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Month: September 2015 Page 1 of 3

Soffee Cafe

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My guest stumbled on this one while walking the neighbourhood. A cute little high tea cafe in the area surrounding South Granville. In an area of chic clothing boutiques and high end furniture stores, this cafe was like a hidden gem, a welcomed sight that seemed out of place.

Waking to the cafe you see two sets of tables and chairs for outdoor eating, and a sandwich board encouraging you to “be yourself cause everyone else is taken”. Through the open door and the wide windows you see white lace curtains and frilly doilies. You can’t help but to get excited at the potential of the adorned scene to follow.

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A singer sewing machine greets you at the threshold. Surrounded by several tiny jarred succulents and a vase of pale carnations, it is used as a backdrop for their business cards.

The restaurant’s theme is Victorian and it was done very cohesively, flowing from corner to corner, and from dining room to washroom. The classical music playing over head definitely helped to further set this tone. Its melody was airy and dainty, like how I felt just being in the room. There were several different elements within the room, they were all different, yet somehow felt complimentary. Tables of different colours and furniture in different patterns, they all seem to fit together in their contrasting way.

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On the walls hung paintings that reflected the tea culture. Landscapes of Vienna, Moscow, Venice; any where you can find a tea parlour like this. The whole scene was reminiscent of being in your grandmother’s or at least a great aunt’s living room. A curio showcased antiques. Behind mirror and glass were tea pots and matching cups. Rose petals and green leaves painted on white porcelain and shiny brass kettles with tall spouts. This showcase overlooked a handsome dining room set up that we would claim fork itself. A full length table set with a lace cloth, gold chargers, and a sugar bowl. Hanging above a pearl strewn chandelier.

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Speaking to the server, we discovered that he and his mother owned and operated this cafe together. He ran the front of house and the customer service piece and his mother worked in the back, helping to prepare everything we would soon enjoy. Not often do you see a mother and son team working together, let alone so well organized, it truly warmed the heart.

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Our food was made to order from scratch, so as expected, it did take some time to travel from kitchen to table. Though having to wait in such a charming setting wasn’t a bad thing. We took the time to explore their baked goods and plan our dessert order by the counter. The latter was a refrigerated showcase of sweets and treats that included vegan and gluten free options. Creme burlee waiting to get a sugar coating, apple pecan fritters, and tiramisu pudding. And on the counter top were butter croissants, blueberry yogurt muffins, and double espresso chocolate cookies.

The menu offered soups and salad, and with advance notice, a high tea service. However, so far I have been unable to plan far ahead enough to call 24 hours in advance, to reserve going one of three tiered treat tower. None-the-less I had some really greats dishes below. The following dishes were taken of and written account the two shares visits.

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We had the soup of the day, on a Tuesday. It was a carrot ginger with pumpkin. A thick and hearty brew with a deep spicy throb. It felt very fall, warming as the day grew colder. Any soup order comes with a piece of tomato focaccia. It was flavourful, but too dry. It definitely needed help from the the soup to give it some moisture.

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This “Seafood chowder” was taken to go. It was a good mix of seafood with several pieces of frozen shrimp and scallops. The chowder was creamy smooth with a zesty peppery tone. Fishy, and best taken with crisp crackers.

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“Spinach salad”. The recipe called for almonds, but my guest ordered it without, leaving it as fresh greens meets sweet and tangy dressing.

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“Smoked wild salmon panini on house made focaccia” with tomato, cucumber, and their house mixed caper cream cheese. All sandwiches and crepes are severed along side. This was an organic side salad with raisins and a balsamic vinaigrette. The salmon was fragrant, together with the fresh veggies and flavoured cream cheese, it was like a dressed up version of salmon and lox. The balsamic signature was a nice decorative touch. It certainly made the plate more memorable.

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“Ham, cheese and egg crepe” with rosemary ham and mozzarella cheese. I strategically ordered this to perfectly compliment with the soup of the day, below. The crepe was like breakfast in crepe’s clothing. We were warned that they all would come coated in agave syrup, regardless of their filling and its intended being sweet or salty. Agave syrup is sweeter than honey and tends to be less viscous. Even though salty and sweet are delicious as they played off one another, I would have preferred a plain crepe with agave syrup or a savoury ham and cheese stuffed crepe. Both but not together. And this crepe was even more savoury, with actual herbs mixed into it batter. I also found there to be too much salty ham for such a light crepe covering. Remove access pieces was an easy fix.

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This Wednesday’s soup of the day was a creamy tomato. It was thick yet velvety. Packed full of flavour because of all the herbs mixed in. Best taken with bread and cheese.

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“Roasted pull chicken crepe” with sautéed bell peppers and caramelized onions. It is served with a side of their house gravy, along with the expected side salad. The filling could have used some draining as it got pretty mushy. Otherwise the flavours were strong, a nice fall flavour.

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For dessert we had their creme burlee. As I may mentioned above, they were premixed and left to set in dishes ready for a good torching. It was removed from the refrigerated showcase and sprinkled with sugar in the back. Then once torched to a nice gold brown it is brought to your table. You get the same initial crack in sugar with the first puncture. But the cream was more liquid pudding than smooth whip. Although even with the texture was off, the flavour was spot.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This was a nice setting to take a breather at, a peaceful stop in a busy area and has become an escape for us. The food feels like something a loving parent would make, you feel taken care of by it and through the diligent service provided. I would definitely like to plan a return trip to be able to try their high tea service and maybe some organic teas. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SOFFEE
1426 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6H 1E1
604-736-6668
soffeecafe.com
Soffee Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tacos la Cantina

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A road trip to Narin Falls in Pemberton had us in Whistler for dinner. We had no destination in mind, but stopped at the Olympic plaza when we saw this Mexican restaurant. My partner is a big fan of tacos, and doesn’t need a reason to try a new one at a new place. And this cute little cantina not only offered tacos, but burritos and salads as well.

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The setting is old timey gas station meets cabin in the woods, with a patio out front. It is purposely rustic and intentionally worn. Chipped paint, dinged corners, it’s all part of its lived in charm.

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Inside the interior was like a basement, industrial with red brick walls, ventilation tubing, and caged lights. By the front door, the wall had a sign reading the “mayor’s office”, painted right across the brick, using the restaurant’s actual door as its “entrance”. And what sat underneath it felt just as out of place. An old timey biscuit tin, a metal crock pot, leather luggage, and a bundle of backyard torches. Though if the interior of the restaurant was acting as the exterior of the major’s office, the vintage parking meters a few steps away made sense.

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It also complimented the rest of the washroom’s decor. It’s theme, military dressing room chic. A repurpose set of shutters for a mirror, a row of lockers for employee storage, a steel barrel for a garbage can, and an old school top down toilet in functioning order.

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Tonight the restaurant was especially packed, large groups came to diner together, not leaving much room for any one person to linger within. You order at the counter and help yourself to any free seat. All the tables lining the windows and the few free standing high tops were all taken.

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There was a row of bar seats down the hall, enroute to the washrooms. Though it’s ledge was so narrow that you were almost nose to nose with the window. Any attempt to move back resulted in blocking the way for anyone to pass behind you. So we ended up claiming one of the outdoor two tops. Luckily the weather was temperate, even with the rain trickling around us. The outdoor was signed designating the patio for restaurant diner’s only. Surrounded by stone work and strung with lights it was quite the romantic scene.

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The menu was a series of chalkboards listing alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, street tacos, burritos, and salads. You order and pay, then wait for them to call your name.

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“Brisket burrito” with slow cooked brisket and potatoes in a tomatillo sauce, with cilantro and onion. We added avocado for $1.50 when offered the option. We figured it would come like guacamole, smothered within the bundle wrapped by a flour tortilla. Though, it oddly came just as slices of avocado arranged on top of the folded burrito. Not really with the burrito, and not really missed without it. We later used the avocado slices for the bland tacos instead. The filling was heavy like a stew, and hearty with all the beans. Together each bite was filling and warming, and too much for one sitting.

