Golden Swan: Will The Deep Fried Fish Cheek Fall Victim To The HST?

How bad a shape is the restaurant businesses really these days? I read about it in the news and heard about it on TV that many restaurants will be closing this winter. Word has it that it is because of the HST but I am not convinced that it is mainly due to that tax increase. I mean, an increase of 5% consumption tax to 12% is not insignificant but then I am not sure if this really make people spend less on dining out.

Anyway, Carol emailed us a link to the news reported on that one of the most successful dim sum restaurants will be packing it up in the next few weeks. Golden Swan had been around for a very long time and won several awards. The restaurant will change hands on January 17th and the reasons given by the current owner is because of the HST.

Update: Raymond informed me the following via Facebook: Actually, the newspaper have a amendment notice on the very next day saying the restaurant is ‘still’ profitable and the owner only selling it as for his retirement.

Oh, BTW, talking about Carol … she is the one who did the documentary on chowtimes and food blogging. There had been several scheduling changes but she informed that it is 99% going to be aired on Fairchild’s Timeline Magazine on Wednesday, January 5th.

I am going to record it on PVR and hope to be able to pull that out to the computer. Does anyone know how to do that?


The news stated that Golden Swan will be changing hands. I don’t know how much change this will mean. Will it just be a change of ownership with the crew mostly intact? Will the name of the restaurant change? Dunno but we’ll know soon enough.

The Golden Swan Restaurant is located on Victoria at 38th. You cannot miss this restaurant because it is huge and has this large red sign that spans the entire block.


This is what I meant when I said I am not sure if the HST has any impact on the restaurant business, particularly for Golden Swan. The restaurant was absolutely teeming with customers. While we did not have to wait long for a table when we got there at 11:00 AM but by the time we left at noon, there were almost 30 people waiting for a table. Some of them even had to stand outside the restaurant in the cold because there are no more room at the large waiting area.

Golden Swan has a large dining area. It has that bustling atmosphere of a Hong Kong dim sum restaurant — very noisy! It was so noisy that we can’t hear what the waitress was saying when we talked with them.


While they have push cart dim sum, it is rather limited. All of the specials are on the menu on the table. We ordered mostly from this 1-pager menu (left, above) and asking for what the neighboring tables were having.

Referring to the order we had (above, right), their prices are on a higher side. The normal dim sum items are as follows:

  • small – $3.20
  • medium – $3.75
  • large – $4.30
  • special – $5
  • supreme – $5.50


For some reason, we total missed the bigger menu which was lying on the table. We only realized it when we were done and they cleared the table. Gosh, how could we have missed that.


This one is very good. We got this from the white specials 1-page menu where everything on it is $5.50. This is called the …

Deep Fried Fish Fillet with Special Salt.


This looked more like smelt but we are not sure. Maybe it is, maybe it it not but whatever it is, it was great. The chili bits gives this a twist of spiciness.

Talking about smelt … you know the smelt that you normally see in food courts’ combo rice stalls? The smelt all have eggs in them. Where can you buy them fresh? The smelts that we found in Asian grocery stores do not have eggs in them. We want to buy those with eggs. Have you come across them somewhere before? Or has the combo rice stalls cornered the smelt with eggs supplies?


The best part of the dish is the crispy bits. They have lots of it left even after we are done with the fish fillet. The waitresses came by three times to take the plate away and we had to tell them we want to keep it for other dishes. LOL! These are not to be wasted. They are the best part of the dish.


We saw the other tables having hot pot rice which looked really good. We asked the waitress and they said that they have several types. We opted for the one with spareribs.

The broccoli was kind of out of place here but the spareribs and sausage adds a lot to the flavour. With this dish, we like to let this stand for a longer while so that it cooks a bit more and it gets a bit drier before we add the soy sauce. Otherwise, the soggy rice will absorb the soy sauce too much and make it soggier.


The precious crispy bits from the deep fried fillet fish goes very well with the hot pot rice! Nanzaro likes this the most, he ate this the most.


Also from the 1-page special menu was the Snake Meat Thick Soup ($5.50). I ordered this because it is exotic. I failed to get the boys to try this. They think it is gross eating snake but you can’t see any semblance of snake here. I even am not sure if they even have snake in this.

You know what this reminds me of? This seems like a poor man’s version of sharkfin soup to us. It has that similar consistency, texture and taste except that it has also a lightly herbal flavour.


I was trying to find out what snake soup is good for and came across the youtube video above. I thought some of you will find it interesting.


We got the Beef Tripe from the push carts. No good and nothing more to add.


But this one from the push cart is very good.


We will call this the deep fried shrimp tofu. We all love the taste and the texture. The shrimp was springy while the soft tofu that it sits on is, well, soft and silky.


The XO Sauce was a perfect compliment to the shrimp tofu. It was spicy enough but I must say that it is not the best we had. To us, the best is still the one from Western Lake.


We think we heard the waitress said that this is called the “Chiu Chow Fun Gor”. It was too noisy to hear her clearly. Arkensen refused to try this. He said it looked gross. Yeah, it wasn’t particularly good tasting too. I did not like the grainy stuff in this. Whatever we did not want, Suanne will finish it. She cannot stand wasted food.


The Prawn with Scallop was awesome — nice and springy. The scallop is quite big and it has a subtle clean taste. Thumbs up.


Arkensen loves the Egg Tart which has a nice flaky crust. He ate two out of the three while Suanne had the other one. Nanzaro and I did not even get to try it at all.


We were full and almost done when they wheel over the push cart and asked if we wanted the Fried Fish Cheek. They were irresistible. As full as we were already, we couldn’t let this go. Definitely not Suanne.

You know, if you ask me which is the best dish we had, it is this one.


