Lin Chinese Cuisine

Lin Chinese is a busy, little Northern Chinese restaurant at the equally busy intersection of Broadway & Granville. Many fellow bloggers have written about it over the years. Most of the write-ups were positive but several weren’t. Last weekend I got together some friends to find out what’s what.

This is a spot that’s been on my ever-growing “to-visit” list. I’d heard good things about their Tan Tan Noodles…a big favorite of mine. As that is more of a “solo” dish, I’ll have to make a return visit.

I arrived on a crappy, very wet and chilly Sunday afternoon…the perfect weather for feasting. Actually, any weather’s great for feasting!!

When I ordered the Crispy Daikon Pastry, I was told it wasn’t available. In lieu of that, our server suggested we try the Five Spice Tofu Sheet. Not too sure why she’d offer this kind of substitution. Oh, wait! I know why…it’s more expensive. Silly me…fell for that old trick again. Anyway, it was a pretty good suggestion…a nice refreshing start. Maybe there was “five-spice” in it but the only discernible flavor agent was sesame oil. It completely overpowered any additional elements.

The Hot & Sour Soup was a WTF moment. When I say WTF, I mean, “Where’s The Flavor”? It certainly wasn’t hot and was definitely missing the sour part. Nowhere near what we’ve come to expect. At six bucks for a huge bowl, a very good deal. If you’re looking for authenticity, not so much.

The Pulled Roti with Curry Sauce was another oddity. When you try and get a portion you wind up with a long, unwieldy strand of “pulled” pastry. Now you’ve got to try and dip that in a small ramekin of sauce. Why not just cut it into much more manageable wedges? The roti itself was crispy and flaky but it wound up being just messy.

The curry sauce served alongside wasn’t much to write home about. Kind of sweet with a bit of curry. The white bits seem to be undissolved corn starch, I think. Makes me pine for Bo Laksa’s version. Still can’t figure out why a Northern Chinese restaurant is trying to pull off Roti with Curry. Weird.

The Wontons in Spicy Garlic Sauce gave off some heat. That’s about the only positive aspect here. These aren’t even wontons…they’re dumplings, fer chrissakes!! Instead of a pile of steamed spinach, perhaps cilantro and roasted peanuts would’ve worked better. Just saying.

So far, not so good.

Lin Chinese is actually an award-winning restaurant. Back in 2009 they won the award for Best Northern/Shanghai-style Dim Sum for their Xiǎo Lóng Bāo.

These are very good, well-crafted dumplings…thin, translucent, packed with a hot broth and minced pork. If there was a bit more flavor going on I’d be on board with the award thing. There were some food-court dumplings out in Burnaby that topped these, IMHO. Unfortunately, Wang’s has been replaced.

Even better are Lin’s Beijing Style Meat Cakes.

Phenomenal, these are. Big discs of crunchy fried pastry, stuffed with ground meat and oozing broth like the XLB. Very basic but, by far, the highlight of today’s meal.

One dish I’ve heard great (and not so great) things about is the Honey Prawns.

I guess this is just a matter of taste (and cost). For $16 you get about a dozen prawns drenched in a mix of honey and mayo. They do taste good but after two or three bites, things start to verge on stodgy. There’s a definite overload of flavor going on. Some may like the creamy-sweet thing. For me, way too hefty.

Speaking of overkill…

The Green Onion Pork Chop is far too sweet. There’s an ample amount of meat but it’s drowned out by a far too heavy load of sugary soy. Not a good way to treat pork.

This visit to Lin’s is a bit of a conundrum. There were so many dishes that were OK but could have been made so much better. I’m no expert, by any means. It just seems that with a few simple components this place could be stellar. Ease off on the sweet…go harder on the chili and garlic. Throw some cilantro around. Yes, these are “personal” tastes. Looks like they’re opting for the “popular” tastes.

Lin Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon


3 responses

  1. LotusRapper

    Lin has always (to me) been a bit of an enigma. Like you say, a few dishes they do very well ….. even “award-winning”. But I’ve also had many (perhaps a few too many) mediocre samples over the years that I actually stopped going there altogether (unless I was in the ‘hood, don’t have a car, and had a hankering for XLBs or chives pocket, shredded daikon crispy pastry etc). And their prices I would considerate most items as average value. It seems to me Lin is trying to be all things to all people and thus compromise the authenticity of certain dishes to increase appeal.

    If you’re ever moseying around in Marpole, you could give The Place a try:

    April 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    • Karl

      Yeah, it’s kind of unfortunate. I was expecting so much more. I guess, like you said, stick to what’s tried and true and keep the expectations down.

      Thanks for the tip, LR. The Place is on the list!!

      April 18, 2011 at 9:52 am

  2. i knew this place wasn’t cutting the cheese proper!
    the XLB at crystal food court has been replaced by chen’s (of richmond). haven’t tried it yet but i wouldn’t doubt its quality factor as we are chen regulars when it comes to dumpling worshipping.

    April 26, 2011 at 3:03 pm

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