Near SFU / Alternative to lining up at Tim Hortons: Pho 101 (Vietnamese Baguette edition - updated!)

Original Post (March 28, 2011):
For the past three or four Mondays, I ate the chicken snack wrap every week.  I just discovered this a month ago and along with the roll up the rim promotion, I guess I just naturally decided to eat it every week.  Finally, last week I decided that was the last straw.  Today I ordered takeout at Pho 101 instead.  I figured, if I have to walk all the way to West Mall and wait 15 minutes, why not drive 7 minutes down to Pho 101 and have something that's actually delicious?  

By the way, this is my second post on Pho 101; the previous one is about their pho.

I ordered the Banh Mi Thit Nuong (#8 grilled pork baguette, $3.50) by phone and it was ready in 10 minutes.  I am a totally a socially awkward penguin and hate eating at restaurants by my lonesome, so I decided to bring it back to SFU.  But I ate a bite of it before taking off and it was so good!!! I ended up eating the rest quickly before making my way back (also because it was warm and fresh, too)!

The baguette skin is crunchy, yet the insides were soft and fluffy.  I loved the bread! I wonder where I can buy this bread in stores.  You can't compare this to the Tim Horton's bread (they're like bricks, compared to this).  The Vietnamese sub is actually quite large -- I'd say it's bigger than the "regular" sandwich at Tim Horton's and just a smidgen smaller than the large.

The grilled pork was so delicious too.  It really was grilled and there was some charcoal-y / smoky flavour to it.  The small pieces were also moist and not super lean.  (There were some fattier bits too, yum!)

Seriously, I'm in love with the Viet sub at Pho 101.  I don't eat it often in Richmond and used to think New Asia Deli has the best ones; actually, come to think of it I just like the meatball sub there.  Well, I'd say Pho 101 puts up a good fight, and I haven't tried their meatball sub, which I will do next time.

And at less than $4, how can you complain? The total came up to around $3.92 or something! Can you even get a sandwich at Tim Horton's at that price? I bought a large tea and muffin earlier and that was already $3!  Pho 101 makes me never want to go to the Tim Horton's in West Mall ever again (if I'm not busing), and I'm going to add them to my phone's contact list.

Update! March 31, 2011:
After seeing the pictures on my blog and my constant raves about how beautiful the bread at Pho 101 was, we went to Pho 101 again today.

This time we ordered the Banh Mi Xiu Mai (pork meatball baguette, $3.75) and Banh Mi Dac Biet (Vietnamese ham, Vietnamese bacon, pate & shredded pork baguette, $3.50).

My pork meatball baguette was kinda meh.  It was alright.  The baguette was still really delicious, just like the last time.  (I have an obsession with bread after watching Yakitate! Japan... an anime about bread.)  But the meatball was a bit salty and overloaded in what I believed to be MSG.  I was really thirsty after, so I'm thinking it probably is.

I liked the "deluxe" one (I'll just call it that since it has so many toppings) -- the orange rimmed meat, which I believe is bacon, was kinda jelly-like. Cool.  The flavours blended in pretty nicely, though I think the grilled pork baguette was the best out of these three.  That one didn't have much MSG from what I could tell, and there really was grilled pieces (as opposed to ground pork).  If you want to get their subs, I would highly recommend the grilled pork one!

This is like my most amazing food discovery in a while! I can't believe that you can get such awesome Vietnamese baguettes so close to SFU! They're really a great alternative to eating on campus! And the grilled pork baguette is just so delicious! I'm not even at SFU now and I want to go just for the baguette at Pho 101!

Pho 101 (Check our their menu on urbanspoon!)
5937 Hastings Street
Burnaby, BC
Pho 101 on Urbanspoon


Tacos & Mexi Fries @ Taco Luis

I haven't eaten Taco Luis in a long while and I was craving it for the longest time ever.  I don't eat Mexican food much -- actually Taco Luis, located in the Lansdowne food court, sets my standard for what Mexican food is supposed to taste like.  (My standards are probably wrong.)  But it sure is better than Taco Time.

