I was so impressed.
For followers of chowtimes, you know I am bored with the regular dim sum fare. Har Gow, Siu Mai, Char Siu Bao and such just does not excite me at all. I love it when I go to dim sum restaurants and get myself simply bewildered by the menu.
The Empire Chinese Cuisine is one such restaurant. It is located at the western end of Alexander Road in Richmond and in its own grand building. You can never miss it.
This was the first time we ate there. Even though they have a large car park of their own, we had to wait a bit to get a spot. We were just surprised that for an exclusive use car park that size that it could be so full.
Walking into the restaurant, we are just confronted with tanks of Alaskan King Crab. Have you ever seen so many at one place? Not me.
Experts out there — I thought that the King Crab harvesting season is a short 1 month period in winter. Why does Empire still have so many up till now?
The Empire Chinese Cuisine had just won the award for the Best Cantonese Dim Sum award this year. I can see why. Reservation is recommended here for sure.
The dining hall is big and spread over two separate wings. As in any respectable Chinese restaurant, they have chandeliers on high ceiling. I don’t know why but I just can’t help but to look for chandeliers as a sign of a good Chinese restaurant. It is only a Chinese thing, I think.
The dining hall is like a market. Very loud and very busy. While this could be unsettling for a western customer, for me this is how it should be. LOL!
This restaurant is well staffed. The captains (and they are lots of them) are suited. You still got to flag them down most of the time but at least they don’t look at the floor or the ceiling all the time. Just don’t expect the “Wonderful morning, isn’t it? How are you all doing today? Good … good” type of service.
[vimeo 12576461 w=800 h=400]
The captains and waiters are on a mission. See the video I took above. See how serious they are in setting the tables. They were literally throwing the platings around and making such a din that I whipped out my oft forgotten Flip and took a shot of them at work. They sometimes do this in front of you. Just don’t take it personally that they don’t like you or something like that. Like I said, they are on a mission.
I would describe that service is abrupt and can be perceived as curt. They might not smile and so don’t take it personally. And despite how busy they are, you can be quite confident they don’t forget what you ask.
A few other quick observation. We like that they label the tea pot, I thought it’s a nice touch. The tea cups are served on a saucer and that is also a nice touch.
They even gave us double set of communal chopsticks too even though it was just Suanne and I eating there on that day. Most restaurants will give you one even for a larger table.
Suanne and I wanted so much to just try the specials but we are here for their award winning dim sum item. We will come back some other day for this for sure.
You order the dim sum from an order form … there are no push carts here.
Their dim sum ranges from $2.95 to $7.45. So, this is on the high side for dim sum. However, we don’t feel that it is too expensive given the quality and all.
Deep down, this is a very Chinese restaurant catering for a largely Chinese clientèle. Even though the captains speak English, we think it will not be easy for people who are not familiar with the food to order from this order form.
The CRA listed this simply as Deep Fried Seafood Dumpling but to Empire Chinese Cuisine, they call this the … Deep Fried Taro Dumpling with Assorted Seafood. Again we had to point to their award certificate on the wall to ask which item it is on the menu. I think the problem with the CRA’s list is that they list the award in Chinese and then do their own translation directly from the Chinese name of the dish. So, the names on the menu and the CRA list does not match and causes a bit of a confusion. Here is another recommendation for the CRA folks — to make the certificate larger and include a picture of the dishes too. That will surely catch the attention of diners better.
The Deep Fried Seafood Dumpling ($4.75) won silver. We love the simplicity of the presentation. A little red cherry and green cilantro in otherwise plain taro dumpling.
Mmmm … this whole thing is so soft and so brittle. We were surprised how they managed to keep it all so together because the moment we touched it, the coating just crumpled. Just look at the coating (or whatever you call that). It was not oily at all despite this being deep fried.
The taro is very soft. So soft it is custard like and creamy. It has a mild curry flavour. I can see why this won silver — this needs “kung fu” to make. It is the creaminess that make this stands out from the way the other restaurants make it. After all, this is quite a common dim sum item.
Of late we love shrimp. We had been looking for shrimp in the menu. The Spicy Cold Shrimp above is $6.45.
They are not very big. With the head and shell on, this is one you eat with your hands. Suanne was commenting that I had been eating a lot with my hands these days. I think she is right.
The shrimp sure tasted very fresh and the slight spiciness added a good twist to an otherwise sweetish shrimp.
Chicken feet is common but for Chicken Feet with Pepper Soup ($6.45) … now we are talking!
The rest of the world does not get eating chicken feet … and I think they never will. They say there is no meat but there is! You just got to work harder at it.
The soup was what we were looking for. It is milky and mildly peppery.
But it also quite salty too. So …
… we ordered an extra bowl of rice ($1.50) so that the soup/gravy does not go to waste.
Chinese Cheese? Know what that is?
