Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Locally Creative – Local 215

May 23, 2013
Local 215, Philadelphia PA
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Pork Fritters
Duck Buns
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ImageLocal 215 is one of the few food trucks using local products and making gourmet meals out of a truck. Their brown truck may not seem as pretty but their food cannot be found elsewhere in University City. However, the taste to me does not justify their higher prices. It was not bad by any means, just not as outstanding as I had expected.

The Pork Fritters were fried to the perfect crispy texture on the outside. Inside were, besides shredded pork, pistachios and capers. The fritters did not have any pronounced flavour. I did like the hoisin sriracha dipping sauce that had a touch of sweetness but was very flavourful with a small kick.Image

The famous Duck Buns were decent, with juicy, tender pieces of duck. Sandwiched in between the pita-like flatbreads were pickled veggies, cucumber, and a sesame chili aioli. The aioli lacked a little flavour and the buns overall were a little greasy. They were also messy to eat and got soggy quickly.

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Elegant Dim Sum – 苏杭人家-Suhang Restaurant

December 23, 2012
苏杭人家 – Suhang Restaurant, Richmond BC
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苏州酱鸭 (Special Sauced Duck Suzhou Style)
雪菜豆板酥 (Mash Bean Cake with Pickled Vegetables)
灌汤小笼包 (Steamed Soup Buns with Pork Filling)
上海荠菜馄饨 (Shanghai Wonton)
罗汉斋两面黄 (Vegetarian Crispy Yellow Noodles) 
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ImageFor a quick dim sum on a Sunday, we visited 苏杭人家 (Suhang Restaurant) as they always have great food and friendly service without a crazy line that is out the door. The restaurant was quite full but it was not outrageous. The owner, Amy, is always smiling and nice.Image

Suzhou cuisine is known for marinated cold dishes, especially duck and fish. Therefore, we tried the 苏州酱鸭 (Special Sauced Duck Suzhou Style). It was delicious, marinated in a sweet soy sauce. The duck was tender and the skin was not too fatty. The flavour was absorbed by the duck very thoroughly and the dish was served at a slightly cold temperature that was just right for this kind of appetizer.

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A hot appetizer, the 雪菜豆板酥 (Mash Bean Cake with Pickled Vegetables), made with fava beans that have been cooked till they could be mashed slightly. The fava beans were soft and mushy but still had their shape. The texture was great in that it allowed the beans to soak up the salty flavours from the pickled vegetables. This dish was warm but light and not too greasy.

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A traditional, the 灌汤小笼包 (Steamed Soup Buns with Pork Filling), was the not the best I have ever had. There was very savoury and tasty soup inside each bun but the wrapper was not thin enough. The pork filling was tasty and the buns were great, just not outstanding.

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Opting for something light and soupy, we had the 上海荠菜馄饨 (Shanghai Wonton), made with a shepherd’s-purse filling. I love shepherd’s purse. It is very similar to watercress. The small wontons had very soft wrappers around the refreshing filling. The clear broth was flavourful and light, just what we were looking for.
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The 罗汉斋两面黄 (Vegetarian Crispy Yellow Noodles) were very good. The noodles were nicely pan double-fried, crispy for the most part. I just love that crunch. Fried dough never disappoints. The parts that were soaking in the light sauce were soft and seemed a little over cooked. The vegetables, including baby bok choy, pan-fried tofu, black wood ear, shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, shredded carrot, and bamboo shoots. I absolutely loved the baby bok choy, the two fungi, and the bamboo shoots. The tofu soaked up the light flavour nicely, though. The sauce was decently thickened and light, but still flavourful.Image

Finally, the 多汁生煎包 (Pan-Fried Pork Soft Buns) were nicely pan-fried. The outside had the slightest crispiness with the thick dough soft but not overcooked. The inside soaked up some of the soupy liquid that was so flavourful. The filling was good but too small. One small bite and you are just left with dough.Image

Not pricey but not cheap either, Suhang nails the flavours. However, I do think they could give slightly bigger portions for some of the dishes. The atmosphere is nice for those who like dim sum to be more elegantly high-end, without the crowded and noisy huge restaurants and the clatter of silverware. This is much smaller and had a friendly and bright feel to the place.

