*Restaurant now closed*
Generally, our eating adventures are dictated by the location of our games. For instance, if we are playing in South Vancouver, we naturally head to Richmond. So what to do when we play at Strathcona? Other than Phnom Penh, most of the other restaurants in Chinatown are closed. We could go to Downtown, but this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try one of two places: Cray Cafe or The Fat Dragon. Now after our Crawfish King debacle, no one on the softball team was overly excited about another crawfish adventure. Fair enough. Worked out for me because I was looking forward in trying out the Asian-inspired BBQ at The Fat Dragon (from the people of Campagnolo). In particular, the smoked half pig's head. So I did a hard sell to my softball team about the place. Yes, it is located right near Oppenheimer Park, but there was still light out. Yes, it's an Asian-inspired BBQ, yet why not try new things? And I really wanted some head. I mean the Pig's Head... Milhouse and LuLu Bomber ended up sharing head with me. Man, there is no way to make this sound right...
As we made our way there, Boss Woman was very adamant that I close all the windows and lock the car. Okay, the area ain't exactly Oakridge, but it's not that dangerous! Once inside and looking through the menu, we spotted the Bao Buns section in the menu and for $2.50 each, we were all enticed to try a couple each. Hey were were already getting head, why not some buns too? Sorry, it was too easy... Anyways, I got one each of the Slow Smoked Beef Deckle and the Crunchy Squid. The beef deckle (which is the fatty piece of meat on a prime rib) was moist and tender with a nice bark. There was some crunch from the cabbage as well as the caramelized peanuts, but it could've stood for more peanuts. Furthermore, we all felt it needed more punch in flavour. This could've been possibly be attributed to the Crunchy Squid Bao which was a fan favourite. The crispy squid was a perfect compliment to the soft bao. The scallion, coriander and special smoked chili salt added a good combination of flavours which were bolder than the beef deckle bao. However, they could've eased up on the scallions as there was far too much of it.
Dark Helmet was mesmerized by the Thick Cut Szechuan Peppercorn Cured Pork Belly when he first spotted it on the menu. Look at the picture. I don't blame him. That is a man's wet dream right there. A half-a-pound of it rested on white bread drizzled with meat drippings. I took a good sample and the pork belly was beautiful. It was moist and dry at the same time. Huh? Yes really. The exterior had a desirable firmness and "candied" texture to it while the inside was sufficiently soft. In terms of flavour, there was only a slight spice with a predominant soy slant. We could've used more heat and a touch more sweetness to balance out the flavours. Gyoza King went for the Jalan Alor Chicken Wings which numbered six whole wings (including the tip). These Malaysian-inspired wings were definitely ethnic tasting. For some reason or another, I got the hint of five-spice, but there is typically no five-spice in jalan alor wings. Maybe it was the combination of flavours which emulated the taste. There was definitely some kick to the wings, which were slightly dry.
Boss Woman went for a couple of items starting with the Smoked I-San Style Pork Hot Links served with cucumber & coriander relish. These reminded me of the Thai Sausages I had at Maenam, except these were meatier and juicier. What really made this dish work was the sweet relish. It balanced out the savoury spiciness of the sausages . As a side, she had the Stir-Fried Noodles with Smoky Drippings. If there was a money dish here, this would be it. For something so simple, it was good. The noodles were slightly soft, but we really didn't care since the smoky drippings added both body and a depth of flavour. Mixed with the grated ginger and onion, the noodles were brightened up a bit (which was needed since the fat was so rich).
Bear and Hot Chocolate also had the noodles and they thought it was a highlight of the meal. They also shared an order of the Crispy Beef Ribs with soy-brown sugar glaze, fried garlic & scallions. I wasn't able to try any of these, but Hot Chocolate found her first rib to be rather salty, but then subsequent ones to be fine. At first, Bear thought they were a bit pricey, but the portion size was actually pretty good. Much like Hot Chocolate, he thought the ribs were a touch salty, but nothing out of the ordinary for soy-based Asian-fusion seasoning. They were not as dry as he expected, but the description was probably meant to clarify that there was no sauce. The texture of the meat was in-between, so he couldn't tell if they were boiled a bit first or slow cooked first then tightened up with some heat. In the end, they both liked the ribs. Dark Helmet had side of Long Beans with sambal and smoked almonds. These were crunchy with a kick. They were saucy but not salty.
Okay, enough with the various plates of food. The one thing I was here for was the Smoked & Roasted Half Pig's Head with bean sprout kimchi, cracklings, grated ginger & scallions, lemon wedges and iceberg lettuce cups. Now the visuals of the head was quite dramatic at our table. For Milhouse, myself and LuLu Bomber, we just dug in. The meat was super fatty, smoky and moist. The garnishes were pretty important in cutting through the grease. When made into a lettuce wrap, it was quite enjoyable to eat. Lots of different textures and flavours going on in one bite. However, with the copious amount of fat, there was a limited amount of actual edible meat. Definitely a novelty item which would fall into the category of "been there, done that". We all agreed that it was a good idea, at the very least, to try The Fat Dragon. We didn't go in with any prejudices and hence the meal was definitely interesting.
- Something definitely different
- If you don't go in with an "Asian" bias, then some of the flavours really worked
- The prices are slightly high considering the location
- Portion size varies from okay to small