I know what you're thinking. YVR again?! Weren't you just there? True, but YVR is like my second home. I'm always itching to go back once I leave. Since I had a week off work, I was able to convince my sister to take a few days off as well and join me for some much needed eating and shopping therapy.
Day 1 Itinerary:
R & H C H I N E S E F O O D
#1065 Lansdowne Centre
5300 No 3 Rd
Our first stop for "breakfast" was at a stall in Lansdowne Centre's food court. Lansdowne Centre is an old-school mall, a bit run-down, known mainly for its big box tenants (eg. Best Buy, Winners, Homesense, etc). Sadly, the mall will be closing down in a few years time to make way for new condo development.
If we stop at Lansdowne, it's usually for No. 9 Restaurant, a cha chaan teng open 24/7. Comes in handy for when you get in late or if you have an early morning flight. But we were here for the food court.
Lansdowne's food court is pretty typical with names you see in most places. A&W, Subway, KFC, etc etc. But this is Richmond we're talking about.
This is R&H.
R&H Chinese Food is a family-run stall that serves Northern Chinese and Shanghainese dishes. Noodles, dumplings, beef rolls, and the like. Everything is made fresh to order and you can even watch them fold the xiao long bao in front of you.
Once we ordered, we were given a number which they call out when your food is ready. If the food court is busy, I'd recommend sitting close by to hear.
Since we had plans to hit up other food stops, we only ordered one basket of xiao long bao ($7.39) to share. Even though it's a food court, pricing for the xiao long bao is pretty on par with other restaurants.
Considering our surroundings though, the xiao long bao is quite good and better than both of us expected. The dumpling skin is nice and thin, although I have to agree with other reviews that say that the top swirls are a tad thick. Once you poke through, there's a ton of soup inside with a tender, moist ball of meat. My sister thought it was a bit salty but I thought it had good flavour with the hit of ginger.
Only one thing to say about a place like this: fresh xiao long bao. In a food court. Edmonton, get on their level.
4151 Hazelbridge Way
After Lansdowne, we made the quick drive over to Aberdeen Centre. Our trip was coincidentally the weekend before the leadup to Chinese New Year. Understandably, the mall was busier than usual, with lots of decorations and lanterns throughout the entire mall.
Despite the crowds, one thing I really liked about visiting around this time of the year is the small businesses who set up tables around the mall corridors. Makes it quite festive and lively.
If you didn't know, this year is the year of the rooster. AKA, the best year. AKA, my year.
No trip to Aberdeen is complete without a trip to Daiso. Strangely enough, I didn't pick up much stuff this time around. Probably because I was here not too long ago.
Before we did any actual shopping though, we made our way up the third floor food court to beat the rush and to fill up the rest of our stomach space.
Unit #3180, Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
OG readers of this blog know that I've wanted to try Saboten for a while. Saboten is a tonkatsu chain with over 500 outlets all over Asia. Their Aberdeen location has been open since January 2012 and it's a pretty popular stall. Says a lot about them since it's stiff competition up in the food court.
Their menu is quite simple: three different katsu types (tenderloin, loin, or shrimp) served in three styles: plain with sauce, katsudon, or curry.
I love when places have fake food displays that you see all over Japan. (P.S. Planning a trip there soon. Fingers crossed it actually happens. Also, please send recommendations if you have them.)
Curry was off the menu that day so we went for the Saboten set ($10.45) instead. The Saboten set comes with portions of all three proteins: the tenderloin, the loin, and shrimp. Rice, miso soup, and cabbage bulk up the rest of the meal. It's also served with a whack-load of condiments. Pickles on the top left, tonkatsu sauce and ground sesame seeds (which you mix together) below, dressing for the cabbage, and tartar sauce for the shrimp, top right.
Although I waited quite a while to try Saboten, the wait did not disappoint. The house-made panko breading was crunchy but light and not greasy at all. The meat comes in a thick portion but I did find the leaner pieces slightly dry. Regardless, it was quite the filling meal at a pretty fair price point. Also, can I reiterate that this is what you can find in a food court?!
