Note: I would like you to read down to the very bottom of this post.
Up until two weeks ago, the 8GTCC team had been trying to work together through emails. While it had allowed us to brainstorm ideas and such, I find that the discussions quickly became unfocused. So, I thought the best way is to bring everyone together and meet up. After all, not everyone had met everyone in real life.
I wanted to have a dinner meeting. I also wanted to be at a place where not only the food is good, the restaurant will be supportive that we stay and hog a table as we stay on for discussion.
We went to the Golden Great Wall Szechuan Restaurant on Broadway. That is a perfect place because the Golden Great Wall had once invited us to their restaurant but for some reason, we did not. I knew they would be supportive and happy to host this dinner-meeting. Moreover, it would be a convenient location as it is just a short walk from the Broadway station on Canada Line.
When I made the reservation, I told the restaurant that this is not a review visit and that we expect to pay for the dinner. We just needed a place for dinner and then to meet without being shoo’d away.
The Golden Great Wall has a large dinning hall which is big enough to host a respectable wedding dinner even. The restaurant is run by a father and two sons team. The restaurant was opened by Benny Liu about 8 years ago. Today, he is assisted by his two sons, Douglas and Tony.
I can see that Benny is an experienced restaurateur in the way he speaks to his customers and us.
I observed that for a Chinese restaurant, the Golden Great Wall has a lot of Caucasian customers and they mostly came in as a family. I think this is because the restaurant is located just next door to the Holiday Inn.
The entire team trickled in right on the dot at 6PM. Not everyone had met everyone before but everyone felt like they know each other already.
The moment we were seated, we were served flower tea … or what fmed referred to as “performance tea”. It’s pretty fancy. The tea pot is clear that you could see the tea starting off as a ball and slowly unfurling into flowers. Good to look at. Taste wise, it is no way superior than other more common Chinese tea.
I had met everyone before except for Dylan and I kind of like the composition of the team. There are seven of us … fmed, LotusRapper, Dylan, Joe, Keev, Suanne and myself. We have food experts, professional menu architect, food writer and Chinese literature expert. We even have a lawyer who can write rock solid indemnity forms in case we need to protect ourselves from food poisoning. LOL! Seriously, the most important thing of all, it is a cohesive and committed team.
I was quite impressed with Golden Great Wall. Apparently they were prepared for our visit when we did not even expect them to. While they gave us the menu for our ala carte selection, they have also prepared a menu specially for our table.
We were so busy talking to each other, we did not really have the time to look over the ala carte menu. So, I just decided we will go with what the restaurant had prepared. There were no price and so I asked Benny Liu. He said “$10 per person”.
That’s too cheap! But am not complaining. I think Benny just arbitrarily gave me that round number just because I said I want to pay for it. [Thanks a lot Benny!]
Almost all of us went to have the same beer. I never had Chinese beer before. This is Tsingtao and is the top selling beer in China. In terms of volume sold, they are #1 in the world. No surprising isn’t it?
It has 4.5% alcohol content. Too much for me … made my head woozy for a while.
Since Douglas once told me they have excellent Xiao Long Bao, I asked for a basket to try. Apparently they did not bill us for this and just added this to the set dinner.
Benny was great. With every dish served, he was there explaining and have us insight on the food served. I actually wished this is standard in every restaurant … I mean beside just giving a 1-2 sentence description.
Benny said that the chef who made this XLB is from Beijing and has 40 years of experience.
I missed quite a lot of what he said. He said he uses local flour to make this and that the broth inside came from pork skin after cooking for 2 hours.
The XLB is respectable. I do find that the dough skin is a bit too thick.
The first dish is called Appetizer Two Kinds.
This is a well presented dish. I am not sure about you but I find this sort of presentation really brings delight to most people. It does to me. LOL!
One of the appy is Szechuan beef and beef tripe. Benny called this Fuqi Feipien which is literally translated as Husband and Wife Slices of Lungs. Funny name isn’t it? This dish came about from a husband and wife food vendor in Chengdu who made this popular. It has a tingling spiciness from the Sichuan pepper corn and is chewy and tasted peanuty too.
