Suanne and I had dinner over the weekend last week with ET and Christina of Doesn’t TaZte Like Chicken. This was at their invitation and the day just after our first DOV (Dine Out Vancouver) event in Raincity. We were glad they did not suggest another DOV event as we already have a few planned and really wanted to try something different.
And what a difference it was … and what a choice it was too. This meal in Hakkasan does rank as some of the best meals I ever had.
Hakkasan is really an odd place. It is located in possibly one of the worst location one could probably find in Richmond for a restaurant, let alone a fine dining restaurant. Virtually all the best restaurants in Richmond are clustered around No 3 Road in the city center but Hakkasan for some reason chooses to open itself smack in the middle of commercial and industrial area. It is located on No 5 Road just north of Bridgeport.
We liked the comfortable homely setting of the restaurant. At some parts of the restaurant you might even feel like you’re dining at home.
Hakkasan billed themselves as Contemporary Chinese Cuisine. I understand from ET and Christina that Hakkasan and Zen Chinese Cuisine are related and that they are operated by brother and sister. I am not surprised if this is indeed true because many of the dishes and the style they are served looks very similar. You might have known that Zen Chinese Cuisine had once been declared by the New York Times as the best Chinese restaurant outside of China. Check out our review of Zen here and here.
For us, we were seated at the more contemporary dining area …
… with contemporary Chinese table settings. Perfect, I think all Chinese table setting should be like this … not chopsticks OR fork/knife OR spoon/fork … but, chopsticks AND knife AND spoon AND fork! The complete set of eating utensils, if you ask me. That is five if you include also your fingers which we actually did use during this meal.
They had a $1 coconut water special that night. It was a steal and who could resist any drink at $1 right? It was good, we liked it. But despite the price, we limited ourselves to only a single glass. As innocent as it looked, I think it is very high in saturated fat.
Christina, the more health conscious among us opted instead for the “Popo” tea. Per Christina, this type of tea supposedly has slimming properties. Ahhh … we have a weight watcher in our midst! This one is $3.50. We noticed that they not only top up with water but also with tea because the tea was the same consistency the whole night.
It took us an awfully long time before we actually got down to deciding what to order. They have a bewildering lots of tasting and set menus … almost all of them at 50% off! We were kind of skeptical about the 50% off gimmick really and did not pay serious attention to the “was” price and just considered the “now” price.
We opted to go for the “Abalone Set for 4” which costs $168. For a moment before we ordered, we thought that it was $168 per person … nope, it was for four. What drew us to this choice are the words “abalone” and “lobster”.
According to the menu, the starter is called the Appetizer Trio but it looked more like a Appetizer Quartet to us. We were bent on savoring each and every item and took our time sampling each at a time.
The Proscuitto Wrapped Melon is supposed to provide a delicate balance of the salty tinge from the proscuitto with the sweetness of the melon. However, we find that the sweetness of the overly riped melon overwhelmed taste of the proscuitto.
By the side is the “So Ngor” … translated as the vegetarian goose. The server called this mushroom crepes. I am confused. Anyway, despite the size it is simply great.
The prawn was deep fried well, although it was kind of too bready.
OK … we are threading on dangerous water here talking about sharkfin …. but … but … but … this is IMITATION sharkfin, OK? The server told us that upfront. The last time we had dim sum in a sharkfin restaurant we attracted quite a lot of comments even though we did not have any sharkfin at all. LOL!
Next was a surprise as it was not on the menu we ordered — kind of a bonus item. It was wonderful. It is called a Whelk and was told it is a smaller type of a conch. What is a conch, by the way?
Whatever it is, it has this thingy stuffed into the whelk. I only caught one ingredient they mentioned as I was too busy eating to pay much attention. It had Portuguese Curried Sauce, that’s all I know. I love this … simply yummy, not hot but the spices leaves a good curry after taste for some time.
