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Chowing with Miss Foodie -- AB Hound takes Vancouver on one plate at a time

grayelf | Dec 11, 201007:34 AM

Frequent visitor from Calgary Ms Foodie came to town for 10 days of eating in November. She had quite a full schedule and we were happy to provide auxiliary bellies to round out her snacking experiences :-).

We kicked things off the day after the SO and I returned from our own eating trip to San Francisco (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7493... and
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/749402 if you’re interested) so we were in fighting form. Lin’s for a late lunch was target 1. I met farman and miss foodie there at 2:30 on a Wednesday. We kept things down to a dull roar with only four dishes, including the chicken fen pi which was our guest’s number one to-try. We also tried the XLB, the beef roll and the chive boxes. Sadly the fenpi was a bit of a flop, way too saucy and gloopy and the beef roll wasn't the best I've had. The other dishes were tasty, and the XLB were top notch, thin and fresh. I believe they are both of our top XLBs so far (what about you, farman?).

Our next outing was to Alvin Garden with my SO, farman, Ms Chowmeow. We tried the pork heart with five spice (25 on the menu), garlic bolts with Hunan bacon (46), the ling cod head, the Hunan style braised pork aka Mao’s pork (2), the beer braised duck (3), and the Hunan pickles with pork (37). We ordered everything medium except the Hunan pickles which luckily came last. I say luckily because AG takes you seriously when you say hot. It was a great dish but oh so flamey good . We thought everything was well done but no one was too crazy about the cod, and I didn’t love the duck. Ms Chowmeow is a full convert to the heart, woohoo. This place remains a worthy destination restaurant. Everyone was pretty pleased with their choices and the value was outstanding as usual – I forget what we paid but it was under $20 each. We packed a couple of things to go to save room for dessert at Sweet Obsession. I had talked up the lemon dacquoise so much that I almost went into a decline when we arrived to find it sold out . Buried my disappointment in one of their lovely chocolate offerings and a lemon orange tart shared with farman, while the ladies went for a shared hazelnut concorde.

None of us had been to Red Star yet so we decided to book a table for Friday lunch. We were seated in the round room at the front which was lovely and bright, plus quieter than the other areas. Farman was able to join us at the last minute so with four of us we could order a good survey of dishes. We thought a benchmark or two were in order and opted for har gow and bbq pork bao. I am not a great fan of the latter but these seemed quite good, but the former were one of the sadder specimens of har gow I’ve encountered. Way too big, granular, thick skin, bland stuffing. As Ben might say, epic fail :-(.

The pan fried bean curd with shrimp and greens and the radish cake were very good, as was the garlic prawn spring roll. The almond prawn balls were sadly a bit overcooked. We decided to order a couple of the special dishes, the Chiu Chow tofu which was disappointingly bland, and the pomelo peel with (non-existent) shrimp roe which was just okay and seemed way overpriced at $15.80. I was still a bit peckish and talked everyone into an order of one of my favourite dimsum items, the cheong fun wrapped Chinese doughnut, which was well done here, and an order of the deep fried mini yam balls for dessert, which were universally adored. So though we ended on a high note, broken down dish by dish this meal didn’t seem to be either particularly stellar or good value at $24 per person including tax and tip.

Bob Likes Thai – we ended up with seven of us and were able to retry many dishes I had before. Everything was solid with the exception of the beef salad which had the same good flavour but the meat quality had gone down, quite chewy. Tai gave us a special dish to try he had prepared with pork in it that was mochi like and quite interesting.

Ningtu for dinner was a revelation for me, at least in terms of one dish: the deep fried fish with seaweed. I would cross a burning desert for a plate of this here. By far the best version I’ve tried, light, delicately flavoured, just the right amount of batter to keep it crisp yet moist. Even my non-deep-fried-things-loving SO was scarfing it down. Thanks to Miss Foodie’s menu sleuthing, we ordered a combo deal where you get an appetizer, a choice of soup and four dishes for $53. In our case we wanted the fish which wasn’t on the designated list and they graciously allowed us to include it for only $2 extra (see the inside cover of the menu for the dishes available, but be warned the deal is only written in Chinese characters though the dishes are in English).

We had a very good hot and sour soup, some decent shrimps as apps (sauce was too sweet for me), more than competent green beans with lots of umami, rice cakes with preserved veggie (enough of it for a change, yay!) and a beef dish with mantou whose name escapes me at the moment that was very well prepared but again a tad sweet for me. We also tried a house special dessert which was eggy and light with pink (!) sugar on top for $11.95. I am anxious to return to try more Shanghainese items at dinner time and to enjoy the lovely, attentive service again.

