Tag Archives: Vancouver

My Favorite Chinatowns

It’s been months since I wrote a blog post, since the pandemic has really made my normal blog staples, reviewing different restaurants, virtually impossible. I thought about writing a blog post on what restaurants are open to outdoor dining, but I am wary about tacitly endorsing dining, even outdoors, in the midst of a new surge and plateau of cases in much of the US.

So instead, I figured I would write about my personal favorite Chinatowns in North America that I’ve been to, why I like them, and which of my favorite restaurants are still open for takeout. The order is loosely based on my preference but don’t fret, even if I left yours out, I still love all Chinatowns.

San Gabriel Valley (LA), CA

Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry at Longo Seafood
Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry at Longo Seafood in the SGV

I admit, I am a little biased given that I have traveled to the San Gabriel Valley (aka the “SGV” or “626”) since I was a kid, as it was often the area where we could get better dim sum and Chinese groceries that were harder or more expensive to find in San Diego. That said, the SGV is one of the largest “Chinatowns” in North America encompassing hundreds of square miles and dozens of different cities just east of Los Angeles and can probably be divided into 2: the west San Gabriel Valley centered in the cities of Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, and San Gabriel, and the east San Gabriel Valley around the communities of Diamond Bar, Rowland Heights, and Walnut.

Unlike historic Chinatowns in San Francisco or New York City with their dense streets and small alleys, the San Gabriel Valley is filled with sprawling suburbs centered on commercial corridors jam packed with Chinese strip malls along Valley Blvd, Garvey Ave, Colima Rd, and other streets. Partially because of such vastness, over the last 50 years the SGV has been an area where successive waves of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China have been able to settle and set up new businesses. This allows a continual wave of new competition and trends from China to emerge, which also keeps old standbys on their toes to better their offerings or potentially be replaced fairly soon.

It’s also a fairly young place, with a pretty dynamic and ever evolving Chinese American culture that help popularize emerging Asian American trends in the United States like boba/bubble tea 20-30 years ago. (yes, bubble tea has been in the US for that long!) This Fung Bros “The 626” video typifies how this culture was like 10 years ago.

So where are some of the places to order takeout in the best Chinatown in North America? See below:

  • The Bay Cafe – One of the SGV’s better known and regarded Hong Kong style cafes serves a good Hong Kong milk tea and a cornucopia of other great Hong Kong staples. Order on DoorDash or Uber Eats
  • Bistro Na’s – Michelin starred Bistro Na’s in Temple City serves self proclaimed “imperial court food” that is nonetheless vary delicious, like the Crispy Shrimp and Na’s Spicy Chicken. You can order online via their website, DoorDash, or Grubhub
  • Elite Restaurant – One of the SGV’s best places for dim sum is now open for takeout again on DoorDash
  • HaiDiLao Hot Pot – Takeout hot pot you say? Yes, it exists (and I can report that it’s really doable if you got a pot and burner/hot plate at home) and you can order from this popular, and expensive, Chinese chain on virtually all the delivery platforms.
  • Mian – Chengdu Taste’s sibling restaurant with a tasty assortment of noodles is available for takeout on Uber Eats
  • Sea Harbour – Constantly evolving and standard setting Cantonese and dim sum specialist Sea Harbour is open for takeout. Given them a call at 626-288-3939
  • Savoy Kitchen – This perennial chicken rice favorite is available to order togo. Just give them a call at 626-308-9535
  • Yin Ji Chang Fen – The San Gabriel outpost of this Guangzhou style rice noodle roll chain accepts orders on DoorDash and Uber Eats

Richmond (Vancouver), BC

Lamb Fried Dumplings at Yue Restaurant
Lamb Fried Dumplings at Yue Restaurant

While great Chinese food can be found nearly all over Vancouver, the best in the Lower Mainland is concentrated in the southern suburb of Vancouver. While the San Gabriel Valley’s strength is in its wide and continually evolving breadth of regional cuisines, Richmond’s strength lies in its particular depth of one regional cuisine: Cantonese.

It’s not to say you can’t find great places serving other regional Chinese cuisines in Richmond, but the particular depth of Cantonese cuisine here lies in its unique history. As the 1997 handover of Hong Kong approached, many wealthy Hong Kongers feared what might change in a PRC controlled Hong Kong and promptly found ways to immigrant. One of the easiest options was to get investment visas in Canada, and thus tens of thousands of Hong Kongers and their children moved and settled to Richmond. They brought along and could entice good chefs from Hong Kong which helped increase the quality of Cantonese food in the region, so much so that many restaurants in the 2000s to mid 2010s were close or at the level of their counterparts in Hong Kong.

More recently, arrivals from mainland China have helped expanded the number of good regional options available, but not to the level of SGV yet, and it remains to be seen on how Hong Kong’s latest political turbulence will mean for even more food and immigration to Canada. That said, some of my favorites are:

  • HK BBQ Master – This was always basically a big takeout restaurant, so you can still get their excellent Cantonese style roast meats in person
  • Mama’s Dumpling and Coffee – Renown for their xiaolongbao, you can get these delicious orders for takeout
  • Silver Tower – Old school Hong Kong Style Cafe serves the best comfort food that you can order on DoorDash
  • Sun Sui Wah – A couple of my friends recently dined here (BC’s COVID rates are significantly better than the US, though I’d still be pretty hesitant) and the food seems just as great as pre-pandemic, which you can order on Skip the Dishes.
  • Yue Restaurant – One of my favorite dim sum spots in Richmond is open for takeout via DoorDash

Flushing (New York City), NY

Liang Pi at Xi'an Famous Foods
Liang Pi at Xi’an Famous Foods (which started in Flushing)

The sights and sounds of Canal and Mott Streets in Manhattan Chinatown may get much of the spotlight in New York City, but I say that the best New York Chinatown is a hop uptown and a 7 line subway ride away to Flushing in Queens.

In contrast to the SGV and Richmond’s sprawling strip malls, Flushing is a decidedly urban Chinatown, densely packed along Main Street and its side streets and allies. You can find a variety of Chinese regional cuisines here too, especially in the few densely packed mall food courts like the New World Mall (though not sure how open they might or will be with the COVID-19 pandemic). However, many of the main stars in Flushing are Taiwanese, Fujianese, and Shanghainese and some of my favorite memories in New York City are of walking down Main St with various friends and cousins sipping on boba and eating street food.

