My Offbeat Culinary Adventure at Kent’s Kitchen

By Tana Kosiyabong

Kent's Kitchen roast chicken and stir-fried mushrooms with beef

Despite being Kent’s Kitchen loyal customer for years, I hesitated to write a review about them at first. Up until recently, I had only ordered take-out from this restaurant. Dining at Kent’s Kitchen was a bit of a challenge for me. Sometimes the restaurant was full of customers with striking characters (the kind I didn’t want to look at while eating). Frankly, I was too gross out to eat there.

Nonetheless, a few of weeks ago I decided that it was time to face the devil in the name of the blog. I must at least give it a try. All experience is good experience. A little bit of unappetizing environment won’t hurt anybody.

Kent’s Kitchen is a cafeteria style Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, Vancouver. It offers about forty varieties of precooked Chinese dishes. For $4.50, you can get two toppings on steam rice (guesstimated about two pounds of food on the plate.) Add 25 cents to substitute rice with Chow Mein, or $1.25 more for special toppings (the staffs will let you know if you choose one of these items.)

Kent’s Kitchen offers one of the biggest bangs for your bucks. That’s why it is so popular the restaurant had to introduce a ticket system earlier this year. All customers must now take a number from the ticket dispenser and wait for their turns to order.

Kent's Kitchen Ticket Dispenser

At lunch time, it was like a mayhem inside Kent’s Kitchen. The small cafeteria was jam-packed with both dine-in and take-out customers. Once my turn, I ordered the roasted chicken leg quarter and stir-fried mushrooms with beef and green onions on steam rice ($4.50). I normally go for steam rice because I try to watch my daily fat intake. For a 25 cents more, however, Chow Mein is definitely a better value. After almost four years of ordering take-outs, I was about to dine in this restaurant for the first time.

Kent's Kitchen Lunch under $5

Since the food was precooked, it was a matter of seconds before the staff handed me a dish full of food. There were still a couple seats available, but I had to sit with a stranger who looked as if he was on day 28 of the Survivor. I would bet that he hadn’t hit a shower for a while now. After pep-talking myself to focus on the mission, I headed to an empty seat opposite to him and sat down. Then I started to take pictures of the dish I ordered. That stranger began to looked at me as if I were a weirdo. “The feeling are mutual, buddy.” I thought to myself as I ignored him.

The roasted chicken leg quarter is one of my favorite dishes at Kent’s Kitchen. Star Anise gave the chicken sweet and smokey aroma. The soft, gelatinous skin might turn off some customers’ appetite, but definitely not mine. It was quite tasty. The chicken meat was juicy and delicious. For $1.75 each, I normally took a few of them home. These leg quarters usually sold out by 2pm.

Stir-fried mushrooms with beef and green onions was another favourite of mine. The mushrooms were cooked enough to get rid of the raw flavor, yet still firm to bite. Beef added meaty taste to the dish which I like. Green onion complemented the beef and mushroom really well.

Kent's Kitchen Menu

Not all the dishes at Kent’s Kitchen are good eats. Some are so greasy you can easily light them on fire; a few are quite plain. And to keep the price low, they normally use cheap, low quality ingredients.

Compared to the rotisserie chicken meal at Urban Fare I reviewed last November, Kent’s Kitchen roasted chicken with mushroom on rice was a steal ($3.09 cheaper).

Dining at Kent’s Kitchen was a challenging, yet interesting experience. I’m glad that I made myself go through it. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. For those of you who are up for this offbeat culinary adventure, you should give this mission a try. You never know who you’ll ended up sitting next to. However, I’d rather order take-out next time.

Kent’s Kitchen roasted chicken leg quarter: ©©©© 1/2

Kent’s Kitchen stir-fried mushrooms with beef and green onion: ©©© 3/4

Remaining Budget: $337.30
Budget Spent: -$4.50.
Budget Available: $332.80

Kent’s Kitchen is located at 232 Keefer Street, Vancouver, Canada. (Phone) 604.669.2237

Note to my beloved readers:

Since my accumulated vacation days are about to expire, I decided to take a few weeks off to go to Japan and Thailand. No worries, you still have a new story to read every Monday even while I’m away. This story is my last scheduled posts. I will post a fresh story next Monday. Please feel free to comment on this post as usual. Although I am unable to reply right away, I promise to do so when I come back from the vacation. So don’t be shy:) I look forward to telling you about my Cheap Appetite missions in Japan and Thailand soon. Wish me luck:)

©2010 Tana Kosiyabong and™. All rights reserved.

