Ping's Cafe - Vancouver, Japanese Yoshoku Cuisine, Pictures
A couple of months ago, there was a bit of a buzz when this restaurant quietly opened Main St. It was so under the radar that the chefs of the well-known places along this strip were taken by surprise.
Ping's Cafe occupies the same space as...Ping's Cafe. Let me explain. This restaurant is re-purposing the old sign (look at the pics) of an old Chinese-Canadian greasy spoon called Ping's where you were once able to buy cheap ($2.25) greasy burgers and "Chinese" food like Chow Mein way back when. Interestingly, at one point in the original "Ping's" history, the former owner's son tried to turn it into a semi-hip but short-lived nightspot called "Ping's At Night". The new owners, during renovations, decided to leave the old sign up and call it "Ping's Cafe".
Ping's serves Yoshoku-style Japanese cuisine. Yoshoku is "Western" cooking reinterpreted to Japanese tastes. It occupies the same aesthetic space as HK Cafes (cha chaang teng) and our very own diners/greasy spoon.
Essentially, Yoshoku is Japanese-inflected "homestyle" Western comfort food. Other places you can get this type of food are Yoshoku-Ya (near Stanley Park) and Hi Genki, in Burnaby, a restaurant which serves the Japanese senior-citizens living close by at the Sakura-so and Nikkei Home residences. Hi Genki is run by Fujiya. Some izakaya, and other Japanese restuarants have similar items on their menu.
We ordered pretty much everything on their appetizer section ($5-$8 per dish). Examples of the offerings include - Kabocha Korroke ("Croquettes"), Kinpira - Burdock and Carrot Salad, Tongkatsu, Yakitori Skewers, Karaage Gyoza, etc. The dishes were small but the prices were right. It allowed us to order quite a number of them without impacting the pocketbook too much. They also have some mains that average around $15 per. They have a limited wine list, a decent beer list and they only have one brand of sake - luckily the sakes are from the very good Osake - the local artisinal sake maker on Granville Island.
The restaurant is run by Joshua (formerly of Modern Club) and mother Hiroki. Hiroki told me that she really wanted to serve Okonomiyaki, but the kitchen modifications required were prohibitive. I'm hoping that this happens someday.
Overall, this restaurant fits right into the Main St dining mosaic. I forsee Ping's becoming more of a "drinks-forward" sort of a place. The prices are decent, and the food is scenester-friendly.
My girlfriend felt like eating omu-rice the other day, so we decided to go to Yoshoku-ya on Denman, but they were closed. I remembered Ping's mentioned here so we thought we'd try it out. I was a bit skeptical walking in there, since in my mind, the decor felt a bit too trendy and loungy for this type of cuisine. I've been to way too many places that emphasized such atmosphere over food. My girlfriend and I looked at each other with a look of wariness, and we only decided to stay because we were starving. It's a good thing we did, as the food did not disappoint.
We ordered the niku jaga (meat and potatoes), the chicken karaage (fried chicken), and the hambagoo coated eggs dinner (boiled egg with a coating of hambuger, breaded, and deep fried, served with a veg salad and potato salad).
Niku jaga was good. Very straightforward, wholesome, comforting. We only ordered the karaage since they serve it with daikon oroshi (grated daikon) and ponzu (citrus soy sauce), and while at first we wanted mayonnaise, we were very happy without it. The daikon and ponzu are a refreshing condiment to the karaage. The hamburger-egg was good as well, but I think I might have preferred straight ketchup over their yoshoku sauce, only because that's how I ate similar dishes growing up. Nevertheless, it was good.
The price was a bit high for the serving size, but I'm sure that can be attributed to the decor and the presentation of the dishes (I didn't care for either). Our bill came to $30 for 2 appetizers and one dinner, which was just barely enough for the two of us (we could have eaten another appetizer). To be honest, I'd rather save a few bucks and eat these dishes in a divey place with less attention to decor, being comfort food and all.
The service was very warm and friendly.
>> To be honest, I'd rather save a few bucks and eat these dishes in a divey place with less attention to decor, being comfort food and all.
aburitoro...you may want to check out Hi Genki if you haven't. It's the cafeteria to a Japanese seniors center. It's right next to the National Nikkei Heritage Center in Burnaby.
Ping's is now trying to rebrand themselves as an izakaya rather than a yoshokuya from what I have gathered. The portions are izakaya-sized, but I think they should really reconsider the pricing to reflect that.
Hi Genki Japanese Restaurant
6680 Southoaks Cres, Burnaby, BC V5E4M7, CA
re: gourmet wife
Agreed. You get a much better deal for this kind of food elsewhere. That's why I see it more of a drinking establishment for the Main St scenesters than a "real" restaurant, IMO.
>>Btw, the original owner story is incorrect. I actually know the owner before that, the real "Ping".
The "Ping's at Night" story? It could very have been an owner after Ping (so perhaps not the "original" owner). I have strong memories of Pings at Night. I have a very good friend who has lived very close to Ping's for about 20 years...so I know the area very well.
Thanks fmed, very interesting to learn about the 'yoshoku' concept being played out in Vancouver, wasn't aware of it or probably just blinded by the proliferation of 'izakaya'. My image of it in Japan is of these older style interior, really homey places run by a couple who take pride in what they serve and were a nice break from straight up Japanese food.