Empire Seafood Restaurant

Time after time, I always enjoy coming here because provided by their extensive menu, there is always room for me to try something different. If you know me well, even if I have discovered a favourite, I usually tend to order new items. I love developing my palate and being able to become inspired… Anyhow, below are some of the dishes offered here. If you are a fan of baked tapioca pudding, this is the place to go. The dessert isn’t typically offered at many establishments for dim sum, mainly for dinner service, so I’m happy to see that they serve it here! Especially since it’s a fantastic representation of what it should be (minus the taro).

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Steamed Mushroom Dumplings
Not as good as I remembered them being. The skin was too thick for my liking.

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Baked Tapioca Pudding
The crust was exactly like a pineapple bun topping; it blended in with the custard base. It wasn’t too sweet and the portion was large enough for 2-3 people.

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Baked Egg Tart
Their egg tarts are much bigger than what I’ve been served at in any restaurant. They shell was super crispy, in fact it seemed like it was spent in the oven a little too long. They’re decent, but I prefer Kirin’s hands down.

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Buddha’s Feast
I would pass on this. The only place I’ve enjoyed this dish so far is at Dynasty on Broadway.

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Deep Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls
These were really good! They weren’t oily, with ample filling of shrimp and garlic.

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Steamed Shrimp Dumplings
I didn’t try these because I’m not the biggest fan of shrimp dumplings… I guess I grew up eating them way too much.

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Pan Fried Tiger Prawn and Egg Plant
Super flavourful with the sweet and salty sauce coating the dish. The prawns were batter-fried first so they had a nice crunch to them but it also allowed the sauce to be more easily absorbed.

Empire Seafood Restaurant 帝苑皇宴海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

Kirin Seafood Restaurant

Everyone in Vancouver has heard of Kirin. It’s a go-to institution acclaimed for their consistency, their multiple branches a representation of their success. Their Richmond location is one I frequent often, especially for dinners. This is one of the few restaurants in Richmond where reservations for dim sum are required. Trying to find a table by showing up is almost impossible because they always are at “full capacity”. Strangely, once seated, you see many empty tables around you… I’m not sure why that is though. Nonetheless, for well-executed plates, Kirin is a safe bet. Their dim sum menu is more creative though they still keep the basics. Take note, each establishment under the chain has something different on their menu, so some of your favourite dishes from one location might not be available at the other.
Still, their signature plates of BBQ pork pies and egg tarts are not to be missed out on if you see a server carrying them out. They’re baked fresh daily and are absolutely delectable with their crispy golden skin…

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Pork Knuckle in Chinese Vinegar

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Pork Dumplings

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Tofu Stuffed with Minced Pork

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Rice Noodle with Minced Fish, Shrimp, and Squid

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Steamed Prawn Rice Roll

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Baked BBQ Pork Pastry

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Baked Egg Tarts

Kirin Seafood Restaurant 麒麟海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

The Golden Dumpling Cook Off 2014

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Off to Chinatown my friend and I went for a taste of the Dumpling Competition put on by Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. It’s only on its second year and it has already gotten quite the rep for being one of the most highlighted events in Vancouver. Boisterous and chaotic, the smell coming from the booths (there were 20 restaurants participating) was tantalizing, and most definitely alluring. We couldn’t wait to sample all those stuffed juicy balls of dough!

Below is the round-up of the 20 contenders this year… Let your drooling commence!

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Bestie (Chef Colin Johnson) – Smoky bison wonton with chili jam and kohlrabi slaw

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The Union (Chef Lisa Henderson) – Red Curry Duck and Lychee Potsticker

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La Mezcaleria (Chef Alejandro Cruz) – Braised beef chicharron in a guajillo chili sauce dumpling topped with queso fresco, salso verde, and cream 

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Winner Winner (Chefs Alain Chow, Chen-Wei Lee, and Stanley Yung) – Coastal Dumplings consisting of local crab and shellfish parcels with preserved duck egg yolks and seasoned vinegar 