Bookmark and Share

Become fans on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

Share your favorite cheap eats

Try my Cheap Appétit recipes

Kent's Kitchen (Chinatown) on Urbanspoon


24 thoughts on “My Offbeat Culinary Adventure at Kent’s Kitchen

  1. hey, tana, finally i’m going back to hk in sept. it’s gonna be my very first time since i came here in vancouver. and so i’m gonna make full use of that, and i will go visit a couple asian countries. and thailand is definitely one of them. let me know if there’s anything new over there after u come back! enjoy your vacation!

    1. Hey lululu, that’s a great news! Hope you enjoy your trip. What a great thing to look forward to. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun in Thailand:) I’ll post at least a few stories about Thailand trips. Stay tune!

  2. haha — I love your thoughtful description of the patrons. “Striking” is a great way to describe what I’ve seen at some of my own favorite hole-in-the-wall spots; bless your kind heart! Places like this inevitably yield the best meals — so tasty!

    1. Hey Wasabi. Thanks for noticing. It took me a while to come up with that word. In a way, they are unique and strikingly interesting. The food there is simple and delicious. Just the way I like it. Well… except the grease. I think they use a ton of cooking oil a day. 🙂

    2. Interestingly, another nearby restaurant where you’ll find marginalized, “striking” patrons is Gain Wah right next door. Another long-time institution for sure.

      I find my meals better tasting at Kent’s where there are other striking patrons eating in. Dunno, maybe it just reminds me of how fortunate I (and most of us) are that we have “3 hots and a cot” every day.


      1. I’ve been to Gain Wah many times. I actually felt quite comfortable dining there. Perhaps it is because I normally have a whole table to myself. I really admire your point of view. And hopefully I’ll get more and more comfortable at Kent’s in the near future:)

  3. I’ve yet to visit this place tho I have walked by countless of times. I think my sentiments are similar to yours as I somehow need my eating environment to be somewhat palatable. Having said that, I have wanted to do takeout here for years but by the time I have feasted at say Phnom Penh or some noodle house there, I am always too full to even saunter in to see what dishes they offer but oh yes the lineups are crazy!

    1. I don’t blame you imkoonta. It took me a while before I tried Kent’s Kitchen too. But once I gave it a chance, I keep going back there. Although the food is not the best, the value is. You reminded me that I should visit Phnom Penh soon:)

  4. Wow, I don’t think any Vancouver foodie bloggers have ever blogged about Kent’s Kitchen. Nice going, Tana !

    Coincidentally I was just there on Saturday late afternoon. Mind you, they’ve been there since the early 80s (barely remember my Mom used to bring home takeout from there when I was in high school). Amazing, almost nothing (not even the prices) have changed much in 25+ years, save their “revolutionary” number ticket system, LOL (before that it was every man/woman for him/her-self).

    A note on the “day 28 of the Survivor” gent you sat with while eating. Kent’s is very rare in these parts of Chinatown where “anyone” can walk in to eat a meal. In fact, to many marginalized folks down there, Kent’s is a rare blessing where they can eat a hot (and relatively nutritious) meal for very little money (well, for us lucky ones anyway) without being rejected from the establishment like other typical restaurants. So please, think of it in that light of compassion.

    In fact, after I finished my meal (stir-fried lotus roots, sweet & sour pork, on white rice), I bought another similar 2-toppings w. rice takeout to give to a gentleman standing outside who looked like he was “day 31 of Survivor”, plus a hot cup of tea for him. He disappeared quickly into the back alley to start eating.

    Glad you enjoyed your meal !

