Suanne and I met up with Novi and David for dinner. Novi has a blog. She doesn’t blog about food but I had been following her series on her month long vacation China. There are many travel blogs out there but for some reason I can just relate to her stories.
Novi’s blog is creatively called Novi On The Go. She doesn’t always blog about travel. Instead it is more of a blog of her creative projects. Every Thursday, she will blog about her trip.
If there is one place we want to visit this summer, it would be a trip to China. We are not sure if that is even going to happen because the boys doesn’t want to go to China. They want to go to Europe because they say they can’t speak Chinees. We are just trying to figure out what to do this summer. We did not go anywhere last year and so this year we are going to make it happen!
Regardless whether we are going to China or not, we wanted to meet up with Novi and David and hear first hand their adventures.
It was easy to pick a place to meet. Armed with the 2011 CRA Critic Choice list, it was just a matter of choosing a location convenient. We went to Bing Sheng and the object of the visit is the winning dish in the Fish category, the Steamed Tilapia with Egg.
Bing Sheng is located quite far from home. The restaurant is located on Renfrew on 2nd Ave in Vancouver. We had heard good things about this restaurant but had never been here before simply because of the distance from Richmond. So this was a good opportunity to come here.
Parking is not a problem here. Bing Sheng have their own underground car park. I drove directly to the underground parking but was confronted with a totally empty car park. I had half of mind of turning around and park on the street (which felt safer!) but we were already running late. We totally misjudged the distance and time taken to drive there. It was Friday at 6PM. Traffic was really heavy.
I was impressed with the interior of Bing Sheng. It has a nice traditional setting quite unlike many of the Chinese restaurants in Richmond which are more modern.
But we were also surprised that the restaurant was so quiet. I expected that they have more customer for Friday dinner but instead there were just 5 to 6 tables taken the whole evening we were there. Moreover, since Bing Sheng has just won an award winning dish I thought perhaps it would draw a bit more customers. So I was thinking how much impact would winning a CRA award have to a restaurant … like how many people would know or care? I would.
We were chatting the whole time we did not quite notice the service and all. I guess it was good because it was unobtrusive. We had everything we needed at the right time.
There were some mix up with the tea. We first ordered the Chrysanthemum and then seconds later we decided to change it to Jasmine. They brought both but I am not complaining. It was because I was totally unaware until Suanne told me.
What do I know about tea, right? For me, I only thought the teapot was really nice.
Oh, I can’t find the reference on the internet right now but if I have not confused myself here is some tips about Chinese tea for you. OK, I am sure you had been confronted many times in Chinese restaurant when asked what tea you want to have. So what do you normally order?
If you want to impress people, ask for Longjing or Dragon Well. Most restaurant will tell you they don’t have it and at that point you have to feign you are disappointed (shake your head side to side if you want to). After that you can ask for a cheaper tea. People who knows about tea will nod in approval with your choice of Dragon Well. Find out more about Dragon Well here. Yeah, this is the tea that dignitaries to China are served. It’s the best. Say that you learn this from chowtimes. Chowtimes learned this from Doesn’t Tazte Like Chicken. 🙂
The above is the award wining dish – the Steamed Tilapia with Egg. It is amazing and … presented nicely. I like how the fish is butterflied which exposes the meat.
Actually, it was Jenny of My Secret Eden who first blogged about this dish one year before Bing Sheng won this award.
The egg was steamed as the base of this dish. It was smooth and tasty. The sweet soya sauce was a perfect complement to the egg and the fish. The sauce makes great “jhup and rice” which I had a lot of … just the jhup and rice. It was that good.
I wish there are more jhup though as the sauce dried up rather quickly, partly because the egg absorbed part of it and the warmth of the dish evaporated it too.
The Tilapia is big and it was a lot even for the four of us. It was steamed perfectly well and was tender.
Actually I was thinking that this dish is not difficult to duplicate and kudos to them for thinking of this simple combination. The trick I guess is to perfectly steam both the fish and the egg (separately, I presume) with good timing and heat.
This restaurant is one of those I would say is very actsy (Manglish), Juah (Hokkien) and Lunsee (sorry for swear word in Cantonese). They did not give me face and made me feel like I am uncultured and uncouth.
Novi and David left it to me to select the dishes and I gladly took the responsibility. So after I had placed the order of the dishes, I told the captain “sei woon bak fan, mm goi” which means “four bowls of rice, thank you”.
Guess what he did.
He refused to take the order of the rice and asked me to tell the waiter when the dishes are served. Yeah, yeah, yeah … fancy restaurants does that to me sometimes and I hate it. It is like eating rice is for the working class but I AM the working class. I like jhup and rice, OK?
So what is the problem of just humouring me and take my order. No, no, no … the captain takes the order for the dishes while the waiter takes the order for the rice.
No I was not annoyed … that just gave me the opportunity to write about it.
Have you ever come across this before, that they don’t take your order of rice but insist that you wait till the dishes are served? I remember it happened to us in Hoitong in Richmond.
But I gotta say that I am impressed with their rice. They are served in a saucer and the rice are individually steamed in the saucers. Not many restaurants does that these days. Moreover from this you know that the rice is actually STEAMED and not merely cooked in a rice cooker.
Yeah, I am particular with rice and so at home we have a rice steamer which actually steams the rice. Steamed rice “stands up” and are drier – just perfect for “jhup and rice”.
The Lamb Hot Pot with Bean Curd Sticks was really one of the best I ever had. I think I can even quite safely say that it is the best … from the way it is served in a big pot with a heating element below to keep it hot without drying up the “jhup”.
