Mr Zhang Szechuan Restaurant on Victoria and 40th Ave, Vancouver

Updated 21st Oct 2014; This restaurant has relocated to Crystal Mall.

If you are into hot and spicy food … and if you like Sichuan food, this is a restaurant that can stand up to all the other Sichuan restaurants in town.

I haven’t seen much written about them on the internet except for a brief take-out post on Parker Pages. That’s the beauty of it … being able to discover a place like this quite by accident.

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It was the day after the 1-inch snow “storm” when Suanne and I decided to take a drive and look for food that will warm the body. We did not have anything in mind but of late our focus had been on Victoria Drive. We had covered a lot of restaurants already in Richmond and it’s harder to mine the city for golden finds.

But Victoria Drive among all streets in Vancouver is still ripe for the picking. There are a lot of places we did not have the chance to check out yet. What we had in mind was some soupy food (like Pho, Taiwanese Beef Noodles or hot pot) or something spicy.

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As I was slowly driving past the intersection with 41st Ave, we caught a glimpse of pictures of the dishes outside of Mr Zhang Sichuan Restaurant. We parked our car right in front of the restaurant to get a closer look.

It looked good and appears worthy to check out.

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It was bright yellow inside. We are a bit dismayed to see that they have rectangular tables and booth tables instead of round tables. I mean, any authentic Sichuan restaurant worth its salt chili must have round tables. Well, at least one or two of it. But it is all smaller tables — mostly for four seats, some with six.

We went in as they were just opened for the day at 11 AM. It was freezing cold that we kept our jackets on for a good part of the meal before the whole restaurant warmed up.

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They have the posters above pasted on the wall in several locations in the restaurant. It is the same set of dishes that we saw outside by the window.

Go ahead, click on it so that you can see read this better. This is all in Chinese unfortunately.

This is obviously their specialties and their signature dishes. We know we need not look further than this poster menu for our choices for the day.

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The menu which is printed in thick plastic page (not paper!) is pretty impressive. Their prices are much cheaper than other more established Sichuan restaurant. Sichuan dishes in many restaurants are generally more expensive running easily into $15-$25 dishes. The prices in Mr Zhang is certainly much cheaper. Many dishes are below $10 and even the more expensive ones are $15-$16.

So yeah … we were impressed with their prices. You can click on the picture above (and below too) to blow it up bigger.

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They have more handwritten specials pasted on the wall. We can’t read it at all but we know some of you who could would like see what they are.

Can someone try to translate roughly what the items are?

I know it is sometimes frustrating to see the specials written in Chinese only. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy or anything like that to discriminate customers but still I think they should make the effort to translate them. Translating poetic Chinese dish names are sometimes not the easiest thing to do.

Perhaps what we as customers could do to encourage these restaurants to provide English translations is to ask them repeatedly why is it that they don’t provide English versions of their menu. Shall we collectively go about doing that?

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I like this restaurant. It is the small things that count. Not many restaurants will serve you free peanuts along with the tea. Their free peanuts is both sweet and salty which is quite pleasant. It is even crunchy as though it had just been fried.

The waitress, who constantly switches from speaking in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, told is that they give away free pickles for delivery only.

We asked her who is “Mr Zhang”. She pointed to the handsome picture of the man on the poster menu (the 4th picture).

Mr Zhang is the owner and the chef who had opened this new place about 1 year ago. She told us that Mr Zhang is a good chef and that he does not use MSG or chicken base for his cooking.

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The Stir Fried Pork Belly ($13) is one of Mr Zhang’s signature dishes.

It smells so good as it was brought to the table. We instantly knew it was … (more…)

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Spicy Legend on Kingsway and Joyce, Vancouver

Updated: 22nd Oct 2014; This restaurant is closed.

It was another cold rainy day last week and that means only one thing to us when it comes to deciding what to eat for dinner.

I have a feeling that we are going to do a number of hot pot posts this next few months. With the snow already on the North Shore Mountains it constantly reminded me that this is going to be a long cold winter. Long term forecasts shows that there will be wet snow next week.

I am just bracing myself.

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Suanne and I had been meaning to visit the Spicy Legend for sometime already. So when the weather presented the opportunity, we drove to Kingsway and Joyce where the restaurant is.

