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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Hearty Lunch @ The One Spot Soup House (湯.com)

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IMG_7172 copy After a full morning of interviewing candidates at a job fair for me and dealing with difficult customers for Ying, we found ourselves hungry and wanting some comfort food. I had heard of The One Spot Soup House or Soup.com (literal translation of 湯.com), but never got around to trying it. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall style family-run business located on Victoria Drive close to 43rd Ave (see map below). This tiny restaurant is buried in the midst of a busy section of Victoria Drive, sandwiched in between several Chinese grocery stores. There is absolutely nothing impressive about the exterior, but there is a glaring lack of any English on the signs (unless you count .com as English). In fact, I’m not quite sure I actually saw the English name of the restaurant anywhere (maybe it was on the menu?). Nevertheless, I kind of like the characteristic large decorative Chinese clay urn as its front store decor, but it really doesn't match the rest of the exterior design.
The interior isn’t much better, with fairly worn-out tables and chairs. It can accommodate about 40 people including one large table. Even though we arrived at 3:30PM, the place had many diners with one large group celebrating a birthday.

IMG_7175 copy IMG_7181 copy Ying was promptly greeted by a waitress and led to a table in the middle of the restaurant, while I finished taking exterior pictures. Glancing around at the other tables, it seemed like almost everyone was having claypot rice, one of this store’s specialty. The waitress quickly brought us tea served in Styrofoam cups. Yes! Styrofoam cups! I can’t remember the last non-takeout restaurant I’ve been to where I was served beverages in Styrofoam cups – hardly environmentally friendly. At least they don't try to pretend to be something they are not.

To start, I got what they called the preserved egg on the menu for $1 (see picture). It is actually egg marinated in Chinese Lu sauce garnished with green onion. It tasted as I expected - a bit salty. It's really nothing special but as an appy, it was pleasant. IMG_7214 copy
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IMG_7188 copy Ying was intent on trying their namesake dish – can’t go to soup.com without trying their soup! Also, we were expecting to attend my store’s holiday party later, so we didn’t want to get something too filling for Ying. Soup.com has an extensive selection of Chinese herbal soups with elaborate descriptions in its menu. Ying went for their Ginseng Silk Chicken Soup  ($3.95) which contains lean pork,  longan meat, ginseng, and silk chicken. A sense of herbal smell engulfed me upon opening the lid. If you are wondering what that piece of paper is in between the lid, it is wax paper placed underneath the lid to prevent leakage while the soup was being stewed/steamed (not sure which). The soup is rich with ingredients. The informative menu explained that this soup can boost the immune system, maintain healthy pregnancy, nourish the kidneys and the liver, and treat anemia. Medical claims aside, the soup was actually quite good! It is slightly sweet and the herbal taste is not overwhelming, yet very characteristic of ginseng. For under 4 dollars, it is a bargain! I must warn you though, the ginseng flavour is an acquired taste and not for everyone!
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Minced Pork Cake with Salted Fish ($6.50)
I did not have lunch or breakfast that day, so I went all out and got their famous clay pot dishes that’s supposedly made fresh after ordering. I ordered the clay pot rice with minced pork cake on top garnished with salted fish because it reminds me of my grandma. She used to make salted fish dishes when I was a small boy. The clay pot rice arrived steaming after 20 minutes releasing a strong familiar fishy smell that reminded me of my grandma's kitchen. Ying refused to try it due to the smell but I loved this dish. The pot was hot to touch so they thoughtfully placed a bamboo basket (poor heat conductor :) around it. Since the clay pot was so hot, the rice on the bottom became crispy, yet not burnt. The salty fish pieces were small but they were so salty that you can finish the whole big pot of rice with it. You can see the piece of salted fish on the close up picture. It is garnished with ginger to reduce the fishy taste. The minced pork was juicy and I ate it with soy sauce, the exact way I used to when I had salted fish minced pork at grandma's.

The overall dining experience was alright. For a quick inexpensive meal without high expectation, this place fits the bill. I wouldn't mind returning at all. One thing I do want to mention is that they have really cool toothpick dispenser (see picture). It's in the shape of a house and with a push of the button, a toothpick swiftly pops up! I was quite tempted to disassemble it to understand the mechanism behind it.

The Yummies:
  • Parking spot is quite easy to find (abundant spots on Victoria Dr and the back street)
  • Food is inexpensive and the portion is generous
  • Variety of soup  to choose from and they were not stingy with the ingredients
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Toothpick Dispenser
The Yuckies:
  • Acquired taste on most of the dishes. I liked the food as I grew up with it but Ying disliked the salted fish... So it's hit or miss for some people
  • The interior is clean but it seemed like there was hardly any thought put into decorating it
  • Styrofoam cups! :(

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