Okay, we all have heard about Dine-Out Vancouver where restaurants offer special menus at different price points for 3 weeks at the end of January and into the first week of February. However, there is now a Chinese equivalent in the Chopstick Fest happening October 15-30th, 2016. To kick things off and create buzz, some participating restaurants have been hosting tastings featuring some of their best dishes. I was recently invited to Imperial City Bistro along with Jessica, Joyce, Curtis and Diana for one of those events.
We were started off with the Smoked Fish dressed in the usual sweet sticky glaze. I liked how it was sweet, but not overdone so that it didn't taste like candy. The meat itself was quite moist which meant there were minimal dry portions. Not that it can be exactly controlled, but there was a substantial amount of hard fish bones that I had to pick out. Next dish to arrive looked like a pile of Napa cabbage tossed in a spicy dressing. On closer inspection, there was jellyfish head mixed in. So it was by no surprise that it was called Shredded Cabbage with Jellyfish on the menu. However, there was far more cabbage than jellyfish though. Texturally, the crunch of the cabbage and the snap of the jellyfish was pleasing to eat. Although a bit heavy on the soy, the dressing had a good amount of chili and vinegar.
We were not even finished taking pictures of the 2 aforementioned dishes when the Sauteed Sliced Pork with garlic, pepper and cabbage hit the table. Again, this was heavy on the soy where the saltiness was only marginally balanced by the spiciness. I found the double-cooked pork belly to be fairly tender with some chewy portions. The crunch of the cabbage was appetizing though, especially when it was aggressively seasoned. While we were taking pictures of the pork, the Beef Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce arrived. Normally, when it says "beef tenderloin" on a Chinese menu, it means tenderized mystery beef. Not here though as the meat was soft and tender while retaining a natural texture. I found the black pepper sauce to be quite mild though as it wasn't very peppery.
I'm not sure who wrote their menu, but somehow the descriptions weren't very descriptive. Our next dish was the Salted Vegetable with Sliced Tofu. For us, that could've meant many different things. What it turned out to be was preserved snow cabbage with tofu skin ribbons, edamame and pea tips. I've had this dish many times before and this one was on point texturally. On the other hand, I would've liked to see more seasoning though. Yet another poorly described dish was the Pan Fried Shredded Cabbage. It is true that the dish was 50% shredded cabbage, but the other 50% was flat cellophane noodles. I liked this dish very much as the crunch and sweetness of the cabbage was nicely accented by the hot chili peppers as well as the chewy noodles.
Onto the most nicely plated dish, we had the first course of the Peking Duck served Beijing style (yes, it is not lost upon me that Beijing > Peking). Anyways, the considerable amount of meat attached to the skin meant that each wrap was more fulfilling. I thought the skin was fairly crispy while the layer of fat was minimal. The crepes were thin and appealingly chewy which made this dish a winner. The second course consisted of the Duck Lettuce Wrap that was subjected to caramelizing wok heat. However, the chunks of meat were pretty small which also meant it was dry. On the other hand, the veggies were crunchy and the seasoning was spot on. I know this maybe a minor point, but I liked how the lettuce cups were large enough to hold the ingredients while being properly dried.
Saving the best for last, we got the Sweet & Sour Deep Fried Whole Cod with pine nuts and canned fruit. Yes, they might not sound that great, but believe me, when prepared properly, it is a fine dish. This one was pretty good with a crispy exterior and a well-balanced sauce. I found the fish a touch dry, but nothing the sauce couldn't solve. For dessert, we were served Sticky Rice Roll stuffed with sweet red bean paste and dusted with granulated sugar. I thought the rice was nicely glutinous with enough moisture. The red bean paste wasn't overly sweet, but the copious (a bit too much) amount of sugar made up for it. Overall, I found the meal to be enjoyable and well-prepared. If you are in the area, Imperial City Bistro would be a decent choice for Chopstick Fest.
*All food excluding gratuities were complimentary*
- Well-seasoned food
- Proteins were prepared properly
- Nice dining room
- A few dishes were on the saltier side
- On the pricier side