Here are a few great places currently open for takeout:

  • Hunan Cafe – Order some authentic Hunanese food for takeout via Seamless or Uber Eats
  • Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao – You can order some of the best soup dumplings in the city online through their website
  • Nurlan Uygher Restaurant – One of NYC’s first Uygher restaurants is open for takeout by looking at their menu and calling 347-542-3324
  • Xing Fu Tang – I couldn’t write about Flushing without a bubble tea recommendation right? Well get some Brown Sugar Boba Milk from this new kid on the block that replaced the old Red House on Seamless, Uber Eats, or DoorDash
  • Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea – I love Yi Fang Fruit Tea for their endless array of delectable fruit teas, which you can order on Seamless and DoorDash

The Richmond (San Francisco), CA

Juicy Pork Xiao Long Bao at Dragon Beaux
Juicy Pork Xiao Long Bao at Dragon Beaux

There are numerous Chinatowns in the San Francisco Bay Area, but in my opinion the Richmond District in the western part of the city is the best Chinatown in the region.

Why? Unlike San Francisco’s historic Chinatown, the Richmond is a little less touristy but packs in the bustle as much as you’d find on Stockton St. Clement St and Geary St have a large selection of Chinese restaurants, supermarkets, and other businesses, including my favorite dim sum place, Dragon Beaux.

Here are some places to try ordering from in the Richmond:

  • Dragon Beaux – The aforementioned Dragon Beaux is available for takeout on Uber Eats or Grubhub, but you could also give them a call and order their frozen dim sum to reheat yourself to perfection
  • HoDaLa – From beef noodle soup to popcorn chicken, this Taiwanese favorite can be ordered for takeout or delivery via its website.
  • Jiangnan Cuisine – Cuisine from the area just north of Shanghai in Jiangsu province can be found on DoorDash, Grubhub, or Postmates
  • Kowloon Tong Dessert Cafe – This no frills cha chaan teng is ready to serve you some delicious Hong Kong milk tea or basic Hong Kong style western food and deserts on nearly all delivery apps
  • Tasty Pot – Taiwanese hot pot chain Tasty Pot is available for your individualized hot pot needs via takeout or delivery on DoorDash or Uber Eats

Manhattan Chinatown (New York City), NY

Food at Noodle Village
Food at Noodle Village

The only historic Chinatown on my list is New York City. Why Manhattan’s historic Chinatown you ask, instead of other ones like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, or even my hometown of Oakland? The simple reason is that unlike the others, it’s a perfect combination of history, mix of shops, and an area where both old Chinese families from Guangdong, recent arrivals from Fujian, and tourists alike can mix and mingle with ease. San Francisco’s Chinatown, sadly, feels very weirdly divided between tourist and trinket shop dominated Grant St and local market and restaurant focused Stockton St.

So if you’re in or near Manhattan, here are some places open for takeout!

  • Carol’s Bun – Located in the East Broadway part of Chinatown, this no-frills Fujianese places is perfect for some affordable takeout
  • Cha Chan Tang – One of the original cha chaan tengs in the city serves up comfort Hong Kong style western food like macaroni soup and curry chicken that you can get on DoorDash or Seamless
  • Kong Sihk Tong – Feast upon all sorts of Hong Kong style foods by getting some takeout via phone at 646-850-6140
  • Noodle Village – My favorite comfort Cantonese spot in Manhattan Chinatown is available for takeout or delivery on virtually all the delivery apps
  • Wo Hop – Want some old school Chinese American food? Like so old that the restaurant has been around for 80+ years? Look no further than Chinatown staple Wo Hop to grab some Chinese American takeout

Houston Chinatown, TX

Dinner at Fung's Kitchen
Dinner at Fung’s Kitchen

I think many folks tend to think of big historic and even suburban Chinatowns as being exclusively a West Coast or East Coast thing, but one of the largest Chinatowns in the country is, in fact, in Houston! Centered on Bellaire Blvd. east of Beltway 8, Houston Chinatown is similar to what you would find along Valley Blvd in the SGV or heavily Chinese cities in the Silicon Valley around Sunnyvale and Cupertino. There’s a mix of Hong Kong, mainland Chinese, and Vietnamese Chinese people in Houston that also makes Houston’s Chinatown a little unique. Houston’s Little Saigon is also just to the west of Beltway 8.

I’ve only been to Houston Chinatown once, but here’s some places that are still open for takeout:

  • Fung’s Kitchen – The only one of the places on this list I’ve actually dined in, you can get your craving of dim sum filled here through ordering takeout or on DoorDash or Uber Eats (I hear they are taking COVID precautions pretty seriously too!)
  • House of Bowls – One of Houston’s cha chaan tengs seems well beloved with a variety of Hong Kong style dishes available for takeout
  • Mala Sichuan Bistro – The authentic flavors of Sichuan can be had by ordering takeout on their website as well as Uber Eats
  • Mein – Classic Cantonese food, including the namesake noodles and noodle soups, can be found for takeout at this well regarded spot
  • One Dragon – For Shanghainese xiao long bao and their crispy bottom cousins, sheng jian bao, order takeout here

Honorary Mentions:

I didn’t include pan-Asian areas just so it was clearer/cleaner. However, there are a few pan-Asian districts (places where there’s more of a mix of different pan-Asian shops, restaurants, and markets) that I really love.

  • International District (Seattle), WA – The most recent non-Bay Area Asian district I’ve been to, the International District, is a historic Japanese and Chinese area that has a great diversity of different Asian cuisines just southeast of downtown Seattle.
  • Irvine (outside of LA), CA – I went to college in Irvine and loved being able to eat all sorts of Taiwanese food here as many Taiwanese families settled in Irvine in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Kearny Mesa (San Diego), CA – Yes, I’m biased in that I grew up in San Diego, but Kearny Mesa, especially on Convoy St, was the area I grew up eating dim sum, Korean BBQ, yakitori, and other variety of Asian food. Mira Mesa, historically a large neighborhood of Filipino and Vietnamese folks, is also a great pan Asian area to visit in San Diego as well.
  • Mesa (Phoenix), AZ – While Mesa leans more toward Vietnamese and Vietnamese Chinese folks, it’s a great place to eat and shop all types of Asian cuisines. I always made it a point to stop in Mesa on my ways to/from Albuquerque to/from my visits seeing family in Southern California
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Where to get Asian food during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A few weeks ago when the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were starting to show up in the United States in force, I wrote a blog post on how you can still support your local Asian restaurants, especially given that many were already facing drastic declines in sales since January due to racist fears over how the coronavirus is spread.

Of course given how many restaurants, including Asian ones, have closed with stay at home orders being implemented across the country, it’s not necessarily easy to know which ones are still open and which are closed. To further add to the confusion, some are on some apps but not on others.

