Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Category: Chinatown Page 1 of 4

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.

958 Main Street, Vancouver BC

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.

243 Union St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2Z7
(604) 682-8851

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.

148 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T3
(604) 689-7835

Buttermere Patisserie Cafe

Popular online bakery, “Butter Mere” now has its own store front. After three years of providing Vancouverites with tasty and trendy cakes for all their special occasions, they have finally found the ideal location. A relaxed cafe setting to serve their confectioneries, conveniently close to their actual bakery.

Notable for their one line lion logo, a male lion standing on its hind legs holding a cake. They have taken over the old home of a now shuttered smoothie shop. And luckily for them, their predecessor’s modern decor with bleach wood accents, geometric printed counter, and fresh greenery transitions well to a bakery’s cafe space. There are several small tables seated in front of a wooden bench that ran down the length of the case, but grabbed one of the two nooks at either sides of the front door, for more private seating.

Their existing fan base has seen that their first week opened gets plenty of foot traffic. With many more walking in to experience their highly photogenic offerings in person. On top of full sized cakes for serving at parties, they have a showcase of individual sized desserts and cream rolls for point and ordering. The latter was sponge and cream in flavours like matcha red bean, hojicha, and chocolate strawberry, etc.

I started with their fun “ruby is the new black” hot chocolate. This is the hot version, but it is also available, just as pink, cold over ice. For those who have tried it, it tastes like chocolate milk made with the limited edition pink ruby Kit Kat chocolate bar, melted down. As deliciously creamy as you think it is. Though sadly only available in whole milk, with no dairy free or vegan alternatives; lest it change and clashes with the taste of the unique chocolate.

We did ask, and more vegan friendly offerings are in the works, with milk alternatives. Upon this visit they have only been open for under a week, and are still working things out logistically.

I paired the pink “yogurt raspberry cloud” with my matching pink drink. This was a uniquely textured cake, made using a mould created by an architect. It ate as fluffy as it looked, light and airy. Yogurt mousse surrounding a raspberry and cherry compote, over a crispy raspberry wafer. A dessert with plenty of textures and flavours to keep things interesting bite after bite.

But the highlight, and the one to order, if you can only get one, is their “Salted egg yolk puff”, it comes in a set of four, as you see here. A crispy, almost cakey shell hiding a sweet custard-like cream flavoured like the distinct salted egg yolk. A wonderful rendition of the trendy food item.

And for those looking for something more rich, they have their tiramisu in a glass. It was a great presentation, but hard to eat. You had to dig around and up to get the right mix of fluffy sponge, whipped cream, quality cocoa powder, and hint of Kahula.

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.
A great place for a celebratory cake, and a now a great cafe to have something sweet at. And seeing as they are the only dessert spot and/or destination for tea in the area, expect them to be busy! Don’t deny your cravings.

636 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2W1

Wara Thai Eatery, #ChickenWingsChallengeYVR

Today I was at “Wara Thai Eatery”, to check out yet another Vancouver Foodster Chicken Wing Challenger. The competition that pits local restaurants against one another in order to declare their wings the best in the city. This year we had 5 restaurants, and I was one of the judges given the responsibility of finding the winner based on presentation, taste, and originality.

And “Wara Thai” was clever to use this platform as an introduction to their new restaurant, which at this time has only been open for 3 months. Although the husband and wife team are not new to the food serving game. They currently still operate “Wow Thai” located in “Tinseltown” aka “International Village”. There, they offer up their authentic Thai cuisine to diners on the go and the lunch time office crowds. And they aren’t your typical food court stall, with them ingredients and craftsmanship matter. Made to order curries and fresh Thai favourites. Their consistent cuisine has earn them a fan base. And these loyal customers have encouraged them to open this restaurant so that they can enjoy “Wow Thai’s” food, in a more private setting. So here they are, after 4 months of renovations in a space that was still “under construction”.

The exterior wasn’t eye catching, as was it pretty unspectacular inside. Nothing noteworthy other than the “work in progress” murals. Thick black lines began sketching out clouds, water, and characters with bold expressions. Although it was a shame that it wasn’t completed, to be able to give a great first impression to new customers and first time diners. Other than it, the generic art on their all white walls, and grey upholstered booths; their decor really didn’t speak much to the colourful and vibrant offerings. Nor did their menu in black, white, and red. Though, I did like their piggy logo.

When we asked about the unfinished art work the owners did explain that they are currently focusing on their food and service, and as a new establishment, more is yet to come as they grow their brand. They are even planning a trip back to Thailand to collect some artifacts and add more of a visual authenticity to the place.

We started with some Thai ice tea. As the only Thai restaurant in the blossoming area, I wanted to taste the classics and see how they stacked up as the go-to for authentic Thai cuisine in the neighbourhood. With this, they were off to a good start. Perfect in orangey colour and flavour, a refreshing caffeinated beverage I would back just for. I wonder if they have to-go cups?

Next we had the “Larb wings”, the chicken wing challenge contender. This was not on their main menu, but I hope finds its way there, as they literally cause you to lick your fingers clean. These were deep fried chicken wings seasoned with their special “larb sauce”, a mix of lime juice and Thai herbs, giving each crispy wing a nice glaze. The flavour was original, offering tangy notes, a hint of sweetness, and some kick to a familiar classic. It was well balanced and served at the perfect temperature. You find yourself going back for more, almost forgetting the tasting and wanting to experience it new all over again.

