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The Metropolitan Hotelís Self-Guided tour to Vancouver's Chinatown


Vancouver has North America's second largest Chinatown next to San Francisco. The area is bustling and noisy and everything from vegetables, fish, herbal remedies, rattan, jade and baked goods is found here between Carrall and Gore Streets on the major streets of Pender, Keefer and Georgia. It's easy to criss-cross your way about and have a cultural and culinary visit to be remembered. Here's the suggested route to get you to the entrance of Chinatown and then we've provided you with some favourite addresses (lots of eating, lots of looking).

 

Copyright Victoria Brooks 1998.Your Self-Guided Visit to Chinatown starts with a good-luck pat on the head of the Stone Lions that guard The Met's entrance, an Asian ritual meant to encourage good fortune. Now you're ready to set off to Chinatown which takes you past the entertainment district just a few blocks from The Met. (Make some time during your stay to take in the theatre, opera, symphony, Grizzlies or Canucks).

Exit the hotel to the right on Howe Street and proceed to Georgia Street. Turn left and walk eastbound for 5 blocks passing The Ford Centre for the Performing Arts and The Vancouver Public Library at the intersection of Georgia and Homer Streets. Both buildings were designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. At the intersection of Hamilton you'll see The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on your right, Canada's national radio station. Turn left here and proceed north to Dunsmuir Street. You'll pass two more of the city's prime entertainment venues -- The Queen Elizabeth Theatre and The Vancouver Playhouse. Turn right at Dunsmuir Street and proceed one block to Beatty Street. On the northeast corner you'll see the skytrain station. Just past the entrance, take the wide staircase to the left (north) and behind the station that leads down to a turnabout found at the end of Keefer Street. Here's your first intriguing stop at the entry to Chinatown, the T & T Supermarket, a haven of Asian foods that provide an amazing tour without even having a shopping basket in your hands, though you might want to sample some of the hot prepared foods at the "deli" counter. Here is some of Vancouver's freshest and most unusual selection of live fish, and delicacies as unusual as duck tongue!

Copyright Laurel Hickey 1996.Continuing further east on Keefer, detour to the left on Carrall Street to number 578. Here we recommend you visit the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Gardens, the first authentic Ming Dynasty garden to be constructed outside of China since the 15th century. There are, in fact, two gardens here, one is a simplified version of the main garden. Check if there is a special event in progress before going-like entertainment, story-telling, bonsai workshops. Tel: 662-3207. Adjacent to this is the newly expanded Chinese Cultural Centre with its new museum and library complex.

You can exit the gardens onto Pender Street and consider the next few addresses as you walk. On the corner of Pender & Carrall Streets, note the Sam Kee Building (c. 1913), if you can find it. This is the city's (and maybe the world's) narrowest office building at 6 feet wide (about 2 metres) and two storeys tall, formerly a silk boutique and now an insurance office.

Copyright Victoria Brooks 1998.Travel along Pender past shops with rattan, ceramic and other Chinese collectibles, and if you have an appetite, visit the Buddhist Vegetarian Restaurant (137 East Pender Street, tel: 683 8816). This is a favourite for unusual vegetarian meals. Here you'll find incredible platters and soups that feature mushrooms and fungi of all types, said to have different medicinal benefits (delicate and lacey white Snow Fungus is good for smooth skin). My very favorite Chinatown meal is offered here -- the Eight Treasures Won Ton Soup at $9.00, a two-part soup in a huge bowl. It's a full meal for two if you add a side of spring rolls for starters. In the bowl are fresh vegetables of the day (maybe baby bok choi, broccoli, carrots) that have been stir fried with about 4 or 5 types of mushrooms and fungi and mixed with golden deep-fried tofu. Gently placed on top are an abundance of crispy deep-fried won tons. The broth, is served apart so you can assemble the ingredients in your own little bowl any way you wish. (I eat he won tons separately 'cuz I don't like them soggy!) Lots of flavour and texture.

