Eaters Gotta Eat: Minami Head Pastry Chef Nikki Tam’s Fave Places to Eat

Here's where Tam seeks out Japanese spaghetti, Korean BBQ and cheese tea on her off days.

At work she’s a dessert mastermind (Japanese Green Tea Apple Fondant, anyone?) but off the clock, Minami head pastry chef Nikki Tam is busy devouring Chinese food that reminds her of Hong Kong, Korean BBQ with her friends, and take-out dishes that pass the taste-test of two young sons. We can tell Tam loves food because she gave us not five, not 10, but 13 recos—feast your eyes below. 

Tendon Kohaku

840 Howe St. #190 & 1901 Rosser Ave. #106b, Burnaby

When Tam’s top spot for shrimp tempura shuttered post-Covid (Burnaby’s Nikkei Museum restaurant) she was heartbroken until finding Tendon Kohaku, where their tempura donburi rice bowls draw line-ups daily. Tam gets the Kohaku Tendon, packed with tempura prawns, chicken, baby corn, beans, mushroom and pumpkin. “The batter’s not too thick or oily and it’s served piping-hot. They also have booth seating so you can corner your children!”

Happy Day Cafe

3312 Kingsway & 1450–4771 McClelland Road, Richmond

This casual Hong Kong–style cafe is pure nostalgia for Tam. “I just moved here in 2015, so I’m very much born and raised in Hong Kong. Chinese food was a very big part of my life growing up.” Her go-to? Baked ox tongue on rice in tomato sauce. “It’s really tender and so simple.” 

Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen

5155 Victoria Dr.

Tam’s husband is Vietnamese, and his mom cooks a lot of that cuisine for them, but one dish they always order out is Bún Chả Cá, a fish cake soup loaded with fresh dill. “No one does it like them,” says Tam of Bun Cha Ca Hoang Yen, which recently announced plans for a second location in Burnaby. “The salt, pepper, and lemon chicken wings are great, too. They’re a bit like the ones at Phnom Penh.”


Cafe de l’Orangerie

1320 W. 73rd Ave

Hidden gem status is unlocked at this “delicious, unpretentious, very cute” Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant in Marpole. “Get the Masago de Creamy Spaghetti. It’s got capelin roe, squid, mushroom, asparagus, seaweed and you can also add, like, a hamburger steak on it.” Hot tip: next door is an excellent frozen sashimi shop. 

Dinesty Dumpling House

Multiple locations 

A family fave, Dinesty is her go-to for steamed pork dumplings, soup dumplings, and stir-fried rice cake with salted vegetables and pork. “I love the chewiness and texture of the rice cakes—that’s why I use a lot of mochi in my own dishes,” says Tam. “My kids and I love watching them make dumplings in the open kitchen. I love to see how other kitchens are run.”

Kook Korean BBQ

2800 E. 1st Ave #211A

Kook is a choice pick for one of Tam’s “mom’s night out” with friends, with its fun vibe and generous side dishes. “They’re known for it, and they all come with your meal; imagine, like, 12 to 15 side dishes circling your grill,” she says. “They do great marinated short ribs, seafood pancakes, cold buckwheat noodles, and I especially love the beef tongue.”

Linh Cafe

1428 Granville St. Unit 130

“My husband is Vietnamese, so for him that kind of food should be from a hole-in-the-wall spot, but even he loved it,” says Tam of the Vietnamese-French fusion restaurant located in the swanky Vancouver House. “My girlfriends and I love the Chicken Liver appetizer. It’s sauteed and served with a creamy, tangy dijon mustard sauce and bread.”

Photo: Rich Won


B09-666 Burrard St.

This Japanese-style bagel shop is part of the Aburi Restaurants family (as is Minami), so Tam was involved with its development while pregnant with her second. “I’ve tasted the bagels from day one. They’re a little bit chewy, so obviously I like the texture.” She orders the Red Bean and Cream Cheese, and the Pacific with smoked sockeye salmon from the sandwich menu. “Early on I remember telling [head baker] Yukiko, ‘You have to make sandwiches! Everyone in Vancouver likes sandwiches.”


4500 Kingsway #1333, Burnaby 

Bubble tea chain Heytea, known for pioneering New-Style Tea (adding Western ingredients to Chinese tea),  just opened in Burnaby last fall. “I’m very excited about this one. So they use real fruit, real tea, real milk, and natural cane sugar. I always go with either sweet mango or grape if you want something refreshing.” They’re also known for their Cheese Tea, which flows a foamy layer of sweet cheese on top of ice-cold tea.

Zab Bite

4197 Fraser St.

Opened last fall, this Northeastern Thai resto has a particularly good Pad See Ew: the stir-fried wide rice noodles, served with Chinese broccoli and a protein (Tam gets chicken or beef) are deliciously chewy and slightly translucent. “Again with the rice noodles, but I just love that texture. And Zab also has a lot of dishes that I haven’t seen at other Thai restaurants in town.” 

Sushi Mahana

175 3rd St W, North Vancouver

Tam and her husband loved their Omakase menu on a recent date night, crafted by Chef Hiroshi Horiko (previously of Miku and Minami). “They do two seatings a night and offer Kyushu-style sushi, which uses ingredients to highlight the fish, not just soy sauce. Omakase is always a show—sure, they hand-cut everything in front of you, but it’s also how the chef interacts with the customers. It was really fun, the food was delicious, and the timing was on point.”

Steve’s Poke

Multiple locations

Indeed, a chain with 22 Lower Mainland locations tops Tam’s charts as one of the best poke joints around. “Sometimes when you go to a poke place there’s not enough fish for the rice, or not enough condiments, but Steve’s just gives you so much. I get the Toona Spicy: spicy mayo sauce, ahi tuna, edamame, corn, and so much more added on top.”

Meet Fresh

1232 Robson & 8328 Capstan Way #1136, Richmond

“Growing up in Hong Kong, our dessert was a little bit different from Western dessert because there’s a lot of sweet soup, as we call it.” To tap into that nostalgia, Tam heads to this Taiwanese chain that specializes in teas, treats, and desserts. She gets the Icy Grass Jelly Signature, served in a bowl laden with chewy taro balls, herbal grass jelly and shaved ice, and coffee creamer. “The combination of flavours and textures are perfect. It just hits the spot, especially on a hot day.”