Well, I have decided to have a running list of Asian restaurants open in certain metros across the US and Canada based on my research so you too can eat well and support your local Asian businesses during this time. (Much of this research relies on the work that Eater writers in several metros have compiled, so giving due where credit is deserved). The list will be alphabetical by metro area and will only include up to 10-15 restaurants per region to make it still somewhat manageable to navigate.

Of course, given the day by day nature of changes in the current environment it might be good to call the restaurant or double check the app you are using to confirm the place is open. (And when you do order from an app, be sure to text your driver requesting no contact delivery and tipping them well)

UNITED STATES

ALBUQUERUQUE

Ramyun at Asian Pear
Ramyun at Asian Pear
  • 2000 Vietnam (Vietnamese) – One of my favorite pho place in Albuquerque is open for takeout or delivery via Grubhub and Doordash
  • Asian Pear (Korean) – Arguably my favorite Asian restaurant in Albuquerque is open for takeout (call ahead) or delivery via DoorDash
  • Basil Leaf (Vietnamese) – This favorite of the first family of Albuquerque (at least when I was helping Mayor Keller’s State Senate run in 2012!) is open for takeout. There pho is good but try something different like their Banh Xeo (a sort of Vietnamese stuffed omelet)
  • Bubblicitiea (Filipino) – Yes, there’s a Filipino place in Albuquerque AND it serves bubble tea. Around Uptown? Call ahead to 505-289-9719 for your Filipino food fixin.
  • Chopstix (Chinese) – From reports that I have seen, this solid Chinese restaurant is available for takeout and delivery via DoorDash
  • IT Dimsum (Chinese) – I’ve never been as this place opened since I was last in Albuquerque, but if you want some traditional Cantonese food and Hong Kong style dim sum, you can order via Grubhub

BAY AREA

KMG at Hawking Bird
KMG at Hawking Bird

Given that I live in the Bay Area, this is a combination of both research gained on Eater SF articles for SF, East Bay, and the Peninsula, along with my firsthand knowledge being a delivery driver (mostly in Oakland/Berkeley). This list is not exhaustive, but a start!

  • Burma Superstar (Burmese) – Burma Superstar’s locations in Alameda and Oakland (as well as the now unaffiliated original in San Francisco) along with Burma Love are available for takeout and delivery for your tea leaf salad cravings
  • Co Nam (Vietnamese) – Co Nam’s street style Vietnamese food locations in San Francisco (Polk Street) and Oakland (Mosswood/Temescal) are open for takeout and delivery via Caviar
  • Dragon Beaux (Chinese) – Hugely popular dim sum and hot pot restaurant in San Francisco is open 11AM-3PM and 5-8PM every day for takeout & delivery on Doordash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats. They also sell their dim sum frozen in bulk if you like as well!
  • Farmhouse Thai (Thai/Lao) – Farmhouse Thai’s locations in San Francisco (Mission) and Oakland (Jack London as well as sister restaurant Daughter Thai in Montclair) are open for takeout and free delivery via Caviar. Specials include a Lao table meal for 2-3 for $59 and lunch special for $22
  • Gen Korean BBQ (Korean) – Locations in Concord, Fremont, and San Jose are doing takeout and delivery including a $10 2 meat, 3 sides, and rice deal.
  • Hawking Bird (Thai) – This is James Syhabout’s only restaurant currently open (Commis isn’t exactly a place with feasible takeout). Grab some khao mun gai 11:30AM-8PM Tuesday-Sunday via takeout, Caviar, or Doordash.
  • Nari (Thai) -While you can’t get Michelin starred Thai at Kin Khao during this pandemic, sister restaurant Nari in Japantown is open for takeout 5-7PM Tuesday-Saturday. Order via their website.
  • Ohgane (Korean) – Only Ohgane’s Oakland location is open for takeout or delivery (via DoorDash or Caviar), but their full dinner menu is available as well as a $15 lunch special on weekdays
  • Shiba Ramen (Japanese) – I know firsthand that Shiba Ramen is particularly struggling. You can order their delicious Clear Dark Ramen online for takeout in their Oakland location or delivery via Caviar 11:30AM-7:30PM Monday-Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday.
  • Shooting Star Cafe (Chinese) – One of my favorite Hong Kong style cafes is open for takeout and delivery (via DoorDash and Caviar) everyday until midnight whether you are craving a baked pork chop rice and Hong Kong milk tea or an egg waffle puff
  • Taro – In Palo Alto you can slurp udon by grabbing takeout at this Stanford Shopping Center restaurant or via Caviar, Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats

LOS ANGELES

Dim sum at J Zhou Oriental Cuisine
Dim sum at J Zhou Oriental Cuisine

The LA/OC list is not exhaustive, of course, given the breadth of the metro area. For more details you can check out these Eater articles I used for research. Also, I recommend checking the twitter accounts of David Chan, Jim Thurman, and Kristie Hang, who are awesome English language food writers/bloggers that keep pretty up to date tabs on what’s open in LA (esp. the San Gabriel Valley)

  • Bay Cafe (Hong Kong) – Delicious Hong Kong cafe style food can be had by you either through takeout or delivery via DoorDash
  • Capital Noodle Bar (Chinese) – All branches of Capital Noodle Bar (Brea, Costa Mesa, and Irvine) are available for your noodle consumption needs via Grubhub, Postmates, DoorDash, and UberEats
  • Capital Seafood (Chinese) – Both the Capital Seafood in Beverly Hills and the one in Irvine (apparently owned/operated separately) are open for takeout and Beverly Hills location you can also order via Grubhub
  • Din Tai Fung (Taiwanese) – The Century City and South Coast Plaza locations are reportedly open, but sadly the original Arcadia location is not. Soup dumplings, in my opinion, are notoriously bad food items for takeout given the rapid loss of heat but you do you!
  • Ding’s Garden (Taiwanese) – Whether you’re in Alhambra, Irvine, Pasadena, or Rowland Heights, you can get some heaping portions of Taiwanese food via takeout or Postmotes
  • Gen Korean BBQ (Korean) – Locations in Alhambra, Cerritos, Chino Hills, Northridge, Rancho Cucamonga, and Torrance are doing takeout and delivery including a $10 2 meat, 3 sides, and rice deal.
  • Jitlada (Thai) -Yes, it’s true, world renown Thai restaurant Jitlada is open for takeout or delivery via Grubhub
  • J Zhou Oriental Cuisine (Chinese) – My favorite place for dim sum in Orange County is open for takeout or delivery via Seamless and Grubhub if you’re around Irvine
  • Kai Ramen (Japanese) – Folks who live near Sherman Oaks and WeHo can get their ramen slurps on by takeout or Postmates
  • Mo-Mo Paradise (Japanese) – Shabu shabu to go? Yes, that is possible! Order takeout from Mo-Mo by ordering online or you can get delivery from Grubhub from all locations (Arcadia, Rowland Heights, and Torrance)
  • Pho Ga District (Vietnamese) – If you live near Rosemead, you can get steaming, delicious bowls of chicken pho to your door via DoorDash or pickup to go!
  • Savoy Kitchen (Singaporean) – Are you missing your chicken rice fix? Well you can head to Savoy for takeout!
  • Tsujita (Japanese) – It seems like all Tsujita family restaurants are open for takeout (you can order online on their website). Additionally, if you live fairly close to the Tsujita & Co Noodle Production location on Fairfax you can get takeout as well as delivery on Caviar, Grubhub, and Postmates
  • Uniboil (Hotpot) – From it’s flagship location in Monterey Park, you can order over the phone and get your hotpot items to go or delivery even as far as Yorba Linda! Purchase of $50 or more? You even get 2 complimentary face masks
  • Vinh Loi Tofu (Vietnamese) – Whether you’re in Cerritos or deep in the Valley by Reseda, you can get a bite of vegan Vietnamese food through takeout or Uber Eats.

