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.
- Decent Shanghainese Dim Sum
- Fairly decent service
- Reasonable prices
- Dinner is not as good