O’Tray Noodle in President Plaza Food Court, Richmond


Honestly, I never had the desire to visit the President Plaza food court.

We had been there several times before over the years. What I saw there did not impress me at all. It looked like a dead food court to me which to an extend is true. I have never seen this food court with crowds anywhere the likes of Yaohan Center or Crystal Mall. Each time I go to the President Plaza it is to go to T&T.

My indifference is there even though the local chowhounds had been raving about this stall called O’Tray.

But … oh boy … I realize now what I had been missing! This is one classical case where ONE stall made all the difference to the food court. I think if we take O’Tray away, the President Plaze FC will lose 1/2 of their customers overnight.
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O’Tray is located in the President Plaza food court. The anchor tenant of President Plaza is the very popular T&T Asian Supermarket which happens to be the only T&T in Richmond. That is if you do not include the Osaka Supermarket which is basically the same as T&T.

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The food court is located on the 2nd floor of President Plaza.

Let me get this out of the way first and foremost. The entire food court was just recently forced to close by the Vancouver Coastal Health. This happened on July 30th and the cause of this was pest infestation and unsanitary conditions. All of the stalls were asked to close for one week except for one stall, Always Good, which was forced to close for one whole month. This led me to think that the source of the infestation was from one stall but the collective inaction of the other stalls caused a huge damage to its reputation.

Frankly, that did not deter us from going there. If this thing does bother you, I suggest you stop reading.

The first thing we did when we were at the FC was to walk around the stalls. They were noticeable cleaner … very clean as a matter of fact. I kept peering into the kitchen, the floors, the corners, the areas under the table, they were clean. I guess the operators learned a huge lesson.

The Always Good stall remain closed. Everything is stripped clean. The fridge with the glass window is empty. No sight of food or boxes or anything like that. We were wondering if they are ever going to re-open since it is already past 1 month since the closure order.

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O’Tray Noodle is the stall at the furthest end of the food court. It is the one which is the brightest because of natural light from the foyer.

BTW, does anyone know where the Irish sounding name of O’Tray came from?

It is run seemingly by a couple who are very friendly and very helpful. You see, I ask silly questions sometimes. Learning that O’Tray is a Tianjin stall, I asked where Tianjin is and which province it belongs to. Yeah, to some of you this is so elementary but really I am just re-learning my Chinese heritage.

Well, Tianjin apparently is a city close to Beijing and it does not belong to any province at all. The city is one of the five municipal cities under the direct control of the federal government.

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In many respects, Tianjin cuisine is similar to Beijing. However, one big thing with Tianjin cuisine is their love for tofu.

I love their menu. Just look at the prices first.

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We did not bother to search the chowhound archives for recommendations. At least the lady at the counter was friendly. So we asked her for recommendations (she speaks good English).

Without hesitation she said #1. It is the Tianjin wrap. Not even knowing what it is, we went with her suggestion. We watched her making this and asked if we could take pictures … why, she even slowed down for me to take shots. Seems like she had done this before and many people had taken pictures of her in action.

Like Sambamaster from Portland who incidentally sent me the video of the food courts he had visited recently. I was glad to see this video because it showed how the Tianjin Wrap was made.

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The lady told me that the Tian Jin Wrap is based on a recipe that is … “100 years old” which I am not sure if that meant it is an old, ancient recipe or it literally meant 100 years old, which is that is the case, it is not old if you ask me.

She did say that it is a very traditional meal in Tianjin. Actually, this is more apt described as an egg crepe than a wrap. It is very eggy.

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For just $3.75, it is a good deal. It is topped with green onions and cilantro. She also added a few type of sauces in it that gives it a combination of sweet and spiciness. She also put in it some very thin and crisp doughnut … makes it crispy and hold its shape.

Because of the eggs there, I was halfway of asking her to put in some soya sauce the moment she broke the yolk … and asked that she add one more egg in it. 🙂

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The Tian Jin Burger sounded very interesting. This is cheap too at $2.75.

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It is not very big as you can see. This reminds me of the roujiamou (spelling?) that Dylan recommended from the Want Want stall in the Crystal Mall (see post here) except that it is not as greasy.

It is filled with rather substantial pieces of cubed beef … and moist too. The bun is one of the kind. It is not your normal bread, instead the crust is crispy and flaky. Interesting … definitely worth a try.

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All the food we tried that day was really good. But one that really wow’d us is this one … the soft tofu soup.

Just $3.75.

