Restaurant: Zephyr Tea House Cafe (飄香)
Cuisine: Taiwanese/Chinese/Bubble Tea/Snacks/Tea
Last visited: July 16, 2011
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 7911 Alderbridge Way
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 3.5 (based on items I tried)
Ambiance: 3.5 (if you enjoy mainstream pop)
- Taiwanese cafe food
- Clean, bright, lively atmosphere
- Extensive hot food & drink menu
- Great for snacks
- Decent set meals
- Mini hot pots
- Limited fresh fruit drinks
- Limited fresh milk drinks
- Budget friendly/cheap eats
- Late night specials ($5-6) from 9pm
- Very casual/relaxed
- Suitable for old/young
- Family friendly
- Accepts MC/Visa
- Open late
- Free wifi
- Free parking lot
- Lunch/Dinner/Midnight snacks
- Sun–Thur lunch –12am (?)
- Fri & Sat lunch –1am (?)
- Parent restaurant to Delicious Cuisine
- Parent restaurant to Tri-Pot
**Recommendations: Honey Chrysanthemum Green Tea, Condensed Butter Milk Toast, Taiwanese Style Popcorn Chicken, Taiwanese Meat Sauce on Rice
I haven’t been to this place since it was called Zephyr in the Sky, and actually just realized now that they renamed it to “Zephyr Tea House”. It’s been around for ages and it’s one of those bubble tea places that are suitable for the old and the young. It’s not too “Asian night club” and has just the right amount of “hip” factor to make you want to stay for a while longer, or even bring your family. In a way it really reminds me of Pearl Castle.
It has a projection screen which plays some current American pop with a mix of some “I want nobody nobody but you, YOU I want nobody nobody but you, YOU“… and for those of you that didn’t get that, it’s the lyrics from Nobody by Wonder Girls (a Korean pop girl band that recently got ‘discovered’ by mainstream media, aka the Americans). Anyways it’s a mix of that (played at a normal volume), so the atmosphere is lively, clean and comfortable, and so was I.
This is kind of random, but I used the washroom and there was a Taiwanese girl crying outside one of the stalls… twice over two days. I felt like I was in a live Asian drama… I’m quite certain the girl was a different girl, because any girl crying over a guy for that long… should be in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Getting back to Zephyr Tea House Cafe, it’s actually a 2 in1, or even a 3 in 1 operation. When you walk in the door the first thing you’ll notice is this – Tri-Pot. No, you’re still at Zephyr Tea House, but Tri Pot is their take-out only “restaurant” that operates in the same vicinity. I’ll tell you more about Tri-Pot in my post for it tomorrow.
The third part to Zephyr is located next door. Their counterpart Delicious Cuisine is a Taiwanese restaurant specializing in authentic Taiwanese food, and it’s the nicest of their restaurants, although it’s not fine dining. They’ve almost created a “Glowbal Group” of restaurants, but since it all operates within the same building and complex, it makes it more like the “Chambar” of Taiwanese restaurants. This is getting all quite confusing, but I’m sure most of you foodies get it.
The menu at Zephyr Tea House Cafe is very affordable, although the drinks are slightly pricier. The food isn’t bad either and they have a lot of variety from snacks to set meals, soup noodle bowls, and mini hot pots. From what I ordered, the quality is okay and it’s better than typical bubble tea food too. For the price, there’s really little to complain about and the bonus is that they accept plastic! It’s not cash only, and that’s a big deal for a bubble tea place.
The drinks are house brewed with black and green teas, but they have a very limited amount of fresh milk and fresh fruit flavours. It’s such a double standard. At Western places you expect fresh fruit and milk, but at Asian places the powdered stuff is expected and normal. There are bubble tea places that do use fresh milk and fruits though, and I do prefer the places that offer both versions (yes some drinks just work better and at times even taste better with the artificial powders). I’d probably come back here for the food before I would the drinks, but the point is, I’d come back.
On the table:
- As simple as my choice was, I really enjoyed it. It was my favourite of what I ordered.
- It’s refreshing, light and made with real Chrysanthemum flowers (strained out of course).
- It had a nice honey flavour and it was Asian sweet, which is never too sweet. It was very floral and simply enjoyable.
- They were easy on the ice and the green tea is brewed in house, but mild, and it was stronger with chrysanthemum flavour.
- This is the house favourite and most popular milkshake or “frappe”.
- So this was quite a fancy matcha ice cream frappe and they even topped it with red bean and whipped cream which made it more dessert like.
- Of course I’m not a fan of red bean, but the kind they used here is actually good for red bean standards. It was real red beans and not the mushy paste.
- There wasn’t that much matcha ice cream in it and it wasn’t that sweet either. The red bean was sweeter than the drink part.
- I was expecting more of a milkshake quality, but it wasn’t creamy and instead very icy like a slushy with lots of blended ice crystals.
- There’s no bitter matcha flavour (which I actually kind of like) and since there’s not much ice cream it’s even less sweet, but it still tasted good.
- The matcha flavour wasn’t very strong and I prefer the Japanese Green Tea Ice Cream bubble tea at Dragon Ball Tea House much more. That one has a lot of ice cream, which is the point when you order any “ice cream” based drink.
- The Japanese Green Tea Frappe at Pearl Castle is also milkier and creamier and I like it better – see here.
- This is a house specialty and it’s passion fruit green tea with mint syrup.
- It’s very refreshing, cooling and quite tart with a strong passion fruit base.
