I’ve been wanting to try Maenam for a while now since I’m a big fan of all things Thai and was curious about trying Thai food with a gourmet twist, which is exactly what Maenam offers.  The first thing I noticed was the warm, inviting atmosphere, made apparent through use of light and colour.  I really dug their tabletops as well 😛 (see pics).  We had made reservations for the Chef’s Royal Thai Dinner ($47.50/person) in advance, a 3-course, 9-dish tasting menu of on- and off-menu selections which changes occasionally.  I’m not sure how often, but this one had started just that week.

satay gai, pork rinds, tempura fern, nahm jim, and crispy fried oysters at Maenam

First up was an appetizer platter featuring free range chicken satays (satay gai), tempura made with some thin type of fern, crispy fried oysters (hoi tort), prawn cakes and a couple pork rinds and cucumber wedges.  The sauces included standard homemade peanut, a red chili one, some watery cucumber relish and my personal favourite: the house sauce, nahm jim.  It embodied all of the Thai taste senses: sour, sweet, salty, and bitter (spicy).  Each bite made me forget my surroundings a little at a time, daydreaming of bustling Bangkok streets teeming with the pungent aromas of various mobile food carts.

The oysters were the highlight for me, and the nahm jim worked perfectly with them.  The fern dish was very bland although an interesting idea, and the chicken was just your usual Thai streetfood variety, but were on the dry side.  The pork rinds seemed out of place and had some inedible-y chewy hard bits in them.  But everything tasted good enough when dipped in the nahm jim I suppose.

Maenam: Thai and Ginger

For drinks Wendy ordered a virgin Thai and Ginger which consisted of passionfruit and cassia bark topped with gingerbeer.  She was expecting a bit more kick from the gingerbeer than what was delivered but still enjoyed the drink.  I ordered a pot of lemon ginger tea.  I found it a bit mild as well, but pleasant enough.

Maenam: Mussels

The next course consisted of soup, salad and mussels.  Wendy regrettably forgot to take photos of the soup which is unfortunate since for me it was one of the high points.  It was a hot and sour (tom yum) ling cod soup w/ Thai basil and oyster mushroom.  Needless to say it was tom yummy!  I think I enjoyed it a bit more than Wendy since she didn’t finish hers.  I did notice the absence of any big chunks of ginger or lemongrass which I normally like in this type of soup though. But I guess that’s kind of the point here, this ain’t your traditional Thai food.

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Bocuse d’Or Test Kitchen Tasting with Chef Alex Chen

Bocuse d'Or Test Kitchen Tasting with Chef Alex Chen

Bocuse d'Or Test Kitchen Tasting with Chef Alex Chen

Wendy was extremely excited to receive an invitation for us to attend an exclusive tasting event for Canada’s entry into the Bocuse d’Or.  For those who haven’t heard of it this biannual competition is an international event held in Lyons, France and will take place on January 29th and 30th this year.  It’s one of the most prestigious awards to win for a chef and the competition has produced insane extravagances such as Spain’s 2005 1 million Euro entry inspired by Salvador Dali; they brought out their fish course in a one meter high crystal egg!  This year Chef Alex Chen of Vancouver earned entry into the competition.  This is no easy feat, since of the 56 countries entering only the top 24 are chosen, and from there the competition is whittled down to just one representative per country, along with their Commis and Coach, to compete in the final event. Chen has previously held posts such as the Four Seasons in Toronto and Chicago and his most recent position as Executive Chef at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which he resigned in order to train for the Bocuse d’Or.

Bocuse d'Or Test Kitchen Tasting with Chef Alex Chen

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Water St. Cafe

I’ve always liked Water St. Cafe in Gastown.  It is a relatively affordable restaurant with a nice atmosphere and good food.  This year they’re celebrating their 21st anniversary so they were offering a Whole Lobster entree for just $20.  I of course took advantage of this.

Upon entering the restaurant, I found it was quite smoky though.  As it had an open kitchen in the dining room it was quite stuffy of cooking smells.  You will definitely smell like food when you leave.

