Chinatown · Chinese · Seafood

Chinese Culture Centre Cuisine – Surf and Turf

Before Fougui left for Mexico, we went out to reminisce about the old days when we used to work together. I also invited Office Dad to our dinner at the Chinese Cultural Centre Cuisine (CCCC) because it wouldn’t be a party without him. For this post, let’s listen to “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett.

I didn’t tell Fougui that Office Dad was coming, because I wanted it to be a surprise. Office Dad wore sunglasses and hid behind a newspaper at an adjacent table. After we sat down, he walked behind Fougui and called him on his phone. I didn’t have the heart to tell Office Dad that we recognized him a mile away and he wasn’t tricking anyone. After we finished feigning an appropriate amount of awe and shock, I ordered Peking duck (three courses, $48) and Steamed Crab on Sticky Rice ($40). Instead of the standard first course of duck soup, I requested noodles.

First to arrive was the Peking duck with crepes. The skin was dry and toasty. When I bite into the crepe, you could hear the crackling snap of the skin. The duck meat was flavourful and not overly fatty. I liked how the crepe was papery thin and steaming hot. CCCC is not skimpy with the portions. I noticed a generous amount of duck, cucumber, green onion and crepes.

The temperature of the ground duck mixture was still blistering when I scooped some into a lettuce cup. I enjoyed the wraps, but I focused more of my appetite on the duck chow mein. I mentioned to Office Dad that the food was so good, I plan to blog about this meal. He nodded in agreement and asked if I would change his name to “Cool Office Dad”.

Most restaurants give you a thick Shanghai noodle dish with the Peking duck course. I was excited to see CCCC uses the thin Cantonese chow mein noodles. This is a simple dish, but so comforting. The wok hei in the sauce was on point. Each bite was a saucy mess of smoking hot gravy, brittle noodles and crunchy bean sprouts.

I saw Lovegastrogirl raving about the steamed crab before on Instagram, so I knew I had to order it. The crab is a winner. The meat was flaky and sweet. The rice was fresh and soft, seasoned from the pops of tobiko, egg and fluffy crab meat.

When we left the restaurant, we each took turns complaining about how full we were. Cool Office Dad let out a big burp to show how satisfied he was with the feast. Not so cool, Daddio! Good thing he still had his mask on.

If you are looking for a place that isn’t teeming with customers, I’d recommend eating at the CCCC. The restaurant was quiet. There were only four parties scattered throughout the spacious room. The service was friendly and attentive. You won’t go wrong ordering the fresh steamed crab and Peking duck.

Brunch · Happy Hour · Seafood · Vancouver/Richmond

Harbour Oyster + Bar – Vancouver

L wanted to go out for oysters for our last meal in Vancouver. I suggested Harbour Oyster + Bar on Commercial Drive because I read favourable reviews about the oysters and service. I really enjoyed their playlist. The music put me in the mood for a boozy seafood lunch. For this post, let’s listen to a song I heard playing – “Super Freak” by Rick James.

Harbour is a popular bar, and it was entirely booked by noon. The space itself isn’t large. There’s enough room for about 12 people at the bar and maybe six tables for around 16 customers.

I noticed Chris – the master shucker – worked hard to keep customers happy. When he wasn’t shucking all the oysters, he would also greet each person who came in the door, pour drinks, take food orders, answer the phone, and chat with us about Alberta’s seafood scene. Chris had only good things to say about Rodney’s Oyster House in Calgary’s Beltline district.

Harbour offers a wicked happy hour, served daily from noon to 5:00 p.m. I tried the Sumac Ridge Sauvignon Blanc and the Sumac Ridge Merlot (HH $6.50). I preferred the red over the white wine. Like Rodney’s in Yaletown, I noticed Harbour fills up the wine right up to the rim. L opted for a beer and chose the Harbour Lager (HH $6). L mentioned his beer was nice and cold.

