Good Choice Restaurant on Fraser and 44th, Vancouver

You know, I so look forward to the long weekend this week. I guess many of you will be taking the Friday off work along with the Remembrance Day holiday this Thursday. I am.

I got a serious suggestion for you during the long weekend. I just went for dim sum and went away feeling very impressed with the food … and I recommend you consider trying this place.

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Fmed and Keev had been talking soooo many times about the Good Choice Restaurant already. They were raving about the dinner they had there recently where they said every dish was a winner. Coming from people like fmed and Keev, I know this is one restaurant I must visit.

Instead of going for dinner, we went instead for dim sum. Good Choice is located on Fraser at 44th in Vancouver. I am pretty sure that everyone who drove along Fraser would have noticed that bright orange awning.

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Good Choice was previously known as Super Happiness until there was a change of owner. However the chefs remained the same. Frankly, Super Happiness was never on my radar before and so with the same chefs I am puzzled why people are raving about Good Choice’s food with the same chef. I mean, with the same chef, the food will most likely the same right?

It is only since March this year that Good Choice had started serving dim sum and lunch. They had since discontinued late night suppers and instead concentrated on dinners too.

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Good Choice is opened at 10 AM every morning for dim sum and lunch. We were the first customers there and for the next 30 minutes we were the only customers. At the peak until about 11:30 AM, the restaurant is only a third full. For a restaurant that we had so high expectations of, we thought it would have been packed. After all it was on a Saturday we were there.

From where we were seated we could see the Angel Cafe across the street. Angel Cafe was packed. It always is. The last time we were there was waaaaay back in April 2008 (post here).

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Service was “excellente”. The waiter obviously knows how to deal with bloggers. He was chatty with us and really gave us a lot of tips of their food. I would not have know if he had not pointed somethings out to us. Yeah … he came by several times and asked if we had any questions — of course we had lots of questions.

Click on the menu above to show a larger image.

This is obviously not a $2.50 dim sum kind of restaurant. Most of their regular dim sum items are $3.25 or $3.75. Some of the special and lunch items are at $10 but it is larger servings … not dim sum size.

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Their menu calls this the Pig Tripe & Bean Curd in Pepper ($6) but we knew this is not tripe. He he he … we are not totally Chinese illiterate. This is pork stomach. The Chinese name was correct while the English name was wrong.

You know, this soup is … (more…)

Continue ReadingGood Choice Restaurant on Fraser and 44th, Vancouver

Mini Chowtimes Dinner at Luda on East Hastings and Slocan, Vancouver

Updated: 4th July 2012; This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

I can’t quite explain it.

But I’ll try and it is based on my very personal judgment.

There is something about Luda that jumped out at me when I first came across this restaurant more than a month ago. Something tells me that it is a restaurant that can’t be ignored.

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Maybe it is the simplicity of the English rendition of name, Luda.

Maybe it is that the Cantonese name, Low Dai, means Big Brother. Just like a Chinese gangster would address his boss.

Maybe it is because of the billboard outside the restaurant which I rarely come across … well, not billboards as big as those you see above.

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Maybe it is also because they mention their dishes on the signs. It says that they are “King of Beef Balls” and they also mentioned Hainanese Chicken and Curry Dishes. To me it reminds me of the restaurants in Asia where they specialize in certain dishes and they serve nothing but that one dish. I don’t see many of such specialty restaurants in Vancouver.

But I think most of all, Luda has that “Richmond-esque” that I don’t expect to see in this part of Vancouver. If Luda is located in Richmond, I would perhaps not bat an eyelid.

But in East Hastings, I felt that it is somewhat interesting.

I was so intent on eating there but I know the best way is do it in a group. That way I could order many more dishes to try. So, I organized a mini chowtimes dinner — just enough to fill one table. So I thought. That ONE table became a table of 14 people. I had to cap it at 14 because that was the largest table they had in Luda and I did not want to have a 2 table party.

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Gosh. The restaurant sure was busy. While I was focused within our large table at the corner of the restaurant, I did turn around every now and then. It is remarkable how busy and popular this restaurant is.

The decor is modern. I like the large calligraphy Luda words on the wall. It looked like it was taken straight out of some gangster movie from Hong Kong.

