[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Hand Sliced Noodles with Xingiang Spicy Chicken 新疆大盤雞from Lucky Gate Chinese Restaurant 前門飯店 on Austin Ave, Coquitlam

You know, in the course of writing so many blog posts about restaurants I had been thinking that perhaps I need to rethink the focus of my writing. I was thinking that I should be dining out based on a particular DISH I wanted to try rather than a particular RESTAURANT.

These thoughts came about when I came across a new website called FoodSpotting. Foodspotting is food-centric quite unlike Urbanspoon which is restaurant-centric.

Also, you have seen a lot of “Best Restaurant of The Year” awards before. There are so many such lists from almost every newspapers, magazines and even some websites. There are so many that sometime you just don’t know which to follow.

CRA-2010-LogoHowever, there is one particular award that is very well thought out. While it is not perfect, it is a list I came to respect a lot. These are the awards handed out by the Chinese Restaurant Awards (I’ll abbreviate it to just CRA). What I like best about these awards is that it has two sets of awards.

The first set of awards is called the Diner’s Choice. The Diner’s Choice recognizes the best restaurants in the various categories. These are restaurants selected by the public, people like you and I. Most of the “Best Restaurant of The Year” awards are selected using this method. As you know these kind of awards are subject to manipulation in some ways. You can’t really weed out entirely attempts to pad numbers. A properly coordinated voting can propel a ho-hum restaurant right to the top. This kind of lists are a dime a dozen. I don’t really pay a lot of attention to them.

What I respected most of all is the CRA’s other set of awards. It is called the Critic’s Choice. With the Critic’s Choice, the focus of the award is to recognize the best DISHES in each category … and they are selected by a panel of expert foodies. While this list is not perfect (no list is ever perfect), at least this list is created by named individuals who are well respected in the industry.

There are 25 separate categories in the Critic’s Choice List with the best two dishes awarded Gold or Silver. So, in all, there are 50 separate dishes identified! (see list of dishes here).

And guess what … Suanne and I had been systematically visiting each restaurant and trying each dish listed on the Critic’s Choice for the past few weeks. So, here we go … this will be a long series stretching over a few weeks. We call this the “CRA 2010 Signature Dish” series.

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Our series started with a long trek to the far reaches of Coquitlam on Austin Avenue. I did not think it was that far. I mean, Coquitlam center is already quite a drive from Richmond but this restaurant is another few kilometers drive from North Road.

From the outside the restaurant is unremarkable. If not for the CRA Critic’s Choice list, I would have brushed this aside as one of those Chinese restaurants that gives out fortune cookies along with the bill.

The interior is just about an average sized restaurant. The decor (if you can even call it decor) is just as unremarkable as the outside. Maybe I should describe it as unpretentious. It is just a simple Chinese restaurant.

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At the back of the dining area is a glass enclosed area where you could see part of the kitchen at work. That has to be the master chef at work deftly slicing noodles from a block of dough in quick strokes. I guess he must be the master chef because our waitress checked with him when we asked for permission to take pictures of his menu. It is amazing to see him work. Their specialty is the hand sliced noodles.

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You may click on the menu above to enlarge it. The menu is impressive and has a vast array of dishes that will put it on par with any of the Chinese restaurant in Richmond and Vancouver.

As you can see, their prices are cheap. They are apparently a Northern Chinese cuisine restaurant.

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There were four of us in the family dining here. We ordered a cold dish appetizer to start off. Frankly, it is only off late that we learned to savour Chinese appetizers.

I need your opinion here and correct me if I am wrong. If I am correct, appetizers are not common in Chinese cuisine. These so-called appetizers are usually referred to as Cold Dish — dishes that they prepared up front and left to cool in room temperature. Most Chinese dishes are served warm or hot and will be cooked only when ordered. So, since these cold dishes are already pre-prepared, they are served first while waiting for the main dish to arrive. Am I making any sense? LOL!

Anyway, the plate of Smoked Fish above is $8. As you can see it is … Continue reading