CA + GA friends visit Vancouver for Asian food - need help!
I'm from Southern California (born and raised in San Diego, uni in LA area) and my friend is from Georgia. We're both planning to visit Vancouver July 27-30/31 as part of a Vancouver/Seattle trip and we're so excited!
Since he's from Georgia, I really want him to get a good taste of East and Southeast Asian food, particularly Chinese food and those cuisines non-existent west of the Rockies (i.e. Burmese, Filipino, Cambodian, etc). It's his first time to the West Coast (of either Canada or the US) and I really want to make a culinary impression on him.
After a copious amount of time researching on this board, guides, yelp reviews, urbanspoon, and the like I wanted to get more insight from you all on my planned culinary tour of sorts, sorted by cuisine type below. To note: we won't have a car, but are more than happy to travel the Canada Line to Richmond from our airbnb place around Davie St. / West End.
Dim Sum/HK style seafood - Looking at all the various comments and reviews I'm inclined to go to both Kirin and Sun Sui Wah, one for dim sum and one for dinner. For dinner, price is really no object (I am planning to order some geoduck and/or dungeness crabs), but I'm wondering which one would be best for dinner? Or should I try out Jade or Dynasty instead (though not Sea Harbour as I kind find that in LA)? Also, if I go to Kirin (likely Richmond or downtown locations), do they accept your reservation on the dot or do you still have to wait?
Shanghainese/Taiwanese - All the guide books and reviews seem to point to Shanghai River but the 'hounds seem to prefer Dinesty. Given that we can walk closer to Dinesty's Robson location, would that be better?
HK Style Western Food/Cha Chaan Teng - Okay, so I know the food at HK style cafes aren't the best, but I really want to show him kind of a slice of what I grew up with. Likely I'll order Hainanese Chicken Rice or HK style pork chop, thick toast, and HK style milk tea. Reading Sherman's blog is looks like Alleluia Cafe in Richmond or the Boss in Chinatown would have both decent food and public rail transit accessibility. Any other recommendations?
Burmese - It looks like I can find decent Burmese food in Vancouver but I have no idea if any of the food is accessible by train and/or foot. I am willing to taxi/uber/etc for good food if there's a Burmese place that's great, especially with mohinga, which a family friend of mine made for my family when I was a kid.
Filipino - Again, it looks like there's decent Filipino food. I know Filipino restaurants are few in the first place (even In San Diego with the many Filipinos) and even restaurants are not as good as the homemade meal, but I would love to introduce my friend to pancit bihon, palabok, lumpia, bistek, adobo, sisig, etc. Suggestions?
Vietnamese style Chinese (Hoa or Teochow) - It doesn't look like there's a big Vietnamese Chinese presence in Vancouver, but I'd love to show him a decent place that serves Vietnamese Chinese food, specifically mi hoanh thanh (Vietnamese style Wonton noodle soup). Admittedly I prefer Vietnamese style wonton noodle soup to Cantonese style...even if my ancestors may not approve. There's a ton of those restaurants in CA, but are there any in Vancouver?
Thank you all for reading this long post and helping me out!
I really like the Kirin at Cambie and 12th for dim sum, and believe it to be superior to the Sun Sui Wah on Main. Haven't done dinner at either as I am too cheap and not a crab or geoduck fan :-). We accidentally ordered a veggie dish at Kirin once off the regular menu and I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the bill.
I've only been to the Dinesty in Richmond (thrice for lunch) and thought it was decent. There are better Shanghainese places I think but it does have a nice layout and a cool open kitchen. Dunno if the downtown one has same.
There are only three places serving Burmese that I know of: Laksa King on Hastings which has some Burmese dishes, as does Rangoon on Yew. Then there is Amay's House on Victoria that is all Burmese. I haven't been to the former since it changed hands and I'm sorry to say I haven't made it to the latter at all (yet) but all are easily accessible from downtown by bus, if a schlep. Rangoon would be the closest but also seems the least Burmese based on the menu. There is a review of it somewhere here I think...
Filipino is pretty thin on the ground here and most places are turo turo steam table spots. I like PinPin on Fraser (one long bus ride from downtown) but I always stick to the sisig -- best I've had, quite outstanding -- and the crispy pata, so it's a bit of a pork fest. We've have some disappointments eg bad bangus and weak lumpia when we've ventured to other parts of the menu. If they have fresh kalamansi juice, order that too. My favourite place for pancit bihon closed, argh...
I like our Vietnamese here but haven't come across what you are seeking.
That's all I know. Good luck and happy eating!
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While downtown Vancouver has the original Chinatown, before the Hong Kong lease expired many Chinese moved to Vancouver because they had a commonwealth passport. A larger Chinatown formed in Richmond.
Seattle has Vietnamese, from pho and bahn mi to full menu restaurants mostly in the international district just east of Pioneer square. There is an underground bus station between them. Salami is just a few blocks west. Vietnamese places are a good walk east thru mostly Chinese shops and restaurants.
I am not familiar with Seattle transit system but with light rail now working getting to the airport can be easier. Vancouver has the sky train but I am unfamiliar with that also.
Thanks grayelf! Very helpful. Two follow up questions:
1) You said better Shanghainese, any recommendations instead? Love to get some great XLB (even if my friend doesn't really like pork...I'll eat the whole order myself!)
2) Looking at PinPin it seems like it's a fairly reasonable cab ride from Richmond or Main Street? If so...looks promising! Shame that your fav place for pancit bihon closed.
If it's XLB you're after specifically, then I'll recommend Lin's, but that is all you order. Really. The XLB are stellar but there is nothing else noteworthy on the menu, and some of it is bad. So order just the XLB (they'll look at you funny but they'll do it) and be on your way to your next snack/activity. It is only half a block from the Granville or Broadway bus so easy peasy to get to. Closed Tuesday.
