Eat the Rich: Dinner at Bandao Pearl at Marine Gateway

If my dad wasn’t given a $100 gift certificate to Bandao Pearl (part of the Peninsula group), we never would have set foot in this high-end Chinese seafood restaurant. (My dad got the gift certificate from a friend who didn’t want to use it. One look at the prices on the menu and we could see why!) The food itself was no better or worse than what you can find at much cheaper mid-range Chinese restaurants around town. This place caters to the rich who want to show off. Period.

Bandao Pearl is on the same level as the Cineplex and Winners at Marine Gateway (Marine Drive and Cambie).

We were there on a Saturday night around 6:30pm and the place was dead. Not a good sign. The staff wandering the floor outnumbered the customers. Mild sense of boredom and dread hung in the air.

There’s a decent liquor store next to the fake Irish pub Dublin Crossing. I picked up a fairly fresh 4-pack of Yellow Dog High 5 Hazy IPA. But really, nothing in this complex appeals to me. Not even the busy T&T.

Did I mention this place was dead on a Saturday night?

The restaurant has 13 private rooms and a large main dining room that houses this 32-seat monstrosity. Conspicuous consumption has never been about practicality, only about fake, surface-level appearances.

Want to see what the private rooms here look like? Want to see what happened when the Vancouver Regionals of Miss Asia Canada was held here? Click here!

We hit the chrysanthemum tea (“guk fa cha”) hard. The service was great. They refilled our teapots promptly. The staff had nothing else to do.

Let’s gawk at these prices:

You’ll see all the usual status signifiers here…like wagyu pointlessly shoved into a bun. You get six buns for $38.80, even though the photo (“for references only”) shows eight. That’s $6.47 for each bun. Those flawless buns from Baker & Table don’t seem that expensive anymore…

In another status-driven move (as opposed to quality or skill-driven), you can get sashimi in Chinese restaurants now. We actually DID see a couple sitting next to us order this. If you got bank, you can get the Supreme platter for $438.

Their infamous Signature Fried Rice shaped like a fish for $68.80.

That glossy menu really catches the glare of the lights. Sorry about that! Scallops and Pea Tips is a classic, but the price knocks the wind out of me a bit.

The waiter said the live fish of the day was rock cod. So, in that sense, no different from any other mid-range Chinese restaurant in the city. But I’m sure we’d be paying a lot more for essentially the same dish here, so we opted out of fresh fish for this meal.

We appreciated seeing a Hakka section in the menu.

Now we’re talking. Pork belly with preserved vegetables is one of my favourite Chinese dishes.

We don’t see oxtail that often, so we got this too.

There’s a whole page dedicated to sea cucumber. A whole Australian sea cucumber for $268.

Spiky dildo-looking Japanese sea cucumber for a more reasonable (I guess) $68.80.

A whole page dedicated to shark’s fin. $168 for 3 taels, which works out to 1/4 lb. This aspect of Chinese dining has always bothered me. The more endangered, rare, and expensive, the better.

A more reasonable soup option that we went for: crab & fish maw.

I’m sure the ingredients are top-notch and dish is labour-intensive, but who can afford this? Even for a special occasion? Could I appreciate it enough to justify the $88.80 bowl that I would be eating? What kind of face would I have to make so that my host saves face when she serves us this dish?

This salted egg yolk dish jumped out at Wicca so we got it.

My dad chose a chicken & ginseng dish. Just a half chicken, thank you.

There was plenty more to the menu but it was just awkward taking photos of it, but there’s all the typical expensive seafood options with atypical specifications (eg. do you want Atlantic lobster or California lobster?).

Classy chopsticks. Black for personal eating, brown for grabbing/serving food. Now that’s actually a great idea.

Comical complimentary amuse-douche of grapes, dragonfruit, cantaloupe, and honeydew.

Fresh Crab Meat & Fish Maw Soup ($36.80).

Not that much crab meat but plenty of crunchy, textural fish maw (fish stomach). For all the griping I did about the menu above, the actual food tastes good. This soup was mild, balanced, flavourful, and most importantly, not too salty for my parents. My parents’ palates are definitely changing as they get older, preferring blander food. Well-seasoned food comes across as “too salty” for them. Is that happening with your parents?

I love a bit of red vinegar in my fish maw soup.

Deep Fried Pumpkin with Salty Egg Yolk ($16.80).

The batons of kabocha squash coated with salted duck(?) egg yolk with a bit of sugar thrown into the coating as well. Lightly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Good, but Wicca’s already thinking of ways to make it at home.

Marinated Chicken with Fresh Ginseng (Half chicken for $26.80). A good freerange chicken dish. Flavourful meat, fairly tight skin. Slightly bitter and medicinal ginseng on top. My parents thought this dish was too salty but Wicca and I didn’t think it was too salty at all. Good, competent dish.

The chicken was served with a great ginger scallion oil. But I’d expect nothing less.

Braised Hakkan Ankang Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetable ($26.80). This looked great when it hit the table. Nicely presented. Lots of sauce. However the meat was dry. Drier than other renditions we’ve had from Grand Dynasty, Come Along, and even Mui Garden. The overall flavour was a bit too sweet as well, which became irksome the more you ate. A slight disappointment.

Braised Oxtail with Taro & Pumpkin ($28.80) served in a hot metal bowl.

Good, strong, savoury flavour. Fair amount of oxtail, so in that sense we got our money’s worth (relatively speaking). But as common with a lot of Chinese restaurants, I always want them to cook the oxtail, pig’s knuckle, and other tough bone-in cuts more so that I don’t have to work so hard getting through the connective tissue. But what meat I could safely get off the bone was infused with good flavour.

Pan Fried Scallops with Snow Pea Tips ($36.80). Big, firm, sweet scallops cooked perfectly. Clear flavours, simple classic Cantonese preparation. Good. But expensive.

Nice little complimentary dessert soup with snow fungus. The pear was a nice touch.

The takeout containers are next-level! Our dinner for four cost ~$180. We could’ve easily spent much, much, much more.

Overall the food was competent-to-good, but you’re paying a “rich bitch” surcharge to eat here. You can find similar tasting and similar quality food for less at the many other mid-range Chinese restaurants that coat the city.

Bandao Pearl Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

5 thoughts on “Eat the Rich: Dinner at Bandao Pearl at Marine Gateway”

  1. Good review, as usual. I hate to say that you’ve got to boycott any restaurant that serves shark fin if the slaughter is to end, but I’m sure you know that.

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