Despite having been settled in Vancouver for the last seven years or so, my family had never been to dimsum before. I mean, I’d gone for dimsum before, but always with friends, never with my family. I’m not sure why, but it was probably due to the fact that we almost always go out for dinner, rather than lunch, and sometimes ordering at a Chinese restaurant can be daunting when you don’t speak Chinese. In any case, though, we finally decided to satisfy our cravings for dimsum by trekking out to Wah Wing one Sunday afternoon.
If you’re like me and aren’t too familiar with the world of dimsum, it can be difficult trying to decide what to order, especially since the English menu descriptions are usually less than helpful. Still, I know enough to order the Siu Mai ($4.25). The shrimp on top were a nice touch, being aesthetically pleasing and letting us know how much care was put into the food. The siu mai themselves were moist and meaty with a nice bounce, while the shrimp on top provided a nice textural snap.
I guess I’m still a kid at heart because one of my favourite items to get is always the Lo Mai Gai ($4.25), or the sticky rice wrap. It’s just so fun to unravel that lotus leaf and discover the sticky rice within. Anyways, the rice here was moist, but not too wet, and quite filling. It was also filled with meat and other savoury treats, like mushrooms, which added a slight note of earthiness.
Next up, we had the Steamed Beef Balls ($3.95), which were nicely cut up for us as to be more sharable. Beef generally isn’t my meat of choice, but here it was nicely tenderized, smooth, and tender. There was a subtle textural crunch from the water chestnuts. These balls also had a distinct aroma from the greens, and although I’m not sure what they were, I really enjoyed it.
We had another kid-friendly item in the BBQ Pork Buns ($3.95). The pork filling was predictably sweet, but also slightly savoury at the same time. I thought that the morsels of pork were also quite substantial, with less filler and fatty pieces than other dimsum I’ve had. For me, though, the highlight of these is always the bun itself, and here it didn’t disappoint, being pillowy soft.
I also ordered the Pan Fried Turnip Cake ($3.95). Here, it was not too greasy, again both combining the natural sweetness and savouriness of the ingredients. However, I found it a bit dense for my liking, and a little too dry, as I kept having to reach over for my tea. Still, I enjoyed it, as it was one of the more filling items at the table, compared to the dumplings or the beef balls.
Last up, we also ordered the Fried Green Beans Special ($7.95), which is a lunch special that includes a bowl of rice and a soup of choice. The beans themselves were very fresh and quite crisp. The taste of the beans themselves was allowed to shine, as the dish itself was neither too salty or spicy. Unlike other versions I’ve sampled, these also included some diced onions, which also provided an enjoyable textural crunch.
As part of the lunch special, we also received a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup. I can’t pretend to be an expert on this, but I thought this was one of the best versions I’ve personally had. There was a good balance of flavours present, and the mushrooms added a subtle silkiness and earthiness. But then again, I enjoy mushrooms in just about anything. In any case, I especially thought that the fried green beans special was a good deal, considering that the meal includes both rice and soup.
Thankfully, though, my family enjoyed our first Vancouver dimsum experience, and so we decided to return for a dinner service. The restaurant was quite crowded, but the service was excellent, as it had been during dimsum. Our tea was promptly replaced without us having to hail down a waiter, and the servers, knowing that we weren’t Chinese, were thoughtful enough to identify each dish for us.
Once I saw it on the menu, I eagerly suggested that we order the Half BBQ Duck ($12.95), since I love duck in any form. To be honest, it was a bit pricey, but I think it was worth it, as the duck was moist and tender, and not at all tough, which can often be a problem with duck. The skin was crispy and flavourful without being too greasy, and there was plenty of meat on the plate as well.
My parents always like to order the Mongolian Beef ($12.95). This version was fine, but ultimately nothing memorable. This version was seriously lacking in the vegetable department. Some kind of broccoli would have definitely helped matters. It was fine, but nothing we would order again.
Moving on, we also had the Tofu with Minced Beef ($12.95). This pretty much had everything we were looking for. The tofu itself was silky soft, and went perfectly with the steamed rice we ordered. It was a little salty and a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The beef had soaked up the sauce and was admittedly quite salty, but I find that that’s the way it is at every restaurant. The portion size was also perfect for the price we paid.
