, winding highway for The Laughing Oyster. When we got there we were welcomed like prodigal sons minus the asshole brother, the chef himself, Dave, actually made my plate from the buffet, complete with some options I told him I didn’t want. He gently suggested that he knew better than me and that a little horseradish on my roast beef was gonna be a good thing. I was glad I listened. There actually was a Christmas party happening but they had room for a few extra tables. It made for some serious entertainment as the local realtors got hammered and played secret Santa. The seafood was so fresh and I ate so hard I couldn’t even finish my drink. By the time dessert came out (the chef demanded that I try the sticky date pudding — by now I knew not to argue), everyone from the realtors to the wait-staff were taking turns singing songs and playing guitar at a little makeshift stage and microphone. It was an incredible meal and an incredible experience.

See that white stuff? That’s horseradish. I never liked horse radish but this one was real mild just like Dave said it would be. That’s a classy buffet.
ANd that’s Dave himself playing some tunes at the restaurant back in 2011.
  1. Dockside — Mother’s Day Buffet — I love buffets because they eliminate the risk of FOMO but, man, I just have no self-control. One day I’ll be able to leave a buffet without feeling sick but that day did not come this year. Highlights: The best pancakes I’ve ever had (it’s saying something when you go back for seconds of pancakes at a buffet — they were panfried and kind of crunchy without a hint of burning), Lobster ravioli, big plump prawns, oysters that weren’t too fishy, crab legs with similar quality, unlimited bacon (though I just had one piece, I can’t see ever wanting to eat more than the standard three slices), and roasted vegetables. We went with Kaitlin’s family and though it was expensive, it was worth it.
This is just the bread spread. There was also a seafood spread, breakfast bar, hot food area, and a full room for desserts. A friggin’ room!