Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

Pizza Factory

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Warm Smiles and Great Tasting Pizza

Pizza_Factory_Richmond_2_Steveston_Palla_MediaIf you haven’t stopped by Pizza Factory recently it may be time to stroll in and meet the new owners who purchased the business three months ago. Kulvir Aujla and her husband Sukhi are quickly earning a reputation not only for their great tasting pizza but also for their warm and friendly service.

The business is truly a family affair. Kulvir is the primary owner and Sukhi assists her in the kitchen along with marketing the business and making deliveries. Their niece Alyssa McGahey is also actively involved on the front end. In addition, Sukhi’s father and the couple’s son and daughter come in to assist and volunteer their time.

Pizza_Factory_Richmond_sukhi_Steveston_Palla_MediaAnother behind the scenes promoter is Sukhi’s mother. Kulvir says, “She is an ambassador and promotes Pizza Factory to seniors. Our kids have also been actively promoting the business to their friends and sports teams.”

Sometimes when an opportunity crosses your path you have to jump at it. Kulvir was working in management at Walmart when she heard through the grapevine that Pizza Factory in Steveston was for sale. With an extensive background in the restaurant industry she felt the time was ripe to make the leap and run her own business.

They gave the restaurant a fresh makeover with olive green paint, new seating, a new countertop and wall signage to showcase the full menu.

A fun new seaside logo features a friendly orca named “Pep” (short for pepperoni). In the future Pep will become a costumed mascot. They are grateful to Yeti Works in Steveston village for designing their fun logo and website. Sukhi and Kulvir point out that they are eager to support local businesses.

What are the couple finding most rewarding in the early days of running the business?

They say working together for the first time is a pleasure. They are also feeling empowered being self-employed which allows them the freedom to make decisions for their business. They thoroughly enjoy getting to know their customers as they drop in and become regulars. Sukhi says, “Our intention is it run it like the TV show Cheers.”

“We’re having a good time. That’s what we want to do.” Sukhi Aujla

Pizza_Factory_Richmond_samosa_Steveston_Palla_MediaThe Aujlas live in Richmond’s Hamilton neighbourhood, but have always had an affinity for Steveston. They believe the two areas share a similar spirit. They are excited to be a part of Steveston’s business community and are demonstrating their philanthropic nature by supporting local events.

Recently they donated 15 pizzas to a group of McMath Secondary School students who participated in Convenant House’s Sleep Out to Support Homeless Youth. Pizza Factory has also become the official pizza supplier for the Islanders 04 softball team. Kulvir says, “We are actively looking to support local sports teams in Richmond.”

Over the Easter weekend Pizza Factory staged a three day customer appreciation blitz. A team of 30 volunteers (aka friends and family) helped to conduct this marketing campaign by wearing matching “Ask me how to get a free slice” t-shirts as they handed out coupons throughout Steveston. People lined up around the block to take advantage of this tempting offer and over the course of three days 1,300 slices were served. In the process they discovered ninety per cent of the people who dropped by the business didn’t know they existed.

To introduce more clients to their business they suggest swinging by on July 1 to see what fun things they will be doing to celebrate Canada Day.

Pizza_Factory_Richmond_1_Steveston_Palla_MediaNew to Pizza Factory are loyalty cards and pizza by the slice. High school students in particular appreciate being able to drop by at lunchtime with the new earlier business hours (open at 11 a.m.). For Kulvir and Sukhi it is all about forging a symbiotic relationship with their customers. Their intention is to always keep the question “what can we do for you?” in the foreground of conducting business. The direct result of a customer’s request, Pizza Factory now offers 15% off take out pizzas.

“Our customers appreciate us as much as we appreciate them.”  Kulvir Aujla

While Pizza Factory is a franchise each location is given freedom to customize their business to best fit the community. They are not restricted to abide by a set menu and can introduce special items such as chicken and veggie samosas, Punjabi-style pizza and butter chicken may soon be introduced. Some of the top sellers include Hawaiian, house special, taco, bacon burger, barbecue chicken, spinach and of course, kid pleasing favourites, cheese and pepperoni pizzas. Gluten-free is available for medium size pizzas and whole-wheat crust is available upon request. All of the dough is made fresh each morning.

“If we’re blessed by the pizza gods we make dough more than once a day.” Sukhi Aujla

Every business has good stories and one unfolded during our interview. A Power Rangers film production member came in with a request for 42 pizzas for the crew, which were needed the following day. He had heard the buzz that Pizza Factory was the place to go for exceptionally friendly service.

It couldn’t happen to nicer people.