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The “Chicken tinga” taco was made with pulled chicken, chipotle tomato sauce, cabbage salad, and cilantro pesto. The tangy pickled cabbage out shone the zesty chicken as the star of the dish. It gave each bite a solid crunch and a needed vinegar tang. I saw the pesto and felt its grainy texture, but wished I could taste it as well. Overall it looked more interesting than it tasted. It needed something crunchy like crispy pork rinds, and something flavourful like a Sriracha mayo. This could have gone so many different ways, to not have it so bland.

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The “Fish taco” was fish breaded in their cornflake crumble; and served with guajillo mayo, and cucumber pico de gallo. The fish was definitely the best feature in this taco. Light and crispy, it was so good, but would have been better with a tad more salt. The juicy salsa-like topping was the perfect accompaniment to it, but it too fell flat in the flavour department. Nothing a generous scoop of tartar sauce couldn’t remedy.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If in whistler again, I definitely wouldn’t mind stopping for another snack-able taco or more filling burrito. The food was fresh, it came fast, and we left full with our money’s worth; it is just a shame that they couldn’t make the flavours as bold as their colours. If at all else, the setting is worth enjoying. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LA CANTINA
129-4340 Lorimer Road, Whistler BC
604-962-9950
tacoslacantina.ca
Tacos la Cantina Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Karameller

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A walk through Yaletown yielded the discovery of a new candy shoppe. I didn’t need anything and I wasn’t craving anything, but I just couldn’t resist the beck and call of some of the colourful sweet stuff. Though based on the exterior, you couldn’t really tell what you were walking in to. Looking into the wall to wall windows you saw an all white on white interior. It gave you that sterile clean feeling. Like even though the bins are bulk, and many hands holding tongs have dug behind the plexiglass, things were kept as sanitary as possible. It was comforting, and how I wanted all my spas and salons to feel.

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On the right had side were over 80 covered bins housing over 80 different times of candies. And these weren’t your generic gummy worms or fuzzy peach. These were candies free of GMOs, candies free of trans fat, and candy free of high fructose corn syrup. Candy can truly never be good for you, but I did feel better about eating a handful of these in one sitting.

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You begin by picking your packaging. Depending on your sugar needs you could choose between two sizes of paper bags or a plastic jar. The latter would be best for gifting, and the former, candy for yourself or for any casual occasion. I was feeling greedy and went for the larger bag, only to choose a little of all that I wanted with plenty of empty bag space left. Next you picked your tools. Hanging on pegs were several tongs and several sugar scoops. You can use either one. To be selective with accuracy I went with the tongs. And finally the fun part: browsing the isle, reading each labels, and making your candy claim.

There was a strawberry bubble gum mushroom cap with a marshmallow like chew to it. Vampire teeth with blood soaked fangs, amongst a regular row of teeth. A merger of six cream filled twizzler rods stuck together to form a flower. Cola bottle gummies with more of a sticky toffee- like chew than a real fizzy gummy cola flavour. I remembered the “red and blue energy” because of its name. A half yellow and half red or blue cylinder that tasted like tangy like lemon.

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There were mixed sour lips, coco mallows, super sour strawberry keys, various sour skulls, raspberry drops, bear hugs, and chocolate marbles. Swedish skulls, marshmallow boats, mini fried eggs, caramel and banana marshmallows, and sour strawberry apple wrenches. Sometimes the names were misleading and didn’t really reflect the candy. Like with the liquorice dumble, the one eye monster, and sweet and salty. Once again, nothing from your local grocery store isles, nothing you could get wrapped in plastic.

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I now understand the meaning of a kid in a candy store. The sensation of having all those options before you, and being able to go crazy with sugary lust, so long as you can pay the fee. You were charged per pound, a fixed price no matter which candies when in to your bag or jar. A grocery scale was available if you wanted to weigh in as you went. When it was time to pay, you did so at the counter towards the very back. Behind it stood a lone man, servicing the whole shop. He was welcoming from behind his counter, but not to point of leaving its safe confines. Not that I needed any help picking out what colours I wanted from a certain bin, or deciding what I liked the sound of or the look of the most.

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As for the candy themselves, they tasted good. They were soft yet firm so you know they were fresh. Everything tasted light and almost guilt free. So good, that I sincerely though of going back the very next day for more. And I may have finished them all in one day. I will definitely stop by the next time I am in the vicinity of Yaletown.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Who doesn’t like candy? Who doesn’t like being a kid in candy store, literally? And these candies are worth trying for yourself. No GMOs, no trans fats, and no high-fructose corn syrup. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

KARAMELLER
30-1020 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2T5
604-639-8325
karameller.com

Yummy Coco Cafe

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Looking for an after dinner treat, we spotted this one driving by. As per most Richmond cafes and tea places, they had a fun to say name, “Yummy-coco”. And in the moment, that was enough of a reason for us to stop in for dessert. Though we should have known better than to dine in, when there was no one inside, yet plenty of cars continued to park in front of the juice bar across the street. But by the time we got to the entrance of “Yummy-coco cafe” we were sold on its their cutesy decor. Outside, frosted window decals speckled a Paris skyline with asterisks, and a bubbled trim gave the windows the appearance of curtains. It was chic and alluring for any girly girl who appreciates finer things, or at least the illusion of it.

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They had some semblance to a Parisian theme with a chic black on white look. Black trimmed detailing, a white fireplace backed by imitation stone, and white shade chandeliers with crystal orbs dripping from its centre. On a few shelves and across the fireplace mantle stood several miniature Eiffel Tower statues, and various knick knacks holding space. Miniature potted plants, empty frames, and two yellow giraffes that seemed out of place.

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Each white laminate table was coupled with either a white or black dimple cushioned chair, and set with a miniature carousel. White horses with a pink mane on a flower and jewel encrusted base. It certainly helped to achieve the princess feel they were going for.

I appreciated their fairly animated menu. Coloured photos partnered with stylized borders and scripted fonts. It certainly made we want to flip through the whole thing, which I did. It listed quite an extensive array of savoury snacks, sweet treats, and colourful beverages. Each featured on its own laminated page. They had Taiwanese style light snacks, sweet and savoury style waffles, treats appropriate for a high tea service, ice cream and honey on toast, thick toast with melted spreads, Mille crepes, coconut pudding, taro rice balls, and Hong Kong style desserts. On top of their extensive drinks selection covering everything that you would expect at a bubble tea shop. Red, black, white, green, milk, and flower tea; slush, powder, and fresh pressed juices. All this and still they didn’t see much business, I wondered. Though it wasn’t until we honed in on the asking prices and saw what came before us did we realize why they weren’t as popular as their neighbour across the street. The prices paid for what we got didn’t balance out. Especially as much of what we ordered ended up being prepared ahead of time and simply plated to serve. I wondered if they at least made it themselves, or did they sourced out from a supplier?

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The “Milk tea cloud” was at least made to order between the shaken milk tea and the freshly spun cotton candy. However, it was still disappointing. On the menu it was pictured as an oversized cloud-like puff topped with rainbow coloured confetti-like sprinkles. Whereas the reality was, this was literally just cotton candy balanced over a glass of powdered milk tea. It saddened us just looking at it. There wasn’t even any pearls in the milk tea, yet we were charged $7. And what was worst, the cotton candy didn’t even mesh well with the tea. It was very sticky, it melted on your fingers and stuck to your teeth. And when it hardened from soaking up moisture from the tea, it simply melted and stuck steadfast onto the glass, as web-like streaks that wouldn’t budge. It didn’t look much appetizing after that, so we ended up discarding the rest.

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We ordered the “Osmanthus coconut pudding”, which turned out to be another case of false advertising. It’s photo showed tiny flowers soaking in syrup, above an even layer of pudding. Instead, what we got was just plain coconut pudding. When we brought it to the clerk’s attention she insisted that what she had given to us was “Osmanthus coconut pudding”, and that the flowers were mixed in at the bottom. We ate the whole thing trying to find one speck of yellow, just one flower petal. Nothing, nor did we taste anything other than coconut, and the osmanthus flavour would have been distinct by comparison. “Osmanthus” is a type of edible flower used throughout East Asia. Its scent and flavour is likened to apricot and peach. I am convinced that she lied to us, and I did not appreciate the deceit. Had she just told us that she had made a mistake, I would have been okay with having the floral syrup on the side, to use as we liked. Instead she committed to her statement and left us. Luckily there was no difference in pricing and we weren’t charged more for less.

