Until this late afternoon, I had no plans or intention of scrambling for last minute reservations to dine out with my family tonight. Knowing Valentine’s would snatch up every possible table in restaurants with slim chances of room for walk-ins, I gave little thought on where to grab a bite for dinner. However, as I strolled past the cafe with a newly-bought bouquet of yellow roses for my mom this afternoon, I glanced inside and noticed there were a few vacant tables. Looking up, I caught sight of their sign “Moncton Cafe” and immediately recalled the name from my list. Without further ado, I called my dad and asked if he wanted to try something new this evening. Both parents agreed, and so a reservation for 3 at 7:30 was placed.
Parking in Steveston is always a hit or miss; you either luckily find a parallel parking spot nearby, or you have to wait down a few small streets with limited parking. We found one without much difficulty, and was seated ahead of our anticipated arrival time. By this point the restaurant was 95% filled.
The size of the Yōshoku restaurant was perfect for me, not too cramped and not overly spacious. (Note: “Yōshoku” is the term for Western-style Japanese fusion cuisine originating from the Meiji Restoration, according to their menu). Picking up the menu, I noticed that Moncton Cafe actually belongs to 21st Century Food Group, which is also associated with Ichiro in the same area (and another sushi joint, Takeya Sushi). Seeing this, I knew the quality of the food would be guaranteed, because I absolutely love Ichiro.
As appetizers, we ordered a bowl of Creamy Clam Soup ($6.95, $3.95/cup) to share, as well as the traditional Takoyaki. The Creamy Clam Soup lived up to its name; definitely one of the creamiest, richest soups I have had, with a flavour that reminded me of Southeast Asia. The Takoyaki was also surprisingly good, with chewy octopus and mayonnaise embellishment.. I have visited (and worked at) Japanese restaurants where the kitchen simply microwaves ready-made takoyaki to plop them on a plate for serving. From the beginning, we were able to recognize the chef’s amazing attention to detail. Every part of each dish, down to the broccoli, was cooked to perfection and appropriately seasoned.
Since my dad was starving, we really did not have much time to thoroughly analyze the menu. He tends to choose items on the menu with generic names, so he went for the Steveston Curry ($12.95), which included assorted katsu with curry sauce over steamed rice. All I can say is, the katsu was perfect. Perfectly fried, making the cutlet crispy on the outside and preventing the meat within from being drenched in grease. Other than pork, there were also deep fried shrimps in the entrée, which I cannot comment on because I did not try them.
He also went for the meal option, where for an additional $2, miso soup and salad can be added to the entrée. The miso soup was essentially served in a cup, which I found difficult to fit my spoon in! The salad was mediocre, nothing too special.
I followed suit and added the meal option to my Seafood Pasta ($12.95), carefully prepared with spaghetti, assorted seafood (shrimps, scallops, squid, and mussels from what I can remember) in a clear garlic olive oil sauce. The abundance of shrimps on my plate was probably why they left such a big impression on me. I don’t usually like having pepper in my food, but here the spice complimented the shrimps just right.
Finally, my mom is usually a “noodles” person, so her choice of Chanpon ($9.95) was not surprising at all. From the menu, the description of “assorted seafood, veg[gi]e[s] and ramen noodle in thick soy sauce flavoured soup” did not seem too noteworthy. We were quickly proven wrong, with the aroma of sesame oil travelling across the table even to those who weren’t eating the noodles. Every piece of seafood was delicately handled with care – you could just tell, with the consistent size of the mussels for example.
I was surprised my mom kindly declined the dessert menu when offered during their “last call [for orders]”, so I instead asked the waitress and she directed me to the menu already sitting on the table. We took a brief look and decided to all order separate desserts. My parents decided to try the Pudding À La Mode ($5.50) – pudding with 2 types of ice cream. My mom had the vanilla and mango swirl flavours, and my dad chose the green tea and mango flavours. I loved the presence of not only the frozen berries, but also Anna’s Ginger Thins, reminding me of another place I love to eat at: the Ikea bistro.
I was tempted to order the same but decided last minute to try the Hoji Parfait ($6.50), featuring homemade Hoji ice cream and green tea ice cream with azuki (sweet red bean paste). Hoji, from my post-research, means “roast tea”. Plugged with whipped cream and Corn Flakes, my dessert was pretty normal until I dug my spoon into the Hoji ice cream. A beige-ish colour, the strong scent of tea was instantly felt in my entire mouth, causing me to finish the entire scoop before anything else piled atop the parfait.
My dad threw all the Japanese he knew on the table tonight and put a huge smile across our waitress’ face, who kept uttering “arigato” over and over again throughout the course of our meal. The service here was phenomenal – might I add, the chef himself came out of the kitchen and presented us with our entrées. He had such a sincere smile and was truly proud of his work. I would be. Other than the slightly long wait for food, I was extremely pleased with everything. The quality of the food mattered more in the long run anyway.
Moncton Cafe was an excellent experience and I will definitely be returning in the near future, especially to try their Takoyaki dessert (yes, this actually exists, much like the bizarre Bacon Ice Cream from Edible Canada) and drinks because I didn’t have a chance to tonight. Steveston never fails to surprise you with gems, whether it be restaurants or locally-owned shops and boutiques.