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The Tofu Pudding is served in a thick broth which is lightly spicy. It also has bamboo shoot and wood ear fungus.

It is kind of hard to explain this … like sweet and sour soup with tofu pudding with chili. If we come back again and has to order only one thing, it will surely be this one. If they had more chili in this, it will even be better. Yeah, maybe that’s what I’ll do the next time … ask the lady to add more chili for me for that extra kick.

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There was just Suanne and I eating there that day. The boys were away with their activities.

Even though we had already three orders of food, the lady told us that their most popular dish is the ‘Ma La’ (numbingly spicy) Beef Noodle.

Looking at it made me salivate. We both love the thick creamy broth. We were curious and went back to the stall and asked what that broth is made of. It looked like laksa in the way it is “creamy”. It is definitely not caused by coconut milk like they have in laksa.

The chef told us that creaminess comes from “many ingredients” but struggled to find the right English word for it. At the end, the only names he could tell us is peanut and sesame sauce.

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The noodle was spicy enough but we did not find it “ma la” (numbingly spicy).

All these food for just $16. You can’t beat the value in this stall.

I felt that O’Tray is what makes a difference to the President Plaza food court. There are other stalls which I was told serves pretty good stuff too. As a matter of fact, Suanne blogged about this food court before when she had the Shaobing at the Yung Ho Soy Drink stall (see post here).

Before we left, we walked over to the O’Tray stall just to tell the nice lady that we had a very nice meal, every single one of them. She was obviously happy with our feedback. I also took the opportunity to ask her about the VCH closure. I could immediately see the pain in her eyes and she was somewhat defensive. I can’t blame her because she could have thought that we are journalist or something out to write a damning report about food safety or something. She was obviously stung with my question because she did not see this coming … not right after I told her we like her food.

I said she was defensive … she told us in a “I hope you understand” tone adding that “although they force us to close for 7 days we were opened after two days. They inspected us again and they passed us”.

I’ll leave it at this to how you want to interpret this.

But the food is good. Damn good!

O’Tray (Tianjin Flavours) on UrbanspoonBUSINESS HOUR

Thursday to Tuesday: 9:30AM to 7:00PM
Wednesday closed

26 thoughts on “O’Tray Noodle in President Plaza Food Court, Richmond

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  4. Hi Ben, been catching up on your Chowtimes postings since I got back from my China trip & came across this Tianjin “jianbing”. Coincidently, I had a chance to savour the Shandong version in Shanghai and it was very, very good! Now, I can try the OTray’s for comparison!

  5. I came here on the weekend after reading your post and viewing the pics. OMG I could eat the tian jin wrap everyday!!!!!! ~~~~d:

    PS. There is a “for lease” sign at Always Good so I guess they’re not coming back.

  6. my first visit to this stall was two summers ago. at first i was skeptical, esp with the location etc. my friend who grew up in tianjin said the food was the most authentic in the city. have to admit they do make good food. they have been very consistent. definitely deserves chowtimes reader support.

    i also get the same things here as ben and fmed, tofu brains(it’s just soya bean no actual brains), chinese burger(more like flaky english muffins) and crepes(add ham or other protein)

    Yes, jian bing is a popular street food from northern china(tianjin, beijing, shandong etc). Variations are also found in other parts of China, HK and Taiwan. Some use a thicker wonton wrapper and some use the chinese donuts. yes i agree 3.75 is super expensive when the most you paid was maybe 5rmb in china.

    there are two other stalls that serve it in town. both in crystal mall. one is the meixi and the other is the BBT tea stall that is affiliated to the resto on Victoria and 40th. O’tray is the best of the lot.

    the owner’s are great folks. the husband was a chef at major hotel in Tianjin for many years before immigrating here.

  7. Yay!

    Those crepes are called “jian bing” in Beijing, and they are available on most every corner. I haven’t had one since I lived there five years ago, so thanks for the tip.

    PS – $3.75 isn’t such a good deal if you compare it to the price in China – 2 yuan (15 cents)!

  8. Ooooh…I haven’t been to this food court for sometimes now!!! I used to go there a lot to pickup Chinese donuts at the corner stall…never really tried any other places. The Taiwanese breakfast place is quite well known among the Taiwanese community. Their Chinese donuts (Taiwanese-style…less doughy and more crispy) are even more well known among most Chinese restaurant chefs.

