Re­views

Carol Lee’s Chi­na­town BBQ aims to take back the idea of a neigh­bour­hood restau­rant.

Vancouver Magazine - - June - BY Fiona Mor­row PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY Christin Gil­bert

Carol Lee’s new Chi­na­town BBQ em­braces the neigh­bour­hood’s rich his­tory.

at the win­dow, where lac­quered roasted ducks and soys­teamed chick­ens hang plump and glis­ten­ing in their own juices. Hong Kong-style bar­be­cue (siu mei) has been dear to my heart since I be­came a fre­quent feeder in Lon­don’s Chi­na­town almost three decades ago. The sub­tle spikes of ‡ve spice and soy, honey and hoisin in­fused across crispy skin and through ten­der meat are surely the de‡ni­tion of tooth­some com­fort food. In Vancouver, I spent a decade ‡nd­ing good ex­cuses to lunch at Daisy Gar­den on Pen­der, al­ways ready for a plate of siu yuk (roast pork) on rice. When the restau­rant burned to the ground in 2015, it was more than an in­di­vid­ual busi­ness tragedy: it was a huge loss to a com­mu­nity al­ready fac­ing an on­slaught of ahis­tor­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

Step for­ward Carol Lee, busi­ness­woman, en­tre­pre­neur and founder of the Vancouver Chi­na­town Foun­da­tion. Lee, whose pas­sion and com­mit­ment to re­vi­tal­iz­ing the neigh­bour­hood while also ac­knowl­edg­ing and pre­serv­ing its her­itage has been rightly cel­e­brated, saw the grad­ual shut­ter­ing of once-beloved restau­rants and de­cided it was time to step into the hospi­tal­ity in­dus­try. Chi­na­town BBQ (in the space of a one­time pot­tery store) is the ‡rst to open, with two more (in the for­mer Foo’s Ho Ho and Gar­den Villa lo­ca­tions) to fol­low.

The sen­sory hit of Chi­na­town BBQ is full on: the fa­mil­iar aro­mas come ‡rst, of course, but then the decor swung in with a gor­geous 1960s Hong Kong vibe and I ac­tu­ally grew ner­vous the food wouldn’t meet my rapidly ris­ing ex­pec­ta­tions. With its black-and-white checker­board Ÿoors, emer­ald-green wood, ruby-red up­hol­stery (on re­fur­bished Foo’s Ho Ho chairs) and de­light­ful old fam­ily pho­to­graphs that line the walls, the de­sign (by lo­cal wun­derkind Craig Stanghetta of Ste. Marie De­sign) skirts nos­tal­gia. But its fresh and mod­ern vibe (and smil­ing clien­tele) are still wel­com­ing to ev­ery­one from lo­cal se­niors to fam­i­lies to hip­sters.

The faces are fa­mil­iar—lee hired sev­eral sta£ from Daisy Gar­den—the ser­vice is warm and friendly, and the hot tea is free and plen­ti­ful. The menu is to the point, with bar­be­cue meats Ÿanked by a few tra­di­tional sides (chicken feet, mar­i­nated tofu) and cur­ries. You are free to build your bar­be­cue plate the way you like it, but I opted for the house’s own Four Trea­sures chef’s plate ($14.50) with soft

The ser­vice is warm and friendly, and the hot tea is free and plen­ti­ful.

and sweet bar­be­cue pork, dusky soy chicken, roast pork and salted egg on rice. No real com­plaints, al­though the roast pork could have been cut thicker to em­pha­size the con­trast be­tween its melt­ing fat and crispy skin. A plate of roasted duck (served with plum sauce, $12) pre­sented a bird with prop­erly ren­dered fat, avoid­ing the rub­bery chew that can spoil this clas­sic. Se­same-oil mar­i­nated jelly sh ($9) was crunchy, cool and slip­pery—more tex­ture than ‚avour—and the gar­lic gai lan ($6.50), cut smaller than usual, felt el­e­gant for it. The curry beef brisket ($15.95) was a knock­out, rich with its warm­ing back­bone of star anise and ‚ecked with a decent kick of chili.

Sim­ple, true to tra­di­tion, yet sub­tly rened, if Chi­na­town BBQ is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Lee’s culi­nary vi­sion for the neigh­bour­hood, we can only ex­pect many more de­li­cious treats to come.

Clas­sic BBQ Duck Carol Lee

Four Trea­sures

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