Many of us likes to root for the underdog. I am one of those.
When LotusRapper left a comment last month about BT Cafe, he was describing how this little known restaurant is new, small, the prices are cheap, the food is solid and is run by a young couple. Then JJ chimed in and said that the young couple is trying their hand at owning a small business for the first time. The husband is in the kitchen and the wife runs the front of the house.
At the back of my mind, I was conjuring in my that perhaps this young couple had put down all they had to start the business. As you know, the restaurant business is not the easiest to be in. It is expensive, it is risky and it involves long hours. Most restaurants even work 7 days a week. In short, it takes every single ounce of energy from one to start fresh.
This is one restaurant that I like to visit. For me it is not always about the food or the ambiance or the service. It is also very much about the people behind them. I want to go check them out and write about them. I want to see if there is a chance for me to give this fledging new business a leg up.
When we visited BT Cafe over the Christmas holidays, they had opened for just over 2 months already. They are located on Kingsway just east of the intersection of Fraser. As a matter of fact, they are just a few doors away from Nine Dishes.
This section of Kingsway is kind of quiet. It is not at a section where there are a lot of restaurants because it is almost at the western tail end of Kingsway. So, location wise, this is not a place many people would go if they want variety. The food actions are further east.
The awning outside does not look particularly inviting. It is so plain and devoid of any creativity at all. Yeah … the name is one of the simplest, unimaginative name I had come across for a new business.
What we saw outside and what we saw when we walked in are like night and day. It is clean, neat and modern. It certainly has a more pleasant dining atmosphere than many HK Style Cafe you see around town. So we were glad to see that.
We were there for late lunch after having called them to make sure they don’t close in between lunch and dinner hours. Apparently they don’t close in between.
Suanne and I got there at 2:30 PM. It was at the tail end of their lunch hours. We were expecting that this restaurant is empty. However, what greeted us was a half-full restaurant with most customers about to finish up.
Their menu is big. The difference is there are not many specials. Most HK Style Cafes have many supplemental menus of their specials but for us, we were given only a one-pager with just three items on it (the white one on the top left above).
All combos are in the main menu. There are a lot to chose from. What jumped out at us was the prices. They are cheap. You can get a complete set meal combo (with soup and drink) for $8. A lot of their other combos (with drinks only) are $4 to $6.
Service was genuine and very friendly, exactly as we expected to find. The waitress took time to speak to us about their menu.
I ordered the Chicken Steak Fried Egg with Vermicelli in Soup which is just $6 and it included a drink. This item is found under the All Day Special combo meal.
At first I ordered something more expensive, similar to the above but on the other section of the menu. It was the other one with ham and I also wanted to order an ice milk tea which I ordered separately.
Instead of letting me go ahead and order the more expensive option, the waitress suggested the combo which is cheaper and includes a drink (except that it does not have the additional ham). Yeah, she won a brownie point from me for doing that.
It turns out that it was just fine without the ham …
That was when I turned the bowl around and noticed the fried chicken right underneath the fried egg. I thought I smell that deep fried chicken steak.
I was aghast because it was half soaked in the soup!
I had to quickly rescue that piece of chicken from the soup. How could they? LOL!
It was sooooo good that I can think of is the chicken and less of the sunny side up egg and the noodle soup which was quite solid. But it was the chicken steak that is what it is all about.
The chicken stayed crisp (thank goodness). I jokingly told the waitress that it is a shame to soak the chicken in the soup and it should be served on the side. If you come here and order this, ask them that the chicken be served separately, OK?
Look at the baby! Underneath the crispy skin, the meat was very moist and succulent. These pictures paint a thousand words. I need not say more.
The serving was large. Just see how big the chicken is and then see how big it is relation to the egg and the bowl on the pictures above. So this is definitely value for money, especially when it also included a drink.
I give this a thumbs up … a big thumbs up.
The other thing I like about their beverage is that they don’t give you that “it’s $1 extra if you want it cold” or “it’s $1 extra if you want it hot”.
Here, you get to choose hot or cold. No extra charge. It is included in the combo price.
However, as you can see there is a lot of ice in the glass.