There is not much meat in this. That is not the point of this dish. For this, you need to enjoy this with your fingers. It is about gnawing and scraping the meat and thin batter from the bones.

Awesome stuff. Highly recommended. The fish cheek is deep fried with a sweetish soy flavour.


This place is cash only. Although the individual dishes are not cheap (I define cheap as $2.50 dim sum), the total tab wasn’t that bad. It is just $50 for the four of us.

I like Golden Swan. After decades of growth from a more humble sized restaurant, Golden Swan is very much an institution of the Vancouver dim sum scene. It will be sad to see this change.

Golden Swan on Urbanspoon

Business Hour: 9 am to 10:30 pm; close from 3 pm to 5 pm.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. eatingclubvancouver_js

    I find that it’s costing me about 10% more, give or take a couple of percentage points, to eat out these days. Prior to the HST, the tax + tip portion of the bill came to approximately 20% (7% GST + 12%-15% tip) whereas now it’s closer to 30%. I usually add the tip as a percentage of the total bill (including the tax) — so what does that work out to now? Don’t really want to do the math this late at night! 😉

    It’s probably not the 5% that’s killing the restaurant industry but the hatred of the HST. People might have been so turned off by the tax that they are just cutting down on their spending. Instead of somebody going into a restaurant twice a week, maybe you’ll have them coming in once every 10 days or once in two weeks. I’m thinking that there are just fewer people eating out these days, hence the empty seats.

    Note: Although the days after Christmas, I’ve been to a few restaurants in Richmond and glad to see them filling up tables for lunch and dinner. Still not as busy as prior seasons though so I’m not surprised that a lot of restaurants are packing it in or changing hands.

    1. Ben

      Hi JS: Thinking about it now, perhaps the reason the restaurant was full might be because of it was the Christmas holidays when we visited Golden Swan when many people go out for breakfast/lunch. Ben

  2. Lily

    Hi Ben,
    Oh what sad news! Say it isn’t so! Is it confirmed? We were just there for dim sum on January 1st with the whole family for our first meal of 2011. Despite all the wannabees in East Vancouver, the Golden Swan is still considered the Grande Dame. It first opened in the 1980’s as a wonton restaurant. Very humble roots indeed! The restaurant only occupied one storefront, and the corner tenant was a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop. Over the years, Golden Swan expanded its menu as well as its physical space. They’ve never compromised its food quality, regularly renovated its premises, and maintained its more expensive (comparatively) dim sum prices when every restaurant was moving toward a standard $2.00 per plate/steamer trend in the 1990’s. This move kept them head and shoulder above their competitors, and gave them an elite status among the regular diners – new immigrants and long-time Chinese Canadians alike. My nephew Ryan, in particular, will miss their lotus seed paste steamed bun with egg yolk in the center. $3.75 for three! You won’t find this dim sum item easily. Believe me. We tried.

    1. Ben

      Hi Lily: The report about Golden Swan changing hands were not very detailed. It does say change hands and not close down … and it did mention a specific date when it will happen. So I am hoping that a lot of the restaurant (the food, the workers, etc) will remain the same. Ben

  3. grayelf

    Oh no, another of the cart places threatened! I hope they keep the wheeled vehicles under the new owner even if there are only a few…

  4. egirlwonder

    Are you sure it is cash only? I am quite certain I’ve paid with both debit and credit cards at Golden Swan in the past…

  5. Lissa

    My favourite dim sum place. I love their chilli sauce as it goes very well with most of the steamed dishes they have. I hope they only changed hands and everything remains the same. Most of the time when that happens, usually the new owner might “dilute” a lot of quality to save some money.

    We’ve paid with credit card here before so it’s not cash only.

    1. Ben

      Hi Lissa and eGirlWonder: You ladies could very well be correct and I was wrong with the “cash only” comment. Thanks for pointing this out. Ben

  6. Miranda

    I’ve only been there for dim sum once, but now I have a feeling I need to go back to try the fish cheek. Have you been there for dinner? My family particularly enjoys their seafood white curry in a squash bowl.

    1. Ben

      Hey Miranda: No, we had never been at Golden Swan for dinner before. Have you? How was it? That “white surry” dish sound interesting. What is “white curry” anyway? Ben

      1. Miranda

        I’ve been there a couple of times. To tell you the truth, I don’t really know what is white curry. Now that I’m thinking about it, I am beginning to doubt whether it is actually white curry or not. LOL. But I do know/remember it is served in a hollowed out squash and the flavour isn’t as potent.

        1. Ben

          Thanks Miranda. I suggest that the next time you go to Golden Swan, blog about the “white curry”. You see, I think people want to read about “dishes” more than they want to read about restaurants. For me, you would certainly capture my attention more if you blog about “white curry” than if you blog about “Golden Swan”. Hehehe … am encouraging you to write about it because I want you to be the guinea pig. 🙂 BTW, I love your blog name. What does Bubbleness mean? Care to share? Ben

          1. Miranda

            Good point Ben! Haha, hmmm, I have been wanting to go back to Golden Swan for a while now…
            Bubbleness is just a nickname that my BF gave me — I guess I can be quite a bubbly person 🙂

  7. Jean D.

    We sampled some of the dim sum and wished that we had tried all that you’ve recommended. I absolutely loved the Deep Fried Shrimp Tofu and could not get enough of it. As I recall I ordered this succulent dish 4 times. I figured I would never get another chance to enjoy this restaurant since we live here in Sacramento.

    I told my husband that if we decided to go venture out to Vancouver that we should take the plane instead of driving for 3 days in the truck.

    Thank you so much for sharing this blog. I truly enjoyed it. 🙂

  8. Raymond

    Ben, whats a good place for house special chow mein at a reasonable price?

Leave a Reply