Sherman's Food Adventures: Sun Sui Wah (Main Street)

Sun Sui Wah (Main Street)

A long time ago, there was this little Chinese restaurant in a little strip mall on the corner of Main and 32nd that was famous for its Roasted Squab and quality eats. That was the humble beginnings of Sun Sui Wah back in the late 80's. Now, Golden Harvest Restaurant stands where the iconic Sun Sui Wah used to call home. We would go there often since it was pretty close to where we lived in Oakridge. Even back then, the prices were on the higher side; but it didn't matter since the food walked the walk. With most successful businesses, expansion was inevitable. After the opening of their Richmond location, they moved into their new custom-built building on Main and 23rd. Even then, they continued to produce good food at both locations. Hey, I experienced it first hand. My parents were regulars and we'd go for Dim Sum and Dinner once a week at the Richmond location and sometimes the other restaurant. However, there have been rumblings about the consistency of their food in recent years. Well, for me, I thought it was a good time for a revisit, with Dim Sum up first. We chose the Main Street location this time because it was convenient for Marshmallow. Yup, she's back from Taiwan for her yearly Summer visit. Joining us were Sexy Nurse and Mailman.

Due to timing issues, we didn't get there until 1:30pm, which was a blessing and a curse. It allowed us to get a parking spot in their eternally full parking lot and to secure a table as well. On the other hand, we had to deal with hungry kids and hungrier adults. That was probably the reason we ordered enough to feed twice as many people. Note to self: do not order food when you haven't eaten all day. It appeared we ordered almost everything off the first page of the checklist. In some instances, we had 2 orders of the same item. The first dish to arrive was the Beef Rice Noodle Roll which looked quite stiff on the plate. It turns out that it was stiff and far too thick. Furthermore, the filling was haphazardly strewn on the inside so some parts had no beef at all. As for the beef itself, it was quite good being soft while retaining some chew.
There was no overabundance of green onions which allowed the beef to taste like beef. So with the same rice noodle, the Soy Fried Rice Noodle Rolls were predictably not good. They were very thick and doughy. Furthermore, whoever prepared this butchered it. After the initial large pieces on top, everything underneath were in little bits. To compound the problem, the noodles were terribly over-seasoned. They were far too salty. After this, everything came fast and furious. The next thing I could photograph before everyone dug in was the Blackbean Spareribs. It was only a modest portion; but each piece was meaty and had very little in the way of fat or cartilage. The meat itself was tenderized just enough to make it easy to chew while still exhibiting a nice bite. There was no absence of seasoning either, the dish was quite garlicky.

From the looks of it, I knew the Bean Curd Skin Roll would be a fail. The bean curd skin had this extremely dry appearance. One bite into it and yep, it was hard to chew. They had fried the bean curd skin too much and/or didn't steam it long enough. It was too bad really since the filling was very good. It was a mix of tender ground pork, shrimp, carrots, cilantro and bamboo shoots. I really liked the various ingredients in the filling since it gave some textural and flavour contrasts. Moreover, the filling ended up to be rather light and not too dense. Next up, I offered some balls to Mailman and he was more than happy to take them. These were the Beef Meatballs that is... This was actually quite good. There was a just the right amount of water chestnuts which added a nice texture. The meat itself was smooth while retaining a resistance at the same time. I also thought that there was a decent amount of meat flavour (which is easier said than done for this dish due to the tenderization process).

On the other hand, the texture of the Daikon Radish Cake was subpar. It was far too soft and as evidenced in the picture, it did not really stay intact after the pan-frying process. However, I must say that they did a good job of cooking it since the exterior was really crispy and helped alleviate the mushiness of the cake to a degree. Texture aside, I thought there was a good amount of daikon and seasoning which made it taste good without the need for hot sauce or anything like that. For once, I was ever so happy that my fellow dining companions actually enjoy eating offal. Consequently, we got an order of the Tripe & Tendon as well as the Bible Tripe. I thought the tripe & tendon were executed perfectly. The tendon was in good size pieces and stayed intact through the steaming process. While they were intact, the tendon was also soft enough to easily chew. As for the tripe, I liked how the pieces were on the larger side. For me, it just seems like I don't have to pick up as many pieces when it comes around. Each piece was tender with a slight bounce to it. In terms of flavour, there was some curry hints combined with a whack load of garlic. This was a very good dish. The bible tripe was also good, if not a little less well-executed. Mixed in with the larger pieces were a whole bunch of little itty bitty ones that were impossible to pick up or eat. We gave up on those pieces. For the ones we could pick up, the texture was bang-on once again - easy to chew while exhibiting a slight resistance. Flavourwise, there was ample ginger and green onion as well as seasoning.