Suhang Restaurant 蘇杭人家 on Urbanspoon

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Fast ‘n Friendly – Ollie’s Noodle Shop & Grille

December 2, 2012
Ollie’s Noodle Shop & Grille, New York NY
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Roast Duck (火鸭)
Shrimp Lo Mein (虾捞面)
Pepper Steak (青椒牛肉)
Broccoli, Zucchini, Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (紫兰三素)
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Before getting the whole team to pile into a Megabus and head back to Philly, most of us crowded into a local westernized Chinese restaurant often populated by Columbia students – Ollie’s Noodle Shop & Grille. Apparently, our team came here last year too. It is much like Sang Kee and other casual Chinese establishments. The atmosphere was light and cheery, with large windows and casual yet simple tables and chairs.

Our first dish was the Roast Duck (火鸭). The duck was mediocre. The skin was crispy enough but not the crispiest I have had. The meat was not tough but not particularly fatty and juicy either. It definitely was not melt-in-your-mouth duck meat. I did like the cabbage and spinach under the meat, though, soaking up a little flavour. The rice that had soaked up some of the duck broth also had a light, savoury taste that made it decent.Image

The Shrimp Lo Mein (虾捞面) was too salty. The noodles were okay; they were not overcooked but could have been more al dente with more of a chew. The shrimp were also a little overcooked. I would have liked more vegetables in this dish. Also, it was quite greasy and just tasted of soy sauce and salt.Image

The Pepper Steak (青椒牛肉) was actually the best of the four dishes. The beef was succulent and the bell peppers and onions still had some crispiness to them while coated in the same sweet and spicy sauce. This went really well with the steamed rice.Image

Finally, the Broccoli, Zucchini, Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (紫兰三素) was way too greasy. There was about a layer of oil over the entire dish, hiding the flavourful sauce underneath. The sauce was spicy but not sweet and aromatic enough. Also, because there was so much oil, the sauce did not coat and get into the eggplant, broccoli, and zucchini. While all three vegetables are my favourites, I do not like them bland and drenched in grease.

Ollie’s definitely need to cut back on the oil and salt. The prices are reasonable and the service was extremely fast and quite friendly. The atmosphere was light and uplifting. However, overly greasy food seemed to wipe all the pros away.

Ollie's Noodle Shop & Grille on Urbanspoon

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A Chinese Farewell – 生记–Sang Kee Noodle House

ImageSeptember 9, 2012
生记 – Sang Kee Noodle House, Philadelphia PA
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水饺汤 (Shrimp Dumpling Soup)
烧鸭饭 (Roasted Duck w. Veg.) 
冬菇豆腐扒白菜仔 (Baby Bok Choy with Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms)
炒四季 (Four Seasons)
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We got back to Philly earlier than expected so after checking in to the final hotel, we went back to my room and then onto Sang Kee Noodle House – yet again – for dinner, since I just realized I had a $10 off coupon I needed to use. Also another meal to celebrate all three of National Chicken, Mushroom, and Rice Months. It was not too early so the restaurant was not exactly overflowing with diners.

Loving the shrimp dumplings from last time, we decided to get the 水饺汤 (Shrimp Dumpling Soup), just the dumplings with the soup. The wonton wrappers were again al dente and the shrimp filling was both succulent and bouncy. It also had a slight sweetness to it, and was very tender. The soup was refreshing, although I am guessing there is quite a lot of MSG in it. Oh well, eating it once in a while is not going to kill me.Image

The 烧鸭饭 (Roasted Duck w. Veg.) is one of the more traditional dishes. The roast duck had a decent amount of lean meat, which we ate. However, there were some fatty parts to lend to the grease that soaks into the vegetables and rice, making them sweet and refreshingly meaty. The Chinese broccoli was actually extremely tasty due to the juice from the duck, making them slightly sweetened and flavourful. Plenty of rice was on the bottom, but the parts soaked with the juice were actually good. It was neither too soggy nor too hard. The duck also had a crispy skin and there was a decent amount of the flavourful waterfowl.

ImageThe 冬菇豆腐扒白菜仔 (Baby Bok Choy with Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms) was a simple vegetable and tofu stir fry with the Americanized Asian gravy-style sauce. The baby bok choy was especially crunchy and refreshing. I love these little guys since they always soak up the flavour yet retain their moisture and crunchy texture. The cubes of tofu were soft and the whole shiitake mushrooms were plump and covered in the sauce. They were very chewy and delicious as well.

