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.
When seeking out a nice, quick, soul-satisfying lunch for one, a trip to an Asian food court is a great choice. The culinary/foodie part of my brain starts to flicker at the sheer variety of tantalizing Far Eastern fare. Yes, the food can trend a bit towards mediocre; but with enough visits and a timely tip or two, you get to the better parts.
At the Crystal Mall food court in Burnaby, two shops stand out for some exceptional Beef Noodle Soup.
First off, Huaxi Noodle Specialist. They make their soup in the Guizhou style. As Guizhou province is straddled by Sichuan and Hunan, this cuisine has its fiery similarities. When it comes to their soup, Guizhou is known not only for its heat but also for its sourness. An old, local saying goes, “Without eating a sour dish for three days, people will stagger with weak legs”.
There’s a small, somewhat humid spot on the corner of Kingsway and Nelson in Burnaby that puts out some fantastic food. For the past several years I’ve been visiting Lao Shan Dong Homemade Noodle House and have developed a major affection for their Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup.
Lao Shan Dong is an offshoot of a Taipei restaurant that originated in 1949. The way I figure it, if a place is going to go ahead and mention a 60-year-old history of beef-noodle-making, they’re probably going to make a pretty decent bowl.
They offer a compact menu of hand-cut noodle dishes, soups, dumplings as well as a variety of traditional cold appetizers. Although the appies on display look appetizing, on this day, we’re here for the noodles.
Chill Restaurant and Lounge is exactly the type of place I would not of visited of my own accord before my blogging days. I would of passed it off as some sort of night club that did their food as an afterthought. Definitely not the type of place I’d consider for a lunch. Luckily, I’ve had a couple of meals with Ben from Chowtimes and he mentioned Chill as a spot he’d like to visit. As it was my turn to choose a venue, I picked one off of his list. You can check out Ben’s post on Chill here.
When I arrived at noon, Ben had grabbed a spot by the windows on a raised platform. I’m guessing that’s where the stage is for the late-night music. The room was empty save for one table. It turns out those folk were Ben’s co-worker’s. One of them came over and whispered something into Ben’s ear. Even though I didn’t understand what he said, I was pretty sure it was about the food. Sure enough he said something to the effect of “The food is hard to eat.”. I’m not exactly sure which items he was referring to. It certainly wasn’t any of the one’s we ordered.
After reading Ben from Chowtimes post on The One Restaurant this past Wednesday, this week’s Friday lunch selection was a no-brainer.
The One is a spin-off of Lao Shan Dong. LSD is the king of Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup in Burnaby. There are other TBN shops, but as far as I know, they’re the only ones who make their own hand-cut noodles. Green Bamboo has recently started serving hand-cut noodles in their House Special Beef Noodle Soup. Stay tuned for a Green Bamboo updated post! Their noodles are fantastic, by the way!
Whereas Lao Shan Dong is situated in a small, non-descript room, The One is the polar opposite. After entering through automatic sliding doors, you are greeted with a sleek, very modern decor. It’s not exactly what one expects in this part of Burnaby.
More often than not, when I enter a room this visually stunning, I naturally worry that the food is an afterthought. Knowing that the kitchen here is a by-product of Lao Shan Dong, I was giddy with anticipation.
This is a post I’ve had on the back-burner for quite awhile now (since last October, actually). I’d read nothing but exemplary reviews of Tony’s Beef Noodle and was left scratching my head wondering what I’d missed. My experience of Taiwanese Beef Noodle soup is limited to Lao Shan Dong and No. 1 Beef Noodle House…both outstanding bowls. The TBN I had at Tony’s Beef Noodle didn’t even come close.
For an appetizer, I got a bowl of Wontons in Chili Sauce.
Not quite what I’d expected. The dumplings, themselves, are very good. It’s just that sauce wasn’t exactly “chili sauce”. It was more of a sweetened soy. Not exactly bland but nowhere near enough chili. But, hey, that’s just my taste.
On to the soup…
No. 1 Beef Noodle House is one of the most popular Taiwanese restaurants in Burnaby. So much so, that even at 11:30 in the morning, cars are double and sometimes triple-parked. Throughout the meal you’ll see anxious car-owners turn into Meerkats, popping up to see if they have to move their car. The overflow stretches out into the side-streets, causing some consternation amongst the locals. From what I’ve heard…it’s best not to park in behind.
The upside is that No. 1 is worth the parking hassles. After a bunch of visits, it’s pretty much a guaranteed great feed. We’ve been visiting since they opened, about five years ago. They offer a good and varied menu. There’s never a lack of interesting items, from pig’s ears to peanut butter toast. This time though, with a large group, we stuck with some favorites.
The best part is being able to phone and pre-order and having a bunch of great food dropped off as soon as we sit down.
After many visits to No. 1 Beef Noodle House on Willingdon, we were pleasantly surprised to find their sister restaurant on Kingsway. New Age Chinese Cuisine is the older sister…the one without triple-parked cars and junior-high kids jostling for their bubble tea. It is also a place where the service staff takes time to recommend the better items to be had.
We were ready and set to go with the General Tso’s Chicken when our server recommended the House Special Chicken. Crunchy, deep-fried chunks of thigh meat are tossed in a quite spicy and sweet garlic sauce. The only downside to this dish was having to share.