This night was the long awaited, latest get together with the Foodie Family. We have been withholding group gatherings due to the former restrictions, and have been having a hard time locking down a day in which we were all able to come together. But this was it in June, and we were finally celebrating Sherman of @shermansfoodadventures birthday (which is in January).
David of @pickydiner fame had suggested Mott32 and the rest of the group didn’t object, so it came to be. I, myself have never stepped foot inside the international, luxury, Chinese fine dining chain. So figured it would be a good time now, to be able to order and review more dishes as a larger group.
We toyed with the idea of getting a private room too, knowing full well the cost of our dinner tonight would not be inexpensive. Our party of six spending a bill or two in order to be able to try enough and leave satisfactorily full. In hindsight, I am glad we opted not to, considering the experience we had. I don’t typically list the prices when I review food; However, it might be worth visiting here, considering the amount we paid for and how little we each had.
Everyone else ordered a cocktail or two and/or cooler, but I went in wanting to keep my expenses minimal, so refrained. And good thing too, as this meal was too rich for my blood. A couple of bites of each dish, and no leftovers to take home as a second meal. My penny pinching left me with a bill totaled at $92.31. This was the smallest, not including Areta of @foodgressing coming in with an upset stomach and ordering a single serving of soup.
Areta’s Double boiled sea conch, silky fowl, and matsutake mushroom soup was one of the richer bone broth soups I have ever tried. It drank incredibly lean, not leaving an oily residue on your lips, (as others might). This is the type of soup that a Chinese mother gives their children when they are unwell, and it is meant to nourish inside and out. It was tasty and I appreciated the sample of it that I got, but at ~$35, I would have liked enough to share with the table.
Before we got into dinner, each person was presented with a tablet. With the addition of warm water poured table side, it puffed up and expanded to a reveal wet wipe. A considerate way for your to clean your hands before you use them to eat. A little extra, but a nice touch given the prestige of the restaurant.
As it is one of their specialties, our group agreed to preorder their Applewood roasted Peking duck with the “signature mott 32 cut”. A whole duck was carved up table side, by a professional chef wielding a butcher’s clever. He gingerly sliced off thin pieces of duck skin, skimming off and avoiding any extra gristle. What was removed from bone was Peking duck prepared 2 ways for $98.
The first way was the skin as is, served along side a dish of cane sugar. The intention is to dip one into the other. A delicacy that I could not wrap my head around. The sugar was not sweet, and the skin had no flavour. What I got was the sensation of fat coupled with a slight snap in the crispiness. I did not like the texture or the taste, but ate 2 pieces anyways, because I was paying good money for it.
The second Peking duck preparation was the classic duck wraps with thicker slices of duck skin and meat served as a build yourself wrap. Thin crepe-like wraps, julienned cucumber and green onion, with sauce. The latter most was the classic fermented soy bean, but mixed together with a sesame paste. This was done at the table with a quick swivel of our server’s wrist. The result, an elevated spiral dipping sauce. Another little extra step that spoke to the fine dining spirit of Mott32.
As for the way it ate, the wraps were pretty standard. It tasted and I built it as I would anywhere else, at any other restaurant. But for the same price you typically get 2 more fuller dishes: The wraps and duck meat lettuce cups. Here it was more like 1.5 dishes.
You can choose to add on a 3rd dish to utilize the remaining duck meat. If you pass on the option with its additional cost, the unused meat and bones are repurposed. Wanting a rice or starch base to accompany the dishes to come, we opted in for the crispy duck fried rice option, over the wok fried chili duck. We all agreed that each person got to choose a dish from the menu and we would share it as a group; this was my pick. Originally, I was going to get a seafood fried rice for $48, but considering the duck was ours anyways and the add on would only be $29, I made this my pick. And it would have been a good one, if we got it in a more timely manner. After all our meaty dishes came and were eaten, Joyce of @vanfoodies celebrity, noticed the kitchen was on standby and thought to ask about the status of this, our would be last dish.
When we asked the staff, they said it was almost ready and set about making it. It was a quick process, so I could see them forgetting . When we further went on to inquire where the duck was from, they said it was ours. But if not set aside and marked, how can one ascertain which duck is which? Especially when the entire restaurant has ordered one. Nonetheless they said what they did, and we accepted it on face value and got “our” “crispy duck fried rice” (as the menu listed it).
