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Richmond Night Market 2019

I eat and drink from 33 new and returning favourite stalls at this year’s Richmond Night Market.

It’s that time of year again, the weather is better and the crowds are flocking down to the Richmond Night Market. With so many more food vendors this year, let me help you plan your visit by highlighting some of the new and noteworthy at North America’s largest Asian themed, outdoor market.

 

For the vlog version, check out my latest video now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

The following is a accumulation of all that I have tried across my first 5 visits of the season. First the favourites that are back for another year.

“Chef James” continues to be a fan favourite for meat on a stick. The charismatic chef dawns a white coat and a microphone, inviting passerbyers over to try the market’s tastiest skewers. Deliciously seasoned meat and seafood on sticks flamed kissed on the grill.

Here we had a sampling including lamb, beef, chicken, shrimp, and pork seasoned in cumin. And doughy buns drizzled in a tangy brown sauce.

Their grilled and unseasoned sweet corn is also very popular.

“Big beard” also serves up bbq meats on sticks. And their skewers are also served in a branded paper cup, just like at Chef James’ booth, but I found them less seasoned and even bland by comparison.

I was a fan of their deep fried squid drizzled in a sweet chilli and mayo. Chewy tentacles that are just as fun to eat as they are tasty.

For even more squid “Squid Feast” offers up deep fried squid whole on a stick, or as chopped up tentacles. Be warned, the line is long and the squid could be over cooked like this serving. The sweet chilli drizzle I asked for did help give it some moisture and layered interest.

All this fried food makes you thirsty, and I really like the fresh juices from the “Sugar cane juice stall”. Pressed on location, this sugar cane drink hydrated and satiated. Not to mention the plastic heart shaped cup it came in, with matching heart shaped nib was precious.

Spiral-ed potatoes deep fried and coated in dry and wet sauces and seasonings of your choice, are still very popular year after year. But now, for those who want a single serving, or to not have to eat a whole giant potato in one sitting, they offer mini “rotoatos”, at the booth with the same name. We had our’s dressed in sour cream and roasted garlic pepper.

“Itofu” returns after having won the best tofu category from Van Magazine, a new category that seems like it was made for them. Here, we tried their parfait with coconut jelly, red bean, and pearls. And naturally it was a subtle dessert with the tofu as the focus. Refreshing and light for those who don’t like an overly sweet dessert. But basic and bland when competing against the likes of the condense milked flavoured shaved ice below.

“Mango Yummy” is a market favourite, especially their mango mochi shaved ice, which is exactly as it sounds and oh so tasty. A sweet and cold treat that almost tricks you into thinking you are eating healthy because of the fresh cubes of mango that tops it.

Similar in the ice cream, fruit, and flavoured ice department is “Icy bar”. For variation we enjoyed their “summer special icy” with fresh strawberries, mango, basil seed (chia seed), strawberry puree, coconut milk, and tapioca sago, served over shaved ice. I enjoyed it more like a drink once the ice cream melted down and I stirred things up.

Speaking of stirring, the “Mango” stall offers slushes. We ordered their “summer rainbow”, a drink that is different in colour and flavour from layer to layer. It was fun to navigate your straw up and down, landing on their purple grape, yellow mango, red berry, or green kiwi; and drawing in a sip. I thought it was be interesting to see what would happened if I mixed all those layers together, the result: a less appealing, and less easy to drink cold beverage.

You can get even more fruit and ice cream from the “Teapresso food truck”. Their elegnat parfaits served in plastic champagne flutes are great to look at, but impossible to eat. The ice cream melts and with no where to pool, this drips down your hand. The ice cream itself is available is matcha, vanilla, or a twist of both. We then latter because why have just one when you can have it all.

Light bulb shaped bottles are still making their way around the market. At “Rainbulb” you choose your beverage by its colour, and they glow thanks to a little LED light blinking at the bottom. Each hue is a different fruit flavour, and you are encouraged to choose by colour. Tonight it was purple, a berry fizzy soda.

“Mamak La” is a night market staple for Malaysian fusion. They put on a show, hand flipping their crispy and fluffy roti. Then stuffing it with familiar comfort foods like Mac and cheese, pizza, and even banana and chocolate.

It is like a quesadilla but with better dough. The made to order roti makes all the difference. The Mac and cheese is a great satisfying snack, and best enjoyed warm while the dough is crispy and the cheese gooey.

Their new dessert option gives you salty dough and sweet chocolate, a winning combination and a new way to enjoy the classic banana and cocoa pairing.

“Asomi mochi” with their whole strawberry stuffed mochi balls are back. Available in matcha, purple yam, chocolate, double strawberry; and now a cheesecake filled option. The regular is my favourite flavour and having it filled with a graham cracker hinted cheesecake cream, instead of the regular red bean was a switch up I fully enjoyed.

“Fries and Things” serve up the easy to eat and fun to share fries with a variety of game changing toppings. Melted cheese, buffalo sauce, and Japanese mayo. But their claim to fame remains the pho fries. Crispy sticks of potatoes topped with green onion, bean sprouts, ground beef and a tangy brown sauce. It tastes exactly like pho, the same sauce and topping over potato instead of noodles.

“Fish sticks” is exactly as it sounds. Battered and fried pieces of fish, skewered and seasoned. Choose from flavours like lemon pepper and spicy salsa. We had the classic tartar sauce paring, a zesty garlic dusting, and the Japanese influenced sweet mayo with shredded seaweed. Easy to eat, and best eaten fast before they flake off the skewer. Served on the stick you don’t a dish or plate to eat over and off of.

“Okonomi Bites” is once again serving their Japanese style poutines. Your fries, gravy, and cheese, but with traditional Japanese ingredients. Like the Japanese pancake with the name of the stall. And the vegetarian Agedashi tofu that has chunks of fried tofu sprinkled over top. We ordered the pork tonkatsu that had pieces of pork cutlet chopped up, and covered in sweet mayo, bonito flakes, and green onion. All great add ins, but I don’t feel like they really adding anything to the serving of fries.

“Mr. Crabzy” is back with their deep fried crispy crab balls on an actual claw. Not only does the claw look great, but it also serves as an easy way to get a grip on the crab cake for hand to mouth eating.

We also got a taste of their more regular looking deep fried shrimp balls. But if given the option, I would choose the claw every time.

And with all this fried and salty foods you are probably looking for something to wash it down. “Milk Cha” offers their blue based, butterfly pea flower teas in a bevy of flavours and if you get their split cups you can try 2 different ones in one serving. Winter melon and Thai black tea and Papaya and Taro. The colours look bold and rich, but the flavour fell short. Using powders they taste artificial and almost watered down. I would have liked them creamier as a milk tea.

Like with “Yummy Yogurt”, a new drink booth to the market. A thick sip of tangy yogurt flavoured in peach, mango, or strawberry. They made for a great palette refresher, full of probiotics to help in digestion after all that you eat. We tried the purple rice which was the mildest and our group’s favourite. The strawberry was on the sweeter side, with more fruit than dairy. And the “secret” flavour we discovered with a nice fragrant honey dew.

The last stall above and the following below are a handful of the new ones worth checking out this year.

“Zzim drumsticks” offers up Korean braised chicken, bringing attention to the fact that there is more than one way to prepare chicken in Korean cuisine, than simply frying. Available in hot or regular, it is best enjoyed by dawning plastic gloves and eating it with your hands. I personally find using your hands makes the food more enjoyable.

The chicken is so tender, and the mix of rice cakes and vegetables in the cup makes it more fulsome. The sauce is also so rich and tasty that you want to drink in like soup. Be warned, the spicy version, does deliver the heat.

“Tuk Tuk’s” Thai inspired panna cottas are quickly becoming a Night Market favourite. Cups of coconut milk, Thai tea, and Thai green tea panna cotta topped with a made to order fried dokjok (a Thai biscuit). The process to make them is fascinating to watch.

The panna cotta is a little too rich on its own, slightly overwhelming with the creaminess of coconut, and the bitterness of the green and Thai tea. But each is best enjoyed with chunks of the cookie that tops it, they help to balance things out. I would come back just to buy a box of them. If I had to choose one flavour it would be the coconut panna cotta with the squid ink cookie, the ink doesn’t add any flavour, it just has a nice contrast with the white dessert.

“Say! Cheese” is the booth offering gimmicky goodness this year. They are the stall giving us rainbow coloured grilled cheese sandwiches that you can stretch ear to ear. For the best results do your cheese pull slowly and as soon as you get it hot off their grill. As for taste they are more than just mozzarella cheese on white bread. With a condense milk drizzle and ricotta chunks they have elevated the grilled cheese, for a sweet and salty snack.

Looking for a lighter sandwich? New to the Richmond Night Market is “Salty’s”, offering mounds of fresh lobster dressed in cream sauce with celery and dill, stuffed plentiful into a toasted buttery bun. A little on the pricey side, but we are talking about the premium product that is lobster. They are brought to you by the same owners of the now shuttered “Crab Park Chowdery”. I advise getting just a half order, a full is plenty of the same taste, plus there are so many more stalls to try.

Because you definitely want to save room for dessert, and “Fluffy Soufflé’s” Japanese style jiggly pancakes. Light and fluffy eggy batter, meets breakfast food extraordinaire, turned dessert with fresh fruit and sweet creams and spread. To be honest I liked them as is, but can’t miss out on ordering them with the colourful toppings, and one by one, I tried them all but chocolate.

Like the sour and tangy topping of the sweet grapefruit.

The slightly bitter matcha with sweet red bean and mochi.

The salty and sweet crushed Oreo crumbs with salted cheese foam.

And the strawberry, pretty in pink with a more artificial strawberry flavour. But the fresh berries topping it makes up for this.

At “Afghan Yum” we were treated to their mantu, a popular Afghan street snack, similar to tortellini stuffed with meat. A saucy bite with nutty and creamy notes from the sauces and pops of freshness from the pomegranate.

“La Meza Grill” is serving up Filipino fusion, and one bite tacos served up in fried wonton cups. Lechon tacos, pork and tofu sisig, pork and chicken bbq. Each cup is full of bold flavours and easy to eat, perfect in a crowded market setting.

“Macc Shack” offers up a variety of Mac and cheeses, hence the literal name. But sadly we only tried the 4 cheese version, instead of their kimchi, taco, or pulled pork; which sounded a lot more interesting. This was a pretty standard serving that I wouldn’t gravitate towards, given everything else surrounding it.

From “Fusion Wrap” we had the Kimchi Beef. A green onion pancake topped and rolled up like a burrito. A little watery, but plenty tasty. I would crave a taste like this again, out of preference.

I also really liked “Nori Express” and their savoury offering of sushi built like tacos. The seaweed is battered and folded as the shell, the sushi rice is loaded in first and the fish of your choosing follows it. I fully enjoyed the “sushi noritaco”. Made with yellowfin tuna, eel sauce, and vegetable. It was full of flavour and textures. I especially liked the crunch of the fried seaweed. The spicy Alaska sockeye salmon, spicy mayo, vegetable sushi taco was good too, but I preferred the tuna and its ponzu seasoning more out of preference.