NEW YORK CITY

Like the Bay Area and LA, I couldn’t possibly lay out all or even a good chunk of Asian restaurants offering take out and delivery, so for further lists of places here are some additional articles and an Instagram account (Instagram mostly surveys Chinatown).

  • Arirang Steak House (Japanese) – If you crave teppan grilled Japanese cuisine, all Arirang locations in the NYC area is open for dinner through takeout or delivery on their website
  • Buddha Bodai (Chinese) – Need your vegetarian dim sum fix? Well you’re just in luck as Buddha Bodai is open for takeout and delivery!.
  • Di An Di (Vietnamese) – This Greenpoint Vietnamese restaurant is available for takeout or delivery via Caviar
  • The Handpulled Noodles (Chinese) – In the Heights you can taste some Uyghur/Xinjiang style noodles and dishes that are available to order online via their website, Seamless, or Grubhub.
  • Hao Noodles (Chinese) – While the West Village location is closed, you can still get your bowls of Chinese noodles from the Chelsea location via Caviar, Uber Eats, Chowbus, or Ricepo
  • Her Name is Han (Korean) – This Koreatown restaurant that specializes in Korean communal comfort food like Bossam is available for delivery on a number of platforms including Caviar, Grubhub, Uber Eats, Chowbus, and Doordash
  • Kong Sihk Tong (Hong Kong) – I ate an early birthday/4th of July meal here last year and I’m pleased this great HK style cafe is still open for takeout and delivery
  • Kopitiam (Malaysian) – Get your fix of Nasi Lemak, Kaya Toast, or other Malaysian favorites via takeout or delivery through Caviar
  • Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Chinese) – Again, I don’t prefer soup dumplings for takeout/delivery, but if you must satisfy the craving and live near Flushing, Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao is available for takeout or delivery via GoHive/Chowbus
  • Udom Thai (Thai) – You can get your fix of Thai food at this Prospect Park restaurant through takeout and delivery

SAN DIEGO

San Diego’s Asian restaurant scene is not as large and unwieldy as the Bay or LA, but if you want an expanded list of places open in Kearny Mesa, you can take a look here. My list will include places beyond Convoy St.

  • Emerald Restaurant (Chinese) – San Diego’s recently off and on again dim sum restaurant serves takeout from 11AM-7PM daily
  • Jasmine (Chinese) – You can chow down on dim sum or Chinese BBQ via their takeout counter or by ordering on Grubhub, Doordash, Postmates, or Uber Eats
  • Manna BBQ (Korean) – Yes, you can get your fix of Korean BBQ (cooked or uncooked) by ordering takeout or delivery from either their Kearny Mesa or Mira Mesa locations
  • Mekong Cuisine Lao & Thai (Lao & Thai) – I believe San Diego’s only (or one of the first) Lao places is available for takeout or delivery via Grubhub or Postmates
  • The Original Sab-E-Lee (Thai) – Both the Linda Vista and Rancho Peñasquitos location of this delectable Thai restaurant is available for takeout (and I believe delivery via Doordash but don’t quote me on that)
  • Pho Ca Dao (Vietnamese) – My favorite pho place in San Diego has all 7 of their locations (Chula Vista, City Heights, Mira Mesa, Mission Valley, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, and Santee) open for takeout or delivery via DoorDash.
  • RakiRaki Ramen & Tsukemen – Both their Convoy and Liberty Station locations are open for takeout and delivery
  • Sushi Ota (Japanese) – San Diego’s venerable sushi place (where my grandfather has been known to frequent in the past) is serving their sushi via takeout (I doubt they are on delivery apps, but you can try!)
  • Yakyudori Yakitori & Ramen (Japanese) – Get a taste of these very awesome yakitori skewers via takeout or delivery on Grubhub

TORONTO

GTA, like other large metros, is too large to capture in just 10-15 places, but you can dig deeper on these sources I found.

  • Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu (Korean) – For your soon tofu needs, you can order from their Bloor St, North York, Missisauga, or Richmond Hill locations via Uber Eats or SkipTheDishes
  • Cumin Restaurant (Indian) – This East York South Asian eatery is available for takeout or delivery
  • Hokkaido Ramen Santouka (Japanese) – Like their US counterparts, Canadian branches of Santouka Ramen are available for takeout or delivery via Uber Eats or DoorDash at their Dundas St., Bloor St., or Eglinton & Yonge locations
  • Hong Shing (Chinese) – For your pan-Chinese and Canadian Chinese dining needs, Hong Shing is open 11AM-2AM for your takeout and delivery needs
  • Kaboom Kitchen (Korean) – Korean fried chicken is divine and you can have them at your door via Foodora, UberEats, or DoorDash
  • Lai Wah Heen (Chinese) – Craving some fancy dim sum? Well you’re in luck as you can order from Lai Wah Heen via Foodora, UberEats, DoorDash, and F.O.D.
  • Matha Roti (Indian) – This Harbord Village roti specialist is not available for delivery, but you can order for takeout
  • Max’s Chicken (Filipino) – Cravings for Filipino style fried chicken (and other dishes) in Vaughan or Scarborough can be satisfied by takeout or delivery via UberEats
  • Torang Restaurant (Iranian) – Newmarket area residents can get their taste of Iranian food via takeout or delivery
  • Wuhan Noodle (Chinese) – Markham noodle house Wuhan Noodle, the site of racist online attacks earlier this year, is available for takeout or ordering on DoorDash