Finally, the 炒四季 (Four Seasons) was, in my opinion, not exactly worth the price. It was a little bit of everything – BBQ pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, carrots, water chestnut, shiitake mushrooms, mini corn and snap peas. The black bean sauce did taste like black beans, although it was not particular distinct. The meats were tender and the shrimp was bouncy and good. The vegetables were also somewhat flavourful from the sauce. The snap peas were especially crunchy and the mini corn was a nice change. While the ingredients were decent, the mix of everything in this simple sauce just did not appeal to me and I thought it was not worth the $14.Image

One thing about this meal that pleased me was that besides the fatty parts of the roasted duck, none of the dishes were particularly greasy. Everything was just either sauce or soup or simple flavours and there was no excess of oil, not even for stir-fried dishes. I like it when Chinese food is less greasy, especially since in cases where simply adding more oil will not make the dish any better or more authentic.

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The Italian Deal – Salento

ImageSeptember 6, 2012
Salento, Philadelphia PA
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[Bread and Sundried Tomato Spread]
Mozzarella
Veal Ravioli
Orecchiette Al’anatra
Linguini Alla Pugliese
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I was very excited for a formal Italian dinner at Salento, finally able to use my Groupon. Only two or so tables were filled when we got there but as the evening progressed, more students entered the restaurant for a BYO and business was soon booming. Clearly, a BYO near a university is not a bad idea.Image

They first brought out a complimentary basket of bread with a sundried tomato pesto spread. The bread was warm, with a tough, hard crust and a softer middle. It was airy but slightly more dry than I would like, especially in the place between the crust and the dead centre. The tomato pesto spread also had red bell peppers, basil, olive oil, and perhaps a squeeze of lime. It was very delicious, with the mushy tomato base, refreshing basil and olive oil aroma, and made for the best dinner bread accompaniment ever.Image

We started with an appetizer of Mozzarella. The mozzarella had a good, bouncy texture but was very bland; there was no flavour in it. The grilled vegetables, which included zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, and eggplants, were on the greasy side and a bit bland without the red bell pepper vinaigrette. They were all soft and nicely grilled, though. The red pepper vinaigrette was very tasty, not overly sour or salty but quite refreshing. It was certainly not a generic flavour, and I appreciated it very much with the vegetables.

The daily special of Veal Ravioli was perhaps one of the best raviolis I have ever had. It was served with a light cream truffle sauce that was rich, creamy, and delicious. The ravioli wrappers were red and they were cooked to perfection with the pasta al dente. The ground veal inside was absolutely amazing; the meat was so tender and juicy. It was also ground finely so the texture was slightly creamy. The dish was nicely seasoned and each bite was a soft bite of a heavenly pasta dish.Image

The Orecchiette Al’anatra was too salty. The duck meat was succulent but slightly tough although not dry. There could have been more in the dish. It was served under a slice of cheese, which melted into the pasta and became lovely and gooey. Poured over top was a thickened, broth-like sauce with some diced vegetables. This was very salty, though, and the saltiness soaked into the duck. The pasta was extremely undercooked though. All the orecchiette stuck together and was still raw in the middle of the little stacks. We pointed this out and got the dish replaced without a fuss.Image

For our replacement dish, I decided on the Linguini Alla Pugliese. I was craving seafood and was quite satisfied after I ate more than my share of small mussels, extremely tender and chewy calamari, and prawns. The prawns were bouncy and tender and the squid had an incredible texture. There were plenty of calamari rings and mussels, though the mussels were tiny. The zucchini pesto sauce was not overly flavourful but slightly bland. The pesto had an appealing green shade with a consistent texture. The linguini was cooked al dente and coated with the pesto sauce. However, since it was not sauce inside the pasta, I found it a bit bland – I would rather eat filled pastas for this reason.

The service was great at Salento and I can totally imagine the entire restaurant filled with excited students coming for a BYO. The service was great and I appreciated the no-fuss with the replacement of the pasta. Their dishes are generally quite delicious and it is certainly one of the better Italian restaurants I have been to. With the Groupon, it was such a great deal. I would certainly come here, hopefully with a group of friends to ease the stress from school.

