July 1, 2012
西湖海鲜酒家 – Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant, Vancouver BC
蜜桃沙汁虾 (Prawns with Honey Glazed Walnuts in Salad Dressing)
XO酱爆带子 (Sauteed Scallops in Spicy XO Sauce)
罗汉上素 (Buddha’s Feast Assorted Vegetables)
鱼香茄子扒玉子豆腐 (Eggplant & Egg Tofu in Chili Garlic Sauce)
铁板三菇牛柳粒 (Diced Beef Tenderloin with Mushrooms on Sizzling Plate)
秘制东坡肉 (Specialty Layered Pork)
[糖水 (Dessert Soup)]
Not only was it Canada’s birthday, it was my uncle’s birthday as well. Thus, we went out to celebrate and save Mom from making a large dinner. Of the many times I have been to Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant, I have never been disappointed by their dinner dishes. While their dim sum is rather mediocre, I was glad to find last night that their dinner is still as amazing as it has ever been. The taste is not as delicate or complex as those of more upscale restaurants such as Kirin Restaurant. However, they have huge portions at very reasonable prices. They do not skimp on ingredients and each dish has a distinct and strong flavour, much to my liking
We started off the evening with one of my favourite dishes – 蜜桃沙汁虾 (Prawns with Honey Glazed Walnuts in Salad Dressing). Regardless of which restaurant I eat at, I will likely order the equivalent of this dish. After all, how can you not love lightly fried prawns coated in a sweet and sour mayo-based sauce with honey walnuts. I was pleased to find the prawns were only slightly fried and not too oily. The sauce was delicious; it was tart and sweet, with the texture of mayonnaise but better taste. The sauce coated the prawns nicely and there was plenty if you wanted to eat simply more of that delicious sauce. The walnuts were slightly disappointing this time. The honey was sweet and good and there were enough sesame seeds. However, the walnuts were not fried or roasted long enough. They were hard to bite and were not crunchy. For $14.80, there were about a dozen prawns with plentiful walnuts, which is such a great deal.
XO酱爆带子 (Sauteed Scallops in Spicy XO Sauce) was another great deal. XO sauce is already expensive. Add scallops and the dish can get quite pricey. Here, however, they have a huge dish with a decent amount of scallops for only $16.80! I loved the spicy XO sauce. That fishy taste coupled with spicy oil is simply delicious. The vegetables – onions, red and green bell peppers, snap peas, and shiitake mushrooms – were all coated nicely with the sauce, giving them a rich flavour. The scallops were cooked nicely; they were soft, tender, and slightly chewy. The dish was not overly oily, which was much appreciated. I would certainly order this dish again, just because I love scallops and their version of the spicy XO sauce.
The 罗汉上素 (Buddha’s Feast Assorted Vegetables) was full of delicious vegetables and tofu. The dish was comprised of three types of mushroom – button, shiitake, and straw – as well as mini corn, black wood ear, jelly ear, carrots, water chestnuts, gai lan, and fried tofu cubes. There were only two slices of carrots, but they added a nice colour to the dish. The tofu was mediocre. It was nicely fried with a soft and tender inside. The outside soaked in some of the sauce and flavour, which was a nice light one as vegetarian dishes tend to be. I liked the lightness of the dish, though I wish there was slightly less oil. The gai lan was what I was craving vegetables-wise. All three mushrooms were delicious, although I prefer the shiitake and straw mushrooms. They are so slippery, soft, chewy, and tender. I love the slipperiness so much! The mini corn and water chestnuts were nothing too special. Overall, it was a decent vegetarian dish and the ingredients were all great.