And they are seriously under staff. It was not just our table but I can see that the waitresses were having a hard time trying to keep up.

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Too bad I don’t read Chinese. They have a seasonal menu on the board at the back of the restaurant.

One of them read Lamb Hot Pot. I had wanted to always try the award winning Lamb Hot Pot in Excelsior and since Luda is related in someway to Excelsior, I thought I want to order this. But there were no takers that night … so yeah, we did not order that.

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The meal started off with the Pork Stomach Soup. I selected this because this is a dish that must be pre-ordered one day in advance. Suanne says that I always want any dish that needs pre-ordering without considering what it is. 🙂

This is somewhat expensive. It is $38. The soup is murky and quite peppery. However, it seems like it did not go through enough cooking time (Chinese “for hao”).

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The ingredients of the soup which is pork stomach and pork bones were served on the side. I was quite happy and thought wow, so much pork stomach.

But no … (more…)

Continue ReadingMini Chowtimes Dinner at Luda on East Hastings and Slocan, Vancouver

Delicious Chinese Cuisine on Kingsway, Between Victoria and Knight, Vancouver

Updated: 12th June 2011; This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com

Suanne and I had to run out for an errand that Saturday weekend. So we plan to go for a slow and leisurely dim sum since we had time to kill. We know exactly the place to go to. I had been there for lunch alone before and I was quite impressed with the variety of dim sum they had on the menu.

Some of you know me already, about how I look forward to non-traditional dim sum items. Siu mai, har gow, rice rolls and stuff like that bores me. But this restaurant has more than that. Their dim sum slash lunch menu has over 100 items. And what more, 40% of them are just $2.75.

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The restaurant name is Delicious Chinese Cuisine, not to be confused with the Taiwanese restaurant called Delicious Cuisine in Richmond which won 2 CRA awards in 2010.

Delicious Chinese Cuisine is located along Kingsway somewhere almost in the middle between Victoria and Knight. When I first came across this restaurant, I thought that this is a Mainland Chinese restaurant because of the bright yellow and red sign. Instead it is not “jiang gouyu” (Mandarin speaking) but it is very very Cantonese.

We associate yellow and red signs with Mainland China restaurant. Do you have the same way of thinking too?

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We got there early. Traffic was light. It was just slightly before 9AM but they were already opened. Already there was a big table of seniors enjoying their “yum cha” (translated as drinking tea). Dim sum is the most common name for dim sum but the term yum cha is equally as commonly used in Hong Kong. So next time you want to impress your Cantonese speaking friends, use the word “yum cha” instead of dim sum and you will probably see them raise their eyebrows in delight.

The interior is not like what it looked like outside. It is a pleasant and bright restaurant with a large “L” shape dining hall. I think it seats easily 120 to 150 people. The decor is above average from the usual dim sum restaurant. It even has 50″ flat screen TVs and chandeliers. I just like chandeliers in restaurants. 🙂

At 9AM, they had just turned on the heater. So it was freezing cold, for the part of the meal that we had to keep our jackets on.

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With so many choices and there are only two of us, we decided we just tick all of the items on the Chef’s Specialty section. You may click on the image above to show it larger, BTW.

We also added a couple of more interesting sounding items.

Service was slow, that I should mention. Unlike other dim sum places, speed is important. Here, the dishes came out one at a time. Which is fine by us. We have time to kill and we like to properly and slowly savor every dish. “Yum Cha” cannot be rushed … dim sum can be rushed, if you know what I mean.

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The BBQ Duck with Rice Spaghetti in Soup was one of the items under the Chef’s Specialty. It is unbelievably cheap for a full noodle dish at just $3.

And the bowl is not small at all. It is big and this one bowl is definitely filing for breakfast for one.

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The noodle is … (more…)

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Ho Yuen Kee Restaurant on Fraser and 46th, Vancouver

If there is one thing that keeps ringing in my mind these past few weeks, it is CRABS.

I am thinking of Chili Crab, the national dish of Singapore. I had been asking around of where is the best place to eat this. What I came up with is Banana Leaf. I don’t know … Banana Leaf does not seem like a place where I could get authentic chili crab. In my mind, Banana Leaf is just too westernized.

