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Category: Chinese Page 1 of 14

No. 1 Dumpling

Today, a small group of us were looking for something tasty and satisfying in the West Broadway area. We made “No. 1 Dumpling” our destination, given the posturing of its name, and the visual appeal of the photos of dishes offered, posted across the exterior windows.

This was a smaller restaurant with lower ceilings. Inside, a couple more photos decorated the walls, and a mural spelled out the restaurant’s dumpling-rich history in Chinese. We grabbed a booth in the corner, pushing enough tables together to sit us all.

The laminated menu was easy to navigate with plenty of full colour photos to help with the decision making process. The following is what we ordered as a collective, sharing it all family style.

The “Spicy sour potato” ate like a cold papaya salad, similar in texture and tang. It served as a good briny starter to get our appetites going.

The “Cucumber salad” was ordered for some balance. A slightly spicy, and fully refreshing break between all the carbs and meat below.

The “Green onion pancake” was a table favourite. Light and crispy dough fragrant with green onion. Good, but a little greasy on the lips.

The “Beef pancake” utilized the same dough, but filled it with tender bits of beef instead.

The “Xiao long bao” were as expected. Chewy pork meat with soup broth, in a firm but fragile shell. Tasty enough, but I wanted more soup to spill out when I took a bite.

I didn’t like how “green” the steamed pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings were. The flavour of the cabbage was overpowering, in my opinion.

I preferred the pan fried pork and leak dumplings, instead. A nice flavour with this crispy, chewy shell.

The “tofu with green onion” is exactly as you’d expect. The tofu was soft, flavoured in a sweeter soy sauce.

The “Spicy noodles” delivered with lip tingling heat from chilli oil, fully coating the eggy noodles. The shreds of cucumber and the whole sunny side up egg offered balance and freshness in an otherwise one-tone bowl.

As for the service, the lone employee was an older gentleman. He was attentive, checking in after and asking if liked what we had. He made us feel welcome. Which was helpful, considering the restaurant was fairly empty when we arrived and there was no music playing in the background to set the mood.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A cost effective and standup destination for dumplings and simple Chinese plates. Don’t deny your cravings.

NO. 1 DUMPLING
1888 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6J 1Y9
(604) 731-5577
no1dumpling.com

Jade Seafood Restaurant

Today I was touring around a couple of travelers from the UK, and we decided to start our day off with some dim sum in Richmond.

“Jade Seafood” is a fairly new restaurant with a modern, non-descript exterior. Inside, after a second floor walk up, there was enough glitz and glamour to confuse it with a high tea salon. Marble walls, ruched curtains, crystal chandeliers, and a light feature crafted using golden ribbon. This was an open room that easily converts, and sits everyone at a wedding reception. A live seafood tank and a fully stocked wine bar sits at one end of the restaurant. We sat at the other, by the large glass windows. On the vaulted ceilings above us hung adorned chandeliers that served as a juxtaposition, from the casual nature of share plates for breakfast.

My guests weren’t too familiar with Chinese cuisine, so I took the helm and ordered for us all. I haven’t been to this restaurant prior, so ordered based off of my previous dim sum experiences.

The restaurant offers both a fully Chinese and/or a fully English dim sum menu. But regardless, if you know what you want, majority of the staff are able to communicate and interpret in conversational English. The following is what we shared between 3.

The “Whole abalone and seafood dumpling in soup” wasn’t what I expected. This was a small bowl for one, with a chewy whole abalone and two wontons bobbing about. It tasted no different than wonton soup, with a clean and clear chicken-based broth.

As a great way to try a few different dumplings, the “Assorted three kinds of dumplings” is the way to go. “Steamed mushroom dumplings”, “Steamed crab meat dumplings”, and “Steamed shrimp dumplings”. They all tasted as expected, the same chewy wrapper stuffed full with its namesake filling.

As a fan of durian and gummy textures, the “Durian glutinous rice dumpling” was a delight. Sweet fibrous fruit, in a chewy sticky mochi-like shell.

The “Steamed Sakura pork dumplings” was just like regular pork dumplings. I got exactly what I expected from this classic dim sum staple.

The “Chinese donut rice roll” was crispy on the inside and chewy on the outside, a texture that is great with a double dip of the sweet peanut butter into tangy oyster sauce.

