New Blog!

Hello all, as of today, my new blog will be at http://eatwithjasper.com .

Hope to see you there and please re-subscribe at the new page!

Thank you.


I Love Transit Night

It’s that time of the year again for the annual I Love Transit Night; a night of free food and games for transit lovers of Vancouver put on by TransLink’s blog: The Buzzer Blog. This is my second year of attending the event. I enjoyed my experience last year so let’s see what this year has to offer. The venue this year is in Downtown’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre Annex, a relatively small room compared to last year’s event at Burnaby’s Bonsor Recreation Complex’s large gym, however this year’s location is a lot more convenient because it is in Downtown.

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TransLink’s new Xcelsior XDE60 60 foot buses; my favourite part about these buses is that they have air conditioning, which is good both during summer and winter to keep the interior bus temperature at a comfortable level. No more “heater is too strong” complaints in the coming winter.

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People can write what they love about transit on this wall. This year’s event actually “sold out” of its 200 tickets, transit seems to getting more popular these days, perhaps due to rising gas costs; taking transit ain’t all that bad compared to driving except in the evening which is probably the main reason I would get a car.

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As usual, free pins and buttons for all! Limited edition “I Love Transit” American Apparel T-shirts for $15, of course I bought one! Although I doubt I will wear it often…

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Once inside, there was a music performer, a free photo booth with transit-related props and cool accessories wear, and of course what everyone’s hear for, FREE PIZZA AND POP!

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I took a photo of your table and you posed for the photo so awesome :) Yes, to answer your question of whether the photo looked good; you are so cute haha.

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Two Transit Police officers were here to show off the new styling of their police cruiser. All the current cars will be outfitted with this new sticker wrap design. Personally, I like the current look more… The back of the police car where the suspects sit actually uses some sort of hard plastic; I heard the office explain that this was to prevent suspects from damaging the car when they start kicking the inside.

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Draw prizes! Prizes included framed bus prints, limited edition books, SeaBus and SkyTrain (die-cast?) models, scarves, etc. There were not as many prizes this year compared to last, I remember almost everyone getting a prize last year (except me) because they gave away A LOT of t-shirts.

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This was the first game of the night; the crowd was split into two groups: Buses and SkyTrains. The team to board the bus to quickest is the winner. They made it interesting by adding a blindfolded person, a bicycle, a stroller, and someone using the new Compass Card (I wish I got picked for that!!!). These new Xcelsior buses still have the “new-car” smell :) Our team loss this game.

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The second game of the night was Transit Trivia. With questions such as the capacity of the Seabus, the number of stations on the SkyTrain lines, the number of zones in the system, etc. I’m still amazed at how some people can even know the time of the first train on the Millennium Line… I thought I was THE Transit person, but there’s people more extreme than me…

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Finished off the night taking a photo with Mr. Buzzer :)


Miku Restaurant

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I’ve wanted to try Miku Restaurant for the longest time because I’ve heard nothing but good things about their Aburi sushi, in which they use a blowtorch to sear the sushi before bringing it to the table. Another “problem” with coming here is that it is hard to find someone else to come with me because the menu isn’t cheap. Well I decided to invite my friend who also loves eating and she said yes! This conversation was back a few months ago but this has always been in the back of our minds until we finally went tonight! Both of us were ecstatic to try Miku. I can not describe how great it is to eat with someone who shares the same feelings as you on food and eating, and also the same sense of “adventure” every time.

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I was happy to see that we had one of the best tables in the restaurant with a gorgeous view of the harbour. I loved the sleek and modern look of the interior.

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This is the Aburi Tuna 16 (lightly flame seared albacore tuna, masatake sauce); the masatake sauce was interesting - a mixture of onions, soy sauce, etc. I guess I prefer just the tuna rather than the sauce. Maybe I just don’t know how to enjoy it! 

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This is the Spicy Shrimp and Pork Gyoza 13 (sweet miso-pork belly, chili pepper coulis); this dish is interesting is that there are pork pieces placed beside the gyoza, the taste was quite interesting, it was like meat with a slight sweet taste. The gyoza themselves were standard fare; we didn’t feel they were anything special. I would have liked it more if the bottom skin of the gyoza was more crispy.

