For those unfamiliar with Ocean Wise, it is a program developed here in BC that promotes the use of sustainable seafood in restaurants. It has been nice to see many of the best establishments in town get on board. However and not surprisingly, Asian restaurants have been slow to adopt it and in fact, only one exists (which is Floata). However, Maji Restaurant in Richmond has recently signed on, hopefully triggering a trend for Chinese restaurants. To celebrate this, they hosted a dinner along with the Chinese Restaurant Awards featuring Ocean-Wise ingredients.
This was an ambitious menu which featured 16 plates of food starting off with the Chinese Yam & Chicken Soup. It was sweet and lightly peppery (white pepper) with a silkiness from the gelatin. I enjoyed that there didn't seem to be a significant amount of seasoning involved so we got the natural chicken flavour and sweetness. Even the pieces of chicken meat were super tender and completely edible. The whole Grilled Scallops with garlic butter was a real treat as it was both a texturally and taste-pleasing dish. First of all, the scallops were soft and had a sweet rebound texture. Second, the garlic buttery was aromatic and complimented the lightly briny and sweet scallops.
Onto the neatly-plated Five Flavour Mussel Salad, we found large Kiwi mussels served cold. This was key as these type of mussels can become rubbery if cooked too long. These were still fairly moist with a appealing chewiness. There was a good mix of spicy, gingery, sweet and salty notes that didn't prevent the natural brininess of the mussel. Continuing with shellfish, we has the Deep-Fried Oysters. This was one of my favourite items as the firmly crunchy batter had an aromaticness from the 5-spice, salt and pepper. As for the oyster itself, it was tender and sweet with a natural brininess. On the side was a salty and sweet chili sauce.
I'm normally not a fan of Grilled Mackerel, so I'm not the best judge of the dish. I can say that the fish was beautifully prepared though. It featured blistered skin that was aromatic and the grilling helped activate the fish oils. There was the requisite robust fishiness that is associated with mackerel, but with a squeeze of the lemon wedge, it really helped balance the flavours. Somehow, the Pan-Fried Salmon seemed a bit too plain for my tastes. It was missing vital seasoning that would've brought the dish alive. Rather, it pretty much tasted like salmon without anything on it. Furthermore, I thought it was cooked too long where it was no longer buttery.
On the other hand, the Grilled Salmon with House Special Sweet Sauce was appreciably better in terms of execution and overall impact. First of all, the salmon itself was cooked just enough where it was flaky and moist. Second, the caramelized flavours helped bring out the natural sweetness of the salmon as well as completely seasoning the fish. Back to the molluscs, we were served the Basil Clams. This was money as the clams were buttery and plump. They were cooked just enough and the natural flavours really came through. However, there was plenty of seasoning including the aromatic basil to help put the dish over the top.
Talking about over-the-top, we were presented with the Dongpo Pork next. It featured the classic braised pork belly dressed in a rich sauce. Of note, the Taiwanese version is generally not as fatty and soft as the Shanghainese dish. That was evident here where the meat was on the leaner side while the fat was still buttery and sinful. The sauce was not too salty where it didn't masked the natural pork flavour. Another robust and flavourful dish was the Pan-Fried Black Pepper Beef. By the name alone, it was assumed that we would be experiencing pepper rich flavours and this dish delivered. As for the beef, it was in large pieces and completely tender.
As for our carbs, we had a dish that I've personally tried 3 times already being the Taiwanese-Style Stir Fried Noodles. Consistency-wise, I have to say that they were more or less the same as before. It was a large portion of moist, yet chewy noodles with mild seasoning. Lots of ingredients including still vibrant veggies. Aromatic and exhibiting proper wok heat, the Sesame Oil Pork Fried Rice was quite good. It was too bad that we were so full already because I could've had a few bowls. The rice was chewy and nutty while still moist and they didn't overdo it with the seasoning allowing the sesame oil to come through.
As if this wasn't enough to eat already, we were presented with 2 tofu dishes. The first was Pan-Fried Tofu with onions and carrots served in an iron skillet. This was a straight-forward dish with deep-fried silky tofu that remained intact despite its soft texture. Flavours were balanced between sweet and salty where the starch-thickened sauce was not excessive. Next was the Seafood Tofu Hot Pot sporting shrimp, fish and clams seasoned with basil, soy and chili peppers. Similar to the last dish, there was just enough sauce that clung onto each piece of on point seafood. Another straight-forward dish that was well-executed.
Our actual final dish was the Spicy Deep-Fried Chicken which was more sweet than spicy (although it did have a mild kick). The skin was fairly rendered and crisp while the boneless leg was tender and juicy. This went well with the fried rice as it was rather flavourful. So there you go, another tasty meal at Maji, this time featuring many of their Ocean-Wise dishes. I personally love their regular menu, so a combination of any of the new dishes with old items will yield a great meal.
*All food was complimentary*
- Getting on board with the Ocean Wise program
- Solid eats
- That parking lot...
- Pan-Fried Salmon needed a bit more salt