Sherman's Food Adventures: Ningtu


It always seems like every Chinese restaurant that serves Dim Sum are completely full on weekends (some on weekdays too!). We honestly tried to think of a place that we didn't have to lineup. Well, there are places where you don't have to line up; but they are either not very good or very expensive. Seeing that we did not want to wake up super early to go for Dim Sum at 9:00am, we finally gave up on the idea. Alternatively, we decided on Ningtu for some Shanghainese Dim Sum instead. Unlike Richmond, where Shanghainese restaurants are a dim a dozen, surprisingly there are not many to choose from in Vancouver.

We met up with my brother-in-law, his fiance and my father-in-law at Ningtu right when it opened at 10:30am. Thus I was able to snag the only window seat in the house. We were meeting partly because my kids are going to be the flower girl and ring bearer. However, the first 2 times my son was supposed to be the ring bearer, it has been an epic fail. First time, he was so frightened, I ended up being the ring bearer! Second time, Viv had to keep giving him M & M's while walking down the aisle. Let's hope this time is better. Mind you, in practice sessions, he's been dragging his sister around like a rag doll. Okay, I'll stop digressing.

I've been to Ningtu a few times and their Shanghainese Dim Sum is way better than their dinner items. However, this is all relative because I believe that places like Shanghai River and Top Shanghai are better than Ningtu. Since I hadn't been to Ningtu for quite some time, we ordered an array of items to determine how it stacks up to the competition. We started with the Chicken in Wine Sauce. The chicken was cooked perfectly so that it was fully cooked; yet still tender. Flavour-wise, it was more salty than wine flavour. With that being said, it was still a good dish. Shanghainese Dim Sum would not be complete without Xiao Long Bao. When it arrived, my father-in-law made a comment that the Xiao Long Bao didn't appear to be hand-made. He used to run a large Chinese restaurant in town, so he's usually pretty knowledgeable with these things. He stated that the buns seemed way too uniform and perfect; thus leading to the speculation that they were not made in-house. However, we were not completely sure. As for the Xiao Long Bao themselves, they were actually really juicy and tasty. The only negative was that the outer skin was a quite chewy.

Once again, we ordered the Hot & Sour Soup. This is another great "indicator" dish to see if the restaurant knows what they are doing. It appears that they do because the soup was pretty good. It had nice depth of flavour in the soup base and there was a good mix of sour, salty, sweet and spicy. We also got a couple of noodle dishes, the Szcheuan Beef Noodle and Chicken Noodle. Underneath the generous amount of beef and tendon was a really large amount of noodles. The broth itself wasn't as flavourful as I would have liked; but overall, it was decent. The chicken noodles were for the kiddies, so we really didn't eat it. Another popular dish at Shanghainese restaurants is the Beef Roll. Some places wrap five-spiced beef with onion pancake with cucumber and hoisin; however, much like Shanghai River, the roll at Ningtu was more like a baked pastry. One major difference was the inclusion of kimchi-like cabbage along with the beef. You know what? That really changed the complexion of the dish. It added both spice and a crunch to the otherwise soft pastry.

The one item that we didn't particularly like was the Fried Salty Donut. The colour was unappetisingly dark brown and it was not crunchy at all. The whole thing was mostly chewy. Yet, most of the dishes were solid; if not a bit unspectacular. It may not be as good as Shanghai River and Top Shanghai; but it holds its own where it is located.

The Good:
- Decent Shanghainese Dim Sum
- Fairly decent service
- Reasonable prices

The Bad:
- Dinner is not as good

Ningtu on Urbanspoon


Danny said...

I love to have donut with soy milk. I'm not a big kimchi like cabbage in the pastry. Don't get me wrong, I like kimchi cabbage, but it doesn't really jive for me in this dish.

Sherman Chan said...

Hi Danny, yah the cabbage thing was definitely different. I kinda like both versions, with or without. Also, we had the sweet and salty soy milk. The donut could not even be saved with the soy milk, it was that overfried.

Danny said...

Hi Sherman. I find that some restaurants re-fry the leftover donuts to serve again. Hopefully not this restaurant.

holly said...

My family come here because it's just too far to drive to Richmond in the morning. It's adequate enough when you're craving juicy buns. Maybe you had an off day. Their fried donuts are usually light and crispy and quite popular.

There aren't too many options for good shanghai in Vancouver. There's a fast food place at Crystal Mall that makes pretty good juicy buns and grilled juicy buns (but they take 10 to 15 minutes).

Sherman Chan said...

Hi Holly,

Actually I liked the Xiao Long Bao, they were very juicy. The skin was just not as soft as I would have liked it. Yes, it is a good option if you don't want to go to Richmond. And you know how I just *love* Richmond! LOL... Yes, Wang's at Crystal Mall is good and the wait is worth it!

KimHo said...

To me, the Chinese donut must go along with congee. While I do eat it on its own, if I do, I accept the fact it will not be "good"... That's why I

Hmmmmmm.... Wonder, which restaurant (your father-in-law used to run)?

Sherman Chan said...

Hi Kim, we ate it with salty soy milk. And it really didn't help, the donut was not very good. Hint: large Chinese restaurant in downtown that is no longer there.

Anson said...

Just went back to Ningtu after a few years hiatus for dinner. Wow, have things changed. They fry everything now with old oil. Every dish is too oily. Despite your decent review in 2009, my Xiao Lun Biao tasted somewhat bland and lacking...

Definite thumbs down recommendation until someone re-visits and the restaurant gets their act together.

Sherman Chan said...

@Anson Yah, heard the same things. In fact, my original post was so-so really. Food is okay, but definitely not in the same league as the big boys in Richmond.

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