Having the title "best of" can be somewhat misleading. What really quantifies this assertion? Sometimes it is self-promotion and other times, it's based on a small sample size. Case-in-point, Lin's "best in Vancouver Xiao Long Bao" was based mostly on Bob Blumer's show on the Food Network. There was a XLB competition that only a few restaurants participated in (with the big boys being absent). Thereafter, they were known for being the "best" as they won handily. Personally, I like the XLBs there, but they are hardly the "best". With that in mind, it was about time I went back to see how things were going.
Much like the last visit (over 3 years ago), we met up with Costanza and Elaine. We decided to order a wide variety of dishes starting with the Hot & Sour Soup. Although there was a tonne of ingredients, the soup itself was lacking in depth and flavour. Sure, there was spice to it, however, there was an absence of tang and body. The only thing that saved this from being terrible was the silky thickness of the soup and the aforementioned crunchy ingredients. Next up was the Hand-Pulled Roti with Curry Sauce. We thought the roti was quite good with a crispy browned appearance which gave way to chewy bread. I wasn't a huge fan of the curry dip though as it was rather lifeless and weird in texture since it was starch-thickened.
For the main event, we got 2 orders of their Xiao Long Bao. As with all my previous visits, these were pretty good, but hardly the best in town. I would like to think that Dinesty, Shanghai River, Chen's and Shanghai Wonderful would give them a run for their money. I found the dumpling skin to be somewhat thin, but a touch doughy in places, especially at the top (which is quite common). There was a decent amount of soup inside which had a nice gingery hit. The meat was pretty soft and moist with no grittiness. We also tried the Ginger Beef and it was pretty terrible. Nothing particularly wrong with the beef itself since it was tender while having a nice crisp exterior. However, the sauce was just not right. There was no ginger flavour or tang to speak of. Rather, it was mostly sweet with a touch of spice. It was as if they only used sweet chili sauce.
Much like last time, we had the Honey Prawns and they were more or less the same. The prawns were of a decent size and were fried up really crunchy while retaining a sweet snap. So much so, they held up to the ample amount of sauce. The sauce itself was pretty sweet and had thick fatty consistency due to the use of mayo. This would've been a bit better if there was just a tad less sauce. The smell of smoke from the kitchen persuaded us to get half of a Tea Smoked Duck. Indeed it was smoky with super moist and tender meat which was quite flavourful. However, the duck skin was quite fatty and not crispy at all. Hence, it was not that appealing to eat.
Onto some more dumplings, we had the Potstickers next. Glistening from the good amount of oil, it exhibited a nicely browned bottom. However, it wasn't as crunchy as it should've been. The dumpling skin was a tad doughy, but was okay nonetheless. As for the filling, it was predominantly comprised of greens with only a little bit of pork. I found the meat to be tender, but it was lacking in flavour. For the kiddies, we got the Shanghai Fried Thick Noodles. With a rich colour from the dark soy, the noodles were chewy and predictably greasy (probably a little too greasy). I found the dish to be quite mild and lacking a bit in caramelization (despite the dark colour).
To get some veggies into our meal, we grudgingly ordered the Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic. For $13.99, it was a pretty meager portion. It was prepared mostly right though with vibrant leaves which were cooked-all-the-way-through while maintaining a bite. There was a mild garlic hit, yet the dish was again, greasy. And that was a common problem with the food here. It was not only greasy, there was some seasoning issues as well. Definitely not as good as the last few times and in some ways, disappointing. Sure, the XLBs are still respectable, but if their food is that average, I'm not sure if another revisit lies in our future.
- Decent XLBs (especially for Vancouver proper)
- Okay pricing except for the larger dishes
- Greasy with seasoning issues
- Robotic uninspired service