Gain Wah – Vancouver, BC

Gain Wah
218 Keefer Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 684-1740

Do you ever have one of those weeks? A week that makes you want to just curl up into a fetal position for a while? What is your escape from such a week? Come Friday evening, some people may choose to drink – maybe a glass or two of scotch, some beer, perhaps. Not me. I go seek my comfort food at my usual spot: Chinese Roast Pork (sui yuk) and Won Ton soup at Gain Wah in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Gain Wah has been around forever. I don’t exactly know when the first time I ever ate here (that’s all part of my primordial memories now), but I have been coming here regularly for perhaps decades. I don’t come so often anymore, mainly because I don’t work so close nowadays. Whenever I walk in, the servers always smile and say “the usual?” It’s actually almost embarrassing. But why change? I have eaten most of the other dishes on the menu…but usually have those when I dine with others. When I am dining alone, it’s always “A Dish of Roast Pork on Rice and a Bowl of Wonton Soup please…”

Of course this can’t possibly the “best” roast pork or the “best” wonton soup in town. We are blessed with having some truly world-class Chinese BBQ and Wonton here….so it can’t really be the food can it? Perhaps not… I feel some sort of unspoken camaraderie with everyone sitting around me….and it seems that everyone here is a regular and chatting with the owner and the waiters. There is a table of eight older Caucasian and Asian gentlemen – clearly regulars from nearby at the back. I’ve seen them here a number of times – a few of them are war veterans – a fact I know from when I was here one Remembrance day. There is a couple with two young kids right behind me…a few bike couriers near the front…a couple of well groomed guys in suits with one talking in Cantonese into his celphone…

That gestalt of eating these two dishes in such an honest and spartan place, with all these people, in the midst of perhaps the poorest area in all of the city and I think to myself – we are all equals here…and best of all I can honestly say – this food is delicious. So I keep coming back for my comfort food.

Gain Wah on Urbanspoon

25 thoughts on “Gain Wah – Vancouver, BC

  1. Gain Wah has certainly been around for a very long time 20+years.
    It was more prominent prob in the 80’s but has gradually declined.
    I imagine many Vancouver-ites with fond memories of this fine establishment.
    I have been here with friends who like yourself come back for a bit of nostalgia.
    And the servers and owners do have good memories, remembering their old regulars.
    Which is always a bonus.
    Can’t remember what i order the last time i was there.
    It was very comforting and home-ly.

  2. I’ve been lurking here for awhile now, but since my daily dose of food blogs has recently just gone into overdrive (and likely stay there), I may as well start gakking here too.

    First of all, great site. Informative, superlative pics, entertaining texts.

    Gain Wah …… man they were around at least in the late 80s if not earlier. My first memory of GW was around 1989, when my GF and I were there on a late Fri or Sat night when the place had maybe 8 patrons. Things were quiet when suddenly the front door popped open and GF and I looked up to see …….. Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and their 3 kids. I kid you not. They were obviously famished, quite possibly lost (why on E. Keefer ??) and looking for a incognito meal. They were seated, not totally surprisingly the entire place didn’t recognize them. After 5 mins or so, GF and I were itching to go over and ask for an autograph (GF and said celebs were the only non-Chinese in the establishment). But after some careful contemplation we decided to leave quietly and let the Russells enjoy an uninterrupted meal.

    As for GW’s food …. stalwart 2nd-rate wontons/noodles/rice dishes etc that’ll likely never change, and Amen to that.

    • Hey LotusRapper,
      Nice to see you here.

      Great story about Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. They didn’t have to line up here like they used to at Vij’s.

  3. Not sure how long this has been around either but the owner and bbq master is super nice and his staff once you get to know you and know what you usual order is.It’s our version of Cheers! LOL. Lunch specials are good and so cheap. Have you tried the Lemon Grass Pork Chop? One of the cooks has Vietnamese background and you can get it as a dish or on top of noodles. It tastes like a secret family recipes. It’s a totally soul food experience. Love your blog. Long Live Gain Wah!

