Cherry’s Food House

There are certain places where restaurants have a difficult time thriving, particularly in the competitive corridor of Alexandra Road in Richmond. Cherry’s Food House has a more modern aesthetic to complement their versions of homestyle Korean food. Perusing their menu there was a decent selection of stews and soups such as Seafood tofu hot pot, Army stew, a small assortment of bulgogi and grilled ribs, stone bowl rice and other classics, relatively standard fare. Something I would like to come back and try on a warm day is their naengmyeon in a slushy broth.

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An assortment of banchan was served prior to the mains, a bit of a weak offering of appetizers. I haven’t come across a kimchi that was this saucy, in my pictures it looks as if it’s soaked in ketchup. The salad of lettuce, cucumber and bean sprouts was drizzled gochujang for some sweet heat. The bean sprouts could be softer and more marinated, same goes for the potatoes.

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I ordered a classic in the Pork bone hot pot (Gamjatang) in a small size ($19.95). The pot comes piled high with 2 large pork bones with the onions, perilla leaves and enoki mushrooms piled high. The simmering pot contains a spicy, rich broth with tender meat and few potatoes. Their version is decent, but would have been nice to have a few more potatoes and another bowl of rice as only one was given.

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The Japchae ($16.95) , sweet potato noodles with vegetables and beef was a generous portion. The dish was fairly peppery and well flavoured with sesame oil with beef sliced thinly and quite tender.

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Kishimoto

Replicating aburi sushi, particularly salmon oshi as popularized by Miku and Minami is en vogue but I’ve yet to see one that tops the original. Kishimoto is another popular contender located on Commercial Drive as they offer a blend of classic sushi bar plates with more creative fusion dishes.

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The main purpose of the visit was to sample the Salmon Oshi Sushi ($16). Flavour wise the salmon had a buttery texture, melting in your mouth with a hit of heat from the cracked black pepper and slice of jalapeno pepper. My verdict: the taste of the salmon comes quite close to Miku/Minami but where it falls short is the rice. It just doesn’t quite hold up, starting to crumble a bit marring that perfect bite.

The other roll was the Snowcrab roll ($16), featuring Japanese snow crab, cucumber, avocado and topped with kanimiso (snow crab innard) lightly seared. The roll ate well with the flavour of real crab standing out but essentially this was an elevated California roll. I could taste a bit of the brininess from the kanimiso but I would rather try something more adventurous for the price.

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The Smoked Oshi ($6) is a single piece of salmon oshizushi infused with cherry wood smoke. The presentation is dramatic as the salmon is enclosed in a small glass cloche engulfed in smoke. As the dome is lifted the smell of the cherry wood escapes. The salmon definitely takes on the smoky properties subtly changing the flavour of the familiar salmon oshi. It’s a fun novelty to try once but not something I’m itching to have again.

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The Hamachili roll ($15): avocado, chili miso, cilantro, hamachi topped with jalapeno was my favourite dish of the night. The lightness of the fish contrasted with the chili miso and jalapeno leaving a lingering and addictive heat.

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We decided to order all 3 items on the dessert menu, starting with the Yuzu ice cream ($6) which had a delicate and bright tartness which helped to cleanse the palate.

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The dessert of the day was a Pear tart which was delicately plated with beautiful slices of caramelized pear atop a custard tart.

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The meal ended with Tempura Ice Cream ($12) which was a deep fried matcha ice cream served with a side of caramel and white chocolate sauce. The bitterness of the matcha is complemented with the sweetness of the sauces. All the desserts are homemade and were well executed.

Kishimoto Japanese Kitchen & Sushi Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saku

Saku is a new addition to the West End, hearkening to more traditional Japanese restaurants as it it solely dedicated to showcasing tonkatsu. It seems like such a simple concept, pork cutlet that is battered and fried, but as with most Japanese food they find a way to refine the experience.

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The decor is minimalist, drawing on wood elements that gives off a clean Muji-esque vibe. The menu is a one-pager, there is the Rosu (pork loin) or Hire (pork filet) cut which can be eaten standalone or in a Curry, Nabe or Cheese variety.

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I’ve had a similar dining experience in Hong Kong so I was eager to see how this version stacked up. I went with the Rosu set but I’ll touch briefly on the other menu items.

