The cult favourite Nine Dishes is back! Their former location on Kingsway in Vancouver closed down in February 2015 (I think) and was a favourite among those with an adventurous attitude towards dining. I went to the new location with a group of longtime Chowhound members to see if the magic was still there. Will it be a case of “Nein Dishes” at Nine Dishes? Will it hit the mark or will it be chabuduo (close enough)?
“1029 Ninedishes Cafe” is located in a big house on Beckwith Road, behind the Costco on Bridgeport and Great Canadian Way (Garden City Road).
It’s still unclear to me whether this place functions as Nine Dishes all the time, or if 1029 Cafe still operates during the day.
The sign would suggest that you can still get cafe-type stuff during the day and have the Nine Dishes menu of drinking food at night.
I love the random nail sticking out of the door jamb.
View of the Nine Dishes building from behind. There’s a parking lot in the back:
I like that this place is further away from the parking hell of No. 3 Road.
Keep it clean! And don’t accidentally burn this whole fucking building down!
View of the dining area with tables set up right up against the bar, which I find really odd. There’s lots of quirky touches here…like the original designer thought that style is good, so why not cram as many competing styles all into one space? Exterior brick used as an interior element? Why not?
It would appear that there’s also a karaoke/music setup too, with two screens to watch the grating, hyperactive club music being played over the sound system.
Here’s the menu, which other Chowhounders tell me is the same menu as before, complete with $2 beers:
Spicy dishes are designated by the red numbers. So there’s actually plenty to eat here for people who can’t do spicy food. In fact, even though several of our dishes were spicy, even a capsaicin-allergic guy like me could handle it.
Whoa, didn’t expect to see Chimay Blue here! Cheap $2 beer is still available. And that drunk-mom Moscato is available too 😀
I’ve never tried this beer. Not in any rush. Maybe it’s my untrusting self, but I don’t trust Chinese beer…
Belgian beer, on the other hand, has a firm place in my heart.
Chimay Blue (9%) is a Belgian strong dark ale. With its rich, malty, dark stone fruit, and Christmas spice flavours, it’s not exactly a great match for spicy northern Chinese food. But being able to get this kind of beer in this kind of restaurant is a mini-triumph. The sweet malt does help cut the heat a bit though.
#116 – Szechuan Sausage ($6.99). I initially thought it was like a chunky lap cheong but it’s actually a different animal. Literally. It tastes like there’s different animals and animal parts (including chunks of fat) shoved into this rustic, flavourful, dried sausage that has a bit of that numbing (ma) sichuan peppercorn thing going on too, which I love. If you don’t already have a beer ready by the time this dish hits the table, you don’t know how to eat.
$106 – Fried Broad Bean ($4.99). I grew up eating the unshelled broad beans from the package, but I was surprised that these fried broad beans had an airy, crispy texture to them (presumably from the frying). Intriguing and I would definitely order again.
#117 – Fried Lotus Root with Pork ($8.99). Batter looked a bit greasy but didn’t taste too greasy.
Ground pork layered inside. This as a whole came off as a bit underseasoned, though texturally interesting to eat. Would order again to see if there’s a consistency issue.
#582 – ?????? ($9.99). This was a bit of a mystery dish that we took a chance ordering. It’s only listed in Chinese on the menu, but it’s #582 if you’re interested. It’s ground pork with preserved vegetables, served with rice. This dish would be a knockout if it wasn’t for the mushy rice. But the flavour of the meat and pickles really won me over. Quite salty (so eat lots of rice) and moderately spicy (if you eat those dried chilies). I hope they don’t always serve the rice like that.
#901 – Boiled Sliced Fish in Hot Chili Oil ($18.99). It comes to the table covered in dried chilies.
A few moments later, the chef comes out and scoops out most of the chilies. I guess they want it hot, but not too hot! 😀
Sunken in the liquid are slices of fish (might be basa or sole) and soybean sprouts. I’ve actually never had this dish before. It’s quite salty, but apparently it’s supposed to be salty so that it makes you drink more beer. The fish meat was flaky and silky, and the spice level I’d consider a medium at most, if you avoid the dried chilies. Not a favourite but I’m willing to try again to learn more about this dish.
#515 – Xian Style Spicy Noodle ($7.99).
I found this dish to be a bit underseasoned. The noodles were firm enough but some people at the table wanted them more chewy and al dente. Ok but far from perfect.
Can’t remember what this soup was and which dish it came with!
#501 – Beijing Style Stir Fry Flour Ball with Veggies ($7.99).
This dish looks like giant corn kernels but it’s actually chewy little dumplings with ground pork and mixed veg. Really enjoyable! Savoury with a bit of sweetness from the corn, green beans, and peas. I’d get this again.
#512 – Fried Chinese Chives Pork Dumplings ($9.99).
Some good lacing there!
These didn’t come with any dipping sauce, but they tasted flavourful enough on their own. Moist filling, chewy skin. Good.
Since I was sitting with some longtime Nine Dishes customers, the owner (the bald guy) chatted with us a bit and brought out some complimentary lamb skewers ($2.50 each). Gristly, cooked medium/medium-well, they’re tasty enough…but I’m sure there’s better lamb skewers out there. Good with a beer on the side, of course.
Hope to visit again cuz I felt like this first visit just scratched the surface. It’s been a while since I tasted that whole spicy/numbing mala thing, and it’s like it was a tickle that became a full-blown itch that I desperately need to scratch. Boy do I want to scratch it.