We spent our first full day in town on a guided day tour. For lunch we stopped at an asian buffet that really isn't worth mentioning since it was the crappiest asian buffet I've ever tried -- it left such a bad taste in my mouth. Their "sushi" was a gigantic rice roll with a microscopic piece of salmon & an equally microscopic piece of cucumber. I wondered why folks claim Richmond & Vancouver are great chow destinations.
So for our dinner we chose to follow a friend's recommendation of the Fisherman's Terrace in Aberdeen Center. Heaven! Now this is more like the fabled dining. We started off with a strong pot of Tiet Goon Yum tea, the lovely fragrance bringing back to mind lavish dining experiences in HK -- which began to set the stage for a blowout meal. After asking our server about the establishment's specialties and what's in season, we chose to order blanched great neck clam, venison & leeks in XO sauce, baked pigeon, s&p eel (at least I think that is how the dish was listed -- I was not the one doing the ordering), and greens sauteed w/ cured sausages & pork.
First to arrive was the blanched great neck clam, translucent white slices of the star item resting atop a bed of bean sprouts (the heads and tails of the sprouts had been neatly removed) and garnished with a few sprigs of parsley. It came with a dipping sauce of sweet soy sauce w/ bits of spicy peppers and green onion floating around. The crisp clean translucence of the clam nearly shouted "eat me... I'm juicy sweet!" Which is what we did before I remembered my lil camera. I did manage to catch the dish with half of the serving still there. Not only did the look of this lovely clam flesh advertise its wondrous properties, but boy did it deliver! It has an amazing deep sweetness all on its own; but the dipping soy added a nice little kick.
The next dish to arrive was the pigeon -- moist and juicy flavor on the inside, with an almost crackly golden skin on the outside -- and pretty plump too. This dish I definitely took my time with to strip the tiny bones clean in order to get at every last bit. The pigeon looked so yummy when brought that we each grabbed a piece and set to work before I could let go of mine's long enough to snap a quick pic. The pigeon reminded me of the best to be found back home.
Third item was the s&p eel -- though this was clearly not the commonplace s&p. Plenty of fried garlic, scallions, and even tiny dried shrimp brought together such a masterfully executed dish. The dried shrimp was the magic ingredient, adding a hint of depth to the delicately fried morsels of white eel meat. This was such a fragrant dish, we almost cried over the fact that we were forced to leave the seasoning crumbs behind (I think we probably would have boxed it to go if we could get through customs with it).
The venison was pretty good -- great quality XO sauce present. This was my first time trying venison, and it kind of reminded me of ostridge; except maybe slightly chewier. For folks who have not tried either, its sort of like beef, except the meat is more tender and moist yet chewy. If there was anything special to this dish, it was lost on me -- quite possibly because it is my first time trying this.
We chose the cured meats saute for the last dish because we'd heard that BC cured meat is different from the stuff we can get across the border. A dining companion mentioned the BC stuff might be found in SF, but is rare and costs more. It was explained to me that the difference stems from weather/environment. Chinese cured meats are air-dried; since the air is different, it is thought this difference extends to the meats. I can say for sure the BC product is different from SF stuff. The saute dish we just had consisted of both sausages as well as pork belly -- and both meats were much lighter in savoriness, with a subtle hint of clean sweetness. The coloring is also slightly different; BC's sausages are a bit brighter red. This dish was outstanding in its simplicity in ingredients, and expertly layered flavors. The gai lan was crisp and bright green; with a nice crunch and bite -- I surmise this might have actually been imported since produce is not in season here.
We finished off our meal with the house dessert -- a bowl of sweet soup of carrots, yam, apricot & almond pits, sweet potato, and white fungus.
All in all, the service was expertly HK style, with the portions similar to SF/LA area chinese restaurants. I've finally experienced true chow in Richmond, and I can't wait for the next meal!