Day 4 Itinerary:
- Neptune Seafood Restaurant
- Beta5 Chocolates
- Coal Harbour
- Bella Gelateria
- Poké Time
- Yuu Japanese Tapas
- 720 Sweets
N E P T U N E S E A F O O D R E S T A U R A N T
8171 Ackroyd Rd #110
During my last Vancouver trip, my mom and I went for dim sum three times in less than a week (see here, here, and here). In Richmond, you're spoiled silly when it comes to restaurants so you never really get tired of it.
This time around, it was hard filtering through restaurants and narrowing it down to just one. Proximity won over in the end, so we found ourselves at Neptune.
Neptune Seafood Restaurant is part of a larger restaurant group. They were established in 1997 and have quite a few restaurants under their umbrella in the metro Vancouver area. Their Richmond location is quite nice, and sits adjacent to their casual sister restaurant, Neptune Wonton Noodle.
We visited slightly past opening and already there were quite a few tables occupied. You know people are regulars when they have a newspaper out and just one or two dishes on the table.
Service is a bit abrupt but that's a Chinese restaurant for you. Dim sum is ordered by check sheet and if you pay your bill before 11:00, you get 20% off your bill. Take advantage and go early since their dim sum is on the pricier side. There's also a surcharge for tea, $1.00 per person.
Ordering dim sum for only two people is a bit tricky, so we limited ourselves to only four dishes.
Sort of the litmus test for any dim sum restaurant is their har gow or shrimp dumplings ($6.68). These were fresh and plump, really quite good.
Steamed pork shao mai with fish roe ($6.68), another dim sum staple. Shrimp and mushroom are mixed in as well, which helps break up the firm meaty texture of the pork.
The deep fried Chinese donut wrapped with steamed rice roll ($6.68) is garnished with green onions and a drizzle of soy sauce. Hoisin sauce and sesame paste also comes on the side for dipping. It's usually one of my favourite dim sum dishes, but we found the rice roll to be a bit cold. The Chinese donut was also overfried, making it really hard and crunchy. I like it better when the donut still has some chewiness in the middle.
Our last item was wu gok, or deep fried taro root and pork dumplings ($6.68). Mashed taro surrounds a savoury pork gravy filling. The whole thing is deep fried, forming a delicate wispy crust on the outside. I love wu gok for the contrast in textures but because it's literally a starch bomb, I find it difficult to have more than just one.
We found the dim sum offerings at Neptune to be quite good but prices are steep if you don't make it in time for the 20% off discount. Go early; your wallet will thank you.
After dim sum, we drove into Vancouver, with our first stop being:
B E T A 5 C H O C O L A T E S
413 Industrial Ave
I think I may have found my new favourite place.
Hidden away like a secret, Beta5 is an award-winning chocolate and pastry shop. Their creations rival works of art: visually stunning and technically precise. They operate out of a garage in a mostly industrial area. While the location is a bit out of the way, it's certainly worth the trip.
Most of the unit's space is dedicated to their kitchen which you can peek into from the storefront's window. On shelves and tables, you can pick up bags of their caramels and chocolate pebbles, or peruse their line of polygon bars and truffles.
Besides chocolates and confections, Beta5 specializes in creampuffs. Their signature flavours, which you can get year-round, make up the first two rows that you see on the poster. The last row are their seasonal flavours, available for only a few months before new creampuffs take their place.
All the flavours sound amazing, in particular the Vietnamese coffee, raspberry earl grey, and spiced mango. If only I had stomach space for more than just one!
Since it was only available for a limited time, I decided on the quince tres leches creampuff ($5.00). The fact that it was the prettiest one didn't hurt my decision either.
The quince tres leches is filled with vanilla custard and tres leches cake. Quince puree, light rose mousse, and white chocolate rose petals adorn the top. The best part of the creampuff was the craquelin shell which gave the choux pastry a sweet, crunchy bite. It was surprisingly sturdy considering the amount of creamy filling it held both inside and outside. You probably can't wrong with any of their creampuff flavours!
