Top Gun Hot Pot in Crystal Mall, Burnaby

I had visitors again at work.

This time it was Martin who is a Project Manager from our office in Toronto. He is here to explore the feasibility of joining our project team which is short of PMs. Although our project teams are scattered around in Atlanta, London, Singapore, New Delhi and Vancouver, we had never had a PM sitting remote from all team members. Frankly, I don’t know how one could manage a project that way despite all the communications technology and all. I had always maintained that no video or web conference facilities in the world will replace face to face meetings.

Anyway, it was two solid days of meetings and planning that the three PMs had. At least we managed to arrive at agreements in many key issues. I must say that the meetings were somewhat contentious because there are a lot of interests that each of us PMs need to protect. At the end of the grueling meetings, we decided to put work behind and go out for dinner. I was determined NOT to talk anymore about work.

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I wanted to bring Martin and Gage to an Asian restaurant. Both of them are as white and despite being Canadians do not have a lot of experience eating Asian. While I played safe by bringing my boss to a French restaurant, with these colleagues I could be more adventurous and get away with it. LOL!

I brought the PMs to the Top Gun Hot Pot which is located at the top floor of Crystal Mall. It was perfect because just a short walk from the office.

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One thing that I had not quite figured out is why non-Asians generally do not enjoy Asian food. I know I am generalizing here but just humor me for a moment. I do find that non-Asians are suspicious about Chinese and Korean food. However, I find that they are more receptive to Thai and Japanese food. Why is it so?

With Gage and Martin, they are the type of people who will not normally walk into a Chinese restaurant, let alone going to a Hot Pot place. So I asked them about it but did not quite get the answer I understand. They did say that it is the texture of some Asian food that puts them off.

It is their first time going to a Hot Pot restaurant so they were really intrigued with things that I had always taken for granted. For instance, they were quite amazed with the heating surface for the hot pot which could bring the hot pot to boil in seconds.

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The ordering was all left to me. To be kind to them, I ordered all the “safe” food (see selection above). I stayed away from ordering things like large intestines, kidneys, liver, tendon, pig’s blood and tripe.

Oh yeah, they did ask me what I ordered but I told them to … (more…)

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Garden City Hot Pot in Richmond

More than a month a go, we received an email from a couple from New York saying that they will be in Vancouver and asking if we would like to meet up.  Aaron and Charmaine wrote that they had been following chowtimes for sometime and that they will be in Vancouver to do the Alaska cruise.  After some email exchange, we decided to meet up for dim sum in Richmond.

I suggested meeting at the Garden City Hot Pot mainly because it is high on my list to visit.  I had been there for dinner once but not for dim sum.

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Truth be told, Suanne and I are bored with dim sums.  We are  just bored with unexciting generic items like siu mai, har gow, sticky rice and such.  We like places like Sea Harbour because they have unique one of a kind dishes.

We came to know Garden City as a place where they serve individual serving of tea from Doesn’t Tazte Like Chicken.  So at least at the Garden City Hot Pot we get to experience something new.

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Interior is clean — much more cleaner than I expected actually.  The walls were quite tastefully decorated with paintings and they even have pots of flowers (albeit fake) on the tables.  It is something you don’t see often in dim sum places.

To our pleasant surprise, the service was also top notch for a busy dim sum place.  They took the time to let us settle down and even took time to chat with us.

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We were asked first off what tea we wanted.  Having absolutely no idea what to order, we quite randomly picked our choices.  We ended up Rose, Lychee Hoong, Chrysanthemum and Jasmine.

Apparently at Garden City Hot Pot, EVERYONE must drink tea, even the kids.  They charge $3 per head whether you want tea or not.

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Arkensen and Nanzaro asked for ice water but they clearly informed us that we will need to pay $3.  So we decided that since we are dinged for it already, we went on to order two additional type of tea.  Based on their recommendation, the additional choices were Sau Mei (good for curing sore throat) and Grey Tea (bitter and good for curing cold).

Someday … I will go learn more about the finer aspects of Chinese tea but for now my choice is Rose simply because it has flower bulbs in it.

Since we are unsure how to go about steeping the tea, they gave us a demo.  Here … I am reproducing the steps for you info.

