Despite having been settled in Vancouver for the last seven years or so, my family had never been to dimsum before. I mean, I’d gone for dimsum before, but always with friends, never with my family. I’m not sure why, but it was probably due to the fact that we almost always go out for dinner, rather than lunch, and sometimes ordering at a Chinese restaurant can be daunting when you don’t speak Chinese. In any case, though, we finally decided to satisfy our cravings for dimsum by trekking out to Wah Wing one Sunday afternoon.
If you’re like me and aren’t too familiar with the world of dimsum, it can be difficult trying to decide what to order, especially since the English menu descriptions are usually less than helpful. Still, I know enough to order the Siu Mai ($4.25). The shrimp on top were a nice touch, being aesthetically pleasing and letting us know how much care was put into the food. The siu mai themselves were moist and meaty with a nice bounce, while the shrimp on top provided a nice textural snap.
I guess I’m still a kid at heart because one of my favourite items to get is always the Lo Mai Gai ($4.25), or the sticky rice wrap. It’s just so fun to unravel that lotus leaf and discover the sticky rice within. Anyways, the rice here was moist, but not too wet, and quite filling. It was also filled with meat and other savoury treats, like mushrooms, which added a slight note of earthiness.
Next up, we had the Steamed Beef Balls ($3.95), which were nicely cut up for us as to be more sharable. Beef generally isn’t my meat of choice, but here it was nicely tenderized, smooth, and tender. There was a subtle textural crunch from the water chestnuts. These balls also had a distinct aroma from the greens, and although I’m not sure what they were, I really enjoyed it.
We had another kid-friendly item in the BBQ Pork Buns ($3.95). The pork filling was predictably sweet, but also slightly savoury at the same time. I thought that the morsels of pork were also quite substantial, with less filler and fatty pieces than other dimsum I’ve had. For me, though, the highlight of these is always the bun itself, and here it didn’t disappoint, being pillowy soft.
I also ordered the Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($3.95). Here, it was not too greasy, again both combining the natural sweetness and savouriness of the ingredients. However, I found it a bit dense for my liking, and a little too dry, as I kept having to reach over for my tea. Still, I enjoyed it, as it was one of the more filling items at the table, compared to the dumplings or the beef balls.
Last up, we also ordered the Fried Green Beans Special ($7.95), which is a lunch special that includes a bowl of rice and a soup of choice. The beans themselves were very fresh and quite crisp. The taste of the beans themselves was allowed to shine, as the dish itself was neither too salty or spicy. Unlike other versions I’ve sampled, these also included some diced onions, which also provided an enjoyable textural crunch.
As part of the lunch special, we also received a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. I can’t pretend to be an expert on this, but I thought this was one of the best versions I’ve personally had. There was a good balance of flavours present, and the mushrooms added a subtle silkiness and earthiness. But then again, I enjoy mushrooms in just about anything. In any case, I especially thought that the fried green beans special was a good deal, considering that the meal includes both rice and soup.
Thankfully, though, my family enjoyed our first Vancouver dimsum experience, and so we decided to return for a dinner service. The restaurant was quite crowded, but the service was excellent, as it had been during dimsum. Our tea was promptly replaced without us having to hail down a waiter, and the servers, knowing that we weren’t Chinese, were thoughtful enough to identify each dish for us.
Once I saw it on the menu, I eagerly suggested that we order the Half BBQ Duck ($12.95), since I love duck in any form. To be honest, it was a bit pricey, but I think it was worth it, as the duck was moist and tender, and not at all tough, which can often be a problem with duck. The skin was crispy and flavourful without being too greasy, and there was plenty of meat on the plate as well.
My parents always like to order the Mongolian Beef ($12.95). This version was fine, but ultimately nothing memorable. This version was seriously lacking in the vegetable department. Some kind of broccoli would have definitely helped matters. It was fine, but nothing we would order again.
Moving on, we also had the Tofu with Minced Beef ($12.95). This pretty much had everything we were looking for. The tofu itself was silky soft, and went perfectly with the steamed rice we ordered. It was a little salty and a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The beef had soaked up the sauce and was admittedly quite salty, but I find that that’s the way it is at every restaurant. The portion size was also perfect for the price we paid.
Lastly, we had an item we always order for my mom’s benefit, the Pan-Fried Soy Sauce Rice Noodles ($10.95). The noodles were a tad too soft for my liking, as they could have been chewier. The onions, meanwhile, were undercooked, being too raw. Still, there was a nice assortment of ingredients on the plate, including large, tender slices of beef, so I suppose that makes up for it.
