Sherman's Food Adventures: Gain Wah

Gain Wah

Way back when, the place for Chinese food was in Chinatown. If this statement makes you want to LOL and possibly ROFL, I don't blame you. Believe me, prior to the explosion of Chinese restaurants outside of Chinatown starting in the mid-80's until now, the go to joints were Ming's, Kam Gook Yuen, Hon's (original location on Main Street), Park Lok and the ol' Hong Kong Cafe. If you are reading this and only have a glazed confused look on your face, you are probably under the age of 20. For me, I still remember the prime rib dinner served by really old waiters at the Hong Kong cafe. Their pound cake was money as well. Dim Sum was only available at places like Ming's and Pak Lok where the lineups would put anything now to shame. Then we had the wonton noodles at one of 3 locations of Kam Gook Yuen. Another classic is Gain Wah. I remember visiting this place a lot when I was a wee one. And honestly, I don't think I've been back since. So when we finished up Sunday hockey at Brit, it seemed like as good as any time to do a revisit a few decades later.

Kaiser Soze was elated at this proposition since he doesn't believe that food should cost an arm and a leg. Well, with most Chinese restaurants, we should be talking about kidneys and livers rather than arms and legs... JuJu isn't too picky with his restaurants and was okay with the idea as well. He decided to carpool with me down to Chinatown since parking can be an exercise in frustration. Kaiser Soze decided to drive himself. Fate would have it, I spotted a parking space nearly in front of Gain Wah. However, it was across the street. No matter, we're in Chinatown and I'm Chinese! So I pulled a U-turn into the space. Hey, when in Rome... Of course Kaiser Soze drives by shortly afterwards. Apparently I took his space! Serves him right for not carpooling with us! LOL... Upon entering the restaurant, it is clear that not much has changed. Totally ol' skool, this is the antithesis of modernism. Hence the prices are cheap and portions are large.

I started with the classic Wonton Noodles. Talking about ol' skool, these were pork wontons with no shrimp. With reasonable expectations, they were okay. The meat had a nice bouncy texture while it might benefited from more seasoning. The noodles themselves were perfectly chewy and sat in a decently flavourful broth. This can't compare to the more fancy wonton noodles offered in Richmond; but it does the job at $4.00. Unsatisfied with only a bowl of noodles, I also had the Offal Congee consisting of liver, kidney, pork and stomach. The congee was modestly seasoned (which means less or no MSG) and not really too thick. I found the meats to be overtenderized; hence not having much texture at all. On a positive note, they were cooked properly, so they weren't chewy (but I guess it wouldn't be due to the tenderization). Seeing how Viv probably needed food too, I got an order of the House Special Chow Mein to go as well. I got them to plate it first, so I could take a picture. I tried some too before I packed it up. This was pretty much your typical fried noodles topped with sauce. I found the noodles to be not too greasy and perfectly fried. The sauce was the pretty typical starch-thickened variety. Enough flavour and enough well-cooked ingredients. This can be considered a good value dish.

JuJu also ordered something for his wife being the Salted Fish & Chicken Fried Rice. Again, we got them to plate it first prior to packing it up. I sampled it and found the rice to be underseasoned despite the salted fish. I usually like my fried rice to be dry (due to day old rice and a hot wok); however, this was a bit too dry. This was a decent attempt at this dish; yet hardly a memorable one. For himself, JuJu had 2 items just like me. He started with the BBQ Pork and Wonton Noodles. Similary to my bowl of noodles, it was a pretty standard, if not unexciting offering. To change it up, he also got a Fish & Tofu Hot Pot all for himself (and a bowl of rice). Sadly, this was not good. The fish was both overcooked and of poor quality. It was very dense and difficult to chew. On the flip side, the fried tofu was fantastic - silky on the inside and chewy on the outside. Furthermore, the sauce had depth and a garlicky hit while not being salty.

Kaiser Soze went for something that I would normally order for myself - the Brisket and Tripe Noodles. Essentially the same as the wonton noodle except for the change in protein, it was also quite good. The brisket and tripe were soft and flavourful. Similarly to me, he also got a Minced Beef Congee. Since the congee base is exactly the same for all the different varieties, it was just like the offal congee. Not exactly that thick nor that flavourful. The minced beef was sufficiently tender, so he enjoyed it nonetheless. Although Gain Wah is still quite popular among the locals, it was walking into a time warp. The decor and food haven't seemed to change in the last couple of decades. And being such, I much prefer Congee Noodle House/King. However, if you just wanted ol' skool greasy spoon Chinese food on the cheap, Gain Wah is your place.

The Good:
- Cheap
- Friendly service
- Retro, if you like that

The Bad:
- Food is so-so
- You don't come here for the ambiance

Gain Wah on Urbanspoon


LotusRapper said...

Wow a walk down memory lane. Gain Wah, Daisy Garden (Kam Gok Yuen), original Hon's, Park Lok, HK Cafe, New Town Bakery, Foo's, Ho Ho's and that big dim sum place on Gore (2nd floor) were ones I recall from the 70's. Plus Golden Crown on Hastings (near Victory Square), Peninsula (Broadway/Ash) and Kingsland on Granville in downtown.

Sherman Chan said...

@LR Ah... all classics! Hey... did u know my Father-in-Law used to run Kingsland (later on to become Imperial Gardens)?

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