Tag Archives: Vancouver

The Jade Restaurant, Richmond

After a busy July jammed full of travel, I’m finally back in the Bay Area to blog some more. To make things a little more manageable for my writing, I’m going to write reverse chronologically and start with my time in Vancouver.

The Jade Seafood Restaurant
8511 Alexandra Road,
Richmond, BC V6X 1C3

First up is The Jade Restaurant, an acclaimed Cantonese restaurant in Richmond, BC, a city swimming in fancy Chinese restaurants. My friend and I chose to go to The Jade because it was a well reviewed restaurant neither of us have been to that was conveniently located across the street from the hotel I was staying at. We met up around 11:30AM and was seated relatively easily (Actually she and her friend arrived early while I was a few minutes late. By the time I got there, they were already seated).

After looking at the menu for a good 10 minutes, we ordered the following:

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Dim Sum at the Jade Restaurant

  • Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (晶瑩鮮蝦餃) – Fairly solid har gow that might have had a touch too much five spice powder. Also like many dim sum restaurants, these suffered from its large size, meaning that the dumpling wrapping wasn’t as dextrous and fell apart a little too easily with the amount of filling. Definitely not a bad har gow, but could have been more refined.
  • Steamed Mushroom Dumpling (松露香菇餃) – While the har gow were alright, these were pretty great with a nice amount of diced mushrooms and other vegetables including carrots and water chestnuts. Was definitely one of my favorites of the meal.
  • Steamed Sakura Pork Dumpling (安康燒賣皇) – The pork was very tender and rich with juicy flavor. Add in the fish roe (which was a little overcooked) and you have one of the best shu mais I have eaten in a while.
  • Steam Chicken Wrap (花膠竹笙烏雞札) – This version of sticky rice with chicken was solid and I loved that it came in manageable packets of 3, allowing each of us to have one with a portion that was just right in terms of how filling it is. The sticky rice was flavored well too with a filling of a little bit of chicken, salty egg yolk, Chinese bacon, shitake mushroom, and small amounts of small Chinese green beans.
  • Steamed Rice Roll with Beef and Chinese Parsley (香茜滑牛肉腸粉) – I love when restaurants serve the rice noodle rolls without the sauce and allow you to drizzle the exact amount you want afterward. That’s what happened here where the perfectly steamed rice noodle rolls wrapped the nicely seasoned ground beef and parsley filling. It meant that the rice noodle roll could absorb the flavor of the sweet soy sauce without becoming too salty, too mushy, or too flimsy. A+ to the Jade for this.
  • Steamed Salty Egg Yolk Bun (黃金流沙飽) – Unfortunately these came out mid meal but I chose to wait to eat them at the end because it is dessert. I am glad my friend’s friend love them (and he ate it while it was still hot and freshly steamed), but the cold, slight sogginess dampened and otherwise decent salty egg custard yolk bun.

All in all, the Jade is a fine place to get dim sum in Richmond, though not as exemplary as other top places like Kirin or Sun Sui Wah. The one advantage, however, is the easy wait time. So if you can’t stand to wait in line at one of the better dim sum restaurants off No. 3 Road, I would definitely recommend walking down Alexandra Road to eat dim sum at the Jade. It might not be the best, but you certainly won’t be disappointed in the over all meal.


As a bonus to this blog post, I’ll quickly touch upon HK BBQ Master, a famed Cantonese Barbecue place underneath the giant Real Canadian Superstore building on No. 3 Road. I didn’t get enough to actually review it on its own, but it is definitely worthy enough to be included in a blog post.

I went to HK BBQ Master for a late lunch on a Monday afternoon. Even at 2PM it was extremely busy and I still had to wait 15 minutes for one of their 28 or so seats in their restaurant. While I waited, I ordered a roast pork and roast duck rice plate and a cup of iced honey citron (a classic and refreshing Hong Kong drink). I was given the order slip, which was handed to the server right as I sat down.

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Roast duck and roast pork rice place at H BBQ Master

The plate of rice with roast pork and roast duck out came soon after I sat down and it was absolutely delicious. The duck with meaty and juicy with a very nice soy sauce and star anise marinade. The skin managed to have a little crispiness as well. The roast pork was a tad salty but the skin was crispy and so nice. Unfortunately, the honey citron was a lot of water and not a lot of honey or citron. However, it didn’t manage to damper the incredible barbecue I ate. I certainly will be back for more!

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Best Dim Sum in America (Part 2) – Results!

As I mentioned 2 weeks ago, my month long side research project to find the “best dim sum in America” is over. Results are below, but before that I want to go over my methodology in more detail just so I’m as completely transparent as possible.

