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When you have twelve pound turkey (statistically, a smaller bird), and 7 dinner guests… the result is a mountain of left over turkey.  The good news is, there’s quite a few options to re-purpose the meat of the gigantic holiday bird.

I had some frozen home-made chicken stock, and a little heavy cream left over from making dessert the night before.  I decided to make a turkey pot pie.  My first instinct was to pick up a frozen ready-to-bake pie crust from the supermarket, chop up some vegetables, make up a cream sauce, add chunks of cooked turkey and bake it.

Problem.  The frozen pastry shells at the local super market are made with vegetable shortening (ie. hydrogenated fat) which every nutritionist says is a no-no.  And more over, they are for single crust pies.   So if I want to do a double crusted pie, these prepared shells will not do the trick.

Okay.  I’ve made pie crusts in the past.  But I was never satisfied with it.  And I not recently.

Oh what the hell, let’s give it another go. Let’s call it “practice”.

Besides, I had all the ingredients needed (flour, butter, lard, salt, sugar, eggs, vinegar).

So I went ahead, and prepped enough dough for a double crusted pie.  Then chopped up some fresh vegetables, cubed up the turkey, and prepared the ingredients to make a cream sauce.

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I placed my home-made pie crusts in the refrigerator while I worked on the filling for the pot pie.  I sautéed the mushrooms, and aromatic vegetables, seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, sage, thyme, and parsley.  Added some butter and flour to the vegetables, then poured in some chicken stock to form something of a roux.  Then I mixed in the cubed turkey, and finally dumped in my heavy cream, stirring until the mixture formed a thick soupy consistency.

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Then I retrieved the pie shells from the refrigerator, poured the filling into the bottom shell, topped it with the second crust, pinched the edges, perforated the top to let the steam out, and brushed the top with a little egg white.

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I quickly tossed it in the oven let it go for 45 minutes at 400F.

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It smelled good, and it looked alright when it came out of the oven.

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The end result was… okay.  The taste of the filling was good.  The ratio was off a little.  I didn’t have quite enough filling for the size of pie plate that I used (unfortunately, it’s the only pie plate I have).  So I needed to make more filling.  And it was little on the dry side.  I needed more cream sauce.

And the crust was, well, better than it’s been the past, but still not nearly as flaky as I’d like.  Probably overworked it.

Guess I need more practice making pies.

Long’s Noodle House in the Riley Park area of Main street, has been a favorite of many a Vancouver food blogger. It’s a small, super busy family run restaurant serving some fantastic Shanghainese cuisine.  But if you’re not looking for it, it’s pretty easy to bypass.  It’s a nondescript hole-in-the-wall in pretty unremarkable location.

We arrived shortly after they opened, and were seated immediately at a small table near the kitchen.

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We can’t visit a shanghainese restaurant without sampling the xiao long bao.

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These are finely minced pork in aspic, wrapped and sealed in thin flour wrappers, and steamed gently until the aspic melts to form a savory sweet soup within the wrapper.  These are very well executed.  The flour wrappers are very thin, but elastic enough to withstand manipulation with chopsticks.  The pork broth is slightly sweet, slightly savory, with a hint of ginger.  These are among the best xlbs in town.

Next was the crispy rice with salty egg.

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These are crispy puffed rice, tossed in a savory sauce made from salted duck egg yolks. This is wonderfully crispy/crunch and savory.  The duck egg adds a rich fatty salty flavor.   It’s a simply dish, and as good as it is, it’s a kinda one note, and it really needs other dishes to compliment it.

We needed to round out the meal with some greens. So we ordered a plate of pea shoots sauteed in garlic.

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This is pretty good, the greens are fresh and tender, and slightly aldente (for lack of a better word).  There’s a good garlic hit and a little chicken broth to round out the flavors.

Lastly came the stewed pork hock.

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This is a whole pork hock, braised slowly in savory brown sauce (I don’t think it’s soy, not salty enough for that… may have been oyster sauce), and served with some quartered blanched chinese mustard greens.  This is quite good.  The pork is rich and fatty, but oh so tender.  It meat pulls apart with the slightest tug.  The sauce is rich, savory and thick (probably thickened with starch).

The room is tight and crowded, it’s not uncommon for small parties to have to share a table.  It’s fairly clean but otherwise unremarkable.