For our lunch, I ordered the Mussels (HH $13), Lobster Poutine (HH $12) and two dozen Lighthouse Oysters (HH $1.50 each). First up were the mussels. Our order comes with 10 plump mussels and a slice of grilled bread. We opted for the white wine sauce, which I liked because the broth didn’t overwhelm the flavour of the shellfish. Each mussel was soft and sweet. Some of the mussels were the size of an oyster.

The Lighthouse oysters were salty and tasted like the sea. The flesh was crisp with a texture that reminded me of watermelon. Each oyster was large, with an enjoyable meatiness to it.

Our poutine arrived piping hot, with chunks of lobster claw meat visible in every crevice. Each fry was battered and extra crunchy, covered in globs of warm, gooey cheese. The lobster meat was plump and juicy, generously distributed throughout the dish. The buttery white sauce was sweet, with just enough creaminess to bind all the ingredients together but not so overpowering that it masked the lobster’s texture and flavour.

The oysters were excellent, but the highlight of our meal was the lobster poutine. L and I agreed this was one of the most delicious things we’ve eaten all year. I would love to return to try more of the menu. Thanks for the excellent service and food, Harbour Oyster and Bar. See you again when we return in 2022.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Sushi · Vancouver/Richmond

Mega Sushi – Richmond

L, Jacuzzi and I went out for sushi. Since it was Christmas Eve, our options were limited. I picked Mega Sushi because our family friend recommended this restaurant. Let’s listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Coldplay for this post.

Mega Sushi is located on Chatham Street in Steveston. As we walked over to the restaurant, I saw seagulls swooping and screeching along the pier. I always find their cries comforting, because it reminds me of my walks along Granville Island.

The service was friendly and efficient. I could hear the chefs speaking softly to each other in Korean. It’s not a big restaurant. There are about a handful of tables. However, this restaurant does heaps of takeout – throughout our visit, there must have been at least a dozen orders going out.

L and Jacuzzi told me to pick all the food. I heard the specialty rolls at Mega are popular, but all those rolls are covered in creamy sauces and filled with deep-fried seafood. We wanted sashimi and the simpler rolls. I ordered a Salmon Maki Roll (Atlantic, $3.99), Negitoro Maki Roll (tuna belly and green onion, $4.50), two Chopped Scallop Rolls ($5.50), Deluxe Sashimi ($35.95), two Hokkigai Surf Clam ($2.50) two Tako (octopus, $3.25), Aburi Combo (Atlantic salmon and toro $13.95) and two Miso Soups ($1.50). 

The deluxe sashimi contained 18 pieces. The portions are generous – the sashimi was sliced into thick slabs. Each piece was from two to three bites.

The red tuna would have been perfect it wasn’t so cold. The salmon was fatty and creamy. I preferred the leaner, richer flavour of the sockeye. L was pleased with the octopus, which had a good crunch. 

The surf clam was firm and sweet. Jacuzzi rarely eats out. He mentioned the tuna melted in his mouth. Jacuzzi was enjoying the taste of sashimi so much, he would smile, close his eyes and chew as slowly as possible. Then, in between bites of fish, he would cleanse his palate with ginger to better appreciate each new piece. Damn little brother, I have to take you out more often. 

The salmon and negitoro rolls were nicely done. The seaweed was crisp and dry. Of the two rolls, I preferred the flavour of the tuna belly and green onion over the chunky filling of Atlantic salmon. I thought the sushi rice was nice, but L said it was a little too firm for his preference.

The chopped scallop roll was so good, we ordered a second. I liked the crunchy pop of the tobiko and the rich, eggy flavour of the Kewpie mayo. The scallops were plentiful, cool and silky on my tongue. 

The seared Atlantic salmon and toro were tasty, I could taste the smoky flavour on the top layer of the fish. I’m glad I tried the aburi-style sushi, but I still prefer the more basic sushi.

We all agreed we would go back for the sushi and sashimi. The highlight for me on this visit was the freshness of the seafood we sampled. Hitting the Sauce gives Mega Sushi two fat thumbs up.

