It was a bit of a last minute decision, but I knew I didn't want to spend my two weeks off just bumming around the house like I probably would have done otherwise. My travel companion for this trip was my mom, as this was my early birthday present to her. With one week (July 24-29) in beautiful YVR, we managed to fit in a lot of shopping, a lot of sightseeing, and definitely a lot of eating. Like... a lot. So much so, that I've included page jumps if you're interested in only reading about a certain restaurant or a certain part of our day's itinerary. If you're bored enough to read through the whole thing, I'd grab some snacks and get comfy because you're going to be here a while.
Day 1 Itinerary:
M c A R T H U R G L E N D E S I G N E R O U T L E T S
1000-7899 Templeton Station Rd
Our flight out of YEG was a bit earlier in the morning, so we arrived in YVR at around 8:30. Since we were on the Sea Island, we decided to grab the SkyTrain from the airport to the McArthurGlen Designer Outlets. It was just a couple of stops on the Canada Line (YVR-Airport ⟶ Templeton Station), and the outlets were just a quick five minute walk away. Also, tickets at the kiosk are free from the airport to Templeton Station! So it's definitely something to do if you have a long layover or time to kill at the airport.
From Templeton Station, all you have to do is follow the foot steps and paw prints to the outlets. Super cute touch.
McArthurGlen Group is Europe's leading developer of luxury outlet malls. Vancouver is their first venture into the Canadian market and its European touch is evident in the architecture and design of the stores.
The place was pretty dead since we came a bit early before the outlets actually opened at 10. While we waited around, we sat on a park bench and tried to find some WiFi. Priorities, people. Every couple of minutes, you can see and hear the roar of planes and jets passing by.
The outlets had some of the usual suspects (ie. Coach, Ralph Lauren, Nike, etc.), but these brands never really enticed me. We browsed through a few stores but ultimately left empty-handed.
J A P A D O G
#64, 1000-7899 Templeton Station Rd
We didn't have a proper breakfast before our flight so by lunchtime, we were starving. We planned to hit up Japadog, which recently opened an outpost at the outlets.
Japadog is a Vancouver institution. If you haven't heard of them, you've probably been living under a rock. They started from humble beginnings in 2005 as a lone hot dog stand and has since expanded to multiple food trucks, stands, and storefronts across Vancouver and even the U.S. It's revered among locals and tourists, and has even had their fair share of celebrity customers.
Their name pretty much gives it away, but Japadog is famous for their unique, Japanese-inspired hot dogs. Toppings range from seaweed to yakisoba to bonito flakes. With over 20 specialty creations, there's something for everyone.
The McArthurGlen location is only a couple of months old and already it's a popular pit stop for shoppers. You order and pay at the counter, and wait for your order number to be called. Water, napkins, and extra condiments are also available at the side.
It was my mom's first time having a Japadog so we ordered a couple to split in half and share. Probably their most well-known creation (and their best-seller) is the Kurobuta terimayo ($7.99), which features a Kurobuta pork sausage topped with teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, sauteed onions, and seaweed.
Kurobuta pork is highly prized in the food world; it's almost like the Kobe beef of pork. I had the terimayo during my previous trip, and while I wasn't exactly impressed by it, I'd have to say the Kurobuta pork sausage is a much better canvas for the toppings. Juicy and flavourful, the sausage was complimented by the sweet teriyaki sauce, the creamy Japanese mayo, and the crisp and salty nori. It's super messy to eat, so remember to grab lots of napkins.
We also decided to get the Okonomi ($7.35), which comes with a Kurobuta pork sausage, Japanese traditional sauce (almost like a sweet, tangy Worcestershire sauce), Japanese mayo, fried cabbage, and bonito flakes. All the makings for an okonomiyaki! I think I prefered this over the terimayo since it was a bit lighter in taste but still flavourful.
While it isn't mind-blowing, Japadog is one of those places that you have to hit up at least once while you're in Van. It's overpriced for what it is (essentially a gussied-up hot dog), but it's an enduring symbol of Vancouver culture.
