E2 Cafe RestaurantPosted: 05/05/2013
The corner strip mall on Austin and North Road holds a special place in my heart, as my favourite Burnaby HK Style Cafe when I was little was located next to the current Sushi California. Its name was something like Big Wok, which sounds silly but hey, I was 8, names didn’t matter as long as the food was good.
Unfortunately, my fave spot closed down, and has since been through several incarnations, all of which stuck to the HK Style Cafe cuisine. The most recent replacement is called E2 Cafe (but in Chinese it’s Butterfly something-or-other), and it was with a little apprehension that I went there with my mom one day.
See, my reason for not being so excited was that the last few restaurants that took over weren’t that great. The food was bad, the service was awful, and the restaurant itself wasn’t very clean (actually, a lot of the older HK cafes are pretty questionable…). My visit to the last one left a less-than-stellar taste in my mouth, but my mom ended up dragging me to this one, telling me that it’ll maybe, probably, definitely be better.
The HK Café is often a mixture of Asian and Western dishes (rather, Western dishes with an Asian twist, like spaghetti in a ketchup-based sauce), and E2 seems to be holding true to this style. On the menu here were various appetizers and Western mini specials (for Afternoon Tea), as well as stir-fries and the pick-your-own noodle combos that are permeating many restaurants.
I went for the Noodle Combo ($7.95), and much like my visit to Deer Garden, I opted for a Malaysian Laksa soup base with rice noodles, but had fried fish cake and pork balls for my meat choices. Each bowl of noodles also comes with siu choy, long slippery slices of bean curd, and a sprinkling of cilantro and green onion. I felt that the Laksa wasn’t nearly as spicy or coconut-y as I’d have preferred—in fact, it was rather bland. However, the noodles were prepared perfectly, and there was an abundance of them in the soup, as well as a large amount of toppings. I’m certain that the balls and fish cake were previously frozen, but they still had a good chew to them, so there isn’t too much to complain about there. Despite my lack of enthusiasm about the soup, this was a great deal; there was so much in the bowl, I ended up having to take part of it home.
I really wanted chicken wings that night, so I added an order of Desert Fried Chicken Wings ($2.95 with the noodle combo; $8.95 as a 10-piece appetizer). Guys: I swear these are probably the best chicken wings I’ve had at an Asian diner. Perfectly seasoned and deep-fried, these were crunchy on the outside, but the meat remained juicy on the inside. I probably could devour an entire plate of this by myself if I didn’t order the noodles, and every time I pass by the restaurant, my mouth starts watering from the memory of those wings.
As with most HK Cafes, the meals come with a drink; the great thing about E2 is that the cold drinks are free of charge too, which is a rarity in the Lower Mainland. The last restaurant I went to that had free cold drinks ended up changing their policy within a month. Now paying an extra $1.50 isn’t that big a deal (think about how expensive it is to order drinks at other restaurants!)… but obviously I had to take advantage of this. Needing to stay up to write a paper that night, I went for the HK Style Milk Tea. This was exactly what I was hoping for—there was a good balance of black tea and milk, and the syrup came on the side, so I could choose how sweet I wanted it to be. My mom had a Hot Lemon Tea. There isn’t too much to say about this—the drink was hot, the lemons were fresh, and nothing tasted amiss.
My mom ordered a Mix and Match Combo ($10.75 2 choices, $12.95 3 choices), and chose lamb chops, ox tongue and steak as her meats. These set meals, a staple of HK Cafes, come with soup (sometimes bread), the entree, side of spaghetti/rice/veggies/fries, side sauce, and drink. Out of cream and Borscht, my mom chose the HK Style Borscht, which was made with a tomato base, so this is definitely something that’s been adapted for Asian taste buds. In it were a ton of veggies (celery, potato, carrot) and a few pieces of tender beef brisket. We really liked this hearty, full-flavoured soup, as it wasn’t too watered down, nor was it too salty. As for her main dish, my mom was unable to finish this (which was great since that meant she had lunch for the next day). There was a large spool of spaghetti (more than enough to feed 1 person), and the cuts of meat were large, but remained tender. The lamb didn’t taste too gamey and wasn’t overcooked, despite us not having been asked the degree of doneness we wanted, and the steak was a perfect medium-rare, as if the kitchen read our minds. The two thick slices of ox tongue– tender, juicy and not-too-fatty– were easily the best part of the dish. Some places I’ve been to only serve really thin pieces of overcooked meat, but here each one was prepared well and came in a very generous portion. Our only qualm with the meal is that there weren’t more veggies (but that’s typical of this dish); still, some broccoli florets would’ve helped.
We returned to the restaurants a few weeks later with my cousins, aunts and uncle in tow; they had all been to the restaurant previously and enjoyed it, so we made a Tuesday night get-together of it. My uncle ordered the Lamb Curry ($10.95), with steamed rice served separately. There were quite a few pieces of lamb in the dish, as well as potatoes, peppers and onions (though I wish these were stewed a little longer). I liked the curry sauce as it provided a bit of heat, and wasn’t too sweet and was bursting with coconut flavour. Again, this was a very large portion, though my uncle had no trouble polishing it off.
My mom, Aunt Knife and Cousin Nomi all ordered the Noodle Combo ($7.95 with drink) I had above, but switched out the laksa base with the more traditional cilantro and century egg fish soup. They found that this soup had more flavour and depth, and after trying it, I would order this over the laksa. Again, their noodles were prepared well, and toppings were plentiful; Of note were the slices of luncheon meat (Spam) that Nomi ordered with her noodles, as these were pan-fried perfectly with slightly crisp outer edges.
The boys decided on the Kids Meal (forgot to take down the price, but something like $7), and were really excited to get them. Cousin Ham ordered the pasta in cream sauce meal, which came in a heaping portion of spaghetti with chicken and corn in a sauce that seemed like thickened Cream of Chicken soup. Cousin DingDing, on the other hand, ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese meal (with a ketchup-based meat sauce, which actually didn’t taste as bad as it sounds). Both Kids Meals came with 3 chicken wings (which they loved as much as I did), fries, and a drink (they had Sprite). We all felt that the portion size of this meal was more than adequate, as the boys, who are pretty big eaters, couldn’t finish the meal themselves– plus it was nice that they shared their fries with me, of course.
I like E2 Cafe because of the great food they offer at relatively low prices, as well as its convenience– I live really close by, but it’s also very easily accessible by transit, if one doesn’t want to tackle the horror that is their parking lot (since they share it with Sushi California and the other businesses there). Though there are a few Chinese places nearby, none of them are direct competitors, and I feel that E2 is superior in service anyways. If you live in North Burnaby, and don’t want to trek into Vancouver or Richmond to grab some HK style food, then E2 is definitely the place for you.
E2 Cafe Restaurant
501 B North Rd