Café D’Lite – Vancouver, BC


Café D’Lite
3144 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 733-8882
Mon~Thu: 11am to 8pm | Fri~Sat: 11am to 9pm | Sun: Closed

Cafe D'Lite on Urbanspoon

Perhaps its relative geographic obscurity on the far west side of the city, the unassuming and some would say uninviting exterior facade or just the power of rumors, but it seems to me that Café D’Lite has a unique impression in the minds of many Vancouver diners in that although popular, reports of its demise seem always front and center.  Call it the Mark Twain of the city’s restaurant scene.

I’ve dined there several times over the past few years as its the closest spot for me in satisfying any cravings for Hainanese Chicken Rice (their “house special”), but on my most recent visit I decided to get a take away order as I was in a hurry.  Pictured above is the large size ($11.95), which is more than enough for one hungry person.  Unfortunately, the non-dine in order of this does not include the soup as a takeout item – I didn’t ask but assume its their lack of appropriate styrofoam containers.

While the absence of the soup was a letdown, it was not as large as the disappointment I felt when I returned home and opened up the package containing my meal and realized that the traditional condiments were not really there.  As the image above attests, there was a small dallop of chilli sauce, with a small spoonful of a ginger sauce added in the corner of the container, but no dark soy sauce!  In hindsight, I wonder if you had to ask or pay for that separately…?

The chicken itself was a bit lukewarm, probably from the time it had spent layered over top of the rice (which itself, was not so flavorful and somewhat drier than I like), but the meat’s texture was tender.  The thin layer of skin was not overly gelatanous, which can be good or bad depending on your personal preference, and the boneless factor made for easy eating.  All in all, not the best version of this southeast Asian creation I’ve ever had (too many great ones I’ve eaten in Singapore have ruined me), but not horrible as to not wanting to ever have it here again.

I must try to remember to order some of their other dishes such as their Singaporean Laksa or their Malaysian curries.  As long as they continue to operate and get the customers that are aware they are still in business, I’m sure I’ll be back and among them.

Cafe D'Lite on Urbanspoon

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Prata Man Singapore Cuisine – Richmond, BC


Prata Man Singapore Cuisine
180-9020 Capstan Way
Richmond, BC
(604) 278 1348

Prata Man on Urbanspoon

My travels in the past three years (2006-2008) have taken me to Singapore a whopping six times.  And those are round trips from North America.  If I threw in the short haul trips back and forth from there to neighboring countries as well, that figure could climb up to twelve to fifteen.  Yes, the Lion City and I are good friends.

If you’ve ever done the flying, you know its a long haul.  A big part of what makes it all worth it though, is the great food culture that can be enjoyed there.  And for me, a great roti prata is one thing that I look forward too each and every time, morning, day and night…

The ultimate Singapore-style roti prata for me, is that delicate, light and crispy variation found in the famous places at Jalan Kayu, which I’ve commented on previously.  But unfortunately, Prata Man does the opposite, with its thicker, moister pancake type.  It felt almost like a green onion cake, with the oil having been absorbed and really noticeable when trying to tear it apart or when taking a bite.  These were massive too, IHOP pancake large.

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Hawker’s Delight – Vancouver, BC


Hawker’s Delight
4127 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: (604) 709 8188

With all the talk about doing what’s best for the people on “Main Street” amid the financial meltdown and stump speeches in the American election, it stuck me that I rarely visit the road with the same name on Vancouver’s east side.  Neither living nor working in that part of the city, nor having any friends with residences there that I would ever visit, Main Street really is an afterthought for me.  However, I did know it is home to many off-the-beaten-track, hole-in-the-wall, beloved restaurants with the locals, and it deserved a thorough investigation.  For this, I decided to walk up from the intersection at Broadway and Main, all the way up to 49th Avenue – and on both sides of the street.

