Updated 9th Oct 2014; This restaurant is closed.
The opening of the Harbour Spirit Restaurant was perhaps one of the most anticipated on over the last few months. One of the reasons is that they were taking an old location vacated by Sammy J Peppers which is a large space and highly visible along the No 3 Road.
They are so big that we were told by the restaurant that they will “specialize” on Cantonese AND Sichuan AND Northern AND Hot Pot when we went there (did not eat) on their opening day (see here). I can’t find that comment now but I distinctly remember someone saying that with trying be everything to everyone, they will either succeed big time or they will fail big time.
The initial reports from this place were mostly unfavourable. I was not surprised because with such a big operations there are a lot more kinks to sort out. As much as Suanne and I would like to go check them out, we decided that against it. We sort of knew what the experience would be like — no different from all the early reports.
We finally went after they were opened for 1.5 months. That should be enough time to have things to settle down and well past the dry run periods.
It does seems like the Harbour Spirit have deep pockets. They want to open up with a bang to awe people. On the surface they did quite a good job. The chandeliers and the heavy set chairs were highly visible. But on a second glance, they are still very rough around the edges. It is in the details that they fell short.
OK things like this bother me especially when they try to be classy but ignore the details. The white table cloth above, I find them distractingly nonuniform. That was not just it. The materials are cheap and too light that it shifts when you move the plates or teapot around. And they are wrinkled.
They must have spend some … serious money on the lightings. They were nice and I like lightings like these — posh. However, this restaurant has a huge space and a tall ceiling and the ceiling is all black. So the lighting was less than adequate. I mean, usually Chinese restaurants are lighted brightly so this place did come across to me as darker than usual.
I was also distracted by the poorly hung wallpaper. It was so crudely done that we can already see the seams peeling in many parts already. Moreover at parts where there are electrical wirings, the wallpaper were poorly cut.
The restaurant was divided into three sections when we were there on their opening day. The front section (background in the pix above) was fancier while the foreground is the one with the cheaper tables. There used to be booth seatings in this section too. But this time they were ripped out and again it was crudely done that we could see the exposed wood frames and nails and wirings. I wanted to take a picture of what it was but it would have been too obvious to the restaurant.
So there are no more booth seats although the hot pot sprinkler systems is still hanging overhead in odd positions. I think they might have decided not to do hot pot after all.
See what I mean about the table cloth? Also the gold printing around the platings, they are cheap and already I can see some of the edges fading.
Please don’t take to heart what I just said above. I am just saying what came to my mind. To others these are trivial matters and indeed it is. Sometimes what you read is not what I mean to say. I am telling you what went on in my mind and like the above it was disproportionately long about the negative side of things. So it does paint a bad picture.
Anyway, despite the size of this pace, the entire restaurant was almost all full. It was a weekend dim sum time. During this time, it seems like all of Richmond is out filling up every dim sum restaurant, doesn’t it? I am just thinking how funny it is that it is like this every weekend — dim sum is the favourite past time of Richmondites on Saturday mornings.
They automatically charged us $1.00 per person for tea. This is even though Arkensen and Nanzaro both does not drink tea and they asked for iced water. We did not know it until we saw the charge on the bill.
They gave us two order chits. The one above is their kitchen special. All in Chinese and we can barely read what they are. We asked for an English version but unfortunately they don’t have one. It was too long to ask them to translate it for us one by one seeing how busy they were. So we just left it at that.
Their prices are not cheap though.
Anyway, the menu above and below are clickable to enlarge so you can read it easier.
Fortunately the dim sum menu above has English names to it. It is their regular dim sum menu. For now, there is a 20% discount on these dim sum items.
These too are not cheap. For sure this is not one of those $2.30 per dim sum places. The cheapest is $3.00. So with a 20% discount for now, it brings it in line a bit more to below average prices. Some items are up to almost $10.00.
The menu does not look particularly exciting. I don’t see any signature dishes. You know, like, something they are uniquely to them. Instead, it was just common dim sum items.