I don’t think Chinese traditionally eat cheese. I think it’s in the genes that they can’t tolerate cheese. LOL! That is why milk is not often used as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine.
We ordered the dish above because of the name … Deep Fried Chicken Knuckle with Chinese Cheese ($6.45).
Lovely. The so-called Chinese Cheese is actualled fermented bean curd. It has a mild flavour and not overpowering.
It is basically meat and cartilage and eating this is very much an exploration of contrasting texture and flavour.
We also ordered the dish above because of the name … Seafood Salad on Papaya Boat ($6.45).
Very nice. It came with smoked salmon on the side. Served on a half Hawaiian papaya is a delightful combination of prawn, cantaloupe, honey dew and mayo.
It is served cold and very refreshing. The flavour profile is sweet. The sweetness came from the papaya and fruit while the smoked salmon and mayo gave that extra twist to an otherwise fruit platter. A nice combination of fruit and seafood.
The Chilled Pudding with Dragon Eye Fruit and Wolf Berries was $3.65.
We wanted to try the dessert that we saw on our neighbor’s table. So, we ordered this despite we were quite full already.
It does look pretty if I may say so. It is lightly sweet and had a distinct chrysanthemum flavour to it.
We had the “Chinese Cheese” to go.
The prices in Empire are on a high side. But it is worth every penny. I was quite impressed with the dim sum here. There are a lot more to explore on their menu. So, if you are bored with siu mai and har gow like me, I think this place is worth checking out.
To Hahna who wrote to me asking me to vet her culinary itinerary on her first visit to Vancouver, this is the restaurant I am talking about.
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If you look at this PDF: http://alaskaseafood.org/information/seasons/pages/downloads/harvest_chart.pdf
You’ll see that while the key harvest period is short, it does state that there are sporadic fishing periods throughout the year.
I guess that’s why it’s available out of season (and at a high premium) in Vancouver.
Hey Yummy Vancouver: Thanks for the PDF link. That chart is awesome. Ben
I am very upset at Empire for what I consider deceptive advertising practices.
A few weeks ago, we saw an ad in the Chinese newspapers for Empire advertising King Crab for $13/pound, which is incredible for this time of year. Other restaurants were advertising it for over $23/pound.
We called the restaurant to make reservations and asked them if the price was still $13/pound. They said yes. This was too good to be true!
And it was.
At the restaurant, as we were ordering, the waiter informed us that the $13/pound only applied to crabs UNDER 5 pounds. Anything over was $23/pound.
I was very upset, but since we were with family from Hong Kong who really wanted to have a King Crab feast, we went ahead and ordered a 9 pound crab. If we weren’t with them, I would have walked out.
What is their reasoning behind this? Yeah, you get us in the door by lying to us, but then you then lose us as a customer forever afterwards. Worse, we then tell those around us of how we were lied to. Is it really worth it? You end up with less business and a damaged reputation as a result.
I haven’t checked the latest papers to see if they are still advertising King Crab for $13/pound, but I would to warn you out there about their deceptive ads.
Hi Marvin: I did read your feedback on Dinehere.ca. I know I would be really upset given your experience and having spent $500 too. Ben
I believe you were a victim (likely amongst many others) of “the fine print”. Do you still have the newspaper ad ? I wonder if it has the fine print stating the $13/lb only applies to crabs < 5 lbs.
And if you didn't ask about that "restriction" specifically on the phone (simply because you didn't know about it) but rather just whether the crab price is $13/lb and they said "yes", they didn't exactly lie, they just didn't tell you the whole truth.
Apparently Wonton King is currently closed for renovations (according to Crispy Lechon in a different thread here). Last week we went to WK for mid-week dinner and got 2.5-lb crab at $9.99/lb.
Unfortunately, I no longer have the newspaper ad so I cannot verify the fine print. Not telling the whole truth is another way of trying to hide something.
I realize that I’m not the only one to have fallen victim to Empire’s tactics. If you read some other reviews in dinehere.ca, other diners have felt they have been given the “not the whole truth” treatment. One review is titled “Been Cheated”. Another review for its sister restaurant Empire Seafood is titled “Confusing Charges”
Before we ordered I noticed that quite a few large tables (approx. 10 people) had what looked like a really small king crab on their table, which I found strange since normally you wouldn’t order something so small for a table of that size. What may have happened was that they were expecting the $13 price for the large crab, but upon finding that the real price was $23/pound, decided to go for the smaller crab instead.
I just want my experience to serve as a warning to others. If it’s too good to be true, and you even take the care to ask, you can still get burned. They got my money this time. But not anymore, nor that of any of my family or friends.
If I’m not mistaken, Empire also won the best dimsum restaurant award in CRA 2010. Their dimsum sure looks good and quite unique. Used to be Sun Sui Wah serves the best dimsum in town but nowadays, there are so many dimsum places that are better than them.
