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Eat Snap Repeat

Vancouver's tastiest food blog. Defunct since 2010 :(

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Chinese

Si Chuan First – It hurts so good.

I’ve been training myself to eat spicy food. It all started around a year ago when I was on vacation in China. While looking for restaurants to dine at, I found that spice (chili) was an important player in many of the dishes favored by the locals. Most of the spicy dishes had heat beyond my capacity, and I was left to believe that spicy food was just not my thing, that I would go on living a dining life that was contently void of the red bits.
After returning to Vancouver, it became clear to me that I had missed out. I’ve rejected a style of cooking that was in every way as significant as, say, sushi (of which I can’t imagine life without). Saying no to food is not a habit I want.
From then forth, I was determined to remove “too spicy for me“, “just a little“, or “I’ll have the mild” from my restaurant ordering vocabulary. I had a plan. When given the choice of mild/medium/hot, I’d pick hot, and where there were chili’s on the menu, I’d favor the chili.
It wasn’t pretty at first. Stacks of tissues, glass after glass of water, red faced choking at times, panting like a dog. Now, a year later, I seek for the red stuff. ‘Hot’, on most menus draw little sweat from my brow, and “can I get some hot sauce” is not an uncommon saying when dining out.

Some people hold the impression that when food is spicy, it just masks all other tastes. I use to feel that way. But that also means building up a tolerance for spice was the only way for me to start detecting the layers of flavor in dishes, and to be able to tell the difference between using spice as flavor cover-up, and flavor complement.
Si Chuan First
A friend introduced Si Chuan First to me when we went together for one of their 6 person set dinners, which includes over a half dozen different dishes typical to the region (not all of them are pictured in this post). Though we went with the medium spice option, the plates all had generous helpings of red chili and chili oil. Perfect. It was what I was looking for at the time, as Golden Szechuan in Richmond and Alvin Garden in Burnaby had both left me disappointed a week prior.

The cold dishes come first. The correct way of serving in China. The tangy bean noodles, roasted peanut shavings, and fragrant cillantro prepares the palate for the main dishes. The spice level on these two were mild, and I suspected them to turn it up the heat with the more pungent, meat dishes. My glass of water remains untouched at this point.
Si Chuan First
Get ready to sweat.
Si Chuan First

In the next few dishes, flavors are fuller. Mouths already watering from the introduction, will hopefully cushion the blow of the chili. I’m on my second bowl of rice now, glass of water’s had a few sips, tea gone, beer half ingested. Brain thinks mouth is being attacked, releases dopamine in response. My dinner mates must be feeling the same, as a heightened sense of energy can be felt at the table. Voices become louder, movements faster. Chopsticks race from dish to dish.
Si Chuan First
That’s lava.
Si Chuan First

You’ll find no relief here.
Si Chuan First
 
The meal finishes with a small desert and emptying of glasses. It felt like a hike, with scenic stops of varying flavors, and tests of endurance. It hurt so good.

I returned a week later and had their 4 person set meal, which has a few dishes removed, but still a broad sampling. The dishes are well prepared, and would stand well along any level of spiciness. My next visit will no doubt be ordered with 大辣 (lots of spice).

 

Si Chuan First (map)
Richmond
6611 Buswell St
Richmond, BC V6Y

Best enjoyed with a few salivating friends.

-Dan

Si Chuan First on Urbanspoon

Silver Tower Cafe in Richmond – A poor imitator

We pay plenty of vists to HK Cafes. Sometimes too often. But we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in covering the numerous HK Cafes around Vancouver.

Today I paid a visit to Richmond’s Silver Tower Cafe on Alexandra road. A suspiciously familiar looking logo caught my eye upon entering the parking lot.
Silver Tower Cafe

Hm… where have I seen that before? Oh yes,
T&T Supermarket logo

I didn’t find any innovation from the food either. Their menu has all the usual HK Cafe items at a very reasonable price, and lets you mix and match to create your own combo plate.

Pick any 2 entree items for $8.50, or 3 items for $9.55, and that includes a hot/cold drink and soup.

Silver Tower Cafe Silver Tower Cafe

We ordered the chicken steak and roasted duck leg, which was slightly dry and satisfactory at best as far as chicken steak goes, and the Thai style cod and eggplant.