Restaurants · Seafood

Big Fish – Anniversary Dinner

For our eighth wedding anniversary celebration, I took L to Big Fish. I thought since we weren’t going to Mexico for our yearly jaunt of sunshine and tacos, it would be nice to eat some seafood and at least pretend we were away. So for this post, let’s listen to “Crush With Eyeliner” by R.E.M.

Big Fish is different from the norm. The restaurant is comfortable and homey. Our server Michael was well versed with the menu and wine list. I could tell he was no newbie. The customer base appeared to be all regulars, and as L noted, not a douchebag insight. I knew better than to take him to Cactus Club. This ain’t my first rodeo.

To start, L ordered a pint of Last Best IPA ($8), and I sipped on a flute of Pares Cava ($7.50). Next, we shared a dozen west coast oysters ($45). The Kussi oyster was smaller than the Fanny Bay, but the flavour was more intense and sea-like. The Fanny Bay oyster was meaty, mild in flavour, with a crunchy texture that reminded me of cucumber. I was impressed that we could get oysters that tasted this fresh in Calgary.

I read Google reviews of customers raving about the Warm Lobster, Crab & Artichoke Dip ($19), so I had to try it. I couldn’t taste or see the lobster and crab because of the thickness of the cheesy sauce. I could imagine seeing a recipe for this dip in my mother’s Better Homes Cookbook.

Michael picked out a dry white wine (Zestos, $12) to pair with the Mussels ($22). The broth was still steaming when our mussels arrived at our table. People always tell me mussels are so easy to make, but why don’t other restaurants make them like Big Fish? Each fat mussel was sweet and silky smooth.

L enjoyed the rich, fragrant broth of white wine, leek and creamy green curry. We alternated soaking up the sauce with the fresh bread that came with the mussels and the toasted bread that arrived with the artichoke dip. These were by far the best mussels I’ve consumed in Calgary.

The Fish Tacos ($19) were generously stuffed with red snapper, guacamole, lettuce and salsa. I could taste a slight sweetness from the tomato mango salsa and heat from the sriracha lime aioli. I liked how the tortilla was grilled and not dry in texture.

L wanted dessert, so we shared a slice of Pecan Pie ($12). I noticed the pie was heavy with the scorching hot pecans. L was a happy camper. I should encourage him to order dessert more often – he looked like a kid when he ate his pie.

L and I plan to return for the mussels, oysters and other dishes. Big Fish does seafood well, in refreshingly unpretentious digs. Hitting the Sauce gives Big Fish two phat thumbs up.

Mexican · Seafood

Fonda Flora – Girls’ Night

On Saturday, Kournikova, Québécois, and I got together for dinner. We started the night off with bubbles at Kournikova’s house. Québécois brought over champagne to toast to my new job. After finishing the bottle, Kournikova’s doting husband Zuber dropped us off at Fonda Flora.

Both Québécois and I appreciate the non-pedestrian wine list at Fonda Flora. This was Kournikova’s first visit and she was keen to try the food, as she loves Mexican food. For this post, let’s listen to “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates.

We left Québécois in charge of selecting our wine. After watching her study the wine menu, I realized knowledge could be a curse. Kournikova and I happily chatted away as Québécois studiously compare the regions, vintages and casks. I jokingly told Québécois to hurry up because I was losing my buzz. She laughed good-naturedly at my winegryness and selected N.V. Radice Paltrinieri, a bubbly from Italy. The wine was dry yet refreshing, with subtle berry notes. Her hard work paid off – we all enjoyed this bottle.

The best dish of the night was the Scallop Aguachile ($22). The scallop was served sashimi-like – cool, silky and pure tasting. Kournikova raved about the macha verde. I enjoyed the spicy heat, the vibrant flavours and the peppery slices of watermelon radish. The scallops were Kournikova’s favourite dish of the night. I would order this again. Kournikova mentioned that all the appetizers were larger than she expected.