After our early lunch, we took the quick trip back to the airport and boarded one of the courtesy shuttles to our hotel. It was a bit early for check-in but we decided to just drop off our luggage anyways so that we could go around and explore. My mom doesn't drive, and I don't like driving down unfamiliar roads, so we mainly walked and SkyTrain-ed to get around. Our hotel was a 10ish-minute walk away from Richmond-Brighouse station, so it wasn't too bad. Just a reminder to my future self: bring comfortable shoes if you plan to walk 20,000+ steps a day.
Of course, our first stop had to be Aberdeen Station, for:
A B E R D E E N C E N T R E
4151 Hazelbridge Way
Aberdeen Centre is only one of the handful of Asian malls in Richmond, but it's certainly the largest and shiniest. Three floors worth of Asian shopping goodness. Don't ask me how much time or money I spent in Daiso or Nature Republic. The answer is: too much.
During the summer months, Aberdeen always has an interesting and grand display in their central atrium. This year was London-themed, which included glass displays filled with Crown Jewels and iconic London landmarks fabricated entirely out of PEZ candies and PEZ dispensers.
This giant Sherlock bear was also on hand -- perfect for photo ops.
After a bit of shopping, we were getting thirsty so we headed up to the third floor food court. Aberdeen's food court is probably worth the visit alone. Since it was a Sunday, the place was absolutely buzzing. Every single table was pretty much occupied and each food stall had lines at least 10 people deep.
Unit 3150, Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
Though there's been a few stall turnovers in the food court, 8 Juice has been in business for the long haul. It's one of the first stalls that you see going up the escalator, as it's just tucked from view behind Beard Papa's.
8 Juice is a fresh fruit juice and smoothie bar. Surprisingly, they don't serve bubble tea, although there is an option to add jellies or small tapioca bits to your drink. If you want bubble tea, just go next door to their neighbour, Estea Express.
I got the medium size strawberry banana smoothie with mango jelly ($5.67), while my mom got the house special ($5.67), which was mango coconut juice with tapioca, mango, and pomelo bits, also in medium. We were quite thirsty, so the drinks definitely hit the spot. Naturally sweet and refreshing.
At around 4:00, we decided to have a super early dinner so that we would still have somewhat of an appetite for the night market later that evening.
D I N E S T Y
Unit 3150, Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
Since we were in Aberdeen anyways, we decided to stick to one of the restaurants in the mall. Dinesty Dumpling House is a Shanghainese restaurant, with five locations scattered across Metro Vancouver. Since it was a non-peak time, we had no trouble getting a table.
With multiple restaurants, the Dinesty brand comes off as very polished and clean. A slick interior with their signature feature wall of teapots. They even have a glassed-off section where you can watch kitchen staff fold and prepare their soup dumplings. Their picture menus are my favourite, and they prove handy for those unfamiliar with the cuisine.
We couldn't leave without getting an order of xiao long bao, or steamed pork soup dumplings ($5.95). The dumplings came in a basket of six, and at first glance, they were a bit small and meager-looking. The skin was tender, and there was an adequate amount of soup inside, but I thought they were only okay. Even though they've won awards for their xiao long bao, I'm sure Dinesty isn't considered the best according to Vancouver standards. I even think Shanghai 456 (in Edmonton) is miles better than the ones served here.
We also got a steamer of the shrimp and pork shaomai ($7.95). Again, these weren't bad but they were definitely not great. The pork was a bit gritty, with a distinct gingery taste.
The steam fogged up my lens so excuse the blurry picture. This is their deep fried tofu pudding in garlic sauce ($5.50). Silky tofu encased in a thin, crispy skin. Fragrant and savoury, the sauce was almost like a sweet garlic-y soy sauce. You'd have to eat this once it hits the table or else the tofu gets too soggy under the weight of the sauce. I'm a bit biased because I looove tofu, but this was probably the best dish of our meal.