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(Clockwise) Pork cutlet, Rice, Tonjiru (pork miso soup with diced vegetables), Pickles, Lemon Salt, Sesame seeds, Tonkatsu sauce, Shredded Cabbage, Mustard

I enjoyed the hands on aspect of the set, the server briefly explained to grind up the sesame seeds then add tonkatsu sauce. The pork itself was fairly juicy and the skin had a slight crunch without the oiliness you often get from deep fried items. It does help to dip it into the tonkatsu sauce for a bit of sweetness and I especially liked adding a dab of the mustard for a touch of heat. The lemon salt is fairly aggressive, I had a lot of fun experimenting with the different condiments and finding my perfect bite!

The miso soup had that slight porkiness, the sliced carrot and daikon lightens it up. The shredded cabbage adds a refreshing element to break up the fattiness of the meat, I enjoyed the sesame dressing that is available on the table. The miso soup, rice, shredded cabbage and pickles are all refillable as well.

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Some brief comments on the other menu items from my fellow diners:

  • Curry seemed like a good pairing with the pork, goes very well with the rice
  • Nabe is pork loin in a bowl of egg and onion: the pork sits in a bed of sauce therefore losing its crispiness, it looks like a hearty and flavourful meal but losing that crunch detracts from the dish
  • Cheese katsu received rave reviews, hard to go wrong with the tender juicy pork sandwiching the cheese oozing out

Autostrada

Nestled in a quieter section of Main Street, Autostrada is a cozy casual Italian restaurant serving up a small selection of appetizers and pastas. The open kitchen, as pictured, is very compact with what looks to be 2 induction burners as the main heating element so it’s understandable that food does take some time to make it to your table, however the friendly service was helpful in navigating the menu. The restaurant takes no reservations, walk in only so it may be difficult to accommodate larger groups.

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The server gave a hearty recommendation for the special of the day, Burrata which was flown in from Italy. Drizzled with olive oil and pepper, served with sliced heirloom tomatoes, the simplicity of the ingredients really shines. The creaminess of the cheese melts in your mouth and the decadence is balanced by the acidity from the tomatoes, making it the perfect accompaniment for the house bread.

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The Polpette in Salsa di Pomodoro is an appetizer of meatballs served with tomato sauce. The meatballs were fairly juicy, a classic dish executed well but not a real standout dish.

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The Risotto del Giorno composed of heirloom tomatoes and chanterelle mushrooms was a highlight of the meal. The brightness of the tomatoes shines through with an explosion of flavour to make this a vibrant summery dish. The risotto is cooked al dente, you can really feel the texture of each grain of rice.

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The Linguine with confit tuna with sundried tomatoes was fine but not something I would order again. The tuna just doesn’t have much of an impactful flavour and wasn’t particularly memorable.

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My main was the Sagne a pezzi with duck and anchovy ragu, the dish was very rich and heavily seasoned. The lean duck isn’t too gamy though the sauce begins to get a bit salty which is expected with the anchovy component. I did enjoy the texture of the pasta, it’s a great vehicle to absorb the sauce.

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Autostrada Osteria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe de L’Orangerie

I’ve always enjoyed the Yoshoku cuisine, the Japanese interpretation of Western favourites, since it is essentially comfort food reimagined. Cafe de L’Orangerie serves primarily pasta dishes, though there are some curry rice options and fried cutlets too. This cozy cafe is tucked into a sleepy neighbourhood strip mall, they also have a large selections of desserts such as cakes or parfaits as well.

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My favourite dish is the Masago de Creamy Spaghetti + Hamburger Steak (14.95). The spaghetti is cooked to al dente and has a creamy texture with the brininess of the fish eggs. I’ve tried to recreate this dish at home but it wasn’t quite the same, it seems they finish the pasta in a cream based sauce before integrating the squid, mushroom and asparagus.

The hamburger steak is very moist, almost more of a meatloaf texture than a burger. It’s a great addition to a pasta if you are a big eater, makes the meal much more substantial and filling.

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The Seafood Pasta was a special of the day containing mussels, squid and prawns. This dish was a bit of a miss, the sauce was very light and there was a scarcity of prawns.

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The Curry and Creamy Spaghetti with Hamburger Steak ($14.95) brought things back on track. The Japanese style curry is mild, made of carrot and onion and is well seasoned. This is a very rich dish with the creamy spaghetti and hamburger steak as well.

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For appetizers I tried the Octopus Karaage ($7.95) which has a crispy batter and is dusted with some seaweed, served with a side of Japanese mayo. Most of the pieces were fairly tender, not too chewy though I thought the batter could have been a bit more seasoned.