If you're unsure of what to eat in Aberdeen, Saboten is worth the try.
B U B B L E W A F F L E C A F E
Unit #3180, Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
Naturally dessert came next!
If there was a popularity contest, Bubble Waffle Cafe (BWC) would probably win hands down. There's always a line or a crowd of people surrounding this little stall.
BWC has eight locations, half of them being in shopping centres and the other half being stand-alone shops. Like their name suggests, they serve up bubble waffles in a variety of flavours as well as Hong Kong-style waffle cakes. On the savoury side, they offer other popular HK-style street snacks including curry fish balls, pork intestines, rice rolls, stinky tofu, etc. For those wanting a more substantial meal, BWC is also famous for their cheap noodle soup combos which you can create and customize to your liking. You simply check off a small form specifying your choice of soup base, type of noodle, and toppings. A full combo which includes noodles, a drink, and a side bubble waffle can be yours for less than $10. A steal of a deal.
Bubble waffles come in six flavours, including original, chocolate, sesame, oreo, cheesecake, and green tea. We just went the classic route and got an original bubble waffle ($3.95). They already had some pre-made and sitting by so I received my order right away. It was still warm when I got it so I'm not complaining.
When they're fresh, the bubble waffle has a light crispy exterior that gives way to a soft, spongy, and slightly hollow core. They also have an eggy flavour to them which isn't overly sweet. Half the fun of eating them is just ripping them apart and popping each individual bubble into your mouth.
After shopping around the rest of Aberdeen Centre, we hit up nearby Parker Place and Yaohan just to browse around. No pictures because there's not much to see if you've already been. However, if you wish to remain sane, I do not recommend visiting either of these places on a Saturday before Chinese New Year. The parking lots are a gong show and I do not wish to stereotype (especially because this includes myself), but half of Richmond's driving population should NOT be driving. We couldn't wait to be out of there fast enough.
D A R U M A Y A F O O D M A R K E T
4700 McClelland Rd
Our next stop was in one of Richmond's newest retail plazas -- Central at Garden City. Their main anchor is a Walmart Supercentre which is one of the biggest Walmart's (it spans TWO floors) I've ever seen. Surrounding the Walmart is a variety of smaller business and restaurants, including Darumaya Food Market.
Darumaya is a small-ish shop that carries all your Japanese snack and food needs. Unique chip flavours, candies, sauces, ramen, drinks, and the like. They also offer fresh and frozen sushi, as well as Wagyu beef straight from Japan! If you're not willing to shell out $150++++ on a single steak, they also offer free Wagyu beef tastings on a semi-regular basis! We came a bit too early as they were planning to offer a tasting later that evening. (╥_╥)
Darumaya actually came to my attention via Instagram, as people were posting pictures of some delicious looking mochi that were only available here. The mochi are shipped in from Japan and are stored in the back freezer section as well as the front refrigerated showcase.
The Hokkaido milk mochi ($2.99) seems to be the most popular choice among other flavours available such as chocolate, pudding, and brown sugar. When defrosted, the mochi is super soft and chewy. The filling is milky and creamy, and just lightly sweet. The guy at the store also recommended eating it frozen as the texture is more like ice cream that way.
I definitely recommend checking out Darumaya if you're in the area because they do stock some unique items that you wouldn't also find at T&T. The owners are super friendly, and when I was inquiring about what flavours of mochi there were, they even offered me a full mochi sample. When ringing me through, the guy also threw in some free candy while my sister got a free Meiji chocolate bar. It looked like they were going to expire soon hence why they were giving it away for free. But that kind of service will certainly encourage repeat business.
H A R O O
8580 Alexandra Rd
For dinner that night, we decided on Korean food. My sister wanted to go to Gang Nam Korean BBQ again since she really enjoyed it on my recommendation during her previous trip with friends. For me, I don't like going to the same places twice (especially if there's sooo many other restaurants to try) so I was able to convince her to try a different place.