I wrote last week that my methodology was based on yelp scores, urbanspoon scores, and some bonus points based on being on a food loving writer’s top dim sum lists. Here it is in more detail:

Total score
=
[Yelp score + (# of Yelp Reviews x 0.0001)]
+
[Urbanspoon % score x 5]
+
[Bonus points using a weighted grade based on mentions on a ‘top dim sum’ list in their metro area in the last 2 years. 1 mention = 0.25 bonus points, 2 mentions = 0.5 bonus pointspoints, 3+ mentions = weighted average of the rankings x 5 bonus points, 5+ mentions earned an additional bonus point]

Dim sum at Lunasia

Dim sum at Lunasia

The first two scoring factors are fairly simple and easy to explain as scores on both sites build the foundation of my rankings. Though, there are a few caveats: 1. I gave an added boost to the number of yelp reviews because I thought the more yelp reviews, the more reliable and better your score was compared to those with few reviews. 2. For the few restaurants without an Urbanspoon review I opted to duplicate the stars they received from Yelp (i.e. a restaurant without an Urbanspoon score but 3 yelp stars got a 60% in my Urbanspoon column).

The third is a little harder so I’ll walk you step by step on how I came up with my score for Sea Harbour. For the first two point factors, Sea Harbour received a base score of 8.19 (Yelp score of 3.59 + Urbanspoon score of 4.6). For the bonus score based on metro area lists, I averaged its ranking across all lists (19.5/8 = 2.4375) . Since lists are based on #1 being the best, I subtracted that score from 10. I then multiplied the resulting number by 0.1 to get a decimal. I multiplied the decimal by 5. The result was a bonus score of 3.78. I added an additional point because I felt that if you had more than 5 mentions, you must be pretty good. So in the end that’s 3.59 (Yelp) + 4.6 (Urbanspoon) + 4.78 (bonus points), or a total of 12.97 points.

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour

Dim Sum at Sea Harbour

But that’s enough math. By now I’m pretty sure you’re hungry to find the results of all this data and research. So, without further ado, according to this methodology the top dim sum restaurants in the United States are:

  1. Sea Harbour (Rosemead, CA) – 12.97
  2. Elite (Monterey Park, CA) – 12.436
  3. Nom Wah Tea Parlour (New York, NY) – 12.352
  4. Red Farm (New York, NY) – 12.337
  5. Yank Sing (San Francisco, CA) – 12.217
  6. Dim Sum Go Go (New York, NY) – 11.844
  7. Koi Palace (Daly City, CA) – 11.794
  8. Hong Kong Lounge II (San Francisco, CA) – 11.752
  9. Mama Ji’s (San Francisco, CA) – 11.528
  10. Hong Kong Lounge (San Francisco, CA) – 11.525

For those who are passionate about Chinese food and write about it, Sea Harbour’s #1 ranking comes as no surprise. The restaurant has enjoyed near universal acclaim since it’s open in 2002 and is repeatedly lauded by Jonathan Gold, the first food critic to ever win a Pulitzer Prize. Sea Harbour’s reputation and quality is aided by the fact that it is run by very successful Chinese restauranteurs based in Vancouver, where some of the best dim sum outside of Hong Kong is served.

While Sea Harbour’s ranking is not shocking much of anyone, what will undoubtedly shock some is the #7 ranking of Koi Palace. To be clear, a #7 ranking out of nearly 500 restaurants is nothing to sneeze at, but Koi Palace is considered by some experts to be the best Chinese restaurant in America. By this methodology, it comes to 2nd place even in its own metropolitan area, bested by the venerable Yank Sing. My hunch is that its notoriously long waits, with reports of staff ushering friends in front of the line, has markedly affected their ratings compared to others on this list. If that’s true, it does note a flaw in the methodology where to many folks, service trumps the quality of the food and is reflected on sites like Yelp.

 

Dim sum at J Zhou Oriental Cuisine

Dim sum at J Zhou Oriental Cuisine

Another interesting thing to note is the relatively small amount of places serving dim sum from the San Gabriel Valley  in the top 10 compared to those from San Francisco and New York. This is not to say that the top 10 places in New York or San Francisco are bad. However, there are a large number of  exceptional dim sum places in the San Gabriel Valley that many would argue are better than the San Francisco and New York restaurants in the top 10. This may indicate another flaw in my methodology because not all metropolitan areas are equal when it comes to overall quality of Cantonese cuisine. A number of people, especially of Chinese descent, generally agree that the Chinese food (including dim sum) is better around Los Angeles, with San Francisco and New York in 2nd and 3rd respectively. However, this opinion is fraught with contention as David Chan’s Asia Society article in 2012 elicited dozens of heated argument both on the site and Chowhound. I had briefly considered doing some additional weighting based on metropolitan area quality reputation but opted against it to keep my methodology as simple and non-biased as I could.