Lastly, we had an item we always order for my mom’s benefit, the Pan-Fried Soy Sauce Rice Noodles ($10.95). The noodles were a tad too soft for my liking, as they could have been chewier. The onions, meanwhile, were undercooked, being too raw. Still, there was a nice assortment of ingredients on the plate, including large, tender slices of beef, so I suppose that makes up for it.
After two visits to Wah Wing, we were well-satisfied, and we would definitely return. I can’t say that I or my family are experts on dimsum, but both of our experiences here left us impressed with the food, the service, and the prices.
Wah Wing Szechuan Restaurant
2748 Lougheed Highway
Port Coquitlam, BC
So, Mui Garden closed down, leaving my family in despair. Maybe despair is a strong term, but my family is picky about what we eat, and when it comes to Chinese food, there are many restaurants we can’t dine at due to our aversion to MSG. I’d heard great things about No. 1 Chinese Restaurant on the corner of Hastings and Boundary, so my family drove out there for dinner one night. We arrived early and were seated promptly, but the restaurant quickly filled up, which is always a good sign.
The interior of the restaurant is a bit odd. Beside me there was a mural of a landscape that vaguely reminded me of an amalgamation of Switzerland and Greece. Apparently the spot was formerly occupied by a European restaurant, and the new owners opted not to paint over the themed mural. I personally hate murals (the minimalist in me prefers a plain wall), but a restaurant should be judged primarily on its food.
Apparently the dish to get here is the Deep Fried Tofu with Golden Garlic ($8.50). I had no idea what to expect from this. After all, what’s so special about tofu, right? But we all fell in love within a couple bites. The outside layer is a bit salty and crunchy, but the tofu inside is incredibly smooth and silky. My mom has sensitive teeth and often has to be careful about what she eats, but this was perfect for her. This came out piping hot, so keep that in mind before you take a bite. All the dishes we tried were delicious, but this was the most memorable for me.
The dish I was least satisfied with was the Wonton Noodle Soup ($4.95). The main reason is that I’m not a huge fan of MSG, and I could taste it in the soup, plus I was terribly thirsty and headachey afterwards. Other than that, I found the noodles a bit tough, and thought that they could have been cooked a bit longer. The wontons consisted of a pork and prawn filling and a smooth, slippery skin. The skin was also quite thin, which I liked. I’m not sure I would order this again, though, since I have a low tolerance for MSG.
Next up is the Spicy Szechuan Fried Beans ($8.95). The green beans were fresh and actually tasted like real vegetables, which was nice. I often find that fried veggies lose their crispness, but not here. I also liked how the accompanying pork was julienned, which made it easy to pick up and eat, unlike the ground version found at other restaurants. Also, the beans weren’t saturated in sauce, which was great, and in reality the flavour was quite mild, although there was some heat. I really appreciated how this wasn’t too salty, which made it an enjoyable dish for all of us.
We usually make an effort to order a dish with prawns, since my mom really likes them, and here we ordered the Pan Fried Prawns with Peanuts in Chili Sauce ($12.95). They were fine, but didn’t stand out in comparison with the other dishes at the table. The prawns had a nice snap and retained their natural sweetness, while the veggies tasted crisp and natural. I actually expected these to be spicy, but I didn’t think that they exhibited any real heat. This dish was more than fine, but I didn’t end up eating much of it, since we had a lot of other great dishes at the table.
Next up, we have the Singapore Style Fried Rice Noodles ($7.75), with a vermicelli version also offered on their menu. If given the choice, I always choose rice noodles–I much prefer the broad, chewy noodles to the thinner ones. In addition to the huge heap of noodles, the dish included some bean sprouts and bits of fried egg. The curry sauce was subtle and not too overwhelming, and the prawns were once again satisfying. This was a great portion size, especially considering the price, and easily fulfilled my carb quotient for the meal.
The last item we ordered was the Rock Cod and Tofu with Pork Hot Pot ($9.95). Doesn’t it look delicious in the photo? Well, looks don’t lie, because this was a solid dish, to say the least. I loved how the fish was just a little bit crispy on the outside, and flaky and moist on the inside. The tofu was a bit sweet from having soaked up the broth, but was both chewy on the outside and smooth on the inside. We’d ordered a couple sides of rice, and eating these hot, steaming pieces of tofu and fish alongside the warm, white rice was heaven. This was also a great value for the price, and we would definitely order this again on another visit.