Spicy Legend is a Sichuan Hot Pot restaurant. It is all you can eat at $19 per person. Soups and others extra of course, like the other places. All AYCE place will easily set you back $25 to $30 after accounting for everything. They are almost all the same price-wise. So don’t be taken in by the $18 or $19 per person signs outside the restaurant.

The only way you will only pay $18/$19 is if love raw meat and you dunk the meat into lukewarm glass of water. I think they will provide you a glass of hot water if you ask nicely.

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I had always wanted to go to Spicy Legend when they were a Mickey Mouse restaurant a few doors away (see above). I first found out about this place when the 8GTCC gang went looking for dinner. This old place was really small. I think it will sit about 12 people max with four tables only.

I had never seen any hot pot restaurants so small before but it sure was very busy then. You have to have a reservation back then.

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So they moved a few doors away. It is now a much much bigger place. Now, they can fit 50 – 70 people at least.

They open at 5:30 PM. So Suanne and I decided to go at 6:00 PM thinking that it would be just OK since the restaurant is much bigger.

Guess what.

The first thing we came through the door was the question “Do you have a reservation?”.

Their first sitting was already full! They explain that normally they can fit in walk-in customers but that day being a public holiday and the start to a long weekend, they are fully booked for the 1st sitting. She said that if we want she have a few tables left for the 8PM slot.

Not wanting to go elsewhere and quite determined to have hot pot that day, we decided to take that slot and went to do something else around Metrotown.

We came back at 15 mins before 8:00 PM and the place was packed. Despite us having that 8:00 PM reservation, we had to wait till 8:30 PM before we were finally given a table!!

It was a true test of our patience. LOL!

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You may click on the images above to enlarge it.

It is $19 per person. Soup base, sauces and condiments are extra. There is a 2 hour time limit which is more than enough time for us.

The soup base choices is complex. It comes in three sizes depending on the number of people you have. Then there is the spicy or non-spicy or a combination of both. They also have two fancier ones called Tea Plant Mushroom Soup Base and Black-bone Chicken Soup Base. In a place like this, you want the SPICY one.

Unlike other places, they ask you to specify how you want the spicy soup base. Listen to this … you have to specify the combination of SPICINESS and NUMBNESS on the scale of “big, medium or small”. Suanne and I debated on this for sometime. I wanted “big” on both spiciness and numbness but sanity prevailed. We went with “medium” on both spiciness and numbness.

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The burner they use is a built in electronic table burner. There are no naked flames and so we did not see one of those special purpose sprinkler pipes hanging from the ceiling here.

The burners are not very effective. It takes 2-3 minutes to bring the pot to boil unlike other places where it is powerful enough to boil the soup instantly.

Their tables are mobile which is something we had not seen before. They can fit a few tables together for bigger parties.

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As in most (not all) hot pot restaurants, the sauces and condiments are extra.

We wanted to order garlic ($1), cilantro (50 cents) and sesame paste ($1.50) but because of the way the order form were arranged, we got the fresh chili ($1) instead of the garlic. We decided to keep it.

It was a generous portion that they gave us. Other places were barely half of this. So we were pretty glad about it.

Suanne got the sesame paste (brownish sauce in picture above) because she learned from iSpicy that it is the best sauce with non-spicy soup base. For your info, the sesame oil is best with spicy soup base.

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We also ordered a jug of soy milk which is $5 and good for 3-4 glasses.

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The food came served on a side tray. I like that because I hate cluttered tables.

Yeah, our goal is have lots of beef and lamb and so we asked for extra servings. They gave us lots. Made us happy. 🙂

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We got mixed soup, spicy and non-spicy. The spicy soup does not … (more…)

Continue ReadingSpicy Legend on Kingsway and Joyce, Vancouver

iSpicy Sichuan Hot Pot on Kingsway, Vancouver

Updated 23rd Oct 2014: This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

It was cold. It was damp.

And we were hungry as we drove along Kingsway looking for a place to eat. It was past 2PM already and we only had a cup of coffee and shared a bagel between us since morning. We were telling ourselves that half of the restaurants would probably be closed for the mid day.

