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
I suppose that for many, that Christmas Eve itself is exciting, but for me, it’s usually a bore: my extended family all lives in Korea, so there’s not much in the way of new stimuli. We’d planned a Christmas Day dinner with our next-door neighbours, which I was looking forward to, but I was lacking plans for Christmas Eve. So I was glad when Pickles, Dolph, Sam and I decided to meet up for brunch and exchange some baked goods in honour of the season. And at Pickles’s suggestion, we decided on The Templeton, a kitschy diner on the corner of Granville and Helmcken.
The Templeton is a small, busy, bustling, classic diner, complete with a jukebox and pictures of Elvis grinning up at you as you eat. There was one server on duty, who was impressively efficient, and the decor was eclectic, but in a comforting way. The menu itself echoed this, with breakfast options that had a dash of creativity but weren’t too abnormal.
Dolph and Pickles both opted for the Mangled Eggs ($9), three eggs scrambled with garlic, bacon, and brie inside a toasted croissant, served with rosemary potatoes. Pickles had regular bacon, while Dolph decided to try the veggie bacon. Both enjoyed their breakfasts, especially the potatoes. Pickles noted that while the menu stated the addition of garlic, there was very little garlic flavour. Everything was especially delicious with Sriracha sauce, which was provided for each table, along with a bottle of ketchup. As for the potatoes, they were a big hit with all of us, with the addition of rosemary really adding an extra dimension of flavour. These seemed to have first been boiled, then pan-fried, and although I usually prefer string hash browns, these were excellent. As for the real versus veggie bacon debate, Dolph regretted her choice of veggie bacon, as it tasted more like tofu than anything else. You can’t beat real bacon, I suppose…
I had the Trucker’s Breakfast ($9) and Sam the Big Ass Breakfast ($12). My breakfast included 3 eggs, a choice between turkey sausage, bacon, or veggie bacon, rosemary potatoes, and toast (sourdough or whole wheat). The Big Ass Breakfast was the same, except for the addition of cinnamon French toast or blueberry banana pancakes. I had my eggs scrambled, and Sam’s over easy, and as you can see, we both decided on the turkey sausage. We ended up getting one order of the sourdough toast and one order of the whole wheat, with Sam choosing the French toast over the pancakes.
We both enjoyed our breakfasts. The scrambled eggs were fluffy and perfectly cooked. The turkey sausage was rather grainy, and a little bland. Although we realize that The Templeton has a focus on organic and vegetarian-friendly foods, we would have preferred if they offered regular breakfast sausage. The rosemary potatoes were lovely, having a nice crust without being oily. Our toast arrived buttered, but I would have preferred to have buttered it myself, as it was a bit too much for me. As for the French toast, it contained raisins, and was served with powdered sugar. We both enjoyed our breakfasts, and felt that they were of a respectable portion size considering the price we paid.
The four of us really enjoyed our breakfast at The Templeton, and I think this would be a great choice for breakfast with some vegetarian friends. Sadly I tend to be a bit carnivorous, and the one complaint I had was that they didn’t serve regular breakfast sausage, which is one of my favourite things about breakfast. Still, the food was tasty, especially the rosemary potatoes, and the service was a bit harried but friendly. Also I found the seats a bit uncomfortable and cramped, but it was part of the charm of the place. I would definitely recommend The Templeton as a tasty and inexpensive breakfast spot downtown.
1087 Granville Street
Way back at the end of June, my Scout group was going to a family camp on the Sunshine Coast. Seeing as the campsite was a drive, ferry ride and another drive away, a group of leaders decided to head in earlier. How early, you ask? I woke up at 5.
Naturally, after the ferry ride (which was surprisingly short, but then I’ve never been to the Sunshine Coast before), we were all famished, so we drove down to the waterfront, parked our cars, and wandered the streets in search of a restaurant that would fit all of us. We stopped by Molly’s Reach at first, but wanted to walk around a bit more to see what else the quiet little town of Gibsons had to offer. We actually walked right by The Waterfront Restaurant, but upon seeing the end of the road, we decided it was futile to go further, and turned right back around to The Waterfront.
Since our group was so big, we were seated in a semi-private area which included 2 other tables, which stayed empty for the duration of our meal. I liked this arrangement, as we could walk around and chat freely without bothering other diners. After some deliberation (and some coffee), as there were quite a few options to choose from, we placed our order.
Food came relatively quickly, and first up is HT’s The Big Breakfast, which included 6 (yes, 6!) strips of bacon (or 3 slices of ham, or 4 sausages), 2 eggs in any style, hashbrowns and your choice of toast or fluffy pancakes. This was a pretty standard breakfast, save for the larger portion of meat you could get– the eggs were prepared adequately, and the bacon was nice and crisp. While I didn’t like the hashbrowns very much (I like mine a little more fried so it’s more… brown), the standout for his breakfast were the pancakes. Fluffy, indeed. I only had 1 bite, but oh my goodness this was pancake heaven– I’ve never had any as perfectly light before, not even at IHOP, which presents itself as a pancake house (ha.). In fact, it was so great that I wanted more, and for those who know me, you know I never ask for more (or any) pancakes. Maybe if other restaurants made their pancakes as fantastically I would order them more often…
Actually, I did end up eating more pancakes because Samson had ordered the exact same dish as HT did. Bless his heart! Normally I would be a wee bit annoyed that he ordered the EXACT SAME DISH as someone else, but in this case, I’ll let it slide (: His breakfast was pretty much the same as HT’s, only he had his eggs done over easy. Anthony and Helen, too, ordered the same Big Breakfast and shared, but with 3 slices of ham instead of bacon. The ham was a little on the salty side, even for ham, but otherwise they felt that their meal was quite decent for the price they paid. I liked how their eggs were perfectly fried up, and that there were no black marks from a dirty pan (which you see in some franchise restaurants here, hem hem.)
