Banh Mi Boys Review

Last Friday, I took the afternoon off and finally headed to try the famed Banh Mi Boys, located near Queen St W and Spadina.  I heard a lot of good things about this restaurant, so I was really excited for it!

If you’ve never had a banh mi before, as per Wikipedia:

The sandwich made from bánh mì include meat and soy fillings such as steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver pâté, pork floss, grilled chicken, chicken floss, canned sardines in tomato sauce, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce, head cheese, fried eggs, and tofu. Accompanying vegetables include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled carrots and daikon in shredded form.

To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of banh mis despite the sheer affordability of the $2 ones from Chinatown.  Something about the harder to chew baguette and the cilantro filling always throws me off, but I sucked it up to give Banh Mi Boys a taste.

Outside it looked like any other Queen Street restaurant until I got inside – there was a long lineup at lunch hour from the entrance all the way to the end of the restaurant.  Basically, you line up to order and then continue lining up to the end while waiting for your food.  Seating for around 16 people is available at the front of the restaurant.  The restaurant has an urban hipster kind of vibe, and the decor is clean and modern.

Their menu is pretty short and simple:

We got the Kalbi Beef Banh Mi (~$4.99 each), the five spice pork belly steamed bao (~$3.99 each) and the kimchi fries (~$5.99) to share between the two of us.

It’s pretty interesting that they’ve turned a traditional, relatively no frills Vietnamese bun that retails for $2 at Chinatown to an Asian fusion baguette (Vietnamese/Korean/Chinese/etc.) with a cool vibe that sells for twice the price.

Perhaps because they actually make it fresh in front of you, it took forever (15 minutes) to get our food, so by the time it came I was starved!

First off the Kalbi Beef banh mi filled with kimchi, short ribs and asian bbq sauce and topped with cucumbers, picked carrots and cilantro.  The beef was hot, and mostly tender.  I didn’t find much kimchi in it, but the bbq sauce was pretty flavourful, and mostly masked the taste of the cilantro.  I wished there was more beef and less carrot, though I was pretty full after half of it.

Next, the pork belly steamed bao with more or less the same toppings as the banh mi.  It may have been that it cooled down a bit by the time I got to it, but it was sort of just okay.  It tasted like the banh mi, except you get a bao instead of a baguette.  Personally, I preferred the ones at Momofuku and Ippudo more.

Funny enough, my favourite dish were the kimchi fries!  The kimchi went really well with the fries, and they included a generous serving of really good shredded pork in the mix (which was totally unexpected)!  It reminded me almost of an asian fusion poutine, except without any cheese nor gravy, which are replaced with mayo, kimchi, shredded pork and onions.  If I were in a potatoes kind of mood, I’d totally consider this for lunch.

Now would I go again?  It’d definitely be one of my options if I were in the area in the future.  Although the steam pork bun didn’t blow me away, the kalbi beef banh mi was pretty good and I loved their kimchi fries!  Next time, I want to try their grilled pork bahn mi (I love lemongrass pork)!

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MAC Warehouse Sale 2012

My friend was sweet enough to invite me to MAC’s 2012 Summer Warehouse Sale, on the Markham Fairgrounds.  It was my first time to a MAC Warehouse Sale, so I was pretty excited!  My only problem is that I have a tendency to spend a little too much while I’m at these sales.

The sale started on Saturday, so when we got there first thing Sunday morning, some of the really good stuff was already sold out such as the Bobbi Brown foundations and MAC false lashes mascara.

The sale opened at 9 am.  When we arrived at around 9:20, while there was a lineup, the line moved pretty fast and we waited only around 10 minutes.  My friend said last time she came to the MAC sale in the wintertime, she got there at 6 am and waited 4-5 hours to get in!  How insane are these people!

The warehouse was divided into three rooms, and the product brands were generally all mixed together, but with sections for makeup, fragrance, and skincare.

MAC Warehouse Sale

In terms of brands and selection:
Clinique – a good variety of skincare, makeup and fragrances
Estee Lauder – some skincare , more makeup and fragrances
MAC – a ton of skincare and makeup (especially pigments and shadows),
Bumble and Bumble – a good variety of shampoos and conditioners, some hairspray and styling products
Bobbi Brown – pretty limited selection of makeup and skincare
Origins – a good variety of their products
Good Skin Labs – there was a section of their products

Then, a variety of fragrances including DKNY, Sean John, Michael Kors and Coach.  I wasn’t really into getting a perfume/cologne, so I didn’t look too closely.

Unlike the L’Oreal sale where you tell the person I want X and Y from the table in front of the boxes, at the MAC sale you simply write down the number for the products you want, and they bag it for you.

I controlled myself (relatively), and after filtering out my selection, came out $200 poorer with the following:

It doesn’t look like a lot huh?  How did it come to $200? My friend only ended up spending $30!  I was in shock!

I was looking for the Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray, but I got the Bb. Texture Hair (Un) Dressing Cream ($20) as an alternative.  It’s supposed to give the undone look, so I’m pretty excited to try it.

