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Posts tagged ‘dim sum’

Restaurant Review: Kwong Tung Seafood Restaurant

I found these reviews saved to a USB when I was clearing out some old files and decided I might as well post them. These reviews, you could say, are where I got started originally. They’re not as detailed as I do them now, so take them with a grain of salt.

Another morning having dim sum, I think I might not want to eat it again when I get back to Calgary for a while. We went down to Victoria’s Chinatown, which is the oldest China town in Canada! We didn’t order too much because we can’t pack things away, so we ordered shrimp rice crepes, beancurd rolls, xiao long bao, house fried noodle, cilantro shrimp dumplings, shark fin shrimp dumplings and tofu stuffed with shrimp. The crepes for the shrimp rice crepes were too thick; therefore it wasn’t smooth enough for me. The waiter recommended their xiao long bao as one of their best dishes and it really was one of the best things that we had from this restaurant. The beancurd was pretty good too, only problem was that there wasn’t enough meat stuffed inside and it was done so unevenly. The house fried noodles came very crispy, but it was all broken into small pieces and falling apart, making it hard to eat; it also created a lot of “soup” in my bowl from all the sauce. The cilantro shrimp dumplings were ordinary; they tasted pretty much like they’re supposed to, but nothing spectacular. Their only issue was that they were over-steamed and thus the casing was too soft and fell apart upon touch. We didn’t even get to try the shark fin shrimp dumplings because it never came, they completely forgot about it and they actually steam it right before they serve it, so they didn’t have time to steam it (or rather, we didn’t want to wait for them to prepare it). Lastly, the tofu was tiny. I honestly think I could fit the entire piece of tofu in my mouth, but since it was being shared between 4 people, I only got half, so I practically swallowed it without having to chew and really don’t remember what it tasted like. For this restaurant, I would give it a 3 out of 5.

Restaurant Review: Kirin

I found these reviews saved to a USB when I was clearing out some old files and decided I might as well post them. These reviews, you could say, are where I got started originally. They’re not as detailed as I do them now, so take them with a grain of salt.

There are several Kirin restaurants in Vancouver, but we decided to go to the Richmond one. We got there around 10:45 for brunch, I was pretty hungry and ready to eat everything in sight especially dim sum. We didn’t order too much because we can’t pack anything away and it would go bad. We were also going to board a ferry in a couple hours, so not very convenient. We ordered chicken feet & pork stomach in black bean sauce, gai lan (I ate mine plain), rice crepe with green onion dipped in soy sauce, fried eggplant stuffed with shrimp paste, stir fried seafood udon, fish stomach & shrimp with a artificial crab meat and masago sauce, and spare ribs in a black bean sauce. The restaurant look pretty nice and the service was quick. Then came the bathroom…that was so bad, it could be comparable to the smell of a bathroom in China! For the food I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 but the bathroom pulls the rating down a bit to 4.

I do plan on returning here, so look out for another review that delves into food quality.

Restaurant Review: Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant

Location: 4989 Victoria Dr

This was our second last full day in Vancouver and we spent it with our cousin. Dim sum is a must in Vancouver. She said this place has some of the biggest siu mai she’s ever seen, setting my expectations. We walked in with a giant cluster of people around the entrance but we decided to go up to the counter anyways and put our name down. The lady at the counter told us that the wait would be about an hour and a half. Our cousin was shocked, in all her time coming to that restaurant, she had never had to wait that long even with a line winding around the corner. We waited for about twenty minutes inside the first set of doors before moving into the restaurant to wait. In total we only ended up waiting about half an hour before we were seated. However, when seated and got our order in we waited for twenty minutes before anything came out.