VANCOUVER

Steamed crab meat, scallop, prawn, and spinach dumpling
Dim Sum at Kirin

Given its large Chinese population, Vancouver was one of the areas first hit hard in North America from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many places are closed, but I’ve tried to do the best I can to find places open to curate this small, but mighty, list (with Dished Vancouver being a helpful resource):

  • Bubble Queen (Chinese) – Your bubble tea and Hong Kong egg waffle puff cravings can be satisfied by this Fairview/South Cambie joint available for takeout or on DoorDash
  • CC’s Chinese Restaurant (Chinese) – In North Van and hungry for Canadian Chinese or Taiwanese food? Well CC’s has you covered for takeout or delivery on SkipTheDishes or Uber Eats
  • Chef Hung’s Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Taiwanese) – Only the Kerrisdale location of this venerable Taiwanese chain is open for takeout or delivery 11AM-8PM daily
  • Disco Cheetah (Korean) – West End/Davie Village Korean fusion fast casual is open 11AM-11PM for takeout or delivery via Uber Eats
  • Do Chay (Vietnamese) – Vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant Do Chay is open for takeout and delivery
  • Fresh Legend (Taiwanese) – Renfrew Taiwanese dessert place Fresh Legend has their freshly made taro balls available for takeout
  • Kirin Restaurant (Chinese) – Hungry for one of the most reliable dim sum places in Vancouver? Well you can order takeout from both the Richmond and New Westminster locations and they should be on Uber Eats soon, if not already.
  • Kulinarya (Filipino) – This Coquitlam and Commercial Dr. Filipino restaurant is available for your pansit and silog cravings for pickup or delivery via DoorDash
  • Max’s Chicken (Filipino) – Cravings for Filipino style fried chicken (and other dishes) can be satisfied by takeout or delivery via Foodora, UberEats, or DoorDash
  • Shiok (Singaporean) – East Van Singaporean place Shiok is available for takeout or delivery via Foodora or Uber Eats
  • Sun Sui Wah (Chinese) – The venerable Cantonese restaurant is takeout only for its Richmond location, but you can order delivery from its Main St. location on SkipTheDishes.
  • Vij’s (Indian) – Yes, this renown Indian restaurant restaurant is available for takeout and delivery and the owner himself is one of the leaders in supporting a national Canada Takeout Day to encourage it!

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Garlic Scapes at Tiger Fork
Garlic Scapes at Tiger Fork

The DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia) area might have smaller Asian communities than SF, LA, and NYC, but there are still a large number of places still open. As with other metro areas, I used Eater DC for a fair bit of research, in addition to my own research. Here is a list of places open spread out across the metro area:

  • Bun’d (Taiwanese and Korean) – Taiwanese Korean fusion place Bun’d has centralized operations in its Pentagon City location where you can order baos and ssam via online pickup, Postmates, or Caviar
  • Chiko (Korean) – Fast casual modern American Korean spot Chiko is available for takeout in both its Dupont Circle and Eastern Market locations as well as on Caviar and DoorDash
  • Da Hong Pao (Chinese) – Yes, you can get dim sum delivered to you in DC via Doordash! If you’re craving American Chinese classics like lo mein or…wings with mumbo sauce…sister restaurant Yum’s II is also open next door for takeout (yes, you read that right, I AM recommending an American Chinese place)
  • Daikaya (Japanese) – Reliable and good ramen shop Daikaya is available for pickup using its online store or delivery via Uber Eats. Its sister restaurants Bantam King (fried chicken and chicken ramen) and Hatoba are also available for delivery on Caviar in addition to takeout and Uber Eats
  • Hai Duong (Vietnamese) – Reliable Eden Center favorite Hai Duong is available for your Northern Virginia pho needs via takeout or delivery on DoorDash
  • Honey Pig (Korean) – Delightful Korean BBQ restaurant Honey Pig is available for your Northern Virginia bulgogi desires either through pickup or on DoorDash
  • Kabobi by the Helmand (Afghan) – My favorite Afghan place in Baltimore has a fast casual place in Herndon that can be delivered to you via Grubhub, Uber Eats, or Postmates
  • Makan (Malaysian) – Columbia Heights newcomer Makan serves Malaysian food for takeout via online ordering. Its sister restaurant Maketto (Cambodian-Taiwanese fusion) is also available for pickup or delivery via Caviar
  • Mama Chang (Chinese) – One of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the DMV is open for you to do contactless pickup when you order their delicious Sichuanese and Hunanese food online or deliver in Northern Virginia via Uber Eats.
  • Rasa (Indian) – You can order fast casual modern Indian food from this Navy Yard restaurant either by ordering online for pickup or through virtually all delivery platforms including Caviar, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Seamless. You can also buy toilet paper for $1 a roll and a pack of 100 disposable gloves for $5 too
  • Sushi Taro (Japanese) – Live near Dupont Circle? Well you’re in luck to order takeout from Michelin starred Sushi Taro for it’s fabulous selection of sushi, sake, and udon
  • Tiger Fork (Hong Kong) – I am pleased and relieved to find out that my current favorite Chinese restaurant in DC is open for takeout (on a more limited menu) from 3-8PM either by picking up or delivery through Caviar or Doordash
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Yue Restaurant, Richmond, BC

Yue Restaurant
8351 Alexandra Road
Richmond, BC V6X 1C3

My trips of Vancouver always contain a stop for dim sum at a restaurant I’ve never been to before. This weekend’s quick stop to see a friend going to grad school at UBC was no exception. This time we decided to go to Yue Restaurant (formerly Yue Delicacy) which was on my list to try from last year.

Yue Delicacy is a relatively small to medium size Cantonese seafood restaurant in one of the many food-centric strip malls that dot Alexandria Road in Richmond, BC. Parking was tight, albeit we were able to grab a spot quickly. Though if you don’t have a car, it’s a reasonably close walk from the Landsdowne Canada Line SkyTrain station. My friend, her friend, and I walked in at 11:30AM on a Sunday and waited a few minutes for a table with a reservation I had placed a couple days prior. However, I’d say the reservation might not be necessary as while the restaurant was full, there weren’t that many people waiting for a table.

Once seated we marveled at the very stately decor that was elegant yet modern (which Chef Tony could have learned from). But after a quick scan of the decor, we zoomed into what mattered most, the food! There were a number of things we wanted to try and eat so we ordered the following 9 dishes (all the Chinese names are correct, but the English names are approximate as I didn’t snap a photo of the English dim sum menu):

  • Pork Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce (豉汁蒸排骨) – These were probably the meatiest and fattest pork spareribs I have eaten in years! For the most part it was super juicy with just enough black bean sauce to give a depth of flavor, but not overpower. I would definitely eat more of these again!
  • Chinese Broccoli with Ginger Sauce (生炒薑汁芥蘭片) – In contrast, this dish was not that good. While the leaves seemed fresh, the stems were definitely a little old/too ripe with that acrid bitterness you can taste with not as fresh Chinese Broccoli. That said, the ginger garlic sauce was good which helped make the dish a little more edible.

