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Category: Chinatown Page 1 of 5

Mila, Dine Out 2021

We came to Mila for name alone. My friend’s daughter shares the name of this newer plant-based restaurant, so we figured it would be a fun treat to bring her out with us today. And with Dine Out Vancouver running, this was an ideal time to get a good look at what they bring to the table, literally. $40 gives you a choice between 3 options across 3 courses. Below are our picks and what we would recommend out of them all. But first drinks, cause we made it in time for Happy Hour and their $10 cocktails.

Isla Nublar is a show stopper with Havana Club 3, Ancho Reyes, mango juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, simple syrup. This fun drink is as tropical and as tasty as it sounds. Island freshness with fun propping.

The Sakura is a whole lot stiffer with tart and smokey hints. Absolut Vodka, Giffards Crème de Violette, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon juice, lavender bitters, and Angostura Bitters.

We also ordered the half sushi roll. $6.50 for 3-4 pieces instead of the $14-15 for the whole roll for 6-8 pieces. The Mila Roll has a heart of palm mix, avocado, cucumber, black sesame, tempura crunch, and wasabi mango mayo. This was a great mix of textures and tastes, hard to describe and pinpoint, but one I fully endorse. It ate like a salad, but as easy as a sushi roll.

But the one that really blew my mind was the Aburi Lox Oshi. Made with carrot lox, aburi sauce, shiso, and serrano. I have had my fair share of the salmon version of aburi, and have even made my own from coho salmon that I caught all on my own. So trust me when I declare that this imitation salmon roll is amazing. If I didn’t know it was carrot I would have been fooled into believing it was fish. This was so unbelievably tasty, and super impressive as a vegan oshi option. After the first piece I wanted more of this spicy and smokey block, so found myself ordering a whole roll to end our meal on, and in order to share my findings with my friends as leftovers.

As for the actual Dine Out Menu, we ordered the other two starters, having already tried the sushi option above. I wasn’t a fan of the Wild Mushroom Toast with whipped ricotta, demi-glace, truffle, and micro herbs. I thought it would grow on me, but something about it put me off. I found it simply salty, whereas I wanted more depth of flavour. I didn’t get mushroom or anything close to ricotta. It fell flat, despite how delicious the presentation came out.

I would instead recommend the Bao Buns with hoisin tempeh, pickled onion + cucumber, sambal aioli, cilantro, and crispy shallots. This one got me back on the Mila bandwagon. The white dough bun was prepared perfectly, salted evenly and baked fluffy. The sauces were what I would expect from a vegan take on this Chinese fusion snack item. The tempeh also ate with some substance and I wasn’t missing meat here.

For mains we skipped on the Mushroom + Sausage Tagliatelle and instead went for something more unusual in their vegan take on fast food classics.

The Smash Burger is their interpretation of an American cheeseburger. Average by those standards, but aces as an all plant take. Double patties, cheddar, black garlic chive aioli, iceberg, onion, roma, and a pickle; on a brioche bun, served with smashed chips. The vegan patty was crumbly, but tasty with the smokey nacho sauce. I just wanted more tang from a sweet bbq sauce and/or more pickled vegetables. This was good, but the potatoes are what stole the show. Offered as sides to both our entrees, these were some of the best potatoes that I have ever had. Smashed creamy, yet firm with the skin. Plenty of seasonings as is, but made more familiar and comforting with ketchup.

If you only get to try one entree, make it the Fish + Chips with tempura celeriac, caramelized lemon, mango cabbage slaw, tartar, and smashed chips. Here Mila hits another home run with their take on white fish this time. The texture was unbelievable, they managed to get the celeriac to flake like fish would. And once under a thick coating of crispy airy battery, it was unrecognizable. Finished with perfect tartar sauce, I dare say that this was a better rendition than actual fish and chips. It was less greasy than ones that I have had, with the flavour to match. It was clean and refined, and I would go back just for their “fish and chips”. I just would edit the slaw to one more complimentary. It was a good crunchy julienned vegetable mix, but I didn’t think the Asian flavour matched with the tartar all that much, or the potatoes.

