Possibly one of the most extensive Asian food courts in the Lower Mainland can be found at Aberdeen Centre (credit to photo belongs to Aberdeen as well) in Richmond. Every time I'm there, I find it difficult to choose what to eat since I want to have a little of everything. Alas, I do not have the appetite of my 20's and neither do I want to spend hundreds of dollars at a food court to satisfy my insatiable curiousity. But wait... An invite to try everything by ChineseBites solved that problem. Along with many other participants, I ended up sharing a table with Joyce and Kirsty.
Right from the start, the food began piling up (literally) on the table. We enjoyed a selection of Bubble Teas including the House Special (mango coconut juice with tapioca, mango and pomelo bits) from 8 Juice, Iced Lemon Ribena from Bubble Waffle Cafe, Iced Genmaicha from Saboten, Iced Honey Matcha Tea from Teppan Kitchen, Matcha Soy Bean from Strike and Milk Tea with pearls from Estea Express. The favourite here was the House Special as it was the most flavourful and interesting of the bunch. The rest were pretty mild and almost devoid of sugar (which could be a good thing). However, the milk tea was fine being pretty standard. I found the Matcha Soy Bean to be pretty heavy with the soy bean milk texture and flavour.
Onto the food or aka "gluttony in 2.5 hours", we began with the Sakura Roll from Aji Hana. It consisted of ebi tempura and avocado with chopped scallop and tobiko on top. Still warm and slightly crispy, the ebi had a buttery snap. It went well with the ripe avocado and sweet scallops. The rice was a little dense and dry, but it was still chewy. There was a faint hint of vinegar. Next up was the Pan Fried Pork & Chive Dumpling from Chef of Dumplings. Crispy and evenly browned on the bottom (with some browning on other parts as well), the dumplings featured a chewy and relatively thin skin. Inside, the meat was well-seasoned and juicy with just enough chives for texture and flavour.
After the 2 small "appies", we got the classic Bubble Waffle and Curry Fish Balls from Bubble Waffle Cafe. This location consistently pumps out some of the best bubble waffles in town and the one we sampled was no exception. It was hot and fresh with an exterior crunch that gave way to an appealing chewiness inside. It was purposefully sweet with a nice toasted aroma. As much as fish balls can be pretty generic, these ones were not. Each bouncy fish ball was completely penetrated with curry flavour. As for the curry, it wasn't just there for colour. Rather, there was a definite spiciness that wasn't overwhelming though.
We then moved onto one of my favourite items of the night being the Hot & Sour Noodle from Szechuan House. It featured chewy and thick mung bean noodles that sat in an impactful spicy broth. There was definitely she sour element, but the hot portion was not kidding around. Aided by Szechuan peppercorns, the broth became tongue-numbing in a good way. It wasn't so spicy that it killed my tastebuds. A combination of Deep Fried Squid and Chicken Wings from Wu Fung Dessert graced the table next. With a firmly crunchy batter, the squid was appealingly chewy and well-seasoned. The wings were also pretty good with a crispy exterior giving way to succulent chicken meat that was properly brined.
With the table becoming a bit crowded, the food just kept on coming with the Prawn Wontons from Lung Kee. These large dumplings were comprised of whole shrimp and some shrimp mousse as a binding agent. The shrimp exhibited a firm and sweet snap while the mousse had noticeable hits of white pepper. So much so, it made me believe that the sweet broth also had a lot of white pepper (which it didn't). Looking quite majestic, the Clubhouse Sandwich from Strike sported egg, tomato, meat patty, bacon and cucumber condiment on 3 slices of toasted white bread. This was only okay because the flavours were a bit strange with the rawness of the cucumber and dry mealy texture of the meat patty.
Practically tied with the Hot & Sour Noodle as my favourite item of the night was the Drunken Chicken Hot Pot from Tofu Hot Pot. The whole thing was delicious with a sweet and wine-tasting broth, wood ear mushrooms, Napa cabbage, vermicelli, tofu, drunken chicken and wolfberries. There was an herbal aftertaste though, but for me, I enjoyed that very much. Moreover, the chicken itself was masterfully marinated where it was juicy and succulent with a classic xiaoshing wine flavour. Continuing on with chicken, we had the Popcorn Chicken Nuggets from Yougo Chicken. The crispy coating was texturally on point with plenty of saltiness as well as a dusting of 5-spice. The chicken meat itself was bursting with juiciness, but was not inherently seasoned.
