Location: 1623 Centre St N, Calgary, AB
This is a restaurant I’ve been going to since I was a child. It was my go to place for dim sum and fancy family dinners with my extended family, usually for grandma’s birthday or something like that. It still keeps the traditional method of serving dim sum, that is, ladies will wheel a cart loaded up with food around offering their goods. I prefer this to the restaurants that give you a paper to tick off what you want because even if you can’t speak or read Chinese or don’t know the English translation of Chinese dim sum dishes you can always just point to what you want. Of course, the downside is that some of the cart ladies can be rather pushy, trying to get you to buy their more expensive dishes and then there is the noise. Because they are pushing their carts around, they need to call out what they have on them because lifting the lid would eventually make the food cold and would take way too long. But it’s not a turn off really as it has a traditional Chinese feel to it. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Chinese restaurant where everyone was quiet, like when I go to a Greek or Italian restaurant. I think it has to in part do with the culture. China is considered to be a collectivist culture and the way dishes are presented reflect that. It is what Westerners call family style. It’s just how we eat. Besides, we’ve been taught that food is always better when we share. It’s similar to the idea that food is better when we are having it in good company. For me it’s both. Today we went for an early mother’s day brunch. Sometimes it feels like I’m yelling all the time and it gets my adrenaline pumping, but it’s really enjoyable. Maybe that’s where I developed the liking for arguments. Anyways, in the last few years the quality of the food has gone down slightly. Not significantly, there are still a few signature dishes that cannot be beaten.
So I’ll start with the staples of dim sum: har gow and siu mai, Har gow are shrimps that are wrapped in a semi chewy clear skin. The shrimps should be de-veined and slightly seasoned. There are many dim sum items that contain shrimp and there are many variations of the har gow. Other fillings that are often added are bean shoots, scallops, chives, and green onions. Of course once you add these other fillings in they are no longer called har gow, but have different names (ex. dow miu gow). Siu mai, the other staple, is made from pork. Often they have mushrooms mixed in as well, are topped with tobiko, and wrapped in a wonton wrapper. The pork used in the siu mai must be fresh (like super fresh, no keeping it in the fridge for a while, don’t freeze then thaw then use) otherwise it leaves a strange taste that I don’t know how to describe in English (it’s kinda like stale fridge taste?).
Other staples that our family have are: steamed daikon cake, chicken’s feet, spare ribs in black bean sauce, Chinese doughnut in rice crepe, shrimp wrapped in rice crepe, deep fried bean curd shrimp spring rolls and shrimp wrapped in eggplant. Sometimes we order a chow mein for my sister because otherwise we would spend over $100 for food. Today we didn’t do that.
It was all dim sum and we did have over $100 of food, but for six people. Those little dishes range from about $3-$5 depending on the size and cost of the ingredients. Like sushi, they add up. But unlike sushi, these dishes are mostly meat and fill you up really quickly. So if you’re a relatively small eater, a couple dishes and you’re done.
In reading the reviews posted on urbanspoon about this restaurant, I’d have to agree with some of them. My Chinese isn’t that good. Verbally, I can barely get by. My knowledge of food words is a little bit better because of the times I’ve gone out to eat at Chinese restaurants. When I go went with my non-Chinese friend, the staff were very accommodating and attempted to speak English although some were having more difficulty than others. So, I returned the favour and tried to speak Chinese. Though I wasn’t very good at it, I was able to communicate what I wanted to them. When I went with my sister, they didn’t extend the same courtesy. They automatically assumed that we could speak Chinese and were a little less patient with us, though they were still pretty nice about it. I could mostly understand what was being said but had trouble forming a coherent sentence and oftentimes, I would get the tone wrong.
My only complaint is that like many Chinese restaurants, this one uses MSG. It is really annoying how thirsty I get afterwards.
Despite some of its failings, I still think that this is a very good restaurant. I would rate it 3.5/5