Similarly, they had a neat twist on papaya salad. Their version was made crunchy with a quick deep fry. This too wasn’t on the menu yet. Shredded green papaya, green beans, and tomato slices battered and deep fried. Served with its dressing as a dipping sauce on the side, you choose how much tangy fish sauce you wanted with your crunchy salad. And this way things stayed crispy until you wanted to eat it. This was the same papaya salad flavour you enjoy, but with a whole new texture to work through. Even if you aren’t a fan of papaya salad, you will be a fan of this one. Proof that deep frying makes things tastier.

I wasn’t a fan of the “Chicken satay”. The Thai peanut sauce and Thai cucumber and red onion relish were good, but I found the chicken itself hard and dry. The menu listed these chicken tenders were marinated in fresh Thai spices and coconut milk, but I couldn’t taste either. It had a flat flavour and could have use some char or a similar glaze to the wings above. It should already be tasty and the satay sauce used to elevate that taste.

“Pad Thai” is a go-to for adventurous and cautious diners alike, so I wanted to see “Wara Thai’s” take everyone’s favourite Thai noodle dish. Stir-fried rice noodles in tamarind sauce with egg, red onion, chives, bean sprouts, shredded carrot, and basil. We had our choice of protein from pork, chicken, or tofu; and went with the latter as we had three other chicken dishes, and I never had pork with my pad Thai before. Premium protein options are also available for more. Beef for $1, shrimp for $2, and extra of any of the above for $2. My guest though the pad Thai had a bitter taste to it. I noted it as a tangy, tongue puckering note that each bite ended on. Neither good or bad, just there. Overall a decent serving of pad Thai piled high.

You don’t often see “Khao soi” on menus, so I had to try “Wara Thai’s” version. A mix of boiled egg noodles and deep fried crispy egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallot, lime and chicken drumstick in a curry-like coconut soup. It had some medium level heat to it, but was balanced by the coconut cream in the broth. I would definitely recommend this one for those who love chewy noodles and a sweeter, creamier soup. I would be just as happy with only the noodles in soup, but this way everything else that came with it, was a bonus.

And for dessert we couldn’t walk away without trying their “Sweet coconut sticky rice with ripe mango”. Originally I was eyeing their jackfruit version, where they stuff the jackfruit with the sweet coconut sticky rice. However, we were told that the fruit is from a can, and the one to order was the mango; seeing as it was in season and the chef really prides herself on acquiring the sweetest mangos for her dessert.

In fact, the chef chooses majority of the ingredients herself. She wants to take the time to ensure that she is getting the best produce. She shops from different markets, knowing where to go for the best. And all this definitely came through in this dessert. This was honestly one of the best mangos I have ever had. It was so sweet and flavourful that I wanted to eat it separate from the coconut milk drizzle and sticky rice; even though those two were tasty as well.


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.
The aforementioned focus on food and service really showed. On several occasions the chef personally came out to deliver her dishes to each table. She presented plates and took the time to converse and solicit feedback about the meal. She was really creating rapport and building up her clientele. After all what makes a meal at your favourite restaurant is more than just what’s on your plate. At “Wara Thai” it is the people behind the scenes recreating family recipes with heart and integrity of product. Don’t deny your cravings.


509 Main Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 2V1


For more on the challenge and how you can play judge and vote for your favourite chicken wing dish, visit the link below.

Mamie Taylor, brunch

Today I was back at one of my favourite establishments to recommend, the Southern restaurant with a taxidermy theme in Chinatown: “Mamie Taylor”. A fun spot for some great food, and even better drinks. And today I brought a group of my friends down to show them a new option for their brunch time cravings.

They were in awe of the restaurant’s decor with its throwback to Chinatown’s yester-years in the form of historic signs and antiques with a story. They loved posing with the animal bust dressed up in hats, glasses, and necklaces. But best of all they enjoyed the food.

We started our meal with their brunch time cocktails. Their “Bloody mamie” was a caesar and made with Clamato juice despite its name. (Bloody Mary’s are more common in the states, they use tomato juice without the clam juice.) The cocktail comes with your choice of gin or tequila mixed with their house spice mix. It was tasty with its salty rim, making it a great savoury start to the meal ahead.

For those who like a bit of a boost with their breakfast they also have a “Spiked coffee” made with your choice of rumchata or baileys. The creamy shot comes separately for you to pour into the coffee to your tastes. I am not a fan of coffee, but will always get behind a mug of something this delicious and warming. Even one of my guests, who doesn’t like to drink enjoyed this, drinking it down to its last drop.

For something more refreshing, I suggest the “Pegu royal”. Gin, Cointreau, fresh lime, bitters, and bubbles. It was citrusy like a punch, with acid that hits the back of your throat. Once again, sipping this was easy, like you weren’t drinking alcohol.

And for those who like the classics, there is their “Mamie mimosa” with fresh orange juice and bubbles.

