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Deer Garden Restaurant, Coquitlam

Today a group of us were gathered at Henderson Place Mall to check out a franchise location of the well known, long standing, Deer Garden. Originally located in Burnaby, serving classic Chinese cuisine for over 10 years, with this outpost in Coquitlam. But first getting there.

The parking is free and there are plenty of stalls, but without a mall directory, it was hard to locate the restaurant entrance, located on the main floor. There also wasn’t a street side front door we could have entered from today.

We started with some classic Hong Kong style drinks the likes of Milk Tea, Lemon Tea with Honey, Ovaltine, and:or Horlicks. I went with the former most as it pulled on my nostalgia strings. I grew up with the ready to mix powder in the pantry of my parents house, and was always generous with how much of the malted power I used to dilute with milk and water.

As is the tradition we started with an appetizer platter. Although what it was comprised of was new to me. Salt and pepper pork chop, deep fried wontons, fried eggplants in thai chili sauce, and shrimp covered in a mayo sauce. I appreciated the time they took to give this plate its flourish. The green cucumber and red tomato were needed to give the otherwise washed out collection of yellow deep fried foods some life on the plate.

The crispy wontons were flaky and light, stuffed full with a dense ball of shrimp. Where its accompanying sweet dip was the highlight of the platter and necessary to give most of any flavour.

The eggplant was firm with a similar sweet sauce. It was my favourite item of this bunch.

I found the mayo shrimp soggy by the time I got to it, with all the thick sauce drizzled over. This was a play on Ebi mayo, but the breading here didn’t hold up.

The pork chop had a good amount of salt to it, but it needed some of the side sauces and the garlic bits for a more interesting flavour.

The lobster steamed with garlic came out next, which isn’t typical, but a welcomed sight given the robust presentation. Although I found the abundance of garlic did leave the shellfish with an acrid funk, almost briney, whereas I know steamed lobster to be sweet. Plus the meat felt over cooked with its spongy texture. This was such a shame.

I am a sucker for Hai-nam style chicken on rice, this reminded me of my childhood. Chilled, salted, and tender chicken with a side of rice. This chicken is the ideal neutral base to carry the combined efforts of fragrant ginger plus greens onion sauce and the garlic chilli sauce. Both of which I deem essential on a well prepared Hainanese chicken platter, along with rice cooked in chicken stock. This was a tasty serving.

The seafood congee with Chinese donut was a simple dish. Comforting porridge with a fishy flavour. Paired with the crispy fried dough that offered crunch and a change of taste and texture in between thick slurps of watery rice.

The curry beef brisket was another comforting dish. Slow cooked tender chunks of beef that easily fell apart. Drowned in a brew of spicy coconut forward curry that was tasty enough to just enjoy over firm steamed rice, as is.

The two noodles had a similar flavour profile. The homemade 4 kinds of balls with noodle in soup had its noodles so intertwined that we needed a pair of scissors to cut through them to serve. Both are warming beefy soups with a medicinal taste, in a good way. The fish balls are the leaner option, but I prefer the one below.

The beef tendon and tripe with tossed noodle had a similar noodle and broth situation. I recommend this one for the gentle chew of the intestine and the almost melty, gelatinous texture of the tendon.

The sweet and sour pork was exactly as I wanted it: crispy and fatty with a thick layer of breading and syrupy sweet sauce.

The singing pork rib in hotpot was a collection of sparerib, cured sausage, peppers, and mushroom that came to the table sizzling. Seasoned in a salty gravy with soy and black pepper, it was tasty, but it felt like it needed a base to enjoy it with.

A base of noodles, which we got from the satay beef with vermicelli, which also came sizzling in a hot pot like above. I liked the leaner noodle in this, and how it contrasted the chewier slices of beef, a few of which could have used some baking soda to temper the texture (as per my fellow foodies). This came in a salted brown gravy coated it and each stand of noodle evenly.

I was unfamiliar with this one, but my table mates were, but agreed that they have never seen it served like this. That typically beef with egg sauce is served on the rice, and not with the latter on the side. I liked the gelatinous soupy and syrupy texture of this mix along side the chewy chunks of beef. Definitely another comforting dish that pulled on nostalgia for the table.

The fried rice with shrimp paste, shrimp and chicken offered the base I wanted for many of the meat forward dishes. I didn’t really get much of the expected umami flavour from the shrimp paste and found the rice dish as is just so.

Everyone enjoyed the supreme fried kuiteow, and we all barely got enough to enjoy it. Thin noodles, juicy pieces of shrimps, crisp beansprouts, and silky thread of egg.

The baked pork chop on spaghetti was lack lustre, comparatively. It could have used more salt and seasonings, despite how much sauce was over the overcooked noodles. It was described as being “serviceable” by the group.

And for dessert we had HK style French toast. Crispy and chewy, but with the butter and syrup it felt more like breakfast. A filling one to try to end on.

Worth mentioning is that they also have deep fried fish skin for sale. Not made in house, but pre-made and ready for grab and go as a crunchy, salty snack.

Overall, a great restaurant for all your favourite childhood Chinese dishes. Some better than others, but as a whole a solid performance and option.

Deer Garden Restaurant
Henderson Place Mall
1163 Pinetree Wy Unit 1045, Coquitlam, BC V3B 8A6
(604) 475-8088

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