Shrimp Dumplings at Yue Restaurant

Shrimp Dumplings at Yue Restaurant

  • Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (水晶蝦餃皇) – These shrimp dumplings were nearly perfect! Perhaps not as good as Kirin at City Hall or Ming Court in Hong Kong, they were on the smaller side but with skin that was thin, pliable, but dexterous with a filling of fresh shrimp, lightly seasoned, with a good snap. This is definitely an exemplary set of har gow that I wish all dim sum restaurants in North America would imitate.

Black Truffle Steamed Scallop Dumplings

Black Truffle Steamed Scallop Dumplings

  • Black Truffle Steamed Scallop Dumplings (黑松露帶子餃) – These dumplings were very good. Think a purely shrimp shu mai, add a scallop on top, and then add a little bit of black truffle and black truffle oil! That’s not to mention the dish roe on top as well. I think I still prefer the shrimp dumplings, but these were amazing with a nice balance of fresh seafood taste with the richness of the truffle and roe. Both the scallops and shrimp filling at that perfect snap which can be so hard to find.
  • Chicken Feet (金醬蒸鳯爪) – I’m not much of a fan of the dish but one bite of the skin showed that it was decently double fried with a good, but not gratuitous, amount of sauce. The dish is still too boney for me, but if you like chicken feet, this is a good set of them.
  • Taro Cake (五香芋絲糕) – I generally prefer daikon cake but this taro cake was perfectly fried with a crunchy exterior but soft and chewy interior. It also wasn’t too oily too. It’s probably one of the best versions of this dish I’ve had.

Red Rice Noodle Roll with Chinese Doughnut at Yue Restaurant

Red Rice Noodle Roll with Chinese Doughnut at Yue Restaurant

  • Red Rice Noodle Roll with Chinese Doughnut (鬼馬紅米腸粉) – These rice noodle rolls were made with slightly sweet red rice noodles that wrapped around a freshly fried Chinese doughnut that was stuffed with a shrimp and fish meatball. With the dark soy sauce they give you to dip it in, these rice noodle rolls were pretty solid and held up very well. The slight sweetness of the red rice noodles didn’t come out too well, but the shrimp filling and Chinese doughnut crunch more than made up for it.

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Lamb Fried Dumplings at Yue Restaurant

  • Lamb Fried Dumplings (孑然羊肉餃) – These potstickers were interesting with its crispy extra dumpling skin that looked like wings of sorts. The filling of minced lamb and chopped vegetables had a heavy lamb taste, but the flavors meshed well together.

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White and Black Sesame Balls at Yue Restaurant

  • White and Black Sesame Balls (麻茸煎堆仔) – Dessert was sesame balls with white and black sesame seeds on the outside with white sesame seed paste as filling. While we were dismayed that there were no sesame balls with black sesame paste, the dessert was still a hit with a very nice crunch flavor that lasted til we finished all the savory items.

All in all, I would rank Yue Restaurant as my number 2 dim sum restaurant in the Vancouver area after Kirin. It is definitely a place I would recommend to go to and certainly beats other places like Sun Sui Wah or Chef Tony in my book. Since it’s a newer restaurant, I would say Yue has a lot of promise, especially as it keeps on perfecting newer, more innovative dishes. While Kirin might offer a solid, near blemish free take n mostly classics with a very refined experience, Yue has all the ingredients needed to be the best dim sum restaurant in the Vancouver area (very high praise given the competition!) in the very near future.

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Ten Places to Taste Hong Kong in North America

It was 5 years ago this weekend that my mom passed away. While there were a number of delicious foods and restaurants she introduced my siblings and me to, the one that stood out the most in our memories were the cha chaan tengs (茶餐廳), also known as a Hong Kong style cafes. In fact, to this day my brother wistfully remembers the times and food we had at a now-closed cha chaan teng near the college he attended. So while I love all the dim sum, Korean BBQ, and pho we had, our meals at cha chaan tengs are what I miss the most.

And arguably, I think it’s the best type of restaurant to experience the culture and food of Hong Kong. Sure, dim sum is delicious, seafood palaces are sumptuous, and Cantonese BBQ purveyors deliver morsels of lip-smacking goodness, but nothing represents the East meets West, fast paced lifestyle that is quintessentially Hong Kong like a cha chaan teng.

After all, cha chaan tengs are essentially Hong Kong’s version of a diner, and honestly what is a more quintessential American restaurant than a diner? Like a diner, cha chaan tengs may not have the best food, but the food is reliable and comfortable. And of course, they are ubiquitous in Hong Kong. A block could have a few cha chaan tengs, all doing brisk business with lines waiting for a seat.

Thus, here’s a guide to ten decent cha chaan tengs where you can sip a good cup of Hong Kong style milk tea, eat a steak with black pepper sauce and rice, and take a bite of a pineapple bun across North America (restaurants sorted by metro area by state/province. There are other metros with decent cha chaan tengs, this is just a selection):

Vancouver/Richmond, BC

Cafe Gloucester (3338 Cambie St, Vancouver) – Not the most glamorous cha chaan teng (though most are rarely glamorous), but they serve reasonably good takes on classic Hong Kong diner dishes with larger portions and reasonable prices. I loved their Hong Kong style Russian borscht in particular.

Silver Tower Cafe Restaurant (100-8500 Alexandra Road, Richmond) – There are a few cha chaan tengs in this couple block stretch of Alexandra Road in Richmond alone, but I find Silver Tower Cafe to be one of the better ones. Whether you want steak on top of a bed of french fries and peas or a bowl of beef brisket noodle soup, they have it all and almost everything I’ve had there in the couple times I’ve been have been very satisfying. Best of all for a traveler, it’s just relatively short walk from the Landsdowne Canada Line station.

Los Angeles, CA (inc. the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County)

JJ Cafe (447 Garvey Ave, Monterey Park) – One of the first popular cha chaan tengs in the San Gabriel Valley, JJ Cafe has been dishing out solid, if not spectacular food for a couple decades. The baked pork chop dishes and milk tea here are fairly representative of the east-west fusion you would find back in Hong Kong.

Tasty Garden 2

Tasty Garden (288 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra; also in Irvine, Monterey Park, and Westminster) – This mini chain in SoCal executes almost all its dishes well. I prefer the Alhambra location for excellent execution of the Cantonese comfort dishes on the menu in addition to excellent Hong Kong milk tea and egg waffles done right (unlike at some other branches).

