E M P I R E S E A F O O D R E S T A U R A N T
5951 Number 3 Rd #200
Our second day in Vancouver started bright and early. Wanting a more quiet and relaxing dim sum experience, we arrived at Empire Seafood Restaurant a few minutes before they opened at 9:00. Last time we came here, we were turned away because the wait would have been too long. It still got decently busy, but lesson learned: the early bird gets the worm.
Empire Seafood Restaurant is located on the second floor of London Plaza, close to the intersection of No 3 Rd. and Westminster Highway. It was within walking distance from our hotel, as well as Richmond-Brighouse Station, so it was a pretty convenient spot.
I would say the restaurant is on the higher end of the dining spectrum, and the furnishings would also indicate so. Chandeliers, white tablecloths, comfy banquet chairs, and staff suited up in vests. I'm not surprised they host a lot of weddings here.
Ordering is done via check-sheet, which I find most places in Vancouver do. It's written in both English and Chinese so no worries about things getting lost in translation.
|Steamed shrimp dumplings ($5.75)|
|Steamed pork dumplings ($5.75)|
|Steamed rice rolls with deep fried dough ($5.95)|
|Deep fried shrimp rolls ($5.75)|
|Deep fried eggplant and minced shrimp with black bean sauce ($5.95)|
Overall, we really enjoyed the food at Empire. Service was better than expected, which for a Chinese restaurant, is pretty amazing. It did take a while for one of our items to come out, but just as we were about to cancel it, it finally arrived.
Looking back, we had dim sum a grand total of three times during our 6-day trip (and surprisingly, we weren't sick of it). I thought Empire was the best out of the restaurants we tried. We even went to Kirin, which is supposedly the "standard," so that's saying something.
R O B S O N S T R E E T
After we were finished with dim sum, we took the SkyTrain downtown to Vancouver City Centre. The station has direct underground access to Pacific Centre, which we browsed around for a bit. Nordstrom was having their annual anniversary sale so we were pretty lucky with the timing of that. Soooo many bargain-hunters, and it was only a Monday morning! Do people not work in Vancouver?
Part of the mall also borders Robson Street, which we spent most of the afternoon strolling down. So many stores, so many restaurants. You can spend forever on Robson and find something new every time.
There were a few specific places on Robson that I wanted to check out, including:
L A D U R É E
1141 Robson St.
Ladurée, in all its frilly, elegant Parisian glory, has finally put its stamp on Canada. Based in Paris and founded in 1862, the famed bakery has almost 100 locations worldwide. Vancouver is their first Canadian location.
When Ladurée first opened on Robson, the lines seemed never-ending. Tourists and Vancouverites alike were eager to have a taste of such an iconic, luxurious brand. I was one of them.
The store easily stands out on Robson with their mint green awning and golden accents. It reeks of opulence and luxury. They even have a branded doormat for crying out loud (my peasant feet aren't worthy enough).
I'd say the hype and fanfare has decreased considerably -- there wasn't anybody lined up when we arrived around noon, just a couple of tables occupied in the back tea parlour. When you walk in, prepare yourself -- you're going to need some self-control unless you want to declare bankruptcy on the same day.
The first items to tempt you and your wallet is their merchandise, all beautifully arranged on a mirrored wall of shelves. All sporting the Ladurée brand, you can find loose leaf tea, honey, jams, candles, perfumes, keychains, cookbooks, etc. Premium goods which come at a premium price.
If you were waiting in line, having things to look at helps the time pass by faster. Otherwise it's easy to overlook and skip by these things.
Opposite to that is even more breathtaking -- macaron towers and the prettiest of packaging.
But the main event are the actual macarons themselves. Flown in from Paris, the colourful macarons are stacked in clear plastic trays. At $3 a pop, they're the most expensive macarons I've come across but it's understandable considering the airfare and shipping costs just to get them into Vancouver.
