Sherman's Food Adventures: Ho Yuen Kee

Ho Yuen Kee

Ever since Old Buddies closed their location on Alexandra Road in Richmond, it meant that their famous wontons could only be found at their original sister restaurant, Ho Yuen Kee.  So what's the problem you may ask?  Well, the Fraser Street location is indeed more convenient for me and I don't have to fight with luxury SUVs either, but the whole reason I avoided the place was their equally famous service (or lack of).  Alas, I returned to the place recently with Nora, Lesley and Joyce and had some of their greatest hits.  A month later, I was back at it with my co-rec hockey team to celebrate the end of the season.  This post focuses mainly on the most recent dinner, but I included one dish from my first meal as well.

What else would we start with other than their legendary Wontons?  We got the large order and I swear, there were like 40+ of them (the picture shows the remainder after the first round).  They used to be a whole lot bigger (like 2 times the size), but I think they made that up with quantity.  No matter, they were still very good and did not disappoint.  Comprised mostly of shrimp and a bit of mousse, there was a firm rebound that had a great mouth feel.  In addition to the natural brininess, there was plenty of sesame oil and a touch of white pepper.  The broth itself was fragrant and flavourful, if not a touch salty.  The meal prior to this, we actually did something different and had the Fried Wontons.  With the same great filling, these were juicy and texturally-pleasing.  There was a firm crunch to the wrapper which was a great contrast.  It was served with a side of sweet and sour sauce.

Okay, remember that one dish from the first meal?  It was no other than their signature Lobster with Sticky Rice.  There are many other versions out there, but they were one of the first places to do it in Vancity.  This was solid as usual with chewy rice supplemented by sweet pops from the corn niblets.  Of course the rice was the beneficiary of the lobster juices and sauce.  The lobster itself was prepared just right being bouncy and sweet.  One of the more surprising dishes we ordered was the Shredded Chicken Salad with wonton crisps, julienned veggies, pickles and jellyfish.  I normally associate this dish with nearby Koon Bo, but this was a more-than-respectable version.  This was actually 2 orders (as you can't order only one) combined into one plate.  The textures were all there including the tender chicken, bouncy jellyfish and crisp veggies.  However, the amount of cilantro was a bit excessive as it dominated the flavour profile of the dish.

Since we were on their greatest hits, it was only natural that we got the 2 courses of Peking Duck as well (in fact, we did it for both meals).   The first course featured crispy skin where the fat was well-rendered.  With that being said, the layer of fat was not very significant to begin with, hence they had used the right type of duck for this application.  Since the fat was negligible, the layer of meat underneath was impactful and added more substance to the wrap.  About that wrapper, the crepe was medium-thick, yet not doughy.  It didn't dry out even when the last one sat out for most of the meal.  The second course was the Duck Lettuce Wrap which was well-portioned.  In fact, the chunks of duck were abnormally large.  Not sure if they were just lazy or they meant to make it that big.  Whatever the case, it made for a robust filling for the wrap.  It was subjected to enough wok heat where there was caramelization while the veggies stayed crisp and most importantly of all, there was minimal moisture.

Onto 2 staples of Cantonese meals where there are children in attendance.  Yep, we had the veritable Sweet & Sour Pork as well as the Peking Pork Chops.  Although the plate of sweet & sour pork was paler than Taylor Swift at the beach, it ate a whole look better looked.  Sure, some red food colouring would've made it more aesthetically-pleasing, but do you really want to eat all that dye?  With that being said, it could've used a bit more vinegar since it was mostly sweet.  As for the texture, it was aggressively fried, so some pieces were still slightly crispy while others had soaked up plenty of sauce.  For some reason, they decided to add enough food colouring to make the Peking pork chops a deep shade of red.  We liked how the pieces of pork were bite-size rather than the whole chop.  The pork was tender while retaining a meatiness where the sauce was both sweet and tangy.

As requested, I added some veggies to the mix including the classic Gai Lan with Beef.  Underneath the plethora of beef, the large stalks of gai lan were cooked just enough that they retained a fresh crunch.  There was no chewiness since the gai lan were not old or dried out.  As for the slices of beef, they were tender without being over-tenderized.  The dish itself was not overly oily comparatively while the moisture on the bottom of the plate was minimal.  In terms of seasoning, I found the dish to be flavourful without being over-the-top salty.  Continuing on with the veggies, we had the 3 Types of Seafood with Broccoli.  Once again, the veg was wok fried properly where it was fully cooked, yet still crisp.  Seasoning was similar to the previous dish where it was impactful without being salty.  All the seafood including the shrimp, squid and scallops were texturally on point.

As if this wasn't enough things in a shade of green, we also added the Stir-Fried Pea Shoots with garlic.  Although the portion size was modest, much like the other dishes, the execution was consistent.  It was just as good as the dish I had only a few weeks prior.  There was enough wok heat to caramelize the flavours and activate the aromatics from the garlic.  Hence, there was very little moisture left on the plate.  Each tender pea shoot was still lightly crunchy.  To balance all these veggies, we really had to get some protein and that we did in the form of a whole Crispy Chicken.  Clad in a beautiful golden hue, the crispy skin was well-rendered.  Underneath, the meat was tender, including the breast.  There was a light brine that added some saltiness to the meat as well as keeping it moist.

For the kiddies and also acting as our carbs (since we didn't order any rice), we got a duo of stir fried noodles.  The Stir-Fried Flat Rice Noodles with Beef was a fairly solid dish.  It was only moderate greasy (as this dish can often be oily since the noodles can stick to the wok otherwise) and was well-seasoned.  The noodles were not clumpy and still nicely chewy.  There was a good amount of tender beef, but equally, there was too many sprouts.  Our 2nd noodle was the Stir-Fried Yee Mein, which is typically found at the end of Chinese banquets.  This was another good version where the noodles were chewy and subjected to enough wok heat.  There was no moisture at the bottom of the plate which was another indication of proper wok temp.  One thing I would've liked to see was a bit more colour (dark soy) and a touch more saltiness.

For some strange reason, the last dish to arrive was the Fish & Tofu Hot Pot.  Despite the usual lettuce underneath to "prop" up the fish, there was actually quite a bit of fish as you can see (the lettuce is also there to prevent sticking and burning at the bottom).  The fish was buttery and flaky while the fried tofu was silky.  There was a good amount of salty garlickiness in the starch-thickened sauce for impact.  As you can imagine, the 2 meals I had at recently at Ho Yuen Kee were solid and consistent.  The portion sizes were adequate, but probably a bit smaller than other equivalent restaurants and the pricing is a tad more as well.  On the other hand, solid execution and consistency makes up for it.

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Signature items are really good
- Consistent

The Bad:
- Service is so-so
- A tad pricey for this class of restaurant
- Portion sizes are small, but not very large either

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