For food we started with their “Chicken and waffle sandwich”. We had our choice of bourbon honey or spicy buffalo for the seasoning and went for the former. We wanted a little sweetness to play off the salty bacon we requested as an add on. Together they flowed well with the tangy and refreshing apple kale slaw. My only critique here was that the waffle was a little dry. They are made before the morning rush, so it would be nice to have them pressed to order instead; at least be accompanied with some more syrup or a pot of gravy on the side for moisture.

The “Homemade chorizo biscuit” wasn’t want we expected. When we read it on the menu we thought it was a buttermilk biscuit made with bits of chorizo sausage embedded within. Instead this was a buttermilk biscuit sandwich with a chorizo patty, topped with dill ranch slaw and spicy mayo. The patty was dry, and it tasted like a veggie patty with a similar texture. It needed a sauce: some gravy, barbecue, or better yet the hollandaise from the Benny below. I wasn’t impressed by this, and passed on the feedback to the owner. In the photo we asked for extra chorizo, not realizing we would get two patties stacked.

By comparison the “Fried green tomato Benny” was a winner. A crispy battered tomato slice, chunked avocado, soft boiled egg, and hollandaise; all over a buttery biscuit. This had all the flavours and textures I am looking for in a delicious Benny. Smooth gooey yolk, chewy biscuit, and creamy sauce. The only thing I could have used was some spice in the tomato’s batter, just for some kick.

The “Mamie’s pork belly” is the kind of sandwich you want for a greasy morning after. Thick pieces of caramelized pork topped with a sweet onion jam, gruyere and cheddar cheese, between two slices of toasted sourdough; then finished off with a perfect sunny side up egg. Sweet and salty goodness like a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich but with thicker and meatier pork pieces that make all the difference.

One of my guests is lactose intolerant, so was happy to find a brunch option that excluded butter, milk, and cream; that was tasty and she could enjoy. This was the “Smoked brisket hash” with pico de gaillo, salsa verde, poached egg, and jalapeño. She opted for no cheddar cheese and instead substituted it for some avocado slices. The generous amounts of tender and chewy brisket meat made all the difference here and the crispy breakfast potatoes.

More breakfast potatoes were included as a side for each of our plates above. And on each, they were toasted and crispy. One of my guests declared his distain for cubes of potatoes pan fried like this, only to find himself rummaging through all the plates looking for the crispy, slightly burnt pieces and loving it.

But not as much as the “White cheddar grits”. At $5, this side stole the show. It was super cheesy and simply delicious. We also passed on the feedback that this should be made the star of a breakfast platter. A meaty side to help feature it. Either way, I would suggest getting this as an add on to try.

This isn’t on the brunch menu, but could be, and should be something that you try is their deep fried apple dessert. This is one of my favourite desserts to recommend, so had to treat my friends to a bite. An apple cored and filled with vanilla ice cream, coated and deep fried in cornflakes, then topped with raisins and apple chunks sautéed in cinnamon and sugar. It is as good as I described it.

We also got to try one of the newest drink flights to hit their ever growing menu. They offer whiskey, bourbon, and even absinthe flights. And now an Old Fashion flight made with their own mix, left to sit in a cast for three months. One taster was mixed with rum, another tequila mezcal, and the last bourbon. It also included some water, should you need to dilute the beverage. Simply delicious, for those who like a stiff sip.


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 place to have drinks with friends, and now a great stop for brunch. Get out of downtown and discover a unique spot in Chinatown for something unexpected. Don’t deny your cravings.


251 East Georgia Street, Vancouver BC

Mamie Taylor’s, 2018 fall menu

I have been a long time fan of “Mamie Taylor’s” with their absinthe flights and deep fried ice cream stuffed into apples of the past, to their nose to tail feasts and their seasonal offering of turtle and gator that I once enjoyed. Over the years they have given me much reason to visit them time and time again. Fun and fantastical treats and eats you won’t find anywhere other than on their southern menu.

It is this and their unique stylized space that has me recommending them as a fun spot. The resto-bar has a den-like feel to it. Crafted with red brick, brown wood, and black leather; all surrounded by a collection of taxidermy animals stuffed and mounted. Birds, beasts, feathers, and horns. There was a full bear skinned rug hanging on the wall, and talks of procuring a full length python in the future.

Tonight, we were gathered for a dinner meant to celebrate their new general manager and head chef, and the new direction they would be taking the bar. I was able to chat up the GM, discussing his impressive resume with stints spent at “Hawksworths”, “L’Abattoir”, “Keefer Bar”, and “The Diamond”. And not only did he bring this experience with him to “Mamie Taylor’s”, but his passion for spirits and mixology as well.

The newly minted head chef, also comes with his own impressive resume. No only is he a celebrated chef, but he is also a certified WSET Level 3 sommelier, having worked at Vancouver’s “Calabash Bistro” and “Memphis Blues BBQ House”. He also spent a summer touring the Southern United States BBQ circuit, where he perfected his grilling technique. Then opening the award-winning JAROblue restaurant in Calgary. Together they will be pooling their experience together to take “Mamie Taylor’s” to the next level of its evolutionary journey.

As a well established bar, they are already know for their huge cocktail selection and now they hope to bring more attention to their neighbourhood bar with a new bar menu and some winter specials. In fact our night started with a welcome cocktail and was followed up by a selection of their other alcoholic offerings.