After two visits to Wah Wing, we were well-satisfied, and we would definitely return. I can’t say that I or my family are experts on dimsum, but both of our experiences here left us impressed with the food, the service, and the prices.
Wah Wing Szechuan Restaurant
2748 Lougheed Highway
Port Coquitlam, BC
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
Whenever I visit Hong Kong, I make sure to go have congee and noodles for breakfast at least 3 times a week– there’s a little shop near my uncle’s apartment in Tsuen Wan, and my mom and I (sometimes joined by other relatives) would trek over there to feast before heading out on our day. Here, that’s a little difficult, since most places that do serve congee are too far away for me to get to on a regular basis.
In fact, I haven’t had congee in the morning since my visit over two years ago. So when my dad suggested he drive me down to Richmond for breakfast while we waited for my mom to finish up her badminton game, I jumped at the chance to have a Chinese breakfast.
We actually got to Michigan Noodle House on Alexandra Road a few minutes before opening. Funny thing was, if it weren’t for a huge traffic jam on the 91, we would have arrived far too early, and would have chosen some other place to eat. So you could say that it was destiny…
We were the first ones in the restaurant, so we had our pick of the tables. We chose a booth furthest from the kitchen so we (really, I) could watch the goings-on of the waiters and chefs. After checking to see if the congee I wanted was on the menu, we flagged them down to get our order in.
My absolute #1 favourite is the Pork Stomach Congee ($6). My other favourite is the century egg and lean pork congee, but when pork stomach is present on the menu, I always get it. This one was full of thick, chewy pieces of stomach that tasted clean and fresh– stomach, and other innards, are notoriously hard to clean out, but they did a great job here. The thin slivers of ginger and rings of green onion helped to add some crunch and flavour in the congee (think porridge, but with rice instead of oatmeal), which was lightly salted. I felt that the congee was a little too mushy, as the rice was too broken-down. Maybe it’s just me, but I like my congee a little grainier. I would also have liked them to add some black pepper in, but the white pepper at the table did the job.
It is my opinion that congee should never be served alone, and any Chinese restaurant (that serves congee) worth their salt should also have fantastic Chinese Donuts ($2). I really liked the one they had here, as it was fried up fresh (I saw them in the kitchen), so it was nice and hot when it arrived. It was also very light, crispy and chewy, and not overly greasy. Cut down to a good size, these were perfect for dipping into my congee, and I wanted to order another one just to munch on, but that would have been a little too indulgent.
My dad likes his noodles, so he ordered the Shrimp and Pork Dumpling Noodle Soup ($5.25), which looked pretty small in size, but ended up being quite the hefty bowl. The long, thin wonton noodles were the right texture, being slightly chewy, though they were a bit long. I understand that it’s tradition to leave the noodles uncut (they signify good luck), but that just makes it a lot more difficult to eat, and as you remember, my chopstick skills are not great, and don’t involve cutting chewy noodles (I left that for my dad to do). The four large dumplings had a thin, wrinkly skin, and hid some really well-made filling. The shrimp and pork were both appropriately bouncy and chewy, and the wood ear mushrooms provided that crunch needed to round out the dumpling. The soup was quite flavourful, but I didn’t detect too much MSG in it, which is always a plus.
I felt that our meal here was pretty standard, but definitely did the job in satisfying my 2-year-long craving. Prices are rather reasonable– one can get very full for less than $10– and the noodles were of especially good quality. I do wish that the congee was less goopy, but that is the way that some restaurants make it, so I can’t complain too much. There are many other restaurants like this in Richmond (and Vancouver), but if I were in the area and had a hankering for noodles and congee, Michigan Noodle would be on my list of restaurants to choose from.
Michigan Noodle Restaurant
8580 Alexandra Rd
So, Mui Garden closed down, leaving my family in despair. Maybe despair is a strong term, but my family is picky about what we eat, and when it comes to Chinese food, there are many restaurants we can’t dine at due to our aversion to MSG. I’d heard great things about No. 1 Chinese Restaurant on the corner of Hastings and Boundary, so my family drove out there for dinner one night. We arrived early and were seated promptly, but the restaurant quickly filled up, which is always a good sign.