    • Hi Winnie…

      I have tried their lemongrass porkchop. I is very good indeed and different from the usual Vietnamese prep.

      Yes…it is like Cheers in there. Loyalty going both ways.

  4. mmmm, GW is good food, i don’t eat there as much becuase i don’t live close by anymore, and with the vast variety of chinese food in vancouver to keep me busy i haven’t returned since… probably last yr? but after reading this article i will be making a trip there very soon. it’s good food, nothing extraordinary or amazing, but always very tasty.

  5. Does GW still have the $1.50 individual oyster in the shell (2-3 flavour options) ? It’s advertised on a poster on the wall.

    Anyone gone to Kent’s Kitchen next door ?

    • I’ve been to Kent’s Kitchen. I’m not a fan, personally. Then again, I’m not a fan of buffets in general. It’s very cheap and the servings are massive.

      ETA: I haven’t looked at their menus lately so I haven’t seen the oysters listed. That’s sounds good enough to make me order off my “usual.”

    • Kent’s Kitchen… Ah, Kent’s Kitchen… Oily, cheap, not necessarily good for you Chinese (in some cases, Chinese American) food. Most of them are fried or oil blanched before they are cooked so don’t be surprised by the amount of oil you will see on the plate. However, there are some decent things you can get for $5. Anything stewed is quite decent (specially the goat) and leafy vegetables. Try to beat that McD’s!

  6. Kent’s Kitchen was always the pick-up-dinner place.
    Now a branch, more popular, in the (London Drugs) mall north of 41st Avenue on Victoria Drive.

    New Way Inn was before Gain Wah in the 1960s. One of the few places to get Dim Sum late a night from a steam cabinet.
    And then there was the infamous? Pierre and Margaret On lock restaurant

    • “And then there was the infamous? Pierre and Margaret On lock restaurant”

      I think that was “On On” wasn’t it ?

      And then there was the infamous(?) John Turner sighting at that defunct dim sum joint at the corner of Gore and Pender ?

      Sorry for digressing ….

    • I also tried Kent’s Kitchen a few times and swear to God that I will never go back there. I rather spend a buck or more and go to the restaurant next door to have friendly service, proper seating and “clean” yummy food.

  7. i have had the steam oysters at GW. and it was cheap and good. not foodie good. but good value. but i always worried about getting sick. raw oyster and all. but glad to report I’ve never been sick eating on GW.
    Kent’s Kitchen on the other hand is scarier. free soup(lunch) and tea too. I have been heaps of time due to the price factor. the victoria selection does not have as good of a selection but has a roast pork and canto bbq items to go as well. neither are delicious. but certainly KK is good value if you can digest that kind of food.

  8. Gain Wah was first opened in 1981. I remember all the long line ups and it was always so busy there when I go there with my mom on the weekend. The bbq pork was my favourite. Lots of fond memories & very yummy food there. Sad to see it has slowly declined….when it changed owner in 1989.

    • It has declined even further as of late. When the new tax (HST) came into effect, the owners decided to revamp the menu. Now, a few of my old comfort-food favourites are gone.

        • The prices are higher (HST) and the lunch menu is completely different. No more chicken and cashews, for example. I can’t confirm this yet, but no more roast pork on rice! I didn’t see it on the menu. (It’s unthinkable).

  9. Damn the HST but the price is still the best in town for the quality of their food. I had the roast pork on rice which I still found it in the regular menu. Thanks for the suggestion. This restaurant always surprise me everytime I try something new. I often chat with the friendly boss at lunch whom loves Hockey so much. I always feel welcomed in this restaurant.

    • (My first reply seems to have “poofed”…another attempt..)

      Everything seems back to normal here now. The menu did change for a while, but now all the old favourites are back. Apparently, they had a flood from a leak in the apartment above. They had to close for a while to fix the ceiling and install a new floor.

  10. Pingback: Eat Your Words, Vancouver! Gain Wah Restaurant - Hello Vancity | Hello Vancity

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