First off, we tried out some of their dim sum offerings as appetizers. These Deep Fried Shrimp Cakes (#1) were done in a crab cake like style and had a nice crisp exterior. The Thai sauce accompanying it was tasty with a bit of tang and matched up well to the sweet shrimp. The shrimp itself was very tender and the cake had a great bounciness that I liked.
The next dish was again Shrimp focused, served as a Shrimp Spring Roll (#2). There was supposed to be a wasabi flavour there, but I couldn't taste it. Perhaps it was my exuberant dunking of the spring roll into the accompanying sweet and sour sauce. The skin was very flaky and not oily at all, my common complaint for most spring rolls. There was lots of shrimp and very little filler so this was another standout for me.
A less common dim sum item is the Crispy Tofu Stuffed with Vegetables (#3) was very comforting on a cool Vancouver night. The tofu was fried to a nice crispiness and the shredded cucumbers, carrots and bean sprouts were plentiful. The Thai sauce topping was more like a spicy sweet and sour sauce but care was taken to not be too liberal with it, so the tofu stayed nice and crispy. If you're a vegetarian, go for this.
And onto the next dish, the popular dim sum offering, Siu Mai (#4), essentially pork dumplings with shrimp and some tobiko on top for colour and flavour. I don't think you can tell from the photo, but these babies were big. Perhaps the largest I've ever had and way better than the ones at Kirin. Loaded with pork and juicy shrimp, these were very meaty and not the basic one biter of normal siu mai. The skin was thin and served to hold the dumpling together well, definitely a winner in my books.
Now many of you might balk at the thought of Lamb & Fish in Hot Pot (#5), but believe me, it worked! We asked the server the origin of this dish, and whether she was pulling our leg or not, there is an interesting story behind it. She said that long ago, a fisherman once brought home a fish filled with lamb. They decided not to remove the meat, but instead, they made a soup out of the whole thing.
This is essentially what we had, a whole fish with slices of lamb in the bowl as well. The soup was served on a hot pot stove and she detached the fish from its bones and served us the soup. There was a lemony tang to the soup, as well as water chestnuts, dates and cloves of garlic. It might have been too boney for some folks, but it was very comforting on a cool Vancouver night. I also managed to wrangle the fish head for myself and happily gnawed on the bones for quite some time.
Just before we got down to try the soup, Rick from RickChung.com snapped this pic of us snapping pics. See his review on the meal here. It's not as bad when everyone around you is doing it too, what is sad is how small my camera is... Our first rice dish of the night, a Stir Fried Chicken with Steamed Rice in Leaves (#6). This had really good flavours from the abundant use of ginger, and the chicken stayed moist from the quick stir fry cooking process. The rice itself was a little mild, but the toppings more than made up for that. I especially liked the addition of both the Chinese sausage and shitaake.
Ah, our next dish was the Steamed Vegetables in Melon (#7). A whole melon braised with assorted vegetables such as baby corn, mushrooms, wood ear, white fungus (black and white fungus, loved that), snow peas and water chestnuts. This was rather mild in flavour and I'm not really a fan of baby corn, so it didn't do much for me. I did like the fact that the melon was fork tender though.
Perhaps it was because Halloween was just around the corner, but our next dish was a Steamed Sparerib in Pumpkin (#8). Although the spareribs were very soft, it was rather bland. The flesh of the pumpkin was also very tender so the dish was disappointing in the fact that no flavours or textures really stood out. It would have benefited from a lot more black bean sauce.
7. Stir Fried Prawns with special tea leaves
This is one of the prettiest dishes of the night, the Stir Fried Prawns with Tea Leaves (#9). Shell on prawns with crispy tea leaves, this certainly made up for the lack of texture in the previous dish. Once you get the shells off, you can really taste the sweetness of the prawns. The tea leaves were edible too, but most of the tea flavour is gone, so it's was more for presentation and texture.
Though this dish is commonly served at dim sum, our Deep Fried Squid (#10) was definitely dinner sized. The salt and pepper in the coating gave the squid a bit of flavour, as did the chilies, but the squid itself was a little bland and seemed slightly undercooked. Not my favourite of the night.
9. Pork toro with vegetables in Spicy Sauce
Okay, we are more than halfway, our next dish was the Pork Belly in Spicy Sauce (#11). The presentation was again lovely, served in a baskey made out of wonton wrappers. The pork was stirfried with peppers, snow peas and lots of celery. The spiciness was not quite where I would like my heat level but I did enjoy the plentiful vegetables in this dish. They weren't overcooked and all still had a nice crunch.
This next dish of Braised Pork Hock with a Preserved Plum Sauce (#12) was one of the better ones of the night. The pork was melt in your mouth tender and the plum sauce had a rich deep tang to it. The fattiness of the pork hock skin takes some getting used to, but the meat itself it quite lean. It all depends on the portion you get.
Rounding out the savoury dishes was our last two carbs, the first is a Fried Vermicelli with Beef in Black Pepper Sauce (#13). Again the presentation was quite unique. In addition to a bed of vermicelli on the bottom of this dish, they served us super crispy vermicelli cakes on top. Inside is a slew of pepper and beef in a slightly spicy black pepper sauce. The idea was good, but the execution was bit of a miss, since you could tell that the meat had been over-marinated and over-tenderized.
CAnd our final savoury dish of the nice was Cindy's Special Fried Rice (#14). This was strangely reminiscent of the Trieu Chow Fried Rice from Phnom Penh, with the same Chinese sausage, eggs, gai lan, green onions and cilantro. And once I got a bowlful of this, I can tell you, they're practically identical. Heavenly fried goodness, great wok heat and lots of Chinese sauage.
For our two desserts, yes, we had two, we had the Baked Pumpkin Pastries (#15), which they have year-round and not just at Halloween. The exterior was moist and coated with icing sugar but just a tad oily. On the inside was a red bean paste, and although I am not a fan of red bean soup, I do like the intensity of red bean in a paste. Fortunately, these didn't disappoint. The presentation was another clear winner here.
And our final dish, Sesame Doughballs with Black Sesame Paste (#16). Oh my goodness, I know I have said that I don't like desserts, but black sesame has to be a weakness. The balls had a great crust, drispy on the outside and slightly doughy still on the interior. Add the sesame filling and I was a happy girl, the filling could have been smoother, but the texture made me think that it was actually ground in-house, and not made from a powder, although I didn't confirm this with the staff. I love the combination of colours here and I think this was a great dessert.
- Biggest Siu Mai in Vancouver
- Seafood dishes seem better executed than the meat dishes overall
- Cindys Fried Rice is a must-eat dish
**Cindys Palace hosted Chinese Bites for this tasting but my opinions are my own.**
More reviews available here for Signature Dishes Tour Dinners.