Sherman's Food Adventures: Yan's Garden

Yan's Garden

Last year, we did some impromptu Dim Sum at Yan's Garden out on Lougheed at North Road.  Generally, it is not a place I would plan to visit since the service can range from poor-to-obscenely rude.  While the service was bearable and the food was decent (especially for the area), I didn't end up doing a blog post.  Call it indifference, but we didn't return anytime soon.  Fast forward a year later and we met up with Popper and Popette at the aforementioned Yan's.  Lo and behold, one of the former managers from Victoria Seafood Restaurant greeted us.  Maybe good service (or just average) would be in our future!

Since they still employ push carts, we got a bunch of things including one of my favs - the Shrimp Rice Noodle Roll.  Although quite uniform in appearance, the rolls featured fairly thick noodles and hence the resulting firm texture. Yes, the thick noodle meant that each bite was relatively doughy and dense. As for the shrimp filling, it wasn't cold-water crunchy, rather it had a meatiness that was accented by a significant amount of sesame oil. On the other hand, the Black Bean Spareribs were not bad. As much as they were adequately seasoned, there wasn't a whole lot of black bean (which wasn't a big deal). The meat itself had a nice rebound texture where there was little in the way of cartilage pieces.

Next, we had the standards being the Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) and Siu Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumplings). Emulating the filling from the rice noodle roll, the shrimp in the haw gow were more meaty rather than cold-water snap. The filling was somewhat loose too as it fell apart after one bite. They didn't shy away from the pork fat either as it was noticeable, leaking out of the dumpling. Again, there was a definite sesame oil hit with each bite. We found the skin to be rather doughy and chewy. We weren't huge fans of the siu mai as the meat was too soft where it was missing the classic rebound texture. It appeared they overprocesssed the filling, but then again, the big chunks of pork fat were still there being none-too-pleasing. As such, the overall taste was of pork.

For the kiddies, they got their usual Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice Steamed in Lotus Leaves). These were packed rather tight where the sticky rice became dense and somewhat lacking in moisture in spots. On the other hand, there was a good amount of ground pork that helped alleviate it. Like the sui mai, that also meant there was a natural pork flavour to the dish. Next up was the Scallop & Shrimp Spring Rolls. Surprisingly, my son didn't flinch much when we said that he was eating scallops. In actuality, the scallops were good while the shrimp was moist and exhibited a light snap. Again, there was too much sesame oil. On the outside, the wrapper was rather thick, but crunchy nonetheless.

Although the Beef Meatballs looked a bit lifeless, they were in the end pretty decent.  The classic rebound texture with a buttery bounce was evident where retaining some meatiness.  I liked the mix of water chestnuts and very little in the way of green onion.  Hence, I could taste the dried orange peel aroma.  As scrawny as the Phoenix Talons (Chicken Feet) appeared, they were actually quite good.  The exterior skin stayed intact while being moist and plump.  The same could be said about the cartilage and fat underneath.  Flavourwise, the dish was rather mild with only a background sweetness to go with the garlic.

My son loves almost everything from a deep-fryer (except for veggies), so we got the Fried Glutinous Dumplings and the Deep Fried Taro Dumplings.  He didn't mind either, but they were not without faults.  As much as there was a tonne of ground pork filling, the glutinous dumplings were oil-soaked and lacking crunch on the outside.  With that being said, they weren't bad with a soft and appropriate exterior layer.  As for the taro dumplings, the outer shell was a bit stiff and dry while only being lightly crispy.  Inside, the taro was soft and well-seasoned.  Again, there wasn't any absence of ground pork filling.

We found the Beef Honeycomb Tripe to be somewhat gamy due to the lack of seasoning.  In fact, it was almost as if they didn't season the dish as we could really taste the cow!  With that being said, the tripe was practically the ideal texture being buttery soft while maintaining a significant chew.  Okay, we realize that Xiao Long Bao at a non-Shanghainese restaurant is never a good idea, but these were decent for what they were.  Besides, my son has take a recent liking to them (about time!).  The dumpling skin was relatively thin albeit wet.  Inside, the modest amount of soup was sweet while the meat was tender and non-gritty. 

Our last savoury dish was the Baked BBQ Pork Buns, but in reality, they could've been a quasi-dessert too.  They were pretty sweet with a soft bun encasing lean BBQ pork.  The glaze was syrupy (in a good way) which added both enough moisture and flavour.  Now for the actual dessert, we got the Mango Pudding with a splash of condensed milk.  Frankly, I never go the condensed milk part (yes, I realize it is a Hong Kong thing).  As for the pudding, it was rather stiff, while lightly sugary.  There was some mango essence, but not particularly strong.  Hey, it was a typical Dim Sum mango pudding...  For the rest of the food, it was decent with some hits and misses.  Of course, with not much competition nearby, Yan's continues to do well.  About the service...  well, it was okay, but indifference definitely reigned supreme.  But I guess I'll take indifference over rude any day.

The Good:
- Decent for the area
- Fairly spacious restaurant

The Bad:
- Indifferent service
- Hit and miss

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