Pizza Factory
120-12020 First Avenue
Richmond BC V7E 3L9
Telephone: 604-233-7777

Ora Sushi Japanese Grill

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Quality Sushi Made With Love

Ora_Sushi_June2_Steveston_Palla_MediaOra is the Korean word for “come again, or welcome” and it is the perfect name for this new Moncton Street restaurant. Ora Sushi owner June Shim personifies the business name with her welcoming and gracious manner.

After an extensive floor to ceiling renovation Ora Sushi opened in early August and the response has been tremendous.

Shim is no stranger to restaurant ownership. Customers who were familiar with her former business, Kimchi Nara Korean BBQ, are delighted to discover she has embarked on a new venture. She operated Kimchi Nara Korean BBQ in downtown Richmond for 10 years. Subsequently, she worked as a manager of a local sushi restaurant for three years and then decided it was time to return to her favourite place, the kitchen, and run her own business.

Past clients are delighted that she has opened a new restaurant. Ora Sushi has also established a new and enthusiastic clientele who are discovering why her cooking has earned such an excellent reputation.

Her passion for food and her culinary talent stems from having grown up in the food industry. She reveals her mother is also an amazing cook and her parents owned a restaurant in Korea. Shim loves to garden and grows many different kinds of Korean herbs and vegetables in her backyard.

She feels extremely happy when she cooks and derives joy from meeting customers. Regarding owning her business she says, “It is a much more satisfying personal stake.”

Locals and visitors alike are discovering Ora Sushi’s tasty and artfully presented dishes.

This new enterprise is a detour from her former Korean BBQ as sushi takes the spotlight on the menu. All of the sauces are made in house. Quality is of utmost importance to her. She insists on using only wild caught Pacific salmon and red tuna and she begins each day by visiting local vegetable markets to select produce.

Ora_Sushi_Roll1_Steveston_Palla_MediaThe Nori (seaweed) is premium quality without the use of coatings or artificial preservatives. Ora Sushi uses premium Japanese sushi rice, low sodium soya sauce, and natural ginger. Some gluten free dishes are offered. In addition to a focus on health conscious food, Ora Sushi strives to provide a friendly, welcoming, personal dining experience.

She says, “I am always thinking about cooking and the presentation of food.”

Presentation is most certainly a huge part of the Ora Sushi experience. All selections are artfully arranged on Villeroy and Boch German porcelain and on unique Japanese serving plates.

Ora_Sushi_Roll2_Steveston_Palla_MediaFun names for some of the signature special rolls include the Crazy Roll, Mr. Big Roll, Monster Bite and 911. Speaking of the Crazy Roll, it is crazy good. I have not been able to stop thinking about this delicious, crispy, warm signature California roll with its three sauces.

Another highly recommended specialty, the Golden Roll, is cooked in a cast iron pan and is comprised of avocado, cucumber, imitation crab, baked salmon and tobiko with cheese on top.

If you are a sushi novice the Caterpillar Roll as a good place to begin. It contains asparagus, imitation crab, avocado, and cucumber with sliced avocado.
The extensive menu offers a large selection of appetizers such as Chicken Yakatori, Grilled Mussels, “Monkey Brain” (deep fried avocado with crab meat), Oyster Motoyaki (grilled oysters with veggies, mayo and cheese) and Ebi Gyoza.

Ora_Sushi_Roll3_Steveston_Palla_MediaThe menu features a few favourites from her past business such as Bibimbap, Kalbi BBQ beef and Udon. Maki sushi, sashimi, nigiri sushi and noodle dishes round out the extensive menu. Bento boxes and set lunches and dinners are also featured.

Shim and her husband, local RE/MAX realtor Kevin McDowell, met in Korea in 1992 and have lived in Richmond since 1997. They have two grown children, one is finishing high school, and the other is attending university. Both their son and daughter work at the business part-time.

Although fully immersed in her new business she still finds time to be actively involved with the two churches her family attends. The family belongs to the Korean Jireh Presbyterian Church in Vancouver and also Trinity Lutheran Church in Richmond. She regularly donates her time to the Korean fellowship committee that provides hot lunches on a weekly basis. She says, “Food is a part of my life and I like making people happy.”

The response from local merchants has been tremendous; neighbouring business owners regularly pop in to order lunch to go.

Ora_Sushi_street_sign_StevestonThe holiday season will soon be here. If you are entertaining at home consider impressing your guests with an Ora Sushi party tray. Open six days a week for lunch and dinner (consult the website for hours), this Steveston newcomer deserves a big welcome – and an even bigger thank you for choosing the village to set up shop!

