Sunday, 2 July 2017

Castle BBQ: Fresh, affordable Korean BBQ

Happy Canada Day, and surprise! We're in LA for Anime Expo =D (semi-sad we're missing out on our own 150th anniversary celebrations in the homeland) Had a long day of shoots, and finally finished around 9:30pm. Famished, we decided some AYCE KBbq was much needed to fill our empty tummies.

Restaurant: Castle B.B.Q.
Location: 473 North Western Avenue, Los Angeles
Cuisine: Korean, BBQ, AYCE
Price range: $15-30 per person (depending which tier you choose)

Date of visit: July 1, 2017
Atmosphere: 3/5
Staff/service: 4.5/5
Food variety: 3/5
Food quality: 5/5
Buck worthy? 5/5

I don't know how Adorables found this gem of a place, but we got here and waited around 10 minutes to get a spot. We had a chance to look at their menu outside, they have three options for AYCE ($11.99, $14.99, and $18.99). We got AYCE B which was $14.99 with 21 items to choose from. AYCE A has 10 items, AYCE C has 25 items.

The waitress keyed in my items as I ordered, which was very efficient. It was unclear until we go the bill how many orders of everything I had gotten because we got quite a few pieces (which freaked me out as the meat started appearing in large sizes and portions). The table was already set up with a giant bowl of rice, salad, and six side dishes.

The food arrived super fast, we got all the meats within 5 minutes of ordering then the steamed egg and corn cheese took a little longer. First to arrive was the Rib Finger Meat which was placed on the grill upon arrival. The meat was fresh and tender, evenly marbled, and lightly marinated. Delicious with a bite of rice!

Next was the LA Rib (limited to 2 per person), this was a bit fatty and not great cuts. However, still tender and yummy marinated in traditional sweet soy sauce.

Then the Herb Pork Belly arrived and that's when I started panicking since the pork belly slices were HUGE! And there were 4 pieces too! Oh goodness. The meat itself was very fresh and beautifully marbled layers of fat and pork. This was not marinated, so it got a bit boring to chew on near the end.

Here's my reaction face:

One might ask what Prime Flower Steak is, but for me, I just order it to try because, why not? This was a lean cut of meat with no marinating. I quite liked it since it was tender even though it was so lean. Strong bold beef flavors could be tasted in this cut.

We saw Corn Cheese was a new menu item for an added $2.99 and thought, sure-- best was when we found out it was part of our menu (1 per 2 people) at no extra charge! This was literally cheese on top of corn. Very sweet corn, soft, and an adequate amount of cheese. Great for us especially since we're on vacation-- source of fibre xD

I had to try their Steamed egg as well, which was delicious! Basically steamed egg in a hotpot with some seasoning. The egg was fragrant, fluffy, and smooth. It got a bit filling after a few bites though.

Back to those side dishes that existed on the table before we were seated (freshly pre-placed at the table). Nothing special about them, there was bean sprouts, sliced cucumber, kimchi, macaroni salad, pickled raddish, and rice roll (for wrapping meats in).

The salad was tossed in a mild kimchi vinaigrette sauce, proving to be quite refreshing after many bites of pork belly.

Overall it was a great experience with friendly and quick service, fresh food, and a happy wallet. We paid around $38USD for two people including tax and tips.
Castle BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Neptune Chinese Kitchen: Great disappointment to the chain

We heard there was a new restaurant from the Neptune group near our turf, so I brought my parents out to try it! It's located off United Boulevard at the Hard Rock Casino. Lots of free parking near the outside entrance of the restaurant.

Neptune Chinese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoRestaurant: Neptune Chinese Kitchen (visit their website here)
Location: 2080 United Boulevard, Coquitlam
Cuisine: Chinese, Seafood, Dim Sum
Price range: $15+/person

Date of visit: April 26, 2017
Atmosphere: 4/5
Staff/service: 4/5
Food variety: 5/5
Food quality: 1/5
Buck worthy? 1/5

Looking at the menu, they're on the expensive side for a Chinese dim sum/ cafe style restaurant. They offer lots of menu options, such as dim sum and set menus for 4 to 10 people. Interior is brightly lit and looked clean, with some tint to the windows so that the sun doesn't blind us from outside. Rather quiet when we were there, only about 2-3 other tables around lunch time.

