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.
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.
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.
Tonight we would try 31 dishes, sampled across 20 food court stands.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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”.
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.
Their “Iced genmaicha” was just regular Japanese green tea on ice.
“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.
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.
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.
Their “Iced honey matcha tea” was similar to the green tea above but with additional sweetness thanks to honey.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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