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Posts tagged ‘Chinese Food’

Restaurant Review: M Palace

Location: 10400 Macleod Trail SE

I’m glad that my parents have finally stopped caring that I take pictures of the food for my reviews, which means I get to do lot more reviews on Chinese restaurants now! YAY! Of course, that comes with it its own set of challenges. One in particular is translating some of the names of the dishes. That and trying to find the characters for the Chinese names of the dishes to maintain authenticity (they have such pretty names in Chinese that sound ridiculous in English when translated).

As many people already know (and I may have mentioned in previous reviews), Chinese food is meant to be consumed family style. It still offends me when I see people in a party of nine or ten order an entire dish and eat it themselves. THAT’S NOT HOW IT’S MEANT TO BE CONSUMED PEOPLE!!!

However, whenever we go out for dinner as a family, my dad likes to order A LOT of food. For instance, tonight we took home about 5 boxes of food home with us. For reference, we don’t normally order that much food at restaurants we frequent, usually about 4-6 dishes depending on what we get, which yields about 2-3 boxes to take home, but when we’re trying out somewhere new, my dad likes to order enough off the menu to give us a wide variety to try (because sometimes they’re not the best at preparing one type of dish, but great at another, or at least this is what I’m assuming).

As with every restaurant experience, they ask for your drink order. At a Chinese restaurant, more often than not, they ask you what type of tea you’d like. My favourite is the chrysanthemum pu’er tea, but my dad’s is 鉄観音 (Tie guan yin) which translates to Iron Goddess, which is what we get every time. While it’s rare for the tea to get cold over the course of a meal, it does happen at times (especially if you’re not constantly drinking it), the presence of a tea warmer is wonderful…even though the tea pot didn’t really sit on there right.

We began with a starter, duck neck and wing with jellyfish (鸭頸翼拼海蜇 which Google translates to duck neck wing fight…which is ridiculous…) . Duck neck is incredibly difficult to eat. It is very bony with very little meat. You really have to get in there with your hands. According to my dad, duck neck isn’t typically served in as an appetizer because it’s so bony. It’s more typically used in developing the depth of a soup base. As it was an appetizer, there was very little jellyfish accompanying the duck. The flavouring on both the duck and jellyfish were spot on, although the jellyfish could have done with slightly more seasoning and a touch fewer onions. The addition of wood ear mushrooms is also not something I’ve seen done before. It has a similar texture and crunch as jellyfish and gives the illusion that there is more jellyfish in your mouth than there actually is.

The next dish that came out was the duck fried rice, which was a little weird because normally when you order the Peking Duck set course, it’s supposed to come out in a certain order (soup, duck with pancakes, rice). As an aside, this restaurant has four courses rather than three (most restaurants have soup, duck with pancakes, and fried rice/noodle, the duck neck and wing is an addition that they made). The rice came wrapped in a lotus leaf, but was done so in a very inefficient manner. The opening had been placed against the bottom of the steaming basket rather than the top meaning that when they brought it, they had to cut a hole in the top of it so that we could get to the rice. The alternative, of course, was simply to flip it over, (but also, I think it’s a sanitation thing where they don’t want to touch your food with their hands, which I’m totally fine with). When rice is steamed in any kind of leaves, I expect it to have a slightly more sticky consistency, as it’s usually sticky rice that is steamed. This was just ordinary rice, so while the presentation was nice, it was completely unnecessary. Taste wise, it was nothing special. There was a dark colouring from the soy sauce and microscopic fragments of duck, but it tasted to me of nothing but rice. Not even the fragrant lotus leaf flavour managed to make it in.

Next came the duck with hoisin sauce, onions, cucumber wrapped in a pancake dish. It was slightly disappointing too. While the duck was sliced significantly thinner than I’ve ever had at most restaurants and they gave us a lot of pancakes, the duck had no flavouring, they barely gave us enough hoisin for 4 wraps (we had to use it sparingly and when we asked for some more they gave us so much that it seemed pointless).

The soup was the next dish to come. While the pot it came in was pretty hot, the soup itself was not. It was lukewarm at best. This would, unfortunately be the theme of the evening. This too had their own spin on it. Instead of just soy milk reinforced with duck broth, they threw in some wontons. However, the wontons didn’t really feel like they belonged in there and with the soup not being as well developed as other duck soups I’ve had, it was rather disappointing.