Of course we couldn't do this tasting without having a HK-Style cafe favourite, the Baked Pork Chop Rice from Mambo Cafe. This was a large portion consisting of chewy fried rice topped with a meaty pork chop. So meaty, it covered the entire tin pan of rice. It was tender and moist where the coating was a touch thick in spots. There was enough sweet and tangy tomato sauce for all of the rice and pork chop. One of my least favourite items of the night was the Chicken Bulgogi and Pork Belly from Kitchen Korea. As much as the flavours were all there including the usual caramelized sugary soy marinade, the chicken wasn't particularly juicy. The pork belly was a bit too chewy for my tastes (although that is usually how it is with Korean BBQ) and could've been a bit more charred.
As if we actually needed any more food at this point and presto, Leung Kee treated us to both Soy Sauce Chicken and Long Gong Chicken. For good measure, they threw in a whole container of Pan-Fried Sticky Rice too. We thought the chicken (both of them) were on point with moist pieces (even the white meat) where the seasoning had penetrated completely. Similar to Gwei Fei Gai, the Long Gong Chicken sported gelatinized buttery skin. The side of sticky rice was more than merely for show as it was pretty good as well. Dry, chewy and evenly mixed with Chinese sausage, the rice benefited from proper wok heat where it was nutty and caramelized. It was easy on the grease too.
The next item was quite controversial as we all had different opinions about it. From Strike, the Egg Rolls filled with tuna, onion, egg and black pepper were "interesting". I personally didn't prefer them as the flavour combination was strange and the crepe was thick and doughy. On the other hand, half of the table enjoyed it. So what do I know? Moving on from that, we had the more usual Saboten Set (Pork Loin, Prawn and Pork Tenderloin) from yup, you guessed it, Saboten. It wasn't a surprised to me that the whole plate was good since I've had it before. With a crunchy exterior giving way to a super tenderized meaty interior, it was very easy to eat all of the proteins. The side of black sesame and tonkatsu sauce was a treat.
Arriving sizzling on a cast iron plate, Teppan Kitchen offered up the A Grade Ribeye Teppan with egg and corn. Yes, this was strangely reminiscent of Pepper Lunch. And in some ways it was, however, we found the rice to be a bit wetter due to the pan cooling down rather fast after mixing the ingredients. With that being said, the thinly sliced meat was tender while the sweet pop from the corn niblets was nice. Another solid dish was the Hainanese Chicken with rice from from Cafe D'Lite Express. The deboned pieces of chicken leg meat was moist with flavour penetrating throughout. The skin was buttery soft while the chicken rice was chewy and well-seasoned.
Onto the dessert portion of our meal, we sampled the Choco Banana & Fresh Cream Mini-Crepe from Mazazu Crepe. I found the crepe to be somewhat chewy while the toppings were subtly sweet. Nothing particularly memorable but pleasant nonetheless. We moved from mini to large with the offering from Beard Papa - Mini-Cream Puffs and Cheesecake Sticks. I'm usually used to a much lighter version of Japanese cheesecake than the one we were served. However, I still enjoyed it as it was definitely cheesy and firm while being only mildly sweet. The cream puffs were typical Beard Papa being airy and soft with a crispy exterior.
Finally, to end things off, we were served 2 versions of shaved ice including A Dream in Eden (Stawberries, Mango, Kiwi and Mango Ice Cream) and Matcha Delight (Matcha Ice Cream, Red Bean and Chewy Rice Balls) from Frappe Bliss. These were refreshing and purposefully sweet. I found the ice to be relatively airy and light with only a few crystals. Fruit was fresh and the ice cream was creamy. Not much to complain about there. In fact, the only complaint we had was the amount of food and our caloric intake. What a feast indeed...
*All food and drinks were complimentary*