“2 sweet guys” are battering and deep frying fruit and sweets, topped as you like. We had the deep fried cookie dough to start. Balls of cookie flashed fried then drizzled in condense milk and topped with rainbow sprinkles and Oreo crumbs, (as we wanted). Other topping options includes a chocolate or raspberry drizzle, and mini marshmallows.

The deep fried watermelon was an interesting concept, one I was excited for, but did not enjoy. The fruit was warm and cooked, and in comparison to the batter not sweet and even bland. An odd sensation that need not bare repeating.

At “The Taco Tigre” they offer Asian inspired street tacos, reinventing the way you enjoy popular flavours like banh mi and beef pho. We tried one of each of their chicken banh mi taco, their 5 spice pork belly taco, and the beef pho taco. Each tasted like its promised name. I especially liked the bean sprouts from the pho taco. I didn’t really get enough of a taste of them, so wouldn’t mind going back for another trio.

Not new to the Lower Mainland, but new to the night market is Bella Gelateria. Serving up their trademark creamy and stretchy gelato out of bins. With an impressive selection to boot. Matcha green tea, coconut, chocolate sea salt, lavender, black sesame, and earl grey tea to name a few. We dug into a double scoop of yuzu citrus and Akbar Mashti.

There was a stand offering mitten crab roe topping either rice or noodles. And with each serving it is made further indulgent with the sheen of gold flake. I wanted more meat and sauce over this serving of plain noodles, you don’t get a lot for the price. The gold gimmick was nice, but ordering it was confusing as the booth doesn’t have a name and majority of it is left in Chinese.

And if you are done eating, or looking for something different to do, the market does offers new games and attractions to keep you or young ones entertained. Bouncy pony rides and a rainbow net to climb on, at a cost. Performers on stage, spinning rides, and arcade games with oversized prizes. Plus plenty of assorted goods vendors to shop from.

Each visit is always a delicious time. But be warned they are getting busier and more popular so the crowds are getting more concentrated and the lines will you waiting longer. So go early, get a zoom pass to skip the line and move briskly. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC
604-244-8448
richmondnightmarket.com

Richmond Night Market 2018

30 food stalls of 2018’s Richmond Night Market!

Here in Vancouver summer and it’s accompanying better weather are marked by the opening of the Richmond’s night market. A popular weekend activity better known for giving attendees the ability to roam narrow corridors visiting food and goods vendors shoulder to shoulder with thousands of others.

Yet despite the crowds and the pushing and shoving, I continue to find myself here year after year, like many others. But this year as the bodies converge, we will be seeing an increase of attendees. This is because Richmond use to have two night markets to choose from, but this year they have just the one by “River Rock Casino” to satisfy all Chinese hawker stall cravings.

Either way, this evening myself and a group of foodies arrived early, well before the market open at 7pm, in order to avoid all the crowds and to hit up our favourite stalls first as part of a initiative ran by @ChineseBites and tourism of Richmond.

The following are a list of the 30 vendors participating in this year’s “Richmond Night Market” media tour, and the order in which we visited them. We managed to hit them all, outside of the one that closed up at 10pm. We arrived at 6:30pm on this Friday night and through our bouncing around from stall to stall, and despite having to wait to order and to pick up; we found ourselves at the market for a little under four hours. Just proving all that there is to see and do, or in this case eat.

In truth, we visited as a group and therefore shared everything between six individuals, in order to try more. Therefore, my description of each might not be as detailed as my writing is known for. But a more interactive and telling experience, check out my latest YouTube video on my channel: MaggiMei to see the highlights of this year’s one and only Richmond Night Market.

 

Also note, half way through our experience we began diving and conquering, each going to a different stall, to line up and gather up the serving for the rest of the team. Therefore some of my recaps do not include photos of the stand in which we ate from.

At the “Yummy Foodies” stall their roasted pork hoc was at the ready. Several pieces of meat on bones could be see rotating on their spit, that looked more like a shelf. Each hoc had so much meat that it is served between two containers with a generous helping of sauerkraut and crispy bread. These were fatty pieces of pork with crackling. You are able to sauce as you like with squeeze bottle sauces. The mustard was the classic choice.

“Chef James Foods” was a double stall featuring roasted corn on one side, and several varieties of meat skewers on the other. The former was grilled then passed on to you to season as you like. Salt, pepper, garlic powder, Parmesan, and a collection of other sprinkle ready shakers.

On the grilled meat side, Chef James himself dawned on the classic white smock and hat. His look: the utmost picture of professionalism as he worked in the hot conditions, furthered by the heat of his lengthy grill. There, he and one other stood saucing, seasoning and flipping skewers of AAA beef steak, honey garlic prawn, chicken, lamb, and lamb kidney. Each served upside down in a paper cup, and each full of zingy flavour from use of chillies and coarse salt.

Next was the “Senbei Brothers” stall offering their pressed Japanese crackers. Each as thin as cardboard and as crispy as a wafer. What makes them unique is the seafood that was pressed along with the baked dough. We marvelled at the whole squid and the shrimp that we were able to identify in this cracker mosaic.

At the “Churros in ice cream” stall we got exactly what we expected, given the name. We chose the popular rainbow one that had a scoop of vanilla ice cream as a base and out from it shot a curl of deep fried cinnamon and sugar churro, partially coated in chocolate and coloured with rainbow sprinkles. But really you are ordering this for the inflatable holder it comes it. Meant as a pool cup holder, but the perfect photo up, and more importantly sales driver. The unicorn is the most popular, but in order to get him you need to fork over an additional dollar for the luxury. A winning combination served in a winning presentation. No wonder Instagram is a flutter with images of it.

Next door is their sister venture “We Are Difference”. Here, they serve up sandwiches using deep fried Chinese doughnuts instead of traditional slices of bread. It ate like a foot long, just with a lot more dry crunch to it. The beef and cheese help to moisten things, but I preferred the two separate from one another.

At the “Mamak LA” stall they offer their trademark roti in various forms. We went for their “Mac-a-roti and cheese” with bacon and jalapeño. It is basically Mac and cheese stuffed roti.

At “Dumpling Master” they were steaming up frozen dumplings in three different colours and flavours. The green spinach one was a vegan dumpling, red has a filling of kimchi beef, and the black one is black truffle with pork. They were enjoyable to watch, bubbling in a pool of dyed water. We were able to try one of each. The serving is topped with mayo, bonito flakes, seaweed, and sesame seeds; much like how you would sauce up a takoyaki. I personally would have licked it more traditional with a dip in some light sauce.

“Sippy Tea” is that popular drink served in a plastic zip lock bag. It is much easier to carry around than any other milky tea served in a cup. Here we had the jasmine rose with coffee jelly. It was such a whimsical presentation with the crushed up rose petals floating on top.

But this wouldn’t be the most unusual vessel that any drink would come in today. That honour went to “Milk Cha” who reintroduced drinking from baby bottles to adults. Naturally it was so odd that I had to have it and had to try it. And honestly it is so soothing, I can see why babies like doing it. Yes you look ridiculous, yes you don’t get much liquid in each sip, and yes you have to work way too hard for so little; but hell if it doesn’t make a selfie a lot more interesting. This is their rose milk tea. The ingredients are kept separate, in order to have the liquid as a gradient. Therefore it is best to shake before drinking.

But for those who like a more traditional experience they have plastic cups and straws available. And if you can’t and don’t want to choose between two flavours, you can have them both with one of their split cups. It’s basically two drink flavours in the serving of one, each with its own straw. Here we had lavender milk tea and Thai milk tea. This two needed a good mixing.

Despite their sign reading “super good popcorn chicken” and they were named “popcorn chicken”, we ordered had the popcorn shrimp from them. These were crispy and chewy balls of puffs.

“Big G” was offering deep fried chicken steaks. Dark meat flattened then breaded and fried to a crisp. Here, the novelty is how the finished product is the size of your head, but more importantly it is tasty too. Although, I remember it being a lot larger, and not not being able to finish it all; so I guess this downsize was a better size.

At the “Tsuga Fry House” we had their deep fried onion, meaning you don’t have to wait for the PNE to open late summer in order to get your fix. It was a wonderful show, watching this giant bulb get fried in bubbling oil. The core of the onion is hollowed out so that you can place a container of chipotle mayo at its centre.

“Okonomi bites” takes everything that you love about the traditional Japanese pancake and its toppings and flavours, and makes it into a poutine. Here we were given a taste of both of the options they were offering. “The seafood okonomi poutine” with battered and deep fried pieces of fish and squid. And the “fried pork okonomi poutine” features its name sake protein. Both taste as expected for the most part, I could have used more sauces to really emphasis the okonomi concept though.

“Mr Crabzy” took the popular crab ball from off dim sum tables and brought them on to the narrow isles of the Night Market. This was easiest to eat with a good grip on the claw. Although three for one serving is a little much for one person, without some sort of dipping sauce on the side.

“Asomi mochi” was offering their traditional mochi in four flavours, each filled with a whole fresh strawberry, then cut in half for serving. We were able to try one of each flavour: original, matcha, purple yam, and black sesame.

“The Phamily Table” offered pork belly over a side salad. But what sets their meat apart is how they infuse it with apple wood smoke just before serving it. The show alone is worth the try. The meat itself was nice and tender with plenty of the sweet and salty sauce that coated it.

“Whatafood” was new to this year’s market. They were making Brazilian street food more assessable to Vancouverites. Here is a cup of their cheese puffs. I liked the texture, but it’s not for everyone. Dry and chewy on the outside, a little oily and gummy at its centre. I wouldn’t have mind some filling or a sauce for dipping to change the taste in between balls.

“Waffle Tower” was offering specially shaped waffles from a custom press. They looked like slender pine trees with a skewer for easy holding and eating. Available in a plain waffle then dipping, topped, and dressed to your preference. We got the bamboo charcoal that was black through and through,. This dark colour made the gold dust that they sprinkled over it all the more visual of a treat. As for taste, it was a regular eggy waffle made sweeter with the condense milk drizzle.

This year “Cupping 8 Cafe” is the dessert stall offering cheesecake made with tofu for those how are lactose intolerant. It was silkier than regular cheesecake, but the flavour was hidden behind the dominating flavour of the sweet creamy durian purée over top. Luckily I like durian.

The “Big Beard Super BBQ” stall had grilled meat on a stick and deep fried squid, two night market staples. Both a heavily seasoned and chewy snack.

“Chicking” had “Korean style Pa Dak chicken” served in a little bowl. Tasty enough, but not enough to stand out again many of the other chicken dishes.

“Tropical Bar” serves their blended juices in the rinds of either a pineapple or baby watermelon. Good juice, but clearly you are paying more for the presentation.

“Icy Bar” served up Taiwanese style shaved ice. We had their most colourful offering, their “summer special icy” which ate like a parfait. If included fresh chunks of mango and strawberry, basil seed, tapioca, mango and strawberry purée, coconut milk, and shaved ice. It was a great dessert to both help you cool down on hotter days, and to quench your thirst.

As the only deep fried and spiralled potato on a stick stall, “Rotato” is one of the most popular at the market, with the longest, ever-going lines. If you want this one and want to minimize your wait, I suggest you come early and make this your first stop. Maybe it is just the one we got, but I remembered this being larger, the stick being longer, with more potato spiralled around it. Though it tasted exactly as I remembered it: crispy and chewy, flavoured with your choice of salty and savoury seasonings.