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I caught a glimpse of the “All You Can Eat  $17.95” sign outside the restaurant and said Suanne maybe we should just try this place. It’s not in our list of restaurants to-try but I fancy hot pot. It was after all a cold day. Nothing but a Sichuan Hot Pot to spice things up.

iSpicy is an odd name. It sounded more like an internet cafe than a traditional hot pot restaurant. We went in and we were warmly welcomed. The owner and his wife barely speaks English. We are OK because we don’t need to know a lot of Chinese when it comes to AYCE and hot pot.

But as it turned out, we had a very interesting time there. We had a glimpse of what it is like in the struggles of a restaurant owner. We saw a human side of a smallish restaurant trying their very best to remain relevant in a very competitive sector of the economy. More about that later.

iSpicy is a really small restaurant. They have seats for about 20-25 people. Not big for an AYCE hot pot.

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It is only natural, I guess, to expect a smaller hot pot restaurant to charge cheaper. iSpicy’s hot pot is on par with other AYCE hot pot restarants in town. It is $18 for adult.

The choices on the menu is smaller too. We know that for places with larger menu, most of the menu items are fluff. To us the most important thing is the quality of the meat, the beef in particular.

I was a bit confused about the hotpot base. They have a few sizes — small, large and extra large. They crossed out the extra large because it really doesn’t make sense. In most places they charge by the pot and not the size of the pot. The hotpot base does not have the fancy flavours that some places has. It is the spicy soup base that is their primary offering.

As usual we opted for the half-half and said that for the spicy side, it has to be “da-la” (big spicy). The owner told me that I should just go with the middle spicy owe as his da-la might be too much for me. Good thing I did not stick to my original choice!

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The mixed soup base is $8.50 extra. The non-spicy side is made of pork bone. We were asked to taste the soup and he pointed out that the broth is not salted.

We also tasted the Sichuan soup base. It was really spicy. It had big dried red pepper pieces swimming in a very visible layer of red colored oil.

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We later learned that the chef made the sichuan soup base himself from scratch. He told us that it takes … (more…)

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Having Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle (过桥米线) the Right Way

OK, here is the right way to be served the Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle.

I think.

“I think” because I had obviously never been to Yunnan. I am going by the detailed description of this uniquely Yunnan dish from this post yesterday. Here is the description again. If you had read it yesterday, it’s the same.

Cross Bridge Rice Noodle is a special dish of Yunnan. It is originated during the Qianlong period, nearly 200 years ago. There is a popular legend regarding its origins.

It is said that a scholar in Mengzi, who was preparing for the Imperial examination, went to an island in the Na Lake everyday to study. His wife went across the bride to the island to bring his meal to him. Owing to the long distance, he had to eat the meal cold everyday.

Accidentally, his wife discovered that a greasy chicken soup is not easy to get cold. What’s more, fresh ingredients, such as seasonal vegetable, fresh meat and so on, can become edible by putting them into this kind of boiled soup.

From then on, the scholar could have a delicious and hot meal everyday. Because his wife went across the bridge everyday, the rice noodle made this way was named as Cross Bridge Rice Noodle.

By now, the Cross Bridge Rice Noodle has a distinct development. The most important factor in this noodle is the soup. It was made with natural hen, pig bone and ham. It needs to be boiled for over 6 hours until the soup become savory and the oil from these are distilled.

The next thing worth mentioning is the ingredients. There are two kinds of rice noodles. The proper kind is the slim one, which is good at keeping the flavour of the valuable soup. The ingredients can be divided into two categories: vegetable and meat. The vegetable used are dependent on what is in season. The meat is focus on slice. The thinner the better, so the slice meat is one of the characteristics of the Cross Bridge Noodle.

Last but not least, the process of eating is special. The right orders are as follows: firstly, put the meat slice in the soup, then the vegetable, the last one rice noodle. Minutes later, a hot colorful and delicious Cross-Bridge Rice Noodle is ready.

So yeah, I was quite disappointed with the new stall in the Crystal Mall food court who profess to serve Crossing Bridge Rice Noodles and yet do not serve it the way it is supposed to be. They are supposed to make you feel like a scholar served by the wife … just like the legend says.

But I know of a place that serves it the correct way … the way that the legends says it should be. LOL! So, I made my way to this restaurant yesterday and took some pictures so that I can show you how this restaurant does it.

