I really had no intention of visiting South Ocean Restaurant in Richmond any time soon, despite the fact I was told by some friends that they currently had a king crab special for $8.99/pound. Why? Well, first it's in Richmond; thus, it's not really close to where I live. Second, I don't think Viv and I would be able to eat much else if we ordered the king crab. However, while dining at Cafe Pacifica last Sunday, Costanza suggested that we try South Ocean. While munching on king crab already, I thought that it would be a good idea. I've read a few online reviews of South Ocean and they seem to be quite positive in regards to the food. In fact, I've heard that their Dim Sum is both cheap and tasty. However, there have been negative comments about the service and cleanliness of the place. But, as always, I go in with an open mind and a willing stomach.
Upon arriving at the parking lot, I noticed someone leaving. However, a BMW X5 had driven past the spot and decided to lay claim by backing up and signaling. If you've ever been to Richmond, this is a common occurrence. It appears that people feel the need to fight for everything - parking spots, table at restaurants, who should go first at a 4-way stop, the last
steamer of Haw Gow at Dim Sum, being first in a lineup and and the last piece of roast pork during Chinese New Year. C'mon people! Learn some manners! So there were actually 2 cars leaving side-by-side, I have no clue why the person in the X5 was so anxious.
Anyways, I was surprised that the restaurant was so busy on a Thursday, I guess the word of the special had spread. We already knew what we wanted to order, but it took like 20 minutes for someone to take the order. We ordered the king crab, which was cooked 3 ways. The crab legs were steamed with garlic, the body parts were fried in salt and pepper and the head was stuffed with fried rice topped with Portuguese coconut curry. We also ordered another special, the Peking Duck. It was cooked in 2 ways. The skin was served with steamed flour pancakes and the duck meat was used for lettuce wrap. There was a catch to the specials though, you had to order a regular dish off their menu for each special. So we ordered Stir-Fried Pea Shoots and Peking Pork Chops.
Before they cooked the king crab, it was brought out for us to see and the thing was massive - over 9 lbs worth! But, as you will read later, that was the last we'd see the crab for awhile. The Peking Duck arrived pretty quickly and the skin looked marvelous. It was well coloured and glistening. Moreover, the layer of fat beneath the skin was carefully scraped off. This is a good thing, I'm not too fond of munching on duck fat. I compiled my little morsel with a piece of skin on the pancake, topped with cucumber and hoisin sauce. I have to say it was delicious, the skin was crispy and the pancake was soft. The second part of the Peking Duck was the Duck Lettuce Wrap. The filling was stir-fried well, not being too oily and the veggies still crunchy. Costanza remarked it was a little bland; thus, we used more hoisin sauce for flavour.
One thing that irks me (with all Chinese restaurants) is that they never give enough lettuce to use up all the filling. So we finish the Peking Duck and anxiously wait for our king crab. We had to anxiously wait for 1 hour. I am not kidding. Since almost every table had ordered the king crab, I guess there weren't enough steamers to cook the crab. Therefore, it took a whole hour for us to get the crab legs. However, when we did get the crab legs, we experienced fluffy crab meat bathed in garlic. It was steamed perfectly, the crab meat was just cooked. The meat was sweet and the garlic added to the taste. Up next was the crab body meat fried in salt and pepper. Again, this was done perfectly, the meat was just cooked and it was ever-so-sweet. The dish was balanced, with just enough heat and salt.
After that, our 2 "required" dishes showed up. The pea shoots were cooked perfectly as well, they were tender and crunchy at the same time. There was lots of garlic in this dish and that made it taste real good (or maybe it was the msg). The Peking Pork Chops were passable, but there was way too much fat on the chops and that kind of turned us off. Otherwise, the flavour was not bad, the combination of sweet, sour and salty was just right. All we had to wait for now was the rice baked in the crab shell. And we waited, and waited some more, and a little bit more. It finally showed up 2.5 hours after we started the meal. I am not exaggerating! But the rice was good. It was bursting with onions, peppers and crab meat topped with a tasty Portuguese sauce. It had been baked and it just was just slightly burnt on the top which added a nice flavour.
As you can ascertain, the food was quite good; yet, we took nearly 3 hours to finish our meal. Also, despite the staff being quite nice, they were overworked and hard to get a hold of. I can understand that the kitchen must've been overwhelmed by the amount of orders for the king crab; but 3 hours to finish a meal??? Are we at a banquet? That brings up another point, if this restaurant was hosting a banquet, how do they pump out 30 dishes of crab or lobster then? My point is, if you have this on special, you might want to have enough equipment or kitchen staff to handle it. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed most of my food, I didn't enjoy spending 3 hours there.
- Food was mostly excellent
- Portions were good
- Dim Sum is good value (so I've heard)
- Sloooooooow kitchen
- Lack of staff
- Food was a bit greasy
4751 Garden City Road