  9. Great post, Ben! And thanks for sharing my little video. Hope people like it. It was an afterthought, actually…next time I will shoot with more intention of capturing even more detail and variety.

    Of just about all the food I had in my recent Chinese Food Orgy in BC, the soft tofu “soup” (doufunao) at O’Tray was probably the biggest revelation. It is so interesting, complex, and satisfying. I was surprised at how good it was, especially after Dylan said that he didn’t think most people could appreciate it without the memories associated with eating the dish in China. Well, maybe he’s right! Most people, i.e,. 90% of the North American non-Asian population (or whatever number you can fantasize) would not care for the dish I suppose. Unless they try it! Then bring the number down to only 70%!!! Anyway, it was fantastic, and the folks there are truly wonderful. I can’t wait to drive back for more chow-time with their chow!

    Ben, you are doing a great job! Thanks so much…also, you have a gigantic readership! The video has had way over 100 views since you posted it only 12 hours ago…way more than ChowHound generated. You da man!

    • I forgot…someone said that O’Tray is not open for breakfast. Well, they crank up at 9:30am, and I noticed a lot of people seemed to be eating breakfast at that time. I was. Pancakes and savory tofu “porridge” !!!!

      • Thanks for the tip! I’m usually at the food court between 8am and 8.30am and at that hour, only Yung Ho and the erstwhile Always Good are opened. I often see Chinese tourists staying at the hotel adjoining the food court queuing for the shaobing too. Will definitely head for a later breakfast the next time to try O’Tray.

  10. I am a regular at this food court for the breakfast from Yung Ho Soy Drink stall. I like their shaobing and glutinous rice roll. I’m not sure if this stall is related to the famous Yong He Soy Milk King in Taiwan which has spawned copycats around the world, including the US. O’Tray, unfortunately, is not opened during breakfast hours, so I shall have to check out the stall for lunch some time soon.

    • I’m with bubblenes ….. I never knew President Plaza had a food court until Ben’s thread on Yung Ho earlier this year:

      https://chowtimes.com/2010/01/22/where-can-we-find-shaobing-in-vancouver/

      After which I went to PP twice to have Yung Ho’s shaobing (pretty ok but not the best I’ve ever had) and O’ Tray’s noodles (forgot what I ordered, but it was good). I gotta say the food court’s ambiance is (or was) rather depressing at the time, it just felt run-down and forgotten. And obviously 2 or 3 vendors really anchor the existence of the food court itself.

      Glad to hear the food court has cleaned up (literally and figuratively), hopefully it will get a turnover of vendors to rival Richmond’s other Asian mall food courts.

  11. I actually never knew there was a food court at President Plaza! But after reading this, I will most definitely be trying — it’s always nice to try other regional Chinese food other than Canton food 🙂

  12. I was actually there yesterday and ordered the cold sesame noodles. Its the only dish recommended by chowhounds that I havent had the chance to try yet. I said to myself I would not go back there after hearing the news that they were forced to close but after checking out the place, I felt they have done a good job in cleaning up. Just like what you did, I looked at their kitchen (which is thankfully viewable from the front counter) and checked it from floor to ceiling. It looks cleaner and the kitchen stuff are now well organized. Will definitely recommend this place.

    • Good thing Crispy! This place deserves our business as it serves very good food.

      The place had always looked clean to me in any case. I sometimes think that the VCH inspectors come down with a heavy hand (perhaps to send a message). I would be more worried about the great number of mediocre sandwich shops that serve coldcuts than a place like Otray where the food is well cooked.

      • I think they should continue with the sweeps and heavy hands! Need to train asian operators that they have a responsibility to maintain a certain level of sanitation for the sake of their patrons, not just make money!

  13. Yeah… I forget the details but I think the last people that ran the place had the surname 欧阳 Ōuyáng… or something like that. I was hazy on the details.

    I love this place and the people that run it are heroes.

  14. BTW – The last time Dylan and I were there together, Dylan did ask where they got the name “O’Tray” – they said that it sounded like their Chinese name. Dylan – if you are reading – did I get that right?

  15. This is my favourite of all foodcourt stalls in town. I was just there with my daughter last weekend. I usually order the exact same things you and Suanne ordered – the jianbing (crepe), jiangrou kaobing (burger), the doufunao (soft tofu “brains”), the the mala beef soup.

    The closures by the VCH didn’t bother me at all. I can see that this place operated hygienically. They did a sweep over the last few weeks of all the foodcourts in Richmond, I believe and nailed a number of them.

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