Sherman's Food Adventures: Van Dragon Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum)

Van Dragon Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum)

Let me tell you a story, as brief as it may be...  There once was a restaurant that my in-laws loved, they held it in high esteem, it was above all.  Alas, it wasn't really all that delicious, in fact, it was because they were tight with the chef.  I kept my mouth shut and opinions only shared with Viv.  Besides, when the Mother-in-Law is happy, that means I am happy and the rest of the Universe is at peace.  Why tempt fate right?  It's as sweet as enjoying your surfing experience on a tablet without constantly pressing the wrong link and/or option because your browser didn't fully load.  What?  Does this only happen to me?

So this restaurant was initially named Dung Sing Chin, but they soon realized that anything with "dung" in the name, especially an establishment that serves food, is not good news.  It became Tung Sing Chin shortly afterwards.  Well, the place is now closed which means I no longer have to suffer through another meal there.  Replaced by Van Dragon, nothing seems to have changed visually, but we headed there for Dim Sum anyways.  We began with the Gwei Fei Bao (Baked Sweet BBQ Pork Buns) which were a fail in our opinion.  Loaded with enough raw onions to make us cry, the flavour profile was far too sharp and raw tasting.  Hence, even the soft sweet bun and plethora of lean BBQ Pork couldn't save the dish.  Onto the Beef Meatballs, these were appreciably better with a light soft bounce texture.  Mildly seasoned, there was just enough green onion.

Up next, we had the Dried Scallop & Shrimp with Pea Shoots in Broth at the urging of my daughter.  At least one kid eats their greens willingly!  This was a fairly generous portion consisting of tender leaves that still retained a light crunch.  Although this was a mild-tasting dish, the ample dried scallop and shrimp on top helped add a briny saltiness.  Now for my son's request which was a total 180 from the previous dish.  Hey, let's not eat our greens, but get some Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls instead. *Shakes head* Well, whatever, at least he actually eats a type of seafood (albeit fried).  These were good though being crunchy, yet greasy.  The shrimp filling was loose with a meaty texture with plenty of garlic.  I think he ate half the dish and no, he didn't touch the pea shoots.

Normally, my son doesn't really partake in our love for rice noodle rolls due to the various unpreferred fillings (but he eats shrimp spring rolls?  go figure...).  But he was all over the Donut Rice Noodle Roll though.  Yes, fried = likey.  As shown in the picture, the rice noodle itself was rather thick and a bit dense.  However, it wasn't too bad, so no harm, no foul.  Inside, the donut was light and very crispy.  We also got the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll which looked like they attempted to do some creative plating with the shrimp.  Alas, that was not the case as it was the result of a poorly wrapped roll (actually it was completely broken).  As for the shrimp, they were lacking a complete snap texture.  Instead, they were more buttery and moist.  Without the sweetened soy, the shrimp were completely bland.  Completing the trifecta, we had the Beef Rice Noodle Roll (not pictured) which sported a much thinner noodle while the beef had a good rebound texture.

Onto the usual Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) and Sui Mai (Pork and Shrimp Dumplings, we got a few of them since we had a large table. Honestly, I could just eat haw gow alone and be happy.  Wait, isn't there an ol' skool song about that? ♪ Geem Sa Duy Suzie... ♪ Anyways, we found the haw gow to be rather mild-tasting bordering on bland.  The filling consisted of meaty whole shrimp that had a light moist snap texture.  We weren't fans of the dumpling skin as it was thick and too wet.  As for the Sui Mai, they were not that appealing to look at and in fact, weren't all that great either.  Texturally, they were loose and lacked cohesion, hence its broken appearance.  Soft, mushy and almost spongy, the pork filling didn't exhibit any rebound.  Tastewise, it was mildly seasoned where the natural pork flavour dominated.

Continuing with the dumplings, we also tried the Scallop & Shrimp Dumplings which arrived in their typical threesome (no, there is no sexual connotation here!).  Similarly to the haw gow, the shrimp filling was not particularly flavourful.  Texturally, there was some snap, but not that apparent.  The dumpling skin could've been thinner, but at least it wasn't wet.  Although a bit small, the scallop on top was okay being buttery soft.  Curiously, with a thinner skin, the Shrimp & Chive Dumplings not surprisingly featured the same characteristics as the other 2 shrimp-based dumplings.  As shown in the picture, the thinner skin did suffer breakage though.  With the addition of chives, the shrimp filling did benefit with an injection of flavour, but it still wasn't overly impactful.  Its texture did not deviate from the rest having only a modest snap.