Our welcome cocktail was described as being “Not your grandma’s lemonade”. A citrus spritz made with charred lemon, tequila, gin, lemon juice, and soda water. A great drink for warmer days and cooler nights spent on your back porch.

“Between two fernets” was gin, house vermouth, fernet branca, lemon, and honey. It was so easy to drink, it tasted like juice.

“Jessie’s girl” was a cucumber forward cocktail, it was what you’d imagine combining fresh pressed green juice and spirits would taste like together. Gin, lillet blanc, fino sherry, lemon and orange bitters, topped with a salted cucumber and egg white foam. It was a beautifully refreshing and elegant to drink. There are talks of creating a different foam flavour to help transition it into fall.

The “Negroni on tap” spoke to the popularity and confidence that they had in the drink, keeping enough of it to pour quickly and frequently. Gin, Campari, and vermouth, finished with a house soaked amaretto cherry. This was a  strong and punchy drink, ideal for those who like a bold start.

Every drink that came, and every plate that was placed didn’t match the one next to it in either size, style or design. Their mismatched collection gave the table personality and the diners a conversation topic. I appreciated the lack of uniformity, and how it helped to foster the casual air of our meal to come.

With drinks in hand, we were invited to be seated in the second half of the bar. This area served as a great party space, with the ability to draw a velvet curtain close, to help create some privacy. The meal below was served as a tasting, with smaller versions and sized down portions. So be warned, should you yourself visit at a later date, what you get might not get what is pictured below.

Our long table meal began with some appetizers to share, delicious bar favourites that I would come back for. “Roasted brussel” sprouts seasoned with chilli, blue cheese, and sherry vinaigrette. It was a great sprouts dish, crispy and firm, packed full of flavour. Though personally, I would have liked more of the blue cheese to shine through.

“Crispy cauliflower” with persevered lemon, fried capers, and herbs; in a apple reduction. It was crispy, slightly sweet, and simply delicious.

The “ham grenades” were humourously described as being “glorified tater tots”, by our chef. It utilized smoked ham hock with cheese and was served topped with their house-made garlic mayo. They were fun to pop whole in to your mouth. The crispy coating paired well with the smooth cream atop. It makes for a great bar snack to nibble on as you drank down a pint.

Given their southern background, “Shrimp and grits” found a prominent place on their menu. “Grits” are coarsely ground corn kernels boiled with water or milk. Here it was creamy and lumpy like oatmeal, but cheesy and comforting like macaroni and chese. The crispy shards of baked cheese and the juicy shrimp created textural contrast. The latter also offered a freshness to the dish; I just wanted more shrimp, and for each to have a deeper char.

The “Cobb salad” was one of the best salads I have ever had. If you have ever read my other works, you know I dislike leafy greens and therefore stay away from salads. However this bowl with its smaller leaf to topping and dressing ratio had me going back for more. Dare I say this might be my favourite salad in the city. It is not a traditional Cobb salad, instead of using the more commonly seen chicken breast and bacon bits; the kitchen opted for chicken crackling and pork belly with its soft boiled egg, and avocado dressing. Each highlighted ingredient was amazingly prepared and altogether, absolutely amazing.

We had the two bite slider version, where normally this is served as a two handed burger with just as much fries. All beef patty topped the a roasted red pepper relish, Swiss cheese. iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles; all between a house made bun. So simple, but so delicious. This interpretation of a classic spoke to the direction the kitchen was taking: comforting plates prepared with good, local ingredients, that are as fresh as they can get them. Everything they are offering you can technically make yourself, but here, they are doing it for you so you don’t have to. And instead can sit and enjoy it, exactly as you expect it.

The fried chicken was just as good. Where else can you find chicken and waffles that isn’t on an exclusive brunch menu? Here, you can have your crispy fried white meat chicken, with a spongy roast cauliflower waffle, and dressed with a sweet Szechuan honey dressing any time of day. You can taste the quality in the chicken, the breading held up, even after the dish cooled. It remained crunchy until the end, and was best paired with their creamy slaw with its cooling crunch. Using cauliflower in the dough of the waffle was an interesting angle, although flour is still the main ingredient, therefore it is still doughy and fluffy, and far from being gluten free. It had some curry notes in with its cinnamon-y flavour, both giving it a new spicy and exotic twist.

We ended with a teaser of their “Mississippi mud pie”. Perfect for those who love their chocolate rich and dense. The base was a crunchy cookie, the middle a luscious mousse spread, and the cream that topped it the binder that brought them together. The cherry on the top was both figurative and literal. It was soaked in amaretto and ended things with a bang.

However if you are looking for more fine liquors to end your meal on, they also offer a collection of spirit-full digestives. Lighter sips that help you to wind down and digest what you just had. This one did so with the aid of their ginger syrup. Ginger, being a proven digestive aid.


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.
During previous visits I recall the menu being hit or miss, myself debating whether or not to keep it safe and get what I know will satisfy, or ordering the dish that sounded the most interesting, but risking that I won’t like its combination. However everything I tried above was delicious. It gave me the comfort and satisfaction I sough out, but with new and rewarding interpretations. Thus giving me another reason to visit and recommend them, more than just for their limited release dishes, their fine selection of cocktails, and their setting surrounded by conversation starters. They have definitely done well to keep their intimate, social bar the buzz of the neighbourhood with homestyle dishes, a friendly atmosphere, and good conversation. Don’t deny your cravings.


