Overall Rating 4.5/5
7 days a week 9am – 11pm
This week we had to skip Chevere Eh! due to their incorrect hours on Google and not being able to seat our party when we went. We went down twice and both times we had to go elsewhere for the above reasons. We will review them next week.
We did get to try a brand new restaurant, only open for 2 weeks, though. Van Tea Cafe. From our research it looks like this location used to be called The Roc. As we walked in, the first thing we noticed was that we were the only white people. It seemed very family friendly and a place Chinese people seemed to enjoy bringing the family to. The next thing we noticed was how nice it was inside. Being a new restaurant, we would assume it should look nice still. Everything was clearly new and we all agreed this was the second restaurant, besides Roots Cafe if you call it a restaurant, where you could tell that the decor really mattered.
The staff were very welcoming as we the other guests who enjoyed looking at and playing with our kids. We were seated and quickly greeted with tea. It was a tea we had never had in an Asian restaurant before. It wasn’t green tea, none of us could explain it but we hadn’t had it before. It was delicious, though.
The menu at Van Tea Cafe is expansive; if I remember correctly, it was 8 double sided pages. We looked at it for a long time to try and get an idea of what to order. We did ask our waitress what she recommended and she looked at us and smiled then said, “you would like the sweet & sour pork.” Well, she wasn’t wrong, we all do enjoy that dish but we’re here to try more than the “white people food”. We asked her for another minute so we could decide. We decided upon Spicy Fried Fish in Banana Leaf, Peanut Chili Chicken and we did order the Sweet & Sour Pork. We tried to be a little more adventurous than in the past but for those that think we weren’t adventurous enough, remember, sweet & sour may well be the most popular dish for white people in her experience, which would make it worth reviewing, even if just for the white people who go there, so we ordered it. We chose the other two dishes. We also added an appetizer of roti.
We were brought two soups right away, one borscht and one we’re not sure of. It had chunks of bone in it and there was some meat on the bone still. It tasted like a chicken noodle broth but that bone was not from a chicken. Either way, both we excellent and coming from a Mennonite background, bring on the borscht!
When eating at this restaurant, we suggest ordering dishes and making them share plates. That’s how they are served and I assume it is for that reason. The portions are very large as you can see from the pictures. We finished all the sweet & sour pork and the others were close; there was one piece of fish left and about a quarter of the peanut chili chicken. The roti was basically finished, maybe one piece left.
The roti was awesome. It was came with a chinese curry to dip into which was excellent also. If there was a complaint about this dish it would be that the roti came out slightly greasy.
I’m glad we ordered the sweet & sour pork regardless of how adventurous, or not, of a choice that was because it was easily the best one all of us had ever eaten. There was truly sweet and sour and the contrast played beautifully as it hit your tongue. Mix your bite with the green pepper or pineapple and it was even better. There’s a reason that was the only dish we finished. There isn’t much more to say about it, it was the best thing we ate that day and the best sweet & sour pork we’ve ever had.
The peanut chili chicken was also great. Spicy, though. Spicy enough that if you aren’t a fan of spice it would be worth avoiding, or you could just try taking bites that didn’t include pieces of chili, but it’s all cooked together so you judge for yourself. The peanuts were left with the skin on, something we probably could have done without but it didn’t take away from the dish at all. This dish had more salty flavour than any other flavour we tasted but it was well balanced with the spice to make a perfect match. The portion of chicken is the dish was generous which is always appreciated and a sign they weren’t willing to cheap out on a dish.
The spciy fried fish in banana leaf was our most adventurous order not knowing what to expect at all. There was no description of how it was served, what kind of fish it was or anything really. It came in a shallow cast iron pot served on top of a banana leaf; it was a great presentation minus the lack of colour outside of the leaf itself. It was topped with a chunky brown topping where the only thing I recognized was onion. As the word ‘spicy’ was in the title we expected spice out of this dish and it was. If the peanut chili chicken was a 6/10 on the spice scale, this dish was at least an 8/10, probably a 9/10. The fish was soft and flaky and fell apart with just your fork, perfectly cooked. For an adeventurous order, we would all eat this again.
The value of Van Tea Cafe was phenomenal. Even before the 10% grand opening discount we were very impressed. We forgot to take a picture of the menu and there is no website yet but most dishes range between $12-18. Appetizers are all under $10 as are the desserts. Our total was about $51 for 3 entrees and 1 appetizer after tax. After the discount, our bill was $46 and change. We also got one meal of leftovers out of it. We wer too stuffed to try dessert but the waitress said the red bean pastries have been there most popular by a mile so far.
One annoying thing about the restaurant was that they were cash or debit only. We thought them not accepting credit may be due to them being a new restaurant but when you open a restaurant isn’t that something that should be figured out and setup ahead of time? From a service point of view that was the only negative here because the rest of it was fantastic.
Food – 5/5 – everything we ordered was delicious, even the dishes we had never had before
Service 4.5/5 – excellent table service, annoying that they only take debit/cash
Kid-friendliness- 4.5/5 – no kids’ menu but very accommodating of kids and had a high chair
Decor – 4.5/5 – awesome, brand new, included live tanks of seafood on the wall
Value – 4.5/5 – enough for leftovers without breaking the bank
Never stop adventuring!