There are only two dessert options so we shared both. The Peanut Butter Cup Pie was rich and decadent featuring puffed crisps, chocolate ganache, and maldon. Satisfying with peanut butter and chocolate, this was exactly what you would expect given the name. We didn’t miss milk or egg here

Out of personal preference I recommend the Lemon Custard Bar with a salted oat crust and berry compote. It had the creamy and jello-like texture of panna cotta. Refreshing from the lemon and hearty with the crumble. It delivered on expectations and was a nice zesty note to end on.

O‍verall, this was fantastic meal and Mila is a fantastic restaurant. Not just under the category of vegan restaurants, but a restaurant I would return to and dine at when I want good food. I have already recommended this one and have recalled my favourites to many. I am hoping to dine with them again in the near feature, and try more of their clever take on meat-filled favourites.

MILA Plantbased
185 Keefer St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1X3
(604) 844-8040
milaplantbased.com

Manpuku Bento

Every Friday my gym buddy and I end our session with a meal to recoup our dispensed calories. Our goal, filling and comforting for cheap. Today we made that destination “Manpuku Bento”, knowing we would be in the area on another errand.

The down side, no dine in and it was far too cold to dine outdoors. But once we saw the menu, our hearts were set and we found our selves going in, ordering take out, and waiting in the cold for our order.

The shop is a small corridor. Only permitting room for one. You walk in, choose from their limited menu and order at the counter. For covid precaution sake, they ask you to wait outside. Shame, because there is much to see inside. A collection of premade Japanese sweets from local chefs, and plenty of sauces and sides to customize your meal to come.

The menu is very easy to navigate. Clear to read with plenty of photos, allowing you to let your eyes do the choosing. We got all our favourites below and was not disappointed. Even after devouring it cold. Cold, because I insistent on finding the perfect park for my picnic photo below, only to actually eat in the warmth of my car.

Each order comes with miso soup. Not your standard mix, but an extra savoury and salty broth with plenty of carrot and daikon slices, and onions lingering at the bottom. This was some of the most flavourful miso soup I have ever had.

The Chicken Karaage was declared the best in Vancouver and on earth, (by their own menu). Three large pieces of Japanese style deep fried chicken over rice with a little bit of cabbage slaw and a wedge of lemon. The chicken was surprisingly tasty. We did think it would be good, but was surprised by how good. I just wish it was cut down into smaller pieces for easier eating and sharing. I also would have liked some pickled vegetable or sauce on the side to rejuvenate the taste and add some depth after the first piece.

Although having said that this sort of food is best as one dish in a group, shared so that you can mix and match flavours and not get bored with just eating one item from start to finish.

My guest’s favourite of our three items was the Katsu Don. Pork cutlet, caramelized onion, egg, and their house made donburi sauce over rice. This ate more like a full meal with the sauce and sides I wanted above. The sweet sauce complimented the pork well, it wasn’t too heavy. It and the meat drippings were sopped but by the rice adding to the cohesion of the dish.

I found the Beef curry rice disappointing. It was the sweet sauce I was expecting, but flat. Salt would have helped, but the curry lacked depth. Eating it with the chicken above improved the situation. So if ordering this I advise adding on a pork cutlet or karaage piece.

Overall, for the cost and ease in ordering I can definitely see myself coming back and taking out more to go. Recommended for a quick lunch or for anyone looking for a home cooked-like meal.

Manpuku
288 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T7
(604) 687-0849
manpukubento.com

Chinatown BBQ

If you ask local food blogger and foodie with an impeccable palette: @pickydiner, this is his favourite place for Chinese style barbecue. Therefore, when given the opportunity, I was excited to stop by this Chinatown gem, to share a platter with him.

From the exterior, the restaurant doesn’t look like much, but inside the modern meets traditional decor speaks volumes. An eye catching merging of patterns and pops of colour sets the place apart. A checkerboard floor, red chairs, and green accents; given heritage with Chinese keepsakes and signs.

