After floating down the Alaskan coast we disembarked for the last time, in Vancouver BC (Canada!). We love Vancouver and always wish we could spend more time there, but with less than 24 hours this time and crazy early flight the next morning, we stayed in an airport hotel and stuck to Richmond, Vancouver’s southern suburb.
Food-wise, Richmond is notable for its density of Asian restaurants, “the best Chinese restaurants outside China” according to one possibly hyperbolic local guidebook. That point is arguable, and moot; they don’t need to be “best” they just need to be good, and they are. One local food blogger, 365 Days of Dining, spent a year visiting and reviewing one Richmond restaurant (mostly Asian spots) per day for an entire year, and local food bloggers always know everything, OMG they are so awesome, so of course we tried a couple of her recommendations.
Richmond’s main Asian (about equal parts Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese) drag is Alexandra Road, and our hotel was conveniently on that strip too. For lunch we hit Seto Japanese Restaurant (#155-8460 Alexandra Road), which looks like nothing from the outside or even in the lobby, but then you walk through a little arch into the dining room and it’s like passing into a Tokyo izakaya or something. Each booth has high paper walls, so it feels secluded even with high decibel levels overall. Instead of the usual teapot, big individual mugs of piping hot green tea materialize right away. On 365 Day’s recommendation we tried the spicy tuna rolls, boasting a better than average filling to rice ratio and whose interior is a smooth pate of tuna and who knows what else: delicious. We devoured perfect gyoza, light dough melting away in our mouths to reveal savory pork filling. Shoyu ramen was excellent, similar in size, quantity, and ingredients to Ren’s Ramen in Wheaton, but only $8, a steaming bargain. I think Ren’s broth is even more savory and flavorful, but Seto’s is great too. We also got some sushi, all good. Wonderful lunch spot, and we were lucky to get in without a reservation even after the main lunch rush.
For dinner we hit the Cattle Cafe (8580 Alexandra Road), right next door to our hotel. Aka Cattle Hot Pot, this is a local fast-casual chain specializing in soups — so naturally I got a curry instead. The curry was nose-runningly spicy, just how I like it, but otherwise kind of boring, just a yellow curry sauce over some beef, potatoes, and rice. Mrs. Me and others ordered soups, which you can customize or just pick one of nearly 100 (at least it seemed that way – big menu for a little restaurant) prepackaged options. The soups were as good as advertised, big bowls, flavorful broths, fresh noodles; the Malay Laksa soup was even spicier than my curry plate, evident just from the slick oily red-orange patina floating on the surface. If I ever go back, I’m totally getting the Malay soup, although they also have a Szechuan soup option that I bet offers equal pizzazz. Everyone else in the mostly-full dining room looked Asian, and many were ordering more adventurously than we were; there was a lot of baked-seafood-in-cheese going on, which isn’t really my thing but seemed quite popular. The place is authentic, in a very modern way (sleek orange-brown-steel decor reminded me of Panas). And also a lot of soup ordering, which was clearly the way to go. 365 Days’ review of Cattle Cafe is here.
Thus endeth our culinary tour of the Great White North and the uber-continent. I guess that means we’ll get back to Wheaton one of these days? Or DC, at least. Let’s not get too crazy…