And to continue with our grievances, upon its delivery, the same clerk mentioned that they cut the opened incorrectly and that the opening was fairly narrow. Then why didn’t they fix it or give us a new one? Why were they okay with giving us something not up to normal standards? We accommodated, taking the wide spoon and struggling to scoop out what we can without being able to see what our spoon dug into. As for the pudding itself, it was good. The flavour was refreshing and the jello-like consistency was fun to slurp through clenched teeth. And for more texture you could scrape out some young coconut meat to chew along with the firm pudding. This must be a very popular item as the front counter housed the very same coconut pudding in the husks of young coconuts, ready for take out.

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We wanted to try a Mille crepe, I never had one and previously thought “Mille” referred to the ingredients used to make this dessert. But “Mille Crepe” is a French cake with multiple layers, “mille” means “a thousand”. It is nod to the cake’s 20 layers done with a combination of fresh cream and vanilla custard between each one. The topmost layer is caramelized to give it a nice smoky sugary flavour. We originally choose the mango flavoured one, but they were sold out. Then one by one we found out their chocolate, green tea, durian, and classic flavour were also sold out. Funny, as it wasn’t too late on a weekday and they didn’t seem to have too many customers coming through. We were eventually given the option of a “Strawberry Mille crepe”, that wasn’t even listed on the menu. We took it. As I mentioned earlier, this was not made to order and I don’t believe even made in house, so it seems unfair to give them the credit of such a luscious dessert. It was delicious, like having yogurt on a crepe.

 

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
We left very disappointed, on top of not getting what we wanted, being lied to, we also felt over charged. Things were over priced, nothing was as advertised, and presentation lacked effort. For the amount we paid we expected more, especially given the decor and the set up. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

YUMMY COCO
6211 Buswell Street, Richmond BC
778-997-2072
Yummy Coco Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mega Sushi

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There are so many fusion sushi and Japanese places in the city. How does one stand out? How do you choose one place when the others, when they all offer something similar, if not same by another name? Each of these place is trying to make their own mark. They each attempt to craft the perfect roll with the most ingredients, and one that has the most unique ingredients. Replacing rice for cucumber, seaweed for bean curd. Anything that would deem them innovators in the North American sushi game. And when that fails to make a ripple they rely on clever names or funny puns. Sushi named after streets signs, local areas, or familiar landmarks. Or rolls with names have have you taking a second look. Why is it called that? Or that sounds interesting, I wonder how it tastes.

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Today we were at one of the more well known fusion sushi purveyors in Steveson. One of my guests have been before and she recommend their sushi for taste and presentation. She was definitely right about the latter. They pull out all the stops with theatrics. I guess people are not just interested in the food anymore, they want a show with it. How is the sushi prepared, how is it plated, and how will it translated into photographs? The rolls below were sushi with a story, maki plated to resemble something else. And when that fails they even use flames to attract attention. You know you are successful in the above when a plate walks by a table and those who see it ask what is it and proceed to order one for themselves.

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From the exterior the restaurant didn’t seem very special. You would think they would put just as much effort in to the decor and the setting as they did on each plate. We were given a seat across from the sushi bar. Although built with a counter, the sushi bar wasn’t actually used to seat patron, instead it was home to pitchers of water, excess cutlery, and stacks of dishes. Between us and the other tables close to the entrance/exit was a wooden divide. They dressed up the barricade with potted greenery. Grass in clear cups, and weeds in green platers gave colour to the otherwise dark brown space.

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I liked the right wa11 with its uneven wood block build. It had a 3D look with several pieces jutting out further than others. The ledge they created was used to display tiny plastic figures. Hard to see, other than by the shadows they cast. I made out safari and ocean animals, and even a tiny man fishing.

Similarly to a past review of other fusion sushi rolls, at a different restaurant, I too found that majority of the flavours blended well together. They all had similar foundations and used similar ingredients, so therefore tasted alike. It was a even balance of salty and sweet, and tangy with heat. The kind of flavour you get from mixing Chinese hoisin and oyster sauce together. Though each roll had its own way of leaving you with a memorable mark.

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The “Dragon roll” had fire. I saw the flame from the sushi counter and immediately told my guest that I wanted it. Little did I know that it would end up before me. It was an avocado, cucumber, and imitation crab in a roll with grilled BBQ eel on top. The roll was cut up and rebuilt to snake in a “S” shape like an Asian dragon would. The fire burning in the dish, at its end was for presentation sake only. This was the breath the “dragon” blew. The gimmick worked on me, before I knew this was ours, I wanted it. I saw it sitting on the counter and scrambled to see which was it on the menu. Essentially the base was a California roll, the glazed eel and raising flame hid this fact well behind smoke and mirrors.

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The “Monkey brain” was one ordered for name sake. I don’t know how a monkey’s brain looks like, but I guess this was a decent guess, round and veiny? It is deep fried avocado with juicy crab meat and cooked tuna, coated heavily in two sauces. It pretty much just tasted like the salty and tangy sauce everything was drizzled in. Salty and spicy. Each wedge was fried crispy on the outside, but smooth and paste-like in the middle. It almost melted in between your lips. I really wasn’t able to make out any of the crab or tuna stuffed in. Not that it needed more flavours or additional ingredients. Deep fried anything is win, but even more so when it involves avocado. I liked it texturally the best.

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The “Sexy roll”, an eye catching name, but one I wasn’t sure of. Why was it given its name? Was it done so with the belief that eating this would be low calorie and healthy roll equates to being sexy? Avocado, imitation crab, tuna, salmon, ebi, and tamago wrapped with thinly sliced cucumber. No rice, no carbs. It was a clean and simple bite. Refreshing and light, like eating a salad.

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The “Blue ocean roll” looked more like the “garden roll”. Especially with it ends crafted to look like bloomed flowers. Though its name actually refers to the fresh raw fish used. Red tuna, hamachi, salmon, radish sprouts, and avocado in soy wrap with a tobiko topping. This was the closest thing we had to authentic sushi, where the fish is highlighted.

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The “Tank roll’s” name was clear by its sheer size. Though we would have also accepted “beast roll” or “elephant roll”. It had everything. It was the fusion of a California roll, a Philadelphia roll, and dynamite roll; all rolled into one. Made with prawn tempura, salmon, tuna, tobiko, ebi, smoked salmon, imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, and cream cheese. This one was a two biter, but good luck trying to get it to stay in one piece.

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The “Godzilla bite” was tuna and salmon on a deep fried seaweed and rice base. It is then torched before being topped with spicy chopped scallop, alfalfa sprouts, and tobiko. It and the accompanying ring of salad greens was then seasoned with their special dressing. The vinaigrette had things tasting of mustard. This was essentially a pancake of rice and seaweed flattened, fried, and then cut into bite sized pieces to be used as the base for fish and scallop. They reminded me of sushi canapés. This was my favourite of all the rolls. I liked the charred flavour and the fact it was served warm. And the alfalfa stood out, giving things a peppery taste.

Our meal ended with milk based candies accompanying the bill. Melon, banana, and a milk flavoured milk candy.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
It wasn’t the best sushi I have ever had, but it was some of the best and most creative sushi presentation I have ever seen. The extra embellishments really set it apart for me, reason enough for a revisit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MEGA SUSHI
#100-3131 Chatham Street, Richmond BC
604-447-0773
toktokvan.com
Mega Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Teppan Kitchen

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Aberdeen centre’s food court snakes around and allows over 20 different stands to have their own dedicated space. Lots of effort was put into decorating each stall. Each had its name in bold, a menu with photos, and some even a display of items served utilizing accurately portrayed plastic food. Not surprisingly, most of the writing used was Chinese characters, but the coloured photos and the glossy fake food helped to bridge the language gap. I will be covering all 20 of the foodcourt dining options across several posts.

“Teppan Kitchen” specializes in cooking on iron plates. “Teppan” means iron plate. It is used in this more portable version of “Teppanyaki”, a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food on. This stall and their style of cooking is a trend that has suddenly become popular in Vancouver, thanks to the pageantry and price point of “Pepper Lunch”, a teppanyaki restaurant also located in Richmond. Given how popular and busy that location is, it is nice to see another vendor offering something comparable in a setting more convenient.