The interior of the restaurant is a bit odd. Beside me there was a mural of a landscape that vaguely reminded me of an amalgamation of Switzerland and Greece. Apparently the spot was formerly occupied by a European restaurant, and the new owners opted not to paint over the themed mural. I personally hate murals (the minimalist in me prefers a plain wall), but a restaurant should be judged primarily on its food.
Apparently the dish to get here is the Deep Fried Tofu with Golden Garlic ($8.50). I had no idea what to expect from this. After all, what’s so special about tofu, right? But we all fell in love within a couple bites. The outside layer is a bit salty and crunchy, but the tofu inside is incredibly smooth and silky. My mom has sensitive teeth and often has to be careful about what she eats, but this was perfect for her. This came out piping hot, so keep that in mind before you take a bite. All the dishes we tried were delicious, but this was the most memorable for me.
The dish I was least satisfied with was the Wonton Noodle Soup ($4.95). The main reason is that I’m not a huge fan of MSG, and I could taste it in the soup, plus I was terribly thirsty and headachey afterwards. Other than that, I found the noodles a bit tough, and thought that they could have been cooked a bit longer. The wontons consisted of a pork and prawn filling and a smooth, slippery skin. The skin was also quite thin, which I liked. I’m not sure I would order this again, though, since I have a low tolerance for MSG.
Next up is the Spicy Szechuan Fried Beans ($8.95). The green beans were fresh and actually tasted like real vegetables, which was nice. I often find that fried veggies lose their crispness, but not here. I also liked how the accompanying pork was julienned, which made it easy to pick up and eat, unlike the ground version found at other restaurants. Also, the beans weren’t saturated in sauce, which was great, and in reality the flavour was quite mild, although there was some heat. I really appreciated how this wasn’t too salty, which made it an enjoyable dish for all of us.
We usually make an effort to order a dish with prawns, since my mom really likes them, and here we ordered the Pan Fried Prawns with Peanuts in Chili Sauce ($12.95). They were fine, but didn’t stand out in comparison with the other dishes at the table. The prawns had a nice snap and retained their natural sweetness, while the veggies tasted crisp and natural. I actually expected these to be spicy, but I didn’t think that they exhibited any real heat. This dish was more than fine, but I didn’t end up eating much of it, since we had a lot of other great dishes at the table.
Next up, we have the Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles ($7.75), with a vermicelli version also offered on their menu. If given the choice, I always choose rice noodles–I much prefer the broad, chewy noodles to the thinner ones. In addition to the huge heap of noodles, the dish included some bean sprouts and bits of fried egg. The curry sauce was subtle and not too overwhelming, and the prawns were once again satisfying. This was a great portion size, especially considering the price, and easily fulfilled my carb quotient for the meal.
The last item we ordered was the Rock Cod and Tofu with Pork Hot Pot ($9.95). Doesn’t it look delicious in the photo? Well, looks don’t lie, because this was a solid dish, to say the least. I loved how the fish was just a little bit crispy on the outside, and flaky and moist on the inside. The tofu was a bit sweet from having soaked up the broth, but was both chewy on the outside and smooth on the inside. We’d ordered a couple sides of rice, and eating these hot, steaming pieces of tofu and fish alongside the warm, white rice was heaven. This was also a great value for the price, and we would definitely order this again on another visit.
Overall, I have nothing but great things to say about my family’s experience here. The food was well-executed and served in sizeable portions, and the prices were quite reasonable. As far as service goes, it wasn’t exceptional, but the servers were friendly enough and always made sure that our cups were full. I would definitely recommend that you pay a visit–and make sure to order the tofu when you’re there!
No. 1 Chinese Restaurant
102A-3701 Hastings Street
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been to Golden Lake in the past year or so– including both dim sum and dinner visits, I’d ballpark it around a dozen. For my family, that’s a lot, since we tend not to go out to Chinese restaurants too often (it’s usually just my mom and I, and you can’t really order much if there’s only 2 people eating it). This time around though, we went with my dad and Samson, to enjoy the short Alaskan King Crab season, which runs roughly from the middle of February to mid-March, depending on the amount of crabs shipped over.
My mom, dad and I actually wanted some king crab last week, but as it was just the three of us (and we weren’t feeling exceptionally hungry), we decided to wait a week so that Samson could join us too. Our visit wasn’t all for nothing, as we did have one of my all-time favourite dishes, Peking Duck ($26.99/2 courses)!
