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
  Bubble World 大頭仔 on Urbanspoon

Sushi Mura - Cheap eats in West Van

If you're looking for a cute sushi spot that is really affordable, Sushi Mura would impress you. It's unbelievably cheap here. The food is actually decent, the atmosphere is quiet nice, and the service is good (during lunch hours). What really stands out about the whole experience is opening the menu to find specialty rolls for $4.95. The exact kind of specialty rolls most places offer for at least $10, they have for $5, $7 and $9. They're full sized rolls and are equality as well presented as other places.

Above we ordered the Party Platter A which included a whopping 42 pieces of sushi, all for $19. I noticed that they used the same trick that a lot of All You Can Eat sushi places use, their rolls come with a thick layer of rice and a much more modest amount of filling than you'd usually expect. This way they look normal in size but they're 1/2 to 3/4 rice.

Exhibit A 
The dynamite and BC rolls, fully loaded with lots of rice

Exhibit B 
The California and Spicy Tuna rolls, the spicy tuna was more of spicy sauce and rice roll, with a touch of tuna but the sauce was really good so not a huge complaint here.

Exhibit C 
The Fresh Seaweed Salad,  I don't know what it is about these kind of salads but they are so good. It's such a refreshing treat and they're healthy too. These guys make a pretty good one. 

Atmosphere: 4/5 
The restaurant is newly renovated and that was a huge highlight for me. All the cheap sushi places I've been to before are small and have very basic tables and fold out chairs. They're there for take out or a quick bite but not a place to hang out with friends. Sushi Mura has nicely designed tableware, is spacious and an interior similar to Sushi Garden or Deer Garden. It's a good lunch or dinner spot to go eat with company. The staff look like older Japanese teenagers, with bleached hair and a taste for EDM music. Helps make it a good spot for students. Also, if you drop by during lunch hours or in the early afternoon (not rush hour), you can pretty much get the place to yourself.

Service: 4/5 
My visit was on a weekday somewhere between 4:00-6:00pm and they were not busy at all. I think I saw maybe 4 other groups of people eating inside? Other reviews I saw all made note of terrible service but I didn't experience that. We were served fairly quickly and didn't have any problems with the bill.

Food: 3.5/5 
The only think that really stands out about the food is the price. Otherwise its pretty standard in terms of taste. Even with how they cheap out on fillings and fill you up with rice, I still think that it's a bang for your buck. As a student, good prices definitely call out to me. They're generous with the sauce for the Spicy Tuna rolls so those didn't taste much blander than usual but I did notice a lack of flavor with the rest. The California rolls were still ok but the Dynamite rolls were only saved with a big dunk of soya sauce. The $19 Party Platter served our group of 3 quiet well and the two guys are big eaters. Next time I would go for their specialty rolls instead though.

Recommended? Yes
Revisit? Yes

Sushi Mura on Urbanspoon

Potter's Garden Korean BBQ

5599 Kingsway Burnaby, BC V5H4W7

Good Korean food is hard to find in Vancouver, in fact I'm still looking for it. Potter's Garden was a pretty disappointing visit. The interior of the place itself is pretty dingy and looks like an old, run down place to eat. Prices however, are quiet expensive for asian food. So far the only good Korean place I've found is Jiang Mo Jib but their dishes have been a bit westernized. Potter's Garden offers a much bigger menu and I believe their cuisine is meant to be more authentically Korean.

In terms of dining experience, the restaurant is quiet large and they have added a Korean touch. You get to ring a doorbell-style button on the wall next to your table to alert your server that you need assistance. Another cool bit that they offer is unlimited sides! With each dish you get a side of sweetened potato, peppered spicy seaweed, bean sprouts and kimchi and you can order as much as you want at no extra charge.

The Seafood Pancake 4/5  was probably the best dish we ordered there, we got the large and it was well made but quite pricey. I think it worked out to be $17.

The Sides 3/5
The sweetened potatoes were really good and were a nice side to complement the stronger flavors of the main dishes. I didn't like how the seaweed was dressed, it didn't taste particularly pleasant and I've tried much better seaweed sides at Chinese restaurants. The kimchi was more sour than it was spicy and not particularly well liked by our group.

Galbitang (#14) 2/5
This is a traditional korean soup of  beef short ribs simmered for a few hours with green onion, and potato noodles that is supposed to be well made here. However as your average diner without a lot of knowledge or preference for traditional korean cuisine, I didn't like it. The broth was alright but there was barely any noodles and I found the dish very bland.  There were a few generous chunks of meat but it was mostly bone.

Doltsot Bibimbap (#20) 4/5
Bibimbap means "mixed rice", its served in a hot stone pot (dolsot) bowl and is an extremely popular korean dish. Many Chinese restaurants have this as well and make a really good version. The dish is usually coated with sesame oil to prevent the rice from sticking. You're supposed to mix the rice and toppings well and keep stirring it while you eat it to stop it from burning. Its hard to make bibimbap taste bad because it really just is rice and seasoned toppings. Potter's Garden's was alright, I've had better ones at Chinese restaurants but this wasn't terrible either.