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This is the MIKU Roll 18 (salmon, crab, cucumber, sea urchin, rolled in flying fish roe, miku sauce); there was a funny story when we ordered this. At the beginning of our dinner, the restaurant didn’t have sea urchin so we were offered a urchin-less version of the roll for $2 less; we decided to get something else and see if we were still hungry after the other stuff before getting this. When we decided to order this after all the other food was served, the waitress informed us that the sea urchin was just delivered to the restaurant! My friend was so excited because this was her favourite item at Miku, and the sea urchin was her favourite part. I felt the Miku Sauce made the roll taste very similar to the Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi.

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We each got a piece of Hotate (Scallop) Nigiri; there was an option of whether to get Aburi version. I got the Aburi, she got the regular. This one was delicious. It had that “melt-in-the-mouth” feeling with that slight Aburi seared taste.

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This one is the one I hear most about in online reviews, the Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi 15 (pressed BC wild sockeye salmon, jalapeno, miku sauce), it comes in a unique rectangular shape. After the first bite, I appreciated how soft it was and the feeling of the sushi melting into your mouth. I could taste the distinctive Miku sauce, but I did not like the taste of it; I feel it is personal preference because besides the sauce not to my taste, the sushi was really tasty.

My second-favourite item of the night was the Aburi Ebi Oshi Sushi 15 (pressed prawn, lime zest, ume sauce), because this one did not have the Miku sauce, but rather a slightly sour taste because of the lime zest I’m guessing. The same “melt-in-mouth” feeling was experienced. There is lot of sauce on top of the sushi compared to traditional sushi, making the sushi more filling for the stomach than they appear. The sour taste mixed with the flat layer of pressed prawn on the top of the sushi made for a delicious combination.

We were pondering whether or not to have dessert at Miku, or go to our other “place”, Nero Belgian Waffles. She raised a good point in that we could go to Nero anytime, but that it would be unlikely for us to come just to Miku for their dessert; so we went for the dessert at Miku! During the dinner, I noticed a very nicely decorated cake other tables were having, turns out it was the Green Tea Opera. This was by-far my favourite item of the entire evening. The taste, texture was perfect, with the waffle bottom of the cake adding just the right bit of crunchiness to the cake. The taste wasn’t too sweet or bitter, but just the right amount. I wasn’t left feeling “sick” afterwards as other desserts usually make me.

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Go for a walk along the water after dinner, perfect evening.

Miku Restaurant on Urbanspoon


How to (properly) open TransLink bus doors

This topic has been on my mind for quite a while and today while on the bus I thought why not make a blog post on how to open bus doors on TransLink buses as many people seem to not understand how they work.

There are three types of door opening methods that I have seen. The first and second are understood by most people. The third is what I’m about to tell you and the one most people do not understand.

The first are those doors with the long metallic bars in front of the doors. Almost everyone knows you are suppose to push the bars to open the doors.

The second are those doors where the driver manually opens the doors so no action is required of the passenger (i.e. 99 B-Line, “C” Community Shuttles)

The third are those doors shown in the picture below.

All bus exit doors have a green light on the top of them. When the green light is lit, it means the door is “armed” and ready to be opened.

Step 1) Note the two yellow labels that say “TOUCH HERE TO OPEN DOOR”, please IGNORE this, yes, IGNORE the bright yellow labels.

Step 2) Take notice of the two gray circle sensor on the top of the picture below. Now imagine two thin vertical beam from those sensors down to the floor.

Step 3) Form a fist!

Step 4) Move your fist horizontally straight through the invisible beams.

Step 5) ???

Step 6) PROFIT; the doors open 99% of the time with this method, impress your girlfriend AND you don’t have to get germs on your hand by touching that panel especially during the Fall and the Winter.

***NOTE 1: Your fellow passengers will think YOU are the one who doesn’t know what you are doing and give you weird glances as they physically push the door as hard as they can, often failing to open the doors***

***NOTE 2: If you don’t like using a fist, use any sort of crazy dance you can think of, but from my experience, fist works the best***


Rodney’s Oyster House

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Wanted something “different” for lunch, so I decided to eat my favourite food: Oysters! Having read about Rodney’s a lot in other blog entries, I wanted to try it.

