Sherman's Food Adventures: Chongqing on 120th

Chongqing on 120th

Well, well, well...  What do we have here?  Another Chinese restaurant along Scott Road?  What's up with that?  Will the traffic suddenly become more treacherous?  Wait...  It already is...  Scratch that.  So really, that's the 3rd new Chinese restaurant to pop up here in the last few months.  There might be a shift going on here and frankly, from a food point-of-view, I couldn't be any happier.  However, this new restaurant is Chongqing, where they dropped the Szechaun from its name.  Fitting, because their food tries to be everything to everyone rather than the super spicy joints in Richmond.

Bookworm and I decided to check the new place out (where 3 other restaurant have tried and failed).  Upon entering, we were impressed with the significant renovations to the place.  Clean and modern, it could fit right into Richmond.  For some odd reason, I ordered the Xiao Long Bao to start (not a Shanghainese restaurant).  Despite the slightly thick dumpling skin, it didn't eat too heavy and in fact, there was a considerable amount of sweet soup inside.  However, the meat was not texturally appealing since it was crumbly and too soft.  We also had the Dan Dan Noodles that featured a bit too much peanut paste.  However, the flavours were decent with a touch of spice, sweetness and saltiness combined with the aromatic peanut paste.  Noodles were nicely al dente.  The side of fried pork chops was large, crispy and tender.

For our larger items, we tried the Ginger Beef (yup, an authentic Calgarian creation) which consisted of large slices that were aggressively fried.  Hence, there was a certain crispy chewiness to the meat.  It wasn't too dry though.  The sticky glaze was more spicy than gingery while sporting the usual syrupy stickiness.  They could've eased up on the moisture and/or thickened it more.  Going for another classic North American version of Chinese food, we had General Tso's Chicken.  It featured large chunks of white meat that was slightly over-battered.  It was still relatively moist though. The sauce was the usual sweet and syrupy stuff.  

On another visit with Zamboni Guy, he went for his standby being the Sweet & Sour Pork (yes, if he had a choice, he would subsist on burgers alone)There was a bit too much veg compared to meat on the plate in our opinion.  However, for the pieces of pork that did exist, they were tender and not overly fatty.  The sauce was more sweet than sour while being a bit greasy.  Yet, this was still a fairly good version.

For myself, I went for the Dim Sum instead.  I had the classics including the Haw Gow and Siu Mai.  These were actually quite good where the skin on the haw gow was appealingly chewy and not overly thick.  Inside, there was plenty of whole shrimp that did the meaty snap thing.  It was well-seasoned, but maybe a bit too much sesame oil was used.  Otherwise, there was nice balance of sweet and savoury elements.  As for the siu mai, they were quite large and consisted of processed pork that was indeed bouncy.  It was also very juicy and well-seasoned.  There were intermittent pieces of shrimp and shiitake mushroom that added a bit of variety to the texture and flavours.
I also got the Shrimp Spring Rolls which were double wrapped in nori and wheat skin.  Not sure if contributed to the lack of crunch or not, but the whole roll was not overly crispy.  In fact, it was mostly soggy in the middle parts.  As for the filling, it was very similar to the haw gow where it had the right snap texture while bordering on salty.  Lastly, I had the Steamed Spareribs on Rice Noodles.  I liked the texture of the noodles as they were soft without completely falling apart.  They had soaked up all of the juices (and fat) of the ribs.  The ribs themselves were a bit garlicky and mildly salty.  I found that they were more chewy than tender though.  Yet, they were the appealing bone pieces rather than cartilage.  

On a third visit, I went for some more Dim Sum items including the huge Scallop & Shrimp Dumplings.  They weren't the prettiest things to look at but they were packed with shrimp mousse and whole shrimp mixture.  Texturally, it was buttery with a light snap while mildly seasoned with a background sweetness highlighted by too much sesame oil much like the haw gow.  On top the scallop was a touch rubbery, but not overly so.  Continuing with scallops, we had the Fried Taro Dumpling with scallops.  This was surprisingly good and not overly greasy despite the exposed top.  Beyond the crispy exterior, the balanced layer of taro was smooth and well-seasoned.  Inside, the pork and shiitake mushroom filling was flavourful and moist.

Zamboni Guy was not really feeling the Dim Sum as his eating habits are more in-line with Manchu Wok.  As such, he really wanted the Broccoli Beef.  For a lunch special, this was a fairly decent portion with ample slices of tender and well-seasoned beef. It was soft while still maintaining a certain rebound texture.  As for the broccoli, it was subjected to enough wok heat so that the flavours caramelized and ensured there was very little moisture on the plate.  We also got the Seafood Fried Noodles featuring more ingredients than noodles.  I wasn't a huge fan of the noodles though as they were more hard than crispy.  When the starch-thickened sauce started to soften up the hard noodles, the texture was even less pleasing.  But the amount of well-prepared toppings saved the dish.

Back to the Dim Sum, we had the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice) which Zamboni Guy actually ate.  However, he picked out the mushrooms even more skillfully than my son...  For myself, I thought the sticky rice was a bit drier than I would've liked, yet, when combined with the ample amount of ground pork and shiitake (in a starch-thickened sauce), the whole thing ate quite well.  Trying to get some "safe" items for Zamboni Guy, I also got the BBQ Pork Buns.  These sported a lighter hue of red sauced BBQ pork filling.  It was more sweet than savoury where the BBQ pork was lean with only a bit of fat.  The bun itself was a little dense, but still okay.

Finishing up with the Beef Meatballs, I was a bit dismayed that they were pre-cut prior to serving.  How would we know that they weren't cut prior to steaming?  Anyways, the texture of the meat was soft with only a slight rebound.  There was far too much green onion for my liking as it dominated the flavour profile. However, much like everything else, it was still more-than-acceptable. That is probably the best description of the Chongqing.  Nothing is life-altering, but most of the items we had were better-than-average.  Considering the competition nearby, they certainly have a leg-up.

The Good:
- Takes over as the best Dim Sum in the area
- Lots of choice and options for authentic and Westernize Chinese cuisine
- Decent service

The Bad:
- Szechuan dishes are more Western-friendly (good for those who want that though)
- Dim Sum lacks a few key items (Rice Noodle Roll specifically)