Ora Sushi Japanese Grill
120-3651 Moncton St
Richmond BC V7E 3A5
Telephone: 604-284-3880

The Crab King

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

From the Ocean to Your Table

The_Crab_King_exterior_Steveston_Insider_Palla_MediaAmongst Steveston Harbour’s fishing boats you will find The Crab King, a floating restaurant offering an up close and personal encounter with Canada’s largest commercial fishing fleet. Being level with the water offers a unique dining experience unlike any other restaurant in the area.

Here you will have a first hand look at vessels returning with their haul, and you may even catch fisherman Ha Dinh (father of Van Dinh, The Crab King’s owner and chef) unloading his freshly caught Dungeness crabs from his boat, the Hai Phong. It doesn’t get fresher than this. In fact, Van reports this is one of the standout features of his business.

The Crab King takes great pride in delivering crabs directly “from the ocean to your table.”

The business opened in 2011. It was originally an open-air concept; however, the limitations of rain and wind necessitated enclosing the space, allowing customers to dine inside. Once a roof and walls were incorporated this also gave Van an opportunity to apply for a liquor license.

The_Crab_King_Van_Dinh_Steveston_Insider_Palla_MediaIn 1988 the Dinh family fled their homeland, Vietnam. After a short spell in Hong Kong they made their way to Canada. They called Toronto home for a few years but ended up relocating to the west coast where Ha Dinh worked as a fisherman in Tofino. Van began fishing with his father at an early age, but he did not follow his father’s career path and instead became an air conditioning mechanic.

It was during a visit to a Seattle restaurant, which specializes in crab, that Van’s concept of The Crab King was born. He realized the Lower Mainland sorely lacked such a business and with his lifelong knowledge he could offer Steveston a fresh off the boat dining experience bar none.

Crab season is regulated to avoid over fishing, therefore the crustacean appears on the menu between late June through to the end of November when the business closes temporarily for the season (and reopens in early spring).

The_Crab_King_crab_Steveston_Insider_Palla_MediaOnly the most robust crabs meet Van’s strict quality control and the daily catch is stored in a live tank at the restaurant’s entrance. Van points out, “Crab does not taste the same if it has been frozen. I am an expert, and know the difference in taste as I have been eating it my entire life.”

The Crab King prepares this delicacy in a variety of ways, steamed and accompanied with a number of sauces including black bean, ginger, garlic butter or Thai chili. Corn, potatoes and coleslaw accompany the entrée. Crackers, bibs and baby forks are provided.

If you are not experienced at cracking open a crab don’t let this deter you from this delectable meal. Van and his staff are happy to offer tips to make you an expert in no time.

In addition to crab fresh from the shell, crab poutine is one of The Crab Kings’ most popular choices. Rounding out the menu are pasta dishes, pan-fried fish, fish and chips (again, the fish is fresh off the boat), calamari, crab cakes, salads and even a prime rib burger.

Van says, “Steveston is a very friendly and receptive community to run a business. I like working here. It has a small hometown feeling.”
It is personal connections that mean the most to him. He explains, “Every person I meet has a story to tell. Talking to people is knowledge. Through conversations you can learn so much – it is mesmerizing.”

The_Crab_King_seating_Steveston_Insider_Palla_MediaWhen opening The Crab King his ultimate goal was to “put smiles on peoples’ faces.” Van believes, “People work so hard, some of them struggle, and the least I can do is give them a meal they will really enjoy.”

A peek at The Crab King’s Facebook page confirms that Van is indeed actively involved with his customers as he appears alongside them in many photographs. He enjoys the reward of serving people and assisting them as needed. If someone needs help walking up the ramp or opening a door, Van is there. He says, “It doesn’t cost me anything to offer this kindness – and it makes me feel good.”

At the end of a meal the most gratifying feedback Van likes to hear is, “That was delicious.” He concludes, “I like to see people happy, and food is one way of doing this.”

The Crab King
3540 Bayview St (floating)
Richmond BC V7E 5W3
Telephone 604-448-8801


Little Mexico Cantina

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Regional Mexican Food at Home in Steveston:

Hola! Steveston’s Little Mexico Cantina has a new owner and changes to the established business have been dramatic.

Little Mexico Cantina Carol Janeczko Steveston InsiderCarol Janeczko purchased the restaurant last July and has been busy reinventing the space to make it her own. This Manitoba born business owner is a fireball of energy. Along with Chef Roberto Lopez Lara, she has reworked the entire menu, and they are in the process of giving the restaurant’s interior a major facelift.

Little Mexico Cantina Chef Steveston InsiderLast Christmas the pair installed a stone wall. They have been asked many times whom they hired and they proudly report they did it themselves. When Janeczko was a child she watched and learnt skills from her father. She says, “I stole with my eyes, watching my father work. There is nothing women can’t do.” She is full of surprises, and reveals that in addition to her renovation skills, one of her favourite hobbies is deep-sea fishing in Haida Gwaii.