When I was in high school, it was already pretty popular and sometimes we would drive here to get tacos! The owner is very charismatic and the store is family run (I believe, though he denies it and says that they are the "bosses").  There is usually a long line up since they make the tacos right in front of you.  That day I waited a while too, but the shot above was taken after the meal (around 2pm) so that's why there's not a lot of people.  I think it's by far the most popular food stand in Lansdowne!
I went to Taco Luis too often that I was kind of surprised to see the people at Taco Time wrap my taco in their little counter inside.  At Taco Luis, they ask whether you want each topping as you wrap them.  It usually sounds like this: beef or chicken? To-matoes? Le-ttuce? Cu-cum-bers? etc... I like it! It's kind of charming (I can't think of a better word).

The 7" special ($4.49) comes with a 7" soft taco, mexi-fries, and a pop.  (Remember when they used to have the 6" special?)  The mexi-fries are good, though like I said before, Taco Luis set my standards for them. What are good mexi-fries supposed to taste like anyway? The ones at Taco Luis are crunchy on the outside and feel like hashbrowns in the inside.  I think they're probably bought frozen from Costco or something.

I got the beef taco with all the toppings (except cucumbers. I hate cucumbers -- the fresh taste annoys me.)  The taco today was kind of poorly wrapped.  It's sometimes a hit and miss, depending on who wraps it.  I didn't recognize the girl who wrapped mine today, so maybe she's new?
Anyway the taco was delicious and chocked full of toppings inside.  All the toppings go nicely together, though I keep forgetting to tell them to skip on the weird sour peppers.  They're too sour for me!

No more pictures because I made a mess eating the taco.  But I really like the beef soft taco, but maybe it's just because I like beef and cheese.  It's also quite inexpensive -- if you order the beef taco without the drink or mexi-fries its only $2.10! I'll probably get that next time since I never finish the mexi-fries.

I really like Taco Luis! The owner's approachable attitude makes you feel like you're not just visiting another store at the food court.  Even though the tacos are pretty cheap, they're also quite delicious!

Taco Luis
5300 No. 3 Rd
Richmond, BC
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Steak & Spaghetti @ Kingspark Steakhouse

This year, I participated the 30 hour famine at UBC.  It was my third or fourth time doing the famine and I actually didn't feel that hungry.  Sometimes after a long day of school I'm really hungry to the point I'll eat whatever I can, but I didn't feel that with the famine.  Weird.  But after a breakfast provided by the nice people at World Vision UBC, a nap, and a small bowl of congee, I still managed to finish a whole charcoal grilled steak with peppercorn sauce ($9.99) and spaghetti at Kingspark Steakhouse!

I used to eat these cha chaan teng style steaks every time I got my braces tightened. Because I like steak.  And after I got my braces tightened, I couldn't eat meat for practically a week.  My favourite place was Amigo Cafe, but they jacked up the price by $2 and charge $1 extra for cold drinks, AND I can never finish the meal since it comes with soup.  So I went to Kingspark more often instead (where its a few dollars cheaper and cold drinks are free!)

I really like the steak from Kingspark, though sometimes its a bit too well done for my liking.  Of course it can't compare to a tenderloin or other steak from a "real" steakhouse, but at that price, seriously? What can you ask for? And despite the sauce, there is still a lot of beef flavour to it -- so much that I can taste the steak just by looking at that photo up there.

If you haven't had cha chaan teng style steaks before, these are quite different from those from Western steakhouses.  The steak itself its only around 1.5cm thick, so you should probably not order medium well.  I always order medium rare, which I think is just perfect.  These steaks also have a lot of runny sauce, which I suggest ordering on the side.

For $9.99, you also get a choice of rice or spaghetti.  I always choose the spaghetti, and you have to point that out when ordering.  Otherwise, the default one is rice since that's what it's listed as on the menu.  The spaghetti is actually not that plain since they mix garlic in it, which I think is quite considerate. Yay!

Since it's on the mini set menu, it comes with a choice of hot or cold drink.  I ordered hot milk tea to add to my search for the best milk tea in Richmond; go to that link to read more comments on the tea!

We also ordered the luncheon meat & egg sandwich ($4.99) from the regular menu and spaghetti bolognese.  Because the waiter messed up our order, the spaghetti took forever and I forgot to take a picture of it.  But I think this is one of the best in Richmond.  The sauce is so cheesy and creamy! (Edit June 30/11: check out pictures of the spaghetti bolognese here!)

The luncheon meat & egg sandwich was not off the mini set menu and $1 had to be added to get a choice of hot or cold drink.  The feedback on this was positive, since the bread was toasted and crunchy and the amount of egg and meat was quite generous.  The fries weren't drenched in oil either, but they weren't that delicious.

