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).
4501 North Road
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
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
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…
1. Anatolia’s Gate
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
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
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.