Monthly Archives: August 2014

Boiling Point, Richmond (BC)

Boiling Point
#130-4800 No. 3 Road
Richmond, BC V6X 3A6

Since we weren’t able to make a reservation at Landmark Hot Pot, we decided instead to go search for some in RIchmond. Both Cattle Hot Pot and Chubby Lamb Hot Pot were recommended to us, but ended up being a further walk than we wanted to make a reservation after our lunch at Kumare. We ended up at Boiling Point, which didn’t take reservations but assured us that it was relatively easy to get a seat at around 7PM.

After site seeing on Granville Island, we headed down to Richmond to eat at Boiling Point a little after 7PM. We got a table easily and looked over the menu. Unlike most hot pot places, Boiling Point does individual hot pots with ingredients already in the soup. It might be because of Boiling Point’s roots as a business that started in Southern California, but regardless it was a new experience even for myself. We ended up both getting the beef hot soup and added fermented tofu and spinach noodles.

Beef Hot Soup

Beef Hot Soup

First, the broth was very nice. I ordered it medium which was spicy but not too much, albeit my friend’s mild was more that he would have liked. It was flavorful without overpowering the ingredients in the pot. The beef was also good, as it was tender and well seasoned. I also liked the firm pieces of tofu was well which soaked up a lot of the flavors of the post. I’m generally not a big corn on the cob person, but this corn was better than usual, probably due to soaking up the flavors and moisture of the broth. The spinach noodles were decent and al dente, though I’m not sure if they really added much in the end. I loved the mung bean noodles which, like the tofu, also soaked up the broth and ingredients well. Finally there is the fermented tofu, which I thought was not too stinky and definitely enjoyable. I can’t say my friend agreed as the flavors were a bit pungent and added with the spicy, did not really agree with his palate.

As for the service, the servers were very nice and quick to act when you needed something. However, they didn’t really act out of any necessity, like refilling water cups, asking if I wanted another bowl of rice, etc. They even missed out on the chance to sell us dessert (which normally is a turn off to me). I likely would have tried the red bean snow cube they had, but we ended up taking off and filling our stomachs with bubble tea down the street instead.

An interesting twist on Chinese hot pot, for sure. However I think I prefer the cook it yourself in a communal pot would have been better. Hopefully this didn’t totally ruin hot pot for my friend because I feel like Cattle, Landmark, or Chubby Lamb would have been way better if we had the chance.

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Copa Cafe, Vancouver

Copa Cafe
4030 Cambie St
Vancouver, BC
V5Z 2X8

Originally my friend and I wanted to go to Landmark Hot Pot across the street from Copa Cafe. However, the host at Landmark had told us since we didn’t have a reservation and a number of reservations were coming up, that they weren’t able to seat us right then. We were quite hungry at that point so we wound up at Copa Cafe across the street.

Fortunately, I had already wanted to take my friend to one Hong Kong cafe on our trip, not because Hong Kong cafe good is particularly great, but because eating at one reminded me of my childhood going to similar cafes around Los Angeles. In fact, Hong Kong cafe food can be really described as Chinese takes on Western dishes (in Cantonese it’s basically called “Hong Kong Western Meal”), like a Chinese variant of American pork chops with a side of spaghetti. This is a little ironic given my aversion for almost all American versions of Chinese food (like General Tso’s Chicken). Though, in my defense, there are also comfort southern Chinese dishes on Hong Kong cafe menus as well, like Chinese curry.

Regardless, we entered the restaurant and were whisked to a table right away. We were served two cups of tea as well as water and then took a bit to look over the rather long menu of items. I ended up getting the following dishes below, based on my taste and nostalgia, but my friend got Lemon Chicken, which ended up being a poor choice.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice

  • Hainanese Chicken Rice – At Hong Kong style cafes, one of my typical go-tos is Hainanese Chicken Rice. The chicken was very tender and mildly seasoned. The ginger scallion sauce worked very well with the poached chicken. The bok choy was steamed well with a nice soy-like sauce. However, the rice, which typically is cooked in the chicken fat or liquid from the poached chicken, was just a bland mound of rice. That was disappointing. The plate of rice did come with a customary “homemade” soup though, and Copa Cafe’s pork and gojiberry soup was pretty good.
Russian Borscht

Russian Borscht

  • Russian Borscht – A Chinese version of borscht based on the Russian version, but without the beets and purely tomato based. My family has a recipe for this that I absolutely love, and despite already having soup with my meal, I wanted to try it. It was delicious! My family’s version is less sweet, spicier, and had bigger chunks of beef than the Copa Cafe version, but I couldn’t help reminiscing about good childhood memories where my family drank this soup together.