I am also thinking of Typhoon Shelter Crab, the fried garlic and chili crab from Hong Kong. Yeah, I have been waiting for Buddha Girl to organize a chowdown of this dish in Top Gun. I heard that the newish restaurant called Luda also serves a mean Typhoon Shelter Crab too.

I am also-also thinking of the House Special Crab that Negative Space won Gold in the crab category in the 2010 Chinese Restaurant Awards.

And then of course, there is the famed Crab with Sticky Rice …

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While waiting for the Singapore Chili Crab and the Typhoon Shelter Crab to happen, Suanne and I decided to go ahead to try the other famous crab dish in Ho Yuen Kee.

Ho Yuen Kee is located on Fraser and 46th in Vancouver. Whether you like it or not, Ho Yuen Kee is considered one of the finest Cantonese restaurants in Vancouver. In many ways, particularly the food, they do stand a chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best Cantonese restaurants in the world even. Yeah, some people do claim that.

With the proliferation of fancier Chinese restaurants the last few years, people are beginning to forget about them. I mean, people are talking a lot about all the newer restaurants and they talk lesser about older establishments like Ho Yuen Kee.

But Ho Yuen Kee is ever as popular. There is always a constant line-up here. Your best bet is to make a reservation ahead of time — and even that, there is no guarantee that you will have the table ready for you when you show up at the appointed time.

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Suanne and I did not make reservation. We just showed up and was promptly told that it will be 30 minutes. We were OK with that. It is not that we are in a hurry to go somewhere. After all it is our Friday date night and we had the whole evening to ourselves. Actually we got a table in 20 minutes but it was a crappy table by the corner (we took it).

While waiting I took a walk around the restaurant. He he he … I do that because I wanted to spy what everyone is eating. You should do that when the situation arises. I often get ideas of what to order by seeing what others eat. Just walk casually like you are going to the washroom or something like that.

About half the tables had their signature dish — the crab or lobster with sticky rice. We are on the right track!

The restaurant is very busy and noisy. This is the kind of place that people bring their entire family out for dinner. It is common to see three generations of a family enjoying a meal together here. So you can imagine that they have a lot of big tables catering to these large parties. For a small party of two (Suanne and I), we get snucked into the corner.

Service, ambiance, presentation, cleanliness … all these takes a backseat. There is only two things that is most important here. It is the food and speed. Accept that and you will have a great time.

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It is an old school Cantonese menu. Their prices are OK. They are not expensive but then they are not cheap either. For the quality of the dishes, their customers had never been known to complain that they are higher than other similar setup.

Just don’t expect to spend $12 here for a nice dinner. You could expect at least $15-$20 per person.

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Our sight was already zeroed on to their signature dish. If you had never been to Ho Yuen Kee before, you just need to order one thing and it is this one. If you just walk around the restaurant like I did while waiting for a free table, you will see the above big bamboo basket on many tables.

It is the Lobster OR Crab with Sticky Rice on the bottom. There is no set price for this dish on the menu. It depends on the current prices of crab and lobster of the day.

It is not cheap, that much I need to say. We immediately asked the captain the prices of the signature dish. He told us that the lobster is $21 per pound and the crab is $13.80 per pound. And it is at least 2.5 to 3.0 each.

A quick mental calculation says that it will be $70-$80 for the lobster version. So that rules lobster out for us — it’s too much to spend for a dinner. We’ll save the lobster for a special occasion. The crab will do for now. I see a lot of people ordered the lobster version.

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You know it will be expensive when they bring the life crab out to show it to you before they cook it. So the crab alone is $34.50 and that is excluding the $7 sticky rice that came with it.

I like that they served this in a bamboo basket which is lined with lotus leaf. It has that rustic (?) feel to eating it this way as opposed to a nice clean big plate. It does keep the food warm longer and it is important to eat this while it is still warm (in Cantonese, we say we eat this while “chan yeet”).

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We had always been puzzled with the lemon infused soup that we were served every time we had crabs. I mean, I usually drink it thinking it is soup. After all, it does a great job in cleansing the palate.

