I was invited to the media event for “3 Quarters Full”, a newer Taiwanese cafe, downtown. An event organized and ran by the three ladies behind “@foodcouver”, as the plus one to “@porkninjas”.
This cafe has existed for a while now, but due to its locale, I assume that many like myself, have never heard of them. This is mainly because we cannot seen them. They are downtown Vancouver, kiddy corner from Denman. Not being right on the busy street means that they lose out on much of their potential walk-in traffic; those who notice a newer business and decide to walk on in to give them a try.
However being invited to this media event, I found a reason to visit; and now writing this post, an ability to help to spread the word of their cafe and their revamp-ed summer menu.
When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
The space was on the dressier side, with glow-y bulbs setting a more dramatic tone. The cement floor, lighting crafted from plumbing pipes, and wood tables partnered with metal legs; had a familiar industrial theme; a look that is very quintessential of Vancouver’s current restaurant style. What took away from this was their neighbouring dollar store with the visibility of its neon yellow name against a green awning, from the cafe’s all glass exterior. A minor detail, but location is important, and it is often a factor in deciding the success of a business. Luckily, tourist traffic from the hotel at the end of the block saw their clientele walking past “3 Quarters”, and (probably) grabbing a quick coffee therein. Although they are not your regular purveyors of lattes and nitro brews, here they specialize in popular Taiwanese ice drinks, sweet cakes, and savoury snacks.
They offer diners a sit down menu with light drinks and food, and now even a combo. For $9.50 you get an entree, soup/drink, and their pastry of the month. For more food you can add one a deep fried side dish for $4.95. You choice is between fried tofu, chicken, squid, fish cake, taro ball, or steamed bun. The entree are any one of their “gua bao” or sandwiches. The soups are changed up daily. Most of their drinks are available either hot or cold. And your dessert choice varies from month to month. below are a few items we tried, and they you can choose from, to make your own combo.
I began the tasting by trying each of their specialty drinks, served chilled in decanters for guests to pour ourselves. The “One lemon ice tea” earned its name from the use of a whole lemon in its conception. It was a refreshing sweet tea, and a great accompaniment to the meal to come.
The “Sea salt coffee” jumped on to the cold brew train, offering their interpretation with its salt first flavour. As a non-coffee drinker, my opinion may not the best or the most valid, so I will leave it with, “salty”.
My favourite was the “Winter melon tea” with its sweet, light, and floral notes. This is one I can drink by the jug-full, as there was just something so refreshing about it. The cafe’s owner, took the time to explain how they prepare this beverage from scratch, whereas their competitors take the short cut and purchase the syrup version for this sugary flavour. Here they take a winter melon and cook it down into a sugar, which is then melted down to flavour such drinks. Naturally it costs more, but drinking is believing; and if you get a chance to compare the two, you can tell that the extra charge is certainly worth it.
Next we lined up one by one at their ” gua bao station”, to watch our buns assembled to order. We even got the back story of “baos”, their origin and the significance of their shape. They originate from Taiwan, as a night market snack that you typically have before Chinese New Year. It symbolizes a women’s purse and there for is associated with money and wealth. A lucky symbol with the hope that whosoever has one will earn its attributes.
This version was pork belly, pickled vegetables, and a mix of sugar and peanuts between a soft white bun. They are also available filled with chicken or tofu, But here, the pork is prepared in a pressure cooker for two hours until it is very tender. Anything overcooked and tough would be very noticeable thanks to how pillowy the white bun was. The pickled vegetable gave you tang and the peanuts some crunch. This was a delicious three bites, with an even meat to bread ratio.
We then had more pork in their “Crispy pork sandwich”, a traditional Taiwanese breakfast item, but potentially unappealing for those unfamiliar with the classic. I love a good runny yolk in my sandwich, others feel it has no place between toasted bread. I occasionally have a cucumber slice or two in my sandwiches, others rather it on the side with dip. And then there is the use of the meat product, “pork floss”. Popular in China as a sandwich topping with butter, or as a sprinkling over congee. “Pork floss” is a dried meat with a fluffy texture, similar to softened wool or an unraveled cotton ball. Good if you are familiar, off putting in thought and texture if you are not. Combine all three together and layer them between some dry brown bread, this isn’t for everyone. A fact I was also not shy to mention to the owner when they asked for my feedback. I actually knew what I was getting well before I had my bite, and as someone familar with it, I thought it was well assembled. And I must not be the only one, as this is actually their most popular sandwich choice. More so than their club sandwich, the one with bacon, or their vegetarian option.
And what is a Taiwanese restaurant without some crispy popcorn chicken? Theirs was seasoned with some basil for that extra pop of flavour, along with the more common salt and pepper. Each nib was crispy and flavourful, both lasting long after the chicken cooled.
This month, their “pastry of the month” is the iconic pineapple cake. Like everything else, this too was made in house with pride. Their pineapple cake is one of the better interpretations I have ever had. A cakey cookie with starchy pineapple jelly at its centre. A friend likened it to shortbread, after trying it for the first time. She was easily won over by its one of a kind drier texture and sweet finish.
They also made their own Japanese cheesecake and stamped it with their logo as proof. This was a creamy and silky cheesecake, one that cheesecake fans will definitely appreciate. This is one I can see such fans traveling back for it by the round.
Equally delicious is their “Naidong roll”, which is a pudding-jelly and cream centre rolled into a sheet of spongey cake. Served in slices each flavour was a light accompaniment to either coffee or tea. They are available in Taro, Green tea, Coffee, and Vanilla with a strawberry centre.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – YEs.
Downtown Vancouver is a little far to travel for a snack; which is a shame, as I do like their food, as it reminds me of my delicious childhood. But I consider cafes a convenience and less of a destination, so to travel this far for a sandwich seems a little much. However if/when in the neighbourhood I would not be apposed to stopping by. In fact upon writing this post in the hot of my apartment, I can go for one of their cold winter melon teas right now. Don’t deny your cravings.
3 FULL 4
1789 Comox Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1P5