But the real show stopper is the hanging slabs of meat right as you enter. What is typically showcased in exterior windows at other Chinese bbq shops, is a welcoming sight as you enter through the door at Chinatown BBQ. You basically walk in and can make your decision on dinner through sight alone.

We decided to share a platter of three of their meats over rice. Although I wish they had an option of four over rice, so that we can have a taste of it all. We skipped on the honey glazed pork and opted for the combination of Roasted duck, Roasted pork, and Soy sauce chicken instead.

Here, presentation matters and it only adds to the experience. A fulsome offering of meat over blue and white porcelain, served on top of a floral tablecloth, with rounded bowls of rice. They were even kind enough to allow us to split a pint of beer into two separate steins.

As for the barbecue meat itself, I can immediately taste the quality. Each piece incredibly tender and juicy. The flavour not just on the skin, but saturated throughout. Honestly this is some of the best Chinese barbecue I have ever had. Even more so when I happened to have some for Chinese New Year eve days after and it didn’t even come close to the quantity here. Therefor, I full agree with Picky Diner’s assessment and can definitely see myself travelling down here when I have a craving. Highly recommend.

Chinatown BBQ
130 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3
(604) 428-2626
chinatownbbq.com

Chinatown BBQ, take out

When craving Chinese style barbecue meats there are two main options across the Lower Mainland. Two, that pull out ahead as the ones to visit. And if Richmond is too far of a drive out, Chinatown is the one to head towards.

From the exterior you wouldn’t think this is a restaurant, if not for reading the name and noting all the signs out front. You walk in and are greeted by an additional all glass facade. A stunning evergreen frame with gold lettering and red characters, illuminated by multiple glowing yellow lights. It all stands out against the black and white checkered floor, the green booths with red chairs, and the floral table tops stacked up for non-use. The walls speak to the restaurant’s history and authenticity, displaying a multitude of black and white portraits and Chinese paint brush paintings of waterways and landscape. I wish I knew about the decor sooner, as it would have gotten me down here earlier. But alas, all I could do now was appreciate what I may get to experience one day. Instead I shifted my attention to the glistening pieces of meat that hung in their internal window.

The set up is much like all the other Chinese BBQ places in the vicinity, but a lot more well maintained. It is a shame that this isn’t the view from the store front. I’d imagine they would get a lot more attention if that were the case. A showcase like this I would lure you in and close, as you watch meat juices and savoury oils drip and pool in a tray underneath.

You order off of their red and white menu, kept in place under the glass top of a table. A collection of dishes featuring their prized barbecue, served along side rice or now noodles.

Decor aside, the meat was less impressive. Maybe it was because by the time I got to it, it needed to be reheated. Or maybe because the pieces I got were not the best cuts. But overall I found myself thinking it dry and fatty. The duck was bland, which had me reaching for plum sauce. But there wasn’t any included, which meant I had to settle for Thai sweet chilli. And let me tell you, it isn’t the same. Similarly, the pork belly fell short of my expectations. There was more fat than meat. The skin lost its crunch, and the flavour of what little meat I got was more salty than smokey, as one would expect. However, having said that I did finish it all sucking meat from bone; because let’s face it, even the worse Chinese bbq is better than no Chinese bbq. And this is my no measure the worse. Good in a pinch, a easy meal on rice.

Chinatown BBQ
130 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3
(604) 428-2626
hinatownbbq.com

Dosanko, take out

As we move on to week 5 of quarantine and the need to shutter many non essential businesses, many popular restaurants are trying to find some routine in these forever evolving, uncertain times. Dosanko is one such establishment, who have remained open for take out the entire duration thus far. They have been offering limited menus, keeping what little staff they can employe. Slowly adding more to what’s available, which now includes seasonal offerings.

With cherry blossom season in full swing, Donsanko has brought back their Sakura onigri. A pink rice ball with the look and taste of cherry petals, a popular food trend and flavour in Japan during spring. Its photogenic and rare nature was enough to have me making the drive down. And since I was here, I decided to make lunch out of it. The following is from their lunch menu, in lunch-size portions.

