There’s a stretch of Kingsway, roughly starting at Fraser and running to Nanaimo (and beyond), that has always been known for having a large concentration of Vietnamese restaurants and businesses. It wasn’t all that long ago that this was made a little more official with “Little Saigon” banners on the lamp posts. And the frontage on BT Cafe is such that you could drive past it dozens of times and not even notice that it’s there. I know that was the case with me.
The outside of BT Cafe is hardly appealing, with a bus stop right in front and the occasional stench of bodily fluids, but the inside has been nicely renovated into a clean, inviting and cozy space. There’s not much seating, so you can expect to wait for a table during the busy periods. One side of BT Cafe has about a half dozen booths, while the other side has a series of banquette style seating with modular table configurations.
The menu is also quite surprising for a couple of reasons. First, it’s quite varied. As Chinese culture in Vancouver continues to shift and evolve, so do the menu offerings. You can click on the thumbnails above to see the larger images.
As mentioned, you see the usual “western” Chinese dishes, like baked pork chop on rice. You also get a little more of the Taiwanese influence with the “build your own noodle soup bowl” combination, a touch of Korean with the hot stone bowls, and more of the homestyle Chinese with the humble bowls of rice with modest toppings.
The other thing I noticed about the menu? It’s cheap! The pricing for most of the dishes is more in line with the “tea time” or “late night” menus that you find at other Hong Kong style cafes (“cha chan teng” or literally tea dining room) around town. Most meals are around $7 or $8 and are accompanied with your choice of hot beverage. Cold drinks are 50 cents extra.
The pricing is like a “tea time” special and the portion size is correspondingly smaller too, which is fine by me. There are a couple of pre-sliced chicken fillets in there and they certainly don’t skimp on the sauce. I usually prefer my baked Portuguese chicken rice to have drumettes, rather than fillets, but this was just fine. It was a little lacking in additional toppings; it had some onions and (surprisingly tasty) potatoes.
The hot stone bowl is what you’d normally find with something like a Korean bimbimbap. Despite the higher price, this did not come with a complimentary drink. While the beef ribs were the right shape, I wouldn’t really say they had a Korean BBQ flavor. Similarly, the toppings were plentiful, but not exactly “Korean” in scope (aside from the kimchi) either. There was a lot of rice under there and the addition of gravy on the side offered a distinctly Hong Kong cafe kind of touch.
BT Cafe really surprised me. I really didn’t expect to find much of a decent Hong Kong style cafe along that stretch of Kingsway. It’s not going to blow you away with amazing flavors and dramatic flair. What BT Cafe will do is offer a decent meal at a good price, with plenty of variety to boot. I definitely plan on coming back to try their breakfast one of these days.
Yup, you get a thumbs up in my book, chef.