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I actually had it earlier in 2006 and blog about it. It was one of the “charter posts” of chowtimes. This is offered as a lunch special. See how they do this right? The first thing they did was to bring two plates of ingredients. Just the two plates … separately served.

I shall call the first plate above “The Fiber”.

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The second plate is more important. I shall call this “The Protein”.

Right in the middle is the quail egg … served raw, as it should be. In the Crystal Mall food court, they cheated. They gave me a hard boiled one. No, no. *finger wag*

Then there are … (more…)

Continue ReadingHaving Crossing Bridge Rice Noodle (过桥米线) the Right Way

[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Fresh Tilapia with Peanuts, Cilantro & Chili 桂州怪魯魚 from S&W Pepper House, Richmond

Updated: 3rd Nov 2014: This restaurant is closed.

We used to not go back to a restaurant for repeat visits because you know that we always are out looking for new places to eat … so that we have new places to write about. This CRA series gives us that break from doing new restaurants because many of the award winning restaurants had already been covered by chowtimes previously.

This is another one of such restaurant. This is the third time we are writing about S&W Pepper House on No 3 Road in Richmond and this does not even include the other S&W Pepper House in the Crystal Mall. Our first post was three years ago (see link). Earlier this year, I had the privilege of being invited to join several primo foodies in their chowdown. That was the first time I get to meet some of the more renowned food writers in Vancouver (see link).

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S&W Pepper House is like a chain restaurant these days. It is because they have three locations. The first and original S&W is in the Crystal Mall, Burnaby.

The S&W in Richmond is the second outlet and was opened about 3 years ago. They have also opened a third S&W in Coquitlam about a year ago. Very little is known about the S&W in Coquitlam because I could hardly find any reviews of the S&W in Coquitlam on the internet.

This post is based on the visit to the S&W in Richmond’s No 3 Road. You know, having regularly eaten in the Richmond and Crystal Mall restaurants, I personally prefer the S&W in Crystal Mall over the food in the Richmond # 3 Road. I love the Cumin Lamb Rice from the Crystal Mall S&W which is by far better than the one I had on No 3 Road. It is just $7.50 for their lunch special and I had it almost once a week.

So I was just surprised to learned that it is the Richmond #3 Road restaurant that won a CRA award. The S&W Crystal Mall was not mentioned at all. In some of the CRA awards, all the locations of the same restaurant is mentioned (for instance, Legendary Noodle, Sun Sui Wah and Red Star). But for this particular CRA award, only the Richmond restaurant is mentioned.

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The Richmond #3 Road is certainly look more like a full fledge restaurant. This place is nothing fancy. It is clean for sure. The one in Crystal Mall is very much a hole in the wall operation.

Service was good. I think it is mainly because we were the only customer that day. We were there for lunch and it was a weekday. This place is definitely not as busy as the one in Crystal Mall which is always packed during meal times.

S&W is a Sichuan Restaurant. In Chinese, the name is translated as South-West Wind in reference to the location of the Sichuan province in southwestern China. So the food here is expectedly spicy.

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Their prices are very reasonable. I even would say it is unexpectedly cheap considering the location and all.

While they have quite a big menu, you really should just read the one on the far left (click on it to enlarge). This is the section where the “New Dishes” and “Chef’s Top 10 Recommendations” are listed. The spicy dishes are marked with one or two chilis. Look at the first menu and you can see that there are only one dish with double chili marked — that is the dish we had!

On the middle and right most menu, that is the lunch specials. All the dishes are $7 and below. The Xiao Long Bao is just $4. BTW, XLB is not Sichuan, isn’t it?

So yeah, prices are great in S&W.

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For starters we had the Wonton in Spicy Sauce ($6). I like all the sesame seeds and the spring onions on it. While it is really spicy the way I like it, it was also very salty. Of course it is also very oily which doesn’t faze me at all. Overall, it was the over saltiness that makes it less than perfect.

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Chinese Restaurant Award 2010 ♦ GOLD in the FISH Category ♦ Fresh Tilapia with Peanuts, Cilantro & Chili 桂州怪魯魚

The above is the gold award winner in the Fish category. Actually, it is not really the award winning dish.