Stephanie and Alicea both ordered the French Toast, which the menu describes as “2 slices of bread dipped in egg and cinnamon, grilled to golden perfection”. Steph’s french toast went a bit past golden perfection zone and into the burnt char zone– you can kind of see in the picture that the piece in the foreground has a darker bottom than the top. Alicea’s, on the other hand, looked ok.These two humongous pieces of toast were really filling (this picture doesn’t really do the size justice, but you can see the that more clearly in HT’s picture), and when slathered with syrup and peanut butter, made for a delicious meal. I thought that these could have been a little fluffier (pancaaaaakes, yum), but were fine as is.
Mr. and Mrs. Yiu both had the Gibsons Feast, which is again another standard breakfast featuring 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 pieces of ham and 2 strips of bacon in addition to the usual hashbrowns and toast. In general, they had the same comments as the others above who had the same breakfast, but added that their sausages were cooked well and were not too salty, and that everything was steaming hot when they dug in.
For myself, I had the Mediterranean Omelet, which is a three-egg omelet with onions, tomatoes, green peppers and feta cheese. This too came with hashbrowns and toast. I liked that the onions and green peppers were still crisp and not a soft, mulchy mess, and that there was an adequate amount of cheese to flavour the veggie omelet without overwhelming the natural sweetness of the veggies. My hashbrowns were pretty much the same as everyone else’s– a tad too soft for my liking. I did like the toast, though, as it wasn’t too dry nor too buttery. For $11.50, I felt that the portion was on the smaller side, but considering we were in a touristy area, the price wasn’t too out of range.
Our breakfast at The Waterfront Restaurant was just what we needed– a wake-up call after a long and early morning of waiting in lines. The food was nicely prepared, if not a little on the generic side, but really, what more could we have expected for breakfast? Prices were a little higher than what I was used to in Vancouver, but like I said above, touristy area = touristy prices. I didn’t get to take a look at their dinner menu, but I think I would come back here (for those yummy yummy pancakes!) if I were ever in the area again.
440 Marine Drive
In an area as densely populated and ethnically diverse as Vancouver, there are bound to be certain areas known for certain kinds of restaurants. Maybe I phrased that a little vaguely, but you get my drift. The North Road area is commonly known as an unofficial Koreatown, with two large Korean supermarkets on either side of North Road, and a huge number of small Korean restaurants and businesses. I live quite near the North Road area, so my family eats a lot of our meals there. However, on one April morning when my parents suggested going out for lunch, I didn’t feel game for our usual choice of Hee Rae Dung.
Jimmy’s Place was my choice for lunch. It’s a little difficult to find, as it’s way in the corner of a plaza dominated by Extra Foods and Petcetera (and also Hee Rae Dung), across North Road from Borandsi Cafe. I do walk by a lot on my way to Petcetera to buy cat toys. Still, every time I’ve been here, there are a large number of diners as well as people who just drop in for a cup of coffee. I think it’s something of a local hotspot, with clientele growing due to positive reviews on Urbanspoon.
Anyways…Jimmy’s Place is a little of a cheat when I say we didn’t want Korean food. Although the restaurant specializes in diner fare and breakfast, the food is cooked by a sole Korean chef (whose blurry face you can see in my photo there), and the service usually consists of two middle-aged, very sweet Korean ladies. It’s a little cafeteria style–first, you go up to order your food off the chalkboard, pick your own seats, and pour your own coffee and water, with the waitresses bringing your food out to your table. I actually prefer this, as the waitresses are polite and friendly but no tip is necessary.
My dad chose the Jimmy’s Special Burger, which is their house burger. You can also order it with their house fries or a bowl of soup. My dad found the bun a little hard, and the burger was so big that he found it a bit difficult to eat (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, when you think about it). He did remark that the vegetables tasted very fresh, and that the meat patty was moist. I found the price to be quite reasonable considering the patty is handmade–after all, even a meal at McDonald’s is getting quite expensive nowadays!
My mom chose to make her own Omelette, where you choose up to three ingredients (she chose tomatoes, onions, and bacon). The omelettes are quite large and served with toast (your choice of either whole wheat or white) and hash browns. She found the food on the whole to be not too salty, maybe bordering a bit on the bland side, but still quite enjoyable. The hash browns were savoury and tasty, especially when eaten with pepper and ketchup. My mom also ordered a cup of coffee, which I didn’t get a photo of, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She remarked that the coffee was the selling the point of the meal (I did see a lot of people come into the restaurant just for a cup of coffee).
I went for the Two Egg Breakfast, which comes with eggs (any style, I chose scrambled), toast (whole wheat or white), and your choice of bacon, ham, or sausages. As you can see, I chose the sausage, which was prepared well–served hot and not overly oily. As for the hash browns and toast, they were the same as my mom’s above–and the eggs was a little bland, but fine once I peppered and ketchuped them. It was a large breakfast, especially for the price I paid (something under the $7 mark).
As I’ve said in previous posts, Jimmy’s Place is my favourite place for breakfast in Coquitlam. The staff are quite friendly, and all the food is freshly homemade, with low prices. I guess the main con is that the food is a little bland, but it’s nothing a little pepper and/or ketchup won’t fix. Oh, they also only accept cash and debit as forms of payment, so if you’re dependent on your MasterCard or Visa, make sure to drop by an ATM before you go!
Jimmy’s Place Restaurant
435 North Road