Deer Garden Signatures - Fraser St.

 Peanut Sauce with Chili Soup Base + Rice Noodles (thick)
Fish Soup Broth

Deer garden is one of my favourite go-to places when it gets chilly. Their noodle soup combos are HUGE and jam packed with ingredients. I love being able to choose different soup stocks, noodles and toppings each time.With their set meals or soup combos, you get tea included in the meal or can add specialty drinks for an extra $1 or $2. I've tried their mango smoothie milk shake and it tastes just like mango ice cream bubble tea. Its a pretty good deal to get with your meal. They also have the option of adding sides for $2 but their sides are very small portions of the listed item. For example, the chicken teriyaki it was just a fried chicken patty with teriyaki sauce and the desert wings were only 3 dressed chicken wings. 

Food: 4/5
 Quality of the food is usually really decent! I didn't like their fish soup base because I found it bland and some options they have for toppings that I've tried weren't very worthwile. So far, I've found that their spicy soup bases are the best. The Peanut Sauce with Chili became my instant favorite the first time that I had it, but sometimes the sauce is made to be too thick and heavy and it actually feels like eating noodles with peanut butter. The Malay Laksa soup is a very rich spicy soup that has a vinegary tint to it, it tastes a lot like kimchi but a bit more sour. I've had no problems with their drinks. Once a waitress recommended to order the House Milk Tea because that's one of the few drinks made in store and not with powder. The Wheat Germ Milk Tea and Mango Smoothie Milk Shake are my favorites.

Atmosphere: 4/5, Service 4/5
The staff at the Vancouver Fraser Street Location are usually efficiency focused and aren't particularly warm and welcoming but you get your food quick.

Recommended? Yes
Revisit? Yes

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La Casa Gelato - Ice cream in 200+ flavors

I never expected to find ice cream in flavors like "curry", "wasabi" and even "seaweed" or for it to actually taste like the real thing in ice cream form. La Casa Gelato has some of the weirdest flavors you can think of, and guarantees that there will always be at least 218 flavors in store at any time. Once you pay for your order ($5 for 1 scoop, $7 for two scoops) they give you a little pink token that looks like gambling chip and you can go around and taste as many of the strange and traditional varieties they have. Although they don't you a limit on samples, the store has 3 sections of ice cream and only 1 staff per section. I went on a weekday night when you wouldn't expect it to be busy, but there were at least 9 other groups of customers already in the store and a few more that popped in while we were looking around. The staff is always busy, either with helping another customer with samples, or at the cash register selling tokens, so it's a bit difficult to get many samples because of the wait.

Atmosphere: 4/5, Service 4/5
The store is quiet spacious and has a really fun and bright feel to it. They play italian music and it looked like all the staff were italian as well. There is no seating in the shop which is a bit of a down point because the area that its located in is mostly populated by warehouses, its not a nice place for you to go out and eat your ice cream. There's a parking lot next door and most people sit and eat it there. The staff are friendly but are always occuped, when not helping a customer they seem to be flattening the buckets of ice cream and don't look up. I suspect that they're taught to do this to not welcome more sample requests. It can feel like your disturbing them by asking for a sample. There is a sign in the store that says to keep the samples to a minimum. 

Ice Cream 5/5
They have a pretty balanced selection of strange, "I dare you to try that" flavors and actual traditional flavors. Some of my favorites were Tiramisu, Rocky Mountain, Cappuccino, Mint Chocolate Chip, Cotton Candy and Mango. The weird flavors like Curry really did taste like curry. You get most of the flavor from the aftertaste because while its still in ice cream form it tastes mostly sweet, creamy and cold. The Seaweed ice cream actually had dried seaweed blended into it. Their prices are actually quiet reasonable considering that you get that tasting experience.   

Recommended? Yes
Revisit? Yes

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Kenzo Japanese Noodle House

Kenzo is another ramen place in Vancouver that doesn't get a lot of buzz for the quality of their food, but I actually really like the way their selection works. Most ramen places in Vancouver are limited to the selection of 3 soup bases; Shoyu (soya-sauce), shio (salt) and miso. You then get to choose the level of soup base richness (how salty/concentrated it is) and how heavy (oily) it is. Kezo offers a much bigger selection of different ramens (about a dozen different ones) and has the option of allowing you to choose how spicy you want your soup to be. I love spicy, especially spicy broths, but most of the ramen places I've tried dont have great spicy ramens. They turn out to be more salty than spicy and lack that kick. Kenzo's overall food quality is pretty average, the chashu is slightly chewy and doesn't melt in your mouth the way some of the most popular ramen establishments do, the noodles dont have the same bite but they make great spicy soup bases that have a strong flavor without being too salty.

The King of the King Ramen ($12.95) 4/5
photo above. A huge portion of ramen, great tasting soup stock but not the best chashu.
Miso Ramen ($9.95) 4/5
 Athough not a jumbo portion, still a big bowl. I choose level 2 spicy (out of 3 levels) and was really happy with how spicy this was. This definitely is spicy on an asian scale. Lots of bean spouts in the soup. Great broth again but dissapointing chashu. 

Atmosphere: 4/5, Service 5/5
Kenzo is a quiet restaurant, the Sunday evening I went it only had 3 other groups in the place while its size could seat probably 10 times as much. Its a nice quiet spot to eat and the service is very friendly. Really has that mom and pop restaurant feel.

