Tag Archives: Chinatown

Weekend Round Up – April 2013

21 Apr

Like most people, I tend to get caught up in returning to my favourite restaurants/cafés/bars time and time again. Let’s be honest, it can be difficult to continue exploring new places when you know exactly where to find your favourite pizza/burger/pasta/whatever. It is a habit I occasionally slip into and so this weekend I made an effort to visit some places that I’ve had on my radar but hadn’t managed to get to yet.

Beta 5 (Industrial Ave/Main Street)

I have been wanting to visit their location for months and I finally made it there. As I’ve already tried their chocolates before,  I was keen to visit them more so for their fresh baked goods. Their baked goods absolutely did not disappoint – in fact, I returned today for another pastry hit. I sampled their butter croissant and their vanilla cream puff, which was texturally very interesting. It was similar to the cream puffs that Beard Papa sells however this had a firmer, crisper shell, which provided a really interesting texture to the bite. Just look at that bite…

Vanilla Cream Puff

Beta 5 makes some tantalizing pastries, such as their chocolate croissant and their twice-baked croissant, but I had to go with the original butter croissant. At just $2.50, this is incredible value. There was a lot of butter, a lot of layers, and many flakes – just how I believe a croissant should be. I would definitely recommend their baked goods (and their chocolates). I also picked up one of the Snickers-inspired peanut and nougat bar, which was well-worth the calories.

Butter Croissant

Hawkers Delight (Main Street)

This is a hole-in-the-wall on Main at King Ed and they do cheap (super cheap) dishes from Malaysia and Singapore, which happen to be some of my favourite cuisines. The restaurant is quite small and was an absolute mad house when I visited, which added to the charm of the place. With all the yelling and chaos I felt as though I could have been in humid, exotic South East Asia (for a few minutes anyway). I ordered the mee goreng, which is essentially fried noodles, and I was surprised at two things. 1/ The price – only $6.50 and 2/ They were really good! The reason why this place is so busy would come down to the value for money – serving sizes were huge and the prices are cheap.

Mee Goreng

Harvest Union (Union Street)

I’m really starting to love that stretch of Union Street that is home to The Union, The Parker, and Harvest Union. I visited Harvest with one thing in mind; green onion and cheddar waffles with bacon and a fried egg. It is one of the items on their brunch menu, however, once I got there the ramen with pork shoulder and candied bacon somehow managed to persuade me. Harvest is super cute inside and they have a simple menu (mostly ramen or udon) with a focus on local foods. Their small store also sells local products, such as Earnest Ice Cream and Beta 5. I really enjoyed the ramen, particularly with the addition of some chilli oil, which gave it a great kick. I’ll be returning for the waffles.

I love exploring new spots and this weekend reminded of how many great new places pop up in Vancouver and why I should continue to keep exploring, even when sometimes I just want something familiar.

Photo Visit – Bao Bei – April 2013

16 Apr

163 Keefer Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1X3

T: 604 688 0876
www.bao-bei.ca

Brief Description: A funky, Chinatown-based restaurant offering non-traditional Chinese fare in tapas style. Bao Bei appeals to those who aren’t necessarily looking for an authentic Chinese experience but more of a modern, up-market version of that experience. Prices are between $4 (for small “schnacks”) but most are around the $14 mark.

It has been some time since I was last at Bao Bei but after tonight’s dinner I am wondering why I had left it so long. The flavours were popping tonight, the serving sizes were spot on, and the price (without drinks) was an affordable $43. One of my previous complaints about Bao Bei was the cost of their simple fried rice dish. At $17 a bowl I had a hard time justifying it, even though it was delicious. Well, I’m happy to report that the price (and size) of the fried rice has come down to a reasonable $12. This makes me much happier as the decrease aligns it with the cost of most of the other menu items (understandably, lamb and salmon are slightly more expensive).

