Business

Best of Richmond 2014: Food

Jacqueline Ko and Robin Eder-Warren take a coffee break inside Richmond Cultural Centre. - Richard Lam
Jacqueline Ko and Robin Eder-Warren take a coffee break inside Richmond Cultural Centre.
— image credit: Richard Lam

Best growing food trend

While Richmond is home to a diverse world of Chinese food, another Asian cuisine is becoming well-represented on Lulu Island. Vietnamese is nothing new in Richmond: Pho Lan on No. 3 Road has been at it for years—for many Richmondites, it was the first place they tried beef noodle soup. Many Vietnamese restaurants have opened up in Richmond over the past dozen years, but in the past few years,  many have been raising their game. Everyone has their favourite: we like Pho Han, an unpretentious hole-in-the-wall at Capstan Way and Garden City. Nice banh mi plus a chicken pho adorned with a quail’s egg are among the favourites.

Best restaurant decor if you like that sort of thing

Zephyr Tea House Cafe is a Taiwanese bubble tea house and restaurant with pretty good reviews. Diners liked the salty peppery chicken, beef noodle soup and coconut toast, but most complained of inattentive service. The saving grace for at least the under-25 crowd is the vibe here. Located across from Lansdowne Centre mall, Zephyr sets the late-night mood with Asian pop music, while decor is like a student’s living room: couches, mini-motorcycles and a reindeer with Christmas-style necklace ready for someone’s front yard in December. Put away your smartphones and, while waiting for your server to bring you sustenance, take in the unusual view.

Best gut challenge

Richmond is said to boast over 800 restaurants—one for every 250 residents. At least half of them are Asian, prompting the Frommer’s travel guide to dish that our city is “arguably the Asian food capital of North America.” With all that food there’s plenty of menu offerings that would make even the most confident diner squeamish. Then there’s Richmond’s night markets, whose food vendors continue to try and reinvent food staples like the potato, and octopus. Richmond Night Market offers a test of one’s gut popularized by Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition—the deep fried Mars bar. It comes on a stick and also sticks to stomach lining.

Best eatery to liquidate excess cash

We’ve all been there, right? Cash just sitting around the house, needlessly filling the sock drawer and crowding the kitchen catch-all cubby. Thankfully we have a restaurateur who understands. Chef Nader Hatami’s Steveston Pizza Co. has the $10 wings and the $14 pizzas one might expect, but he also dishes up more pricey pizza pies. For $120, diners can enjoy a “C5”—a roasted garlic, Icelandic scampi, smoked steelhead, lobster ratatouille pizza. We’re guessing the “C” stands for cent (French for 100), because the “C6” rings in at $450. It’s described as “thermidor of lobster and black Alaskan cod, side of Russian osetra caviar.”

Best beef

For years, Harold Steves has been praising the virtues of grass-fed beef. Steves, who raises Belted Galloway cattle, says its tastier, healthier (50 per cent less saturated fat than grain-fed beef) and more sustainable. The rest of the world is catching on. While butcher shops have always been hip to grass-fed beef, it’s starting to show up more in supermarkets. Kine Meats is now selling grass-fed beef at its Richmond warehouse on #2105-12191 Hammersmith Way. Harold Steves’ website is www.stevesfarm.com.

Best local strawberries when it’s not the height of strawberry season

Late June is such a beautiful time in Richmond. It’s when fields of green turn red with strawberries. Farmers stock fruit stands and open fields to U-pickers. But Richmond Country Farms has gotten a jump on supplying those hungry for the harvest with glowing red fruit of the gods. This marks the second year the popular Steveston Highway farm has grown everbearing strawberries, which started coming off the fields this month. The early strawberry season is expected to wrap up by the time the June berries appear. But should the everbearing plants live up to their name, more strawberries will appear in the fields later this summer, all the way until the fall frost. These new strawberries have the appearance of a California berry, but pack more taste. We’ve got our jam jars ready.

