Sherman's Food Adventures: Soho Tea Room

Soho Tea Room

We all know that Kingsway is often known for its bounty of Vietnamese food and similarly, the wealth of Korean food along North Road.  Hey, if you want hand-pulled noodles, head to Broadway or take a stroll down Robson for some ramen.  Quietly, Cambie Street has become a hub for HK-Style Cafes of sorts.  First we had Gloucester, then Corner 22 (more Taiwanese though), continuing with the opening of Copa Cafe.  Now we can add Soho Tea Room which makes it 4 within 5 blocks.

This post contains 2 visits because the first time, Choobee and I were not able to put much of a dent into the enormous menu.  On my first visit, I gave the the Lobster Bisque a go.  It was somewhat rich, but more tomatoey than creamy.  But it was not bad since it was not overly salty.  I enjoyed the lobster essence as well as the bits of nicely cooked meat.  Choobee insisted I try the Chicken Filet with Mushroom & Lemon on Angel Hair Pasta and it was loaded with ingredients and a nice hit of real lemon.  I found the chicken tenders to be slightly too large, but then again, it was probably intentional to keep its juices.  As much as I appreciated the generous amount of ingredients, there wasn't enough pasta (which was al dente by the way). 

Choobee went for the Singapore Laksa Hot Pot with Chicken which was served with rice, pickled veggies and some meat/bean sprout stirfry.  Naturally, this was a thin (not enough coconut milk) and relatively less pungent version of laksa (with very little lemongrass or lime), but the individual components (seafood) were cooked correctly. Lastly, we shared the Honey Toast Box with condensed milk topping.  This was a large dessert which took 20 minutes to arrive (as warned on the menu).  It was pretty good with crunchy toast segments sweetened with honey.  With 2 large scoops of ice cream, multi-coloured mini-marshmallows, fruit and a wafer stick, we could not finish it.

On my second visit, it was with my hockey team, so we did mange to put somewhat of a dent on the menu.  I went for the Jumbo Mixed Grill which included chicken steak, pork chop, ox-tongue, sausage, bacon, wings and a fried egg.  Of all the components, the only 2 items that could've used improvement were the pork chop (which was dry) and the bacon (which was not crispy enough).  Included with the plate of meat was a choice of spaghetti or rice, sauce (black pepper in this case), soup (borscht or cream) and garlic toast. I wasn't a huge fan of the borscht, not because it wasn't really borscht, but it was lacking in ingredients and was quite bland.  I did like the black pepper sauce as it was impactful.

Milhouse, by the power of my suggestion, had the Crispy Salt & Pepper Chicken on Rice.  It's sorta like a Jedi mind trick when I state I want a certain dish and then say its okay that someone else orders it.  Ah yes, "these were the chicken nuggets he was looking for...". And those nuggets were indeed crispy, salty & peppery.  The chicken meat was moist and juicy, however, I never can understand how it goes with plain rice.  Gordo, didn't fall for my mind tricks and independently ordered the Szechuan Beef Rice Noodles in Soup.  As exemplified, the beef was rather fatty and only somewhat tender.  He found the soup mild in spice and generally lacking in flavour.  The flat rice noodles were not too soft nor clumpy.  Ultimately, he was indifferent with it.

Lionel Hutz ended up with the Curry Brisket with Rice (boy, he really likes brisket...  orders it every time!).  He remarked that it was sufficiently tender while bathed in a coconut curry which was not spicy nor "curry-like".  But it was fine for a HK-style version.  The potatoes were fried a bit too much and did not integrate with the sauce very well.  Gadget Girl opted for the House Special Fried Crispy Chow Mein and it was a pretty typical version consisting of baby bak choy, bbq pork, chicken, shrimp, scallop and squid bathed in a starch-thickened sauce.  She thought the noodles were crispy enough, but the sauce itself was a bit bland.  The individual components were fine except for the soggy bak choy.

Emilicious initially wanted the Laksa Hot Pot, but I guess our server didn't hear her correctly and brought out a bowl of Laksa instead.  Predictably, it wasn't a real Laksa per se, but it did have components that appear in a Laksa.  Once again, it was thin and lacking in the pungency department. As per usual, Milhouse went for a Chocolate Slush with pearls. It was a large portion that was relatively smooth, but a bit watery and lacking in flavour.  The pearls were chewy and soft though.  Well, there you have it - a decent HK-Style Cafe (with lots of Taiwanese influences) with a diverse menu smack dab in the middle of other similar restaurants.  

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Decent eats
- Lots of choice

The Bad:
- Even with a parking lot in the back, not a whole lot of parking around
- Many items lacking flavour

Soho Tea Room on Urbanspoon


LotusRapper said...

SoHo ain't bad, they expanded their menu from when they were FLO back in Marpole (recent move to Cambie Village). Which btw is my backyard, so next time if you want better parking, go on the other (west) side of Cambie between 18th to 22nd (Edith Cavell School).

Bukko Boomeranger said...

I live in the area, and I second L.R.'s suggestion about parking ACROSS Cambie, where it's more spread-out residential, and spaces are easier to come by. But I can ride my bicycle here, so I have no worries.

Just a general note of thanks for the good descriptions of food styles you provide, Sherman. I'm trying to expand my knowledge of the nuances of various styles of Asian cuisine. I often find myself reading your blog because it educates me, not that I have any intention of going to the particular restaurant you're writing up. But when I DO go to someplace similar, I can know "OK, the egg is supposed to be cooked THAT way" or "the texture on those noodles is all wrong." Other times, like after I wrote an Urbanspoon review of Soho, I'll click through to yours to find out how your more-expert analysis compares to my newbiness.

Sherman Chan said...

@BC Thanks for the kind words. I'm by no means an expert, but I do eat a lot!

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