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This review is a little different. The scene and theme was that of a wedding. So the decor was different and the expectations for service higher. None the less we were still here to eat and I still wanted to catalogue the evening, this would be my first wedding reception review. And I was not the slightest bit disappointed.

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This was the fanciest Chinese restaurant I have ever seen. The accent lighting along the ceiling’s alcove filtered the room in a cool tone. The silk sheets covering each chair, the crisp white linens over each round table, the blue and white floral arrangements, and the embossed chargers specifically for the wedding helped to propel it all to the next level. Not to mention the bride’s chosen royal blue and pearl white theme dusted the place in a regal opulence. They well matched the room’s originally occurring framed cushion panels. All very luxe.

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I will skip the ceremonies, the games, and our photo ops, and dive right into the food. Conveniently a menu in both Chinese characters and English letters graced the table. It spoke of what was to come. As this was a wedding, each dish was served as a family style share platter, with individual portions doled out tables side. I managed to slow the process by demanding photos of the plates in their entirety before our server got to work.

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As per custom, our meal began with a cold appetizer, specifically a “roasted pig appetizer platter”, among other things. The roasted pig itself was slow cooked tender, juicy bordering melt in your mouth. The crispy skin with a crackle was a crunchy difference from pocket of fat that lay just under it. The slices of barbecue pork, were lean and sweetened. The fresh surf clam was a bite more for texture than its fishy taste. The smoke salmon was rolled into flower buds and left unseasoned. The jellyfish was my favourite, a one of a kind texture lightly coated in sesame oil. The deep fried imitation crab wrapped in seaweed was a new twist on this familiar offering. It snapped with a bite and ended in a good chew.

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“Deep fried prawn paste on crab pincer”. When I grew tired of taking fork and knife to this ball, I used its pincher as a way to bring prawn to mouth. Crispy on the outside and spongy on the inside. It was a one note flavour that was rejuvenated by a splash of the vinegar-based sauce provide. The shredded vegetable in the centre was just for decoration. Though it would have been better pickled and served as a side to help break up prawn and crab meat fritter with some tang.

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“Braised conpoy with Chinese mushroom with vegetables”. The soften mushrooms were very tender, though I still suggest sawing it down to size using a fork and knife and taking it bite by bite. The scallops were more fibrous than they looked, it broke into harder strands instead of sinking beneath teeth. I avoided the soggy lettuce soaked in gravy, I don’t prefer its wilted texture. Though the crispy peanuts sprinkled on top did help to give the plate some crunch.

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“Braised 5-head abalone with vegetable”. It was nice that this dish came already divided for individual consumption. Each diner had their own whole abalone over a bed of greens. I am not partial to abalone for its off putting look and it’s often painstaking chewy nature. This however was far better than every other time I dared to try it. Its texture was like eating a large shiitake mushroom. Juicy, chewy, meaty. And yet again I passed on the wilted greens, opting for more of the luscious gravy instead.

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“Sautéed live lobsters”, I was genuinely impressed to see two lobster heads staring back at the helm of the plate for our table of ten to share. Their purpose, to declare the entire lobster was being used on both occasions. The crustacean was hacked into smaller segments that made it easy to pry meat from shell, especially when using the tiny two pronged forks provided.

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The “Crispy chicken” was by far the best dish and my new favourite way to have chicken. I have never had chicken this tasty, this juicy, this perfect. Tender pieces of succulent chicken topped with a thin sheet of lightly toasted skin. A crisp that went great with the fried prawn chips also included.

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The “Steamed live grouper” was served whole, and carved to single serve scoop-able portions at the table. The slicing was done with fork and spoon, a few jabs and some slices and the fish was inside out with its spine to its right. The tender fish was slightly sweeten in a smooth soy sauce broth, its larger bones easy to avoid. At this point our server no longer doled out portions, or made any attempt to clear plates by suggesting that one table occupant take the last piece or bite. At this point most of us were full and pacing ourselves, so were left to our own discretion.

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The “Assorted seafood fried rice” came drenched in two sauces. The colours of white and red were meant to blend in harmony, speaking to the marriage we were here to celebrate. It’s intended presentation was to be a ying yang. Though the bleeding of the two lost that affect by the time it reached our table. None-the-less it was much better mixed into one sauce anyways. Luscious with a butter cream and sweet with the watered down tomato sauce. The moisten rice made for nice bites when paired with the crunchy vegetables.

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The “Stewed E-Fu noodle” was the ending to the savoury portion of our meal. Its presence was to ensure everyone would leave the dinner full. Its length meant to represent longevity and a long life of happiness for the bride and groom. The noodles itself were easy to eat. Only lightly sauced it was eaten more enjoyed for its chewy texture than is savoury flavour.

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Dessert was true to Chinese dinner form. Chinese desserts are not your delicate ice cream Parfaits or your decadent chocolate cakes. They aren’t rich or elaborately adorned. You don’t often look forward to them, but instead just accept that they are there. Chinese dessert are typically an assortment of gently sweetened bites and sugary soups. Often used as a palate cleanser, a much needed break from the heavily salted meal before it. The entrees are the main affair, these are an afterthought.

The “Chinese petit fours” were fried sesame balls filled with a yellow bean paste and buttery fluff pastry stuffed with a date paste. The balls were crispy and its filling creamy. I enjoyed the texture most across two bites. The pastries flaked off in light leaves. A sandy texture that could have used a more lusciousness from the date paste.

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“Sweeten red bean soup with lotus seed”, the most commonly seen Chinese meal ender. You start with a soup and end with a soup. This version was unlike the others, where you usually get the red beans over cooked into a pulp, here they came in whole rounds. Though over all the serving tasted the same, a sand-like texture flavoured in zesty orange. I liked the taste, but couldn’t get past the texture to finish.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Ye.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
As the best Chinese meal I ever had I am giving this one high marks. Though take what I have written with a grain of salt: this was a wedding reception, the entire restaurant was rented out, there was heavy drinking throughout the night, and the staff brought their A-game. I cannot predict whether a non ceremonious visit would result in the same rating, or the am as high quality of food; what I can declare is that this was the best Chinese restaurant I have been to to date, and I want to go back for seconds of it all. Don’t deny your cravings.

EMPIRE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Unit 200, 5951 No.3 Road, Richmond BC, V6X2E3
604-249-0080
empirerestaurant.ca
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