Lucky Noodle 3-3377 Kingsway Vancouver, BC (604) 430-8818
The recent influx of Mainland Chinese has brought over more than just an increase in our real estate prices – they have also imported a taste for spicy Chinese food that until fairly recently, was relatively foreign to Vancouver. As recent as three or four years ago, I recall thinking how precious few places served authentic spicy Chinese food. And those that did specialize in these cuisines are often cloaked Cantonese kitchens that catered to the milder Cantonese palate – serving food that would not have satisfied the Mainlanders’ spice cravings. Over the recent years, with the increasing immigration of these “Northerners”, the number of spicy Chinese restaurants has been steadily increasing to the point where I think we now have enough of a selection to have a solid week-to-week rotation of places to eat.
I still think we don’t have an exemplary Sichuan restaurant (especially after losing a very good one in Chuan Xiang Ge in Richmond), but I think we have Yunan covered (S&W Pepperhouse in Crystal Mall and their less able branch in Richmond), and we now have two very good Hunan joints to choose from: Alvin Garden (Burnaby) and Lucky Noodle (Collingwood).
Not too long ago, Don’sta existed in this very same location, offering some of the very same kind of dishes. I’d noticed that it soon changed its sign not too long after that visit that I reported on. Initially I thought it was just a simple re-branding, but upon checking it out, I saw it was much more than that. The proprietors seemed to have changed, along with a total re-work of the interior and a greater focused menu. Simple put, it appeared more “professional”. I’ve not gone to their other location downtown, but Dae Ji now has outlet number two.
With Korean-style fried pork cutlets taking center stage alone (no sign of the pasta that existed in the previous incarnation) on the menu now, there were a few twists like the option to have a mixed plate if you will of a cutlet and a hamburger patty. A few variations exist in terms of the pork cutlet, as well such as a cheese, spicy cheese, even a kimchi infused one! The set menus offer more bang for the buck too, as you get a side of rice, a simple cabbage salad and a miso soup.
Tealips Bubble Tea & Coffee 7139 Arcola Way Burnaby, BC (778) 397-3972
Offering a wide ranging menu of bubble teas, coffee, loose leaf tea, smoothies, shaved ice, waffles, and sandwiches, this hidden, out-of-the-way cafe in the Middlegate neighborhood of Burnaby has steadily built a strong following. Or so it seems on my visits there as its always got a steady number of customers inside. I suppose it benefits greatly from the steady stream of traffic to the nearby businesses, as well as the multiple condo towers that look down upon the building in which it is housed…
Tealips does have a slightly different premise compared to other bubble tea houses around town. For instance, the thing that struck me upon entering the doors was the more relaxed vibe and seating arrangement that sprawled out before my eyes. A lot more inviting as a result and the kind of place that makes you want to stick around. The crowd seemed to be dominated by younger couples or soloists who were clearly students cramming behind a heavy textbook or busy scanning the screen of their personal computer.
JB Malaysian Cuisine 5212 Kingsway Burnaby, BC (604) 430-8999
My previous visit to this very same location on the corner of Kingsway and Royal Oak Avenue just east of Metrotown in Burnaby was not an overly memorable or gastronomically exciting one. I think its even had more previous incarnations as a restaurant, which brings me to the conclusion that it has some kind of curse on it, preventing this location from really grabbing hold as an ideal spot for dining out. The geographical setting with limited street side parking might be another mitigating factor causing the negative results. Such turnover in a spot must raise red flags for any prospective leaser, but I guess everyone wants their kick at the can…
At the beginning of this year, JB Malaysian Cuisine set up shop replacing the defunct Miki Japanese Ramen. So much for that loyalty stamp card I received from them, during my one and only meal there. 🙂 Oddly enough though, there didn’t seem to be a lot of change done to the interior… the furniture and even the bookshelf with the dated Japanese comic books still sat near the front door entrance from when Miki existed. A loud playing of some Chinese music over the portable stereobox filled the otherwise lonely feeling air of this place. Not very welcoming, almost felt like I was intruding in a private establishment.
Looking at our category log, I see its been eleven months since we last posted one of these grouped restaurant updates. I’m sure we could do more and do them more often, however the challenge is to provide something new. That said, I feel they do have added value as return visits that support/rectify earlier opinions is something worthwhile striving to provide. I hope you agree. Going through a bunch of notes and folders with accompanying images, I tried to come up with a consistent theme, and this one will be heavy on places I’ve frequented way over in Coquitlam/Burnaby…
Its out of the way especially if you live in Vancouver, so you’re probably more apt to visit this popular eatery in the evening, which they can accommodate with their late business hours. But I’ve been able to check it out at lunch time and finding its a lot less busy, and the wait times are shorter as a result to get your food. In fact, on one of my most recent trips, I was the only one there and had my quick meal made up for me right on the spot, as if it were my own personal kitchen! Its really refreshing to see the lavash bread (with whole wheat option too!) made immediately at the counter before being fired in the oven, stuffed with your choice of ingredient (beef in this case) and carefully wrapped up to go. Photo above is a cross section as I cut it in half. I was hoping for a bit more meat but the balance with the vegetables enabled it to have a pleasing ratio per mouthful. So much more to explore on their menu, so a place I’ll come back to again.
