Eating My Way Through Vancouver, Canada

Kitsilano Beach | Vancouver

Kitsilano Beach

I can’t even begin to extol the virtues of visiting the Pacific Northwest when it is not raining. With all the rain throughout the year, cities like Vancouver really blossom when the sun shines and all the plants are green and lush. If it was like that all year, I think everyone would want to live there!

Coconut Ash and S'Mores Ice Cream at Mister | Vancouver

Coconut Ash and S’Mores Ice Cream at Mister

Besides the proximity to nature (the beach is in the center of town and the mountains are 30 minutes away), Vancouver is bustling with an amazing food scene. I could live there for a month and I wouldn’t make the slightest dent on my things-to-eat list. I did my best in a short amount of time. For novelty ice cream, look no further than the liquid nitrogen treats at Mister (1141 Mainland St.). Their most famous flavor is the coconut ash, which complements the black ice cream cones, but I actually like and recommend the crème brûlée (complete with a crackable sugar top) or s’mores (toasted marshmallow!) more. If you get your ice cream in their signature black cone, expect a massive amount of ice cream. It’s enough to share among 3 people (seriously). Flavors change daily so there’s always a surprise in store.

Lunch at Fable (left) and Ice Cream at Rain or Shine (right) | Vancouver

Lunch at Fable (left) and Ice Cream at Rain or Shine (right)

If you’re looking for a more traditional ice cream experience, head over to Rain or Shine (1926 W 4th Ave #102), close by Kitsilano beach. You can indulge in flavors like coffee toffee and salted caramel. Right next to Rain or Shine, you can grab a bite to eat at Fable (1944 W 4th Ave.). They have one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever tasted (thick-cut bacon and cheese are extra) or you can eat more healthy with local British Columbia salmon and kale.

Granville Public Market | Vancouver

Granville Public Market

Speaking of local salmon, BC salmon is absolutely incredible. Darker and redder in color, the flesh is flaky and ever so creamy with all the rich fish oil. My first stop in Vancouver was the Granville Island Public Market (1669 Johnston St.). The whole island is full of cute boutiques and small art galleries. The highlight is definitely the public market where there is a plethora of lunch choices at different stalls. I had to order the deep-fried salmon and calamari at Celine’s Fish & Chips. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever seen fish and chips with salmon and now that’s all I ever want to eat.

Aburi Sushi at Minami | Vancouver

Aburi Sushi at Minami

When in Vancouver, you have to eat sushi. With fish that fresh, it’d be a travesty if you didn’t. At Minami (1118 Mainland St.), you can try the famed aburi sushi. This flame-seared sushi has an extra touch of magic because the chefs sear the fish with binchotan (Japanese bamboo charcoal). I’d never seen anything like it before in my life! That extra bit of charcoal adds a whole new level of smokiness and complexity to your palate. The salmon oshi sushi (pressed BC wild salmon, jalapeno, Miku sauce) is hands down probably one of my favorite bites of food. Don’t miss out though on the tuna tartare, ebi fritters or Champagne roll (scallop, salmon, cucumber, uni, rolled in golden tobiko, Miku sauce).

Loco-Lomi Poke Salad at the Poke Guy | Vancouver

Loco-Lomi Poke Salad at the Poke Guy

I seriously cannot think of a better place to sell poke than Vancouver. At The Poke Guy (420 Richards St.), you’ll find local Hawaiians (shout-out to Reno!) serving poke with a twist, including toppings like mango and corn. One of their star dishes is the Loco-Lomi salad. Reno was great at explaining that lomi-lomi is a salmon salad with tomatoes and Maui onions. Their salad has smoked lomi-lomi, albacore poke, avocado, house yuzu slaw, kani, mango, peashoots, masago, crispy onion and furikake on a bed of lettuce. While I also loved the Poke Guy’s traditional poke, the loco-lomi salad is definitely unique and worth trying.

