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New Richmond café teleports visitors to Hong Kong in the ‘90s

Owner aims to evoke a sense of nostalgia and curiosity

Neon signs hanging above an outdoor patio and images of Hong Kong in the 1990s all aim to bring a sense of nostalgia to those visiting a new Richmond café and restaurant.

Happy Hong Kong Café, which is located on Bridgeport Road right across from Richmond’s Costco, is a new addition to the city’s food map.

The Hong Kong-style café, also called a “cha chaan teng” in Cantonese, is a type of eatery that originated in Hong Kong and offers Hong Kong and Western fusion cuisines.

Ken Li, owner of Happy Hong Kong Café, said the restaurant aims to remind patrons who have lived in or been to Hong Kong what it was like in the 1990s.

“There are many Hong Kong immigrants, young and old, who sometimes miss the environment and atmosphere of the food industry there, and I want to bring back that nostalgia for them,” said Li, adding that he also hopes to share a bit of the “Hong Kong environment” with those who have never been to the city.

“I opened this café mainly because I like food, I like sharing my culinary practices with others, and I want the culture of the Hong Kong-style cafés to continue.”

Li told the Richmond News that while Hong Kong-style cafés are known to be “cheap and fast-service” places, there’s more to them than that.

 “I don’t want people to feel like these types of cafes are only quick eat-and-go spots,” he said.

In fact, they’re better known for being casual places where people can relax and catch up with friends over food, said Li.

“Richmond has a huge Asian community, and what I know is a lot of Asian and Western people tend to have high standards when it comes to food in this city.”

When asked what prompted him to open up a new café during the pandemic, Li said opening a café during unprecedented times not only shows his passion for food and his own business, but also allowed him to test the waters and see how his eatery would be received.

“You can take the time to get used to how things are going, figure out what will work and what won’t work and change and adapt from there.”

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