The service is about what I expect from a chinese restaurant (efficient), but not especially pleasant, chatty or helpful.

Long's Noodle House 小龍記麵家 on Urbanspoon

I have wanted to check out the Hogshack Cookhouse in Steveston for quite some time, but strange as it may seem, their location on the Steveston waterfront actually seemed to work against them.  Because, Steveston is a little out-of-the-way for me, and most of the time, when I go there, I’m thinking fish & chips.

But this time, I fought my natural inclination and wandered into the Hogshack instead.

Hogshack is located near the waterfront, in a building that’s east of the Stevenston “boardwalk”.

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The menu features the expected array of smoked pork, ribs, brisket, along with burgers, chicken wings, salads, coleslaw, beans, and even grilled fish and fish & chips.

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I went with the brisket sandwich

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This is a smoked slow cooked beef brisket, sliced thick and served on a soft bun, topped with barbeque sauce and a crisp pickle slice, along with a healthy load of coleslaw.  This sandwich platter comes with a side of fries or a green salad.  I opted for the salad.

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This is a fabulous brisket.  It’s fall apart tender, with a rich smokey flavor, a nice hit from the spice rub, and some sweet and tartness from the barbeque sauce.  And it’s a big portion, the bun can barely contain it all.

The coleslaw is crisp and creamy.

The salad (with red and green leaf lettuce, shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers, and cube tomatoes) was crisp and fresh,  and the garlicky cucumber dressing was creamy and tasty.

The room is airy and bright and clean, and feeling much like a back yard barbeque,  with the red checked table tops and plastic tumbler cups.

My server was friendly, helpful and accommodating.

Right now, Hogshack has taken the lead as my favorite barbeque place in the greater Vancouver area.  The Smokehouse Sandwich shop still has a special place for their unique spice rubs and flavored mops, but Hogshack comes out slightly farther ahead for their more complete menu, their more accessible hours, and better service.

Hog Shack Cook House on Urbanspoon

One food trend that I’ve long ignored is the fresh ramen houses.

I’ve eaten the packaged instant ramen since I was kid, and still do occasionally. I never quite understood the appeal of a $10 bowl of ramen that (I thought) could be replicated at home for $1. I actually did try a fresh ramen place many years ago (back in the late 1990s) long before the explosion ramen noodle shops started. That visit did nothing to change my opinion. The noodles were thick and chewy, and the miso broth was basically a really salty.  I don’t think I finished by meal. Thus my reticence to retry all these years.

Well my resistance finally wore down, and I decided to try again. I decided to start at Benkei Ramen, on West Broadway.

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This was once a small chain of ramen houses around vancouver, but it appears to have consolidated down to this single location.  I arrived at the start of the lunch rush, and got one of the last remaining seats at the communal bench in the middle of the restaurant.  Shortly after I sat down, a line of waiting patrons formed at the door.

I chose a combo, that starts with a small order of pork gyoza.

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These are pretty good.  The wrappers are thin, and there’s a nice sear on one side that gives a little crunch.  The filling tasted more of garlic and onion than of the pork, so I’m a little disappointed there.  It comes with a tangy black vinegar and soy dipping sauce (no pictured).

This was followed by my order of miso ramen.

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This is a generous bowl of fresh ramen noodles in a miso broth, with fresh bamboo shoots, blanched bean sprouts, minced scalllions and a few slices of chasu.

I have to admit, this is better than my previous visit to a ramen shop back in late 90s.  The noodles, while slightly chewy (or shall I say al-dente) were much better, and the broth was rich in miso flavor without being too salty.  The other toppings (the bean sprouts, scallions and bamboo shoots) added some freshness and crispness to the meal.  The chasu was pretty lean and a little skimpy (the bowl needed another a couple of slices, I think), but had decent pork flavor.

The room is quite crowded and boisterous during peak hours.

The servers were characteristically japanese with their enthusiastic greetings upon arrival.  They were fairly attentive and expedient with their service.

Now, this is certainly an improvement over my past experience with fresh ramen.  Not enough to make me a convert, but enough to encourage me to try again.

Benkei Ramen on Urbanspoon

As the second part of the “Eatin’ in Surrey” sojourn, since trips to Surrey are a rarity for me, I had to make a side trip to the one and only Krispy Kreme Doughnuts location in the greater Vancouver area.