Cartems Donuterie | Vancouver

Cartems Donuterie

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Shanghai: Japanese Sukiyaki at Ri He 日和

Ri He | Sukiyaki

Ri He | Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is one of my favorite dishes and whenever I see it on the menu, I’m always tempted to order it. I love sukiyaki because the broth is slightly sweet from the soy sauce, mirin and sugar base. When Austin Hu could not stop singing the praises of the sukiyaki at Ri He 日和, I knew that I had to try it. Located a little further in Gubei, Ri He (4th floor of 130 Ziyun Xi Lu; 紫云西路130号4楼 ) serves sukiyaki, Japanese hot pot, sashimi and a variety of other dishes.

Wagyu Meat Platter

Wagyu Meat Platter

Ri He Seating

The star of the restaurant is the wagyu beef sukiyaki. For 588 RMB, you can order the 2-person sukiyaki set. This includes thinly sliced beef with various levels of marbling from A2 to A6, pork belly, tofu, vegetables and udon noodles to end the meal. The meat is absolutely incredible. With all the fattiness, it just melts in your mouth. It’s hard not to savor every single bite. Ri He’s sukiyaki sauce is also amazing and I like how it’s not too sweet. Whenever I go to Ri He, I always feel pampered since someone handles all the cooking for me.

Sashimi and Agedashi Tofu

Sashimi and Agedashi Tofu

Normally, I’m wary of eating sashimi in Shanghai, but Ri He’s fish is incredibly fresh and safe to eat. You can ask what the local catch of the day is and they usually always have fatty tuna belly. There are also other small eats like agedashi tofu. Our waiter also recommend their gyoza and beef pancake, which I’ll definitely have to try next time.

The menu is completely in Chinese and Japanese so make sure to bring a friend who can speak and/or read Chinese. At the very least, you can open up online reviews and point to photos. The staff is incredibly patient and friendly so if you do end up struggling a little bit, I’m sure they’ll recommend dishes for you.

Bay Area Delectable Eats

San Francisco's Financial District

San Francisco’s Financial District

I only go home back to the Bay Area once a year for Christmas. This year, I was home for longer and made sure to take full advantage of all the culinary masterpieces that the Bay Area has to offer. Here are the highlights!

Craftsman and Wolves Rebel Within

Craftsman and Wolves Rebel Within

Craftsman and Wolves opened in San Francisco after I left the city. I’ve been dying to try their Rebel Within muffin for over two years. This beautiful savory muffin has asiago and parmesan cheese, scallions, crème fraiche and sausage mixed into the batter. But the true pièce de résistance is the soft-boiled egg inside. When you cut it open, the yolk oozes out and helps create a sauce to dip your muffin in. Craftsman and Wolves also served their Rebel Within with a small container of homemade Tabasco salt. Save that baby to sprinkle on other foods in your life. While it’s $8 for a muffin, it’s definitely worth it. Make sure to go early because they often sell out before noon! The woman in front of me in line bought 9 muffins to go. That’s how good they are.

Clam Ramen from Ramen Izakaya Goku

Clam Ramen from Ramen Izakaya Goku

I love ramen. While there’s ramen in Shanghai, I just don’t think it compares to what I can get at home. My friend took me to Ramen Izakaya Goku in the Mission. Since this was technically “2nd dinner” (we had appetizers at a Christmas party), I wasn’t starving so I decided to order the garlic clam ramen. I don’t often see clam ramen on the menu and this did not disappoint. Instead of the rich, fatty tonkotsu broth, this was a much lighter, but still tasty soup. I really liked how bountiful and fresh the clams were too. I love corn in my ramen so I paid a little extra for it, but I should have gotten another egg. It’s a perfect ramen egg– marinated and soft-boiled.