Truffled Pork Dumplings – $7.50

Shao Bing – $12

Mantou – $9Seasonal Fried Rice – $12

The shao bing was well-rounded with a lot of flavour from the cumin lamb, punctuated with pickled onions and the fiery heat of the salted chillies. The seasonal fried rice sounded unusual (with iceberg lettuce and prosciutto) but the end result was actually very good but made even better by the addition of the chilli oil condiment available. The truffled pork dumplings were warming, with a light splash (more like an aroma) of truffle oil, and the mantou buns were soft, and spongey with just the right amount of pork belly (cubes rather than a big slab).

For a Tuesday night, the restaurant was steady and they still aren’t taking reservations in advance so either show up on a weeknight or plan for a bit of wait. Thankfully, there are now a few bars in the area where you can whet your appetite before waiting for a table to become free (I recommend The Keefer or The Union).

Photo Visit – Golden Garden – August 2012

8 Aug

509 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 2V1

T: 604 685 5623
No website

Brief Description: A Vietnamese restaurant located on the cusp of Chinatown and Down Town Eastside, that sells traditional Vietnamese dishes such as pho and báhn mi. Prices are very cheap and serving sizes are filling.

Are you someone who likes keeping lists? I am. I get a serious kick from making lists, and even more of a kick from checking things off my list. My iPhone has been a big help with this addiction. My notes section is full of lists, including “wines to buy”, “books to read”, and “restaurants to try”. If I hear or read about a restaurant that I’m not familiar with, I jot it into my phone with the intention of visiting. Well, Golden Garden was on my list and whilst B and I were scratching our heads thinking of where we could go for food at 3pm on the stat holiday, I remembered my list. CHECK!

On our way to Chinatown, I realized that I rarely eat out in this part of town. It is mostly due to being unfamiliar with “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in this area. I really don’t know what the hot spots are and which ones are to be avoided. I had seen Nathan Fong (a food and travel journalist with the Vancouver Sun) waxing lyrical about Golden Garden, so that was good enough for me. B and I settled into our booth in the very quiet restaurant (it was 3pm afterall) and ordered steaming bowls of pho (a bargain at only $7 a bowl) and a plate of vegetarian fried rice ($9).

Pho Garnish

Beef Pho

Vegetarian Fried Rice

I’m not an expert in Vietnamese cuisine, and certainly not in pho, but I enjoyed the flavour of the broth but not so much the meat (just me being picky). The veggie fried rice was great and I’d pop back in to try some more dishes, particularly the báhn mi, which the restaurant seems to be known for.

What are your favourite Chinatown restaurants? Where should I try next time I’m exploring the area?

Golden Garden on Urbanspoon

The Keefer Bar

17 Apr

135 Keefer Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1X3

T: 604 688 1961
www.thekeeferbar.com

Brief Description: Are you tired of choosing from uninspired drink menus at bars that all look the same? Want something different? Perhaps try The Keefer Bar located in Chinatown – I doubt that you’ve sampled concoctions like these in Vancouver before.

The Keefer Bar is a small, dark, sexy spot located in bustling Chinatown, just down the street from the ever-so-popular Bao Bei (I can’t write a review of either place and not mention the other). I′ve heard the atmosphere at The Keefer Bar described as a seductive opium den, which seems like an appropriate description. With a small outdoor patio, mood lighting, and an apothecary feel, The Keefer Bar is unique. And so are their tincture and herb infused cocktails.

The drinks menu is full of buzz-inducing cocktails with tongue-twisting names; such as Wēnxù (vodka, grapefruit, lemon, ginger syrup, red ginseng tincture), the Buddha’s Kiss (shochu, pearl sake, sweet plum syrup, lychee nut bitters), and Riding in a Rickshaw (G’Vine Floraison, Jasmine green tea, honey, immunity tincture). They have many more cocktails available than just what is listed on their website so whether you like bourbon, vodka, rum, or something completely different, you′ll find something to suit your tastes here.

The Dragonfly – Dragonfly gin, pearl sake, lemon, ginger syrup and magnolia bark tincture.

Even with the Chinatown location, prices are still about the same as what you′d pay at any of the hip drinking spots in Gastown (say Pourhouse or The Diamond) so go in knowing that prices are around the $10-$14 mark.