Heading off to my favourite part of Dim Sum, we got a few dishes of offal.  The first one was the Steamed Five Spiced Beef Tripe.  In an attractive shade of rich brown topped with red and green peppers, the tripe was chewy with a soft finish.  We felt there needed to much more seasoning as the gaminess of the tripe dominated the flavour profile (and a better rinse too).  Next, we couldn't figure out why they called the next dish Braised Beef Tendon in Brown Sauce.  Uh...  what the heck is brown sauce?  Is it the same as the one found in the spice aisle under Clubhouse sauces?  Well, we concluded it was a mix of soy, oyster sauce, sugar and some chili flakes (among other ingredients).  Hence the flavours were familiar, impactful and a touch spicy.  As for the tendon itself, it was a bit too soft where it lacked any form of chew.

Continuing on with the stuff my son would never eat, we had the Phoenix Talons next (Chicken Claws with Satay Sauce).  Although not exactly plump, the chicken feet were not bad.  With intact skin that was fairly moist while not overcooked, it soaked up enough of the satay sauce where we could really taste it.  Underneath the skin, the cartilage was soft and easily eaten.  With the Steamed Pork Spareribs with Pumpkin, it appeared that they really liked to garnish their dishes with red and green peppers...  Just sayin'.  Anyways, this was a large portion of chewy ribs exhibiting the desired rebound texture.  Each piece was meaty with some fat, however, we felt they were a bit too large (clumsy to eat).  There was no absence of garlic and salty black bean goodness where the seasoning penetrated the meat.

Not topped with any peppers of any kind, the Bean Curd Warp with Oyster Sauce was not warped in any manner (they really need to get someone to proof read the menu).  We were hoping to be transported to another dimension!  Beyond that disappointment, we found this dish to be mediocre with an overly soft filling.  We did like that it was mildly seasoned with more sweetness than saltiness.  The bean curd skin itself was only lightly chewy where it trended towards soft and moist instead.  One dish we did enjoy was the Pan Fried Radish Cake with Spicy XO Sauce.  These were actually deep fried then wok tossed in XO sauce after-the-fact.  Each cube was lightly crispy, yet quite greasy.  Inside, they were soft with the unmistakable taste of daikon.  There was sufficient XO sauce as these were pretty spicy.

For the kiddies, we determined that a couple of filler dishes would ensure they get their fill.  Encased in bamboo leaves, the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice) contained a 50-50 split in terms of ground pork filling and sticky rice. Therefore, the rice was quite moist, yet still glutinous.  This also meant that each bite was meaty with plenty of flavour from the starch-thickened sauce.  We felt that the Chicken & Chinese Sausage Rice Hot Pot looked better than it ate.  There was a substantial amount of chicken on top of the chewy rice (which was a bit too dry).  However, the chicken was far too dry where the white meat was too chewy.  They used free-range chicken here and that probably explained the texture though.  Yet, that wasn't the only problem as the chicken was also far too salty.

Moving into the homestretch, we tried the Stuffed Eggplant with Dace Shrimp Puree. We found the fried eggplant to be a bit soft, yet it wasn't overly mushy.  The mousse filling was firm enough to exhibit an appealing rebound texture.  Its natural sweetness was aided by a good amount of seasoning.  Good thing too as the black bean sauce was really bland.  Lastly, we miraculously finished with the Egg Tarts.  Actually, we just ordered them last (why we don't do this more often is beyond me).  These featured relatively flaky shells that were a touch doughy on the bottom.  The egg custard was not overly sweet where it was silky and light.  Now after all this amount of food, could we determine if this was better than its predecessor?  Well, we did come back for Dim Sum a second time with my in-laws and no, the Dim Sum wasn't better or worse than before.  However, we did notice an improvement in service though.  Now we only have to see if there are any differences in the dinner service (which will be posted tomorrow!).

The Good:
- Friendly service for a Chinese restaurant
- Passable Dim Sum

The Bad:
- Well, it's just passable Dim Sum
- Nice they have a parking lot, too bad no one knows how to park in it

Van Dragon Chinese Restaurant 雲龍海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon