Sun Sui Wah: Alaskan King Crab Dinner

Suanne and I was thinking that if there is just one dinner we organize this year for readers of chowtimes, it should be one for the Alaskan King Crab. This is because in order to properly savour the Alaskan King Crab, you need at least 6 people. And more is better. A proper sized Alaskan King Crab would be about 8lbs and up. Anything smaller than that will mean little flesh in skinny legs and claws.

We came to learn that not a lot of people had tried the Alaskan King Crab before. This is despite that proximity to the fishing grounds of these prized crabs. The reason is simple. At off peak season, these crabs could cost $30 and beyond per pound and with a 10lb crab, you are looking at some serious dollars.

It is in late February to mid March every year that the prices of the Alaskan King Crab gets to a more affordable level. The season is short. Just 2-3 weeks and then prices will inch up again.

So we put the word out for this dinner and the response was very good.

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There are many many Chinese restaurants that will serve Alaskan King Crab. You can easily get almost 2 dozen ads in the Chinese newspapers during the peak season. Each of them will try to outdo one another. Some by offering lower prices. Others by seeking different and novel ways of making it. It is bewildering exercise trying to decide which to go to.

We decided that for this chowtimes Alaskan King Crab dinner, we go to a place that is considered by some the granddaddy the Alaskan King Crab feast. Sun Sui Wah claims that they are the pioneer having perfected the preparation of the Alaskan King Crab. How far true their claims are, I have no idea. But for a moment, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt if not for the reason that no one is challenging them to this claim.

Secondly, I thought that we would not go wrong if the good folks at the Chinese Restaurant Awards selected Sun Sui Wah to win the award for best Alaskan King Crab two years in a row, in 2010 and in 2011.

So how wrong could that get right?

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Sun Sui Wah is famous. Sometimes I feel that tourists knows more about Sun Sui Wah than Vancouverites. I remember seeing their big floor to ceiling ads walking out of the arrival hall in the YVR airport. It is so big, you can’t miss it. It is effective in forming an impression that Sun Sui Wah is the place to go to for great Cantonese style dinners.

And rightly so too. They had been part of the Chinese restaurant landscape for close to three decades now. They were certainly the king of the hill in the earlier days when Chinese cuisine is in its infancy in Vancouver. They were poised to meet the demands of the waves of newcomers from Hong Kong who were leaving the island in droves fearing the worse about the return to China control.

We tried to time our dinner. We were planning to have the dinner at the weekend when we expected the price of the Alaskan King Crab is the lowest. So we went a week before my own theoretical sweet spot to work out the menu with Sun Sui Wah.

That week prior to the actual dinner, their price was $16.80 per pound. Because of the erratic nature of the prices, they understandably could not confirm the prices for the following week. Unfortunately for us, the price of $16.80 per pound remained the same.

The Alaskan King Crab price in Sun Sui Wah is definitely one of the most expensive around town. I guess they can command a premium for the price because of their reputation and visibility.

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We had a total of 30 people attending the AKC dinner. We could not even …

accommodate more last minute requests because the tables were already tight and adding just one more seat will be difficult once the configuration had been finalized on the day. So I am sorry for those I had to disappoint that day.

You see, Suanne and I decided that for a dinner like this we should have it in a private room. With 30 people as a target, we could do either a 3 tables of 10 or 2 tables of 15. I got to give it to Sun Sui Wah. They can accommodate any party sizes as they have all kinds of table sizes and they can partition their huge dining hall in rooms of various sizes.

There are nice things about Sun Sui Wah and there are not so nice things.

Frankly, our experience in planning the menu with them are less than desirable. No, we did not nor did we plan to tell them we are chowtimes. We did not expect extra treatment. Anyway, even if we had told them, I really do not think it would have made a difference. Chinese restaurants are mostly just clueless about food blogs and social media and such.

When we called them the first time, they told us that we need to spend $400 a table for a private room. Not a problem we figured it would be easy to meet that requirement. When we went to plan the menu, we were told that it is $500. We protested and only then the manager retracted saying what he meant was it was to “up to $500”. Oh please, don’t think this Mensan for an idiot.

