Shanghai Village on Cambie and West 16th Avenue, Vancouver

Update 17-April-2011: Per comments below, this restaurant is now closed. Shanghai Village may or may not reopen in another location

If you ask me where to go for Shanghai food, I will tell you straight up that you need to look no further than Richmond. This is because there are so many highly rated Shanghainese restaurants. Just to name a few at the top of my head:

While there are some good Shanghai restaurants elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, Richmond can lay claim to the most-est and the best-est. Well, move over Richmond … there is one in Vancouver that is gathering rave reviews everywhere.

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When the chowhound community was creating a buzz on Shanghai Village, frankly I was rather unconvinced. Part of me was really thinking that it is just hype. After all, if you have dined in Richmond’s Shanghai River or Shanghai Wonderful for instance, you would have thought you’ve seen it all.

Shanghai Village is located on Cambie and West 16th in Vancouver. Shanghai Village is a new restaurant. I think it had been opened for only six months.

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The 8GTCC team met in Shanghai Village. We were there to check out Shanghai Village as a potential restaurant for our second dinner in the series of eight dinners.

I was really impressed the moment I walked into the restaurant. The floors are beautifully carpeted and the chairs are plush. Even the table cloth are embroidered ones. I even saw that the lazy susan on the bigger tables are gold plated too … that is something I had never seen before.

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Keev and Dylan was already there and had ordered some food. Oh wow, I was completely mesmerized by the Preserved Egg with Salted Egg Yolk ($6).

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Apparently this is an assembly of the century eggs and salted egg yolk. It is certainly not something I had ever seen in my life and I though it is fantastic.

Keev figured that they cracked the top of the egg removed the egg white and then refill it with pieces of century eggs.

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The name Shanghai Village does not do justice to this restaurant. I have come to learn that the English names of Chinese restaurants are nowhere as poetic as the names in Chinese.

The Chinese name of Shanghai Village is something like “Reminiscing the south of Jiang river”. That word “Jiang” is key to the next series in the 8GTCC adventures.

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I did not get pictures of their extensive menu. It was simply too many pages. If I had taken shot of every page, it would freak the restaurant out … not to mention the 8GTCC team for fear of being thrown out of the restaurant (is that right, guys? LOL!).

The above is their House Specialties section. See the first item on top?

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That is the Nanjing Specialty Marinated Duck ($12). The ducks of Nanjing is world famous and Shanghai Village does it perfectly.

Lightly salted, it is served cold and the meat was surprisingly highly delectable. This is something that I could eat many pieces of and not stop.

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Their other specialty is what they call Crock Soup. This is the times I wish I could read Chinese. Look at the picture on the left above. That page of the menu describes the Crock Soup and you see that the Chinese description is lengthier than the English translations.

Anyway, if you look at the menu at the right (click on it to see larger image), they have 35 types of soups! The soup ranges from $12 to $24 and some of them require 1-day advance pre-order.

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They must be very proud of their soup. At the entrance of the restaurant, they have a crock pot (should we call this an urn or a clay oven?). This is how the soup pots are placed in it. The waitress was explaining to me how it worked but I thought I heard her say they uses coal or something. Anyone?

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So we got the Silkie Chicken in Herbal Claypot Soup. This is $17 and … (more…)

Continue ReadingShanghai Village on Cambie and West 16th Avenue, Vancouver

Tai Yau Yick Shanghai Restaurant on Anderson Road, Richmond

Updated: 12th Oct 2010: this restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.

Here is one more post written based on the recommendation of a chowtimes reader …

Last month Deborah wrote an email to us saying:

Hi Ben, I noticed you tried a lot of places in Richmond.  If I may, I would suggest you try a place on Anderson Rd called Tai Yau Yick Restaurant.  Its a hole in the ground but the food is very delicious.  I would suggest you get the pork chop on rice, tofu, deep fried chicken wings, and beef pancake.  Do not order the xiao long bao’s here, you can get better ones at other shanghai restaurants.  The old lady that runs the place doesn’t speak english, but she is very sweet

We had actually been to Tai Yau Yick before. It was quite a long time ago. I distinctly remember that it was one of those rare moments that we forgot to bring along the camera. So we did not blog about it.

