Sherman's Food Adventures: Neptune Palace

Neptune Palace

If it seems like there is always a Neptune Chinese restaurant around the corner; you are not imagining things.  It all started off as one combo restaurant in Richmond featuring a formal Chinese restaurant on one side and on the other, a wonton noodle spot.  Now we see both versions in places nearly everywhere.  One of their latest ventures is Neptune Palace, which is their most high-end offering to this date.  It took the spot formerly occupied by Pennisula, right within the Marine Gateway complex.

We ordered lots of food since we had everyone here including the in-laws (yes, had to listen to my Mother-in-Law yak throughout the meal...).  The first dish to hit the table was the Beef Tripe & Tendon in chiu hou sauce.  Being served in a bowl rather than a plate meant it was a fairly large portion.  I found the tripe to be maybe a touch too soft, but ultimately tender.  The tendon was generally soft except for a few pieces.  The dish ate a bit sweet, but it was not overseasoned.

Also served in a ceramic pot/bowl, the Bean Curd Wraps with enoki mushroom were a bit flat-looking and on the smaller side.  However, they were pretty good with a chewy (in a good way) bean curd skin wrapper.  It was drier (which was texturally appealing) and gave way to a pork and shrimp filling that was tightly packed and firm.  As such, the whole roll was not particularly light to eat.  It did taste good though with a starch-thicken sauce that was balanced and stayed thick even after steaming.

The same pork mixture seemed to have found its way into the Truffle Siu Mai Dumpling as the whole thing was heavy and dense.  Instead of a buttery and moist snap texture, I found the filling to be a touch dry and a bit chewy.  With that being said, it wasn't as if the dumpling was terrible.  The meat was still tender enough where there was some pork fat to keep things less dense.  As for the seasoning, I found it to be rather mild with the ample truffle sauce on top really coming through.

Of course, we also got the Ha Gau (Shrimp Dumplings) which were medium-sized with a slightly translucent wrapper.  I thought these were some of the best-looking ha gau I've recently seen as the pleats and the overall shape of the dumpling were uniform.  In terms of execution, the dumplings were good where the wrapper had a tender elasticity.  Inside, the whole shrimp filling was on point with a sweet buttery snap.  Seasoning was subtle with natural shrimp sweetness.

We ended up ordering the Fish Filet Congee since the kids really wanted it (again, they are most important...).   Now I understand that Neptune Palace is a higher-end Chinese restaurant, but this congee was a bit overpriced at $15.00.  There was only a modest amount of flaky fish within the congee (and being Basa, it isn't an expensive fish).  I found the congee itself to be a bit too thick, but I guess better than being watery.  It was mildly seasoned and had more of a home-style taste than the usual MSG restaurant version.

Although it never seems like a lot of food for the money, I always get the Phoenix Talons (Chicken Feet in special sauce).  Trust me, the cost is mostly in the preparation because I've made this dish before and there are a few steps involved.  Now this version was decent albeit the ends of the feet were falling off (a sign of overcooking it or being too rough in handling them in the cooking process).  Whatever the case, the skin was tender and there was still soft cartilage and fat underneath.  This was garlicky and sweet with a bit of the dice peppers coming through.

Another dish the kids wanted was the Lo Mei Gai (Sticky Rice with minced pork wrapped in lotus leaf).  There was three of them, which is pretty standard, yet they were quite large in size.  Inside, the rice was a touch on the drier side which made some parts more firm and crumbly.  There was a good amount of pork hidden within the rice, but it was also a bit dry as well due to the lack of starch-thicken sauce.  Completing the filling was some salted egg yolk and Chinese sausage.

Well, guess why we ordered the Char Siu Bao (Steamed BBQ Pork Buns)?  Yes, my son wanted them (the kids get everything they want...).   Not a bad choice really since the bun itself was fluffy and fairly light.  It remained that way even after it had cooled down and sat for a bit.  Inside, the BBQ pork filling was fairly lean with only a few fattier parts.  The glaze was thick and definitely on the sweeter side.  There was a bit more bun than filling.

Presented nicely in a basket (on a plate), the Stir Fried Daikon Cake with spicy XO sauce was in a decent portion size.  The stir fry included the usual bean spouts but they also added crunchy fried potato sticks.  Texturally, the cubes of daikon cake were on the softer side and didn't have much of a crispy exterior.  Rather, it was rather oil-logged and greasy to eat.  I really didn't mind the softness of the cake as it was appealing, but there needed to be a crunch on the outside for balance.  The XO was quite good though offering up a noted spiciness.

We ended up with 2 types of rice flour rolls including the Jumbo Prawn & Yellow Chives as well as the Crispy Bean Sheets & Fish Paste.  I thought the rice noodle itself was a bit on the softer side while lacking a bit of elasticity.  It wasn't bad by any means and could be considered above average.  The shrimp were quite good being large and exhibiting the appealing buttery snap texture.  They were also properly seasoned and were well-complimented by the chives.  As for the bean curd sheets, they were fried aggressively crispy that they stayed as such even being wrapped in hot noodle sheets.  The shrimp paste was too dense though which made each piece rather heavy.

Similar to some other dishes so far, the Beef Meatballs with pea shoots in broth were served in a ceramic mini-pot.  Since they were sitting in broth, the meatballs were not dry and had a decent bounce texture.  They were a bit firmer than I would've liked, but they were not too dense either.  I found the flavour profile to be rather mild since the seasoning was light and the amount of green onion was minimal.  I did like the broth though as it was clean and took on the flavours of the pea shoots.

One dish we haven't ordered in awhile is the Eggplant with Shrimp Paste in black bean sauce.  It was a good thing we ordered this one because it was executed very well.  More often than not, the fried eggplant gets a bit mushy in the middle, but this one still had some texture left.  Also, the outside was slightly crispy while the shrimp paste had the desired bouncy texture.  It was also seasoned enough albeit on the sweeter side.  The black bean sauce was thick and was mildly salty with some garlickiness.

Another kid favourite is the Deep Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls, which were served in a basket rather than a plate.  I guess this is what you get as fancier presentation.  Well, these were indeed good, so the elevated price could be justified ($8.00).  Also, we got 4 rolls rather than the typical 3, so really it wasn't anymore expensive.  Beyond the hot and crunchy wrapper, the ample amount of buttery shrimp were well-seasoned.  The texture was similar to the ha gau where it had a cold-water snap.  

Our other fried item was the Fried Taro Dumplings with BBQ duck meat.  Normally, these football-shaped mashed taro dumplings are filled with ground pork.  However, with the use of BBQ duck meat with the skin, there was a meatier texture as well as a different aroma.  We quite liked these as the mash taro was airy and light while the outside was crispy.  As much as these can be very greasy (since they are deep fried and there is also lard in the mashed taro), they weren't overly so.  

For one of our larger dishes, we ended up ordering the Chicken & Mushroom Hot Pot Rice.  This took awhile to arrive and that was a good thing as they cooked the rice in the claypot.  Hence, the rice was drier and nuttier with a lightest hint of a rice crust.  The ample chicken thigh meat on top was juicy and tender.  Seasoning was on the milder side, but with a side of sweetened soy, that wasn't really an issue.

Onto dessert, we decided on the Hong Kong Style Egg Custard Tarts and the Steamed Creamy Egg Yolk Custard Buns.  The egg tarts were money with a deliciously buttery (or lardy) and flaky tart shell.  We found the custard to be silky and only semi-sweet.  As for the custard buns, the filling was ample, yet a touch watery (even for this type of bun).  It was just sweet enough with the unmistakable hit of salted egg yolk.  Overall, the Dim Sum at Neptune Palace was decent, yet maybe pricey for the execution.  There is so much competition out there these days and even the slightest missteps can make the difference.  Service was pretty good if not quite sparse, but I will give that a pass because hiring staff these days is difficult.

The Good:
- Spacious and well-appointed dining space
- Generally decent food
- Validated parking

The Bad:
- Decent food, but should be better given the price
- Validated parking, but not enough spaces for such a big restaurant (most people will end up paying for parking)


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