Little Monk Pretzels Metropolis At Metrotown 101-4820 Kingsway Burnaby, BC (604) 434-1090
The other day I made soft pretzels at home as I suddenly had a craving for it on a lazy weekend afternoon. In a wild coincidence, on a shopping outing at this busy mall recently, I came upon this little stall called Little Monk Pretzels near the end where you find the Superstore, that makes pretty much the same thing I had baked up in my kitchen. With a few other fast food/treat options in this alley of Metropolis at Metrotown, I’m sure it catches quite a few customers coming out of their grocery shopping excursions with food on their minds. Now what monks have to do with pretzels, its unknown to me, but seeing a group of customers congregating right in front of the food stand, it got me curious…
A rather simplistic production, as I could see a man in the back who was laying out pre-made dough, all cut up into bite sized pieces and running them through a little oven-like machine that operated with a conveyer belt. After getting a verbal order from the people manning the cash machine, he would run some product through – on this day its these little balls of soft pretzels that were most popular.
Han Nam Supermarket (Deli) 106-4501 North Road Burnaby, BC (604) 420-8856
Bibimbap. Quite possibly the best known and also most tongue twisting dish in Korean cuisine. Its a simple one-bowl combination.
Comprised of a base layer of steamed white rice and topped with a colorful arrangement of sauteed vegetables, often some kind of meat (like sliced beef), a runny fried egg and seasoned with the deep flavored and spicy chili pepper paste better known as gochujang.
With its balanced arrangement, it has a very eye catching presentation despite its simplicity. But alas, that’s not where it ends. For you see, the bibim in bibimbap really means “to mix”. Combining all of these ingredients, their distinct textures and flavors, so that in each spoonful you get the complete package of tastes available is what makes this dish come to life.
Myung Dong Kal Gook Soo 103 – 4501 North Road Burnaby, BC (604) 420-6447
As the evening air outside begins to descend into a temperature zone that requires more layering of clothing and household duties that require preparations for the coming winter season, it marks the beginning of something that I enjoy a lot – hot food, especially those of the “soupy” category. Beefy stews, hearty vegetable soups, bowls of noodles in flavorful broth and so on. Autumn/winter comfort food at its finest. Plus, with the incoming crop of this season’s vegetables, many of which over the past few years I’ve grown to actually like more of, it makes for fun times in the home kitchen or eating out.
Over the years, I’ve found on my travels abroad that those nations which have a tendency to experience harsher winters – full of freezing temperatures, perhaps suspect household insulation but with a rich food culture – do satisfy my cravings for warm/hot edible delights. I can still remember the first time I visited South Korea over a decade ago, it was March. But with bone chilling temperatures coupled with a heavy weight of dense, moist air which made the prevailing air temperature feel many times colder, it hit me like nothing I’ve ever felt before. My immediate impulse was to warm up and quickly with something to eat. And on that particular occasion, I ended up in a little spot that served up kalguksu. Its an experience I’ve never forgotten and ever since, when I feel the chill in the air and have a craving for comforting Korean food, it reminds me of that time.
Fraser Park Restaurant 4663 Byrne Road Burnaby, BC (604) 433-7605
I’ve now had five separate meals at this surprisingly popular establishment (considering its location!) and felt it was time to weigh in with a post to join the multitude that exist about it when I look at the listing on Urbanspoon. Meals during the morning breakfast hours as well as closer to the noon lunch time service have given me a good sense of what can be had here (with a sampling of some photos below). And to sum it up simply, its a lot! Portion sizes are truly on the generous size. Perhaps fitting for the hard labour, blue collar working folks who I see frequenting the establishment often, mixed in with some people who obviously don’t work in the industrial businesses that populate this stretch of Byrne Road but are here simply for a hearty meal.
Through the regular menu items and the daily specials, a few have stood out for me in terms of the excitement upon ordering them, having them brought out in front of me so my eyes could understand what I was in for, and then of course the tasting of each dish. I’ve sheepishly mentioned this place around to various people in my circles and have even brought some of them with me to eat. The look on their faces when we pull into the parking lot says it all, its the last place they thought I’d bring them too. Thankfully the food saves me each and every time. As I’ve never had any complaints walking out about their disappointment with any of the meals.
Kawawa Ramen 4700 Kingsway Burnaby, BC (604) 435-8577
Another of the local Vancouver area bloggers first brought Kawawa Ramen in Metropolis at Metrotown to my attention. I can recall the post about the place next door (under the same Kawawa umbrella) had several hilarious points that are common to his style of writing and its remained one of his classic reviews filled with disappointment about his meal. So much so that whenever he encounters a pathetic food experience, Kawawa becomes a direct reference point in how bad it really is. All this didn’t phase me however from eventually checking it out – perhaps mainly just to join in the hilarity – and check out some of their offerings. So here goes…
The basic ramen. Added the hard boiled egg. Broth was on the thicker side but rather flat in terms of flavor. Not extremely salty, but just completely uninteresting without any depth. I’m not sure of the exact composition of their base broth, but it can’t be something that is getting much love and attention, and a careful building of layers over extended periods of cooking time. The noodles while drowned in the liquid were somewhat clumped together in an awkward mess, making drawing some out to eat slightly difficult. Chalky in taste too and overdone with no bite left in them. If you haven’t gathered by now, I’m not a huge fan.