These days, we never forget to bring the camera. It is second nature to us now. I might forget to bring the wallet or the house keys when I go out, but I never forget the camera. Is this a sad thing? LOL!

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Tai Yau Yick is located on Anderson Road and near the Richmond City Hall. It is also located just next door to Diary Queen.

Parking here is not a problem. It is a small strip mall and we always have parking spots available all the time.

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Tai Yau Yick is a small place. There are about five tables only. They can barely fit in 20 people. The place does look much neater than we remembered some years ago. The tables looked newer and they have wallpapered and painted the walls.

There is very little you will not like about Tai Yau Yick. It is waited by an elderly lady who speaks perfect Cantonese despite that they call this a Shanghainese restaurant. I asked the lady if the chef is Shanghainese. She said that they are all Cantonese but they specialize in Shanghainese and Taiwanese Cuisine.

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Their menu acts like an order form. This is like what you see in some hot pot and dim sum places where you check and specify the quantity you want. What do you think with this method? I think it’s good idea in making sure they don’t misunderstand your order. It is also more efficient for the restaurant too if you already are familiar with their menu.

They place the order form with a pencil on the table but the order form is in Chinese. You have to ask them for the English version.

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We decided to try their soybean milk. You can opt for either sweet ($1.75) or salty ($2.50).

We tried the salty version. Because we did not know that the soybean milk comes with a few Chinese doughnuts in it, we ordered a side order of the Chinese doughnut ($2).

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The warm soybean milk is more savory than it is salty. In the soybean milk are green onions, dried shrimp and preserved vegetable (jar choy).

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It is actually a good thing we ordered a side of Chinese Doughnut. They are very good … as it is still crispy when we dunk into soybean milk, unlike those that sit in the soymilk that became soggy. The crunch explodes in your mouth.

But it is also oily though. Suanne said that this must be the Taiwanese style doughnut.

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Suanne was surprised that I ordered this Soybean Bitter Melon ($2.90). She knows I have never liked bitter melon. Also our boys refused to touch it.

I wanted to try it because it is unique. Moreover, I know that if I don’t like it, Suanne will finish it.

It was bitter alright although the soybean sauce that it was steamed in took away a lot of the bitterness. It is an acquired taste kind of thing.

Suanne insisted I to eat half of my share but I just picked the smaller piece. I love Suanne.

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The name Red Hot Dumpling ($4.80) sounded so good that we also ordered that. They do every dish very well. Not only is the dumpling well made, we like the sweet and spicy sauce it is served in. The spiciness is light at first but gradually intensify in the mouth. Nice.

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For the boys, we got a sticky rice for them. They like sticky rice. So we had the Taiwanese Style Sticky Rice Roll ($5.50).

We thought it was going to be like one of those glutinous rice roll with filling inside (you know, the ones that you can buy freshly made in T&T?). Instead, the rice is … (more…)

Continue ReadingTai Yau Yick Shanghai Restaurant on Anderson Road, Richmond

Lin Chinese Restaurant on Broadway and Granville, Vancouver

No more TBNs (Taiwanese Beef Noodles) and Hongkong Style Cafe (HKSC) for the next little while. I am tired of the topic. Let’s switch subjects … Shanghainese Cuisine this time. Heck, lets make an acronym for them. Let’s call them SHC, shall we? LOL!

Question … between Vancouver and Richmond, which city has the best Shanghainese restaurant?

It is not because I live in Richmond, but I seriously think that Richmond has the greater concentration of top notch SHC restaurants in Metro Vancouver.

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I had learned that the best yardstick to determine a good SHC restaurant is how well they make the Xiao Long Bao (XLB).

While Richmond has the greater concentration of SHC restaurants, Vancouver lay claim to having the best XLB. To those who are not familiar with XLB, it is known as Soup Dumplings in English. That’s right. There are scalding hot soup in that innocent looking dumpling.