You see, the CRA awarded them gold for the Fresh TILAPIA with Peanuts, Cilantro and Chili. However, S&W replaced the tilapia with … (more…)

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[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Steamed Chicken with Chilli and Fagara 花椒雞 from the Golden Sichuan Restaurant 老四川

Believe it or not.

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Our first foray into Sichuan cuisine was just two summers ago. It was at this very restaurant that we had our first Sichuan meal.

The Golden Szechuan Restaurant is located on No 3 Road in Richmond across the road from Yaohan Center.

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I still remember that fiery meal and my first introduction to the Chinese word “ma-la” which means numbing-hot. Since then we had a lot Sichuan meals and had learned to love the cuisine a lot.

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Suanne and I rarely goes back to the same restaurant because we are always on the go to try new restaurants. In a way this is good because we get to try many different types of food but then sometimes we felt we would like to just go back to our favourite restaurants more often. So when we found out that one of Golden Szechuan’s dishes landed on the Chinese Restaurant Award list, this was one of the first restaurant we went to try the award wining dish.

The Golden Szechuan Restaurant is perhaps the largest Sichuan restaurant in Metro Vancouver. With high ceiling and wall to wall glass panel, the dining hall is bright and spacious.

Service is nothing spectacular. It is just the same no-nonsense straight to the task kind of service as you would normally expect to find in most Chinese restaurants. Our first waiter could not speak English. When we started to speak in English he literally ran from our table and got someone else to attend to us. The person who attended to us seems like the manager of the floor.

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The menu is vast and extensive. You will find all the traditional Sichuan dishes on their menu … and more. Their prices is a bit on the higher side compared to most Sichuan restaurants. If you look at the last (4th) page of the menu above, there are many dishes that are in the $20+ range.

They have lunch specials which are really cheap though (see the 1st page). It is just $7.61. By the way, the take out menu prices might not be current as the manager told us that it is 8 years old.

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The dish above was what we wanted to try (no, this is not the award winning dish).

When we were here two summers ago, we saw a few tables having this very interesting dish. We told ourselves that we will come back one day to try this. Who could forget a dish like this. I know some of you would just sit up right now and just wonder what this is.

We did not know what this is called and could not find it on the menu. It took a bit of an effort to describe to the manager what exactly we are looking for. He was quite exasperated because he could not understand us when we said it is “something that is served hanging on a thingy”. We were trying to describe it from memory.

Anyway, this is called the …
(more…)

Continue Reading[CRA 2010 Signature Dish] Steamed Chicken with Chilli and Fagara 花椒雞 from the Golden Sichuan Restaurant 老四川

Nine Dishes on 960 Kingsway, Vancouver

I was still not satisfied after the Swallow Tail Secret Supper Club dinner. I wanted something more to eat but Suanne, the weight watcher, said she had enough. But Suanne will always tag along when I wanted to eat. She will always say that she’ll accompany me and that she will only take a bite or two. But she will always end up eating as much as me. 🙂

I remember that The Swallow Tail was just around the corner from this one little restaurant that had gathered some legendary tales the past couple of weeks. Legend has it that one particular chowhound stumbled upon this restaurant and he liked it so much that he spent SIX hours in the restaurant. When I heard that for the first time, I thought … hmmm … maybe he was drunk or something. Then the mystery deepens when I read that these 6 hour meals went on for consecutive days.

That, my friends … and as one other chowhound said … is COMMITMENT. There were so many tales that I read over the week or so that I really-really-really wanted to see for myself what it is all really-really about.

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So Suanne and I drove over to Nine Dishes. This restaurant is located on Kingsway, south-side, midway between Fraser and Knight. It’s easy to locate because the red and black awning is new and bright.

Before I went there, I was thinking this place is dark, dank and dirty. You know, places where Chinese bachelors hang out drinking, smoking and telling dirty jokes. That sort of places. Don’t blame me. All these images were from what I read from the accounts of the chowhounds.

I was kind of worried too if this is an improper place for Suanne. It was about 11PM already when we were there.

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It was none of that stuff. Instead, the place was bright, clean and even pleasant. It was in no way rowdy at all. And it does have that nice smell of BBQ lamb and cumin in the restaurant. You see, things are not always like what you read.

However, there are a few tables that are left uncleaned. That is understandable knowing what I know. This is because the restaurant is run by this guy with a real fancy name. “If” is his name. He is quite a character. I find he is someone people will take an instant liking to.