We got freshly squeezed sugar can juice from the stall with the same name. They also offer freshly cracked young coconut milk. Both fresh juices are served in their novelty palm tree sippers. This was so fun that I kept it for future use.

“G8 Taiwan Kitchen” had Taiwanese stinky tofu, but I was never really a fan of this dish. I don’t mind the sour fermented smell, I just don’t like how bland the tofu typically is. A nice, thick, sweet and sour sauce would have been ideal here.

“The Taiyaki” stall offers the popular fish shaped pastry stuffed with either chocolate or cream, then topped with vanilla ice cream and a biscuit. It is basically an ice cream cone done a different way.

The “Cookies N’ Cream” had so much promise. Who doesn’t love a good ice cream sandwich? But sadly none of this was homemade or exclusive to the vendors. The ice cream, cookies, and toppings were all store bought, and just assembled by them.

The “Virgin Cocktail” booth is one you visit as soon as the sun sets. They offer sweet fruit flavoured drinks in an array of colours, but their true selling feature is the blinking LED “ice cubes” included as decoration. This was enough to have their lines growing.

 

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.
Now that this is the only Asian style outdoor market in the game, there is even more to see and do at this year’s Richmond Night Market. I am sure I don’t need to force your hand into coming down and visiting. In fact, I am sure you are making plans as I write. So, don’t deny your cravings!

 

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC
604-244-8448
richmondnightmarket.com

The Rise Eatry

I was invited to the highly anticipated media launch for “Rise Eatery”, a new and modern restaurant joining the South Granville neighbourhood.

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 is simple and clean, the kind of locale you would want to linger in, well after your dinner; and with a bevy of unique drinks you can. Raised criss crossing lines on white walls, grey booths with irregular wood shaped tables and black linear chairs. A few pops of colour found a way to animate the place within whimsical works of canvas art. And they even have a patio at the back to enjoy some sun as you dine. However, overlooking their parking lot and its alley, doesn’t make the best of views.

Given their well dressed bar, it would be a shame not to try any of their cocktails. One led to another, each a twist on a famed classic; much like the rest of our tasting menu to come.

Their soon to be signature drink is the “Geisha-rita”, a visual drink pretty in pink, and as fun as it is tasty. It is a mix of sake and pink lemonade, poured over a canned lychee fruit skewered by a strawberry Pocky stick. It is rimmed with togarashi for a salty and savoury finish. The flavour of the lychee was gentle as an accent, best highlighted by the bold and spicy rim.

The “Old Timer. Newly Fashioned” is their fun play on a classic favourite. It is a drink that changes as it melts. It begins with prep: their blend of sour cherry juice is chilled until frozen at the bottom of a tumbler. To this frosty glass a shaken mix of maple, orange bourbon, thyme, and bitters are poured in. And what you get us a more palatable version of an old fashion, accented by the slow to melt cherry juice, that also helps to keep the glass chilled. This makes a great option for those who rather not the sting of sharp liquor.

And lastly we had the option of trying their “Rain City Ricky”, another playful and fun twist on a classic cocktail. Made with gin, cucumber, mint, lime, and soda. The twist is the inclusion of lemon grass to the line up. The result is a very refreshing drink with the zing of some smooth citrus notes. This was the easiest to sip and down.

Now when it comes to their food, I feel a disclaimer must be declared. I went into this meal all wrong. For the best results follow my tips. First, forget what you know about any one cuisine; and second, forget trying to figure what kind of fusion they are. They identify themselves as being global fusion, pulling from many different types of international influences. You can’t compare it to any one cuisine, and if you did you would be left with a lasting taste of confusion. However, of you sit down with an open mind and enjoy what is before you for what it is assembled on the plate, it gives you a better experience. Each dish we tried below is different, each is unlike any other you have had, and each a recreation all its own.

We began with some canapés. And like all their cocktails, each of their dishes came with a fun name. The “creme de la creme” centred around what they called a “duck liver creme burlee”, with a goji berry chutney over a toasted slice of baguette. The cream was a smooth pâté, delicious and flavourful. I assumed the “creme burlee” in the name derived from the fact that it was torched slightly, but I didn’t get any of that.

The “Tuna mole” was a play on chips and dip. A spicy albacore tuna tartare mix, sitting over a roasted corn guacamole. A heavy dip, unfortunately served with frail lotus chips for dipping with. If they were thicker cuts of lotus root, this would have worked better. Instead you were left wanting a stronger base like the one below to pair with such a punchy appetizer. Plus the chips were additionally soften, with an acrid taste from its burnt edges.

The “Routine”, was anything but routine. It took the idea of layering a carb with gravy and cheese, but other than that, this could not be defined as a poutine. Fried ramen cubes covered in cheese curds, miso gravy, kewpie mayo, and furikake. I liked the imagination but lost out on the execution. The texture of the raw ramen cubes left you with a grainy finish, and the more cooked ones gave you a chalky sand to swallow. I would have preferred the noodles prepared normally, with the same ingredients on top. There were tasty bites from the bonito, tanginess from the mayo, and melted cheese that went with everything. I just wanted some freshness to finish it off with. Some bean sprouts or pickled cucumber to help brighten up the dense dish.

Their “Loy Hay Salad” is similar to the traditional Chinese new year salad. A dish with all its ingredients laid out before you, and diners mix them all together at the table. This is done by lifting noodle and vegetables high above the plate and dropping it back down, repeating the motion. This process is thought to usher luck to those dining. And at “Rise”, they did the celebratory dish justice. Theirs is well balanced with the creamy fish and tangy vegetables playing well off one another. Smoked salmon, julienne cucumber, daikon carrot, pickled ginger, onions, tomatoes, taro, pea shoots, crispy vermicelli, toasted sesame, and peanuts; all in an apricot and beer vinaigrette.

Another one that I liked the idea of, but could have used more finesse in its execution is the French fry stir fry for the “Steak your claim” entree. Served in a cast iron skillet the side of kennebec potatoes fries were over salted with the balsamic Demi glaze that coated them. The cherry tomato halves, shishito peppers, and onions helped to cut into this, but not enough so. The twist was the inclusion of chewy pieces of Chinese donut. Although I didn’t find that they added anything to the dish, flavour or texture wise. The grilled 8oz rib eye steak main was much better. Cooked perfectly with an easy to take chew, and tasty as is. Here, I could have done with the chimichurri sauce, although its bold hue did tie the dish together visually.

I liked the “Shio Koko”: salted rice, malt roasted maple hills chicken thighs skewered and standing tall over a creamy helping of their Japanese potato salad. The chicken was cooked juicy with a great char from an even grill. A sweeter flavour to contrast the more vinegar based salad. The tangy pickles gave the side the freshness it needed and therefore I wished they were chopped up and mixed it with the other colourful vegetables hiding under the mayo.

I found the “Heart attack rice” a hearty bowl, but not necessary the main as they intended. This would have been better as a side as it felt like it was missing a dominant flavour to pull all the minced ingredients together. Schmaltz stir fried rice pilaf, chicken confit, and a soft-boiled egg to crown it all. The pulled chicken was nice, there just wasn’t enough of it. The airy pork skin added some crunch and the soft boiled egg gave the rice some moisture. As a whole, the dish was on the sweeter side, where here I wanted it saltier, more savoury. So the colourful peppers felt out of place. This would have paired nicely with the dish below.

There were no complaints over the “Long n Green”. Crispy pan fried green beans prepared with wok’ed haricot very, butter, soya, and their house XO sauce. The beans had a nice flavour, I just could have used more of it. There was not enough of the lumpy clump of sauce that topped the dish.

The one that surprised me was the “Shroom”. A vegan udon that used silken tofu cream and cashew Parmesan to achieve its luscious white sauce. A great pairing with the earthy mushrooms. I could have used more of the crispy onion for depth and maybe some peas for freshness. But it was the texture of this that won me over. I could have sat here slurping each noodle strand by strand.

For dessert we had their “Mean n’ green”. A matcha molten lava cake served with a side of adzuki bean ice cream from new and local ice creamery: “Innocent ice cream”. They may have rushed the cake. It was a runny batter at its centre, and fairly bitter. The sides that were cooked were wonderful, I just wish I had it as they intended it. By comparison the red bean was tasteless and icy. I found them best together for balance. The mix of melted cream and runny green was like a matcha latte of sorts.

 

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.
I like their concept and their space, I just wish that I liked their food more. The menu almost feels like they are trying to hard to be different and as a result each dish doesn’t have focus. Great ideas, just not well conceived. And this is coming from a girl who loves novelty and doing something for the sake of being different. But here the flavours were everywhere, and you were either left having too much or feeling like you needed more. Although having said that, I will still recommend them for upscale and dressy cocktails in the area. And I myself will be back, to see how their menu evolves as this new restaurant finds it ground. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RISE
3135 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6H 3K1
604-559-8280
theriseeatery.com
The Rise Eatry Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

YVR Food Fest 2017

This year the “YVR Food Fest” has returned for a second run. Originally known as the “Food Cart Fest”, this summer food fuelled event has rebranded and stretched out its presence. This year it ran from June 27th to July 3rd 2017. This week long event included a handful of dinner series, a series of food related talks, and the assembly of trucks and vendors in a dusty lot. The latter we found the most enjoyable.

To skip the reading and watch my five minute recap of the weekend’s worth of events visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei

All events were ticketed, including an admission fee to enter the gathering of food trucks and restaurants as offsite vendors. I only attended the outdoor food festival part. Three days worth of waking up early and walking to the Olympic Village. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday; all three days had similar concepts, but their own theme. And with their theme came the promise of shows and exhibitions that matched. Although I seemed to have missed them all by coming early, eating my fill, and leaving shortly after. For example I didn’t see any grills out smoking for the “cook out” on Canada Day. And confused the use of the word “showdown” for Sunday’s “street food showdown” to mean a competition to see who was the best vendor onsite. Whereas it actually referred to your ability to try that which was voted the top and favourite in their category. But there was a bit of competition during Monday’s “big brunch” event, where you were asked to vote for your favourite breakfast inspired dish. But two hours into the latter and there was no sign and sight of the advertised Caesar competition, breakfast sandwich cook off, or cold-brew kegger. Just as well, with the heat and limited shade it was better to eat your fill and seek shelter.

For the “Canada Day Cook Off” we arrived early and were caught up in the confusion of poor organization. It was the first day and they still had to work out the kinks (they were notably better the second and third day to come). Staff in yellow event branded tees were quickly orientated and thrown into their roles, but you could see that they and the for-hire security team were still confused over things to come. Seeing as the event serves alcohol, they enlisted security personnel to check IDs and stamp hands as proof of legal drinking age before you entered.

We arrived at 11:45pm and had to wait until 12:15pm to be let in. Even though the event was advertised as starting at 12pm, so without addressing the gathering crowd that began blocking bike lanes and pedestrian walk ways, there was an assembly of people checking their watches every 30 seconds (myself included). And when one of the gates finally opened and people were allowed into queue for ticket check-ins, there was chaos. One group of people from one gate were allowed in, while the rest of us who got here earlier and formed our own line were forced to wait and watch them flood by. When both gates were finally opened there was no organization. People pushed their way through to the check-in, only to be told that they would have to get their IDs checked by security to be allowed to drink. This was the case for us. So as I returned back to check in, after getting my ID okayed, I was again sent back to get the stamp that the security personnel failed to grant me the first time around. By then a line had grown in front of him, and I found myself interrupting and budging. (But I wasn’t lining up twice). We eventually got int alright.

