Like so many other restaurants in Richmond, Redbud Restaurant (Unit 120, 8360 Granville Avenue) is tucked away in a nondescript strip mall along a major road, hidden in plain sight from the innumerable drivers who cruise by it each and every day. I can’t count how many times I’ve driven down Cooney Road or Granville Avenue, but I can say that I’ve never really noticed Redbud.

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan

Armed with no other information other than the briefest of first impressions, I would have sworn that Redbud looks more like your typical Chinese seafood restaurant from the outside. I would have figured it was another restaurant where I’d get together with my extended family for a ten-course set dinner. Oh how wrong I was.

There’s seafood to be had here, but Redbud Restaurant is much better described as a Hong Kong-style cafe, blending inspiration from the west with flavours from the east. The kicker is that they’ve gone beyond the “cheap and cheerful” approach typical of a Hong Kong style cafe, offering an extra dash of elegance and refinement.

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan

In this way, we can draw some parallels between Redbud and Amigo Restaurant, for instance. Standard mainstays of the cha chaan teng are here, but you also have the option of ordering escargot as an appetizer or opting for a more extravagant lobster dinner.

The number of menus can be a little overwhelming at first, so do take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with what is available. The good news is that you do get a lot of colourful pictures to ease the decision making process.

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan

Many of the “western” inspired entrees are accompanied with your choice of soup of the day or a hot beverage. Some come with both.

For the soup, you can get a cream-based soup or the Russian Borscht shown here, along with garlic toast. The tomato-based broth is bolstered mostly with cabbage and carrot. Alternatively, you can upgrade to a lobster soup for an added charge.

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan

To go along with our meals, we ordered an iced milk tea and the Cold Tea and Coffee Mixed Hong Kong Style ($1 extra each). The drinks come pre-sweetened in glasses that were a little larger than I expected. There’s nothing quite like a yuanyang that really hits the spot. Naturally, you can also choose from any number of other drinks typical of a Hong Kong style cafe, like horlicks, ovaltine, or lemon tea.

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan
Cha chaang tengs typically offer up the same menu items time and time again. Redbud distinguishes itself from the crowd by delivering dishes that may have once been served only in fancy white tablecloth restaurants in Hong Kong.

A great example of this is the Germany Pork Knuckle with Black Pepper Sauce ($18.95). You can get a pork sausage or a pork chop almost anywhere else, but this might have the first time I’ve seen a German-style pork knuckle on a “Chinese” menu. Served with mashed potato, pickled vegetables, and mixed vegetables, the pork knuckle has a brilliantly crispy skin, not unlike what you get with roast pork (siu yook) at a Chinese BBQ shop.

The pickled vegetables, buried underneath the knuckle, effectively serve as a sauerkraut stand-in. The mashed potatoes were light and airy too.

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan

Breaking open the crispy pork knuckle reveals the pinkish hue of the flesh indicative of the roasted ham hock. This may have once been typical “poor man’s food” from its native Germany, but presentations like this have certainly elevated it to a much more elegant standing. The meat does have a bit of a chew to it, so be prepared to work that knife.

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan

One of my favourite things to order at a Hong Kong style cafe, partly because it usually provides such a great value for money, is the “mixed grill.” You can find some variation of it at restaurants like Silver Tower Cafe and Alleluia Cafe. At Redbud, it’s called the Mix & Match Special and you have your choice of having one, two or three items for $10.95, $13.50 or $15.95, respectively.

In addition to the standards like chicken cutlets and fish fillets, Redbud once again breaks the mould with some unique options. Case in point are the Baked Fish Roll with Cheese and Chicken Skewer in Korean Style shown above. We got it with garlic sauce and spaghetti. The fish is lightly topped with some melted cheese and stuffed with spinach, while the chicken skewer had more of a curry flavour to it than what I would call “Korean style.” I do appreciate the added range of choices though.

That being said, several of the items on the “mix and match special” do cost extra. If you want a six-ounce charbroiled New York steak as one of your items, that’d be $6 more. The grilled ox tongue is $2 more, the charbroiled lamb rack is $6 more, and the baked lobster with cheese (half) is $9 more. What might be a good deal can add up rather quickly, especially if you also pay for a premium sauce (cream corn sauce is $1 more) or to swap the rice or spaghetti for more vegetables ($3 more). Choose wisely!

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan

An unexpected bonus, which I imagine accompanied the “Germany Pork Knuckle” was a small Mango Pudding with Evaporated Milk for dessert. The consistency was softer and less gelatin-like than the mango puddings I’ve had in other Chinese restaurants.

Redbud Restaurant
Image credit: Michael Kwan

If you’re looking for more of the typical Hong Kong style cafe experience, you can certainly get that at Redbud. At the same time, the addition of options like the roasted pork knuckle and baked lobster dinners can really take things to a whole other level. While it may not be fine dining, it’s definitely a step above the inexpensive greasy spoon.

Redbud accepts cash and debit, so leave your credit card at home. The total bill, including tax and gratuity, came to $40 even.