Nitpicking the various potential flaws of my methodology, though, obscures the big picture: the dim sum rankings and the methodology are a fairly good indicator of the quality of the dim sum restaurant. In general, a score of 10 points or more means that the place is excellent – where the dim sum is fresh, potentially innovative, and made with care and quality. More than 8 points generally indicates that the place is great, though not to the quality of those restaurants with more points. A restaurant in the 7 point range generally means they are good and fairly solid, though some items may not be very great. A score around 6 points means that the restaurant is ‘fair’ with some items that are good but many items that are not very great. The few restaurants in the 5 point range are ones to avoid with universally negative acclaim. You can take a look at my dim sum ranking spreadsheet here.

In practical terms, the list will be generally useful for knowing where to go and where to avoid to eat, especially when traveling for the holidays or for leisure. For instance, I’ll be going to King Hua (11.306 points) and not Lincoln Seafood (5.264 points) when I go to California in the next few weeks. It’s not a holiday without dim sum in my family and I’m certainly planning to stuff myself with delicious sui mai.

Next up: my favorite places for dim sum and deeper analysis of the rankings, including cart vs. menu order places.

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Boiling Point, Richmond (BC)

Boiling Point
#130-4800 No. 3 Road
Richmond, BC V6X 3A6

Since we weren’t able to make a reservation at Landmark Hot Pot, we decided instead to go search for some in RIchmond. Both Cattle Hot Pot and Chubby Lamb Hot Pot were recommended to us, but ended up being a further walk than we wanted to make a reservation after our lunch at Kumare. We ended up at Boiling Point, which didn’t take reservations but assured us that it was relatively easy to get a seat at around 7PM.

After site seeing on Granville Island, we headed down to Richmond to eat at Boiling Point a little after 7PM. We got a table easily and looked over the menu. Unlike most hot pot places, Boiling Point does individual hot pots with ingredients already in the soup. It might be because of Boiling Point’s roots as a business that started in Southern California, but regardless it was a new experience even for myself. We ended up both getting the beef hot soup and added fermented tofu and spinach noodles.

Beef Hot Soup

Beef Hot Soup

First, the broth was very nice. I ordered it medium which was spicy but not too much, albeit my friend’s mild was more that he would have liked. It was flavorful without overpowering the ingredients in the pot. The beef was also good, as it was tender and well seasoned. I also liked the firm pieces of tofu was well which soaked up a lot of the flavors of the post. I’m generally not a big corn on the cob person, but this corn was better than usual, probably due to soaking up the flavors and moisture of the broth. The spinach noodles were decent and al dente, though I’m not sure if they really added much in the end. I loved the mung bean noodles which, like the tofu, also soaked up the broth and ingredients well. Finally there is the fermented tofu, which I thought was not too stinky and definitely enjoyable. I can’t say my friend agreed as the flavors were a bit pungent and added with the spicy, did not really agree with his palate.

As for the service, the servers were very nice and quick to act when you needed something. However, they didn’t really act out of any necessity, like refilling water cups, asking if I wanted another bowl of rice, etc. They even missed out on the chance to sell us dessert (which normally is a turn off to me). I likely would have tried the red bean snow cube they had, but we ended up taking off and filling our stomachs with bubble tea down the street instead.

An interesting twist on Chinese hot pot, for sure. However I think I prefer the cook it yourself in a communal pot would have been better. Hopefully this didn’t totally ruin hot pot for my friend because I feel like Cattle, Landmark, or Chubby Lamb would have been way better if we had the chance.

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Copa Cafe, Vancouver

Copa Cafe
4030 Cambie St
Vancouver, BC
V5Z 2X8

Originally my friend and I wanted to go to Landmark Hot Pot across the street from Copa Cafe. However, the host at Landmark had told us since we didn’t have a reservation and a number of reservations were coming up, that they weren’t able to seat us right then. We were quite hungry at that point so we wound up at Copa Cafe across the street.

Fortunately, I had already wanted to take my friend to one Hong Kong cafe on our trip, not because Hong Kong cafe good is particularly great, but because eating at one reminded me of my childhood going to similar cafes around Los Angeles. In fact, Hong Kong cafe food can be really described as Chinese takes on Western dishes (in Cantonese it’s basically called “Hong Kong Western Meal”), like a Chinese variant of American pork chops with a side of spaghetti. This is a little ironic given my aversion for almost all American versions of Chinese food (like General Tso’s Chicken). Though, in my defense, there are also comfort southern Chinese dishes on Hong Kong cafe menus as well, like Chinese curry.