I really enjoyed the “Egg tofu and enoki mushrooms with vegetables” dish for both the taste and texture. The egg tofu was soft like pudding, it and the shredded vegetables were coated in a thick gel-like sauce for easy slurping.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great spot for dim sum in Richmond. There are many others to consider, but this one is recommend by Tourism Richmond for their made to order dumplings. Don’t deny your cravings.

JADE SEAFOOD
280 – 2811 No 3 Rd, Richmond, BC V6X 2B2
(604) 249-0082
jaderestaurant.ca

Chef Tony dim sum

Everyone is always surprised to learn that I have never tried “Chef Tony’s” before, so what better chance than today. I was meeting up with two writers from out of the country. For one it was her first time in BC, for the other she is a frequent traveller from Seattle to Vancouver; and whenever she is in town and looking for dim sum, her go-to is “Chef Tony’s”.

Located in a plaza, the restaurant is easy to spot from the road, with plenty of free parking available by adjacent businesses. The exterior is pretty non-descript. But once inside, the bombardment of accoutrements has your head on a swivel.

By the door is a waiting area, made cramped by honey comb shelves showcasing plum wines and ceramic figurines. Wooden furnishings un-sat and a collection of celebratory photos of Chef Tony and his many famous clients.

In the dining area, glittering crystal adorned chandeliers hang above tables. Their rainbow shimmer reflects off the lacquered panels covering the walls and wrapping around the bar. Out of place were the segment of red that were peppered across; and the lone pillar that glowed blue with silver cross striping surrounding it. It all had the hallmarks of a night club or lounge, but for dressed up dim sum and small plates. Although the familiar patterned carpet and white cloth tables at majority of other Chinese restaurants, were also present. Made a little dressier with chopstick holders and spill proof spouts on their tea pots.

Mid day on a Tuesday it was packed, so our reservations came in handy. And these were reservations that actually held the table and allowed to be seated at the time requested. Not just your name on a list, and when you arrive you are the next in queue.

Each seated table is given a menu. A list with colourful photos with descriptions in both Chinese and English. Using it as a guide, you tick off what you want to order from the check box sheet. This latter is Chinese only, but with a bit of detective work, using the item’s numbers as reference, you can navigate the check boxes fine enough. The items we ordered were recommendations by Tourism Richmond, and what my guests found appealing based on experience and visuals. Tried and true staples, and fan favourites when dining with Chef Tony. The restaurant prides themselves on using high-quality ingredients for their dim sum items, with a focus on quality over quantity/size.

The “Black truffle pork and shrimp dumplings” is one of their hallmarks. They are smaller in size compared to most interpretations, but you also 5 instead of the typical 4. Their size is so that you can easily pop one into your mouth, whole. “Chef Tony” is one of the first Cantonese restaurants to use truffle in their siu mai. There was no missing the distinct truffle flavour in this little bundle. A fresh and delicious meaty bite with the smokiness of truffle to put a new twist on this staple.

Similarly, their har gao takes a tangent from all the others. “Shrimp matsutake dumplings”. They are the the only dim sum restaurants to use matsutake mushrooms in their har gow. The rich earthiness of the mushrooms changes the flavour with subtleties.

Not your typical dim sum fare, but an interesting dish just the same is the half order of “Marinated chicken trimmed with black truffle flakes”. A familiar taste in the cold, yellow chicken; but given a twist with the black truffle. A unique flavour that I found myself wanting to repeat, as you almost forget what it is like and need to remind yourself with another piece. I am not a fan of the greens, but was able to pick past them and enjoy the oily, cold, and tangy chicken. A unique sensation on its own, now elevated with the almost briney truffle flavour.

I enjoyed the classic “Baked BBQ pork buns”. Perfectly rounded dough baked to perfection and glazed with honey for an extra touch of sweetness. With it and the sweet bbq pork filling this ate more like a dessert. I could have used more filling and larger chunks of meats.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the “Steamed egg sponge cake”, this one came highly recommend and I can see why. Best served warm and fresh, an eggy and delicious sponge that is fun on the tongue. A neutral cake that kept you going back for chunk after chunk. I could eat a full serving by myself.

The “Coconut jelly dessert” is definitely one you order for novelty. They are so cute shaped like rabbits, but I wish the serving was a given a little more finesse in its presentation. As for flavour it tasted more like tangy yogurt than coconut fruit. I didn’t like it on its own and wanted some condensed milk drizzle or simple syrup to sweeten up the serving.