Next was the 鱼香茄子扒玉子豆腐 (Eggplant & Egg Tofu in Chili Garlic Sauce), another of my all time favourites at Western Lake. This is pretty much just eggplant in garlic sauce over fried egg tofu. Egg tofu is lighter and not as firm and compact as regular tofu. Slightly fried, the inside was extremely soft, wrapped in a nice, chewy outside. The eggplants were cooked nicely, but I was slightly disappointed as they were not the best quality of eggplants to begin with. Some parts, especially the skin, were hard to chew. This is just due to the quality of the vegetable itself, though, and not because it was cooked badly. There were also plenty of pork, bamboo, red bell pepper, and black wood ear strips to top it off. I even got a slice of bitter melon, which I found to be odd. The sauce is what makes the dish amazing, tying together all of these lovely ingredients, which I love anyways. The spicy, savoury, and slightly sweet taste blends together so nicely. Adding a little garlic and starch to make it less watery, the sauce is one of the best garlic sauces I have ever tasted. To this day, it remains one of my favourite dishes, not just at Western Lake, but in Chinese restaurants in general.
I have had the 铁板三菇牛柳粒 (Diced Beef Tenderloin with Mushrooms on Sizzling Plate) before as well. I am not a huge fan of it, but Mom loves it. It comes on a stone plate, wrapped in tin foil. When you open it, it is still steaming hot, with the sauce still bubbling and steam rising like crazy. That is when you know the beef will be flavourful, with the little cubes soaking up the sauce while still remaining moist and tender. I have never really been partial to stir fried beef or Chinese beef dishes in general. But for what it is, the flavour was great. The sauce was slightly sweet, which I do like. My favourite part of this dish is the vegetables – the onions and again, the three types of mushrooms. This time, besides the shiitake and straw mushrooms, which are once again slippery and so good, there were bunches of enoki mushrooms. They soak up the sauce and flavour better as they have more surface area to be coated in the sauce, making them quite flavourful. The carrots are there for the colour, and for me, do not add much to the taste of the dish. Despite the fact that this dish was not one of my favourites, it was nicely executed.
The final dish of the night was the 秘制东坡肉 (Specialty Layered Pork), a traditional dish of Hangzhou – Mom and Dad’s favourite Chinese city – and named after one of China’s greatest poets of all time, Su Dongpo. It is basically pork belly, slightly pan fried and then red braised in a mostly sweet sauce. I thought this dish was especially well executed. It came with six steamed plain buns, although I did not try them so I cannot comment on the quality. The piece of pork belly we got, however, was excellent as it was not too fat; underneath the skin, there was only a thin layer of fat and mostly just comprised to lean pork meat. The meat, for me, was slightly overcooked, as the lean parts were slightly dry and not as tender and soft as I would prefer. Also, because they cooked it in such a large piece and cut it up at the table rather than cooking it in smaller cubes, the meat did not have much flavour unless you coated it with the sauce. The sauce was, however, incredible! The thickness was just right and I loved the sweetness! It was perhaps a little sweeter than it is supposed to be traditionally, but I am not complaining, being a huge fan of sweet dishes. I loved the baby bok choy in the sauce as well – a nice, sweet crunch! The meat was sort of oily, but not in the make-me-sick, greasy kind of way, which is just how the dish should be. At least for me, the sauce really stood out! I would eat anything dipped in that sauce.
They also gave us complimentary 糖水 (Dessert Soup). This one was made with both azuki and mung beans, as well as orange peels. I did not get any orange peels, but the flavour was strong. It was quite sweet and had a nice bean texture, since it was cooked until all the beans split open so that all was left were the outer shells. It was slightly watered down and I prefer it thicker, with more of that bean paste texture. However, I liked the sweetness mixed with the orange flavour, even though it was nothing special.
Once again, I must say Western Lake is great for a VERY affordable dinner full of great flavours and quality ingredients. Oh, and did I mention HUGE portions? For six massive, flavourful dishes, our total came to around $90 before tax and tips! The service was also great. It does get loud and noisy, and the din from quickly setting up tables with all the china dinnerware is very annoying. However, the restaurant is clean and with decent décor. If the food is good, I usually do not mind the atmosphere too much. With absolutely delicious dishes, you can bet I will be back, especially if I am craving prawns or eggplants!