No, we aren’t visiting Tim Horton’s for their ubiquitous coffee today. Double Double is actually a Chinese restaurant and even stranger, the Chinese name isn’t “Double Double”. Roughly translated, the name in Cantonese actually means “Old Chinese Donut”, which would make a much more awesome and less confusing English name, in my opinion. Old may get people thinking about how the food isn’t quite fresh so maybe Ol’ Chinese Donut?
I’m told Double Double used to be on Kingsway but moved to Richmond after a fire destroyed the old location. While this gets it closer to Vancouver’s modern day Chinatown, they’ve also moved to one of the busiest (and worst) parking lots in town, the same one where you’d find Bone Sushi. You would think now that Hon’s is closed, it would get a little less congested but Double Double could keep that traffic up all by itself. Right now, this is one of the most popular restaurants in Richmond, which says a lot because Richmond is where the 604 goes to eat.
Double Double is perpetually full. I haven’t even passed by before without seeing a full restaurant with a number of people waiting outside. It’s particularly difficult to get a table on the weekend during the lunch rush with about a 15-20 minute wait if you’re unlucky.
Since it’s a fairly new restaurant, Double Double hasn’t had the time to build up that standard issue layer of grease that covers a Chinese restaurant so everything is quite clean. Even the dishes are different from your regular Chinese restaurant bowls, spoons and plates. Nice touch.
The menu gives an overwhelming amount of selection. As you can see above, the Crispy Sweet & Sour Pork is item #229 and there’s still more! I love the little “Editor’s notes” in the menu, emphasizing which dishes are the staff favorites.
Double Double is best known for their Chinese donuts, which are golden brown hunks of fried dough, usually served with congee like croutons on a salad. This is the sweeter variant, known as ngau lei sow or, according to Wikipedia, “ox-tongue pastry” ($2.25). The outside is crunchy while the inside is soft and fluffy. These are top notch at Double Double, made properly and, due to demand, made fresh throughout the day.
This is the yau ja gwai (which literally translates to “old fried ghost”!) or yau tiew ($2.25), which is the savory Chinese donut. It’s slightly less dense on the inside and the outer layer is thinner and crispier, the perfect match for congee. Also very good…a favorite of all Chinese kids.
Another way people enjoy Chinese donuts is in this dish, called zha leung ($4.75). Basically, the donut is cut in half, wrapped in some thin rice noodles. The crunchy donut contrasts with the soft rice noodles, making for a Chinese breakfast favorite. No, seriously, zha leung are usually served for breakfast. Some places make this with leftover Chinese donuts, which result in a very hard and chewy center but the donut here is very fresh.
Right about here we realized that we ordered a TON of fried foods. It’s not our fault! It seems like all the best things on the menu are deep fried in one way or another. The deep fried wontons ($7.50) are a very popular item. The wrapper is nicely crisp and the filling is plentiful, with chunks of shrimp and veggies still recognizable. Despite their fried nature, they don’t taste greasy…like a fine tempura.
The pan fried cuttlefish cakes ($7.95) maintains the nice bouncy texture of cuttlefish. Nicely seasoned and delicious.
Deep frying can make even the most boring foods into little explosions of awesome. Take tofu, for example, which is a mushy, mostly flavorless, white glop before and now they’re crunchy, spicy and delicious. That might have something to do with the hot peppers and fried garlic but still.
These are Chinese radish cakes, which are usually served either steamed (in a bowl like a custard) or pan fried (wok fried…) like this. My dad loves the steamed stuff while I only like it pan fried. The radishes are mixed with some green onion and Chinese sausage then tossed in XO sauce for flavor. While the best radish cakes I’ve had are still the ones from Sea Harbor in Richmond (now by the River Rock), these are also fantastic. Pan-frying the cakes gives them a bit of texture and color…and as Gordon Ramsay says “No color, no flavor.”
The stir-fried rice noodles with beef is another Hong Kong staple, found at nearly ever HK-style cafe in town. It’s no different here except maybe it’s less greasy (surprisingly). It’s easy to stir-fry the noodles into a mush but they hold up well. It’s great but this is pretty much good everywhere.
Another HK-style cafe favorite, fried rice with salted fish and chicken isn’t for everyone. The salted fish smell is quite strong but there isn’t a whole lot of it and adds a lot of flavor to the fried rice. It looks like a rather unassuming rice dish but it’s flavor fireworks all up in your face. There’s a little bit of egg as well as some shredded lettuce for texture.
As mentioned, you will have to go early or expect to wait awhile for a table at Double Double. There’s a lot of people inside and the kitchen is partially open as well. On this visit, they hadn’t figured out the central air so the windows on the inside look like Jack and Rose just went at it.
The food at Double Double is great, as good as if not better than similar Chinese restaurants in Richmond. I’ve been back a couple times now and haven’t left disappointed yet. I’ve seen some people complain about the service but I haven’t encountered anything out of the ordinary just yet. On our first visit, the boss lady was our server and the stuff she recommended to us was spot on. I will say that if you’re going to any Chinese restaurant, expecting good service at all is pretty much futile. We’re all about good food and bad service doesn’t get in our way.
Summary: Solid choice for Chinese food as nearly everything on the menu is not only great tasting but show a bit more care and attention to detail than the usual at most Chinese restaurants. Unfortunately, it’s an incredibly popular restaurant located in the heart of Richmond’s food district so expect not only lineups but bad traffic and parking. When you do get in, get the Chinese donuts in any way you like and the deep fried wontons (or deep fried anything). After that, it’s difficult to go wrong. I hear the congee is stellar.