May 6, 2012
宁波海鲜酒家 – Ningbo Seafood Restaurant, Richmond BC宁
桂花莲藕 (Lotus Root w/ Osmanthus)
万年青松子 (Veggies w/ Bean Curd)
笋干烤肉 (Braised Meat w/ Bamboo Shoots)
梅汁寸骨 (Spareribs in Plum Sauce)
甜蟹壳皇 (Baked Sugar Cake)
宁波小馄饨 (House Special Wontons)
After a perfectly splendid horse show in the morning and into the early afternoon, all of us were starving by the time we left the show grounds, having only had breakfast before heading to the show. Since it was lunchtime, I decided we should go to 宁波海鲜酒家 because their lunch menu is different than their dinner one and has more variety that comes in smaller dishes. These appeal to Mom and I a lot more since we can try so many different things despite the small amounts we actually eat.
We started off with 桂花莲藕. I do not like lotus, except in this dish, where they made it perfectly soft but chewy at the same time. It was cooked long enough so that the lotus was no longer crunchy. However, it was not mush either. The honey and osmanthus is one of my favourite pairings ever. Add that to sticky rice and you will have a wonderful, glutinous dessert. This is one of my all time favourite dishes, and here, they made it with a perfect balance in the sweetness and stickiness of the dish. Although slightly overprices, it was worth it because the dish was almost flawless. If I had to pick on it, it would be just that not every lotus hole was filled.
Next came 万年青松子, and it soon became another one of my all time ‘wilderness vegetables.’ These vegetables, which can look very wimpy or cheap, have so much flavour and texture. I loved the freshness of the what I assumed to be frozen vegetables. It was lightly flavoured and the pine nuts on top added not only a nice texture, but also a wonderful and rich nutty aroma.
笋干烤肉 was also wonderful. My favourite part was the bamboo shoots. The mini mushrooms and pork were also very nicely flavoured. The pork was perhaps a bit too fatty for me, and the mushrooms lacked presence. The bamboo shoots were definitely the star, as they should be. They were all very tender, nothing of the not chewable root kind. It absorbed the flavour so nicely. The savouriness was great in the dish but definitely not too overwhelming. This would be a great dish just paired with rice when someone is really hungry!
The 梅汁寸骨 was a lot better than Mom and I expected. It looked amazing though, so we ordered it. The dried plums on top provided an extra kick of tartness. The sauce was not your typical sweet and sour sauce. It had the perfect blend of the two, with the extra hint of infused plum. It gave the sauce an elegant quality, adding a delicate touch to the dish. The spareribs were so tender and chewy it was really easy to eat. I also enjoyed the tendons around the bones as they were very hard to bite apart and thus made your jaw work. I would perhaps order a dish with plum sauce again just because I enjoyed it so much! The dish was simple, the plate with a nice design, and five lovely spareribs of such splendid taste is hard to come by.
I was not particularly pleased with the 甜蟹壳皇. The sugar filling was great. It was a regular sugar paste that had a slightly hard texture after being baked and not overly sweetened. They also added some osmanthus into it though, giving it that special hint of flavour that works so well in Asian desserts. The shape was definitely like that of a crab shell, but I did not like the puff pastry that gave it this shape. At least it was baked and not fried, even though your fingers still get oily after handling one. The entire inside was not stuffed with filling, so the top part of each one was more or less just the pastry. I never liked layered pastry like this much, especially ones where it just crumbles and tastes like butter or margarine. This one was both, although not so heavy in the butter department as some places get. The texture was quite good for Chinese pastry, with the easy crumble and very thin layers. I just think the filling is good but could be a tad more sweeter if there was only so much and a lot more pastry to go alone.
Finally, to end the meal with something in the way of soup, we got the 宁波小馄饨. These wontons were so tiny! Each contained meat about the size of one fingernail. The wonton wrapper was nice and slippery though, cooked to the right degree. I love wonton wrappers like this, when they are cooked through but still very tender and chewy. The soup was very light and refreshing, with seaweed and egg strips, as well as some chopped scallions on top. However, I imagine they used MSG to give it that lovely flavour, which could be the reason why I kept on wanting to drink water later in the afternoon.
Overall, we were again quite pleased with Ningbo Seafood Restaurant. They have so many different little dim-sum-like dishes for lunch that it will always be something interesting and I have yet to try. The service was great and the servers incredibly friendly. I just love eating a meal outside that tastes so good it is worth every penny. Finally, I was stuffed after a hungry morning full of nerve-wracking 2′ jumps and an antsy horse but still turned out some nice rounds and jumps.