For those who bought “taster tickets” their entry came with a miniature takeout box of two drink tickets and 8 yellow chips. Each yellow token was equivalent to $2.50 and every blue chip: $5. The exchange rate was on par. You redeem them in for food and drink from any vendor. One token at $2.50 didn’t give you much, as vendors only prepared taster portions for $2.50. Therefore, if you were planning on sharing, it was easier to simply get a full item to share, than to split a bite sized sample. Although some were better than others in this regards, and I found that $2.50 on Day 2 went further than anything available on Day 1 or 3. Notes on that to come.

Given the extended wait in uncovered sun, we immediately exchanged our drink tickets for chilled cans. Beer and a cocktail mix to help cool us down. We then walked through the market looking for what peaked our interest the most, stopping to partake in cheese, jerky, and soda water samples along the way. There weren’t as many vendors as I thought there would be. Six tables or so lined up to the right and the same amount of food trucks to the left. The list of who showed up changed from day to day.

Given our desire to keep it cheap and share $20 worth of tokens between three grown adults and one infant we decided against the sample sizes today, and instead got full servings for easier sharing: 3 and a half ways. The most alluring vendor was the “Come Arepa” truck, offering Venezuelan street food, of which I am unfamiliar with. Arepas are white corn bread pockets, that I easily likened to pitas but pillowy-er with more chew. It was crunchy on the outside and soft and steamy on the inside, flavoured depending on its filling. They are split open and stuffed with a bevy of different meat and vegetables. Each combination of ingredients with its own unrelated name. We shared the “fancy” with chunk chicken, white cheese; and what they called an “avocado salad”, which was more like mashed up avocado/guacamole with little to no seasoning. It was one overflowing creamy bite after another. Tasty, but it was the help yourself squeeze bottle of sauces that made them memorable. The “hairy” was shredded beef with cheddar cheese. This one had a more familiar taste and a lot more punch to its seasonings. But once again, it was the green salsa on the side that elevated the flavour with some freshness and tang.

Some dishes are petite enough to eat and walk with, but with plenty of picnic tables available you need not stand and eat. But instead pick up a few items, bring it to a table, eat, leave, and repeat. A few wooden picnic tables and benches had umbrellas shielding you from the sun. But for those who preferred dining in the shade, event runners had set up a tented area for you to do just that. Though here it meant eating over barrels for tables and sitting on bales of hay for seats. Not the most comfortable or aesthetically relevant.

Having finished our $20 meal we then retreated back out into the park. Only for me to return tomorrow for what I felt was the best day out of the three.

On Sunday for the “Streetfood showdown” there were double the number of food trucks participating, meaning there were more options and shorter waits in lines. And each truck came prepared with decent sample sizes menu items, each well worth $2.50 for a more rounded out taste. On this day we were able to dedicate one token to each stop we made, even repeating the ones we liked enough, coming back for seconds.

Yet again we started off quenching our thirst with some cold beverages. This time they also had large jugs of mixed fruit drinks. We would use both our drink tickets on two cups of their strawberry lemonade.

As for food, I allowed my partner, with his specific tastes, to choose what he liked and what we would share each. He kept in his comfort zone with items found on a bar menu and plenty of Mexican. Everything below, cost us just the one yellow token.

We had a pulled pork tacos from the “Victoria’s” table. They served their tacos opened face with meat over flour tortilla. You help yourself to toppings like tomatillo salsa and cilantro. They were tasty enough to have us returning for a chicken one with onions.

We had more pulled pork in our slider from the “Flying Pig” booth. They attracted additional attention by way of the full pig that they brought out to the event. The slider buns were fresh, sandwiching tender and well seasoned meat.

I got the most value from the “Brazilian Roots” truck. This is a new food truck that made their debut during this event. They offer dough products made out of cassava. “Cassava” is a starchy tuberous root of a tropical tree. Here they specialize in using it to make wraps, which they fill with various ingredients. They are simply folded in half, looking like a quesadilla, and eaten like a taco, with mouth cocked sideways. This is the “Macuxi” with sesame crust, Black Forest ham, cheese, and butter. You get a lot for $2.50. Three slices of ham and two slices of cheese that fully cover the entire surface of the crispy, crunchy cassava wrap. I liked it better without the ham to distract with its saltiness. The cheese was plenty with its gooey texture.

The “Jalapeño maple bacon” was my partner’s favourite of the market. It was available from the “Papi’s Mexican Grill”. $2.50 is a little steep for a strip of bacon, but is sure was delicious. Thicker cuts with candied edges for a crispy chew and a sweet finish.

From the same stall we had a half a cob of steamed corn dressed in Mexican cheese and spices. What looked like salty feta was a creamy cheese with a crumbly texture and a lumpy surface. It was super tasty and I would have had more, if not for the fear of having corn kernels stuck in between my teeth for the rest of the day, with no dental floss in sight.

My partner liked the chicken souvlaki, “meat on a stick” from the “Carte Diem” truck. He liked the gentle seasonings and how moist the chicken was. A really strong selling point for him, as he finds most chicken souvlaki from other Greek restaurants over cooked and their chicken dry. I actually found this dry and the pepper in the rub the only standout flavour.

The “Serendipity” ice cream truck had hand dipped vanilla cones. But not just the commonly seen milk chocolate, but your choice of dips in maple, orange, mint, banana, or even white chocolate. And on top of that you get your choice of toppings to be sprinkled over. Oreo, peanuts, kit Kat, pretzels, Reese’s pieces, vanilla wafer, potato chips, m&m’s, and pistachio. If it were me I would have gone with the two oddest sounding pairings like banana and chips, and would have probably found it amazing. My more traditional partner was more than content with the classic milk chocolate and rainbow sprinkles pairs, so that is what we had. It melted quick, and not just from the sun, but for ice cream in general. The chocolate shell held everything in place until you pierce it. And from there rivers of melted vanilla dripped down its side and in between your grasped fingers. It sure was tasty, I just wish we could have finished it before we were forced to give up on trying to.

I had a mini sampler sized ice cream taco from the “Say Hello” vegan ice cream truck. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s a fair bit of ice cream and crisp wafer. Really creamy with a nice richness to it, something I don’t often get from ice cream without milk. But I was most surprised at was their ability to find such a tiny ice cream scooper to round out these perfect mini scoops of ice cream.

Day three was all about brunch. “The Big Brunch” had relevant restaurants and trucks coming up with some creative interpretations on breakfast favourites.

The “Bread & Cheese” truck had a long line from the start. We figured it must be good so ordered one of everything that they were offering. The “Bacon breakfast English muffin” also had white cheddar, arugula, garlic mayo, and a tangy red sauce. I don’t know that I tasted the latter, but it was great nonetheless. Everything I wished an egg mcmuffin was, was here, in this.

Similarly was how great the hash browns were. Crispy on the outside with the perfect golden brown hue. And their spicy ketchup gave you a great punchy end note.

The “French toasties” was a slice of bread cut in half and prepared cinnamon French toast style. Topped with macerated strawberries, maple syrup, whipped cream, and bacon bits. It was tasty, but the bread was fairly soggy, where I was looking for crispy ends to go with my salty and sweet.

From “Victoria’s” one of the Mexican restaurants, we had their “Chorizo Benny” and “Pancake. The benny was a perfectly poached egg over a sausage and potato mix, with caramelized onion and their own house made hollandaise sauce. It had one of the most golden orange coloured yolk’s I have ever seen. It was rich and creamy, adding a different element to the chunks of chewy potatoes and mildly spicy sausage. This was a well balanced start to the day.

Their pancake was one that successfully combined the salty and briney nature of olives with the sweetness of chocolate chips and a luscious dulce de leche. And for some freshness they included a few slices of banana on top. This was a great serving size to keep you coming back for more.

And lastly we completed our walking meal with a healthy pile of their “breakfast nachos”. Take everything that would go into a breakfast burrito, and instead scramble it then top it over Mexican style tortilla chips. I just needed more salsa and sauce on the side, to dip the undressed chips at the bottom with.

 

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.
A great idea, I just wanted more advertisement, organization and follow through from them. But that is what their third year is for in 2018: to get better and bring on more food trucks and restaurant vendor. So mark it on your calendar and look forward to it next year! Don’t deny your cravings.

 

YVR FOOD FEST
215 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver BC

Richmond Night Market 2017

I love novelty, and therefore I love the Richmond night market for its offering of impractical and excessive food and drink. Beautiful snacks and decadent desserts marketed in the name of novel. All targeted towards those like me: lured in with the need to eat with our eyes. So on this trip, we made it our mission to search our all that is unique at this year’s summer night market.

I have also compiled this list into an 8 minute YouTube video on my channel: MaggiMei. So be sure to check out my virtual tour of the most Instagram-able eats at this year’s Richmond summer night market.

This is my first trip to this night market of the season. It has already been four weekends into the series, so all the vendors are out and all are working in their grove. My friends and I arrived 45 minutes before opening, hoping to be allowed in a hair earlier, in order to get in position and avoid the lines that would soon come with the hours to follow. However the security guards and employees in yellow duck shirts were on high alert, no one allowed in right until 7pm. We waited behind rails with everyone else.

The market is easy enough to get to with traffic attendants, plenty of signs, and ample parking in a spacious lot. General admission entry is $3.75, but if you want to cut down some of the time and know you will be back again before the summer’s end, I suggest grabbing one of their zoom passes. This is $25 ticket that gives you 7 admissions to use all summer. through to early fall; until the market packs up for the year. You only save $1.25 in the long run, but it is well worth it when you factor in the cost of your time and the need for you to spend it waiting in a longer line.

We went straight to the food vendors, walking past all the isle, stopping at any of the stalls that peaked our interest. The first that caught my eye was the “Hand Made Senbei” stall. “Senbei” is Japanese style rice crackers, and here they make yours to order using a hand cranked press. Two metal plates squish batter, your choice of seafood, seasonings, spices, and shredded seaweed together, and baked it into a crispy sheet. We went with the shrimp and it was laid down and squished down, shell and all. You also get a choice of size from an 8×11 or 11×14. Naturally, I went with the rule that bigger is better and ended up biting off more than I can chew, literally. The end product is great for show, but troublesome to eat. You snap off shards with your teeth and are felt holding much more to go. We ended up snapping pieces down to size and saving the rest for later in a baggie. As for how it tasted, I loved it. It was crispy and salty with the flavour of shrimp and seaweed throughout. I was most amazed at how those four pieces of shrimp seemed to disappear within this sheet.

At the “Fish Stick” stall they took what they were selling and named their booth literal-like. Chunks of white fish, battered and deep fried then skewered on sticks. There were a number of ways they could be dressed for flavour, we went for the teri-mayo and had no regrets. The classic deep fried and creamy combo was amazing.

The surprise favourite was the “pho fries” from the “Fries and Things” booth. They offered different toppings on fresh cut fries like garlic butter and truffle. But the pho was the most unique of their five options, and it tasted just like the Vietnamese noodle soup. From its grounds of beef, the bean sprouts, green onion, parsley, and the salty and sweet brown sauce.