Silver Tower Cafe Silver Tower Cafe

From a pricing standpoint, Silver Tower is very competitive with its neighbor across the street, Kam Do (one of my favs, and to be reviewed soon), but falls short on food quality. I’d really only revisit S&T if its the only place on Alexandra road that had parking stalls.

I know we at ESR don’t usually write reviews of restaurants we don’t like, but hopefully we are doing the public a service by warning everyone of bad restaurants too.

Food: 4/10
Value:6/10 there’s really better food to be had for the same price
Redeeming feature: If you get to sit at a booth, its fairly private with the high seat backs and feels like you’re in a cubicle farm.

Like this, but in black
Cubicle farm

Interestingly, while googling for a logo of T&T supermarket, I came across this bit of news. T&T supermarket is/was apparently under investigation for human rights violation for forcing its foreign hired workers into working overtime by means of contract trickery and unnecessary retention of passports.

I really hope they get the punishment they deserve from court if this turns out to be true, because I don’t know if I can boycott Vancouver’s largest Asian grocer.

Silver Tower Cafe Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Dinesty in Richmond

dinesty richmondDinesty. A name so corny I had a hard time coming up with a serious title. A few came to mind however.

“Dinesty – Cash only, just like the ancient days”
“Dinesty – Eat like a poor king”
“Dinesty – Great view of the parking lot”

The honest truth though, is that this place serves up a good menu of Shanghai and Taiwanese dishes similar to those served at Vogue or New Age Chinese Cuisine

dinesty richmondLocated on No.3 Road near Chapters, Dinesty surprisingly doesn’t have the lineups the other restaurants have on a Friday night. The interior feels amazingly spacious due to two sides of the wall being full length windows, and a large open kitchen, a feature I love since it ostensibly enhances the dining experience by involving you in the preparation process.

Menu items are competitively priced. Their specialty seems to be steamed buns. Its like the bubba gump shrimp of steamed buns. Pork buns, chive buns, juicy buns, beef buns, fried buns, buns on a stick, buns of steel, etc.

True to their reputation, the buns are pretty good.
Dinesty - Fried buns

Other dishes, I’m going to skip the literal translations. The words bun, spicy, sour, roast beef crepe roll, sweet and sour spare rib can be applied where you see fit. Let your eyes guide you.

Dinesty - Shanghai Steamed Buns Dinesty - Sweet Sour soup

Dinesty - Roast Beef rolls Dinesty - Spare Ribs

With 5 dishes and one soup coming to ~$52 with tips, I’d try it again just to sit closer to the kitchen.

Food: 8/10

Feeling good about eating food in a restaurant because you can see the dishes being prepared: ~$52 for 5 dishes and a soup with tips. (I kid, but I do like the layout)

Dinesty

Now how can I end this post without some Eat, Snap, Repeat trivia? I can’t.

The last dynasty of China was the Qing dynasty, running from 1644 – 1912. One of the best movies of all time from director Bernardo Bertelluci, The Last Emperor, poinantly illustrated the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China, and was awarded Oscars award for almost every category including best music score, which was composed by the dynamic and talented Ryuichi Sakamoto, a one time member of Yellow Magic Orchestra, who recently starred in a mesmerizing Kirin beer commercial featuring their techno pop song Rydeen. Draft Beer would’ve been great with this meal.