Salento on Urbanspoon

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Authentically Shanghai in Richmond – 沪江海派料理-Shanghai River Restaurant

ImageAugust 14, 2012
沪江海派料理 – Shanghai River Restaurant, Richmond BC
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南翔小笼包 (Steamed Pork Bun)
砂锅云吞鸡 (Steamed Chicken Soup w/ Wonton)
鲜百合炒黄祺班 (Pan Fried Yellow Snapper from Gulf of Mexico)
鱼香茄子 (Braised Egg Plant w/ Chili Sauce)
雪菜肉丝汤面 (Pickled Vegetable & Pork Noodles in Soup)

牛肉生菜包 (Lettuce Wrap w/ Minced Beef)
香酥鸭 (Deep Fried Duck Meat w/ Taro)
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Once again, we dined with my cousin’s family. This time, they had just come back from a 4-day trip to Banff and having been in Canada for over a week already, were intensely craving some Chinese food, especially Shanghai cuisine. Therefore, we decided to go to Shanghai River Restaurant, since I wanted to revisit this restaurant that we used to frequent. Over the years, there were rarely times when our meals would be only mediocre. Often, a couple of months later, the quality would be back up to where it was before. They probably changed chefs a few times, but on this particular visit, I was glad the quality was still where it was, which is to say exceptional.Image

We started with the 南翔小笼包 (Steamed Pork Bun). It is decently priced, at $7.50 for eight. The skins were thin yet chewy. The pork filling was tender and there was a delicious pocket of the meaty soup in each one. The meat was not overly seasoned, nor was it bland. Rather, it was savoury and tasted like good quality meat. The malt vinegar served with it had lots of little pieces of ginger, which I appreciated compared to either no ginger or large pieces at other restaurants.Image

The 砂锅云吞鸡 (Steamed Chicken Soup w/ Wonton) was also incredibly delicious. The soup was extremely ‘fresh,’ by which I mean all the fresh meat flavour had seeped into the soup, making it slightly savoury and sweet as well as refreshing for a meat-based soup. We call this xian in Chinese. The chicken was tender in some parts but dry in others. I certainly liked the wontons much more in this soup. They had the traditional shepherd’s purse and pork filling. The wrappers were slippery and not overdone while the filling was savoury and full of flavour. I also enjoyed the refreshing baby bok choy in the soup. This was just a bowl of light yet delicious soupy goodness.

ImageThe 鲜百合炒黄祺班 (Pan Fried Yellow Snapper from Gulf of Mexico) was actually quite disappointing, especially since I had high hopes and expectations for this dish. I had tried leftovers of this a few years back and both Mom and I loved the soft fillets in the savoury yet light, starchy sauce with the black wood ear fungi. At $18.80, I was expecting a medium-large dish of flavourful fillets with various delicious fungi and vegetables. What we got, instead, was a small plate of less than twenty small pieces of fish that was dry. This was probably due to a combination of not-so-fresh fish and slightly overcooking them. They did not soak up the light sauce, of which the dish did not have much to begin with. The only things I enjoyed about the dish were the vegetables, which included yellow chives, straw mushrooms, asparagus, onions, black wood ear, and lily bulbs. It has been a while since I had lily bulbs but I was never partial to them. I did like the chives and the two fungi. The asparagus added a nice crunch but seemed out of place, as did the onions.Image

After reading online reviews, I knew I just had to get the 鱼香茄子 (Braised Egg Plant w/ Chili Sauce). I love eggplants, especially in garlic chili sauces. I would order this dish at any Chinese restaurant and although some are better than others, it is hard to screw up the sweet, savoury, and spicy dish. The one at Shanghai River turned out to be fantastic, though! The eggplants were fried just enough so that they were soft, slightly mushy, and soaked up the flavours of the sauce, yet were not too oily. The dish still had a decent amount of chili oil, but that is only expected. The shredded pork was sort of fatty, but that is also normal. I loved the shredded black wood ear and bamboo shoots. Everything was coated in a layer of slightly thickened, perfectly spiced and seasoned chili garlic sauce. There were lots of the shreds, but the eggplant were still the star of the dish. The flavours were complex yet harmonious, and this is certainly one of the best eggplant in spicy garlic sauce I have ever tried.Image