The first dish we got was the prawn spring roll. It’s the closest thing to the bean curd spring roll that I love so much. It came with worcester sauce just like the bean curd things do. I’m not sure if I prefer this one because spring roll wrapper is substantially crunchier and way less messy than the bean curd one. The siu mai and beef tripe came at the same time. She wasn’t kidding about the size (look below for a picture of the sui mai in my bowl next to my teacup for reference). The sui mai had: pork, scallop, shrimp, fish roe, and shitaki mushrooms. It looked like the wonton wrapper could barely contain it. My cousin didn’t like tripe, but that’s fine because that means more for my sister and me. The tripe was plain in comparison to the siu mai and spring roll, which was not a bad thing. I think I prefer the tripe marinated in garlic and chilis than in ginger and green onion. Next one that came was one of my sister’s favourite: the deep fried Chinese doughnut in rice crepe with soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and peanut butter. I usually only can eat one or two pieces, since it’s primarily dough (or all dough), it fills me up so that I can’t eat too much else. One reason we order doughy/carby things at dim sum are to make sure we don’t overspend on food (in particular, for those with a larger appetite). The next dish was the ha gow. It was equally large. Maybe not as big as the siu ma, but still large in its own right (look below for another comparison picture). The last, is another favourite of my sister’s, the shrimp in rice crepe. Even though I took a rice crepe from the bottom, it had not soaked in enough soy sauce.

This place may look dingy and run down and you’re willing to wait a little longer, this is a good place for dim sum. The portion size really stuck with me and I hope to come back here again with family or friends in the future. I’ll give it a 4.25/5.

Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant

Restaurant Interior 1

Restaurant Interior

Prawn Spring Rolls

Back: Siu Mai Front: Tripe

Siu Mai compared to my teacup

Chinese Doughnut wrapped in Rice Crepe

Ha gow

Ha gow compared to my teacup

Shrimp wrapped in Rice Crepe

Restaurant Review: Central Grand

Location: 1623 Centre St N (Central Landmark Mall)