Based on its social media foot print, the “Deep Fried” stall was the fan favourite of the summer, or at least for selfies. Their signature item was a fried to order churro curl planted in a scoop of ice cream and topped with various cereals and sweets. Then it and its cup are placed on the back of a plastic inflatable flamingo. The intended purpose of this flamingo was for use in a pool, however this way for show, seemed to please people just fine. We went all out and got their rainbow churro, which is a golden brown and crispy churro further coated in melted chocolate then dipped in rainbow sprinkles. Truth be told, I was expecting and wanted a churro made with rainbow coloured batter. Maybe someone can get on that for next year?

From the same stall, we much preferred the deep fried mozzarella sticks, coated in a layer of crushed up Doritos. It was everything I expected and all that I wanted. Plenty of chewy, stringy cheese under a thick layer of zesty chips.

The “Teppan Bossam” stand offered Korean fusion style, flame seared pork belly. The barbecuing of this was quite the visual. The flames on it jumped into the air, unannounced it was quite the scare. Thick cuts of pork allowed to sizzle to a sear, then chopped up and served on a bed of lettuce with a side of dipping sauce. From three different flavours we went barbecue. The first few cuts were the perfect balance of meat to fat, although the last three were worth skipping as it was all gristle.

From “Bao Bar” we had one of their Asian style ice cream sandwiches. Deep fried, sweet, white buns fried to a golden brown and made to sandwich a brick of ice cream. Ice cream in flavours like matcha, Vietnamese iced coffee, earl grey, and durian. As is often the case, we went for the most unique of the lot, the toasted soy milk ice cream served with a Chinese doughnut. I just wish one was in proportion to the other. I liked the ice cream just fine, but my guests did not. Although I didn’t enjoy it any more with the chewy doughnut.

I appreciated the ingenuity of “sippy tea”. Their flavoured milk teas are served in plastic, resealable drink pouches. They seemed to be fairly popular, as only 30 minutes in to market open and they were already out of their “Thai coconut” flavour, which just so happened to be the one I was gunning for. But instead we got the “chai coconut” and were very happy with it. It was a great brew, the flavour of a stand out spicy chai, but with the mildness of a milk tea. And the best part, I didn’t feel constrained to finish it all in one go. I was able to free my hands for the food to come, by re-sealing the bag of tea and dropping it into my purse.

At this point we were looking for something with more substance, and stopped at the “Benkei ramen” stand to get two bowls of noodles. I enjoyed being able the watch the two men behind the counter multitasking. Preparing the noodles, stirring the broth, grilling the corn, searing the meat, slicing the perfectly soft boiled egg, and then bringing them all together in a cardboard cup, topped with seasonings to finish. It was a tasty bowl, I would purchase from any restaurant. I just wish I had more of it, given the price we paid.

I remembered the “raindrop cake” stall from last year, and this year they are back offering their translucent jellies, ideal for those looking for a lighter dessert. And now they also come with cherry blossoms at their centres, making it all so much more picturesque, almost like a paper weight. Served with powdered soybean and cane syrup for dipping into, and sweetening to your preference.

At the “Mango fever stall” we grabbed their last “mango Mille crepe”. A pre-made cake with layers of dough and cream, topped with fresh cut mango chunks to order. I am not a big fan of the dessert in the first place so didn’t find this all worth revisiting. You could tell that it wasn’t fresh, not than any version of this complicated cake is served that way. This really took away from the would be lightness of the cake.

And lastly we ended our night at the popsicle stall. Here, they pour flavoured juice into specialty rose shaped ice cube trays, and then froze them with a popsicle stick in place. The result: one of the most attention attracting items at the market. Although flavour wise it was nothing special, almost watered down.

Having eaten our fill, we then took our time exploring the rest of the market; with vendors offering socks, jewellery, cell phone cases, and swords.

 

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.
There are so many new stalls this year that I can definitely see myself returning soon to try more of which didn’t make this list. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC
604-244-8448
richmondnightmarket.com
Richmond Night Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Illumination Night Market, food edition

Today I was invited back to the “Illumination night market”, as part of a “Chinese Bites” media event. This was an offer I just couldn’t refuse, as my VIP blogger pass included access to over 30 of its food vendors. The goal, to try a little bit from each and to help spread the word on the market, and shed some light on each of the participating hawkers. Truth be told, many of the stalls were ones I wouldn’t otherwise consider visiting, if not for this opportunity. So let me give you the highlights, and direct you on where your dollar will be best spent at the “Illumination Night Market”, the food vendor edition.

We were assigned co-companions and in groups of six we worked our way systematically through the food pavilion, crossing off numbered stalls name by name. Our group focused on the need for speed approach, running through the savoury food stands first, then the chilled drinks, ending on sweet desserts. And for our efforts, we were one of the few groups that got through the entire list, trying everything and finishing it all between us.

To watch my vlog of this event, and learn our tips and tricks on avoiding lines and maximizing our time at the market, click the link below.

We arrived early and took advantage of the stalls that were already open before the market did at 7pm. We bee-lined it to the stalls that typically saw a larger turn out, to avoid their would-be lines later.

At the “Hurricane Potato” stand we enjoyed one of their whole potatoes peel and spiraled, spread skewered on a stick, and then deep fried and dressed in our choice of seasonings and sauces. With over 9 different sauce types deciding was difficult. We eventually went for the salty and spicy combination of “Korean spicy” and white cheddar. The enjoyable part about this popular street snack is its chewy yet crispy texture, achieved through its unique presentation and the ability to fry so many edges to a crisp. And the fact that they look like battling swords when crossed, this will forever be one of the more popular street style snacks offered here.

Another one with lengthy lines is the “BBQ Squid’ stall. I love it when vendors name their booth after their most popular menu item, it helps you decide what to order. I mean it must be good if it is their namesake, right? We were able to try a split order of squid tentacles, both fried in oil and barbecued over their grill. Both methods of squid preparation is seasoned the same, but there is a big difference between a chewy grilled tentacle and one that is fried to a crisp. This is one I always get at the market and never seem to grow tired of.

Currently popular in the Vancouver food scene is the taiyaki. A fish shaped pastry filled with various creams and custards then topped with ice cream and biscuits. There are a couple of vendors offering this at “Illumination”. But “Sweet Fish” is the only one dedicated to this sweet treat. Here it is available in red bean, vanilla custard, or chocolate Nutella. We had the former most, and it and all the other flavours come with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This one was hard to share, although equipped with our own plastic containers and metal cutlery, we were easily able to trim it down to size and split it six ways.

One of the more fragrant stands is the one offering “Halal BBQ”. Meet on skewers grilled before your eyes, without a screen or protective barrier between you and the meat. The smoke is blow out into the market lanes, and you can’t help but follow your nose to the sweet scent of spicy meat. We had a split order of chicken and lamb and both were as tender as they were tasty. Definitely my favourite meat on sticks from “Illumination”.

At the “Cheese Potato” stand we ordered their name sake. A warm baked potato dressed with green onion, julienne cucumber, broccoli florets, sausage, bacon bites, and plenty of spices and seasonings; then finished with a healthy ladle of a melted cheddar cheese sauce. It was good, but not memorable. I prefer the traditional fully loaded baked potato with a blackened char, salty shredded cheese, and cooling sour cream. This just lacked the punchy flavours I wanted over a neutral potato base.

The “Porky Fries” stall was misleading with its name. I imagined deep fried pieces of pork, cut up and served like fries in a carton. So the display demos under a protective acrylic did help level set expectations. What you saw was a skewered slab of meat. What you got were thinly cut pieces of breaded and fried pork with spam; available either in a wasabi cream dressing with bonito flakes, with a hot and spicy orange sauce, or seaweed with sweet mayonnaise. Despite your assumption on being able to hold it upright because of the skewer, doing so meant you loss half of your toppings to the group. It is easy to share and eat if laid flat in a carton/plate, but you are handed the stick wrapped in a napkin. As for taste, it was bland, with salty pops thanks to the spam. I was left wanting more cream, something refreshing and light to dip into.

I was not optimistic about the “Spicy Crayfish” stand. Night market eating is all about convenience. Standing up and snacking while you either walk or get shoved by those trying to walk around you. There are tables, but they are often camped out by families, and really not all that convenient if you grab your snack at point A and travel all the way to enjoy it cold at point B. And keep in mind the distance in between is lengthen by the unorganized pedestrian traffic. So how were you going to hold a paper bowl and crack a crustacean with one hand? There are pictorial instructions posted up on the stand, but even then I don’t think it would have been as easy as they make it look. Lucky for us, we approached at a slower time, and the stall owners and staff were able to assist in the cracking part. With gloved hands and simple twists of her wrist, a young clerk was able to pull the shell off the tails, giving us easy ability to slurp sweet crayfish meat into our mouth. They are pretty tasty when you don’t have to do it yourself, but I can see others being dissuaded from ordering this one for its complexity. Maybe they can sell it pre-shelled? Although, admittedly, they are less impressive that way.

At the “Taiwanese Snacks” stand we had their deep fried squid and deep fried chicken nuggets. They both had a similar crunch from the lumpy breading used. Salty and chewy, the squid was made spicy with a pasty chili sauce. I like the sprig of fried crispy basil for its visual attributes, as well as for its ability to change the taste. The chicken nuggets came undressed, they were tasty enough, but given the portion size, a nice sauce to also help change the taste mid way would have been nice.

At the “Lucky House” booth they offered Chinese style dim sum. We had some of their siu mai (steamed pork dumplings). It was good, nothing out of the ordinary, and not my first choice in such a setting. Especially when there are so many Chinese restaurants nearby offering the same thing, and better prepared in a kitchen for less.

At “Dragon Crepe” they offered Chinese style savoury crepes. The method of preparation used was that of a battered crepe. A thin sheet prepared over a heated, cast iron round. But the way it was finished was more like an omelet, cooked thin and folded over with green onion, cilantro, various sauces and crispy pork rinds (I think, I eat everything and didn’t bother to ask). The latter gave the crepe some crunch. I was left wanting more sauce from it, maybe something with a tang similar to ketchup?

The “Yuan’s Chuan Chuan Xiang” booth was here presenting their restaurant located in Aberdeen Centre. They offered stewed meat and vegetable skewers giving customers a “taste of Chengdu”. Meat and seaweed on sticks that are already cooked and kept warm, soaking in a pot of broth. They are brought to a boil to order, then painted over with oil and spices, before being served to you in a cup. I advise being careful with this one, as it does get messy with the potential for drips. As for flavour, it tasted washed out. I would have liked some sauce on the side for dipping into, I wanted more salt, some soy sauce even would have been nice. Otherwise the texture of the meat was water logged, and soggy compared to the nice starchy chew of the thick cuts of seaweed bundled in to kelp knots.

I was a little lost with the “Backyard Cuisine” stand. Its name made me think barbecue, but what they offered was cold noodles, bird’s nest soup with ice wine, and fruit juice out of pineapples. I like their playing of hip hop music though, as it singled them out. From them we tried their cold noodle with seaweed and some seasonings. This was lack lustre, nothing about it stood out or would be worth me revisiting.