Next came the Seafood Soup in Mini Pumpkin. This is the prettiest of all dishes that night. It is made up of Japanese organic pumpkin carved nicely to hold the seafood soup. In it were a piece of prawn, mussel and a scallop delightfully hidden underneath the soup.
We absolutely love this. It is like having five courses in itself … the seafood trio of prawn, mussel, and scallop. Then there is the wonderful soup and finally the flesh of the pumpkin. The flesh tasted to good with the infused seafood soup that we all scrapped every morsel of flesh from it.
At the point, they came by and asked if they need to slow down the course seeing how long we took savoring our meal. I was kind of pleasantly surprised they noticed and yeah, we told them to slow down. They explained that they had standard timings for each dish and they could hold back some but also told us they were concerned about the dishes that were already done that they might not be perfect they way they wanted it. I like that!
Next was the Lobster with Specialty Garlic. Each of us got half of lobster each. This is the course where we used our fifth utensils … our hands.
I love their so-called “specialty garlic”. They told us that this garlic tastes everything like garlic but does not leave you with a garlicky breath. We took our time picking every single piece of flesh from the legs even. It was not an awfully big lobster, nor do we expect it to be so. But BIG would have been better, no?
At this point, I thought we’re close to done but checking the menu, we were barely half way there. Ohhh … nice!
Abalone’s next. It is simply called Braised Abalone with Seasonal Greens. One thing I learned about Christina that you got to be very careful eating out with her. She tried to con me out of my share of the abalone. Fine, I don’t understand the fuss over abalone … and fine, for the life of me, I cannot recall if I ever had abalone before. But that greedy woman told me how just OK it was.
Frankly, it was just OK for me. I still do not know the fuss over abalone. Sure, had a unique texture but that’s about it. Guess I do not (yet?) have that refined taste like ET and Christina.
So, during this course I had a crash course on all things abalone. For one, they think it is from can … not high grade ones. Wow … I did not know that even canned abalone costs up to $80 and huge high grade ones run into thousands of dollars. They told me that it take years to grow abalone … some up to 5 years for the small ones like the ones we had. Then there was this thing about “sugar heart” and what nots. *shrugs*
Someday, when I grow up, I will learn to enjoy the finer aspects of this delicacy. For now, this will count as my “been there, done that” item.
Chicken came next. Formally known as the Hakka Shredded Salty Chicken. It was quite a lot of chicken which I appreciate. They did this well. Served cold, the perfect Hakka chicken had to have lightly salted skin, moist flesh with a layer of “jelly” between the skin and the flesh. They did not even need to give us soya sauce or chili garlic sauce … they are great by itself.
Despite the name Hakka Chicken, I think this is more apt calling this Hainanese Chicken, no?
Next came the AAA Beef Shortribs with Jasmine rice. The Beef Shortribs smell so good that we can smell it even before they brought it to the table. Moist and tender and very juicy too.
The juice were great with rice which was perfectly steamed. I like loose grain steamed rice over lumpy sticky rice.
To close off, we were asked if we wanted desserts from their menu instead of the standard one. Their dessert menu was interesting but we had enough for the night. We declined.
We just had the chocolate mousse. It was just mousse, nothing special about this.
There you have it. $184.28 before tips for the four of us. Personally, I find this type of dinner is better value and experience than DOV dinners. Our dinner at Raincity was $101 while it’s $92 here in Hakkasan. Don’t get me wrong … I still love DOVs and have a couple of DOVs planned this year.
Suanne and I enjoyed this meal a lot. It was not just the food but the great company we find in ET and Christina. Time flew the night we were there. In all, it took us FOUR hours for the meal. So, ET and Christina, thanks for great time and the excellent restaurant choice.
Here, before I close off, let me share with you a couple of menus of theirs. They have a Chinese New Year menu for four which costs $20 more than what we had but with a few items extra like real sharkfin soup, braised pork hock, fish and birds nest.
Now, if you feel rich, the menu above is the priciest they have. This is $168 … PER PERSON.