Québécois told us her husband recommended the octopus. Oh baby – the Tacos de Pulpo Endiablado ($17) was fantastic! The grilled octopus was plump and tender – the texture was just incredible. Unfortunately, I found the tortilla itself a tad dry. Not a big deal, as I followed Kournikova suit and skipped the carbs. There’s a reason why she’s in tip-top shape.

Québécois favourite dish was the Ceviche de Camaron con Leche de Tigre ($19). She thought she could taste something peanuty in the dish. The shrimp was raw and cold, bathed in coconut milk, yuzu and salsa matcha. I thought this dish was heavy-handed with salt. Québécois disagreed and said it was perfectly seasoned.

The Costilla de Res en Mole Poblano ($34) came with three chunks of braised beef short rib, turnips, cauliflower and baby carrots. The vegetables were beautifully cooked – so that each retained its unique texture and flavour. The beef wasn’t as tender as I would have preferred.

Kournikova enjoyed the Carnitas de Cerdo ($29) more than the short rib. The confit pork shoulder was warm, tender and marbled with fat. The accompanying salsa and mole help to liven up the flavour of the pork.

We left stuffed, tipsy and pleased with the excellent company. For our next girls’ night, Kournikova suggested Sensei Bar. I need to check out Sensei’s wine list before I commit. If the wine isn’t decent, I will counter with Orchard Restaurant. Thanks for a lovely night, girls – I’m excited about our next outing.

Japanese · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Sukiyaki House – L’s birthday dinner

On Friday, we celebrated L’s birthday at Sukiyaki House. On that particular night, because the restaurant was short-staffed, I couldn’t request omakase (a special menu curated by the chef). L said that was fine with him, as everything off the regular menu is exceptional. For this post, let’s listen to “Waltz for Roxy” by The French Note.

To start the festivities, we ordered a bottle of Mizubasho Junmai Daiginjo ($55). Judith has superb taste – her sakes never disappoint. L marvelled at the smoothness and pureness of the rice wine. He said, unlike other sakes, this one was so easy to drink, almost like soda pop. This sake tasted so pretty; I could imagine fairies sipping it.  

Head chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a stunning gift for L’s birthday – seabass and snow crab sushi. L and I just sat there a moment in silence – admiring the food art. I didn’t notice there was an absence of rice until L mentioned it to me. The silky texture of the fish on fish was sublime. The creamy sauce tasted like roasted sesame seeds with a touch of sweetness. I loved the sea burst pop of the salmon roe and the crunchier snap crackle of the tobiko. I was smiling the entire time I ate. I never experienced this flavour and texture combination before. This dish was incredible – the best thing I’ve eaten in 2021. I thought the seabass sushi illustrated Koji’s wide range of creative talent. After sampling Chef Koji’s specialty dishes in the past few years, I can say he has multiple platinum hits and not a one-hit-wonder.

Our next dish was another beauty – Kanpachi Tataki ($24). I think this was the first time I tried Amberjack. I found the texture of the fish unique – the flesh was substantial and buttery with a clean flavour profile. L appreciated the subtle smoky sear, which he thought added to the experience.

The Tekka Roll (tuna maki roll, $5) was outstanding. The tuna was rich and creamy, which contrasted with the crispness of the toasted nori. I don’t understand how with only three ingredients, a dish can taste so good.  No picture was taken, as I had incorrectly assumed it would taste just like a regular old tuna maki roll.

I don’t know anyone else in the city that can do a better Shrimp Tempura ($12) than Sukiyaki House. The batter was light and flaky, and the shrimp was sweet and crunchy. My favourite part is the tempura sauce because I think the daikon and the grated ginger adds warmth and depth to the flavour profile.