“Pan fried taro and preserved pork cake” I liked the flavour, but not the texture from the large chunks of taro. Not my favourite rendition.

The “Diced pork, chive and Chinese donut rice noodles” was a good one. I was surprised and delighted by the nice crispy texture of the fried Chinese doughnut. But wanted more depth from the dipping sauce. Either some sweetness from pork floss or the typical peanut butter, for a good mix of salty and sweet.

The “pan-fried diced pork pandan bun in casserole” came to the table smelling amazing; with sizzling onion against a hot cast iron dish, caramelizing. They looked good but lacked flavour. I didn’t get any pandan from the green bun, and wanted more filling to enjoy with it. If you like pandan, you will be disappointed with this one.

My guests fully enjoyed the “Baked durian paste pastry”. They liked the flaky pastry that crumbled under their bite. I found it chalky and the durian in it too fibrous. I also didn’t get the durian flavour I wanted from this, it was cooked, whereas I wanted fresh melt in your mouth durian. If you like durian, you may be disappointed by this one too.

The “Black squid ink salted egg yolk buns” is an item worth waiting for; and we did wait for it, literally. They forgot our original order and when we inquired about it, they forgot to look into that. Though we did eventually did get our buns steamed to order. The colour is striking, a deep black with a splash of gold. Inside a liquid filling that pools in the bun like water does in a cup. Be warned it is hot and we did burn our tongues with its custard core.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I can see all the hype. They offered creative updates to your dim sum favourites, and utilized elevated ingredients to dress up your meal. Definitely worth checking out and one worth visiting for those who love a dressier dim sum and truffle. Lots of truffle items available. Don’t deny your cravings.

CHEF TONY
101 – 4600 No. 3 Road, Richmond BC
(604) 279-0083
cheftonycanada.com

Kirin Banquet

We were gathered at “Kirin” in New Westminster for a more intimate look at the popular fine dining Chinese restaurant; as well as the whole Starlight Casino property it is a part of. (For the full review of that, visit the link below.)

Our evening began in one of Kirin’s private rooms, towards in the back. Vaulted ceilings with large lanterns, that bathed the room in a glow. The light cast, matched the orange of the walls and the hue of the carpet underfoot.

We all took a seat at individual tables, with tea and orange juice for each. Then one by one our banquet feast came. With each share-style platter: we took photos, it was divided, portions were served, and we ate to try, (knowing there would be a second meal to follow).

The first course began with “Roasted whole suckling pig”. A whole baby pig filleted, with crackling skin. It was a show stopper with its blinking LED eyes. Here, we would not get any of the pork, but did enjoy the skin as the centre to a white bun canapé with cucumber, green onion, and a salty and sweet brown sauce. It was a delicious starter, but I couldn’t help but ache for some of the actual pork meat to go with it.

Next was another impressive looking platter. “Live lobster in puréed squash soup served with spinach noodle”. Two whole lobsters with plenty of meat. The crustaceans were naturally sweet, so you mostly tasted them, and none of the additional flavours from the squash. It could use some more seasoning, or at least at little more salt. Similarly, the spinach noodle that was underneath the lobster needed more flavour. It had a wonderful hue and a great texture with the squash paste coating it, it just wasn’t tasty enough for my preference.

Next, was one of their new dishes. “Prawn and pork wrapped in flat rice noodle topped with puréed truffle”. It was an interesting interpretation. It reminded me of dim sum with the pork and prawn bundled together. And also like fish maw soup with the texture of the gummy rice noodle wrap that surrounded both. The side of crisp broccoli florets offered a nice crunch. So all I was missing was the truffle. Because if the menu goes out of its way to mentioned truffle, you are looking for truffle.

Next was “sautéed beef tenderloin cube with black pepper and basil”. Yet another stunning presentation. Meaty chunks of beef and onion with cabbage at the centre of a fruit and vegetable heart. Thin slices of cucumber, tomato, and oranges arranged around the savoury like a heart. Tasty enough, but it would be nice to have the latter tie into the beef and onion more.

For dessert it was a collection of “Chef’s special dim sum dessert”. The room enjoyed the “Glazed deep fried dough delight with walnut and duck egg yolk”. Majority of the guests liked the fact that it melted in your mouth. I didn’t like the chalky finish and how powdery it was. It would have also been nice to have more nuts like the walnut to chew through and a lot more of the egg yolk flavour to savour.