The décor has also changed. Black and white photographs, sundials and authentic charro hats are all tastefully displayed. A countertop constructed from salvaged Cypress wood will be installed to create new bar side seating.

Passion for her new found career is right on the surface. Janeczko says, “I had always wanted to operate a restaurant. I have more yesterdays than tomorrows. This is a dream come true.”

Janeczko confesses that the hours are long, however, she adds, “My worst day here beats any best day at my past jobs. This is a labour of love.”

Little Mexico Cantina bar Steveston InsiderThere is no question she loves her work. Janeczko is at the restaurant seven days a week, and she is making the most of it by experiencing all aspects of the business. She serves, bartends, washes dishes, sweeps floors, and line cooks alongside Chef Roberto. They even shop together to source out the freshest ingredients.

Back home in Manitoba, when she was raising her own family, Janeczko boarded a number of international students and became fascinated with other parts of the world. Subsequently, she travelled extensively through central and coastal Mexico, and feels such a strong kinship to the country that she refers to herself as an honourary Mexican. Chef Roberto concurs with a smile.

He comes from Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, located on the Gulf of Mexico (bordering the state of Texas). Ironically, there is a Polish population in this area, mirroring Janeczko’s family heritage, and this deepens her connection to this particular region.

The menu is like a road map to regional Mexican cuisine. Dishes have been chosen to expose diners to “a little taste of what Mexicans really eat,” says Chef Roberto.

The goal is to make the dining experience as authentic as possible. You will not find Mexi-fries or hard-shell tacos at Little Mexico Cantina.

What you will find is soft corn tortillas, meat that has been braised for 8 hours (no short cuts are taken), grass-fed beef from a local farm, chorizo made by Chef Roberto from his grandfather’s recipe, housemade seasonings and fresh salsa made daily. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options are all available.

A tasty and well-rounded taco menu tempts guests to experience what Chef Roberto calls “the people’s food.” Order a few, they are very reasonably priced ($4 to $5). The tastes and spices will dance in your mouth.

A seaside treat is the Ensenada Style Fish Taco featuring grilled red snapper with house seasoning. It is topped with guacamole sauce and a mix of shredded white and purple cabbage. The Beef Barbacoa Taco is another crowd pleaser. It features slowly braised beef topped with diced onions, chopped cilantro and is served with lime and chile de arbol sauce.

In addition to the taco menu, you will find a number of chef’s specials to tempt your taste buds and a variety of Mezcal and Tequila to pair with your meal. Chef Roberto points out that contrary to popular belief, these drinks should not be knocked back in one gulp; in fact they should be sipped. “Kiss the glass,” he says.

Little Mexico Cantina exterior Steveston InsiderOne of the signs of a popular restaurant is a line up, and Janeczko says this has been known to happen. She reports people of all ages have discovered the dining spot, from families to high school students, all have been enjoying Little Mexico Cantina.

If your budget does not allow for a trip to Mexico, or if you are craving a taste for authentic Mexican cuisine, head to Little Mexico Cantina. Short of the sand and the sun, you will feel like you have escaped to paradise. You can even test your Spanish; a few of the staff are Spanish speaking and would be happy to engage. Like Janeczko, you too may leave feeling a strong pull south.

Little Mexico Cantina
150-3131 Chatham Street
Richmond BC V7E 2Y4
Telephone 604-272-5123

Living Cafe

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Amanda Kroetsch - Living Cafe - Steveston InsiderMy interview with Amanda Kroetsch (owner of Living Cafe) began with me seeking advice. Two of my family members have recently been experimenting with new ways of eating; one is now a vegetarian and the other is exploring a gluten-free diet, which has forced me to look at cooking in an entirely different way. She assured me that it is a workable situation and calmed down this grain-eating carnivore!

Kroetsch is highly familiar with a variety of diets, which people choose either as a lifestyle preference, or elect to follow due to a health issue.

For fourteen years Kroetsch battled a long list of unexplained symptoms, which was diagnosed 5 years ago as Celiac disease. She found immediate relief when she adopted a gluten-free diet.

The organically inspired eatery opened last August. Aware that there was nothing like her restaurant in the village Kroetsch wanted to offer the community delicious, wholesome and nutrient dense foods. While she did not train as a chef she brings to the business her vast personal experience.

She admits that a strong desire to create the Living Cafe came from longing to have a place to dine with family and friends without the fear of getting sick and the embarrassment of being the odd one out.