The menu lists protein and/or veggies on said iron plate. Each order comes with rice, leaving you to decide what meat, seafood, or vegetables you would like to accompany it. Like the other Japanese themed food stalls, this too included a visual showcase of plastic food, along with their photographic menu. You can choose from different cuts of beef like rib eye or NY strip loin, a 14 spiced chicken, Atlantic salmon, eel, or pork. They even cater to the North American palette with a creamy seafood linguine or fresh potato fries, served on the same trademark iron grill plate.

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We had the “Grade “A” ribeye teppan” with egg and corn on rice. The hot iron plate sat on a wooden base, to protect the heated metal from melting the food court tray. The tray you used to bring it all to your chosen table with. This being in a food court, I can see the potential problems of bringing your own tray from stall to seat. Trays being too heavy and trays being dropped, or crowds being pushy and a trays being jostled. The hazard of heated iron on someone’s foot is not a pretty picture. Each iron plate was outfitted with a circular trim of paper. It acted as a written warning and a visual caution from touching what could burn you.

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The meat and fried egg continued to sizzle at our table. The tender cuts of beef went red to cooked before our very eyes. Though any additional lingering before eating could result in overcooked and dry beef or burnt rice. And if that happens, you only have yourself to blame. Especially if you are like me, and were too busy taking multiple photos to eat when the food was still hot. The sunny side up egg was perfect to mix into the crisping rice. If done while the plate was still smoking you could essentially make your own fried rice. The meat was luscious, a few pieces stayed pink, which made them all the more tender with the gravy soften rice. Simple and delicious home style cooking. It’s appeal was definitely in its theatrics.

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To drink we had their “Iced honey matcha tea” was similar to a steeped and chilled green tea, but with additional sweetness thanks to honey.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
As I mentioned earlier, if you like “Pepper Lunch”, but not its lines, “Teppan Kitchen is a fine substitute. Located in a convenient mall, with easy transit access and free parking. I found the food just as good, with its limited selection. The prices were comparable, if not less. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

TEPPAN KITCHEN
Aberdeen Centre foodcourt
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
604-270-1234
aberdeencentre.com
Teppan Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saboten Express, Japanese cutlet

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Aberdeen centre’s food court snakes around and allows over 20 different stands to have their own dedicated space. Lots of effort was put into decorating each stall. Each had its name in bold, a menu with photos, and some even a display of items served utilizing accurately portrayed plastic food. Not surprisingly, most of the writing used was Chinese characters, but the coloured photos and the glossy fake food helped to bridge the language gap. I will be covering all 20 of the foodcourt dining options across several posts.

The “Saboten, Japanese cutlet” food court stand specializes in authentic Japanese tonkatsu. “Tonkatsu” is breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet in either fillet or loin. This was one of the stands that had fake food behind a glass window. It helped to illustrate how their food would look. And helped in luring you in. This presentation looked clean, minimalistic. Each set option came with various sides, some included shredded cabbage, rice, soup, pickles, and additional sauces and spices to season to your tastes. Though it was hard to distinguish each piece from part when they all have the same golden orange batter coating them evenly.

The options for the different sets are tenderloin, loin, tenderloin and loin, or shrimp. We went with their their “Saboten set”, that had one of each. It included breaded and deep fried prawn, pork tenderloin, and pork loin. But if you want a little more kick in your meal you can also have your “tonkatsu” with a side of Japanese sweet curry, instead of rice and cabbage. Or make it even more simple and just sandwich your “tonkatsu” in between two slices of white bread; thus giving you some of the most evenly rectangular sandwiches I have ever seen.

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But back to our “Saboten set”. Its presentation was definitely on point, the way the meat was propped up just so, on the mound of evenly shredded lettuce. And the way all the elements were placed strategically on the one food court tray. With all the extra features you got, it made you feel like you got more than what you paid for. Despite the thorough frying, the meal was not heavy with grease. There must have been a equally thorough blotting after dips in oil. Each piece of pork was crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked in the centre. Not too dry, not too salty. I am not a big fan of pork, but I could be if I eat enough of this. The prawn stick was best coated in tartar-like cream sauce. And the black sauce gave everything else an extra savoury kick, when it all started tasting the same. The pickles were equally helpful in mixing things up. They gave the dish the acidic tone it was missing.

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Their “Iced genmaicha” was just regular Japanese green tea on ice.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Having been to Japan, I have tried a few tonkatsu; and out of all the ones I have tried in BC, this by far is the most authentic. I now know where to go when I get that specific craving. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SABOTEN
Aberdeen Centre foodcourt
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
604-270-1234
aberdeencentre.com
Saboten Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Strike sandwiches

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Aberdeen centre’s court snakes around and allows over 20 different stands to have their own dedicated space. Lots of effort was put into decorating each stall. Each had its name in bold, a menu with photos, and some even a display of items served utilizing accurately portrayed plastic food. Not surprisingly, most of the writing used was Chinese characters, but the coloured photos and the glossy fake food helped to bridge the language gap. I will be covering all 20 of the foodcourt dining options across several posts.

“Strike” sandwich shoppe serves white bread sandwiches filled with meat and vegetables. The twist, these were Asian fusion sandwiches, and therefore some of the ingredients that are not common in North American sandwiches were used in these Asian adaptations. For example pork floss is a common sandwich topping in Asia, but in North America consuming meat with a texture of cotton may not be too appealing. “Pork Floss” is a dried meat product with a light and fluffy texture similar to coarse cotton. It is often used in sandwiches with butter. It tastes salty and savoury, but not quite like meat. Definitely an acquired taste and texture.

The booth was fairly simple. You ordered from a back lit menu highlighting all their options. Below it a black board drew out what goes into their sandwich building process, layer by layer. And up front a showcase of plastic food tempted you with what you could be having. Not just sandwiches, but salads and fries for sides as well. Despite their names, each sandwich had a lot going in to it. The “Black Forest ham sandwich” included egg, lettuce, and tomato; from what I could make in the photos. The same went for the “bacon sandwich”, the “hash brown and cheese sandwich”, and the “lettuce, egg, and cheese sandwich”.

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Their “strike signature burger patty sandwich” was a piece of art with all its perfectly crafted and perfect cut ten layers. It starts off like a North American club with toasted bread, sliced cooked poultry, fried bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. But to it they added two additional white bread layers, a thin burger patty, fried egg, julienned cucumber, and some sort of sweet jam. Surprisingly you taste the cucumber’s flavour the most, and even more surprisingly was how well it went with the jam that was spread under it. Both stood out, making the sandwich less heavy, but instead more sweet than salty. With a good crunch thanks to the evenly toasted bread and the crackle of a deep fried egg.

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The “Taiwanese style egg wrap” was essentially a sandwich in a different wrapper. Like the actual bread sandwiches, you too could customize your build, utilizing all the same ingredients as the regular sandwiches did. Hamburger patty, bacon, ham, egg, sausage, pork floss, etc. This was one of their specialties that came with corn, fried egg, and tuna. This was a new assembly to me. Not only in the use of this thicker crepe-like dough as a wrap, but also in the combination of tuna and corn in one bite. The wrapper was nice on its own. But the filling of peppery egg, sweet corn, and fishy tuna took away from it. Especially the canned tuna meat, and the amount of pepper use to hide that fact that it was from a can. The roll was greasy to the touch, and hard to get use to bite after bite. I would not be able to get a whole serving of this down. Though if you had to, we were also given a tangy brown sauce and a salty ketchup that helped to. The hoisin-like brown sauce made it more savoury for dinner or lunch, and the ketchup with eggs made it feel like a breakfast wrap.

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To drink, we had their homemade matcha soy bean drink. With it, you get a lot of that distinct soy bean strength; but not any of the matcha, other than its colouring.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I would pass on the egg wrap, but the sandwich wasn’t bad. However I just can’t picture myself going to eat out and ordering just a sandwich. Especially when I can make one myself for much less. The price for one is the same as buying the ingredients to make many. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

STRIKE
Aberdeen Centre foodcourt
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
604-270-1234
aberdeencentre.com
Strike Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Estea Express & 8 Juice

Aberdeen centre’s court snakes around and allows over 20 different stands to have their own dedicated space. Lots of effort was put into decorating each stall. Each had its name in bold, a menu with photos, and some even a display of items served utilizing accurately portrayed plastic food. Not surprisingly, most of the writing used was Chinese characters, but the coloured photos and the glossy fake food helped to bridge the language gap. I will be covering all 20 of the foodcourt dining options across several posts.