As to my friend’s dinner, I want to first acknowledge that he did ask me what I thought the lemon chicken was like. I honestly didn’t know but guessed that it was more like old Cantonese versions of orange peel chicken with very light breading (if at all), stir fried with a sweet but light sauce and orange peels. I was wrong and it was heavily breaded and Americanized. I probably should have steered him to a Chinese curry dish (like Chinese curry beef brisket), which aren’t very spicy but very tasty.

From what I recall, this was also the only restaurant in Canada that attempted to refill our glasses of water. The servers were very pleasant and efficient, though perhaps almost to the point of hovering at times.

All it all, despite the Hainanese Chicken rice fiasco with the actual rice, it was a pretty good meal. While it was just an average to above average Hong Kong cafe in Vancouver, it would definitely be near the top tier of Hong Kong cafes around Los Angeles.

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Kumare, Richmond BC

Kumare
8130 Park Rd
Richmond, BC
V6Y 1T1

According to statistics provided by the Poway Unified School District, the high school I went to is 14% Filipino. This is not surprising given the history of the Filipino diaspora in the United States and the proximity of my hometown neighborhood to former Naval AIr Station Miramar (now MCAS Miramar). However, the number of Filipinos in my community meant that I had a lot of exposure to Filipino food, though I would not claim to be an expert of any sort at Filipino cuisine.

Thus, when I knew that a friend of mine was joining me for a wonderful trip to Vancouver and Seattle, I wanted to see if there was a Filipino restaurant I could take him to so he could also see the wonderful delight Filipino food has given me over the course of my life. After asking local food aficionados on what good Filipino restaurants there were in Vancouver, my friend and I went to Kumare in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond (thankfully accessible by mass transit).

We sat down and looked over their menu of Filipino dishes. There were so many things I personally I wanted to order and taste, but the limited number in our party meant that we could order only a few dishes:

  • Lumpia Shanghai – I loved lumpia when I grew up and I think they are better spring rolls than I’ve ever had at Chinese restaurants (aside from the delicious spring roll I had at Kirin for dim sum the day before). These lumpia were nice and came with a light sweet and sour sauce. While I do love pork, my minor gripe was that I actually wish there were carrots.
Chicken Kare Kare

Chicken Kare Kare

  • Chicken Kare Kare – Kare Kare is traditionally made with oxtail, though we decided to order Kumare’s rendition with chicken. The kare kare had a light savory peanut, onion, and garlic flavor, though a bit thinner that I was used from renditions I have had at family events of my Filipino friends. The green beans and baby bok choy provided a nice, refreshing balance to the peanut stew and chicken.
Pancit Bihon

Pancit Bihon

  • Pancit Bihon – My friend ended up not eating pancit bihon, which I ordered given that I find pancit bihon as a sort of comfort dish from my childhood. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the shrimp and other ingredients were mixed well. However, it was underseasoned and not as flavorful as renditions I was used. In retrospect, I probably should have ordered bistek tagalog (Filipino style steak) or inihaw na bangus (marinated grilled milkfish).

While the food was pretty good, service could have been a little better. First of all, the space could have used a better cooling system, especially air conditioning. While most homes in the northwest don’t typically have air conditioning, I do know most restaurants do and it would have been nice. While we did get glasses of water, unlike our experience at Kirin, it would have been nice to have a refill.

All in all, I was pretty satisfied with the food, though of course nothing is like eating home cooking. My friend seemed to enjoy the food as well, though perhaps I should have ordered a better third dish.