If you like wings, you need to try the Chicken Karaage ($12). This is fried chicken perfection. The meat is so silky and tender, that chunks of meat easily split apart with a mere poke of a pair of chopsticks. The squeeze of lemon was perfect for helping cut into the fattiness of the crispy chicken skin. When I mentioned to L that the karaage was cheaper than wings at a pub, he noted that Sukiyaki House’s version also had no gristle or that purple bone marrow bruising you find in hot wings.

We ordered a round of nigiri: Amaebi (sweet spot prawn, fried shrimp head, $4); Ebi (steamed prawn, $3); Hotataegai (Hokkaido scallop, $4.20); Tako (steamed octopus, $3); Shake (Atlantic salmon, $3) and Toro (albacore tuna belly, $4.50). L mentioned all the crevices made eating the scallop an elevated experience.

I enjoy having sake at Sukiyaki House, but for some reason, whenever I eat sushi, I crave a dry white wine. I was happy with the sauvignon blanc ($11) Judith picked out for me as I found it a well-balanced, easy-drinking wine.

For dessert, the birthday boy ordered Matcha Shiratama ensai ($9). I noticed all the fruit was at the perfect stage of ripeness. L loves Sukiyaki House’s homemade red bean. When he was eating his dessert, he looked like a kid enjoying his special treat. I think L was Japanese in his past life. Myself, I think I was Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. L can tell when I’m impressed with a meal because I always announce that if I died that night, I would die happy. I’m glad I woke up the next day because now I get to do it all over again. We are looking forward to Sukiyaki House’s future omakase nights. Thanks, Koji for making dinner a special event for L.

17th Ave · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Hawthorn Dining Room

My sister-in-law turned 40! We spent the afternoon at RnR Wellness Spa and the evening at the Hawthorn Dining Room. For this post, let’s listen to “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore.

To start the night, Turned ordered a round of bubbly (Maschio Prossecco, $54). As we looked through the menu, I mentioned that I heard the Scallops ($39) were particularly good. I consider myself an anti-influencer, so I was surprised when most of my dining companions ordered scallops, just based on my comment.

For wine, I let the birthday girl pick. Turned chose the Sea Sun ($80) because she loves pinot noir. Personally, I was not too fond of this wine because of the oaky notes. But, that’s okay because it wasn’t my birthday.

The moment I saw my entree, I knew it was a winner. Each plump scallop was caramelized, the flesh was sweet, soft and springy. I enjoyed the other flavourful components of the dish – the tart artichokes, roasted tomatoes, fresh spring peas, chorizo and salty capers. The person sitting across from me is originally from Newfoundland, and she approved of the scallops. I thought the scallops at Hawthorn were even better than the version I tried at Cassis Bistro, the difference being the former uses meatier scallops. I would order this again.

After dinner, we took a limo around 17th Ave. I watched, fascinated as Turned’s friends sang in unison to song after song. Though I missed out on prom in high school, I lived the experience decades later. Except instead of taking Polaroid pictures, everyone was taking a selfie.

When we arrived at our destination – Sub Rosa – one of the guests was denied access because the bouncer said she was intoxicated. When someone questioned his judgment, he explained that the guest in question was slurring her words, and she could not even pull her ID out of her purse. He said that clearly, she was already over-served. The bouncer said I was acceptable and welcome to come inside. My mother would be so proud.

I suggested heading over to Cactus Club because it was only two blocks away. Marta wanted to go to the Ship and Anchor, but no one wanted to walk that far, and since it was Halloween, we likely would not get in. Turned suggested Murrietta’s, as it was across the street and there was a dance floor.

No one was denied entry at Murrietta’s Bar & Grill, but there was still drama. Our party was supposed to be seated in the dining room. However, on the way to the dining room, most of our group disappeared to the lounge side. I was informed by the staff that our group could not enter the lounge as there was a private party.

