Sherman's Food Adventures: Sanbo


To be honest, if I didn't stumble on the IG stories of Jo and Elaine (@whatjoate & @elaineats_), I would have never known about nor eaten at Sanbo.  Despite being a local favourite, it really isn't that well-known throughout the GVRD.  So what sets this Cantonese/Hong Kong-style cafe hybrid apart from all of the rest, especially in Richmond?  Beyond the reasonable pricing and large portions, they are best known for their Soy Sauce Chicken.  Yes really and also their Crab with Special Sauce as well as the Curry Beef Brisket and Tendon.  We made the trek out to Richmond to see if their "reservation only" chicken was really that big of a deal.

To start, we had the Curry Beef Brisket and Beef Tendon.  This was an enormous portion of gelatinous and soft tendon mixed in with meaty chunks of brisket.  Not to be outdone, the uniquely big cuts of potato were soft and flavourful while retaining its integrity and texture.  The dish reminded me somewhat of the one found at Mui Garden due to the creamy coconut milk.  It was aromatic, yet still slightly spicy with plenty of curry, unlike the one at Mui Garden.  Not a complex dish, but tasty and well-executed.  Getting our intake of greens, we ordered the Gai Lan with Beef.  This was also well-portioned with many slices of tender and well-seared beef.  Underneath, the uncut stalks were crunchy and vibrant.  Plenty of wok heat ensured that there was caramelization and minimal moisture.

Arriving on a large plate, the plump Soy Sauce Chicken sure looked impressive.  Actually, it ate even more impressively.  Predictably, the dark meat was juicy and buttery tender, but the white meat was equally succulent.  It resembled sous-vide meat, but it wasn't.  I've rarely had chicken breast so moist and tender.  Not to be ignored, the chicken skin was nicely flavoured by the sweet soy and somewhat gelatinized.  I enjoyed how the chicken itself was still naturally flavourful without being soaked with soy.  Another one of their more popular dishes is the Candied Walnut Honey Peach Pork Chops.  Typically, I can't stand mayo in Chinese food, but this was quite good.  There was just enough of it and the amount of sugar was just right.  The pieces of pork chop were tenderized without losing their natural meatiness.

Going for the trifecta, we also got a 3 lb Dungeness Crab with Special Sauce.  In actuality, there really wasn't a sauce per se, but rather ingredients that flavoured the perfectly fried crab with spicy, sweet and umami notes.  The combination of peppers, onions, garlic, green onion, black bean, dried shrimp, black pepper and soy made for a flavour explosion.  Sure, it overwhelmed the delicate crab, but that was the intention.  Essentially, the crab was merely a fluffy textural vessel for the seasoning.  This could be had with rice cake and I highly recommend you add that.  For the kiddies, they wanted the Scrambled Eggs and Shrimp to go with white rice.  This was yet another large dish with fluffy albeit a bit overdone eggs that were a bit pale (but no food colouring I suppose).  Mixed in was a generous amount of cold-water crunchy shrimp (more like prawns) that were well-seasoned.

Since we got shrimp already, we went for the Satay Seafood Vermicelli Hot Pot rather than the one with prawns.  This featured perfectly textured vermicelli that was not oversoaked with sauce.  Hence, the vermicelli was chewy, yet not too dry.  There was plenty of satay seasoning that created a light spiciness.  In terms of the seafood, we found basa, shrimp, scallops and squid as well as peppers, onions and pineapple.  After seeing the food I ate at Sanbo, Mijune wanted to try for herself.  I joined her for dinner and ended up ordering the very similar Satay Prawn Vermicelli Hot Pot.  I thought this was even better than the seafood hot pot.  With less clutter and only featuring large prawns, there was actually more chewy and nicely wok-fried vermicelli.  Butterflied, the prawns were meaty and perfectly cooked with a firm snap.  Flavours were impactful and super delicious.

As simple as Wok-Fried Pea Shoots with Garlic can be as a dish, it is not always prepared properly.  It can range from old pea shoots to overcooking or use of too much oil.  Gladly, this was none of that as each leaf was tender yet still retained an appealing crunch.  There was enough garlic and seasoning to flavour while not overdoing it.  Portion size was generous (as these cook down substantially) and the oil content was low.  Rounding out their most popular dishes, we tried their Sweet & Sour Pork.  Although it isn't the best I've ever had (I think Hoi Tong has that honour), this was very solid.  We appreciated that they freshly fried the pork so each piece was juicy and tender.  With a fairly light layer of batter, the pork was meaty (and not fatty either).  The sauce was well-balanced if not a touch watery.

One dish we could've done without was the Fried Cod wok-fried with salt, pepper and chilis. It wasn't as if the dish wasn't properly prepared.  The fish was flaky and the batter was light and crispy.  There was enough seasoning on the outside for spice and saltiness.  I guess it just didn't live up to the rest of the other things we had.  Consider that a huge compliment to the chef.  Other than this and the scrambled eggs, every other dish was prepared properly and tasted great.  Their signature items lived up to the hype and I would gladly go back for them (crab, chicken, curry and prawn hot pot).  Add in the fact the pricing is reasonable and generous portion sizes, there is no surprise at the constant lineups.

The Good:
- Solid Cantonese eats
- Reasonably-priced
- Generous portion sizes

The Bad:
- Hurried atmosphere
- Hit and miss service
- Parking lot is insufficient


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