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Kirin, Vancouver (City Square)

Kirin
555 W. 12th Ave
Vancouver, BC
Canada V5Z 3X7

I had often heard that Vancouver has the best Chinese food in North America. All of that due to unique historic and geographic circumstances over the last 20 years. Like the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles, Vancouver was a hotbed of real estate investment from rich people in Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, with the hand off of Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997, panicked, rich Hong Kongers used Canada’s more generous immigration laws to buy properties and even settle down in Vancouver and the neighboring suburb of Richmond. There has since been a slow emigration of some Chinese Canadians back to Hong Kong (paired with a rise of immigration of Mainland Chinese immigrants) when their worst fears were unfounded, but the impact of hiring and moving some of the best chefs from Hong Kong meant that the quality of Chinese food remains top notch.

I decided to test this reputation for Chinese food by going to one of Vancouver’s top and most highly recommended restaurants for Dim Sum on Monday. After a fairly light breakfast and a stroll around Olympic Village, we headed to Kirin’s City Square location, right across the street from Vancouver City Hall. The hostess asked if we had a reservation, and even though we said no, she was able to seat us fairly quickly. I quickly ordered chrysanthemum tea and a pot of tea as well as hot water came to our table quickly.

We also looked at the Dim Sum menu which was filled with special dim sum menu items. Unbeknownst to us (though clearly to the rest of the diners) we could have also ordered more standard items. However, that didn’t matter too much as there were a number of special menu items my friend and I were interested in. We decided on the following six items:

Prawn, Peatip, and Garlic Spring Rolls

Prawn, Peatip, and Garlic Spring Rolls

  • Prawn, Peatip, and Chopped Garlic Spring Roll – The first item that came out and it was absolutely divine. The prawns were cooked perfectly and paired excellently with the vinegar soy sauce. I could have easily ordered another plate of these spring rolls, probably the best Chinese spring rolls I’ve ever had
Steamed Prawn and Tender Scallion Rice Roll

Steamed Prawn and Tender Scallion Rice Roll

  • Steamed Prawn and Tender Scallion Rice Roll – This dish was decent. It was made well, though even with the soy based sauce to pair it with, it was perhaps too subtle for my tastes. Executed well, but a little bland.
Har Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

Har Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

  • Har Gow – Some say that the way to tell how good a har gow is, count the number of pleats (9+ being great, 13+ being master craft). The 9 pleats, a resilient but not too thick wrapper, and juicy fresh prawns, it was definitely some of the best har gow I have ever had.
Steamed crab meat, scallop, prawn, and spinach dumpling

Steamed Crab Meat, Scallop, Prawn, and Spinach Dumpling

  • Steamed Crab Meat, Scallop, Prawn, and Spinach Dumpling – Fairly good with a great skin that bent, but did not break. The filling could have used a little more seasoning, but otherwise solid.
Scallop and Asparagus Rice Roll

Scallop and Asparagus Rice Roll

  • Scallop and Asparagus Rice Roll – This was one of the best rice noodle rolls I have ever had. The scallops were very fresh, plump, and cooked just right. The asparagus was tender but with just the right amount of crunch. It all went well with a gentle pouring of the soy based sauce
Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

  • Mango Pudding – Probably the only lackluster item during the meal. The mango pudding was rather pedestrian and didn’t quite seem to have fresh mangos. The bits of fruit inside were nice, but its money that could have been spent on, perhaps, nice egg custard tarts.

The service was rather stiff. It was certainly different from the gruff “take it or leave it” attitude of some harried servers in restaurants that serve Dim Sum in the US, but not necessarily better. Two asks for a glass of water came unanswered (though it perhaps foreshadowed a seemingly Canadian or non-US disdain to serve people cold tap water).

However, even the stiff service couldn’t detract me from some of the best Dim Sum I’ve ever had. In terms of quality, it was slightly better than Sea Harbour in Rosemead (a restaurant which also has a branch in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond). The price came out to about $31.50 CAD (excluding tip), which, including a cheaper exchange rate in Canadian Dollars, meant I was also paying less than the best places in LA. Better quality food at lower prices? My mom would be proud.

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