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Happy New Year!  Here it is, 2013 already.  Everyone’s reflecting over the past 365 days, and making resolutions with hopeful anticipation for the year ahead, most of them involving the gym and juice cleanses.  In 2006, I made the only new year’s resolution that’s ever stuck – to do things that scared me.  It’s been hugely effective, and I’ve kept it up each year since.  How else do you think I convinced myself to eat congealed blood??

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I was thrilled to celebrate the new year with Lauren and David (my buds visiting from LA), and yesterday we spent the day eating and wandering.  We started at Lotus (‘the place for pho lovers’), thus initiating a day-long string of pho puns and (‘the place for pho lovers’) and getting ourselves a darn good meal while we were at it.  The restaurant was large and quite busy, and our servers were friendly.

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We ordered the appetizer combo platter ($7.25) which had fried chicken wings (Cahn Ga), fried spring rolls (Cha Gio), and a vegetable salad roll (Goi Cuon Chay).  They came with three sauces – a sweet vinegar (nuoc cham), peanut sauce, and a sweet and sour sauce that looked like ketchup – and everything was great.  The peanut sauce was particularly phenomenal, and I loved the chicken wings.  In the best possible crispy-seasoned-batter kind of way, they tasted like KFC.  If you like fried chicken, you must order the cahn ga at Lotus.  In fact, make it a resolution.

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For mains, David had the Bun Bo Hue (spicy hue style noodle soup with thick vermicelli, $7.95), Lauren had the Pho Chay (vegetable noodle soup, $5.95), and I had the Com B Suon Nuong Trung (grilled pork chop, julienned pork, poached egg and rice, $8.45).  We also ordered a Bahn My Dac Biet ($3.95).  The plates came so quickly, and we ate it like it was the last meal of 2012.

David loved his soup, which had medium spice and lots of different meats and meatballs.  The thick vermicelli noodles were an interesting change from the regular ones.

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Lauren’s vegetarian pho was light and fresh – the perfect pre-New Year’s meal.

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My lemongrass-marinated pork chop was the best I’ve had so far in Richmond – the meat was pure flavour, so tender, and not too fatty.  The poached egg was a little overdone, but it still tasted good with the rice and sliced pork chop.

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The julienned pork was a little peculiar – it seemed more like pork bologna that had been chopped up finely, and tossed in some kind of savoury, bread-crumb-like mixture.  It wasn’t bad, it just kind of got ignored.  There was also a small salad, with pickled carrot and daikon (two of my favourite things), and a bowl of nuoc cham, meaning there were plenty of opportunities to mix flavours on the plate.  This was the best plate of Vietnamese food I’ve had in Richmond.

The bahn mi was really tasty, though the sliced pork inside it with a bright red ‘rind’ was rather tough to eat.  It was so chewy and kind of bothersome.  Anyone know what that is?

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Bellies full and satisfied, we drove south to Finn Slough – Lauren and David saw my last post about it, and wanted to see it for themselves.  The slough was considerably lower than the last time I was there, but with another overcast sky, the scene didn’t look any less dramatic.

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Next we drove along Dyke Road and into Steveston village, all with the purpose of getting treats at The Sweet Spot.  We settled on a chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookie, a coconut jam birdsnest, a pecan shortbread, and a flourless chocolate cookie (I almost never go in without getting one of those).

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Lauren, upon biting into the sandwich cookie: “That chocolate is stupid.”

Translation: “That chocolate is so, so, so good, I barely know what to do with myself.”

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As for me, my new favourite is the birdsnest cookie – it’s all butter, coconut, and perfect crumby texture, with a little pool of sticky jam in the centre.  I hope these aren’t just a holiday goodie!

We wandered around the village a bit, then bundled back into the car and headed home.  It was chilly yesterday!  Lauren and David left at 5:30am this morning, so we kept our new year’s plans simple: a good dinner, good friends, good hugs, and various bottles of good wine.

I hope everyone also had a festive and safe evening, and no one’s feeling too rough today because of it.  And if you are, go seek out a nice, restorative bowl of pho.  A very happy new year to everyone, and here’s to the many adventures that await us in 2013!

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Lotus Restaurant

4131 No. 5 Road, Richmond BC

778-297-1180

Cash and cards accepted (though their machine was down yesterday)

Many vegetarian options available