Legend has it that he is pretty savvy with dirty jokes too. “If” dropped off the menu on our table with hot tea. I sort of felt like I knew him already. So, I took the chance to tell him how much I heard about his restaurant and that I know his “6-hour customers” personally. That broke the ice instantly. He went philosophical and told me how he makes this restaurant different from others. And then he was starting to talk about pretty girls and for a moment he was about to go into that “area” … until his eyes strayed looking at Suanne and stopped abruptly. He he he … the prim and proper Suanne must have given him that “don’t go there” look.

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The reason why this restaurant is called Nine Dish is because, well, the menu has nine dishes. What a simple idea.

Actually, they have more than nine dishes. It is just that there are nine dishes in each menu. In all there are four menus and categorized into:

  • Cold Dishes
  • Noodles,
  • BBQ, and
  • Main Courses

Such simplicity. And the prices are awfully cheap too. The BBQ skewers are just 99 cents. Looking over the menu and scanning around the restaurant, I can so easily understand how that 6-hour sessions came about. The place is casual and “If” encourages you to take your own time. He doesn’t care if you order just four skewers at a time.

For instance too … his beer is just $2.50 a bottle. The lunch special (see the sign on the 1st pix of this post) says that the beef noodle soup and curry chicken is just $4.99 only.

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“If” gave us a a book of order form and a pencil asking us to write down the order ourselves. So, I said we’ll write down the codes indicated by the side of each dish (like K1, K2, K3, etc) on the menu. “If” would have none of it! The nerve of him. He said he wants us to write down the Chinese names and not the codes because he said “it takes time for me to translate it for the kitchen”. LOL!

I left it to Suanne to copy down the strokes of the words. Took a while but Suanne did a pretty good job of it, don’t you think?

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The Lamb Kebab with Cumin and Chili was a steal at 99 cents each. We ordered just four. It was served on metal skewers.

The lamb was … (more…)

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Jin Chuan Restaurant on Kingsway with Wessex, Burnaby

Update 28-Apr-2011: This restaurant had closed for some time already.

So I was out with the 8GTCC boys and girls. We had just gone to the Shanghai Village restaurant meeting with Chef Ming and finalizing the plans for the 8GTCC Jiangsu dinner. You know, if you think that the 8GTCC team has perks from the restaurants, you are mistaken. Even when the 8GTCC project brings recognition to the restaurant concerned, we do not get a free meal out of the restaurant at all. At best, the restaurant serves us Chinese tea. That is why I am so thankful for the sacrifices demonstrated by the team.

After we met Chef Ming, the plan was to go for a dinner at a restaurant called City Temple of Shanghai on Main Street. When we got there, it was closed! Dylan said that he checked the day before and was told they will be opened. However, when we got there, the restaurant was locked. The sign outside says that they were supposed to open that day. Strange.

Anyway, without a real Plan B, we quickly coordinated between the few cars to drive across town to Spicy Legend for hot pot on Kingsway and Joyce. After driving all the way, we found to our chagrin that we need a reservation in that restaurant. Wow. This is the first time I had seen a hole-in-the-wall eatery requiring a reservation. That restaurant is so small and can fit maybe 15 people (?). I gotta check that place out sometime.

So instead of driving to another location and forced to drop our standards, we walked down Kingsway looking for Plan C …

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The Jin Chuan Restaurant looked promising. None of us noticed this restaurant before. It looked new. If I remember correctly, this is the spot where the Popular Chinese Cuisine used to be. We loved that restaurant.

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Apparently, Jin Chuan is new, really new. They had just opened for five days. Interesting. We thought maybe perhaps this place would be a “find” if the food turns out great.

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We noticed that their chopstick wrapper has Meishan Restaurant name printed on it. Meishan is a restaurant in Crystal Mall. The logo of Meishan and Jin Chuan is almost identical.

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I like their menu. I thought it was one of the better looking ones except it would be great with a few pictures of their specialties.

If you take a close look at their prices (click above to see larger image), the lunch specials are very good too … $6 to $7. I am going to go back one of these days to try their lunch special since my office is just a short drive away.