Lobster Roll at Lobster Me

Lobster Roll at Lobster Me

The only lobster roll that I can find in Shanghai is at Goga. While it hits the spot, it’s definitely not the best lobster roll that I’ve ever had in life. In the basement of the Westfield Mall in SF is Lobster Me. They have several different styles, but I decided to go for the Connecticut: warm lobster tossed with melted butter and chives. It was kind of annoying that you can’t order the lobster roll as a standalone. You have to order with chips and cole slaw (I upgraded the chips to fries). The sandwich was really delicious and I liked that the bread was thick and buttered. The lobster was plentiful and not overcooked. It’s definitely on the smaller side and almost feels more like a “snack” than a meal. I easily could have eaten another sandwich.

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Hong Kong: Sublime Japanese Food at Hanabi

Hanabi's Angel Bomb: Three Kinds of Fatty Tuna and Sea Urchin over Rice

Hanabi’s Angel Bomb: Three Kinds of Fatty Tuna and Sea Urchin over Rice

Sushi is my all-time favorite food, but I don’t eat it often in China. When my mother suggested dinner at Hanabi (4/F, 6 Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui), I happily agreed. Hanabi serves fresh fish straight from Japan, which is flown in every morning, cut from the careful hands of executive chef, Michael Chan. Chef Chan used to work at Nobu in Hong Kong. Hanabi only offers omakase menus and you can’t order a la carte. However, they’ll always ask if you have any allergies or food aversions before serving you.

Hanabi Appetizers, Sliced White Fish and Sake

Hanabi Appetizers, Sliced White Fish and Sake

My mother and I decide to go all out and order the Mankai omakase menu (1,200 HKD). It starts with delicate dish of five cold appetizers and then is followed by thinly sliced white fish sashimi. The white fish is smooth and so crisp and clean tasting.

Hanabi Creative Sushi

Hanabi Creative Sushi

Next course was Hanabi’s creative sushi. The top layer was a beautiful Hokkaido oyster that is so meaty and creamy. I could have eaten a dozen of them. The chef carefully smokes the bottom layer of seared fatty tuna topped with caviar. The top dish with the oyster keeps the smoke trapped inside so when you open it, the smoke clears aways to reveal the fatty tuna jewel.

Hanabi Sushi

Hanabi Sushi

What followed next was three varieties of daily sashimi, which included the largest amaebi that I’ve ever seen, and eight pieces of nigiri sushi. Watching Chef Michael at work is almost like dinner and a show. I was completely enamored but his ritual of cutting the sushi, rolling the sushi rice and shaving salt rocks hailing from the Himalayas and Iran. I really loved the tempura, which was unique. One piece was deep-fried king crab and the other piece was deep-fried uni wrapped in shiso leaf. I had never had uni deep-fried before and it was a heartier texture, while still maintaining its creaminess. The real highlight of the meal was the angel bomb sushi, a magnificent tower of three kinds of fatty tuna and uni. It felt like one of the most decadent bites of my life. We finished the meal with a soothing bowl of miso soup and a scoop of yuzu ice cream.

Hong Kong: Lab Made Ice Cream

Hong Kong: Lab Made Ice Cream

Obviously, Hanabi is a restaurant reserved for special occasions. The restaurant only holds 12 counter seats and two small tables so reservations are a must. If you happen to be hungry afterward, you can always top by Lab Made (Shop 42, 132 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui), Asia’s first liquid nitrogen ice cream laboratory. My mother and I tried to mango ice cream topped with mango sauce, mango pieces and sago. The consistency of the ice cream was really smooth and it also tasted creamier. It was my first time trying liquid nitrogen ice cream and I liked it!

Taipei: Beautiful Japanese Feast at Mitsui Cuisine

Taipei: Mitsui Cuisine

Taipei: Mitsui Cuisine

Since living in China, the food I miss the most is sashimi and sushi. I have had unfortunate reactions after eating sushi in this country– so I avoid it like the plague. When the best friend, Anne, suggested Japanese food in Taipei, I was all too eager. Anne’s mother recommended Mitsui Cuisine for their set lunches.