So we looked for something special and thought we order the “House Special Bun”. The only reason we got this was because of the word House Special. It was $3.78 and we did not find it rather special.
The thing that we were curious about is that the plate was quite hot. It was like it was taken out from the microwave oven. It was definitely not taken out from a steamer because this is not a steaming dish. Either it was was just nuked prior to serving or they kept all their serving plates warm (like how they do it on buffet places). We think it was the former.
The House Special Bun is actually what we consider Pineapple Bun with BBQ Pork fillings. The bun was hot to say the least which is a good sign. The filling was moist. The dough was rough and rather thick. We definitely had better ones for sure.
Being curious what Egg White Coconut Cake is we ordered that. It is $3.00.
To us, this is just jello with egg white and coconut. Chilled. Strangely our boys just refused to try this. I asked them why not but they were not able to answer. I just can’t figure them out. What is it in this that makes them not wanting to try.
The Steamed Shrimp Rice Roll, although nothing “duc bit” is something we know Arkensen and Nanzaro likes a lot. So we had to order this or else they will eat very little. For this it was quite good, although I must say that I was kind of distracted by the chipped plate.
This is $4.78 and it came with big shrimps and the serving is quite reasonable too.
I LOVE this Steamed Beef Tendon ($4.78). A lot.
The serving is bigger than regular dim sum place. The bottom is lined with creamy taro which Suanne likes. The tendon is nice and tender and the sauce is not too sticky (like what we say “leam-leam”. LOL!). It does have a slight spiciness to it. This is definitely one of the better ones I had tried.
We also ordered the Oyster Minced Meat Rice because this is what I wanted. I can eat just rice with soup all day long … either rice with soup or rice with jhup will be enough to keep me a happy man. Nothing fancy, just pure comfort food.
This is strange as it was $13.80 on the menu but when I looked at the bill, it is $10.80. I attribute it to how Harbour Spirit is still dealing with changing menus and all.
The bowl is pleasantly big which makes me pleasantly happy. It also had quite a lot of oyster pieces too. There is a predominant cilantro flavour which I also appreciate.
The Pan Fried Halibut in Supreme Soy Sauce was another winner to us. It was superbly crispy and nicely caramelized. Lots of chunky meat and crunching on the deep fried fins and bones were just pure enjoyment. And the serving is larger than we expected.
Nanzaro blurted out of the blue that this is the best dish we had that day. I agree.
However, I must also add that it is a tad salty too. Some people might find it overly salty but since we had the rice with soup we ate that together to tone the saltiness down.
The Pan Fried Halibut in Supreme Soy Sauce s $8.80.
The last dish we selected was the Salted Fish Pork Cheek Yin Yeong Fern ($12.80). Got this one because of the word “pork cheek” because Suanne likes that and “Salted Fish” because Nanzaro and Arkensen likes that.
This item is from the all-Chinese Kitchen Menu. Hey, we know how to read a smattering of Chinese words, OK? We are not totally illiterate. 🙂
Since we ordered way too much food for the four of us, Suanne ordered us to not eat too much of this. This is because this is the most “tar-bao”-able (take-awayable) dish.
But … but … but … this is what we like.
“NO BUT!” the Nazi mum snapped.
Nanzaro always wanted hot sauce with his noodles. He can’t eat without hot sauce. He has bottles of different type of hot sauces at home which is mostly used by him. Each time we had noodles at home, he would go into the kitchen to select one type of hot sauce to go with it. It could be Srirarcha, garlic chilli, Maggi chili sauce, XO sauce, sambal sauce, chili oil … he is the resident expert in chili sauce.
So Nanzaro asked the waitress for the hot sauce. The waitress brought a Chinese combo of hot sauce and mustard in one saucer. When Nanzaro saw that he gave a weird look at it but did not say anything. Good thing the waitress asked if this is the right sauce he wanted. He can’t stand mustard. So he told the waitress he only wanted the hot sauce but not the mustard. We told the waitress he is just too shy to say he only want the chili. The waitress replied “That’s OK. He’s just a little kid.”.