BTW,I believe Empire offers 20% discount before 11 am.
Wu Gok is my personal favorite so changing out the pork filling for seafood should be excellent. I will have to give it a try. I’d rather pay a little extra and get something memorable. Too much dim sum is cheap and flavourless.
I can’t understand the fruit and mayo dish – yuck! I avoid it whenever it comes up at wedding banquets.
Anyways, are Wolf berries the same as Goji berries?
He he he … Since I can’t stand your answer, Ron, about fruit+mayo is yucky, I put up a poll and see how many people thinks it’s yucky too. The poll is embedded right below the picture of the fruit+mayo. Let’s see if you are wrong or you are wrong. LOL!
*gasps* Look at the poll results (5 to 1 thinks it’s yucky). How could the world be so wrong? Yes, truly the world had not been enlightened by the wonders of fruit+mayo. LOL! Ben
I don’t mind it at all. My granny adds fresh apple pieces to standard mayo sauced potato salad, it’s great!!
I agree about the Apple! Works well in pot salad..but on other fruit..and in such abundance? I don’t know about that.
Edit – Yes, they are the same – just checked on wikipedia.
The signature taro dumplings looks delicious! I didn’t know Empire Seafood opened up another bigger, swankier location on Alexandra Road.
Hi JS: I am not sure if Empire Seafood and Empire Chinese Cuisine are even related. What makes you say that? Ben
Hi Ben, they are the same ones since if you look at their dinner menus, they serve exactly the same set dinners.
Oh, I just assumed because they had the same name — and the dimsum menu looked familiar. Wait a minute, I’ll check.
Back. I checked the Chinese newspaper (I only read the restaurant ads LOL, 90% of which is unintelligible to me) and it seems that they only have one ad for Empire but two addresses, one in London Plaza and one on Alexandra Road. It seems that they’re running a 7.99/lb lobster special and a 15.80/lb King Crab special this week. I don’t know if it’s for both restaurants, because the ad for the King Crab is on the side of the Alexandra Road location and the ad for lobster is on the side of the London Plaza location.
Ahh … quite a sleuth you are, Jojo. Thanks for checking. Thanks Christine for confirming too.
Thanks, I always thought they were different as well. I can triple confirm with somebody else since I know somebody that works at the Seafood one.
Can We have a poll on Chicken feet with pepper soup?????Seriously I can take fruit with mayo but chicken feet soup is not my cup of tea,I would rather eat snake or lizard….
I am scared, PinoyGourmet. I am so scared that if I put in another poll, I might find out that I have weird tastes. 🙂 Ben
Been here many times. In the past, they used to operate one half of this restaurant as a Shanghai restaurant, and the other as standard dim-sum fare. But I think they just offer it as the latter now.
Nice to see empire seafood settle into this vacant space. It’s been vacant for many years. Used to be a semi popular late hk style cafe.
They did win a cra fir best dim sum last year.
I too like woo gok and this is certainly a nice dish with seafood instead of BBQ pork.
I believe the two empire resto are related. U can’t incorporate two name in the same industry with the same name, empire.
Besides Alaska, the king crab is also harvested in Russia. Though I understand the Alaskan KC are better tasting. There are certainly alot of KC that haven’t been harvested in different areas, due to accessibility issues, as they located under frozen water. The peak seaon just means lower prices in general.
We finished out 2010 with dim sum at Kirin on the 30th and then Empire on the 31 st. Both were good but I would rate Empire higher and slightly more expensive. Kirin is one of the few good Chinese restaurants in Coquitlam which is close to home. Empire in Richmond is a trek but it was worth it.
I had been looking forward to the seafood tarot but it is not on the menu currently. Instead they had tarot with duck that was tasty and nicely cooked.
We had sui Mai which was topped with aclarge scallop. One of the best I have had. The gai lan with mushrooms was tender but crisp just the way it should be.
Spareribs are always a gamble. They can be fatty and tasteless or delicious and meaty. The sauce makes all of the difference. The empire sauce is excellent. When our daughters were little they would eat anything if we dipped it in the sparerib sauce. They were dipping other stuff like donut wrapped in rice noodle to soak up the flavor. They ribs also had some squash in it and it absorbs all the tastes and was delicious.
One of my daughters is vegan so we find ourselves ordering different things. Generally I avoid the soya sauce noodle at dim sum but these had good seasoning and I had to restrain myself so Chris got her noodles.
Another thing we tried was sprimp stuffed tofu. Like everything else, good flavor, cooked so the texture is just right
Not one disappointment in the meal. We will definitely go back.
Hi Sedap Makan: Wow … It looks like you had been eating out a lot these days. Were you (like us!) eating out everyday during the Christmas break? LOL! I put on 2kg, no kidding, just the last 2 weeks. Gotta cut down on all the eating myself now that I’m back to normal routine. Ben