Wow, it’s even more than the tasting menu of West or Lumiere. For that kind of money, I don’t know … I’ll probably spend it at West. I know … I know … I know … don’t preach to me … I know some people take offence to food like foie gras and shark fin. I respect those views but am not about to debate this now. Maybe later but not on this post.
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The easiest way to describe a conch would be a saltwater snail, or in the case of the dish above, the best analogy would the seawater version of escargot. It is a good thing you got the small ones; the large ones (and I do mean large ones) are extremely chewy if not prepared correctly.
Looks like a delicious meal. Nothing like a little self indulgence with friends once and a while; I love the idea of the lavish menu.
that lavish menu doesn’t look all that impressive. you could probably find a better experience for a few dollars more at trotter’s or french laundry. for $168 per person? that’s just crazy for what you get.
My Chinese ain’t the best, but it’s $168 for 4, ie $42/person.
Hi Clutterer: I was referring to the last picture. The Lavish Signature menu is really $168 per person and that’s in English. Ben
I’m glad you all had a good time and enjoyed your meals.
However I would have to agree with Koji and say that the meal doesn’t look terribly impressive for $42/person. But that’s totally my opinion.
I prefer the many table d’hote offerings around town for $20-45 (Gastropod, Salade de Fruits, Les Faux Bourgeois, Pied-A-Terre, Pear Tree, Rex, Cassis) that demonstrates the culinary excellence the city’s best has to offer ….. sort of like DOV all-year around 🙂
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We have a Hakkasan in London, always get a good rating but the prices are sky-high.
Ben, coconut water as opposed to coconut milk has NO saturated fats or cholesterol, it provides potassium (about 600 milligrams per cup, more than a banana), along with some calcium, magnesium, sodium, and sugar. According to the USDA, it may have some fiber and even a little protein and vitamin C.
Agrees with chinchyesek. Coconutwater doesn’t have any saturated fats ;).
It’s the coconot milk, that is full of saturated fats..
You should be able to taste the difference.
Normally when something contains a lot of fat, would be creamy or rich.. and not so much refreshing 😛
Really? No kidding? Well, we all learn something new everyday!
nice review. always enjoy your candor and honestly. will add haakasan on my to try list. thanks!
funny that christina would try to cheat you out of your abalone. i can only imagine what she would do if it was foie grais. 😀 .
i guess this is a canton resto and NOT a Hakka resto. too bad, since so many of the same cuisine.
Hi Keev: This post reminds of the email I recently received from Hakkasan. They talked about their (interesting) relationship with Sam’s Zen. I will share with everyone later when I write the review of the soon to be opened Zen.
“almost all of them at 50% off! ”
That says it all.
Anyways I just wanted to point out that Hainan-chicken originated from Fuzhou and Fujian. Method of cooking is by scalding the chicken in hot boiling water (spices & herbs & blue ginger).
Salt baked chicken served @ Zen & Hakkasan is a traditional Hakka dish “yim kuk kai”. It is very common; another common Hakka dish is “suon pan che” (abacus beads).
Method of cooking is by covering the chicken with salt and bake it. It’s not healthy especially for those with HBP.
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Ben – another great review! Here i must agree with you – indeed this is a great little restaurant in Richmond and I always enjoy coming here. Food simply made but well made. There are probably 5000 restaurants in the greater vancouver that feature the exact same items on their menu, but most serve their food overcooked or bland or just unimpressive because you can taste the staleness in the ingredients.
WRT how costly this place is, I mean, when i come here to eat i don’t expect a French Laundry experience and i personally don’t understand the point of comparing this little neighbourhood restaurant to 3 stars michelin restaurants like THE french laundry (which is MUCH more expensive than this place albeit much more wonderful – but that’s THE French Laundry!) If this Hakassan gets even one michelin star, i’m sure it will be pricing their menu like the London Hakkasan (also a one M star restaurant). For what it’s worth, imho this place is totally fine.
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