The deep fried sesame seed ball had a lovely crispy and chewy shell. Served fresh, it had a steaming, thick glob of sweetened mung bean paste at its core.

My favourite of the desserts was the “Fruit mochi”. Chunks of cantaloupe and honey dew in coconut cream, surrounded by a wonderfully gummy shell.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Best enjoyed with a large group, not necessarily somewhere I would come for quick and easy Chinese food. This was definitely a feast and for an occasion. Don’t deny your cravings.

KIRIN
Starlight Casino, 350 Gifford Street, New Westminster BC, V3M 7A3
604-528-8833
kirinrestaurants.com

Wang’s Shanghai Cuisine

My guest has been wanting to take me here for a while now. This is her favourite Chinese restaurant in the city. Delicious and authentic Shanghai cuisine at a fair price. Although she warned me that the service wouldn’t be great and that one regular server in particular comes across as rude (I identified her immediately). And I can tell you right off the bat, if the service doesn’t match the caliber of the food, it takes away from the taste of it.

Located in the “London Drugs” plaza on Kingsway, parking is easy to find, but hard to get into with tight stalls, narrow lanes, and inexperienced drivers. The restaurant is to the left of “London Drugs”, if you are facing it.

We came just in time to grab the last empty table, although the wait is short for the next one to free up. The food comes out quick and this isn’t the most enjoyable setting to linger in, so turn around is consistent. Closely placed tables so your meal doesn’t feel private, staff that stare you down as you eat, and the overall abrupt and rushed energy you feel from the staff as they hustle and bustle around you, with no time for pleasantries.

The menu is pretty straightforward for those familiar with the cuisine, but vague for any one visiting them for the first time. “Tofu puff with vermicelli soup” doesn’t tell me much about the flavour of the broth I am committing to a bowl of. Similarly, either does “Fried bean paste noodles” and “meat stew noodles in soup”. Lucky for us, my guest was well versed in their menu and ordered a few of her favourite go to’s. It was all heavy in carbs, and therefore all delicious.

Ironically we didn’t order any of their popular soup dumplings, especially considering there was a chef making them to order in a plexiglass box. A giant bowl of ground pork, lumps of dough, rolled out and stuff with machine-like precision.

“Wonton noodle soup” is not on the menu, but they make it for her each time by adding their boiled wontons to soup, then adding in noodles. Although when the dish came to our table, it was missing the noodles. And after a debate with the server, who blamed us for the miss in our order, we got a whole new bowl of broth with noodles. More noodles than we would have gotten otherwise. This was a delicious neutral clear broth, deep with flavour, but a little oily. I would be happy just drinking it, the noodles only added starch, and I wasn’t a fan of all the wilted greens in the dumplings.

I much more preferred the thicker, chewier texture of the “Shanghai style pan fried thick noodles”. I just wished there was more to the dish beside crunchy cabbage and shrivelled up pieces of pork. More depth, a greater feeling of eating a full dish and not just soy sauce noodles. But flavour wise, it was not overwhelming, and if I set myself to it, I would be able to finish it all in one sitting.

Next we had even more carbs in the “Pan fried pork bun”. I bit down, not realizing it was a soup filled bun. The juices squirted out, and I found myself slurping them up hastily. They made the centre of the bun soft and moist, a nice contrast to the crispy exterior. And the meaty centre acted as a sponge that soaked up all the flavour.

The “Beef roll” is worth repeating. This version used a lighter dough to wrap beef, cucumber, and plenty of sauce. Too much salty brown sauce for my tastes, lit bled out of either side and made the dough soggy. But the flavour was good and you can get past the above. .

To circle back to what I mentioned earlier, the service portion was lacking. Our server took our order without uttering a single word, and then reached around to grab the menu from us with no regard of personal space. Then we had to argue for the noodles with no apology, but instead, the accusation of us saying the wrong thing. This was followed by not being able to get the attention of someone for the bill. And having to go to the counter to pay; and given containers there, so that we could pack our own leftovers. We expected to have to pack up what we didn’t finish, ourselves. But it would have been nice for them to bring the styrofoam boxes and plastic bags to the table, instead of simply handing it to my paying guest, just cause she was up there.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Tasty food, I would go back to satisfy a craving, but I wouldn’t make them a destination. I also wouldn’t want to recommend them, less someone also gets bad service. Good Shanghai for me, and still the “Best Shanghai” in the city for my guest. Don’t deny your cravings.