The onigris are a great snack option. Hand moulded and kept solid, bundled in wax paper. Each labelled, each with perfectly prepared sushi rice and a strip of seaweed hiding the centre of your choosing.

The cherry blossom did not disappoint, it was as glamourous as I had hoped, and tasted better than I thought it would. It was bright with the freshness of the shisho leaves. There was a little tang, coupled with floral notes from the blossoms. But the real treat was the surprise filling that I discovered upon the first bite in. As much sweet crab meat as they could stuff, while maintaining the iconic triangular rice ball shape. I highly recommend this one.

I also grabbed a couple of their regular onigris, but sadly they didn’t measure up to the above. They were good, but with unseasoned rice and just the protein to carry them through, it fell flat.

The “Spicy Tuna” is lightly seared albacore tuna with their house made spicy mayo and nori bundled up. The fish is very mild, I wanted some more spice in this or some sauce for it. Plus some additional seasoning in the rice and some additional texture to maw through would have been nice. But overall, they do make a nice snack. The rice is served at the perfect temperate, so its best to eat it quick, before it gets too warm and sticky.

The “Zangi” is Chicken Karaage, aka fried chicken with a sesame sauce. Like the fish above, it left like it was lacking something. Additional seasonings and some kick to have the filling stand out against the moist rice. This was quick to fall apart, its flavour better suited in the sandwich below.

The “Tonkatsu & Curry Plate” gave me the bold flavours I was looking for. House made Japanese curry that wasn’t the sweet kind I was expecting. It was savoury and rich, with a slight spice; best balanced by the tangy pickled vegetables served on the side. Each element was perfectly prepared. The pork was tender with crispy breading, it had the right amount of fat for a nice juicy bite. I appreciated the extra ground meat in the sauce, enough for all the steamed rice. You could taste it over the curry that didn’t overpower.

But my favourite out of my order was the “Cheese Crusted Oyako Sandwich” with fried chicken, egg salad, greens and parmigiano reggiano cheese. All the deliciousness above, packed in tight between two buttery sweet slices of toast. Everything in perfect balance of one another. Crispy chicken, tangy sweet mayonnaise, and a luscious egg salad. I could do without the lettuce that became wilted by the time I got to it.

In short everything was so good that I want to go back again soon. Back to support them, and back to try more off of their comfort menu.

Dosanko Restaurant
566 Powell St Unit #100, Vancouver, BC V6A 1G9
(604) 251-2020

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mello doughnuts

I am under the employment of an essential service. This means while majority of the folks are staying home safe, myself and my coworkers are continuing our day to day to ensure that the world is still running during this precarious time. We aren’t health care workers, but the service we provide ensures that they and everyone else has the resources they need to do what they have to.

So as a blend between my own want to try and my desire to treat them, I travelled down to Chinatown for some Mello doughnuts. I have seen a lot about them online, so figured now was a great time to grab a dozen to share.

Like everywhere else that is still open, seating has been removed to better illustrate that they are not open for dine in, but take out only. Two clerks in masks man the empty store front. One at the counter doling out the doughnuts, the other in the kitchen bringing out a fresh batch.

The counter is still stocked as this is the sort of item you order with your eyes. Their full assortment on display, a few with name cards for easy identification. Plus a few other treats like cookies and cakes to round out their offerings.

I ordered a dozen to fit perfectly in their largest box. One of each and doubles of their two signature stuffed doughnuts for 75 cent to a $1 more. These were the strawberry short cake with fresh cream and the tiramisu with plenty of coca powder. Naturally I didn’t try all of the doughnuts, but I made sure to get a taste of both of these. I liked their doughnuts because they weren’t overly sweet. The three that I had were well done. I prefer them over anything I can get from any fast food chains.

The tiramisu lacked the coffee flavour you’d expect. It reminded me more of a mild chocolate, with a chalky finish due to the powdery topping.