My cousin ordered the traditional Zhejiang cuisine comfort food, the 雪菜肉丝汤面 (Pickled Vegetable & Pork Noodles in Soup). The noodles were slightly overcooked, although they were still slightly chewy and soft. I just prefer mine a little undercooked. The soup was flavoured nicely but light, just like most Zhejiang cuisine dishes. The pork was average, with some lean and some fat. I found the Chinese mustard, xuelihong, to be a little on the bland side. It was incredibly fresh and chopped up nicely, but I like mine to be on the salty side, just because it is usually paired with soup, rice, rice cakes, or noodles. The bamboo shreds were also nice and crunchy. This is traditional Shanghai comfort food and at $7.50, it was quite decent here.Image

Going off the track of authentic Zhejiang cuisine, we ordered the 牛肉生菜包 (Lettuce Wrap w/ Minced Beef) for some beef and vegetables. The lettuce wraps were crunchy and I love tianmianjiang, or sweet bean sauce. This one was quite sweet and smooth in texture. The diced beef was just okay. They only had a strong savoury flavour, most of which probably came from soy sauce. I enjoyed the pine nuts but not so much the lily bulbs and other ingredients. The fried vermicelli bedding were barely crispy and got soggy and hard to chew very soon. However, the crunch of lettuce with the sweet bean sauce made the dish, not necessarily outstanding, but certainly delicious.

ImageFinally, Uncle chose to order the 香酥鸭 (Deep Fried Duck Meat w/ Taro). We were all surprised when we discovered how much taro surrounded the duck that we thought they only gave us taro and thus the wrong dish in the beginning. The taro was crispy and fried nicely but slightly too oily for me. There was barely any duck inside it though, and it was certainly not distinct. The sauce was actually quite bland. It was thickened and had some savoury flavour that seemed to me came from some sort of soybean or soy sauce. It looked flavourful but did not taste that way. The shiitake mushroom bits inside the sauce did not do much in the way of taste either. It just ended up being a crunchy, mushy, and slightly bland bite. At $17.80, this dish was not worth it in the ingredients or the taste. At least the taro was soft on the inside, offering a nice contrast to the deep fried exterior.

While there were some misses, there were also definitely some hits, especially with authentic Zhejiang cuisine. I would recommend sticking to the xiao long bao, soup, and eggplants. Even with some disappointments, the dishes were still good; they just did not meet our high expectations for this place. If you are craving upscale Shanghai dishes and know what to order, then Shanghai River is definitely a good bet.

Shanghai River 滬江海派料理 on Urbanspoon

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Mushrooms and HK Drinks – 尚面馆-Shang Noodle House

ImageImageAugust 6, 2012
尚面馆 – Shang Noodle House, Richmond BC
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港式咖啡 (Coffee HK Style)
港式奶茶 (Tea & Milk HK Style)
港式鸳鸯 (Coffee & Tea Mix HK Style)
野菌香菇汤拉面 (Assorted Mushroom w/ House Ramen in Japanese Mushroom Soup)
脆皮鸭汤拉面 (BBQ Duck w/ Ramen in Japanese Mushroom Soup)
串烧牛柳&串烧猪颈肉 (Beef Tenderloin & Pork Jowl Meat Skewer)

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We really needed to get out of the house on this long weekend Monday. Mom did not want to cook so we decided to give 尚面馆 (Shang Noodle House) a try since it was new and her colleagues had said some good things about it. The ambiance was casual and relaxing, and I love how everything is in new and great condition. The servers were very friendly and attentive, and by 2:30 p.m., there were not too many people eating inside.Image

Our two bowls of noodles and an afternoon snack order each came with a drink. The 港式咖啡 (Coffee HK Style) had quite a strong coffee and milk taste and was also very sweet. It also had the slight taste of what Mom thinks is wheat germ. It certainly had less caffeine and more milk and sugar than regular coffee. The 港式奶茶 (Tea & Milk HK Style) was also very milky with a strong taste of black tea. It was, however, unlike the coffee in that it was not very sweet. Whereas the coffee was doused with sugar, this had just enough to mask the bitterness of the tea. Finally, the 港式鸳鸯 (Coffee & Tea Mix HK Style) was my favourite of the three, as it combined both the sweet coffee and the milky tea into a refreshing cold drink that it neither too sweet, milky, nor bland. Instead, it had a nice but slight bitterness with a decent amount of sweetness. I need to get this drink more often!

