Lee Garden Seafood Restaurant
Lee Garden Seafood is a somewhat new resto in Burnaby that replaced the infamous Grand Buffet. For many years, Grand Buffet was a solid, go-to spot for a cheap fill…the Uncle Willy’s of Asian fare. As the years went by, it slowly deteriorated into an unseemly dive with barely warmed chaffing dishes of nastiness alongside crunchy, past-due sushi and frostbitten ice cream. On our final visit, I pulled a ladle of soup from the tureen with a foot-long hair attached. Rock-bottom. They shut down, thankfully, a couple of years ago. This past spring the space was transformed into a rather luxurious new restaurant. Miss Vancouver Piggy captured the room beautifully in her post.
As is tradition in our office this time of year, we say goodbye to our summer students with a feast. This time around we went with a rather major meal at Burnaby’s newest Dim Sum joint.
Lee Garden is an extremely popular spot. On most days the parking lot is full by 11:30 a.m. with the overflow lining the side streets. Most dim sum items are in the $5 range so it ain’t bargains drawing in the crowds. It seems cleanliness, good eats and great service are the main attractions.
Har Gow will always be ordered. It’s a standard to go by. Here it’s labelled Lee Garden Special Prawn Dumplings. And these were pretty special. There’s a sizeable amount of fresh, firm prawn encased in a light wrap all steamed to a perfect degree. I haven’t come across many better executed.
Another standard, of course, is Sui Mai (Steamed Pork Dumplings). These were prepared very well. Tight, fresh ground pork, still juicy and full-flavored. The haphazard tossing of tobiko seemed odd. Why finish a nice dish so sloppily? Sherman noted this in his post as well. It’s very strange that a higher-end establishment would allow this kind of inconsistency to hit the table repeatedly.
From the Chef’s Specialty menu, we went with the rather inexpensive Pan Fried Noodle with Chive ($5.98). Nothing special but tasty, nonetheless. A good noodle cooked right.
Deep Fried Pork & Shrimp Dumplings. I love these mainly for the crisp and chewy wrap. The minced ingredients are on the minimal side but it is one addictive morsel!
For another crunchy, grease-laden treat, we grabbed a couple plates of Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls with Garlic. These were well-packed with crisp prawn and almost enough garlic. A sweeter dip would’ve helped but that’s just me being a gweilo.
Returning to the Chef’s Specialty side of the menu (and to drop some greens into the mix), we got the Sauteed Chinese Broccoli with Dried Flounder. A bit tough these were and a bit unwieldy. Cut in half, they would’ve been much more manageable. At least we got our veggies in.
Lee Garden offers three Rice in Hot Pots on their lunch menu. This is the Steamed Rice with Chinese Sausages version. Unfortunately, this was the lowlight of the meal. Both bowls went half eaten. I’d assumed we’d get a very hot clay pot with crunchy, caramelized rice at the bottom. The steamed rice was good but some of the sausage slices were just inedible. Not only very salty but chewy to the point of “having-to-bury-them-in-a-napkin” chewy. That’s some sub-standard Lap Cheong.
Conversely, the Fried Shrimp and Chive Dumplings were a cut above. A nice, seared exterior holding a tasty mix. Not quite what Po King used to put out, but a standout on today’s menu.
One of my personal favorites here was the House Special Pan Fried Sticky Rice. I guess when the Lap Cheong is diced and given some pan time it becomes much more edible. The glutinous rice has a great, toothsome chew making for a very solid plate.
The Steamed Rice Rolls with Prawn & Chives were in the passable category. Decent snappy prawn but not quite the taste level we’re accustomed to. Not too sure what was missing but we had a choice of chile sauces to kick them up nicely.
When the Salt & Spicy Squid hit the table, I was quite impressed. A good, solid portion fried to golden beauty. Too bad they went past a proper fry time into the beginning of the rubbery stage. Along with a few bits of cartilege thrown in, this plate was a borderline fail.
As if all that wasn’t enough, we grabbed a trio off the dessert menu.
The Steamed Creamy Custard Buns were a bit of a thud. Dry, heavy and too much steam. The custard became pasty, the dough, stodgy…a bit too much after a hefty meal. The Freshly Baked Milk Custard Tarts, on the other hand, were light, flaky and almost sweet enough.
My favorite of the bunch was the Deep Fried Sesame Balls with Lotus Paste.
I didn’t expect to be giving Lee Garden such a rough ride on some of their dishes today. We’ve been there a few times and always looked forward to going back. The service is near impeccable and the managers are always around to help out. Frustratingly, at times, the kitchen isn’t keeping up with the front of house and their level of quality. I’m hoping things will be ironed out because Burnaby sure could use consistent, high-quality dim sum.