There are two stalls dedicated to just beverages. Below is my comparative review on both.

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“Estea Express”, as its name suggested, it was an adaptation from the popular, multiple location “Estea” restaurant chain. They specialize in bubble tea and serving Taiwanese cuisine. Though at this stand they strictly offered drinks. Milk tea, green tea, black tea, white tea, red tea, frozen fruit slushes, natural fruit juice, juice with yogurt, and even a soy pudding drink. And of course each one listed under those categories gave you the ability to add pearls, coconut jelly, mango stars, grass jelly, and aloe Vera to the mix.

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We had the standard “Milk tea with pearls and coconut jelly”. Though not standard was how sweet we found it. It seemed to be made without consideration of the coconut jelly acting as a sweetener.

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From “8 juice” we had their house special: “Mango coconut juice”, with tapioca, mango, and pomelo bits. With its lumpy and foamy texture I would consider it more sauce or cream than juice. It’s granular consistency reminded my guest of an Asian “Orange Julius”, making drinks from fresh fruit, but with a lot of extras bits. I enjoyed the chewing element thanks to the tapioca and pomelo fruit. Though I would consider this more of a dessert than a beverage, especially since it tasted like a watery mango pudding and we ate it with a spoon.

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Unlike the drink stand before, “8 Juice” only uses fresh fruit and vegetables. Therefore I would consider them almost the healthier option. Especially with the available green fruit smoothies and pressed wheatgrass as options. And the ability to extract juice from fruits and vegetables on the spot. They made piña coladas from scratch, the freshly squeezed lemons for lemonade, and blended real papaya for papaya milkshakes. All real ingredients and no powder. They also brought together unlikely pairings that would be worth trying. Apple and celery, banana yogurt and aloe vera, kiwi and milk, and bitter melon juiced. But like the stall before they too offered add ons, which they called “toppings”. The same pearls, aloe, coconut jelly, grass jelly, and mango stars; but also had protein powder and chopped up fruit bits available.

Looking at both stands and then comparing them side by side you can tell one used only fresh ingredients and the other only dabbled in real fruit juices. Especially as they are located side by side. “Estea Express” only had a menu to decorate their stand. Their blending and mixing operation was done behind a raised glass partition, out of customer’s eye sight. Where as “8 Juice” had a menu picturing real fruits, real melons sitting on their counter, various green vegetables at the ready on a shelf, and behind the sneeze glass was enough mangoes to wallpaper it completely.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Both drink stands serve different functions. And both are good in their own way. When thirsty in the mall, both are an easy stop for thirst quenching.
Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ESTEA EXPRESS & 8 JUICE
Aberdeen Centre foodcourt
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
604-270-1234
aberdeencentre.com
Estea Express Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
8 Juice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aberdeen Centre food court

When you get a little older and you make a little more money, you don’t often come to a food court for dinner. When you look to eat out, you look past the fast food and opt for a sit down restaurant. However we were here at Aberdeen’s food court, because I wanted to give my friend a little bit more experience in the Asian food scene. He is Caucasian with an Italian and Irish heritage. He has dabbled in some Chinese food, but not to the extent that he would be experiencing here tonight. I have often invited him to dine with me when I visit Chinese restaurants. As I have mentioned in the past, I cannot accurately describe Chinese cuisine as I grew up with most of it, and it has always just been food to me. Whereas with his non familiar input, I earn a more fulsome review.

So what better a place to explore Chinese and Asian cuisine, than a food court with over 20 independent vendors and over 100 different menu options to try? And at the speed and the prices of a food court, there was no need to commit and no fear that anything we/he didn’t like would be a terrible waste.

But getting there first would prove challenging. Not having visited the city of Richmond regularly, and not having stepped in to this mall often, we are unfamiliar with its layout. Parking in the free underground lot was easy, just navigating the space inside was a struggle. They had recently expanded, creating Aberdeen Square as a secondary building and additional retail space, to accompany the existing Aberdeen Centre. Entering through the parkade and following the signs, we stepped into rows of empty shops with leasing information posted for each. It took us a while to figure out and find the passage linking new building to old.

My guest found the entire mall, both its sides odd. Growing up in Burnaby and having “Metrotown” as his after school stomping grounds, this Richmond mall was bizarre to him. All the stores and what they stocked was foreign to him, literally and figuratively. I have never been, but this is how I expect a mall in Asia to be built and housed, but just much more bustling with business. He couldn’t help but to compare this to “Park Royal” in West Van or “Pacific Centre” downtown. In this mall there were no franchises. No “Starbucks” around every corner, no familiar names likes “Burger King” or “New York Fries”, and no familiar mascots like “Ronald” the clown or the “Colonel” of fried chicken. Instead, it was one of shops and one of a kind food options. Or so we think. I comforted him, suggesting that what we were seeing in the food court were franchises and that all the stores were probably well known in Hong Kong or Taiwan. He remained lost, he even felt the traffic or lack there off was a miss for him. Though I did enjoy being able to move without having to avoid bodies or slowing down to accommodate Sunday walkers.

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The food court is definitely the main feature of this mall. Especially if you are not looking for international branded clothing or overpriced anime or video game memorabilia. For my Caucasian guest, it definitely was the only place he found appeal in. Women’s clothing did nothing for him, nor did the ginseng store, and the shop that sold only electronic toilets. The food court was located on the top floor. It saw the most traffic and had the most draw, therefore took up the most space. Despite years in operation, it was a lot newer and a lot cleaner than most food courts. You could tell the space was very well maintained, ironic as the washrooms were the opposite. Asian washrooms in general are used in deplorable ways by their patrons. But that aside…

The food court was not a giant circle as is the case with most, it snaked around and allowed over 20 different stands to have their own space. Lots of effort was put into decorating each stall. Each had its name in bold, a menu with photos, and some even a display of items served utilizing accurately portrayed plastic food. Not surprisingly, most of the writing used was Chinese characters, but the coloured photos and the glossy fake food helped to bridge the language gap.

There was effort put into the lighting: hoola hoops of red or green LEDs lined the ceiling, and panels covered in bright bulbs were screwed into freestanding walls.

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There was plenty of seating, across several sectioned area. A few had backdrops and live trees to perk up the setting. One wall was a graphic design spelling out, “beautiful gardens”, “feng shui”, and “cafe”. Another, faded images of people eating with their faces blurred, and the tag line, “restaurants”. There was no need to fight for seats, there was plenty of room to choose between booth or table. To position yourself with a view of the window, or to have all the adjacent tables around you left empty. And apparently all of it was very comfortable as tested by a few guests taking an after meal nap in the food court. There was even an arcade and games to play, for those not eating or finishing faster. Entertainment as they waited for the rest of their party.

Just be warned, they don’t appreciate you taking photos of the food court or its vendors. I was stopped by the security guards patrolling the area and the mall, but was able to talk my way into him letting me continue my photo taking for the sake of this blog.

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Tonight we would try 31 dishes, sampled across 20 food court stands.

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We started with the drink stalls, “Estea Express” was first. As its name suggested, it was an adaptation from the popular, multiple location “Estea” restaurant, specializing in bubble tea and serving Taiwanese cuisine. Though at this stand they strictly offered drinks. Milk tea, green tea, black tea, white tea, red tea, frozen fruit slushes, natural fruit juice, juice with yogurt, and even a soy pudding drink. And of course each one listed under those categories gave you the ability to add pearls, coconut jelly, mango stars, grass jelly, and aloe Vera to the mix. We had the standard “Milk tea with pearls and coconut jelly”. Though not standard was how sweet we found it. It seemed to be made without consideration of the coconut jelly acting as a sweetener.

