Negative Space Chinese Restaurant
1030-8888 Odlin Crescent
The naming of this restaurant situated in a strip mall just off the intersection of Cambie Road and Garden City Road in Richmond is to me, a fine example of twisting things around and boldly challenging the perceived connotations of the English words, in a weird reverse psychology sort of way. After all, who in their right mind would deliberately name their fledging business, and a service-oriented one to boot, with such a word that suggests interpretations and feelings such as ‘invalidating’, ‘unaffirmative’, and just out right ‘refusing’. Even upon first read, to me it gives the sense of an empty, barren place – again, not the ideal word association for a restaurant, the kind of business that welcomes and needs customers and to be full to make a profit. Alas, perhaps I’m reading too much into it and there is a rationale or explanation behind it. Maybe it was taken as a direct English meaning from the Chinese language characters, or is just another sad case of bizarre English translation?
In any event, I only came upon it as I had mistakenly forgotten that Sushi Hachi around the corner is not open for lunch, and I made the turn and came across their still open sigh, even thought it was getting late into any lunch time service, approximately 2:30pm. With little else to choose from as I was on foot, my friend and I decided to enter the establishment. An uninterested fellow was slouched on a chair near the cashier, and seemed to be watching a computer screen of some kind. A younger boy who was apparently the lone server quickly showed us to an empty table (there was another pair of customers inside already) near the corner window. As we sensed they were shutting things down soon for the lunch service, we quickly picked two of the basic combination plates, both featuring a meat, some veggies, a soup and a side of steamed rice.
As you can see by the mind altering wall paper on the back wall, there seemed to be some effort given into making this place look as trendy as the decorator thought it could be. Soft wooden veneer tables filled the space, though the oval-backed chairs seemed a bit too office-like for my tastes. Some simple decorative pieces were placed in a recessed wall cabinet in the staff space, with a small window opening allowing a view into the kitchen. The big windows along two sides of the place allowed for a lot of natural light to enter, and thankfully they had some dark roll down shades to restrict the light in the early afternoon as it was getting quite harsh sitting so close to the window.
We were pleasantly surprised with the presentation of the meals, as it wasn’t your normal, slopped down on one big round plate, that you too often get in this part of town, in budget-friendly establishments where the emphasis is more on volume than quality. An assortment of different shaped and colored plates and bowls filled the serving tray that it was brought to our table on. One was beef, and the other was pork, but it was the pork that had a spicy component too, quite hot actually, which was really nice. Plenty of green veg to go around, and the quantity was perfect for a single serving, not too miniscule that you’d leave still feeling hungry, but not too much to the point where you’d felt like you’d gorged yourself. The soup and steamed egg custard were quite neutral in taste, giving an overall balance to the food on hand.
The service was quite attentive, coming by a few times to fill our cups of hot tea, which were going down quite fast given the heat in one of the meat dishes. Despite feeling like they were shutting down around 3pm, we never felt rushed to leave. I wonder what its like in the evening where there is more people and more variety of dishes (hopefully) than what is served as standard lunch fare. For a little chic, well proportioned take on Taiwanese/Cantonese dishes, Negative Space seems to be a decent option and one that I enjoyed.