Suanne went for something you don’t see a lot of in a HK Style Cafe. She had the Korean Style Fatty Beef Stone Rice ($7.50).
In their menu, they have other variation of the same dish. That includes Teriyaki Chicken, breaded pork cutlet, Unagi (BBQ eel), Japanese style BBQ pork, diced prime rib in special sauce and pan fried prawns with whole scallops. All of them are the same price except the one with scallops is $8.25.
And then you get to pick from a choice of sauce including hot and spicy sauce (which Suanne had), Teriyaki and Satay.
The bowl has enough “lieu” to give this a thumbs up. There are lots of julienne cucumbers, carrots, spinach and bean sprouts. Actually there is not much flavour except from the sauce.
The egg, I like the egg. Suanne doesn’t eat eggs and so I ended with a second one that day. I was talking to someone just the other day and I was told that one should have only one week per WEEK! Is that the recommended intake?
Not that I care about this anyway.
The other thing we like is the gai lan which I think is a more pricier vegetable.
This place is cash only. I like the prices as it was only $15 for the two of us. BT Cafe is quite solid and there is very little that is not likeable.
You know what BT stands for? It is Big Thumb. I told the waitress that they should name this the Big Thumb Cafe because BT sounded so uninspiring. She laughed and said that BT is easier for people to remember and say. I disagree. I am gonna call them Big Thumb.
Yeah, I hope some of you will make the effort to go check BT cafe out. I think for the price you pay, you will find a lot to like about them. Go and give them a leg up as they start their new business.
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Hi Ben, thanks for posting this blog post. It’s right in my price point area. LOL. I will definitely give it a try. Hmmm maybe for lunch today and I’ll pick up some banh mi’s from Kim Chau as well afterwards. Yum!
That Korean Style Fatty Beef Stone Rice looks really good !
Great review Ben. Time for me to go back 🙂
The Korean bibimbop looks fantastic. Am surprised that it
is being served in a non Korean restaurant.
There is another place located at Crystal Mall facing the Burnaby Public Library that serves Bibimbap. I believe they are a Taiwanese place. I can’t quite remember the name of the place now as our friend kept calling it by the wrong name.
Nice presentations! Do they do breakfast combos too?
BTW, most of the various reasons for not eating egg that were promoted over the last several decades have been disproven.
Eggs are incredibly nutritious and good for you.
Hi Thomas: Oh … I don’t know if they do breakfast even. I looked at the menu and there is a page for toasts. That page stated that it is available “from 11AM …”. Sorry, can’t be of better help. Ben
They do serve all day breakfast, start at 9 a.m
AHHHH!!! Save the chicken! 🙂 The chicken steak noodle soup looks good. Just the way I like. With runny egg and all! 🙂
Great write up Ben. Will have to try it out. I actually pass by it a week or so ago and didn’t go in because the outside was not that appealing and I was expecting the previous restaurant there. They should have Big Thumb instead of BT. The Chinese name is also confusing.
Hi Oliver: Yeah, my feeling is the same too. I would not have made a point to go check it out if not because LotusRapper told us about it. We get tons of great recommendations. We will never have found this place all on our own. Truly a community effort we are seeing here. Ben
So many restaurants …… but only one Ben 😉
The chinese name means big thumb also. What’s so confusing?
Ben, that chicken looks so juicy it could ooze off the screen. I’m hungry now. 🙂
Thanks for giving attention to this earnest business serving tasty looking food at good prices. I also can’t help but wish the owners succeed in their efforts.
I agree that “Big Thumb” has an advantage over “BT”, at least for native english speakers, in that it is more unique and memorable. To use the initials as “BT Cafe”, the name becomes so generic it could easily be forgotten, or confused with any other cafe. Also, might it runs any risk of some customers expecting Bubble Tea?
Of course, if blogs such as this one generate enough word-of-mouth, then maybe the name will become less essential. 🙂
My chinese isn’t great. Does “母子” mean “mother”?
My Chinese isn’t great either but am going to take a stab at answering your question.
The word 母 by itself does mean mother. The word 子 means small/little.
The word for thumb is 拇指.
Both 母子 and 拇指 sounds almost the same.