- The mint was subtle and in the after taste, but it’s not minty like toothpaste either. It has a slight artificial taste, but it’s not that obvious.
- There was also a bit of real lemon juice in this so it was quite tangy, but fresh tasting.
- It was light and mild and although I don’t care for mint syrups as much as I would for real mint, you expect it at bubble tea places.
- It wouldn’t hurt to order this half sweet, it’s not overly sweet, but since there’s mint syrup as well, half sweet is fine.
- $3.75 With coconut jelly (+$.50)
- I didn’t try this one, but I heard no complaints and I’m guessing it would be similar to my Frozen Point drink which also had passion fruit.
- It didn’t look like a whole lot of coconut jelly though, especially since the cup is so narrow at the bottom.
- $3.75 (Hot drink +$1)
- I don’t get it. Hong Kong Cafes charge you an extra $1 to make a drink cold because of the ice and then bubble tea places charge you an extra $1 to make the drink hot. Ugh.
- Surprisingly a really good version of this is at the bubble tea stall located at the International Village (Tinseltown) food court.
- I found this quite sweet initially and then the tea flavour came after.
- Even though the tea is brewed in house from real tea leaves, I found the flavour tasted almost instant.
- It was more on the lemon side than tangerine side, and it was more sweet than citrusy but infused with some fruit bitters.
- There was a bitterness to it in the aftertaste which kind of stripped away your saliva.
- If you’ve never tried any sort of condensed butter milk toast from a bubble tea place, then this will likely be a 6/6 the first time. It was still very good here though!
- It’s best when eaten hot, but it’s not hard to scarf down this Taiwanese comfort food.
- This is not just your ordinary morning toast, this is toast like you’ve never had it… unless you’re Asian, then you probably grew up with it.
- This is almost like a dessert toast and it’s the perfect balance of a little sweet and a little savoury, but it’s more sweet.
- The condensed milk is usually drizzled on top and spilling off the edges of the toast, but this one was prepared differently.
- It’s a one inch thick soft and very fluffy white bread with a crispy, crumbly, sweet and sugary baked topping made with melted butter, sugar and condensed milk. Mmmm fat.
- It’s almost like a sweet pastry crust and tastes like the topping on my favourite Baked BBQ Pork Buns. This topping is also called the Mexican bun topping or the Pineapple bun topping. It’s similar to that topping, but it’s slightly different and a bit saltier.
- It’s sweet at first with a salty buttery finish, and the ratio of topping to bread was fair.
- It’s not greasy, but it’s still indulgent, and the condensed milk was barely noticeable. For this reason I didn’t find it as sweet as other condensed milk thick toasts, but it still tasted very good.
- No matter how you look at this, you can’t complain too much about it for $3.75 DEAL.
- It’s not a huge bowl, but it’s big enough for one person for lunch and it’s pretty good!
- I love Taiwanese Meat Sauce on Rice and it’s almost always cheap no matter where you have it.
- I wish it was saucier to finish off the rice with, but it was good.
- The sauce is very savoury, but not too salty and it’s soy sauce based and perhaps made with fermented soy bean paste, sesame oil, and a bit of sugar. It’s more savoury than sweet and there’s also some garlic, ginger and onions.
- The pork was cut into little cubes and it was braised or stewed pork belly meat.
- The tiny white cubes of minced fat was so tender and creamy and not chewy at all, and then there was the leaner parts which were a bit drier.
- It is a bit fatty for me with a 1:1 meat to fat ratio, and I prefer a 3:1 meat to fat ratio, but at least the fat was not gelatinous in texture here.
- There’s a side of pickled spicy radish to cut the richness of the minced pork sauce too.
- Sometimes people will used minced pork to make this dish, so to have it made with pork belly is quite the bonus if you like that kind of stuff.
- The rice was very moist, but not wet, but almost like Japanese rice.
- Choice of thick, thin noodle, vermicelli or rice noodle $6.95
- I got the thick noodles which are always most recommended for Taiwanese noodle soup bowls.
- For $6.95 the portion is generous, and although the soup noodles aren’t great, the price somehow makes it okay.
- The soup here is disappointing and it was almost bland, oily and watered down.
- I couldn’t even tell if it was a pork or beef based it was so mild. It lacked depth and flavour and it just seemed like soy sauce.
- The noodles were nice and chewy though and that was the redeeming factor.
- I’ve tried their House Special Beef Noodle Soup next door at their other restaurant Delicious Cuisine, and that was actually pretty good!
- For a bowl of authentic Taiwanese beef noodle soup, I would suggest Wang’s Beef Noodle House.
- This is also available a la carte as an appetizer for $5.25 and I think the portion is even bigger.
- This is not your ordinary American “popcorn chicken”, this is delicious Taiwanese street food at its best.
- It was made authentically with the fried basil leaves which I loved.
- The boneless skinless chicken was crispy and crunchy and the meat was moist, juicy and tender.
- It’s light battered and fried with a bit of garlic, a good amount of salt and a hint of 5 spice powder.
- It was a bit powdery in texture, as it tends to be, but overall it’s solid.
- It wasn’t as delicious as the Popcorn Chicken at Pearl Castle though, which are amazing – see here.
Side Vegetables – The set meal comes with a side of vegetables which include crunchy pickled cucumbers and savoury chilled bean sprouts. They’re just simple Taiwanese appetizers or side dishes. If you go next to to their sister restaurant Delicious Cuisine, they offer many more authentic Taiwanese appetizers/side dishes – see them here.