Went to Rodney’s right when they opened so I was the first customer of the day; I liked the design of the restaurant, it was a relaxing and casual atmosphere. I decided to get the Po’Boy sandwich because I had tried this dish at another restaurant and wanted to compare it to Rodney’s.

It was dangerously good; best oyster sandwich I’ve ever had. The oysters only had a very thin frying batter, most of it was oyster which was good as I don’t like how the frying batter usually makes you too full. As you bite into the oysters, the juice of the oysters bursts into your mouth, with the taste of the ocean melting in your mouth as well. The wedge fries were excellent as well, filled with potatoes and super crispy, but not to the point of over cooked.

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Rodney's Oyster House on Urbanspoon


Tsuki Sushi Bar

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Tsuki is one of the new Japanese restaurants in the Chinatown area near the Stadium-Chinatown SkyTrain Station. This area has undergone major changes in the last couple of years, stemming from the development of new apartment towers in the area. There are now many new businesses opening shop, and even the International Village Shopping Centre is seeing more foot traffic. I still remember how quiet it was back in the day.

Usually, I would go with a simple roll combo, but today I decided to be a bit more adventurous and go for the Tekka Salmon (Albacore Tuna and Sockeye Salmon bowl) $11. The bowl comes with a miso soup as well. As my supervisor would say, the Tekka Salmon was “AMAZING”!

Both the tuna and salmon tasted fresh to me, and their texture can be described as “delicate”, nothing like the big pieces you get at cheap sushi restaurants; definitely quality over quantity here. Putting the pieces of fish into my mouth it was like they just melted inside, exploding with strong tastes of freshness both for the tuna and the salmon.

Since then, I’ve been back three times for lunch, and always getting the same thing. I need to try some of their other dishes. But if it is your first time there, I would recommend getting this bowl as the fish they use is excellent!

Simple and clean interior design with quick, attentive service.

Tsuki Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon


Bellingham Day Trip from Vancouver (BY BUS)!

It’s summer time and my more ambitious travel plans to Asia didn’t really pan out, but I randomly read about BoltBus (www.boltbus.com) online, an intercity bus service with service from Vancouver, BC to Bellingham, Seattle and Portland. Having been to Seattle and Portland before, I wasn’t really interested in those cities and definitely didn’t want to go a long bus ride. Also, those trips can not be completed in just one day. So I was left with Bellingham - a small, unfamiliar town 2 hours away from Downtown Vancouver including border crossing times.

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From what I knew about Bellingham prior to my “research” on TripAdvisor, it is just a small town who’s main attractions are Costco, Walmart, and a large shopping centre; all of which popular with Canadian families looking to head down to the United States (U.S.) to get some cheap groceries. I also knew of their international airport, popular with people looking for a cheaper flights compared to flying out of YVR. Is there really anything for young people or even tourists to do in Bellingham?

Well that’s what today’s blog topic is about!

After doing some research on TripAdvisor (http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Tourism-g58350-Bellingham_Washington-Vacations.html), I pinpointed THREE separate areas that I wanted to visit. There really wasn’t much decision needed as Bellingham is pretty small.

My plan was to take the BoltBus from Vancouver (~$14-$20 return). It seems the earlier you book, the higher the chance you have to get a cheaper ticket. The only departure time viable for a day-trip was the 6:30 am from Pacific Central Station (arrive Bellingham at 8:30 am), so that was the one I picked. Coming back from Bellingham, the latest departure back to Vancouver was at 8:00 pm, so I booked that as well (arrive Vancouver at 10:00 pm).

All the trip planning was done. Tickets booked. Now time for the trip!!!

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Let me just preface by saying: I have never taken any sort of intercity bus in my life (i.e. Greyhound, Quick Shuttle, etc.), so I was excited to finally experience intercity bus travel! My friend (I’ll refer to her as “K” for the rest of the blog entry for simplicity) and I realized one thing, 6:30 am is REALLY EARLY. We noticed that most of the other passengers were carrying a few pieces of baggage; they were continuing on the bus towards Seattle and Portland.

