Lido Restaurant is a Hong Kong style cafe that’s nestled in the strip mall between Aberdeen Center and Parker Place in Richmond (map).
2 things you need to know about Lido:
(1) They make the best Pineapple Buns (菠蘿包 “Bor Lor Bao”) in Vancouver. They’re AWESOME.
(2) They are as close to the the quintessential cha chaan teng (aka. HK-style cafe) as you’ll find in Vancouver.
First, what the heck is a pineapple bun?
Well, they’re a Chinese pastry that’s very popular in Hong Kong and Macau. They don’t actually contain any pineapples. The name comes from the fact that the top of the bun, with its checkered texture and golden color, resembles the surface of a pineapple.
The top of a pineapple bun is sugary, crunchy, and flaky. The bottom of the bun is made of soft and sweet dough. It’s a simple pastry. However, simple foods are usually the most difficult to perfect.
Lido’s pineapple buns are pretty damn close to perfection. Their tops are super crunchy and the dough is soft and chewy. If the chefs took the buns out a minute earlier, they’d be undercooked. But they’re not. They take them out of the oven the second that they are ready.
After taking them out of the oven, they carry the tray of pineapple buns above their heads and place them on a rack next to the entrance. An odd place to store fresh pastry you’d think.
Nope. It wouldn’t matter where they store these. They go fast. The waitresses (who are pretty quick themselves) transfer the buns from the tray to a plate to your table in a matter of seconds. From the oven to your mouth in the blink of an eye. Does anything taste better than fresh pastry?
It’s this efficiency that embodies the spirit of a cha chaan teng. HK-style cafes are all about quick and cheap eats. The food is tasty, but simple. The service may be courteous, but probably not. The environment is loud and crowded. If you don’t want to wait for you own table at Lido (it’s busy during meal times), you can jump the line, pretend you’re in Hong Kong, and sit with strangers at one of their big communal tables.
The pineapple buns are great, but I also really like their set meal breakfasts.
You can mix-and-match the set meals. They include a main dish, a side, and a drink.
On this visit, my girlfriend and I ordered 2 set meals. Combined, we got a bowl of macaroni in soup with sliced ham, scrambled eggs with ‘sausage’ (i.e. a cut-up hot dog weiner), a couple turnip cakes, fried eggs, a cup of cold yuanyang (coffee+tea), and a cup of hot milk tea.
Look at the 4 pics above. Notice how, with each successive picture, there is one more dish. It’s because our waitress didn’t bother waiting until all of our dishes were ready to bring them out together. No, she brought them to our table one at a time as each was finished. Efficiency baby!
The food isn’t mindblowing (save for the pineapple buns) but it’s very satisfying, especially considering the price.
All in all, including 2 pineapple buns, the bill came out to about $15.
What are you waiting for? Go get some pineapple buns!
PS: If you can’t read Chinese, ask for an English menu. They do have one.