Considered me educated and properly advised … thanks to Crispy Lechon. Crispy Lechon advised us that this is not a soup at all. It is actually a … (more…)

Continue ReadingHo Yuen Kee Restaurant on Fraser and 46th, Vancouver

Golden Phoenix Seafood Restaurant on Nanaimo and Broadway, Vancouver

Updated 23rd Oct 2011; This restaurant is closed, verified against Urbanspoon.com.

I am not sure if you notice this. For quite a long while already, we had been dining out by looking for particular dishes instead of wanting to try a restaurant. That is why our to-try list is sorted by dishes rather than by restaurants. We find it more fun seeking out interesting food than interesting restaurants.

And what really helps us is that we get quite a number of recommendations via emails and comments from Friends of Chowtimes. Of course, right? If someone cares to write to us about something they discovered and like a lot, chances are it will not be too shabby.

Lily wrote to us about two weeks ago. Out of the blue … and boy, is she expressive. Her descriptions of her favourite food in select restaurants were so detailed that I was wondering why she did not put up a blog of her own. LOL!

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Lily wrote to us about the sago and red bean pudding she had in the Golden Phoenix. Golden Phoenix is located just next door to the ever so busy $2.95 breakfast joint on Nanaimo and Broadway.

It is a long way from home in Richmond but for something unique we are more than willing to take the drive. Suanne and I just am bored with the same old siu mai, har gow and stuff like that even though our boys love those. We took the trek nevertheless on account of Lily’s description of the one item.

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I did not expect this but this restaurant is prettier than I thought. It is so plain on the outside but inside is pretty classy. The carpet is nice and newish … double layer table cloth instead of layers of throwaway plastic ones. Even the seats have covers.

I did not expect this at all. I was actually thinking … “oh no, how much is this gonna cost now?”.

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I actually did not expect a lot of other things too. I read about poor service in this restaurant but our experience is more than pleasant. The ladies who attended to us were sweet and we felt mothered, if I can describe it that way. It’s like our own mums asking us if we wanted any particular item and then telling us why this is good for us — very persuasive.

Granted the restaurant was about 80% full during that time we were there. It is a push cart dim sum restaurant. They also bring out individual items by hand.

Language-wise, we got by fine with them with English. They understand but their English is limited.

Chinese tea charge is 60 cents per person whether you drink or not. Our boys always have iced water. They do charge them for 60 cents. It is not a problem for us but just wanted to point this out.

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Despite how fancy the restaurant looked, their prices did not match that. As a matter of fact, I found them quite on par with “lesser” restaurants.

Look at the picture on the left … the top part that says “Chef’s Special House Steamed Soup”. I learned that they are big on steamed soup. The logo outside the restaurant is a steaming pot. As we walked in, there was a dozen or so soup pots on display. There is even a banner on top of the entrance to the kitchen extolling the benefits of drinking soup.

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Most of what we got was just $2.36. Good value for money, I am sure you would agree.

So, we were quite happy with everything up to this point.

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The above is what Lily was telling us about. This is called Tapioca with Red Bean Paste on their menu. We couldn’t find this in their menu and had to describe this to the waitress. It took a while before she understood what we were looking for. She had to go to the kitchen to get this for us. So, if you want to get this, you might need to ask for it specifically.

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I like it. It is not super delicious or anything like that. It is just interesting and nice.

This is served cold and jelly-like. I thought it would be … (more…)

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How To Eat The Head of a Squab at Lucky Tao Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Alexandra Road, Richmond

Updated: 29th Oct 2014; This restaurant is closed.

I think …

I think some of you follows chowtimes because it is educational. Today, I am going to demonstrate to you how to eat the head of a squab.

There is a procedure you have to follow to devour the trickiest anatomy of the squab. Lucky you … I am gonna show you the technique, step-by-step. This technique is known as the “JS Maneuver”, named after one of the low-key but definitely one of the most prolific foodie in Vancouver.

It is in this post that JS first reveal the technique.

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We went to Lucky Tao.