San Francisco Bay Area, CA

Cooking Papa 1

Dumpling and wonton noodle soup at Cooking Papa

Cooking Papa (949A Edgewater Blvd, Foster City; also in Mountain View and Santa Clara) – Not a true cha chaan teng as they do not have the ubiquitous Hong Kong style western food that’s endemic and definitive of a cha chaan teng, but they do a solid serving of classic Cantonese food with pretty decent milk tea. Foster City used to be the standard to beat, but I’ve had better food at their Santa Clara location more recently.

Hong Kong Chef (46356 Warm Springs Blvd in Fremont) – I came here on a whim during the first day of service at the Warm Springs/South Fremont station and it didn’t disappoint. I really liked their preserved meat claypot rice dish as well as their various stir-fried vegetables including Chinese broccoli and tong choy.

Kowloon Tong Dessert Cafe (393 7th Ave, San Francisco) – Some of the best milk tea and egg waffles I’ve had in the Bay Area have been at this tucked in restaurant on 7th Ave in the Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco. While their entree plates are fairly mediocre (which you can tell by their name), their snacks and desserts are pretty good, including their curry fishballs that definitely tasted like home.

Hong Kong Style Milk Tea at Shooting Star Cafe

Hong Kong Style Milk Tea at Shooting Star Cafe

Shooting Star Cafe (1022 Webster St, Oakland) – Glitzy decor and modern-ish furnishings set this cha chaan teng apart from most others. But this restaurant isn’t just about the looks. I find it has the best milk tea I have tasted in the Bay Area and they shine very bright in their desserts, including their egg waffles. Their savory food leaves a little more to be desired but there are some gems there too, including their Hainanese Chicken Rice, Wonton Noodle Soup, and Black Pepper Short Ribs.

New York, NY

Cha Chan Tang (45 Mott St, New York) – Their menu sides more with the instant ramen, sandwiches, and macaroni soups that are popular in Hong Kong and they do them fairly well. Those are not my favorite cha chaan teng dishes, but it definitely gives you another side of Hong Kong cuisine where they make “western” foods uniquely their own.

Toronto, ON

Phoenix Restaurant (7155 Woodbine Ave., Markham; also on McCowan in Markham, Scarborough, and Thorhill) – This place excels the most at baked rice dishes, Hainanese Chicken Rice, and their Hong Kong style twist on Southeast Asian food, but other dishes seem to be solid as well. 

Of course, most of these cha chaan tengs also have “authentically” Hong Kong style service, where turning tables is of the upmost importance. So sit down, look at the menu quickly (yes, even with all the options!), order, and eat. If you need something, just wave your hands. Yes, this perfunctory service is part of the ambience. It’s not necessarily rude, just ruthlessly efficient and an integral part of Hong Kong’s go-go-go culture.

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The Jade Restaurant, Richmond

After a busy July jammed full of travel, I’m finally back in the Bay Area to blog some more. To make things a little more manageable for my writing, I’m going to write reverse chronologically and start with my time in Vancouver.

The Jade Seafood Restaurant
8511 Alexandra Road,
Richmond, BC V6X 1C3

First up is The Jade Restaurant, an acclaimed Cantonese restaurant in Richmond, BC, a city swimming in fancy Chinese restaurants. My friend and I chose to go to The Jade because it was a well reviewed restaurant neither of us have been to that was conveniently located across the street from the hotel I was staying at. We met up around 11:30AM and was seated relatively easily (Actually she and her friend arrived early while I was a few minutes late. By the time I got there, they were already seated).

After looking at the menu for a good 10 minutes, we ordered the following:

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Dim Sum at the Jade Restaurant

  • Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (晶瑩鮮蝦餃) – Fairly solid har gow that might have had a touch too much five spice powder. Also like many dim sum restaurants, these suffered from its large size, meaning that the dumpling wrapping wasn’t as dextrous and fell apart a little too easily with the amount of filling. Definitely not a bad har gow, but could have been more refined.
  • Steamed Mushroom Dumpling (松露香菇餃) – While the har gow were alright, these were pretty great with a nice amount of diced mushrooms and other vegetables including carrots and water chestnuts. Was definitely one of my favorites of the meal.
  • Steamed Sakura Pork Dumpling (安康燒賣皇) – The pork was very tender and rich with juicy flavor. Add in the fish roe (which was a little overcooked) and you have one of the best shu mais I have eaten in a while.
  • Steam Chicken Wrap (花膠竹笙烏雞札) – This version of sticky rice with chicken was solid and I loved that it came in manageable packets of 3, allowing each of us to have one with a portion that was just right in terms of how filling it is. The sticky rice was flavored well too with a filling of a little bit of chicken, salty egg yolk, Chinese bacon, shitake mushroom, and small amounts of small Chinese green beans.
  • Steamed Rice Roll with Beef and Chinese Parsley (香茜滑牛肉腸粉) – I love when restaurants serve the rice noodle rolls without the sauce and allow you to drizzle the exact amount you want afterward. That’s what happened here where the perfectly steamed rice noodle rolls wrapped the nicely seasoned ground beef and parsley filling. It meant that the rice noodle roll could absorb the flavor of the sweet soy sauce without becoming too salty, too mushy, or too flimsy. A+ to the Jade for this.
  • Steamed Salty Egg Yolk Bun (黃金流沙飽) – Unfortunately these came out mid meal but I chose to wait to eat them at the end because it is dessert. I am glad my friend’s friend love them (and he ate it while it was still hot and freshly steamed), but the cold, slight sogginess dampened and otherwise decent salty egg custard yolk bun.

All in all, the Jade is a fine place to get dim sum in Richmond, though not as exemplary as other top places like Kirin or Sun Sui Wah. The one advantage, however, is the easy wait time. So if you can’t stand to wait in line at one of the better dim sum restaurants off No. 3 Road, I would definitely recommend walking down Alexandra Road to eat dim sum at the Jade. It might not be the best, but you certainly won’t be disappointed in the over all meal.


As a bonus to this blog post, I’ll quickly touch upon HK BBQ Master, a famed Cantonese Barbecue place underneath the giant Real Canadian Superstore building on No. 3 Road. I didn’t get enough to actually review it on its own, but it is definitely worthy enough to be included in a blog post.

I went to HK BBQ Master for a late lunch on a Monday afternoon. Even at 2PM it was extremely busy and I still had to wait 15 minutes for one of their 28 or so seats in their restaurant. While I waited, I ordered a roast pork and roast duck rice plate and a cup of iced honey citron (a classic and refreshing Hong Kong drink). I was given the order slip, which was handed to the server right as I sat down.