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Campagnolo (Chefs Nathan Lowey and Joachim Hayward) – Ricotta and kale gnudi, local tomatoes, ricotta salata

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Bearfoot Bistro (Chef Jimmy Stewart) – Duck and Shrimping Dumpling with Lemongrass and Fried Garlic

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Vij’s (Chef Vikram Vij) – Chicken Samosa

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Maenam (Chef Angus An) – Thai Seafood Dumpling in Southern Style Turmeric Curry

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Cinara (Chefs Lucais Syme and Gill Book) – Pork and Swiss Chard Agnolotti

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Cibo Trattoria (Chef Faizal Kassam) – Braised Pork and Fig Agnoli with Taleggio and Crispy Sage

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Wildebeest (Chef Wesley Young) – Foie gras and duck dumpling

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Ask for Luigi (Chef Letitia Wan) – Chicken liver cappelletti in brodo with pancetta and sage

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Railtown Cafe (Chef Matthew Koyanagi) – Xiao Long Bao featuring pork consommé, braised geoduck and water chestnuts

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Merchant’s Oyster Bar (Chef David Jackman) – Braised Duck and Smoked Plum, House Buttermilk and Shiso Sauce

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Bambudda (Chef Scott Korzack) – Fried nest dumpling, spot prawn mayo, seaweed powder

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Pidgin (Chef Makato Ono) – Sweet Potato and Chocolate Dumpling

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Homer’s Street Cafe and Bar (Chef Tret Jordan) – Chicken and leek dumpling

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Guu Izakaya (Chef Yuki Ota) – Pork and shrimp dumpling wrapped with dumpling wrapper and tofu bag

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Harvest Community Foods (Chef Hokuto Yamanaka) – Harvest #39 Dumpling featuring pork ramen in a dumpling

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Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle

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I have a weakness for noodles, but only a specific type. They have to be firm with a bite to them. They can’t be those round slimy ones, that I cannot do. Whenever I want them, I know my mom will always make them the best. That’s because she knows my preference and as she slices them herself, they are always doughier, thicker, and chewier than what any restaurant can ever offer me. Yet, because we needed dinner and the option of her getting her hands dirty to make fresh noodles for me was out of the question, we ended up here.

Chef Hung is an acclaimed chain boasting about using MSG-free broth and hand-made noodles. They serve a variety of small cold plates, dim sum dishes, as well as bubble tea.

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The food here is straight-forward. What I had was exactly what it looked like – beef broth, beef tendons, a few boiled vegetables over flat hand-made noodles. There was nothing surprisingly good about it, in fact, I found it just standard. Sure, the noodles had a great bite to them, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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My mom’s order, consisting of fresh vegetables and flat noodles.

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I’ve had these before as my mom usually brings these home for me when she eats here. Strangely, this time, perhaps I was too full, but I found these rather plain. It was so boring in terms of flavour, in fact it lacked it, and for me, it just seemed so easily re-creatabl at home. I’m a bigger fan of the flakey pastry with the tender radish wrapped inside, available at Suhang or Top Shanghai Cuisine.

Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle 洪師傅牛肉麵 on Urbanspoon

The Urban Tea Merchant

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The minute I touched down in Vancouver, I felt an uncontrollable urge to have Greek food. Cuisine options in China are very limited and even if there are western choices available, it is best to steer away from them. Why have a bad meal when there are plenty of solid ones to choose from, famous in the region? So, while in Chengdu, I stuck with the recommendations from trusted foodies and that never left me disappointed. Yet, as I am back, I knew I had to have a change of palate… something that would awaken the taste buds, which had been muzzled out from the spiciness I had grown to appreciate and learn about. Unfortunately, none of my family members pertain much enthusiasm when referring to “ethnic” cuisines, so instead, I obligingly agreed to go for afternoon tea instead.

Urban Tea Merchant is a little hidden. Instead of being aligned with the other shops on its street, it keeps its distance by being more tucked in. It allows one to have more of a private sensation while enjoying time spent with friends over dainty finger food.

