My mom loves to sell me on new restaurants in Richmond by telling me about their “specialty.” Apparently, every Chinese restaurant has a signature dish, which brings in business.
This is clear in Deer Garden Signatures (鹿園魚湯米線) because the name itself already boasts its specialty: noodle soup. I was skeptical for a long time, because noodle soup is so simple, why would it attract people willing to line up for it? With a three-year-old who wants to EAT RIGHT NOW, and a baby who now requires GEAR (booster with tray, solids, bib, toys to keep him entertained), places with lineups are not my friend.
However, the stars aligned one day and I was able to try Deer Garden Signatures right when they opened at 11 a.m. with my cousin and just one kid. Getting there right at opening (or non-peak times) is key. A lineup already started forming shortly after we sat down. This is not a place to linger. It’s all about the turnover and getting those people in the lineup seated, fed, and out the door.
That’s not to say service is rude. The waitresses were efficient and we were able to flag them down when needed with no problems. But they’re not going to stop and shoot the breeze about the weather or the Canucks.
Ordering a noodle combo is a cinch because you simply check off your choices on a piece of paper at your table. You choose a soup base, type of noodle, and two kinds of topping. The combo, which is $8.50, includes Hong-Kong style tea or coffee. Then for a mere $1.75, you can add a side order of meat, like chicken wings or a deep-fried pork chop. Yeaaaah. I likey.
The homemade, long-simmered, no-MSG fish soup base is a big part of Deer Garden’s popularity. The vast and varied choice of toppings — from beef brisket and Spam to enoki mushrooms and steamed pumpkin — is also a big draw.
I was converted when I got my gigantic bowl of spicy Malay laksa vermicelli with beef brisket and Vietnamese sausage. Everything was high quality, and you can’t beat the price.
Deer Garden Signatures, #1118-3779 Sexsmith Rd., Richmond, B.C., (604) 278-3779. Two other locations in B.C. and one in Toronto area.