After seeing many photos online of cute animal pastries and ones where steamed buns spittle a little; I have been searching for a place to get my hands on these playful dim sum dishes myself. My search yielded “Fortune Terrance” in Richmond, across the street from the Olympic Oval. But a meal here comes at a steep price.
According to fellow food bloggers, they have claimed that this restaurant serves the most expensive dim sum plates in Canada. We would go in ourselves, and confirm this to be true. We filmed our entire experience from playing with our food to grading how it tasted. To skip the reading, click the link for the video.
When calling for a reservation, I was treated to one of the nicest table reserving experiences, for a Chinese restaurant. A moment that was short lived and would set me up for disappointment during brunch. The hostess was bilingual, she spoke with patience and kindness in her voice. She took the time to confirm my information and sounded like she was truly appreciative of my business. Sadly one the day of, her service would not past the hostess booth.
Aside from the patterned decals and the matching wooden shutters, there really isn’t much to the exterior. Nothing indicating what you will be getting within, nothing to invite those walking past to learn more. However, walking through the threshold, the lavishness of the place engulfs at you. Embellishments you’d expect given the restaurant’s pricy reputation.
A life size stone horse guards the front door, Chinese artifacts and art surround you in detailed stone and shiny lacquered wood, and the ceiling is one that won’t be outdone. All above the dining room are domes stencilled with orange koi fish, some of them cast patterns of the fish that they hold. Their display is projected on the floor in a play of shadow and light. Paper butterflies dangle from fine string, surrounded by chandeliers that look like upside down wedding cakes meant to illuminate. It all didn’t really match cohesively, but each itself, did add a sense of opulence to the overall scene.
But what really captures your eye is the screen towards the back of the room. It is the length of four round tables. With it, the room was set up like a theatre. Tables in rows, and everyone with view of the screen. It was like the restaurant was constantly ready for an emergency wedding with it, and the purple satin covered seats held in place with a decorative circle pin. The screen plays scenes of blue rippling waters, white dewy sands, palm tree in silhouette, and neon coloured sunsets( on a continuous loop. Once again, lovely features, but I don’t know how well put together it is to everything else decorating the room.
The menu was a check-box list. Majority of its options offered little description. Given that, and that we were here for the novelty dishes I saw online, I whipped out my phone and proceeded to order with Instagram instead. I showed our server photos and she pointed their names out on the menu. However, she couldn’t understand my request for more unique items, or really anything else I had asked for.
When offered tea I asked for oolong, but when it came, it tasted like and was clearly marked as jasmine. I took it with no complaints, as you have to pick your battles at a Chinese restaurant. And I instead decided to later take issue with the plate of buns that was suppose to be shaped like little turtles (as I ordered it via photo), but came out as regular miniature pineapple buns. After our server directed my query to the manger. He was pleasant enough, and explained that they are only available during special occasions. My rebuttal was that I only wanted them for their shape, a point I stressed to our server through our communication barrier. He eventually removed the dish and didn’t charge us for it afterwards. I got the outcome I desired, however, had I brought up the first mistake, I feel I wouldn’t have gotten any traction from the second. I would simply be labelled a fussy customer, and given even less warmth than what was already directed towards us. Service at a Chinese restaurant is stereotypically, all function and speed, without the desire to humanize.
As for the food, as a visual diner and a lover of novelty, this had me squealing. However as a food blogger and one who has eaten her fair share of dim sum, the taste felt me wanting more.
Our “Baked egg yolk paste bun” dessert came first. We should have ordered it after we submitted our list of savoury starts. Although I wish it would be intuitive of the kitchen and staff to serve this to us at the end of our meal. After all, it was odd to start the service with something sweeter, but given that steam buns are best warm, we had no choice but to eat them first.