There is a limited food menu to provide sustenance and to help soak up the strong drinks. With menu items such as Peking duck sliders, braised pork belly tacos, BBQ pork pizza, spring rolls, dim sum, and a meat and cheese plate, the theme of the menu is hard to nail down. The dishes that I had were satisfactory but I would be more inclined to visit for the drinks rather than for the food. Although, with that said, the Chinese Churros (fried Chinese doughnut, with salt and dulce de leche) were delicious.

Peking Duck Sliders – $9

Braised Pork Belly Tacos – $10

As your friend, I′m letting you know that people do seem to get dressed up to come here so you might feel more comfortable if you make a bit of an effort. See, aren′t you glad you know now than when you arrive at the bar in your yoga gear? Oh, and single guys, I′ve seen a lot of beautiful girls at this bar so grab some guy friends and head on down!

Final Thoughts: It is great to see some more independent bars opening up in Vancouver. The Keefer Bar is certainly worth a visit if your mission is to try some interesting and unique cocktails. I′d recommend it for a sexy date night or perhaps a night out with the girls (you could catch the burlesque show on Thursday nights).

The Keefer Bar on Urbanspoon

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie

23 Nov

163 Keefer Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1X3

T: 604 688 0876
www.bao-bei.ca

Brief Description: A funky, Chinatown-based restaurant offering non-traditional Chinese fare in tapas style. Bao Bei appeals to those who aren’t necessarily looking for an authentic Chinese experience but more of a modern, up-market version of that experience. Prices are between $4 (for small “schnacks”) but most are around the $14 mark.

Bao Bei has been on the lips of every foodie in Vancouver for some time now. There are those that love it (they seem to be the majority) and there are those who question its value for money and the hype that surrounds it. I fall halfway between the two.

There is no denying that Bao Bei is a beautiful spot. Located in Chinatown, Bao Bei stands out from the crowd with its polished, chic look. The modern space has been thoughtfully decorated with interesting pieces of art used as accents and an eclectic mix of furniture styles. The vibe is young, hip, and financially well-off. How else could you get away with charging $17 for a bowl of fried rice in Chinatown??

Whilst the food is Chinese, you should know before going in that they aren’t serving traditional, authentic Chinese. It is more of a modern, almost fusion, take on some old dishes. It is also tapas-style so they do encourage you to order a number of dishes and share them with your table. The staff will tell you that the dishes are quite small but on the few times I’ve been there the sizes have been quite reasonable (check the pics out and determine if you think that’s enough for you). The one thing that does set Bao Bei apart from other Chinese restaurants is their use of hormone/chemical-free, locally sourced and ethically raised meat. I believe that is worth paying slightly more for.

Dishes that I recommend are the lamb Shao Bing, which is a crunchy sesame flatbread filled with a slightly spicy cumin lamb sirloin. I had tried the same dish when they offered it with pork and it just wasn’t the same – the lamb makes it.

The steamed prawn and chive dumplings were worth ordering, as is the ever-changing daily fried rice (although it is pricey). The duck and mushroom wontons in duck consommé, and the spicy stir-fried squid with pork belly and bok choi, were also pretty good. I’d give the potstickers a miss. I’ve definitely had better elsewhere.

The cocktails on offer are very unique and worth splurging on. Even their non-alcoholic drinks were tasty, complete with candied lotus fruit. Be aware that you can’t reserve a table in advance. I know, it sucks. And this place is especially busy so the wait is long but you can always console yourself with a drink at the near-by Keefer Bar (which also has awesome drinks) whilst you wait.

Final Thoughts: I like Bao Bei although I’m not as wowed by it as others are. I like the atmosphere and the cocktails, and yes, the food is decent but I don’t buy into the hype. It really comes down to what experience you are after. An authentic Chinese experience with large serving sizes and traditional dishes? You won’t find that here – keep walking. A fun, cocktail-filled night out with some interesting dishes to share and a cool space to boot? Then line up, my friends. Bao Bei has exactly what you are after.

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie on Urbanspoon

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