The meat was firm and there was a good mix of lean and fatty skin in the pot.
It was hard to alternate between the “jhup and rice” from the Tilapia/Egg with the “jhup and rice” this lamb dish. Both jhup cannot be mixed and must be enjoyed pure on its own.
A thumbs up.
For vegetables, we had the simple Pea Sprout Tips Stir Fried with Garlic. It was fresh and tender and done really nice. So it was crunchy and tasted good … so good that I think most people can eat just this – “choy and rice”.
The serving was really big too.
They served us free dessert which is much appreciated which consists of free cookie and a soup. The soup I like a lot. It is Egg and Bean Cord Sheets.
We had a great time. Novi and David shared their vacation in such great details that we felt we were there! It is unbelievable that we spent 4 hours in the restaurant chatting. Time passes fast when you have a great time. We would have stayed longer if not for the fact it was their closing time. LOL!
Novi and David pulled one of those Chinese thing about fighting to pay for the dinner. They shouldn’t have but thanks Novi, David nevertheless! So I have no idea how much the signature dish cost. I am particularly interested to know how much their rice costs since it was individually steamed.
Update 28Jan: The prices of the dishes are as follows: Prices for tilapia $19.75, lamb hot pot $18.75, pea sprouts $16.75, rice is $1.50 per bowl.
This Post Has 18 Comments
Egg with steamed fish = innovative! I never would have thought.
How much was this dish?
Hi Eric: I dunno because Novi and David paid for this dinner. I want to know myself too! Ben
wow the steamed egg and fish looks very good.
when we were in China, we were served steamed egg at many meals….all different variations of stuff on top, clams, prawns, mushrooms, but never a whole fish.
I think I am going to try making this!
BTW, was there a bone in the fish or did they debone……thanks!
Hi Joyluckclub: The fish was deboned. they cut out the center bone and spread the fish out by the head. Ben
The key to this dish is in the timing and preparation. The fish and the egg have to cook at the time. It’s a technical showpiece for the restaurant IMO.
Hello, I was wondering what were the prices on the dishes.
Hi Joan: I don’t know the prices unless Novi comes in and let us know. I’ll see if I could ping her. Ben
Thanks for the shout out, and I loved their award winning dish. As fmed mentioned, it’s all about timing, but to me, it seems the egg takes a bit longer to cook, as the egg was perfect, but the fish was a tiny bit over done for me. Now I am tempted to try this at home 🙂
I thought you might be interested to see what the signature dish looked like nearly two years ago when we tried it at an early Chowdown in April 2009. Not surprisingly the photo is by fmed and predates Jenny’s blog to say it was good even way back when :-). Here’s the link to the post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/614069
Quite a contrast to be empty on a Friday night in early 2011 when I recall trying to go on a Friday night two years ago and it was almost scarily crammed full.
Hi Grayelf: Nice! Did I see it correct … that the fish was embedded into the egg? This time round, it appears that the fish and egg were steamed separately because the fish was resting on top of the steamed/hardened egg. Ben
Looking at the second pic in the linked Picasa album, it does appear to be so. I can’t quite remember that level of detail from nearly two years ago :-).
Hi Everyone: Prices for tilapia $19.75, lamb hot pot $18.75, pea sprouts $16.75, rice is $1.50 per bowl.
Ben and Suanne: It was great fun meeting with you guys! David and I are glad to share the stories, we are not experts on travel, just passing on some tips we think might be helpful. If you guys do go to China, boy would there be stories to exchange!
We don’t eat out all that often and when we do, it’s often the same place same dish. It was a real treat eating at Bing Sheng, we enjoyed the food very much, the fish dish is very good, yummy sauce and nice, soft egg. I prefer the lamb to be on the softer (tender) side, but the flavor is good too. We like the fact the dish stayed warm even after 4 hours of talking, which was great! The veggies is so fresh, cooked just right, dessert was not too sweet, we prefer it that way. Btw dessert was free. We don’t know too many good places but will recommend this place. I think the interior is really nice, it would be ideal for weddings.
Kinda strange to hear that they have 5 to 6 tables on a Friday evening. Last year that I went, they were very busy and their parking lot was full. Their cooking is good. Hopefully, it just a lull before Chinese New Year.
There are 2 Bing Sheng in Guangzhou, very famous for the locals, I wonder if they are related to the Vancouver Bing Sheng.
I hear from a reliable source that they are related. I haven’t been able to confirm this myself.
Prices are a bit towards the high end but the quality is worth it I suppose. I really hate bad service, as I feel the customer is always right(within limits of course, and I imagine most people are, at least while sober!). I’d have called the waiter/ ‘captain’ or whatever he/she is called and tell them off nicely. If they are not receptive, I’d raise my voice, create a scene that they might want to avoid.
I like tilapia done this way but it seemed your dish is over cooked (from the looks of the egg texture). When I make this dish, I don’t debone the fish like they do but just steam the fish flat on the plate for about 6-7 mins (depending on size of fish), discard the fish liquid, return to the steamer & pour the savoury egg custard mixture over the fish to steam another 6-7 mins until egg mixture is jiggly. When done, add cilantro, green onions , soya sauce mixture & pour boiling hot oil over the dish. The trick is to get the egg just right, smooth & silky & the fish not overly cooked. To achieve this, I would cover the steamer partially on the 2nd steaming. BTW, longjiang tea is the best Chinese tea I ever had. Bought 4lbs of high quality ones from a tea plantation in Hangzhou. The tea experts recommended to eat the tea leaves (tasted abit like toasted nori to me) after drinking the tea. Cooking with longjiang tea leaves is delicious especially with prawns.