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The BoltBuses are equipped with free Wi-Fi and power outlets. The driver was a nice guy with European accent. The buses themselves were clean and comfortable. The best part we noticed about the ride both going to Bellingham and coming back to Vancouver was that the bus ride is really quiet. Our fellow passengers were respectful people or just trying getting some sleep, I sometimes felt like we were the only ones talking and laughing on the bus haha. A misconception I had about intercity bus transport was that they were usually loud, dirty and smelly. This was definitely a pleasant surprise, perhaps it was because BoltBus isn’t really a typical commuter service between cities in the same country, but an international service which I’m sure is used by a lot of people traveling for a leisurely purpose.

We arrived at Cordata Station in Bellingham 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled time of 8:30 am. Thank goodness as I really needed to go to the bathroom… A common complaint I read online about BoltBus vs. Greyhound and Amtrak is that BoltBus drops passengers at Cordata Station. I did not find a problem with this as Cordata is only a 10 minute walk to Bellis Fair Mall and the transit station is shared with local public transit buses operated by the Whatcom Transportation Authority (http://www.ridewta.com/).

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Our first destination of the day was the Fairhaven Historical District in the southern part of Bellingham. We first needed to catch a bus from Cordata Station to Downtown Bellingham, and then another bus from Downtown to Fairhaven. The most direct way from Cordata Station to Downtown is taking the #15 (http://www.ridewta.com/route_15). I love public transit so was excited to try the public transit down in Washington.

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First thing I noticed was how clean and modern the transit exchanges were compared to Vancouver. At Cordata Station, it was unique in that instead of having distinct spots for each route, they simply split the station into platforms A and B. The buses stop either at platform A and B and then they line up behind other buses already there. I guess this system is great for smaller towns like Bellingham, probably wouldn’t work too well in the big cities. All the transit exchanges are also staffed by an transit employee, so you can always ask them for help if you are lost. The buses are $1 per route, they take exact change (coin or bill); very affordable. We spent a total of $4 each on public transit the whole day.

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Funny thing I remembered when taking a photo of our bus to Downtown, the bus driver asked me what camera I was using because she was a photographer as well. We exchanged some photographic conversations and she told me that someone recently stole her Panasonic Micro Four Thirds Camera :(. I don’t think she sees many people with cameras around their neck in Bellingham (tourists), and we started talking about Vancouver and she was saying how the Celebration of Lights Fireworks in August were awesome and welcomed us to her little town. What a nice way to be welcomed into Bellingham!

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The bus was very quick, we got to Downtown in ~20 minutes. Along the way, the streets were very quiet, it sort of reminded me of Victoria, BC. Downtown Bellingham has the major transit exchange in Bellingham: Bellingham Station. This is pretty much the central spot for connections. We wanted some McDonald’s for breakfast but realized there’s no McDonald’s in the Downtown area. It was around 9:00 am and most of the stores were closed. We found a small cafe that was open so we went there.

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This is the type of place where if I was in Vancouver I wouldn’t go to, but when you are a tourist it doesn’t matter. The food was decent and filling. I said it was a little pricy, but both of us laughed when “K” said it was cheaper than IHOP. Now THAT place is expensive for breakfast.

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After breakfast, we headed to the Fairhaven Historical District (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g58350-d4003878-Reviews-Fairhaven_Historic_District-Bellingham_Washington.html). From Bellingham Station, there are two bus options: #14 (http://www.ridewta.com/route_14) or the #401 (http://www.ridewta.com/route_401). The #401 is the faster, more direct option running along Bellingham Bay, while the #14 passes through the Western Washington University campus and several residential neighborhoods. I recommend taking one bus there, and the other bus back, so you get to see more of Bellingham. 

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Bellingham has several bus routes they refer to as “GO Lines”. These “GO Lines” have bus service every 15 minutes on weekdays. The #401 is the RED “GO Line”. We found that transit is quite reliable and always on-time, benefits of a small town I guess.

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Bellingham Bay acts as the backdrop of Fairhaven, making for some amazing scenery.

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Fairhaven contains several blocks of historical buildings, many of them appear to have been restored with their historical flair intact. Everyone was smiling and all the shopkeepers were happy to see visitors to their stores. Perhaps it was a weekday, but we did not see any car license plates from Canada, nor did we see ANY Asian people besides ourselves; we laughed the whole trip about how we were pretty much the only Asians in town haha. Most of the visitors were from Washington State.

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There was a gift shop which also contained a small visitor information office. My friend was looking for Bellingham/Fairhaven postcards for her friend. We bought a few, and returned to the store later get some more. The shopkeeper recognized us as it was pretty quiet that day, and we had some small talk about Vancouver. People here are really friendly!