 

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From “8 juice” we had their house special: “Mango coconut juice”, with tapioca, mango, and pomelo bits. With its lumpy and foamy texture I would consider it more sauce or cream than juice. It’s granular consistency reminded my guest of an Asian “Orange Julius”, making drinks from fresh fruit, but with a lot of extras bits. I enjoyed the chewing element thanks to the tapioca and pomelo fruit. Though I would consider this more of a dessert than a beverage, especially since it tasted like a watery mango pudding and we ate it with a spoon. Unlike the drink stand before they only use fresh fruit and vegetables. Therefore I would consider them almost the healthier option. Especially with the available green fruit smoothies and pressed wheatgrass as options. And the ability to extract juice from fruits and vegetables on the spot. They made piña coladas from scratch, the freshly squeezed lemons for lemonade, and blended real papaya for papaya milkshakes. All real ingredients and no powder. They also brought together unlikely pairings that would be worth trying. Apple and celery, banana yogurt and aloe vera, kiwi and milk, and bitter melon juiced. But like the stall before they too offered add ons, which they called “toppings”. The same pearls, aloe, coconut jelly, grass jelly, and mango stars; but also had protein powder and chopped up fruit bits available.

 

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The “Bubble Waffle” stall sold more than just its name sake. They had Hong Kong style snacks like hurricane potatoes, pork dumplings, and savoury rice rolls. And full entrees like seafood soup noodles and spicy pork noodles. But I am assuming their specialty was their bubble waffles available in Oreo, green tea, strawberry, cheesecake, chocolate, and sesame flavour.

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We had the original waffle. It is essentially an egg waffle, given its “bubble” name because of its descriptive spherical shape. They are round and hollow in the middle, like a bubble. It is an eggy leavened batter cooked between two plates of semi-spherical cells. They are best served hot, and often eaten plain. These were good as is, but can also be enjoyed with fresh fruit, whipped cream, or even ice cream for a more decadent dessert feel.

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The “curry fish balls” were served and eaten with sticks, there is no easier way to grapple them than to puncture them. They were full of flavour, but not because of the usual sweet yellow curry I am familiar with. Instead they were heavily spiced with chilli flakes and oil. It made them spicy with a back of the throat burn and bitter with an acrid aftertaste. I would have preferred both balls and sauce served in a soup noodle dish.

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The “Iced lemon ribena” was not as expected. It didn’t taste like the black current drink I am use to. This version was heavily carbonated with the inclusion of club soda and lemon. It was good, but not what you expect when you are expecting ribena.

 

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The “Aji Hana” booth advertised that they were a Japanese eatry serving udon in their title. However with all their televised screens advertising sushi and roll combos, they looked more like a sushi shop than anything else. Outside the not obvious visual display of “noodle strands” between un-proportionate chopsticks. Noodle strands that looked like squiggles snaking down a column that split their restaurant in two. They must be very popular to need a stand that was essentially two to form one one. More space to cook and serve more food I guess. On top of various maki, nigiri, cones, sashimi, and specialty rolls; they also offer what many sushi shops would. Appetizers like gyoza, Takoyaki, fried chicken, seaweed salad, and assorted tempura. And entrees like meat and fish over rice, with only a few option for udon noodles in soup.

They covered the common rolls like “BC”, “California”, and “Alaska”, but also dabbled in their own specialty rolls with their own unique names. These names too, didn’t really speak to what ingredients were actually in the roll, but were of places familiar to Vancouver living. “Victoria roll”, “Stanley roll”, and “Canucks roll”. People love a name that they can associate to themselves.

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We had the “Sakura roll” with prawn tempura, avocado, and chopped scallop. It was standard sushi, but impressive for a food court. Based on the gentle fish and the warm rice I could tell this was made to order. And even though it was not the typical sushi temperature or its typical texture, it is one I could appreciate and one I would order again.

 

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The “Chef of Dumplings” stall had a pretty self explanatory name. They specialized in dumplings, but also served unique items like Hong Kong style shark fin soup, spicy squid tentacles, and solid Chinese pudding.

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These were some of the best dumplings I have ever had. “Pan fried Chinese chives with pork dumplings”. They were your standard style dumplings without any additions or unique twists, they were just done really well. Homemade by hand and cooked to order, you could tell these were prepared on the day of and not sitting behind some refrigerated glass. The dough had an enjoyable chew to it, and even after some time in a pan for frying it was still tender. The frying just added a slight crisp to the skin, without any excess oil left behind. Although presented with a soy sauce for dipping, none was needed. The filling was chalk full of flavour from the evenly salted pork meat to the fragrant green onion stalks. I would order this to eat there or to go.

 

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Ironically we ordered appetizers from the “Wu Fung dessert” stand, though it was all I could do as they technically didn’t offer any desserts. Another mystery was the little blue wagon with wheels pictured on their sign. Given that it had Chinese characters that I was unable to read, I was unable to find out want it eluded to. They had vats of pre-cooked food warming under lamps, but you could also pick and choose from their a la carte menu hanging above. Their menu comprised of savoury Asian street snacks, that most of us are familiar with from exposure to the Richmond night market scene. There was also a make your own noodle option that was interesting. It allowed you to choose between vermicelli and rice noodles, then pay extra for the amount of toppings you wanted. Two, three, four, you paid more for more. And as expected with Chinese cuisine, there wasn’t just pork chop, tofu, and fish balls to choose from. There were aloe more exotic ingredients likes beef tripe and tendon, cuttle fish, pork bung, and pig’s skin and blood. Only for the daring, and that does not include me. So we stuck with their deep fried street meats. This is a combo platter with their deep fried chicken wings and their deep fried squid piled on top of one another.

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The deep fried chicken wings were Chinese style chicken wings. No sauce, just crispy, salty chicken skin hiding juicy chicken meat. I can see myself eating a dozen North American chicken wings, but cannot imagine more than three of these overly salty and overly greasy wings. Maybe the story would be different with a side serving of rice to eat them with.

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Although they were also deep fried, the squid was less greasy. They were crispy on the outside with a nice manageable rubbery texture in the middle. It was easy to tear tentacle with teeth.

 

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The “Lung Kee” stall was similar to the other Chinese food stands. It too offered noodle and rice dishes, but focused a lot of attention on congee. Soup and noodle bowls with dumplings or balls. Or congee combos with a choose your own topping and sides option.

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Though we had none of that, and instead enjoyed the “prawn wontons” served in a clear broth. The soup warmed you and kept the wontons in a warming bath. You could tell the prawn dumplings were made fresh. They were filled with lots of salty meat that and would have went well with a nice starchy egg noodle. Though over all it was pretty generic, and yet still better than most food court options.

 

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At this point I realized that there seemed to be a trend in misleading vendor names. The “Youguo Chicken” booth specialized in Taiwanese meals, protein with noodles and meat with veggies in bento boxes. And not just chicken, they also did pork chops, sausages, fish fillet, and marinated pork butt.

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But we stayed true to the promise of chicken from “Youguo” and had their “Popcorn chicken nuggets”. They were bites of deep fried chicken with more batter than white meat. The breading was seasoned with pepper and salt. It was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Although good, it was nothing unique to them and nothing that other stalls in its vicinity didn’t offer as well.

 

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The “strike” sandwich shoppe was not surprising, what my guest found most comforting. Especially considering that they were your standard white bread sandwiches filled with meat and vegetables. The twist, some of the ingredients that are not common in North American sandwiches were used in these Asian adaptations. For example, they used pork floss. “Pork Floss” is a dried meat product with a light and fluffy texture similar to coarse cotton. It is often used in sandwiches with butter. It tastes salty and savoury, but not quite like meat. Definitely an acquired taste and texture. Not many enjoy cotton mouth.

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We had their homemade matcha soy bean drink. With it, you get a lot of that distinct soy bean strength; but not any of the matcha, other than its colouring.

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Their “strike signature burger patty sandwich” was a piece of art with all its perfectly crafted and perfect cut ten layers. It starts off like a North American club with toasted bread, sliced cooked poultry, fried bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. But to it they added two additional white bread layers, a thin burger patty, fried egg, julienned cucumber, and some sort of sweet jam. Surprisingly you taste the cucumber’s flavour the most, and even more surprisingly was how well it went with the jam that was spread under it. Both stood out, making the sandwich less heavy, but instead more sweet than salty. With a good crunch thanks to the evenly toasted bread and the crackle of a deep fried egg.