I also decided it was time to invest in a travel brush set from Bobbi Brown ($45).  I’ve been running back and forth with my full sized brushes for too long and they were slowly getting ruined in my makeup bag.

At $25 for the Clinique Pore Set, it really was a steal considering the pore correcting serum on its own typically costs $40 at regularly.  I’ve been using the correcting serum for a while and I like the effect, so I figured why not?

Funny enough, I ended up only getting a few MAC makeup items – a matte blue eye shadow ($12) in Prussian, a nail polish ($9) in Festive Finery, and two mascaras ($12 each).

I’ve always wanted to try dry shampoo, so I picked one up.  In retrospect, $8 for such a tiny bottle is a bit pricey no?  I could get a large sized Pantene bottle for $4 when it’s on sale.

Upon exit, you could pay $5 for a goody bag of two MAC body lotions with the money going to charity, but I don’t really NEED body lotion so I let it pass.  I wished it was like previous years, and you get MAC lashes and makeup instead.

I also got a free full sized eye cream from Good Labs upon exit!  The face cream (on the left) I got on my own at $25 to try.

Overall, a pretty satisfying experience!

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Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Review

Unlucky for me, my lips have varying degrees of dryness year round.  I suspect it’s a combination of eczema and drooling at night while asleep.  No matter how often I apply lip balm or even medical creams, they remain dry, especially in the corners.  As a result, I’ve come to rarely use lipsticks as they tend to highlight the flakiness.

Earlier last year, I discovered Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatment and absolutely fell in love.  I started with the Passion colour, except I accidentally rolled over it with my car, so it’s a little worse for wear.

My Fresh Sugar Lip collection

What it is:

A hydrating treatment that nourishes, protects, and plumps the lips.

What it is formulated to do:
Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 blends reparative oils and waxes with real sugar, a natural humectant, for delectable and dependable moisture. Sweet and tart black currant oil, rich in plumping essential fatty acids, cushions the lips while antioxidant grapeseed polyphenols and vitamins A, C, and E provide protection from wrinkle-causing free radicals. It also provides essential, year-round protection from damaging UV rays.

With the caps off

My thoughts:

It provides colour impact yet as it is a lip treatment, delivers a nourishing coating for your lips.  It is non sticky and the colour is buildable so you can choose how much or how little colour you want.

In addition 5 shades of colour, there’s a regular clear version and an advanced therapy treatment varieties too. If you have dry lips like me or simply looking for an alternative to lipstick/lipgloss, give the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment line a try.  Its colour pigment is beautiful and provides a nice matte colour, with a slight sheen.

A look at the coral colour

I pickjed up the new coral shade today at Sephora.  A little red, a little orange, it’s perfect for summer!

Verdict

While I believe they are a bit expensive in the $20-30 range for a lip moisturizer, it’s hard to find a lipstick that provides sufficient moisture and hides the dry flakes.  As many lipsticks cost that much or more anyways, I figure it’s worth the splurge!  Bonus: it provides SPF 15!

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Around the world and back

I just came back from a 3 week trip in Asia, and after a week of recuperation, I’m back!  A sneak peak of my souvenirs:


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Marni H&M – On sale!

Here we have it… the Marni H&M leftovers which are 50% off now at the Eaton Centre.  I suppose they have to get rid of the stuff somehow.  All the leather items were around, the pink silk shorts, the blue wrap dress, the floral print shirt and skirt… I was a bit sad to see the peacock-esque hoody dress in the mix – perhaps other people didn’t like it as much as I did!  It makes me feel a bit ripped off.

Pick it up while it’s hot!

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H&M Conscious Collection 2012

I thought I’d really like the new conscious collection when it launched out last Thursday April 12th, but it was sadly kind of a letdown. I loved last year’s conscious collection – the fresh white dresses, crochet and scalloped shorts.

It kind of reminded of of their Garden Collection (which I also loved) that came out earlier in 2010 and also focused on the use of sustainable materials.  I picked up the white version of the red dress and I still get tons of compliments to this day.

I think it’s great that H&M came out with the Conscious Red Carpet collection – you can look great with sustainable materials and just in time for prom!  However, all five of the dresses I tried on looked weird.  I was especially disappointed with the two piece black and white number for a total of $70 – I couldn’t even get it on as it wouldn’t stretch to fit my arms through..  The floral dress ($80) I was so looking forward to was strange at the bust due to its thick and largely robust material.  It would probably fit nicely on someone much more endowed then myself.  The straps were also flimsy as they were made of ribbon.  The purple dress was actually really gorgeous for $70, with an open back and beautiful floral detail, but again with the “but”, the sleeves looked strange in real life.

I was hoping to try the crazy gown and the green dress on as well, but sadly they were gone in my size by the time I got to the mall slightly before the lunch time rush.

The rest of the collection was pretty, but nothing really stood out at me, except the pink crochet shorts which I gladly picked up.  Funny thing is that they have lining this year!  Last year’s Conscious Collection also featured crochet shorts sans lining.  Maybe next year H&M!

