Colloquially known among locals as “Wai Sek Gai” in Cantonese (roughly translated as “Food Street” or “Eat Street” in English), Alexandra Road in Richmond is a foodie’s delight. It really is amazing just how many terrific restaurants are packed into a stretch that barely spans half a kilometre end to end.
In the same Connaught Plaza strip mall where you’d find Pho Hoa for Vietnamese noodles and Matsuyama for traditional Japanese cuisine, there’s Silver Tower Cafe Restaurant (100-8500 Alexandra Road) to satiate your craving for Hong Kong style eats well into the wee hours of the morning.
For years, I had gone to Kam Do Bakery and Restaurant down the road for this kind of food. Portions were big, value was huge, and you always knew what to expect. It was a no nonsense establishment for humble and honest fare. And that’s why I shed a tear when they closed up shop a few years ago. Kam Do has since opened a bakery on Number 3 Road near Richmond Centre, but the “restaurant” part has never been resurrected.
I was told by many of my friends that the next best thing to Kam Do was Golden Award. Indeed, the origins of our little Dot Com Pho meetup group trace back to late night eating at Golden Award. They called these informal gatherings “Midnight Golden.”
But times change. And somewhere along the line Golden Award transformed into Silver Tower. Did this mean that the food, service and value were demoted down a level and if this trend were to continue that we’d soon be walking through the doors of Bronze Table?
Based on my most recent experience, I don’t think we have anything to worry about. As much as some things change, other things always stay the same. If you enjoy cha chaan teng fusion menus, Silver Tower has you covered.
One of my favorite dishes at the old Kam Do was the “mixed grill.” You got four or five different meats on a sizzling plate, along with rice or spaghetti, soup, salad, a drink, pink “champagne” (it was just pink ginger ale), and dessert. It was the best value in town and was easily enough for two to share.
You can still get almost as epic at Silver Tower with one of the Hot Pan Combos ($14.95-$19.95), but the Mix & Match Combination is a cheaper option for people with more reasonable appetites. You see similar offerings at places like Alleluia Cafe too. Here, it’s $11.95 for any two items or $14.50 for any three items, plus spaghetti or rice, your choice of sauce, daily soup, and a hot or cold drink. I’m partial to an iced yuenyeung myself.
If you’re expecting fresh innovation from Silver Tower, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Aside from understandable adjustments in pricing, the main menu here likely hasn’t changed in years. It’s what you expect, nothing more and nothing less.
For example, you will almost always have the choice between two dinner soups at most Hong Kong style cafes. Shown above is the Russian borscht, a tomato-based vegetable soup.
The other most common option is a cream based soup. Neither is particularly noteworthy, but both are nonetheless an appreciated start to any cha chaan teng meal.
For our first custom mixed grill, we ordered the Grilled Lamb Chop and Cutlet Basa Fillet with Rice and Mushroom Sauce. The bone-in lamb chop was generously portioned with a beautiful grilled flavor, while the fish was lightly seasoned and flaked easily with a fork.
I like pouring the gravy over the white rice for a huge boost in flavor. It was a little disappointing that the mixed vegetables that accompanied this dish really just consisted of frozen corn with a couple random pieces of carrot.
The Korean Style Short Rib and Grilled Chicken Fillet with Spaghetti and Black Pepper Sauce is understandably very similar. You get a single slab of the beef short rib and a decent-sized chicken cutlet. Just like with the rice, pouring some of that gravy on the plain spaghetti is a good way to go.
I have noticed that many Hong Kong style cafes that do offer some variation of the “mixed grill” no longer serve them on the sizzling black plates anymore. There was a time when there’d be a whole dog and pony show where the server would ask you to hold up a napkin (to block splatter) as he/she poured the gravy over your sizzling plate, creating a huge plume of meat-flavored smoke. Those were the days.
If the whole cha chaan teng philosophy is based upon a fusion that adds a Hong Kong twist to an otherwise western dish, then the Baked Spaghetti Bolognaise with Ox Tongue ($9.25 + $3 extra for the ox tongue) is a great example. It’s listed as part of a mini set menu that is normally available during lunch and late night, but you can pay a $3 premium to have it during dinner hours. That premium also throws in one of the bowls of soup shown above.
This might look very similar to the more standard baked pork chop on rice you’ll find at any other Hong Kong style cafe, but it is a different kind of beast. It’s more like taking the spaghetti in meat sauce you might find at an Italian family restaurant, adding in some chopped ox tongue, and covering the whole thing in cheese before baking it in the oven.
Less adventurous diners may hesitate to order anything with ox tongue in it, but I really do recommend you try it. Both the flavor and texture are quite unlike any other part of the cow. It’s not gamey and, when prepared right, it’s remarkably tender.
If you’d prefer something that is much more Chinese, the Beef Brisket and Veggie Chow Mein ($8.95 + $3) is a solid option. Much like the spaghetti bolognaise, this also carries a $3 premium when ordered during dinner hours.
Served with baby bok choy, the dish effectively combines two very different textures for the fried egg noodles. The portions along the outer edge will be mostly dry and very crispy, while the portions in the center that have been coated in the sauce will be much softer. Try to get a little of both in every bite.
Hungry diners in search of some Hong Kong style cafe comfort food will find Silver Tower is one of the most reliable options around. Pricing is great and the menu variety will keep you coming back for more. Service is prompt and efficient and because there’s plenty of seating, you’ll rarely find yourself waiting for a table. Parking, like so many other restaurants on Alexandra, can be a bit of a challenge though.
Best of all, Silver Tower is open to 3 am Sunday through Thursday and until 4 am on Friday and Saturday. After a late night doing whatever you’re doing, head into Silver Tower for some ox tongue on rice or spaghetti to satiate your midnight craving.