Bollywood and Chinese stars eat up Vancouver

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      In the celebrity-sightings section of any paper in town, you’ll find the local hot spots for Hollywood stars like Jennifer Aniston and Halle Berry. But Chinese and Bollywood actors also swoop into town, often unnoticed, and take advantage of the scenery, the food, and the time away from the paparazzi.

      “[Chinese actors] like it here because they are low-key. They are not here to create a storm like Paris Hilton,” says Andrew Ooi, president of Echelon Talent Management, a local agency that represents many Asian actors. In a phone interview, Ooi explains that his clients “come to Vancouver to eat, rest, get fresh air, and visit relatives”, and that they love the food because it’s “definitely comparable to Hong Kong standards.” Ooi says they also like Vancouver because “people are very polite here. They will stare and smile, but they won’t interrupt.”

      While many Chinese stars stay at the Sutton Place Hotel downtown, others prefer the Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport, where they can be close to the Richmond action. On the phone from his Richmond home, Chang Tseng, whose credits include Romeo Must Die and Shanghai Noon, says that actors like Richmond’s Shiang Garden Seafood Restaurant, as well as the suburb’s Top Shanghai Cuisine for its “delicious fried fish with sea cucumber” and xiaolongbao (soup dumplings).

      Chang isn’t the only actor who enjoys local Chinese food. By phone, Ming Szeto, manager of Imperial Chinese Seafood Restaurant in the Marine Building downtown, reports that Jet Li and Jackie Chan have paid his establishment a visit. Other popular celebrity picks include Bo Kong on Main Street, where vegetarian Cheng Pei Pei (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) has feasted on veggie fare, and Kirin downtown, where Maggie Q (Mission: Impossible III) has supped before heading out to Bar None or the Opus Bar for drinks. Meanwhile, Vancouver-born Edison Chen, who starred in The Grudge 2 and recently became embroiled in an Internet sex-photo scandal, has dined at Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant on Main Street.

      Some celebrities have equally insatiable cravings for other Asian cuisines. Hong Kong’s Kenneth Tsang (Die Another Day) has a soft spot for the sushi at Kamei Royale and the Singaporean Prima Taste. On the phone from Bangkok, Steph Song (jPod) says that the Hainanese chicken rice tempts her at Singaporean joint Café D’Lite, while the beef noodle soup, “with as much chili as I can handle,” is a must at the Vietnamese Le Do. Song heeds her mother’s advice on chilies. “If you don’t know how to eat chili, your husband will always push you around,” she laughs.

      Although Song only occasionally patronizes lounges like Ginger 62, Bollywood stars are eager to party. Prem Patel, also known as “Chottu”, or younger brother, is a manager for Desi Doordarshan, a company that promotes local concerts in which Bollywood actors gyrate to Indian tunes. Over coffee, Patel explains that most Bollywood actors arrive with an entourage of 50 to 60 people, perform on a Sunday, and then sightsee “the beauty” around town and Whistler in the following days.

      When former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan, who both starred in the blockbuster Jodhaa Akbar, were in town, Patel picked them up from the Pan Pacific hotel and took them out for lunch at Green Lettuce on Kingsway. He says that Bollywood actors adore Thai and Indo-Chinese food because “they go for Indian food all the time. They want something different.” The two stars also enjoyed the North American dishes and views on offer at Bridges on Granville Island and Milestone’s at English Bay.

      When Patel goes with stars for Indian food, they go to India Bistro, Maurya, or Mehfil India Restaurant & Sweets in Surrey. Concert promoter Kamal Sharma takes stars to Bombay Sé in Surrey. Vij’s, however, is bypassed because of the infamous wait times. “The only problem is that Vij’s doesn’t take reservations, and Indian stars will not stand in line,” says Sharma by phone.

      During the day, stars relax by going to Stanley Park, getting a massage, or exercising at a gym such as Fitness World, in order to maintain their camera-friendly physiques. Rai and Roshan rented a boat from Jerry’s Boat Rentals on Granville Island, while Shahrukh Khan, known as King Khan and star of Dil To Pagal Hai, shopped on Robson Street. “[Bollywood stars] spend a lot of money here,” says Patel.

      Then, at night, these South Asian luminaries break loose. The handsome John Abraham, whose credits include Dhoom and Water, danced at Plush at the Plaza of Nations, where according to Patel, “people loved him”; Esha Deol (Kaal, Dus) and her half-brothers, actors Sunny and Bobby Deol have also been seen at Plush. Other club favourites include Richard’s on Richards, the Plaza Club, and Surrey’s Mirage.

      As the designated driver Patel can’t keep up, but he always has an “awesome” time. “These people go crazy,” Patel says, looking forward to the next time he dances with the Bollywood stars.