Overall, I really like Kingspark and it's probably the cha chaan teng that I tend to go to the most.  Service there is pretty good (for a Chinese restaurant) and it's right in the middle of Richmond.  However, you can expect to wait for a table on weekends!

I love Kingspark! I think it's one of the best cha chaan tengs in Richmond considering the price.  The steak here is awesome (if you like cha chaan teng style steaks).  La Amigo is also really good, but it's more expensive and I can't finish it anyway since it comes with soup.  The ambiance at Kingspark is also better than restaurants like Lido -- not as noisy and it seems cleaner.
Kingspark Steakhouse
8291 Westminster Hwy
Richmond, BC
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Miso & Ramen @ Miyabi (Sushi and Ramen)

There are more and more places in Richmond specializing in ramen, including G-men, Misoya, and dare I say it, Ajisen Ramen (also known as 拉麵 in Chinese. Okay I kid, its 味千拉麵.)  

There is also a newly opened one in the Save on Foods complex on No. 3 and Ackroyd Road, called Miyabi Sushi and Ramen.  (As the title states, the letter for Miyabi is one of the letters in my Chinese name, but the name of the restaurant actually reminds me of the J-pop singer.)  I was originally told by a friend that this was a ramen shop, and I didn't know it served sushi as well.  

As a child, I frequently went to Kintaro Ramen, so I guess I have a set standard as to what ramen should taste like.  I don't know if that is what real Japanese ramen would taste like, but I think it tastes pretty good there! (And YES I forgot to eat ramen when I was in Tokyo, you can kick me in the face for that.

This restaurant used to be Specialty Chicken and Wonton House (which I never, in my 20 years of life in Richmond ever went to), but the inside was nicely decorated in a Japanese-y way.

There were actually more people than I expected.  I don't pass by here much, but I thought there would only be a handful of tables like the case with Misoya.  But I guess people come here and shop at Save On Foods afterwards, which makes the location pretty convenient.  Parking here is also easy, unlike Misoya.

Click for a larger view! 

We ordered from the lunch menu.  Since we came here for the ramen, we ignored the sushi and ordered a Miso Chashu Ramen and a Shoyu Chashu Ramen ($7.95, +$1 for gyoza or california roll).

Can you tell which is which? Me neither. I had to triple check I wasn't posting the same picture.  After checking which picture I took first, I confirmed the first one is shoyu and the second is miso.  Usually, there's a big difference at Kintaro's, so the fact the soup bases looked kinda same worried me a bit.

However, I did taste both and they were different.  I don't think the miso one really tasted like miso though -- I'm not sure I can really pinpoint what it tasted like.  The shoyu one that I had was kinda salty and I felt it had a lot of MSG in it.  (This was later confirmed because I was reallllly thirsty after the meal, even though I only drank 2 spoons of the broth.)

The chashu was actually pan-fried! I thought that was quite clever.  Sometimes with pork, there is a weird taste to it (I think if its not fresh).  But after pan-frying it it didn't have this taste at all.  It was kinda crispy too, which I liked.  They were really fatty though (as opposed to some places where they give you really lean pork), so if you're on a diet, skip this!

The noodles kind of reminded me of the frozen instant ones from Nissin:

Source: ramenramenramen.net 
They really weren't that bad (those frozen ones are quite good, I think!) but they weren't really that good either.  They weren't really chewy ("daan nga").  

There were other toppings in the ramen, but there wasn't a lot of each one.  There was a little bit of corn, a few of those narutomaki (pink swirl fish cake), some bamboo shoots, and some of what I believed was spinach.

We also added $1 to one of the ramen to get the gyoza.  It was okay -- nothing spectacular.  I don't really remember eating it, so it probably wasn't that delicious.

Overall, it was an okay experience.  For ramen, I would probably try other places first because I have a whole list of ramen shops I am waiting to try.  And I prefer Misoya more, just because it doesn't leave me thirsty afterwards.  And for sushi, I don't think I would be heading here because the majority of the customers also ordered ramen.  I'm not saying that the sushi won't be good, but in my opinion, I think it would take a while to clear their stock so the fish would not be as fresh as a restaurant specializing in sushi.

Ramen here was okay. I don't think I'll be back for a long time since I have other ramen places I have to try! The noodles weren't amazing, and the soup wasn't special either.  I don't think I'll be heading here for sushi, since they seem to be specializing more in ramen.