So we worked on the menu and we decided on a menu for the day. It worked out to be around $40 everything in (taxes and tips included). Here is the problem. I should have had the manager write down the menu in their menu sheet and confirmed the prices and dishes we wanted. Instead, he sent us on the way saying that we needed to pre-order the Alaskan King Crab and one of the dessert. The rest of them we can confirm on the day of the dinner.

The day of the dinner … it was a lot of high-handed pressure-selling tactics by the manager. He now turned to me and said that what we ordered is not enough for that night. I was totally flabbergasted with the timing and all. When I was re-confirming the dishes, the manager told me that the portions is not sufficient and insisted that we order bigger portions with prices that were off the menu. All these happened behind the scenes and so most of the attendees were not aware of that. But I just gotta mention this. I had earlier told everyone that the dinner was to be $40 all in and it turned out eventually to be $46 all in.

So, be careful dealing with Sun Sui Wah!

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We asked for a total of 40 pounds of crab which I figured would be the minimum to be shared among 30 people. So we had four crabs and the total weight is 39 lbs.

Or at least that was what Sun Sui Wah told us. The crabs looked like they were at least 8-9 lbs but there is no way to tell really unless we bring our own scales there. Yeah, I read somewhere that there is some elements of dishonesty with these subjective weights and all. For me, I don’t really want to bog myself down questions like this. Just enjoy it and not worry about that 1 lb short or something because you can never win here.

I wonder if anyone had ever brought their own scales to such dinners. Hmmm …

DragonFire helped me review the dishes that night. So I got a lot to thank him for all the support. Hehehe … he was the guy who commented on chowtimes about the “jau lay say” (about to die) and “bai geok” (crippled) Alaskan King Crabs he had been buying on the cheap. Go easy on him OK? LOL!

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The dishes were served out of order the way I asked for it. They said OK with my order and yet they served this out of the sequence I wanted. Oh well.

For the soup, we had the Diced Seafood and Winter Melon Soup. We got this because it was one of their cheaper soup and yet sounded nice (seafood). Yeah, their soups could get several times the cost of these ones.

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I enjoyed this soup. It is a cooling and clear soup and has respectable amount of prawns, crab meat, scallops, egg whites and button mushrooms.

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For the poultry dish, Suanne and I were debating between having Sun Sui Wah’s famous Roasted Squab or the Peking Duck. Sun Sui Wah claims that their squabs are world famous. We eventually did not settled on squabs because we wanted to play safe and was uncertain how the non-Chinese diners would take to having squabs (with head, beaks, eyes and the whole shebang). Yeah, it could get totally gross to some.

The Peking Duck is more presentable. As usual it came with two courses.

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It is just the usual way of serving that I am sure that most people is already familiar with. For those who are not, I am sure they are taken aback that this course is served with just the skin of the duck.

Just consider this like eating tacos – slater some hoisin sauce, add a green onion (white part only) and the most important next step is to discretely eye the biggest piece of skin you can find. In Chinese dinners, do not move the food around. You gotta eye the piece you want and then pick it up with one fell swoop.

🙂 I think I got a biggie.

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For the second course, they took the meat of the duck and stir fried it and served that on a bed of puff vermicelli. This is to be eaten with a crisp lettuce wrap.

I did not think much about this because I was fixated with what was to come.

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Sun Sui Wah won the CRA award with their King Crab served three ways. The manager told us that they don’t have it done three ways and their menu is only for two ways only and if we wanted a third way it is a separate dish. I wasn’t quite thinking straight then but thinking of it while writing this post, it did not quite gel.

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The first course is with the king crab legs steamed with garlic sauce. Since we had two large crabs a table, there were quite a bit of crab for everyone on the table. It was served on two platters.

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The meat was very flaky and firm. The garlic was light. My preference is for a bolder garlicky taste but I think purists will say no to that. It’s just a personal preference. The meat was steamed in its natural juices.