    BTW, KK has a second outlet on Victoria Dr between 48 and 49 Ave, in the plaza where the London Drugs is. Food is actually better there. There I get my beloved round, tubular soft tofu (don’t know name of dish).

    1. Hey Lotus Rapper,
      Thanks for your comment:) You obviously know a lot more about Kent’s than I do. I wish I talked to you before I wrote this review. I’m pretty glad they introduced the ticket system. It was a war zone before that.

      Regarding the Survivor gentleman, I hope I didn’t offend you or anyone else. He definitely has the right to eat there as much as I do. I don’t deny that. And I tried my best to write this story without looking down on anyone.

      Your comment gave me another valid point of view to look at the situation. I really appreciate very much. I’m sure it’ll help me working towards my goal of living happily in this neighborhood. And giving a meal to another Survivor is very inspiring. I’d love to do the same. 🙂

      I do enjoy my meal at Kent’s Kitchen. Still not comfortable there yet. But it’s just a matter of time. Soon enough I can see myself dining there as comfortable as you are.

      I’ve never been to Kent’s on Victoria Drive. One of the dish I really like at Kent’s Kitchen is the deep fried egg tofu with mince pork sauce. It’s possible the same as the tubular soft tofu you mentioned. It was a special item though. $1.25 more. lol. 🙂

  5. Sorry to anyone if I came across sounding like I was preaching on a soapbox. I started down that path while writing and my fingers just took over !

    BTW, Tana, the Victoria Dr. location has no tables/chairs, I forgot to mention that.

    Not sure if I recognize your egg tofu w. mince pork sauce reference. I don’t ever recall paying extra for any toppings I’ve ever ordered (haha, maybe I’m cheap too). Is there eggs in the tofu, or is that their translation ?

    Kent’s food to me is like a craving. I don’t necessary want to eat it every day or even once a week, somehow after awhile all the dishes start to taste similar (you’re right, their ingredients aren’t exactly high-quality). But boy, when the craving hits I just gotta go down to Chinatown and get myself a piled-high plate 🙂

    Maybe next time I’ll meet you there for dinner !

    1. LotusRapper, I’m always glad to hear your comments. So keep them coming. 🙂

      The Egg tofu is similar the regular soft tofu came in plastic tubes. Only that liquid eggs were added to the soy milk mixture before it form curds. So, egg tofu is light yellow because of the yolk. I’m not sure if they have this dish at the Victoria Drive location.

      You grew up with Kent’s food. So, it’s quite comforting and very nostalgic to you. When I went on a trip in Thailand, I also like to go back to the restaurants I grew up with for the same reason. It just makes me happy to eat the food I used to have when I was young.

      It would be great to meet you at Kent’s, LotusRapper!

  6. Egg tofu …. your description matches what I get at their Victoria store. ‘Tho theirs is deep-fried on the outside.

    Here’s an idea ….. have regular Cheap Appetiters Meet-Up/Eat-Out 😀

    1. Yup the one I was talking about also deep-fried. I’m pretty sure it’s a special priced item.

      Give me a shout whenever you’re planning to go to Kent’s. I only live a few blocks away.

      Ohhh perhaps you suggested a Cheap Appetite readers/fans meet up? Not sure how many readers will actually show up. Perhaps just you and me. lol. I don’t think my blog is that popular. Well if anyone else is in for this, let me know. I could set something up.

  7. This is on my list of places to eat; of course the list is getting bigger thanks to foodies like yourself. Depending on weather, length of stay while in town, I usually stay close to Richmond but will definately make a trip here. Long time lurker but 1st time poster…, I think your “cheap” outings are invaluable to ppl on a budget.

    1. Hey Simon,
      Great to hear from you. I’m glad I can contribute to your list of places to eat. It’s quite a bit of drive from Richmond, but the Canada Line makes it much easier to make a trip to downtown. LotusRapper told me that Kent’s Kitchen has another branch at Victoria Dr between 48 and 49 Ave. But there are tables to sit at this location. Great info, LotusRapper:)

      Anyway, I’d love to hear from you again in the future. Don’t be a stranger now:) Comments like yours give me reason to keep this blog alive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s