My selection of the first item on the menu, which also happens to be their number one specialty, was the 野菌香菇汤拉面 (Assorted Mushroom w/ House Ramen in Japanese Mushroom Soup). I loved the Japanese mushroom soup base made from two mushrooms. In addition to the sweet toppings of diced carrots, broccoli, and sweet corn, there were at least four or five types of mushrooms, perfectly tender and chewy. They were soaking up the fungi aroma and the whole bowl was absolutely delicious. The noodles were a special kind made with five mushroom extracts, according to our server. It looked more like whole grain noodles and tasted like it was made with something special, although I am not sure I would have guessed mushrooms did I not know that. Since it did not have as much flour and thus not as much of a stretch, it was slightly overcooked and mushier than I would have preferred, although still good. The whole bowl was very aromatic but did not contain too much MSG. I am not sure which mushrooms were used for noodles versus soup, but the whole bowl contained agarikusu, chakitake, chitake, eringi, fukurotake, kiirotake, and maitake. Sounds like gibberish to me! I loved the mushrooms so much I would certainly order this again.Image

Mom, as suggested by her colleague, ordered the 脆皮鸭汤拉面 (BBQ Duck w/ Ramen in Japanese Mushroom Soup), which also came in the Japanese mushroom soup. The serving of duck was generous and had a nice balance between fat and lean meat. It was cold, meant to be soaked into the hot noodle soup to warm it up before eating it, and also allowing the fat to leak slightly into the soup. We got traditional lai mein, which were slightly chewier in texture and not as overcooked as the mushroom noodles. This probably had more wheat gluten so it is harder to cook through. It also had the corn, broccoli, and carrots, along with green scallions to make the soup more interesting. I would have preferred warm duck with crispy skin but it was still decent nonetheless.Image

Finally, since it was late afternoon, we got the S from their special menu. Both the beef tenderloin and pork jowl meat were extremely tender and succulent. However, both were also not marinated and seasoned enough, making them taste meaty and bland. The pork jowl meat were also harder to bite and chew, becoming quite stretchy. The peppers and scallion were nice complements and I enjoyed the peppers a lot despite their blandness. The meat were cooked very nicely so I just wish they had more flavour.

ImageOverall, we found the place to be casual and relaxing with a very friendly ambiance. It was decent café food and we would come back here, at least on a cold winter day, just to warm up a little with a big bowl of noodles in soup, while also having an excuse to enjoy a chilled drink.

 

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Extremely Americanized in Chinatown – 利口福-Lee How Fook

ImageApril 25, 2012
利口福 – Lee How Fook, Philadelphia PA
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酸辣汤 (Hot and Sour Soup)
杨州炒饭 (Yang Chow Fried Rice)
宫保鸡丁 (Kung Pao Chicken)
北京片皮鸭 (Peking Duck)
豉椒牛肉 (Beef with Black Bean and Hot Pepper)
罗汉豆腐 (Buddha Delight with Bean Curd)
干炒牛河 (Pan Fried Noodle with Beef)
椒盐鲜鱿 (Salt Baked Squid)
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Before going to the Phi Psi formal, everyone in Michael’s pledge class and their dates went to Lee How Fook for dinner after the reservation at La Viola was cancelled due to overbooking. I think we were lucky they accepted a group this large at a last minute notice. I was not particularly happy because this is not the kind of Chinese food I approve of. I was glad though, that their food is not oily. It is in fact very light in the oil department compared to the majority of Chinese restaurants. In a way, it is better since it is a lot healthier.

Michael wanted soup so we ordered 酸辣汤. This was surprisingly decent. It was quite sour and spicy with a touch of sweetness. The flavour was nice and strong. The bamboo and the black wood ear or jelly ear were lovely with the quite a bit of chili pepper flakes. I was not sold on the thick strips of pork, though, and would have liked more eggs. A bit of tofu would be nice in the soup too. The texture was alright, neither too watery or viscous. This was actually one of the better dishes of the night.