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Despite all the uneasiness earlier with the manager, it was satisfying eating this. Hehehe … this took my minds completely off that exchange I had.

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The second course for the Alaskan King Crab is the body which is deep fried with spicy salt. The body is not big. The two crabs for each table ended up in just one plateful.

BTW, I had never know the parts of the AKC. The body here … is it really the body. I heard elsewhere that the body of the Alaskan King Crab is mostly empty. Is that right? Is this the part where the legs joins the body?

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Suanne and I prefer this dish better. It is more flavourful than the one steamed with garlic and that there are more meat to chew on.

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The batter is light. Just amazing. My estimate is that this one piece costs $3.50. 🙂

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The third course for the Alaskan King Crab is Baked Seafood Rice on the Shell. This is an extra $30 per table which translated to $2 per person.

It has lots of ingredients like prawns and scallops.

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It is basically like Portuguese style curry which has a mild curry flavour but very rich. So I am not sure where the Alaskan King Crab comes into play in this dish. Taste-wise, whatever delicate AKC juice there are is overwhelmed by the curry sauce. I think this third course is more gimmicky than anything. It is just rice served on the leftover AKC shell.

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The rest of the dishes are just “keh-leh-feh” dishes. They are like the extras in movies.

For vegetable we had the Three Mushrooms with Snow Peas. It has shiitake, button mushrooms and wood ears. I like the mushrooms but did not care much about the snow peas. The mushrooms were of good size and texture was good.

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The Tofu, Shiitake Mushroom and Ham might look a little bit different. It is supposed to be a dish of contrasts. The ham was salty, very salty and has a rough texture. This is opposed to the silky smooth tofu. Layered in between is the mushrooms.

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We also got a simple carb noodle dish. It is the Yee Mien with Chicken. On its own, I would have loved this a lot more but this humble dish was overshadowed by the Alaskan King Crab and this looked a bit unloved.

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The Tapioca Pudding was one that requires advance order. This common and popular dessert in most good Cantonese restaurants is topped with a flaky pastry crust. There are some red bean paste in it and it was served warm.

After the dinner and on the way out we noticed that all their other customers had free dessert soup served. Under normal circumstances, a meal at a Chinese restaurant like Sun Sui Wah will end with free dessert soup at least. However, we did not get any, perhaps because we had ordered the tapioca pudding. We did see customers in the main hall got red bean soup.

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All in all, I was particularly unhappy with the way the restaurant changed things on me. I also felt that the service could have been better. For our party of 30 people, there was only one server assigned to our room. When we had the 8GTCC Cantonese dinner in the Red Star restaurant, we had two servers for a smaller party.

So I felt rushed at some point, especially the later part of the meal. The table became messy with empty plates piling up and the server could not keep up.

Food-wise, it was good in patches but overall it did not wow me – especially when this whole thing costs $46 per person all in. In the next few days, I am going to write about another $40+ meal we had and the service was top notch. For $46, I was not impressed.

For this dinner, there were not many bloggers in attendance. Mostly regular people. Is that a right word to use? LOL! Catch Star Girl blogged about this dinner. Go check out what she had to say about this dinner.

Anyway, thanks to all who took time to attend this dinner. I love organizing dinners like this. However, I also had a lot of learnings dealing with restaurants like this. I declare here now … that because of the heavy handed tactics of the manager, I do have a very poor image of Sun Sui Wah. I really don’t care if they win awards or not.

Sun Sui Wah on Urbanspoon

This Post Has 53 Comments

  1. Great writeup! Just had my first experience at Kirin the other day and had some regular ol’ crab. Place was pretty good. I didn’t organize it so I don’t know if the manager was being shady.

  2. *drools* I need to come to one your eat-ups next time for sure!

