We met up with an old friend of mine (we went to elementary school together!), her husband and their two boys this weekend for a playdate. They suggested lunch at Hi Genki near their house. They go there a lot so you know it’s family friendly.

It’s a curious restaurant located in the cafeteria of a seniors home, and is part of the Nikkei Place complex. It houses the Japanese Canadian National Museum, a heritage centre and a Japanese convenience store.

For the restaurant, go through the doors of Nikkei Home. There’s free parking in the underground lot.

Hi Genki serves homestyle Japanese food, and also cooks the meals for the seniors residence. It’s run by the people behind the Fujiya stores. Entrees average $8 and there’s a daily specials sheet.

It’s a great atmosphere with tables of visiting families, people looking for an affordable meal and the seniors who live in the home. They obviously love to see kids, smiling and waving at them while H tried to grab their walkers.

This isn’t fancy, award-winning stuff but it will fill your belly nicely and not hurt your wallet. Most dishes came with miso soup, mundane green salad, or veg.

I was pleasantly surprised by the agedashi mushroom and the agedashi eggplant ($3.95 each). It’s usually done with tofu but this was a very nice change.

Fish heads aren’t for everyone but I like them grilled Japanese-style. We got a salmon one ($7.95). The key is digging around the cheeks for the meat and then sucking on the bones for maximum flavour.

My chicken teriyaki bento ($8.50) was pretty standard. This one came with a deep-fried potato croquette, half a hard-boiled egg, grilled eggplant, broccoli, and a tomato wedge.

The curry dishes ($6.95) are huge; remember Japanese curry is sweet, not spicy.

The meal was a blur as I watched my friends efficiently dispatch lunch for their 1 and 3 year olds. I could see why they came to Hi Genki often: lots of food kids like, no pressure to be hushed all the time, and kind waitresses.

Hi Genki, 6680 Southoaks Cres, Burnaby, B.C., (604) 777-0533. Open daily for lunch 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Dinner Monday to Thursday 6:15-8:30 p.m., Friday to Sunday dinner 6:15-9:15 p.m.

Baby notes
Room for strollers: Yes
High chairs: Yes
Ambiance: Very casual.
Change table: Yes, in family bathroom.

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