At this restaurant, the Peking Duck set course meal includes two additional dishes: a gailan hot pot and a shrimp and egg tofu dish (金銀赫蝦球蒸玉子豆腐 which Google translates to gold and silver prawn balls steamed jade tofu). The gailan came first. It had, what appeared to be some kind of Chinese sausage and what smelled like salted fish (which is a very distinctive, sorta unpleasant, fishy smell). It felt a little too oily and was a little too salty for my liking.

The next dish that followed was the curry beef hot pot. If I haven’t already mentioned, my dad loves beef hot pots, especially curry. Of the beef hot pots, I prefer this one over all others. If I’m going to get beef stuck in my teeth, it might as well taste delicious and provide a bit of heat. Well, it wasn’t really spicy for me. I’m not saying it didn’t exist, but it was so faint that it was almost undetectable to me. At the restaurant there was so much food that I only got to try a small sample, the next day (today), we ate it for lunch and the sauce tastes really good over egg noodles! I know my mom prefers it over rice (and traditionally this is how it would be eaten), but as a noodle person, I would really recommend giving the noodle thing a try.

The last dish was the shrimp and egg tofu dish. As simple as it is, it’s the most delicious thing. Even this restaurant couldn’t mess it up. The egg tofu comes in a tube and is sliced into little medallions, topped with prawns and garnished with fish roe (I believe it’s tobiko) and onions with soy sauce.

As usual, we ended the meal with a complementary dessert: red bean soup. In terms of substance, there wasn’t much of it, and in terms of the consistency of the soup, too much water had been added. I didn’t have more than a few spoonfuls before I gave up.

Despite the disappointing food, service was pretty good. The food came out hella fast and there happened to be someone available whenever we needed them. Even though we had issues with temperature and the food being not as good as we were accustomed to, I would definitely come back to try their dim sum and to go to the Tea Chat Cafe (which is in the same restaurant, but on the other side). I also just looked through their takeout menu that I grabbed last night and their translation for wood ear mushrooms (黑木耳) was a little racist. I would give this place a 1.5/5 for my experience last night. It’s possible that because this place just opened they’re still ironing out the kinks, so if it’s still here in a couple months or years, I’ll give it another go (it’s where the old White Spot used to be on Macleod).

Restaurant interior #1
Restaurant Interior #2
Pretty geometric chandelier in the doorway
Duck neck and wing with jellyfish salad
Duck Fried Rice served in Lotus Leaf
Front: Duck Wonton Soup
Back: Peking Duck with Pancakes
Front: Curry Beef Hot Pot Back: Gailan Hot Pot
Shrimp on Egg Tofu
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Restaurant Review: Phoenix Gate

Location: 171, 1518 Centre Street NE

So many restaurants have been located here over the years. The two I can remember most vividly is Tropika, a Malaysian restaurant where we got spicy food for like the first time in my life and I nearly died and a really good Chinese restaurant for dim sum, the name of which has since slipped from my mind.

This restaurant is located at the base of the Madison apartment building, a place my grandma used to live and where I used to go for driving school. Located across from it is the “headquarters” of The Chinese Academy, which was the school I used to go to on weekends (Chinese School).

When we arrived, there were only about 4-5 tables of diners. It took a while before we were noticed and seated. It didn’t take long for my parents (dad) to decide what to have; we went with the $100 set course meal that included a three course Peking Duck.

So, of course, because we ordered the Peking Duck, the first dish to arrive was the soup. However, it was different from the typical tofu, siu choy, duck, and soy milk based soup that comes with Peking Duck. This did have duck in it, but it was a thicker broth with julienned bamboo shoots and wood ear mushrooms. I prefer this soup over the traditional soup because it’s much heartier. Interesting fact, this soup is thickened with tapioca flour.

The next course was the Peking Duck with the scallions, cucumber, hoisin sauce, and pancakes. These are the thinnest pancakes I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying, but because of that, they are oilier (so the pancakes don’t stick). My sister thinks that that’s the normal amount of oil found between the pancakes at most restaurants, and she might be right, but I felt these ones had more oil. The seasoning on the duck was good; the marination went beyond just the skin, making the meat also very flavourful. I like when they slice the scallions into small strips, it makes it easier to incorporate into the wrap, as well as not biting into part of the giant piece and pulling the entire thing out of the wrap because you can’t bite through it. This is the first time there were more wrappers than filling.