Pictured below is a outdoor square which was hosting a farmer’s market. The square is also used for outdoor movies. The walls were beautifully painted.

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I really enjoyed walking around the small neighbourhood and poking into the different stores; really appreciated the touristy, small-town feeling.

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We grabbed a map of the area and noticed that there was a Marine Park beside Bellingham Bay. So we walked about 10 minutes from the neighbourhood down to the park. Turns out this is where the Alaska Cruise and the Amtrak Train Station is. I was worried that it would be a really hot day, but the constant sea breeze blowing from the bay made for comfortable temperatures. “K” was actually freezing!

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The views of Bellingham Bay from the park were spectacular. It was a very windy day. I won’t post the shots of our crazy hair when we were at the park ;)

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There were a number of different restaurants there, I had previously looked them up and decided on an Italian place. But we saw some places with fish and chips, a Thai restaurant, etc.

We had lunch at Mambo Italiano Cafe (http://mamboitalianocafe.com/). I had the Oyster Poor Boy Panini (breaded and pan fried local oysters with aioli, lettuce, tomato, house dressing). It was huge. I was still pretty full from breakfast so I finished half of it and just ate the rest of the oysters.

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My friend had a soup and a salad.

We were done checking out the neighbourhood, so we took the bus back to Downtown Bellingham.

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After the touristy feel of Fairhaven, Downtown Bellingham certainly felt a bit different. Downtown was more a “functional” area, providing daily goods and services to residents. The area is bigger than Fairhaven, but you could still walk around most of Downtown in 1 to 2 hours. We didn’t check out any of the museums in Downtown, but some of them such as MINDPORT (http://www.mindport.org/) and the Spark Museum of Electrical Innovation (http://www.sparkmuseum.org/) seemed interesting.

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We finished our walk around Downtown with ice cream at Mallard Ice Cream (http://mallardicecream.com/). I decided on ice cream there because of high ratings on Yelp and Urbanspoon. The shop design was very modern, reminded me of bubble tea cafes in Richmond. They had many interesting flavours, we shared this one: Chocolate Chip Cookie in Vanilla and Mint Oreo. I thought the taste was a bit weird LOL.

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The last part of our day trip was taking the bus to Bellis Fair Mall (http://www.bellisfair.com/), which is within walking distance of Cordata Station, where we board the BoltBus back to Vancouver. I had heard a lot of things about this mall, because it is always featured in Vancouver’s news broadcasts when they talk about cross-border shopping. I had an expectation that it was similar to malls like Pacific Centre, Metropolis at Metrotown and Richmond Center (i.e. huge malls with many name brands). Both of us were quite disappointed because it felt more like Brentwood Mall, Lougheed Mall and Capilano Mall. We finished walking around the mall in a hour or so. The target audience isn’t really young people, but more family-oriented because they have stores like Macy’s, TARGET, jcpenney, etc. The pictures below were taken with my phone so excuse the quality!

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Grabbed dinner for $5 for 20 McNuggets at the McDonalds at the mall :D.

We walked over to Cordata Station, about a 10 minute walk, and waited for the BoltBus back to Vancouver. The ride back was just as good as the ride going, “K” had a nap while I was looking and laughing to myself like an idiot at the photos in the camera that you have all just seen! Arriving back in Vancouver right at 10:00 pm, we heard another group which had just finished traveling all over the U.S. say, “We made it!”, I joked to “K”, “We made it!”; “K” gives me a look of disapproval…

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Thank you for reading and hope your trip will be just as pleasant as mine!


Gyoza King

I’ve heard about Gyoza King many times before, but always ended up somewhere else on Robson Street for whatever reason. This time, I purposely wanted to visit Gyoza King because one of my friend said it was really really good…

This is the Tuna Salad. I’m normally not a salad person but my friend was, so I decided on the Tuna Salad as I love tuna! The salad was fresh and both of us enjoyed this one. Funny note, I was avoiding those garlic-chip looking things because I don’t like garlic breath, but my friend said that they were cereal corn flakes, and indeed they were haha…

This was the Tako Wasabi that my other friend was crazy about, so we had to try it. You take the raw octopus marinated in wasabi and wrap it in a piece of seaweed. This was my first time having raw octopus! The wasabi added slight spiciness, but wasn’t too spicy. Texture of raw octopus was very bouncy in the teeth! I liked this one, very refreshing.