Dinesty Chinese on Urbanspoon

Kingford Seafood Restaurant – Quality Dim Sum

Dim Sum in Vancouver is about as blatantly available as AYCE sushi. While the lowest denominator for AYCE can give people plenty of cause for agitation, dim sum places usually know their self worth, and price accordingly.
At the low end you can find sub $2 per item hole in the wall joints where you get a dishes that barely do justice to their name; shrimp dumplings smaller than a wonton, over steamed rice noodles with less than a dusting of meat and green onions, deep fried miscellany, teapots with cracked spouts…all things that make you wonder if you really should have left your house for.
I don’t know what’s at the upper end, and its probably a price I can’t afford, but this weekend we headed over to Kingford Seafood Restaurant on No.3 road, where you can feed your crack ha gau 虾饺(If that looks funny its cause its Chinese…simplified Chinese…for efficiency you know.) habit for $4 a dish. These plump fatties were very much worth their price tag:
Ha Gau Shrimp Dumplings Kingford Seafood
Its sister dish, the Scallop dumpling, is just about the same thing, but includes a slice of scallop. Though very similar to the Shrimp dumplings, I find it easier to tell if a restaurant uses fresh ingredients from the scallop than the shrimp. This one passes with flying colors.
Scallop Dumplings Kingford Seafood
I usually like to order a couple of my regular dishes at Dim Sum, and my girlfriend has her own set of favorites, so we end up settling on a slightly different ensemble each time.
The Chinese donut wrapped in rice noodle had the perfect blend of mush and chew. We were supplied with a few dipping sauces that went great with this:
Kingford Seafood
My all time favorite dish, the one I use as the ruler for measuring quality of Dim Sum – Chicken Feet. Here the fowl claws (hehe) are doused with a slightly spicy black bean sauce, and cooked perfectly so the skin falls off the bones with ease. Perfect.
Kingford Seafood
A dish quickly becoming one of my favourites – Shrimp battered eggplant (I made that name up) . Generously proportioned, and delicious to boot.
Kingford Seafood
Turnip cake. I’ve had some damn fine home made turnip cake before, and this comes very close. None of that mashed potato stuff you might lurking elsewhere.
Kingford Seafood
Wrapped bamboo shoot rolls with crab meat shavings (I made that name up too). Its nice that we get to see some real crab meat on a dish from time to time.
Kingford Seafood
Kingford Seafood

I haven’t had the urge to rant all post long! and for good reason. At a price of about $35 for 2 people(we took some food to go, so ideally 5 dishes would’ve been enough), this lunch was a fantastic dining experience.

Food: 8/10
Value: 8.5/10
Service: Existent. (Really.)
If this blog had a “this cafeteria doesn’t suck” award, I’d award it to this place.

Kingford Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

New Age Chinese Cuisine aka Jing Yuan 京園小館

Jing Yuan / New Age Chinese Cuisine Exterior

I can totally picture Yanni having Asian fetish.

That’s what this restaurant’s name brought to my mind anyway.

Previously named Jing Yuan 京園 and located on Rumble street and Royal Oak at a venue half its present size, New Age (I still feel funny typing that) features traditional Chinese/Taiwanese cuisine served in a Post modern style decor.

Jing Yuan - Interior
Almost a replica of Vogue in Richmond, New Age has all the elements for a hip hang out for young adults and families alike.

  1. Bubble Tea.
  2. Stylish design and bright lighting.
  3. Good looking waitresses with attitude and ready to strike a pose.
  4. Portions more suitable for smaller group.
  5. Saucy dishes making you want #1.

They’ve been around for a few years. some would call it new age. I call it Chinese Food 2.0

On this night we had a sampling of a few of their more common Chinese dishes, nothing too fancy:

Kung Pao Chicken
Jing Yuan - Kung Pao Chicken

Ma Po (Spicy) Tofu
Jing Yuan - Ma Po Tofu

Ying Yang Rice (I had to order it or I’d get HK Cafe withdraw)
Jing Yuan - Yuan Yang Rice

Bamboo Shoot Beef, Wintermelon in some sort of starchy goo, and Pineapple Shrimp (A relatively unknown but delicious dish)
Jing Yuan - Bamboo Shoot w/ Beef Jing Yuan - Wintermelon Jing Yuan - Pineapple Shrimp

…and a few others but the pics didn’t turn out so well.

Where this place showed its personal flair was its rice thermos. Brought directly from Taiwan likely at a street stall and even had its original made in Taiwan 24k gold sticker on the back. Cute.
Jing Yuan - Taiwan Import

Prices for anything with pork/beef/chicken are around $10, but if you want to eat anything that lives under water, the price jumps up to $16+ for about the same sized dish.

I found the food indistinguishable from Vogue and other Taiwanese / Bubble Tea places, which is to say it was alright. If you lived in Burnaby, and don’t want to make the trip to Richmond to have a slice of sweet and sour Chinese pie, this place will do nicely.

P.S. They’re now on Kingsway near Royal Oak.

map

snap of their take out menu

Food: 6/10 Meh.
Ambiance: I think the lights could sterilize a small animal. Its the way I’d like my flat to look. 8/10

Jing Yuan Chinese on Urbanspoon

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