There is a way to eat it too. Never EVER pop one into your mouth and bite into it. The best way is to first bite off a hole on the side and slowly slurp the delicious soup. Suanne insists that it is the wrong way. She argued that one must bit off the top first. I think she had been watching too much Chinese cuisine TV shows.

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This plaque says it all. Lin Chinese Cuisine won last year’s award from the more coveted Critic’s Choice award.

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Lin Chinese Cuisine is located on Broadway with Granville. Lin is not like the SHC restaurants you find in Richmond. Not only it serves really good Shanghainese food, they seem to offer items like spring rolls, hot and sour soup, lemon chicken  and even bubble tea. They also have $7 lunch specials. They even have roti canai! I won’t be surprised if Chinese food connoisseurs do not pay much attention to Lin.

Lin is located right in front of a busy bus stand. I reckon that is why they have varied menus to cater to all customers. Lin’s location used to be Galing-Galing, a popular Filipino restaurant. That was 2 years ago.

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The insides is nice and bright. We like the orangey theme. However, the layout is more like a cafe than it is a high end SHC restaurant.

Service is really good. Our waitress was especially chatty and was the one who insisted we get their XLB. She even proudly point out their XLB plaque to me and egged me to walk over to have a closer look when I feigned skepticism.

Their customer base is definitely not like those you find in Richmond’s SHC restaurants where you have almost exclusively Asian customers in big parties. In Lin, they have customers coming in from all walks of life and ethnic background. And their customer parties are smaller … usually 2-3 people.

I had always heard that the chef/owner of Lins is the same people behind The Place on south Granville. That does not seem to be the case. Our waitress was puzzled when I asked for her confirmation. Instead she said that the chef/owners are from Burnaby and Richmond. She rattled off some names in Chinese which I was not familiar with.

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While the XLB is really good, I would not say it is the best. To me, the best XLB also has to have the thinness of skin that is almost translucent. I had seen some XLBs that are so thin that they sit almost flat in the basket.

It is a little smaller than I am used to but very juicy and tasty. The bamboo basket they are served in is noticeably seasoned like it had been used for years.

But I won’t take anything else from them. Their award winning XLB is excellent and is worth the try. The best thing is it is just $5.

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The other appetizer we got was their Radish Cake which also costs $5. Oh man, Lin made this … (more…)

Continue ReadingLin Chinese Restaurant on Broadway and Granville, Vancouver

Suhang Restaurant on Ackroyd Road, Richmond

There are a lot Shanghainese restaurants in Richmond. For the great majority of them, each of the restaurants are very good. A few really good ones comes to mind:

Here is one more that is worthy to be considered as one of the best Shanghainese restaurant in Richmond.

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Suhang Restaurant had flown under our radar all these while. We were not even aware of its existence … never heard of it because it was not discussed on the internet.

Moreover, their location is less than ideal. It is on Ackroyd Road in the little strip mall where Nandos is. For most people who drives along Ackroyd, the view of Suhang from the road is not apparent. It is partly covered by the jutting building next door and partly by Nandos.

We would not have known about it until Steven told us about it. Remember Steven? He was the foodie reader who wrote us a 4-page recommendation of Vietnamese Cuisine. He was the one who led us to discover Thien Kim, the pho place where we had “4 types of Vietnamese Noodle Soup, none of which is Pho“.

Apparently Suhang had been opened for two years already.

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The moment we walked into Suhang, we were already impressed. The restaurant was packed that night. Apparently it is popular. It is an upscale restaurant, not upscale-upscale but pretty fancy. It is bright and clean. The service is really good, staffed by experienced captains.

Based on Steven’s enthusiastic and detailed description of Suhang and what we see the moment we walked on, the first thing that popped into my mind is “hidden gem”. This looked so promising.

Suanne and I made arrangements to meet up with Steven and Jaime. Steven told us that Suhang is named after two cities outside of Shanghai. I can’t remember the exact name but for those of you who can read Chinese, you will probably know which two cities.

