7900 Westminster Hwy
Dim sum three times in four days? Sure, why not? That's how we roll.
Kirin is a well-known Chinese restaurant group that operates four locations in Metro Vancouver. Kirin Richmond is located on the second floor of a building adjacent to Richmond Centre mall. We had a lacklustre dim sum experience at Shun Feng the day before, so we decided to go to Kirin to try to make up for it.
Kirin is known for being a higher end, fine-dining establishment, and they're extremely popular for dim sum. We arrived early-ish (around 10:30), but apparently not early enough. The place was packed and bustling, and the hostess was even hesitant with giving us an open table since there was a reservation placed on it for noon. Apparently people like to linger, but an hour and a half was plenty of enough time for us to eat and get out.
At Kirin, you place your order with the server, so no push-carts or check-sheets here. We ordered quite a bit for two people, so we definitely had leftovers which we kept for breakfast the next day.
|Steamed prawn dumpling ($5.68)|
|Steamed prawn and Sakura farm premium pork dumpling topped with flying fish roe ($5.68)|
|Steamed chicken feet and dried tangerine peel in black bean sauce ($5.98)|
|Deep fried eggplant stuffed with minced prawn in black bean sauce ($5.68)|
|Steamed green onion and Chinese donut rice roll topped with bread crumb ($5.98)|
|Steamed sesame paste and egg yolk bun ($5.18)|
Overall, I thought the dim sum offerings were decent, but not as good as what you'd expect from a successful place like Kirin. I thought the service and food was actually much better at Empire (the restaurant we went to on the second day of our trip). They're also competitively priced with each other, so moral of the story is to go to Empire and you can skip Kirin.
After dim sum, we headed back onto the SkyTrain and decided to stop off at Oakridge to take a look around their shopping centre. Nothing really caught our eye except for:
R O Y C E ' C H O C O L A T E
650 West 41st Avenue
Royce' Chocolate hails from Japan and is a world-renowned brand known for their delicious chocolate. Similar to unique Kit Kats and Tokyo Banana, they're a popular duty free buy and people would usually stuff their suitcases with boxes of this stuff when flying back from Japan.
However, with two new outlets open in Metro Vancouver (one in Richmond Centre and one in Oakridge Centre), you won't have to buy an airline ticket just to have a taste.
Royce' operates as a kiosk in the middle of their respective malls. Clean and white, with glass cases displaying their wares. The chocolate is all pre-packaged, so it's nice that the display offers a look at what's inside the actual boxes.
Some of their products include their famous nama chocolates, chocolate-covered potato chips, chocolate bars, chocolate-covered cookies, and more. Most of their products are on the pricier end (~$20 and more) but hey, it's cheaper than flying to Japan.
Their signature nama chocolates are ganache-like in texture and come in a variety of different flavours. They pretty much encompass the whole chocolate spectrum, from bitter dark, to au lait (milk), and white. They even have a blend of other flavours including matcha and champagne.
When I made my purchase, the clerk packaged it into a small packet with its own ice pack. You're meant to store the chocolates in your fridge when you get home. We had a mini fridge back at the hotel which was fortunate, and I'm happy to say that they also survived the flight back home.
I bought the nama chocolate maccha ($23.00), which had 20 small rectangular pieces enclosed in the box. It also comes with a small shovel/stick for you to consume the chocolates cleanly. (The Japanese really do think of everything.)
Nama chocolates are made using chocolate and fresh cream, and a hint of liqueur. I'm usually pretty sensitive and hate the taste of alcohols, but the liqueurs really do enhance the flavour of the chocolates. The matcha was bitter but sweet, and the texture was velvety smooth and melt in your mouth. They actually reminded me the chocolates I had during my last trip from La Chocolaterie, a local Vancouver chocolate shop that I adore. They're also owned and operated by a super nice Japanese couple (coincidence? Probably not).
When my sister went to Vancouver this past month, I made sure to put in a request for another box (this time, I tried the white) as well as some of their other products. Even when you try to ration it, it's a shame the chocolate never lasts too long.