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Cafe de L’Orangerie also has a sister restaurant, Mikan Cafe (formerly known as Poutinerie Jean Talon) so I felt I should give their poutine a try. The Poutinerie Orangerie Style (small $6.95) is similar to their Hayashi beef stew but poured over fries with melted mozzarella cheese. The fries are quite crispy and the gravy was seasoned well.

Cafe de l'Orangerie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

G8 Taiwan Cuisine

When I think of Taiwanese cuisine, I’m drawn to classics like popcorn chicken, beef noodle soup and bubble tea. G8 Taiwan Cuisine offers up all of these favourites but puts their own twist by serving up some more homestyle dishes as well as night market staples.

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The Taiwanese Basil Popcorn Chicken ($6.95) is good value, the chicken is tender and has the usual light batter. It’s seasoned well, not too salty and is served with a sweet chili sauce as well. I would be interested in trying their King Size Bag of Chicken which comes with other deep fried goodies like fish cake, tofu, squid, pork blood and mushrooms.

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The Braised Pork Belly in Soy Sauce Base with Rice ($9.50+ $1.50 for marinated egg) was also great with a generous serving. The pork belly was very tender and had the deep soy sauce flavour. My only gripe is the meat was quite fatty. The bowl also includes some cabbage and pickled vegetables.

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I really enjoyed the Hand Tossed Taiwanese Roti with Onion with Beef ($6.95). Usually this dish is made with a green onion pancake, I find it can often be a bit flat due to an uninspiring wrap. Their version of the roti is deep fried and very flaky and fluffy. It’s a great vehicle for the tender beef inside which is well sauced, though there is a dipping sauce provided too. The wrap tastes great when it’s still hot, as it cools down it does become a bit heavy with the grease.

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G8 isn’t your typical bubble tea joint though it is on the menu, the interior is sparse and low key but service was friendly. Their strength is in the execution of the staple dishes as they put their own spin on tried and true favourites.

G8 Taiwan Kitchen 雞霸王 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tetsu Sushi Bar

I’ve seen rumblings of Tetsu sushi bar, a bit of a hidden gem and it did not disappoint. It’s a pretty cozy space, just 4 spaces at the bar and a handful of tables. I had the Premium Omakase which includes 4 courses: Four appetizers, seven pieces of sushi, udon and a dessert.

The first appetizer was raw octopus over a bed of seaweed with snap peas. The slices of octopus were tender, the seaweed had a light briny flavour punctuated with a bit of heat from ginger slices.

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Next up was my favourite appetizer, the dashi tamago wrapped around unagi. The warm fluffy egg had a rich umami flavour from the dashi broth, it really reminded me of the fresh ones made at the Tsukiji market.

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The third appetizer was a braised sea bream topped with shreds of pickled daikon. img_20180607_121556

I was also very impressed with the final appetizer, ankimo (monkfish liver) with asparagus. I’ve had ankimo before but this was the best preparation I’ve had, there was a sweet soy sauce glaze which accentuated the rich, buttery texture.img_20180607_121826

The difference between the premium set and the regular is the addition of Kama chu-toro and Hokkaido uni. The chutoro was very rich and buttery, I saved it for last to savour that last bite. The uni had a bit of sweetness to it and the brininess was offset by a touch of ginger. The ika (squid) had a tenderness to it, not too chewy and  garnished with a bitter green, perhaps shiso. The sea bream was another great piece, just melts in your mouth.

The hotate (scallop) was my least favourite, I thought it would have a sweeter taste but this one just seemed off. The amberjack and salmon rounded out the plate and were solid cuts of nigiri. While the fish is of course fresh and brushed with a light sauce, what I really remember is the quality of the rice. You can really feel every grain, the temperature is on point, it has a good balance of vinegar and there is a perfect amount, pairing so well with the fish.

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The udon course has the option to be served hot, or cold with a dipping sauce. I opted for the hot version which had a surprisingly rich broth. I often find udon broths can be one note, either bland or oversalted but this one strikes a good balance. It does veer towards the saltier side but has the bit of sweetness as well. The noodles are of a thinner variety which I much prefer, not too chewy but soaks up the flavour of the broth. The dish is served with strips of tofu skin and garnished with tempura bits and togarashi on the side.

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For dessert there were two choices, a red bean rice pudding or black sesame ice cream. I really enjoyed the mochi which was very soft and pillowy, pairing well with the red bean and berries. The black sesame ice cream had a rich flavour and was on the sweeter side, however I did find some bits were a bit icy.

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