The next dish was supposed to be crab, but my dad was saying that crab was more expensive than lobster, which is what they gave us instead. I didn’t mind though because I prefer lobster over crab anyways because of the slightly chewy texture lobster has. I never know what the sauce is, but it has onions, corn starch, and ginger among its ingredients, but it’s one of my favourite sauces for lobster, especially when it’s served over crispy noodles. This is the first time we’ve ever finished this dish without packing home the messier pieces. I think after the Peking Duck, I was at the point where I was like I don’t care how messy this gets, I’m already past that point.

Normally when we order Peking Duck, it’s a given that things are going to get messy, so it’s not unreasonable to be requesting more napkins. We asked for napkins three times and they never ended up bringing us any. My napkin became torn in several places and was beginning to come off all over my hands so I balled it up and tossed it. My dad ended up sharing half of his napkin with me and my sister stole another napkin from the adjacent table to share with me and my mom (I’m clearly just a very messy child, haha).

After the lobster came the fried grouper. We probably should have started on that sooner than we did because when it first came out, it was a lot crispier and we could have eaten more of the bones. There will always be a few bones that don’t fully crisp up, but they wouldn’t have gone as chewy as they did and made it as hard as it was to eat. This is probably one of my favourite ways of eating fish because I really like foods with a crunchy texture. However, the inside of the fish was perfectly cooked and deliciously moist.

The penultimate dish was beef with bok choy, which was interesting to say the least. I’m sure beef can be paired with any vegetable, but having seen it being paired with gai lan for so long, this just seems an odd choice. The same can be said about the bok choy, but I’m more used to bok choy being paired with shitake mushroom caps and enoki mushrooms. This dish just seemed to be a little disparate.

The final dish was duck in udon noodles. The udon noodles, as my sister pointed out are the kinds kept in a vacuum sealed plastic bag filled with liquid preservative that has a distinctly sour taste. Though it was clear that the noodles had been rinsed, the acidic flavour of the preservatives have leached into them, leaving a subtle aftertaste that was not altogether unpleasant or pleasant.

There was also a dessert, described as “daily dessert” on the menu, but we all know that means some kind of sweet soup, the most common being red bean (because it’s one of the cheapest ingredients). It was decent, but not the best I’ve had.

We pretty much ate everything and there wasn’t much to pack home. Considering the price and how much we normally spend when we go out for dinner as a family, we usually have twice as much packed away.

Near the end of the meal, pictures were getting hard to take because my hands/fingers were covered in oil, hoisin sauce, lobster, grouper, etc., so I do apologize if the quality of the photos suffered because of it.

Overall, the meal was pretty decent. By the time we were mid-way through the meal, the restaurant got very busy. Service wasn’t spectacular, even for a Chinese restaurant, where I don’t expect very much, it wasn’t very good. I’m not sure I’ll be coming back here.

Based on this experience, I’d give it a 2/5.

Restaurant Interior
Duck Soup with Bamboo Shoots and Wood Ear Mushrooms
Peking Duck
Peking Duck, ready to roll
Lobster
Fried Grouper
Beef Bok Choy
Duck Udon
Red Bean Soup

Restaurant Review: Shanghai Palace

Location: 520-5149 Country Hills Blvd NW
Website: http://www.shanghaipalacecalgary.com/en/

Like I mentioned in a previous review, this is one of the restaurants that our family goes back to time and time again. The price is decent for the amount of food we get and there are always leftovers for one or two more meals.

Tonight we went for an early Father’s Day dinner. I thought it’d be crazy busy, but we were somehow able to get a table, walking in at 6:30. Usually we get four dishes which comes with a complementary soup and dessert and of course steamed white rice. However, since it was a special occasion we went for six dishes. Since we come here so much, the waitresses thought we’d be going the usual route of four dishes and brought out the complementary soup as we perused the menu. That meant we ended up having two soups because we ordered the three course Peking duck. For those who don’t know, the three courses consists of the duck and pancakes course, the soup course, and the fried rice or noodle course. The name in Chinese roughly translates to really thinly shaved duck skin and traditionally, in Beijing (Peking is the old name for Beijing, by the way), that is how it’s done. However, in coming to Canada and the Western world, ordering a plate of skin isn’t exactly cost effective. People here want to eat meat, so here it’s primarily thinish slices of duck. I honestly prefer it this way because this is what I grew up eating. When we visited Beijing and tried the Peking Duck there I was so surprised. The duck had a far gamier taste and it was just the skin, which had been crisped up. The duck is served with green onions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce and wrapped up in a steamed pancake. I’ve had a lot of Peking Duck in my lifetime and I can say that the pancakes here were not well done. They were far too thick and were more like tortillas instead of crepes (they should be slightly thicker than crepes). The soup was also different from most other duck soups I’ve had. Usually the soup consists of the duck bones boiled in water and mixed with soy milk and ginger and siu choy. This one had shitaki mushrooms, mung bean noodles, duck, and some other things was thicker. Next came the fried rice. Depending on the restaurant, sometimes they do fried noodles instead. Even though I’m a noodle person, the duck fried rice is always better. I find that with the noodles, it gets way too greasy, whereas I don’t really notice the grease with rice since the rice absorbs it all anyways. But this place takes the cake with weird things thrown into a fried rice. There were peas, duck, tomatoes, and pineapple. The strangest combination I’ve ever tasted. Essentially, the point of the three courses is to utilize the entire duck. However, I’m sure, based on the amount of meat in each of the three dishes, more than one duck was used.

