East meets west as Asian-Canadian brunch spots pop up in Vancouver

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      Anyone who’s witnessed the never-ending lineups at spots like Jam Café or Yolks can attest that this city has some serious beasties who brunch.

      Meanwhile, those who want something beyond the typical fare of eggs, bacon, and pancakes can be found among the equally voracious dim-sum crowd. But what if you want a bit of both worlds?

      Holy shiitake, Batman—it’s Asian-Canadian menus to the rescue! A number of new eateries have cropped up to help solve that dilemma by adding Asian-Canadian spins on traditional brunching staples.

      Take, for instance, chef George Koay’s solution, which was to open the 42-seat Breakfast Table at 1481 West Broadway back in September. Koay, a Chinese Malaysian who hails from Georgetown, Malaysia, and grew up in Langley, says he and his Korean-Canadian wife (a brunch devotee) wanted to “bring something from our home to someone else’s”.

      Breakfast Table owner George Koay
      Craig Takeuchi

      His approach is minimalist.

      “For me, the philosophy of all good food [is] I just want people to come here and say, ‘Your food just reminds me of how my grandma used to make it, or how my mom used to make it,’ ” he tells the Georgia Straight at his restaurant.

      Thing is, most of our moms and grandmas don’t have 25 years of food-industry experience and have never been an executive chef at Lift Bar and Grill.

      Breakfast Table's beef bulgogi hash with two eggs, kimchi, green onion, king oyster mushroom, spinach, and Korean sweet chili sauce.
      Craig Takeuchi

      The core elements of his dishes may be simple, but the combinations and execution are sophisticated and satisfying. Consider the hash options. Quartered potatoes and two eggs come with coffee-crusted pork belly, beef bulgogi (with kimchi and Korean sweet chili sauce), chicken karaage, or sockeye salmon fillet ($15 to $16 each).

      Also, the restaurant’s ever-rotating specials have included everything from a California-roll-inspired eggs Benedict (with Dungeness crab, avocado, crab hollandaise, and trout roe) to a Malaysian prawn curry roti (made with crab broth). We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto-san.

      The Fairview spot does offer familiar favourites, such as the Hangry (three eggs, two maple sausages, four bacon strips, hash browns, and toast for $15) and toad in the hole (with two eggs, sourdough bread, and cheddar cheese for $8). But there are also West Coast remixes, such as a smoked-trout-fillet Benedict (two poached eggs, avocado, English muffin, béarnaise sauce, trout roe, and hash browns for $16).

      Due to demand, the fried-chicken omelette special (with spinach, feta, hash browns, sesame seeds, nori, toast, and sweet Korean chili sauce for $15) is now a regular on the perpetually evolving menu.

      How fun is this? Spicy fried chicken with pandan waffles and eggs beside the PNE (longanisa corn dogs with banana ketchup and mustard) at Bao Down Gastropub
      Craig Takeuchi

      Elsewhere in the city, if you want to start your day with some island inspiration, local chainlet Bao Down offers two brunch menus. Its Olympic Village Gastropub and Raw Bar (115 West 2nd Avenue) serves a predominantly Hawaiian brunch, while the recently opened Snack Bar location at 221 Carrall Street in Gastown focuses more on Filipino dishes, with some friendly overlap between the two.

      While there are Hawaiian dishes like loco moco (beef patty with mushroom gravy on garlic rice, $18), panko-fried Spam (with two eggs, garlic rice, and hash browns for $18), and some killer banana pancakes (with macadamia-nut praline, macadamia syrup, and fruit, $15), there are also Filipino-fusion options.

      Bao Down co-owners Matt Adolfo and Greg Edwards
      Craig Takeuchi

      There’s everything from longanisa (Filipino sausage) with eggs, cheese, bacon, banana ketchup, and garlic mayonnaise on a bao ($6) and breakfast lumpia (or spring rolls, with egg, Filipino pork-belly bacon, longanisa, cheese, taro hash, salsa, lettuce, and mayonnaise for $12) to sisig ’n’ grits (crispy pork jowls, white corn grits, cheese, garlic, and eggs for $18) or spicy adobo fried chicken with gluten-free ube (purple yam) waffles and Filipino rum syrup ($20).

      The Maui Wowee consists of three banana pancakes topped with macadamia nut praline, fresh tropical fruit, and macadamia syrup
      Craig Takeuchi

      Meanwhile, over at Coal Harbour’s easygoing Heritage Asian Eatery (1108 West Pender Street), breakfast is served on weekdays from 8 to 11 a.m. Under the direction of chef Felix Zhou (formerly of Beach Bay Café), the succinct menu offers three selections each of well-made bowls and crepes. Bowls, which include two sous-vide eggs and crispy rice cakes, come with mixed mushroom ragout ($10), cotechino sausage ($11), or braised pork belly ($12).

      Crepes, which enfold an omelette, are available with shiitake mushrooms, duck leg in Peking sauce, or pork jowl in satay sauce (all $6 each). Don’t let the casual décor fool you—these are quality brunch plates done right and with care.

      Heritage Asian Eatery breakfast crepe

      All of these hearty bites will help you fuel up for your day in a different way than you may be used to. After all, like the term Asian Canadian itself, these food establishments reinforce the point that life really isn’t about either/or. Quite often, it’s and.