To tell the truth, we had not heard of Lucky Tao until Joe and LotusRapper put this restaurant in the shortlist for the 8GTCC Cantonese Homestyle Edition. I am not surprised because not many people can see the restaurant from the road, even though it is located along Richmond’s glutton street. It’s along the quietest side of Alexandra Road, at the western end of the road.

From the outside, it looked like Lucky Tao is an old restaurant … like one of those restaurants that were opened during the 1980s during the time when the wave of immigrants from Hong Kong came to escape the uncertainty of the handover to China.

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The restaurant is large, like most Cantonese seafood restaurants are. However, it also looked very old school. It is like time stood still here since the 1980s.

Even the captains and waitresses are older (and more experienced) people. While they were neatly dressed in white shirts and tie, I can see that it is old, over-ironed and wrinkly. Like I said, everything here looked like time stood still.

Before we came, we read reviews about poor service in Lucky Tao. Well, it was pretty good actually. They were very efficient and even very personable. So our experience here is definitely very pleasant.

It is also a decidedly a Cantonese restaurant. They speak perfect Cantonese. Many of the customers that night are families with kids and grandparents. I can see why many of their tables are of the bigger sized ones.

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We like menus like this. See the page above (click image to enlarge), particularly the bottom part. Those are the “Advance Order” items. They looked very good … and very pricey too.

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And then there is three pages of Chef’s Specialties. All of then looked equally as good too. It seems like all the common Cantonese dishes are in the Chef’s Specialties. So you can imagine how long we took to look at the menu.

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There are also the usual “Dinner for X People” specials. 4-person menu for $118 … 6-person menu for $178 … 8-person menu for $250.

Too bad we can’t read a word of what is in this.

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The first thing they served on the table is a small saucer of salted fried peanuts. Wow, I had not come across this served as we sat down for a long time. Doing this was common years ago but these days, I don’t see much of this anymore.

I mean, the fried peanuts are pretty common. It is just that they served this along with the tea before they took our orders.

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First order of business … the squab. I remember ET of Doesn’t Tazte Like Chicken raved about the squab in Lucky Tao. So it is a good time to try this and practice the JS Maneuver here.

Like killing two birds with one stone. Except that we only ordered one squab. Squabs are not cheap despite it small size. Lucky Tao’s Braised Crispy Squab is $14 each. Moreover, the boys doesn’t like squab. They think we are weird eating cute little birds.

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The squab was pretty good and quite fleshy. I like that it is not too salty. Some squabs I had tried are too salty for my liking.

I guess we will never quite understand what the big deal is with squabs. For the price, it is not worth it compared to say, deep fried crispy chicken.

So why do people like squab so much? Is it because of the texture?

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Ta-da … the head of the squab! The object of the JS Maneuver.

Quite revolting, isn’t it?

I had ignored the head thinking that no one would eat this.

Apparently some people do.

Here is how you do it …

(more…)

Continue ReadingHow To Eat The Head of a Squab at Lucky Tao Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Alexandra Road, Richmond

Hoitong Chinese Seafood Restaurant on Westminster Highway, Richmond

Sticker shock.

This is how I would sum this place up. It is not that it is totally unjustifiably expensive. It is just that we did not expect a small restaurant like this would serve high end Cantonese food.

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I mean … just look at the size of the restaurants. From the outside you would even think that this is a hole-in-the-wall. Moreover, it is not located in the section of town where there are high-end restaurants.

Located in the strip mall just across the street from the Richmond Public Market, the Hoitong Chinese Seafood Restaurant had apparently been operating here for the past two years. It is located at the far corner of the mall and rather inconspicuous.

We had walked past this restaurant many times before and each time we peek into it, we noticed that it a bit posher than one would expect. I suppose the dead giveaway should have been the word “Seafood” to their name.

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It is a really small restaurant. They only have 2 big family sized tables and 5 medium sized one. The chairs are comfortable. Why, they even have a chandelier on the ceiling, although a small one.

The word “seafood” on their name and the setting should have given us the clue that it could be expensive eating here. For a place this size, it is manned by a captain and a waitress — both looked very professional just like the senior managers in more established restaurants. They are even in suit and tie.

It was kind of unreal actually. Everything is like what you would expect in big posh restaurants like Jade Garden or Shiang Garden except that this is a hole-in-the-wall sized ones. You don’t normally see such Cantonese seafood restaurants this small. They are mostly big operations. So unreal.

