Utopia Restaurant is a pretty new Chinese restaurant in the heart of Downtown Vancouver. They opened up about a month ago, and it was about time considering they spent a good year under construction!
It’s an interesting location because, from what I’ve heard, not many restaurants have been successful in that spot thus far. Additionally, there’s a well established Taiwanese restaurant less than a block away from them.
They have two menus – one for food (the purple one) and one for bubble tea drinks (red). They have a decent selection of food and drinks. I originally thought that they were a Taiwanese restaurant because of their mini-hotpots and Taiwanese chicken nuggets, but my friend told me that their dishes are actually more Mainland China in style.
The space inside is quite nice! I don’t remember what it was before the renovation, but I like the lighting and tiles they have in the place. Not a huge fan of the tables and chairs though – seems like they cheaped out on this area.
I’ve been to Utopia twice so far, and the first time I had the mini-hotpot. Specifically, I had their Sichuan Poached Sliced Fish hotpot. For about $9, you get a fairly large personal hotpot with rice and some pickled vegetables. When you order a meal, you can get a discounted bubble tea drinks as well! I had an Assam Milk Tea for just $2.50.
I really liked the hotpot, and it was the main reason I ended up coming back here another time with my coworkers for lunch. The Sichuan hotpot has a very spicy broth, which is just perfect for the cold weather we’ve been getting.
I was quite impressed by the quantity of fish chunks in the hotpot as well. The fish was tender and cooked just about right! You can still taste some of the fish (which I think was either mackerel or halibut), but everything else is pretty much masked by the spicy broth. If you’re into the Sichuan hotpot stuff, you’ll like this!
My coworker, who is from China, approves of the spiciness of this hotpot as well!
The second time I went, I went with my coworkers VF and JW. I ordered a drink in a mug instead of in a to-go cup. I like their mugs! The milk tea this time was apparently very sweet (I didn’t really notice, to me milk tea is always sweet!), and weirdly enough adding extra tea didn’t reduce the sweetness. My coworkers actually had it refilled with just hot water a couple of times and it just tasted the same! I wonder if they sweeten their water…
VF had to head back after a little while, so she just ordered a quick appetizer and milk tea to hangout with us. She ordered the sliced pork hock with hot spicy garlic sauce. According to JW, the sauce is very Mainland-China influenced. VF agrees, saying that the Cantonese style of this dish is usually not served with this type of sauce.
VF said it was a passable, but that she has had better. There were a lot of fatty pieces and not enough meat. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t a huge fan.
I really wanted to try out Utopia’s Taiwanese Chicken Nuggets this time, so I ordered it to share with VF and JW. It was a bit heavy on the batter and fairly salty. Good thing our super sweet milk teas balanced it out!
Before the other dishes arrived and JW could tell me that the food seemed to be heavily Mainland-influenced, I still thought Utopia Restaurant was a Taiwanese place. Naturally, I assumed that the Braised Beef Noodles in Soup would be a Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be more wrong.
It was just a bowl of udon noodles with broth and beef. Of all the dishes, I was most disappointed by this one. The udon was way undercooked or stale (way too chewy), and the broth was bland. The beef was very fatty and didn’t have the umph that I hoped to get from a Taiwanese beef noodle. The braised beef noodle soup was a major miss, and I don’t recommend this one at all.
Overall, I found Utopia Restaurant pleasantly mediocre. The space is nice and the food is alright. Price-wise, they are pretty darn expensive when you consider the fact that there’s a ton of other places to eat in the area. I quite liked the Sichuan hotpot, but I’m hard pressed to come back for it unless I’m really cold and not feeling like a good pho, ramen, or Taiwanese beef noodle soup.