Sherman's Food Adventures: Star Anise

Star Anise

There once was a time that we would eat at Samosa Garden.  That was in the 90's.  So, it wasn't much of a surprise to us that it closed its doors for good last year.  In fact, it was the last original restaurant standing in the plaza.  In its place, a new Chinese restaurant with a not very Chinese name now serves up Dim Sum (althought it ain't a Cantonese joint) in a nicely renovated dining space.  We barely made it here after Sunday hockey because of Kingsway construction.  On a side note, I believe more than ever that Lower Mainland drivers do not know how to merge and let people merge!

Anyways, once there, Emilicious and I were greeted by Milhouse and JuJu because apparently they knew a shortcut.  It was so nice of them to not share it with us!  What we were going to share was lots of Dim Sum.  We started with the Salty Donut Rice Noodle Roll which was nicely plated on a long dish.  The rice noodle itself was soft with a bit of chew. For my tastes, I thought there was an overabundance of green onions.  The donut was crunchy and airy which is the ideal texture for this dish.  Next up was a plate of Singapore Fried Noodles that was pretty good.  It had good wok heat where the noodles remained chewy while there was minimal grease.  There was only a light dusting of curry and seasoning overall.  We liked that there was plenty of ingredients mixed in with the noodles.

Normally, I don't order offal with JuJu and Milhouse because they are not really big fans.  But with Emilicious, I had a taker, so I didn't hesitate to get the Tendon and Tripe. We found the tripe to be rather gamy which meant that there was not enough rinsing prior to cooking it.  However, the texture was quite good being soft while retaining some bite.  The tendon was well-prepared where it was gelatinous and soft without melting away.  In terms of flavour, there was a good balance of salt, sweetness and a touch of spice.  Onto the most important dish, we had the Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumplings).  We found the shrimp filling to have a juicy snap which was mild, yet naturally sweet.  In fact, the shrimp tasted "shrimpy" which is rare because they are usually cold-water rinsed.  The dumpling skin was a bit on the chewier side, but okay.

In addition to the Donut Rice Noodle Roll, we had the Beef Rice Noodle Roll as well.  In hindsight, we really should've just stuck to one  roll because the rice noodle itself was floury and unappealing.  Maybe this was an isolated incident since the previous roll we had was okay.  The beef filling was far too soft with possibly too much filler (starch) and/or too much baking soda.  It did taste okay though with plenty of dried orange peel.  Next up, we had the Shrimp Spring Rolls that looked quite pale.  I guess they used new oil because it wasn't underdone by any means.  In fact, it was probably overdone a tad since the shrimp filling was a touch rubbery.  On the positive side, the shrimp was tasty with a good amount of garlic.  The spring roll as a whole was quite crunchy while not being too greasy.

Something that I wasn't a huge fan of was the Potstickers.  They were quite large with an outer skin that was a tad too chewy.  The bottom could've used a bit more crunch despite its lightly browned appearance.  The filling was a good mix of pork and veggies, but it was a bit mealy and underseasoned.  These would've probably been better if they were smaller.  Sometimes, bigger isn't necessarily better.  The Sui Mai (Shrimp & Pork Dumplings) were too chewy, dry and meaty.  The meat could've used a bit more tenderizing in the form of baking soda.  On the other hand, the bits of shrimp were good though having a nice snap.  Flavour-wise, there was too much porkiness and little else. 

We spotted the Bean Curd Rolls next to us and they looked good prompting a unanimous agreement to order them.  For once, looks were bang on as they were very good.  The fried bean curd skin had the desired texture of being chewy while soft and moist at the same time.  We liked how there was just the right amount of watered-down and starch-thickened oyster sauce which was not too clumpy.  The filling was loose in a good way with tender pork and a nice amount of veggies.  The Sparerib Rice Hot Pot arrived incredibly hot.  I was very surprised to see that they had actually prepared the rice from scratch in the hot pot itself.  That meant that the rice was chewy, nutty and not mushy.  The ample amount of spareribs on top were bouncy in texture and properly seasoned.

Arriving a bit late in the meal, the Fried Turnip Cake dared us to eat more.  Yes, it is a filler dish and we were pretty full by then.  I thought it had a good balance of flavours including plenty of tender daikon and diced Chinese sausage.  Texturally, it was soft without being doughy, yet it could've been pan-fried a bit more for exterior texture. On the flip side, this also meant that it wasn't too greasy either.  Although a bit pale, the Beef Meatballs were pretty good. Mixed within the bouncy smooth beef, there was a pleasant amount of water chestnuts and green onion.  The beef was also quite flavourful including a hint of dried orange peel.  Lastly, we had the Fried Glutinous Rice Dumplings instead of dessert.  The layer of mushed glutinous rice was a touch thick while the exterior could've been crispier.  Yet, it was decent enough with a flavourful meat filling.  And really, the meal could be summed up as "decent". Nothing to rave about, yet not horrible as a whole.

The Good:
- Nicely renovated interior
- Service was not bad when we got it

The Bad:
- Service wasn't unfriendly, but it was highly unattentive
- Acceptable eats, but not really good enough to justify the prices

Star Anise Restaurant 聚湘園酒樓 on Urbanspoon

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