This is a variation of filled steamed buns come with eyes at $6.80 for three. The intention is, using one of your chopsticks, you poke a hole in the bun where its mouth should be. And from here you are able to squeeze the bun and have its insides spill out, as if the bun is throwing up. Immature, yet cute. This was our favourite dish for flavour as much as fun. We enjoyed the taste of the egg yolk and it’s gritty texture, in the otherwise smooth runny custard filling. And the warm dough was airy and chewy, an ideal housing for the lava of neon orange hiding within.
The “steamed taro and BBQ pork roll” sounded good on paper, but proved disappointing in look and taste. Especially given the price of $6.80 for two. The sauce of the filling was too sweet, and there wasn’t enough meat to white bun ratio. And what made the dish stand out wasn’t all that good. Their use of pork belly combined with taro paste and steamed up made for a one tone bite. Fatty meat and mashed starch have you craving for something more solid.
I ordered the “Steamed okra and crab meat dumplings” at $8.80, for their look alone. They were like green tortellini made using glutinous rice flour instead of the traditional white flour used in Italian pasta making. Despite the hue, the shell had no flavour, and with the seafood filling and very little okra, it reminded me of a not as tasty ha gao (shrimp dumpling).
Another order based on unique colouring was the “Snow fungus and fish paste rice roll” at $9.80. Once again the purple glutinous rice wrapping was all for show, without any actual flavour. My guest found it bland overall, but I decided it tasted like it ought to and that it was best and necessary when dipped into the side of sweet soy sauce.
The “Deep fried potato bun” is $7.80. They are shaped like cute little hedgehogs, but more croquette than bun. Biting in, it had a great flaky and buttery crust. Although having to chew through it, I found things too oily. And despite the surprise of a purple potato filling, it really didn’t have much taste. It wasn’t sweet or salty, just textures that you could do without. It was also fairly dry, maybe a nice honey based sauce would have helped in all of the above?
The “Almond soufflé” at $8.80 was the one featured all over their Instagram presence. It was a mountain on a plate, with the texture of fluffy and eggy meringue. When presented, a server cuts into it using cooking shears, and you eat it with clawing hands. Peeling the top layer back uncovers a softer centre, some syrup is injected at its centre for additional sweetness. This portion reminded me of a gentle custard. It was a nice surprise, but made you realize what you were missing from the rest of the soufflé. There was not enough sweetness to properly flavour the bland dessert. Maybe a well of syrup, or a drizzle of condense milk to self pour or dip would have helped?
The “Jelly fish in Sichuan spicy sauce” isn’t all that special or all that common on a dim sum table. But my guest had never tried the delicacy, so we gave him the opportunity to do so today at the steep price of $12.80 for the plate. It is anything special or different compared when to other Chinese restaurants. It is served cold, with the tell tale half gelatine, half cartilage texture one expects from the aquatic animal. The sweet chilli sauce gives it its flavour.
Given all the sweeter dessert and pastries we ordered, we finished our meal off with the more savoury “Steam pork rib and taro in garlic sauce” for $7.80. Sadly it was one of the worst interpretations of the dish I have had. The meat was extra fatty pieces, served in an as oily sauce. Altogether it was too much and not at all enjoyable.
As is often the case with Chinese restaurants, our server didn’t check in, no eye contact is ever made, and employees move about the room with only speed in mind. Therefore, we were left feeling forgotten. Napkins, more tea, some water, and the bill was a struggle to retrieve. And when it finally came time to pay our $66.66 dues, there was complications. We had ask to split the amount between two cards, and the manager didn’t believe our math. Before he accepted our payment, he was brazen enough to ask if the amount we cited included tips. It did, which made me reflect how I hate how tipping is expected and no longer has a relation to quality of food, service from staff, or overall enjoyment of the stay. It was at least nice to discover that we were given a lunch hour discount for coming in earlier.
Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I have had my fun, and don’t see the need to return. The food left much to be desired and was even more disappointing given the price. However, as the only place I know offering such Instagram-able dishes, I would have to recommend them as the only option…. Don’t deny your cravings.