After spending the afternoon tasting 34 different chilis at the 26th Annual Canadian Festival of Chili & BBQ, I was stuffed and bloated. The best course of action would be to get some rest or grab a seat at my porcelain throne right? No, that would be too typical and normal. Not for me. Instead, we traveled all-the-way into Richmond to Empire Chinese Cuisine for a double baby one-month banquet. Yes, adding to my stomach full of beef, beans and peppers, I would now eat 10 courses of Chinese food. Oh, and there were only 6 adults at our table...
Being Chinese banquet veterans, we arrived a full hour after the announced time. Hence, they were just getting the dinner going as we sat down. Starting with the Appetizer Plate, we had jellied pork hock, tempura-fried seaweed wrapped crab stick, sliced beef shank, jellyfish and mock goose. I thought most of the items were well-prepared, especially the mock goose as the fried bean curd skin was chewy, yet moist at the same time. Furthermore, it was filled with flavourful juicy shiitake pieces as well as julienned carrot. Next up was the Fried Shrimp Balls which were plated faster than they were presented. I had to get up to get a picture somewhere else! LOL... Anyways, these were very good with a lightly crisp exterior which was not chewy. The shrimp mousse mixture was bouncy with a good amount of natural sweetness. Also, it had the right amount of moisture.
For our soup, we had the Fish Maw with Shrimp. They did not skimp on the ingredients here as there was more of that than the actual starch-thickened broth. As for the broth, it was quite mild with only a touch of sweetness. It was silky and just thick enough and did not water down as we ate it. The bits of shrimp were bouncy and nicely cooked while the fish maw could've been just a touch softer. Next up, we had the Stir Fried Squid & Chicken on top of snap peas and celery. This was another well-executed dish with crunchy snap peas and celery (exhibiting good wok heat). The chicken was mostly moist and properly tenderized while thin slices of squid had a snappy chewiness. The dish was mildly seasoned, yet there was a noticeable ginger hit, which we liked.
Moving along, the Free-Range Chicken arrived with head and all. I promptly placed it on my son's plate to his displeasure. Although the skin exhibited a nice yellow hue, it was quite warm, soft and fatty. I would've much preferred more gelatin quality to it. On the other hand, there was gelatin underneath it. As for the meat, it was moist, including the breast. They didn't over-season the chicken, so we could actually taste the natural flavours. Onto the most anticipated dish of the meal - the Lobster or should I say "lobsters". Yes, we had 2 whole lobsters for 6 adults. #firstworldproblems... Anyways, it was prepared nicely where the meat was sweet, bouncy and just cooked. We liked how there was just enough mild-tasting sauce to coat each piece.
Our veggie dish of the meal was the Mixed Mushrooms on Baby Bak Choy. This was probably my least favourite dish as the bak choy were overcooked being wet and wilted. On the other hand, the mushrooms were quite nice though consisting of button and king. The oyster-based sauce was quite thick without being too salty. With another serving of vegetables, we had the Fried and Stir-Fried Basa with Broccoli. Despite being moist and flaky on the inside, I found the breading on the fried fish to be a little tough (even though it was crispy). However, the stir-fried fish was flaky and tender. Although the broccoli could be considered an afterthought, I enjoyed its vibrant snap. Once again, they were not too aggressive with the salt.
Our final savoury dish, we had the Stir-Fried Yee Mein with shiitake mushrooms. I didn't particularly like the texture of this dish as the noodles were sloppy and wet. On the positive side, it was tasty with a nice hint of sesame oil. For dessert, we had the sweet red bean soup (not pictured), Almond Cookies and Fried Sesame Balls. These were pretty typical, except I found the sesame balls to be remarkably light on the grease. Overall, we were quite pleased with our meal at Empire considering it was a banquet menu serving 10+ tables. Most proteins were prepared properly while the seasoning wasn't overly aggressive. Sure, there were some issues, but it was above-average for sure.
- Well-executed proteins
- Not aggressive with the salt
- Service was a bit rushed and pushy (as in pushed you out of the way to pick up dirty dishes)
- Parking lot insufficient