Haroo is a small family-run Korean restaurant located on the second floor of Venezia Place. A lot of restaurants and shops are located in the same plaza so parking can be a bit scarce.
Knowing that the place was small and popular, we arrived right when the owner was switching over the open sign. He was probably surprised to see customers come in so quickly.
As mentioned before, the restaurant is quite small with not a lot of tables or booths. It's very cozy but still comfortable. It's best to come in smaller groups and with a reservation if you're worried.
There's also a stipulation on the menu that only two Visa transactions per table is allowed, and each person must have a minimum order of $11.95. The last point shouldn't be a problem since their cheapest item costs around that, and most of their dishes are on the pricier side.
Each table is already set with a jug of warm corn tea. The tea was really good and I liked how they leave the jug on the table so you won't have to bother them for refills all the time. Chopsticks and cutlery are also located in boxes on top or in drawers beneath the table.
The banchan comes in a round segmented tin, almost like an artist's palette. Kind of ingenious of them as it beats washing a million small plates that banchan is usually served on. Starting on the left and going clockwise, we have green salad, marinated potatoes (gamja jorim), fish cake, soybean sprouts, and kimchi. All of the banchan can be refilled once except for the salad.
I found myself reaching for the potatoes and soybean sprouts the most, with the potatoes being soft and slightly sweet, and the sprouts refreshing with a light touch of sesame oil.
To appease the sister who really wanted Korean BBQ, we ordered the LA Galbi ($22.95) which also came with a bowl of rice. There was a large portion of ribs that came sizzling on the hot plate, along with a bed of onions and enoki mushrooms underneath. The meat was tender with some pieces slightly chewy. It certainly fulfilled the craving for meat and lots of it.
Part of the reason why I chose Haroo in the first place -- their famous seafood pancake ($19.50). Packed with ingredients including clam, squid, baby shrimps, zucchini, carrots, onions and green onions. The whole thing is deep fried so it eats more like a tempura than a traditional griddled pancake. Though it was delicious and crunchy, it was hard to eat more than two pieces of it.
Overall, I really liked the vibe that I got from Haroo. It's a humble little restaurant that makes you feel welcome and right at home.
L E T E A 樂 茶
3779 Sexsmith Rd
Richmond, BC V6X 3Z9
What does every Asian do after dinner? Get bubble tea of course.
Le Tea is a relatively new tea shop located within Continental Centre, just minutes away from Aberdeen. Their menu is pretty extensive and mostly tea-centric, with a few smoothie and coffee options. The only food they offer is matcha ice cream, served to you in a cup or a cone.
I can't find much information on whether Le Tea originates from a chain (I think they do), but if not, I'd say their branding is pretty on point.
The store seems to be an eclectic mix of different design concepts that mesh together surprisingly well. The walls are a combination of exposed brick, white tile, wood panelling, and gray slats reminiscent of a shipping container. It's like rustic meets minimalism meets industrial chic. All the trends basically.
It was decently busy when we walked in, with a mix of large groups and individuals working/studying. I wouldn't be able to do work there since I could barely hear the guy when ordering at the counter. Afternoons are probably more quiet and better suited for lingering.
Cheese lattea's seem to be their signature: tea drinks topped off with a cheese milk foam, your choice of salty or sweet. Customization options are available like at most bubble tea joints, including sweetness, ice, and toppings. I went for the lychee oolong cheese lattea ($5.50) with sweet cheese foam. I was skeptical when I saw the word cheese but it was surprisingly good. It almost has a cream cheese icing taste. Apparently the salty cheese is also popular, as it helps bring more of the tea flavour out.
My sister chose her usual lychee green tea ($4.00 for small), but found it a little too sweet. Her fault though because she kept regular sweetness.
And that concludes day one! Stay tuned for more YVR posts!