Do you know how long it’s been since I was in Steveston? Far too long, I realized recently, so I headed south to visit Richmond’s picturesque little fishing village last week.
The first place my feet led me was Village Books & Coffee, a dreamy little shop. They sell hot drinks, lunch, baked goods, and thousands of books all tightly and neatly arranged on tall wooden shelves. There’s something calming about being surrounded by so many words.
My next task was to lament the fact I’d come on a Tuesday, one of two days the Sweet Spot Bakery is closed each week. The macaroons! The pastries! Both were sorely missed by my belly.
My third order of business was an iced tea at my beloved old writing haunt: Rocanini.
And finally, I was in Steveston to meet my friend Melanie for dinner at village’s newest restaurant: East on 1. It’s located where Diner No. 1 used to be, right next to Heringer’s, and has only been open a few months.
It’s a traditional Chinese restaurant in an atypical space; because they’re occupying what used to be a diner, it’s smaller than most Chinese seafood restaurants in Richmond, with tables for two or four, rather than six or more.
It’s a slightly more intimate dining experience, and Melanie and I tucked ourselves into a comfortable booth.
Their menu is massive, with everything from fried rice dishes and noodles to vegetables, curries, Malaysian curries, seafood, dim sum, and chef’s specials. I had hoped to try the duck hot pot with taro in coconut sauce (a chef’s special), but they were all sold out. Instead, we went with the fried chicken with three sauces, and the halibut with chili and black bean sauce. Last minute, I also ordered us something off the seafood menu on the wall – two fried oysters – and we ordered two bowls of steamed rice to go with it all.
The oysters arrived first, and were served with a side of soy sauce and salt. They were incredibly crunchy on the outside, but the batter didn’t overpower the oyster’s briny flavour. Then our mains came, and honestly, for the purposes of this post, it was a bit of a misorder……the two dishes looked the same! While I had expected the chicken to arrive crispy and on a plate, it was served hot pot style, already coated in sauce. Or three sauces, apparently?
The halibut had been cut into strips, pan-fried, and tossed with a sauce that would hit low-medium on the spicy scale. This was my favourite of the two, and I ate a LOT of it. We hadn’t wanted to overwhelm ourselves with too many dishes, so we joked that the cilantro garnishes and carrot flower could serve as our vegetables. And they did.
If you’re with a slightly larger group, I’d recommend pre-ordering one of East on 1’s signatures – the soy sauce chicken (this must be done at least a day ahead). I’d also be curious to see what the duck hot pot with taro tastes like when they have it ‘in stock,’ and yet another menu item that caught my attention was the ‘chicken wings typhoon shelter style.’
The server said that meant a simple preparation of salt and pepper, but I was curious about the name, so I consulted Google. In Hong Kong, typhoon shelters were originally protected areas in which boats could ride out intense storms. Eventually they became neighbourhoods unto themselves, floating subcultures complete with their own style of cuisine.
Because the communities had no proper garbage or sewer systems, their citizens eventually resettled to the mainland. But the culinary customs of the typhoon shelters never died; in fact, they are hugely popular, and over the past few years, restaurants have even popped up where the shelter communities used to exist (this time under proper municipal policy). My research has given me the impression that the cuisine is most commonly defined by heaps of fried garlic and chili.
After dinner, we decided to get dessert at the Blue Canoe, which was so smokin’ busy we ended up sitting at the bar.
That suited us just fine, since it provided plenty of space for our two huge plates, one with chocolate tres leches cake (an absolute favourite of mine),
and the other with a paramount slice of lemon meringue pie.
Steveston, it was so good to see you. Can’t wait to visit again soon.