Seeking Spring on a Plate
10632 100 Street
In an effort to encourage spring to come, I took a walk around Chinatown in early May. Sometimes I limit my scope to just 97 Street, but there is certainly more off that main street. I wandered over to 100 Street around lunchtime and the Spring Cafe caught my eye. If I can’t walk in spring weather, at least I can have lunch in a spring cafe!
An unpretentious place, Spring Cafe has fifteen tables and booths with maroon and gold walls adorned with historic photos. There were even some tasteful Christmas balls and lights hanging from the ceiling. Most of the places were full when I arrived about 1:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, but I still got comfortable booth seating.
The service was quick and the menu was easy. Divided into eight categories, the list included appetizers, sizzling dishes, spaghettis, rice, noodle soup, sandwiches and (non-alcoholic) beverages. The menu clearly listed when certain things were available or if bread, soup, salad, and/or dessert was included. Meal prices ranged from $5-$6 for (mostly curry) soup to $16-$17 for sizzling or “all day” dishes (which included many of the extras). The set menu basically listed one each of pork, chicken, fish, and beef. I selected the Hainanese Chicken Rice and added a fish ball curry appetizer with hot milk tea.
The six hot fish balls were adorned with just the right amount of curry sauce. They weren’t floating in it, nor were they barely covered. The fish balls had more texture than the typical frozen-boiled type and the curry had ample flavour without the spice overpowering the main ingredient.
While I was there, I noticed that several other patrons were having the Hainanese Chicken Rice, so I took that as a good sign. The meal included a bowl of steaming yellow rice, a cut-up cold cooked chicken, and a bowl of house soup (salad was an option). The delicious rice carried the taste of the cooked chicken and stuck together enough for chopsticks. Juicy and tender, the quarter chicken was accompanied with a light, sweet chili sauce and a thick, rich soy sauce. The large sections of cut up meat with bones and skin were a bit challenging for a Westerner to eat with chopsticks, but the taste of the chicken took full advantage of all those parts.
I was savouring my milk tea when the bill arrived. Only then did I realize that the Hainanese Chicken Rice was a $5.95 special! The photo on the table sign advertized it, but my Chinese was not up to par! All-in-all this was a most satisfying lunch – not too much, not too little – and a perfect way to discover “spring” inside. Next time I visit the Spring Cafe, I hope the weather will also be spring!
John lives in Boyle Street.