It seems that calling this restaurant sketchy and dodgy did not deter some of us from showing up for this impromptu chowdown.
I made sure that I set the expectations clearly up front with those who responded to my call to join Suanne and I for lunch in the New Town Restaurant in Chinatown. I did not want people to look at me funny for choosing a place like this. I am saying this because I was once here some years ago when I saw needles in the washroom. We also came here after our lunch at Maxim’s to buy some buns and we noticed that some of their customers were down and out (if you know what I mean). So that formed an impression in me that this is not exactly a family restaurant.
To me I am no snob when it comes to food. I will go where there is something to learn about even if the food is nothing great. Sorry you gotta take this blog as it is – warts and all. I don’t usually got to fancy schmancy places.
I am just fascinated with the New Town Bakery and Restaurant because it is a restaurant before my time. Being someone who are relatively new to Canada, I don’t know the background of all these historic restaurants.
You know, as much as I spend a couple of hours everyday hacking away at writing a blog post, I spend equally as long, if not more, reading and digesting your comments. Indeed chowtimes had turned somewhat into a forum of sort.
I always enjoy reading your comments about the history (and gossips) behind these restaurants. Some of you would comment publicly and some would write emails to us in private. Sometimes we get juicy gossip about some restaurants … about gang affiliations and bosses who are hamsap and wives who gambled away the family fortunes and stuff like that. Some things just cannot be published on a blog. If I do, maybe the triads will send someone to take care of chowtimes. LOL!
So yeah, I was determined to go to New Town and accompanied with people who had a big part of their lives living in Chinatown. In all there were eight of us who showed up and I had such a great time.
Here is where I need you old timers to help me describing the history of New Town, OK? Let me know if I get this correct:
This could be confusing. There are four bakery or restaurant with the name New Town. This one in Chinatown which is 30 years old now is directly affiliated with the New Town bakeries in Richmond and in Surrey.
There is also another New Town on Cambie and 19th called the Original New Town Bakery (which is just a bakery and no restaurant). The Original New Town was the one which has its beginnings in 1948 (making it twice as old). I think the owner of the original New Town sold the restaurant and name about 30 years ago and then had regrets and restarted his bakery business with the Original New Town Bakery.
Is that correct? Yes? No? Anyway, I know who knows … Buddha Girl. So I am gonna reserve the box below for her comment. 🙂
[Box reserved for Buddha Girl to provide history of New Town … would you be kind enough to repeat the history? Pretty please? Thanks!]
Not sure how it goes though. New Town is Chinese and yet it is Filipino. You can see evidence of this on the door with the Mabuhay word. Some of their food in the bakery too has Filipino names although they are Chinese Filipino food.
See the pix on the right? Hey it is half off after 6:00 PM! Too bad it is out of the way for me or else this would be a great place to pick up something for the next days breakfasts on the way back from the office.
Hey don’t sneer at New Town. They had won CRA awards before – awards as in plural OK? Their Apple Tarts are legendary.
We were not sure if they would even take reservations for a place like this but when we called, they apparently do take reservations. For once, I thought I had to go early to “chuup” a table big enough for eight of us. No, we did not have to. The table was there waiting for us when we showed up.
Yeah, most of the people who showed up doesn’t know one another. Apparently when we showed up some of the party were already there and they were waiting for Suanne and I in different sections of the restaurant. Everyone settled down very quickly and we all started to chat like we were old friends – instantaneously. LOL!
It’s amazing how food unites people.
The dining area was relatively busy but the bakery area was extremely busy with people coming in for take outs. Service was very fast and good and friendly. It does help to have Thomas who knows the restaurant workers personally. The “jeh-jehs” (elder sista) and “ah-sohs” (aunties) seems to treat Thomas like their darling. It’s good to be loved.
Let’s face it. New Town is really a dive of a place. It does show its age at all fronts but to me it also shows its charm in many ways.
I just wonder if there is anything they don’t have here. It is bewildering how many menus they have and I wonder if these are all coordinated at all.
There is a long list of Special Set Menu on the sandwich board outside. We also have the (orange color) menu for Special Mini Set. And then there is the specials of the day on the table holder.
And there is also the main menu (the landscape picture on bottom right). Take a look at the number and see how many items there are (click if want to show it larger).
It’s amazing isn’t it?
Thomas was raving about their Braised Lamb and Beancurd Stick. We wanted to try it but it’s a special that is only available when they make it the day before. Our timing was off. So we did not get to try it.
I don’t know if I heard Thomas wrong or if he was pulling my legs. I thought I heard him say that the aluminium pot makes tea more smooth.
I have never heard of that before. *shrug*
Nice and strong. Their Hong Kong style milk tea is good stuff … up to snuff. Just look at the smoothness and richness. We took a while to decide what we wanted.