It certainly was an education in the range of eating choices available on one single road.  Some places peaked my interest, others were not open yet on this late-morning Saturday, and others I just simple brushed off as not worthwhile in my mind after just looking inside the window.  Fortunately, Hawker’s Delight was not one of the latter, as the minute I strode past the big open windows and could see into the kitchen in the back of the space full of activity before the doors opened for business, I knew I was to go inside.

Apparently a re-creation of a hawker style spot that one would find in places like Singapore and Malaysia (yes, I am headed there on a trip next month!), this cramped cafeteria-like restaurant is a popular place for locals who have a craving for the taste bud tingling flavors of Southeast Asia.  On this day, I was the first customer through the doors before a handful of others followed behind me (for both dine-in and take out).  As I stepped to the counter to give my order after scanning the menus on the walls, I noticed how frenetic the pace was inside the cooking area where three people were busy getting ready for the lunch rush.  On the immediate right, I spotted this large pot that was bubbling over and giving off an intense spicy aroma – I enquired about it and was told it was a veggie curry.  On the grill top was one of my favorite food sights, meat on a stick.  This made my opening volley an easy decision, and I asked for a quintuplet of Beef Satay.

The sweet and savory flavors coming from the chewy meat and the accompanying dip of garlic infused oil, reminded me of why I love street food from this part of the world.  With just the right amount of charbroiled parts as well, the smoky properties added to the richness of the overall taste.  It’s hard to do this kind of thing badly, and Hawker’s Delight obviously did not fail in this regard.

As it was still morning, and given my unfortunate weak stomach for spicy food before the noon hour, I settled on a more milder tasting dish to help fill me up after my long walk down Main Street.  Figuring it would be a good test of how well they do a staple of Singaporean cuisine, I elected to go with the Hainanese Chicken Rice.   I will never forget the first time I had this in Singapore and ever since then its been hard to compete with that memory, no matter where I have eaten it since that fateful first plate.

Many people have their personal preferences for how they like the meat, but generally I feel its best when its of that silky soft consistency, with just a small amount of gelatinous texture from the skin, which is all jacked up with the trio of dipping sauces such as the powerful dark soya, chili and of course ginger.  In fact here at Hawker’s Delight, they mixed the potent chili and ginger together to form one single dip, but lacked the soya much to my disappointment. Back to the meat, it did have a pleasant texture and was not stringy at all, and the poaching liquid it was cooked in had infused some addtional flavors into the chicken.  No complaints here, but again, not blow-your-mind outstanding either.  The side rice was not as fragrant as I would have hoped and frankly halfway through I was just fine not to eat much more of it at all.  This is a stark change to the same rice I’ve had in Singapore/Malaysia in the past, where I could not get enough of the stuff.

Where Hawker’s Delight really did stand out was on the price performance.  I do not think I saw anything on the menu that was over six dollars as a main dish.  Frankly, I am sure you cannot get a better deal in town for this level of authentic ethnic food.  Don’t expect much for service, as its more a case of one of the kitchen workers simply dropping it off at your table once its ready, and water/hot tea is all self service from the station set up near the front counter as well.  But all is well, as this is the kind of environment one would expect from a hawker-style setup and one that I will no doubt return to again to try out the other offerings.  This is of course, if I am not tired of this food after my travels next month – ooh, what a delight!

Hawker's Delight on Urbanspoon

Prima Taste Restaurant – Vancouver, BC


True Singapore Cuisine. It is what Prima Taste boasts about serving, and this text appears on their menu, their business card, and heck even the final bill. The restaurant side of the Prima Taste business empire started up apparently in 2000 and has now spread outside of Singapore to outlets in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China, the US, and right here in downtown Vancouver. I had been hoping to visit this place for a while after hearing good things, but until this day never quite finding the right time or opportunity. With my most recent visit to Singapore being this past May, it had been a while since I have had a sampling of some Singaporean fare, so I was excited as I stepped inside. After my eyes adjusted from coming in from the bright sun, I was surprised to find a modern looking and clean interior, thinking it would be more of a cafeteria-like setting and perhaps a lot more run down – too many trips to hawker stalls overseas must have formed these pre-conceived ideas in my mind.