Copyright Victoria Brooks 1998.At 158 East Pender, New Town Bakery has some of the best steamed meat buns. Continue eastward on Pender to the intersection of Main, Chinatown's central artery. Two tea shops, Ten Lee Hong on the southeast corner (Chinese-produced teas) and Ten Ren on the northeast (Taiwan), beckon your interests and, in summer, a tea ceremony is often underway if enough people are there to participate. Just ask. This is a great way to learn about the tradition as well as the vast variety of Chinese teas. If no formal ceremony is in progress have them give you a little lesson in Chinese versus Taiwanese teas or tell you of the ginseng they also sell (even some grown here in B.C.).

 

Just above one of these tea shops is Park Lock Seafood Restaurant (544 Main at Pender, tel 688-1581) There is an entrance on each street and I usually use the Pender entrance. Very popular with Chinese families, I prefer this spot for dim sum, a chaotic and entertaining affair. Use your skills in aggressiveness. The rest is traditional Cantonese food with six varieties of egg foo yung including one with oyster. All very good -- one of my favourite spots.

Copyright Victoria Brooks 1998.Continuing on Pender, this next block is full of food markets, trading companies that stock everything from Chinese medicines to dried goods and butchers, bakers and fishmongers. Take your time and browse. Ask the shopkeepers about the unusual products if the sign is only in Chinese, as is most often the case. Don't always expect an answer in English! The big glass jars in the herbal medicine shops contain many mysteries to the non-Asian onlooker and it's entertaining to inquire what they may hold.

At the end of this block you come to Gore Street where I recommend you turn right and head to Keefer Street (parallel to Pender). It has a similar array of shops but with a slightly different personality. Another food stop might be in order and here I recommend a Vancouver institution, Hon's Wun Tun House. Take your pick of 90-plus varieties of soup, traditional platters with good daily specials (fish specials are usually very good) and their famous pot stickers, a gyoza style dumpling filled with either vegetables or pork. I get my curry fix here by ordering the curried beef and potato (a great stewy mix that packs a reasonable heat) over lai fan-flat wide rice noodles.

A skip away on the next street over is Pho Hoang (238 East Georgia Street, tel: 682-5666), the main attraction for this one block deviation as there is not a lot else here. This is where you get great Vietnamese noodles with thin sliced beef (or dozens of other choices) floating in a broth. I go here for weekend breakfast (yes breakfast!) but it's great for lunch or a simple dinner any day. The soup comes with a garnish of bean sprouts, fresh basil leaves, sliced green chilies and lime to add as you wish. Have a "frappacino" Vietnamese-style strong coffee brewed at your table, draining into a glass of condensed milk while you eat. When you're finished the noodles, it's ready, just add ice! Not fancy surroundings but m-m-m and only $5.95 for a large bowl of soup.

The Phnom Penh, next door, has garnered many accolades and, as well as Vietnamese, its menu extends to Chinese and Cambodian.

Copyright Victoria Brooks 1998.Back on Keefer, start your journey homeward, observing and amusing at the people and places. On the other side of Main, close to Columbia, you'll come upon Floata Restaurant (400-180 Keefer Street, tel: 602-0368). This is Vancouver's largest restaurant at a whopping 1000 seats and is in one of the newest buildings to be constructed in Chinatown which houses a great bakery and lots of boutiques on the main floor with the restaurant one floor up. The busy dim sum means it's fresh, but other meals are better had elsewhere. Their forte is catering to larger parties where multiple platters of Cantonese favorites can be shared.

On exiting this building, turn left and head home along Keefer (or slip up one block and wind through David Lam Park). A couple of blocks ahead, T&T Supermarket should be visible, a good point of reference for your return.

Happy wandering,
Victoria L. Pratt.

Communications & Marketing
E-mail: vlpratt@ansa.com or vp@metropolitan.com

Representing: The Metropolitan Hotel & Diva at the Met; Piccolo Mondo Ristorante; The Wickaninnish Inn & Pointe Restaurant.

This tour was prepared by Victoria Pratt, a food-lover and resident of Strathcona, Vancouver's most intact character neighbourhood, just east of Chinatown. It includes recommendations by friends as well as noted local food writer Stephen Wong (author of Heart Smart Chinese Cooking).