Recommended? No
Revisit? No 
Food rating: 2.5/5 
Potter's Garden Korean BBQ 香辣里 on Urbanspoon

The Fish Shack

1026 Granville Street,  Vancouver, BC

Located in an extremely busy section of Granville Street, the Fish Shack is another packed restaurant geared toward more of a young, hipster crowd. Proof? Drinks were served in mason jars and the staff uniform were black graphic ts. I actually really liked the old school vibe of the place and its refreshing to interact with staff that have personality. Overall, I wouldn't say that the food is incredible, its good, but not rave worthy, not rant worthy so this is going to be a pretty bland review. 

 dining chatter volume: high 
 food: 4/5  
 specialty: oysters

To start, the the Sicilian Steamer with mussels (photo above) had a sauce that just wasn't powerful enough. It was very thin, quite oily and had only a hint of flavor. When I dipped the baguette slices it came with, all I really got was soggy bread.

Next, the Seafood poutine that I had heard about and actually our reason for visiting, was underwhelming. It was mostly your regular poutine with cheese and gravy with some chunks of salmon and mussels. The seafood didn't add a whole lot of flavor to the poutine, so it was really just very standard. It was good (when does fries and cheese ever taste bad?) but not worth paying extra for. 

The Oysters are their claim to fame and are served with a platter of 4 sauces to choose from. Personally, mt friends and I found only one of them to be good (the transparent red one). They did taste fresh and were pretty good so I can see myself returning for these. Otherwise there was nothing we ordered that I'd pay to have again. The Fish Shack is a neat spot for its atmosphere but the food just isn't anything special.

  The Fish Shack on Urbanspoon

White Spot - Proof that anyone can cook

Just stay at home. You can make better food. 
And you can make and serve it faster than they can.
I remember White Spot being the funnest place to eat as a kid. I could get a meal in a pirate ship with a pirate hat and my mom would get a giant salad.The salads my mom used to get were absolutely massive. The first time she got it we was shocked at how big it really was and it had a generous portion of thick udon shaped noodles underneath it, enough to feed 3 people.

The new salads I've tried are definitely single portion and sound fancy but taste plain. Example: the first photo is of the Santorini Chicken Salad that is described to have a "house-made roast shallot dressing". It tasted like any regular vinaigrette. The chicken was room temperature when we received it. I could have chopped some veggies at home, tossed it in vinegar and olive oil and grilled a chicken. I wish I did. There are some amazing salads at Milestones and even random Japanese restaurants but this salad was about as good as a supermarket packaged lunch salad.

"The Spot’s Calamari" was also nothing special, actually quite sub par and their tzatziki sauce really just tasted like sour cream.

Although White Spot gained fame for their burgers, they now have a large selection of pastas and they're not very good. Sometimes the noodles come overcooked, soft and brittle. The sauce is thin and weak in flavor. In fact, I find that sometimes they have a bit of a funny taste that I also find in those cheap frozen microwave pasta meals. My guess is that they used packaged sauce. Additional toppings are sparse. As you can see, it was served with two tiny tomatoes sliced in half and only a pinch of herbs. The other day I made white sauce pasta from a tutorial on youtube and it tasted a million times better. Also, do you see that tiny piece of salmon on the side? That was a $6 add on and all we got was a thin, small serving. I definitely would not recommend their Fettuccine Alfredo. Luckily the garlic bread was ok.

So far I'd give White Spot 1/5. The food is really meh and the service is not all that much better. The servers  have way more customers to take care of than they can handle. It also seems like the kitchen isn't big or well staffed enough to handle the volume of customers they get. With every White Spot I've been to, you can expect a long wait time and see your waiter rushing back and and forth trying to handle their area.

One redeeming factor is their Spot Sampler dessert. For $9 you get to have 3 mini desserts and the hot fudge brownie with ice cream is just so good. Actually all of the 3 are pretty good. Personally, I find it the one thing worth ordering at White Spot and sometimes I go just get this and share with a friend. Catch up sessions over mini desserts!

All in all: White Spot has a lot of improvements to make, they need better recipes and more staff. I really don't recommend a visit until they make much needed changes.  

  White Spot on Urbanspoon

Sushiful, Vancouver's hidden Sushi gem

#7 - 3490 Kingsway  Vancouver, BC
(604) 451-5177

Sushiful is pretty much the underdog of Vancouver sushi. They're newly established, located in a quiet, low traffic plaza and owned by a pair of two young guys who are passionate about sushi. And what they make is amazing. A lot of reviews on urban spoon mention how their sushi is similar to Sushi Garden's (the super popular sushi spot on Kingsway across from Metrotown). This is probably because they used to work at Sushi Garden and learned the ins and outs of making quality sushi. I'd argue to say that Sushiful tops Sushi Garden, with both better food and better service. Everything is super fresh and they use high quality ingredients. Prices are lower than standard and the portions are quite generous. I was really impressed with their salmon sashimi! (Photos below) Before I thought the Sushi Garden sashimi was amazing, but Sushiful's was just as good, and they give you a bigger portion.

