1508 Robson St.
Review by Jenn Farrell
I arrived at Gyoza King with my two dinner companions in tow at 11:30 on a Monday evening. The restaurant was half-full, most of the customers young Japanese. Seated at one of the small tables, I took the chance to have myself a little look-see. Cozy and unassuming, the décor was the usual assortment of fans, paper lanterns, and masks, as well as innumerable beer, sake, and vodka posters. An unusual feature was the artwork made from photographs, postcards, and varnished wood.
Our server arrived promptly to take our order, wearing a Gyoza King t-shirt that bore the slogan, “No Sushi.” In keeping with the slogan, the menu featured not only gyoza, but also a myriad of other Japanese dishes, including ramen, udon, hot pot and salads. To begin, we ordered a round of Asahi, a popular Japanese beer.
Within minutes, our appetizers arrived, all served in deep, hand-thrown ceramic bowls. My agedashi tofu appeared to be moving. The large, paper-thin strips of bonito curled like blossoms atop the sizzling tofu cubes. The tofu itself was deep-fried, lending just a hint of crispness to the moist, crumbly texture (and putting my chopstick skills to the test). A hearty portion of broth, along with the bonito and tiny strips of nori, added flavour and colour.
One of my companions’ tofu dishes was prepared in the same manner, but was topped with a rich, mushroom sauce. Although it was delicious, she decided it was a heavy choice for an appetizer and suggested it might be better shared. Being a good friend, I readily complied.
The green salad with “secret” dressing, chosen by my other companion, posed no such difficulties. The salad was a standard mix of greens, cucumber, tomato, and the like. The sweet, tangy topping only increased its popularity. “I would eat more salad if I could have this dressing every day,” she said.
There was no more time to talk salad, as our gyoza was delivered on chunky, hand-painted platters. We had chosen both vegetable and chicken gyozas, and opted for pan-fried rather than baked. Plump and golden brown, dipped in gyoza sauce, they were a delight. The vegetables were alternately crunchy and yielding, and the chicken was deemed “very tasty.” I was glad to have had the foresight to order ten pieces instead of six, and we made short work of clearing our pretty little plates.
As I finished my Asahi, I decided that my search for the perfect gyoza might well be over. The bill for the entire meal came to 50 dollars, including our drinks, and the service was relaxed and efficient. So if you’re sick of sashimi, and looking for a delicious alternative, head down to Robson and discover the joys of gyoza.
4380 No. 3 Road, Richmond
Review by Jim Oaten
Mall food courts aren’t usually associated with adventurous eating. The common-denominator approach to the between-stores dining experience pretty much guarantees that the same fast food is available at every shopping mall across the country. Quick and bland is the usual order of the day for hungry shoppers. Yet one great exception to this general rule is right here in the Lower Mainland—the food court in Parker Place Mall on No.3 Road in Richmond.
Along with the Aberdeen Centre and Yaohan, Parker Place is one of the sprawling Asian malls that sprang up in Richmond in response to the large influx of Pacific Rim immigrants who settled in the municipality over the last decade. In fact, it’s estimated that over one-third of the city’s population is now of Asian descent. That makes Richmond the logical location for shopping complexes catering to a Pacific Rim clientele—or anyone else who wants a taste of Asia.
At Parker Place, in the space of a five-minute stroll, it’s possible to eat your way around most of the Far East. The 20 or so small street-vendor-style cafés serve specialty foods from, among other countries, Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore, and offer a variety of dishes unknown to any other food court I’ve visited.
The range is so broad that it took my wife and I at least five tours around the food court to decide what we wanted to eat. Bustling stalls, like Rainbow Café, Tak Fook Noodle, and Congee Shop, offer the usual sweet and sour, and chow mein dishes most people are familiar with, but they are usually buried in bilingual lists of more esoteric menu items. If you’ve ever wondered about the taste of curried squid, star-fruit juice, pig’s feet or tripe, this is a pretty good place to come. Or if, like me, you develop a sudden hankering for a skewer of duck kidney and liver, Parker Good Food will be more than happy to oblige.
And that’s what makes Parker Place food court such a great place to visit. For just over 15 dollars, my wife and I sampled four tastes we’d never tried before: the aforementioned duck skewer, curried squid in noodle and soup, taro with red bean-pearl drink, and a papaya milkshake. Even if some dishes aren’t to your liking—my wife diplomatically reviewed the skewer as “pretty okay, for people who like duck liver and kidney”—the cost of the dishes, generally from three to five dollars, is so slight, and the range of choices so broad, that it’s almost guaranteed that you will find a new taste to enjoy.
3315 Cambie Street (at 17th Ave)
Review by Leanne Prain
With dandelion yellow walls, mulberry red fixtures, and cerulean blue counters, the atmosphere of Thai Away Home’s Cambie Street location reminded me of a box of crayons. Colourful, simple and fun.
After perusing the menu’s wide fare of salads, soups, curries, and noodles, I ordered at the standing café-type counter. Thai Away Home seems to have a steady stream of both eat-in and take-out customers. The restaurant also encourages its patrons to try Thai cooking at home, using their bottled sauces. Instead of being secretive with their ingredients, like many food establishments, Thai Away Home offers free recipes. I pocketed directions for Pad Thai and mixed vegetables in garlic sauce. Yummy.
Quicker than you can say “McThai,” my order came steaming out of the kitchen.
For an appetizer, I had crispy spring rolls ($3.95), served on a lovely flowered plate. The spring rolls, surprisingly ungreasy, were stuffed with rice noodles, shredded carrots, and green vegetables. Crunchy on the outside and soft inside, they were perfect, and the accompanying dipping plum sauce was delicious.
For my main entrée, I ordered a yellow curry with potato and onions ($5.25). It was artfully garnished with cilantro and carrot shavings. I chose to pair it with fried tofu, instead of beef or chicken, as I tend to eat vegetarian meals. In fact, Thai Away Home’s menu notes that most of its dishes can be prepared without meat. Lucky me.
I poured the curry onto a dish of white rice. I had ordered a small size ($1.25), but the portion was huge. The curry was pleasantly mild and sweet with coconut milk. The potatoes were firm and the tofu soft. I ate until I could eat no more, and the friendly staff offered to wrap up my leftovers.
Had there been room for dessert, I would have tried the exotically named ‘’Coconut surprise/Mango Flower’’ ($2.75). It sounded great, as did the other dessert dishes, like fried bananas on coconut ice cream.
Thai Away Home (3315 Cambie Street and 1918 Commercial Drive) is the type of place where you order standing up, pour your own water, and plunk down on a stool at the street-side counter. It’s casual, but the food is definitely of the linen tablecloth and silverware variety, both in taste and presentation.