Continuing on the offal theme, we got an order of the Duck Tongues. Yes, it is true, we eat the tongues too. And yes, there is something to eat as well. It is not meat per se; rather it is gelatinous and a bit fatty. Parboiled and then steamed with an oyster sauce base, it rested on some fried taro fries. The tongues were good while the taro was basically inedible. They were very hard and dry. Moving along, since we already had tongues, we'd have to get to the other end of the animal right? So we had the Chicken Feet (or Phoenix Talons as it is affectionately named in Cantonese). Now, the trick here is to fry the feet first and then steamed them along with seasoning. It is very important not to overcooked the feet in the frying and steaming process. If so, then the skin starts to shrivel and separate from the gelatin underneath. Furthermore, the gelatin could possibly start to "melt" away, which leaves the diner with not much to eat. The ones here were a bit overdone as evidenced in the picture. Not horribly; yet the skin was hanging off a few pieces. Otherwise, it was okay and it did have lots of flavour from the oyster based sauce and garlic.

Now for the standard that Dim Sum is judged by - the Haw Gow (or Steamed Shrimp Dumpling). First off, these were steamed too long. The dumpling skin was already showing degradation with parts literally "melting" away. There were holes in the skin on several dumplings. Suffice to say, the skin was wet. The filling was not bad though. There was plenty of cold-water shrimp that had been well-seasoned while still retaining some natural sweetness. Now for the biggest fail of the meal - the Beef Shortribs. These were so under-tenderized, it would've taken a grinder to break down the meat. I tried my darnedest to chew through the meat and I basically ended up swallowing big pieces. It's really too bad because the flavour was pretty good. Lots of garlic and a bit of black pepper, it would've been great with rice (except for the oil slick, which is normal for shortribs). Maybe we were really that hungry or we were just plain nuts; but we ordered enough Mini Lo Mei Gai (sticky rice steamed in lotus leaves) for everyone to have one each. These were pretty good. The rice was soft and glutinous as expected. It was slightly wet around the the "sauce" of ground pork, shiitake and Chinese

As if that wasn't enough carbs for everyone, how about a hot pot of Chicken Rice? This was Jeckyl and Hyde in one pot. As it is clearly evident, there was a lot of tender dark boneless chicken meat on top of the rice. Disappointingly, the rice itself was an epic fail. It was super soggy. Imagine adding some sweet soy sauce to it and then it got even soggier. There were a few more dishes we had such as the Ja Leun and Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll; but it was much of the same issues like the Beef Rice Noodle Roll. As for the Fish Maw with Shrimp Mousse and Silky Tofu with Shrimp Mousse, they were fine. However, with the pricing and "class" of Sun Sui Wah taken into account, the Dim Sum service was not exactly that impressive. If it were at a lower end joint, it would be acceptable; but not here. I had already heard some rumblings about the declining food quality and to finally experience it myself was disappointing since this was one of our "go-to" places before.

The Good:
- Spacious dining room (not during a wedding though)
- Underground parking (which is usually full, so can be a bad too)
- The service we got was not bad

The Bad:
- Food quality does not stack up to cost (for Dim Sum)
- And yes, it is not cheap

Sun Sui Wah 新瑞華海鮮酒家 (Main St) on Urbanspoon


Davidragonee said...

the food has gone down in the last few years but the service IS the best dont you think? just look at the servers and they come to your table

Sherman Chan said...

@Daviddragonee I'm not sure if the service is the best. I've been to all of its competitors and there is definitely better service elsewhere.

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