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Best Chinese Food in Vancouver’s “New Chinatown”

More than 40 percent of the population in metropolitan Vancouver is of Asian descent. These strong Asian influences permeate the city, from business culture to food. In particular, the Vancouver region has hundreds of Chinese restaurants, many serving high-end cuisine that rivals the fare in Hong Kong, Taipei, and Beijing.

Chinatown, near the city center, was once a vibrant immigrant community. While it still has Chinese markets, bakeries, and restaurants, the best place for traditional Asian meals is Richmond, the region’s new Chinatown, where dozens of restaurants serve cuisines from across China.

The Richmond Night Market. Photo © Carolyn Heller.
The Richmond Night Market. Photo © Carolyn Heller.

Whether you’re looking for spicy Sichuan or Hunan fare, handmade noodles and dumplings like you’d see in Shanghai, delicately seasoned Cantonese seafood, or the hearty lamb dishes of China’s western provinces, you’ll find it in Richmond. Cafés serving bubble tea and Taiwanese shaved ice desserts draw a young crowd, while families pack the round tables of countless dim sum houses. Richmond’s Alexandra Road, which runs for several blocks east from No. 3 Road, has so many restaurants that it’s known locally as “Food Street.”

The center of Richmond’s Asian food scene is the Golden Village, along No. 3 Road from Cambie Road south toward Granville Avenue. Most restaurants are located in shopping centers or minimalls, so don’t hesitate to explore.

The city even has a Dumpling Trail, which highlights where to eat pot stickers, xiao long bao (soup dumplings), and other delectable stuffed dough dishes.

Best Chinese Restaurants in Richmond

From the front, Bamboo Grove (6920 No. 3 Rd., 604/278-9585; 4:30pm-10:30pm daily; subway: Richmond-Brighouse) looks like a nearly abandoned, old-time Asian eatery. But go around back, enter through the parking lot, and you’ll find a high-end Cantonese restaurant, with white tablecloths, black-suited waiters, and an elaborate menu. Any fresh fish dish would be a good option, as would the eggplant with tiger prawns, the fried rice with cod roe, and the unusual pork stomach with ginkgo soup, a pale, creamy, and rich broth. If you have a big budget and adventurous tastes, try the succulent geoduck clam sautéed with velvety scrambled eggs; check the current price before ordering, as geoduck can often run $50 a pound. Reservations are recommended.

Like spice? Richmond’s Bushuair Restaurant (Empire Centre, 4540 No. 3 Rd., #121, 604/285-3668; 11am-10pm daily; subway: Aberdeen) prepares the blistering hot cuisine of China’s Hunan province. A portrait of Mao, who hailed from Hunan, welcomes patrons to this nondescript strip-mall storefront, where it’s all about the food. From the thick menu, which is filled with photos, choose any preparation with smoked bacon or pickled chilies, which give dishes their distinctive Hunan flavors. The whole fish buried in chili peppers is a showstopper.

Su Hang Restaurant (8291 Ackroyd Rd., #100, 604/278-7787; 11am-3pm and 5pm-10pm daily; subway: Lansdowne), in a Richmond strip mall, specializes in dishes from Shanghai and the surrounding regions, from delicate xiao long bao (pork-filled soup dumplings) to fresh fish or crab to meaty pork ribs. To sample their signature dish, Hangzhou beggar chicken, order a day in advance. At lunchtime, they serve Shanghai-style dim sum. Make a reservation; the restaurant is small.

Many dishes at Richmond’s Sichuan-style New Spicy Chili Restaurant (4200 No. 3 Rd., #160, 604/273-3388; 11:30am-9:30pm Mon.-Thurs., 11:30am-10pm Fri.-Sun.; subway: Aberdeen) incorporate the delectably mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns that balance out hot peppers’ chili heat. The staff at this relaxed little storefront, tucked into the corner of a minimall, do their best to assist with recommendations, but if you like spicy fare, you can’t go wrong with dishes like the “water-boiled fish” (known here as “tilapia fish with spicy sauce”), kung pao chicken, or the smoked bacon with bamboo shoots (the meat is cured in-house). They do interesting vegetable dishes here as well, including sautéed cauliflower or stir-fried lotus root.

Sesame flatbread stuffed with sliced lamb, steamed lamb dumplings, creamy lamb soup with hand-pulled noodles, cumin-spiced lamb stir-fry—if you enjoy lamb dishes of many varieties, make tracks to Hao’s Lamb Restaurant (8788 McKim Way, #1180, 604/270-6632; 11am-3pm and 5pm-10pm Thurs.-Tues.; subway: Aberdeen), which specializes in dishes from western China’s Xi’an region. The kitchen uses every part of the sheep (yes, every part). Accompany your meat with refreshing cold plates, including pickled radishes or garlicky cucumbers, from the display case at the counter or with vegetable options like the crisp and creamy fried eggplant.

In an ordinary Richmond strip mall, Golden Paramount Seafood Restaurant (8071 Park Rd., 604/278-0873; 5pm-10pm Wed.-Mon. (dim sum 10:30am-3pm); subway: Richmond-Brighouse) is a first-rate spot for Hong Kong-style dim sum. Try the pan-fried oysters, congee (rice porridge), and steamed dumplings filled with pork and crab, or survey what other tables are eating and politely point. Reservations are recommended, particularly on weekends.

For dim sum classics, like har gow (delicate steamed shrimp dumplings), siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings topped with fish roe), and barbecue pork buns, Empire Seafood Restaurant (London Plaza, 5951 No. 3 Rd., #200, 604/249-0080; 5:30pm-10:30pm daily (dim sum 9am-3pm); subway: Richmond-Brighouse) is a good choice. Other items to sample include scallop and shrimp dumplings, pan-fried turnip cakes, and steamed egg yolk buns. To find the entrance, head for the second floor of the Richmond complex that also houses a London Drugs store. Arrive before 11am or book ahead for dim sum.

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