Downtown, Gastown, and Chinatown are merely separated by a few major streets, but it's honestly quite amusing to find such distinct characteristics in each neighbourhood. Where the core is lively and colourful, Gastown is serene and quiet, making it the ideal tourist location.
One bus ride and a seven-minute walk through homeless-ville later, we arrived at Vancouver's version of the Gooderham building. To its right was Alexander Street, and to its left was Powell. Even further west was Water Street, which denoted the boundary between terrain and shore.
The interior was a work of art in itself. The two-floor dessert parlour featured a wall covered in black outlines of milk bottles and ice cream cones, a pillar supporting an LED screen displaying social media posts, and a mirrored menu board assuming the shape of honeycomb. The milky white cashier counter was equal parts order-taking area, popsicle display case, and self-serve water counter.
They were offered in two sizes (Small and Regular) and could be customized with various toppings and syrups. The base of vanilla organic milk ice cream remained consistent though. Signature combinations were listed on the honeycomb; seeing that Green Forest and Honeycomb Peak seemed to have raked in the highest order count, we asked for two regulars without another thought. I wasn't too keen on red bean though, so I substituted Himalayan Pink Salt after confirming that there would be no extra charge.
Reality is vastly different from the image captured behind a lens. Mercury levels probably hadn't even grazed 24 degrees, yet both cups began melting almost immediately after they were presented to us. We struggled to capture the best shots of our elaborately decorated swirls before they transformed into a sad, toppling mess.
Honeycomb Peak was actually an even poorer choice. Not only was the honeycomb extremely difficult to pry apart for consumption, the sugary drizzle made the concoction even sweeter and richer than it already was. I was back to Green Forest after one scoop, but even then, I couldn't make a dent past the halfway mark.
I suppose I understand why a few other customers chose the ice cream bars instead.
(My suggestion would be to save space for artisan liquid nitrogen ice cream at Mister instead.)
As a restaurant operated by Chinese management, I hadn't expected the most hygienic environment, nor the best service or quality of food. Surprisingly, Pearl Castle satisfied most of these requirements with welcoming, efficient service and dilapidated but clean tables.
The term "QQ" differs for almost every bubble tea joint. At Chatime, it refers to a mix of tapioca and coconut jelly, whereas it might be used depict mochi elsewhere. My hankering for Wintermelon Tea led me to choose the QQ Wintermelon Juice, which, in actuality, was a horribly sweet drink with starchy noodles for toppings. Put simply, it was disgusting.
Yet to amazement, the Rose Green Tea was fantastic. Refreshing with a subtle hint of floral sweetness, it was much more enjoyable than the former monstrosity.
The blanched vegetable dish was fresh and a nice, healthy distraction from the insanely rich soft serve we had just ingested a few hours prior. Pearl Castle's Chicken Nuggets - aka Salt and Pepper Chicken - were even better than Green Grotto! The ping pong ball-sized pieces were juicy and well-seasoned; the thin layer of crispy coating made the dish even more enjoyable.
Thanks Translink - your bus schedules surely deserve a round of condemnation.