123 Carrie Cates Ct
North Vancouver, BC
At this point, we didn't really know what to do since we checked off most of the obligatory Vancouver tourist attractions. I figured that since we had DayPasses anyways, we could ride the SeaBus over to North Van -- a first for both of us.
The SeaBus is a passenger-only ferry that connects the Waterfront Station terminal in Vancouver to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Above is a picture of one of the SeaBus' with a view of downtown. The ride went without a hitch, and it wasn't as rocky as I thought it would be. In total, it takes 12 minutes to cross.
At Lonsdale Quay, they also have a public market reminiscent of Granville's, but on a much smaller scale. Below are some snapshots of the market:
We took another SeaBus back to Waterfront and transferred back onto the Canada Line. On our walk back to the hotel, we stopped by the nearby:
L ' O P E R A P A T I S S E R I E
5951 Minoru Blvd
Bakeries in a city like Richmond are synonymous with items like char siu bao, dan tat, and lou po beng. While those are all fine and dandy, if you're looking for pastries that are more French-inspired, look no further than L'Opera Patisserie.
Sandwiched between the Marriott and Hilton Hotel on Minoru Blvd, L'Opera is a tiny operation churning out croissants, pastries, cakes, macarons, and more. They even offer sittings for afternoon high tea, which is available by reservation only.
At L'Opera, all pastries are made on site from scratch using the best natural ingredients. When you walk in, you'll be surprised at how small the shop actually is. They space out their tables as best they could, but it's still extremely awkward to navigate towards the pastry counter. Just have to get cozy with strangers I guess.
Besides that, the interior is done up in an ornate fashion. Chandeliers and baroque wallpaper in shades of red and gold cover all of the walls. Classy and elegant, it's the perfect backdrop for afternoon high tea.
Operating hours are from 10:00am to 7:00pm most days, and we arrived around 4:00 in the afternoon. As you can tell, there wasn't much left in both display cases. Go early if you want their full selection!
Out of the limited pastry case, the La Cabana ($7.50) caught my eye because of its vibrant colour. It was described as a salted caramel mango mousse with lightened coconut manna (coconut butter) in a tart shell. The mango and salted caramel flavours were quite delicate, with the coconut really coming through. I could tell L'Opera has an Asian touch (from the owners) since the tart wasn't too sweet at all.
Onto the macarons ($2.00 each)! Their stock was severely depleted, but luckily there were still some left of the flavours that I would've picked anyways. Sadly, no matcha or salted caramel (╥_╥).
According to a little card they included in the box, their macarons are made fresh daily with all natural and often organic ingredients. Most of their macarons contain fresh fruits so they have a shelf life of three days. They also included a disclaimer that macaron textures would vary due to humidity and other external factors. This might explain why the macaron shells were a bit inconsistent in that way. Some were crisp and chewy while others were too soft, almost like a cake/cookie texture.
In terms of the flavours, we had (from top to bottom):
- red velvet: just tasted sweet to me
- black sesame: toasty and nutty
- blueberry fantasy: had an actual blueberry in the middle which was a nice surprise
- lemon: typical lemon flavour
- creamy peach mango: a bit sour tasting
- L'Opera special: the girl behind the counter described it as a mocha flavour, and it was actually quite bitter
L'Opera doesn't have much competition in terms of patisseries in Richmond, but they're a strong contender anyhow. When I'm back in the city, I'll remember to come early... and come often.
G Y O - O J A P A N E S E R E S T A U R A N T
3779 Sexsmith Rd
When I was planning our trip, I knew our last meal in Vancouver had to be Japanese. Fresh seafood and low(er) prices aren't as common in Edmonton (unfortunately), so I knew we had to maximize our opportunities as best we could.