Here, they bring out the entire roast duck and slice it for you at the table– a little entertainment to go with your dinner, if you will. Some may find Peking Duck incredibly unhealthy (it is mostly duck skin, after all), but I think that this is the bestest thing ever. No, really. If prepared right, the crisp duck skin, wrapped in a thin steamed pancake, drizzled with a little hoisin sauce and topped with slices of green onion is a real delicacy– my favourite restaurant for this is actually in Hong Kong, but I do like the one offered at Red Star Seafood Restaurant (on South Granville Street in Vancouver). The one they offer here at Golden Lake is quite good, but the skin isn’t quite as crispy as I’d like. I appreciate that they include a little bit of meat with the skin, so that it doesn’t induce tooooo much guilt.
Now, since throwing out the rest of the duck would be an utter, horrifying waste, most restaurants offer it served in an additional one or two ways. We opted for one other course, and this came out soon afterwards in the form of the Lettuce Wraps. Here, the duck is chopped up and pan-fried with water chestnuts (for that satisfying crunch), green onions and plated atop crispy wonton skins. Again with hoisin sauce as a condiment, you would put a few spoonfuls of the duck mixture into the freshly cut lettuce, and eat it taco-style. I’ve been to restaurants where this isn’t executed very well, because the lettuce is ripped up oddly, creating crevices for the cubed meat to fall out of. At Golden Lake, the lettuce leaves are whole, and there were quite a few pieces too. I like this dish for its differing flavours and textures– you have crisp lettuce and wonton wrappers, crunchy water chestnuts and chewy duck, and it’s all a mingling of sweet and salty that just seems to work out. For reference, the third course is often a duck soup or “gung”, which is a starch-thickened soup.
You probably came here to read about our adventures in the wonderful spiky world of the Alaskan King Crab, so without further ado, here it is! King Crab, like most seafood, is served by the pound, and Golden Lake is currently selling it for $16.99/pound (I’ve seen it go as low as $12.99 last year). The King Crab in itself is also a three-part meal, and there are many preparation options. The Crab Legs always come up first, and we chose to have them steamed with garlic and green onion. Eating crab is often the bane of my Chinese restaurant visits– I love it, but I’m lazy and I hate getting my hands dirty. With King Crab though, all that isn’t such a big deal, as the legs are served split open, and it’s as easy as eating lobster — you just pull it out with the little fork! These were prepared perfectly, as the fluffy, sweet meat just slipped right out. As well, the minced garlic was steamed to the right point, so they weren’t overly spicy from rawness, but still had that great garlicky taste.
The next course consisted of the Crab Knuckles, which could be prepared with a seasoned salt rub (tsew yim) or battered lightly and tossed with dark soy, green onions, ginger and onions. We chose the latter, as its our usual preference for crab and lobster, but I hear that the seasoned salt is a more traditional approach to it. The knuckles came out steaming hot, and were again very well executed– the batter was very, very light, and the soy sauce seasoning wasn’t too salty. As well, the crab meat was still fluffy, and wasn’t drowning in oil. This take on the dish is a little messier than the legs, as you have to do a little work to pick out the crab; however, I thought that the work was definitely worth it, and I’d love to have this dish again.
Served shortly after the knuckles was our requisite veggie dish, the Baby Bok Choy with Gingko Nuts and Bean Curd in Broth ($15). We had ordered this dish during another visit, and felt that the simplicity of it would go well with our decadent meal tonight. There really isn’t too much to say about this– the veggies were cooked properly, the broth was appropriately seasoned– it wasn’t a fantastically stellar dish, but it did the job.
The very same minced garlic and green onion mix (actually taken from the empty platters of crab legs) is used as the broth base for noodles in the third course. I found this practise to be a little puzzling (hence, why it was important to use a separate pair of chopsticks to pick up the legs), but it made sense in the end, as the Garlic Noodles were infused with that delicious crab aroma from the first course. For this course, you could choose from e-fu noodles (a spongy thick egg noodle often served with lobster) or sang mein, which is the kind you’d see in a bowl of wonton noodles. We chose the sang mein, as it tends to soak up more of the sauce; e-fu noodles need more oil to be cooked well, and we thought it would probably overwhelm the dish. Along with garlic, this veggie dish is cooked with bean sprouts, chives, and green onion. The noodles were cooked al dente and were quite chewy, but I thought that there was a bit too much water in the dish, making it wetter than I would have liked. The garlic was pretty overpowering in this dish, and I found it a smidge too salty for my tastes.
