Our original plan was to drive towards the water and have a nice seafood dinner with a view. However with the looming threat of heavy showers, we decided to satisfy our seafood cravings a little closer to our week long home.
We would be dining with my host’s parents, locals who knew where to go for good seafood. This restaurant is one of their favourites. A larger space, hidden in an industrial area, surrounded by smaller cafeterias and chain linked lots. But it was worth travelling to just to see their wall of live seafood tanks. The oversized king crabs in the restaurant’s surrounding trees and on its awning marked the spot.
Clearly one of their claims to fame was these six rows of live seafood tanks, housing over and offering over 30 different fish, mollusks and crustaceans for dinner. Something especially awe inspiring for me considering at most, seafood restaurants in Vancouver keep 2-5 different fish and shellfish at the ready, and charge a lot more for their freshness.
The restaurant had plenty of seating between three room and two levels, although didn’t offer the parking space to measure up to its seating capacity. Despite our reservation we were still given a table on the not so stable top floor (the ground shook with every step, and at weak points your foot sunk into the floor.) We were not happy with our seating arrangement, when the view was much better on the first floor, and seeing as there were still so many tables available there. The staff wouldn’t let us budge, and this small act would set the tone for the rest of our time with them. Disappointing service to match with the lack lustre attitudes of our servers. We even had one server go so far as to not make eye contact with us, in order to not have to approach our table. The others pitched in, but requests for utensils were forgotten, orders made never came, and I have never felt more like a burden at a dinner we were paying for in full and then expected to tip, than during this meal.
The experience was further confusing with external vendors approaching us for the sale of lottery cards. And beer company’s represented by women in branded short dresses hawkering their brand of brew. The salesman ship was too aggressive for my taste. It and the service was just disappointing, but at least the food measured up, and knowing that everything was as fresh as it could be, only made it taste better.
Without ordering or seeing the menu, the below is my best account of what we had.
The meal began with a serving of spicy pickled mixed vegetable called “achar”. You have them as a side, or in this case a hot start to get the appetite going.
We had juice from a fresh young coconut to cool our mouths down with afterwards. Although I was disappointed that the fruit was wrapped in cellophane and imported. Especially as the country has an abundance of such fruit, which is offered road side for purchase with ease.
The Singapore style sweet and sour crab was a nice chunky mix of sauce and meat. My dislike of getting my hands dirty stopped from trying much of this. Although had I chosen to, I would have appreciated the sealed wet wipe pre-set by each place setting for me to use as it would be needed.
The squid coated in duck yolk was my favourite of the night, and something I have to try to find available in Vancouver. The dish combined two things I like, not knowing they were even complimentary to one another. The chalkiness of the egg yolk became a coating for the rubbery squid, creating a new textural element. And its unique flavour of mildly salty and thoroughly yolky blended together made the pieces of squid one you can back for to experience again and again.
This was my first time having razor clam, obviously earning their name from the shape of their frame, they were like double hinged blades. Chewy pieces of steamed clam cut up and topped with minced garlic on one end of the shell, and a mouthful of vermicelli seasoned in its likeness on the other. Together they made a great bite. The texture of the clam was much like the squid above, perfectly cooked to have that ideal chewy texture that didn’t leave your jaw aching from a rubbery chew.
I don’t like leafy greens, but if all of them are prepared like this, I may have to reassess. This is a plate of gai lan (also referred to as Chinese broccoli) served two ways. The steamed version wasn’t all that tasty, but it offered a balance of vegetables and freshness for the dishes we had and the ones to come. Though how they fried the leaves to a crisp was magic. It gave it a great airy texture, one that was easy to pop into your mouth and enjoy as is, or to use as a side flavour for any of the dishes we had. If this was available at any place, I would order it from them at any time.
This was a clay hot pot of organ meat. Our host took my bluff when I said that I eat everything. I liked the texture of the liver, something I haven’t visited since my childhood. The stomach was a little too chewy. Well sauced and well seasoned. Delicious if you are already use to having textures like this with aftertastes that aren’t immediately deemed delicious.
The clams in black bean sauce had a great flavour. It was easy to pick out pieces of meat from open shell, though you needed a few on the tip of your fork for a more substantial bite.
And for dessert we enjoyed a plate of sweet cut mangos, using chopsticks. It was something refreshing and sweet to end such a flavourful meal on.
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.
The food was great, everything we tried, I haven’t ever had anything else like it. I just wish diners were able to eat by the live tanks for ambience, and that the service measured up to the splendour of our meal. Don’t deny your cravings.