We couldn't find some items on the menu we wanted in mind, but the waitress was wonderfully friendly, explained where items were, and it felt homey because of her. We got their Two Kinds of BBQ Meat ($19.95) and chose BBQ Duck and Honey BBQ Pork. This is typically one of their signature items. I'm surprised they could serve us this dish for that price. The duck was lukewarm and barely any good pieces. Otherwise the seasoning and meat met average standards. Super fatty and only a quarter duck. The BBQ Pork-- I don't even know if it was meat. It was so over-tenderized and seasoned that the texture was no longer meat. It was super salty, dry, and hard.

Another staple is congee, so we ordered an Assorted Meat Congee ($8.95) which had pork stomach, liver, kidney, and meatball. It was not very salty, which is good for our health, but nothing was marinated either. Liver, kidney, and stomach should have been marinated lightly for the congee but they were bland. The meatball didn't have any bounce to it either, so soft and mushy. The congee base was disappointing too, perhaps Hon's does a better job than them.

Our final dish was the Pork Hock with Tossed Noodle ($10.95). This was a generous portion of noodles and it comes with a side soup to go with the noodles. There's some lettuce on the side and a good couple pieces of pork hock. Pork hock was done well, flavors soaked into the pieces of soft, tender hock. Noodles were too sticky and didn't have the proper bite to them. Soup was intensely salty, which if mixed with the noodles (traditionally meant to be drank while having these noodles, not mixed), was decent and helped cut the sticky feel to the noodles.

This totally killed our mood for the day, but the sunshine and beautiful cherry blossoms helped lift it back up! For the price we paid, we could've fed six people at dim sum. Service was good, but food missed the mark. By a lot. I hope they fix themselves as the restaurant continues into full swing, since it IS pretty new (a month old now?)

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Little Sheep Mongolian Hotpot: Inaccurate orders and salty but fresh meats!

With so many new restaurants popping up around Coquitlam, it's hard to keep track of which one is opened yet! I drove by Henderson Place and saw a lineup and open sign on Little Sheep, so I excitedly made plans to visit! We came around 5pm, hoping to avoid the crowds, and luckily we did!

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - ZomatoRestaurant: Little Sheep Mongolian Hotpot (visit their website here)
Location: 1001-1163 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam
Cuisine: Hot Pot, Chinese
Price range: $21.98 per adult; $15.98 for 8-11 year old child; $10.98 for 4-7 year old child + $9.99 soup base

Date of visit: April 8, 2017
Atmosphere: 2/5
Staff/service: 2/5
Food variety: 4/5
Food quality: 3/5
Buck worthy? 1/5

So for starters, we had two choices for soup bases ($9.99): House Special Original and House Special Spicy (or a half x half of the two), we opted for the original. It was a milky broth that comes with many herbs and loads of garlic.

Sadly they got in the way of food and never got a chance to be fully cooked to get their flavors into the soup =( The broth is kind of like the soul of hot pot to me, and it was intensely salty. I asked for water to dilute the broth after a little bit of boiling (and further condensing the salt).

Their order sheet allows for two rounds, clearly laid out with categories for food. The meats are maximum 2 orders per round (not sure if it's per person) with each plate being 10pcs. Also, there is a section for extra add-on items, such as meat skewers, oysters, extra condiment items, and drinks/desserts. [Note the numbers I had on the order sheet because the items DO NOT come in the amount listed, it's quite sporadic]

There is a sauce station with: Satay (super watery and just oil), chili oil (not very spicy), peanut sauce, and soy sauce. To its left are the appetizer dishes you can find on the order menu but self-serve. Looked kinda sketchy, so we decided to skip those.

I've been to many hot pot AYCE establishments with a much larger selection of sauces and condiments which are included in the price at better quality-- even the Burnaby location of Little Sheep does a better job.

