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Posts tagged ‘Peking Duck’

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

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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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