I'm usually a noodle person, but for our filler dish, I was craving rice for whatever reason. Dinesty has quite a few varieties of fried rice, but we ultimately chose the fried rice with shrimps, vegetables, and ham ($10.95). With no wok hei, the rice was a bit clumpy and a bit bland. Sad really.
I had high hopes, but Dinesty was a bit disappointing. Like most Chinese restaurants, service wasn't great either. If you don't plan on refilling water glasses, I'd suggest investing in bigger cups. It'd make your job a lot easier. That's all I have to say.
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel to check-in, get settled, and refresh ourselves a bit before heading on out again. From Richmond-Brighouse, we took the SkyTrain to Bridgeport Station, where the Richmond Night Market is just a short walk away. I'd suggest just following the crowd if you don't know where you're walking to.
R I C H M O N D N I G H T M A R K E T
8351 River Rd #3063
In North America (or Canada at least), the Richmond Night Market is probably the closest you can get to hawker and night markets in Asia. It runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from May until early October. The theme for this year's festivities was dinosaurs, and they even had several animatronic dinosaurs situated around the lot.
It's a super popular attraction, with hundreds of retail vendors, carnival games, and food stalls. The line to just get in was easily a 30-45 minute wait. Parking is free, but spots fill up pretty fast so public transit is recommended.
General admission is $3.25 a person, or you can bypass the line with a zoom pass for $20.00. The zoom pass admits 7 people in a group, or it's good for 7 individual visits. A few people in line paired up with other strangers and split the cost so that they could get in faster. Do that if you're impatient.
Once we finally got in, we decided to walk through the carnival and retail vendors first. A good selection of things to see, play, and buy -- cell phone cases, fashion and beauty accessories, stationary, toys, household items, etc. I picked up a few Korean socks at a friend's request, but that was pretty much it.
Onto the food section! Oh man, the food. It really is the main draw here. Classic street foods from all sorts of different countries; everything from BBQ skewers to fried squid, takoyaki, and dim sum. Annual favourites include the Korean twist potato, lovingly dubbed the "rotato." They probably had the longest line out of everyone. There was even stalls selling ramen and poké bowls! Not sure how street-friendly ramen is, but hey, it's there. Some, if not most, of the food stalls are popular for their novelty factor (in other words, Instagram-friendliness). New items that have been a hit this year include ice cream in bubble waffle cones and the practically invisible rain drop cake.
One of my mom's favourites is the Mango Yummy stand, which actually has a brick and mortar store behind Richmond Centre. We got the mango tapioca, a refreshing icy drink made with coconut milk, mango puree, fresh mango chunks, and tapioca. Looking back, we actually consumed a ton of mango while in Vancouver. You'll understand when you see future posts.
Meat on a stick, the perfect street food. It might be one of the more "boring" items at the night market, but if you had to get skewers, Chef James Xin Jiang Man BBQ is the place to go.
They had a special going on while we were there: four skewers for $10. Your choice of AAA beef steak, chicken, lamb, honey garlic prawns, and lamb kidneys. We got two lamb, one beef, and one chicken. The meats were smoky, tender, and seasoned just right. My only complaint was that it was a long wait even though they had a ton of skewers already cooked and kept under warming lights. Maybe they wanted to give the illusion of a long line?
We were getting pretty tired at this point so our last stop was Super BBQ for some deep fried squid. There's quite a few stalls selling squid (both grilled and deep-fried), but I'm not quite sure which is the best one.
A small will set you back $8.00, while a large will cost you $11.00. After the squid comes piping hot out of the fryer, they'll toss it in the seasoning of your choice or drizzle sauce over top. Flavours include cheddar cheese, garlic & pepper, sweet seaweed, sweet chili, or hot & spicy.
We got a small sweet chili squid which came overflowing in the small boat. Crispy and tender, with just a tiny bit of spice from the sweet chili.
With full stomachs and sore feet, we made our way back to the hotel and just crashed. The next day would be just as full of good eats, so stay tuned for future posts!