The strawberry was stuffed full with luscious cream and fresh fruit. And the coarse sugar topping added a nice sort of crunch to the fluffy doughy round.

The rest of the doughnuts weren’t stuffed. It got its flavour from the frosting and toppings. Flavours like lemon curd, cookies and cream, vanilla, and a dark chocolate. I tried the green tea. It was the last one left when I stopped by, and I can see why. A wonderfully bright doughnut with plenty of green tea flavour, gently sweetened. This was my favourite of the three for its flavour.

In short, Mello is a great way to grab yourself and others a treat. For the lovers of doughnuts when store bought and fast food ones don’t do. Be warned, they are a cashless store, so debit and credit only.

mello
223 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2T9
(604) 423-3556

Juke Fried Chicken, take out

One of the main things I like about dining out is the drinking that often comes along with it. The ability to enjoy hand crafted cocktails at the bar, shaken and stirred by the city’s best bartenders. But with week 2 of quarantine going strong, and the mandatory closure of non-essential businesses in full effect; all restaurants are no longer allowing you the opportunity to dine in. So with only take out or delivery options available, sitting and sipping is out of the question. Therefore I was ecstatic to learn that “Juke” and their award wining bartender, are offering cocktail mixes to go. Almost everything you need to recreate one of their delicious drinks from the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is add ice and the specified liquor.

So today when looking for take out, I made “Juke” my choice, grabbing each of their available cocktail mixes and two entrees, for one me.

Ordering is quick and easy on their website. With photos and quick descriptions it is simple enough to scroll trough and make your selection with a tap. You register an account and payment is taken off your credit card. The following is what I picked up and took home for dinner.

Their signature chicken contains dairy and eggs, but gives you the option to customize it to avoid your specific allergen. Wheat allergy, shellfish, gluten, peanut, nut, fish, soy, seeds, or celiac; they have you covered. As for the chicken itself, enjoy it regular, spicy, as the feature in a burger, or across several combos. I would have it double fold, across two of their entrees.

“Chix & Waffles”. Seeing chicken and waffles I had to indulge. Here, the sweet Belgium waffles do contain gluten, but you can choose a gluten free version. Packed with two pieces of chicken: drum and thigh over two waffles, topped with jalapeños. All you have to do is drizzle the sweet and creamy sauce (kept on the side), over it. This isn’t your typically salty and sweet rendition, but something unique on to its own; much like their brand of chicken as a whole.

The “Juke Box Combo” is a quarter rack of pork ribs, 2 pieces of their original chicken, and your choice of side. For the latter, list of options makes choosing hard. Basically any of their sides are up for grabs. Small fries or dirty fries, asian peanut slaw, cornbread, corn chicken fritters, gravy, Brussel sprouts, or even their “big boy cookie” (a cornmeal cookie with white chocolate and salted caramel, for dessert). Wanting something from the vegetable category, to balance out all the starches and grease, I went for their deep friend Brussel sprouts. They were sauced up well, with the ones at the bottom soaking up most of it, getting soggy and salty in the process. It wasn’t the fresh vegetable I wanted, but another indulgence instead. As for the protein, the chicken was exactly like the serving above, juicy with a crispy skin. The ribs were a meaty looking slab with plenty of gristle and marinade, the rest of the meat was just a little on the dry side.

I like a good pickle so had to try “Juke’s fried pickle”, a collection of pickled vegetable, breaded and deep fried with a coating of cool ranch dust. I didn’t get the ranch seasoning so much, so would have liked a container of it in the side to self dip or shake over. Although, I didn’t miss it. Aside from their time in the fryer, the tangy pickles offered a nice break in everything else above.

As for the cocktails, each is served in a mason jar, that accounts for a portion of the cost. It is labelled with the ingredient list and directions on how to complete the cocktail. And a reminder that social distancing is important, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a drink.

The “Passion fruit gimlet” was a bold yellow with syrup and lime juice. To it you add 2oz of vodka, gin, or tequila and ice. You can either drink it in the mason jar it comes in, or transfer it to a different vessel for a more normalized experience.

