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.
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.
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.
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.
After a couple of years of food-blogging, I thought it was time to hit up some old favorites and give them a fresh look. It’s always interesting to check out some different menu items and see if things are as good as I remembered. My main reason for going back to New Age is because of recent visits to Kalvin’s and Long’s Noodle House. At those two spots I had a couple of dishes that I noticed were also on New Age’s menu.
New Age Chinese Cuisine is primarily a Taiwanese resto with some Shanghainese thrown in for good measure. It’s quite an easy spot to miss as it’s located within the Best Western King’s Inn in Burnaby. There’s no street adverts for the restaurant…you’ve just got to know where you’re going.
This is the dining area you see when you first arrive. There’s three large tables and about five smaller ones. If you tack right at the service counter you’ll enter the much larger banquet area. There you’ll find several tables that hold ten or twelve.
Over the years I’ve dragged a Friday Lunch crew here about seven or eight times. This past Friday we arrived around 11:30 to a deserted room. As this was our first visit in many months, this gave me a bit of a scare. Plus the fact that the usual familiar faces were gone didn’t help neither. Not to worry. By the time we left, the entire restaurant was full up.
As mentioned, I really wanted to come back here because of a couple of interesting plates I’d got to try recently. By sheer coincidence, Jacky Chan, a co-worker and my personal Chinese food guru, visited Long’s Noodle House the night before and had their Wine Chicken. We had a bit of a concern that our fellow diners might not appreciate a cold, partially gelatinous chicken dish. After a bit of humming and hawing, there wasn’t a complaint to be heard.
Here, it’s referred to as Chicken in Shao Xing Wine Sauce. This must’ve been a big bird. Although a bit drier than Long’s version, it was much meatier and packed with just as much flavor. A touch salty but not overly so.
One dish that resonated quite well from the feast at Kalvin’s was their Chicken with Three Spice aka Three Cup Chicken. It was a great dish. New Age’s version, methinks, was even better.
Slathered in a combo of Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and soy, this dish is a must order here. What sets it apart from Kalvin’s is that the meat is much more tender and a lot less bony. It simply falls away…no bits of bone to contend with. The soft cloves of garlic don’t hurt a bit. Phenomenal stuff.
About a month ago, in the midst of a whole bunch of stupidity, Kevin from 604foodtography, suggested a big ol’ chowdown at Kalvin’s Restaurant. Within a day or so, thirteen of us responded with a resounding “Hell, yeah!“. From a rather depressing, unfortunate day, the focus was returned to where it should always be in the food blogging community…on the food! After all, that’s what we’re only here for…right?
Other bloggers at this night’s feast included:
- Sherman from Sherman’s Food Adventures
- Ben & Suanne from Chowtimes
- Angie from Sea Salt With Food
- Jessica from Yum-O-Rama
- Ed from Ed Eats
- Diana from Foodology
- Russell from The Daily Slif
Strange thing about Kalvin’s…the awning says “Kalvin’s Szechuen Restaurant” so I was all geared up for a fiery, chile-laden feast. Turns out they put up mostly Taiwanese fare. No problem…I’m game for anything! There were a few spicy dishes and some interesting Taiwanese I’d not yet tried.
This’d be one of those dishes I’d put in the “I’ll-try-it-one-time” category. The Fondue Spicy Pork with Organ Stew was actually quite tasty if you can get your head around the intestine part. It’s obviously a cultural thing that I’ve yet to adapt to. Texturally, it was fine. No excessive chewiness…not rubbery at all. For me, it’s all about the funky aroma. There’s a load of foods I love that give off strange, unique smells. It’s just that when the smell originates from that part of the animal, it can be difficult to adjust to.
The Pork & Ton Choy in BBQ Sauce also had a unique flavor to it. If you close your eyes, you’d swear you were eating a seafood dish. That was due, according to Kevin, to the use of a satay sauce or, as I later found out, it can be called “Shacha sauce“. It’s a much different flavor to most satay sauces due to the addition of brill fish and dried shrimp. The ton choy itself was nicely cooked giving the dish a well needed fresh, crisp element.
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.
Seems most recipes call for cilantro. That particular fresh herb would have livened things up nicely.
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.
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.
A couple of weeks back, on a rather lackluster Tuesday, The Gut asked, “What’s for lunch?”. After the usual suspects came to mind, I remembered checking out some posts on Bubble World the previous evening. Upon reading a bunch of mixed reviews and checking out their somewhat diverse menu, I figured it was worth a shot.
Bubble World is a chain of eight restaurants throughout the GVRD. The spot in Burnaby is a popular late-night hangout for Bubble Tea aficionados, obviously. I’ve never been a big fan of jelly globules in my beverages. Maybe its just the fact that I have to chew my drink. Much prefer ice…it serves a purpose!
The menu here is mainly Taiwanese with a smattering of dim sum and a bit of Japanese. It’s very much like No. 1 Beef Noodle House and The One, just to name a couple of local spots. Not sure why these places feel the need to widen their menus so far…there’s so much good Taiwanese fare already. It seems odd and a bit tricky, kitchen-wise. Unless you have a top-notch kitchen staff, the quality of the food will always suffer.
Enough with the opinionating! On to the food!
For about twenty years, or so, Hawaii Cafe was a coffee shop/bacon & egg joint at the foot of Gilley @ Marine Drive. It was a stalwart, a last of its breed. Then, as with most cafeteria-style restaurants, it shut its doors. Several months later it magically reappeared with the same name and its original Pepsi sign.
This time around, however, they’re putting out standard Chinese food along with Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. When alerted by a co-worker about the new re-incarnation, I hustled down to see what else is on the menu.
No, they’re not serving fuzzy puppies in black pepper sauce. They do have an affinity for putting cute doggie pictures around the room. Unfortunately, these two were placed a bit too close to the menu signage. Maybe a photo of their Steak in Black Pepper Sauce would be in order!
Of all the items mentioned on the front window, the one that stood out for me was the Spicy Dan Dan Noodles.