Updated: 15th March 2011: This restaurant is closed and it has been replaced by Xu’s Wonton House.
I sometimes go to the food court in the Crystal Mall for lunch during the week days — particularly on days that I really don’t know what to eat. With quite a few restaurants and a well represented food court, it is no wonder that this Asian mall is always packed at all hours of the day.
Tell me, what is the one commonality of a successful Asian mall? It is always the food. Any self respecting Asian mall must have great food outlets. All other businesses are just the supporting cast.
The food court in Crystal Mall serves almost exclusively Asian fare, mostly Chinese.
I believe the biggest draw factor to this food court is the price. It is here that you could get a good and filling lunch for just $5. I can’t think of another place which offers so much variety at these low ball prices.
The food court is located on the second floor. Underneath it is an open market where you could get fresh fruits at really cheap prices. See the stall on the right? That is a popular Chinese BBQ stall which I sometimes get roast pork to go.
There must be almost 30 stalls here in the food court. It is often chaotic. Despite the masses of humanity here, it is surprisingly not too difficult to get a table. It is because the tables gets opened up quite fast. It could get testy if you are not used to the crowds here.
The stall that I headed to was the one located at the furthest end of the food court. It is called Wang’s Shanghai Cuisine.
I was there for their Xiao Long Bao which had just won Silver in the Food Court Category of the 2010 Chinese Restaurant Award.
This stall has got to be the one which has the most number of staff in the entire food court. I counted at least eight people working non-stop.
This is because making xiao long bao is a manual, time-consuming affair. It has to be made fresh because it has a very short shelf life.
You can see them pleating the xiao long baos with such consistency and speed. Despite all the labour involved in making this, it is interesting that it is still so cheap.
There is a 15 minutes wait time in this stall. You actually see your xiao long bao being made in front and then passed to the kitchen for steaming.
Here it is — the Xiao Long Bao from Wang’s.
You know, I was kind of surprised that the XLB from Wang’s are mentioned in the CRA 2010 because I had better ones before. I think it is because … Wang’s won a prize in the food court category and not the northern dim sum category.
Here is what I, an amateur, have to say about this XLB.
Firstly, Wang’s XLB does not look good. While the skin is sufficiently thin, I had seen thinner ones … ones that are bordering on being translucent. The skin has to be so thin that when picked up it will forms a small bag of soup like this one which is so thin that it had to be served on saucers.
The shape of the XLB is not impressive. I had seen better looking ones (like these ones from Shanghai Village). I just can’t get over why Shanghai Village’s XLB has a hole in the middle. I also saw that same hole-on-the-top characteristic in the XLB from the Top Shanghai Restaurant and Suhang Restaurant in Richmond.
I read somewhere (can’t remember where now) that XLBs has to have a standard 13 pleats. LOL! I don’t think there is any truth in it but one thing for sure … the top of the XLB has to be thin and not a lumpy dough.
Wang’s XLB costs $3.75 (I think) for five pieces. I noticed that they don’t use paper to line the bamboo basket. Instead it is some reed tied up used as lining. It does look more traditional.
The problem is that the XLB gets stuck on the reeds quite easily that it tore one of our XLBs.
One thing I got to hand to them … it is made fresh and steaming hot. This is important because it is the rich tasting broth that makes and breaks the XLB.
For those who are not familiar with XLBs, the soup in the dumpling came from the gelatin melted in the steaming process.
Although XLBs is Wang’s Shanghai Cuisine specialty, they also have other Shanghainese choices on their menu.
I like their beef roll ($3.75) which has sweetish hoisin sauce and green onion slices. The beef has a firm texture, almost like dried beef (yoke korn).
If you never been to Crystal Mall before, I gotta warn you about their underground parking though. It is difficult to navigate and narrow.
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LOL, Ben, it’s funny that you mention the parking lot too! I hate that parking lot! But Wang’s is pretty good for the price.
I like to buy dvd’s from the booths in the parking lot.
Hi Chretien: Are they bootleg DVDs? I had never noticed any such booths in the parking lot. How do you find them? Ben
Ben said: “I believe the biggest draw factor to this food court is the price. It is here that you could get a good and filling lunch for just $5. I can’t think of another place which offers so much variety at these low ball prices.”
