4030 Cambie St
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 – 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 – 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.