This is balanced by cold cucumber which is lightly salty.
In the middle of the appy is a pagoda. No one touched it. We are all grown ups. But I so wanted to take a bite of it just to see what it is made of.
Ringing the Appetizer Two Kinds are cute little birds made with … prawn with egg white. It is a nice decorative and edible piece. Benny said his chef can make hundreds of this very fast.
Next up is the Hot and Spicy Soup. Someone on the table said this is a Cantonese dish but I am not very sure about that. Anyway, the soup was very good. I liked it. It has tofu, wood ear, pork, bamboo shoot, carrot and green onions. So it is quite a filling soup.
Shrimp lovers will love this Ying Yang Musical Shrimps. I think it is called Musical Shrimp is because it is presented like a piano keyboard. You reckon?
The orangey shrimp on the left tasted sweet and sour but it is the one on the right that is a lot more interesting.
The top of the shrimp is made with Basa fish paste and capped with a piece of cut mushroom. Lovely presentation and lovely prawns.
Next up is Boiled Fish Szechuan Style. This is a classic Sichuan dish. The huge layer of chili based oil will put a lot of people off this dish more than the spiciness. But it is delicious. I like to pour the oil and have this and the chili with rice … errr … does people normally eat it that way? Or do people normally just go for the fish fillets and ignore the rest of the bowl?
The following dish is the Szechuan Peppering Chicken. Benny said he uses Thai chili because it tastes fresher and not moldy. The chicken is deep fried to complete dryness. Despite the dryness, this is a deceptively spicy dish … it tasted more spicy than it looked and creates a tingling numbness in the mouth. Which is awesome. I like this.
Benny and Douglas knows that we are a group of people working on authentic Chinese food and yet we were served Ginger Beef. I just learned during the dinner that Ginger Beef is a Canadian invention.
Oh yeah, Ginger Beef originated from Calgary’s Silver Inn restaurant. Can you dig that? So now we can go around saying that Canadian Cuisine is not just poutine but we can also add Ginger Beef to it!
Benny served us this because this is their top selling dish in Golden Great Wall. He told us that the beef were soaked overnight to get rid of the blood before it is coated with two types of flour. It is then deep fried twice and lastly frying again to coat with honey garlic and ginger sauce.
The Ginger Beef has a very crispy texture and tasted sweet. It was well made.
The second to last dish is called Northern Eggplant Vegetable Stirfry. We were told that this is popular in Beijing. The main ingredients are potato, eggplant and green pepper. This is a simple dish but it is a tad too oily.
The last dish is just called “desserts” but boy, did I have a lot of fun with this one. Frankly, I felt honoured, embarassed and excited at the same time.
Douglas came firstly with a dish of carved out dragon fruit and some hand made egg pastry which is filled with red bean paste coated with sugar.
He asked me to pour some hot water slowly into the dragon fruit. The way he asked me to do it slowly that made me worried that this will explode or something if I pour it too fast.
Oh fancy. While I was distracted by the dense cloud of fog …
… they brought out another platter of dessert.
LOL! This is a first. As much as I enjoyed this, I was so embarrassed in front of the rest of the 8GTCC team. It was totally unexpected and led to me realize more that perhaps chowtimes will change. With such a large reader base and recognition on the blogosphere today, this sort of things will happen.
Suanne and I talked a lot about what all these means. We know our readers like the site for what we had always been and the last thing we want to do is change. We struggle a lot with this to tell the truth. We make every effort to make sure we keep to the same formula but changes will be pushed upon chowtimes more than we want it to. Please let us know what your thoughts are because we value your input a lot.
But that night, I really felt honored especially in the presence of revered foodies. I do not and will not ask for these sort of things but for that night, I made an exception and privately basked in it.
To many, it is a simple gesture on the part of Golden Great Wall but Suanne and I appreciate it a lot. Thanks a lot Benny, Douglas and Tony! Thanks for being supportive in allowing us to meet in your restaurant and just charging us $10 per person for the dinner. The food was great and the service was absolutely perfect.