Since we have numbers, I was a bit bolder and said we will order drinks and some pastries first and real food later. Yeah, normally I am a bit more timid if it was just Suanne and I. We would try to order everything all at once and not hog the table for too long since this restaurant is quite a busy place.
“Bo Chup” (don’t care) because we have the numbers.
The best Apple Tarts on the planet according to … the CRA (Chinese Restaurant Awards) folks.
According to Thomas, apple tart is created by Chinese cook on the railway eons ago. It is something that can be cooked at the last minute and still good using can apple fillings and pastry. Something like that. I gotta get Thomas to expand on this.
Oooo … very flaky … oooo … light … oooo … warm … oooo … gooey apple fillings.
Top notch. No wonder this won awards. Yeah, if you just buy one thing here, buy this one.
Their other specialty is the Char Siu Bao. It was quite OK. While the char siu fillings are moist and flavourful, it is the dough that is just so-so. I mean, I had super fluffy and soft ones but I guess there are many types. This bun here is chewy.
But the exciting thing is not just this bun …
Thomas told us about their secret sauce. They don’t give this sauce to all tables. You gotta ask for it. Thomas said that this secret sauce is made of hoisin sauce and drippings from making char siu.
This is awesome stuff. Squirt some of this into the filling and it makes it taste a lot better.
Yeah, eat like a pro! Impress your friends next time by asking for the secret sauce.
I was not impressed with their Dai Bao (Big Bun). This is called Bola-bola in Tagalog.
It is big but I don’t consider this big. I had eaten really massive ones which is like 8-9 inches in diameter. It is so big you need two hands to hold it.
To its credit this one has good sized fillings.
The Deep Fried Sugar Coated Chinese Donut was my type of food. I admit it. I enjoyed this a lot.
I don’t see a lot of the others eating this because there are so many left over. Which was fine by me because it just means it is more share for me.
It was all cut up for us so it was easy to share. It is sweet and has sandy texture from sugar coating.
It took us a while before we got down to ordering real food. It was pretty much random orders – someone said a dish, we just ordered it without talking about it. I think people did not quite care much what the food was … everyone was more engrossed in their chats.
Thomas ordered the Pancit Beehoon which was a good thing to get since this restaurant has a Filipino influence. Yeah, it did not look super but it is how it is in this restaurant. Remember this is not a fancy restaurant.
The pancit beehoon has pork, liver, fish ball, prawn, squid, cabbage and carrot, the usual stuff. I noticed that there is no bean sprouts which is good because I hate bean sprouts in noodles. The beehoon has a nice garlicky flavour.
Grayelf opted for the Char Koy Tiu. I think she got this because of the name only (that right, Grayelf? LOL!).
I expected this to be char koay teow which is darker in color, more caramelized and uses dark soy sauce. Instead, this is a Singaporean style fried rice noodles with curry powder.
Nevertheless this is quite spicy.
The free daily soup has green and red carrot in it. Very little MSG as we did not get much thirsty after.
The Daily Special is the Pork chop with Onion on Rice. Taste wise it was kind of bland.
But there were a lot of pork chops. I counted six pieces of big ones.
The Boiled Beef Brisket with Noodles in Clear Soup ($6.25) was another of their special of the day. This was on the plastic holder on the table and so I wanted to try that.
It was quite good, quite flavourful with thicker rice noodles.
Gasp! I just learned that Mr Grayelf likes Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice just like Nanzaro and Arkensen. Boy, I think my boys will get along very well with him.
The fried rice looked good. A little drier would be better. I was thinking perhaps they use fresh cooked rice instead of day old rice to make it.
Although we were quite full already and was about to leave, the “jeh-jeh” who was wheeling out a batch of freshly baked egg tart enticed us to get some.
We couldn’t say no.
Nothing beats the softness of freshly made ones.
I felt like it was all carbo loading in this meal. No … it is not that it is bad. These are simple no frills food that I enjoy – just protein and carbo with no veggies.
We did not even have the breakdown of the prices and have no idea is it is all correct. It came to about $11 per person which was OK with everyone.
Thomas was telling us that New Town will be moving this year. They are moving just three doors away to that spot you see above. The waitress told us it will be a smaller place.
I hope they will rebrand and reinvent themselves with the move. We will definitely be there when they move.
After the lunch, we went walking around Chinatown with Thomas and Doris. They sure know the neighborhood well and were chatting about nitty gritty details of businesses there. It was all new to me and we did the listening mostly. They even know stuff like the old lady who would sit on some steps selling papers and all.
Suanne and I had a good time. So, thanks to all who showed up to this rather impromptu chowdown.
Oh … while walking along the stores in Chinatown, Suanne saw that they have Malaysian Anchovies. How exciting right? Well, it wasn’t anywhere near as good. Suanne used it to make Nasi Lemak the next day and the anchovies was no good. The search goes on …