Miyabi Sushi and Ramen
198-8100 Ackroyd Road
Richmond, BC
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Coq au Vin & Lamb @ Tapenade Bistro

This was actually my first experience dining at a restaurant promoted on Groupon.  It seems like lots of people who go to restaurants that have bad experiences because they either jack the price up if you're using a Groupon, or they know you're using a Groupon and therefore serve poor quality food.  People seem to say that restaurants look down on you if you use those sites.

I bought a $70 for $35 Groupon for Tapenade Bistro a while back (December 30) and just haven't had the time to go for dinner there.  Being a college student, I thought the deal was pretty good to try out restaurant.  We didn't mention anything about it until the end of dinner, and the waiter was perfectly okay with the fact we were using a Groupon.  There was a lady (who I presume to be the owner) that was in charge and she made sure the Groupon went through and treated us pretty nicely.

Anyways, Tapenade Bistro is a Mediterranean restaurant which serves "relaxed fine dining" (that's really what it says on its site).  It's located in Steveston village.

The interior was very nice and actually very large.  I kind of felt like I was on a ship with the window trims and the canvas cloth accents.

It was actually quite noisy inside -- people were talking and laughing loudly (especially the table of four pictured above) and the music kind of mumbled behind the noise.  But I guess that contributed to the feel of a bistro.

For appetizers, we ordered the the "Egg and Toast" ("Chanterelles and Toast" on the site, $12).  Their description on their site sounds delicious: "Roasted Vancouver Island chanterelles, 63 degree egg, fried baguette, baby arugula, Parmigiano-Reggiano, marinated grape tomatoes, red wine demi glace". 

I'm not sure if they still had chanterelles now, since I didn't know to look out for them.  There were mushrooms though.  If you read my post about ABC Country, then you know I like runny eggs and toast.  Unfortunately, this dish was camera shy and my camera was not cooperating either, so I just gave up on taking a picture of the runny egg.  But it was pretty good.  Though, for the price, I probably would order something else next time because I can make hobo toast at home too.

We also ordered the salt spring island mussels ($11) in appetizer size, which i think was a good decision because the mussels turned out to be quite small -- slightly larger than a quarter.  There were a few bigger ones that were cold and had a weird taste to them, which we presumed to be undercooked.  They tasted okay though.

I had the coq au vin ($26) which is described to be: "Bradner Farm Cornish hen, roasted breast, bacon wrapped leg, fleur de Dijon spaetzle, ragout of double smoked bacon, mushroom, peas and pearl onions, Burgundy jus".  I've never had this dish before and I didn't really know what to expect.  It turned out to be very delicious! I think it was actually the breast that was wrapped in bacon, not the leg.  Anyways, the leg was very moist and flavourful, though the sauce did not cover the taste of the chicken.  The bacon wrapped something was also not dry at all.  

We also ordered the lamb shank ($25).  I'm presuming this replaced the "duo of lamb" on the site, which actually sounds much more delicious.  We've had this dish before, and the last time was at DB Bistro (now closed), though I can't really compare the two because it wasn't me that ordered it.  The lamb here though was very soft and came off the bone quite easily.  It was also really juicy.

And... sorry, we didn't order desserts, since we ate pre-dessert at Timothy's!

The total came up to $91.84 for everything, including a glass of wine and taxes.  In the end we paid another $30 or so on top of the $35 Groupon in total including gratuity.  Being the college student that I am, I typically wouldn't go to these places unless it was a special occasion or something, so I'm glad that this restaurant participated with Groupon to give us this deal.  Still, with the negative feedback that I hear about the group-buying site, I'm not sure if I will be participating next time.

I applaud Tapenade for their great customer service and quality of food.  Overall, it was a very enjoyable meal, and I will be back if I have a special occasion to celebrate.

Pretty expensive, but that's "fine dining" for you.  Their service was really good, even though we had a Groupon.  All of the food was quite good (except the mussels were only just "okay"), but the Coq au vin was delicious!

Tapenade Bistro
3711 Bayview Street,Richmond, BC V7E 3B6604.275.5188 
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Mixed Berries & Froyo @ Timothy's

The new yogurt stores like Qoola now serve yogurt that is actually separate from the fruits.  Those kind of remind me of icy, where shaved iced is topped with your choice of dessert toppings.  (It also reminds me I haven't had icy in a long time and that I should go.)

