770 Bute Street
“If you build it, they will come”. Its as if the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson from the 1989 classic film Field of Dreams is whispering all the way across the Pacific Ocean into the ears of the leadership responsible for steering the business growth of established Japanese ramen chains. First of the known bigger players, Santouka, ventured forth and established a Canadian beachhead in the burgeoning ramen battle zone situated in the west end of Robson Street. It’s probably my favorite in town these days, but I’m I would be curious to hear what the likes of the man behind the original true ramen-ya in Vancouver, Matsubara-san of Kintaro fame, would have to say about the growing market and resulting competition for the dollars of Vancouver “rameniacs”. Hard to believe its been eleven years since this all began in our fair west coast city.
Delving into the history of Sanpachi is an interesting read. Starting in that ramen hotbed of Sapporo back in 1987, its stretched to now approximately 70 outlets throughout Japan and as well as overseas (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan). Progressive it seems in their business model as well, by offering “gift packs” of its popular miso and shoyu variants through an online store. The sole founder (and current CEO) is fiercely proud of the original and unique taste of their ramen, and has expanded this love of ramen and keen dedication into a motto that serves to remind their entire network of stores and staff of their purpose. Loosely translated, I would say in English this would be “Warmly Satisfied in Both your Stomach and Heart”. Yeah, that didn’t come out well, but I think you get the point.
Wen Xin Chinese Restaurant
5240 Rumble Street
Though I’d seen it a few times while in this little corner area of Rumble Street and Royal Oak Avenue, I’d never thought to bother with stepping inside Wen Xin until local readers (LotusRapper and Karl of thefridaylunch) mentioned/wrote about it in one of the comment threads of a previous south Burnaby post. My visit was actually back in the late-summer, while school was still out so a lunch hour timing actually turned out to be perfect – as it was just me who was inside getting a meal (to go). No annoying teenagers to get in the way. Its in the same general area as Makoto and Georgio’s.
Unsure about what to get as the extent of my ability gained over the years of travel that I’ve done to read any Chinese characters is limited to beef, chicken, fish, pork, and perhaps a few of the preparation terms (fried, stewed, roasted, etc.). The English descriptions really don’t do it justice, as I’m sure the Chinese readers can attest to. That chalkboard you see pictured below, looks like it could be a special menu for Chinese-readers only, but I didn’t bother to ask. Also note here, they are a cash-only establishment with a CIBC ATM inside the nearby Seven Eleven if you are out of greenbacks.
North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
Schisandra chinensis. Yes, difficult to pronounce but as one can guess, it has its roots in China. The viny-plant produces a rich berry that is beloved for its five different taste sensations and its herbal/medicinal properties. With various practical uses including its use in teas and even wine, it has a modern day application that you can enjoy today if you know where to look. I had such an opportunity in the remote city of Myungyeong, nestled amid lush green forests spanning rolling mountains and hills that make this a spectacular visual landscape in North Gyeongsang Province.
On my way to visit some tourist sights, I came across this tiny cafe at the base of the town site before the long trek up past some re-created rural villages that were even used for present day movies and television sets, and up into some of the nearby hills. It was a brutally hot and humid day so a rest was needed even before the hour long journey that I was about to embark on. Spotting several people lined outside, I knew I had to check it out and find out what the commotion was all about. So here I present to you, the Omija Cafe.
75 East Pender Street
Strolling around in Chinatown is an interesting activity. I see many tourists doing it, with cameras slung from their necks, taking in all this part of Vancouver has to offer. Not only visually but also the many places to eat. After all, Chinese culture has a long culinary history and has pervaded its way into North American dining, and has a wide spread familiarity, albeit perhaps not always along the true lines of authentic and regional cuisine that the country has to offer and is yet under-explored by many. I’d say stick around here on foodosophy, as one of our keen writers GastronomyDomine (aka fmed) is a knowledgeable fellow when it comes to this genre and has posted more than a few reports on places you should try out. And hopefully more to come. (nudge, dudge, wink, wink)
Amid a mainly Asian collection of shops, eateries and other stores, you can find the slow spread of other kinds of places that are merging into this neighborhood. You can notice is especially if you walk from Gastown towards the heart of Chinatown. Now whether this is a good or bad thing, it surely is up for debate depending on your stance. I applaud though from a business perspective to give new things a shot, and inject old areas with new life and different choices. At least for me, coming across these on random strolls makes things interesting. Enough so to entice me to stop and go inside. The Everything Cafe was once such place.