Long's is another in-city option if you want Shanghainese but I don't love their XLB and some people find the service brusque. Also don't go without a reservation unless you want to wait. Their chicken in wine is the best version I've had, and their thick fish soup is second only to Big Chef's in my book.
Pin Pin is on Fraser which is one major street over from Main so not too far that way. It is relatively far south so could be closeish by cab from Richmond, depending where in Richmond you are. Richmond is BIG and there are only three bridges to it, none of which feed onto Fraser. And cabs are expensive here.
But if you call Black Top or Yellow and tell them where you are going and where you are starting, they're pretty good about estimating fares beforehand. I don't know of any services like Lyft or Uber here. Car shares seem to be more popular but I think you have to sign up for them ahead of time and pay a deposit of some kind.
You asked upthread about punctuality on resos at places like Kirin. I've never had a problem (maybe ten minutes adrift max, usually bang on time) but I have heard stories. We once waited half an hour for a reservation at Fisherman's Terrace in Richmond but generally I've had pretty good luck at dim sum places if I have a reso. I simply won't go to places that don't take them as I hate to wait. I think overall restaurants strive to be punctual here -- it's rare I've had to wait for a reso at any restaurant here, though sh*t happens once in a while and it's usual outside the staff's control IME.
I do love XLB, but it isn't the only dish I favor in Shanghainese or Taiwanese cuisine. I do love wine/drunken chicken, niu rou mian, rice cakes, and scallion pancakes as well. Would you recommend Long's for those (aside from wine chicken that you mentioned) as well?
And thanks for your Kirin answer. I find it very helpful that you can reserve at a Chinese restaurant during Dim Sum hours and actually get seated very promptly. That never, ever happens in LA and I always feel resigned to wait at least an hour for a table, especially at the good Dim Sum restaurants there.
If you are still thinking of Long's, do be sure to make a reservation (they definitely take them) or you will have a significant wait.
They have a beef noodle soup that is tasty but I don't think it is Taiwanese which is what I get when I google niu rou mian. The rice cakes at Long's are well executed but the toppings can be a bit skimpy. Scallion pancakes are adequate. Some things are greasier here than they need to be. I do love both the fish soups, if you're looking for a good soup.
If you don't like small, cramped spaces, Long's isn't for you. The room is small, tables very close together. Add a roomful of people and it's like being in a packed #3 bus running down Main St in the rush hour.
Owner lady Sandy runs the front room all by herself, and thus can be very busy when the room is full (luckily the room is tiny so you can flag her down). She *can* come across as being a bit curt, but if you're a regular she warms up to ya.
depending upon the precise location (Davie Street and ?) you should be able to just flag a cab on the street. Taxi rates are consistent between companies, and by law, must be posted in the cab.
Burmese suggestions from Grayelf are accessible by bus from the city center (likely with no transfers).
Not familiar with any rideshare services, but if you have a driver's license, and join Zipcar in your hometown, I think you can get cars in Vancouver. There is a mobile app for locating and reserving cars, but you may need to bring your card for vehicle access.
Re: Kirin and reservations, we were seated within about 10 minutes of our large group reso, but that was a couple of years ago.
You might want to consider Copa Cafe or Café Gloucester for your HK experience. Both are on the Cambie St skytrain line. I have only eaten baked pork chops with rice at Copa and it was pretty good. I seem to recall Deer Garden Signatures gets some good reviews and they have branches in Richmond and South Vancouver. Maybe check out the reviews and see if any of these might work for you. Have a great time.
Adding to Grayelf's comments, my suggestion for Shanghainese spots (with or without great XLBs) are as follows (read the bloggers' reviews):
1) Dinesty (Robson location):
2) Long's Noodle House (Main St @ 33 Ave):
Mind you, Long's is super tiny and a wait is very possible, I don't recall if they even take reservations, let alone for a party of two.
3) Yu Xiang Yuan (Fraser St @ 50 Ave):
Relatively new, opened for just over a year. Larger room than Long's. Noodle-making can be seen in the kitchen in the back. Just a couple of blocks down from PinPin.
4) Peaceful Restaurant (3 locations):
They were a rising star, then after Guy Fieri checked them out in 2011 they took off into the stratosphere, expanding to three locations
I'm not a fan of Lin's anymore, as Grayelf said, while their XLBs may still be good, none of their other offerings are. My most recent and last impression there was they've dumbed down their dishes catering to 'western' (I use that term respectfully) tastes, with greasy, gloppy dishes over-salted and MSG'd. Lin's is well past their heyday IMHO.
The biggest concentration of superlative Shanghainese restaurants are now in Richmond (Vancouver's new Chinatown) as can be expected. There's a number of great restos (Shanghainese or other cuisines) along the #3 Road corridor readily accessible via the Canada Line. Coincidentally, Dinesty's two largest locations are both there.
Since you're both here over a weekend, check out the Richmond Night Market (Asian-style outdoor vendors market), where food is the prime attraction. Right off the Canada Line, adjacent to the Bridgeport Station:
Thanks! I'll definitely go to the Richmond Night Market then. It'll be good as my flight on Sunday comes in around 3PM and his around 9PM so I can just check myself into the airbnb and head to the market around dinner time as I await his arrival.
Dinesty at Robson looks most promising given the proximity to our airbnb but I'll check out Yu Xiang Yuan as I'm expecting a half day or so around Olympic Village/Science World/Main Street and hopping a cab to Fraser possibly to go to PinPin or Yu Xiang Yuan.