WANG’S SHANGHAI CUISINE
110-3328 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5R 5L1
(604) 428-6818

Parklane Chinese Restaurant

With so many possible dim sum locales in Richmond, it is hard to sort through them all and pick any given one. Especially if your best options are within walking distance of one another. Today I was here at “Parklane” thanks to Richmond’s dumpling trail. If not for the brochure and guide, I would not know that this place existed. Especially considering it is within spitting distance of “Empire seafood restaurant”, which also serves dim sum and is more well known with triple the square feet. But reality is “Parklane” is just as good, if not better. This is due to the smaller dining crowd they have to tend to, and the staff’s ability to see to them all. We even had the managers checking in on us and asking how everything was. A rarity, in my experience.

Their is nothing really standout about the restaurant decor wise. The typical patterned carpet under foot, a series of round tables draped with white cloths, and light fixtures bedazzled with sparkling crystals.

The menu is easily a novel at 117 options. You read and check off what you want with the sheet and pencil provided to you, when you sit. My guess wasn’t all that familiar with dim sum, so I kept our orders relates to the “Dumpling Trail”. She was able to reference the brochure for what she liked visually, with a description to boot.

I ordered the classic “har gaw” and “sui mai” combo. Dim sum for beginners and guaranteed to please with its comforting flavours. The “Steamed shrimp dumplings” were packed with prawn loaf, chewy chunks under a starchy shell. No complaints.

The “Steamed pork dumplings” had the same shrimp, but to it more pork. The pork meat reminded me of the kind you l get in a serving of steamed short ribs. Tasty and tender, with bits of fat interlaced.

The “Deep fried taro root dumpling” is either something you hate or love. A very unique dish that gives you crispy battered shell, chalky mashed taro, and gummy minced pork at the core. I liked the taste okay, but the mix of textures aren’t my favourite.

I much more preferred the “Deep fried green tea balls”. The menu didn’t list it, so I was surprised to discover a core of liquid salted egg yolk cream, hiding under the layer of chewy green tea paste, and crispy fried dough my shell. Best fresh, and soggy with oil if you try to reheat.

In short the “Dumpling Trail” does not disappoint. Another great restaurant vetted by Tourism Richmond, and one worth checking out for tasty dim sun and delicious dumplings.

PARKLANE
7997 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC V6X 1A4
(604) 273-0888

Richmond’s Dumpling Trail, vegetarian edition.

In my spare time I host tours. Tours where I bring other bloggers and writers around Richmond, to discover the history and diversity within. Typically it centres around the “Dumpling Trail” and its handy brochure. Both are helpful tools in exploring the island city, through its food. There are many types of dumplings across all cultures, 13 specific to Asian cuisine are highlighted on the tour, across 20 different restaurants.

Each stop is vetted by the Tourism Richmond team for its cleanliness, ability to speak English with an English menu, and their dumplings that are scratch made and never frozen. The result, over 20 delicious ways to enjoy dumplings. And to show how accommodating the tour is, I had the pleasure of hosting a vegetarian blogger and her vegetarian family. The following is what we had. A dumping at each stop, and a couple of dishes to round it out. After all, dumplings are just the introduction, the restaurant itself is worth checking out, along with some of its other dishes.

First stop was “Empire restaurant” for dim sum. Here, we started with their vegetable dumpling filled with green onion and mushrooms. I like mushrooms so found this a nice rendition.

I was eager to show my guests the “Steamed egg yolk buns”, only to learn that my they weren’t a fan of egg yolk.

And here I was unintentionally giving them another serving of it as custard in the “Deep fried creamy egg custard glutinous balls”. I assumed these would be filled with red bean, as is the case for majority of the dim sum destinations. I, on the other hand was happy, and enjoyed this version more. I am a fan of the egg yolk filling from above, but next time will definitely order it like this. Doing so to get the runny yolk within this delightfully crispy fried, chewy shell.

The “Steamed rice rolls with sesame and hoisin sauce” was a favourite, delicious with the salty and sweet peanut butter combination.

The “Smoke bean curd wrap” was filled with diced mushrooms. It had a wonderful smokey flavour to play off the earthiness of the mushrooms. I especially liked the texture of the wrap.