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Next came the 杨州炒饭, the classic fried rice. This dish is usually a disappointment in most restaurants. This one, however, was pleasant, as I am willing to overlook how traditional it actually is. I just wanted a decent fried rice. There were quite a lot of shrimp, scrambled eggs, and other vegetables in the rice. The amount of soy sauce added gave it a nice flavour so it was not bland. The colouring helped too. Overall, I was pleased with this traditional dish as they did not try to cut back on the ingredients too much. The rice being not overdone helped too as I hate soggy rice. This was nice and chewy so it was good.

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One of the biggest disappointments was the 宫保鸡丁. It was neither sweet nor spicy. I could not taste the spiciness and it should have been very spicy. It tasted just like a regular Chinese sauce. There were hardly any chicken either. Most of the dish was canned bamboo. Not that I do not like bamboo, but it should never be in this dish, end of story. The fact that it became the main ingredient was just unacceptable. At least they did have peanuts and carrots. However, the flavour was completely off, the chicken bland on the inside and overcooked, and it was basically a bamboo dish.

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The 北京片皮鸭 was barely passable. The meat was cooked well but that is hard to get wrong. It came in super large pieces though, and the legs had the bones on them. There is no way you can make a roll out of that. I have always loved the sauce and scallions are, well, just scallions. The pancakes were surprising though. These are not Peking duck pancakes, which should be flat and thin, one piece split into two. This was more of a flat bun and I have never seen this served with Peking duck. This simplest, most popular of traditions was not adhered to, making it disappointing.

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The 豉椒牛肉 was okay. The black bean sauce did not have a strong black bean flavour so it was more like a generic sauce. There were too much scallion and not enough snap peas. The beef was at least tender and the dish was, thankfully, not oily at all.

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The 罗汉豆腐 had the same sauce but slightly lighter than the beef’s black bean sauce. The vegetables were a nice change in this dish and it was not oily, which I really appreciated. The tofu were nicely fried and soaked up some flavour. I also enjoyed the mini corn and the gai lan in the dish since I have not had those in a while. It is hard to get a dish like this wrong and there is no traditional standard so it was okay.

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I ordered 干炒牛河 because I figured this is the one dish that just cannot be screwed up. It was, though, as the one piece of beef I had was not exactly edible. It was chewy, perhaps a bit too much. I could not bite it into pieces. However, the rice noodles were fine. The onions were not completely cooked and I really did not like the raw onion flavour in a dish like this. It is just too strong. They need to make sure the onions are actually cut into pieces and not chunks. Overall, this was slightly disappointing as it is not a difficult dish to get right.

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After reading all the good reviews about 椒盐鲜鱿, I decided to give it a try. The fact that it was baked was definitely a plus. This was one of the better dishes of the night, though I still fail to see how it receives so much praise. It was merely passable for me. The batter was nice and crispy for a baked dish, tasting like it was fried but not dripping with oil. The squid was chewy which was nice. However, I missed the point of the scallions as garnish. They seemed to serve no purpose. Without a sauce, it was hard to eat the two together and the scallion hid the salt and pepper flavour of the squid, which was not very distinct in the first place. It also made the dish look odd. I think sprinkling bits of the greener part of the scallion on top would have worked better. Either that or perhaps a carrot or radish flower to give it more colour.

I would not come back here again just because the food is simply not on par with my standards of Chinese cuisine. This is just too Americanized, not authentic at all. A word about their English translations as well. There was no hot pepper in the beef and no where in the description does it say 干炒牛河 is done with rice noodles. At least it tasted better than dining hall food but that is something I can say about pretty much any restaurant. Let’s just say I did not mind eating here. Oh, and thank goodness it was not oily.

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A Taste of Ningbo – 宁波海鲜酒家-Ningbo Seafood Restaurant

March 7, 2012
宁波海鲜酒家 – Ningbo Seafood Restaurant, Richmond BC
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宁式酱鸭
宁波一品上素
烤杂鱼
风味炒陈村粉
[陈皮绿豆沙]
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This is a fairly new restaurant, tucked away in the corner of Parker Place. Even for the three months it had been in business though, there was barely anyone there on a Wednesday night. I guess they opted for a ‘soft opening’ and did not advertise much, but still, there should not be just four tables in a large restaurant filled.