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They have proper table cloth and cloth napkins with communal chopsticks already set on the table.

And when I saw the menu … oh wow … they do serious Cantonese cuisine dishes here. I did not take pictures of their menu but I can tell you that the cheaper average dishes ranges from $16-$20. Even the Yong Chow Fried Rice is $16 where you could get this for $8 in some HK Style Cafe.

They also have a section on their menu for sharkfin at $60 a person. Their most expensive dish is the Stir Fry Sharkfin with Crab Meat and Scrambled Egg which is $76. Oh … we would have ordered that if not for the fact our boys hate scrambled eggs for dinner. LOL! Just kidding … but $76 for scrambled eggs?

Yeah, they also have a wine menu.

Here is one more thing … when we ordered the dishes, we asked for four bowls of rice. The server told us that she will only take the order of rice AFTER the dishes were served. That’s how it is in expensive restaurants, isn’t it? Rich people who dine in these sort of restaurants shun rice … and even if they order rice, they will take a couple of mouthful. Sigh … we are not at that level of sophistication yet … WE WANT RICE … NOW!

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The Captain recommended Crab Meat and Fish Maw Potage. The menu said that it is $20. Considering that the sharkfin soup is $60 PER PERSON, I really had to ask if the $20 is PER PERSON or a serving big enough for the family. It was … (more…)

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Daimo Noodle Express on Granville, Vancouver

You have to tell me more about Daimo.

It seems like Daimo has been around for a long time. It is definitely BCT (Before Chow Times, TM). I guess they have their roots in Hong Kong. As much I try to Google them, I can’t find any references of them in Hong Kong. I got a bunch of links of the restaurant in California though.

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So last weekend, we went to Daimo. We had been here before just that we had never blogged about them. I am not sure why. It must have been a few years ago during the early days of Chow Times. In those days, we were timid bloggers. Today we are bold. LOL! I think we got intimidated for one reason or another. I think so.

I had never paid much attention to Daimo after that visit. My earlier impression was that it was a Chinese restaurant with a Japanese name. Daimo … Daimyo. Sounds alike.

Despite its age, the restaurant does not show its age. It is a well maintained restaurant. I was half expecting this place to have a little bit of peeling paint and or worn out chairs. He he he … of all things I noticed, I thought the glass were really shiny and clean. Just goes to show how they know how to take care of the image of the restaurant. Shows that they still care.

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The inside is kind of small. OK, we counted the seats for you. They have 42 seats. 🙂 Not too big, huh?

It is kind of hard to believe that they are a branch from a successful chain in Hong Kong. I am not sure if it’s still owned by the same restaurant anymore or the ownership had transferred since. I don’t know … and am hoping some of you knows.

Service is very good — very polite and very genuine. There wasn’t a lot of people (just four tables, including ours) and between the two waitresses, getting their attention is not a problem.

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I guess only a chain restaurant would have logo plates. Normally a small 42 seater restaurant would not bother with logo’ing the plates. Chinese restaurants are not big in branding, generally speaking. But I guess you also see that the logos are beginning to wear off already.

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Their full menu was nothing too exciting. It is the usual Cantonese restaurant items. You know, like Noodle Soup, Mixed Noodles, Congee and such.

You know our boys. They wanted to have their own dish (fried rice, what else?). They don’t like sharing dishes. Mum on the other hand wants sharing. And the boys know that dad is an expert in picking dishes they like. And yet they insisted on having their own serving.

Well, dad has the final say. I said we will order sharing dishes, like it or not … and no more debates. As a compromise, each of us get to choose one dish … except NO FRIED RICE!

This was because I wanted to choose dishes from the Dinner Combo menu (click above to show in larger image).

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There are 28 dishes to choose from. The combo sounds like a great deal … and it was.

We opted for the Dinner for 4 option. Listen to this … not only do we get to choose 4 dishes, we also get free (1) jelly fish, (2) BBQ pork, and (3) Soup!

It is like having SEVEN dishes. All for $50.

We knew it will be too much food. For the four of us, we normally would order three dishes. But it is either this or the Dinner for 2 option.

