[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Braised Lobster and Taro Noodle Hotpot 龍蝦芋絲煲 and Baked Live Pink Scallops 葡汁焗游水帶子 from Ken’s Chinese Restaurant on Kingsway, Vancouver

It took us TWO trips before we got to try the CRA award winning dishes from Ken’s Chinese Restaurant.

We thought we got our bases covered. Since it was a long drive from Richmond to Ken’s and there are THREE award winning dishes we wanted to try, we called ahead for reservation and asked if they serve the specific THREE dishes we were looking for.

Reservation, check.

The THREE dishes?

“Yeah, yeah, we have it”, they said over the phone.

So we made the long drive there with the boys complaining over and over again why we had to drive all the way across the bridge for “something to blog about”. LOL! When we arrived at the restaurant, the table was reserved for us. We did not even look at the menu and this time we even brought along the Chinese language list so that there is no misunderstanding of what we wanted.

You know what is the problem with many Chinese restaurants? They are so impatient with your questions over the phone that they will just say what you want to hear without checking. Well … it was when we were already served tea and all that they said they ran out of Pink Scallop!

We were NOT going to eat if they only had two of three dishes. I complained to the captain that I called ahead already and was told that they have it and that we came all the way from Richmond. Unhappy was I was, I must say that the captain handled the situation pretty well. He told me that if I come again he will guarantee that the pink scallops will be available, even if we want to come back a few hours.

We said we rather come back the next day, same time.

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So we went back on Sunday. And true enough, this time the captain was expecting us. LOL! The first thing he said to us was “the scallop came in at 2PM yesterday” and that he made sure he reserve four for us as promised.

That wasn’t so hard, isn’t it? I always have respect for people like that who immediately fixes things that went wrong — and not be defensive. Things will go wrong once in a while but it is the manner one goes about fixing mistakes that makes the difference.

Ken’s Chinese Restaurant calls themselves a Hong Kong Style Cafe. I felt that they deserve a better description than that because this is one restaurant that had consistently won awards after awards with dishes that are not typical of HK Style Cafes.

Ken’s Chinese Restaurant is located on Kingsway in Vancouver, somewhere between Knight and Fraser.

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Oh I did mention that Ken’s won three CRA awards. They won:

  • Winner in the Crab category in 2009
  • Gold in the Clams, Oyster and Scallop category in 2010
  • Silver in the Crab and Lobster category in 2010

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Above are some of the pages of their menu. It was a lot of pages and so I just took pages of their set, combo and specialty sections.

Chinese Restaurant Award 2010 ♦ SILVER in the CRAB AND LOBSTER Category ♦ Braised Lobster and Taro Noodle Hotpot 龍蝦芋絲煲
Chinese Restaurant Award 2010 ♦ SILVER in the CRAB AND LOBSTER Category ♦ Braised Lobster and Taro Noodle Hotpot 龍蝦芋絲煲

When I saw the word lobster on the name of this dish, I was expecting the worst. It wasn’t so bad and it did not burn a hole in the pocket. The Braised Lobster and Taro Noodle Hotpot costs … $18.30.  The serving was good enough for two people. Maybe 2.35 people. Something like that.

It was served in a sizzling hot pot which stirs up a bit of an aroma. Makes us want to just dive in immediately … except that the rice was not there yet.

Ken’s Chinese Restaurant is another of those super busy restaurant. You really got to hunt the waitress down to get what you want. For us, the captain was paying us a lot of attention because of the issue the previous day and so all we had to do is to flag him down and it is “kau tim”.

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The lobster was already nicely pre-cracked. So we did not have to fumble with crackers and such. Getting to the meat was easy.

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The lobster was braised with ginger, green onions and onions. It is the juice, the gravy or whatever you call it that scores for us. It was just lovely with rice. You know, I could eat this without the lobster and yet I would be happy.

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We like the bundled up vermicelli which Suanne thought must be what is called the  Taro Noodle. It has a springy texture and is easy to eat.