Anyways, the food was exquisite. I guess there is something to be said about not many people eating so the chef can cook each dish carefully. Mom is also right in saying that in the beginning, a Chinese restaurant in Richmond (where there are just way too many Chinese restaurants) need to present superb quality dishes in order to draw the customers back. They did that alright.
We started out with the 宁式酱鸭. The sauce was a perfect blend of soy sauce and sugary sweetness. The duck was also cooked perfectly, tender and quite lean for a duck. Together, the dish was very delicious – the perfect appetizer. I can still taste that sweet soy sauce – YUM!

For our fill of veggies, we decided to try 宁波一品上素 as we wanted only Ningbo specialties. There is no point eating other cuisine at a Ningbo restaurant. I have to say, although this dish was not as flavourful, it was delightfully refreshing. A nice, mild veggie dish with the light flavouring throughout.

My least favourite dish of the evening was 烤杂鱼. I never liked just salty fish. The flavour did go through the baked fish though so I could tell it was cooked with care and very nicely done. I just never liked salted fish much. I prefer my lighter meat dishes with a sweeter flavour.
Finally, another one of my favourites, was the 风味炒陈村粉. These rice noodles were translucent, way prettier than the normal opaque kind and much more chewy. They had yellow chives and Asian celery in them as well, so a nice blend of Asian veggies with shrimp. The noodles were nicely cooked, the ‘al dente’ version of rice noodles.

They gave each of us a bowl of 陈皮绿豆沙 in the end. It is the first time I have tried such a common dessert but made with mung beans instead of your usual red beans. A nice change, I think, because the mung beans have a slightly different flavour in that they are more bitter and less likely to blend with the sweetness of the sugar. Overall, though, a great meal. Their lunch menu looked very promising with all the appetizers and specialties so we will definitely be back in the summer to try out those dishes!

Ningbo Seafood Restaurant 寧波海鮮酒家 (百家店內) on Urbanspoon

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1st Ever Restaurant Week (in Israel!) – Zahav

January 29, 2012
Zahav, Philadelphia PA
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Hummus Tehina & Laffa

Salatim
Grilled Duck Hearts
Lamb Tongue
Hazelnut-Date Rugelach
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My first ever Restaurant Week in Philly! I missed the opportunity in September and will never do so again! Our house sponsored this event so we only had to pay $10 for the $20 lunch and Zahav was absolutely amazing. I have never had Israeli food, nor have I tried good hummus and tehina.

The appetizers were delicious. The Hummus Tehina & Laffa was a clear star at the table, wonderfully traditional and comforting. The laffa with its seasoning was so warm and soft and chewy… the kind of baking I approve of! The hummus was delicious with the olive oil and chili seasoning.

The various Salatim had distinct tastes. My favourites were the beets and carrots. There were also cabbage, eggplants, and cucumbers. Each was marinated nicely, mostly with a combination of sweet and tangy tastes. They were all quite mushy but were still refreshing nonetheless.

I decided to go all the way so I ordered the Grilled Duck Hearts as my second course. Where else are you going to ever eat duck hearts? I’m fine with any part of an animal that I will usually eat. The hearts were quite hard to chew but definitely tender enough. I like having to work at my food as long as it is still tender and moist. The onion puree that came with it along with the turnip salatim were also perfect complements.

My third course was also wild and crazy – Lamb Tongue. It was perfectly grilled, tender, and the texture was lovely. It was like a very chewy sausage but with a touch of lamb flavour. Very delicious. At least it did not look like a tongue even if it did come in long strips. The apricot marmalade in the dish was also a nice balance.

Finally, I decided to go the traditional route with the Hazelnut-Date Rugelach. I’m not a fan of phyllo pastry so I did not pick the baklava. But I do not regret it. The rugelach was warm and soft, and the hazelnut-date filling was sweet but not overly sweet. So warm, such a good aroma coming off of it. The Turkish coffee ice cream that it came with was also delicious, as it had a very nice texture to it. Not the usual creamy, smooth texture, but more of a rough, grounded coffee. It was not sweet, more coffee-flavoured than sweet. A great ending to such a wonderful meal!

Zahav on Urbanspoon

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