If you've been reading this blog for the last couple of months (shame on you if you haven't!), you might have noticed that I'm trying to hit up all the best Dim Sum restaurants in the GVRD. I've done most of them, but probably the most expensive one keeps eluding me. This particular restaurant is Imperial in Downtown Vancouver. I just haven't had the chance to get down there to grab some Dim Sum! I've been there before; but that was a while back when the Vancouver Convention Centre was just a dream. Now it completely blocks the fabulous view that was once the attraction at Imperial. So when Whipping Girl said she was available for lunch today at Imperial, I jumped at the chance. Vandelay had a meeting and couldn't join us, too bad for him. Food or meeting? What do you think is more important?!?!?
When you think of fine dining Dim Sum, the usual suspects come to mind: Sea Harbour, Fisherman's Terrace, Victoria, Fortune House, Kirin, Sun Sui Wah, Spicy Court, Red Star and Imperial. So how does Imperial stack up to these competitors, especially since it is the most expensive of the bunch? Well, first of all, the dining space and ambiance look the part of an upscale Chinese restaurant. Moreover, the service is impeccable. We were greeted at the door and as we sat down at our table, the wait staff were ready to serve! Our teapot was rarely empty and our plates were exchanged for clean ones several times. The only thing I didn't like were the ladies bringing the dim sum around. They were a bit unprofessional, being slightly pushy. I know, I know, Chinese restaurants aren't known for their professional wait staff (especially dim sum servers); but if I'm going to pay that kind of money, I shouldn't have any concerns regarding service. I'm not even sure why they were bringing Dim Sum around, they have checklists for the food anyways. It seemed a bit redundant.
Whipping Girl and I had the classic "eyes larger than our stomachs" affliction and ordered too much. We started with the Fried Wontons, which were quite good. They were very crispy and within them were pockets of cold-water shrimp. Continuing on the fried theme, we had the Banana & Shrimp Spring Rolls. We were not sure who thought up the combination of banana and shrimp, but it works. You have the contrast of textures with the soft, sweet banana with the crunchy wrapper and cold-water shrimp. Another staple of Dim Sum are the rice rolls, we chose the Beef Rice Rolls (instead of shrimp) since 5 of our items had shrimp already. The rice roll was excellent. The rice noodle was fluffy and the beef filling was one of the best I've had. We spotted on the checklist that there were Pan-Fried Buns and wanted to compare with Victoria. The Pan-Fried Buns at Victoria are the best in town in my opinion. After trying the ones at Imperial, they are no threat to the ones at Victoria. Although they were fried up perfectly on the bottom, the rest of the bun was really too doughy. Moreover, the filling was extremely loose, it kept falling out.
So far so good on the Dim Sum; but here is where it begins to fall apart. We had the Sui Mai (pork & shrimp dumpling) next and it was pretty basic. If you served this anywhere else in any Dim Sum restaurant, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. By no means was it bad, but if I'm paying top dollar, it'd better be special. The Shrimp Dumpling (Haw Gow) was nothing special as well. First of all, the dumpling skin was gummy and slightly over-steamed. Whipping Girl said it was probably served too quickly and not allowed to cool for a minute so the skin could dry up a bit. She is probably right, but despite that, the skin was not-so-good. Although the shrimp was cold-water crunchy, there was too much bamboo shoots mixed in with it. It completely overpowered the delicate flavour of the shrimp (and I love bamboo shoots too!).
Fortunately, the Shrimp & Chive Dumplings were better; however, once again the dumpling skin was a bit thick. At least the flavours were less intense in this one. The next 2 dishes were the most disappointing of all. The Black Bean Spareribs were fatty and a bit bony. There was a serious lack of meat and it had a predominant msg flavour to it. This was exactly the same with the Phoenix Talons (or chicken feet). Rather than being flavourful, it was had an msg or salty aftertaste. In addition, the chicken feet were overcooked. They were mushy and some skin was detached from the bone.
Despite some of my harsh descriptions of the food, it was still an enjoyable and tasty meal. However, for the price we paid, it was nothing special. Being one of the most expensive Dim Sum restaurants in town leads to certain expectations. In terms of the food, it falls flat. Personally, I would much rather go to Red Star, Sea Harbour or Victoria (which is only 3 blocks up the street), all of which are less expensive than Imperial. Mind you, the service and ambiance were top notch. In terms of dinner, I've been to Imperial a few times and it is indeed very good. Again, it's expensive. With that being said, Imperial is still a good option for tourists and nearby business people.
- Attentive service
- Nice dining space
- Overly expensive
- Food not up to par for the price or it's competitors
- Lack of parking
355 Burrard Street