Big regret!

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The free soup is the Pork and Lotus Root soup. It was great and tasted really good. It surprisingly has a really deep flavour to it. Just look at the color of the soup too. Normally free soup are just so-so.

Even Nanzaro and Arkensen liked it. See? Dad’s choices are not bad. If only they just give me a bit more credit.

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Here is another two that is free with the Dinner Combo. The BBQ Pork was … (more…)

Continue ReadingDaimo Noodle Express on Granville, Vancouver

8GTCC Cantonese Cuisine Discovery in Red Star Seafood Restaurant, Vancouver

The third dinner in the Eight Great Tradition of Chinese Cuisine (8GTCC) dinners was the Cantonese cuisine. It was supposed to be the easiest of all dinners but as it turned out, it quickly became the hardest to organize.

All thanks to the hard work and perseverance from LotusRapper and Joe, they managed to pull off the most fun, educational and enjoyable dinner so far.

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One of the problems with organizing a Cantonese dinner is simply bewildering choices. It would have been easier like the Hunan or the Jiangsu cuisine where there are just a handful of restaurants we could plan with. Not with Cantonese. There are dozens of very good Cantonese restaurants in Metro Vancouver. The initial shortlist of restaurants that LotusRapper and Joe came up with was SEVEN restaurants … ranging from homestyle restaurants to the more extravagant ones.

It took them a whole two months with countless visits to restaurants before we finally decided on what we want to do. We decided that it is only right that we host a more lavish one … in line with the reputation of the Cantonese cuisine as the most extravagant of the eight Chinese cuisine.

It is Cantonese cuisine that is well known for excesses like the shark fin soup, bird nest soup, abalone, king crabs, scallops and geoducks. They are the master of cooking the Alaskan King Crab and dishes that costs into the hundreds of dollars. We knew that if the cost of the dinner is too high, it would mean a lower response than the 70 people who attended the Jiangsu cuisine. After long considerations, we decided to pull the trigger and commit ourselves to the plan.

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In all 26 people attended the dinner at the Red Star Seafood restaurant on Granville. It was a 10-course dinner which costs $62 per person (including tips and taxes).

The restaurant pull all stops to make sure we had a good time. We were given an entire private dining room to ourselves which was great because we could interact in ways not possible if we were in the general dining hall. Moreover, the restaurant assigned their manager and top waiter FULL-TIME to our party. That made a lot of difference. Each dish serving was accompanied by witty and educational quips.

Time flew. We did not realize that it took us just slightly over 3 hours to complete the 10 courses! The pace of the dinner was excellent. One dish is brought out one at a time with a proper introduction and follow-on discussions too.

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Dish #1 was the Roast Suckling Pig. We asked the restaurant to bring the entire pig to show us before they take it back to the kitchen to chop it up. It was quite a sight and of course, this drew out a lot of cameras.

Red Star roast the pig in house on the day of the dinner. Each pig costs $280.

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The suckling pig is served to be eaten two ways. The first way is with the crispy skin wrapped with scallions in pancakes. The thing is they have only enough scallions and pancakes where everyone has only two mouthful.

The sauce above is made in house and is meant for the suckling pig. It is a mix of hoison sauce, garlic and red fermented bean curd.

The suckling pig was meant to feed 20 people but since we had 26 people, everyone had a little lesser than what we intended.

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Dish #2 is called the Fuzzy Melon Stuffed with Fresh Scallop with a Light Sauce. Each piece of this costs $6.50 and so we only get one each.

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Someone was commenting that it will be more tasty if dried scallop is used. But then, of course, it would be more expensive.

Question: Why is dried scallop tastier, more desirable and expensive? Is it because it has concentrated flavour and shrinkage when dried?

Anyway, the scallop flavour balance well with the tender fuzzy melon. Like most Cantonese cooking, the emphasis is on … (more…)

Continue Reading8GTCC Cantonese Cuisine Discovery in Red Star Seafood Restaurant, Vancouver

[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Roasted Squab 紅燒乳鴿 from Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant, Richmond

Updated 31st Oct 2014; This restaurant had moved to a new location as per the address on Urbanspoon.