As for the King Crab itself, it certainly was an indulgence– our crab was just under 10 pounds, making the price for the crab about $170; to make it into a 2 course meal, you need to add $28; and to get the noodles, you have to add another $15. If you’re keeping count, that means we nearly spent a whopping $240 for a meal for 4 people, and that’s definitely not something we’d do every day. If you have the funds for this kind of a splurge, I’d say go for it (at a reputable restaurant so your money doesn’t go to waste). As for myself, I don’t know if I would have king crab anytime in the next few years…
Sometimes, instead of a noodle course, the Alaskan King Crab head is used as a container for baked rice; however, our server Peter (the floor manager, I believe), recommended that we go with the noodle dish, as our head didn’t have much meat in it, and we’d get more bang for our buck with the noodles. His presence as our server on both nights was much appreciated (though was a little too talkative at times…), as he gave us great advice with regards to portion sizes, and how many dishes we should order. There was never any pressure to order more food (or more expensive food, on our Peking Duck night), our tea and hot water was always filled up, and our plates were always being changed over. We did go eat at a later time (we ordered our food around 8pm), but I’ve been during peak hours for both dim sum and dinner, and service is equally good then. After finishing yet another satisfying meal with fresh-baked almond cookies and taro-tapioca dessert soup, I hope that you’d find the same service and quality here that makes Golden Lake one of my favourite restaurants!
3555 East Hastings Street
Whenever someone gives me a restaurant recommendation, I add it to an ever-growing list I keep on my phone. However, because of my school schedule, work schedule, and various other commitments, I don’t have enough time to eat out as often as I’d like. For the past year or so, the list has been growing and growing, and I’ve made very little progress in crossing restaurants off it. One of the restaurants that I’ve meant to visit for a long time is Peaceful, one of many noodle joints on Broadway and Cambie. I finally got to try some of their famous noodles on a recent trip with SB.
This is a small, crowded, narrow, bustling restaurant. We arrived quite early for dinnertime (sometime around 5:30), and so were seated immediately, but by the time we left, the place was completely full and many diners were waiting for a table. Although the seating bordered on being uncomfortable, it just spoke to how the popular the place is.
I took a while perusing the menu, and ended up ordering the Sizzled Hot Chili Noodles ($7.95). You can order the noodles to be hand-pulled or knife-shaved, and I opted for the former. The noodles were drizzled with hot chili garlic oil, and served with bok choy. When this first arrived, I was taken aback by the copious amount of chili seeds, but it was surprisingly not too spicy. It tasted more sour to me than anything else, which I’d expected, considering my previous experiences with Mandarin cuisine. The noodles were decently chewy and had good bite. I found that there was a tad too much oil for my tastes, but other than that, the dish worked and was quite enjoyable.
Meanwhile, SB ordered the Shanghai Pork Chop Soup Noodles ($7.95). There’s nothing too complicated about this dish, which is simply crispy fried pork chop and spinach in a savoury broth. For this bowl, we had the knife-shaved noodles, and they were satisfyingly chewy. As you might expect, you could really feel the texture with each noodle, which was great. The pork chop, meanwhile, was a little crispy and a tad dry, but fine when eaten with the savoury soup. This was a great bowl of noodles, especially for the price. I would classify this as comfort food, and definitely something I’d look for on a rainy day.
And, finally, we shared the star dish of the night, the Peaceful Beef Rolls ($7.95), which had five-spice beef, green onions, and sweet hoisin sauce rolled in a crispy flatbread. To put it mildly, I loved this. It was crispy without being too oily, and had the perfect amount of hoisin sauce. The green onions were more there to provide a textural contrast than flavour. I’ve had several versions of this dish, and I loved how this particular version seemed more like a pastry shell in a sense, being very flaky but also fluffy on the inside. The four pieces were quite substantial in size, and I felt quite full after having two pieces in addition to my bowl of noodles. Guy Fieri raved about this dish in an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and it definitely lived up to the hype.
There are a great number of noodle places in this particular intersection, ranging from ramen shops to pho, but there’s a reason why Peaceful is so ridiculously popular. I would go back anytime to try more of their noodles and, of course, for the beef roll. If you’re looking to eat in a place with great ambiance, this obviously isn’t what you’re looking for, but it’s quite family-friendly and a good place to grab a quick bites with friends. The service is quite minimal, and the servers were always busy, but they were about as friendly as I expected them to be. Overall, Peaceful lived up to the hype!