Packaging is also an additional cost -- from what I can see, a box of six was $26 while a box of eight was $32. A mark-up of $8. Otherwise, macarons are placed into paper bags. I'd make the splurge if it was your first time visiting or if you were buying them as a gift.
|$1000 box of macarons anyone?|
The store also has a tea parlour in the back, where you can order their macarons, drinks, desserts, and other tea-time treats.
I bought a box of six and had a photoshoot back at the hotel.
There are two cards included in the bag -- one explaining the "best by" date (four days from purchase if you were wondering) and the other showcasing all the current flavours on hand.
Some flavours are seasonal (denoted by a *) while others are offered year-round. Click the picture for an expanded look.
In my box of six ($26.00), I chose (top to bottom) salted caramel, lemon, Marie Antoinette tea, melon, strawberry candy guimauve, and coffee.
The flavours were all true to their names while the macarons were textbook in texture and appearance. My favourite one out of the bunch was definitely the Marie Antoinette tea -- for some reason, it reminded me of the iced tea crystals that I used to drink as a kid. I'm sure that wasn't the intended flavour they were going for but I enjoyed it. My least favourite had to be the strawberry candy guimauve. It had a marshmallow filling and a coating of granulated sugar which made it far too sweet for me.
Ladurée is a "been there, done that" type of experience, unless you're willing to spend a premium for macarons that you can get made locally and cheaper elsewhere. Their brand is iconic though, and they make great gifts. Just be prepared to shell out more dough than you bargained for.
Then again, it's cheaper than flying to Paris.
K O N B I N I Y A J A P A N C E N T R E
1238 Robson St.
Another noteworthy stop on Robson Street is Konbiniya Japan Centre. Konbiniya, which means convenience store in Japanese, carries all sorts of Japanese groceries and goods.
You can find so many different flavours of Pocky here, as well as Japanese candy, sauces, snacks, and drinks. They even sell prepared, ready-to-eat food such as bento boxes, sushi, and onigiri.
There's also a few tenants that share the space with them: a mobile stand, a travel agency, and Bon Crepe, a small Japanese dessert stand. Their matcha soft serve was actually on my food wishlist, but unfortunately for me, they weren't open until 1:00 and we had other dessert plans. Next time I guess.
Moving down along Robson Street, we arrived at our next destination:
S N O W Y V I L L A G E D E S S E R T C A F E
1696 Robson St.
Snowy Village is a Korean dessert cafe that opened up in Richmond at the start of the year. Their popularity is evident by the long line-ups out their door, as well as the opening of their second location on Robson Street, and soon to be third location in Coquitlam.
We arrived a couple of minutes past opening at their Robson store, and already there were quite a few customers ahead of us. Of course, nothing compared to the line-up next door at Hokkaido Ramen Santouka. The location is actually perfect for them, right in the heart of Vancouver's ramen alley, as ramen-goers would eventually want to cool off after slurping down a hot, steaming bowl of noodles.
Snowy Village is primarily known for their bingsoo (also spelt bingsu), which is a popular Korean shaved ice dessert. Flavours range from the traditional injeolmi (rice cake, red bean, and soybean powder), to green tea, oreo, and fruity flavours such as mango and strawberry. The bingsoo is offered in two sizes -- regular or large -- but I'd say both sizes are suitable for sharing.
Another unique item that Snowy Village offers is croissant taiyaki (bungeoppang in Korean), a Japanese fish-shaped cake filled with a variety of different flavours (red bean, injeolmi red bean, custard cream, sweet potato, and nutella).
Ordering and pick-up is done at the counter, although they did walk some of our order over to our table.
The interior is done up in lime green, but with the lights a bit dimmed, it's hardly an eye-sore.
We ordered the mango bingsoo ($10.00) in a regular size. A mountain of shaved ice comes layered and topped with mango chunks, mango puree, condensed milk, and whipped cream. The shaved ice was unlike any that I've had before. Instead of crunching on ice, the texture was very fluffy and milky. Combined with the mango, this dessert was super refreshing on a hot summer day.