We had been planning for this on and off for quite a number of weeks now. We had been saving this place up to check it out with a group of people. This is because (1) Sea Harbour won two CRA awards for 2010, and (2) it is kind of an expensive place that, well, will be kind of lost on our boys.

I finally managed to get this going after a couple of tries.

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Sea Harbour is one of those restaurants in Richmond where you see the parking lot with highest percentage of luxurious cars. The parking lot is big with some more lots around the back of the building. But even that it is full during peak meal times.

One option is to park across the street in Yaohan Center but be warned. If you are forced to park there, you should pretend to walk into Yaohan Center before you head across the street. There are people who look out for cars to tow. They make a lot of money doing it and trust me, they are very efficient. Best way is to park, go in one entrance and go out another. Those lookouts are smart about people walking in and out already.

Anyway, the Yaohan Center parking is just as hellish. So, really the best thing is to go as early as possible.

And that is what we did. Dinner was at 6:00PM and the parking lot was empty.

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The interior looks grand and quite tastefully decorated. It is festooned with gold everywhere. No real gold of course but the decor shouts opulence with chairs upholstered in gold fabric, newish looking carpets and tables with double table cloth.

We had been here before. For dim sum. As a mere salaryman, I can’t afford to bring the family here for dinner, not all the time.

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The table setting is nice. The napkins are gold (in color). The plate is gold (in color). The rectangular dish for the hot towel is also gold (in color). Actually the gold (in color) plates are cheap plastic. But hey … it is still gold (in color).

Service is impeccable. The captain, manager or whatever they call the senior guy is professional and polite. You know, this are the kind of place where they change your plate very often … and they do.

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Looking at the menu, I was thinking … OMG, did I make a mistake in organizing this dinner. I mean, we could easily spend half a month’s dine out budget eating here.

Yeah … a dish costing $16.80 is considered cheap on their menu. You should have seen their other pages. No, I did not take pictures of the entire menu. I had to pretend to maintain dignity by not taking too many pictures.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was going to come here to try their two award winning dishes. Sea Harbour won:

  • Gold in the Prawns category with the Pan Fried Prawns with Soy, and
  • Silver in the Squab category with their Roasted Squab

I really was set getting this. The day before the dinner, JS was warning me that the prawns could be expensive since spot prawns is out of season already. Yup, it turned out that it was more expensive.

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This is kind of how it was at our table. Someone told me (or maybe I read somewhere) something funny. I can’t recall who, when or where. A blogger was dining somewhere and was taking pictures. That drew a comment from a customer saying that “back in his days, people take pictures of pretty girls”!

Isn’t it quite the norm these days? I see a lot of people nonchalantly taking pictures of their food in restaurant.

Did you also notice that it is mostly the girls who takes pictures of food? Right? Somehow it is cooler for girls to take pictures of food. Restaurants tolerate that. For guys taking pictures, the restaurant thinks we are spies or a competitor … especially those with big SLRs.

So it was good dining with bloggers. ALL of them understand protocol. Oh yeah. Pictures first … don’t touch the food until the last camera had been put down.

So we had a few foodie bloggers in attendance … the inseparable JS-TS, the globe trotting ET and Christina and the omnipresence Grayelf. Gracing the event too is a foodie from New York, Eunice. She has a blog but it was last updated almost 1 year ago. But she has something new up her sleeve which she describes it as a “pandora for food”.

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Meal started off with some lemon tea. Full compliment of the restaurant. Served oddly in a bowl not a cup, they only gave us two.

Everyone was too shy to drink it. I think everyone thinks that it is meant for the most senior on the table and no one wants to have that honour.

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They already know we wanted the Pan Fried Prawns with Soy. I called the previous day to make sure that they have the two dishes and have them reserved for us.

So they brought the prawns to the table — live — for us to inspect before bringing back to the kitchen to cook. I should have taken a closer look but am a noob at these things. So I said, yeah OK.

Tell me … what do you look for when they bring live seafood to you?

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The reason I asked you that question was … I was quite disappointed with the dish when … (more…)

Continue Reading[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Roasted Squab 紅燒乳鴿 from Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant, Richmond