Kalvin's is a no-frills restaurant that serves up authentic Taiwanese, Szechuan and Hakka cuisine. Kalvin's accepts cash only.
A buddy of mine wanted to try out this restaurant...I said yeah. To avoid the rush...we decided for 8 since they close at 930. Its a little hole in the wall with limited seating of 8 tables...just right across from the Chevron station. We decided on hot and sour soup, shredded beef with green onion, squid with garlic and chili sauce, and finally shredded beef with BBQ sauce fried noodle. I have to mention the waitress was friendly and helpful. Our food arrived in no time...the soup, beef, and the squid were very good. The squid had an extra kick of chili in it...spicy just enough to break a forehead sweat. The noodle dish was different but okay...I think my buddy liked it more than I did. Overall, a good meal with tip and pop...bill was $45 bucks. Definitely come back again to try some different dishes.
Had an unexpected day off yesterday and so finally got to go for lunch here with Fiancee. Had been trying to get there for a while now.
I was lucky enough to get to live in Taipei for several months back in the early 80's. Since I have not been back to Taipei, this restaurant is the next best thing. I have only been to a handful of restaurants in town that have food as good as those in Taipei.
Had the Shanghai style dumpling which is also known as sui loong bau. Filling was tasty but could be better. Dough though was perfect as far as texture and thickness. Hot and sour soup was superb. Not your usual hot and sour and exceptionally good. Gotta love black pepper to appreciate this one.
We also had the chinese onion pancakes filled with some beef and hoisin. To die for, these are so good. Might be a heart attack though if indulged in too often as they are fried but so very yummy. I could have eaten more...
Anyways, last but certainly not least we had the cabbage with pork. It was Taiwanese cabbage and the flavour was extremely good. First time having this dish and will have it again in the future.
I had dinner here for the first time tonight. I've tried to come here on a few previous occasions but never got in due to the long wait for a table. This time we made reservations...although we still had to wait 25 minutes for a table. Normally I would be kind of irritated but I had already expected it. This tiny restaurant has a total of 7 tables and has a very homely feel to it. (A good thing by the way).
The food was very nicely cooked with a home-cooked feel to it. All our dishes were tasty, hot and fresh. None of our dishes we picked were of any level of spiciness more than mild/average but I can only imagine how crazy it would be if we went much higher. I've heard the stories of how this place can get the best of even the most stoic spice afficenados. The Smoked Duck was really nice and the Spicy Squid had a great kick to it. All of the ingredients used were very fresh (especially the veggies). I was definitely impressed. The only dish I wasn't all that impressed with was the Chili Wontons. I've definitely had better elsewhere.
The service was really good for a very small, cramped and BUSY place. Although the majority of our party could not speak a lick of Mandarin/Taiwanese, we were all treated equally well. The dishes came out in rapid succession and we were never ignored by the staff.
We ordered a total of 9 dishes, 2 buckets of rice and 5 pops and the bill was still ONLY $100 including taxes. Needless to say that this was VERY worth it.
At closing, on the way out, the family running the place was getting ready to eat their own dinner. We all agreed that what they had laid out was very delicious looking as well. I will definitely be back!
Stopped here for lunch yesterday. Haven't been here in awhile. Just as I left it, the meals are still great. Dawn Tart and I had Hot and Sour soup,... have to say one of the best in town. Tried the pancake with 5 spice beef,hoi sin and green onion...yummy. Had some Xiao Long Bao (steamed) which were also good. (Chen's still best) and finished with Tiawanese cabbage dish. All in all, the lunch was tasty and always worthy of return for pancakes and taiwanese dishes/service is always smiling and friendly.
As others have said, this is a Taiwanese restaurant "masquerading" as a Szechuan place. Had the beef noodles, salty peppery chicken and green onion pancake wrapped beef. The soup was very Taiwanese, tasted like what you'd get at a place in Taipei. The beef was very tender as well. My only quip was with the noodles as they were far too soft and not "q" as they say in Taiwan (al dente). I personally enjoy chewier noodles (and pasta too). The chicken was amazing. Huge portion for $6 if I remember right. Green onion pancakes were nothing out of the ordinary (my mom makes much better) but solid nonetheless. If you're in East Van and want some Taiwanese food, I'd definitely recommend this place. It's better than places like Tea Work.
Finally made it to Kalvins after hearing about the hole-in-the-wall, family run resateraunt for many years. It was bustling so was glad I made a reservation even though there were only two of us. Its a small, extremely brightly lit but thankfully spic and span. Probably seats 30 people max. We were greeted by a pretty, efficient young woman who proceeded to translate the specials listed on the wall in Chinese-only. We opted for the squid in garlic and chili sauce, 3-spice chicken hot pot, handmade fried noodles with pork and seafood and the ubiquitous bucked of steamed rice. The squid was the star of the show. Just spicy enough. Tangy and slightly sweet. Delicious and hot as magma, straight from the wok. The 3 spice chicken hot pot was good too. Earthy and pungent flavored, deep ochre in color and served with roasted onion and garlic cloves. The chicken pieces were more or less bite sized but were a little awkward to eat since they were bone-in. We copied the way the patrons at a near-by table ate the same dish, spitting the bones out onto a plate with no apparent self-conciousness. Fun! The noodle dish was ok. A rather bland creation in hindsight. I was trying to balance spicy with something less zippy. The consistency of the noodles was first rate though. Dense and chewy as they should be. Service was prompt and efficient. Smiles were sincere. Total after tax and before tip..$34.25. There was enough leftover for a big lunch the next day. Will definitely go back
I'm Taiwanese, and believe me when I say that this place is a hidden gem. Every single time we go there, we call ahead to reserve tables. Otherwise, you'll have to wait. The place is tiny, cramped with lots of tables and chairs, and not very pretty to look at inside AND out. But looks can be deceiving. If you go before 6pm, the place is dead quiet. If you go after 6pm, the place suddenly fills up with people. It is amazing how long the lineups get.