532 West Broadway
My family and I have exhausted most of the Korean eating options around North Road, the boundary between Burnaby and Coquitlam. Despite being Vancouver’s unofficial Koreatown, there actually aren’t that many great Korean restaurants to eat at. Then again, I don’t enjoy eating out for Korean food when I have such an excellent chef at home (my mother, not me). Once again, my parents wanted to try something new, so we decided to lunch at the North Road location of Mui Garden.
The restaurant is very spacious, but was mostly empty when we wandered in. One of the servers was incredibly friendly and helped us navigate the menu, making suggestions and even overriding some of our choices. Still, we trusted her, figuring that she knew better, especially after our not-so-successful venture at New Szechuan. The other servers were indifferent at best, tossing menus onto our table in a mostly gruff manner, but ah well. I’m used to that kind of service.
Our first dish, recommended by the server, was the Pan-Fried Green Beans with Minced Pork ($10.95). To be honest, I’m not much a vegetable person, so I was unsure about green beans, but this was a winner. The pork was a bit too salty from having soaked up the sauce, but the beans themselves were crisp and tasty. I liked how they had a slight taste of the sauce while still retaining the crispness of the vegetables. I suppose that it might seem too bland for some people, but we enjoyed it. The portion size was also great, as we ended up packing some for home. (We had ordered three dishes between the three of us).
Due to my dad’s somewhat restrictive diet, my parents have been opting for a lot of fish and tofu recently, so they were happy when the server also recommended the Braised Rock Cod with Roasted Pork and Deep Fried Tofu Hot Pot ($14.50). Although it was a little pricey for lunch, this dish was well worth it, and well-executed. As a whole, the ingredients were all soft, smooth, and silky, especially the fish. The pork was roasted in small cubes that simply tasted like regular ham. It was a mild broth with cabbage underneath that tasted great with rice.
I ordered the Boneless Chicken Curry ($10). I guess the server approved of my choice as she didn’t offer a better alternative as she did with some other dishes we wanted to try. This curry was mostly sweet and coconutty, and not at all spicy, and quite unlike an Indian curry, which I expected considering the venue. Although it was a tad watery, I still enjoyed eating it with the provided rice. Besides the chicken, the bowl of curry also included potatoes and onions. The coconut flavour was very strong, which I personally love, but if you’re expecting a spicy curry, I wouldn’t recommend this.
After this successful first visit, we returned with my brother near the end of 2012. Out of curiosity, my brother ordered the Half Hainan Chicken ($12). Hainan chicken is simply chicken boiled in a chicken bone stock, served cold. This was our first time having hainan chicken. And to be perfectly honest, we didn’t enjoy it. It’s mostly because we were unfamiliar with this dish, and to someone unfamiliar with the dish, it looks less than appetizing. This particular version was also quite bland, even when paired with the provided chili sauce and ginger oil. We ended up leaving most of this dish untouched. Although we tried to like it, we ultimately couldn’t. I suppose that’s more personal preference than anything else, however, and our opinion is meaningless when evaluating Mui Garden’s hainan chicken compared to other restaurants.
We were served by the same lady on this night, and this time, she recommended the Pork Chop with Spicy Salt and Hot Pepper ($11.50). Although this was a good portion size, the pork itself was a little too tough to eat, and nothing special. Overall, it was an acceptable dish, but not amazing. The pork was quite dry, and although it was well-seasoned, I found it to be a tad too salty for my tastes. Although the menu warned that this was a spicy dish, my primary impression was the saltiness.
For our carb quotient, we ordered the Special Fried Rice Noodles (Singapore Style) ($9.50). I personally was looking forward to this dish since I’ve always loved rice noodles. These didn’t disappoint, with the noodles being perfectly chewy. The bean sprouts were crispy, and there was a good assortment of ingredients, with plenty of vegetables and shrimp. Surprisingly, there was a spicy aftertaste to the noodles, which added another dimension of flavour to what could have been a simple, boring plate of noodles. One complaint I had was that the noodle to ingredient ratio seemed a bit off, as I would have appreciated even more noodles.
My family really enjoyed both of our visits at Mui Garden. Although some of the waitstaff were surly and silent, one server really went out of her way to make us feel at home, which we appreciated, since this isn’t our native cuisine. The food, in general, was well-prepared, and although the prices are a little higher than I’d prefer, it was still an enjoyable experience. One thing though: they are cash only, so remember to go to the ATM if you’re dependent on plastic like I am. I definitely will be going back though, especially for those green beans!
4327 North Road