Most families would probably stop at that. It’s already a three course meal, but my family doesn’t. Ever. We ordered three more dishes to go along with it. The first of the three was a shrimp and egg tofu in a salted egg yolk batter, deep fried, and served on a bed of fried mung bean noodles. Salted egg yolk has a very distinct taste that is hard to describe and a texture that is kinda grainy. This is one of my favourite dishes. The second was bok choy with imitation abalone. It seems to be a staple at most Chinese banquets, so I’m not super fond of this dish and for me it’s rather ordinary. The final dish was a fish dish. Apparently my father’s favourite dish: wanyu and he prefers it prepared rather simply (steamed and served with soy sauce, ginger, and green onion). Again, not a fan, because of it’s slight “dirt” taste and its many bones.

The desserts at this restaurant vary by season. In the winter it’s always a hot bowl of soup: tapioca, taro, and coconut milk or red bean. In summer it’s either a jelly (coconut, mango, etc.) or it’s mochi. Both options are very good, but I’d prefer a jelly cube or mochi over a red bean soup.

This time the food was not as sweet and not as salty as it usually was. My father speculated that it was due to a change in the head chef. But hey, lower sugar and sodium intakes aren’t all that bad. If you want it a little saltier, all you’d have to do is grab the salt shaker.

I’ve tried so many foods at this place that I can hardly remember everything. It may not be the best restaurant in the world, but for the price we pay for a four course dinner, I’d say it was worth returning to time and time again.

I would rate this place a 3.75/5 simply because it’s not a place I’d want to be taken to for a date, but it is a nice place to go to for a warm family dinner.

Peking Duck

Peking Duck

Restaurant Review: Edgemont City

Location: 45 Edenwold Dr NW

So like I said, it’s a bit harder to do reviews for Chinese restaurants, but I think it would be good to start doing them since we go so much. It’s usually cheaper than most of the other stuff I go out for and there’s always leftovers, like enough to have another complete meal for the whole family (but maybe that’s because my dad orders so much food all the time). Unfortunately, when I go out with my family, it’s a little harder to take photos, but I will try to snap at least one.

Edgemont City is one of the few Chinese restaurants in my family’s rotational repertoires. The other two being Shanghai Palace and Signature Palace. I like Snow Palace too, but some of the food there is overpriced for the portion size they give (look for reviews to come on all three of these places). Edgemont City is still one of the best places for Peking Duck, which is a favourite of mine, despite the mess that it makes. For those who don’t know what Peking Duck is, it’s essentially a whole duck, carved served with about 20 pancakes, green onions, cucumber, and hoisin sauce. The duck is quite fatty, so we often scrape off the fat before wrapping the duck meat and crispy skin with the onion, cucumber, hoisin sauce in the pancake. When wrapping, I always leave one end open, the end I’ll be eating from since there’s no point to wrap it closed if I’m just going to eat it right away. Depending on how much hoisin sauce, how runny it is (sometimes they add too much water and it’s too diluted and watery), and how well the end of the roll is closed off will determine how messy it will be. Most of the time I’m pretty good, getting just a bit of oiliness on my fingers from the pancakes, but last night was a serious mess. My plate was covered in sauce and my napkin was just short of being completely disintegrated. We only got the one course, which, I think is all they have available. Other places that offer Peking Duck have a choice of one, two or three courses. One course is always just the duck and pancakes, two courses adds a duck-soy milk soup and three courses adds either a fried rice or fried noodle. Even though I’m a noodle person, I prefer the duck fried rice because it doesn’t leave a greasy feeling in your mouth afterwards. I mean there are exceptions, of course, but in the majority of situations, I’ve found the rice much better than the noodles. Edgemont City is one of the last few places that have really good Peking Duck. We used to always go to Ginger Beef, but since that location that served it closed, we haven’t been able to get Peking Duck from there anymore.