Burgers Etc. BBQ House 4091 Hastings Street Burnaby, BC (604) 299-8959
Summer is here on the west coast and its amazing so far! When this season comes around I believe that barbecuing and burgers for the most part, come front and center to many people’s eating patterns…
I hadn’t realized that this business along east Hastings was one that was so well covered already in the past by numerous other local bloggers, so I won’t delve too deeply into the history or general background in this post. The colorful exterior of this building is one that I’ve passed by many times on trips to the SFU area and I finally made a stopover after a morning spent out hiking in North Van. For a quiet Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to see a few customers already inside and a few more straggled in after me. Its not too large a dining area and tight fitting along the window perhaps. Simple and neat is how I’d sum it up. A typical burger shack.
With the single minded focus that I had to order a basic hamburger here, that is indeed what I called for when the portly waitress came to chat me up. I must admit though, I did flicker for a brief second when I saw the pulled pork as well as beef brisket sandwiches, considering I did see BBQ House on their front signage. Perhaps another day.
Don’sta #205-4501 North Road Burnaby, BC (604) 566-9107
Donkkaseu, is the Korean spelling converted into English taken from the sounds of the original Japanese word for this dish, a breaded and deep fried pork cutlet. For many North Americans, the Japanese presentation of this served Kanto-style with a sweet tonkatsu sauce and finely sliced raw cabbage is perhaps most familiar. (On a side note, I reckon it might be awhile before we see here in Canada, tonkatsu done the Kansai (more specifically Nagoya) way by bringing in the flavors of the more savory miso as a sauce base – but stranger things have happened). Though, as with several notable kinds of food in Asian cuisine, you can find different variations of a single dish made with local interpretations – across East Asia in particular); for instance la mian/ramen or kimbap/norimaki). Hybrids even and commonly referred to as such as a standalone genre (e.g. Korean-Chinese cuisine comes to mind here) too. This is just another example.
Pho Century Fine Vietnamese Cuisine 6701 Kingsway Burnaby, BC (604) 544-5028
Billed as a “Place for Noodle Lovers”, this second location of Pho Century recently popped up at the intersection of Kingsway and Sperling, basically directly across the way from the National Nikkei Heritage Centre where the beloved Hi Genki is located. I’ve never visited their first outlet (which is also on Kingsway – at Willingdon), so have no point of reference to compare, but this just opened spot sure took me a bit by surprise. While carved out inside a shabbier looking building that I think housed some kind of ESL/math school run by Chinese until recent times, they had really spruced up the tiny interior with a clean and fresh modern look. Parking is brutal – limited to a few spots right in front – and street parking nearby is hampered by the ongoing construction of a tall condominium building right across the street, with all the trucks and machinery needing to get through.
As you can see from the signage, there is a grand opening going on, with special dine-in pricing of 10% off, which is slated to end January 15th. So perhaps by the time you read this post, it could be over. Nevertheless, the price point for their main dishes are reasonable – case in point, the small pho is $6, and the large bowl is $7. Congees, and barbequed (insert any meat here) with rice dishes also fall in the $7~$8 range. There were also some Viet Subs (chicken, meat ball, minced pork, Vietnamese ham) available priced $3.95 and up; apparently they are only here at this second location. Combo plates with rice or vermicelli run in the $7 to $11 zone; this “touch of everything” caught my attention for my lunch.
Genji Japanese Restaurant 7533 Market Crossing Burnaby, BC (604) 433-9710
My first experience dining at this restaurant that is situated in the relatively new commercial shopping area on the southern edge of Burnaby along Marine Way was mixed to say the least. My brief recap that I’d posted as a regular post on Urbanspoon was as follows:
A newish-looking and spacious interior, perhaps a bit too large as near the entrance its quite barren and when there are few customers, it just feels really cool and library-sih quiet. Had an assortment of roll sushi with a friend who enjoys that kind of thing. Wasn’t horribly bad until our off-the-wall pick of one that had some white sauce. Had a bit of an annoying mix up, mainly due to language barrier with our server, that dragged on much longer than we thought it should as it was an communication mistake (on their part) and though we thought they might ding us on the bill, they didn’t. Not enough shines thru with the sushi to get me to come back.
Now I’m at times a forgiving fellow. Even when it comes to places to eat that I was less than 100% satisfied. Part of returning is to be fair, and also to see if things had improved at all. This time I went solo, as I did not want to burden a dining partner as I had the first time. For sushi in this part of town, choices are somewhat limited, so Genji Japanese Restaurant has that going for it, for now…