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).