This is the Yam Tempura. I normally never get tempura unless it’s part of a bento box. I prefer the yam to be more soft; in this one, the yam is more the carrot-like texture.

This is the Salmon and Avocado Yukke. Another one of those “wrap-in-seaweed” dishes. There is an egg on top that we mixed with the salmon and avocado. I liked this one as well, both the salmon and avocado tasted fresh. I liked how the avocado was cut into little pieces so it’s very easy to put into the seaweed wrap.

We actually also got the Nabeyaki Udon but forgot to take a picture. This is a good “stomach-filler” item as it was huge, but the udon itself wasn’t special.

Of course, being at Gyoza King, we had to try the gyozas. They did a pretty good job with the skin being crispy on the bottom.

Spent around $25 a person for some pretty good food, so I think I’ll be back in the future.

Gyoza King on Urbanspoon


Dark Table

Ever since hearing about this restaurant which offers a “blind” dining-experience in pitch darkness, I have been wanting to try it. When a popular group buying website offered a coupon, I bought it without hesitation! 

My favourite aspects of the experience:

- No sense of time as you can’t check your watch or phone, really allows you to enjoy the evening for what it is, sort of like a temporary escape from the world together with your friend

- No 21st Century distractions (texts, emails, Facebook, etc.)

SPOILERS OF THE EXPERIENCE BELOW:

I invited a very good friend of mine to share this experience with me. I wanted it to be a surprise for her so I didn’t tell her all the details, she initially thought this was a restaurant where we were blindfolded but not in complete darkness, needless to say she was positively surprised. 

When you check-in with the hostess outside, we were given a menu to order food outside first, both of us got the 3-course dinner with the Beef Tenderloin as the main dish and the starter and the dessert were both only offered as a “surprise” dish. 

After placing the order, we waited for our server to take us into the restaurant. His name was Dustin and he was awesome! We placed our hand on each other’s shoulders like a train and went into the restaurant. The first moment of entering into complete darkness was a cautious, yet excited feeling. Not having your vision really changes your entire mood, will go into details later. You can call the server by yelling his name and he’ll come!

The table we were brought to was relatively big for two people. Now thinking back, I still think it’s amazing how the servers could navigate through the restaurant and know the layout of the tables! Not having the essentials of the 21st Century (Smartphones, texts, emails, Facebook, cameras, etc.) was perhaps the thing I enjoyed the most about this dinner; it was nice to finally have a true conversation with an old friend without all these distractions! I noticed particularly that my sense of hearing was enhanced as we both didn’t have vision to rely on, I found that I was enjoying the conversations of other tables haha.

The tables around us were all having great fun and I could hear from their voices that they were excited :).

The starter was a salad with many different ingredients such as nuts, cheese, etc., it was pretty big for a salad, it took us a little while poking with our forks to put the food in our mouth, the server made sure that we had the plate in the right spot before they went to another table, so it wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be. The salad was quite decent with many different tastes.

Next up was the Beef Tenderloin with peppercorn sauce and potatoes that we both got. This was the highlight of the dinner, we both got it cooked Medium Rare. The plate was hot, the beef was very juicy and the texture was perfect. I also liked the potatoes because it went with the peppercorn sauce well. The tenderloin is cut into pieces so you don’t need to cut with your knife. 

The dessert was a cheesecake. This one was only average, the crust wasn’t “crispy” as I usually like and I felt the cheese taste wasn’t that strong, I felt the texture was a little soft.

You should definitely try it with someone adventurous and whom you know you will enjoy a good conversation with!

Dark Table on Urbanspoon


Costco

I rarely eat at Costco, and when I do, I usually get their infamous $1.50 hot dog + pop combo. But today, I was craving Chicken Strips…

Lets just say, that this was much much better than I expected. The fries were hot, crispy, and not too dry; excellent! The chicken strips had just the right amount of frying batter, the meat was soft, and the chicken strips were very juicy! I will definitely have this in the future again, but maybe not the whole thing to myself…

Costco Food Court on Urbanspoon