With a non-hungry companion in tow, I settled down and scanned the menu knowing that I would not have the benefit of another hungry diner to allow me to try more items. It was clear that well-known dishes such as satay, roti prata, beef rendang, laksa, and nasi goreng appeared on the menu, along with many seafood dishes, and even some platters that centered around one specific meat protein. Rather than risk something that would disappoint, I decided to go with a tried-and-true Singaporean offering in the Hainanese Chicken Rice, and a single small plate appetizer that I could nibble on while I waited, some Breaded Prawn Balls.

For $5.95, these deep fried formations had an interesting appearance, almost like circular shaped miniature Rubik’s Cubes, and were the size of a large gumball. They were a nice golden color and had a crispy exterior but a dense minced shrimp core that really perked up when a bit of the chili-mayo dip was added (I’m finding that this spicy and creamy mixture of flavors as a condiment is making waves across many of the ethnic restaurants in town these days). The portion size was probably just right for a single appetizer serving, though not enough if shared.

The Hainanese Chicken Rice ($9.50) was cleanly poached, and came with a small bowl of fragrant chicken flavored rice, and the important trio of dipping sauces (dark soy, ginger, and chili). For me, it is this first thick sauce with its rich sweet properties that really did it for me on this day, although the others were fine too in creating interesting taste combinations since we all know chicken meat is generally very bland. Back to the chicken itself, I received a completely boneless section, with a thin layer of skin that was not overly gelatinous, with lean meat that was silky smooth, moist and not stringy. Certainly, there are differing opinions on how the chicken should be prepared, finished off, with some preferring a more fatty composition, a thicker layer of skin, and I believe some even make the case on the boned or de-boned debate. Again, there is no clear cut answer to this, and personal taste will come into play, but I did enjoy the offering here at Prima Taste and would definitely go back for this as its probably the closest interpretation in Vancouver that I’ve seen to those I’ve eaten in Southeast Asia.

Service was decent; we were greeted immediately at the door and led to a table by one of the young boys working the bar area. Tea came out soon enough and ordering was fine as we were given enough time to read the menu before being pressed about what we wanted to eat. Its the in-meal service that was somewhat lacking, as it was difficult getting the attention of anyone for refills, extra napkins, having plates cleared as well as receiving the final bill. It seemed that rather than one dedicated server per table, they platoon staff across the floor so each request that I made was in fact, carried out by another server. If that is deliberate, or a way to compensate for the seemingly overwhelmed service team, I am not sure. It just lacked some of the personal attention I thought, given the greater-than-cafeteria setting, I assumed they would want to follow through with a higher degree of performance.

True Singapore Cuisine? Perhaps, but diluted a bit in terms of the wide range that you can get on the peninsula, but that can’t be helped as the menu does have to take into account many factors. Such as the availability (or lack of) many necessary ingredients, the need to condense things to a manageable level, while simultaneously trying to represent the country’s cooking in a single establishment. As such, I would have to rate Prima Taste as succeeding, though additional visits are required to confirm this by tasting other dishes, that I could only visually interpret by scanning nearby tables.

As a treat on the way home, we popped up to the food court of the H-Mart (Korean Grocery Store) located on the same side of the street as Prima Taste, and shared a patbingsu dessert. A refreshing combination of shaved ice and sweet azuki, topped with matcha ice cream, diced watermelon, mangoes, and kiwis; perfect for this hot summer day.

Prima Taste Restaurant
570 Robson Street (corner of Robson and Seymour)
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-685-7881
Hours: Mon-Thu, 11:30am to 2:30pm & 5pm to 10pm; Fri, 11:30am to 10pm; Sat, 12pm to 10pm; Sun, 12pm to 9pm

Prima Taste on Urbanspoon