Best reason to eat fish ‘n’ chips

It always seems like a good idea, doesn’t it: a somewhat slippery bit of flavourful fried fish, nested comfortably in an intricate bed of French fries. Those I-shouldn’t-have’s are quickly doused by lemon juice and drowned in tarter sauce, and that malt vinegar makes it a complete stomach celebration. A bit of gastrointestinal bliss, if you will. If a fish ‘n’ chips meal is a guilty pleasure, Pajo’s has managed to wash that guilt away by becoming a fully certified partner in Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program. That means every bit of seafood ordered from the eatery’s Garry Point and Fisherman’s Wharf locations is sourced from sustainable fish stocks. The small restaurant chain holds claim to be the only 100 per cent Ocean Wise fish ‘n’ chips shop in the Lower Mainland. So go ahead and eat every last oily morsel, resting comfortably knowing your meal isn’t worsening problems of overfishing and habitat damage.

Best sign of danger for fishermen

There’s long been talk of the demise of the fishing industry. Although it’s true it wasn’t what it once was, Steveston is still home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in Canada and millions of pounds of seafood are unloaded at Steveston Harbour Authority facilities each year. There is, however, a sign in Richmond that doesn’t bode well for the men and women who make their living on the water. Fishermen Sushi restaurant recently opened next to Starbucks on No. 1 Road in Steveston. But the menu offers relief for those targeted in the Japanese restaurant’s name. Nary a mention of gillnetters and seiners among the sashimi offerings. Diners can instead order up plates of hokkigai, amaebi, hamachi and spicy salmon. The eatery’s special rolls do have a “fishermen” option, but fear not, only scallops, cucumber, shrimp, avocado, crab, tobiko and mango sauce are the listed ingredients.

Best culinary coup

An R.C. Palmer Secondary student’s culinary skills have earned her some impressive bragging rights. After all, how many people can claim their kitchen creations will be featured on local store shelves. Christa Yeung was recently named the winner of the Battle of the Culinary Students: the Gyoza Wars. She submitted an entry into the contest, in which students were asked to create a short video sharing their passion for the culinary arts. There were entries received from all over the Greater Vancouver area, but it was Yeung’s spicy pork and cilantro gyoza that came out on top. Aside from the pride of seeing her creation make it to store shelves, Yeung was also awarded a $500 bursary. According to Fine Choice Foods, Yeung’s final product will be available for sale at Choices Markets for a limited time this summer. Yeung’s video can be viewed at tinyurl.com/ChristaGyoza.

Best union cemented in suds

Rivalries between businesses are particularly acute in some industries. Take fast food, for example. If the new brand ambassador of McDonald’s, Happy, puts up the dukes against Arby’s talking oven mitt, few would be stepping in to break up the battle. In the Coors guzzling world of pubs, competition is also very real. Pub regulars, some of whom even lay claim to a particular seat, are a territorial lot. So it came as a shock to regulars at Legends Pub and J Malone’s Bar & Grill that the two pubs were going to become one. Last month Legends celebrated its grand opening in the Blundell Road building that had long been Malone’s. It was a smart move on the part of Legends owner Glenn Jensen to completely renovate the space to help regulars at both pubs wash away old memories and unite for a common cause: to chug back beer.

Best place to beat the wheat 

With its acres of Chinese restaurants, dining out in Richmond can pose a challenge for those who are on gluten-free diets. But if you go to the Living Cafe (240-12240 Second Ave.) in Steveston, there’s no need to say “Hold the soy sauce.”  The whole menu is gluten free, so you enjoy a baguette without doubling over with gastro-intestinal pain. The quinoa muffins are delicious.

Best name for a farm market

Steveston Highway—look south—is a reminder of Richmond’s farmland. Spend too much time in condos-are-being-built-everywhere City Centre, and it’s easy to forget that one-third of Lulu Island is protected farmland. So hug a farm market proprietor for bringing us back to our roots. Steveston Highway has a bunch, make that a bushel, including one between No. 3 and 4 roads. Previously Chong’s, this farm market now has a fresh coat of paint and a new attitude: fun. FUN Farm Market—capital letters are theirs—is now selling laughing leeks, amusing asparagus and entertaining endives. Don’t listen to pint-sized naysayers who say fruits and vegetables are boring, this farm market will surely prove them wrong. What kid would say no to: “Do you want to go have some FUN?”