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On to the food.

Steven and Jaime had to pre-order this item. We are a bit confused with this name but you know how it is with some translations. On one hand Steven refers this to as the 8-Treasure Duck but when we look at the menu it seems to read … (more…)

Continue ReadingSuhang Restaurant on Ackroyd Road, Richmond

Shanghai JJ Restaurant on No 3 Road, Richmond

Updated: 20th March 2011: This restaurant is closed and replaced by Szechuan Delicious Restaurant.”

Do you reckon that location is the most important aspect when opening a new restaurant?

There is something about this particular restaurant location on the strip mall across the No 3 Road from the Richmond Center. Located in the middle of this strip mall is always a Shanghainese restaurant. Over the ten years since we moved to Richmond, the restaurant operations changed hands a number of times.

Ten years ago, this shop lot was the original location of the Chen’s Shanghai Restaurant. They were quite a small family operation back then. Today they are one of the better Shanghainese restaurants in Richmond having won a number of awards recently.

At one point, there was another restaurant called Shanghai Wind. From what I heard, that restaurant too became successful and had to move out to a bigger and better location. Shanghai Wind became Shanghai Wonderful, which is another successful Shanghainese Restaurant in Richmond.

Up until the early part of this year, it was Da Hong Yun Shanghai Restaurant that operated here. Their food was good but we found it pricey, However, they had closed. Does anyone know what happened to them?

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In this place today is yet another Shanghainese Restaurant. This one is called the Shanghai JJ Restaurant. They told us that they had already been opened for business for 8 months now. So I guess they are doing OK.

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The place looked the same except for a fresh coat of paint. It does look cleaner.

As soon as we got seated they handed us their menu. We did not even look at it. We set it aside and instead …

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… we walked to the wall where they had posted delicious looking pictures of their dishes. This is definitely the best way to order food, don’t you think?  As odd as it may feel to some of you, I made our order standing in front of the wall and pointing out what we wanted.

What I like is that many of their dishes are unique that you don’t normally find in other Chinese restaurants.

I can’t help but to compare them with the time when this place was Shanghai Wind (Shanghai Wonderful). Back then this small restaurant was absolutely packed and one had to wait a long time for a table. Shanghai JJ is quite full but they did not have people waiting for a table like when it was Shanghai Wind.

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Their Xiao Long Bau is noticeably smaller than what we are used to. It is $4 for 6 pieces. The XLB is quite decent but it was disappointing that one of them was served broken. He he he … to us all pieces of the XLB must be served intact with the soup otherwise it is not good. That is like the litmus test for XLB.

BTW, I want to know what is the right Chinese word to describe ordering dishes. You know like ordering a few dishes communal style with a side of steamed rice? Suanne and I call it “chau choy” in Cantonese but I think there is a better word for it. What is it?

When we have four in the family out for dinner like this, we normally would order three different dishes to share. It would be made up of one soup, one meat and one veggie dish.

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The Shanghai Style Soup with Assorted Food costs $13. It has … (more…)

Continue ReadingShanghai JJ Restaurant on No 3 Road, Richmond

Shanghai River on Westminster Highway, Richmond

This is so cool.

I don’t mean the restaurant only.

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I used to start off our restaurant review with a image of the restaurant front like the one above. From now onwards, I don’t need to do that anymore. I can do better.

Alright … back to the restaurant. Shanghai River is one of the more popular Shanghainese restaurants in Richmond and they are successful for several good reasons too.

This restaurant is located on Westminster Highway, just west of No 3 Road. Parking is at a premium in the covered parkade just right of the restaurant. You have to be careful where you park because the stalls are marked.

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Reservation is highly recommended at Shanghai River. We were there early at 11:15AM without a reservation and had to wait 30 minutes for a table. The restaurant is large and they turn the tables quite fast. Even then there is a long line. At about 11:30AM, they were already turning away walk-ins and even the calls for reservation for lunch that day. We were just by the waiting area and overheard the incoming phone calls. That tells us we are in the right place.