 

By comparison the “Chinese Escargot Rice Noodle” stand and their noodle dish had more pop. Although despite its name, the use of snails was not obvious. There was so much going on in this broth of orange that you couldn’t tell ingredients apart let lone isolated the small chunks of snail meat. Just as well, as I am not a fan of them anyways. It was spicy with tongue singing heat, followed by the enjoyable crunch of roasted peanuts and deep fried wonton wrappers. But this I would have enjoyed more in a sit down setting with tissues to wipe the snot from my running nose.

The bubble waffle stand was pretty standard. We got the original, but were left waiting, do that by the time we claimed it, it was no longer crispy on the outside and chewy at the middle. Instead they were hard and unsatisfying.

The “BBQ Corner” stall was an interesting one. They offered barbecued gluten, claiming it as a traditional handmade snack of China (by way of their awning). Just excepting the bundle of skewers, we didn’t know what we were having until we bit in. Instead of stringy meat we got chewy dough that was easier to unravel from stick then chewing off chunks with teeth. I like the texture of carbs, so liked the chewy bounce to this. However, I wish it was seasoned differently. The coating over it gave it a grainy finish, like ground up peanuts. I would have preferred a deep fried coating and this springy chew hiding in the middle. Or the dough served in balls that you can easily pop into our mouth like popcorn.

At the “Naximuyi” stand we tried some pickled meat and vegetable skewers. I haven’t had nothing like this, so didn’t know what to expect and therefore could not be disappointed. It was soupy and tangy with vinegar notes. The lotus root and seaweed looked tastier, so I avoided the washed out meat in exchange for more textured chewing.

The “Sexy Salad” stand was new, and an interesting idea. The girl behind the booth was hustling, earning revenue for the hard sell. She declared their salads a great alternative to all the deep fried and greasy foods of the market. She was charming and knew how to joke around with all those passing by, willing to stop and listen. However, in my humble opinion, the night market is more about pigging out on junk food and salty snacks. If I wanted something healthy, I would be cooking for myself at home. Therefore I don’t believe they were doing too well. However by night’s end I did find myself craving for something sweet, and either their vegetable or fruit salad would have done the trick. The bowl of the latter that we got to try was okay. There wasn’t enough dressing for my taste, and more lettuce than tomato or oranges than I would like. I wanted more from a night market salad, competing against the pageantry and novelty of its neighbouring stalls.

The “BBQ Noodle” stand was more barbecue tofu. Tofu blocks on the grill; and sheets of tofu used to make a wrap, along with green onion, cilantro, an imitation crab stick, and a slice of spam. It tasted exactly as expected. Alright, but I prefer my spam with something more dense to off-set its saltier finish.

The crispy and flakey balls from the “Radish cake” stand were nice. I liked the flag marking the vendor in which it came from, the most. As for flavour, it was ashy and dry. I wanted more punch from the filling to give the shell some more moisture and flavor. A dipping sauce would have been nice here.

“Mama’s Kitchen” specialized in hand-made, home-made dumplings. We had some pre-made gyoza, already pan-fried with a nice crust of char around them. They were tasty and exactly as I expected, no complaints.

We were spoiled at the “Shine Valley Lamb Soup” stall, being able to try two different items off their menu and lots of it. The first a flaky, sweet pastry with a chewy centre.

But the highlight was definitely all the meats that they were non-stop barbecuing off their grill. A grill that stretched the length of the stand. You were kept at an arm’s distance by the plexiglass wall, but still got a good look at the rising flames and the smoke being fanned away. The outcome: some tender and smokey beef and deliciously chewy pork chop. For our connivence, it was all cut up and served piled high on a styrofoam plate. Although I would have preferred to rip meat from bone from the chop.

At the “Bi Bim Rito” booth they made Korean style fried rice portable by stuffing it into a folded wrap, but for those wanting to share, it was easier to order it as a meat and rice dish on a paper plate. Well seasoned rice and chicken served with fresh greens and a drizzle of spicy mayo. I just wished for more sauce through out the wrap, and not just with the first few bites,

The “Szechuan” stand offered us a dish of spicy stewed beef with specks of red chilli. It was spicy and stringy. To enjoy it fully I would have to sit down and order it with some rice and greens on the side.

Their joint “Skewers” stand offered another version of meat on sticks, as well as whole quails split open on the grill. We had a plate of the former and enjoyed them for their thicker cubes of tender meat.

We ended the savoury food portion of our night with a visit to the “Top Wok” stand. They offer two booths worth of pre-made dim sum favourites, kept warm by steam. Due to the pre-made nature of their food, there often isn’t a wait, and therefore no line. We were gifted a generous plate of curry fish balls, peanut butter sauced rice rolls, fried noodles, and glutinous dumplings. They were a great carbo-loaded end to our meal, in case anyone was still hungry. These are all things I like and would order at any dim sum.

The “Fruit Me” booth was a colourful offering of blended fruit juice served within their own husks. Pineapple juice in a pineapple rind and watermelon juice blended in a baby watermelon. They ran out of the former, so we helped ourselves to the latter. It was a refreshing drink, but given the weight and hassle of having to hold a whole watermelon around, you just wanted to drink it and be done with it. Given that there are other stalls serving something similar, I appreciated them trying to stand out with plenty of decorative pieces to attract your attention. A paper flamingo straw and skewer with watermelon balls and marshmallows, a paper umbrella, and a gummy worm. They also offer their other drinks in as interesting vessels. An LED lit, tower high, adult sippy cup. A plastic cup that allows two drink to co-exist separately, but together. And cups that are shaped like upside down light bulbs. It all screamed novelty and fun, just like how their booth was dressed in colours and strung up lights.

Similar, but more simple was the “Ice Garden” stand, they too offer fresh fruit slushes. There were also watermelons and pineapples, but underdressed when compared to the offering above. So instead, we ordered a cup of blended mango slush. It was cool and refreshingly sweet.

And similar to it was the mango slush drink we got from the mango focused stall: “MangoHolic”. But their blended mango slush was much sweeter, and a lot more smoother, with chunks of mango on top.

At “My Tea” they offered various fresh fruit and sparkling teas. The main selling point being the plastic cups they came in. Each included a little heart to place keep the spout for drinking. They also arranged the orange slices in our order to be visible and visual. Otherwise it was just a fizzy citrus drink.

At the “Comebuy” booth they declared their themselves as “the world’s tea shop”. Offering many familiar bubble tea flavours like milk tea, taro milk, and passion fruit. We had the “lychee delight” and enjoyed the light flavour of the rarely seen/used lychee.

And at “Alcool” they offered alcoholic alternatives: mocktails. Although I can see them being far more successful if they could obtain a liquor license and add a shot or two into each of their colourful mixed drinks. However, I can only imagine the price they would charge, and the outcome if any one person got drunk at the crowded night market.

As for the drink we ordered, we weren’t sure of its flavour or even of its taste. I requested it for its colour, or should I say, many colours. For extra theatrics they even added some smoke into the cup for us. It served no other purpose than for visuals, and I was happy for it.

And we finally rounded off our night at the “Snowberry” stall for one of their fruit ice desserts. Half a melon with its fruit balled and stacked in a pyramid surrounding a mountain of ice. It is coated in condense milk for a sweeter, milky finish. We all agreed that this was the right thing to end our night on. Delicious and the perfect palette cleansing refresher.

 

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? – Yes.
If you are looking for good food this can be a minefield of hit and misses, but more likely you are here for the atmosphere and the feeling of community in eating in such cramped quarters. So try many and have fun playing with your food at the “Illumination” summer night market. And I hope my review of majority of the food vendors was helpful in the above. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

To watch the tour version of my night market review, and to check out all the photo ops set up, visit the link below.

 

ILLUMINATION
12631 Vulcan Way, Richmond BC, V6V 1J7
778-985-5267
summernightmarket.com

Illumination Summer Night Market

The nicer weather has encouraged the opening of the newly branded “Illumination international summer night market”. This has replaced the “Panda night market”, located by the old Richmond “IKEA”, behind the “Home Depot”.

It is no easy task competing against the much larger Richmond night market. The sheer size of it, with all its parking space and the ability to spend hours exploring the many food and gift stalls. But here is their attempt.

Whereas the “Panda market” before use to be free admission, “Illumination” is now charging a $3 entry fee. However this opening weekend, in order to celebrate their rebranding the fee was waved and the city came in troves to take advantage.

“Illumination is an apt name for the outdoor concession and shopping experience. They have down sized in vendor stalls and booths for games, in order to create displays of lights at either ends of the market. Wire and bulbs behind chain separated partitions, that don’t look like much in the daylight, but come alive with twinkling leds, once the sun sets.

This visual strategy is a good one. The market runners have created numerous reasons for patrons to visit outside of just eating a purchasing. They have given the people more opportunities for a selfie, many more Instagramable photo ops, and ways to leave their mark. The hallmark of any millennial deemed success.

There are background walls with quotes, lit up trees and flowers, a garden of butterflies and faeries, and a gathering of twinkling gems and jewels. They have also have created the opportunity for visitors to pay to write a wish on wooden charms to hang on a Japanese style fence. And to pay to tag pink, white, or red locks with hearts on them, to leave your “love”, on a fence that spells out the letters “L-O-V-E” in block letter and lights.

To see all the above during the day and how they looked at night; and to see all that we found note worthy and worth trying, watch my vlog of the night with the link below.

We came early and took advantage of there being no lines and us being the first to order. We were strategic and hit up the vendors that would have the longest queues once the market was in full swing at 7pm. Most of the vendors were ones I remembered from the years before, there were a handful were new ones, and even more yet to open for the season.

We were given a sample of some cured meat, shaved straight from a pig’s hoc. They were a new addition to market this year and made their presence known through their distinct music.

We bee-lined it to the twist potatoes stall without a wait. No line meant we had the ability to watch our potato go from spud to spiral on a skewer. Then continue to watch as it took an oil bath, and got a rub down with powder and a drizzle of sauce. We went for cheddar cheese and ketchup and it tasted like kraft dinner with chewy potato.

Next we rushed to the only takoyaki stand at the market for some shrimp battered balls, instead of the traditional octopus. They were still piping hot as it had us breathing out with mouths forming an “O” around the breaded ball, as we ate.

We visited the double sized dim sum stand twice. Once for the pork dumplings served on a skewer with sweet soy sauce.

And again as our last dish: some curry fish balls, out of convenience. We were still hungry and everything else required a lengthy line to pay, then another line to claim your purchase. We actually left the market after having to push our way down the lane of food vendors on each side. Often stopping, not being able to go with the flow of a non-moving mob.

As for the balls themselves, they were super spicy. They had us rushing to the squeezed lemonade stand and ordering a strawberry flavoured lemonade to quench the heat.

At the “love <3 me” stand we ordered one of their radish cakes, that was more like a ball. Served in a cone shaped paper cup and marked with a branded flag, the details won me over before actually taking a bite. Crunchy julienned radish and cubes of ham hiding in a shell of flaky and chalky pastry. I loved the presentation more than its taste. It could have used a sauce on the side, or some creamy dressing inside, for a more memorable flavour.

At the “cheese potato” stand we had their “explosion pulp chicken” for a steep $10. This is a fillet of chicken breaded crispy. When you rip into it, a sea of yellow liquid pools out. The filling looked and tasted like watered down cheese powder. It was interesting, but not as tasty as you’d want it, having to pay $10 for it.