Garden-City-Hot-Pot-4-200x300They have provide you the kettle at the table where you keep the water boiled.  It is hazardous especially if you have children around.There was no switch to control the heat.  You need to move the kettle away from the heating surface if the kettle is boiling.
Garden-City-Hot-Pot-3-200x300The tea leaves are served in small saucers and is sufficient for multiple rounds.You don’t use up all the tea leaves at one go … just a bit would do.
Garden-City-Hot-Pot-5-200x300Fill up the steeping cup with boiling water, cover and then …
Garden-City-Hot-Pot-2-200x300… immediately you pour away the water.  They provide a bowl to collect the water and comes by regularly to clear them.  I think this first rinse is to wash the leaves.   Then you refill the steeping cup with boiling water to steep the tea.  I have no idea what is the optimum time to wait.  I just let it get to a stage when it is dark enough.

Simple huh?

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The hardest part is pouring the ready tea from the steeping cup to the drinking cup.  You got to do that with the lid on.  Obviously, we made a mess because we can never get it done right without having spills dripping down the bottom.

Is there a technique to doing this?  Our technique is to use the saucer to catch the spill.  Not quite elegant but it works.

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Enough of tea … on to the food.  One of the items we had is called the Steamed Fish Head with Preserved Vegetables in Black Bean Sauce. ($7).  The fish was fresh and flakey.  Somehow this does not come across to me as a dim sum and more like a normal lunch/dinner dish.

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the sauce was … steamed rice.  Would you think of the same thing too?

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Curiously, they asked us twice if we wanted Baked BBQ Pork Bun.  We said no initially because we thought it was just the normal char siu bau.  They insists that we try their version saying that it is the most popular dim sum they served.  We relently … and was surprised.

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It is unlike the normal BBQ Pork Bun one would expect.  Instead, it is like a cross between a Pineapple Bun (Bolo Bau) and Char Siu Bau.  Very unique indeed.

The topping is sweetish with a little saltiness.  It is excellent.  If you happen to dim sum here, you should try it.  Chances are that you will love this.  This is $4.50 for three.

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The Deep Fried Ground Pork and Tofu Skin Wrap was another item we like a lot.  This is $6.  It is bigger than one normally expect, partly because, I think, it’s wider than normal.  The deep fried crispy skin balances the texture from the ground pork. (more…)

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Point Zero Four Fusion Restaurant on Alexandra Road, Richmond

Suanne and I never learn. We know that we almost always end up regretting having AYCE (All You Can Eat) and yet we go back again and again.

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We had always passed by this place with the bright yellow signboards each time we go to Alexandra Road. They have the brightest signboard along Alexandra for sure. The name too — I can’t quite figure out what it really means. It is called Point Zero Four Fusion … it could mean to read as Point Zero, Four Fusion or .04 Fusion. Whatever it is, the tagline says that they serve Beijing Style Cuisine.

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The place is large and takes up the space of three normal shop lots. The decor is tacky as expected. The tables were raised a few inches off the ground because of the gas pipings to each table. See the legs of the chairs … they even had to have the legs extended. Pipings or not, I think they did not maintain them because some of the built in stoves did not work. Ours didn’t work and they used a portable burner instead.

Service is rude. Should I say service is rude by western standards. Not everyone can stand for this but Suanne and I learned to look away from this. They are rude as in not making eye contact, giving mono-syllabic answers, grabbing utensils in a haste … you know. I believe they think they are projecting a professional and efficient image but buddy, that it rude here in this part of the world. Smile … please … because that translates to tips, dum-dum.

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You got to ask for the 2-page order form in English. By default they hand you one in Chinese.

The Hot Pot AYCE is $18 per person. What is not stated is the “extras” … the soup base is an extra charge. The soup base ranges from the no frills $5 pork soup to $15 drunken chicken. There is quite a variety to choose from. The Dips and Sauces are free for the first order. They will charge 50 cents for the second order.

You can upgrade the AYCE Hot Pot to include BBQ Skewers (another of their specialty) for an extra $6. We thought it is a bit too much having Hot Pot AND BBQ Skewers.

Looking at their faces, they are of no help to us in deciding our order. We ended up ordering almost one of every item.

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The “suen moi tong” drinks are a deal. The above is just $1 per person with unlimited refills. Cynical as we are, we thought the reason it is so cheap is because they wanted us to fill up with water instead of the more expensive meat items.

I made a mistake asking question about exactly what this is made of. The waitress just blurted, while turning her back to me and walk away, “for drinking”. Oh please … I know that. There goes your tips, baby.

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The soup base we selected was the Szechuan. They were spicy hot. I got to hand it to them … they smell absolutely marvelous and fragrant. There are a lot of spices in the soup base … especially with the lips numbing peppercorns. Nice.

They were MSG laden too as we confirmed after the meal. We were thirsty.

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Round one was the meats. We ticked every single meat item except for the pork blood. I am not sure how they decided how much to give us but it was a lot of meat.

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At least it was all thinly sliced and does shrink a lot once it is cooked.