Bright lightings, tables with double layered table cloth and comfy chair … polite waitresses … efficient and courteous service. They even have a bar. see From these alone I would have thought that this will be a pricey place. I was quite wrong.

The dining area is bustling and very noticeably noisy. Do you think Chinese talks too loudly when dining? LOL! I think we do.

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I love their menu. All menus should be like these … well laid out with pictures and English translations. I was thinking that Gweilos would be very comfortable with eating here. Just point to the pictures you fancy and you’re set.

I used the word Gweilo in an affectionate way OK? Maybe I should use the word Sai Yan to refer to Whites or Causasians but the term Gweilo sounds more personal.

Anyway, the surprising thing was that a lot of their Shanghai Style Dim Sum items are under $10 and even main dishes are at the range of $12.

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Unlike many Chinese restaurants, Shanghai River’s service is exceptional. The staff were very polite and cheerful to us. I can’t help but notice how well-groomed, young and well-trained the staff are. Their uniform is well fitted. Really, it tells me that they are like the Cactus Club with an Asian twist.  I just like them, especially because they were so busy and yet able to appear composed at the tables.

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On the menu, they call themselves the Master of Dim Sum. Like any respectable Shanghainese restaurants, they have an open glass enclosed kitchen where they make Xiao Long Bau in plain view of the diners. They have stacks of bamboo baskets so I guess they are very popular here. BTW, for those of you who don’t know … Xiao Long Bao literally means mini dumplings in bamboo baskets in Mandarin.

We decided to get something special. Instead of the normal Xiao Long Bao, we had the Shanghai Dumpling with Crab Meat.

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It is beauty. They make it very well. The skin is of the right thickness and is very … (more…)

Continue ReadingShanghai River on Westminster Highway, Richmond

Long’s Noodle House — Revisited with Food Bloggers

I am a procrastinator … it’s in the genes.  I know that.  But the thing is that I remember what I said I would do.  It might take me a long while but I will eventually get down to it.  Like saying “let’s do it in a couple weeks” … and carrying it through in seven months.  That is me.  That is Ben.

I had been talking to Christina and ET of Doesn’t TasZte Like Chicken about organizing a gathering since last fall.  This time I carried through.  So, I organized one with the bloggers that I had met at one point or another before.  Being the organizer, I went with the choice of a restaurant that I know will work … that I had been there before, knows the menu, not too expensive and will meet the demands from bloggers.

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So we met at Long’s Noodle House.  See my previous review here.  Suanne made the reservation a few days before.  With Long’s you want to make sure you make a reservation because they are always packed for dinner.  Moreover, their restaurant is small.  When Suanne made the reservation, she tried to order some of their dishes that need to be ordered at least a day ahead but they were too busy to entertain her at that time.  It was no big deal because all their other dishes are pretty good.

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Wine Chicken … $6.  This is my favourite dish in Long’s.  I’ll not expand on this as I had already blogged about this dish before.

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The dish above is the one which won the “Most Innovative Dish” award last year.  It is Crispy Rice with Salted Egg Yolk.  It is an unique dish but is somewhat simple dish too to me.  I am quite surprised that a dish of such simplicity could have won the most innovative dish award.

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Continue ReadingLong’s Noodle House — Revisited with Food Bloggers

Long’s Noodle House on Main and 33rd, Vancouver

This is another great find.

After all, this simple looking nondescript restaurant with an equally unimaginative name actually won the 2009 Most Innovative Dish title awarded by The Chinese Restaurant Awards in Metro Vancouver. We just got to try it.

So, we decided to get hold of Whitney and Ken to join us since this is the kind of place where the more people you have the better.

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They should change the name Long’s Noodle House. I think they have grown up … no longer a noodle house but a full fledged restaurant. Really, if you just drive past this restaurant you will definitely give this place a miss. The signboard is totally devoid of any design. Even the bars on the windows tends to tell you that this location is not too good part of the neighborhood.