The “Blue skies margarita” starts off with a nonalcoholic blue curaçao and lime juice, and to it you add 2oz of tequila and ice, before shaking and serving.

“Purple rain” has you adding 2oz of whiskey to the mix of pineapple juice, orgeat, and lime.

Overall this was definitely a more sumptuous meal. It left me wanting milk and a salad for balance and freshness. An order that was enough to feed me for 3 meals to come. Perfect for picnic and outdoor eating under the sun. Shame, we are discouraged from going out and the weather has not been great.

In short, support your favourite local small business to ensure you can enjoy them again in the future.

Torafuku, lunch service

For those who didn’t know, “Torafuku” is the sister restaurant to the popular Asian fusion food truck, “Le Tigre”. However the truck has since broken down, and the owners have decided not to repair it until the new year. A decision made with the want to focus on the quality of food coming out of “Torafuku’s” kitchen, instead. So for those missing their “crack salad”, and servings of rice described as “awesomeness in a bowl”; you can now get both and more, at “Torafuku” for lunch.

I was invited down to their restaurant to reminisce over the more popular food truck offerings. Plus, try a handful of new sides and appetizers. So continue reading to see what you can expect from their lunch service, which is available throughout the week. It is a menu that includes seasonal items and rotating dishes, with the likes of fresh made dumplings in the new year.

For those who have never been, the restaurant is conveniently accessible by way of Main Street skytrain. Easy to spot with its painted brown exterior, and glass front. Inside, it feels sterile and cold with plenty of concrete and an ample aisle way. A wide birth between a row of low back, leather and suede booths; and lengthy share style tables opposite it.

Lunch is available Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30am to 2:30pm. It boasts a fulsome list that includes the ability to make any entree a combo, with your choice of side and soft drink for $4.50 more. Or you go for gold, and grab a beer or wine with your afternoon delight.

They have an impressive cocktail program, so I choose to explore that a little better with “Dr. Sun’s Pencilin”. Ciroc Vodka, Johnny Walker 12 years Black Scotch Whisky, Chinese baijiu, lime, honey ginger, wintermelon tea, cinnamon, and Bittered Sling Clingstone Peach bitters. I couldn’t make out any one ingredient; instead, this was a bevy of ingredients coming together for a smokey, cinnamon-y concoction that paired well with all our rich and savoury mains to come.

The highlight of their Taiwanese themed lunch menu is definitely their take on “Beef noodle soup”, a classic so good that it sells out every day. And the reason that they don’t simply make more is that the chefs don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity, so they keep the amount of perfect bowls limited. After all it does take 72 hours to make the broth alone, and honestly you can tell the difference. Not overly seasoned, not lacking on any flavour, just delicious. Thus, making it my new favourite place for beef noodle soup. I highly recommend coming down for one of these comforting bowls.

Good as is, but for those who want a little more decadence to their beef noodle, they have a jar of beef fat to mix into your soup like a condiment. It is not readily available, but for those who make a special request for it. They also make their own sauerkraut and have extra on hand by special request, as well.

And for those who are familiar with “Le Tigre”, their rice bowls are as they describe it, “awesomeness in a bowl”. They were what I always gravitated towards when I visited the truck. Each bowl features their accurately named “kick-ass rice”, cooked in sake, butter and dashi; with pickled cabbage and mixed herbs, and topped with a perfectly poached egg. When you mix the latter in with its runny yolk, it is pure gooey deliciousness. Enjoy it as is, or have it even more sumptuous by adding fried chicken or pork belly to it. And for the vegetarians, you can add on a helping of their “crack salad” over the rice. (more on that below).

Between the two meat options I prefer the fried chicken, for its crispy crunchy texture. Made creamy and spicy with a chilli mayo, just like with the “kakuni style pork belly” had. The pork belly is tender and chewy, but a little too rich for my tastes. With either one the rice is so flavourful that you don’t need any of the meat that tops it. Case in point is me taking what was left in both rice bowls home and having it for dinner. happily on the same day.