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Round two was the seafood. The same strategy applies … we ticked every single item. We did not opt for the Geoduck because it was $12 extra … per dish!

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Actually they smell very fishy. I can picked up a waft of it when it was brought to the table. It was not stale or rotten or anything like that. It had a smell of a fish market.

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But once cooked, it should be OK.

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Anyway, the strong fragrant soup base overpowered any fishiness once the seafood is in the pot. Absolutely loved the soup base. It was really good during the meal. It was the after effect from the MSG that is not so good. As much as the soup base is important to the hot pot, equally as important is the …

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Neptune Wonton Noodle on No 3 Road, Richmond

Having missed dinner, Suanne and I decided that we should go out for supper. In many parts of Asia, where there are always places to eat at any hours of the day, suppers are meant to refer to the meal after normal dinner time … usually late at night.

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It had been many years since we went to the Neptune Wonton Noodle. This restaurant is positioned as a cheaper version of the Neptune Sharkfin Seafood Restaurant and is located just side-by-side to it (on Akroyd and No 3 Road). This is the restaurant with the green entrance … the more expensive one is the one with the red entrance.

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Neptune Wonton Noodle, despite the name is actually more famous for its other food than wonton. I don’t know if people really order wontons here at all. It is a popular spot for late night supper and opens until 2AM.

When we were there past 10:15PM, the place was packed — and noisy as expected of such a place. Walking in, one cannot help but notice the fragrant aroma of herbal soup — which is a specialty of Neptune.

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For a busy Chinese restaurant, Neptune’s service is fast and efficient. More importantly, it is not rude … but then they do not smile much. At least one does not feel ignored or offended from poor service as one might get from busy restaurants.

They have a well arranged menu, sensationalized by the hour of availability. It took us a while to figure the sections we should be looking at. Take a look at the menu at the bottom of this post … they have exotic congee and noodles … like Lobster Congee ($14), or Sharkfin with Tossed Noodle ($13) or Abalone with Noodle Soup ($20). Well, you get the idea.

Other than these exotic ingredients, most of their other menu items are pretty cheap at less than $10.

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We knew what we wanted here … their famous Hot Pots. This is not the all-you-can-eat hot pot here but specialty hotpot. A lot of tables orders this for supper — with the Drunken Chicken our favourite. There are a few hot pot options on the “Chef Special” on the menu.

We ordered the Drunken Chicken Hot Pot Assorted Plate. The name is kind of confusing but I have you know that this is like a two course hot pot. This costs $27 and is meant for 2 person.

The “first course” is a consists of half chicken. I think this is Free Range Chicken that they provided. It appears firmer, leaner and less fat.

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The soup goes changes as we progressed with the meal. It started off with a clear herbal soup with rice wine and wolfberry (in Cantonese, Kei Chee). It has a distinctive “tong kwai” (Anglelica) smell to it — absolutely lovely. (more…)

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Chubby Lamb Hotpot Restaurant in Richmond

I can’t remember where the boys were or what they were doing — maybe they were at the movies with the neighbors. After all, it was more than a month ago. Suanne and I found ourselves alone and wondering what to eat for dinner. We drove around for a bit before deciding to go for hot pot. This is only our second hot pot dinner. Our first was at the Posh Sukiyaki Restaurant which we enjoyed a lot.

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There are a few Hot Pot restaurants in Richmond but we ended up with one that is located at the restaurant row on Alexandria in Richmond. We blindly selected this place simply from it’s name. Chubby Lamb sounded like a great place.

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Being newbies in hot pot, we quickly learned that one MUST make a reservation for hot pot restaurants, especially the popular ones. Actually before we went to Chubby Lamb, we went to another who told us that the next available table is in 2 hours!

Chubby Lamb was better … they told us they can accommodate us walk-in’ers but we have only 1 hour. Take it or leave it, no choice and sorry, they said. Not wanting to go to another place and quite bent on having hot pot that day, we said OK.

Mind you, hot pot places are basically AYCE’s (All-You-Can-Eat) places and so you can imagine how rushed we must have felt to gobble down as much as possible before our 1 hour is up.

BTW, Chubby Lamb charges $17.75 per person.

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First, we ordered drinks. They recommended what they call Sour Plum “Soup”. That is the literal translation for this drink … soup. We did not quite like it and such a waste too since they gave us an entire jug of it.

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For the hot pot broth, they have lots of choices … about 6 to 8 if I recall correctly. The soup is not free — they charge on top of the $17.75 per head AYCE price. The hot pot broth ranges from $5 to $12.