Gyo-O, whose name translates to "Fish King," seemed to be the perfect choice. A unique and casual place, Gyo-O goes against the norm of what you would expect from a traditional Japanese restaurant. In fact, they don't even serve sushi. Rather, the menu focus is on donburi (rice bowls) and noodles (ramen and udon).
Part of the Gyoza King restaurant group, Gyo-O is located right in the middle of Continental Shopping Centre, a plaza which is just minutes away from Aberdeen Centre.
It's a popular restaurant with limited tables, so we did our best to beat the dinner rush by arriving fairly early. It's a good thing too, as we were seated immediately. To ensure fairness among waiting parties, a clipboard is also set up front where you can leave your name and party size in the order of your arrival.
The entire restaurant is decked out with murals and wooden Kanji blocks. Super cool and such a vibrant atmosphere. The decor is definitely worth the trip alone.
The first item we ordered was the seafood yukke don ($11.43), one of Gyo-O's signature and most popular dishes. In fact, almost every table orders this.
Chopped tuna, salmon, squid, prawn, fishcake, and takowasabi are marinated in a housemade soy sauce and served over hot rice. The don is finished with onsen tamago (Japanese speak for poached egg), green onion, and nori. To eat this dish, you're meant to mix everything together so that the runny egg yolk also becomes part of the sauce. Unfortunately, our egg was slightly overdone and the yolk didn't ooze as much as we hoped.
I liked the dish enough but I felt it didn't live up to the (over)hype. The texture was a bit slimy (which I didn't mind), and the housemade soy sauce was thick and slightly sweet, almost like a teriyaki sauce. I only wished that there was a greater ratio between seafood and rice because once everything was mixed together, you could tell it was mostly filler.
Whenever takoyaki ($6.50) is on the menu, I have to order it. It came with six pieces to an order, and there's actually a couple of different topping styles to choose from on the menu. We went the classic route, with takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, and bonito flakes. Toppings were a bit stingy but the takoyaki itself was good -- served piping hot and crispy.
My mom also wanted to give the deep fried soft shell crab ($8.33) a try. The crab was cut into pieces and surrounded by a light tempura batter. It didn't come with any dipping sauce, so I wasn't sure if they wanted you to enjoy the natural flavours of the crab or use their housemade soy sauce which was also supplied at the table. All in all, it was a good dish for snacking, but I wouldn't say it's a must-order.
The last dish we ordered was the ebi tempura bukkake udon with egg ($11.90). And no, I didn't make a typo. Bukkake udon is a Japanese noodle dish where the udon is served sans soup. Instead, you're given a thickened broth/sauce on the side which you pour over before eating. Think of it like the tsukemen of udon. Since it's not served in soup, the original texture and flavour of the udon is preserved. In Japan, it's a dish eaten cold in the summer and hot during the winter.
You can order different proteins for your udon, but since we ordered the ebi tempura version, ours came topped with a half boiled egg, green onion, nori, and five pieces of prawn tempura. The broth, which was reminiscent of a light soy sauce, was served in a little tea cup with a spout on the side.
Udon holds the title as my favourite noodle type so I really enjoyed this dish. The noodles were fresh, therefore, they were springy and chewy. The egg was also cooked much better this time around with a nice runny yolk. It's a filling dish, but you're also not left with a heavy feeling at the end.
I'm glad I was able to try Gyo-O since it's been on my bucket list for quite a while. If you find yourself craving Japanese food but don't necessarily feel like sushi, it's certainly worth a visit.
I don't have any photos or anything interesting to report for day 6 since our flight home was in the morning. Since we didn't have much time, we had the continental breakfast along with leftover dim sum at our hotel before boarding the shuttle to the airport. We ended up at our gate an hour and a half early (my mom likes to be prepared).. only to find out our flight would be delayed another hour. So much fun.
But that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end to YVR 2016 posts! I'm actually kind of glad that it's over since these took forever to write up. They were pretty much five to six blog posts in one (and you know how I like to procastinate...). If you read through them all, I thank you for your loyalty and your patience.
After this, it's back to regular programming and all things #yegfood!