This was a surprise birthday dinner thrown by my Foodie Family (fellow food and drink bloggers with the same enthusiasm for writing and reviewing honestly and with integrity, like I do). We typically choose a restaurant we all haven’t been to, and essentially write the review from our own perspectives; but with everyone’s notes and opinions in mind. However, today was different, my dear friends decided to surprise me with a joint birthday party with Hanson of @noshandnibble fame.
We both had August birthdays, and seeing as no one knew our actual ages: 64 or 46 was assigned in balloons and candles.
The destination was chosen based on the ability to share large plates between 7 individuals. And the fact that a few of us have been before and liked what they had enough to recommend this as our gathering point. This was our first get together as a whole group, fully vaccinated.
The following was what we had in the order we had it, starting with the Braised Ling cod tail in hot pot. We were all impressed by the size of the fish’s appendage, and how satisfying it ate. This was tender flaky fish thoroughly coated in a thick and savoury sauce, accented by roasted pork pieces. This was a great introduction of things to follow.
When ordering lobster at a Chinese restaurant, you pay per pound. So as a gesture of full transparency, the restaurant staff typically brings the crustacean you are about to consume, live to your table for inspection. A visit to your table first, before it gets broken down into our Lobster with yee-mein noodles in a cream sauce dish.
Naturally this was an exciting dish, I just wished the flavours were as bold as the idea of having lobster. As a whole the dish was very subtle. I didn’t feel like I got enough lobster from it. The lobster didn’t feel like the star of the dish. You didn’t get much of its flavour past the cream sauce, and I found the dish lacking in salt.
Another classic Chinese set meal, show stopper is the Peaking duck, served across two courses. The first had its skin being carved table side to be used as the filling for wraps with thin crepes, cucumber, fresh spring onion, and hoisin sauce. A classic that you don’t ever get much of, due to the cost and the need to share. Therefore, when you get such a dish before you, it is a treat; and one I fully appreciate.
In actuality the duck was carved closer to the bar, adjacent to our table. When asked, the server carving it refused to move their station closer to our table so that we could all watch the experience of a table side skinning. So with the “no”, we continued to arch our backs, trying to peer over his, that faced us. If that is the case, they might as well do this work in the kitchen, and simply serve us the dish prepared with a more delicate presentation.
The second Peking duck course would come a few dishes later as a diced duck meat filling with crunchy bits of carrot, celery, and turnip; all sitting on a bed of crispy fried rice for additional crisp and texture. You start with a washed cabbage leaf and fill it with a spoon or two of the ingredients above, before drizzling over everything with more sweet and tangy hoisin sauce. The offering was pretty fresh with plenty of texture to chew through. The table especially appreciated the puffed rice used, which we found a nice spin on things, instead of the traditional crispy vermicelli.
I am not a fan of leafy greens due to their soggy texture, so passed on the Pea shoots with garlic. But this would be the one fully vegetable focused dish that is ordered with such a Chinese feast.
The Marinated chicken with black truffle sauce isn’t on the regular menu, this was a special order off their dim sum menu. Those who have been before, know this was the one to order, and they weren’t wrong. This was the most memorable dish of the night. The chilled chicken was super tender, its naturally simple flavour lent itself well to the bold punch of truffle, and they didn’t cheap out on its oil here. However, you still needed to balance it with cilantro and onions, so that the chicken wouldn’t read as bland.
Our group used the Sweet and sour pork dish as a bench mark; an indication on how well the restaurant does with the classics, in comparison to other. This was a dish that everyone knows of (Chinese or not), and knows what to expect when having some. Therefore it was a good sign when everyone was easily able to taste the quality in the ingredients used. The restaurant did this so well that the next time I crave sweet and sour pork, going forward, this is what I want it to taste like.
Similarly, our table also really liked their Stir fried flat rice noodles with beef. We all agreed that we could make out the extra heat that went into this dish with the “Wok hay”. It was delicious, period. Definitely some of the best have all had.
When it came time for dessert, the restaurant was helpful in presenting the outside bought cake, with candles lit. A classic Chinese fresh fruit and vanilla sponge, with plenty of cream cake from Saint Germaine. Apparently the bakery misplaced the actual cake our group planned to purchase and surprise both Hanson and I with; therefore the staff upgraded us to a larger cake with their apologizes.
The restaurant also brought our table a complimentary steamer of lucky peach-shaped buns, stuffed with lotus paste. I appreciated the gesture and the tradition. We each got one to usher in luck.
In conclusion, when looking for a full Chinese feast across several larger plat for sharing, Chef’s Choice is a solid pick. Afterall, 7 food bloggers thought so, and enjoyed their time within.
Chef’s Choice Chinese Cuisine
955 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1K3