Shanghainese

Private Home Chinese Cuisine 一點心意南北私房菜

To me, places like Private Home Chinese Cuisine are the perfect type of Chinese restaurant. If I’m on my own I can choose from a good variety of lunch specials. Here they are eight bucks and you get a small mountain of food. And with a group there’s plenty of spicy Sichuanese to choose from as well as an extensive Shanghainese menu. In the past few months I’ve made this a regular lunch spot and now it’s become a Friday Lunch favorite.

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For a while, Private Home had two locations in Burnaby. We visited the Imperial St. location last year but came away very unimpressed. Of the eight or so dishes we’d tried, not a single standout. It was just one big table of bland. The newer location on Kingsway, near Highgate Mall, is nothing like that. If you want heat, look no farther.

The first half of this post is from a few months back (with crappy iPhone photos). We went mostly from the Sichuan side of the menu. We dragged along a couple of teens from a high-school job shadowing program. We gave them fair warning but there was no fear.

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Sliced Chicken with Hot & Peanut Sauce. Served cold and bone-in, this is bursting with flavor and texture. The chicken is poached to perfection…tender and still juicy. The slather of chile sauce and oil, nice and salty, yet not overpowering. A good hit of numbing peppercorn. The cilantro and peanut giving freshness and a good crunch. A solid starting point.

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The Xiǎo Lóng Bāo (soup dumpling) are fairly standard. Some plump and full, others starting to sag. As you see the friendly grandma preparing them beside the cash register, you know they’re as fresh as can be.

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When we asked for a recommendation, we were told the Pepper and Pork with Spicy Sauce was a top-seller. Not quite what we’d expected. I mean, I love me jalapeñoes and all, but this is borderline nuts. You know how sometimes you get a tame, milder jalapeño? Well, these aren’t them. These are the fiery ones. As the pork was on the bland side all the flavor came from the peppers. After a few bites this just became painful.

The other side of that coin was the Shuizhu Niurou (Water Boiled Beef with Assorted Vegetables).

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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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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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Crystal Court Twofer – Huaxi Noodle Specialist & Favor Eat

When seeking out a nice, quick, soul-satisfying lunch for one, a trip to an Asian food court is a great choice. The culinary/foodie part of my brain starts to flicker at the sheer variety of tantalizing Far Eastern fare. Yes, the food can trend a bit towards mediocre; but with enough visits and a timely tip or two, you get to the better parts.

At the Crystal Mall food court in Burnaby, two shops stand out for some exceptional Beef Noodle Soup.

First off, Huaxi Noodle Specialist. They make their soup in the Guizhou style. As Guizhou province is straddled by Sichuan and Hunan, this cuisine has its fiery similarities. When it comes to their soup, Guizhou is known not only for its heat but also for its sourness. An old, local saying goes, “Without eating a sour dish for three days, people will stagger with weak legs”.

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Wang’s Shanghai Cuisine

Aah, The Crystal Mall Food Court. To me it’s an eternal paradox. An endless variety of stalls offering up flavors from all over Asia. Unfortunately, cheap, low-quality fare is more than often the norm. Although, I’m willing to bet, each of the thirty or so stalls has at least one or two really decent items. At Wang’s Shanghai Cuisine, the Xiǎolóngbāo, is one decent item.

Xiǎolóngbāo is a steamed pork dumpling that contains a cube of frozen meat gelatin. When steamed, the cube melts, creating a juicy, extremely hot, soup-filled dumpling. The dangers and perils of quick consumption can be nasty.

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