For most of the year, I’ve been admiring the Minoru Chapel, but always from the outside. The restored, 1891 Methodist Church is a tough place to get into, as it’s a designated heritage site used for weddings, filming, and the occasional community program. You can’t just stroll into the chapel anytime, so when I saw the City of Richmond was hosting opera performances there, I pounced.
The chapel’s interior is just as charming as I’d envisioned.
It’s a modest size, with tall ceilings and expansive windows that allow light to flood in. We were especially lucky to be there yesterday, because the sky was clear and the sun illuminated the stained glass windows.
Four singers – Elizabeth Lewis Celeste, Melanie Adams, Russell Robson, Cameron Killick – and pianist Roger Parton performed La Fille du Regiment (“The Daughter of the Regiment”), a lively and comedic French opera in two acts.
It included the famous aria “Ah! mes amis…Pour mon ame” which is sometimes referred to as the ‘Mount Everest’ of tenor arias. It was fabulous, and Emily and I were both in awe of the talent onstage.
If you’re interested in visiting Minoru Chapel but missed out on the Spring opera series, you’re in luck; this weekend, the city is putting on Doors Open Richmond, the 6th annual festival of culture and heritage taking place May 4th and 5th. Partners including artists, cultural and historic facilities, museums, Aboriginal organizations, religious institutions, parks, and other private and public organizations will open their doors to the public, with special programming over two days. The festival is an opportunity for people to learn about what’s going on in the community, explore sites they might not otherwise have regular access to (like the Minoru Chapel), and spend quality time with family and friends. Have you been wanting to visit the Thrangu Buddhist Monastery? The Paulik Park Gardens? The Helijet International Terminal and Hangar? The India Cultural Centre? This is the weekend to do it.
After Emily and I left the church, we took an excessive number of photographs of the garden bunnies, then headed off to find dinner.
Because nothing says “Opera” like a giant ham hock covered in French’s mustard, we went to Red House Restaurant and ordered their signature dish (roast pork knuckle, on special yesterday for $17.95).
We also had the roti canai ($3.95), baked taro with chicken in coconut sauce ($10.50), stir-fried beef and green beans on rice noodles ($11.25), bowls of Russian borscht and creamy soup, and a lemon tea and almond milk (the last four of which came with the meals).
Just a warning: almond milk in an HK restaurant does not mean “Almond Breeze” style almond milk. We discovered yesterday it means milk with a bunch of almond extract mixed in. Depending on your stance on almond extract’s flavour, you will either love or hate this drink.
The restaurant was comfortable and modern, and had a classic HK-style menu with pretty standard food. The cream soup was a bit gloopy, but the Russian Borscht was rich and tomato-y (plus they drenched the accompanying garlic toast in butter, which is always a good thing).
I didn’t love the chicken in the baked dish, but I did really like the slices of soft taro and sweet coconut sauce with rice.
The roti was straight up flaky awesomeness, and we decided it’s basically pan-fried puff pastry. Not exactly diet food, but always worth ordering if it’s on a menu.
I don’t usually order noodle dishes in HK restaurants, and I think I’ll continue to pass from now on. The pan-fried green beans with beef and rice noodles were soft and overly-sauced; we liked the green beans and fermented black beans, but that was about it.
The most noteworthy part of the meal was the enormous pork knuckle, which took Emily and I straight back to a school trip in Belgium, where our entire class was served individual, football-sized ham hocks following servings of beer and cheese soup – those crazy Belgians. That outrageously-meaty meal became an ongoing joke, and I haven’t seen a piece of pork that size again, until yesterday.
This thing was a serious plate o’ pork. The crispy and crackly skin was drizzled with yellow mustard, and the ham was served with vegetables and a gravy boat filled with black pepper gravy. Emily carved up our roast beast, and the combination of ham + mustard made me think of Easter.
I enjoyed this dish, though it would certainly be too big for me to tackle alone.
Talk about a nice day. Not only did we get to see Minoru Chapel, but we had the privilege of hearing live music within acoustically-blessed walls. Emily and I also got to enjoy one last Richmond meal together, and she had the pleasure of experiencing her first (and likely last) meal that combines roti, giant ham hock, taro, and Russian Borscht. Come back again SOON, Em!
8171 Alexandra Road, Richmond BC
Vegetarian options available