Hand rolls, sashimi and abalone salad

Hand rolls, sashimi and abalone salad

I wasn’t expecting Mitsui Cuisine to be so modern and posh-looking with its dark interior and marble counters. We went Saturday for lunch and I highly recommend making reservations because the entire place filled up. Anne and I both ordered the set lunch which came with sashimi, abalone or shrimp salad, cod fish, beef or lamb, nigiri, fish soup and a small dessert. I was anticipating a bento box and was absolutely starving so we both ordered an additional hand roll.

Steamed fish, nigiri and beef filet

Steamed fish, nigiri and beef filet

That hand roll was completely unnecessary. The portions were really generous and we got such high quality food at a reasonable price. The sashimi was beautiful and melted in your mouth with every bite. The abalone was also fresh and came with a small salad with corn. Anne ordered the fried fish and I ordered the steamed fish. I definitely thought the fried fish was a lot tastier than the steamed one (the steamed one also didn’t look super appetizing).

Fried fish and lamb chop

Fried fish and lamb chop

For our main dishes, I ordered the beef filet and Anne ordered the lamb chop. My beef filet was nothing special, but Anne’s lamb chop was absolutely amazing. It was tender, marinated well and had a beautiful caramelization since the fat had been rendered. I would have gladly eaten a whole rack of them. Our nigiri was just as good as our sashimi, but I almost wished it had come earlier (because I was getting really full and couldn’t truly appreciate it).

The last course (besides a small serving of fruit and apple crumble) was a clear fish soup broth that was the perfect end to the meal. The broth was so incredibly clean with no fat in it whatsoever and I was enjoying the slivers of ginger too. The soup with the ginger helped to digest the meal.

Judging by their business card and website, there are quite a few different Mitsui-related restaurants in Taipei. If they are all as good as Mitsui Cuisine, I would gladly eat at all of them. If I ever go back to Taipei, I will definitely make it a point to try and eat there for lunch again!

Hong Kong: Fine Dining at Aqua

Nigiri Platter at Aqua

Nigiri Platter at Aqua

Aqua is well-known for having the best harbor views of Hong Kong. Located on the 29th floor at 1 Peking Road, the view was breathtaking with tall ceilings and glass windows enveloping the whole room. I appreciated how much space was in between each table. I think I’ve gotten too use to the crowded bistro environment in Paris where you can’t even leave your seat without a waiter moving the table or you end up unintentionally eavesdropping on the conversation happening one table over. This was a private dining experience.

Left: Squid ink pasta with uni sauce; right: nigiri platter

Left: Squid ink pasta with uni sauce; right: nigiri platter

Aqua serves Italian and Japanese food on two separate menus (Aqua Roma & Aqua Tokyo) and the menus are both quite extensive. My mother and I started the meal with a beautiful nigiri platter. Each piece of nigiri was incredibly smooth and buttery with the fish melting in your mouth. For my main dish, I ordered the squid ink pasta with uni sauce and mussels. While I appreciated the texture and consistency of my pasta, I wasn’t in love with the sauce. It was rich and very heavy. This seems to be a recurring problem whenever I order pasta with uni sauce. I need to stop getting my hopes up and stop ordering things with uni sauce.

Aqua: Foie Gras

Foie Gras

My mother ordered the pan-seared foie gras, which was served hot on a piece of brioche toast and topped with cherries. This dish was much more promising compared to my pasta dish. I love any foie gras dish served with fruit because I think the sweet and savory combination is absolutely perfect. The sweetness of the fruit helps cut the richness of the foie gras.

Aqua: Harbor View

Aqua: Harbor View

Despite the rainy weather, the view was amazing. The timing was perfect and I actually got to watch the sun set over Hong Kong. I could definitely see Aqua as an excellent destination to celebrate a special occasion and it is the perfect spot for a romantic date. The service was also excellent and I was tended to very closely.

They have a private dining room, which is absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t want to take any photos of it because there was an event happening. Not like I’m planning one, but it would be a great venue for a rehearsal dinner/company holiday party. In terms of the food, I recommend sticking with the Aqua Tokyo menu over the Aqua Roma one. Aqua– a nice place to treat yo self!

Inside Aqua

Inside Aqua