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The “Egg rolls with corn, fried eggs and tuna” was new to both of us. Not only in the use of this thicker crepe-like dough as a wrap, but also in the assembly of the ingredients to fill it with. The wrapper was nice on its own. But the filling of peppery egg, sweet corn, and fishy tuna took away from it. Especially the canned tuna meat, and the amount of pepper use to hide that fact that it was from a can. The roll was greasy to the touch, and hard to get use to bite after bite. I would not be able to get a whole serving of this down. Though if you had to, we were also given a tangy brown sauce and a salty ketchup that helped to. The hoisin-like brown sauce made it more savoury for dinner or lunch, and the ketchup with eggs made it feel like a breakfast wrap.

 

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The “Szechuan House” served Szechuan style cuisine. An Asian cuisine known for its has bold, pungent, and spicy flavours; mostly derived from the liberal use of garlic and chili peppers, and the unique flavour of the Sichuan pepper. Even their logo and menus warned customers of how spicy their food was. Red signs and a cartoon chilli pepper that matched the red and orange lanterns hanging overhead. They too served dumplings, along with all their soup based hot noodle dishes. Their hot pot, original wonton soup, Szechuan Dan Dan noodles, and hot and sour soup noodles were so popular that they earn their own poster above the counter. The other options had smaller photos beside fine print descriptions, taped to the sneeze guard glass. Newly added menu options found a home as cardboard cut outs sitting on the counter.

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I like hot and sour soup, so figured the “Hot sour noodle soup” was just that. l was wrong. It was all hot and no sour in the soup. I cannot take too much spice in my food and chilli peppers were all there was. The heat numbed my inexperienced tongue. Shame, as I enjoy glass noodles and would have liked to enjoy a warming soup dish. My guest on the other hand found the heat delicious, but the noodle and their rubbery texture unappealing. I would have also liked more than just noodle, broth, and peppers. Maybe a tofu puff or some fish ball slices, for a break in taste and texture.

 

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The “Tofu Hotpot” stand offered single serve hot pot, which essentially is just a bowl of soup and some with noodles. Each option was its own flavour and had its own ingredient mix. Beef, pork, lamb, seafood, and tomato veggie.

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We had the “Drunken chicken hot pot”. Not what I imagined with the name, but it was warming just the same. It was a good mix of textures with the rubbery mushroom, the water logged up tofu, the soggy cabbage, the slippery bean thread noodles, and the moisten chicken. But unfortunately we had the spicy hot and sour noodle before this one, and that was a bad mistake. By comparison, this ended up being very bland. And my guest ended up mixing both together. The mild flavour and clear broth of the drunken chicken with the bold flavour and thick broth of the hot sour soup did not match. And it was here that he learned a lesson: that unlike many North American dishes, not all Asian ones compliment one another when eaten together. We then further went to suspected that was how the kings cup challenge was born, by attempting to mix odd things together, then daring one another to drink it.

 

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“Kitchen Korea” was unique in that it was the only Korean cuisine vendor in the mall. They had all your mainstream Korean classics and a cute little mascot. “Bibimbap”, “Japche”, and kimchi. Though on the same token, it looked like they just set up shop. Their “new item” menu was left blank and their current list of offerings wasn’t as elongated like the other vendors. More established shops that used sticky notes and extra pieces of paper to advertise something new to the menu.

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The “chicken bulgogi” was a mix of meats, some bites were lean, others fatty. But each had a spicy flavour and a harder texture. I would have liked a starch with this.

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The “pork belly” by comparison was fatty and tender. Coated in brown sauce, it was slightly sweet. Unfortunately my experience suffered when I bit into a bone that I was not expecting.

 

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“Mambo Cafe” served Hong Kong cafe style dishes and drink. The use of rainbow coloured background on their televised menu helped to draw attention. They served cafe classics like Chinese style sweet spaghetti, baked rices in ramekins, pork or chicken mains over steamed rice with frozen vegetables, wok fried rice, pan fried noodles, and thick buttered toast.

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We had the “Baked pork chop on rice”. My guest immediately likened it to Italian food with the red sauce and oil that looked like cheese, as well as it being served in an aluminum takeout container. The pork was peeped as a slab of meat, pounded flat and spread over the white rice. It was easy to cut into and break down to smaller bites with fork and knife. But it was the sweet tomato based sauce that was the highlight of this dish. The meat and rice needed the sauce for flavour, yet there was not enough of it. I also would have liked more frozen mixed vegetables for a bit more colour and crunch.

 

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The “Leung Kee” stand were the ones to specialize in chicken, confusing as “Youguo” was the one with “chicken” in its title. And to add more to the confusion, there was the other stand named “Lung Kee”, as mentioned earlier. I guess both points and a name doesn’t really matter, as a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. It is just confusing for a blogger trying to write about both. “Leung Kee” specialized in Cantonese cuisine. When we speak of “Chinese food”, it usually refers to Cantonese cuisine. Where the difference between it and Hong Kong style food, is the latter not only takes influences from Cantonese cuisine, but also North America, Japan, and Southeast Asia. This is due to Hong Kong’s past as a British colony and long history of being an international city of commerce.

As one who doesn’t read Chinese script, I found ordering here hard. They had several menus posted around their stand, from television screen to printed poster. Though majority of which included little or no photos and descriptions that didn’t much help. It felt like being at a Chinese restaurants with my parents, too many options to choose from and they weren’t here to help.

They had whole chickens and ducks hanging from a hook, glossy in a heated and well lit showcase. A display you would see reproduce larger at most Chinese grocery stores with a cooked food section. From it we had half of the “soy sauce chicken” and half of their “long gong chicken”. My guest wasn’t expecting both to be served chill. I never thought of it, but it is weird that in Chinese cuisine we eat cold chicken. Whereas, typically most protein is cooked to order and served warm if not hot. Though with both these preparations, it is a slow process that requires time to infuse poultry with intended flavour. Time that is well worth it for the finished product. Both were chicken that I enjoyed, but my guest couldn’t get past the unfamiliar temperature.

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The “soy sauce chicken” was salty as expected, I would have liked to have this with a bowl of steamed rice, as I do with all salty Chinese food. The meat was juicy from dark to white meat and you barely tasted soy sauce.

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The “long gong chicken” can put people off with it yellow-ish complexion and the red blood, visible at the chopped bone and broken joints. Especially as chicken is suppose to be cooked thoroughly, and both those colours tell a different story. But if you can get past both, it is really very delicious. I have also had some where the chicken’s feathers weren’t fully plucked, and strays littered the cooked chicken’s landscape. Which was not very appealing. However this version was a lot more handsome. If you haven’t had it before, the skin could also be a shock. Because it is served cold, part of it seems to congeal, and what you get is gelatine-like in texture. The chicken meat is best eaten with the side of garlic ginger mash.

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I could have eaten the “soy sauce chicken” with this “Sticky rice”, but it was wouldn’t be very complimentary and the rice was already full of pork. The chewy cubes of meat added salt, but little else. My guest liked the texture of the clump rice, commenting that it was easier to eat with chopsticks; and that he was already familiar with it because it is like “sushi rice”, not quite. Sadly it looked and smelled flavourful, but in reality lacked it.

 

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The “Cafe D’lite Express” booth was familiar to me. I have previously visited their stand alone restaurant on west Broadway. Before and after they changed their name to “Mamalee”. So I knew we had to try their specialty, the “Hainanese chicken on rice”. This was the only as stall serving Malaysian cuisine in the mall. They served the same things their restaurant did, but only a fraction of it. The more popular items were broadcasted on television screens. The before mentioned chicken, Singaporean style laksa, beef curry with rice, and their various sweet dessert drinks made with coconut milk. The rest of the menu was a coloured take out card plastered on to the sneeze glass.

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“Hainanese chicken on rice” has also been referred to as the “lazy chicken”. It comes without bones and practically melts in your mouth. It is an easy to eat chicken, and the most tender chicken I have had. And both are good reasons to order it time and time again. Though as another chicken dish severed moderately cool, my guest couldn’t get into it as well. Though he did like the oil infused rice it came with and found the chilli sauce helped to heat things up.