When I finally found the birthday girl and her crew, a member of our circle was already dancing with a happy-looking man. I told our group that we either had to leave Murrietta’s or sit in the dining room. They decided to leave the premises. Once outside, there was another debate about going to the Ship and Anchor or another venue. When I realized I was the most responsible person in the gang, I decided to leave and get a Vietnamese sub. I didn’t want to be accountable for their shenanigans. You can imagine how heartbroken I was to find out my sandwich shop was closed for the night. At least I didn’t get denied entry. That would have been tragic.

French · Seafood · Special Occasion

Cassis Bistro

L and I met up with Glen Jr and Honesty for a double date. Glen Jr was craving French food so he suggested Cassis Bistro. For this post, let’s listen to “Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles” by Francoise Hardy.

I would normally order the house wine at Cassis because it’s good enough for me. However, since we dining with Glen Jr, we had to step it up.  Glen Jr has a more developed palate for food and wine than I do.  For our first bottle of wine, our server JJ recommended Chateau Francs Magnus Bordeaux ($70). I found this wine full-bodied and smooth. Of the two bottles we sipped on through the night, the Bordeaux was our favourite.

For our appetizers, we shared Le Plateau de Charcuterie ($38). Ham, bread and butter are such simple things, but when it such high quality, it is a treat. The ham tasted so light and clean. Glen Jr noticed that even the butter tasted extra good. Both the duck and pork pate were excellent. The pork pate was more flavourful but the duck pate was silky smooth.

Glen Jr wanted to try the Duck Foie Gras Torchon ($24). The foie gras came with warm gingerbread crisps and a slice of poached pear. Oh my duck. The foie gras melted in my mouth texture. The flavour was explosively rich and buttery. L loved the combination of the gingerbread and foie gras. I would order this again.

For our second bottle of wine, we picked the Chateau Radeaux Monte Calme Bandol ($65). This wine was delicious as well, though very different from the first bottle and sweeter. For our mains, L ordered Steak Frites ($39), Honesty ordered Lamb ($39), Glen Jr and I ordered Sea Scallops ($36). This review will not be as descriptive as my regular posts. I was so overwhelmed with the quality of every single dish that I stopped trying to decipher and describe what I was tasting and just enjoyed my meal. I took my cue from Glen Jr. I noticed he would close his eyes and smile whenever he ate. He knows his food and even better, he knows how to relish each bite and sip.

L’s steak was a visual showstopper. The steak was beautifully arranged, served with a pile of frites, a boat of gravy and a green salad. He said his steak was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed using the crispy pomme frites to mop up every last drop of gravy. I haven’t found anyone in the city that does a better steak frites than Cassis.

Honesty’s lamb was so tender and tasty, it was incredible. Honesty said she thought the lamb must have been slow cooked for hours to achieve that soft texture. I took a bite and noticed there wasn’t a strong gamey flavour that I normally find in lamb. L  and I both thought Honesty ordered the best dish of the night. As always, he is correct.

The exterior of the sea scallops were seared to a golden brown. The interior of each plump scallop was still silky smooth, similar to sashimi. The vegetables looked like it was simply prepared but each bite was delicious. You know you are in good hands when the vegetables can hold up to the main component of the dish.

Glen Jr wanted dessert. We tried one of each – the Chocolate Mousse ($14) and the Creme Brûlée ($14). It takes a lot for me to enjoy dessert, as I’m sensitive to the sweetness of sugar. I find sugar jarringly sweet. I was so delighted with both desserts that I battled with Honesty for the last bite.

I have to give props to our server JJ. Throughout the night, he was working the room and ensuring the guests were happy. His hosting and serving skills remind me of Vij Vikram in Vancouver, a man who I think is top in his game as a host. Vij has this natural charm and warmth, with an ability to put guests in a celebratory mood.

I cannot praise our meal at Cassis enough. This was the best meal I’ve had in 2021. Thank you Glen Jr and Honesty for treating us out to dinner. We plan to take them out to Cassis in late November to try the winter menu. Hitting the Sauce gives Cassis Bistro two phat thumbs up and this French bistro makes it on my list of favourite restaurants.

