Karan Suri, executive chef at Fairmont Waterfront Hotel (900 Canada Place), has cooked and eaten all around the world. He is adept at cooking Indian, French, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisine, with a finely honed and highly discerning palate. And he can’t stop raving about the food scene in Richmond, which he currently calls home. “It’s the best Chinese food outside of China in the whole world,” he says.
Suri sits down to chat with me at ARC Restaurant in the Hotel shortly before the lunch rush is about to hit. His story begins in Delhi, India, where he was born. Upon high school graduation, Suri embarked on an accelerated professional journey, which began with earning a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management at Indira Gandhi National Open University in 2004. His resume includes working for the Oberoi, Ritz-Carlton, and Raffles Hotel Groups in India, Singapore, and Dubai; cooking alongside Michelin star chefs; and overseeing dozens of staff and multiple restaurants and hotel properties simultaneously. A stint at the Leela Palace Hotel in Delhi saw Suri in charge of the launch of Le Cirque and Megu, both restaurant concepts transplanted from New York City. And, impressively, at the age of twenty-nine, Suri realized his goal of becoming an executive chef before he was thirty by becoming the group executive chef based at Fairmont’s The Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.
With this incredible resume, Suri made the decision to move to the Lower Mainland in 2014 when he accepted the executive chef position at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel (3111 Grant McConachie Way, Richmond). Suri and his wife wanted to start a family and felt that the west coast would be an ideal place for putting down roots. Their son was born shortly after they moved, with Suri balancing first-time parenthood with the new demands of running the food program for a busy airport hotel. During his two years there, Suri’s leadership contributed to the hotel’s restaurant, Globe@YVR, being ranked the fifth best airport restaurant in the world by The Daily Meal in 2015.
Suri moved on to become the executive chef at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in 2016. Since then, he’s been continuing to foster relationships with charities and local food suppliers and producers, like Maple Ridge’s Hannah Brook Farm, who will be devoting a plot of theirs this year for growing veggies for the Hotel. This attention to sourcing is due to Suri’s belief in the need to prioritize the taste and integrity of a dish and its ingredients, before considering plating and presentation.
The move to Fairmont Waterfront Hotel was also a personal turning point for Suri and his wife since they purchased a home in Richmond around the same time. At that point, his deep love affair with Richmond’s food scene began in earnest. “There are some restaurants I have to go to every week,” says Suri.
When Suri gets talking about his favourite restaurants in Richmond, his eyes light up. I lean forward and begin taking notes almost feverishly. This is an insider whose globally trained palate can be trusted. “The tastes and flavours are bang on. The food is not tampered with. It’s authentic,” he says when describing why he adores Richmond restaurants and food purveyors. Suri also raves about the value for money of the items he eats.
One of his go-to spots is HK BBQ Master (4651 No 3 Road) where Suri has a particular weakness for their crispy roast pork. “It’s one of the best I’ve had outside of Hong Kong,” he says. He also makes a weekly pilgrimage to Chengdu Xiao Chi Restaurant (4160 No 3 Road) for their fish fillet with spicy chili paste (he can’t get enough of its heat).
Suri is also a dumpling aficionado, often frequenting Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant (120-5880 No 3 Road) for their pan-fried pork buns and Su Hang Restaurant (100-8291 Ackroyd Road) and Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen (8095 Park Road) for their juicy xiao long bao.
He also recommends R & H Chinese Food in the food court of Lansdowne Centre (5300 No 3 Road) for xiao long bao and pan-fried pork buns, as well as Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant (101-4600 No 3 Road) for their elevated black truffle siu mai.
Noodle-wise, Suri waxes poetic about the handmade creations at Xi’An Cuisine at the Richmond Public Market (8260 Westminster Highway). He especially enjoys their hand-pulled spicy noodles with veggies. “Stir-frying can play with the integrity of the noodles. These noodles are barely steamed, so you actually get to taste their texture.” Suri adds that their pan fried pork dumplings are really good as well. When he’s in a pho mood, Suri goes to Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant (120-12480 No 1 Road) and to the “nice and fancy” Bánh Mì Très Bon (1840-4720 McClelland Road).