I also picked up a couple bags of their chocolate pebbles and a few of their chocolate bars as gifts. The mandarin crunch bar ($9.00) was a limited edition item, specific to Chinese New Year. The two items I got for myself were the hazelnut praline pebbles ($12.00) and the queen of hearts bar ($9.00).
The hazelnut pebbles are caramelized, coated in milk chocolate praline, and then finished with 66% dark chocolate and a dusting of cocoa powder. I'm usually not a fan of dark chocolate but the bitterness was a good complement to the toasty nutty flavour of the hazelnuts.
If I were to repurchase one thing, it would have to be the queen of hearts bar: freeze-dried raspberries and candied earl grey tea in 35% white chocolate. The raspberries give the chocolate a refreshing sour quality while the candied tea leaves lend some crunchy texture. Highly recommend this one!
Beta5 ships their chocolates and confections so it's never more than a click away. If only they can ship their creampuffs too...
Unrelated, but the warehouse district around Beta5 is home to many murals. This one was my favourite:
C O A L H A R B O U R
|"lying on top of a building the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street"|
B E L L A G E L A T E R I A
1001 W Cordova St
Around the Coal Harbour area, there's a shop that shouldn't be missed. Bella Gelateria has become somewhat of a Vancouver institution since opening in 2009. They've been on my Vancouver bucket list for who knows how long.
Occupying a corner space on the ground level of Fairmont Pacific Rim, the shop is small but perfectly capable to meet the high demand. Since 2014, they've also opened up a second location in Yaletown which creeps into restaurant territory with pizza and Italian fare also being served.
Award-winning is somewhat of an understatement when it comes to Bella Gelateria, considering how many accolades they have under their belt. They may run out of wall space soon enough.
We decided on two flavours in a cup ($6.75), the Tahitian vanilla and black sesame. Looking back, it made for an unintentional yin yang.
So how was it? This was some of the creamiest and smoothest gelato I've ever had. The black sesame in particular was strong and impactful. I'm a huge black sesame fan so I'm usually disappointed when black sesame items are bland. This definitely delivered on the flavour forefront.
When it comes to popular spots, reality doesn't always line up with expectation. Fortunately, this lived up to the hype. The gelato does come at a higher price tag but the quality warrants it. Put this at the top of your Vancouver list.
P O K É T I M E
1258 Robson St
It's sort of crazy how fast and widespread a trend goes when it hits Vancouver. Poké, ubiquitous with Hawaii, has no doubt been the food trend of 2016 and 2017. I won't even count how many poké shops have opened since last year -- it's a lot.
After strolling down Robson Street, we stopped at Poké Time, quite possibly the first poké shop to have opened in Vancouver. Poké is a casual food, so the fast-food/lunch counter set-up makes sense here.
At Poké Time, you're in charge. The ordering process is entirely customizable, from your base (poké bowl, salad, half and half, nachos, or burrito) to protein (salmon, tuna, ahi, scallop, shrimp, or tofu), to mixers, sauces, and toppings. If you can't be bothered, you can also go for one of their signature creations.
The sushi burrito isn't a new concept in the States, but it's relatively new here. We weren't particularly hungry so we decided to just share one between us. The poké burrito is $10.95, which gives you two scoops of protein (three scoops is $12.95). We decided to get their marinated salmon and ahi tuna (+$1.00). For mixers, we chose cucumber and for sauces, we got their sriracha aioli for a kick since the salmon was already pre-marinated. To beef up the roll a little bit, we added seaweed salad, crab salad, and lettuce.
The girl offered to cut it in half for us, but it was essentially a giant uncut sushi roll at the end of the day. It might have got lost in the other flavours, but the salmon marinade wasn't particularly strong. It might be better appreciated it if you just ordered a much simpler poké bowl over rice. Everything did taste fresh though.
I'll have to go straight to the source one day (ie. Hawaii) to try some authentic poké but I'm glad we have access to some outside of the islands. Let's pray that Edmonton's own poké shop opens soon!