Bars/Lounges · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion · Steakhouse

Major Tom – Girls’ Night

For our girls’ night out, Québécois, Kournikova and I went to Major Tom. It took me months to get this reservation. Currently, the restaurant is booked solid up to 2022, though I read on Wanda Baker‘s Instagram account that Major Tom keep 25% of tables open for walk-in. For this post, let’s listen to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper.

Arriving at the restaurant is in itself an experience. First, you enter the Scotia Centre building and walk over to the elevators in the back corner of the building. You show your vaccine passport and ID at the security station, then you are directed to a specific elevator. Once you arrive on the 40th floor, you check in with a team of hosts at the reception area and finally, someone escorts you to your table in a room with a panoramic view of downtown Calgary.

The vibe of the restaurant is lively and the energy is unlike anything you can find in Calgary. Throughout dinner, I felt like I was on vacation in a bigger city. If you walk around the restaurant, you can admire the spectacular views from different vantage points of the downtown core.

We each started with a cocktail. Major Tom knows how to deliver their alcoholic beverages. I was over the moon with my Vodka Martini ($17). The martini glass arrived on a gold coaster, accompanied by a bottle of Kettle One/Dolin Dry Vermouth and a plated garnish of olives. Each sip of my martini was so cold and pure tasting, I could barely detect the alcohol. The blue cheese in the olive was light and melted in my mouth. I noticed that when Québécois ordered a bottle of Muga Reserva ($65), our server decanted the wine. Most restaurants I go to won’t decant the wine unless the bottle is over $85.

We shared two orders of the Crispy Hen Egg ($6). This little sucker was delicious. The fried shell added a nice crunch, which contrasted to the creamy, warm yolk. Texture, style and with exploding flavour, this appetizer has it all. I would order this again.

I always get what Miss Foodie raves about on her Instagram account, so I chose the Tomato and Brioche Salad ($14) and Steak Frites ($34). Warning – my photos are worse than usual. I was so giddy to be out with my friends, I didn’t put in the effort to take a decent photo.

The tomatoes in the salad were ripe and juicy. The dressing of shallot, basil and lime was refreshing and subtle. The brioche was crunchy and for some reason, reminded me of the boxed croutons my mother used to buy when we were kids.

The steak arrived a beautiful ruby red. The meat was warm and soft. The fries were extra crunchy. Of the three entrees I tried, I preferred Kournikova’s Slow-Roasted Duck ($41). The duck breast was tender and flavourful.

Québécois ordered the Shells ($25) because she enjoys anything with burrata in it. The seasoning in the lemon roasted broccoli pesto was delicate and light. She couldn’t finish her pasta so I ended up eating about a third of her dish.

When we arrived on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was buzzing. Despite being obviously slammed with customers, the service was enthusiastic and attentive. I plan to return and often, more so for the cocktails and appetizers. I highly recommend you check out this gem. Hitting the Sauce gives Major Tom two phat thumbs up.

Chinese · Restaurants · Seafood

Emerald Garden Restaurant

I had to cancel our trip to Vancouver due to L’s work schedule. I was disappointed as my family had planned a feast at Ludwig’s favourite restaurant – Fisherman’s Terrace. My brother Narc sent photos of my father’s 79th birthday dinner – Peking duck carved at the table, fresh lobster in green onion and ginger sauce, duck lettuce wraps, fried stuffed taro, almond chicken, pea tips, fresh whole fish, deep-fried pumpkin, e-fu noodles, beef chow fun, green beans, and a bunch of other dishes I didn’t recognize. As I gazed at the photos, a small moan escaped from my mouth. For a moment, I missed my former life as a glutton. My younger brother Jacuzzi would always say to me whenever we got out of hand that it tastes good to be a pig. I concur.

Since I was missing the action back home, I told L we had to try out Emerald Garden for the more traditional Chinese dishes. I didn’t want ginger beef, salt and pepper squid, or chicken balls. He was game, even though he prefers westernized Chinese food. For this post, let’s listen to “If” by Janet Jackson.

