Although there are plenty of places where you can get Dim Sum in the GVRD, I've been to quite a few of them already. Yes, I still go to Victoria Restaurant for Dim Sum; but when I want to go to a place I've never been before, there are not a lot left. So, I got my mom to scour the Chinese newspapers in search of a good Dim Sum place I've never been to before. She spotted one called Rainflower in Richmond and asked if I knew about it. In fact I have seen it before when I drove by the old XS Cargo location. But from the outside, it didn't catch my fancy and never thought about it again. Knowing that I had to visit Richmond eventually to redeem the coupon for Tuttimelon I had received from Wendy (Eat 'n About), we headed south to try out Rainflower. We took our chances and made a reservation for 11:30am. We chose this time because it is 30 minutes clear of the early morning discounted Dim Sum. After 11:00am, it's regular pricing and thus we figured that it would be less busy. Turns out we were right, we got seated immediately. Wow, did I ever misjudge this place! When we walked in, the interior was nicely decorated with classic colours. Hanging from the center of the ceiling was a very big chandelier. Unlike many other Chinese restaurants, the seating arrangements were spacious and the chairs were comfortable.
Similar to many of the newer Chinese restaurants, there are no Dim Sum carts here; but only an order sheet where you check off what you want. We started with the Sui Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumpling). I normally do not order this dish because Viv really doesn't prefer it. With my mom around, I finally had a willing diner. This particular sui mai was extremely lean. I'm not sure if there were even any pieces of pork fat in it. This made for a much stiffer texture. Furthermore, with less fat, the flavours were not as rich. The shrimp spring rolls arrived next and they were only passable. There was nothing wrong with the roll itself because it was crunchy and not oily. However, the shrimp filling was in little pieces; thus becoming a bit mushy.
It always seems like we order the Beef Meatballs... It's really quite a boring dish. After all, it's just ground beef with green onion (sometimes cilantro) and steamed. But when you dip these suckers into Worcester sauce, it comes alive. Don't ask me, it's a Chinese thing. Dip food into English sauces: Worcester, Maggi, HP and the sort. These meatballs were good. Soft, lightly seasoned and not completely reeking of baking soda (that's what makes them soft), they were exactly how they should be. Okay, the moment of truth, the Shrimp Dumplings arrived. The litmus test for any Dim Sum joint are the Haw Gow. These ones were pretty large and the outer wrapper was soft, a bit chewy and translucent. Despite tasting pretty delicate (not too much salt and/or MSG), the shrimp inside were not large enough. This resulted in a pretty loose filling which ultimately fell apart pretty easy when bitten into. I'd give these only a passing grade.
We also ordered the Fish Maw with Shrimp. For those who do not know what fish maw is, it's a fish air bladder which has been fried, then dried. Usually, it's steamed or boiled to rehydrate it for eating. If this scares you, it's really not that bad. This particular dish was delicately sweet and the fish maw was still intact. The flavours were so delicate, it was bordering on bland. Definitely a candidate for some hot sauce. The next dish would have never even come if we didn't look at our bill. We had marked down Geoduck Congee; but the server did not enter it into our order. We inquired and found out they were out of Geoduck, that's why it was never entered. Uh... Would it have been too much trouble to tell us that in the first place??? I can never understand the service at Chinese restaurants. Anyways, we substituted it with the Chicken and Dried Scallop Congee instead. For a non-congee/wonton restaurant, the congee was pretty good. Decently thick and not reeking of MSG, the congee was delicately flavoured by the dried scallops. I didn't get to eat much of this since my daughter went to town on it.
If you're wondering why we always order the Beef Rice Noodle Roll, it's because the kids eat it. Wait, let's try again... My daughter eats it, my son doesn't like the "things" in it. This particular one was more along the lines of the chewy, stiff version. It wasn't terribly hard; but I personally like the softer kind. However, the beef was tender and moderately seasoned. Seeing how the 2 measly pieces of greens on this dish would not count as "eating our veggies", we ordered the Pea Shoots with Bean Curd Stick and Ginkgo Nuts. Beautifully executed, the pea shoots were cooked just right (tender, but still some crunch) and the ginkgo nuts were tender without falling apart. The flavour profile of this dish is usually quite bland and this one was no different. Sitting in a lightly seasoned broth, this whole point of the dish is about delicate textures more than bold flavours.
To fulfill our pork quotient, we got the Steamed Spareribs with Garlic and Pumpkin. As simple as this dish sounds, there are several factors that make or break it. First, some places put so many "crappy" pieces in it, there is no meat to eat. The best pieces are meat attached to bone, not cartilage. Furthermore, the meat should be lean and tenderized with just the right amount of baking soda. Too much and the meat becomes mush. Lastly, it should be flavourful; yet not salty. The spareribs at Rainflower satisfy the aforementioned criteria. As you can see from the picture, there is an ample amount of meat with very little fat or cartilage. Although it's a filler, the pumpkin at the bottom did taste good because it absorbed all the tasty flavour from the seasonings and pork.
While we were eating, I kept seeing a dish that seemed to go by our table every few minutes. I wasn't exactly sure what it was, but it did resemble Hand Shredded Chicken Salad. I took a chance and ordered it. When it arrived it was indeed that dish; however, it was a big mound of mess. They really have to work on the presentation of this! But, the good thing is that it was very large and full of tender chicken, pickled vegetable, julienned carrots, cucumber and seaweed. It certainly tasted a lot better than it looked. With only a slight taste of sesame oil, the whole dish was delicately season. There was good texture contrast between the soft chicken and the crunchy vegetables. No wonder every table ordered this.
The last 2 dishes were Daikon Radish Cake and Vegetarian Goose Roll. The radish cake was pretty good, it was soft without falling apart. As you can see in the picture, it was pan-fried nicely. The real dud of the meal was the last dish. For some inexplicable reason, the vegetarian roll was served fried to a crisp. Looking as wrinkly as Robert Redford's face, this was both an aesthetic and textural failure. However, that was one of the few misses we had for Dim Sum. Generally, the food was quite good and the service was solid (except for the congee incident). Beautifully decorated and quite spacious, the Rainflower has a lot going for it. One thing to note is that there are very few parking spaces allocated for the restaurant. Do not park in the adjoining lots because you will get towed.
- Delicately flavoured food
- Good food at good portions
- Excellent dining room
- Very few parking spots
- If you prefer more traditional Dim Sum items, there aren't that many here