Recommended? Yes (a great spot to try out different ramens)
Revisit? Yes

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Sushi Zen - mayo covered everything

Finding a high rated sushi establishment in Surrey was really surprising...and hugely hugely disappointing. I don't know how they got a 94% approval rating, but Sushi Zen was extremely average. The restaurant was next to empty during my Sunday evening visit and service was actually slow considering we were one of the three groups of customers in the store. The sauces they use have a different flavor that what I'm used to expecting in sushi, and I didn't find it an improvement.

Sashimi Salad 3.5/5
(photo above) While this salad looks amazing in photos, the sauce they use made it taste strange. It's that golden brown sauce that used at most sushi places for salads, but the one that Sushi Zen serves is distinctly sour. Usually this sauce has a nice light flavor, Sushiful in Vancouver has an amazing one, but this one was overpowering and didn't go well at all. They give you a generous amount of sauce, so if you don't like it you can't really avoid it. The sashimi itself was great. You get 3 pieces of salmon and 2 pieces of tuna. The salmon tasted fresh and the tuna was still frozen when we got it (I suspect it's to make it easier to cut).

Los Angles Roll 3/5
This is a lot like a house roll with salmon, tuna, alvocado and tempura. The tempura was freshly made and still warm, warm enough to heat up the tuna as well. Because of the size of the roll you end up having to eat it piece by piece, its one of those rolls that fall apart as soon as you pick it up. Everything was pretty good except for the fact that they drench it in a sweet Japanese mayo. I don't understand why but out of the two rolls we ordered, both came heavily glazed with the sweet mayo sauce. The "special sauce" that came with this roll was the red sauce, it's a lot like Thai Sauce but much more spicy. After dipping it in soya sauce with a bit of wasabi, this became a really strange mixture of salty, sweet and spicy. Each of the flavors was quiet strong too. Not my kind of roll.  

Spicy Combo 3/5
Usually spicy rolls at most places aren't really spicy and they use an asian sauce that has more of a distinct flavor with a spice in it. Sushi Zen uses a sauce that's a lot more like hot sauce. And they add sweet mayo on top of that. I was pretty surprised to see our rolls with a bright red sauce, usually it wouldn't be nearly as drenched in sauce and the red sauce would be slightly clear and more gel like. Their spicy sauce is slightly bitter and is actually spicy. I love spicy dishes, but I didn't like how this tasted. It was a blend of spicy, bitter and sweet that I didn't find went well together. Not recommended. 

Bottom Line?
Sushi Zen is a cute little sushi spot out in a strip mall near Guildford. The place has a really homey feel and have friendly staff. It seems like a really nice mom and pop kind of sushi spot. I definitely wouldn't recommend their spicy rolls or "specialty sauce" unless you like hot sauce with sushi. Their prices are cheap for a dine in sushi spot but I didn't find their sushi to be anything special. The sashimi is quiet fresh so I would return for that if I was in the area. 

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Bubble World - Taiwanese food & drink

My friends always pick Bubble World as a go to place for dinner when we cant settle on a place to eat. I've been to their Richmond, New West and Burnaby location and they're all pretty consistent with their food quality, service and atmosphere. Even though the New Westminister location is quiet small, the seating arrangements aren't cramped. I think the south Vancouver location on Fraser street is the only one that's interior design isn't on par with the rest.  Although it's a bubble tea establishment, the food is good and they have a huge selection!

Bubble tea: 4.5/5 
The top Bubble tea establishments in Vancouver definitely are Tealips and Bubble Queen but Bubble World doesn't fall too far behind. Their milk tea, slush and powdered bubble teas that I've tried have all been good. I'm a huge taro bubble tea fan and they make it really well. A popular choice is the Oreo Taro Slush but this still confuses me. In what universe is blending oreo into a drink a good idea? Nevertheless my friends have ordered it multiple times and everytime I steal a sip and remain equally as frazzled. Little oreo particles in a drink? Soggy oreo particles in a drink? I didn't like it much but they said that it didn't taste as good because there wasn't enough oreo. Meh, definitely not my cup of tea.

Unfortunately I didn't snap photos on every visit but I have tried the Hot Pot, Chef's Specials, Rice Dishes, Noodle dishes and shaved ice. Everything is actually pretty good. And you get a small serving of sides, usually a few pieces of tofu, some steamed veggies and a seaweed salad. Bubble World actually has the best seaweed salad. I steal these from my friends if they don't finish theirs. Its so good, definitely try it! Also their Shaved Ice is great to share. Its a huge portion and comes with lots of jelly, ice and condensed milk. If you want to cut back on spending skip the bubble tea and share the shaved ice as a group! Once I had to eat it myself because all my friends got bubble tea and didn't want more ice on top of that. Biggest brain freeze of my life.

4/5, Service 3.5/5
Bubble world is a great hang out spot, they have comfortable seating and nice super asian looking decor. During dinner hours they are really full but empty out otherwise. Pretty typical taiwanese franchise restaurant interior. The service is minimal, as Asian service usually is. Top priority is efficiency, they don't really talk to you but they get your food pretty quick.    

Recommended? Yes
Revisit? Yes
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