Another ChineseBites dinner... What a chore... Yah right. I know I'm fortunate to sample some of the best Chinese dishes in the city. Our most recent meal saw us visit one of my favourite restaurants - Western Lake. They manage to accomplish what most Chinese people seek when spending their hard-earned money: "peng, yau leng". Translated, it means inexpensive, yet good. Here you will find some of the best Dim Sum in town regardless of price point. As for dinner, the portions are large and the food is above-average at a reasonable price. That would probably explain the constant lineup out-the-door for both Dim Sum and dinner services (tip: make sure you make a reservation or the wait can exceed an hour).
For our ChineseBites dinner, the usual crew was present including Kevin, Rick, Alvin, Grace and new members, Queenie and Melody. We started with a Wintermelon Soup that was eerily reminiscent of the one I had at Top Cantonese recently. Since this was an invited dinner, I'm sure they amped up the ingredients as this soup was far superior. It was packed with shrimp, straw mushrooms, chicken, duck, Virginia ham, scallops, Basa, crab and dried scallops. Lots of ingredients which helped flavour the broth (which was quite delicate and mild). This was a soup that ate like a meal. Next up was a dish, Egg Whites with Shrimp, that was also quite familiar. We had something similar at our first ChineseBites dinner at Golden Swan. Again, this one was the better version. So much so, Rick went back for seconds (he was not a fan of the Golden Swan version). The egg whites were fluffy and seasoned lightly with a touch of sweetness. The shrimp had a nice coldwater snap as well as exhibiting a natural sweetness of its own. Underneath the egg whites was stir-fried pea shoots which were tender while maintaining a bite. They were not greasy at all. Oh and I'm sure that is not how they usually plate it...
I'm not sure what strawberries have to do with crab, but they sure like using it as a garnish. Anyways, the Fried Crab with garlic, black bean, green onion, dried scallops & shrimp, chilis and salt was really good. If you can imagine, the combination of the aforementioned ingredients would combine to offer up aromatics, saltiness and spice. Hence, this crab not lacking in any flavour. Now for the first dud of the meal. Well, partial dud that is. The Black Pepper Beef Tenderloin with fried milk was actually a solid dish except for the milk. It was dense, cold, gritty and bland. The batter was pretty thick too. Maybe they fried this far too early? As for the beef tenderloin, it was mostly tender with a mild pepperiness.
Okay, back to the good food with the Honey Walnuts and Salad Mayo Prawns. At first, I was concerned with the amount of mayo drenching the prawns (it reminded me of something else, but due to the suggestiveness of it, I'll refrain from saying it). In the end, the amount of mayo did not compromise our eating enjoyment. The large prawns had a nice snap and were sweet. The mayo sauce was also pretty sweet, hence combined with the honey walnuts, the whole dish was sweet (yet that is how it is). And there are those sliced strawberries again! Inexplicably, we went from one prawn dish to another in the Sauteed Prawns (not that we were complaining!). These were deep fried, then wok fried in a sweet chili sauce. The combination of ginger, onions and cilantro added a good amount of fragrance and flavour. Although the prawns were cooked nicely where they retained a good snap, the shells were too hard to eat and had to be peeled.
Then the most sinful of the dishes arrived... The Braised Pork Belly served with steamed buns enticed us with its artery-hardening persona. There was a good amount of sweet sauce on the plate (looked like a hoisin/oyster sauce mix) which could've used more savouriness. The pork belly itself was pretty good with a melt-in-our-mouths texture. The meat itself was moist as well. I really liked the steam buns as they were soft and went really well with the belly. Probably my favourite dish was the Roast Chicken. It arrived with in an aesthetically-pleasing and rich soy colour. The chicken was moist, juicy and slightly chewy. The skin was not only good to look at, it was super tasty (in a sweet soy manner) as well which helped flavour the chicken.
Our last dish was the obligatory carb item being the Fried Rice with dried scallop and seafood. The rice was dry and chewy (which was a good thing) with a some really awesome egg nestled within. The texture and appearance of the strands of egg were very appealing. The dried scallops added a nice salty seafoodiness to the dish. Okay, I must point out the obvious - the dishes were plated extra well for our hosted dinner. However, that should not overshadow the fact that the portion sizes and quality of food at Western Lake are generally quite good on any other night with any other patrons (I've had dinner here independently). Western Lake may not have the name like the big boys in town, but it most certainly holds its own at a reasonable price.
*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*
- Decent eats
- Good portions
- Reasonable pricing
- Dining room is small and cramp
- Service isn't bad, but it certainly is hurried