Meanwhile, he points out that “killer spicy” tan tan noodles can be found at Szechuan Delicious Restaurant (6610 No 3 Road).
Suri visits many of Richmond’s shopping plazas on the hunt for his next great food find. At the food court at President Plaza (8181 Cambie Road), O’Tray Noodle sells jianbing, a Northern Chinese egg-y crêpe, which, Suri says, makes for a very satisfying snack or breakfast.
If he has a craving for banh mi, Suri prefers going to Lai Taste in Parker Place (4380 No 3 Road) for their really great pork or chicken Vietnamese subs. And you can find Suri at Curry House at the food court of Yaohan Centre (3700 No 3 Road) for wonderfully flavourful Malaysian curries. He also makes stop-offs at Lido Restaurant at Central Square (4231 Hazelbridge Way) for their very popular pineapple buns, a sweet bun with a sugary top crust.
At this point, I start to get really hungry as Suri continues extolling the eating delights of Richmond in all its multicultural breadth. Some of his other suggestions include Sushi Hachi (1278-8888 Odlin Crescent) for expertly crafted nigiri and rolls, Prata-Man Singapore Cuisine (9060 Capstan Way) for the “best satays” and “to die for” peanut sauce, Afghan Chopan Bakery & Diner (6652 No 3 Road) for their roast chicken and grilled chicken kebabs, and Maji Restaurant (1180-8391 Alexandra Road) for unbeatable Taiwanese stir fry.
Suri also really likes soaking up the spectacular views while dining at Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant (3866 Bayview Street) and going for brunch at the Flying Beaver Bar & Grill (4760 Inglis Drive).
When Suri has friends over, sometimes they get hungry around midnight and he makes a trip to No. 9 Restaurant (Lansdowne Centre, 812-5300 No 3 Road), which is open 24 hours. He’ll get hot and sour soup, fried rice, and chicken wings, which his crew will quickly gobble up once he gets home laden with his order.
Suri truly is a endless wealth of knowledge about where to dine in Richmond. Even as the time for our conversation is coming to an end, Suri is musing about his next eating adventure at Chinese Sauerkraut Fish (101-4940 No 3 Road), which specializes in fish with pickled vegetables. “The name intrigues me,” he says. I fully plan to check in with him later to see what he discovers!
Braised Beef Ribs with East Meets West BBQ Sauce
Four main course portions
- 8 beef short ribs (2.5-3kg
- 250g plum tomatoes
- 250g fresh, ripe pineapple, peeled
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 700g red onions, peeled and sliced
- 100g garlic, minced
- 100g ginger, minced
- 20g whole Kashmir red chili
- 20g cumin powder, roasted
- 20g black mustard seeds
- 8 whole cloves
- 10 whole green cardamom pods
- 100g tomato paste
- 200mL white vinegar
- 150g soft brown sugar
- 3L beef stock
- 100g ghee
- 100mL light olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Over an open flame or barbecue, brown the seasoned ribs, pineapple, and tomatoes until they are a rich dark brown color all over.
- Sauté the onions in the olive oil in a large pan (it needs to be big enough for all the ingredients) over medium heat for around 7-10 minutes until a light brown and then add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the brown sugar and cook over high heat until dissolved.
- Add the vinegar, tomato paste, pineapple, and tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.
- In a small pan, heat the ghee and add the whole spices when hot. The spices will crackle and release their aromas.
- Pour the spices into the sauce and add the ribs, beef stock, and rosemary.
- Bring to a simmer and cover with foil to ensure a tight seal around the edges; cook over the lowest heat for 3-4 hours, depending on your stove.
- Check the ribs after 3-4 hours. The meat should slip off the bone when cooked.
- When cooked, remove from the heat and cool for 3-4 hours. Remove the ribs gently and blend the sauce.
- Strain through a fine sieve and return to a clean pan.
Remove the bones from the ribs. Heat the ribs in the sauce and serve with a crisp salad.
Note: You can grill the ribs on a slow burning barbecue and baste with the sauce; this will give additional smoky flavour.