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Dragon Bowl, Club Kitchen

There is a new restaurant concept in Yaletown and we got the full rundown on why it is a welcomed change to Vancouver’s food delivery and dining scene.

At its fruition this will be 13 different restaurants under one roof, with 8 currently confirmed. By April 15th, 2024 Pizza Barbarella will be moving in, and with the start of May we will see Hui Lau Shan, calling Club Kitchen their home too. (The latter is known of their fresh mango drinks and dessert.)

This is not a food hall or a food court. Each vendor is its own business, operating together as a community. They share resources, pool marketing, and together work to bring business to their common door.

Speaking with Kitchen Club management we learned the identities of the other restaurants to come, all established brands like Chirpy Hut (fried chicken), Pearl Castle (Bubble tea and Taiwanese cuisine), and Wings Chicken Shack (a new fast food and chicken sandwich concept from restaurant chain Wings).

As of the first week of April Club Kitchen is open 11am to 10pm daily and is running with 3 fully operational restaurants, with their own kitchens. Although hours may differ from brand to brand.

Indi Co. was the first, their orginal location is an Indian pantry concept under the name Saucin Staples; and this is their fast food offering with an Indian twist.

Hello Nori is a resident, enjoying the extra kitchen space. Having another kitchen nearby helps support all their takeout and food delivery orders that they get from their Robson location.

And we were here to visit Dragon Bowl, as the third location for their comforting Chinese rice and noodle bowls.

Club Kitchen’s soft launch was three weeks ago, and they are looking to be fully running by the beginning of May, with five more spaces available. They have taken the time to curate the food listings here and are still looking for a burger option, a spot for tacos, something healthy, and a grab and go coffee counter.

This is not a commissary kitchen, and it is not a short term space rental. Each individual business commits to a three year contract, as a permanent fixture with a must meet revenue goal to keep them as tenants. And Club Kitchen acts like the landlord, licensing their individual modular kitchens to these pre-established businesses.

In this way, said restaurants save on costs. The cost of having to lease a whole commerical space, the cost of staffing the front for customer service, and the janitorial and cleaning necessary for back of house. Even ingredient delivery and material supplies are saved with preferred pricing from Sysco and Gordon foods.

And best of all if any equipment breaks down, the “landlord” covers and pays for its repair. This equipment includes state-of-the-art tools like the Smart Oven that prepares food in dry heat or wet like a steamer. A versatile piece of machinery that is digital, has wifi control, a USB port, and is capable of adaptive learning. It is able to cook evenly and hold temperature, then clean itself when it is done. Other tools include a shared ice machine, storage shelving, plenty of counter space, fridges, freezers, and fryers. A few units even have wok stoves.

Businesses interested have the ability to choose from units with a window or ones without. No where can you get a sidewalk look at how your food is being made. This keeps the kitchens honest and gets passerbys interested in what is behind the glass.

As a whole this concept is a two pronged solution for restauranteurs and customers. Instead of spending all you need to start a new restaurant location, the cost is slashed here, a benefit to a restauranteur already struggling with high costs. And from the consumer side, you get a wide variety of options on a single transaction. Not via food delivery apps, but if you order through the Club Kitchen website you can select dishes from all their restaurants, and have it all delivered at once. Ideal for a beach outing or a potluck party, pushing back on delivery companies.

They are still waiting on their liquor licences to be able to serve drinks as a unit within the space as a whole. Although have found that the process for any business to sign all the necessary paperwork and move in takes under a week.

For those dining in you can either order from the single touch screen kiosk, or with any of the clerks behind the counter, at the ready.

The kiosk is easy to navigate. You scroll through your restaurant choices at the very top, able to explore each. Each will have features sets and items exclusive to Club Kitchen.

Dragon Bowl is the ideal restaurant concept for this space, as a “simple way to eat Chinese”. I am already a fan and came in excited to have their brand of comfort Chinese food. Having recently returned from a vacation, I always come back to Vancouver craving quality Chinese food, and I got it here today.

Only at Club Kitchen you can get their beef brisket and chicken leg as your main in one of their customizable bowls. We would get both.

You pick your protein from various cuts or beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and shrimp. There is even a vegan option. Next you choose your side, two out of their possible six including celery & carrot, shredded potato, beansprouts, bean curb, wood ear mushroom, and cabbage. Next you pick base from long and short grain white or brown rice, steamed noodles, rice noodles, and even a spring salad mix. There is also the option to add on more meat, for more.

I highly recommend that you make it a combo with soup and a braised egg. Their soup is one of my favourites, so warm and comforting with chunks of chicken, carrot, and daikon that melts in the mix.

Be sure to add on one of their ice teas between black, lemon, and peach. Out of the three I found the black most complimentary, the other two were fruity and much sweeter. We made our three bowls a combo and had one of each of the teas.

I also recommend having everything with their devil hot sauce. We heard stories of grown men crying from this, however, we found it a wonderful addition to our meal. Just the right amount of spice and heat, a tingle that stings, then subsides when you have more, only to dance on your lips when you stop. An enjoyable taste and accent, similar to a shrimpy XO sauce.

The beef brisket we had with shredded potato, beansprouts, and braised egg over white rice. The beef brisket was tender, it didn’t look like it was sauced, but was fairly flavourful, especially the daikon soaking much of it.

Similar, the pistol chicken leg was darken from a jus, but mild enough that you were able to make out the natural flavour of the meat. Cooked so slow and so thorough that the bone fell out when I picked up the piece. This we had over steamed round noodles that were just as mild. Dressed with a side of celery & carrot, shredded potato, and braised egg.

The hot sauce above went especially well with the pork tenderloin bowl we had with saucy rice noodles that we liked the most. The chewy pork and the slightly firm noodle were a great texture mash up, and the shredded bean curd and wood ear mushroom offered great contrasts to both.

Having had many of their bowls, a handful of times, I can confidently say that theirs is Chinese food that is simple, quality home cooking the way “mom” made it. Favourites I grew up with in one way or another. And after you have eaten until you are full, you do not leave heavy afterwards.

And because we were at Club Kitchen, we then took advantage of our position by trying another dish from another restaurant. This is the Butter Chicken Poutine from Indi Co. It is Charred Chicken Thighs Tossed In their Signature Butter Masala Sauce served over fries with cheese curds. There is plenty of sauce to drown the fries. And as leftovers, in a turn of the microwave, they ate more like potatoes in a curry.

In closing a great start to a welcomed new concept in Vancouver. And I am looking forward to seeing the space at its full vendor capacity.

Club Kitchen
988 Expo Blvd, Vancouver, BC V6Z OG2

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