Dumplings

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Red 6…Hot Pot Heaven at $8.

In this day and age, a bargain is hard to come by. Sure, there is a lot of cheap stuff out there but to find something substantial, satisfying and reasonably priced, all at the same time, is a rarity.

When Becky mentioned great big, spicy hot pots at Red 6, I made sure to check it out promptly.

Red 6 is a tiny Mom & Pop shop in Parkcrest Plaza on Broadway in Burnaby. The room seats maybe twenty and on a cold, rainy day it’s packed. The main attraction here are the ridiculously huge, steaming hot pots.

This past Thursday was particularly wet and chilly. After Becky described the bountiful, spicy bowls on offer here, we grabbed The Gut and the three of us dug in.

The standard set for the Assorted Hot Pot consists of a choice of meat…beef, pork, chicken or fish.    You can also opt for the seafood version (shrimp, mussel and fish ball). You choose rice or noodle and one of seven types of soup.

The Gut went for the Miso Soup with chicken. It looked darn good and due to the long amount of silence, I’ll assume it tasted just as good.

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Khyber Pass

As Ben from Chowtimes was headed off to Beijing for an extended work stint, a bunch of us got together for a send-off. The original plan was for a spicy feast at Aree Thai. Turns out they were closed that night so I put out a call for some different options. The ever-intrepid Fmed came up with a very unique suggestion…Khyber Pass.

Khyber Pass is right near Kingsway & Victoria in East Van in what was formerly the Red Fort. They offer Afghan and Pakistani fare in a cozy, kitschy, old-school dining room.

Not the most modern or elegant of settings but a nice sense of comfort sets in immediately. We had originally planned for a dozen or so diners. Fmed had wangled us a set rate of $14 a head. Come mealtime, we were down to seven folks. Not sure if the kitchen got word of the down-size because we got hit with a massive amount of food.

We had a rough idea of tonight’s menu…some kebabs, some curry, some rice. The appies, however, were to be a mystery. The first plate was a simple form of spring roll.

About as simple as you can make it. There’s cabbage, carrot, pepper and a bit of seasoning. A mildly spicy tamarind dip alongside.

The Mantoo are Afghanistan’s (and neighbouring regions’) dumpling. They are full of spiced beef or lamb and covered in a minty yogurt sauce. They’re then topped with a ratatouille of beans, corn, peas and peppers. Not sure why the addition of the stewed veg…seems to obscure the mildly flavored dumpling and delicate sauce.

The Naan was hot, fresh and tasty…just a bit flat. That’s flat as in not quite leavened enough. A bit too chewy, not very flaky. It is, however, a great vehicle for this:

Bouranee Baunjan (Afghan Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce). A nice, rudimentary sauté of eggplant, tomato, onion and garlic. The minty yogurt sauce makes another well-placed appearance.

 

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Sushimoto

Right next to the Holdom Skytrain Station in central Burnaby, is a comfortable, friendly, slightly surreal sushi joint called Sushimoto. It’s a somewhat sleek and very unique venue.

Aside from the great fare, the room is full of interesting knick-knacks. Some traditional Japanese, some quirky eye candy. There’s the requisite paper lanterns but there’s also a cool collection of action figures.

The detail on Tony Montana is freaking eerie…right down to the five o’clock shadow!

I’ve been meaning to hit this place up for quite awhile. Since I first saw their vibrant menu and then read the continuing stream of positive commentary, it was obvious that this was a spot to go to for stellar eats.

Sushimoto offers up some pretty decent lunch specials. One of them is the Maki Roll, Miso Soup, Sunomono Combo. For $9.99 you choose from one of eight specialty rolls and your choice of Vegetable, Tako or Ebi Sunomono.

Quite a substantial sunomono. Nearly double the size I’ve become accustomed to in a combo setting. Clean, cool and very fresh.

The Red Hot Chili Roll really hit the mark. Great sushi rice to start…perfectly cooked and seasoned. A nice, creamy scallop filling topped with spicy tuna and drizzled with spicy sauce & mayo. It has a bit of zip…no serious heat factor, though.

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Newsflash! There’s actually good Dim Sum in North Burnaby!

A couple of Fridays ago, my mission was to get the gang in the mood for Dim Sum. Part of that mission was also to do a reasonably priced Friday lunch. Nothing scares fellow diners off more than a continuing string of expensive meals. When I brought up Wah Lun Chinese Restaurant on Hastings in North Burnaby, the idea was met with, “Why don’t you try it on your own gut first“. You see, the internets are full of so-so opinions about this place. There are also a bunch of positive comments out there and because Burnaby is sorely lacking in decent Dim Sum restaurants, I figure it’s best to check out each and every one. In the end the “Let’s all give it a shot” sentiment won out.

