Chinatown. It's where I went to elementary school, it's where my grandmother went to buy fresh veggies for our dinner, before the Richmond boom. But I am ashamed to admit, once I didn't "have" to go to Chinatown, I didn't. Well, just like Gastown is having a resurgence, I think it's time for Chinatown to enjoy the same. There is a restaurant that has reinvented itself and deserves a mention. They serve all the variety of foods you would expect in Richmond but in a slightly different setting. Because they do a strong dimsum service, we decided to try one of their dim sum dishes, not all dim sum items are offered at dinner, but some are. Throughout the dinner, I noticed many of the walk-in customers ordering from the lunch menu. So we settled on the spring rolls. These were a good way to start our dinner, a crispy and crunchy bundle full of pork and shrimp, served with some Lea & Perrins, a staple at most dim sum places. These were a touch oilier that I would prefer, but the ample filling made up for it. One of my all-time favourites for family dinners is Peking Duck, served two ways. Here is the first one, where they slice the skin off the duck. And the skin here is perfectly crispy, not too meaty nor fatty, just the way I like it. Can you see how thinly sliced the skin is, with just a touch of fat and meat? That's the way I like it. And I love how it's not greasy. So how do you eat the skin? With these crepes! You put a piece of the skin into the crepe and roll it up! These crepes were good but I'm not used to them being served this way, they usually appear in steamer baskets. Also, they were a bit paler in colour than I am used to, but presentation aside, these wraps were good and did the job. They stayed pliable and didn't crack when you rolled them up. I hate it when that happens. Normally, you put some green onions and maybe some sliced cucumber (see my Shanghai Wonderful post for details) into your wrap, but here, they served it with carrots and celery! I found the crunch was too hard to go into the wrap with the Peking Duck, but they were good to munch on as a snack. One of the delicacies served here is their Snake Soup. The texture of the soup is quite thick and reminds me of hot and sour soup, but the flavours are completely different. Not spicy at all! However, it is loaded with much of the same ingredients too, such as shredded woodear, chicken, lemongrass, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and of course, the snake meat! This restaurant serves many of the dishes with a fun accompaniment of crunchy bits of fried dough. Throw some into your soup for added texture. The snake is shredded quite a bit so that the meat is tender, and with a deeper flavour than chicken, but a similar texture. Here is the rest of the duck that we saw earlier. The meat is chopped up and stirfried with celery, carrots and some green onions. What I liked most about this dish is that the duck wasn't diced into little bits and then stirfried, which tends to dry the meat out. See sample from Grand Dynasty post here. These were chunks of duck, and the size made them stay nice and juicy. I really enjoyed this one. Another dish that I rarely eat is Braised Pork Belly. It's a whole pork belly braised for at least two hours, in a sauce made with soy, fermented bean paste with some Chinese rice wine and sugar. Other flavours you can taste are star anise, sometimes fennel and five-spice powder as well. Once you cut into it, the serving is roughly half meat and half fat. So no, this isn't a "healthy" choice, but hey, eat some of the broccoli and make yourself feel better. Despite being half fat, the feeling isn't greasy, it's more creamy and juicy. You can eat this dish with rice to soak up the sauce or you can have it with some steamed buns. The buns are slightly sweet and are meant to be pulled apart and stuffed with some of the pork belly. It's like an Asian Pork Belly sandwich, and oh, it's good. The inside of the bun is porous and does a great job of soaking up the sauce. And because the buns are so soft, the texture of the pork belly is actually enhanced by this lack of contrast. To round out a meal of Duck, Snake and Pork, we had to get a vegetable dish, we went with the Braised Baby Bok Choy with Bean Curd Skin and Enoki. This was a lighter dish and was a great complement to the oilier foods we had earlier. For those unfamiliar with Bean Curd Skin, it is also called Tofu Skin or Yuba. It is the film produced when boiling soy milk. These skins are collected and folded into the skins you see above. They are slightly chewy in texture and in other preparations, it even produces a meat-like texture. No meal is complete without dessert and we treated ourselves to some Deep Fried Doughballs filled with sesame paste. These are then rolled in some black and white sesame seeds before being served. A nice crunch from the frying process, but the dough and sesame paste are gooey on the inside, it's an Asian zeppole of sorts.
Now I rarely take pictures of my leftovers, but I was really impress with the way they packed these two dishes. They could have just swiped everything into the box, but I really appreciated the extra care they took to present these dishes as best as possible, even though we were "just" taking them home.
This place is better known for their dimsum, but if you are in the Chinatown area in the evening, I'd say it's well worth a visit!