Regardless, we entered the restaurant and were whisked to a table right away. We were served two cups of tea as well as water and then took a bit to look over the rather long menu of items. I ended up getting the following dishes below, based on my taste and nostalgia, but my friend got Lemon Chicken, which ended up being a poor choice.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice

  • Hainanese Chicken Rice – At Hong Kong style cafes, one of my typical go-tos is Hainanese Chicken Rice. The chicken was very tender and mildly seasoned. The ginger scallion sauce worked very well with the poached chicken. The bok choy was steamed well with a nice soy-like sauce. However, the rice, which typically is cooked in the chicken fat or liquid from the poached chicken, was just a bland mound of rice. That was disappointing. The plate of rice did come with a customary “homemade” soup though, and Copa Cafe’s pork and gojiberry soup was pretty good.
Russian Borscht

Russian Borscht

  • Russian Borscht – A Chinese version of borscht based on the Russian version, but without the beets and purely tomato based. My family has a recipe for this that I absolutely love, and despite already having soup with my meal, I wanted to try it. It was delicious! My family’s version is less sweet, spicier, and had bigger chunks of beef than the Copa Cafe version, but I couldn’t help reminiscing about good childhood memories where my family drank this soup together.

As to my friend’s dinner, I want to first acknowledge that he did ask me what I thought the lemon chicken was like. I honestly didn’t know but guessed that it was more like old Cantonese versions of orange peel chicken with very light breading (if at all), stir fried with a sweet but light sauce and orange peels. I was wrong and it was heavily breaded and Americanized. I probably should have steered him to a Chinese curry dish (like Chinese curry beef brisket), which aren’t very spicy but very tasty.

From what I recall, this was also the only restaurant in Canada that attempted to refill our glasses of water. The servers were very pleasant and efficient, though perhaps almost to the point of hovering at times.

All it all, despite the Hainanese Chicken rice fiasco with the actual rice, it was a pretty good meal. While it was just an average to above average Hong Kong cafe in Vancouver, it would definitely be near the top tier of Hong Kong cafes around Los Angeles.

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Kumare, Richmond BC

Kumare
8130 Park Rd
Richmond, BC
V6Y 1T1

According to statistics provided by the Poway Unified School District, the high school I went to is 14% Filipino. This is not surprising given the history of the Filipino diaspora in the United States and the proximity of my hometown neighborhood to former Naval AIr Station Miramar (now MCAS Miramar). However, the number of Filipinos in my community meant that I had a lot of exposure to Filipino food, though I would not claim to be an expert of any sort at Filipino cuisine.

Thus, when I knew that a friend of mine was joining me for a wonderful trip to Vancouver and Seattle, I wanted to see if there was a Filipino restaurant I could take him to so he could also see the wonderful delight Filipino food has given me over the course of my life. After asking local food aficionados on what good Filipino restaurants there were in Vancouver, my friend and I went to Kumare in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond (thankfully accessible by mass transit).

We sat down and looked over their menu of Filipino dishes. There were so many things I personally I wanted to order and taste, but the limited number in our party meant that we could order only a few dishes:

  • Lumpia Shanghai – I loved lumpia when I grew up and I think they are better spring rolls than I’ve ever had at Chinese restaurants (aside from the delicious spring roll I had at Kirin for dim sum the day before). These lumpia were nice and came with a light sweet and sour sauce. While I do love pork, my minor gripe was that I actually wish there were carrots.
Chicken Kare Kare

Chicken Kare Kare

  • Chicken Kare Kare – Kare Kare is traditionally made with oxtail, though we decided to order Kumare’s rendition with chicken. The kare kare had a light savory peanut, onion, and garlic flavor, though a bit thinner that I was used from renditions I have had at family events of my Filipino friends. The green beans and baby bok choy provided a nice, refreshing balance to the peanut stew and chicken.
Pancit Bihon

Pancit Bihon

  • Pancit Bihon – My friend ended up not eating pancit bihon, which I ordered given that I find pancit bihon as a sort of comfort dish from my childhood. The noodles were cooked perfectly and the shrimp and other ingredients were mixed well. However, it was underseasoned and not as flavorful as renditions I was used. In retrospect, I probably should have ordered bistek tagalog (Filipino style steak) or inihaw na bangus (marinated grilled milkfish).