And despite not liking salad, and never wanting to order any at a restaurant, I would make the exception for their “crack salad”. Once again the name hits the nail on the head. So good that you can’t stop at one bite. And when paired with the rice, it offers the carbs a nice break in freshness. And with crispy leaves and a cheesy Parmesan forward flavour lightened with lemon, this makes a great way for you to get your daily dose of greens in. Kale, purple cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts galore.

Similarly, I highly recommend making any of the aforementioned a combo for the above mentioned price. The following are all of their available sides. You can also get them 3 for $10 or all 5 for $16. Each tasty, each unique on to itself.

The tomato side offered a whole new flavour combination. Sweet cherry tomato and zesty raw red onion is amplified with the generous drizzle of their yuzu and plum marinade. It is then accented with the one of a kind herbal flavour of shiso. It had a dessert-like quality to it with its creaminess and sugary finish. A great option to balance out greasier dishes.

The king mushroom tempura was so meaty, that I took a bite not knowing what it was, and thinking it was battered cubes of beef. It reminded me of the deep fried popcorn chicken bites; the kind that you get from bubble tea house. Five spice forward and salty, not necessarily a bad thing.

The chilled, miso braised lotus root was the table’s favourite. The expected starchiness of lotus root, uniquely paired with a miso seasoned cheese spread and fresh green onion. You used the chunky root as a “chip” to scoop up ample amounts of the cheese hidden at the bottom. Another one where I have never had anything like it, and one you have to try for yourself.

The chilled eggplant was marinaded Szechwan style with peanut oil. Mushy eggplant in a tangy sauce with a crunch from the puffed rice it was topped with.

The cucumber side was very familiar with its pickled tang. Crunchy and briny cucumber served with gelatinous agar agar, and woodear mushroom for some chew; all drenched in “Kuan Mama’s” vinaigrette.

Not typical, but as an extra special treat, we got to try some Taiwanese style pineapple cake made by neighbouring bakery “Buttermere”, who rents out “Torafuku’s” kitchen from time to time. The small cube was a tease. Plenty of buttery and crumbly crust, hiding a centre of sweet and fibrous pineapple. Good, but it would have been better larger, for a more even pineapple to crust ratio.

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.
In short, I highly recommend visiting “Torafuku” for lunch. Good food, fast, at affordable prices. Just writing about it now I want more of everything. Don’t deny your cravings.

TORAFUKU
958 Main Street, Vancouver BC
778-903-2006
torafuku.ca

Harvest Community Foods

We were looking for food in the area, and after weighing our options along Union street, we came back to “Harvest Community Foods”. One, it had the most diners within for lunch, and two they had a nice table right outdoors to take in this sunnier winter’s day. And then there is the noodles, I am always down for noodles and there is nothing like a warm bowl on a cold day. But sadly, the latter was not as expected.

The restaurant is more like corner store with shelves of preserves, grains, and organic cleaners. And at the counter, healthy snack bars and fresh fruit to grab and go.

The menu was ink on bleach wood. You squinted at it from across the room, shielding your eyes from the streams of sunlight hindering your vision. The daily specials are a little easier to read, dry erase marker on a white board, at the till. Each, with the option to add in some house made kimchi or change your regular noodles out for the zucchini variety.

We decided to keep it safe, and asked the clerk what she recommend. She was fairly unfriendly, and seemed annoyed with our indecisiveness. This attitude would stay pretty consistent with all subsequent interactions; to the point of us bussing our own table before we sat down, then again after we had finished eating; handing in our dish ware to her, as she stool behind the counter.

As for the food itself, it came out fast. I had their vegetarian “ramen” with a squash and miso broth, nori, scallion, radish, and sesame. I liked the flavour and the consistency of the broth thanks to the purée squash, although when I read “ramen” I expected a better noodle, something of the buckwheat variety. But what was before me was neon yellow and from a pack of instant. Here, quality noodles would have made a difference, and added some much needed flavour to this serving. The daikon and greens gave you little to maw on. I would have liked more toppings to help change the tone, more to customize each bite with. For example, some tofu, mushroom, or egg would have done wonders. Instead, I felt like this was lacking.