I think it’s a play on words.
Thanks, Ben. That makes sense to me.
I do think of thumb as “拇指”. I can see how they sound similar. I never catch chinese puns or plays on words without some help… 🙂
Thanks for the write-up on this place. My friend and I were lamenting on a lack of decent HK cafe type of place in this neighbourhood. A definite must-go for the deep fried chicken steak…
Their Chinese name is a rhyme on Big Thumb, I suppose, Thumbs up! really. Got to ask the owners this as it’s more of a non-Hong Kong expression.
Ben, now I know “Tai Mo chee” is known as BT Cafe. Over X’mas my son’s classmate told me about this cafe she heard someone raved about, but she didn’t know the English name or the location, so I gave up googling….Lord & behold! Chowtimes actually checked this place out! Thanks & the bibimbop looks yummy! I also agree they should serve the chicken cutlet separate to maintain the crispiness.
ooo.. i love stone rice~ will have to try it out sometime
i agree with you about the name.. i thought it’s a bubble tea place when i read the title of your post.. guess i was thinking of bbt cafe..
THanks for the post ben.. Will definitely try this out… I am all for the underdog….good food plus good prices is just a bonus!
Crispy, i see ure an avid fan as well,,did u go there today? how was it?
Hi Bulakz, no I wasnt able to make it there today. Maybe sometime next week.
Well I took Ron there on Friday and have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I agree that the decor was not what I expected. The service was great. They asked if we wanted to share and Ron looked at me aghast when I nodded my head. Normally, I have to ask for extra bowls for sharing. Another plus in my books was that they told me how to mix up the stone rice. It’s funny but I’m not a big egg fan either and it looks like I ordered the identical thing that Suanne did. I ordered it because you don’t normally see it on the menu and I needed some variety that night. Ron ordered the Portuguese chicken on rice and for him, the cheese on the dish was a big bonus. I haven’t seen that at any other HK cafe. We are definitely going back. Good value, solid food and I didn’t stick to the seats or table. Impeccable.
hello Nancy, your posting gave me a good laugh!You are funny!
Hehehe. Thanks. I think that’s why I stopped dressing up to some places. Well, OK more like stretchy pants help me fit more food in my tummy. Seriously, I always have food stuck to me somewhere and it usually is on top of what I normally spill on myself. A bonus if the tables and seats are wiped off properly. Also, no stinky wet smell from an overused dishcloth.
stretchy pants = AYCE buffet pants !
Can’t do the AYCE, Vegas was wasted on me. I couldn’t believe the skinny minnies eating more food than me. I’m petite in stature but my waistline certainly isn’t anymore. I think I swallowed the old me. No way could I write a food blog. I leave that up the Ben and Suanne and the rest of the wonderful Vancouver bloggers.
Hi Nancy: Wow, you went there too? You know, I think BT needs to do two things … change the name and change the awning outside. Everything else about the restaurant is fine. Ben
One place I went to charged extra if I wanted stone bowl!
I hope they can still make money even if they are helping customers save!
I can’t remember where I read it but eating too much eggs can give you ovarian cancer. I don’t know if it matters if they are hormone free or not.
My friend said it looks so sketch from the outside, and that at least Nine Dishes looks like it does on the outside as it does on the inside.
Anyways, BT Cafe is great. I go there probably once a week! 🙂
LOL! Love your comparison between BT Cafe and Nine Dishes. You are spot on, Kevin.
LOL, yeah, 9 Dishes does look sketchy inside and out ! 😀
Hope “If” isn’t reading this, maybe he has powerful friends …..
Hi Ben, I couldn’t help but noticed the awning when you mentioned it. Most awnings of that style would be lit from underneath. With the vinyl lettering on the awning surface and type of light device used, it could be considered adequate lighting. BT Cafe’s awning, however, it lit by two upshot lights that extend from beneath the awning. In the evening, the awning would be quite eye-catching from the street. I’m quite impressed!
They need all the eye-catching they can get. Most people drive past that part of Kingsway at night without paying attention to the street-side retail, because there isn’t much. Even Nine Dishes awning, which is fairly well list, is small and easily missed. BT Cafe’s location is more strategic in that they’re on a corner …. better visibility.