Crystal Mall was also on Miss Foodie’s hit list so I scoured posts and came up with a short list of places to try. With only two of us we couldn’t go too crazy but I came armed with a bunch of Tupperware for leftovers :-). We were obliged to try the XLB from Wang’s and as before I found them good but not as good as Lin’s. We also tried the roujiamo from Want Want and a couple of skewers (all lamb) with the former being quite worthy but the latter being rather dried out and heavy on cumin. We got the spicy beef noodle soup from Huaxi which turned out not to be a favourite – the noodles were too soft and the soup a bit oily. The Yunnan Cross Bridge rice noodle soup was a big hit especially for Miss Foodie who took home the remainder. Love the way it is served in a heavy crockery pot too. We also tried their spicy potato threads which were delicious and a wicked bargain at $2 IIRC. From Northern Meixi we tried their version of beef roll which was excellent though quite different from the ones I’m used to. It came in a soft, light crepe-like wrapper, so was almost oil free. We had a large steamed bun from there which was yummy but I forget the name.

On the way back into town, we were inexorably drawn toward Ningtu for shaobing. They do an excellent job of it but it is only served for lunch. We had the one with pork on the side. And we also tried another dessert item, this one I think with pumpkin and sesame, which was delightful.

President’s Plaza and Richmond Public Market was our goal for a Sunday jaunt. We tried the shaobing with Chinese doughnut (you tiao) inside at Yung Ho Soy Drink which is hard to get without a combo :-) so we also tried the red bean pastry (tasty) and some soy milk, the latter pronounced very fresh by Miss Foodie (I don’t know from soy milk). Then it was on to O’Tray for the roujiamo, the crepe and the tofu brains. First time ever, they failed me on the roujiamo – the bun was tough. But the crepe and tofu were spot on and I think impressed my dining companion.

Next it was off to RPM for the fěnzhēngròu, pork steamed with rice flour with mantou from Xi’an which was as great as always, and a somewhat disappointing plate of noodles that we thought was liangpir. They were too thick and chewy (a little raw-flour tasting) and the dressing was not very flavourful. The little oval thingy you see on the pork plate was a gift from the adjoining table. We noticed two fellows eating some worthy looking sausage, and when we asked where they got it, they said the new Taiwanese stand, and would we like to try some? Random acts of charcuterie kindness rule. And BTW it was very good, nicely spiced with a hint of sweetness. In the small-food-world department, on the way out of the (now insanely busy) parkade, we met fmed and his Chowpups heading in for some food court goodness.

Since no trip to Richmond is complete without an Asian supermarket or two, we hit Big Crazy and Kuo Hua (Lonely God potato chips, anyone?), as well as popping into HK BBQ Master for some porky goodness for dinner!

Shanghai Village was our last Chowstop together before Miss Foodie returned to Calgary. I find I am liking SV for lunch the best these days and this visit was no exception. We hadn’t planned on getting XLB but they came free and were the only miss of the meal, with several ripping open – the skin was thick but not resilient and quite granular. I haven’t enjoyed the XLB here since they started giving them away with any order over $20. I can’t resist shrimp rolls with garlic and they were quite good here. The radish cake was solid if a bit pedestrian. We both loved the cold spicy noodles which is a favourite of mine here, lots of vinegar and cilantro. The Chin-Wai River style tofu was also a hit, especially with it being on special for $1.99 (!) – I’d order it at the regular price of $3.99 and actually liked it better than the tofu brains at O’Tray for this type of tofu. We also had the tofu “burgers” with pork which were lovely and fried perfectly, though I find their sauce a mite sweet and prefer the rendition at 9 Dishes. No trip to Shanghai Village is complete for me without the Shanghai sweet pastry. Such a simple dish but so good. And of course the deep fried milk, basically spring rolls with firm milk custard inside. We both enjoyed this dim-sum meal more than our earlier foray to Red Star and it was $11 less each. The only thing that marred it a little was the young waiter with the attitude. He kept trying to make us order certain things and pushing us to make up our minds. I think he thought we didn’t know what to order because we spent a fair bit of time perusing the menu as is our wont :-). Also my blondness probably didn’t help. But we whipped him into shape and managed to have a very nice meal, LOL.

Can’t wait for Miss Foodie’s next trip, hopefully in January. The list of spots to hit is already long…

Here's some pix from Long's (apologies in advance for the focus issues -- I keep forgetting to switch to the little flowerpot for closeups!)

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Crystal Mall
4500 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H2A9, CA

Ningtu Restaurant
2130 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5N2T5, CA

Alvin Garden
4850 Imperial St, Burnaby, BC V5J, CA

Shanghai Village
3250 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC V5Z 2W4, CA

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