Finding a place to grab a bite along Richmond’s famous “Eat Street” (sometimes called “Food Street” or “Wai Sek Gai” in Cantonese) is easy enough. There are literally some 200 restaurants packed into its relatively short three block span. Finding a place that offers incredible food at the most affordable price possible can be a bit more of a challenge. But “affordable” is a relative term here, as even the priciest of establishments in this area aren’t all that expensive. You can thank the competition for that.
Nestled in the back of Alexandra Plaza next to an dental office and below a S.U.C.C.E.S.S. language service centre, Amigo Restaurant (160-8291 Alexandra Road) can be easily overlooked by anyone passing by. Despite what its name may lead you to believe, Amigo really has nothing to do with any of the cuisines of Central and South America. At least not directly.
On some level, Amigo Restaurant might best be understood as your typical Hong Kong style cafe like Silver Tower or Happy Date. The menu fuses together inspiration from both the east and the west. Perennial classics like baked pork cutlet on rice and fried rice noodle with sliced beef are commonplace here.
At the same time, while still maintaining the casual, no nonsense atmosphere we’ve come to expect from a cha chaan teng, Amigo moves a little upscale with some of its offerings. You’ll be hard pressed to find another Hong Kong style cafe with a $40 Lobster Thermidor on the menu.
With our more modest budget, we attempted to satisfy our curiosity by ordering Our Famous Lobster Bisque Baked with Puff Pastry ($8.00, pictured above) instead. I’m not entirely convinced this bowl of soup is quite as famous as the pineapple buns at Lido, but that is how it is listed on the menu. And it is decidedly fancier and more upscale than the usual Russian borscht or cream of vegetable soup you find at similar restaurants.
The puff pastry, which is understandably mostly hollow inside, was wonderfully light and delicate. The buttery texture literally melts in your mouth, especially when you tear off a piece to dip into the creamy soup found within.
The soup itself was comparatively unimpressive, not really elevating itself much beyond your standard issue clam chowder. A couple of very small pieces of lobster were found swimming in a broth that could have been much richer and creamier.
Something that really struck me about the dinner menu at Amigo was the lack of dinner specials that included the requisite complimentary beverage. You only get the “free” drink when you order one of the more substantial chef’s specials, like the roasted rack of lamb or the walnut-crusted filet mignon. You do get a drink with the lunch specials though.
The Baked Spaghetti with Scampi, Sausage, Alfredo ($15.50) offers a slight twist on the usual baked seafood on rice. While it is technically baked, there was very little in terms of the melted cheese we usually find on top of similar dishes.
The alfredo sauce was a little on the dry side, which my wife decided to rectify by adding in a splash of the lobster bisque. The scampi was cooked to a nice crispness, but did not arrive as fully intact; it was just a series of chunks.
The sausage, which was more European (Italian?) than westernized Chinese, was not spicy at all, making it a good choice for people who aren’t big fans of heat.
Selected from the “Asian Favorites” portion of the menu, the generously portioned Seafood Pineapple Fried Rice ($14.50) came as a heaping pile of comfort. It immediately reminded me of two other similar dishes you may have had before.
First, some ten-course banquet style menus you may find at Chinese seafood restaurants include a deceptively simple fried rice with dried scallop and egg white. The dry aromatics are very similar here, though you will want to keep up with your liquids; eating a lot of this can lead to some nasty heartburn. Not that I speak from experience or anything.
Secondly, many Thai, Malaysian and similar restaurants offer a pineapple fried rice served in half a pineapple. The connection here seems obvious enough, though I imagine the chunks of pineapple are canned here. Along with pineapple, you’ll find prawns (with tail attached), squid, scallop and chopped greens.
It might not look like much, but this humble fried rice was my dish of the night.
Also available with your choice of spaghetti or French fries, the Curry Beef with Rice ($13.50) had a touch more kick to it than I found at places like Mui Garden and Deer Garden. You can see the drizzle of chili oil on top. The plain white rice was served on a separate plate.
The tender beef is accompanied by some chunky potatoes and what seemed to be raw chopped onions. I would have really liked if the onions were cooked more, even slightly caramelized, as the sharpness was quite jarring. The baked spaghetti suffered from a similar affliction.
The dining room at Amigo Restaurant is definitely on the smaller side, but the padded chairs and booth seating are very comfortable. While I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say the room provides a pleasant atmosphere, it’s not nearly as rushed and grungy as you may find at some more “greasy spoon” Hong Kong style cafes.
But that’s because Amigo is just a touch upscale with its lobster and filet mignon. And even if you don’t get the more premium dishes, you do end up paying a slight premium, especially since drinks are not included. On the plus side, parking is a bit easier, though the lot is shared with other businesses and restaurants.
The total bill, including taxes and gratuity, came to just under $60. Amigo accepts debit and Visa, but not Mastercard.