We needed a quick lunch as it was quite late already to be heading out to somewhere for a meal already. We were nearby, so Dad recommended this restaurant, which he had previously eaten at and thought the food was decent. Well, we though, why not? We were a little taken by surprise when we were given the dim sum marking sheet as it was already after one on a Thursday. However, I guess it is still technically dim sum. Another issue we realized right away was the inflated prices on all the dishes, at least $1-2 more than very decent dim sum in Richmond, by far the most expensive. Thus, we went with some simpler dishes and had a light lunch.
First on the table was the 避风塘茄子 (Spicy Eggplants). The eggplants were lightly battered and fried. I liked this dish a lot, even though it is not completely worth it for the price. It had a nice crunch and texture to it though. The chili peppers with the dried small shrimp made a very salty, extremely spicy, but also delicious topping. The eggplants were still soft on the inside so the heat went with it very well. The strong spice paired nicely with the bland taste of the eggplant and the crispiness of the batter.
The 南翔小笼包 (Shanghai Dumplings) were some of the best xiao long bao I have ever tasted. The skin was thin but still chewy. The meat was soft and flavourful on the inside. Most importantly, there was a lot of liquid in each bun, the great-tasting ground pork juices with a nice taste to it. The meat looked quite pink, which at least means it contains a lot of meat rather than have too much flour or starch mixed into it.
My favourite dish was perhaps the 花素蒸饺 (Veggi & Egg Dumplings). The concept here is simple: carrots, baby bok choy, black wood ear, and water chestnuts all diced, slightly sweetened, in a large steamed dumpling. It is not a particularly complex dish, but it was certainly well executed. I like the bigger size of the dumplings, as well as the light hint of sweetness in the vegetables. The dumpling skin was also well made, quite thick and chewy. It is comfort food for me.
For something a little more traditional for dim sum, we went with the 豉汁蒸排骨 (Steam Spare Rib). The pieces of ribs were extremely tender and quite flavourful, which I really liked. I found the meat to be on the fattier side for me. I would have preferred more muscle meat than fat, which made the dish a little too greasy. The black bean sauce flavour was there though and quite distinct. The pumpkin cubes at the bottom really soaked up the flavour and were very tasty. They were soft and mushy and had that nice pumpkin aroma. I wish there were a few more pieces though.
Finally, the most disappointing dish of the meal, the 北菇滑鸡煲仔饭 (Mushroom & Chicken Rice) was plain and unexciting. It was chicken thigh meat marinated – I think! – and steamed on top of rice with two pieces of mushrooms, baby bok choy, and Chinese sausages. This was a little bland for me as there were not multiple layers of taste. The chicken was extremely tender though! They had really smooth and silky texture. The mushrooms could have been so much more plentiful. They do not cost much, unless they are using fresh shiitake mushrooms. The Chinese sausages were sweet but very uncreative. It looks like if they were sloppily thrown on top. The baby bok choy had no flavour at all. The rice was nicely cooked, and after it got chicken juice soaked into it, it became slightly more tasty.
I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone. For the extremely high prices they charge, you get above average food but definitely not one of the best. Thus, it did not end up on my dependable restaurants. It was a quick lunch, but we waited a while before the food came. They also did not give us a pot of boiled water to refill the teapot. The service was average for a Chinese restaurant. They also do not specialize in any one cuisine, which kind of lowers the prestige level of the restaurant. However, I guess each market is just very different!