To say we have a good selection of Dim Sum in Vancouver is understating the obvious. However, with so many great places, it becomes increasingly difficult to find "the best". In fact, it gets even more complicated when you factor in price point, portion size and quality. For some, the actual ambiance and level of service helps determine their favourite. According to many, Chef Tony produces some of the best Dim Sum in town and seeing how it is one of the few places I haven't visited, we braved the lineup (even with a reservation).
Situated in the former location of Hon's in Richmond, the post-modern dining space didn't offer much area for tables as half of the restaurant consisted of VIP rooms. As for the food, we started with the Black Truffle, Pork & Shrimp Dumplings that we could smell even a few tables away. Both the pork and shrimp maintained a buttery rebound texture as the dumpling itself was rather juicy. Of course the dominant flavour was the super woodsy black truffle (possibly too much though). Continuing with truffle, specifically truffle oil, the Shrimp Dumplings were also mildly Earthy. I thought it was only mildly overwhelming as I could still taste the sweetness of the buttery shrimp. The dumpling skin was expertly made being translucent with the right thickness and appealingly chewy.
Next up was the Meat & Fried Garlic on Crystal Noodles which was a fairly large portion. Although the noodles were a bit clumpy and stuck together (as they can be), when mixed with the sauce, all was well. Ultimately, the noodles were cooked properly being appealingly chewy. As for the sauce, it was meaty and rich with the aromatics from the fried garlic. To keep things a touch healthier, we had the Braised Assorted Mushrooms with Baby Bak Choy in abalone sauce. Due to the high water content of all of the ingredients, there was significant pool of water underneath. Despite that, the salty and briny sauce kept things flavoured. Cooked just enough, the mushrooms retained a firm bite.
For the kiddies, we got the usual Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice) and BBQ Pork Buns. Unlike the other dishes so far, the lo mei gai was a pretty standard interpretation with salted duck yolk, Chinese sausage, ground pork and shiitake mushroom. With all these ingredients, the sticky rice was not longing for flavour. Texturally, the rice was on the drier side, aided by the addition of wild rice. Although BBQ pork buns are generally not very exciting, these ones were pretty good. I particularly enjoyed the lack of radioactive red food colouring and the overuse of sugar. Hence, there was more of a savouriness with a background deep sweetness. There was ample filling that was lean while the actual bun was fluffy and soft.
Since my daughter was a bit under the weather, we got some Chinese soul food - the Seafood Congee. Yes, a picture of congee is as exciting as waiting in the Chef Tony lineup, but there was shrimp and fish to be found within the silky and semi-thick broth (that stayed thick until the last spoonful). In addition to the well-seasoned flaky fish and meaty shrimp, the congee itself was subject to enough salt and msg. Of course we needed to add a side of Salty Donut to go with the congee right? Well not really, my son just wanted it and he ate practically all of it without any congee. In actuality, it needed the congee as it was fried until it was more of a crisp than a donut.
Onto something quite unique, we sampled the Bitter Melon and Shredded Chicken Rice Noodle Roll. Presented in a lively shade of green, the rice noodle was soft while still retaining its elasticity. We enjoyed that the bitterness was restrained so that it didn't overwhelm the chicken. Mildly seasoned and sweet, the tender strips of chicken were held in place by a light starch-thickened glaze. Another interesting item with an equally interesting name was the Flaky Almond Meat Loaf Sticks (???). Okay... Anyways, these were fried up masterfully where they were brown and nutty while not burnt. The crunchy slivered almonds gave way to a filling resembling that of the sui mai. Hence, this was a contrast of crunchy with tender and bouncy.
Continuing on, we moved into the offal portion of the meal with the Steamed Bible Tripe with scallions and ginger. As you can see in the picture, they didn't go easy on the greens which meant there was no gamy flavour (also from being properly rinsed). Rather, the flavours reflected the visuals including the usual salt and white pepper. Although the buttery tripe was tender and easy to chew, I would've liked to see more of a rebound texture. On the other hand, the Chicken Feet in Vinegar and Pepper exhibited plenty of rebound. The gelatinized skin was appealingly bouncy while spiced with a slight tartness and plenty of heat from the Szechuan peppercorns. Viv thought that the dish was missing the sweet element that would've brought balance.
Back to the regular, we had 2 classic Dim Sum offerings in the Ground Beef Ball and Pork Spareribs with Taro in Black Bean Sauce. Buttery soft with only the slightest amount of bouncy meat texture, the beef meatballs were nicely seasoned by the balanced amount of cilantro. With the lack of other distinguishing flavours, there was a certain natural meatiness to the dish that was brightened up by the cilantro and watercress underneath. As for the spareribs, they were mildly salty (due to the black beans) while sporting some spice intermittently from the slices of jalapeno. Texturally, the ribs were tenderized enough so that they were not chewy while still retaining a meatiness.
We thought our meal would end off with the Baked Egg White and Cream Buns, but there was one last dish afterwards. As for the buns, they were obviously made with care as the texture of the dough was light and airy. Furthermore, the buns ate much less sweet than they appeared (including the custard cream). One thing we would've liked to see was a silkier cream as it was quite lumpy. So our last dish was the Steamed Taro Pudding which featured large chunks of soft, crumbly taro situated in a firm pudding. We liked this dish but didn't love it. This was partly due to the heaviness of the actual pudding. Flavours were good though including the dried scallop on top. Overall, we were quite impressed with the Dim Sum service due to the quality of the food as well as the attentive service. Sure, the place is expensive, but dare I agree that it is the best Dim Sum in the GVRD?
- Carefully prepared dishes
- Excellent service (for a Chinese restaurant)
- Flavours are more complex than most other Chinese restaurants
- Long lineup (even with a rez)
- Not that many seats that are not VIP