While the food was pretty good, service could have been a little better. First of all, the space could have used a better cooling system, especially air conditioning. While most homes in the northwest don’t typically have air conditioning, I do know most restaurants do and it would have been nice. While we did get glasses of water, unlike our experience at Kirin, it would have been nice to have a refill.

All in all, I was pretty satisfied with the food, though of course nothing is like eating home cooking. My friend seemed to enjoy the food as well, though perhaps I should have ordered a better third dish.

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Kirin, Vancouver (City Square)

Kirin
555 W. 12th Ave
Vancouver, BC
Canada V5Z 3X7

I had often heard that Vancouver has the best Chinese food in North America. All of that due to unique historic and geographic circumstances over the last 20 years. Like the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles, Vancouver was a hotbed of real estate investment from rich people in Hong Kong and Taiwan. However, with the hand off of Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997, panicked, rich Hong Kongers used Canada’s more generous immigration laws to buy properties and even settle down in Vancouver and the neighboring suburb of Richmond. There has since been a slow emigration of some Chinese Canadians back to Hong Kong (paired with a rise of immigration of Mainland Chinese immigrants) when their worst fears were unfounded, but the impact of hiring and moving some of the best chefs from Hong Kong meant that the quality of Chinese food remains top notch.

I decided to test this reputation for Chinese food by going to one of Vancouver’s top and most highly recommended restaurants for Dim Sum on Monday. After a fairly light breakfast and a stroll around Olympic Village, we headed to Kirin’s City Square location, right across the street from Vancouver City Hall. The hostess asked if we had a reservation, and even though we said no, she was able to seat us fairly quickly. I quickly ordered chrysanthemum tea and a pot of tea as well as hot water came to our table quickly.

We also looked at the Dim Sum menu which was filled with special dim sum menu items. Unbeknownst to us (though clearly to the rest of the diners) we could have also ordered more standard items. However, that didn’t matter too much as there were a number of special menu items my friend and I were interested in. We decided on the following six items:

Prawn, Peatip, and Garlic Spring Rolls

Prawn, Peatip, and Garlic Spring Rolls

  • Prawn, Peatip, and Chopped Garlic Spring Roll – The first item that came out and it was absolutely divine. The prawns were cooked perfectly and paired excellently with the vinegar soy sauce. I could have easily ordered another plate of these spring rolls, probably the best Chinese spring rolls I’ve ever had
Steamed Prawn and Tender Scallion Rice Roll

Steamed Prawn and Tender Scallion Rice Roll

  • Steamed Prawn and Tender Scallion Rice Roll – This dish was decent. It was made well, though even with the soy based sauce to pair it with, it was perhaps too subtle for my tastes. Executed well, but a little bland.
Har Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

Har Gow (Shrimp Dumpling)

  • Har Gow – Some say that the way to tell how good a har gow is, count the number of pleats (9+ being great, 13+ being master craft). The 9 pleats, a resilient but not too thick wrapper, and juicy fresh prawns, it was definitely some of the best har gow I have ever had.
Steamed crab meat, scallop, prawn, and spinach dumpling

Steamed Crab Meat, Scallop, Prawn, and Spinach Dumpling

  • Steamed Crab Meat, Scallop, Prawn, and Spinach Dumpling – Fairly good with a great skin that bent, but did not break. The filling could have used a little more seasoning, but otherwise solid.
Scallop and Asparagus Rice Roll

Scallop and Asparagus Rice Roll

  • Scallop and Asparagus Rice Roll – This was one of the best rice noodle rolls I have ever had. The scallops were very fresh, plump, and cooked just right. The asparagus was tender but with just the right amount of crunch. It all went well with a gentle pouring of the soy based sauce
Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

  • Mango Pudding – Probably the only lackluster item during the meal. The mango pudding was rather pedestrian and didn’t quite seem to have fresh mangos. The bits of fruit inside were nice, but its money that could have been spent on, perhaps, nice egg custard tarts.

The service was rather stiff. It was certainly different from the gruff “take it or leave it” attitude of some harried servers in restaurants that serve Dim Sum in the US, but not necessarily better. Two asks for a glass of water came unanswered (though it perhaps foreshadowed a seemingly Canadian or non-US disdain to serve people cold tap water).

However, even the stiff service couldn’t detract me from some of the best Dim Sum I’ve ever had. In terms of quality, it was slightly better than Sea Harbour in Rosemead (a restaurant which also has a branch in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond). The price came out to about $31.50 CAD (excluding tip), which, including a cheaper exchange rate in Canadian Dollars, meant I was also paying less than the best places in LA. Better quality food at lower prices? My mom would be proud.

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