While Kroetsch would ideally like to be a raw vegan she has discovered that a paleo diet (meat, vegetables and fruit) works best for her physiology. Whether you have no dietary restrictions, or you are a vegetarian, vegan, paleo-friendly, gluten-free or have food allergies, Living Cafe offers menu items to satisfy ever diner.

Living Cafe - sandwich - Steveston InsiderLiving Cafe - veg pasta - Steveston InsiderLiving Cafe - breakfast - Steveston InsiderLiving Cafe - baked goods - Steveston InsiderLiving Cafe - dining room - Steveston InsiderShe dispels two myths about her business; it is neither exclusively vegetarian nor is it just a juice bar. So what will you find Living Cafe - exterior - Steveston Insiderinside the busy cafe? The space is divided into two rooms with an archway separating the dining room from the kitchen and retail area. The light green walls of the eating space house a number of tables. Soft music was playing the day my taste testers and I enjoyed lunch. While we waited for our meal we sipped orange and mint infused alkaline water and perused cookbooks found on the bookshelf in the dining room.

Two of us enjoyed the BLT sandwich on gluten-free bread, which tricked us both. It did not taste like any gluten-free bread that I have eaten; it was like the real McCoy. Our other companion dined on the “Tuna” salad sandwich. The tuna is actually made from a raw nut pate (sunflower seeds and almonds) and was given a big two thumbs up, as were the house-made flax veggie crackers.

Only the freshest ingredients are used with a focus on Ocean Wise sustainable seafood sourced from local fishermen, ethical and organic meat and chicken from B.C. farms, free eggs from Rabbit River Farms located in Richmond, and organic produce from local farmers.

Comfort food is a large part of the Living Cafe experience. You will find revamped takes on many favourites that are flavourfully adapted to keep the yum-o-meter registering high. Some of the popular menu items include the vegan Caesar salad made with an in-house dressing and herb focaccia croutons. Smoothies are not made with ice or fillers but rather with organic frozen fruit and almond milk made in-house – Kroetsch describes it as a meal in a glass. The hearty vegan Moroccan stew, Chicken Salad sandwich, Herbivore Hash and Eggs Benny (made with vegan butternut squash hollandaise sauce) are all crowd pleasers.

Speaking of crowds, the cafe has been doing very well since it opened. Kroetsch is pleased to report that every month business has grown. She and her staff of 8 are thrilled by the amazing support of loyal locals and there is a fair amount of drop in traffic too. There is certainly spin off business from hungry whale watchers at neighbouring business Vancouver Whale Watch.

Young families have been great supporters of the restaurant. Steveston resident Tracy Johnstone says she does not know what she or family would do without Living Cafe. Their dietary needs hinge on the gluten-free baked goods that they can find nowhere else in Steveston. She has become one of the restaurants biggest fans.

The Living Cafe’s retail section offers a display case is packed with baked goods. To name just a few, you will find gingersnap cookies,
dairy free double chocolate cake, paleo mudpies, quinoa carrot cake, lemon blueberry muffins, chocolate zucchini loaf, banana bread, vegan cupcakes and scones.

The freezer case contains an array of gluten-free baked goods including baguettes, hamburger buns, quinoa bread, cinnamon raisin bread, pumpkin cranberry rosemary bread, chia flax bread and vegan pizza shells.

In the future Kroetsch would love to see everything that they use in the kitchen available in their retail section. Soon she will be introducing celiac safe bulk bins.

Living Cafe is open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With a goal to expand the dinner menu and an application for a liquor license in the works, it goes without saying that business is going to continue to climb. Whether you have special dietary needs or not, this is a wonderful place to dine and feel good about what you eat.

Living Cafe
240-12240 Second Avenue
Richmond BC V7E 3L8
Telephone 604-370-5483

Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

It was a snowy morning and the scent of a delicious smelling simmering stock was wafting from Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant’s kitchen. Phung Nguyen was hard at work preparing for the lunch crowd while her son, Justin Nguyen, spoke with me about his family’s successful business. In partnership with his mother, father (Son), and brother (Richard), the family has introduced Steveston to a cuisine that is bursting with flavour and has quickly become one of the village’s most popular dining spots.

Donning his signature bow tie, Justin Nguyen is often the first person you will encounter when you arrive at the restaurant. He is absolutely charming and is bound to greet you with a genuine warm welcome. Why the bow tie? He says he has always admired this fashion and decided to wear them on a regular basis when the business opened. Knowing that this would be an expensive wardrobe accessory, his girlfriend volunteered to make them. To date Justin Nguyen has amassed 80 bow ties. He hopes that over the course of their lives together his collection will expand to one thousand.

Originally from Nha Trang (a coastal city on the south central coast of Vietnam, known for its beautiful beaches and scuba diving), the Nguyen family fled their homeland as boat people in 1985.