Usually I'd get the standard rolls for take out (spicy salmon roll, california roll etc.) and I always enjoyed those. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they've crafted some amazing speciality rolls as well. The first two photo in this post are of the Fiji Mountain roll. Avocado sushi filling topped with chopped scallop, tempura shavings and sauce. My new favorite! Just above is the Red Dragon roll, one of their most popular specialty rolls.

A must try is their house salad. I dont know what sauce they use or how they make it taste so good but this salad is SO GOOD! Crisp iceberg lettuce, thin shavings of radish and carrot, a touch of red cabbage and an amazing tasting sauce. Seriously. Try it.

All in all, an amazing sushi place. Great service by the owmers (one of them wears an antler hat with Sushiful written on it.). It's an East Van dining spot with personality and delicious food.

  Sushiful on Urbanspoon

Kishimoto - The Drive's high style sushi spot


KISHIMOTO Japanese Kitchen & Sushi Bar

One of the newer dining spots on Commercial Drive, Kishimoto quickly grew into one of the busiest sushi spots on this busy street. You can guarantee to find a line up outside and expect a 15-30 minute wait if you decide to come and visit. The restaurant's interior was well designed, with decorations such as giant white paper lanterns that giving it a trendy yet casual feel. It's good fit for such a hipsteresque neighbourhood.

wait time: 15-30min (for seats)
 dining chatter volume: high
 food: 4/5
 specialty: Oshisushi, Abrui

From my experience, I think a lot of the hype surrounding Kishimoto is more about their presentation than their food. The actual sushi comes in really small portions and, although are well made, aren't particularly rave worthy. They definitely have a large selection of specialty rolls and their Oshisushi (pressed sushi that comes in a square shape) is something else. The one dish that really wowed me was the Spicy Tuna Oshisushi, the tuna is nicely seasoned and cooked in a way that made it melt in my mouth. Now there's something special.

Otherwise, I found the atmosphere of the restaurant more memorable than the food. It's a bustling quant dining spot, filled with chatter and trendy guests. The perfect place to have a catch-up date that's nice but still casual. Because the portions are so modest, the food felt like more a side to the conversation, rather than a full meal. If you wanted too really leave full you have to order enough to make this a pretty expensive visit. We left paying $30 each and stomachs that were just satisfied, but not quite full. 

Overall, highly recommended as a date spot for the cutely decorated dishes or for a girl's night out, for the trendy feel of the place. 

 Kishimoto Japanese Kitchen & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

The Famous Warehouse

989 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6B2C9 

 Known for their $4.95 absolutely everything menu, The Warehouse is one of downtown Vancouver's most popular hubs and bars. Among its copycat restaurants such as "The Dime" that also offer complete $5 menus, the Warehouse has the most selection and best value. Depending on what you order, you can get a full sized meal for your $5 whereas the other ones I've tried offer mini portions and bank on the guarantee that you'll have to order multiple dishes. If you're a fan of burgers they have a good variety of red and white meat ones that come with big patties and nicely seasoned medium cut fries. Every burger I've tried here has been great but food quality can vary, understandable based on how much more traffic they get during their peak hours.

 wait time: 30-45min (peak) 
 music/dining volume: high 
 food: 4/5 
 specialty: burgers 

Last summer there was one visit where we waited 45 minutes for our food to be prepared. This summer we were given nachos and salsa as appetizers to occupy us but we were charged for them and we weren't asked if we wanted them or not. I've also noticed that this summer the staff is slightly below par, last summer everyone who worked here looked like they came out of a MTV Laguna Beach reality T.V. show but this summer many of the servers look like they're straight out of high school.

top --> bottom food reviews
Chaing Mai Bowl   2/5
Although described as served in spicy soy chili sauce, it tastes more like a heavy sour and spicy sauce that is much too heavy for the amount of noodles in this dish. The sauce even feels greasy and overpowers anything else going on.

Mama T's Crunchy Mac and Cheese 3/5
Your standard mac and cheese, lightly topped with cornflakes. Its served on a shallow plate and you're only given a modest amount.

The Works Burger 5/5
Although the one in the photo is slightly burnt and was dry, the usual burger is juicy with a thick patty and all around just well done. Hit and miss depending on the kitchen staff of the day.

Smokey BBQ Burger 5/5
My personal favorite because I like the spicy kick. It has a great tasting spicy sauce and what seems like the same patty as the Works burger.

Union Street Noodle Salad 4/5
Chow mein noodles under chicken, dressed greens, avocado and almonds. The noodles were quiet heavily salted but otherwise this was a great cold salad.

The Famous Warehouse on Urbanspoon