Overall, I have nothing but great things to say about my family’s experience here. The food was well-executed and served in sizeable portions, and the prices were quite reasonable. As far as service goes, it wasn’t exceptional, but the servers were friendly enough and always made sure that our cups were full. I would definitely recommend that you pay a visit–and make sure to order the tofu when you’re there!
No. 1 Chinese Restaurant
102A-3701 Hastings Street
Before we embark on this food adventure, let me first say this: Chinese food is not really within my comfort zone. Well, first of all, “Chinese” food is an umbrella term for so many different cuisines, many of which are available to us in Vancouver. Generally, my knowledge of Chinese food extends to a very minimal understanding of Hong Kong cafes, dimsum, and Taiwanese beef noodles. Even at these restaurants, I depend on someone (usually SB) to help me navigate the menu.
That being said, my family’s trip to New Szechuan Restaurant was kind of a failure. We really should have asked the waitress for recommendations (she was super friendly and probably would have been happy to oblige). Please keep the above in mind as you read my review, which is, after all, from the perspective of an amateur food blogger and not an experienced food connoisseur.
New Szechuan is a small restaurant in a somewhat abandoned looking area, and not the kind of place you’d notice if you were driving by. It looks more like someone’s dining room than an actual restaurant, and the tables are covered with layers of plastic wrap, with each layer removed to create a clean dining space for the next customer. Despite being in a secluded area, there was a solid number of customers in the restaurant throughout our stay, and the service was efficient and friendly.
We started with our customary order of the Hot and Sour Soup ($6.95). This was a nicely sized portion for the price, and chock full of ingredients. The soup itself was of a good consistency, not too thick or watered down. My mom usually doesn’t have any of this even if we order it, saying that the sour taste is too overpowering for her. However, she liked the version here, where the sourness was nicely offset by the spicy aftertaste. The soup had very soft, tasty morsels of tofu, pork, mushroom, and shrimp, and we could detect a bit of sesame oil as well.
I had my heart set on the wet Tan Tan Noodles ($5.50). This was my first time having tan tan noodles, and it was an interesting experience. The noodles were served in a spicy sauce with preserved vegetables and pork, as well as chopped peanuts, which helped add some texture. The taste reminded me of Korean traditional herbal medicines, and although I didn’t particularly enjoy my first taste, I somehow ended up finishing the whole bowl. The sauce was at once sweet, tart, salty, bitter, and strangely addicting. The noodles themselves were cooked perfectly. This was my favourite dish of the night by far.
We also had the Sliced Pork with Chili and Garlic Sauce ($10.95). Instead of being somewhat peppery like we expected, this tasted mostly sweet and sour. Our table was divided on this–my mom and I really enjoyed this dish while my brother couldn’t stand the tartness. In addition to the tartness and sweetness, it was also salty, making it perfect to eat with the bucket of rice we ordered as well. The pieces of pork were tender, with some pieces having a bit of fat that made them extra delicious.
Next, we had the Diced Chicken with Black Bean Sauce ($9.50) (not pictured). We were expecting the famous heat level of Szechuan cuisine, but it was more salty than anything else. Still, it was fine when paired with rice (which we ordered a bucketful of). This wasn’t a particularly memorable dish, and I could taste very little of the black bean in the sauce, to be honest. The vegetables were crisp and the chicken was juicy, but ultimately, it wasn’t a dish I would order again.
And onwards we go to the Szechuan Style Spicy Prawns ($12.95). This was a dish of pan-fried prawns with green pepper, onions, and chili peppers. With all those ingredients, you can probably tell this was spicy, although my family still managed to polish it off. The sauce was unevenly distributed, leaving some of the prawns much too salty and some much too bland. My mom also wasn’t too impressed by the aesthetics of this dish. Flavourwise, everything became a little too repetitive, although that probably has to do with the dishes we ordered. Nothing stuck out as being perfectly memorable for me, except the tan tan noodles.
Each member of my family had a different favourite dish from this meal (ie. the tan tan noodles for me, the pork for my mom), with the Minced Beef and Tofu with Chili and Garlic Sauce ($9.50) being my brother’s. Although this was tasty and savoury, once again, I found the flavours rather repetitive. Rather than being simply peppery, however, this had more of a lingering aftertaste, and was perfect to eat with the small bucket of rice we ordered. The tofu was, once again, soft and in perfectly sized morsels to eat, while the beef was somewhat of an afterthought. The sauce for this one was a little oily, but still fine.
