I was still not satisfied after the Swallow Tail Secret Supper Club dinner. I wanted something more to eat but Suanne, the weight watcher, said she had enough. But Suanne will always tag along when I wanted to eat. She will always say that she’ll accompany me and that she will only take a bite or two. But she will always end up eating as much as me. :-)
I remember that The Swallow Tail was just around the corner from this one little restaurant that had gathered some legendary tales the past couple of weeks. Legend has it that one particular chowhound stumbled upon this restaurant and he liked it so much that he spent SIX hours in the restaurant. When I heard that for the first time, I thought … hmmm … maybe he was drunk or something. Then the mystery deepens when I read that these 6 hour meals went on for consecutive days.
That, my friends … and as one other chowhound said … is COMMITMENT. There were so many tales that I read over the week or so that I really-really-really wanted to see for myself what it is all really-really about.
So Suanne and I drove over to Nine Dishes. This restaurant is located on Kingsway, south-side, midway between Fraser and Knight. It’s easy to locate because the red and black awning is new and bright.
Before I went there, I was thinking this place is dark, dank and dirty. You know, places where Chinese bachelors hang out drinking, smoking and telling dirty jokes. That sort of places. Don’t blame me. All these images were from what I read from the accounts of the chowhounds.
I was kind of worried too if this is an improper place for Suanne. It was about 11PM already when we were there.
It was none of that stuff. Instead, the place was bright, clean and even pleasant. It was in no way rowdy at all. And it does have that nice smell of BBQ lamb and cumin in the restaurant. You see, things are not always like what you read.
However, there are a few tables that are left uncleaned. That is understandable knowing what I know. This is because the restaurant is run by this guy with a real fancy name. “If” is his name. He is quite a character. I find he is someone people will take an instant liking to.
Legend has it that he is pretty savvy with dirty jokes too. “If” dropped off the menu on our table with hot tea. I sort of felt like I knew him already. So, I took the chance to tell him how much I heard about his restaurant and that I know his “6-hour customers” personally. That broke the ice instantly. He went philosophical and told me how he makes this restaurant different from others. And then he was starting to talk about pretty girls and for a moment he was about to go into that “area” … until his eyes strayed looking at Suanne and stopped abruptly. He he he … the prim and proper Suanne must have given him that “don’t go there” look.
The reason why this restaurant is called Nine Dish is because, well, the menu has nine dishes. What a simple idea.
Actually, they have more than nine dishes. It is just that there are nine dishes in each menu. In all there are four menus and categorized into:
- Cold Dishes
- BBQ, and
- Main Courses
Such simplicity. And the prices are awfully cheap too. The BBQ skewers are just 99 cents. Looking over the menu and scanning around the restaurant, I can so easily understand how that 6-hour sessions came about. The place is casual and “If” encourages you to take your own time. He doesn’t care if you order just four skewers at a time.
For instance too … his beer is just $2.50 a bottle. The lunch special (see the sign on the 1st pix of this post) says that the beef noodle soup and curry chicken is just $4.99 only.
“If” gave us a a book of order form and a pencil asking us to write down the order ourselves. So, I said we’ll write down the codes indicated by the side of each dish (like K1, K2, K3, etc) on the menu. “If” would have none of it! The nerve of him. He said he wants us to write down the Chinese names and not the codes because he said “it takes time for me to translate it for the kitchen”. LOL!
I left it to Suanne to copy down the strokes of the words. Took a while but Suanne did a pretty good job of it, don’t you think?
The Lamb Kebab with Cumin and Chili was a steal at 99 cents each. We ordered just four. It was served on metal skewers.
The lamb was … very good — very spicy, tender and fragrant.
The best order we had that night was Tofu Pudding with Meat Sauce ($5.99). We ordered that because it sounded intriguing. We usually have tofu pudding that is normally sweet. We just never had it with MEAT before.
It was awesome. The Tofu Pudding by itself is bland but this one is topped with chili oil and lots of cilantro and crushed peanuts.
It is also VERY spicy. Normally when we eat chili dishes, the heat gets lower as we eat more of it. But with this we noticed that the spiciness intensifies as we eat more. Taste-wise it is peanut-y and fragrant. It also has that vinegarish after taste very much like the vinegar used normally as a dip in Xiao Long Baos.
We did not order much. The last item we ordered is also another one which we thought sounded interesting.
This is called Deep Fried Lotus Root Stuffed with Minced Meat ($3.99).
How should I describe this?
Alright, there are two slices of lotus root sandwiching a small patty of minced pork. It is battered and then deep fried.
It is such a simple but unique combination. The batter, the lotus root and the minced meat each by itself gives it a different texture. It is just the perfect type of food where you munch on while chatting about politics, girls and everything else under the heavens.
You should try this. I tell you, it is great.
Maybe Nine Dishes is not for everyone. But it is unique. You are asked to help yourself and not to expect table service like what you are accustomed to. And I am pretty cool with that. So, I just walk over to the table up front and get whatever I wanted.
The thing that amazes me too was that rice is FREE here. You can help yourself to as much rice as you want from the rice cooker. While other restaurants makes a killing selling steamed rice for $1.50 to $2.00 a bowl, their is all-you-can-eat rice for free. “If” did lament that it breaks his heart to see people abusing this by taking more than they need.
I really enjoyed myself here with Suanne. It so happened that James was there too that late night. James was at the 8GTCC Jiangsu dinner and it just so happened he was sitting next to Dylan. I am guessing that Dylan must have told him everything about Nine Dishes and he was there, just like us.
We stayed back and chatted … and nibbled on the food. We talked about politics, career, and that Ujal Dosanj was his protege (!). I can see easily why people ended up staying for so many hours here.
There are two excellent accounts of the visits to Nine Dishes that I would recommend you read. It is written by Keev and Dylan — so poetic. Go read it and I think it might make you make that trip across town just to check Nine Dishes out.