251 East Georgia Street, Vancouver BC

Treasure Green Tea Company

Today I was in Chinatown, visiting one of its staple tea shops for the Vancouver Foodster ice tea challenge. I was one of 3 judges tasked to visit all competitors and score their offering by tastes, originality, and presentation. “Treasure Green Tea Company” has been open and operating since 1981. They are a family run shop that has been pass down from one generation to the next, with the one location move and a name change in between. All to become what we have here today.

Just walking in you know they mean business when it comes to tea. There is a bamboo platter with leaves drying by the door. The shop itself is wall to wall shelves housing dried leaves in tins and porcelain paraphernalia to serve them in.

The brand and make of all the teas that they carry is specifically sourced by them, through independent farmers. There is no middle men, thus ensuring the quality of all the fine teas that they carry. This is a list that spans several pages. Each category it’s own laminated page listing over 35 varieties to choose from. And they have gone so far as to make notes of the tea’s flavour and body under each name, to help narrow down your choice. Bold and fruity, aromatic and smooth, rich with cocoa notes, or subtle and sweet? All possible combinations and then some, between black, dark (including puer), oolong, yellow, green, and white teas.

If all these options still has your head spinning, I suggesting speaking with the charismatic shop owner, she knows her way around a pot and is not shy about showcasing this knowledge. Through a series of questions she will find the perfect brew for your drinking needs. Even what you like to eat is considered, all to help narrow down options and identify your palette. Eg: I like strong tea, but what is strong to you may not necessarily be strong to me. Something to aid in digestion, a blend to help clear your complexion, or maybe a tea high in caffeine to replace your regular cup of coffee?

During my visit she took the time to tour me through some of her favourite blends. The “Treasure greens emerald silver” green tea was one of their best sellers and exclusive to them.

The “Gu shu yunnan” is a black tea with larger leaves procured from ancient trees. The result, larger dried leaves, hand picked and handled with care to ensure the uniform golden tips stayed in tack for a most aromatic beverage.

For any tea enthusiasts, they have so many unique blends worth trying, therefore the best way to filter through them all is signing up for their $20 tea tasting. This is an experience that is catered to what your are looking for. Your experience with Chinese tea is considered, as well as what your tastes are, and what is in season. All this is done in house behind their tea bar, with a tour of the origins of the teas you will be drinking, done utilizing a map. For a more adult theme they also host private functions where they will shake up tea martins featuring their authentic premium teas.

Today, their ice tea challenge contender was one of their premium ice teas shaken with ice and mixed to mimic your favourite cocktails, without the alcohol. If you wanted, you had the option of adding to it bubble tea pearls. Here they sourced artisan pearls, tapioca of higher quality, to best pair with their fine tea blends.

The “Champagne jasmine” was up for voting, it was a more literal ice tea contender. It featured jasmine tea, grapefruit, and honey. Everything is mixed in a martini shaker, giving the beverage a foamy top and an airy essence, similar to the fizz of champagne. I won’t be going into any more detail of the drink here, as the competition is still running. Instead, I will invite you to visit my blog after August 5th to see how I judged this and all the other ice tea creations.

But I did get to try all the other premium ice tea cocktails, so will be reviewing them below. These are all mixed in martini shaker over ice, then poured into tiny porcelain cups for tasting. You are able to sample each one, then purchase the flavour you want to commit to a full serving of, in a plastic cup.

The “Organic white mojito” featured organic white tea, lemon, mint, and honey. It tasted very much so like a mojito, with the mint being so forward. It was then brightened with the citrus tang of the lemon. A great drink to help you cool down with.

The “Organic oolong with orange” was the strongest iced tea made with organic oolong tea, orange peel, and honey. The dark roast of the oolong was slightly bitter, a bold brew, giving you that kick a black cup of coffee would; meaning that this would make a great alternative to a cup of joe.

The “Green dragon” was their newest premium iced tea. It highlighted their signature green tea and flavoured it with longan fruit and goji berry, then sweetened with honey. This was the most refreshing drink out of the three with the logan being the flavour that stood out the most.


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.
This is a great place to learn a lot more about Chinese herbal teas and all the health benefits they have. And in house they have come up with some pretty creative ways to get customers into their shop, offering more than just dried leaves. Here you get an experience and a lesson on culture through a cooling cup. Don’t deny your cravings.


227 East Georgia Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1Z6
Treasure Green Tea Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chinatown Cocktail Crawl, Vancouver Gourmet Club

With more and more restaurants and bars opening up in Vancouver, choosing the right destination for your next party or get-together becomes that much harder. Online photos and written testimonies are only so reliable, so why not explore the city yourself through one of the many guided tours: providing for those who love food and drink, but need to be directed towards what is worth going to.

Introducing the city’s first cocktail themed food tour, hosted by the “Vancouver Gourmet Club”. VGC takes all the guess work out of your drinking equation. You pay a fee and show up with your walking shoes on. Each tour is arranged by area, covering three specifically chosen restaurants, that feature an impressive bar and an extensive drink menu. You are then given a choice of what to drink, between three curated cocktails at each destination, with appetizers to compliment. My advice is to go in a group of three, allowing you to taste everything.

