Hot & Sour Soup

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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Inn Noodle House

Inn Noodle House is a recent addition to New Westminster’s “dining scene”. It’s located at street-level in Plaza 88, New Westminster’s brand new condo/shopping/entertainment complex. It’s a reincarnation of the old Dragon Palace that used to reside  just up the road on 8th.

I was a bit apprehensive before this visit. You see, New West isn’t exactly flush with great Chinese food. There’s the odd bit of decent fare but it’s hit or miss. Having had a couple of pretty good dishes from Dragon Palace gave me reason for hope. On this visit, we decided to keep it basic. A couple types of dim sum and some items off the lunch special menu ought to give us a flavor of this new resto.

Like I said in my previous post, “If Hot & Sour Soup is on the menu, it will be ordered!”. This is one of the rare times I should’ve gone for the corn chowder or whatever else was on offer. Can’t say that I’ve had a weirder tasting bowl. As I was taking pics, The Gut mumbled something about beef. I thought he meant there was beef instead of pork in it. He meant there was beef consomme in it! It wasn’t horrible…we did finish it, after all. Just very, very odd with that flavor.

We were impressed by the Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings) as soon as they hit the table…they look to be good-sized, well-made dumplings. Unfortunately, as soon as you try and pick one up, the wrap breaks…obviously over-steamed. That’s confirmed by a tough, chewy ball of glued-together prawn. Bit of a shame, that.

On the other hand, our second dim sum choice was a great pick. As the Pan-fried Dumplings and the Steamed Pork Dumplings weren’t available, our server suggested these…

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Long’s Noodle House

Long’s Noodle House has been on my “hit-list” for far too long. It’s a tiny, easy to miss spot on Main St. between 32nd and 33rd with a great reputation for their Shanghainese cuisine.

Don’t be too dismayed by the shoddy exterior. Long’s is another one of those places that puts emphasis on their food without much attention paid to aesthetics…my favorite kind of place!

We arrived during the noon-hour on a Monday. The restaurant was about half full. Before too long, it was packed. Our friendly server/owner, Sandy, was running the floor single-handedly. When I told her we were going to order about ten dishes, she didn’t bat an eye or even grab a pad of paper. As I reeled off our choices, she simply tapped a fingertip for each one. Amazing, really.

Our first dish is a must-order here. The Wine Chicken is served at room-temp in a beautiful ceramic crock. Chicken legs are poached in Shaoxing wine, broth, pepper, ginger and a bit of sugar. A great display of simplicity.

A sensational way to treat a chicken. Keep it simple and bring out the best of your product…works every time.

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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.

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S&W Pepper House (Crystal Mall)

Writing a food blog has some excellent perks. For me, the best one is meeting people who know their way around the vastness of local Chinese cuisine. During last week’s luncheon at Alvin Garden, I was lucky enough to be seated beside fmed. He is the creator of Vancouver Chowdown and is also a contributor to Foodosophy under the handle GastronomyDomine. He is literally a walking guide to the best of Asian food in the Lower Mainland. In the midst of a discussion on Vancouver’s best Chinese restaurants I asked him what his favorite Szechuan spot was. Upon his mention of S&W Pepper House, I gathered the troops for another Friday lunch.

S&W Pepper House is located beneath the food fair in Burnaby’s Crystal Court. I’ve had several dozen quick lunches in the food fair…never venturing downstairs where the full-sized restaurants reside. My only indication of S&W was the small a-frame sign on the sidewalk with no restaurant in sight. After a great tip and some investigation, we navigated the inner labyrinth of the mall and may have discovered the best Szechuan food in Burnaby.

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Royal City Thai

Writing a review for a restaurant can, at times, be tricky. In this case, I visited an incredible Thai restaurant (Tom Yum Thai) two days before this visit to Royal City Thai. Unfortunately, ANY meal that close on the heels of Tom Yum Thai will suffer in comparison.

As with Tom Yum, Royal City Thai used to be a coffee shop/diner. Weirdly, both left the old cafe sign above their new awning.

Royal City Thai offers an all-you-can-eat menu on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 to 2:30 for $12.95. I had assumed that meant a buffet table. When I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was an AYCE menu to order from.

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No. 1 Beef Noodle House

No. 1 Beef Noodle House is one of the most popular Taiwanese restaurants in Burnaby. So much so, that even at 11:30 in the morning, cars are double and sometimes triple-parked. Throughout the meal you’ll see anxious car-owners turn into Meerkats, popping up to see if they have to move their car. The overflow stretches out into the side-streets, causing some consternation amongst the locals. From what I’ve heard…it’s best not to park in behind.

The upside is that No. 1 is worth the parking hassles. After a bunch of visits, it’s pretty much a guaranteed great feed. We’ve been visiting since they opened, about five years ago. They offer a good and varied menu. There’s never a lack of interesting items, from pig’s ears to peanut butter toast. This time though, with a large group, we stuck with some favorites.

The best part is being able to phone and pre-order and having a bunch of great food dropped off as soon as we sit down.

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