Whenever I meet up with Rich Guy for Dim Sum, it is generally an expensive proposition. I think it started in University where we'd go out for eats every now and then. One time, we spent like $60.00 at Imperial between the both of us (and that was only on Dim Sum items!). More recently, the bill at The Jade was pretty much the same. We wondered if the food warranted the price tag. In the case of Imperial, we thought it was too expensive for the quality of food. The Jade was more acceptable, yet still a pricey proposition. Hence, I figured that we should be less extravagant with our lunch and meet up at South Ocean instead. We actually missed $2.00 special, which ended before Noon. Whatever the case, we knew it would be significantly less than some of the nicer restaurants in Richmond.
With that in mind, we had reasonable expectations going into it. Therefore, we weren't bothered by the dated decor and slightly dirty interior. The lack of cleanliness was probably due to the use of push carts for Dim Sum (which is becoming a rarity these days). As such, our dish selection was at the mercy of what came around first, which was the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll. This was not bad. Although the rice noodle itself was on the thicker side, it was still soft. The shrimp were sparse and modest in size. For the price, we weren't too picky about it. Lately, I've been on a Shrimp-Stuffed Eggplant roll, so when it came around, we ordered it. Okay, this had the makings of a good dish, but the fact that it was oil-logged made it actually bad. First of all, the black bean "sauce" was more like an oil slick and the eggplant had absorbed so much grease, it was almost inedible. The oil probably wasn't hot enough.
Next up was some the most pale pieces of Honeycomb Tripe we've ever seen - Nicole Kidman would be jealous. The reason? Well, how about the lack of seasoning? Other than a token sprinkle of black pepper, the tripe was as bland as steamed tofu. Furthermore, the tripe was far from tender. It had the texture of rubber bands. This was one of the worst versions of tripe I've ever had. Continuing on, we had the Bean Curd Skin Rolls which were marginal as well. They were rather scrawny with little in the way of filling. Thank goodness to since the filling was gritty. Furthermore, the lack of sauce made the roll slightly dry and pretty bland. After 3 straight fails, we were quite surprised that the Black Bean Spareribs didn't suck. Clearly from the picture, it was a good portion size and the ribs were the good pieces (with actual bone, not cartilage nor fat). Furthermore, the meat was tenderized just enough so it was still a touch chewy. This was seasoned delicately and could've stood for more salt and garlic.
With push carts, it is usually based on pure luck or aggressiveness whether one can score the Haw Gow (shrimp dumplings) or not. Fortunately for us, we didn't have to stalk any carts to get our order. These were "okay". We weren't that thrilled with the dumpling skin because it was thick and doughy. On the other hand, the filling was better since the shrimp exhibited the desired snap and bounce texture. Too bad the filling had far too much sugar which made it artificially sweet. Along with the same cart, there was also the Sui Mai (pork and shrimp dumpling) which is forms the classic "haw gow, sui mai" phrase from the push cart lady. The sui mai was predominantly comprised of shrimp rather than the usual pork and a little bit of shrimp. Generous for sure in theory, but in practice, the whole thing was texturally wrong. It was especially problematic when the bits of pork were chewy and did not go well with the shrimp. Once again, it was predominantly sweet which made the flavour one-dimensional. With all that being said, the sui mai wasn't terrible.
Lastly, we had the Silken Tofu with Shrimp Mousse. This was a simple, if not, pleasant dish. There is not much you can do to mess up steamed silken tofu, especially when it is topped by such a delicate ingredient such as shrimp (you wouldn't oversteam it unless you overcooked the entire dish). So the only thing that was a variable was the shrimp mousse on top. In this case, the mousse was good. It was cooked just right and the mix of whole shrimp and mousse made for a good texture. Much like the haw gow, it could've used a little less sugar since the shrimp would have had a sweetness of its own.
Okay, this is a tough one. On one hand, the food in general was mediocre at best (with a few exceptions). Add in a very old-looking decor that seems not only dated, but a bit dirty as well with indifferent service, it is easy to dislike South Ocean. However, their prices are indeed cheap - even more so during early Dim Sum. So what to do? Simple. Under normal circumstances, I would recommend people to stay away. Far away. Yet, I cannot deny the value here. So if one was not too picky and could put up with the shortcomings, South Ocean is an option for those who don't want to spend an arm and a leg for food in Richmond.
- Food is edible
- If it weren't for the low prices, I'd not eat here
- Dated decor
- Indifferent wait staff