During the summer, Richmond’s Tapioka Express changed names to Tapioca Cafe 三年一班 and changed ownership. Located in Union Square a few doors down from Richmond Sushi, I recently visited the bubble tea and Taiwanese restaurant to try it out. What I was greeted with was a school-themed restaurant, with servers dressed in school uniforms, wooden desks for tables, binders filled with menu pages, and pencil cases stored the diners’ bills.
With an extensive Chinese/Taiwanese food menu and unlimited combinations of bubble tea options, it took us awhile to decide on what to order to eat. We finally decided to try their house special stewed beef noodle in soup, a milky seafood mini-hot pot, a seafood noodle soup, a side of salt & pepper crispy chicken nuggets, a side of salt & pepper fried squid tentacles, and a hot almond milk bubble tea with tapioca pearls.
The food came quite quickly and was quite a lot to feed 5 of us in sharing all the dishes! The crispy chicken is fried in a light salt and pepper batter with basil. This is a staple dish offered at most Taiwanese cafes and bubble tea shops as an appetizer or included in a rice or noodle dish as a dinner item. This was one of our favorite dishes! The squid tentacles are done the same way less the basil and was really flavorful! However, both could use a bit more pepper to the dishes, but still well done and comparable to those cooked at the Richmond Night Market. For $6 however, I did wish that I could have a little more of each plate as it was quickly gobbled up by my hungry family.
The stewed beef noodle is offered spicy or non-spicy. We chose non-spicy as others at the table didn’t want to eat spice. This came with thick yellow noodles, with a side of pickled preserved vegetables you can add to the noodles. I liked how the pickled vegetables were off to the side so you can add your own amount. The beef was stewed in a marinade that made it quite tasty and tender. However since it was lunch time, I think perhaps by dinner time I’m sure the beef would have been stewed even softer. I made a mental note to come back again in the evening to see if that means the beef would be softer and even tastier! Make sure if you don’t want it to be too spicy to let them know ahead of time.
The milky seafood hot pot was the best deal of all the food items we ordered. $9 cost includes a mini hotpot full of seafood items such as squid, fish balls, prawns, muscles and even fake crab claws (made with fish ball texture). It also included lots of sui choy vegetable and vermicelli noodles. On the side was a bowl of rice as well. Definitely a large portion for one hungry diner or a couple to share.
The seafood noodle soup is similar to the milky seafood hot pot but smaller individual size, with a clear soup broth. The contents also included fish balls, prawns, muscles and fake crab claws. Nothing too fancy. If you want a noodle soup go for the stewed beef noodle soup instead.
I enjoyed the hot almond bubble milk tea – more of an almond tea than the thick almond paste flavour. Also the pearls, they left you choose from big pearls or mini pearls. The pearls are cooked to the point they are a little too soft for my liking, but otherwise the almond milk tea was quite good as it wasn’t too sweet.
I’ll return more frequently to this place more for the Taiwanese deep fried snacks such as the peppered chicken and the tentacles, however, I’ll have to also try their other bubble teas and noodle dishes as well. Their menu is pretty extensive and would take me a few more visits to try out.