7900 Westminster Highway, Unit 101
As I think back to foodosophy‘s early days, I can recall a lot more random outings like these where I had no specific eating intention or destination but ended up taking the proverbial “bullet for the team”. While in Richmond dealing with some business matters recently on this particular block, I did so again and ended up ducking quickly into the nearest place to warm up (man, is it ever cold these days!) and get a quick meal rather than seek out something specifically and have to drive around this city which tends to have its own logistical challenges. While I did not engage in a wider round of choices from their menu as I was dining for one (Follow Me Foodie ate other items apparently) at Katsu-ya Sushi, I did end up having much the same kind of experience. Here is my take on things…
A simple setup, I knew immediately that I had to make a quick call. Keep going or step back out (into the cold). The temperature won and I resigned myself to asking for a spot for one. A female server glanced over to an empty table (another was occupied by a group of four men, who seemed to be their on their lunch break, and looked to have been employed at a construction site judging from their steel-toed boots). I received the laminated menu sheet and decided to play it safe and go with one of their set combinations. “A”, I think it was. Strangely, the woman did not say a single word to me when I entered, gave my order and when I went up to the til to pay. I think there was some shyness and language issues involved, so can accept that.
Chihuahua’s Mexican Food & Pizza
881 Carnarvon Street
New Westminster, BC
After my recent satisfying experience at La Taqueria, I wanted to continue my quest of discovering the very best of tacos in the greater Vancouver area. On a complete whim, I was in New Westminster and passed by a place that I remembered as being Mexican (as far as the signage goes) and slowly crept by in my car until I found it once again. Without any information other than my faded memory of the store front, my decision to stop and walk inside was based on the silhouettes of several people eating inside that came into my eye. Had it been empty, I might have been less inclined to stop. Do you ever do that? Base entering a restaurant upon how busy the place is? Love to hear from you in the comments box if so/if not, and why/why not…
The moment I stepped inside, I had a good vibe. All of the folks inside were Latino, and the female served burst out with a “hola!” upon seeing me. I knew I was just going for take away so headed straight to the front counter, that was fronted by a large heating case apparently for pizzas – of which there were none on display as the folks ahead of me took away a box that probably contained the last few pieces. As I took in the small menu sheet that was taped up on the glass which listed all of the available offerings, a fellow came in asking when the next pizza would be ready – six minutes called out the male employee – and headed back out for a smoke only to return some time later. The whole pizza thing made me lose some hope that I’d be getting a true Mexican experience. But I guess there is nothing you can do when you try to be more than one kind of eatery, serving what appears to be the native Canadian crowd who wants cheap, fast food, and those who have the cultural ties to that part of the world and probably come here for a taste of home.
1508 Robson Street
Again, as noted in yesterday’s update, my full attention was not paid to this dining experience, as I was there mainly re-hashing old times with a friend that I had not seen in over a decade. Hence this post will be brief. My other visits to this perpetual favorite of Robson Street’s eating scene were a while ago now, so my memories of even past meals are faded. Alas, I guess this means I need to make another trip to Gyoza King in the future and really flush out how I feel about this place. Foodospher, you coming for a Vancouver visit anytime soon?
Some other dishes were ordered by the “third wheel” at our table as she was less inclined to want to listen to old stories of our drunken youth, but I only shot this solo shot (with my cell phone to boot) of a ten-plate of genso gyoza, just so I’d have something on the record. Of course, the cold bottles of Asahi kept flowing. I must say the thing that first and foremost stands out for me of Gyoza King’s gyoza is how tight the skins are and well packed the inside ingredients are but without bursting at the seams.