(Disclaimer- This experience was sponsored by Tourism Richmond but all opinions are of my own)
Happy Birthday to ME! This year I turn 37 on March 10 and for the past few years with being pregnant and becoming a new mom, I really just wanted everything to be low-key including my birthday. However, as baby gets older and becomes a bit more independent I decided I wanted to really take more time for myself and celebrate this year because why not? Self-care and self-love is so important especially as parents because you tend to forget yourself the most. So this year, I am taking that time back and started some amazing pre-birthday festivities with another staycation at Richmond B.C, my second home:) Lately, I’ve been in Richmond a lot as I was just there to celebrate Valentine’s Day and also it was our first staycation with baby back in May of last year, so Richmond is always so special for me to come back. Every time I return, I discover something new and realize what a gem the city truly is.
So whether you are visiting Vancouver or just a local foodie, nature-lover and wine enthusiast, Richmond has something for you!
Its All Here: Pacific & Authentic
Nestled where the Pacific Ocean and the mighty Fraser River meet, Richmond B.C is situated only 25 minutes from both downtown Vancouver and the USA/Canada border and also close proximity to Whistler and Vancouver Island. A thriving multicultural destination that offers a wide range of cultural, heritage, culinary and leisure experiences, Richmond is home to the Vancouver International Airport, the iconic Richmond Olympic Oval and one of the biggest Night Markets in North America. Described as a city of contrast where the Far East meets the Canadian West Coast, visitors can enjoy an urban setting with a flourishing Asian culture, local farms, two National Historic Sites surrounded by seaside trails and parks and some of the most stunning sunsets. However what you will discover about Richmond when you visit is that the city is dynamic, raw and alive and encourages visitors to leave their comfort zone and rewards them with unique and authentic experiences. Here in Richmond, you will never be bored because there is so much to do and truly a city that never sleeps.
As a parent, if you can have someone to babysit the kids for a day or two even, I highly really recommend a staycation because it’s just the best recipe to reconnect with yourself and your spouse and enjoy some fun-filled FREE time! Both accommodating and affordable and with over 20 major hotels to choose from in Richmond, this time we stayed at the lovely Vancouver Airport Marriott Hotel. Why I love this 4-star, full-service Vancouver Airport Hotel is that it is conveniently located in downtown Richmond so everything is very accessible and super convenient. For example all the eateries we went to are just a few minutes drive from the hotel, there is great shopping close by like Richmond Centre, Aberdeen Mall and Lansdowne Centre and just a short drive to outdoor destinations like Iona Beach and Steveston Village where you can enjoy a romantic dinner and walk with stunning views of the Fraser River. The hotel is of course (with the airport in its name) conveniently located close to the airport and Skytrain train access to satisfy all your travel needs and commute!
Comfortable and relaxing, I adore the wonderful staff and great room service here because I love to be able to just stay in the room and be lazy if I want to. I’m not the most demanding customer but we did request a few things like room service, late check outs and making of our beds in the morning for a photo shoot and the staffs were so quick to responds to all of our special requests. They even surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a bottle of celebratory champagne for my stay and also gifted Adelina with a Marriott robe in toddler size and it’s just the cutest thing ever and we use it at home all the time. The room is very modern, spacious and also family and pet-friendly but the most stunning part? the curve bedroom where we stayed in its just so IG-worthy despite the pouring rain outside. After a long day of eating and drinking (I know poor us) we were exhausted and we just lounged in the sofa bed in the living room and watched a bunch of movies which we seldom get to do when we are home and it was such a treat!
Of course it wouldn’t be a birthday celebration without any birthday cheers so we visited Lulu Island Winery, Metro Vancouver’s largest winery. With a landmark grape tunnel and 15 acres of grapes, this Tuscan inspired winery is nestled in Richmond’s agricultural land. With ample parking and very knowledgeable staff, I would say one of the reasons the winery is successful is because they produce amazing wines especially ice wines but they also offer great tours of the facility where you can feel the passion of where the wine comes from. I have never seen the behind-the-scenes of wine production before, so it was really exciting to see how the ice wine is made, all the barrels they use and even how they label the wine. I really enjoyed learning all about the wines and winery from Cody our wonderful guide and he offered us a wonderful tasting of all the wines the winery produces. They produce truly a huge variety of wines from classics reds, whites to fruit wines and ice wines and I have to say they are all delicious!
Epic Birthday Food Tour & Dumpling Trail
Now that we had some cheers, we can’t forget about the food! The highlight of the entire day was an epic food tour with some of the best restaurants in town. Richmond is widely considered as the Chinese cuisine capital in North America and with one of the largest Asian population in Canada, so it is no surprise that Richmond would have one of the best and most authentic Chinese cuisines outside of Asia. From dumplings to cheap eats to spicy dishes and desserts, Richmond has something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds and budget. For my birthday, I finally got to try out some of the restaurants that I have been dying to visit and was fortunate enough to be able to share that with some great company like the lovely Maggie, an influencer friend and foodie and my husband who has now been converted into a different foodie since our visit.
The first two restaurants I will introduce below is part of a food adventure called the Dumpling Trail, which was a collaborative effort by the Tourism Board and local restaurants to create a guide to some of the best dumplings around because eating dumplings is such a big part of the Asian culture and it makes total sense here in Richmond. From dim sum, to Xiao Long Bao to gyozas, this curated list of restaurants offers you a taste of the finest dumplings in Richmond. You can go on a self-guided tour or book a 2.5 hour food tour which is especially great if you are a visitor from out of town. Since we were there mainly for dinner we didn’t discover too much of the dumpling component in these restaurants; however I highly encourage you to gather some friends, bring some cash and come hungry of course and enjoy a sensational day exploring the Dumpling Trail.