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How to Chaturanga Dandasana

One of the most simple poses in yoga, yet one of the hardest poses for myself to learn was the Chaturanga Dandasana. How does one transition from a plank to upward facing dog? Initially I found myself simply collapsing onto my stomach until I realized it was simply a push up. I find many yoga classes are not clear as to how to do it. This Youtube video is pretty clear and shows 3 variations for different levels!

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Pho on 7 Review

At the same plaza of Hot Yoga Markham, a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho on 7 has opened for a few months now.  The name especially in Chinese is super cute  (7  仔), so I’ve been wanting to try it for a while.

It was perfect then when they had a Groupon – $20 for $10.  I went for dinner around 9 last Thursday, and there were a few tables filled around the surprisingly spacious restaurant, though in terms of decor it looked pretty much like any other pho restaurant.

Upon seating, we were provided a Groupon-specific order sheet and away we go.  Their regular menu had the usual Viet/Thai styled food, and extra menus for beer combos and afternoon tea sets (condensed milk toast and luncheon egg instant noodle caught my eye) which I thought was innovative and interesting (perhaps modeled after Korean and Chinese 茶餐廳 restaurants?).

Items on the menu looked expensive, as salads start from $7 and soups $8 and up.  Based on other people’s reviews commenting the servings are small, we each ordered a large pho, rare beef for myself and tripe for my friend ($7.27 each), and to share spring rolls ($3.97) and grilled meatballs ($4.47).

Our pho came first, and my large was honestly huge.  The amount of noodles they provided was unbelievable and I got a decent amount of meat.  Unfortunately, the soup was very very bland to the point I could taste the grains of the actual noodle itself.  Typically, I don’t use the sauces/seasoning that they provide on the side as I like to taste the soup, so this dish was a disappointment and a sign of things to come.

Our spring rolls came next.  Perhaps we were one of the last tables of the night, so they heated up spring rolls that were fried earlier.  They were chewy and not crisp as you would expect from a spring roll.  The insides were yummy though.

The grilled meatballs were your typical yummy oily marinated meatballs on a skewer.  I ended up eating them with my pho to give some added flavour.

I suppose in an effort to get us out of there, they gave us our bill but the total was $25?  We informed them we had a Groupon (which they should already know as we told them in the beginning).  The bill was redone and now read $28!  Where did the extra come from?  It turned out they put a 12% service charge!  I normally tip around 10% at an Asian restaurant, but for a pho restaurant… I think 12% is overkill.  The server then waits for me to pay, making me feel pressured to give them the full 12%.

As we left, we agreed that we probably wouldn’t come here again.  The pho (a signature dish) was mediocre and the 12% service charge left a bitter after taste.

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Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Correcting Serum Review

I always felt like I had huge pores around my T-zone area, especially these mini acne scars I have on my nose resulting from puberty.  I’ve tried to use retin-a-micro, my trusty acne/anti-wrinkle/skin refining cream with no avail.  I’ve tried Clinique’s Pore Minimizer Instant Perfector in the past, and though it does work the results are just monetary and goes away once you wash it off.

I could pay more and try a microdermabrasion or see a dermatologist for solutions, but on a whim I got Clinique’s Pore Refining Solutions Correcting Serum instead.  Selling for $39.50, it promises to do the following:

Pore Resurfacing Complex quickly, gently clears out debris and rough flakes. Pores ‘snap back’ into shape. In 2 weeks, pores look 58% smaller. Guaranteed. Over time, help skin create stronger supports and healthier cells to see more improvement.

The girl that sold it to me claimed she’d used this all over her face!  For me, I stuck to the area around my nose.  The serum is creamy and once applied on the skin, it gives a matte appearance and feels silky upon touch.

I’ve been using the product on and off for the past half year already, and I can definitely say that there has been an improvement.  I’m not sure if it’s 58% smaller in 2 weeks as advertised, but my pores do look smaller and my skin smoother so I think it does the job as advertised.

Would I buy it again?  I suppose it depends how badly I feel like my pores need work, but for $40 it’s pretty expensive.  I may as well buy Japanese nose masks instead.

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Fruits and Passion Body Butter Review

I never paid too much attention to Fruits and Passion, and in fact have never entered their stores all my life until a friend gave me one of their body washes as a birthday present. The body wash was in Grapefruit Guava scent – I’m a huge fan of fruity scents and it was wonderfully refreshing.

Normally, I wouldn’t use body butter, but last winter in desperate need to hydrate my skin, I got the Fruits and Passion body butter in grapefruit guava. Similar to their body wash, the cream smells great though it is very thick and probably the heaviest I’ve ever used. Initially sticky, it surprisingly absorbs very well with a nice hint of grapefruit after scent.

The only con is that it’s pretty expensive, even on sale, it was $10 for 200 ml! I say it was nice to splurge, but I wouldn’t use it on a daily basis! If you can afford it, highly recommended for dry skin!

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