Xiao Long Bao

Foodblogger Feast at Kalvin’s “Szechuen”

About a month ago, in the midst of a whole bunch of stupidity, Kevin from 604foodtography, suggested a big ol’ chowdown at Kalvin’s Restaurant. Within a day or so, thirteen of us responded with a resounding “Hell, yeah!“. From a rather depressing, unfortunate day, the focus was returned to where it should always be in the food blogging community…on the food! After all, that’s what we’re only here for…right?

Other bloggers at this night’s feast included:

Strange thing about Kalvin’s…the awning says “Kalvin’s Szechuen Restaurant” so I was all geared up for a fiery, chile-laden feast. Turns out they put up mostly Taiwanese fare. No problem…I’m game for anything! There were a few spicy dishes and some interesting Taiwanese I’d not yet tried.

This’d be one of those dishes I’d put in the “I’ll-try-it-one-time” category. The Fondue Spicy Pork with Organ Stew was actually quite tasty if you can get your head around the intestine part. It’s obviously a cultural thing that I’ve yet to adapt to. Texturally, it was fine. No excessive chewiness…not rubbery at all. For me, it’s all about the funky aroma. There’s a load of foods I love that give off strange, unique smells. It’s just that when the smell originates from that part of the animal, it can be difficult to adjust to.

The Pork & Ton Choy in BBQ Sauce also had a unique flavor to it. If you close your eyes, you’d swear you were eating a seafood dish. That was due, according to Kevin, to the use of a satay sauce or, as I later found out, it can be called “Shacha sauce“.  It’s a much different flavor to most satay sauces due to the addition of brill fish and dried shrimp. The ton choy itself was nicely cooked giving the dish a well needed fresh, crisp element.

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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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Hand-cut noodles at Legendary Noodle

A week or so ago, the plan was to check out Lin Chinese. Benzie, already there, called with the news that they were closed for two weeks. Grrrrr! On to Plan B…Thai Basil. Closed on Sunday. Double grrrrr! Whilst cruising down Denman on the way to our third option, Gyoza King, I called an audible and we wound up at Legendary Noodle.

Legendary Noodle has been on my wish list for some time. Any place that takes the time and effort to create their own noodles is always worth a visit or five. It turns out, at least in our case, that they make noodles to order!

We arrived to an empty, very decorative, small room. As soon as we ordered, the head chef/La Mian Master sprung into action.

It’s always fascinating to see hand-pulled noodles being created. Yes, a lot of it is about show, but seeing your noodles being made before your eyes is always a novelty…it never gets old. When a noodle-maker puts himself on display, you know right away he takes pride in his work. You’ve just got to admire that.

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Dim Sum at Spicy Court Chinese

During a recent visit to Sun Sui Wah we decided to start a gluttonous run through the vastness of Vancouver’s top Dim Sum spots. Next stop…Spicy Court Chinese on Cambie at 41st.

Upon arrival, it was obvious that street parking nearby wasn’t gonna happen. That meant only one thing…scary underground parking. Having read about Spicy Court’s parkade, I got a tinge nervous. A parkade four levels deep with tiny stalls and no exit…yikes!

Spicy Court’s spots are on the third level down. Being Sunday at peak hours, this is a ridiculous situation.  With the upper two levels completely empty, Spicy’s spots are near fully packed. Can’t y’all work something out?

Funny. It was much easier getting out than getting back in some twenty or so dishes later.

As with Sun Sui Wah, we arrived on an early Sunday afternoon, absolutely famished. Even worse, Benzie and I had to wait for a couple of stragglers. Being somewhat polite diners, we held off ordering for fifteen minutes. When they still hadn’t shown up, we chucked the politeness out the door and started ordering like it was a death row meal. As the first plate arrived, so did the other half of our crew.

Before the dishes arrived we were sure to grab a saucer of Spicy Court’s fermented bean chili paste. This has a nice, dense flavour with a mighty kick. Perfect for virtually any dish. Especially this one:

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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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