As for how it tasted, you didn’t get much duck, let alone could tell it was crispy. The duck meat was chopped up so fine that it blended in with the grains of rice. Other than it, this was just rice with green onions. It did not eat like a main, and would have definitely benefited from being served with the incredibly flavourful and saucy, meaty mains below. As the way we were served it and how we had it, it was not worth the $29 price tag.
Given that this was a first time visit for a few of us, we decided to order another Mott32 signature: Hot and sour iberico pork Shanghainese soup dumpling. It is basically the bougiest soup dumplings you will have, from off of their evening dim sum menu. Hand folded and placed delicately on its own bamboo carrier, then steamed in the traditional bamboo steamer. Its bold tangerine hue sets it apart, while speaking to the punchy flavours within. Tangy and tasty from the filling, but you do not get any soup or the climax of eating a XLB; where all its liquid pours out into your mouth with one fulsome bite. At $27.50 for our order of 5 (so that we each could have one), this is probably the priciest dumpling I have had to date. And you definitely need more than one to get a better grasp of what it is you are having.
As I mentioned earlier, we each got to pick one dish from off of the menu. Joyce came in wanting the Barbecue iberico pork with yellow mountain honey, but at 7pm (the time of our reservation), it was already sold out. So she went for the next fattiest sounding meat dish: Crispy triple cooked US black angus short rib for $78. This was quite the spectacle, all sliced up and laid on its tomahawk bone for display. Each piece was fatty with sparse seasoning, leaving you feeling like we were missing something. The heavy handed use of black pepper and it leaning more towards the bland side, made its preparation feel very Westernized.
David’s pick was the Signature Maine lobster “mo po tofu” at $72. The cost is related to the use of lobster tail chopped up, and the two full claws left meaty and in tact. This was one of the best dishes tonight, just not enough of it for 5 grown adults. It had a warming spice and a tingling heat. Tangy and sharp it could have done with some rice to better capture all the sauce.
Hanson of @noshandnibbles chose the Sweet and sour pork with dragon fruit and aged black vinegar (as it is written on the menu). Whenever our group goes out for Chinese food, we typically order sweet and sour pork as our base line bench. We have it to be able to compare such restaurants with one another. Although, this was nowhere near what we expected from sweet and sour pork. The menu listed dragon fruit and charged us $36 for it in the dish, but we only got pineapple with no explanation from the staff. The pineapple wasn’t treated, seasoned, or sauced; simply cut up and placed on the plate like garnish. The chunks of pork meat were caramelized and slightly crispy. They had a very fatty mouthfeel to them, and took on a different profile with the savoury vinegar. This was nothing like what we knew sweet and sour pork to be, and I actually prefer the “regular” version.
And birthday boy Sherman made his pick a vegetable one. The Braised eggplant with minced pork and chili peppers was almost as much as the pork above at $32, for a similarly sized serving. This had so much flavour and sauce to it, after the lobster this was the next one the group raved about. But once again, we were left hankering for rice, a base to soak up all the sauces with.
As we brought in our own cake, and the staff caught wind of our reason to celebrate, the restaurant gifted us with a steamer of Chinese peach shaped, prosperity buns. One each, freshly steamed with a molten centre of savoury lotus paste and salted egg yolk. This was my first time seeing it with this filling, and I liked it. A very nice gesture that was much appreciated.
In conclusion: The higher the cost, the higher the expectations, and mine were not met.
Considering the prestige of the restaurant and the price of the dishes I expected more from the service team. A lot of what I asked, that I felt would be commonplace at other fine dining establishments in the city, was taken with hesitation here. I got a lot of “we normally don’t do that” from the staff, to which our group withdrew the ask. For example, when it came time to pay, I asked for the bill to be split; However, was told that they normally don’t do that.. And as they began to say that they would, the rest of the group offered to do the work. As I did not agree, I did not attempt to do the math.
All the dishes would have to be split 5 ways, minus Areta’s soup only charged to her. And with individual drink orders under the one who ordered it, plus the associated taxes (Hanson and I did not have alcohol, so hopefully we were exempted from this). Then a divided tip based on what each person had to pay. All this work painstakingly calculated by Sherman, when it would have been easier utilizing the technology of a cash register. Plus, I came in not wanting to spend too much for the experience, and did not have the means to cover an entire $535.73 bill before gratuity, so that it is more convenient for the restaurant.
Given the amount of food, the cost of it, and the service for the experience; I do not foresee myself returning. I would recommend going to a Chinese seafood restaurant where your money goes further, with plenty of leftovers (That post will follow, stay tuned).
Mott 32 Vancouver
161 W Georgia St, Vancouver, BC V6E 0C6