Updated 28th Sep 2010: this restaurant had been replaced with Taste Good Wonton Seafood Restaurant.
ChubbyPanda and his wife came up to Vancouver during the Memorial Day holidays. We had known ChubbyPanda for a long time — in blog years it had been a long time.
Both Chowtimes and ChubbyPanda food blogs started at about the same time. That was in early 2006. I recall in those days, the most prolific food bloggers are those from California with just a handful of Vancouver area foodie bloggers holding the fort.
ChubbyPanda contacted us saying that they wanted to meet up again for dinner. The last time they were here almost two years ago, we met up at Tropika in Richmond because he wanted to try Malaysian cuisine. This time, they left the choice of restaurant to us.
It was easy to decide where to meet. I had at the top of my to-try list the Chinese restaurant who won the “Best Soup” award in Vancouver last year. It was won by a restaurant which I felt had one of the unimaginative name … Wonton King.
Wonton King is located on SE Marine Drive, near the intersection with Fraser St. Wonton King is more an upscale modern Chinese Restaurant than you would imagine from a place with the name of Wonton King.
The service is immaculate. I am pretty sure it is because of our kick-ass cameras which we both fished out even as we sat down — as it always had been. LOL! We were attended to by someone who I assumed to be the captain of the restaurant. I say this because of the authoritative manner he was speaking and that he has a vest on.
We did not even look at the menu when I told him what we wanted. We were there to try the Wine Chicken Soup. For a moment he was not sure what we were asking for. I think it is because he could not associate the English name with the Chinese one. This dish was not on the printed menu, so we learned. If you want it, you had to ask for it.
When he realized what we wanted, he excused himself midway taking our orders and went to get the kitchen to get started on this. He said they need at least 20 minutes to prep this. I timed them … it came 35 minutes later.
When it came, I asked for the steamed rice to be served. You know what … the captain refused to serve us that. Wow, the nerve of him! I ALWAYS have rice with my soup.
The captain insisted that we have the soup first and proceed to pour each of us a bowl. I know he meant well and I did not really care — I just thought he had such nerve to refuse to serve rice when asked. Don’t get me wrong, the captain was not rude or anything.
The Wine Chicken Soup was as good as it is meant to be. For being the #1 soup last year, it did not wow us. It is a rich and flavourful broth. We did notice their soup is of a thicker variant compared to most others we had tried.
They had 1/2 a chicken in the entire pot. They use only free range chicken for this dish. We can see it is primarily flavoured with wood ear, ginger and or course, rice wine.
What I really enjoyed was the dipping sauce they serve with the Wine Chicken Soup. It is made of sweet soya sauce and has a tinge of spiciness in it. In it too are green onions, garlic and chili oil. They make this very well and it is just perfect with the wine infused chicken. It does brings out the best in the flavour of the chicken.
Our next dish was on the recommendation of the captain. He said that they do not have this everyday and it just so happen that they have a shipment of good fish on that day. We were sold on his recommendation.
He called this Steamed Live Fish with Ginger and Green Onions. It is a very simple steamed fish dish. To me, what defines this are two things … the freshness of the fish and the concoction of the soya sauce it is steamed in. The soya sauce must not overpower the fish and yet be able to enhance the taste of the fish.
The fish they served is called “gwai far yuee” in Cantonese. I am not sure what one calls this in English.
The captain carved the fish for us the moment it is served. You want to eat it as soon as it is served as it is best eaten while it is still warm.
Sorry about the above unflattering picture. I wanted to share something here. Chinese generally serve their fish whole … bones, head, and tails intact. And one of the no-no in a Chinese meal is to flip the fish (I think I mentioned this in a recent blog entry). That is why many better Chinese restaurants will carve the fish up for you so that they can move the bones out of the way without flipping the fish over to get to the underside of the fish.
Anyway, the fish we were served was as good as one would expect. The white color of the meat of the fish shows through freshness of this. The dish was tender to the bite … the soft springy texture is what defines this. The soya sauce too was done well and complements the fish … it was not too overpowering or salty. I enjoyed this a lot.
We order Dry Garlic Spare Ribs. They deep fry the spare ribs very well with the right amount of seasonings. It was boney and does not have a lot of meat. If they deep fry this any more, we could even eat the bones. LOL! My way of eating this is to pick off the meat and then … suck the remaining flavour in the bones.
I think ChubbyPanda was pulling my legs … he said he had so often read of Arkensen and Nanzaro ordering Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice that he wanted to try this. It was so unbelievable because ChubbyPanda is Taiwanese American. OK, if he wants to try it, we ordered it.
Wonton King’s version of this fried rice to me was a little on the bland side. I like the salted fish deep fried a lot more to bring out the flavour. Despite my thoughts, ChubbyPanda actually said this was too salty.