When we arrived at Emerald Garden, we were surprised to see the constant stream of customers dining in, as well as the takeout orders flying out of the kitchen. Based on my friend Fung Ling’s recommendation, I ordered: Fried Stuffed Treasures ($19.95, 煎釀三寶 Eggplant, Green Peppers and Crispy Tofu Stuffed with Shrimp); Beef Tendon Casserole ($17.95, 牛筋腩煲 Beef Shank, Tendon and Tofu); Cod Fillets ($24.99, Fried Cod with Tofu and Chinese Mushrooms); Dried Scallop and Egg White Fried Rice ($14.95 瑤柱蛋白炒飯 Tobiko, Green Onions, Egg Whites and Dried Scallops); and Fried Dumplings ($13.95).

The scallops and fluffy egg whites in the fried rice tasted subtle and fresh, which accentuated the pops of flavour from the tobiko, green onions and crunchy onion garnish. The portion of fried rice is generous. I found Emerald Garden’s seafood fried rice better than Sun’s BBQ version.

I was looking forward to the beef tendon and I wasn’t disappointed. Each piece of tendon was soft and chewy. The beef shank was tender and tasty, marbled with a thin layer of fat. The daikon was juicy and delicate in flavour. I could tell the gravy in the casserole was fattening because the flavour was so rich and smooth.

The highlight of the night was the fish casserole. The pot arrived bubbling and sizzling, filled with battered fish fillets, fried tofu puffs, Chinese mushrooms and tofu skin. The cod tasted fresh and the texture of the fillet was thick and fluffy. I would order this again, though next time, I want to try the fish steamed or pan fried.

The shrimp stuffed eggplant, peppers and tofu came with a special sauce. We found the shrimp filling a little dry. However, I enjoyed the silky texture of the eggplant and the soft innards of the fried tofu.

The dumplings are deep fried and chewy. The wrapper on the dumplings was thick, puffy and gummy. Proportionally, the wrapping was about double the filling. For the dipping sauce, I added soy sauce, chili oil and vinegar.

The portions are generous and the prices are affordable. Our feast cost $100 and there was more than enough food for four people. I noticed later on in the evening and the next day, I didn’t feel dehydrated, which I think indicates Emerald Palace isn’t heavy handed when it comes to the salt and seasoning of the dishes.

I noticed the clientele at Emerald Palace are split into three camps. I saw customers who spoke fluent Cantonese order the more traditional dishes for a banquet style dinner. There is also an obviously loyal clientele of English-speaking customers who ordered the more westernized dishes, like salt and pepper squid and hot and sour soup. Then there’s me – someone who has the Chinese vocabulary of a two-year old.

Part of the charm of Emerald Garden is watching how all the customers interact with the staff. There was a young teenage employee who spoke fluent Cantonese and English. He was clearly working hard answering the phone, taking orders, bringing dishes out, serving drinks, and packing up food. An older man got up to leave and as he passed the reception area, he bellowed to the kid, “Bye Brian!” Another table of two women questioned what vegetable was in a certain dish. There was some confusion and back and forth with the customers and the server. The customer said, “Hey, I don’t mean to be a bitch. I’m just curious, so don’t worry about it.” The server confirmed with the chef and it turned out the vegetable was indeed zucchini. A Chinese speaking customer looked like another regular. He seemed right at home, cutting directly through the staff only section to his table. No one even blinked an eye.

The atmosphere reminds me of the past Chinese banquets I’ve attended. The background noise consists of a blended murmur of a screaming baby, laughter, and the happy clink of dishes. L wants to return to Emerald Garden try the westernized dishes, like the sizzling beef and sweet and sour pork. I’m fine with that as long as I can order the chef’s specials and signature dishes. I have my eye on the deep-fried egg yolk bitter melon and shredded chicken with jellyfish. Hitting the Sauce gives Emerald Garden two fat thumbs up.