Their story could easily be made into a film. Seeking a better life for his wife and their four young children, Son Nguyen managed to find a boat and offered space to as many families as possible to join them when they set out to sea. Without an experienced skipper onboard, Son Nguyen was left with the terrifying task of navigating by the light of a star. After a number of days, good fortune came their way. A passing cargo ship rescued the boat’s occupants from this precarious situation and transported them to the Philippines.

Phung and Son Nguyen eked out a living by opening a small café in the Philippines, and saved money while they sought refugee status in Canada. Upon arriving in Calgary they opened a restaurant and settled into the cold Canadian climate. Eventually they moved to Abbotsford, where Justin Nguyen says they opened one of the city’s first Vietnamese restaurants. Two of his siblings continue to reside in Calgary, his sister (Hong), and his brother (Paul), who operates a food truck and sells Vietnamese submarine sandwiches.

Justin Nguyen brought his parents to Steveston for a visit and they immediately fell in love with the area. They were intending to retire, but could not resist the opportunity to locate a restaurant here. Justin Nguyen gave up his career at UBC to join them as a business partner. Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant opened in November 2012. This is the fifth restaurant that the Nguyens have owned and operated.

They are thrilled to be a part of Steveston. Customers and local merchants have made them feel so welcome in the community. His parents were initially attracted to the scenic beauty, and felt very much at home with so many Vietnamese involved in the local fishing industry.

Three clocks are mounted on the restaurant’s south wall, set for three time zones: Nha Trang, Steveston and Paris. Some of their customers question, “Why, Paris?” as they are unaware Vietnam was a former French colony. As a result, there is some French influence in Vietnamese food. Justin Nguyen uses the examples of Vietnamese submarine sandwiches (made with baguette), some of the ingredients found in pho, and the method in which Vietnamese coffee is prepared.

Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients and minimal use of oil. Fresh herbs (such as basil, mint, and coriander) balanced with vegetables, meats, seafood and a selective use of spices make it a very healthy cuisine.

Justin Nguyen says that until the 1990s North Americans were relatively unfamiliar with food from his country, however people have made up for lost time. The establishment has a loyal and diverse customer base. He is particularly excited to see teenagers frequenting the restaurant and appreciates their willingness to sample new tastes.

The menu is filled with temptations. A variety of starters include homemade fried wontons, pork, chicken and vegetable spring rolls and salad rolls. If you are curious to taste an array of starters, the sample platter contains spring rolls, salad rolls, along with BBQ chicken, pork, beef and prawn skewers.

Stevestonites often refer to the restaurant simply as ‘Pho’, and indeed this is one of the restaurant’s specialties. Eight varieties of this popular and delicious noodle soup are featured. Accompanied by a side of bean sprouts and basil leaves, simply add them to your steaming bowl and you are in for a big treat. The chicken noodle pho (made with local free range chicken) is especially satisfying.

Other menu highlights include homemade won ton soup, a number of rice dishes (barbeque lemongrass chicken, sate beef, tamarind prawns), vermicelli noodle bowls (stir fried lemongrass beef or chicken, barbeque pork patties with spring rolls), along with stir fries (seafood, chicken, beef and vegetarian options are all offered), Vietnamese style Pad Thai, and fried rice dishes.

Be sure to save room for dessert. A meal at Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant is not complete until you have tasted the toasted coconut cake and tiramisu made daily by Justin Nguyen. As the busy manager and accountant, how he finds time to create these masterpieces is a complete mystery, however they are not to be missed. Justin Nguyen decided that in addition to deep-fried bananas with ice cream (the delectable traditional Vietnamese dessert), that a few more selections would be a nice addition to the menu. He began experimenting with recipes that appealed to him. It turns out they have become extremely popular, and people can’t stop talking about the coconut cake.

Positive word of mouth is vital for any business, and Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant excels in this department. With friendly and attentive service and excellent food, Steveston is buzzing about this wonderful addition to our community.

Steveston Village Vietnamese Restaurant
120-12480 No. 1 Rd
Richmond BC V7E 0A2
Telephone 604-370-3709

Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Cottage Comfort on the Pier

One would think that Jim van der Tas, managing partner of the Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant, has lived in Steveston his entire life based on his passion for and commitment to the village, yet he and his family moved here in 2004. In a short time he has planted many roots and he may just be one of the busiest men in Steveston.

Not only is Jim van der Tas devoted to his business and his family; he also actively gives back to the village as he sits on three Steveston board of directors. He feels that Steveston is the jewel of Richmond, if not the Lower Mainland, and is committed to promoting all that the area has to offer.