First to arrive was luncheon meat (2 pieces ordered) and garlic beef (5 slices ordered). Clearly there was far more than 2 pieces on the plate. They were average and salty. I couldn't eat more than two pieces so I left the rest on the plate. When they cleared the table I saw them bring that dish back to the kitchen while the rest of the other dishes were placed into a dirty dishes trolley... suspicious.

The garlic beef was fresh and tender, however there was a giant piece plus two small ones... almost as if they missed cutting it.

Veggies came next, we got watercress (1 order), enoki mushroom (1 order), and tong ho (1 order). These looked fresh and clean.

Then it was an assorted dish of items we ordered: crab meat stick (4 pieces ordered, 6 came), cuttlefish (4 pieces ordered, 8 came), fresh aorta (6 pieces ordered, 10+ arrived), beef tendon (4 ordered, 4 came), beef omasum (4 pieces ordered, a huge clump came), beef tripe (4 pieces ordered, frozen clump came), quail eggs (4 ordered, 4 came), cod fillet (4 pieces ordered, 7 came), dried pork rind (4 pieces ordered, 8 came), mutton dumpling (4 pieces ordered, 4 came). They ended up missing our order for mussels, but we were too full and didn't feel like asking for them. The mutton dumplings were highlights for sure, they were tasty and flavorful but very filling. Everything else was fresh. The cod fillets were super salty, and after cooking in the salty broth-- inedible, so we had to leave them.

Look at the beak still in my cuttlefish!

Another plate arrived with tofu puff (4 pieces ordered, 6 came), fresh bean curd stick (4 pieces ordered, 4 came), winter melon slices (2 pieces ordered, 4 came), fish tofu (2 pieces ordered, 2 came), kelp knot (1 order), gluten (4 pieces ordered, 6 came), potato slices (2 pieces ordered, 4 came), pork blood curd (4 pieces ordered, 5 came), and pork liver (4 pieces ordered, 6 came). I liked the tofu puffs and gluten, these could be cooked nice and soft with some bite to them, indicating good quality. HungryPanda was pretty choked about having to eat 4 instead of 2 potato slices at the end since she was so full already. Elephant had to take many for the team and was definitely overfilled. The pork liver was nice and fresh, marinated well and had good bite to them.

Oh did I mention we got our soup at this time after all that food had arrived to taunt us?

I didn't even realize the meatballs dish was inaccurate, but they're hand-made and decent. Good bite and flavors. We ordered 6 of each but only got 4 of each. There was cuttlefish ball, mutton ball, and beef ball.

Yay! Our first order of supposedly 30 pieces of lamb shoulder slices finally arrives! Their meats are super thinly sliced, about 1 mm thick. So they cook very quick and barely feel like eating anything almost! Not fatty and fresh, this was good quality meat.

Next were "5 slices" of loin of beef, clearly way more pieces-- like 20. They were fattier but melted in my mouth and so full of beef flavor. A nice shade of red too.

Then were our fatty beef slices (30 pieces ordered, 20 came), these were fresh and yummy too! No complaints here besides it disappearing too fast!

To be safe we only ordered 5 pieces of their kurobuta pork belly and... at least 30 slices arrived. These were nicely marbled and not too fatty. You could see the beautiful layers of meat and fat, super fresh and tasty!

Needless to say, the portion amounts were totally random and inaccurate, so it was very hard to gauge how much to order. I mean, if it's off by 1 or 2 it's within reason, but double or more of the order? That's a bit much.
On my second round I just wanted a little bit more lamb and beef, so I ordered 1 order of each (should be 10 pieces) but at least 30 slices of lamb and over 10 slices of the beef showed up.

Two orders of watercress looked exactly like the one order. I was pretty annoyed by this time and didn't want to waste time reasoning with them.

HungryPanda and Elephant both ordered plum juice ($2 with free refills) and they said it was good, not a diluted version.

Might give them another chance in six months when they've settled in more and get running more smoothly. The lineups because of the hype is definitely overrated and not worth the wait. Food was very fresh though!