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Roast duck and roast pork rice place at H BBQ Master

The plate of rice with roast pork and roast duck out came soon after I sat down and it was absolutely delicious. The duck with meaty and juicy with a very nice soy sauce and star anise marinade. The skin managed to have a little crispiness as well. The roast pork was a tad salty but the skin was crispy and so nice. Unfortunately, the honey citron was a lot of water and not a lot of honey or citron. However, it didn’t manage to damper the incredible barbecue I ate. I certainly will be back for more!

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Best Dim Sum in America (Part 2) – Results!

As I mentioned 2 weeks ago, my month long side research project to find the “best dim sum in America” is over. Results are below, but before that I want to go over my methodology in more detail just so I’m as completely transparent as possible.

I wrote last week that my methodology was based on yelp scores, urbanspoon scores, and some bonus points based on being on a food loving writer’s top dim sum lists. Here it is in more detail:

Total score
=
[Yelp score + (# of Yelp Reviews x 0.0001)]
+
[Urbanspoon % score x 5]
+
[Bonus points using a weighted grade based on mentions on a ‘top dim sum’ list in their metro area in the last 2 years. 1 mention = 0.25 bonus points, 2 mentions = 0.5 bonus pointspoints, 3+ mentions = weighted average of the rankings x 5 bonus points, 5+ mentions earned an additional bonus point]

Dim sum at Lunasia

Dim sum at Lunasia

The first two scoring factors are fairly simple and easy to explain as scores on both sites build the foundation of my rankings. Though, there are a few caveats: 1. I gave an added boost to the number of yelp reviews because I thought the more yelp reviews, the more reliable and better your score was compared to those with few reviews. 2. For the few restaurants without an Urbanspoon review I opted to duplicate the stars they received from Yelp (i.e. a restaurant without an Urbanspoon score but 3 yelp stars got a 60% in my Urbanspoon column).

The third is a little harder so I’ll walk you step by step on how I came up with my score for Sea Harbour. For the first two point factors, Sea Harbour received a base score of 8.19 (Yelp score of 3.59 + Urbanspoon score of 4.6). For the bonus score based on metro area lists, I averaged its ranking across all lists (19.5/8 = 2.4375) . Since lists are based on #1 being the best, I subtracted that score from 10. I then multiplied the resulting number by 0.1 to get a decimal. I multiplied the decimal by 5. The result was a bonus score of 3.78. I added an additional point because I felt that if you had more than 5 mentions, you must be pretty good. So in the end that’s 3.59 (Yelp) + 4.6 (Urbanspoon) + 4.78 (bonus points), or a total of 12.97 points.

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour

But that’s enough math. By now I’m pretty sure you’re hungry to find the results of all this data and research. So, without further ado, according to this methodology the top dim sum restaurants in the United States are:

  1. Sea Harbour (Rosemead, CA) – 12.97
  2. Elite (Monterey Park, CA) – 12.436
  3. Nom Wah Tea Parlour (New York, NY) – 12.352
  4. Red Farm (New York, NY) – 12.337
  5. Yank Sing (San Francisco, CA) – 12.217
  6. Dim Sum Go Go (New York, NY) – 11.844
  7. Koi Palace (Daly City, CA) – 11.794
  8. Hong Kong Lounge II (San Francisco, CA) – 11.752
  9. Mama Ji’s (San Francisco, CA) – 11.528
  10. Hong Kong Lounge (San Francisco, CA) – 11.525

For those who are passionate about Chinese food and write about it, Sea Harbour’s #1 ranking comes as no surprise. The restaurant has enjoyed near universal acclaim since it’s open in 2002 and is repeatedly lauded by Jonathan Gold, the first food critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. Sea Harbour’s reputation and quality is aided by the fact that it is run by very successful Chinese restauranteurs based in Vancouver, where some of the best dim sum outside of Hong Kong is served.

While Sea Harbour’s ranking is not shocking much of anyone, what will undoubtedly shock some is the #7 ranking of Koi Palace. To be clear, a #7 ranking out of nearly 500 restaurants is nothing to sneeze at, but Koi Palace is considered by some experts to be the best Chinese restaurant in America. By this methodology, it comes to 2nd place even in its own metropolitan area, bested by the venerable Yank Sing. My hunch is that its notoriously long waits, with reports of staff ushering friends in front of the line, has markedly affected their ratings compared to others on this list. If that’s true, it does note a flaw in the methodology where to many folks, service trumps the quality of the food and is reflected on sites like Yelp.

 

Dim sum at J Zhou Oriental Cuisine

Dim sum at J Zhou Oriental Cuisine

Another interesting thing to note is the relatively small amount of places serving dim sum from the San Gabriel Valley  in the top 10 compared to those from San Francisco and New York. This is not to say that the top 10 places in New York or San Francisco are bad. However, there are a large number of  exceptional dim sum places in the San Gabriel Valley that many would argue are better than the San Francisco and New York restaurants in the top 10. This may indicate another flaw in my methodology because not all metropolitan areas are equal when it comes to overall quality of Cantonese cuisine. A number of people, especially of Chinese descent, generally agree that the Chinese food (including dim sum) is better around Los Angeles, with San Francisco and New York in 2nd and 3rd respectively. However, this opinion is fraught with contention as David Chan’s Asia Society article in 2012 elicited dozens of heated argument both on the site and Chowhound. I had briefly considered doing some additional weighting based on metropolitan area quality reputation but opted against it to keep my methodology as simple and non-biased as I could.

Nitpicking the various potential flaws of my methodology, though, obscures the big picture: the dim sum rankings and the methodology are a fairly good indicator of the quality of the dim sum restaurant. In general, a score of 10 points or more means that the place is excellent – where the dim sum is fresh, potentially innovative, and made with care and quality. More than 8 points generally indicates that the place is great, though not to the quality of those restaurants with more points. A restaurant in the 7 point range generally means they are good and fairly solid, though some items may not be very great. A score around 6 points means that the restaurant is ‘fair’ with some items that are good but many items that are not very great. The few restaurants in the 5 point range are ones to avoid with universally negative acclaim. You can take a look at my dim sum ranking spreadsheet here.

In practical terms, the list will be generally useful for knowing where to go and where to avoid to eat, especially when traveling for the holidays or for leisure. For instance, I’ll be going to King Hua (11.306 points) and not Lincoln Seafood (5.264 points) when I go to California in the next few weeks. It’s not a holiday without dim sum in my family and I’m certainly planning to stuff myself with delicious sui mai.

Next up: my favorite places for dim sum and deeper analysis of the rankings, including cart vs. menu order places.

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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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