    I hope you get a follow up call from SSW for the patchy service, but being a Chinese restaurant, they probably wouldn’t…

    1. Hi Maggie: Yeah for sure. Do join in one of several eat-ups. No I don’t think SSW will ever make up for this thing. No Chinese restaurant ever will. I will be totally shocked if they do. Ben

      1. Will you also discount the SSW Richmond location?

        1. Hi WS: No I would not discount the SSW Richmond location. Doing so would be too vengeful and mean. Am not like that. Ben

  3. I usually only have AKC with friends at restaurants because my mom would rather buy the AKC and cook it at home. She saids that it’s just such a better deal doing it yourself because almost every restaurant will somehow rip you off LMAO For a 8lbs crab at home and at a restaurant, there’s quite a difference in the amount of meat you get…

    1. Hi Elaine: Got it … we have not tried making AKC at home before. We will definitely do it some day. More likely next year since the prices are getting more expensive these days.

  4. “the body of the Alaskan King Crab is mostly empty” – Actually, nope. Those pieces are the part which attach to the legs. 🙂

    1. Yup! Those are mostly the “connecting” pieces…like knuckles and knees and ankles…that’s the way I put it…heheheh!

  5. Good job Ben & Suanne, organizing a dinner like this and dealing with Chinese restaurant managers kike that are, but not always, headaches.

    I remember we had problems dealing with SSW years ago for our wedding, if it wasn’t because we needed a larger space to accommodate all the tables, we won’t even choose SSW (and good thing that mom-in-law “kinda” knows the owner and gave good “ly-si” to all staff prior to the event).

    The experience you had with SSW is quite common in many popular restaurants…very unfortunate. And roasted squab and SSW is not the best…LOL!!! OMG! For a restaurant manager to say that…it’s a turn-off…hahahaha!

    The steamed crab actually looked pretty good! For the deep-fried one, next year, you can do BFT style!!! Hehehehe!

    1. Hi Buddha Girl:

      It is sad to know that some restaurants hold wedding dinners to ransom. I think it is despicable act on some of these restaurants. Suanne and I had a good friend who held a Chinese wedding banquet and the restaurant manager were already talking about “ly-si” and tips even before the guests arrive. My friend’s family brushed him off saying they will deal with it after the dinner. The dinner was a sham and my friend lost face. The restaurant was blatant in piling plates on the table, collecting unfinished plates, not changing out plates, dishes were coming in either too fast and some too slow. All of us can see what was going on. We felt for the bride.

      As for the roasted Squab, go check out Sun Sui Wah’s website. They declared that their squab is the best on their website. *shrug*

      Oh yeah … did you have Typhoon Shelter Alaskan King Crab this year or ever before? That is an excellent idea.

      Ben

      1. Hello Ben,

        Yea…it’s does get out of hand sometimes with the ly-si at some restaurants. When my sister had her wedding at Shiang Garden, during set-up, the staff refused to help us unless they get their ly-si…it was ridiculous!!!

        But that being said, it is a standard practice that the staff (kitchen and serving staff, including managers) all get their ly-si BEFORE the wedding, or whatever larger function or event…this is expected.

        OMG! I can’t believe they said that!!! “World Famous Roasted Squab”…hahahahaha! Ok…ok…if they truly believes in it…hahahaha!

        We did have the BFT-style with our AKC this year…but I didn’t take very good picture of it…and I had it on a bed of fried rice!!! Hehehehe! It was good!

        http://www.foodforbuddha.com/2011/03/2011-03-12-dinner-top-gun-j.html

        ^_^

        1. Oh wow, BG … that was a very large AKC and the BFT-style rendition is great. You better negotiate with Top Gun so that they pay you royalty for the BFT idea. 🙂 Ben

      2. I thought the best roasted squab title goes to Koon Bo ? Not that I’m a squab expert.

        1. See, these two lil’ guys seem to agree:

        2. LOL! KB is good, but in 604, my favorite goes to Sea Harbour…however, their service SUCKS…hahahahaha!

        3. Hi LotusRapper:

          The CRA bestowed the best squab award as follows:
          2009 – Sea Harbour
          2010 – Koon Bo
          2011 – Sea Harbour

          Sun Sui Wah bestowed the best squab award as follows:
          Eternity – Sun Sui Wah