Long’s Noodle House is located on Main and 33rd. It is actually just next door to Au Petit, one of the most popular Vietnamese restaurant on Metro Vancouver. I think Long’s is a Shanghainese restaurant.

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The place is awfully small. You know, I think it’s good that they stay that way. I hope they never expand and keep doing what they do best.

They are opened at 5:30PM for dinner. We were there about 10 minutes early and the waitress (Sandy was her name, I think) was very gracious to open up to let us in. I read that she is a super waitress who does everything in the front … take orders, deliver dishes, give you your bill, the whole shebang … all alone. And she does it so cheerfully too … we like her immediately.

Well, except for one thing. She was so hell bent on making sure she maximize her table turns. When we told her we are a party of seven and that we did NOT have a reservation, she hesitated a while. You see, apparently ALL the tables were already reserved for 5:30PM except for this one table that fits seven just nicely … but Whitney and Ken was no where in sight yet. She wanted to only give us the table only if our entire party is present.

So, I lied and told her they are just a couple of blocks away and pretend to call Whitney and Ken to confirm. Once she set our tables, we’re safe. Except that she came around every 5 minutes asking where they are!

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Sharp at 5:30PM, all the tables were filled up! Wow, I had never seen a place ran like this!

It was a relief when Ken and Whitney turned up … at least I don’t feel so embarrassed for telling a lie. Mind you, Sandy is very gracious about it but I understand seeing how disciplined the other tables were. LOL! I knew we were in a right place that afternoon.

I knew what I MUST have … the Most Innovative Dish in Metro Vancouver. The printed menu they gave us was not very extensive but quite respectable in terms of number of items. There were quite a few delicious sounding name. I know the best dishes are what is written on the board. Too bad they are all in Chinese and so we had to settle for what is on the menu.

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We rattled off our orders to Sandy — nine items in all. She did not even write it down and I was afraid if she will mess up our order seeing how busy she is. I asked her to write it down but she said it’s OK she got it. I was amazed here because she got everything correct when she brought a printout of the order to show us.

For starters, we had Steamed Mini Pork Buns (Xiao Long Bao). We like the brothiness in the bun but I would say it was quite OK, not great like the ones we had in Popular. No complain price wise though … it was just $4.95 for six.

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Whitney loves pig ears. She can talk and talk about where to find the best pig ears in Vancouver. So, I decided that we order this for her. This is $5.50 and we all liked it. The texture was what we expect of a good pig ear … crunchy.

We eagerly waited for Whitney’s verdict. She gave the thumbs up.

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I wanted to be adventurous and went ahead to order the Salted Soya Bean Milk from their Dim Sum section of the menu. To me, the words salted and soya bean milk does not jive — just like sushi and curries, for instance. Sandy explained that they have two types of soya bean milk — salted (which is served hot) and sweet (served cold).

The Salted Soya Bean Milk ($2.50) was served in a bowl and had thin slices of youtiao (Chinese donut) in it. Despite the name, it was actually not salty at all. I would describe it as savory. You should try it and see if you like it.

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Continue ReadingLong’s Noodle House on Main and 33rd, Vancouver

No 1 Shanghai Cuisine on No 3 Road, Richmond

Updated: 17th Dec 2014; This restaurant is closed.

You will like Sherman … and his wife Vivian. Sherman is an up and coming Vancouver area food blogger. His blog is simply called Sherman’s Food Adventures. Suanne and I sometime find it such a chore to blog once a day but Sherman, he does it as often as three times a day!

I told Suanne that we should get to know Sherman because like us, he often goes to the type of restaurants we normally go to too. The choice of the place was easy for us. We wanted to check out the new Shanghainese restaurant.

BTW, before I go on, Arkensen had a good question. Firstly, is there such a word as Shanghainese? I think there is because I hear a lot of people use the word. Now, if Shanghainese is a word, then why is it not called “Shanghaian” instead. Help me figure out a good answer for Arkensen.

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The No 1 Shanghai Cuisine is located on No 3 Road at the same spot of the now closed Also fusion restaurant. It’s at the same area where HKYK is — you’ll never miss it if you are familiar with No 3 Road.

