Crystal Mall

Bubble Waffle Cafe

I’ve said it before. And I’ll say it again. The food court in Crystal Mall is a wonderland of delicious fare. Yes, there’s the mediocre. But with some perseverance and a bit of research, one can find a great lunch. As I’m already loaded with perseverance, all it took was discovering Selina’s Vancity Noms post on Crystal Mall’s latest treasure, Bubble Waffle Cafe.

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Normally, upon seeing the words “bubble” or “waffle” on a food stall sign, I’d quickly veer away to seek out one selling some form of spicy soup. “Bubble” and “waffle” don’t quite conjure up thoughts of Laksa, Szechuan, Thai or any form of chile-laden soups. It turns out, Bubble Waffle serves up some seriously spicy soups in many varieties.

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Bubble Waffle has it all going on. And at great value to boot. There’s fifteen or so soup bases to choose from. All come with crunchy cabbage, cilantro and silky tofu. You load on two toppings of your choice. Pick a noodle and voila! A customized bowl of somewhat healthy soup. 🙂

I have a personal favorite that I just can’t stop ordering.

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Malaysian Laksa with Fried Shrimp Ball and Fried Fish Cake. On the menu checklist it’s listed as Curry Sauce. The sign at the counter says Malaysian Laksa. Confusion, yes! Seriously freaking delicious? Yes, as well! There’s incredible flavor going on here. Rich coconut milk teeming with chile oil, dried shrimp, curry, garlic topped with snappy fish cake and bouncy shrimp balls. I’ve tried this with the rice noodle. They don’t quite hold up to the heat. The ramen, on the other hand, stay nice and chewy here. A killer bowl, through and through.

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Grazing Through Crystal Food Court

Crystal Mall, for those of you that haven’t been there, is a circular two-level Asian shopping center in Burnaby. On its street-level perimeter and on its inner concourse, are a plethora of small (some very good) restaurants. On the upper level is the mall’s food court, a wonderland of various Asian food stalls. They are all primarily Chinese-run and most offer Chinese fare. There is a smattering of Japanese and one that serves up Thai and Malaysian. All told, there’s about thirty vendors to pick from…they run the gamut from so-so to darn impressive.  When lunchtime rolls around and I’m not 100% sure what I’m hungry for, I head to the food court and start grazing.

Today’s first stop is Red Persimmon Taiwanese Cuisine for their Gua Bao (刮包) aka the Taiwanese Burger. This pick was due to a tip from Kim from I’m Only Here For The Food.

It doesn’t look like much…kinda boring actually. But that’s far from true. The big chunk of pork has been braised a good looong while…very tender, very moist. The massive, pillowy steam bun has nice chew, slathered with sugary peanut powder and crunchy pickled greens. Excellent value at $3.50.

After perusing around the net awhile, I came across this mouth-watering post from eatingclubvancouver as well as a great recipe page from nibbledish.

Seems most recipes call for cilantro. That particular fresh herb would have livened things up nicely.

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Ali Shan Taiwanese

Ali Shan is another one of those places I’ve walked by many times on my way into Crystal Court. I’ll pause awhile, peruse the colorful array of food photos, and keep on going. Finally, after many months, I stopped in for a quick lunch.

This is a small, comfortable and welcoming room that fills up fast over the lunch hour. It’s located on the south side of the mall, across from the library, right next to the entrance to the parkade from hell. Here’s a tip for whenever you want to hit Crystal Court…grab a spot at Station Square. It’s a short walk and it’s free. You will, however, miss the never-ending entertainment of circular parking.

***Since I started writing this (yesterday), Ali Shan has closed this location and moved shop around the corner. They are now two doors down from Green Bamboo, a big-time favorite of mine! The new store hasn’t yet opened. A server told me they plan on opening sometime in May.

This post is a compilation of three visits. The first two were solo scouting missions, the third one I dragged in Becky & The Gut for a table-filling chowdown.

Ali Shan’s menu consists mainly of cafe-style Taiwanese with a few hints of Korean and Japanese.

Dang. Too many good options. Being in the mood for something spicy (as usual) but not soup-wise, it took awhile to choose. Luckily, there was a big poster displaying the ”Spicy Stired Beef with Rice Cake”. Sounds good to me!

At first glance, I was just a bit worried. The tubes of rice cake looked to be on the hefty side. Turns out they weren’t at all…fantastic these were! Rather light, actually. They picked up the sweet and spicy sauce beautifully. A great plate, this.

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Meishan Restaurant

Well, here we are…New Year’s Eve, the last Friday of 2010. It’s been a damn good year, eats-wise. Plenty of new, local discoveries along with trips to Zacatecas and Merida in Mexico…some of the best Mexican fare I’ve encountered. Ten days spent in Vietnam left me hungering for many more southeast Asian explorations. So, it being the last Friday of the year, I got together a rather skeleton crew of lunchers and headed to Meishan Restaurant.

Meishan is on the concourse level of the Crystal Mall in Burnaby. They’re right across the way from S&W Pepper House, a fine spot for Sichuan fare. Meishan offers up Taiwanese as well as some real good Sichuan. Many times, coming and going from S&W, I’ve stopped to stare at their droolworthy façade.

This is a compact space. They make the most of it, however. There’s a couple of big tables for eight, about eight four-tops and one two-top.

At lunchtime on New Year’s Eve there’s a decent crowd…about a dozen total. I’m guessing this place packs up on regular days.

Meishan has a pretty substantial menu. This is about half of it. The Lunch Special menu itself (top-right & bottom-center) is quite impressive. I’ll be back for the Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup and their Dan Dan Noodles.

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