Vancouverites have known for some time that Richmond is a treasure trove of Chinese restaurants. But the thought of crossing a congested bridge just to grab a bite to eat can be a deal-breaker. Now, thanks to the Canada Line, in about 20 minutes you are within a block or two of some of the best Chinese food in the Lower Mainland. Here’s a little taste.
First stop: the food court at Aberdeen Centre (4151 Hazelbridge Way), located a block northeast of Aberdeen Station. This is not your typical food court ringed with fast-food chains and tired old steam-tray fare. It’s more akin to the graze-worthy “food streets” you find in many Asian towns, where venders are specialists in what they cook.
One shining example here is the deep-fried chicken wings from Wo Fung Dessert. The name is confusing, as there’s hardly a mention of dessert on the menu. Instead, people line up for wings and street-cart noodles. Three whole, crisp-skinned, extremely moist chicken wings will set you back $3.50. There’s a bit of a wait since they’re cooked to order, so just relax and sip on a chilled, sweet Hong Kong–style milk tea or a refreshing real-lemon iced tea (both $2) until your order comes up.
Next to Wo Fung, Café D’Lite Express—an offshoot of a long-time favourite in Kits—is similarly focused. A spare menu of their signature bests includes boneless, silky-textured Hainanese chicken served with delicious steamed rice flavoured with gingered chicken broth ($6.75); a fragrant, spicy fish ball laksa ($6.75); and a tender curried beef brisket with rice ($7.25). For more variety, Shanghai Shanghai across the concourse has very respectable handmade-to-order xiaolongbao (steamed pork soup dumplings, six for $3.95).
For those who like it hot, our next stop is an authentic Szechuan restaurant just south of Aberdeen Station. How do we know it’s the real McCoy? The moment you enter Golden Spring Restaurant (160–4200 No. 3 Road, 604-273-3388), you’re assailed by the distinct and pungent aroma of chilies mixed with the woodsy spice of fagara (Szechuan pepper), which characterizes Szechuan cooking. A closer look at the crowded room and you’ll notice that leftover dishes on tables are laden with red chili oil and many of the diners are sweating like they’ve just had a workout.
For chili hounds, classic dishes to try are the fiery Spicy Fish Hot Pot and the Chongqing Style Spicy and Dry Chicken, which balances the heat of the chilies with a numbing sensation from the fagara. For the faint of heart and taste buds, the pork with brown sauce is a soothingly mild dish consisting of a clutch of napa cabbage topped with tender pork belly. Interestingly, tan tan noodles come in two versions: an “authentic Sichuan” dry rendition dressed with chili oil and spices, and an “in soup” version with a creamy spicy-sesame sauce.
At the corner of Brighouse Square, a stone’s throw from the same-named terminus station of the Canada Line, is Shanghai House Restaurant (7–6340 No. 3 Road, 604-278-0709). It’s one of the newer additions to the ever-growing number of Shanghai-style restaurants in the neighbourhood. From the person-sized porcelain vase at the entrance to the etched-glass calligraphy panels that line the walls to the blue porcelain sinks in the washrooms, the current owners have wisely taken over this well-appointed turnkey operation from a previous incarnation with minimal changes to the décor. The result is a comfortable and spacious place that serves good-quality food at very reasonable prices.
We sampled a number of small plates from an appetizer collection of over two dozen that ranged from $6 to $7, and found the portions generous and the food very good indeed. The obligatory steamed Shanghai dumplings (six for $4.50) were delicate and juicy. The sliced pork belly with garlic sauce was thinly sliced and tender and rested on a much-appreciated bed of flat mung bean noodles, which added a lovely textured touch to the dish. We also recommend the meaty Special Soyed Duck, draped in a lightly sweet bean-based sauce, and the tasty terrine-like Cheng Kong pork.
Finally, just a short walk diagonally across the parking lot, at the corner of Buswell Street and Cook Road, is Beijing Noodle House (190–6451 Buswell Street, 604-278-2323), which appears to be the cheap and cheerful hot spot for neighbourhood family get-togethers, no doubt due to the generous portions. Our lamb with noodle in soup ($6.50) was large enough for two, and was topped with thinly sliced lamb, chopped cilantro, and green onions in a soy-flavoured broth. Stir-fried green bean in chili sauce ($8.95) was a heaping platter of crunchy green beans liberally laced with strips of crispy, lightly smoked pork—an unusual variation on this popular dish. Another tasty and satisfying dish is Beijing Style Sautéed Shredded Pork in Bean Sauce, which came with a giant warm, tortilla-like flatbread that you can use as a wrap just as you would for Peking duck ($10.95).
But what if you don’t feel like Chinese food? From on high along the Canada Line, you can spot Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese restaurants, and more. In fact, the labyrinth of strip malls along No. 3 Road is so dense with restaurants that you are bound to discover a new favourite of your own. Just get off and explore.