LOL! He was not happy. The problem with Nanzaro is that he does look cute and does look someone younger than his age.
We did like this dish. They use a very fine vermicelli like mung bean noodle. There were no visible salted fish but it did have a clear hint of it. And of course the pork cheek was really good too. This dish is good and would come back again for it.
As ordered by you-know-who, we had this to go. Lots of it to go.
It was all gone before dinner time that day. Nanzaro and Arkensen took good care of it.
They accept cash and debit cards only. Price-wise, as earlier stated, it on a higher side. If only that they smooth out the rough edges the prices are not too bad. If there are things I hope they will do is to really look into the details of the decor. The place should be brighter. The table cloth need to be replaced with something nicer (it is too tacky now). The peeling wallpaper need to be dealt with. The exposed wirings and woodwork need to be taken care of.
Oh more importantly, they need to create a few signature dishes.
I feel that Harbour Spirit has deep enough pockets to deal with these sort of things. They have a good and impressive location and so that is a great start.
That is just my two cents. 🙂
The above are their mother’s day specials for a table of ten people. I know it is way past that date now and so it is irrelevant.
We would certainly want to come back to this restaurant some day to check out their dinner offerings. That some day would not be anytime soon. We will just monitor the feedback and reviews.
Anyway, look at their hours below. On the weekends they close at 4AM. Wohoo … one more place to have late night suppers and not have to only go to the #9 Restaurant nearby.
This Post Has 11 Comments
You’re far more generous than I would have been with this place. You’re such a nice guy. =)
Hehehe … nice guy? I think I got the message through. I think this restaurant is trending badly in terms of reviews. If they don’t turn this around quickly, am afraid they could be a mega failure. Right now they are still pulling in the crowd and I think it is mainly just because they are new.
I have to agree with Chubbypanda. I was here for lunch last week (spur of the moment, so no camera=no post!)
I was not impressed. The service was adequate at most…..even in terms of short, curt Chinese resto service. The food was sub-par compared to all the other great offerings around.
And like you Ben, I was very confused about what they were trying to achieve with their decor. It appeared as though they were trying to retain come of the Sammy J Pepper chic (for lack of a better description) and glamour it up..but really it’s just a sloppy mess IMHO.
You kind of see this mix of styles throughout China though, slapped together and not at all cohesive. More is not always better 🙂
Oh … too bad you did not have your camera with you. In terms of service, we had no problems at all that day to tell the truth. Although I could see they were busy scurrying around, they were courteous and were prompt when we needed service. Yeah, the food is unexciting … it is all too common dishes. Some of the dishes were good, that I have to hand it to them but some were definitely not. Hehehe … you also had problems with their disjointed decor too huh? My biggest peeve with them is how dim the whole place looked.
Oh, one thing I forgot to add was that one of the overhead spot light above us were going on and off all the time. It was downright annoying. We told the waitress but I understand they can’t do much about it at that time (the ceiling was too high and they needed a ladder to fix it).
Anyway, that was the whole reason why we were not interested in checking them out earlier because we knew they would have problems. However, after 1.5 months things were not much better.
there’s MAGGI… CHILI SAUCE??? where can you get this gem?
Hi Mo: Below is the one we have. Mostly belongs to Nanzaro. LOL! Not sure where Suanne got this but I would think it is quite common on Asian supermarket shelves. Ben
I’ll give Nanzaro a Pokemon card for his bottle of hot sauce. Don’t most little kids like Pokemon? 😉
haha…I’ll make him ham gnee gai nup chow fan…. 🙂
Hi Mo: Pokemon card? Not any more. What Nanzaro desires these days is an Android smartphone. He can give you ALL his bottles of hot sauce for one. Ben
We bought the recent bottle from T&T. I had bought it from Real Canadian Superstore before.
that place is better off as an izakaya or karaoke bar.