Our first stop for the food tour began at the Dolar Shop Vancouver located conveniently inside Lansdowne Centre! At first I was very thrown off by the name and didn’t know what the restaurant was about and soon discovered that it was a upscale hot pot place! Gorgeously decorated and with the BEST service I have ever had at a hot pot place and even better than some fine dining restaurants, the Dolar Shop is a chain with 50 locations in China, Canada, U.S and Australia and is awarded the “Best Service Restaurant 2019” by China Eastern Airline and I totally agree. We were catered to from the moment we entered with warm welcomes and they even provided bags for our bags and coats so we don’t have smells afterwards! The staff was there to explain everything and whatever we needed was instantly brought to us and we just felt like kings and queens inside. They even have a claw machine in the front where you can have a chance to win some plush toys and Maggie who is really good at this game won a doll for Adelina which was so sweet!
Now to the food and can I say WOW because truly I have never had hot pot this good before! In Chinese “Dolar” I was told means “to share” which is very fitting for hotpot; however at the Dolar Shop they are actually the exact opposite where we each get individual pots and stoves instead which I love more. I guess we do still share the food on the table so the meaning still is correct! Anything you can imagine they have and also some very unique items from Wagyu steak cubes, to a smoking seafood platter with the freshest seafood from their live tank (I have not seen so many geoducks at a restaurant before and so healthy and fresh), to house made noodles, bean curd that melts in your mouth (where my husband who hates anything tofu and bean curd loved), to shrimp paste noodles where you have to squeeze from a tube, to ice cream cones imported from Italy and of course some dumplings to complete the menu. I think sometimes fancier restaurants fall short of their quality of food with the gimmicks and all the glitz of the decor and presentation but somehow at the Dolar Shop, all the glamour of the experience matches perfectly with the quality of the food which in my opinion really does enhance the experience.
At Yuu Japanese Tapas I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and was pleasantly surprised on their creative spin on Japanese tapas and comfort food. We ordered the AAA Volcano Beef Ramen which was very neat as it came in a sizzling hot pot with a dome metal top to mimic the likes of a real volcano when hot broth was poured over the noodles and covered with the metal dome top. I really liked this dish and you can garnish with cheese and egg which you can add on. They are also famous for their beer ramen which was more like a dessert so you should at least try it once to see if you like it. They also offer lots of great drinks, desserts, delicious appetizers, okonomiyaki, a crab and scallop fried rice which was very tasty and of course a huge selection of ramen!
HK BBQ Masters probably needs no introduction – from winning countless awards and of course a notable feature on the David Chang Netflix special Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner with local boy and celebrity Seth Rogen, this hidden gem (literally hidden underground by the Superstore parkade in Richmond) even has a cult following (when we were there a couple from Surrey said they come every weekend just for their bbq). I first discovered this bbq shop when I was invited to the prestigious Chinese Restaurant Award in 2018 where they kept winning awards which piqued my curiosity and afterwards when the Netflix feature came out it was on top of my bucket list of restaurants to try. I have to say HK BBQ Masters really does live up to the hype! Serving only five dishes of bbq plus veggies and a daily soup, the menu is small but specialized which I think is the key to their success for over twenty years. Eric the owner and his son Anson (who was on the special) and now the face of the shop is a perfect duo. I got to sit down and chat with Anson over some dishes and was really impressed with their passion for their bbq making sure each slice is the same and the quality is the same every day. Not only with great food their service is one of a kind and makes you feel like you are a part of the family. Anson reminds me a lot of myself and my brother who grew up as restaurants kids and I related to him a lot. Set to take over the family restaurant business myself when I was younger, I knew how hard it must be to run a restaurant for so many years and he is doing a wonderful job and of course making the best bbq in town.
Last but not least we come to desserts and I want to recommend iTofu, a dessert specialty store which I also discovered at the Chinese Restaurant Awards! I first got a sample of their tofu desserts at the awards and was shocked at how it was so different than any other tofu desserts I’ve tried in the past. They are really unique because the tofu is made fresh and you can add various toppings like glutinous rice and taro balls and red bean sauce with their housemate ginger syrup which is my favourite. I also tried it at the night market and now this time for my birthday celebration and every time I need more. What was the most surprising was my husband who absolutely hates tofu anything ate the entire thing which confused me? This time in Richmond I really found that he got converted and became a true Asian foodie.
You can visit iTofu at the night market or at their storefront location at 125-4940 No.3 Rd.
Why Celebrate Here?
Well there are countless reasons to celebrate here from the amazing culinary choices, to warm and inviting accommodations and some of the most picturesque and beautiful outdoor experiences- Richmond is a city that is constantly redefining itself! I was born and raised in Vancouver and of course I use to visit Richmond a lot when I use to live there. But now since I’ve moved further from the city, I found that I have missed this wonderful place all these years. Richmond for me serves up great memories from the past and present and I look forward to making more of these precious moments here!
*I truly want to Thank Tourism Richmond, Maggie for taking us around and all the participating businesses for contributing to my pre-birthday celebration and for always making me feel so special! All info including Dumpling Trail Itinerary can be found on the the Tourism Richmond website
Thanks for reading and Happy Birthday to me- till next year: J
::Details of Stay::
Vancouver Airport Marriott
Lulu Island Winery