          🙂

  6. That is strange… I’ve always quite enjoyed Sun Sui Wah, their service is usually top notch, i’ve only always had to just look at the server to track them down and they were always quite polite. I’ve never heard about a minimum for a room here although maybe it is because my dad knows most of the staff…

    Also, did you have to pay extra for the baked pudding? Usually after you eat a certain amount of food, you would get it for free (from past experiences, although I did not need to ask for it). Also i got the red bean soup… maybe they just forgot or had a bad day? Anyways this is just me rambling on, so i’ll stop haha ^_^’

    1. Hi DD: Yeah, we did have to pay extra for the baked tapioca pudding. It is $12 a plate when they could have given us free after spending so much money. Ben

  7. In most Chinese restaurants in 604 (i.e. Red Star, Kirin, Sun Sui Wah, Top Gun, Sea Harbour, Shiang Garden, etc,), minimum charge apply to private rooms…especially on the weekends.

    1. Hi Buddha Girl,

      From my interpretation, I don’t think the inital minimum charge was an issue, as it is reasonable to have that requirement. I think the issue with the minimum charge was that it started at $400 and then mysteriously rose to $500 after the customer was already committed. 🙁

      1. Hello Shmoo!
        Ooops…my comment was suppose to go under the same thread as DD’s comment. I am on the same page as you, just gave my two cents replying to DD’s comment.

  8. This is just my opinion. I think if you have someone talking/negotiating with them in Cantonese, then you’ll get a better deal and service.

    1. Hi Crispy: Yeah, that’s what Suanne and I thought too, even though Suanne speaks perfect Cantonese. So I roped in the help from DragonFire too but to no avail. I think key thing is not the language but to put things down in black and white. Our initial negotiations was OK but since it was not written up by them, they can change the deal on us at the last minute. Ben

  9. Too bad you had such a hard time with SSW – no good deed goes unpunished, right? Hearing stories like that really puts me off.

    I went for another AKC dinner last Thursday at Shanghai River ($16/lb.) Dare I say I enjoyed it more? Our only mistake was ordering the 3rd crab dish (an extra $25) and deciding to have it with rice cakes instead of the usual Portugese rice. The rice cakes dish was way too bland, and was certainly not worth $25. That being said, I enjoyed the crab a little more at Shanghai River. And the service was excellent(and we got a free dessert).

    1. Hi Sandi: Thanks for coming to the dinner. Ben

  10. wow, the crabs certainly looks good. Just like you, I rather not get bogged down be the whole weight thing. I second Buddha Girl’s recomendation for BFT (避风塘)style, it’s real good 🙂

  11. We went last friday to a place in the Strip Mall where Happy Date is located (can’t remember the name of the place). We had a 14 lb crab for 5 people. Yes that was a lot and yes I got my AKC fix for the year. We had the crab body prepared a different way this time (braised instead of deep fried) and it was a nice change. Besides the noodles that came with it, and a couple of dishes for the 3 people that had seafood allergies that couldn’t eat the crab, that was all we ordered.

    Price was not cheap ($16 a pound) but we got what we ordered.

    1. Hi iluvtofish: OMG. 14lbs AKC are not common to find in restaurants. For 5 people, that is like having 3lbs each. Whew! Ben

      1. They said it was one of the largest ones they have served this year. We do this alot so we could tell it was a legit 14 lbs. Unbelievable the amount of meat in the body. It was like eating a large plate full of lobster tail pieces!

        With the price of the crab and the dollars at stake, I am surprised that the restaurants aren’t pressured more to weigh the crab at the table for the guests to see. I mean we are concerned about whether the weight of produce that we buy at the supermarkets is correct but we easily accept what they tell us about something that costs 16 bucks a pound!

        I think i’m only going to do it once this year because the prices are now going up. The prices seem to be higher this year. Last year I was able to get it for 14 bucks a pound at Kirin.