Our second and third destination were chosen for its proximity, and the ability to walk to it easily with a toddler in tow. At “Dinesty” we had their “Steamed green vegetable and egg dumplings”. Chewy dough, pinched closed and shaped like a leaf. The egg gives it some substance and the vinegar dipping sauce amplifies its flavour.

My guests were a fan of the “Pan fried Chinese green onion pancake”, this was also the only item our toddler would eat. He liked it so much that we got another crispy pancake fragranced with green onion, to go.

And for dessert we had “Steamed sesame paste buns”. They were mild in flavour and stuffed full of gritty oozy charcoal coloured pasta.

Our last stop was another 5 minute walk: “Su Hang”. In hindsight we should have started the tour here, given their extensive vegetarian offerings. An entire menu dedicated to meat free options, for easy reading and easy ordering.

Here we tried their “Vegetarian steamed dumplings”, which was similarly filled with green onions and egg, but here the dough was dyed and speckled green like its vegetables within. Comparing the two, I preferred the chewiness of the dough above, but the flavour of the filling here.

Next we had the “Three vegetable spring roll”, your classic julienne vegetables fried within a crunchy wrapper.

And my guests were stoked to find “Vegetarian dan dan noodles” on the menu, so although they were already incredibly full, we had to make room to try it. It was wonderfully chewy noodles flavoured with peanut butter, and topped with soy protein to simulate ground beef. A wonderful rendition that didn’t have me missing meat.

In short, the dumpling trail is for everyone and there are plenty out there for those with specific dietary restrictions. For more information on the trail and how you can carve out your own tour, visit the link below.

https://www.visitrichmondbc.com/food-and-drink/dumpling-trail/

Liu Yi Shou Hot Pot Restaurant

Despite the seasons, Chinese-style hot pot tends to be a consistently popular destination for those wanting a little more involvement in their meal. You cook up your own dinner, customizing it from which broth base you use to what ingredients you put in. And at “Liu Yi Shou” they offer a few more options to make your experience even more interactive and personalized.

For the tutorial on how to maximize your hot pot experience, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

First “Liu Yi Shou” has happy hour, plenty of wine and beer on special. I suggest sharing a pitcher with your friends. With all the spicy and flavourful ingredients, beer makes for a great in between sipper. They also have plenty of can sodas and fruit pops available, and even coconut water you drink right out of the fruit. So start with this as you explore their very extensive menu.

And while you work out your order, or wait for it to come and boil, you can start nibbling on their “Cheese fondue”. This is a new menu item, and one that you don’t often see at a hot pot restaurant. Not just melted cheese, but their fondue is mozzarella flavoured with tomato. It is served with a board of hot dogs, celery, and chicken wings for dipping into. I really liked the flavour of the cheese dip, it had a comforting, gooey tomato soup feel to it. But despite the lit tea light under the individual fondue bowl, it does cool quick. Although it doesn’t congeal, so you can come back to what you don’t finish in between your hot pot, as a flavour changer.

You can also order their popular marinade appetizer dish. This is an assorted platter of quail eggs, bean curd, pig’s ear, and pork hoc marinated in a soy sauce blend. It is enjoyed cold or at room temperature. This you eat more for its textures of squishy, spongy, chewy, and rubbery.

Today I was dining with hot pot experts and they made sure to order the most unique of all the option, plenty of which are exclusive to “Liu Yi Shou”, starting with their tri-soup pot. You can enjoy 3 different flavours of broth, altogether in one pot. Ideal for those who get tired of a one flavour boil; or for those who can’t take their food spicy, dining with those who only like it spicy.

We had the chicken with coconut soup base, the wild mushroom soup base with Chinese herbs, and the spicy and numbing hot pot. The latter was extra special, it came with a block of tallow shaped like their cow mascot. “Tallow” is saturated beef fat, it is higher in calories than butter, but healthier and better tasting! The hotter it got, the quicker he melted, and soon he was face first in a pool of chilli and peppercorns. Not only does this make the soup more indulgent, it also help to cut into some of that hot, hot heat. And if you order the chicken and coconut soup base, you get a plate of raw chicken complimentary, to cook within it.

In an effort to save table space, our platter of finely sliced lamb and beef is served on a wooden ring, that fits perfectly around our hot pot. From here it is easy to pick up a slice and dunk it into any broth. Both cook up relatively quick, and after 5 dunks you are ready to eat it.