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Ordering was left to the experts. I do not know what some of the dishes are called. It’s the kind of dinner I like — no brain work involved.

I am beginning to see a pattern having dined with the 8GTCC team. It seems they like mainland Chinese food with spicy bolder dishes and exotic meat and stuff.

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The spicy water boiled zebra meat was delicious. I never had this before. I was … (more…)

Continue ReadingJin Chuan Restaurant on Kingsway with Wessex, Burnaby

Golden Great Wall Szechuan on West Broadway and Heather, Vancouver

Updated 13th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Note: I would like you to read down to the very bottom of this post.

Up until two weeks ago, the 8GTCC team had been trying to work together through emails. While it had allowed us to brainstorm ideas and such, I find that the discussions quickly became unfocused. So, I thought the best way is to bring everyone together and meet up. After all, not everyone had met everyone in real life.

I wanted to have a dinner meeting. I also wanted to be at a place where not only the food is good, the restaurant will be supportive that we stay and hog a table as we stay on for discussion.

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We went to the Golden Great Wall Szechuan Restaurant on Broadway. That is a perfect place because the Golden Great Wall had once invited us to their restaurant but for some reason, we did not. I knew they would be supportive and happy to host this dinner-meeting. Moreover, it would be a convenient location as it is just a short walk from the Broadway station on Canada Line.

When I made the reservation, I told the restaurant that this is not a review visit and that we expect to pay for the dinner. We just needed a place for dinner and then to meet without being shoo’d away.

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The Golden Great Wall has a large dinning hall which is big enough to host a respectable wedding dinner even. The restaurant is run by a father and two sons team. The restaurant was opened by Benny Liu about 8 years ago. Today, he is assisted by his two sons, Douglas and Tony.

I can see that Benny is an experienced restaurateur in the way he speaks to his customers and us.

I observed that for a Chinese restaurant, the Golden Great Wall has a lot of Caucasian customers and they mostly came in as a family. I think this is because the restaurant is located just next door to the Holiday Inn.

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The entire team trickled in right on the dot at 6PM. Not everyone had met everyone before but everyone felt like they know each other already.

The moment we were seated, we were served flower tea … or what fmed referred to as “performance tea”. It’s pretty fancy. The tea pot is clear that you could see the tea starting off as a ball and slowly unfurling into flowers. Good to look at. Taste wise, it is no way superior than other more common Chinese tea.

I had met everyone before except for Dylan and I kind of like the composition of the team. There are seven of us … fmed, LotusRapper, Dylan, Joe, Keev, Suanne and myself. We have food experts, professional menu architect, food writer and Chinese literature expert. We even have a lawyer who can write rock solid indemnity forms in case we need to protect ourselves from food poisoning. LOL! Seriously, the most important thing of all, it is a cohesive and committed team.

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I was quite impressed with Golden Great Wall. Apparently they were prepared for our visit when we did not even expect them to. While they gave us the menu for our ala carte selection, they have also prepared a menu specially for our table.

We were so busy talking to each other, we did not really have the time to look over the ala carte menu. So, I just decided we will go with what the restaurant had prepared. There were no price and so I asked Benny Liu. He said “$10 per person”.

That’s too cheap! But am not complaining. I think Benny just arbitrarily gave me that round number just because I said I want to pay for it. [Thanks a lot Benny!]

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Almost all of us went to have the same beer. I never had Chinese beer before. This is Tsingtao and is the top selling beer in China. In terms of volume sold, they are #1 in the world. No surprising isn’t it?

It has 4.5% alcohol content. Too much for me … made my head woozy for a while.

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Since Douglas once told me they have excellent Xiao Long Bao, I asked for a basket to try. Apparently they did not bill us for this and just added this to the set dinner.

Benny was great. With every dish served, he was there explaining and have us insight on the food served. I actually wished this is standard in every restaurant … I mean beside just giving a 1-2 sentence description.

Benny said that the chef who made this XLB is from Beijing and has 40 years of experience.

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I missed quite a lot of what he said. He said he uses local flour to make this and that the broth inside came from pork skin after cooking for 2 hours.

The XLB is respectable. I do find that the dough skin is a bit too thick.

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The first dish is called Appetizer Two Kinds.

This is a well presented dish. I am not sure about you but I find this sort of presentation really brings delight to most people. It does to me. LOL!

