Spurned on by the new David Chang Netflix series “Ugly Delicious”, I went on a quest to find the best sheng jian bao (aka SJB). Everyone knows XLB (xiao long bao), the soup-filled steamed pork dumplings that Din Tai Fung made famous worldwide, but these fried versions (often using a leaven yeasted dough) are an underappreciated creature. And frying anything makes it better, right?
With some input from my passionate Instagram followers, I made a list of four places to try:
Shanghai Dimsum House Ltd. (Crystal Mall, Burnaby)
Shanghai Fortune Cuisine (Crystal Mall, Burnaby)
Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant (Richmond)
R&H Chinese Food (Lansdowne Centre, Richmond)
I could easily add many more places to this list (e.g. Wang’s Shanghai in Vancouver) but I’m just one guy with a day job (not this) so if I forgot your favourite place, just leave a comment and I’ll consider it for next time(?)!
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.
The old Efendi Uyghur at 1345 Kingsway (near Knight) was only open for about a year but received great feedback (like this Alexandra Gill review). Unfortunately, they had to close the restaurant due to the mother’s health issues. The space got sold and turned into House of Dosas nemesis, Dosa Factory. I didn’t get a chance to check out Efendi the first time, but thanks to “el lobo solo” on Chowhound, I learned that it’s back in a new, smaller location further east at 3490 Kingsway (same tiny stripmall as Subway).
Chi Men on Denman opened up in late July 2017 in the former Chelicious space, and has been quietly ladling out some really good soup noodles to a barely appreciative West End audience. It hasn’t been busy in there, but they deserve to be. With 3 Quarters Full Taiwanese Cafe (located in Denman Place Mall) still around after a full year in business, looks like the West End might just have the right clientelle to keep these kinds of Asian restaurants in business. Maybe. Winter is coming.
I’m exaggerating about how spicy the food was. If you avoid eating the actual chilies, the food is about medium spicy. If you DO choose to eat the chilies…well…that’s all on you. For me, the more painful part was my allergy to capsaicin (the compound in chilies that make them spicy). Whenever I eat even traces of capsaicin, I start sweating like this:
Because of this affliction, I’ve avoided a lot of the Hunan and Sichuan/Szechuan restaurants around town. But recent visits to Nine Dishes and Joojak has reignited (literally) my interest in this spicy cuisine. I really do enjoy the flavours and the experience — I just need to bring a headband and a towel next time.
The Kingsway and Joyce area has been a hotbed for Chinese food, with a few notable Northern Chinese restaurants (including some blow-your-head-off spicy Hunan food at Luckynoodle). I don’t have a lot of experience with Northern Chinese food, but I’m growing to like it, even tolerating the oiliness of some of the dishes. We had a really good first experience at Joojak and would definitely come again, and perhaps explore other Xian restaurants to see how they compare. We’re kinda spoiled for regional Chinese food in Vancouver/Richmond/etc and I’ve taken it for granted.
Side note about this area: There’s a new Peaceful Restaurant going in across the street from Joojak, right beside Goldtrain. Also, the new location of Hida Takayama Ramen (the ghettosuperstar of Robson Public Market) is where Vanya used to be beside Royal Bank. Plus, I like the xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Wang’s beside London Drugs. It’s a very foodie-worthy area.
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)?
The place with the poetic name, Flower & Horse in Spring, opened up in the old Spaghetèi space in November 2016. (Before Spaghetèi, this space was the original Benkei Ramen.) With less than six months under its belt, Flower & Horse in Spring has already won a Chinese Restaurant Awards award — one of five “Social Media Choice Awards” given out in 2017. Read the judge’s own thoughts on why he chose this place here.
A couple food-obsessed types and I went to check it out.
We met up with a small group of foodies for dim sum at Chef Tony in Richmond. In attendance was Calgary blogger/Instagrammer Miss Foodie (who helped me out a lot last time I was in Calgary) who was in town for the past week or so, positively eating up a storm. It was mine and Wicca’s first time at the award-winning Chef Tony. This is higher-end dim sum, which puts it in the same bracket as Kirin, Grand Dynasty, etc. But with almost 200 items on the menu, our visit showed that it’s hard to get everything consistently good, not even factoring in individual tastes. Same as with my review of Double Double (which is located in the same plaza, Empire Centre), restaurants usually aren’t entirely good or entirely bad. It’s a bit of a quest to find the right dishes for you, accolades or awards be damned. 😉
Do you want a Mouthful of Wang’s? Or suck on some Long’s? I was fine with Wang’s — even very pleased with them. But after trying Long’s for the first time, I gotta say they’re a notch better. And that notch counts for a lot.