We also ordered a red bean taiyaki ($3.50 each / 3 for $10.00) which was made to order and came piping hot to our table. Taiyaki is usually made with a pancake batter that is cooked in a cast iron mold. Snowy Village does a croissant version, with sheets of croissant pastry dough being used instead. I'd say it's the taiyaki version of the cronut™ (gotta get that trademark in there).
We had to wait a while before digging in unless we wanted to risk burning off all our taste buds (and all joy of eating ever again). The outside was embedded with sugar crystals, which gave the exterior a somewhat caramelized, crispy texture. Biting into it, the pastry crackled and flaked, revealing the sweet red bean paste. I would have liked a more even distribution of filling, but I can't really complain with something so delicious. My regret was not buying more to bring back to the hotel, but I think they'd be better consumed fresh anyways.
My advice: come for the bingsoo, stay for the taiyaki.
S T A N L E Y P A R K
Since we were near the tail end of Robson Street, we decided we were close enough to walk the rest of the way to Stanley Park. The last time I was in Vancouver, we walked the entire seawall... yeah, not doing that in jeans and 30°C weather again. Instead, we were satisfied to just walk a small section by the Vancouver Rowing Club where you can get a great view of boats and the Vancouver skyline.
Honestly stunning, and much prettier in person.
After our jaunt around Stanley Park, we walked back to Robson where we took a bus to Vancouver City Centre (no way our feet would be willing to walk down the large stretch of Robson again). From there, a SkyTrain ride to Aberdeen Station. We walked the short distance to Parker Place where my mom picked up a few pounds of beef, pork, and salmon jerky from Mai Mei Hong. They make great souvenir gifts since they vacuum pack and seal everything up. In my opinion, BKH Jerky is the best place for jerky in Vancouver, but Mai Mei Hong is still pretty decent.
After a quick browse around the rest of Parker Place, we headed back to Aberdeen Centre for dinner.
M A N R I S U N G K O R E A N R E S T A U R A N T
Aberdeen Centre, Unit 3600
4151 Hazelbridge Way
Located on the third floor of Aberdeen Centre, Man Ri Sung is a Korean restaurant that blends traditional Korean food with some Chinese elements. Case in point, you'll find kalguksu (Korean knife noodles) prepared in a chow mein style. There's even sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken, and mapo tofu on the menu. But if you've ever heard of Man Ri Sung before, you'll know that the Chinese dish they're most famous for is Peking duck!
The restaurant is pretty large and spacious, with a private room in the back available for large parties. Furnishings are pretty modern, and tables are outfitted with induction cooktops with vents on the ceiling. Man Ri Sung is not really known for K-BBQ, so the cooktops are more used to keep their soups and hot pots bubbling hot.
Even though it was a Monday, the restaurant was decently busy. Even then, there was only one waitstaff on hand, so service was a bit spotty and rushed. Can't really blame him though; I felt bad because he was running back and forth constantly.
A lot of the smaller tables were taken so my mom and I were seated at a round table that could have easily fit six or more people. It was fitting because the amount of food that came with the set menu we ordered could have fed that many mouths anyway.
I'm not sure if you have to reserve Peking ducks in advance, but we didn't have to (probably because it was a Monday). They have set dinners for up to eight people, but we ordered the duck dinner for two ($54.99). The combo included one Peking duck, 20 wraps, julienned cucumbers, green onion, hoisin sauce, and four kinds of side dishes (kimchi, bean sprouts, pickled radish, and potatoes).
Traditional Peking duck is carved so that you have mostly skin and very little meat. Here, the skin isn't nearly as crispy as the authentic version, but I appreciated having the thick slices of duck meat in every bite. I have to admit the meat was erring a bit on the dry side, but it was much more filling and satisfying for sure. The wraps are also smaller than what I'm used to seeing, so you end up with more of a taco than a burrito fold.
Along with the slices of duck, you also get the roasted duck legs on the side.