Jim van der Tas and his wife Janet own the Blue Canoe in partnership with Janet’s brother. Jim van der Tas says the decision to open their business “happened almost by accident.”  While visiting Steveston with a friend they walked along the pier to take in the view. They discussed the area’s potential and his friend joked that Jim van der Tas should buy a restaurant  (stemming from his background as director of food & beverage at Vancouver’s Marriott Renaissance). This conversation quickly turned into reality when the van der Tas’ made an offer to purchase two former Steveston businesses, which they renovated into one larger space to create Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant.

There was an immediate sense that something fresh and fun was going on when Blue Canoe’s logo appeared featuring an Adirondack chair perched beside the water’s edge, and a full-scale lifeguard’s chair appeared at the entrance to the business. The concept was to create a cottage style atmosphere. “It’s rustic and beautiful, like kicking back at a lakeside cottage,” says Jim van der Tas.  The restaurant’s name celebrates the blue ocean and is also a tribute to seafood that is featured prominently on the menu.

What is the history behind the rustic canoe that is suspended from the dining room ceiling? Jim van der Tas put feelers out to find the perfect canoe and discovered this one, circa 1954, which had been stored inside a barn in Quebec. It was stripped, waxed, and true to Jim van der Tas’ sense of humour, he installed two small signs indicating, “this canoe is blue” when people began to question its natural colour.

The canoe is a focal point, along with many special touches including the wood sided walls, mirrors that look like window panes, a cozy gas fireplace framed by river rock, and a selection of Langley artist Jill Hall’s cottage style furniture and decor throughout the restaurant. Add in the fun signage throughout, including the amusing outdoor directional sign, cozy throws on the backs of patio chairs, charming outdoor lighting along with patio heaters which, if you close your eyes, can mimic sitting by a campfire, mix in the ocean air and fishing boats bobbing at the dock, and you feel like you are on a relaxing seaside vacation.

Every so often Jim van der Tas pinches himself to make sure he is not dreaming that this spectacular location is his ‘office.’ He is grateful for the countless friendships he has made in the five years since Blue Canoe has been in operation (June 8, 2008 was the official opening date).

The restaurant offers something for everyone, both young and old, in a casual and cozy environment that is known for its unique selection of beer and wine, along with chef Danilo Ibarra’s fresh local cuisine.

Chef Ibarra works closely with Jim van der Tas on menu development. Jim van der Tas says the menu is always evolving to keep the dining experience fresh and exciting, as well to engage the customers and the staff, and over time has shone the spotlight more heavily on seafood. A small sample of the current offerings include a selection of burgers (a cottage experience is not complete without this staple) along with local, wild, line caught salmon (wrapped in corn husk, summer succotash, preserved lemon cream), West Coast salmon chowder (salmon, corn, sweet potato, bacon), heirloom tomato and strawberry salad (burrata cheese, D-Original Sausage Haus spek, mustard greens, honey balsamic vinaigrette) and a delicious dessert menu including a heavenly lemon meringue pie.

Blue Canoe is proud to buy from local fishers (Organic Ocean) and farmers. Jim van der Tas is very excited about the relationship the restaurant has formed with local farmers that have been growing seasonal produce for Blue Canoe including lettuce, potatoes, berries, mustard greens, and herbs. Jim van der Tas says he would take great pleasure in owning a farm. In his dream he would grow his own crops to use in Blue Canoe’s kitchen although he laughs and says his wife won’t allow this idea to transpire.

In the early years of the business Jim van der Tas was at the restaurant virtually every day, however over time he has is now able to take well-deserved days off. Jim van der Tas describes his front-end role as similar to that of an old-fashioned maître d’. His amicable nature is suited for this role as he effortlessly circulates and is attentive to the well being of the customers and the staff. Janet van der Tas, a certified general accountant, is equally busy with her work behind the scenes managing the accounting. Jim van der Tas is full of praise for the Blue Canoe’s staff, which he describes as one big happy family. During the busy summer season the restaurant employees a staff of seventy. He is also deeply grateful to the loyal customers, many have supported Blue Canoe since it first opened.

The winter months allow Jim van der Tas some free time to coach his sons’ Richmond Minor hockey teams. Ben (8) and Aiden (10) thoroughly enjoy the family business and Jim van der Tas would be pleased if they elect to work at Blue Canoe when they are older. The boys have already expressed interest and have inherited their mother and father’s charm and social nature.

