Like the hyped-up expectation of the new Star Wars movie, we see another installment in the ChineseBites trilogy. For the longest time, it seemed a squeal was not in the works, but alas, we are back with some more food adventures. No, Disney didn't swoop in and buy CB out, but here we are again. This time it was the Summer menu launch at Pearl Castle Richmond. Most of the same cast has returned including Amy, Sean, Diana, Grace and myself (Rick too, but not in attendance). We welcomed some new cast members including Joyce, Eating with Kirby, SeaPotato and Mashed Thoughts.
We were served an array of Bubble Teas including 3 that could pass for multi-coloured Minions (did Universal buy CB out then?). The 3 in the back row with cotton candy (pink one destroyed due to impatience... LOL) were Sunset Love, Blue Sky and Young Girl's Dream <insert joke here>. In front (L to R), they were Pudding Milk Tea, Coconut Red Bean, Peach Lemon Green Tea, Green Tea Red Bean, Traditional Black Tea, Wintermelon, Green Latte, Fresh Taro Green Milk Tea and Roasted Rice Latte. I had the Peach Lemon Green Tea and it was refreshing, lightly sweet and tart.
Onto the food, it came fast and furious starting with the Taiwanese Sausage and Fried Fish Cake. I've had both dishes before on previous visits and these were on point once again. Beyond the chewy exterior skin, the meat inside the sausage was juicy and sweet. The accompanying dip added the necessary balancing saltiness. In big slices, the plump fish cakes were fried just enough that the outside was crispy while the inside was not dried out. The light dusting of 5-spice added the typical flavours while not being overwhelming.
Next, we sampled the Fried Tofu with sweet soy dip and kimchi. Firmly crunchy and remaining adhered until the last bite, the batter was nicely seasoned. The extra toss of 5-spice added the usual aromatics as well as a shot of flavour. Inside, the tofu remained soft and silky. Presented as abalone mushrooms, we surmised that these were actually Deep Fried King Oyster Mushrooms. The mushrooms were served with 2 dips including a house special sauce and seafood sauce. Similarly to the other deep fried dishes, the mushrooms were the beneficiary of a firmly crunchy exterior. Yup, the 5-spice was there once again and also a good amount of salt. I liked the house special sauce more as it seemed to have this sweet and salty thing going on.
This was the calm before the food storm as everything starting arriving all at once. I took a scoop of the Pineapple Shrimp Fried Rice (which happens to be one of their new menu items). The dish was definitely kissed by enough wok heat to create a nuttiness as well as caramelization of the ingredients. There was plenty of cold-water shrimp, pineapple and unfortunately slivered white onions. I felt the onions were too large in size and undercooked. The Kimchi Seafood Udon was plenty impactful due to the amount of kimchi. This resulted in a heightened spice level as well as moisture. There was actually only a modest amount of udon hidden within the kimchi and well-prepared seafood.
A visit to a Taiwanese restaurant would not be complete without an order of the 3 Cup Chicken, so it was no surprise to see it at the table. The ample amount of succulent dark meat was glazed with the usual flavours. I thought it could've used a bit more tang, but in the end, there was more than enough impact from the caramelized sweetness as well as sesame oil. Strangely, I was drawn to the side of vermicelli and ended up eating 2 more portions from other plates. Based somewhat on the same dish, the Garlic Sauce Chicken was several notches up on the impact scale. The chicken was tender and slightly crisp on the outside where it was coated with lots of minced garlic. In addition to the pungency of the garlic, there was a noticeable level of spice.
We then were presented with the Milk Seafood & Pork Hot Pot. This simple-sounding dish was actually pretty much as described. The broth was super milky and lightly creamy. It almost took on an almond milk-type flavour with a balanced sweetness. There was a good mix of ingredients like Napa cabbage, white shrimp, kiwi mussels, assorted meatballs, fatty sliced pork and mushrooms. Consisting of the same base ingredients, the Curry Coconut Seafood Hot Pot was much more rich and thicker in viscosity. Naturally, with coconut, it was more aromatic and fatty while the spice level was quite muted.
Continuing on with the ridiculous amount of food, we had 2 classics including the Wonton with Chili Sauce. Although the sauce itself was good with a nice mix of chili oil, soy and sugar, the wontons themselves were pretty average. I guess the thick dumpling wrapper inhibited the overall texture as wontons are usually delicate. On that note, the filling was somewhat gritty as well. On the other hand, the Original Taiwanese Beef Noodle was on point. It consisted of the classic wide flat noodles that were toothsome. The chunks of beef were fatty and tender while adequately spiced. As for the broth, it was flavourful enough with hits of anise and sweetness while not being overly salty.
Getting close to the end, we tried 2 more of their new items including the Marinated Pork with Rice and the Marinated Chicken with Rice. Both items were similarly presented and prepared. However, I enjoyed the chicken version more because it was moist and succulent while sporting a sweet soy marinade. The rice underneath was chewy and on the drier side, which was a good thing as it went well with the wet ingredients. As for the pork chops, the flavour penetrated as much as the chicken, but the meat itself was more dry. It was still tender, but naturally less juicy than the chicken.
The most powerful dish of the night was the Spicy Incense Hot Pot complete with seafood, meatballs, pork slices, chili peppers, chili oil and Szechaun peppercorns. Tongue-numbing and spicy, the heat level wasn't overpowering. By the same token, it did have considerable impact. The last dish I tried was the Vegetarian 3-Spice King Mushrooms on Rice. Similar to the fried mushroom appetizer, this was a stir-fry consisting of a sweet and savoury glaze. By testing out much of the menu, it was pretty clear to me that the food was more-than-acceptable. From past experiences, this particular location has been consistently the best out of the 4 and it was clearly on display for this meal.
*All food, beverages and gratuities were comped*
- Consistent food
- Good portion-to-price ratio
- Love those Richmond parking lots