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Chinese Restaurant Award 2009 ♦ WINNER in the CRAB Category ♦ Golden Dungeness Crab

The Golden Dungeness Crab was last year’s winning crab dish. What a beauty, isn’t it?

We had the same crab dish in Suhang in Richmond. This one is better than Suhang’s — they are moist’er, gold’er and overall nicer.

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This is $11 per pound. We had about 2.5 lbs.

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The good — it is coated with rich salted egg yolk.

The bad — the meat sticks too much to the shell. Does it mean that the crab is not fresh if the flesh sticks to the shell?

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While we were eating, the Big Guy Ken came out to help in the dining area. He was cleaning tables! I know because the captain introduced Ken to us saying that for this dungeness crab dish, only Ken will personally cook it himself. Only the master chef, no one else. I don’t know if the captain is talking big or not but I will take it at its face value.

Hey, you guys have not answered my question yesterday (about the crab in Ningtu) … is the thingy in the middle the roe? Or what do you call it? If it is the roe, how do we always end up with a girl crab, not a boy crab. One more question — how to you tell a girl crab from a boy crab anyway?

Anyway, according to Chinese tradition, this nicest part of the crab are to be left to the eldest at the table (ME!) but our boys are no respecter of Chinese traditions.

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They serve lemon TEA with the crab, not lemon water … oh never mind! You know what I was about to say.

Chinese Restaurant Award 2010 ♦ GOLD in the CLAMS, OYSTER AND SCALLOP Category ♦ Baked Live Pink Scallops 葡汁焗游水帶子
Chinese Restaurant Award 2010 ♦ GOLD in the CLAMS, OYSTER AND SCALLOP Category ♦ Baked Live Pink Scallops 葡汁焗游水帶子

This is what we missed the day earlier, the Baked Live Pink Scallops.

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Not cheap. This is $5.50 each. The price changes depending on the size of the scallop of the day.

My advice for you is to call ahead to make sure they have it before you turn up. The captain said that they sell this out fast and they don’t keep this live scallops for long. Good scallop need to be fresh, really fresh.

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The sauce is called Portuguese Sauce. It has a mild curry flavour, cheesy and is really rich.

We don’t have that fine tastes, so this dish is kind of lost on us. The sauce was fantastic but the scallop was so-so.

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Sigh. It’s our boys who wanted this. The Malaysian Style Fried Rice is $9.50.

So I asked them if they are good. Actually I don’t even have to ask them because they will ALWAYS says it’s good. To them all fried rice is good.

This fried rice is a bit spicy with some pungent belacan (shrimp paste) flavour. I think it was too greasy.

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Other than the scallop which was kind of overpriced for someone like us who doesn’t appreciate scallops, the prices were fine.

We like Ken’s. This is one fine Chinese restaurant and the HK Style Cafe description doesn’t do justice to what Ken is capable of.

See the note at the bottom of the receipt? Yes, we will. We will come again.

Ken's Chinese Restaurant 南軒中西美食 on Urbanspoon

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  1. Eric

    Ken’s Restaurant used to be at another location, and the old location has the Golden Dungeness Crab too. It is very good, but too expensive for an university student. Their chicken is good too. The skin is so yellow, I think they dyed it.

    1. LotusRapper

      Ken’s Restaurant used to be at the NE corner of Main & 12 Ave, beside the Chevron station. We used to go there as a more comfy option than Kwongchow or Congee Noodle House.. They had good set dinners.

      The new location I’ve only been to once about a month ago. They are a lot busier than they used to be now and the new space feels cramped and not as comfy. But the food was still good.

  2. Doug

    I love there golden crab! My mouth starts watering when I think about the simple, and yet unique flavor of the crab.

  3. Crispy Lechon

    Ben, the thingie inside the crab shell is not the roe. It’s just crab fat. Crab roe is actually found outside the crab. Its usually underneath the flap in the middle of the crab underside. Here in North America we are only allowed to catch male crabs. I guess that saves the female to produce more crab babies. To identify the female from male crabs, the flap of a female crab is usually wider to hold the eggs.

    Here is a picture of male and female crabs for comparison. The female crab is on the right.

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3162/2632570873_feaab4c966.jpg

  4. Crispy Lechon

    Hmmm, looks like they forgot to charge you for fried rice.

    1. Ben

      Oh yeah. Sweet! I didn’t catch that.

      1. Crispy Lechon

        That covers the gas to come back the second time after being told they have the scallops. Now you’re even. 🙂

  5. fmed

    The green stuff in the crab is called the “tomalley” which is a liver-like organ. The yellow stuff is fat.

    1. Ben

      I knew of all people, YOU would know, fmed! 🙂

    2. Yummy Vancouver

      I think that all of it should be the tomalley, which is the hepatopancreas. It’s a digestive gland that lobsters, shrimp, and crab have that has similar functions to our liver and pancreas. Because of this, sometimes people advise against eating it (too bad it’s so tasty!) since the hepatopancreas is rich in any toxins or pollutants that may be found.

      The gland is rich in fat, so calling it fat is not too far off.

      Here’s a picture of the uncooked hepatopancreas: http://www.ecoinfo.ec.gc.ca/env_ind/region/dioxinfuran/images/crabhepato_e.jpg

      “The Dungeness crab is a good environmental indicator of toxic contaminants because it bioaccumulates contaminants in its tissue especially from the consumption of food containing the contaminants. It stores these contaminants in the fat-rich digestive gland (hepatopancreas). It bioconcentrates contaminants at a higher level than finfish and many other shellfish (e.g. shrimp), partly because of its relatively sedentary nature and because it favours sandy substrates where contaminated sediments often accumulate. The Dungeness crab is also a useful indicator species due to its importance to commercial, recreational and First Nations harvests.”

      Here is an interesting read about local toxins: http://www.ecoinfo.ec.gc.ca/env_ind/region/dioxinfuran/dioxin_e.cfm

    1. Ben

      You got a keen eye, Crispy Lechon! From Mia’s article, it said that the last sharkfin meal served was in March, 3 months ago. The menu I took pictures of are not new and I think they have not gotten down to reprinting it or correcting it.

  6. Hana

    Been following your blog since preparing for our trip to YVR. Your tasting of the golden crab is perfect timing; arriving in 2 days from SF. Will definitely call to reserve our crab!

    1. Ben

      Hi Hana: Mind sharing your gastronomic itinerary of your YVR trip? Throw it out there and let Friends of Chowtimes fine tune it for you … or confuse you! 🙂 Ben

  7. Doug

    Ken Chinese restaurant was also mention on CTV news, as one of the most clean restaurant in Vancouver.

    1. Ben

      Hi Doug:

      I am surprised. Here is the video to share with everyone: http://bit.ly/bHpdO3
      The captain who served us was the one they interview on the CTV news.
      Thanks for sharing.

      Ben

  8. Ben, was the salted egg yolk coating on the crab kind of sweet-ish? I remember I ordered a salted egg yolk thing (maybe on prawns) at Suhang and the coating was kind of sweet-ish. It wasn’t that popular among my family members.

    1. fmed

      IIRC, it is slightly sweet but mostly salty.

      1. Salty and definitely salted egg in flavour. The Suhang salted-egg coating was definitely an aberration then with its weird sweetish flavour — I didn’t like it myself — but this Ken’s one I liked. Must have had half a crab and more by myself (on top of other dishes of course).

  9. Mare-bear

    mmmm that crab looks good. One of my biggest pet peeves is just what you experienced….restaurants running out of a dish. It reminds me of a mcdonalds by my parents’ house (by the Edmonton football and hockey stadium) that ran out of fries and Coke……bad news….Anyway a good crab is a good crab!! At least it worked out in the end!

  10. Yummy Vancouver

    Not too sure about the crab meat sticking to the shell… It does tend to happen sometimes with dungeness crabs I find. I figure it could be a number of reasons…cooking time, temperature, method.. or like you said related to freshness.

    I do know that the shells get weaker (and the meat spongey/gray) the longer crabs are in captivity because they enter a kind of starvation mode.

    1. I don’t know if it’s the same with crab but, with shrimps and prawns, the longer they have been dead, the more mushy and sticking to the shell its flesh gets. It happened a couple of times with live spot prawns that I bought them and didn’t get a chance to cook them until the next day. I forgot to make their stay comfortable in the fridge, leaving them in the bag (I know, I know, bad!). Many of them died: it was hard peeling them off their shells after being cooked because the flesh stuck to the shells. And the flesh was mushy. I learned my lesson after that.

  11. Susan Lee

    RIPOFF! Not Again! We have tried today’s daily special “Steamed Garlic Crab with Fried Rice”, it cost us $29.80 + HST Tax. We were told that the crab is big and weight is 2.5lbs. However, the crab came in small size and about 1lb only. The garlic wasn’t fresh, the service was extremely poor and slow.

    1. Not to defend the restaurant, but usually when crabs or lobsters are sold at a fixed price, they will be pretty small and most likely 2 pounds or under. We had the lobster hotpot at this restaurant and they were priced at $19.80. As expected, the lobster was not big and under 2 lbs, maybe a pound.

      In terms of pricing, I would consider the price of the crab with fried rice dish a fair price (crabs $8-$10 per pound), with the ingredient costs coming at 30%-40% of the price.

      1. BBSusan Lee

        Yes, I agreed with you eatingclubvancouver_js, but the manager kept saying that the crab is 2.5LBS, then that’s a different story.

        1. Not arguing with you, Susan, but without actually weighing the crabs before they went into the wok, I can’t tell who’s right or who’s wrong. It’s possible that the manager exaggerated or approximated too high up, but it’s also possible that upon sight of the cooked crab on the table, we might approximate too low.

          1. Ben

            Hi JS: This reminded me of the dinner we had in Sea Harbour when we had the prawns. They brought the prawns to show me and I thought it was quite decent sized ones but when it came out cooked. Many (most) of them were kind of small. Did you find that the case? Sometimes you never know … what they show you and what goes into the wok and comes out in the dish might not be the same thing. As for Susan’s complains, not being there I would give her the benefit of the doubt. When I were in Ken’s I did not have the sample problem/experience and we were quite satisfied. Ken’s is a reputable restaurant otherwise it would not have been so popular. There has to be some misunderstanding somewhere and the restaurant probably did not do a good job dealing with your complains and deal with the in the manner you expected, Susan. This, I put on the onus of the restaurant because it is their role to make sure you have a satisfying meal. Ben

          2. Jimmy L

            Hi Ben:
            It happened to me few times; what they show you is not what it comes out from the kitchen. They pick up the live prawns; crab or fish from the tank and the kitchen cook you the death one and put the live one back into the tank inside the kitchen or smaller one in your case. This happened too often in the restaurant business; we often talk about it privately among our friends but very seldom exposed them in the public column or other media. We as a consumer is too nice and always give them the benefit of the doubt because we were not in the kitchen to see it happened. If we do known what happened, often we take it too lightly, because it not that much involved. Unlike some unethical Doctors, once they exposed publicly in the paper, everybody know and take it very serious.

            How do you define “REPUTABLE”? The instance mentioned above can happened in a large or small restaurants, if it happen; it’s cheating and unethical and we should exposed them in a serious manner.

            There are too many restaurants in this city, and too many of them take short cut by cheating or other means in order to survive. Anytime if anybody complains about a restaurant, it’s a flag to indicate that eating place is questionable in many ways.

            The so call CRA ( Chinese Restaurants Association) supposedly a governing body for the restaurant business, but very few Chinese restaurants join the organization and if there is something happen, they don’t do nothing anyway.