Running one of Steveston’s most successful restaurants keeps Jim van der Tas extremely busy yet he finds time to volunteer on three Steveston not-for-profit organization boards. He is the President of the Steveston Merchants Association, which he founded with Vince Morlet (owner of Tapenade Bistro) in 2009, as they believed a voice for Steveston businesses was sorely lacking and felt work had to be done to attract more people to visit the village. In addition, Jim van der Tas is the co-chair of the Steveston 20/20 group that meets to discuss current issues and the long-term vision for the village as we move towards the year 2020. Finally, Jim van der Tas also sits on the Gulf of Georgia Cannery’s board. Janet van der Tas is also active in the community with her sons’ school and sports.

“Steveston has so much potential to be an even better and more vibrant community. I want to help it grow in a respectful, carefully thought out manner for generations to enjoy its beauty and history,” says Jim van der Tas. When we see how the couple has made Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant a local landmark, and the creative ideas that Jim van der Tas devotedly offers the village, it is easy to believe his vision will come to fruition.

Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant 140-3866 Bayview Street Richmond BC V7E 4R7  Telephone 604-275-7811

Tapenade Bisto

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Tapenade Bistro celebrated its ninth anniversary in January, a milestone indeed in the ever changing world of restaurants. Tapenade Bistro has achieved what so many restaurants strive to be recognized for; their award-winning food, excellent wines and outstanding service.

In the early days, owner Vince Morlet had a vision that his restaurant would be an urban style bistro. Over time he realized that honouring what they do best is key, to be a neighbourhood bistro in the heart of Steveston village featuring French and Mediterranean inspired West Coast fare.  Their “simple, yet elegant” cuisine showcases the natural beauty of local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients in an appropriate and sumptuous manner. Morlet’s charm and warmth is inextricably linked to the ambience of Tapenade Bistro as he circulates the restaurant floor to welcome his customers.

Morlet was born in Los Angeles. His parents, originally from France, moved their family to Steveston when Morlet was fourteen-years-old.  After graduating from Steveston High, he began his career in the food industry as a waiter in a Richmond restaurant, and subsequently worked his way into hotel and restaurant management in Vancouver, Brazil and France. In that time he also earned a degree in Political Science and a Diploma in Hospitality.  He changed career paths briefly when he went into recruiting and head hunting, but returned in 2002 as a restaurateur and Tapenade Bistro was born.

Morlet’s paternal grandfather ran a café/delicatessen in Paris’s 20th arrondissement. Although Morlet never met his grandfather, he grew up seeing the enchanting black and white photographs of his grandfather’s Parisian establishment.

From day one the following perennial favourites have appeared on Tapenade Bistro’s menu: Bouillabaisse (which is ever evolving, subject to availability of seafood) and Black Olive Tapenade (which is absolutely delicious).  Other popular items which appear year round include Beef Short Rib, Beet Salad and Linguine Boscaiola.  Keeping the menu both seasonal and local is of utmost importance; therefore you will see a large portion of the menu change according to availability.

Recently appointed as Head Chef, Justin Cheung, will introduce his first menu in April.  As part of their commitment to sustainability, Tapenade Bistro supports local suppliers, and local farms including Terra Nova Farm.  They also take part in Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program which works directly with restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers to assist them in making ocean-friendly buying decisions.

Each winter Tapenade Bistro partners with local wineries to present their Winemakers Dinner Series. These special evenings pair six wines with six courses, and shine the spotlight on reputed B.C. winemakers who are present to discuss their wines. Next up is Poplar Grove on April 4th and La Frenz on April 25th, both from the Naramata Bench.  These dinners always sell out, so be sure to book quickly.

Tapenade Bistro has many long term staff that Morlet refers to as the “Tapenade family”.   Like so many business owners, Morlet spends many long days behind the scenes as he takes care of administrative work, meeting with vendors, promoting and marketing the restaurant, and he is on the restaurant floor during dining hours.

Morlet and his wife Juliana, who is a business analyst, have two sons, ages two and seven.  On his time off, Morlet enjoys checking out Vancouver’s restaurant scene.  Having spent 27 years of his life in Steveston he feels akin to the fishing village and believes the greatest things about Steveston are its size, the people, and the village’s unique position in the Lower Mainland.

As Vice-President of the Steveston Merchants Association’s Board of Directors, and one of its founding members, he is an active community liaison.  Morlet is also on the Executive Committee of Tourism Richmond’s Board of Directors. Tapenade Bistro is a supporter of YVR’s Golf for Kids annual fundraiser which assists children’s charities including Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

As snowflakes are gently falling outside my window, I can think of no finer place to be than in a warm Mediterranean environment eating a bowl of Bouillabaisse.   Tapenade Bistro is yet another reason to not have to leave Steveston; it’s all here, well maybe not the Mediterranean heat, quite yet!

3711 Bayview Street


written by Sarah Gordon,  photos by Sandra Steier