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Richmond is a 'Disneyland' for food: U.S. family

Michael Nguyen and his parents have been visiting from Portland three to six times a year for the Asian cuisine, ever since he was six months
Michael Nguyen (left) and his parents at the Richmond Public Market in a recent Asian food trip from Portland. Daisy Xiong photo

Richmond has been known as the North American hub for Asian dining – and Portland, OR. native Michael Nguyen and his family couldn’t agree more.

Nguyen has been coming to Richmond with his parents, since he was six months, visiting the city three to six times a year for the past 30 plus years, after they accidently uncovered the food scene here.

And now their family tradition has just one purpose – to gauge on the vast selection of authentic Asian food in the city.

“I’ve been to New York, San Francisco Bay Area and the L.A. area, and so far, Richmond has the best Chinese food hands down in the west coast of North America. It’s better than New York,” said Nguyen, a 32-year-old project manager and scuba diving instructor.

“On a scale of one to 10, you’re probably going to find a bunch of sixes, a few sevens and eights [elsewhere], but the nines and 10s are all in Richmond.”

Nguyen said his parents are originally from Vietnam and their love for Chinese food might stem from his late grandpa on his mom’s side who was half Chinese.

A typical trip for the family usually starts on a Thursday or Friday when they hop into a car, drive six hours and stay over in a Richmond hotel, and then leave on Sunday.

Before every trip, Nguyen would do a thorough research of social media platforms such as Yelp, Reddit and Instagram to “find what’s hot” and add it to their existing itinerary.

He said they come up with a strategy and “Like Disneyland, you got to figure out what’s the fastest way to get from point A to point B, which rides you want to prioritize. Richmond is a Disneyland theme park for food,” he said.

“We will stuff ourselves silly through the whole duration of stay. We will eat at about four to five different restaurants in a single day…sitting down we are eating and the next thing we’re going to talk about is the next place we’re going to eat.”

A changing go-to list to satisfy the taste buds

Since vising as a baby, a food trip to Richmond has been a family tradition for Nguyen and his family and their go-to list keeps being updated.

“Every trip, there’s always something to remember,” said Nguyen, adding that his parents’ favourite is dim sum.

Their go-to restaurants have changed over the years, with some restaurants no longer in business, and some being a permanent option on their itinerary.

“Fisherman's Terrace was the restaurant we would go to when I was growing up. We would also go to Top Gun before it went away for some reason, and then we ended up going to Shanghai Garden, before switching over to Chef Tony within the last 10 years. The restaurant that we currently love going to is Kirin,” he said.

He added that Max Noodle House and HK B.B.Q. Master are also on their go-to list, as well as Osaka T&T supermarket in Yaohan and Saint Germain in Aberdeen Centre for bakeries. And his favourite bubble tea shops are Peanut’s and A Whole Mango.

“So I guess we go by our taste buds,” he said.

“The main highlights from our trip this year, which is very likely going to be added into our permanent collection, is a Japanese restaurant called Sushi Hachi. I’m surprised that they are not booked like months in advance.”

For Nguyen, the trips are full of nice memories he has had with his parents and other family members, who would jump in the car with them from time to time.

“My grandpa was a man of few words. He passed away a few years ago, but anytime we came up to [Richmond], he already knew exactly what he wanted to eat, Chow Mein. It’s like the spot for him to have probably the food he used to have.”

Nguyen said life is too short to not enjoy great food.

“We live day to day and we may not have the time to go do amazing activities, but at the very least, we should be able to make time to amuse ourselves with good food.”

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