My guest got the vegan “rice noodle”. These were saucy noodles coated in an almond, hazelnut, and charred chilli mix, all sitting over braising greens. It was dry and sticky, an unusual texture, having to chew through the coating of nuts. Although it was very light and with the greens it acted more like a spicy salad.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
They are a solid opinion for those who are vegan or vegetarian, just not for me. If I want noodles I will go for something in a fatty pork broth. Don’t deny your cravings.

HARVEST
243 Union St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2Z7
(604) 682-8851
harvestunion.ca

New Town Bakery & Restaurant

“New Town” is a Vancouver staple, a hub for locals and tourists in Chinatown. Better known for their steamed buns and pastries, and now one of the restaurants disguised as another in Ali Wong’s, “Always be my Maybe” Netflix movie. I, myself frequent “New Town” for their steamed buns. If in the area, I go out of my way to grab a couple. Having tried many in and round the city, theirs is the best in my opinion, but more on that below.

The shop and restaurant are easy to spot with a giant plastic bamboo steamer filled with steamed white buns on the awning, and the regular line and gathering of people at the threshold. For those looking to grab and go, you pull a number and wait for your it to be broadcasted above the check-out counter.

Options and prices are listed across three flat screens, but it is much easier to simply point and choose. On top of steamed buns they have plenty of golden brown baked buns, plastic wrapped cakes, and dim sum dessert favourites. The baked buns come in a variety of toppings and sweet and savoury fillings. I also like their honey sweet barbecue pork and chicken buns. But if I had to choose, I will always go for their “Dai Bao”. And I did just that once we were seated in the dining area, towards the back.

Themed in orange, you can tell the restaurant recently had a face lift. Orange backsplashes, orange upholstered seats and booths, and orange branded button up shirts for all the staff. The restaurant’s real age was reveal by a visit to the washroom. The cracked tiles and overall unkept condition of this single stall was off putting. An inevitability given its location and its regular clientele. But I digress, because I still think they are worth visiting.

In the dining area you can order anything from the front of house to enjoy here or take to go. “Dai Bao” is a large white bun filled with a little bit of everything: chicken, bbq pork, ground pork, ham, and a salted egg yolk. I have been enjoying this for so long that I remember it being only $2.50, but now with inflation, it was $3.70 today. And despite the increase, I still think it is worth the price. With all the dough and plenty of filling, it eats like a meal. I want one now just writing about it, and can’t help but compare all other steam buns to this one on its pedestal.

With it I got a bowl of “Hot and sour soup”. Just reading it on the menu I wanted its familiar taste in mouth; one that I like and haven’t had in a while. Unfortunately this wasn’t my favourite rendition of the popular soup. There was too much going on, lots of ingredients to chew through, and not enough syrupy soup base to enjoy it with. Shrimp, wood ear mushroom, tofu, peas, mushroom, carrot, bamboo, beef, and chicken. The peas were a new addition to me, and despite really liking peas, I didn’t here. The soup was thick and hearty and ate more like congee.

My guest had the “fried egg and ham with ramen in soup”, knowing full well that she was essentially ordering instant noodle. Chicken flavour soup broth with a fried egg, thick slice of ham, and plenty of lettuce. It was a nostalgic bowl of noodle soup that she fully enjoyed. But making instant noodle regularly for myself, I cannot justify paying $8.25 for this bowl. Plus I don’t like the flavour of the lettuce rubbing off into the broth.

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 historic Vancouver staple, the best steamed buns in the city, and a great go-to for home style Chinese food at a fair price. With 8 full pages of familiar dishes and specials, there is plenty to keep you gong back for more. Don’t deny your cravings.

NEW TOWN
148 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3
(604) 689-7835
newtownbakery.ca

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