For the “Chinatown Cocktail Tour”, our meeting place was the entrance to Sun Yet Sen Garden, the central point to all our stops and registration check-in. Given the amount of people in attendance, and to better accommodate the restaurants, we were divided into three different groups. I would be given the responsibility to lead one of said three, ensuring we kept track of time and were able to enjoy everything at each. By the time everyone checked-in it was 6pm, meaning we had around 40 minutes to spend at each place and 10 to casually saunter in between.

Our first stop was “Sai Woo”, one of Chinatown’s most historic sites, and no better place to start. For more about the restaurant, visit the link below. They are a great restaurant to drink at, given their accessibility to the skytrain; and the ample space to lounge at between their dining area, bar stools, and basement lounge. “Sai Woo” is one of those places, you don’t mind lingering at, with plenty of unique decor elements for conversation starting.


Sai Woo


Here, the available cocktails to choose from was the “Chinatown Mule”, the “3 Day Bender”, and the “Carioca”.

I expected the play on the Moscow mule to be served in a copper mug, or at least a Chinatown take on the iconic glassware, something to set it apart. At least it tasted great in its coupe. This ended up being my favourite sip of the place with its stronger, deeper flavour. Jack Daniels, ginger beer, bitters, and fresh lime.

The “3 Day Bender” had Old Grand-Dad Bourbon, Aperol, Averna Amaro, and fresh lemon. It had a saltiness to it, with a fermented flavour, reminding me of sour plum.

The “Carioca” was the easiest to drink with Cachaca 51, guava juice, orange juice, fresh lime, and sloe gin. Definitely for those who like a sweet and fruity cocktail.

Our choice of appetizer was between buns or spring rolls. Having a big enough group we were able to try both.

For the “Mantou buns” you could further choose between a filling of duck confit or shiitake mushroom. We went for the former and it was plenty tasty, there just wasn’t enough of it for the springy, soft, white bun sandwiching it.

The “Vietnamese pork spring rolls” gets my vote. Perfectly crispy and so tasty that you didn’t need the sauce on the side for dipping. The pickled vegetables on the other hand made for a great palette cleanser and gave some tang to the two bite roll.

And if that isn’t enough food for you, tour goers were able to order more at a 15% discount. Additional drinks ran at the full price though.

Our next stop was “Black Lounge”. This was a swanky spot that I would have never discovered if not for this tour. And now I already have plans to come back for a girl’s night. They are even closer to the skytrain, just across the street. The name reflects their decor. An all black scene with black walls, black chairs, and a black bar; highlighted with gold detailing. A few metallic gold chairs were available for self seating, a handful of table legs were spray-painted golden, golden boarders framed blown up portraits, and golden knick knacks lined the ledge behind the couch seating. I wouldn’t imagine such a chic spot in this area, and here it was, giving me plenty of reasons to return.

Their cocktail options this night really had them standing out. Three glasses named after their colour, and we were posted at the bar to take it all in.

The “Black Cocktail” had hornitos tequila, cherry brandy, Disaronno Amaretto, Cranberry, Charcoal, and candied ginger. The drink wasn’t as heavy as its colouring, sweeter with the syrupy Disaronno in the mix. I enjoyed it so much more because of its hue and the unusualness of such a creative cocktail.

Their “White Cocktail” was vodka, creme de cacao, frangelico, cream, and a sprinkling of gold flakes. It looked and tasted like cereal milk. A creamy, sweet drink that should constitute as a dessert. I certainly saved myself some as my last sip, this was the taste I wanted to have linger in my mouth.

The “Gold Cocktail” was a little disappointing given my adoration of the shade. It too was topped with gold flakes, but there wasnt enough of it to be deemed the “gold cocktail”. Maybe a golden rim of it, or maybe that is just me being extra? As for flavour it was more forward and warming with Jameson, lemon ginger honey, and gold flakes.

As for food they offered some deep fried bar classics: “Deep fried cauliflower” or “coconut shrimp”. Both perfectly crispy and ideally dunked into their spicy mayo sauce. And if you wanted more food here, those on the tour got it at 10% off.

Our last stop is another staple for good drinks in a unique space, when visiting Chinatown. Keefer is popularly known for its patio with fire pit, and the authentic medicinal theme within. To read more about the “Keefer Bar”, check out the link below.


The Keefer Bar


We wanted to sit on said patio, however they place hold it for a larger crowds. We at least got to enjoy it and the sun for a duration of our stay.

For drinks the three were the “Rosemary Gimlet”, “Pineapple Daiquiri”, and “Jack Soul”.

The “Rosemary Gimlet” was the easiest to drink. Light and airy with gin and a house made rosemary lime cordial. Great with herbaceous food or alone as a refreshing drink.

The “Pineapple Daiquiri” used grilled pineapple infused rum, fresh squeezed lime juice and their maple yum zhi mushroom syrup for a fairly zestiest drink.

Here I got the metal cup that I wanted to earlier: a silver mule, for the “Jack Soul”. Jack Daniels and Jack Daniels Fire, fresh squeeze lemon juice, house ginger syrup, bitters topped with soda. A nice refreshing and citrus forward beverage.

