Ming Dynasty Cuisine

*Restaurant is now closed*

To me, the block of Nanaimo between Broadway and 8th Ave has a sentimental significance. You see, when I was very young, my family lived nearby and we would either frequent the 4 restaurants on that block. 2 of which still exist: Tracadero and Bon's. The new Phoenix Garden used to be Golden Phoenix, which was East Ocean, which used to be Golden Phoenix. Yes, confusing isn't it? Now one of the other originals (Tsui Woo) has changed hands to become Ming Dynasty Cuisine. Whipping Girl had recently experienced their Dim Sum service and thought it was decent. Hence, I targeted it for after Sunday Hockey eats. JuJu's was hoping for AYCE, however, Dim Sum is essentially AYCE, except you don't know how much you are paying until you're done (if you eat a lot).

So what else to start off Dim Sum on a hot Summer day other than Sliced Beef & Conpoy Congee? As evidenced in the picture, the congee was full of beef. It was in large slices and tender. The good amount of conpoy (dried scallops) add lots of flavour in a salty-seafoody way. The congee base was thick and smooth. We got the Haw Gow (shrimp dumplings) next and they were quite large. At first, the dumpling skin appeared thick, but it was actually not. It had a good consistency where it wasn't too chewy nor too wet. The shrimp filling consisted of whole pieces and exhibited a good bounce texture. There were obvious hits of sesame oil which complimented the natural sweetness of the shrimp. However, we also thought they might've used too much salt or MSG.

For me, I can't have Haw Gow without Siu Mai (pork & shrimp dumplings). I don't know about you, but these were some of the ugliest Sui Mai I've ever seen. The whole thing was put together haphazardly with chunks of meat and shrimp protruding out from what would be a uniformly made dumpling. Despite the visuals, these large monstrosities had plenty of shrimp and lean pork. However, they were overcooked which meant the shrimp was not bouncy nor was the meat either. Furthermore, the darn things fell apart easily as they were packed loosely. They were predominantly sweet with a touch of shitake. From a loose dumpling to some tightly packed balls, we had the Beef Meatballs. These were also large and barely fit on the sauce plate. The texture was soft with a good bounce A good amount of water chestnuts added a nice crunch. Furthermore, there was just enough green onion for flavour which didn't overwhelm the meat.

As a group we love Rice Noodle Rolls, so we got both the beef and the shrimp (only the beef is pictured). Although the layers of rice noodle were on the thicker side, the texture remained soft without being too wet. The shrimp filling was in little pieces mixed in with pasty mousse. We liked the addition of flowering chives as it added some texture. We preferred the beef rice noodle roll since it was the same bouncy beef from the meatballs. Once again, JuJu loves his Xiao Long Bao, no matter where we are. To repeat my disclaimer: we know Ming Dynasty is not a Shanghainese restaurant, hence, we should not expect good XLBs. With that out of the way, the XLBs were actually acceptable given all the considerations. The skin was thick, yet it was soft enough that we didn't mind it. The meat was gritty with some pieces of cartilage, yet it had a good meaty flavour. Surprisingly, there was some soup inside, which was on the fattier side. It didn't really taste like XLB broth (missing gingery notes), but not bad for a Cantonese restaurant.

It seems like Chinese restaurants are trying to get with the times in terms of plating when we begin to see Shrimp Spring Rolls cut on the diagonal. Maybe they do care about making the food look nice, rather than the ''cook-it-and-slap-it-on-the-plate-technique". These spring rolls were served hot and very crunchy. They were not greasy and were bursting with filling. Yet, the filling was more like a mousse, much like the shrimp rice noodle roll. The shrimp was slightly overcooked where it lost some of its bounce. The filling was aggressively seasoned which meant that dipping it into the Worcestershire sauce was unnecessary. Actually, I personally don't even like that sauce with shrimp spring rolls. It works much better with the pork or veggie version.

If we weren't already shrimped already, we got the Shrimp Mousse on Silken Tofu. The silken tofu was good as it was not overcooked. The familiar shrimp mousse was slightly rubbery, possibly a tad overcooked. It was very sweet though, probably a combination of natural flavours and aggressive seasoning. The ample amount of tobiko on top made for an aesthetically-pleasing dish. For the purposes of ensuring we were full (or that JuJu wouldn't order another 10 dishes), we got some filler items starting with the Sparerib Rice. The rice was somewhere in between being chewy and soft, which was acceptable. The meaty ribs were slightly chewy, yet still tender at the same time. There was a noticeable garlic hit with some hints of black bean and chili flakes. As you can clearly see in the picture, they were not shy about the loading up the pot with spareribs.

On the topic of filler, you can't get much more filling than Pan Fried Sticky Rice. The rice had a good bite while not being hard. Considering the amount of oil it takes to make this dish, it wasn't overly greasy. There was plenty of soy seasoning as well as Chinese sausage. Lastly, we had the Singapore Fried Vermicelli which featured the thinner type of rice noodle. This was a touch dry and fairly salty with not much in the way of curry flavour. The noodles had a good texture though and the shrimp were big and crunchy. Moreover, we didn't find it greasy either much like the sticky rice. After these 3 dishes, we were pretty stuffed and even JuJu agreed to not order anymore food. That was partly due to the large portion sizes as well. A real pleasant surprise was the attentive service. We noticed that the staff was younger and seemed more "in touch" with the customers. Overall, it was a good experience at Ming Dynasty even though the food wasn't exactly outstanding. Yet, it was decent enough and the good service didn't hurt either.

The Good:
- Great service
- Large portions

The Bad:
- Aggressive seasoning at times
- Shrimp mousse mixture could be improved

Ming Dynasty Cuisine 明門海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

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