There was a time (10 years ago) when we would make day trips to Seattle for shopping, and detour to Issaquah or Burlington to one of the Krispy Kreme Doughnut locations to pick up some of their extraordinary soft warm glazed doughnuts.  I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere along the line, we stopped doing that.  I don’t think it had anything to do with the opening of this location in Surrey, because until now, I had never patronized this location.

It’s located in its own little stand-alone store, on the east edge of the parking lot to the Scottsdale Mall.

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At a glance, it’s your  basic coffee and doughnut shop. With the doughnuts made fresh, on location.

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There is a wide assortment of flavors and styles of doughnuts, from yeasted to cake, to glazed, to dipped, to cream filled, and so on.

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And apparently there are doughnut holes as well.

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I opted for a half-dozen assorted doughnuts that included a raspberry filled glazed, a lemon filled glazed, three of the original glazed yeasted, and a boston cream doughnut.

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Times have changed.  The last time I set foot in a KK doughnut shop in Burlington (that location is now closed), there were regular lines of cars going down the block, waiting to get through the drive-through window, and there were long lines inside the store (sometimes a hundred people or more) waiting to get to the counter to place their order.  On this day, it was pretty quiet.  There may have been less than five customers in the store (including us) and but a single car at the drive through.

And back then, the doughnuts were still warm, fresh from the ‘kitchen’.  Today, they were room temperature, taken out of the display case.  They taste like I remember them, except for them being cold and a little firmer.  So I took the rest of the home to try again after microwaving for a few seconds.  Makes all the difference in the world.

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Five or six seconds in the microwave, and they are just like I remember, warm, soft, light as air.  This is probably worth making the occasional special trip out to Surrey.

Krispy Kreme on Urbanspoon

I don’t visit Surrey very much. But having heard good things about this one Vietnamese restaurant, I was willing to venture out of my usual boundaries to give it a try.

Pho Tam is, by all appearances, a family run hole-in-the-wall type restaurant in the Whalley neighborhood, a stone’s throw from the Whalley Skytrain station.

Upon arrival we were seated at one of several long tables in the middle of the restaurant.

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Looking at the menu, it is mostly a standard Vietnamese noodle place, so “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.  I know that Vietnam is a warm country and they will have Pho any time of year, but I think of it as cool weather food, and this being the middle of summer, I opted for a vermicelli bowl, and my lunch companion chose a bowl of pho.

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The pho arrived first.  This is a large bowl of steaming seasoned beef broth, filled with rice noodles, Vietnamese meat balls, slices of cooked well done beef, tendon, thinly sliced onions, and minced scallions.  It was served with a side of fresh (blanched by request) bean sprouts and sliced jalapeno peppers.   The rice noodles were not the usual vermicelli noodles, but thicker and rounder (similar to what cantonese restaurants would call lai-fun).

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I had a small taste of the broth. It’s very nicely done.  It has a deep beef flavor, with a nice accent of cinnamon and star anise, dried tangerine,  roasted onions and roasted ginger.

This was the vermicelli bowl.

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It consists of a generous serving of soft rice vermicelli noodles, topped with grilled lemon grass pork,  battered & deep-fried prawns, and garnished with pickled carrots and onions, minced scallions and crushed roasted peanuts.  It comes with a small cup of nuoc cham.

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This was very good.  The pork was nicely grilled to the right doneness, and flavored with lemon grass and garlic.  The pickled carrots and onions provided some fresh tart crunchy contrast to the soft noodles.  The prawns were nicely cooked in, what would seem, was a wet batter that puffed up during frying.  They were pretty good, but in hindsight, I would ordered the spring roll instead.

The service was… okay.  As I would expect from most small asian restaurants, it’s efficient, but somewhat aloof.

The room quite minimalist, and a little tired.  I could use a fresh coat of paint or some new decor, but then it would lose it’s ‘hole-in-the-wall’ kind of authenticity.

The restaurant is located in a tiny corner strip mall with free parking, but the lot was full when we arrived, and we resorted to meter parking down the block.

Given that I live so far away from here, it’s doubtful that I would make another special trip, but if I was in Whalley again for some other reason, I wouldn’t have a second thought about stopping at Pho Tam.