        1. Hi iluv2fish: Now that you mentioned it, yeah, I find that the AKC prices are more expensive this year compared to last year. Ben

    2. I think that is Golden Paramount.

      1. Yes that sounds like it!

  12. Those AKC photos are so mouth watering….why are your photos so awesome Ben?!

  13. Sorry to hear about their service. I was quite disappointed that you had to experience that. I’ve been to their Main St and Richmond location and the service was always good. They do have the best AKC dishes I must say. It was quite memorable.

  14. I’ve been reading chowtimes for years, but this post reminded me of my AKC experience at SSW (Nov/10). When I first phoned inquiring about availability and price per pound the restaurant said “Yes we have it, good price, just come down”. When pressed for price, they quote me a price… but when I got there, it was a few dollars more. With out-of-town parents and in-laws in tow, I couldn’t leave and go to my favorite in Richmond.

    I definitely like the spicy salt AKC and their squab. The two waiters buzzing around my table were excellent. (They had a wedding banquet at the same time, so maybe there were extras at the time).

    The captain was not helpful or patient. When I go to a restaurant, I go through the “keh-leh-feh” courses–fish, duck, veggie, noodle–and ask “what is your most popular dish in this category”. I get the sense, they cater to the money-no-object out-of-towners for the AKC, geoduck, rockfish, abalone.

  15. Hi Ben,

    As you already know, I was sorry to hear that organizing the dinner with SSW was more of a headache than necessary.

    This was my second-ever dinner at the Main SSW. Our first-ever was a lunar new year dinner where they lost our order, pretended not to, ran out of rice (at which point the server started avoiding our table out of embarrassment, I think), and ran out of dessert.

    So with that in mind, I think the AKC dinner went very well in some important ways: all the dishes you ordered arrived at the table and tasted pretty good. 🙂

    We had two AKC dinners this year, at two venerable establishments – the Chowtimes dinner at SSW, and a second dinner at Kirin City Square.

    So here are some thoughts between the two. Summary up top, gory details below for the compulsively curious.

    Executive Summary:

    As an eater, I enjoyed both meals. Kirin had a strong edge on service and a slight edge (for me) on food. However, it also was slightly more expensive. As an organizer, I prefer my experience with Kirin to the experience you describe with SSW.

    Price:

    Our dinner at Kirin was more expensive — $51 vs $46 at SSW. Also, we only had 40 lbs of crab for 36 people, so a bit less crab per person.

    For comparison, our dinner had appetizer platter, basic banquet soup, crab 3 ways, one whole duck per table of 9, veggie, noodle, dessert soup, jelly dessert, soft drinks.

    Organization:

    I must admit that we picked Kirin for our second AKC dinner in part because we had held our wedding banquet there and it had been super-easy to organize. (Including impeccable service with no mention of pre-event red pockets.)

    Organizing with Kirin was simple. We made requests. They told us up front which dishes they felt should be sized up for larger tables and warned us they would cost more than the menu price. They punched the dishes into a computer and told us the amount.

    When asked about soft drinks, they included them. When asked about dessert, they did comp us a simple jelly dessert. I wonder if maybe they might have comped a nicer dessert had we not already ordered a specific dessert soup, or had not already been comped the soft drinks.

    When asked about larger crabs, or more dishes, they politely but firmly assured us that what we had ordered was appropriate for our group size and that adding anything more would be a waste.

    The full menu was set in advance of the day, and there was no attempt to convince us to defer decisions or to up-sell us. The final bill came out slightly higher than the quote, but the staff figured out the error and then stood by the quote and smoothed everything out for us.

    There was absolutely no talk of pre-tipping or red pockets. (This may or may not be in part because I am caucasian.)

    The one small headache I found when setting the menu was that the assistant manager had assessed me as a caucasian customer, and insisted on tuning his recommendations too far towards protecting the uninitiated. This was easily worked around by reading the menu and selecting our own dishes where necessary.

    Service:

    Service was excellent. Dishes were variously served sharing-style or separated wedding-style depending on table preference and the nature of each dish. Plates were changed with good frequency. There were hot towels.

    Food:

    Quite solid. Kirin has a much lighter hand with the salt and msg. (Whether that is good or bad is personal preference, but I liked the light hand.)

