Sherman's Food Adventures: Dim Sum @ Empire Garden

Dim Sum @ Empire Garden

Dim Sum in Langley. Doesn't roll of the tongue very well does it? Actually, there is the occasional steamed duck tongues available at some Dim Sum joints... Anyways, some people might consider Dim Sum in Langley to be an oxymoron of sorts. Or maybe just plain moronic to think that is possible. Hey, don't be so quick to judge though. My last foray into "chain restaurant" central yielded not only acceptable Dim Sum; but pretty good one at that. I'm not joking. Really! That was at Luxe, which is really Surrey/Langley rather than outright Langley. This time around, we were determined to find some more Dim Sum out here. In fact, it would be at a restaurant we have previously visited. Last time, we had a relatively decent dinner at Empire Garden with Nikita and Bluebeard. Now, just because we had dinner here does not give the full picture of the food at this restaurant. You see, Dim Sum and dinner are mutually exclusive since there is usually a dedicated chef for each service. Thus, it is almost imperative that there be 2 separate visits. So here it is. The Dim Sum visit with Nikita and Bluebeard once again.

Naturally, traveling out to Langley can be a crap shoot. Whenever a trip involves the Port Mann Bridge, you never can predict the traveling time. They say the new bridge will change things. We'll see about that. Hence, we were late by almost 30 minutes. I guess that is really not all that bad considering the backup going Westbound. No big deal about being late though. Unlike traditional Chinese restaurant markets such as Vancouver and Richmond, this place was practically empty when we arrived around noon. As we ate, people began filtering in and the place didn't become full until after 1:00pm. That is very unlike Vancouver. You'd be lucky to even find an empty Dim Sum joint before 11:00am. Unlike Luxe, Empire Garden employs the order sheet approach to Dim Sum. Although this method loses a lot of the lustre of roaming Dim Sum ladies yelling out their wares, it does provide for more "fresh" food.

Since practically everything arrived at almost the same time, I was busy snapping photos while people started to dig in. The first item I took a picture of was the Shrimp Mousse Stuffed Eggplant. These were pretty good despite the meager amount of shrimp mousse. They were fried up nicely with a soft texture without falling apart. The black bean sauce was quite mild and there was just enough of it. We got 2 orders of the Beef Meatballs so there would be enough balls for everyone. Hey, what can I say, we love our balls... Well, the real reason we got 2 orders was because lil' Bluebeard loves them. Luck would have it, he wasn't all that interested in them this time around. Now we had too many balls! Oh well, at least they were quite good. The texture was bang on being slightly chewy with a nice rebound. Flavour-wise, the balls were fantastic! A good combination of sweet, savoury and green onion. It didn't even need the Worcestershire sauce. Unfortunately, the Sui Mai sucked. They were big and lots of tobiko on top; but when bitten into, the whole thing fell apart. The meat was very loose and lacking in texture as well. Moreover, there was very little in the way of flavour either.

So the Sui Mai wasn't very good; yet the Haw Gow (shrimp dumpling) was better. The shrimp filling was cooked just right and had a nice snap. It was mildly seasoned, which is a good thing since shrimp is very delicate. The dumpling wrapper was an issue though. We found it to be thick and gummy. Continuing on with more shrimp, we got the Scallop & Shrimp Dumplings. The wrapper on these were pretty much the same as the haw gow. However, the filling was pretty good. It was a good mix of seafood which had the right texture and flavour. The Black Bean Pork Spareribs were pretty decent as well. Properly tenderized without becoming too soft, the meat still had a nice chew. This was seasoned on milder side; but still sufficiently. I'm not sure what possessed to order the Brisket and Rice Noodle Roll Hot Pot. That is not normally on my Dim Sum radar since it not always on every menu and frankly, we already get the soya fried rice noodle rolls for the kiddies already. Well, it wasn't bad per se; but it was kinda bland. The sauce was not flavourful enough to stand up to the amount of rice noodle rolls in the hot pot. The brisket was tender enough though, there just wasn't much of it. Now I know why I don't order this...

As mentioned, the kiddies like the Soya-Fried Rice Noodle Rolls and yes we ordered it as usual. These were fried up nicely with a pleasing colour and some caramelization. The noodles themselves were soft; yet did not fall apart. They were not too oily either. The kids liked them and really, that's all that counts. Another item that is not usually on my "to order" list is the Black Pepper Short Ribs. Somehow, this is like playing Russian roulette because it can be really good or really bad. Good would be tender meaty ribs while bad would be fatty, inedible pieces. These ones were okay. They were not too fatty and sufficiently tender. There was plenty of garlicky peppery notes as well. However, as you can clearly see, there was not much of it. Since a good portion of it is bone, there was very little meat to share. Another item that my son likes (which is not many by the way...) is the Fried Taro Dumplings. These footballs of oily goodness consist of ground pork and shiitake mushrooms encased in mashed taro root which are then fried. The exterior has a unique bird's nest look as a result. These ones were actually not too oily and they were as good as they looked. A little heavy with the mashed taro, which I don't mind, the meat filling was flavourful and not inundated with fatty pork. Oh, and my son only likes the fried taro portion. The pork... Not so much.

Another kiddie favourite is the Egg Tarts. These semi-sweet egg custard concoctions were not bad. We liked the flaky pastry; however, it was a tad on the thicker side. The kids didn't care since they proceeded to scoop the inside only. Well, it is always a victory when the kiddies eat and cause as little disruption as possible. In terms of the Dim Sum here, it is pretty good, especially for Langley. If you weren't paying attention, the restaurant could pass for something in Vancouver or even *gasp* Richmond. Nothing extraordinary; but it does hold its own. The prices are on the higher side which is a reflection of the restaurant itself. The decor is nice and the service is fairly good. But, if one wanted Dim Sum in the area, I still prefer Luxe since it is less expensive and has comparable, if not better Dim Sum. The push carts at Luxe are also a novelty if you prefer that. Now the real challenge is to find a 3rd place in Langley that serves decent Dim Sum. Stay tuned...

The Good:
- Decent Dim Sum
- Nice decor and clean
- Pretty good service

The Bad:
- A bit pricey

Empire Garden on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

thefridaylunch said...

Nice to hear there's good dim sum out in Langley. I'm heading to Spicy Court on Sunday to continue my dim sum onslaught. Any not-so-usual items you could recommend?

BTW, got my ticket to the Feast. Good work setting that up!

Sherman said...

Karl, sorry I missed your comment before Sunday! Doh! I'm really busy right now with the Feast. I'm glad you're gonna be there!!!

thefridaylunch said...

No problem! We all slept in because of the time change. We're gonna try for next Sunday...