Last night, we also ordered four additional dishes: pea shoots in soup, fried chicken with a red fermented tofu sauce, a fish (I don’t know what it’s called in English, but in Chinese it’s called wanyu 皖鱼?I think that’s a grass carp?), and an assorted hot pot. Normally, when we order pea shoots, it’s simply stir-fried with garlic, but we decided to try something different. The pea shoots were topped with carrots, pork strips, and these chewy vermicelli like coils that are made to kinda look like shrimps and often used in hot pot (I don’t know what they are called either, another reason I don’t really like doing reviews for Chinese restaurants is that I don’t know what anything is called in English). The soup was so sweet and flavourful and the pea shoots themselves weren’t too fibrous meaning they weren’t too “old.” I would have loved just to drink nothing but the soup, it was that good. However, at Chinese restaurants, I don’t find it worth it to order a soup because they always give a starter soup and that’s just too much soup for me, otherwise, this would be a good choice (and in my experience, only when it’s a bunch of Chinese speaking Asians dining together). The fried chicken is rather dry and flavourless on it’s own, hence the red fermented tofu sauce (or also called red fermented bean curd or 紅腐乳) which is different from the regular variety because it’s sweet. It’s often eaten with congee, and seeing as I don’t really like plain congee and fermented foods, I’ve never liked this stuff in my life. Life is about giving things a chance, so last night, I thought why not? I gave it another try and the fermented taste wasn’t too strong, so I was able to eat a little bit more than I normally did. I still don’t like it, but I don’t abhor it now. The grass carp was served with in light soy sauce and topped wood ear fungi and goji berries (or wolfberries as they are sometimes called). In the past, I couldn’t handle any seafood except for shrimp, scallops and lobster, but recently, I’ve been getting better. However, this grass carp is just scary. Not only are the bones like fans, there are so many of them that choking is a very real concern. That’s the other thing with Chinese restaurants, if you order a steamed fish (with the exception of basa fillets), they just chop the fish up into segments without removing the bones and steam it and serve it. I love wood ear fungi, but too many of them aren’t good for you as they act as a blood thinner and prevent blood from clotting. I also don’t like goji berries (I’m beginning to sound like a picky eater) because they are used in Chinese medicine and I’ve had so much of that stuff that I never want to go near it again. Goji berries are good for improving eyesight and aid in other eye related ailments. My favourite dish of the evening was the assorted hot pot. It literally has everything: fish, shrimp, bean curd, tofu, beef, pork, and shitake mushrooms (from what I can remember). There is so much variety that there’s no way that any two spoonfuls would yield you the same combination, that is if you can get more than one item per spoonful 😛

Since we eat four to eight dishes when we go for Chinese food, I hardly ever remember what I eat each and every time unless it is so good it leaves a lasting impression on me. The sweet short ribs are one of them. Yes, short ribs can be quite chewy and hard to eat, but it is so worth it. Besides, using regular or even plastic chopsticks to eat them is way easier than using weird flat metal ones like the ones in Korean BBQ. The only thing that was bad about this dish is the food colouring in it. When we had it in the restaurant, it was a nice reddish brown. When we brought it home and had it the next day, it turned a yucky poop brown. Still tasted fine, obviously, but it was then we knew it didn’t get the colouring from the flavouring agents. Although, bit weird for the colour to just fade like that.

Every Chinese restaurant I go to with my parents (probably because of my dad) consists of a hot pot and a chicken dish. There’s never been an occasion in my living memory that either of them have ever been omitted. I don’t mind either since they’ve become part of what I’ve come to expect when we have Chinese food. Usually we have crispy skinned chicken when we order chicken because that’s me and my sister’s favourite. Other times we order things like poached chicken with ginger and onion, soy sauce chicken, and drunken chicken.

The service here is a bit lacking. I do understand that they are really busy, but that doesn’t mean that you have to yell/flag down a waitress for every little thing because they don’t come by your table to see if anything is lacking (i.e. tea, napkins, empty dishes that need to be taken away). Also, due to an altercation elsewhere with one of the waitresses, it’s always awkward to go there now. I would rate this restaurant 2.5/5. The food is okay, but the service sucks.

Peking Duck (one course) with Pea shoot soup in the top left corner

Peking Duck (one course) with Pea shoot soup in the top left corner

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