For more BC information go to travel.bc.ca
Copyright Victoria Brooks 1998.At 158 East Pender, New Town Bakery has some of the best steamed meat buns. Continue eastward on Pender to the intersection of Main, Chinatown's central artery. Two tea shops, Ten Lee Hong on the southeast corner (Chinese-produced teas) and Ten Ren on the northeast (Taiwan), beckon your interests and, in summer, a tea ceremony is often underway if enough people are there to participate. Just ask. This is a great way to learn about the tradition as well as the vast variety of Chinese teas. If no formal ceremony is in progress have them give you a little lesson in Chinese versus Taiwanese teas or tell you of the ginseng they also sell (even some grown here in B.C.).

Just above one of these tea shops is Park Lock Seafood Restaurant (544 Main at Pender, tel 688-1581) There is an entrance on each street and I usually use the Pender entrance. Very popular with Chinese families, I prefer this spot for dim sum, a chaotic and entertaining affair. Use your skills in aggressiveness. The rest is traditional Cantonese food with six varieties of egg foo yung including one with oyster. All very good -- one of my favourite spots.

Copyright Victoria Brooks 1998.Continuing on Pender, this next block is full of food markets, trading companies that stock everything from Chinese medicines to dried goods and butchers, bakers and fishmongers. Take your time and browse. Ask the shopkeepers about the unusual products if the sign is only in Chinese, as is most often the case. Don't always expect an answer in English! The big glass jars in the herbal medicine shops contain many mysteries to the non-Asian onlooker and it's entertaining to inquire what they may hold.

At the end of this block you come to Gore Street where I recommend you turn right and head to Keefer Street (parallel to Pender). It has a similar array of shops but with a slightly different personality. Another food stop might be in order and here I recommend a Vancouver institution, Hon's Wun Tun House. Take your pick of 90-plus varieties of soup, traditional platters with good daily specials (fish specials are usually very good) and their famous pot stickers, a gyoza style dumpling filled with either vegetables or pork. I get my curry fix here by ordering the curried beef and potato (a great stewy mix that packs a reasonable heat) over lai fan-flat wide rice noodles.

A skip away on the next street over is Pho Hoang (238 East Georgia Street, tel: 682-5666), the main attraction for this one block deviation as there is not a lot else here. This is where you get great Vietnamese noodles with thin sliced beef (or dozens of other choices) floating in a broth. I go here for weekend breakfast (yes breakfast!) but it's great for lunch or a simple dinner any day. The soup comes with a garnish of bean sprouts, fresh basil leaves, sliced green chilies and lime to add as you wish. Have a "frappacino" Vietnamese-style strong coffee brewed at your table, draining into a glass of condensed milk while you eat. When you're finished the noodles, it's ready, just add ice! Not fancy surroundings but m-m-m and only $5.95 for a large bowl of soup.

The Phnom Penh, next door, has garnered many accolades and, as well as Vietnamese, its menu extends to Chinese and Cambodian.

Copyright Victoria Brooks 1998.Back on Keefer, start your journey homeward, observing and amusing at the people and places. On the other side of Main, close to Columbia, you'll come upon Floata Restaurant (400-180 Keefer Street, tel: 602-0368). This is Vancouver's largest restaurant at a whopping 1000 seats and is in one of the newest buildings to be constructed in Chinatown which houses a great bakery and lots of boutiques on the main floor with the restaurant one floor up. The busy dim sum means it's fresh, but other meals are better had elsewhere. Their forte is catering to larger parties where multiple platters of Cantonese favorites can be shared.

On exiting this building, turn left and head home along Keefer (or slip up one block and wind through David Lam Park). A couple of blocks ahead, T&T Supermarket should be visible, a good point of reference for your return.

Happy wandering,
Victoria L. Pratt.

Communications & Marketing
E-mail: vlpratt@ansa.com or vp@metropolitan.com

Representing: The Metropolitan Hotel & Diva at the Met; Piccolo Mondo Ristorante; The Wickaninnish Inn & Pointe Restaurant.

This tour was prepared by Victoria Pratt, a food-lover and resident of Strathcona, Vancouver's most intact character neighbourhood, just east of Chinatown. It includes recommendations by friends as well as noted local food writer Stephen Wong (author of Heart Smart Chinese Cooking).



For more BC information go to travel.bc.ca