PHOTO CREDIT: TARA LEE
It’s around noon and I’m at Cambie Plaza (11700 Cambie Road) where three Richmond dining gems can be found. Gaggles of office workers, families, and groups of friends are walking about the complex. The strip mall features a range of businesses, including a large Shoppers Drug Mart, a library branch, a bank, a dental clinic, a hair salon and much more. There are even a few chain restaurants, like Church’s Chicken, Subway, and Domino’s Pizza, for getting your fast food fix.
However, the groups of people in the Plaza are on a mission to eat. They make beelines to three restaurants that each wonderfully exemplifies a different aspect of Richmond’s vibrant dining landscape.
PHOTO CREDIT: TARA LEE
Walking into this large Cantonese restaurant, adorned with chandeliers and red and gold design accents, makes me immediately nostalgic. I grew up going to dim sum with my family, and I adored the ritual of watching the carts circulate around the space and speculating about what would be in the bamboo steamer baskets. When a cart parked at our table, I would stand and peer into the baskets as the server lifted the lids and explained what they contained. Then, I would point (my Cantonese is non-existent) and proceed to gobble up the delicacies. The experience was magical.
While most restaurants have phased the carts out, Continental is one of the few that still proudly retains the tradition. The offerings themselves are equally time-honoured, with items such as pork ribs in black bean sauce, pan fried white turnip cake (lo bak go), and, of course, shrimp dumplings (har gow) and pork and shrimp dumplings (siu mai). Also popular is their barbecue menu, which includes roast pork, barbecue pork, barbecue duck, and soy chicken.
PHOTO CREDIT: LINDSAY ANDERSON
The extensive dinner menu has an array of options, like braised fish maw with Chinese mushrooms and mustard greens, pan fried oysters with honey sauce, and sautéed sea cucumber meat in XO sauce. It also features a host of other non-seafood dishes, such as steamed minced pork with preserved vegetables, steamed free range chicken, and stir-fried black fungus and lotus root. It’s a great restaurant for enjoying a selection of bites together.
PHOTO CREDIT: TARA LEE
Front-of-the-house staff and the three chefs behind the sushi bar greet me upon arrival before returning to their delicate work. The welcome is friendly, warm, and efficient as they usher people to their tables. The place is packed full of diners enjoying donburi, bento boxes, udon noodles in soup, and platters of nigiri and sushi rolls. Richmond is fortunate to have numerous high quality, Japanese-owned sushi establishments. Kiyo is one such place.
The lunchtime menu is geared towards those who want to eat and go within an hour, with teriyaki sets, udon combos (e.g. udon with tekka don), and bento and lunch boxes. For example, the “Kiyo bento” includes assorted tempura, zaru soba (cold soba noodles), Kiyo chirachi (sashimi on sushi rice), and miso soup. Meanwhile, the dinner menu, which you can also order from at lunch, evidences the talent of the sushi chefs, with an impressive selection of nigiri, sushi rolls, sashimi, and battera (pressed sushi).
SALMON, HAMACHI, TORO, AND UNAGI SUSHI WITH A SABA SUSHI ROLL; PHOTO CREDIT: TARA LEE
Knife cuts are deft and the sushi rice expertly made, with the rice grains distinct and firm in texture. The rice also finds the ideal balance between sweetness and vinegar-y acidity. A saba shiso roll is made with attentive care, the fish, rice, crisp seaweed, and herbaceous shiso all coming together in delicious mouthfuls. Kiyo is popular for a reason.
MIXED PAKORAS; PHOTO CREDIT: LINDSAY ANDERSON
Slightly under the radar are Richmond’s standout Indian options. Tandoori Kona is an elegant space that serves consistently satisfying curries and tandoori dishes. It’s the kind of food that is guaranteed to fill and warm your belly, especially on a slightly cooler day. Alternatively, crank up the spice quotient on a hot summer’s day in order to cool down. It’s counter-intuitive, but the strategy works.
Wait staff knowledgeably guide diners through the menu, which begins with appetizers like veggie samosas and an assortment of pakoras (vegetable, paneer, chicken, and fish). The selections from the tandoor include various breads, like house special naan stuffed with chicken, as well as aloo paratha, whole wheat bread stuffed with mashed potatoes and peas. Tandoori chicken and fish, both marinated in yogurt and garlic, are also available, as well as tandoor-baked seekh (lamb) kebabs with onion and bell peppers.
THE CHICKEN VILLAGE CURRY; PHOTO CREDIT: TARA LEE
Besides a variety of biryani dishes (prawn, paneer, lamb, chicken, beef, veggie), there are tons of curries to choose from, including the crowd favourite creamy butter chicken, goat masala, lamb vindaloo, Bombay fish curry, and vegetarian options, like chickpea masala and bhindi bhaji, fresh okra cooked with onion, tomato, and a whopping twenty-one spices. Make sure to accompany the meal with chai or a mango lassi, and finish with gulab jamun (doughnuts in warm sugar syrup).
If there’s one thing I’m sure of, you won’t leave Cambie Plaza hungry after visiting any one of these excellent restaurants! Each is unique, but all showcase the quality and breadth of Richmond’s exciting, multicultural food scene.