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We were not too impressed with the interiors. It does seems that they had retained the odd oval arrangement from the previous tenant. So, the round dining tables were quite haphazardly arranged and quite difficult to maneuver around. Color coordination was poorly done too — quite evident from the clash of colors from the table cloth to the curtains and ceiling. Not that it is a problem but it was just obvious that I had to mention it.

But it was really busy on the Saturday lunch time we were there. So that is a good sign.

They have a menu that covers a wide range … from simple $6 noodle dishes to $320 sharkfin soup on their menu. We decided to stick with the simpler choices (kids love them). I ordered quite randomly and at the end we had way too much food.

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Their Dan Dan Noodle ($5.50) was chokingly hot … you know, the type that makes you cough if you try to eat it too fast. The peanuts were really good and added so much flavour to it. Dan Dan Noodles are supposed to be dirt cheap (we used to have one that is only $2). So, I did notice that this is rather “expensive” at $5.50.

We actually ordered two baskets of Xiao Long Baos (no pictures) but it was not very good … just OK.

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The Shanghai Thick Noodle Soup was flavourful. I just love the thick soup. This reminds of the Loh Mein that I used to eat for supper in my younger days. This is just $6.50.

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What Suanne and I enjoyed most was the thing called “Sticky Rice with Flavour”. We had expected this to be the normal salty sticky rice but it came in a much larger serving drenched with some sweet sticky gooey thingy. It’s more like a dessert really. I highly recommend you try this as this is not a common dish. $7.50.

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Continue ReadingNo 1 Shanghai Cuisine on No 3 Road, Richmond

Popular Chinese Cuisine on Kingsway and Joyce, Vancouver

This restaurant has been closed according to Urbanspoon – updated 16th April 2010.

All I can say is … “Oh wow”. You really should check this place out.

Suanne and I get quite a number of recommendations from our readers. We like these recommendations as they are often little known restaurants with a lot of character to them.

Eric, who we do not know personally, sent us a note raving about the Northern Chinese restaurant find that he had been going to for the past while. Specifically he pointed out that their specialty is Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) … MSG-free Xiao Long Bao.

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Suanne and I decided to take that drive to Popular Chinese Cuisine Restaurant. Popular is located on the north side of Kingsway between Joyce and Tyne.

From the outside, we thought that this is probably the last eatery we will try in the row of restaurants which included the Congee Noodle King. The blinds were drawn which does make people who walk past not really care what to check.

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Eric described this place as a hole-in-the-wall family owned restaurant. While it is definitely family owned, it does not conjure images of small dark restaurants. As a matter of fact, the restaurant is bright, clean and spacious. However, it is a very quite restaurant with ours the only other table taken that evening.

Popular is run by a husband and wife team. They were friendly and helpful but the thing is that they speak only Mandarin. We managed despite the language problem. Instead of choosing our own dish, we asked them for the favourite dish of their customers.

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Of course we had to order the Xiao Long Bao. They came in a steamer with individual dumplings placed in mini saucers. I thought it was a neat idea having never seen this before.

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One thing that struck me was how thin the dough skin was and yet being able to hold in the gelatin soup. I guess the reason why they serve this in mini saucers was because of the thinness of the almost translucent skin.

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Suanne told me she saw on TV how the delicate Xiao Long Bao is to eaten. You need a soup spoon to hold it. You first bite off a corner at the thinner side and then carefully sip the scalding soup before you eat the rest of it.

Their Xiao Long Bao was great. They reminded us that they are MSG free. Six dumplings for $4. Not bad I thought.

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Before the meal came, they even gave us some free pickles and stuff. The one in the background is some pickled vegetable … carrot with daikon I think. The peanuts were particularly good and was wondering where they got that from.

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The Sliced Fish with Wine Sauce was great too. We were surprised how big a plate this came in. This one dish was definitely more than enough for two people. Served steaming hot, it has a very nice rice wine fragrance to it.

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