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Old Bird, “Miss Wong in London” popup

This would be my first time visiting Old Bird, the modern Chinese restaurant located on Main Street. They are well known for their decorative lanterns that dangle from the ceiling like red hot air balloons. They set the space a glow and really adds character and authenticity, along with the poster-size salutations that are spread out across the length of the restaurant.

Typically for a first-time visit, I would advise trying any restaurant’s regular menu, and focusing on their signatures dishes to really get a feel of the place. But on this night, Old Bird was hosting a one day only pop-up, and I love a good pop-up, limited edition anything so could not pass up the opportunity. And spoiler, this was a very well-conceived one day only specialty menu. And as my first-time taste, it would leave me excited for Old Bird’s next monthly focus/feature/incentive designed to have customers revisiting for another meal.

But for tonight, this is “Miss Wong in London”, the restaurant’s Chinese take on British classics. The inspiration for this comes from the Chef’s experience being raised in London by his Italian grandmother. He spoke to his childhood memories for all the creative interpretations to come. This is his interpretation on the best traditional food in England with a Chinese twist.

The dinner was $80 per person, with the option to add cocktail pairings for $60 more. I am glad that we did, and suggest that you do for any of these events they host in the near future.

In this dinner, Phoebe Wilkinson, the creative brain behind most of Old Bird’s drinks, had prepared 4 unique cocktails inspired by London elements. Like our Chef, she has brought together traditional and classic English flavours like Earl Grey tea and combined it with classic Chinese ingredients such as osmanthus and ginseng. And together food and drink made for a very cohesive menu

Course by course came out as a shareable serving for you and your guest, starting with the “Prawn Cocktail?”. Not peeled and chilled shrimp served with the classic tangy cocktail sauce, but fried prawn stuffed in tofu served in a bisque sauce with olive vegetables and pickled bok choy. It certainly matched the description. Presented in an unexpected way, this set us up for the rest of the menu to follow. The gentle nature of the shrimp and tofu ran parallel as common bedmates in Chinese cuisine. It was the shrimp paste that flavoured overall, it gave the dish a distinctly familiar, preserved, umami quality. The vegetable offered a breath in softened texture and included a ginger vibrancy to end on.

For our drink pairing this was the “Eastern Comfort” prepared with paprika bourbon, mole bitters, and basil. This was an herbaceous and savoury beverage thanks to the paprika, whilst finishing sweet and peppery by way of the basil. As a whole this was a collection of flavours that just work with one another unexpectedly, and delightfully.

I felt like the second course was the most well-conceived, and truly spoke to the creativity of the kitchen. This was the bar favourite Scotch Egg, but prepared with a smoked Chinese tea egg, Old Bird sausage, and Hong Kong curry. Each element listed came together for a very filling plate. There was no missing the distinct smokiness of the perfect soft-boiled egg. The sausage that surrounded it was not too salty or at all domineering. And the curry brought it together like a stew. The dish was on the saltier side as a whole, but better to pair with the cocktail below.

Our cocktail pairing here was “Earl’s Fizz” with mandarin orange London dry gin, earl grey, and hopped bitters. Each sip gave you a citrusy, marmalade-orange feel. I could almost taste and feel the chunks of rind in the mix. The slight bitterness from the tea helped to balance out the smokey notes of the egg above. This was a very well matched drink to dish.

Next, was this very refined take on Fish & Chips with beer battered ling cod, potato & seaweed pave, nori vinegar, and mushy edamame. The feature was the very tender and flakey white fish. The meat ate lean, and the batter crispy fried without being oily. The side and garnishes did well to add texture and varied tastes, but because this was presented as a fish and chips, you were left wondering where the tartar sauce or its equivalent was on the plate? You wanted something creamy and tangy to cut into all the deep fry. A dill or pickled tangy sensation to breathe life and have you going back for more. One again well prepared, but not as seamless of a transition to Chinese-style fish and chips as the other dishes in this set menu.

Although maybe my critique was due to us missing our cocktails to pair with it. The food came much earlier than the cocktails, with 15 minute delay different, meaning we had the two separate of one another. And in hindsight the cocktail was definitely the tangy and fresh element we were missing from above. “Moon Hopping” with ginseng chrysanthemum white rum, osmanthus, white IPA. I fully appreciated the quintessential list of Asian ingredients coming together to form something completely new. I did not think that ginseng could be so complementary to the floral notes of chrysanthemum and Osmanthus, and that it did not overpower either. The twist was the beer-like finish thanks to the inclusion of the white IPA. This was a very intelligently crafted cocktail.

For desserts it was a Sticky Toffee Pudding that really didn’t pick up the listed Chinese flavours like the other dishes did. We got none of the advertised jujube berry or red bean. Shame, as this would have added a new level to this classic with its sticky sweet burnt edges and caramelized burnt molasses toffee sauce. It was still delicious, nonetheless.

For our cocktail pairing we had the “Storm Watch” with dark rum, ginger cinnamon, house tea, and pumpkin baijiu drops. I immediately made out a pumpkin spice scent to this, coupled with the telltale autumn spices. This made the chilled beverage warming, a contrast much like its flavour profile of herbal and medicinal, yet floral. I have never had anything else like it, and once again have to state what an intelligent mix this is. I can see why Old Bird’s head bar manager deserves the accolades that she has earned. The more you drink the easier this gets, as a chilled Chinese tea that helps to counterbalance the sugars in the desserts above.

In closing, this was such a great idea, and I would love to see Miss Wong continue her travels. More trips aboard as the Old Bird kitchen and bar continues to bring together 2 distinct ethnicities in such rich and satisfying harmony.

Old Bird
3950 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V 3P2, Canada
+1 604-873-1172


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