          3. BBSusan Lee

            Dear readers, we had never complain to the restaurant at the beginning, just the manager came over and ask how’s the dinner, he said it’s o.k to say…we just said that it seems the crab is a big too small and the garlic is not refresh homemade, 1st he’s not agree with us, and later when we said most of our family members are running a restaurant and we do crabbing a lot, we can tell the size of the crab by it’s shell and the legs, the he immediately agree with us about the size and garlic. He agree that the garlic is left over from the “snow crab” season and it’s not freshly homemade/it’s bought from outside because it’s more economic. (at beginning, he said it was homemade and he saw the cook made them by a blender from the kitchen today). The funny thing is that the cashier (i guess she is the owner’s wife, immediately took away the shell only, however, over the whole dinner nobody came over to refill tea/water…) since my of most family members are running restaurants, we certainly notice that most restaurants are not honest to the weight of the seafood. of course we know that if the restaurant add a quarter on top the actually weight is reasonable, 2 quarter is fair, 3 quarter is normal, but 1 to 1.5 LB is bit rare.

      2. Jimmy L

        To: eatingclubvancouver

        —– “usually when crabs or lobsters are sold at a fixed price, they will be pretty small and most likely 2 pounds or under—– “ What do you mean by fixed price? The price of the crab may be fixed but the weight of the crab is flexible depends on the size, you can’t charged a 1 lb crab for 2 ½ lbs? Regardless of the ingredients, the price of the crab as clearly stated in the menu and their ad in the wall is $10.95 a lb. if they charge you 2 1/2lb for 1 lb crab, then why not 3lb or 4lb? It should not work that way; this is cheating and unethical in business.
        If they say $x per dish of x crab, then they can charge you the fixed amount of that dish and they also have the option to give you any size of the crab, because they didn’t specified the size of crab, in this case, they are selling you per dish of the crab not per lb of the crab.

        1. Means the price is based on the price of the dish total, e.g. the crab hotpot is $29. It doesn’t specify the size of the crab: they price it as the total dish. It’s not necessarily unethical: they are not charging you by the weight of the crab, they are charging you by the dish. Usually, for a fixed-price dish like that, the crab they’ll serve with it is going to be 2 lbs or less.

          An example of a dish: say they have “crab fried rice” and they price it as $19. They’re pricing the dish and not the crab. They’re not specifying how much crab is in the fried rice, but you can be sure it ain’t going to be 3 pounds of crab in there.

          This is different than ordering crabs per pound where they are pricing the crab and not the dish.

  12. Agreed, Ben. It’s quite possible that they’re both right: it was indeed 2.5 lbs when the crab went to get cooked and it was less than that when it was cooked. The easiest way to lose weight! 🙂

    1. Jimmy L

      REPLY TO: eatingclubvancouver

      You are absolutely wrong, you can tell how big the body shell (the top shell) and how big of the leg shell, it can estimate how much the crab weight. 2 ½ lb crab is almost a matured crab. The one they serve on my order is a like a baby crab, very small shell all around. The meat inside the shell may be shrinking a little if the crab is not fresh, but the shell never shrinks after it cooked. Usually when you order crab, they go to the tank pick up a crab (live) weight them (with water) and show it to you and tell how much it weight before handed over to the kitchen for cooking.
      The picture of the crab shown in the picture looks like a 2 ½ lb crab.