This restaurant is a place I have frequented since I was a child both for Dim Sum and dinner. Regardless of time of day or month, the restaurant is always bustling. Yesterday, we arrived shortly after 11am and grabbed a number, it wasn’t until an hour later that we were called in and seated. By that time, the restaurant was packed and they had made several makeshift tables to accommodate smaller parties (read: parties of two). Because my Chinese isn’t strong enough to engage in any sort of coherent conversation, the waitresses generally avoided any sort of conversation. From one perspective I can see that that would have been interpreted as being extremely rude, but from another perspective I can understand that some of them know English to the same extent that I know Chinese. From my work experience, it is frustrating for me that they refuse to speak English as this is Canada and it is one of the official languages. I expect that they should be able to speak the language of the country they have chosen to take up residency in. I don’t know if this is an unreasonable expectation, but it is my expectation nonetheless. Due to the language barrier, they did not ask what kind of tea we wanted and just brought one out for us. I’m not even sure what kind of tea it was. The thing that annoyed me was that later when they took our tea to refill the hot water, they delivered it to the wrong table… The one thing I really love about this place is that it still has its tradition method of serving dim sum: through the use of carts. This is one reason why I continually bring or recommend this place to my non-Chinese speaking friends; it is much easier to point to an item than it is to try and figure out what the English or Chinese name is off of a piece of paper that you tick off the items you want to eat. Of course, the disadvantage of the carts is that you have to wait for the item you want to come around if there is something specific that you want, but don’t know the name. On this visit we ordered a total of twelve dishes which easily came to seventy odd dollars. The first round we got Braised Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce (Fung zauu), Fried Taro stuffed with Seasoned Ground Pork Dumpling (Wu Tau Kau-according to wikipedia…), Shrimp wrapped in Rice Crepe (Har Cheong), Chiu Chow Dumpling (Chiu Chow Fun Gor), Curry Fish Balls and Chive & Shrimp Dumpling. The Chicken Feet in Black Bean sauce is kinda like a rite of passage dish, every person’s first visit to dim sum will involve this dish. The chicken feet are first deep fried before they are smothered in black bean sauce and steamed or braised. The thing about eating chicken feet are that they are incredibly bony, with the occasional chance of splinters, and essentially you’re just eating the skin off of them. So in other words, there is no way that you will look nice eating them. As I’ve been eating them for a very long time, I can polish them off in about five seconds a piece. Less experienced eaters will attempt to neatly consume them. Don’t. It’s more enjoyable if you just stop caring about how you look when you eat them. The Fried Taro stuffed with Seasoned Ground Pork Dumpling is a personal favourite of mine because of the combination of the sweet of the taro, the saltiness of the pork and the crunch of the outer shell is to die for. However, this time I was disappointed. It was clear that this had been on the cart for a few rounds because the dumpling was cold and not very crunch, but what was more disappointing was the filling. There was hardly any. The dumpling was overwhelmed by the amount of mashed taro filling that I didn’t even notice the pork. Besides that, a random piece of shrimp got mixed in. The Shrimp wrapped in Rice Crepe is another classic dim sum staple. It is exactly as the name states, shrimp is wrapped in a soft, but smooth rice crepe blanket and smothered in soy sauce. The perfect rice crepe is one that stays intact when you try to pick up a piece as opposed to not being able to support the weight of the piece of shrimp which results in the shrimp falling out of the wrap and tearing a ginormous hole in the crepe before falling from the grasp of your chopsticks. Another favourite of mine is the Chiu Chow Style Dumpling. Unlike most other dim sum dumplings, the wrap on this one is closer to the consistency of mochi or sticky rice. The Chiu Chow Style Dumpling is unique because of it’s ingredients, aka not shrimp. It has peanuts, celery, ground pork, carrots, cilantro, and possibly really minced shitake mushrooms. This is one of the few dishes I don’t mind having “cooked” peanuts in because they aren’t cooked until they are soft. Honestly, in my brain, a peanut should be crunchy, not cooked to mush. Though I’ve seen them as a dim sum item, I’ve never actually seen the Curry Fish Balls going around on the carts. It wasn’t bad, though the curry was well flavoured, the fish ball tasted a bit off and had random cuts in it.  I’m assuming that was to get some curry flavour in there, but that didn’t work out so well. I don’t think I’d like to try that again. The Chive and Shrimp Dumpling is a variation on the typical Shrimp Dumpling (or Har Gow). It’s another first for me. In terms of taste, it’s not too bad, though the chive isn’t really that noticeable. Other variations of the Shrimp Dumpling include pea shoots and shark fin. The second round consisted of Fried Eggplants stuffed with Shrimp (kei sze), Tripe (gow pak yeep), Bean Curd Spring Roll, Fried Wonton Wrapped Shrimp Ball, another shrimp dumpling (not sure what kind this time), and a dessert tofu. The fried eggplant is another staple for our family. Unfortunately, these ones tasted like they had been on the cart for a while too because they were also cold and a bit hard. The tripe was amazing. Usually I don’t like their preparation of the tripe, serving it with onions and garlic, but this time they seemed to have made a modification to their typical recipe and I enjoyed it immensely. If I had a favourite dim sum item of all time, it would be the bean curd spring roll. I mean what isn’t there to love about succulent shrimps wrapped super crispy fried bean curd? Okay, maybe the fact that it is super high in calories and they decide to serve it with salad sauce (as they like to call it, but really it’s just mayonnaise with chunks of canned fruit in it). I could honestly eat an entire meal of those if I wouldn’t gain any weight from eating that much. Despite being deep fried, the bean curd keeps the dish rather light (but you are constantly reminded about how oily the dish is by the oil pooling under the spring rolls). The fried wonton shrimp balls are essentially the same thing, but aren’t nearly as good. The wonton wrapper is substantially thicker than the bean curd so if you’re looking for something to fill you up, this dish would be a better choice. I think this other shrimp dumpling had carrots and shitake mushrooms, but honestly can’t remember. It’s not a bad thing that I can’t remember. It just means that it was good enough that I had no complaints or problems that I remembered. The wrapper, like all dumpling wrappers of its kind was what Italians would called al dente (that would be the closest term to the Chinese one). It’s sufficiently chewy, but not so chewy that it is like eating rubber, but also not so soft that it would break upon contact with one’s chopsticks. I’m not a fan of the tofu, but the ginger sugar syrup is really good. I could just drink that stuff, but you can literally taste the diabetes. The dish is plain soft tofu in this ginger syrup. Really simple, but it doesn’t make you feel like you ate a heavy dessert. So essentially it is impossible to eat every dim sum item in one sitting unless you have a party of four or five or go several times. Over the years I’ve been to this place for a lot of dim sum. Other common dishes that we didn’t order this time are Shrimp dumplings (Har gow), Pork dumplings (Siu mai), Chicken Sticky Rice (Lo mai gai), Spare ribs in black bean sauce (pai gwat), crispy pork buns (char siu so), daikon/turnip cakes (Lo bak go), Egg Tarts (Dan Tat), assorted fried noodles, and Steamed bean curd rolls (sin zuk gyun). Though their customer service maybe a bit lacking, it’s not any worse than any other Chinese restaurant. Sometimes when I have gone with my Chinese speaking family, I have found that they are rather impatient, but that’s a rare occurrence. The food more than makes up for their behaviour. I’m not saying that it’s okay for them to be rude or anything like that, but if I am going to a restaurant, it is as much about the food as it is about the service. And I never expect much of Asian restaurants (as bad as that sounds, I’ve come to expect some sort of rudeness at some point in the service). They are always noisy and you have to yell just to be heard by the person next to you. The restaurant opens up at 10am and though there isn’t much of a crowd then, there isn’t much of a selection of dim sum and a higher chance that food will be cold. If you go early, be prepared to order thing because you will never get what you want if you just keep waiting. The trade off of coming later for a larger selection of food is waiting for longer, minimum one hour, regardless of what they say (not literally, if you can see that there are three families before you, it’s likely that their estimate is correct, but if there are ten or more, it is completely inaccurate). And the annoying thing is that it’s so hard to get the waitresses’ attention. It’s like they’re on a mission to avoid all eye contact to avoid helping you so it takes even longer to get out of there and that’s why there’s usually a huge delay. In terms of cost, it’s really not that expensive. Each dish is about $4-6 and they really add up, so I suggest that if you have someone who is big eater going with you, order fried noodles or rice to fill them up and save you some money. I know from experience because every time I go with my mom we eat about $30-40 worth of food, but when we add my sister the price is closer to $80… In taking everything into consideration, I’d rate this restaurant 4/5. I would definitely continue to return here. If you don’t mind waiting then definitely give this place a chance.