Pho Tam on Urbanspoon

I had heard/read a lot of positive comments about Penang Delight, both the original location on Rupert Street, and the Marpole Location on West 73rd Street.  I decided to check out the location in Marpole for lunch.

This location is kinda in-the-middle-of-nowhere.  It’s in a tiny strip mall in the middle of a residential area in Marpole at the corner of West 73rd Avenue and Hudson Street.

Apparently, word gets around, because in-spite of its isolated location, it was very busy.  I think I got the last empty table in the house.

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The menu was quite expansive, and if the names don’t convey enough information, there are photos of the food adorning the walls of the restaurant.

I ordered the Mee Goreng.

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This is a medium thickness fresh egg noodles, stir fried with cubes of tofu, fresh bean sprouts, tomatoe wedges, shredded cabbage, slivered onions, scrambled eggs, shrimp and squid, in a soy and sambal sauce, topped with a mound of fresh shredded leaf lettuce.  It also came with a small kumquat that, once squeezed over the noodles, adds a little citrusy freshness.

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This was excellent.  Probably one of the best examples of mee goreng I’ve had in Vancouver.  The noodles were soft and loaded with savoriness from the sambal and soy.  The bean sprouts and tomatoes were still al dente (for lack of a better word), the shrimp and squid were tender and delicious.  I would order this again.

This was followed by a small order of chicken satay

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This is large morsels of chicken, marinated in a seasoned curry coconut cream mixture, threaded on bamboo skewers, and grilled lightly.  It’s served with cucumber pieces and a curried peanut sauce.  This was pretty good, but not the best example of satay I’ve had.  The chicken was a tiny bit dry (perhaps overcooked by a minute or so), and the marinade in the chicken was barely noticeable.  The peanut dipping sauce was pretty good, nice flavor, a little chunky.

The service was bit of a mixed bag.  My server kept taking my dishes to the neighboring table, who would shake their head and refuse it, only for the server to then realize it was meant for my table. But at least she was pleasant and apologetic about it.

The room is a little on the crowded side, but it seems clean and presentable.

I will probably return to try some of the other dishes that I saw being served at neighboring tables, they looked pretty enticing.

Penang Delight Cafe 馬來檳城美食 on Urbanspoon

It’s been quite a long time since I did a cooking related blog entry, so here goes.

I hosted a dinner party that coincided with the last night of the annual Celebration of Lights fireworks.  Since the final fireworks contestant was Team Japan, I decided that the dinner party would be Japanese cuisine.

My contribution to dinner was home-made gyoza.  The beauty of this dish is that japanese gyoza, cantonese pot-stickers, northern chinese jiaozi, and korean mandoo are all variations of the same thing.  If you can competently make one, the method and ingredients are quickly adaptable to the others.

But where to start?  Finding recipes is easy with the internet.  I found several hundred within minutes.  But which one is a good recipe?  I bailed on the internet, and went with a recipe provided by a friend (thanks Steph!).  This has the virtue of a recipe that’s been tested and approved by someone who I know loves making these things.

I picked up a pack of prepared dumpling wrappers (the round ones are so much easier to shape and manipulate than the square ones).  Then prepared a mixture of ground pork, blanched shredded napa cabbage, and diced (re-hydrated) shiitake mushrooms, seasoned with garlic, ginger, soy, sesame oil, sugar, salt and white pepper.

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After a good hour and a half of wrapping, I ended up with about 45-50 dumplings, ready to be cooked.  Actually, it probably was 50, but I had to play test a few just to check the flavor and seasoning of the filling before wrapping them all up.

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A quick pan sear, then doused with water to steam in the pan, then a flip and a re-sear, and I’m done.

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I served this with two dipping sauces, one made from rice vinegar, soy, ginger & sesame oil, the other made from sriracha, hoison sauce & sesame oil (yeah, I know the second sauce is not japanese at all.  But I like this combination, and it’s my party, so, nyeah :-p)

Overall, I was pretty happy with these.  I imagine I’ll make numerous adjustments as I go forward.  I’ll try some different wrappers, tweak the filling, try some different dipping sauces, etc.