I don’t think BT Cafe is very noticeable at all.
Nine Dishes stands out because of the neon, but BT Cafe is pretty much non-existent and not very well lit.
They need an even BIGGER thumb !! 😉
Marion and I went there today and the place is great! They should lease the vacant store next door as I am sure they will get much busier as word gets around. Have not seen another place that is so clean, new, good tasting food and still so reasonable cost.
Congratulations Ben on the high ranking for Chow Times on the Urbanspoon count. The number of blogs in Vancouver is so amazing it is almost unreal!
Also thanks for mentioning Ideas Cafe. Lots of Chow Times readers came over to have a look.
Shirl, the American Association for Cancer Research has released two papers: (http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/11/10/1112.full) and (http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/14/4/1024.full) citing no correlation between consumption of eggs and cancer. I take this sort of thing seriously. I am definitely in the ‘Julia & James’ camp when it comes to use of traditional, natural ingredients. Thomas
Thomas, thanks for the info. I am trying not to eat so much meat but it’s hard when there isn’t fancier vegetarian restaurants and I don’t like beans that much. I also miss out on lots of types of food if I don’t eat meat dishes too. 🙁
Oh, I noticed the footnotes seemed to have odd dates. 1901? And also they did not observe if ovarian cancer patients ate eggs and were also on the pill and if so what kind of pill? That sounds like another study.
Hey Ben! This place looks really good, especially the chicken! Good thing you got it out of the soup in time hehee We’ll have to drop by here soon! 🙂 Did you get a chance to see their hours? I’m curious how late they’re open till.
Hi Lemondroplet: We tried to call Penang Delight today to get their opening hours so that we can update that on the website. But they are closed today. Suanne will try to call tomorrow and update this post. She’ll let you know once it’s updated. Ben
For once I visited a restaurant before Ben blogged about it! You nailed it quite right. This restaurant does have the tastiness + no need to add $ for cold drinks + value to it. Not something you find often outside of Richmond.
As for their hours, unfortunately they close quite early. Around 9-10pm on weekdays.
can you pls explain what stone rice is and tastes like? This is the first time Ive heard of it..and do you know if they have fried rice too?..and how does the gravy gel with the fatty beef ?The picture looks good but I just cant imagine gravy on that dish, would like your expert opinion first before I order it
Hi Bulakz: Actually, stone rice is nothing very special. It is gimicky in some ways. It is just that the food is served on a stone bowl which is hot and it does burn the rice a little bit. A lot of the taste comes from the sauce in the case of BT Cafe. I am quite sure BT have fried rice too. You should it. Ben
Basically, the idea is that the stone bowl should be very hot. When the rice is added, the bottom layer should cook a little from the contact with the hot stone. If done right, the top layer of rice should end up “normal”, while the bottom layer should end up browned and a bit crispy.
So, if the stone bowl is hot enough, then it should change the taste and texture of the dish a bit. If the stone bowl is not very hot (or not hot at all), then it become just a gimmick that at best might keep your food warm a little longer.
Went to the BT Cafe yesterday for dinner last night with my wife (date night after we ditched the kiddies at the parentals, hah hah). We certainly wouldn’t have found this place on our own, and are glad we keep up on chowtimes for ideas/locations. Was down to this place vs Penang. Anyways, we had a couple of the K-mix-and-match to try it out. The soup of the day (usual russian soup, or however the translation goes) that had a beefy base and a little spice/kick to it. Grilled beef tongue = good. The charbroiled steak was probably a 6oz new york that was cooked on a flat grill. Deep fried chicken steak was breaded and fried…YUM. The shrimp/scallop skewer had 3 of each on it. Served with some boiled corn and carrot slices on the side. Mushroom sauce had fresh mushrooms and BACON. Garlic sauce was gravy with deep fried garlic added it it.
Haven’t been to a HK Style cafe in recent memory to compare, but the service was way above average from what I expected (we were offered a grilled version instead of a deep fried version of the chicken) and it was a good meal for $25 + tip.
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First I thought BT was for Bell Tel Co. until your write up. I sure would drop by for lunch, nice menu and price.