Actually IMHO Richmond Public Market’s prices are generally lower, but of course it depends on what you eat.
Xtal underground parking …. bane of my existence ! If you can, go to P2, 3, 4 to avoid the endless circling on P1. Or best yet, park at the library underground (free) parkade, or at the Save-On-Foods parkade, both across the street from Xtal, then walk over.
I actually meant to say that it offers more variety at these low prices, not that the Crystal Mall food court prices are lower. Anyway, it took me a while before I realize that Xtal is your shorthand for Crystal. I thought that was a typo on your part. LOL!
And the food court prices at President’s Plaza south of Yaohan Centre has low low prices.
Sherman said: “LOL, Ben, it’s funny that you mention the parking lot too! I hate that parking lot! ”
But Sherman, it’s ……… free 😉
i don’t believe that there is any standard to the pleats, Din Tai Fung (pretty much the global standard) claims to have 21 pleats. in my opinion, the hole in the middle is most likely the way the person wrapped the dumpling, no real difference, just an open hole versus closed hole
also, XLB should never be served in a saucer, it should be thin, but if it is made too thin that it breaks easily then it’s considered poorly made.
Yes, the parking lot is a pain and worse off now that they put in those blocks to keep cars going in one direction. Wondering why?? Must be the traffic….I find the XLB at Suhang pretty good and the Taiwanese XLB at Dinesty in Richmond not bad too!
Two pleats are enough for me:
LotusRapper: Please do not hijack this thread! That was funny … I was curious to find out how a XLB with TWO pleats looked like. LOL! Ben
i like how you put this here among all the food comments,lol:P
Coincidentally, I just finished watching the Glutton for Punishment episode where Bob Blumer competes in the XLB championship at the Richmond Night Market. The XLB chef (who also won) at Lin’s has 24 pleats in her bao.
Ben, this has to be my favorite place for XLB, beef roll and drunken chicken. When Ed and I ate there for my first time we had roughly $40 worth between the two of us!
OMG … how can anyone spend $40 in a food court just for two people? I did not know they have drunken chicken. Guess where I am going for lunch tomorrow.
Ha, I was at Xtal for lunch today. Had the braised beef on rice from Favour Eat (next door to Wang’s). Not bad, but not enough to shout about. Their noodles are obviously better.
*Almost* had XLB from Wang’s. But I was kind of pressed for time and didn’t like the wait.
Can’t make it there for the rest of this week.
XLB makers look for ways to avoid forming a big clump of dough at the pleat. It is the first thing that hardens and gets chewy as it cools. The circular pleating attempts to mitigate the amount of dough that is pinched together at the top. (It also creates a vent). Chen’s in Richmond (amongst others) does a circle pleat. Most places simply gather and pinch.
I haven’t seen the skin at Wang’s as bad as what you are showing in your pics. Wang’s filling more than makes up for its non-exemplary skin, IMO. Nice and gingery – light ball, flavourful broth. I still rate it amongst the top XLB in town. I also found the reed mats to be quite non-stick (eg compared even with the die-cut parchment paper). It is common in some places (eg in SF and LA) to use cabbage leaves. I hate the flavour it imparts.
I was never a fan of Popular’s XLB – I found the saucer inhibited the steaming of the dough at the bottom. I could have been unlucky each time I have had it, but the dish was always full of water from the steamer and the dough was undercooked where it touched the dish.
I love reading your take on Wang’s XLB, fmed. Described like a true expert! Ben
great job fmed. have to agree with him. that is pretty accurate. their’s is a well balanced flavor meat and gelatinised broth. but the skin could be improved.
chan’s does have the vent as well. chan does have better dough but wangs is more flavorful. both good choices and well as lin’s which is the priciest of the three.
Some places vent their crab roe version so a bit of the orange liquid/roe oozes out the top. And some places put some roe in the vent hole.
Speaking of that crab roe + vent style: http://i937.photobucket.com/albums/ad215/jiaoqu/DSCF0044.jpg
And I asked about Chen’s and Wang’s because they have the same name, 白玉兰/白玉蘭, and similar signs, even. Thought there might be some connection.