 

While visiting the Ladner farmers market, we stumbled upon a small fish & chip restaurant and decided to gamble. To be honest, I was skeptical a fish & chip shop run by Chinese. I would similarly feel leary about an Indian restaurant run by Latinos, or a Japanese restaurant run by Greeks.

Well, I put my doubts aside and we gave it a go.

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This is a small family run place, and has apparently been in the family for several generations, starting with a family member that operates a fishing boat, providing the freshest catch for the restaurant.

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It’s a modest space, very clean, with a slightly quirky decor (a fake seagull perched on a wooden pier pile, paintings of tall ships, fishing nets, etc).

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The menu a little expansive, going beyond just fish & chips and chowder.  They have salad, burgers, tacos, salads, crab cakes, and more.  We started with the fish (cod) and chips.

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This is two pieces of (extremely) fresh pacific cod, dipped in a thin light batter, and deep-fried to a light crisp, served on a bed of hot crispy fries, with a side of coleslaw and fresh house made tartar sauce.  Although I like a little more batter on my fried fish, it’s hard to fault Chung’s offering.  It is nicely crisp and about as fresh as it comes, moist and flakey and cooked to just the right doneness. The fries are light and crisp on the outside, but tender on the inside, lightly salted (actually we ended up adding more salt, and grinding some fresh pepper over the pile).  The coleslaw is freshly shredded cabbage and carrots  in a mild creamy mayo-like dressing.

Second came a cup of clam chowder.

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This is a fairly generous cup of clams, cod and halibut in a chunky creamy chowder, loaded with red potatoes, onions with just a little smokiness from bacon.  This is a pretty good chowder.

 

And finally we had the mussels and fries.  This was a daily fresh item, and not on the regular menu.

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These are Salt Spring Island mussels, steamed in a garlicky white wine broth with slivers of fennel and wedges of tomato, served with more of those crispy french fries, and a small side of garlic-parmesan-bacon aioli.

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This is really well executed.  I’ve been to Belgian restaurants that could take pointers from this.  Mussels and slightly sweet and tender, and the broth is aromatic from the garlic and fennel and white wine.  I would have loved to have a crusty baguette to soak up all the liquor from the bottom of the bowl.  The garlic bacon parmesan aioli  was fantastic.  It has a smoky tang from the bacon, and saltiness from the bacon and the parmesan.

The service was quite exceptional (about as friendly and enthusiastic as any restaurant I’ve ever patronized).

For us, this appears to be a good alternative to Steveston as far as fish & chips are concerned.  From where we are, it’s perhaps only a 5-10 minutes further by car, but the food is arguably better than any of the fish & chip joints I’ve tried in Steveston or White Rock.

I can see us stopping here again during any subsequent visit to Ladner.

Chung's Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon

 

Being in the Metrotown area, and not really in the mood for food court fare, I decided to cross the street and check out Green Basil.  Having driven past the place more times than I can count.
I ordered one of the lunch combos, which started with a small cup of tom yum goong (hot and sour) soup.

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A “traditional” tom yum is shrimp bisque like broth, combined with the flavors of lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, lime, tomatoes, garlic, chilies and a few whole prawns.  This had some of the flavors (the lemon grass, lime and chilis), and some shrimp stock flavor, but no prawns.  It tofu instead.

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This was followed by some thai style spring rolls.  These are vegetable spring rolls, filled with bean threads, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, bean sprouts, cilantro and basil, deep-fried to light crisp, and served with a spicy sweet dipping sauce. These were pretty good spring rolls.  They were very light and crispy without being greasy, and the fillings had some decent flavor and proper seasoning.

My main consisted of chicken “swimming rama”

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This is a chicken stir fried quickly with a chunky peanut sauce, served over blanched spinach and lettuce with some Jasmin rice. This is a little unusual since swimming rama typically does not have iceberg lettuce.  That said, it’s not bad.  The peanut sauce had a nice hint of coconut and curry flavor, and the chicken was reasonably good.

The room was large and nicely decorated with just enough accent pieces to give a “thai” feel, but it was a dimly lit.

The service was unremarkable, not bad, but completely forgettable.

Overall, this was a just okay meal (the spring rolls were probably the highlight).  I can’t say that I was really disappointed since I had no significant expectations coming in, and this was still better than anything I would have had at the Metrotown food court.

Green Basil on Urbanspoon

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