Top Left: Fried Eggplant Stuffed with Shrimp Top Right (counterclockwise from bottom left corner of picture): Curry Fish Balls, Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce, Fried Taro, Shrimp wrapped in Rice Crepe, Chiu Chow Dumpling, Chive and Shrimp Dumpling Bottom Right: Siu mai (top), Shrimp Dumpling (bottom) Bottom Left (working from top down): fried wonton, some kind of shrimp dumpling with carrots and shitake mushrooms, bean curd spring roll, tofu in ginger syrup, and tripe

Top Left: Fried Eggplant Stuffed with Shrimp
Top Right (counterclockwise from bottom left corner of picture): Curry Fish Balls, Chicken Feet in Black Bean Sauce, Fried Taro, Shrimp wrapped in Rice Crepe, Chiu Chow Dumpling, Chive and Shrimp Dumpling
Bottom Right: Siu mai (top), Shrimp Dumpling (bottom)
Bottom Left (working from top down): fried wonton, some kind of shrimp dumpling with carrots and shitake mushrooms, bean curd spring roll, tofu in ginger syrup, and tripe

Restaurant Review: Central Grand

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

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Eggplant with Shrimp and Bean curd roll

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Chicken Feet, Har Gow, Siu Mai

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Fried Bean Curd Shrimp Spring Rolls

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Shrimp Rice Crepe, Fried Chinese Doughnut wrapped in Rice Crepe,  and 2 variations of Har Gow

 

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