The first time my brothers brought me to this place, I didn't expect much of it because most of the other Taiwanese restaurants in Vancouver are pretty bad. Boy was I wrong. The dishes are authentic, delicious, not cramped full of MSG, and have a home cooked appeal. I almost burst into tears when I ate my dinner that night because it reminded me so much of my mother's cooking (although Mom's food was leaps and bounds beyond any restaurant food you can get).
A word of warning, when ordering spicy dishes, please please always start out with "small small hot" and work your way up. The "regular hot" almost burned a hole in my tongue. The place is cash only, so remember to bring plenty of money. They also have bags of frozen dumplings, wontons, and mini buns for sale. So you can enjoy their food at home too.
We ate here two or three years ago after reading about it in the Georgia Straight. Strangely, absolutely nobody else was in the place. It was in desperate need of decorating, I do remember. It seemed that the family that ran it were at a nearby table, sometimes tending to us and mostly eating and talking and watching us! Nice people, I recall.
Now I like spicy food but spicy as in flavor, not necessarily heat. We ordered a couple of dishes, none with maximum chili, and I remember it almost bringing me to tears! It was freakin' hot -- chili hot!!! Some of you will love that and that's great for you (bad for your innards, though). It was good food, I just happened to overwhelmed by the heat. We took the leftovers home and I think it took me two more days just to get through the cashews that were part of one dish -- I couldn't finish the veggies or noodles as the heat was just murderous.
We left another restaurant so we didn't have to wait so long. We decided to try this place. We waited here for less than 6 minutes and they told us the table will be available shortly. Sure, it was, to a customer that they recognize who just walked right in and took our table.
We asked the boss why they got the table without reservations and they answered something different.
WE WALKED OUT AND LEFT.
Keep your old customers.
You won't get any new ones.
Kalvin's(with a "K") is, from outside appearances, a fairly unassuming Asian Restaurant on Victoria Drive in Vancouver. This belies the fact that the inside is actually very small - the restaurant seats a maximum of 7 tables. Reservations are mandatory or you'll be waiting inside the cramped mini-hallway, or worst case, outside. Tables are seated very close together - keep the claustrophobic at home. You won't be stretching out arms here.
However the inside decor is clean, neat, and distinctly Asian. Don't go in here expecting extravagance because you're here for one reason only - the food. The type of service is on par with many other family-owned Asian places where your order is taken with friendliness with no over-the-top cheerfulness or nonsense. Waters were refilled without prompting, though tea refills were prompted for, but only once.
A definite highlight is the hand-made noodles. The one we ordered was excellent quality, tasted just right for noodles, and had us reaching for more. Other dishes such as the pepper beef were very saucy, and certainly strong on the peppery side. Deep-fried Tofu was on-par with many other Asian restaurants(that's a hard dish to screw up, honestly, unless you seriously scrimp on just about everything), average yet not unpleasant. Balanced tea strength - a small detail, but one nonetheless. Beef-friend rice was a surprise - well tasting for what is normally unremarkable.
The key question to ask is - with an almost guaranteed line-up(if you didn't make reservations) during dinner time - is Kalvin's worth the wait? Especially when the comparable Nancy's Wonton house is literally, only a few steps away?
Kalvin's vs Nancy's
Restaurant appearance and cleanliness: Kalvin's, no contest
Service: Neither side wins
Food Taste: Extremely close one here. Kalvin's has far superior noodles, while Nancy's has the edge on other dishes.
Appeal to non-Asians: Upon seeing the inside decor, Kalvin's wins
Accommodations for larger parties: Nancy's with it's fairly sizable space and comparitively spacious number of tables
Verdict: The average "3" review doesn't tell the whole story. Kalvin's has the appeal, competitive pricing, and fair portion size to warrant many a return to. Just make sure you've made reservations, or you'll be in for a long wait.
The food here may be Taiwanese, but somebody in the kitchen must have lived in Szechuan for a while to learn their cuisine. This food is pretty authentic (family from Szechuan) in terms of spicyness and flavor cause not many places know how to cook real Szechuan food, so far this is the only place I've known.
Been coming to this place for over 12 years. If you ever go to Szechuan and sample food, the ambiance is just like this. Hot food at a fast pace. Be prepared to wait in line for 15, 30 mins cause Reservations are pretty much a 'must have'.
This place is constantly busy, so don't be offended if you can't get in, the food and business is that GOOD. My favorites on the menu are the Pork Organ Stew, Hot and Sour Soup, Beef stirfry in Chili sauce and the spicy eggplant are to die for. Every time my family go to eat here, it's the same things that we order because authenticity is hard to find, but this place is a truely a gem.
Speaking of which, I will be going again before July 1st. This place is frequented by my family and I at least once a month.