 

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The “Saboten, Japanese cutlet” food court stand specialized in authentic Japanese tonkatsu. “Tonkatsu” is breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet in either fillet or loin. It is often served as a set meal with shredded cabbage, rice, soup, pickles, and additional sauces and spices. This was one of the stands that had fake food behind a glass window, to illustrate how their food would look. It helped in luring you in and making your decision on whether to get one a “yes”.

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This was their “Saboten set”, it included breaded and deep fried prawn, pork tenderloin, and pork loin. The presentation was definitely on point with this one, the way the meat was propped up just so on the mound of evenly shredded lettuce. And with all the elements placed strategically on the tray, it made you feel like you got more than what you paid for. Despite the thorough frying the meal was not heavy with grease. There must have been a thorough blotting after its dip in oil. Each piece of pork was crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked in the centre. Not too dry, not too salty. I am not a big fan of pork, but I could be if I eat enough of this. The side of black sauce gave it an extra savoury kick. The prawn stick was coated in the same batter and fried up just as well. With it, the tartar-like cream sauce paired well.

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Their “Iced genmaicha” was just regular Japanese green tea on ice.

 

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“Teppan Kitchen” specializes in cooking on iron plates. “Teppan” means iron plate. It is used in this more portable version of “Teppanyaki”, a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food. Each order comes with rice, leaving you to decide what protein or vegetables you want with it. Like the other Japanese themed food stalls, this too included a visual showcase of plastic food, along with its photographic menu. You can choose from different cuts of beef like rib eye or NY strip loin, a 14 spiced chicken, Atlantic salmon, eel, or pork. They even cater to the North American palette with a seafood linguine or French fries served on their trademark iron grill plate.

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We had the “Grade “A” ribeye teppan” with egg and corn on rice. The hot iron plate sat on a wooden base, to protect the heated metal from melting the food court tray you used to bring it all to your chosen table. Around the iron plate was a circular trim of paper. It acted as a written warning and a visual caution from touching what could burn you.

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The meat and fried egg continued to sizzle at our table. The tender cuts of beef went red to cooked before our eyes. Though any additional lingering before eating could result in overcooked and dry beef or burnt rice. And if that happens, you only have yourself to blame. Especially if you are like me, and was too busy taking multiple photos to eat when the food was still hot. The sunny side up egg was perfect to mix into the crisping rice. If done while the plate was still smoking you could essentially make your own fried rice. The meat was luscious, a few pieces stayed pink, which made them all the more tender with the gravy soften rice. My guest craved mashed potatoes instead of rice, to make this a classic American dinner.

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Their “Iced honey matcha tea” was similar to the green tea above but with additional sweetness thanks to honey.

 

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The “Mazazu Crepe” crepes and stand was familiar to me. Having been to Japan recently, I recognized their display and their wares. French style crepes, wrapped like cones, filled with all sorts of savoury and sweet ingredients. From the display I could tell which were the former by the inclusion of lettuce and the latter by the heaps of whipped cream on top. There was ham and cheese, hard boiled eggs and mayo, tuna fish, chicken, and pizza with tomato sauce. Then there strawberries, chocolate, banana, ice cream, mocchi, jam, brownie bites and cheesecake slices. The possibilities were endless.

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We just got a taster of the “Choco banana fresh cream mini crepe”. So worry not, if you were to get one yourself it would be much larger, with a lot more filling. The crepe was a little chewy, I suspect it sat a while before serving, especially as it was cool to the touch and the dollops of whipped cream stayed in tack. It would have been nicer to have the fresh crepe warmer, but not at the sake of presentation, in my case. All the cream and soft banana slice made the dessert creamy, I would have liked some crunch to bite in to. Some toasted nuts or cornflake cereal, better yet frosted flakes. But all in all chocolate and banana are a solid, trial tested combo.

 

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The “Beard Papa” stand was another familiar sight to see. The franchise sprung up in Vancouver several years ago, and a cream puff craze took the city. Not having had many of them recently, I was excited to have some now. The stand was clearly doing well for itself. It had prime real estate: the largest booth right at the entrance of the food court. They may not be your first stop, as they were more snacking and dessert focused, but you definitely saw them when coming up the escalator and walking pass them to head deeper into the food court. That, and their trademark raincoat yellow sign with jolly mascot in full beard, catches the eye. And out of all the other food court employees, their’s were definitely best dressed. With tall paper hats and clean white smocks, they were meant to mimic Parisian pastry chefs, but without the confidence.

Their cream puffs were available in vanilla (aka the original), chocolate, strawberry, matcha green tea, a “cookie” puff with a crispy shell, and their new speciality flavour: passion fruit. But they didn’t have all that counter space to only sell cream puffs. They also offered cheesecake, a chocolate lava cake, and French pastries like Paris brest and eclairs.

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Having had all the other flavours before, I still find the original puff my favourite. Available in large and smaller sizes, these was mini cream puffs filled with luscious vanilla cream. The puff was spongy in texture and fresh in taste. It was piped end to end, on the spot, with smooth cream. So good that I could eat these by the handfuls.

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What was advertised as a “cheesecake stick” was just a slice of cheesecake. I was disappointed. There was nothing that set their cheesecake apart from any at any grocery store. There was no mention of toppings, even though they had a lot to work with. They could have used what was already available to them, found in and on the other desserts they made. Cream? Chocolate? Anything to make this/their cheesecake step apart from all others.

 

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And I believe we saved the best for last. The stall selling shaved ice made for the perfect light after dinner palette cleanser. “Frappe Bliss” offered various fresh fruit and unique toppings for each shaved ice option. The “rainbow iceberg” had rice balls and fruit jelly that burst with juice. “Thai sensation” centred around coconut milk, mango, and black glutinous rice. The “Formosa treasures” included fresh taro and red bean. There was one that featured just colourful chopped up fruit, and another with crushed Oreos and ice cream. And the “Diamond Price” had coconut pulp, aloe, and mango slices. But if you didn’t see or read anything that you liked, you can make your own. First you choose your ice frappe favour, the sauce that goes over it, and all the toppings you want. This is the first time I have seen the ice flavoured with not just condense milk.

Each specialty shaved ice was served in a plastic cup that you held like a bouquet. It was the perfect vessel for traveling with and for eating while walking. My guest likened them and this expletive to a snow cone, but with more than just koolaid going in.

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“A Dream in Eden” included strawberry, kiwi, mango, and mango ice cream over folds of fluffy ice. It was tropical with the fruit and an easy win in flavour. I find it amazing how they get the folded ice so airy. As I mentioned, this was the perfect Asian dessert because most Asian mains are so heavy, that you want to end with something light and more simple. This is it: fruit, milk, ice.

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The “Matcha Delight” came with matcha ice cream, chewy rice balls, and red bean. It was definitely a more familiar flavour for the Asian palette. Luckily my guest likes red bean, he see them as sweet refried beans. However these beans did not have their usual soft and and gritty texture that he liked. Thanks to the ice, they remained hard. So sadly we ended up eating around it, shame as they really complimented the green tea well. A similar thing happened with the rice balls, the cold of the ice had them tougher than what I like harder than what I am use to. They would have been best warmer for a more even chew.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As daunting as it was to write and eat all this. I would like to do the same for other mall food courts. It was an interesting adventure and one my stomach will not soon forgive me for. In conclusion, I will let my guest tell you his thoughts. This is a forward written by him (which I am using as an ending), in the purpose of expanding his eating repertoire. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

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My name is Travis, I’m half Italian half white trash. I’ve been going on food adventures with Maggi since the start of this blog. Growing up in the lower mainland gave me a well rounded pallet, or so I thought. Turns out take out Chinese food is drastically different then “authentic” cuisine and I learned this quickly at Aberdeen mall. While there were some fantastic flavours and surprises, like a very different but good club sandwich and probably the best popcorn chicken I’ve ever had, I found things like cold chicken, bland soup and sour drinks to be pretty off putting. As a whole the food court cuisine was a step above most malls (working in a mall I’m familiar with the norm) but the fact that a lot of the food is targeted at such a narrow scope I’m probably never going to go out of my way to return to Aberdeen Mall, but if I were ever in Richmond I’d stop by for another one of those Club Sandwiches from Strike.

 

ABERDEEN FOOD COURT
4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X 4J7
604-270-1234
aberdeencentre.com

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