Water St. Cafe Martinis

As part of their 21st anniversary special menu, they also offered Classic Martinis for $6.  A full 2 oz. of alcohol!  It’s obviously too sophisticated for me so I just opted for the non-sale version which fruity and citrusy.  Sorry I forgot what it’s called~ 😮

Water St. Cafe: Fanny Bay Oysters

One of their more famous appies were the Fanny Bay Oysters ($12).  It is SO succulent and wonderful.  The sundried tomato cream sauce has hints of bacon to me, and it melds wonderfully with the fat, moist oysters.

Water St. Cafe: Whole Lobster

And here’s the entree we were here for!  It’s a garlicky whole lobster with a simple tomato and olive oil pasta.  Just $20!  It wasn’t a large lobster obviously but that made for a more tender, flavorful lobster.  The roe and green guts were wonderful when mixed with the pasta.  There was a lot of meat to eat too, as both claws were included too!  Such a good deal!

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Alleluia Cafe 歡欣餐廳

Welcome to yet another review of Richmond’s rich resource in HK style cafes.  Today, we present to you Alleluia.  It is located on Westminster Hwy., a bit east of No. 3 Rd.   The parking situation was alright when we were there (about 7:30 PM) but I know without uncertainty that during lunch times it is a hair-pulling event.  Here’s the view from the outside.

Alleluia Cafe exterior

No, that’s not my dad.  It’s just a fellow Chinese guy waiting for his family to catch up to him.  Upon entering the restaurant, Alleluia seemed clean and organized.   There was plenty of business but got a seat fairly quickly.

Alleluia Cafe menu

These were the “Chef’s Recommendations”.  Now, these were all lobster related dishes.  Noticeably, the prices are higher than the 7-10 dollar budget meals of HK style cafes. With Wendy’s lavish lifestyle, it was a no-brainer for her to choose from the CR Menu.

Alleluia Cafe: Cream of Corn with imitation Crab and Chinese-style soup

Wendy and I had soups that came complimentary to our meals.  I got the Chinese-style soup and she got Cream of Corn and imitation Crab.

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Ichiro Japanese Restaurant w/ Friends

This dinner was planned for about a month.  A few weeks ago I saw the comment in my previous Ichiro Japanese Restaurant review and saw that the commenter did not have a good experience here.  That worried me as I had highly recommended it to my coworkers.  It was also tediously planned so I really didn’t want to change anything.  Thankfully whatever happened that night to harrysaxon that night did not happen to us.  If you’re reading this harrysaxon, I really want you to change your mind about it.  Perhaps it was one of their off-nights.  Please do attempt to try it again!

So on to the review~!!

G is afraid of food with heads attached.  Apparently he can’t eat anything with eyes such as prawns because he feels like they’re looking at him.

I thought of the perfect dinner outing for him.  L1, L2 and J were very excited at my idea.  It was quite fun.  All we told him was we’re taking him to Mystery Meat Dinner.  That secret was kept for around 4 weeks.  Up until we arrived at the restaurant and it was served, he didn’t know exactly what we had planned for him.

Ichiro Japanese Restaurant: Beef Sashimi

But before we spoil the surprise, we ordered a bunch of other stuff first.

The Beef Sashimi was really good, at least to me.  The beef was very flavorful, it wasn’t just the taste of the dipping sauce but I could actually taste something else.  I really enjoyed it.  I didn’t think raw beef could taste like this.

Ichiro Japanese Restaurant: Spicy Tuna Sashimi

Spicy Tuna Sashimi was not my choice.  First of all, I really think that if I were to order sashimi, I like it as is to taste the true flavor of the flesh.  Any type of sauce covers the natural tastiness of the fish.

Having said that, the was just ok.  The sauce was yummy, but again I wouldn’t pick it.

Ichiro Japanese Restaurant: Tuna Belly and Salmon Belly Sashimi

It seems that my co-workers like to stick with the tried-and-true stuff.  G and L2 loves Toro Sashimi (left), and with good reason.  It was buttery and fatty and melt-in-your-mouth goodness….no bones here!  But it had better be with a price tag of $13.95.

On the right is Salmon Toro Sashimi.   I kind of picked this one as I’ve never had Salmon Toro before.  I thought it was presented beautifully.  I enjoyed it too.  It was slightly fattier than normal Salmon Sashimi, but aside from the aesthetic value, I wasn’t really wow-ed.  This was $13.95 also.

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