    Focussing on the AKC, Kirin had the edge for me on both the steamed legs and fried joints. Kirin steams their legs with fried garlic, while SSW uses plain garlic. I liked the Kirin version slightly better because at SSW it was too easy to notice that the garlic is industrially prepared chopped garlic, with that “bottled garlic” flavour. The crab at SSW stuck to the shell more, and was a little bit stringier in texture. I suspect it might have been ever-so-slightly over-cooked.

    I did prefer the portuguese-style rice at SSW, however. More ingredients and a bit better blended.

    Of your “keh leh feh” dishes, I like the Kirin version of the mushroom, tofu, ham dish slightly more — they add thin slices of ginger which for me balances the whole dish nicely. On the other hand, I thought the winter melon soup at SSW was quite nice (though salty), and generous with ingredients.

      1. I waited a few minutes ro respond, but I am still laughing, so I gave up. 😀

        Nice aesthetic, too.

        1. Hehehe … as I was telling you, Shmoo, you write well. And both you and A takes serious photos. I was trying to send you a message that Vancouver need another foodie blogger. 🙂 You want me to release the shm00.wordpress.com blog to you? It took me less than 5 minutes to set that up! If Yan can cook, so can you. If Ben can blog so can you too!! Ben

          1. Ha ha ha.

            You may be entertained to know that at least one person close to me wasn’t sure whether I set that site up or you did. 🙂

            As for the value of another foodie blogger, I don’t know… Well, I am happy if Vancouver has a lot of foodie blogs, I just don’t know that there is value in me being one of them. Although I enjoy good food, I am lazy about finding new places to try. Lately I find I have been leaning on Chowtimes to help me with that. So if I am just slowly trying places you have previously recommended, there is not really so much added value to an independent blog (as opposed to randomly reporting experiences here).

            And think of the pressure! Honestly, I don’t know how you balance work, family, social, research (ahem: eating), and such regular and frequent blog posts.

            Aside: the “if Yan can cook” reference really took me back to my childhood for a minute, but then I realized I was thinking of Stephen Yan’s CanCon classic “Wok with Yan”, rather than Martin Yan’s “Yan Can Cook” (which I don’t know as well). 🙂

          2. Hi Shmoo: I think it is alright with several blogs writing the same thing. Each of the blogs have their own unique style. There are so many possible ways of doing it that finding your own niche is really not difficult. I find that you gotta enjoy doing it because if not, one can run out of steam quickly. You don’t even have to blog everyday. Just blogging quality posts in a consistent manner is all you need to do. I am dying to hand over shm00.wordpress.com to you! 🙂 Ben

  16. You’re right Ben, the one only guy served the food was too busy putting the food on the two tables, he had no time to clear the dirty plates. For 30 people in two tables, SSW should put extra helper to serve.

  17. Thanks for the link! You’ve got so many comments already all of which I cannot read but you have received a lot of sympathy from me with your organization woes. That’s such expected business practices but you’d wish they’d exceed expectations. I wished to be able to prepare a comparison dinner (it would have been with Congee Noodle King on Kingsway) but I couldn’t make it to the second dinner, the way Schmoo did.

    His comment reminded me of looking at the drink list at SSW and it was just plain silly, even if SSW is a better Chinese restaurant. It was like buying drinks in a club or something! And I think also noticed about the industrially chopped garlic as well–it’s fine and well to use it at home but in a dish where it is so prominent? That was slack.

    1. The garlic might not be industrially chopped.

      I doubt a Chinese restaurant would purchase industrially chopped garlic, especially when it is more expensive then the raw form.

      They might have some kind of commercial garlic chopper you see on TV to speed up the prep time. Most of the time in cooking is due to the prep work. If you can speed it up without compromising the flavor then I’m ok with that.

  18. I make a point to go to SunSuiWah every time I visit Vancouver. Their food is awesome, and it is one of my fav Chinese restaurants in the world. It is actually one of the few reasons why I visit Vancouver or Canada for that reason.