But my favourite stand was the young woman painting with sugar. Specifically she used a ladle of warm sugar syrup and poured it out into the desired pattern, over a clean board. She did this with speed and the precision of trained hands with much practice.

The stall offered $5 for a spin. Paying the fee and spinning decided what shape she would paint the sugar in. From swords and beets, to birds and butterflies. If lucky you won yourself a $10 design. These were mostly animals of the Chinese zodiac along with crabs, ducks, cranes, and fish. I bypassed that game of chance and decided to just pay $15 of one of their ultimate designs. I went for the Phoenix, having seen the dragon being made for the customers before, and knowing that you can win the dragon with a lucky spin as well. But the only way to get the Phoenix is to pay for it. And that I did with no regrets. (Her awe inspiring skill makes it on to my video in full.)

I don’t know how the glass-like candy balanced on the skewer like it did. We were so scared to walk pass the crowds, clutching on to the stick so tight. After all our photo taking, there was no hesitation to take a bite and crack into this edible work of art. It was a little brunt tasting, but realistically you aren’t purchasing this for flavour, but for novelty and show.

We were finished with the market long before the sun set, so sat in our car waiting for dusk, and for the market to come alive with lights. We then walked the expanse of the lot again, appreciating the displays in a whole new light, literally.

Quotable walls.

LED trees.

 

Faerie and butterfly garden.

Jewelry and gems display.

Good luck charms for you to personalize, at a cost.

 

To watch the food only version of my night market vlog, click the link below.

 

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.
We had a nice time and were happy to have gone. However given the trouble and time it takes to travel and find parking here, visiting for 25 food stalls and 30 everything else vendors; I prefer the expanse and variety of the other Richmond night market, to get more bang for my buck. Especially as both charge for entry admission now. And truly after you take advantage of every photo op and take all the selfies in front of every led flower and every teddy bear statue, you don’t really need to come back to do it again. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ILLUMINATION
12631 Vulcan Way, Richmond BC, V6V 1J7
778-985-5267
summernightmarket.com
Illumination Summer Night Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Frites, Granville

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I have been here once before, a few years back; when this poutinerie, imported from Montreal first opened its doors in BC. However after one visit, I found them good, but not having much more to bring me through the doors yet again. Especially given how the Vancouver food scene is speckled with poutine. Most places seem to offer their take on the traditional fries, cheese, and gravy; as well as clever interpretations all their own. From stand alone poutine shops to restaurants offering this popular Canadian classic their way. So with all there is to choose from, restaurants focusing on poutine really have their work cut out for them.

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Fast forward and I was back, and to my delight, much has changed. It was nice to see how they have made changes based off of the feedback from customers like me, and now offer a greater in depth menu. I was ready to try some of it, and to eat my words. They currently have a much more fulsome menu, with offerings able to give them their own spot on the market.

To read my original review and have a good comparison point between now and then, click the link.

Frites

My guest this evening was actually a former employee. With his behind the counter expertise, he easily navigated us towards what was a must try and why. They are now known of their international spins-off of the traditional poutine. You still have the fries, but everything else is new and different. The gravy is replaced with sauces, and the cheese a bevy of ingredients. There were falafel fries with a cucumber and tomato salsa, a Montreal smoked meat poutine, a Kalbi beef and kimchi poutine inspired by Korean cuisine, and for the pickle lovers a poutine with battered pickle pieces in a dill pickle sauce.

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My guest highly recommend the “Pad Thai frites”, as his favourite. Thicker cut fries are dressed in a spicy pad Thai sauce with bean sprouts, cilantro, lime, and peanuts. The end result is a taste and texture you wouldn’t expect to like, but do, and easily too. Sadly it was a little too spicy for me to enjoy fully but the juicy sprouts and the fragrant herbs did cut through a bit of that. But it was the tasty peanut sauce that had to coming back for more.

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And if you didn’t like any of their international poutines you can easily get a traditional one, where they don’t skimp on the cheese curds. This is the small, served in easy to take out box.

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But if you want an even easier way to eat gravy cheese and fries, they have a “deep fried poutine”. It is essentially a spring roll wrapper folded over fries, cheese, and bacon bits. Fried to order and served with gravy for dipping. This was carbs in carbs with a crispy bite from start to finish, and the addition of bacon also adds another layer to it. An interesting interpretation, but I must rather the original above.

And if you still can’t find exactly what you are looking for, you can simply customize your own poutine with over 15 different gourmet sauces to choose from. But instead, I turned my attention to their waffle sandwiches.

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Given the one man operation they were running, where you ordered behind the cash counter, speaking directly with the chef through his window; I was impressed with their freshly pressed waffles made into sandwich. You could hear the hinge of the press squeak and could smell the dough bubble and bake. And the end result was a delicious “Crispy chicken waffle sandwich”. Best eaten fresh when the dough is still crispy and the lettuce and tomato are still fresh. The fried chicken was no slouch either, a well fried crunchy and juicy piece of white meat, made tangy with a generous scoop of mayonnaise. A great lunch, or in my case a take out late night snack.

 

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.
First impressions are important, but I never miss an opportunity to reassess. If I had stayed away, I would have missed out of discovering their international fries. Some pretty interesting combinations for those like me, who love a lot of novelty for dinner. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

FRITES
1011 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 1L5
60-559-0550
frieswithbenefits.com
Frites Granville Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Poké Time

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A few notable Vancouver food bloggers and myself were heading to an “Eat! Vancouver event”. Fearing that we would be hungry, and that the event wouldn’t have much food stuffs to offer, we decided to graze before our destination. So we found ourselves at “Poke Time”. All my companions have been to other poke places before, but this would be my first. So with their experience, I was excited to see if poke measured up to the other poke places popping up around town. This is definitely the current food trend that has taken Vancouver by storm.

The restaurant is one of a few that sprung up during the end of summer poke (the food) craze and the “Pokemon Go” phoneme. Coinciding with similar names, our destination instantly became buzz worthy.

“Poke” is a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine. They come in a variety of flavours and a a bevy of ingredients. And this restaurant is known For taking the Hawaiian dish and offering it with their own twist. They have made the dish easier to eat and more mainstream by offering it to you in a variety of formats. Poke over rice, poke in salad, poke nachos, or poke wrapped and roll in rice and seaweed like a burrito. So you can either enjoy it as one of their specialty items above, or choose your own adventure from their list of raw seafood and fresh chopped vegetables, and make something all your own.

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Their list of proteins include albacore tuna, salmon, crab, shrimp, or scallop. For vegetables and fruit they offered Sweet Onion, Green Onion, Cilantro, Cucumber, Seaweed, Corn, Mandarin Oranges, carrots, pineapple, red cabbage, and avocado. And lastly, for toppings they had Roasted Sesame Dressing, Sriracha Aioli Sauce, Gochu Chili Drizzle, Hawaiian Original Sauce, wasabi aioli drizzle, and corn flakes and onion crisps. With this many combinations you could continue to visit and try new things for days on end.

I have had bad experiences with trying to customize something and not having it look or taste the way I had hoped, so have left today’s pre-meal up to the expert, making my selection from off the fixed menu.

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The dishes we all had were set, so when our bowls went down the assembly line, we watched ingredient after ingredient getting topped on. First the raw seafood, and then then vegetables. Our choices came before and after. The rice in either white or brown, or the opportunity to forgo rice all together and have a salad of dressed lettuce instead. And lastly we had our choices of dried topping. Four options to give our bowls and burrito some crunch. Cornflakes, fried onion, and coconut flakes.

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“Nosh” got the “Zen Bowl”. Made with Albacore Tuna, Salmon, Sweet Onion, Green Onion, Cilantro, Cucumber, Roasted Sesame Dressing, Crab Salad, Seaweed Salad, Corn, Mandarin Oranges, Sesame Seeds, and Nori. This was the full size and not even the most loaded of all the bowls. It was plenty tasty with all the above, but half of it was rice.

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“Gressing” got the “Super Crunch Burrito” made with Hawaiian Marinated Salmon and Tuna, cucumber, corn, mandarin oranges, crab salad, seaweed salad, red cabbage, avocado, corn flakes, onion crisp, nachos, sriracha and wasabi drizzle, and sesame seeds. After it was bundled up tight and wrapped in paper, she was then given the option to have it cut into two. She took their offer for ease of eating. Given how much went in, I was surprised at how well it held together. Although in terms of taste it was disappointing. There was not enough flavour. It needed more marinade, or a dipping sauce on the side. It was like a bland salad and rice, without dressing or sauce.

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“The diner” got the “Spicy Scallop” in a smaller size, for $2 less. His bowl came with Scallop, Green Onion, Jalapeno, Masago, Sriracha Aioli Sauce, Corn, Crab Salad, Pineapples, and Carrots; with Gochu Chili Drizzle. I liked the flavour of his the most. The scallop was dressed, and the serving as a whole came drizzled over with an additional sauce. It was spicy and tangy with lots of elements to keep each bite interesting. This was the perfect ratio of rice to vegetable and seafood. Though he went for the brown rice and found it dry, not surprising considering I found my serving of white rice similar in texture.

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After much debate between the nachos or the “Hawaiian Traditional”, I went with the latter, upon the clerk’s suggestion. Though would regret it, due to lack of flavour and a less exciting presentation. The others had their poke in bowls, mine came in a take out box. This was two scoops of Ahi Tuna in their Hawaiian Marinade, Seaweed Salad, Avocado, Sesame Seeds, and Nori. I went for all the toppings and wished I had more for its enjoyable crunch. For those unfamiliar with poke this makes a great beginner’s course. But having tasted the others, I found its one note flavour less exciting. This too could have benefited with a sauce on the side. What I did like was how the cold fish and the warm rice were a nice pair together.

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They made a nice pit stop, with their quick and easy, made to order, healthier snack and meal options. Their dining area was even set up with the need for speed and connivence in mind. A self serve station with water and plastic cups, disposable utensils and condiments. Seating was a lengthy counter with stools set against the wall. You perched up and hung your bags on the hooks below.

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But it was the wall by the front door that was the most memorable. A bench between two pineapple plants, with the fruit stamped on the wall behind it, like wall paper with yellow shell and green leaves stencilled. They also played very tropical music to match the theme. A breezy beat with a ukulele strum.

 

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.
It was tasty, but maybe not my first choice for anything poke or even for lunch. It was certainly fresh and you felt healthier for having it. But I would have to try its other poke competitors before giving a full assessment. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

POKE TIME
1258 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 1C2
778-379-7187
poketime.ca
Poké Time Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Richmond Night Market 2016

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The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder. And that means there are less people at the night market, and therefore less lines to have to stand and wait in. So what better time to visit then before the end of their season? And what better day than a rainy one turned clear last minute?

It did get colder and windier as the night wore on. And we did leave scurrying, thinking we had under dressed for the temperature. But despite the conditions, many still made their way out, and there were still waits to be had, but none too bad.

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So if you are thinking of visiting, I suggest that you do. There aren’t too many days left before outdoors events like this become to cold to attend. They are opened until October 10th this year, so you have two more weekends to make your way down, before you have to wait for them to reopen next year, late spring.