Maybe the lesson here is to definitely ask the server for recommendations when charting unfamiliar territory. We didn’t particularly enjoy our meal here, but perhaps we ordered the wrong dishes. (We definitely forgot about including some sort of veggies, carnivores that we are…). But based on what we ordered, the food here was fine but not memorable, with the flavours all being quite similar. At least I discovered my inexplicable love for tan tan noodles…
New Szechuan Restaurant 新四川飯店
1-511 Cottonwood Avenue
Like many of us suffering through the chilly Vancouver winter, I caught a cold that left me sniffling and miserable. In a ploy to return to me to my usual chatty self and revive my spirits, SB offered to take me out to dinner. I was in the mood for something hot, so I suggested Bubble World, since we were at Metrotown anyway. As with Sushi Garden, SB and I have visited this location of Bubble World too many times to count, but I never bothered to blog about it until now.
Bubble World has ten locations scattered all over the Greater Vancouver area, with locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, etc. As with any chain restaurant, Bubble World offers a consistent menu and a reliably consistent quality of food, although some locations only offer drinks. It’s not stellar by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s fine for what it is, which is why I’ve visited it so often.
To share, SB and I ordered the Five Spice Beef in Chinese Pancake ($5.25). (I was quite out of my element since the English descriptions on the menu aren’t that helpful, so I let SB do most of the ordering since his knowledge of Chinese is far superior to mine.) The pancake was way too doughy, and wasn’t at all crispy. The green onion was in one long piece, and didn’t really add anything to the dish texturally. The beef itself was very sweet, though. We both liked the hoisin sauce that was served on the side, which was thick and added a much-needed sweet flavour to the bland pancake dough.
SB also recommended that we have the Wonton in Chili Sauce ($4.95) to fill our spicy quotient for the meal. It was fairly one-dimensional, being hot, spicy, and oily. Despite being one-dimensional, we were satisfied, since it was exactly what we were looking for. Plus, even though I was a little disappointed, SB ensured me that this was exactly the way it’s supposed to taste, so oh well. The wontons came out really hot, and I had to wait a little before I could eat them (after burning the roof my mouth on the first one).
Usually my go-to item is the Salty Peppery Chicken, but because of my sore throat, I instead chose to order the Beef Noodle in Soup ($7.95). This was a reasonable portion with the usual noodles, beef shank, and bok choy in a salty broth. The beef was neither tough nor chewy, but was strangely bland in comparison to the broth. Most likely, the two were boiled separately and simply put together moments before arriving in front of me. The noodles had good bite, but I would have preferred them to be a tad softer. The beef itself was also a little fatty. The broth looks quite oily (which it was), but it was perfect for what I was craving.
Onto SB’s entree, which he ordered more out of curiosity than anything else. It was listed as Taiwanese Squid Thick with Rice ($7.75) on the menu, and neither of us knew what that meant. It turned out to be some thick soup-like mixture accompanied by a bowl of white rice. This tasted really herbal. It reminded me of when I was little and would visit my uncle’s store, which sold traditional Korean herbal medicines, which have a very distinct smell. My initial sampling of this reminded me quite strongly of those smells. For SB, it reminded him of hot and sour soup, and he didn’t think this was anything special. He took a while to get used to the taste, but did end up finishing the whole thing, although he mentioned that he probably wouldn’t order this again. Besides the titular squid, it also included a lot of sliced veggies.
We also ordered the Condensed Milk Toast ($3.95), one of my personal favourites. What is there to really say about this? It is literally just a piece of toast with condensed milk on top, and terribly unhealthy…so why do I like it so much? Well, the toast itself was soft and fluffy, and very lightly toasted, so that there’s just a slight difference to the texture of the bread. There really isn’t much that could go wrong here, but yum. Just looking at the picture makes me want to go back.
The two of us very much enjoyed our meal at Bubble World. This place isn’t gourmet by any means, and the service is always indifferent at best (is it against the law to give a customer more than one napkin at a time?), but it’s a decent place for cheap eats, with a sufficiently varied menu. I always forget that it’s cash only though.