Hong Kong is definitely going through a yogurt phase; when  we tried Yo Mama! (love that name) at IFC the line up was really long! Plus their margins are so high! $28HKD for a small with only one topping is ridiculous compared to the other food you can get for $28.  I guess it's the new hip thing.

But in Hong Kong, you can't find anything like Timothy's where the fruit is actually mixed IN. Kind of disappointing.

We went there yesterday for a pre-dinner dessert (only because Timothy closes at 8!)

 Being located at Steveston harbour, the interior is cozy and cute.  There are some tables to sit at if the weather is too cold to be eating frozen yogurt outside.

The choice of fruits include: strawberry, blueberry,  mango, (which I have tried before,) and peach, cranberry, raspberry, banana, cherry, and mixed berry.

After you chose your fruit, the yogurt is freshly made by combining the fruits and plain white yogurt in a machine.

This time, I ordered the mixed berry in a cup ($4).  I really wanted the waffle cone, but since it was before dinner, I regrettably opted out.  But if you do go, I suggest you order it because it is freshly made and really, really good.  Other customers who ordered after us got their cones made immediately when they ordered it! It takes a few minutes more, but it's really worth the wait when its nice and warm.

The yogurt was delicious, though it was a bit too complicated for me.  I liked plain strawberry or blueberry more than this one.  I remember mango was quite good, too.  But still, you can never go wrong with frozen yogurt at Timothy's.  Some bits of the yogurt unmixed made it pretty, I think!  You can see that there were bits of cherry, blueberry and other berries in it.

I love Timothy's! It's kind of pricey for frozen yogurt, but it's kind of a touristy place at Steveston.  Also, I don't think Yogen Fruz is that much cheaper (though you get 10% off with SPC).  Other froyo places like Qoola aren't that cheap either.  Go try the strawberry and blueberry yogurts!

Timothy's Frozen Yogurt 
3800 Bayview Street
Richmond, BC
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Near SFU: Pho 101 (Pho edition)

Why do pho places have numbers in their names? There's Pho 79, 99, 24... and there's also Pho 101 on Hastings.  That's the first triple digit pho place I've seen so far.  I'm guessing it's name is such because it's quite close to SFU -- around a 8 minute drive and less than 10 minutes by bus.  It's pretty convenient if you have a car and you're looking for something hot to eat besides soup from Tim Horton's.

Update: I went to Pho 101 for Vietnamese Sub too! Check out this post here!

The restaurant is quite small and has less than ten tables in total.  They are definitely trying to go for a kind of chic feel as the interior uses black and red to be a theme.

From afar this looks pretty modern, with all the black and white photos and all -- but in person, you will see that black is a very hard colour to upkeep.  The chairs start to show signs of wear very quickly and even the walls have some noticeable scuffs on it.

You can also see inside the kitchen from a little window in the wall where they pass the food to the front.  From what I could see, the kitchen seemed spacious and very clean.

The dishes used were also very cool.  The small plate holding the bean sprouts seemed to be made out of bamboo or something similar.  

I ordered a large #17, the plainest of them all, rare beef noodle ($7.50).  Last time I ordered a regular and I think it was smaller than the ones I'm used to.  Or maybe I was just hungry from a full day of school.  The menu is a bit different from the pho places in Richmond.  Usually they charge the same price for a set size, no matter the number of different toppings you choose.  They just compromise and give you less beef.  Here, they charge a incrementally higher price as you choose more toppings.  Personally, I would sacrifice some beef in exchange for different toppings, without compromising price.

They have the condiments bottle with triple spouts! But actually two of them were plugged for both the chili one.  There was actually a lot more beef than I'm used too which was a plus! But the beef was a bit on the well-done side and not really rare.  The soup was tasty, though I suspect MSG was used because I drank a bit too much and was extremely thirsty afterwards.  I hate it when that happens.

The total came up to $16.80 before gratuity.  I think that price is about right, considering a meal at Tim Horton's on SFU would be $7 or so per person.  I noticed their Vietnamese subs were $3.50 each, so I will give that a try next time because that would be pretty cheap for a meal near school!

This is like absolute love that I can get pho around SFU.  I will definitely be back for more pho on cold winter days! The prices are around the same as Tim Horton's as well, so why wouldn't I be back? However, it is quite heavy on the MSG, so that was a bit disappointing.

Pho 101 Review
5937 Hastings Street
Burnaby, BC V5B 1R7

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