We also ordered the Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste. This is like a Cantonese version of a similar popular Malaysian dish except that it is not spicy. It does not have any hint of spiciness at all in this. I think it is because Cantonese cuisine is light in flavour and does not use a lot of spices.
The House Dessert was the green bean soup. They make is a bit more special by putting in longan fruit and seaweed. This is certainly much better than the normal green bean soup one normally have elsewhere.
We had a great time catching up on things since the last time we met over a year ago. We enjoyed the meal for sure. The service was great. They came up at the right moment to change our plates. But then we know that it is very likely that we had preferential treatment because of the obvious manner we were documenting the entire dinner … and commenting within their earshots our opinions of each dish. LOL!
I am not sure what the bill came up to. We did not order the meal by the menu but mainly through talking with the Captain. When the bill came, ChubbyPanda and I went through the customary fight for the bill. ChubbyPanda won … again. He paid the last time he was here in Vancouver too. So, ChubbyPanda … what was the damage for the night?
Wonton King loves ChubbyPanda. This is because he left an American sized tip for them until I reminded him that in Canada we do not tip as much. LOL!
Wonton King is good … lousy name for a restaurant but I like the food. I also like their (preferential?) service.
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We had an awesome time. I’ll let you pick up the check next year. … Maybe. =)
I think the fish was tilapia. The bill was $93.10 CAD. Not too bad for four people plus a kid.
Excellent looking meal, guys. I had a very nice dinner there in what must have been a good 7-8 years ago and it was very memorable. The irony of that experience is the unfitting restaurant name (as you say) and its location in a non-descript plaza on Marine Drive which is very easy to drive by and not notice them.
Thanks for the review, it helps to keep these “gems” around town in the back of the head in case of needing to find a good restaurant in a pinch ….. that part of S. Van definitely is a derth for good restaurants, let alone Chinese.
Sounded like CP had the “faster gun (wallet) in the West” [wink]
Refused to sell you a bowl of rice?? Oh my, you were nicer than I would of been hahaha You were paying the bill, not the Captain lol
Actually, the steamed fish is not steamed “in the soy sauce”. Depending on the restaurant/cook, it is steamed in a dish and might or might not be transferred to a clean plate. Then, soy sauce is drizzled, followed by julienned ginger and green onions. Finally, hot oil (my mom would “fry” some garlic cloves) is poured on top which slightly crisp the skin and makes the whole dish fragant.
If the fish was indeed tilapia, I would be slightly disappointed. It is something you can get almost any day as it is a farmed fish.
I would have agreed with the “captain” about the rice and the soup. My mom has her own version and it should be had “as is”. Adding rice can “kill” some of the flavours. This might be a case of how it should be tasted/eaten rather than how you like a dish.
The wine chicken soups must tested very nice….I missed wine chicken soups cook by my aunt. It is very delicious. ^-^
Hi, was from malaysia and studied in Vanc in the 90s. Just discovered your blog about Vanc and gosh…. it recalled so much of the good old times!!
Wonder Red Robin still exists or not… coz i sure miss their mud pie and buffalo wings!! Thanks!
Oh yeah, Cherie … there are quite a few Red Robins around. I counted about 11 restaurants in all. There is also one just half a block away from my office but we had never eaten there or blogged about them before. Maybe we will, some day soon.
So what do you normally tip in Canada?
Also, if you ever want to go to the Original Red Robin, it is in Seattle. It is the one on Fuhrman Avenue near the University Bridge, and has a view of Portage Bay.
It is not fancy, but it is the original one. Lots of people go to the Original Starbucks while in Seattle, so you can add this to the list.
We normally tip anywhere from 10% to 15% (unlike in the US where we go with 15% to 20%). I did not know that Red Robin originated from Seattle. The next time I am in Seattle, I will definite check out that original one for sure.
As chain restaurants go, Red Robin is first class. The restaurants are clean , the food is reliably good and the food actually resembles the pictures in the menu!
Way, way above IHOP.
If you go there, go hungry for a creatively dressed burger or grilled chicken breast sandwich and fries (all you can eat fries, by the way). The other food is good but it isn’t their specialty.
Their Royal Burger even has a fried egg on it.,,
The original location hasn’t been made into a museum nor does it look shiny like the new locations, but the food is good as at all Red Robins and the view is great.
Another location with a great view is right on the Seattle waterfront. It is right near all the seafood places, but you can feed a family there much more cheaply.
At all Red Robins, they’ll gather a big group of staff to clap and sing happy birthday loudly to a hapless birthday victim — funny to do to a teen. They get free ice cream as their reward for putting up with it. You don’t have to show proof of birthday — hint,hint! Have your camera ready, and be sure to do it at a dinner when they have friends along.
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