Humina humina.. nothing beats fresh XLB! My favourite places for XLB are still Chen’s Shanghai and Northern Dynasty. Both in Richmond 🙂
been to ND, but cant remember the XLB’s. only had one dumpling. will have to get back and try it again.
So… is Wang’s in Crystal Mall a branch of Chen’s in Richmond?
No they are not related AFAIK.
Waitaminit, I thought the two are of the same:
What’s the third character in Wang’s Chinese name ? I know Chen’s is “Bai Yu Lan”, but I have trouble with simplified characters and the third one in Wang’s looks like lamb (yang) with the center down stroke missing.
And the colors of the two signs …. too much of a coincidence, no ?
That’s what I’m sayin’. 白玉兰 = 白玉蘭 (the simplified 兰 is a mere 5 strokes, while the traditional form, 蘭, requires 20– how’s that for simplification?).
I guess with the Cultural Revolution, the academics didn’t need to remember all those strokes if they were “re-assigned” to work in the paddies …….
The two are not related.
Though the Chinese name is the same (with exception of the third letter being either simplified or traditional)…they are completely different owners.
Years ago, Chen’s 白玉蘭 bought the stall from the owners of the current Northern Meixi and started their xiaolongbao business. They then sold their business to one couple who later sold the same stall to the current owners…the latter two owners all kept the same Chinese name but changed the English name…most recent change was Wang’s 白玉兰…
IIRC – there is also a connection to the owners of the Temple of Shanghai (Main St) in that chain of ownership. The current owners of Northern Meixi used to be the operators at Temple of Shanghai…or something like that.
And there is also a number of connections with Lin’s and then with The Place….and perhaps Gold Great Wall.
Someone should do an XLB Family Tree…LOL.
LOL! Good idea! 604 XLB family tree!
Yups! From what I heard from the owners of Northern Meixi, when they sold their original corner stall to Chen’s…they opened a restaurant on Main (where Temple of Shanghai is)…but business were not good so they sold it and returned to Crystal Mall…
XLB family tree …. LOL
Since I work at Metrotowers, I’ve been a regular of Crystal Mall food court for many years now. I concur with Fmed and Buddha Girl. The current Northern Meixi couple many years ago had their stall where Wang’s is now. Then they moved to Temple of Shanghai (don’t recall what the name was at the time). But business was slow, so they sold it and moved back to Crystal but to the stall where they are now, as by that time Wang’s was already in its current place.
The chef at Lin used to work at The Place.
BTW, I peeked into The Place in August when I was running errands in Marpole (actually scouting Red Star for the 8GTCC dinner). They totally made-over their interior. As far as I can tell the same proprietor. I didn’t have the chance to sit in and eat, but the place was packed on a weeknight. Anyone have recent experience at The Place ?
Hi Buddha Girl: I am trying to follow your version which is interesting. As far as I know Chen’s started off operating in the same location as the current Shanghai JJ restaurant on No 3 Road. I remember dining there more than 10 years ago where they were just a small humble restaurant. I thought at that time they were already making XLBs on their own. So you said that they bought a stall from Northern Meixi to learn how to make XLB? Interesting thread. Tell us more! Ben
I don’t think Chen’s learned their XLB from the current Northern Meixi owners, but I do know they bought the stall from them a lot of years ago…
Chen’s only at its current location for about 5 years (they moved from it’s old location near Hazelbridge after I started dating Buddha Boy)…so timing is about right when you say 10 years…but I am quite certain that they started in Crystal Mall since I ate there often when I used to work in the mall…but before that…I have no idea…
If I ever visit Chen’s again…I will ask the owner lady…but I don’t really enjoy this place…maybe I will ask the owners at Northern Meixi…
Hi Buddha Girl: I am very certain that Chen’s first restaurant location is on No 3 Road’s where it is now JJ. We eat there often about 10 years ago and the lady owner knows our family. They were such a hole-in-the-wall then. The lady owner was dressed very simply. We were glad to see them opening a bigger, more proper restaurant in the existing location. She is dresses very nicely these days … and does well as a host. It was like a rags to riches story for them. Ben
Hey Ben…to satisfy both of our curiosity…I called and confirmed…hahah!
Chen originally started in Crystal Mall about 15 years ago, then approximately 12 years ago they sold their stall at Crystal and opened their first restaurant near No.3 Road.