But as waited for all the soup broths to boil, we made our way to the back of the restaurant, to their help yourself sauce bar. At some hot pot places I find I get bored of the taste, that everything is boiled up the same, and has only the one flavour throughout. Here, you can customize your own sauces and curate the flavour, so that anything you don’t like is on you. Mix and match from sauces and oils like spiced vinegar, oyster sauce, sesame oil, satay sauce, mushroom paste, and bean curd paste, etc. Toss in some minced and chopped dry ingredients like sugar, green onion, toasted soy bean, mashed garlic, preserved turnip and peanuts; for texture and chew.

And while we were busy mixing and creating to our heart’s content all our ordered ingredients began arriving one platter after another. The beautifully plated, raw food comes out quick here.

A wooden box of leafy greens and various mushrooms.

Fish paste moulded into two hearts. This you scoop and drop into the broth for it to boil up and harden into a solid ball.

A platter of shrimp, cuttlefish, pork and beef, pre-formed balls.

An interesting one were these tubes of bean curd that you dip into the pot for 3 seconds. They act like sponges, soaking in the broth and offering a distinct ribbed chew.

For the adventurous you can order a platter of intestines and organ meats, for a more traditional hot pot experience. Pig’s blood, beef tripe, ox aorta, and goose intestine. I would also consider this, one that you order more for its textures, each with its own unique chew or gelatin-like consistency. The aorta had the same chew as squid rings, the tripe was so tender and easy to bite into, the intestine required more jaw work; and the savoury pigs blood had the texture of pudding and jello combined.

But the highlight and feature of our meal was definitely “meat Barbie”. A Barbie doll repurposed. She was dressed in strips of angus beef that you peel of her torso or cabbage base and add into your soup. At her feet is a garden of raw seafood. Shrimp in shell, fish puff, mussels, fish, and sticks of imitation crab. A visual treat, as well as a tasty one.

And for those who actually still have room for more, “Liu Yi Shou” does have dessert, offering something sweet to end on. Like their red rice cakes that you dip into condense milk or a sweet syrup. I did try one, but after all the food above, I felt ending on anything rice related or starchy a little much.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I like their creativity and the broad offering of their menu. They aren’t just a place for hot pot, but serve as a stop for happy hour as well. Cold drinks and small snacks or dessert. They offer regulars and occasional customers reasons to return with plenty of variety to try and taste. And as the first hot pot place to have franchises all over the world, there are many locations for you to get your fix at. Don’t deny your cravings.

LIUYISHOU HOTPOT
1542 Robson Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1C2
778-379-3977

Najia Restaurant

Today we were in Coal Harbour looking for dinner. One of my guests was excited to see “Najia” nearby and insisted we visit. She is a fan of the Szechwan boiled fish dish and not many places offer it.

The harbour view was great, but this was an odd place for a Chinese restaurant. And because of its traditional architectural elements, it stood out more, adjacent to the modern marina side. Particularly their second floor annex with its pagoda-style curves and pointed roof. Inside, things got a lot more authentic. Stone lion statues, carved archways, and woven tapestries. Its intricacies made the experience all the more encompassing.

We had plenty of time to soak it all in at the threshold. Where we were left lingering, looking around as staff briskly waked past our group of three. No one stopped to acknowledge us. We eventually hailed one of the managers, she sat us at the table marked “15”. It was one of the tables that shared the lengthy booth, that ran down two walls of the dining area. It was a comfortable seat with embroidered silk pillows shaped like green and yellow clouds to prop yourself against.

There, we took our time looking through their menu, which was bound-like and read-like a novel. Each page a high resolution photo with the name of the dish and its price in small print. You ordered with your eyes, and the way it was presented there had you acknowledging the steeper price point. You were paying more for a more luxurious meal.

Our server asked if we wanted tea or water, without the warning that the former would cost you. And that each subsequent “refilled” pot would cost $2.50 more. A fact we only became aware of when we saw our bill and decided to drink the rest of what we had left in pot number 3. I am guessing that they use fresh leaves each time.

We ordered the dish we came in for and our server suggested an add on, directing us to their “Noble shrimp”, one of their house specialties. A great move considering we agreed to it at $29.88 for 9 large shrimp. We were amazed by the presentation. It was served on a plate elevated by a wooden platform, it matched the pattern of the dish ware, tea cup, and chopstick rest before our individual setting. A traditional Chinese pattern with a modern twist in a yellow-ish gold.