But that's not all! As part of the combo, you also get a huge bowl of hand cut noodles in duck soup. This was probably my favourite part of the meal. The duck broth was thin and clear, but it still had a warm richness to it. Scattered in the soup was mushrooms, napa cabbage, and small pieces of duck. The noodles were in abundance and they also had a great texture -- firm but chewy. So satisfying.
If you order a set dinner for more people, you also have a choice of other dishes. We didn't have anything else included so I can't comment on the rest of the menu, but the duck dinners are really a great value. We had a ton of leftovers which we had for dinner the next day. With a quick nuke in the hotel microwave, who needs room service?
While in Vancouver, you really have to maximize all eating opportunities. Hence, we set our sights on dessert even though we were stuffed to the brim with peking duck and noodles. A short bus ride from Aberdeen Centre brought us to:
T H E B U B B L E T E A S H O P
4651 No 3 Rd #105
Bubble tea shops are a dime a dozen in Vancouver. If you wish to survive in such a discerning city, you have to set yourself apart from your competitors. You either have to have the best product or offer something unique that no one else has. The Bubble Tea Shop, for lack of a better name, has become one of THE bubble tea shops in town. And surprisingly, it's not because of their drinks.
The Bubble Tea Shop is awkwardly tucked in the back corner of the Superstore parking lot in Richmond. They also have a second location on Robson Street which opened not too long ago. In fact, it's only just a few doors down from Snowy Village. Business has to be good in order to support such high rent.
Inside the store, the menu appears across three television screens that are set up above their small consignment area (glass showcases filled with toys, figurines, and various knick-knacks that you can buy). When you order at the counter, you can choose to dine-in or take-out. Seating consists of white metal chairs and tables. It's not a comfy enough set-up to linger for hours. Cutlery, water, and napkins are self-serve at the side, but items are brought to your table if you choose to dine-in. You're responsible for clearing your own plates, so it's a bit iffy on how often staff go around to wipe tables down. Our table in particular was a little bit sticky from the remnants of patrons before us.
As for their drinks, they pretty much have and serve everything. Milk tea, bubble milk, fruit tea, fruit slushes, coffee, hot drinks, lemonades, frappes, and smoothies. But what they're most known for is their egg waffles. Not interesting enough you say? Well, the BBT Shop takes the humble egg waffle and transforms them into Instagram masterpieces.
There are three types, or tiers, of egg waffles that they serve:
- standard egg waffles ($3.75), which contain flavoured powders mixed into a standard batter (eg. chocolate, matcha, and black sesame)
- deluxe egg waffles ($4.75) which have various mix-in's thrown in so that each little waffle nugget has a surprise inside (eg. oreos, yogurt chips, and skor)
- premium egg waffles ($6.00-$8.95) which are decorated with whipped cream and all sorts of toppings (eg. banana nutella, s'mores, and strawberries and cream)
Why pick standard when you can go all the way? That's what we did when we ordered the super mango bubble waffle ($8.95). The super mango is one of the most expensive premium egg waffles that they have, and comes topped with fresh mango, whipped cream, mango ice cream, mango puree, condensed milk, and a light dusting of powdered sugar.
When it arrives to the table, the egg waffle certainly looks impressive. Taste-wise? Not bad. The egg waffle itself was fluffy with just a light crisp on the outside. Personally, I prefer my egg waffles to be a little more crispier. The cubed mangoes were fresh and sweet, but the mango ice cream was a bit subtle on flavour. However, with everything combined into one bite, it was tasty.
My mom also wanted to try the supreme matcha red bean frappe with matcha ice cream ($6.95). This particular drink was listed as #10 out of their top 10 drinks. Matcha slush, red beans, whipped cream, and a scoop of matcha ice cream on top. Can't go wrong with that combination. Slightly pricey for a drink, but it's essentially a dessert in a cup.
If not for the headache-inducing EDM blasting from their speakers, the BBT Shop is the perfect place to hang out with friends, catch up over drinks, and photograph pretty egg waffles together.
Stay tuned for day 3!