One of the appy is Szechuan beef and beef tripe. Benny called this Fuqi Feipien which is literally translated as Husband and Wife Slices of Lungs. Funny name isn’t it? This dish came about from a husband and wife food vendor in Chengdu who made this popular. It has a tingling spiciness from the Sichuan pepper corn and is chewy and tasted peanuty too.

This is balanced by cold cucumber which is lightly salty.

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In the middle of the appy is a pagoda. No one touched it. We are all grown ups. But I so wanted to take a bite of it just to see what it is made of.

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Ringing the Appetizer Two Kinds are cute little birds made with … (more…)

Continue ReadingGolden Great Wall Szechuan on West Broadway and Heather, Vancouver

S&W Pepper House on No 3 Road and Granville, Richmond

Updated: 14th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed.

OK, you guys don’t laugh, OK? But …

Oh man!

I was so honored to have been invited to a dinner with some of the most revered foodies in Vancouver last week. When FMED asked if I would like to join in a dinner with such distinguished names in the foodie world, I was kind of uncertain. You see, these guys and gals are heads and shoulders above the likes of me — a wannabe foodie … a food blogger. These guys knows food and speak authoritatively. These guys are judges for restaurant awards. Their opinions are revered and trusted. They are what I want to be when (if?) I grow up. LOL!

Since I did not have their permissions to mention their names and pseudonyms, the diners will remain anonymous. Let’s just say there were a group of six boys and girl.

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The dinner was at the S&W Pepper House in Richmond. S&W Pepper House is located on No 3 Road, right across from the Richmond City Hall. There is another S&W Pepper House in the Crystal Mall in Burnaby. Both are popular restaurants serving some of the best Sichuan cuisine in Metro Vancouver.

Oh boy, I was so embarrassed that I arrived late. Not good to have these people wait. They had almost finished the ordering by the time I arrived.

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I had been to both S&W Pepper House in Richmond and Burnaby before. As a matter of fact, I remembered that the visit to the Burnaby’s S&W was one of our earliest post — like 2/3 weeks after chowtimes got started. Reading back that 4 year old post brings back memories to those days when blogging is a simple affair. I still remember that meal where we had the “Guo Qiao” (Crossing the Bridge) Rice Noodle in Special Soup which has a story behind the name of the dish.

First thing that came across my mind was so less classy this S&W Pepper House is today compared to when I first ate here almost 3 years ago.

Richmond's S&W Pepper House in 2007
Richmond’s S&W Pepper House in 2007

This place used to look brighter, has better paintings on the wall and it does seem more busier. Maybe it was because this time we had the dinner in mid week. Oh well … not that it matters really but I just happen to notice the stark contrast.

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The guys and gals are cooler.

They don’t take pictures of the food before they eat it. They don’t even have to write down their observations. All they needed was the chopsticks.

But they understood. LOL! They respectfully allowed me to shoot pictures before they dove into the food. I know it is not cool but I got a job to do.

FMED stole the picture above. I was not aware of it but I thought I share one of the rare shots of me here. I think this is the ONLY picture of me “at work”.

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I was kind of surprised how many appetizers were ordered.

The above is called Fried Peanuts with Cilantro and Chili. This is just $5 and was marvelous. I had never ordered this before. Almost everyone just ate it straight. For me, I just had to have it with rice because the spiciness and flavour is too overpowering for me.

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The above is called the House Special Chicken. While this is considered an appetizer, the large serving belies the categorization. There is half a bird here and costs $11.

The Chinese name, I think, is “How Swee Gai” which literary means salivating chicken. Fancy name, huh?

Again with this, I just had to have this with rice.

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I see the dish above very often when I go for lunch at the Crystal Mall. I never knew what it was but it certainly was popular that a lot of people ordered it. I assumed that this is a very Sichuan dish.

Guess what it is made of.

This is called Shredded Potato with Dried Chili ($5). I was kind of intrigued because as far as I know potatoes are not native to China. Potatoes originated from South America and I was curious how this ended up as a traditional dish in China.

I thought I was cool right? I just had to mention this … and guess what the response was from the experts.

Well … (more…)

Continue ReadingS&W Pepper House on No 3 Road and Granville, Richmond