Aoyama Cafe (UCC Coffee/Japanese Cafe)

Restaurant: Aoyama Cafe
Cuisine: Japanese/Fusion/Desserts/Ice Cream/Coffee
Last visited: August 10, 2010
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: Unit 1008 – 4151 Hazelbridge Way
Price Range: $10-20

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 1.5 (based on the few items I tried though)
Service: 3
Ambiance: 3
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • 2 parts: Japanese Cafe and Restaurant
  • Homestyle Japanese comfort food
  • Japanese-Western dishes
  • UCC blend siphoned coffee
  • Casual, comfortable
  • $ 8.95 lunch specials
  • Extensive menu
  • Lot of snack options
  • Coffee/desserts/ice cream
  • Chinese and English menu
  • Photos of all the food
  • Kid-friendly
  • Free Wi-fi

**Recommendations: Don’t order what I ordered, maybe a place more suitable for coffee, snacks, and desserts

Aoyama Cafe is a Japanese style cafe located inside Aberdeen Mall in Richmond, BC. It’s split up into a restaurant that served hot food as well as a casual cafe that emphasizes on coffee and desserts. I didn’t know anything about this restaurant going into it so I had no idea what to expect. It looked decently busy and they were advertising $8.95 set lunch specials, so I decided to give it a try.

It was that or the Aberdeen food court, which I absolutely love, and regretfully I made the wrong decision. Mind you I only tried 2 of their lunch specials so there’s still potential, but perhaps I ordered the wrong things. I was just so disappointed by the savoury items I ordered to the point where I would only consider going back for dessert or drinks and maybe a couple other things, but I won’t make it a priority. Overall it just felt like mass produced food with no attention to quality or details.

Initially I thought it was a Chinese restaurant trying to be Japanese, and even though it isn’t, it still felt like it. In actuality, Aoyama is a chain restaurant that originated from Japan with locations in Asia and even one in California, but Richmond is only their second location in North America. Apparently they’re really famous for their coffee but the menu generally offers lots of Western Japanese dishes. They do offer some traditional Japanese dishes, but they aren’t that authentic at all and they also include some Japanese fusion as well. For instance they have “pizza toast” which I would actually try, although the price seems a bit steep for something I could easily replicate at home. For this kind of Japanese cafe style comfort food I would much rather go to Hi Genki Japanese Restaurant – it tastes better, is more authentic and well priced.

Things that did spark my interest were…

I saw a table ordering the plain French Toast, and to be honest that looked really food. It’s the image on the lower right hand corner.If the savoury items were good I would have actually ordered this for dessert.

These looked pretty good too, but it could be one of those things where the real deal looks nothing like the photo (this was the case for the entrees I ordered). It also sounds pretty overpriced for what it is, so instead I headed upstairs to the food court for Frappe Bliss – my favourite, shaved ice cream dessert which turned my frown upside down.

On the table:

I ordered the Chicken Omurice (left) with Hayashi sauce (right). It looked nothing like either photos…

Chicken Omurice – 1.5/6

  • Curried rice pilaf inside a thin Japanese egg omelet served with fried chicken filet and white cream mushroom or Hayashi sauce. (Regular menu $11.95)
  • If I paid $11.95 for this… I would have possibly returned it. It was so dry and it was so obvious it was prepared and reheated upon ordering. It wasn’t even hot when it was served and it’s definitely not authentic Omurice.
  • I ordered it with Hayashi sauce which is a thick sauce made from onions and mushrooms with either red wine, tomato sauce, or beef stock/broth. The one here tastes like it was made with onions and beef bouillon powder. It barely had any beef taste and I actually didn’t see any onions and I caught 2 slices of canned mushrooms in it. It was awful.

  • The curried rice pilaf was also dry and bland. It tasted like an overly fried fried rice with no ingredients. I couldn’t even taste the curry and it was wrapped in an overcooked egg crepe that was also dry and almost like wrinkled tissue paper. Authentic Japanese omurice doesn’t even look or taste like this – so don’t let this represent all omurice.

  • Do I even need to zoom into the chicken to show you that it’s dry? Yes. It was dry, tough, especially with the added flour batter, and the quality was just cheap.
  • The sauce helped make things not taste as dry, but the sauce was so gloppy and it got even chunkier as it got cold – it was already served almost at room temperature too.

Iced Tea1.5/6

  • It tasted like regular Hong Kong cafe style iced tea, which I like, except they gave no ice so it was warm.
  • The lemon was also quite old and it didn’t release any juice when you squeezed it.

Next up was the Katsu Pork Rice, which isn’t offered on the regular menu.

Katsu Pork Rice1/6

  • They offer a Katsu Curry Rice on the regular menu – choice of breaded pork or chicken cutlet with our Japanese curry (Regular menu $10.95)
  • This was a really poor attempt to meet the $8.95 set menu cost. They could have done much better and if this was any representation of their dinner, I wouldn’t be impressed. I had to ask for more sauce on the side because there was barely any Tonkatsu sauce. Tonkatsu is almost like an Asian style BBQ sauce and it’s quite sour with a kick at the end. This one probably came from a bottle. Overall this is something I could find anywhere and there was nothing special about the one here.

  • The Tonkatsu sauce they put on top was a bit watered down and this probably happened when they reheated the sauce before serving it.
  • The pork was a significant piece and it was quite lean, but also quite heavily battered and a tad dry. It was crispy with what I think was a Panko crumb batter, but it could have been mixed with regular bread crumbs as well.
  • I definitely found it unacceptable, even for $8.95… actually especially for $8.95… and I would have rather gone for Wo Fung’s famous chicken wings upstairs in the food court.

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