Bubble World 大頭仔
Despite my admitted non-adventurous attitude towards restaurants, (I usually like to search out a restaurant on Urbanspoon and read some blogger reviews before I go) I easily agreed when my friend Gawa suggested we have lunch at a restaurant I’d never heard of. In fact, she didn’t even know the name…she said vaguely that it was a noodle place on Broadway and Cambie. This could possibly have been helpful, except that this intersection is crowded with restaurants (including Sam’s and my especial favourite, La Taqueria), with many of them specializing in noodles, including Benkei Ramen, Menya, and Sha Lin Noodle House. Well, much like Dolph, I’ll never say no to noodles, so Gawa, Eric, and I met up at Broadway and Cambie on a nice sunny day after finals.
Turns out she didn’t know the name because she hasn’t been here in years! Ah well. After a few minutes of searching, she led us into a small but relatively busy restaurant. This is one of those joints where you choose your own broth, type of noodle, and two toppings, through the use of the order sheet pictured. For the sake of variety, we all chose different broths and toppings and noodles. It was obvious that Gawa hadn’t visited this place in a long time. I realized this when she asked the server whether we would be receiving complementary tea, and the server seemed confused, then replied that the complementary tea component had been removed a long time ago. Oh, Gawa. In a city where prices are constantly increasing and I’m always worrying over the state of my wallet, a fixed price of $7.95 (well, plus tax and tip) seemed quite reasonable, especially since the portion size was respectable.
Gawa chose the Fish Broth with Ramen, Fish Balls, and Shrimp. Out of all of our broths, I liked hers the best–it was both sweet and savoury, and had a distinct fish taste. She thought the noodles were chewy, and had good bite, and that the shrimp were an impressive size (especially considering the price!), although I would personally have preferred more shrimp. In addition to the above ingredients, her bowl of noodles also included a decent amount of cabbage, as well as tofu skin. Gawa enjoyed her meal, and didn’t have any complaints.
Eric had the Malay Laksa Broth with Beijing Ramen, Chicken Balls, and Brisket. He let me sample a little of the broth, and it tasted quite peppery to me, but surprisingly okay on my authenticity radar (not that I’m an expert by any means). There was nothing amiss in his bowl, except he didn’t think much of his noodles–I’m not exactly sure on the difference between Beijing ramen and just regular ramen (I even googled it but didn’t get any satisfying answers). Like Gawa, Eric’s noodles contained an adequate amount of cabbage and tofu skin, and the ingredients were well-prepared. If he had a complaint, it would be that he found it perhaps a little too spicy, but he still enjoyed his noodles. I’m sure this would be too spicy for some, but at least they provide a warning on the order sheet so you can avoid it if you need to.
For my noodles, I chose to have Chicken Broth with Udon, Enoki Mushrooms, and Cuttlefish Balls. The mushrooms were a bit difficult to eat (but that isn’t the restaurant’s fault). I found the broth a bit salty, but nothing I couldn’t bear. I regretted my choice of the chicken broth, as it was bland and tasted like something you could easily make from a Campbell’s soup can. Surprisingly, the noodles had good bite and were acceptably chewy–I usually find a lot of places overcook udon noodles, but I was pleasantly surprised here. Now…the problem with my meal. There was a massive amount of cabbage in my bowl, and only my bowl. While Gawa and Eric’s noodles contained, at most, maybe five pieces of cabbage, mine contained a huge mountain of cabbage that remained even after I ate about seven pieces. I’m pretty sure they dumped all the cabbage into my portion, and I’m not sure exactly why. Anyways, it was an unpleasant experience–not that I don’t like cabbage, but there’s only so much one person can take, right? Other than that, though, I thought the ingredients I’d requested were well-prepared, and quite tasty.
The service here was nothing remarkably bad or remarkably good. It was a stereotypical Asian restaurant with a stereotypical Asian server. She did her job, but didn’t offer to fill our water or tea except when asked, and her customer service skills existed somewhere murky between hostile and friendly. It didn’t really affect my experience here, as I hadn’t been expecting great service from the beginning.
The food here is definitely solid, minus the strangely profuse amount of cabbage I found lurking underneath that innocent pile of mushrooms…and I would probably want to return to try different combinations of toppings and broths. Turns out this little adventure paid off! Maybe after this I’ll stop reading online reviews before deciding whether or not to visit a restaurant…but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Golden Pair Fusion Cafe 皇牌魚湯米線
546 West Broadway