    But shady business practices are a big turn off, and definitely not something I support. I will never go back there again after reading your post.

    You have every right to be angry at them, especially if you have organized such a large party. In this economy the owner at SunSuiWah should be bringing out the knee pads for you if you know what I mean (sorry for the R-rated rant).

    PS I have a feeling they’re going to be offering you and chowtimes readers some free comps soon after this post gets out to the blogosphere. He he.

    1. Hi BeefChowFun: I had never heard of the expression “bringing out the knee pads” before. Am curious. What does that mean?

      1. I better not elaborate. I want to keep this blog strictly kosher. It was poor taste on my part.

        1. BeefChowFun,

          You can still escape this one. Knee pads do not strictly have to be in poor taste. We can choose to believe you meant that the captain should be so grateful for the large party that he would kneel to beg for the business, or kowtow out of gratitude.

          However, I guess we know that’s not quite what you meant, since you labeled your own suggestion as R-rated. Anyway, let’s leave it at that. I’m sure Ben can work out the alternatives and is probably playing with you… 🙂

          1. I actually tried googling “define bringing out the knee pad” but all I got is a bunch of links about iPad, skateboard knee pads, etc. I think Google’s search results quality is getting bad to worse.

  19. Hi Ben,
    SSW in not on my regular rotation of dim sum restaurants, nor would I choose it for dinner. That’s not to say I haven’t been there for either. I’ve been a casual patron of SSW since it’s first location at E.32nd Ave. and Main St (currently Golden Harvest Seafood Restaurant), almost directly across the street from Long’s. It had a humble beginning too. I don’t like the way they treat local Vancouverites who are there for a good meal without costing an arm or a leg. Maybe I can afford to order the most expensive item off the menu, but who are they to judge me? I remembered trying to organize a family birthday dinner for 180 to 200 diners three years ago. The lady manager (?) at the front desk wouldn’t give me the time of day! Golden Swan was more than delighted to discuss my dinner plans. It all worked out. Had a great party! By the way, I don’t go to either restaurant often enough to be considered a “regular”. So it’s fair to say I’m not connected nor considered a tai tai.

  20. Thanks for the detailed review about SSW king crab dinner, I enjoyed reading it.

    First of all I would like to thank the two people’s feedback about this dinner, Buddha Girl and Elaine, for sharing their experiences. Like Elaine said, over 80% of Chinese restaurants are dishonest in preparing AKC dinners; they will rip off 1~2 lbs claiming the crab is ~9 pounds. You must ALWAYS watch them weight it no matter what they say. We almost got ripped two times at two other places, they keep on explaining that we’re a small restaurant and don’t make a lot of profit. Also, call ahead of time to ask if they charge extra for making extra AKC dinner courses, most place’s include 2~3 course only; some places don’t charge you that extra. Unless you have alot time and don’t mind cleaning up afterwards (‘flying’ crab juice/water during prep but the juice/water has tons of flavor), AKC dinner at home is a brutal. Most stovetops at home don’t have the BTU/heat to cook the crab so it makes the meat soggy. I always keep these points in mind and it saves me $$$.

    As for SSW, it does not deserve 80% like urbanspoon said. To me its 59% tops. I’ve been to both SSW locations in Richmond & Main and I will not go back their again. Their usual dinner dishes are pretty mediocre so nothing special about it at all. Their so called signature ‘world famous’ roast squab/pigeon is Total No Way. When i had that squab at main street, its cold, super-salty, and mushy. The next time in richmond was pretty dark and not cooked/hot enough. The servers at that place just average (could be better at other places): smooth talkers but bad at serving with making mistakes often.

    The photo of the bill after the meal and pictures of the dishes clearly indicate its not worth that money you guys paid for. The Peking duck, snow peas, tofu, and noodle is absolutely not worth those prices. With food like that, I’m surprised that people still go (probably due to the old old reputation from advertising).

    To conclude, thanks again for the extensive review. I think SSW is not a good place for Chinese families to have their Chinese dinners (its more of a place for non-Chinese); other places can be cheaper with better food and service.

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