Thai

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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Talay Thai

A couple weeks back, while waiting on a table at Red Star Seafood, we noticed Talay Thai right across the street. Even with a reservation, we’d been waiting almost thirty minutes. We were three empty stomachs dying for a feed. The thought of Thai curries and spicy noodles was starting to overwhelm us. Just as we were about to head over, the hostess called us in. Ah well, dim sum it is…

Talay Thai is a spot I’ve been meaning to hit up for a long, long time. With a continual stream of raves around the web, I got to figuring that this place was a sure thing.

This is one vibrantly colored, tiny room. It’s about as clean as you could imagine, to boot. The moment you enter there’s a warm, comfortable vibe. I’m sensing a great feed!

Por Pia Tod ปอเปี๊ยะทอด (Vegetarian Spring Rolls). Nothing too spectacular yet really well made. Knowing the plum sauce is homemade gave these a step up. It’s not too often a place will take the time and effort to create their own.

The Satay Chicken were sensational. Just plump enough to withstand the grill time without getting dry. A good, long marination gave these so much flavor that the peanut sauce was almost unnecessary.

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Lhy Thai

Back in ’94, when Lhy Thai opened it’s doors, it was the go-to place in Burnaby for great Thai. Soon after that, Boua Thai arrived. With it’s lower prices and heftier portions, Boua became our favorite lunch spot two, sometimes three times a week. It was that good. One day, in the middle of lunch, they were shut down. To this day it remains a mystery. I can’t wait to hear, one day, that Boua has been reincarnated. They were, after all, devout Buddhists! One can only hope…

After Boua closed we visited Lhy Thai several times only to be disappointed by bland fare and small portions. One time, I went on my own for a plate of Pad See Ew. It was the absolute worst plate of Thai food imaginable. Undercooked broccoli, overcooked beef, tough noodles and burnt garlic, to boot. The Tom Yum Gai was as watery as you could make it. I vowed never to return. Then, last week, Benzie and a buddy of his wanted to check out some Asian fare in Burnaby. They wanted to try Lhy Thai. I caved and wound up having one of the best meals of my life.

Lhy Thai is located on Edmonds just east of Kingsway. Not exactly a culinary mecca but there’s a few decent spots in the area. Even on a late Wednesday evening, right before closing, Lhy Thai was around half full. Most lunchtimes the place is packed…most tables reserved. Even the local MLA was seen waiting for a seat!

On our first visit, last Wednesday, I showed up with a dead battery in my camera. I had to resort to my trusty iPhone for a few unspectacular shots.

Some really good Spring Rolls here. They’re jam-packed with carrot, black mushrooms, cabbage and vermicelli. The sprinkling of crushed nuts on the sweet chili sauce was a nice little addition.

The Som Tam (Papaya Salad) was, to put it simply, outstanding. A cool, crunchy combination of shredded green papaya, chili, sugar, lime, fish sauce, tomato, peanuts and shrimp paste. Huge, bright flavors…extremely refreshing at the outset. As one gets to the middle, things start to intensify. Near the bottom, especially beneath the lettuce leaf, you know exactly why it’s labelled “Thai-style” on the menu. By the way, if you ever want things supremely spicy in a Thai resto, just mention “Thai-style” while ordering. That’s the real deal.

Along with those two appies our dinner also included:

  • Stuffed Chicken Wings
  • Chicken Satay
  • Tom Yum Gai
  • Panang Neua (Panang Curry with Beef)
  • Gapow Gai (Basil Chicken)
  • Phat Peaw Wan Gai (Sweet and Sour Chicken)

An absolutely incredible feast all around. So good, in fact, that I got together another gang two days later to try and re-create it for a Friday lunch.

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Royal City Thai

Writing a review for a restaurant can, at times, be tricky. In this case, I visited an incredible Thai restaurant (Tom Yum Thai) two days before this visit to Royal City Thai. Unfortunately, ANY meal that close on the heels of Tom Yum Thai will suffer in comparison.

As with Tom Yum, Royal City Thai used to be a coffee shop/diner. Weirdly, both left the old cafe sign above their new awning.

Royal City Thai offers an all-you-can-eat menu on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 to 2:30 for $12.95. I had assumed that meant a buffet table. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was an AYCE menu to order from.

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Tom Yum Thai

A couple of years ago, as we were driving around in North Burnaby, I noticed an old diner had been transformed into Tom Yum Thai. Being an aspiring foodie at the time, I naturally stopped and gave it a try. It was underwhelming, to say the least. I can’t even remember what dishes we had. Since then I hadn’t given it a second thought. Then I saw that Jessica from Yum-O-Rama had paid them a visit and put up a post. It became apparent that another visit was in order.

The day after reading Jessica’s post I went on a solo scouting mission. When I read her post, the first thing I thought about was a possible Friday lunch gathering. No sense dragging the gang out for a mess of mediocre grub.

Whenever I visit a Thai restaurant for the first time I order Pad Thai. It seems imperative that any successful, authentic Thai restaurant will produce an above-average version of this plate. For the longest time I had Thai Cafe ranked as the best Pad Thai in Burnaby. Tom Yum’s Pad Thai is equal, if not better.

This is top-notch Pad Thai. Rice noodles, perfectly cooked, lathered in a sweet, spicy and tart tamarind sauce…several tender prawns, tofu and crunchy sprouts…a really good balance of ingredients. The unique part is the ground peanuts and roasted ground chilies on the side. This allows the diner to season everything to their liking.

So far, very good. It’s time to call in the troops and have a feast!

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Thai Cafe

Thai Cafe is another of the Friday Lunch crews’ favorite venues in Burnaby. After the sudden and inexplicable demise of Boua Thai, Thai Cafe quickly filled the void. For several years now it has been a guaranteed great Pad Thai fix.

This is exactly how Pad Thai should be. All of the elements are in place. Hot (chili paste), sour (tamarind and lime), salty (fish sauce) and sweet (palm sugar). Rice noodles perfectly cooked amongst crisp bean sprouts and carrot, crunchy peanuts, tender cubes of fried tofu, scallions and prawns. An excellent Pad Thai.

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Pattaya Thai Restaurant

Once upon a time, there was a restaurant in Burnaby called Boua Thai. Boua Thai was, looking back, a mythical place. Those who frequented it regularly, still speak of it as the last, great Thai restaurant in this area. It was where I discovered Pad Thai. Their version was perfectly made…always moist noodles bathed in a chile-laden tamarind sauce amidst a bevy of prawns, shrimp and chunks of golden tofu. Their Pad Gai Gra Prao (Thai Basil Chicken) was always served as it should…loaded with Thai Basil. The term ‘I got sumoed’ was coined at Boua because the size of the portions made you feel like a sumo wrestler. It was common for us to visit two or three times a week and then again on the weekend. We were there on the day they were forced to close their doors. What happened that day still remains a mystery.

Since then, I have been on the hunt for a local Thai restaurant of that quality. Thai Cafe and Lhy Thai have come close. Another one on the radar is Pattaya.

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Pattaya Thai Restaurant is located on 6th Street in New Westminster beside Hon’s Wonton House. It’s a very small  room (six booths) run by a Thai family. They offer a common lunch special menu with all items at $6.99.

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