And for our appetizer, we didn’t get a choice here. Everyone had the “Tuna tataki, not that you’d choose anything but. A fresh piece of fish over a crunchy taro chip, topped with slices of radish, orange, and green onions. As our last destination, we were able to stay and linger getting deals on food if we decided to.

From here your tour concludes. I found this low key bar hop a great way to try something new or two. I definitely recommend bringing a friend to share with and to chat with, as you wait for drinks to be mixed and food to be prepared. And although this tour has concluded, you can check out the “Vancouver Gourmet Club’s” website for notifications on the next on. But for now, Don’t deny your cravings!



Sai Woo

Dinner and a history lesson at Sai Woo.

Today I was invited to Sai Woo for a chance to taste their spring menu. It has been a while since my last visit and today I was curious to see if my original assessment and thoughts could be turned around. And with a new chef and their new management team this was definitely the case.

Disclaimer: 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.

I was pleased to see that the boarding and the necessary tunnelling to get to the restaurant’s once blocked off entrance was now clear. A welcoming walkway led your eyes and your feet to their threshold. A red “brick” road protected by a dragon. But it is their LED rooster that attracts attention and marks their location, with his red and yellow wings spanned. We would later learn that this was an exact duplicate of the original sign that once graced the original “Sai Woo”, the restaurant and the name that this second generation establishment was modelled after.

This has got to be my most informative and interesting dinner to date. We got to sit down with the owner Sally, and boy howdy did she know her Chinatown history. With it and her storytelling, @eatwithmao and I engaged. She has been a restaurateur for over 18 years, beginning her tenure in Yaletown. She got in early predicting that the area would boom, it did. Now this was her next premonition, and once again she got in early as one of the first new restaurants in the evolving Chinatown landscape. Her goal was to bring back the neon dinner and dancing era that made it so “glamourous”.

The building was originally in bad shape when she purchased it in January of 2013. Previously it was the old “New Town Bakery” and restaurant, which has since moved one store down. A lot of work went into making this new restaurant “old” again. It began with peeling back layers and revealing the original wood, cement, and high ceilings with skylight. All that existed when it was “Sai Woo Chop Suey” from 1925 to 1959. In fact the same wood that you would have walked on in 1925, from threshold to the isle between tables, has been uncovered and revitalized.

They continued to build on the history by adding found items to their decor. Sally managed to salvage art pieces from the historic centre above then. Wooden cinema seats, traditional drums used in parades, calligraphy framed into art, stone guardian lions, etc. Most notable was the “Wooden Phoenix” carving that once hung in the “Marco Polo” night club. It was originally commissioned to advertise the club’s “china dolls” drink service. Who knew it would eventually get back to the neighbourhood it once came from.

My favourite were the props from Bruce Lee movies. The prayer papers hanging above the staircase that took you down to their basement, and from the ceiling of the communal washroom space. The carved wooden moon gate also came from a Bruce Lee movie. It is currently being used to frame a projection of the very Bruce Lee movie it was originally a prop in.

All these restored artifacts gave the place so much more history, and they made the spot all the more special. I just wished there was a way for the restaurant to showcase this better. I was lucky to be able to chat up the restaurant’s owner for the background information; but for all those who didn’t get the chance to, they are missing out on so much interesting knowledge and history. Knowing all the above makes me love “Sai Woo” more. It makes me want to talk about it. It makes me want to recommend it to those visiting from out of town. To be able to take friend down here myself and to teach them these tidbits.

Although, aside from these artifacts, the restaurant is less outwardly Chinese inspired. This speaks to their menu of Asian staples made more approachable to the Canadian appetite. It looks and feels like a wine bar, which was perfect given we were here during happy hour.

The “Coco Harvey Lowe” is a freshly tapped young coconut shaken with dark rum. After the drink has been drunk, borrow the “Coco Jack” from the bar, to be able to get every last morsel of that young coconut meat within. It is a sickle shaped hand tool that you use to peel the flesh within the coconut, much like peeling fruit, but backwards.

The end result of their “Smoking Gun” cocktail looked and tasted much like an old fashion. Except here literal smoke was added to it, for a smoke flavour and aroma. El dorado 12 year old rum, bitters, brown sugar, oak, and tea smoke. The drink is assembled before you. The mixed cocktail is poured into their skull shaped glass, bottled up with smoke. A few tips back and forth to infuse the essence of the smoke, before the finished product is poured out over a giant square ice cube,

As for the food menu, it is helmed by Chef Isaac, who has made “Sai Woo” his residency for over five years. His creativity has cause the menu to evolve, so for those who have have’t visited recently, doing so will give you a whole other experience. He takes inspiration from all over Asia; picking flavours and techniques from Korea, China, Vietnam, and Taiwan; but putting his own defining spin to things. His take on Asian fusion is as bold in flavour as it is in its presentation.


We started with a “Smoke beef tartar” made with fermented garlic, fukkake, and bonito flakes. The tartar is slightly torched and spicy with a wasabi mayo dressing. The hiccama topping it is pickled with a Vietnamese fish sauce for a vinegary tang. And the crispy cracker topping it offered a neutral base and some crunch. All together this covered all the textures and tastes that I was looking for. You break everything up, then bring it back together for the prefect bit. It was one of the more creative dishes that we had this night, but sadly it is not on the menu regularly.