I brought along my two eating companions with appetites and curiosities as vivacious as mine own. Today we would be blitzing through a few stalls, and trying some the unique treats that they at the 2016 market had to offer.

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We still had our zoom passes from the beginning of the season, so was putting it to good use once again. With our faster entry we were also given a coupon book. A book of coupons featuring a few of the vendor stalls. We made every attempt to use them and earn ourselves some discount, but often the requirement was a minimum quantity spend. And even with three of us in our group we didn’t have enough people to want to buy multiples of anything at any one stall. Not when there were so many different things to try and so many different places to buy from. So we ended up not using one.

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We started with the traditional night market treat of takoyaki, at the stall with the same name.

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$6 for 6 pieces in either the traditional octopus or shrimp, scallop, vegetable, and cheese filling. We enjoyed the shrimp. But truth is, after all the dough and toppings it really doesn’t make a difference which filling you get. It is the thick brown sauce and the tangy cream over it that you taste.

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The “Po Wah dim sum house” offered some popular Chinese small plates, but none as good as you would get at a sit down Chinese seafood restaurant. And that made sense considering the mobility they needed in such a large scale operation.

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We had the “Panfried pork bun”, four pieces for $4.50. It was a chewy bun filled with warm juice. It was one of those things that was best taken in as a whole bite, lest you make a mess of yourself trying to half it. If you do its juice runs down your chin and stains your blouse, true story. The bun was starchy, the filling tender, and the soup sweet.

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The “Hao gao” (shrimp dumpling) was not as satisfying. The texture of the shrimp filling was off, it was pasty like a meat loaf. But at least the texture of the flour shell incasing it was good. It is my favourite part so I was happy enough with this.

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“The famous popcorn chicken and fried tofu” stand had a pretty explanatory name. We queued up for the latter. I have never had stinky tofu, but know it to be quite the delicacy, if you can get past the smell. I have yet to try it as I could never commit to a whole portion for myself, and for paying for tofu when there was so much more else to try. And this having smelled it plenty of times and being curious of it, as I passed by the stalls that sold it during previous night market visits. But today one of us was a stinky tofu fan and it was as good a time as any to try this one for myself.

We asked for a portion that was half stinky tofu and have regular, but that was not a possibility. The regular tofu came in a whole block. So we went with just a small serving of the stinky for $7.50.

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It was as its name promised. Cubes of fermented tofu fried to a crisp. It had a strong and pungent smell like stinky feet or a sweaty gym bag. I wonder how anyone thought to do and eat this in the first place?

As is, I didn’t find the flavour anything special. It was the brown sauce pooled at the bottom of the cardboard tray that pulled it all together. The sour fermentation and the savoury sauce paired well. And the side of pickled vegetables offered a break in taste. Overall it was decent, but nothing I need to revisit again. The flavour is one of kind, one that I couldn’t get rid of, and will forever know. And when trying it for the first time, this is something you cannot expect.

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The “Squid Feast” stand offered deep fried squid served whole or cut up for more manageable eating. I of course went for the presentation of a full squid skewered. $6 for one $10 for 2. You were given four different flavour options: spicy, salt and pepper, sweet and sour, and spicy garlic. We chose the latter as it was highlighted as their “most popular” with its own heading on the menu.

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Naturally it was a difficult task eating the whole squid on the stick. It took a combination of tearing with finger nails and teeth to hack our treat down to size. The squid was crispy on the outside and an easy chew on the inside. I didn’t get much of the garlic power or spicy chilli sauce that was shook and squeezed over the squid. I would have liked and rathered some mayo instead. Deep fried foods pair well with a solid creamy dip.

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We were eating as we explored and decided to stop at “The Taiyaki” stall for something sweet. I liked their slogan, “it’s your lost if you don’t try it the 1st time”, and “it’s my fault if you don’t come back the 2nd time”. Sadly I would not be back a second time. It was a great visual and concept, but disappointing in execution.

The queue for this was deceiving. Located on a corner, there wasn’t a line to pay, but a tremendous wait to pick up. But at least you got to enjoy the show of them being made to order before your eyes.

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“Taiyaki” literally means “baked sea bream”, a Japanese fish shaped cake made with regular pancake batter. It is often filled with savoury and sweet ingredients, but today our options were limited to the dessert verso of taiyaki.

They use specialty cast iron moulds. Batter gets poured in half way, then the intended ingredient finds its way in the centre. A whole kit kat stick, or a scoop of either red bean or custard. Then more batter over top before the mould snaps shut and and the cake is pressed and baked.

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We went for the extra embellishment of having each one topped with ice cream. You choose your filling and the topping. The names for the latter were very misleading. The “matcha” was not powder, but just green tea koala biscuits, the “Oreo” was two cookies sticking upright, and the “stik-o” was a chocolate filled wafer stick. These with a scoop of grocery store bought bulk vanilla ice cream was not worth the extra $1. The regular for $4 taiyaki would have sufficed, except they were hardly filled, and it was more batter than the name sake filling guaranteed.

We had the Kitkat taiyaki topped with vanilla icecream and oreo cookies, and red bean taiyaki topped with ice cream and a wafer stick. The dessert seemed lazy, where it could have been so much more, and much more special. I wanted it to look like how they did on the employee’s uniform tee shirt. I expected soft serve ice cream and rainbow sprinkles at least.

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It was getting colder and we were looking to warm up, so here we stood at the “Benkei ramen sho” stand. I had recently been to their store front, so it was interesting to see how they transition their traditional ramen outdoors, and out of kitchen for the night market. (At least I think they are affiliated.)

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They offered four different types of ramen: shoyu, shio, miso, and spicy miso. With each you had the option of a small or large, with their prices varying based on broth. Our small spicy miso was $6.75, versus $9.50 for the large.

Similarly above, it looked like a quick wait, but it was a short line on one side and a halting pause on the other. We had so much time that we filled it by visiting other stands for food, then returning back to this one to wait some more. But once again you got a show as you loitered. Behind plexiglass they torched slices of belly, boiled corn, and stewed pork. Bowls were prepped with ingredients like an assembly line and to it the noodles and broth was poured over.

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Our portion looked good and it had the warm effect that was desired. But we felt deceived, given the size of the bowl and the amount of broth, you would expect more noodles and toppings to fill it up. At least it was tasty. The broth was rich, the noodles were chewy, the corn added some sweetness, and the greens some freshness. It had a good flavour and we had no complaints. Considering their cramped work space, without the convenience of a kitchen, this was an impressive operation. The price was a little high, but the cost was definitely going into the labour that is required to prepare every element of the dish and to bring it all together.

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The “Big G large fried chicken” offered chicken in two different formats and other deep fried sides. Their claim to fame is a flattened out slab of chicken that is larger than your face. You are encouraged to purchase this marvel and hold it over your face, as the girl featured in their awning did.

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I have had it before and the meat didn’t taste any better pounded flat, so we stuck with their “Chicken bites” instead. They were easier to share and had an enjoyable texture. Crispy skin covering juicy white meat. The chicken was heavily seasoned and had a strong spicy garlic smell and taste. They were a tasty and fun to pop into your mouth snack.

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And this year’s most trendy treat at the night market is the “raindrop cake”. A translucent gelatin/agar dessert made famous with videos of it jiggling online. They are served only at the “OD” stand, which takes the time to explain what this is and how it originated.

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The clerk recommended that I try the traditional version of it with black sugar syrup and soy bean powder. But for those looking for more familiar flavours, they also offer it with red bean paste and matcha powder or condense milk and cocoa powder. Your choice is important because the agar is flavourless and the powdered topping and the sweet syrup is what gives it any flavour. But what the actual “cake” contributes is its jello/jelly like texture. It is amazingly smooth and fun to sip in between clenched teeth.

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I would never pay for a milk shake like these, but my guest don’t make the ones I do; so she was interested in the “Australia Visa” booth and their “freak shakes”. But sadly, it turned out to be the worst thing that we ordered all night.

Their offerings were displayed on their awning. A photo of a milkshake and its name. But with an oranging light bulb and no description of what went into it, you had to ask to learn that “Hope” is green tea, “Puppy love” is strawberry, “Sunset” is mango, and “Black Forest” is chocolate without cherries, which is deceiving given its name.

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My guest choose the latter and was utterly upset that what she got was not a milkshake. It was literally store bought chocolate milk and whipped cream with a chocolate drizzle and Oreo crumbs over it. It at least could have been made mixing cocoa powder and milk for more effort and a better flavour.

In hindsight, I don’t know why we didn’t ask to have our money back. You were paying for the plastic mason jar that you got to keep. But not the ability to choose which saying you wanted on the cup.

And although it looks great in photos, having the chocolate sauce drip onto glass made it extremely messy and not very practical for drinking out of. The vendors stood and watched as my companions wiped all the chocolate off with wads of one ply napkins. They spent 6 minutes cleaning and stirring before they even took a sip. Needless to say, they didn’t finish it. All that was left with was the $8 plastic mason jar, that didn’t seem worth it. Once again, the worst item of the night.

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We stopped a the “Sawadika Thailand fried ice cream” stand because my guests have never had anything like it, so I wanted them to try it. Little did I know that the wait would be so long. But once again, the ability to watch servings of it being made from start to finish was appealing.

You choose your flavour between Peach, Strawberry, Passion fruit, Lemon, Oreo, and Kiwi. I started off with the lychee for its more unique flavour, but ended up with a kiwi for its great colour.

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They begin by pouring cream over their freezer top. It is the opposite of a stove top, where instead of heat to cook, you get ice to freeze. To the milky batter your flavour choice is added. The Oreo was two full cookies chopped super fine on the spot. The passion fruit and strawberry flavourings were both syrups. And the green of kiwi looked like a gel. Using two spatulas they mix everything together and whip up the texture using a series of chopping and flipping motions. This happens a few times to get the desired solid texture from a liquid. This texture is achieved through much man power, two people working non stop. Their wrists must hurt after the market closes. They worked plenty for the $6 we paid, and I felt like it was worth it for the show alone.

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Finally the ice cream is spread out one last time over the freeze fry pan. Then it is scraped off into rolls. The rolls are then placed upright in a plastic tub for serving. The end result is an ice cream with a unique texture, it is tacky like gum, but melts in the heat of your mouth, like any self respecting ice cream should. We joked that it would be easier to take in with fork and knife. The kiwi flavoured reminded us of the “green” from the store brought rainbow flavoured ice cream. An enjoyable childhood sweet flavour, but nothing like kiwis.

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And to end our night I grabbed a bag of doughnuts from the “lil fellas” mini doughnut truck to go. Sadly, they too were disappointing. They looked and tasted under cooked, which was painful, considering that they were asking for more money here, than what they were being sold for at the PNE. Then again there was a doughnut stand offering these miniature cinnamon and sugar rounds around every corner there, and here there was just the one truck. They also didn’t travel well. The paper bag didn’t let them vent and by the time I got home condensation had made the soggy.

 

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.
I will definitely be back next year. The Richmond Night Market is a summer staple. Every year I look forward to trying any new unique treats, and having all this variety all under one setting. Plus it’s fun to walk off your heavy meal by exploring the other vendors selling non edible merchandise. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

RICHMOND NIGHT MARKET
8351 River Road, Richmond BC
604-244-8448
richmondnightmarket.com
Richmond Night Market Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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