Best restaurant to warm up

Imagine it’s cold outside, and all you’re wearing is an outfit that somehow escaped from a yoga studio. And then, calling your name, is Boiling Point Richmond, a restaurant serving authentic Taiwanese hotpot. This soup slurping eatery is a franchise. It started in California a decade ago, and now the sunshine state boasts eight locations. It crept north, to Seattle and to Bellevue. It’s now in Canada with a location on No. 3 and Alexandra roads, along with Burnaby. Diners will find spicy fermented tofu and 10 hot soups on the menu: from curry fishball hot soup to Taiwanese spicy hot soup—so zippy it comes with a warning. Thankfully, there are slushies on the menu to cool the heat.

Best fruits de mer worth remortgaging for

Call it the lobster of the West Coast. Wild B.C. spot prawns, once cast as inferior to far-away crustaceans that land in supermarket freezers, are now sought after shrimps. The short spot prawn season began this month with a lower-than-usual supply. That’s driving up the cost of the already pricey seafood, to the point some restaurants have abandoned ship on the product this season. True, the sticker price might have many of us running for Captain High Liner, but c’mon. Sauteed with garlic parsley butter? Spot prawn ceviche? Spot prawn cobb salad? This limited-time seafood—usually available at the Steveston Harbour Authority’s sales float—is worth jumping overboard for.

Best bar to contemplate municipal boundaries

Milltown Bar is Richmond’s newest watering hole, offering stunning Fraser River views from its unusual perch. Part of the Milltown Marina and Boatyard, which opened this spring, the bar offers staples like burgers, sandwiches, salads and pizzas, along with a good selection of popular adult refreshments. Its location is also a good conversation starter. Milltown Bar is on Richmond Island—an island that’s physically attached to Vancouver, but is actually a territory of Richmond. Adding to the drama is that Richmond doesn’t have control of the lands due to federal ownership, and that Milltown says it’s a part of Marpole. The Musqueam Indian Band is also involved, as a part owner. All those jurisdictional gems are easy to forget, however, when sitting on the patio with a burger and beer, soaking in views of the marina, Fraser River and YVR runway.

Best time for TUMS

We love our kids, gosh darn it. Especially when they do something cute like make us lunch or dinner. Oh, you shouldn’t have. Really. Brave executives at Fairchild Television has decided to take these rascals out of their KidCraft play kitchens and put them on stage to show off their sizzling sauté skills. The local network is planning to host a competition at River Rock Casino Resort this summer called Chef Corner Jr. Vancouver, based on a popular Hong Kong TV show. Finalists will train with some local “celebrity chef” in advance of the July 29 competition that will feature kids ages eight to 14. Fairchild has been accepting applications from would-be Bobby Flay’s and Nigella Lawson’s whatever their ethnicity, first language or kitchen specialty. The winner, along with a guardian, nets a trip to Hong Kong. We’re expect some top notch nuggets.

Best Eat Street area standout

MoMa Contemporary Bistro isn’t exactly on Alexandra Road, also known as Eat Street for its 200 or so restaurants. But MoMa is pretty close, located at Cambie and Sexsmith roads. We’re not bold enough to say such-and-such restaurant is the best or so-and-so restaurant does it better. Those choices might be easier if Richmond had a couple dozen restaurants, not 800. But MoMa is a standout. If not for its food, then certainly for its cuisine. In a sea of Asian restaurants, chefs and owners Henry Mok and Xin Mao serve traditional French and Italian food with an Asian influence. The name of the restaurant is curiously similar to MoMA, the famous New York institution also known as the Museum of Modern Art. But the restaurant’s website tells us MoMa is a combination of the chefs’ last names and “represents the two chefs coming together to create flavourful and refined dishes in a causal atmosphere.” Few cities can call an Italian restaurant unique, but it’s appropriate here. On the MoMa menu is tagliatelle bolognese and octopus carpaccio, alongside crispy pork belly and smoked duck breast with Asian aromatic glaze. Un tavolo per due, per favore.

Best one of these things is not like the other...

A visit to Aberdeen Centre’s food court. Cantonese food? Check. Korean? check. Congee? Check. And then there’s Vera’s Burger Shack? Actually, the Lower Mainland burger chain has been in Aberdeen for a while, but in a food court filled with fare from Japan, Korea and the four corners of China, it’s always a bit of a shock to come across a burger joint at the end.

—with additional stories from Martin van den Hemel and Bhreandáin Clugston

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