As we transition from Winter late night Wednesday hockey at Brit to early Sunday morning hockey, that only means one thing - more eating! Yes, it's true. When hockey ends at noon, the eating options greatly increase as opposed to hockey ending at 1:00am in the morning. The usual suspects were there including Kaiser Soze, JuJu and Gordo. However, we have sadly lost RBC to Ontario. Our sincere condolences. Now he has to cheer for the Maple Leafs... May there be mercy on his soul. Anyways, it was nice to play during the daytime again and once finished, the discussion of where we would go to eat inevitably came up. In all honesty, I came ill-prepared and really didn't have much of a clue. The only thing I could think of was East River for Dim Sum. The boys seemed to be cool with that, except for Gordo. Something about family commitments... Pfft....
Due to the ridiculously limited amount of parking spaces for all the businesses near the corner of Kingsway and Knight, it took a bit of time to park. I got a space first and walked into the restaurant. Kaiser Soze arrived next and we proceeded to wait for the host to give us a number. Now, this is a somewhat precarious situation. It seems almost every time I wait for either my name to be taken or be issued a number in line, someone decides that I'm invisible. Yes, that is the life of a lineup at a Chinese restaurant. It appears that people think it is good form to bypass those who are actually in line. Hence, I employed the block-out maneuver to make sure I got to speak with the hostess first. How can waiting in line be so stressful? Imagine how Kent's Kitchen and T&T used to be like prior to installing ticket number machines... So we got down to ordering and for the life of us, we couldn't find the Haw Gow (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings). We finally found something similar and it turned out to be what you see in the picture. They were really large and in a different shape. It turned out to be pretty good with a thin and nicely steamed skin. The half shrimp/half shrimp mousse combined with some sliced gai lan stalk had a pleasing texture. It was lightly seasoned where we could still taste the ingredients.
Predictably, we also got the Sui Mai. These were also quite good with a combination of pork and a little bit of shrimp. The pork had the desired bounce-like texture while not being over-seasoned. A solid, if not unspectacular version of this Dim Sum staple. Inexplicably, JuJu ordered the Xiao Long Bao. For me, I'm a great believer that a specifically Shanghainese dish should not be ordered in a Cantonese restaurant. It's never done right. Predictably, these were sub-par. With skin that was too thick and barely any trickle of juice, these were essentially typical pork dumplings. I don't blame them for this since this is not their specialty anyways. JuJu also likes Rice Noodle Rolls and decided to get both the shrimp and the beef. This reminds me of the time when a friend of ours did the ordering at Victoria Restaurant and decided to get 8 orders of the rice noodle rolls because he "liked" them. Dude, it's like almost $6.00 per order there. Suffice to say, we don't do Dim Sum with him anymore... So at the very least, 2 orders is acceptable, especially at the prices East River charges. These rolls were solid. The rice noodle itself was extremely delicate, possibly too delicate since they were hard to pick up without falling apart. However, I'll take that over thick, hard noodles any day. The shrimp was crunchy and sweet while the beef "mousse" was tender and had just the right amount of green onion.
Presented in an "avant garde" manner, the Shrimp Spring Rolls reminded me of the ones from Bing Sheng. Hey, it is only a simple deviation from how they cut them; but it is more appealing nonetheless. Besides looking good, these spring rolls were fantastic. Yes, it is pretty hard to mess up spring rolls; however, these were served piping hot and crunchy. Not oily at all, the filling was almost all whole pieces of shrimp which were seasoned in a manner than made them extra tasty. Hope it wasn't MSG... The Blackbean Spareribs were pretty tasty regardless if there was MSG or not. Let's just be honest with ourselves, there was probably MSG in it. It was properly seasoned and the hint of peppers on the top added something extra. I would've preferred more minced garlic though. However, taste is only one part of this dish. Texturally, the pork was probably a tad on the softer side; but then again, that is better than too chewy.
As for the Beef Meatballs, I thought the texture was leaning towards the softer side as well. I hate to use the term "fluffy"; but these balls were very light and airy. One thing I didn't like was the clumps of green onion. It detracted from the overall flavour. Nothing worse than green spots on your balls! Lastly, we got a filler dish in the Chicken Rice Hot Pot. We found the rice to be perfectly cooked where it was slightly dry and chewy. This is the desired texture from a hot pot where the rice takes on a nutty aroma. The boneless dark chicken meat was tender and adequately seasoned. I loved the addition of wood ear mushrooms, it added a nice crunch. This was a fitting end to a pretty unexpected meal. We were not holding out much hope since Dim Sum at Kam Wah Loong a few stores down was pretty average at best. We are not sure who would go there over East River, since there is no contest. The quality and execution of the food is excellent for the price.
- Quality Dim Sum for a reasonable price
- Decent selection
- Extremely narrow seating
- Naturally, service is indifferent