Since we crossed off a lot on our itinerary, we decided to just take it easy at the hotel until dinner time. It took a while to decide on where to eat and even then, our GPS took us somewhere completely different. Since it brought us to Continental Plaza anyways, we decided to just stay and choose a restaurant from the many choices there.
Y U U J A P A N E S E T A P A S
3779 Sexsmith Rd #1118
Yuu Japanese Tapas is a popular Japanese restaurant offering something different than the usual sushi and teriyaki. After a recent expansion, they've taken up two lots in the plaza, essentially double the amount of space and tables that they used to have.
We were seated near the front window of the restaurant which made it sort of difficult to wave down the attention of the servers. One thing to note is that all the servers spoke Mandarin so I'm assuming Yuu's is Chinese-owned.
The menu is large and full of pictures which makes it a tempting read. Perfect for visual people, horrible for indecisive people like me. Appetizers and tapas take up three pages, while ramen, rice, noodles/udon, curry, iron plates, and hot pots make up the rest.
We decided to share an appetizer to start. The poutine ($5.95) is done up in Yuu's style as they say. Fries topped with cheese, nori, bonito flakes, Japanese mayo, and gravy. The fries were similar to Costco fries (if you know what I mean) so they were really good. I wasn't sure of the toppings at first but the flavour was sort of addicting. Something different to try for sure.
My sister's entree pick was Yuu's signature curry pork cutlet on rice ($11.95) which also came with a side salad. We switched dishes halfway through so I was able try some of this dish as well. I thought it was very meh. The pork was thin and quite dry. The curry didn't have much substance to it either. To be honest, I could probably make a better Japanese curry at home.
Everyone seemed to be eating ramen in the restaurant so I thought I should give theirs a go. The tonkotsu ramen ($10.95) came topped with savoury BBQ pork, corn, egg, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts. I'm not exactly a ramen connoisseur since I prefer the likes of udon and vermicelli, so I wasn't particularly enthused with the dish. The pork was a bit dry and the broth didn't taste like anything too special.
The food is filling because they give you a decent portion, but I wouldn't exactly call Yuu authentic Japanese fare. If you're in the plaza and deciding where to eat, it's best to head over to Gyo-O instead.
7 2 0 S W E E T S
1121-8328 Capstan Way
The night was still young so we headed to 720 Sweets for some dessert.
720 Sweets is one of the many specialty ice creams shops in Vancouver. Their Richmond location is one of three, the original shop located on West Broadway and an "express" location in Metrotown's T&T Supermarket. Apparently they plan to open in every T&T across the province.
What sets 720 Sweets apart from the competition is the use of dry ice in the base of their cups to create a cool smokey and bubbling effect. So unlike Mister which uses liquid nitrogen to make their ice cream, it's strictly used for visuals at 720. Good for Instagram likes I guess.
There's not too many flavour choices, only five in total. Each soft serve creation is given a star rating out of five, which refers to its level of sweetness. If you don't like things too sweet, go for their matcha madness ice cream which only has one star. If you wanted a sugar high, the cloud 9 might be up your alley, a 5/5 sweetness rating with additions like cotton candy, almond Pocky, and caramel popcorn.
Both my sister and I loved the honeycomb soft serve at Soft Peaks, so we decided to go for the Honey 720 ($5.95) to compare the two. Vanilla soft serve, honey drizzle, walnuts, and a piece of honeycomb. This comes at a three star rating.
If you've ever had the organic milk soft serve at Soft Peaks, this one just doesn't compare at all. The ice cream is much sweeter and the texture is more icy than it is creamy. I liked the addition of the crushed walnuts but the piece of honeycomb that they gave was too dense and compact. It didn't seem to be the same quality as the one sourced at Soft Peaks which literally explodes with honey. Overall, we thought the dry ice was a fun gimmick, but in the end, it's just a gimmick.
720 Sweets has a fun concept and a cool brand, but I don't think the ice cream is worth a repeat visit.
Only one more YVR post to go!