These were the largest shrimp I have had to date. Lightly fried, with a crispy shell you can chew down and swallow with ease. They were the only part that were seasoned. None of the sweet sticky sauce penetrated the actual prawn, so the initial bite was flavourful, and you got nothing on subsequent chews. The whole lychees and chilli peppers didn’t help, I didn’t think the lychee matched the flavour of the prawn. It wasn’t sweet but salty, then bitter at the end.

As for the boiled fish in chilli oil, my guest ordered our $29.88 serving with extra numbing peppercorn, which is her favourite part of the traditional dish. With it we each had a bowl of white rice at $3 a bowl. It helped to round things out as a more fulsome meal. Thankfully the fish actually wasn’t as spicy as it looked with all the dried, chopped up chillies. It was a refined heat that flavoured the oil and fish. But my favourite part was the crisp bed of bean sprouts at the bottom of the platter.

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.
Normally I don’t review a restaurant if I only try less than 3 dishes. However in this case I don’t think I will be returning for price alone, so thought to cover what little I have. This was little too indulgent of a cost for everyday dining. And the reality is when looking for Chinese food I won’t travel out of my way to Coal Harbour for it. Though I do acknowledge that this was very good for Chinese food downtown, with a very unique decor in a very special location. Although if this was in Richmond, it would be a different story. Don’t deny your cravings.

NAJIA
1018 Beach Avenue, Vancouver BC, V6E 1T7
778-379-3787
najia-restaurant.com

Grandma Liu Hot Pot

I was really excited to stumble upon this new Sichuan style hot pot place in Richmond’s Union Square. Here they offer made to order, individual hot pots with your choice of ingredients.

The restaurant is fairly simple, seats on either side of the room, and a counter in front of an open kitchen. You order and pay, then pick up your tray, and seat yourself based on table availability. We choose ours under a collage of cartoon pig posters. Next to the cart of help yourself drinks and utensils.

But your journey starts by the door, where a refrigerated unit keeps a selection of meat, seafood, noodles, and vegetables in plastic bins cool. You grab a large bowl and a pair of tongs and begin picking and curating your perfect bowl of hot pot. Though keep in mind you are charged by weight: $2.99 per 100grams, and the bowl adds to this weight itself. We went for one of each of the meat and seafood options, selecting the occasional vegetable along the way. Though a better strategy would be to choose the lightest cuts of meat and the leafiest vegetable for the lightest weight. As in avoiding the lotus root and potato sections, along with any of the ball; and instead loading up on the thin slices of lamb and pork, the chunks tofu, and all the lettuce, cabbage, spinach, and bok choy you desire.

More unique ingredients include seaweed knots, quail egg, vermicelli bundles, spam, Chinese doughnut, dried egg, Chinese sausage, two types of tripe, bamboo shoots, and congealed blood.

Next, you bring your collection to the counter where it is weighed. Our 6.5 grams of food came to around $20, which is a good decent deal and amount of food for two to share. And if you want your meal a little more hearty you can add on a bowl of rice for $1.50.

Your hot pot is then finished off in the kitchen. Where all the ingredients are separated and cooked individually at their own cooking times, to avoid over boiling. And before it is reassembled you are asked what sauces you want with sesame, garlic, and chilli as options. We opted to have our spice on the side for my sake, although the typical preparation for this is to have the broth super spicy.

This practice originated long ago in China where the dish originated (as was explained to me by “Picky Diner”, an expert when it comes to Chinese cuisine). Back then this was seen as commoner’s food. The hot and spicy flavours used was meant to hide the lack of quality in the meat served. Innards like intestines were commonly used as protein, based on their price and accessibility. Whereas currently in the China’s dining scene, hot pot is served more like this, with plenty of variety in its fresh ingredients.

As of our serving, the broth was fantastic, it was rich and savoury, delicious to sip. With hints of Sichuan peppercorn that offered mild heat and pops of their trademark numbing effect. None of our chosen ingredients needed a dip in any sauce, each was fully flavoured by the soup they sat and stewed in.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If this was more accessible to me, they would see me here more regularly. I like the idea, the ability to customize and have fun with your food, and the finished product. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

GRANDMA LIU HOT POT
8388 Capstan Way Unit 1463, Richmond BC, V6X 4A7
604-370-5015
grandma-liu-noodle.business.site

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