So, on an absolutely horrendous rain-soaked day, seven hearty souls trundled to the northern reaches of Burnaby to see what was really up at Wah Lun.

The checklist menu here has most of the usual suspects as well as a boatload more. What jumped out right away was the assortment of interesting dessert items. Not just egg tarts and coconut jello here. Unfortunately, no one had room after the dim sum feast.

After many, many dim sum lunches of late, I figure I’ll order at least one or two items I’ve yet to try. There’s always the must-haves, but variety is…well, you know. One item here that caught my attention was the Deep Fried Crispy Seafood Salad Roll. Damn tasty. Not what we’d expected, tho.

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New Age Chinese Cuisine, re-visited

After a couple of years of food-blogging, I thought it was time to hit up some old favorites and give them a fresh look. It’s always interesting to check out some different menu items and see if things are as good as I remembered. My main reason for going back to New Age is because of recent visits to Kalvin’s and Long’s Noodle House. At those two spots I had a couple of dishes that I noticed were also on New Age’s menu.

New Age Chinese Cuisine is primarily a Taiwanese resto with some Shanghainese thrown in for good measure. It’s quite an easy spot to miss as it’s located within the Best Western King’s Inn in Burnaby. There’s no street adverts for the restaurant…you’ve just got to know where you’re going.

This is the dining area you see when you first arrive. There’s three large tables and about five smaller ones. If you tack right at the service counter you’ll enter the much larger banquet area. There you’ll find several tables that hold ten or twelve.

Over the years I’ve dragged a Friday Lunch crew here about seven or eight times. This past Friday we arrived around 11:30 to a deserted room. As this was our first visit in many months, this gave me a bit of a scare. Plus the fact that the usual familiar faces were gone didn’t help neither. Not to worry. By the time we left, the entire restaurant was full up.

As mentioned, I really wanted to come back here because of a couple of interesting plates I’d got to try recently. By sheer coincidence, Jacky Chan, a co-worker and my personal Chinese food guru, visited Long’s Noodle House the night before and had their Wine Chicken. We had a bit of a concern that our fellow diners might not appreciate a cold, partially gelatinous chicken dish. After a bit of humming and hawing, there wasn’t a complaint to be heard.

Here, it’s referred to as Chicken in Shao Xing Wine Sauce. This must’ve been a big bird. Although a bit drier than Long’s version, it was much meatier and packed with just as much flavor. A touch salty but not overly so.

With a large proportion of meat and minimal bone, this was very easy to eat. Nice and clean…just the right amount of fat to keep the flavors locked in.

One dish that resonated quite well from the feast at Kalvin’s was their Chicken with Three Spice aka Three Cup Chicken. It was a great dish. New Age’s version, methinks, was even better.

Slathered in a combo of Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and soy, this dish is a must order here. What sets it apart from Kalvin’s is that the meat is much more tender and a lot less bony. It simply falls away…no bits of bone to contend with. The soft cloves of garlic don’t hurt a bit. Phenomenal stuff.

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Dim Sum at Red Star Seafood

Ah, Sunday..the best day of the week. Everything gets slowed down a notch or two, it seems. More often than not, it’s a late snooze, a slow meander to Starbucks and then off for another dining adventure. Lately we’ve been hitting up a lot of Dim Sum. This past week was no exception. Our mission on this day was to check out the award-winning Red Star Seafood.

Red Star has won a plethora of awards. Last year they took home the gold for their BBQ Duck at the Chinese Restaurant Awards. This year it was the “Most Innovative” award for their Dungeness Crab with Wild Rice.

As with most large, upper-scale Dim Sum restaurants, this one was packed to overflowing on a Sunday afternoon. Even with a reservation, we had to wait thirty minutes for an opening. After the third time the hostess told us, “Five minutes, we’ll call your name!”, we seriously considering crossing the street to Talay Thai. Just as I was about to bolt, our table was finally ready.

The ordering system here is somewhat confusing. The checklist is only in Chinese. The numbers correspond to the items in the regular menu. Photos of the menu can be seen here.

Here it is! The 2010 CRA Critic’s Choice Gold Medal winning BBQ Duck. I gotta say, this is damn good! Make that great! Very tender and juicy…the fat melted away to create the most succulent duck imaginable. The duck is basted for hours in a sweet five-spice marinade to achieve the beautiful lacquered finish.

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