Wang’s has the same Chinese name but is NOT affiliated with Chen’s in any way.
LOL! My VERY Chinese side…just call and “ba-gua”…hahah!
Thanks for doing all the checking Buddha Girl. So, I gather then that the evolution of Chen’s is:
1995 – Opened a stall in Crystal Mall, Burnaby
1998 – Moved and opened a restaurant on No 3 Road, Richmond
2003 – Moved to a location near Hazelbridge, Richmond
2005 – Moved to the existing location on Park Road, Richmond
Hi Buddha Girl: Although I had read of the name Northern Meixi mentioned many times before, I never knew which stall it is in the Crystal Mall FC. When I am in the CMFC, I would just go direct to the stall I am familiar with. Do you know them? Can you tell me more about that stall? What is the specialty and must order dish? I guess from the discussion they are Shanghainese. Ben
Hey Ben! It is right by the walkway from the food court to the elevator (on your right if you’re walking towards the elevator).
I believe the owners of Northern Meixi were from Shangdong. I don’t know them personally…I guess they always remembered me since I was one of their first and long-time customers (when they first opened at the old stall)…LOL!
I agree with LotusRapper, if you are tight with time…don’t order from this place since they do take a little longer. I usually go for their noodles.
We should do a quick lunch meet at Crystal…lol! Since it seems like quite a number of people works around there…
Hi Buddha Girl: Oh? Do you work near Crystal Mall? If so, we MUST meet up for lunch. Just tell me when. I’ll rely on you to show me Northern Meixi. 🙂 Ben
I’m at Metrotown 😀
BEN: Not really, but I am in the area often! I can let you know in advance when I will be nearby so we can plan something. Hahaha…sounds like we’re setting up a “DATE”…LOL!
LotusRapper: Counting you in our “DATE”!!! LOL!!!
Northern Meixi is in a stall near the escalator. It is behind you as you are climbing up. I really like their handpulled noodles. They also serve some nice Shandong style dumplings.
Running out of “reply” levels …..
Ben, when you go up the escalator, turn 180-deg and you’ll see Fung May (pink neon sign). The stall to its left is Northern Meixi. Their name isn’t too obvious.
I like their regular “water dumplings” (boiled), GOP (green onion pancake) although I always ask for more salt and green onion (woman makes them by hand by order ….. so be patient) and sometimes the chives box.
But I tend not to go to Northern Meixi if I’m pressed for time as they do take their long sweet time.
He he he … running out of “reply” levels … I can do unlimited reply levels but I think the folks who did the wordpress template just limit it so that it does not get too deep and end up squishing the comments at the lower levels. Maybe I’ll tweak the comments template to add a few more comments level just to make LotusRapper happy. LOL! Ben
OK, here you go LotusRapper. The fix was easier than I thought. I had increased the comments level from 5 to 8. I think this is about all I can do without the comment column getting too squished and unreadable. This is level #7
Testing. Please ignore. This is level #8
Scotty, we need to hit Level #9 !
Here’s Crystal’s food court link:
I’ve run out of “replies” to the XLB family tree sub-thread…
I forgot one more connection the original Ba Guo Bu Yi “Szechuan” was located on the same strip mall as Chen’s used to be where the folks who used to run Lin’s operated. They ran Ba Guo Bu Yi, then moved to The Place…then to Lin’s.
No recent experience at the Place, as I live on the other side of town. I’ve been meaning to go back as they have one of the best dan dan mian I’ve had here. (They use a dark sesame paste base – nice and complex).
To further the history of Lin’s…the XLB chef at Lin’s (who ran The Place) was the chef at Ba Guo Bu Yi…then some family matters broke up the restaurant and she went back to Shanghai for a while (a year, I think). She then came back to Vancouver and opened The Place….then the rest is history.
Ben: I used to have to wash the chopsticks in the tea cups cuz the place was not the cleanest…hahahah!
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All this talk about XLB and family tree’s is making me hungry and miss my family. 😀
i think ben and fmed summarized the xlb lineage very well.
the place wasnt all that great last i was there over a year ago. but if they got good DDM, i’ll be interested in a mini chowdown.
wang’s has my vote for best and most consistent xlb’s.