      1. LotusRapper

        Wow that’s pretty amazing you can estimate the weight of a crab merely by looking at pictures of it. This could spawn a fun game ………

  13. PinoyGourmet

    Any Seafood Cookbook will confirm that Steamed Shrimps and Crabs lose weight during cooking,Thats why the weight is calculated before cooking in many Seafood places

  14. Jimmy L

    Doug says: June 18, 2010 at 2:33 pm
    Ken Chinese restaurant was also mention on CTV news, as one of the most clean restaurant in Vancouver.
    REPLY TO – Doug: You (CTV news) must be kidding, when we were there, the washroom was very dirty, looks like haven’t been cleaned for long time, usually a good restaurant clean their washroom every hour or two. And inside the restaurant doesn’t look that clean either. Service is very poor and it’s almost non exist; waitress almost complete ignore us.
    Yummyvancouver

    Not too sure about the crab meat sticking to the shell… It does tend to happen sometimes with Dungeness crabs I find. I figure it could be a number of reasons…cooking time, temperature, method.. or like you said related to freshness.
    I do know that the shells get weaker (and the meat spongey/gray) the longer crabs are in captivity because they enter a kind of starvation mode

    eatingclubvancouver
    I do know that the shells get weaker (and the meat spongey/gray) the longer crabs don’t know if it’s the same with crab but, with shrimps and prawns, the longer they have been dead, the more mushy and sticking to the shell its flesh gets. It happened a couple of times with live spot prawns that I bought them and didn’t get a chance to cook them until the next day. I forgot to make their stay comfortable in the fridge, leaving them in the bag (I know, I know, bad!). Many of them died: it was hard peeling them off their shells after being cooked because the flesh stuck to the shells. And the flesh was mushy. I learned my lesson after that.
    REPLY TO –Yummyvancouver and Eatingclubvancouver: They served DEATH crab; when we placed the order for crab, they don’t even show us the crab before cook it. Fresh crab’s meat usually very firm after cooked and should come off the shell very easily; not stick to the shell, it happened to me, they don’t show you the crab if its alive as most of the Chiness restaurant when you order crab, they usually show you the crab before handed to the kitchen for cooking, but they charged for 2 ½ lbs and the crab looks like not more than 1 ½ lbs, it’s very small, not too much to eat, I order 2 1/2lb crab from other Chinese restaurant before, I know how big a 2 1/2lb crab looks like. SHELLs on crab and shrimp don’t shrink, only the meat itself. I have never seen a crab shell shrink after cooked.
    Susan Lee says: August 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm
    RIPOFF! Not Again! We have tried today’s daily special “Steamed Garlic Crab with Fried Rice”, it cost us $29.80 + HST Tax. We were told that the crab is big and weight is 2.5lbs. However, the crab came in small size and about 1lb only. The garlic wasn’t fresh, the service was extremely poor and slow.
    REPLY TO – Susan Lee; I agree with you 110%, they cheated. Very unethical, they properly serve the right crab and provide good service for someone like Ben or someone from the media business, but behind all that, they serve entirely different crab and serve. It’s very unethical and should be exposed.
    According to Ben’s receipt, it says 游水蟹, the crab should be alive and swimming. But they serve me DEATH crab. If it’s a live crab, why don’t they show it to me like all the other Chinese Restaurant before handed to the kitchen for cooking ?

    1. Jimmy L

      In view of the manner in which they conduct business, cheat and unethical, I will never cater that restaurant again. Furthermore, taste of that CRA award dish is questionable. How do the judges rated the dish should be reviewed

    2. Ben

      Hi JimmyL: For clarification, Ken’s did not know who we were, i.e. we did not identify ourselves as “media”. However, we had our camera there. They gave us good service because they made us return for the food they said they had the previous visit but other than that I don’t want anyone to think this is a pre-arranged visit. As a matter of fact, we had NOT made such visits as “media” for a long long time already … we had stopped accepting free meals and invites. Ben

      1. Jimmy L

        Sorry Ben, I don’t mean that, but smart operator like them, they properly can sense from the camera that you are some kind of media person, they will do the best to impress you for their benefit, and looks like this restaurant do a lot of self back-patting advertising. On the contrary, I never carry a camera; I just go to eat like an ordinary customer. I have completely independent view and opinion.

  15. freshcherry

    Live fresh SCALLOP is very hard to get if it is no in season! You are so lucky! I think that is the season you didn’t get when the frist time you were there!

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