By contrast the “Beat Terrine” made a great palette cleanser; something more mild and refreshing to have in between plates, in order to refresh. Shame, we only got one such dish to fulfill such a role; especially given how punchy everything else was below. Szechuan spiced beet terrine, goats cheese espuma, honey beet purée, and shaved vegetables.

The “Taiwanese Pancake” was an item that was still on the drawing board, another one we got to taste that isn’t on the menu. Instead of using the traditional green onion pancake that is typical of this wrap, here they fold their Chinese five spice pork and mozzarella with a house made roti. I wanted to taste the cheese, to have more of it to help balance out the stronger spices seasoning the pork. I also wanted a cream based sauce to bring it all together, instead what was here was the same watery and tangy sauce that flavoured the tartar above. The extra liquid made the roti soggy, if you didn’t inhale it. Here, a thicker bread product or a 2:1 ratio of it and the filling would have help to dull the overwhelming flavour of the wrap, furthered by the overly fragrant herbs. This was my least favourite dish of the night.

By comparison, was their “Korean garlic chicken” served with a gastrique, pickled vegetable, and scallions. There is good reason why this is their best selling dish. This crunchy white meat chicken nuggets would have been ideal with the roti above. I find such strong flavours need a carb heavy base to sit atop of, or else invest in more cocktails to balance out the saltiness.

The “Saiwoo lettuce wrap” was a great carb alternative, and a better balanced dish. There was plenty of vegetable and sauces laid out to craft your perfect bite. Fermented soy bean paste, shallots, pickled vegetable, house made kimchi and leaf lettuce brought together to support the feature protein of the week. Today it was a spicy korean pork so good, that I could have eaten a plate of it as is.

The “Vietnamese noodle bowl” is one that I could enjoy any day, at any time. Sous vide chicken, pickled vegetable, fresh lettuce and house made spring rolls over a bed of vermicelli. I found this a great up scale version on the classic bowl, with the perfectly crispy spring rolls being my favourite part.

For dessert we had their “Lemon pavlova”. What looked like luscious cream was starchy and hard, with a chalky finish that sticks to your teeth. The flavour is nice enough, but we left it wondering if this was the intention: chewing through it like gum and having to pick your teeth clean after. Instead, ate the strawberry compote, matcha crumble, and mango purée as it. All three would have gone wonderfully with a nice oil based sponge cake instead.


The “Grand mariner semi fredo marquee” is for chocolate lovers. A decadent brick of mouse given some brightness with strawberry gel and meringue.

After the meal above, I wanted to end in something much lighter. An angel food cake, jello, something to cleanse the palette, and not eat like another meal. There is a reason why after Chinese food majority of the desserts available at a Chinese restaurant is simple and not sweet. Red bean soup or orange slices. The desserts are good if you came in just for them, but to finish on them was a little much.

Overall, each dish held up on its own, but all together like this, we found it a little overwhelming. Many of the flavours of what we had ran parallel to one another. So much so that you tired of the taste of Korean spices and Vietnamese fish sauce. If we had balanced out our order with one of their fried rice dishes and/or another vegatable platter, it would have been different and ideal. But as a customer wanting to order a few dishes and trying them for the first time how would you know? Especially if the servers are not trained to guide you on this culinary journey. If they haven’t tried much of the menu themselves or have the know-how to suggest and recommend, your experience with “Sai Woo” could very well be tarnished.

Therefore I recommend the menu being arranged like a grid of four. Where you choose an item from each “box” to craft the perfect pairing between dishes. Something from the “spicy” box, one from the “tangy”, one from the “refreshing” category, and one from a group that would/could serve as a “base” for each of the above. And even what dessert to order if you are feel like a “sweet” or “refreshing” tastes to end your meal. A fool-proof way to complete your meal.

Another thing I would change is the lighting. It is a shame that the restaurant is kept so dark. I understand it is to foster the night life vibe, but they have a great lounge space down stairs where you could cultivate this at instead. A red room with curtained ceiling, seat cushions and benches that allow you to literally lounge. There is even a sliding door equipped with an eye slot that allows you to assess who it is you were letting in, before granting them entry. This was the ideal setting for many of their customer who came in after dinner else, looking for a space to sip cocktails and keep the night going. Although after speaking to restaurant management, I do think they see this opportunity themselves. They disclosed the possibility of introducing a lounge menu with $8 drinks and plates.

And instead I would make the main dining area more like a restaurant, giving each table better overhead lighting to full appreciate the beauty of the dishes above. We were lucky to have come in early and to snag the only table by the window; but the deeper into the restaurant you go, the darker things get, and it is no wonder that much of their clientele this friday night only came to drink. “Sai Woo” feels more like a social bar once the sun goes down.


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.
This is my favourite type of restaurant to write about. An establishment with plenty of character, run by people with so much enthusiasm and heart. There was nothing easy about what they were doing, nothing about their decor or menu spoke to an “easy win”, they were taking dining to another level and willing to take the risks necessarily to set themselves apart. With a little more finesse and continuos improvements, like they have been doing, I can clearly picture their upward trajectory. After all there is no other restaurant in Chinatown with this much history, that alone is worth coming in to see. Don’t deny your cravings.


158 East Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1T3
Sai Woo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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