We opted for the ying-yang … one plain broth and another spicy. It surely does look spicy and were warned clearly enough that they are spicy. To us, it was not too spicy … just alright.

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We like their sauces. They gave us four types … sesame, chili, BBQ and the normal soya sauce. It was good experimenting what goes well with what sauce.

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The problem is that they do NOT have English order forms. The order forms are in Chinese. They offered to pick for us but … he he he … we said no lest they give us only the cheap stuff. We asked the waitress to read each item for us which we can see she was not too pleased because the place was so busy.

We ended up with quite a lot of food. So much that they had to bring another side table to place the plates.

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It was great. Three things I remember about this … (1) the meat was really fresh, (2) the stock was good and (3) the prawns were huge. For the price we paid, it was well worth it.

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We ended up taking more than 1 hour. Strange thing is they came and surprised us when they asked if we wanted to order more when our 1 hour is almost up. They sort of insisted we order more and said that there are still more time. I think they allowed us more time because we were conspicuously taking pictures and taking notes of the meal. Being food bloggers have it’s advantages. 🙂

The total bill for the two of us came up to $51.35 ($57 with tips). I recommend Chubby Lamb even though it is a bit more expensive than Posh’s. You better make a reservation before you go, especially at peak dinner times.

Their address is 8391 Alexandra Road and their phone number is 604-303-8843.

Click the link below to see what we had.

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Posh Sukiyaki Restaurant in Richmond

Updated: 30th Dec 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Suanne and I are beginning to find more time to ourselves these days. The boys are getting older and they are having more extra-curricular activities. It’s a sign that it’s going to be a few more short years before they will be spending even more time on their own.

With the boys involved in another of their activities, Suanne and I took the opportunity to check out Posh in Richmond. We had always been meaning to try this place for sometime already.

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Posh is located at the strip mall by Sexsmith Road. There are three Posh’es within Metro Vancouver with the other two located on Broadway (Vancouver) and Kingsway (Burnaby).

Despite it being called a Sukiyaki restaurant, I had the distinct feeling it is more Chinese than anything. At least all the workers spoke Chinese.

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I had always thought that it is a big restaurant but were quite surprised how small it is.

There are a few tables upstairs which seats about 20 people max. They optimize the seating by putting removable wooden partitions since it is just the two of us. It is OK for us and does give us a bit of privacy in the cramped seating arrangement.

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I can’t recall exactly what Suanne ordered. I think it is called Green Sofa and had some apple flavour in it. It looked pretty for sure.

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For me, I had the sake. To tell the truth, I had NEVER had sake in my life before. (more…)

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Chinese New Year Series: Hotpot

Believe it or not, we virtually ate non-stop for 5 hours after the Yee Sang. I had never been so full for as long as I remember. We just ate and chatted … and ate and chatted. The primary dish is the hotpot. Because of the number of people there, we had two separate hotpots going.

Hotpot is also known as Da Been Lo or Sang Woh in Cantonese. The best time to enjoy this is during the colder winter months. That is why at this time of the year, some of the Chinese grocery stores have sections dedicated only to hotpot ingredients.

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Hotpot is supposed to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. It consists of a simmering pot of stock at the center of the dining table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. It’s popular these days to use a double pot with a centre divider to have two types of broth — one a normal chicken/pork broth and the other the ultra spicy Thai tomyam broth.

Suanne and I were in charge of the “condiments” and sauces. We had once had hotpot in a restaurant in Richmond where they had available something like 15 sauces. So, we thought that we do the same too. Here is what Suanne prepared: green onions, ginger, cilantro, and three different types of chilli peppers.

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We went around the chinese grocery stores to scour for sauces. I think we got a dozen different ones. They include abalone sauce, hoisin sauce, minced garlic, crispy prawn chili sauce … and …

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… soya sauce, pickled chilli sauce, Thai chilli sauce, sesame sauce and satay sauce.

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The best sauce is still the Sah Cha sauce. This is a popular hotpot sauce originated from Taiwan which is also known as Barbecue sauce. These sauces are meant to be used as a dip and is not something you add to the hotpot.

I guess everyone just did not “get it” because the sauces and condiments went relatively untouched! Next time, I think I will do a demonstration first!

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There are also lots of meat balls of every kind … pork, beef, fish, prawns, squid and what nots. These are the only things that we can be sure the kids will eat. Polly and Vincent provided this, I believe.

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Prawns cooked very fast and adds a lot of flavor to the already flavorful broth. Yummy! Prawns with the shell on will impart more flavor. Double Yummy! Peeling the shells is half the fun when you are sitting around the table chatting. Nice touch, Janice and Bernie.

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