I decided to sit outside since the weather was magnificent, but it probably wasn’t the best for pictures as the lighting was just not cooperating with me. The space is very posh and modern, so it’s not your typical homey, rustic looking goods. The flavours are fancier and attention to presentation is essential in this establishment.

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As we both ordered their full three-tier set, priced at $48, we were given $8 from that to select our tea from their menu. It’s expensive, eh? The Paris Breakfast Tea, recommended by my server was delicious. I have to say, the service was up to par in my opinion. We were checked on at the right moments and tea was repeatedly replenished.

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Some were hits and misses, but overall they did a fabulous job on presenting and providing a variety of components to tantalize the palate. The foie gras one was probably my favourite.

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The scones were disappointing to be honest. If you only like afternoon tea from the scones, i wouldn’t come here because they weren’t that enjoyable. The cream puff and macarons were not bad though! The macarons had such a strong presence of almonds even with the named flavour being able to shine through.

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It’s certainly eye-candy, this tier isn’t it? If you minus the fruit however, you aren’t left with many sweets are you? And with that price… not that I mind it that much as it does help cleanse the palate but i would have liked one more option though it was a filling set. The sweetness of all of them were on point, nothing being too sugary.

What a pleasant afternoon it always is when having afternoon tea! This certainly beats Fairmont’s YVR tea service by a mile shot. Personally, I prefer Patisserie Fur Elise and Butter Baked Goods more even though I had a pleasant time at Urban Tea Merchant. Yes, Patisserie is a bit more refined and caters toward a specific audience with their food and layout, but for the price and delivery, I would say that it’s the winner. Yet, if you plan on taking first-timers and know they are trained to the sugar doses of our generation, Butter is a great choice from it’s charming atmosphere to the generous portions.

The Urban Tea Merchant on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Ice Cream Sandwiches

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Want to beat the summer heat? Cool down with home-made ice cream sandwiches! It’s a summer staple that is sure to please and believe it or not, super simple to make. It’s customizable, from the cookie to the ice cream flavour, so depending on you and your guests, the options are endless! My friend and I recently had a dinner party and followed BenjiManTV’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. Trust me, it has to be one of the easiest recipes to follow and the results are promising! Below are some photos of how our’s turned out… Mmmm, boy were they worth all the “work”.

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Topping them off with some ice cream. We chose strawberry cheesecake!

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The completed product!

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A cross-section of the strawberry cheesecake ice cream sandwich. They were massive to say the least.

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As we have a massive sweet tooth, we went for one more. This time, we stuck with plain old vanilla…

Red Star Seafood Restaurant

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Despite the fact that I have favourite go-to dim sum restaurants, I have a hard time visiting them repeatedly. I get bored very easily to say the least. Therefore, I decided to come here, Red Star, a place I haven’t frequented in a while. Also, another incentive that propelled me to visit here rather than some others was that I haven’t reviewed this place for my  blog yet.

The Richmond location is hidden, encompassing a much smaller space on the second floor of President’s Plaza. In other words, it’s the same mall that holds T&T supermarket. The restaurant has renovated in the past few years, trying to match it’s sister restaurant located in Granville. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel a lack of ambiance at this particular joint. Sitting with my parents, something was off. On the food however, I love how they decided to start using a picture menu! It makes it much easier for folks like me who can’t read chinese characters. Unfortunately, the food was sub-par. Nothing particularly stood out and there were some minor execution faults in the dishes. I wanted to like it since their Granville branch is so popular. As there is such a grand selection in Richmond though for good food, I would steer away from this one.

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Speciality Century Egg Custard Steamed Buns
These were a disappointing representation of such a delicious staple in dim sum. The ones we had were not runny at all, instead it was clumpy with barely any filling in it to begin with.

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Sauteed Gai Lan with Dried Smoked Fish
I liked the flavour of this, especially with the addition of garlic. The greens tasted fresh too!

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Baked Egg Custard Tarts
The custard was smooth, but the flaky crust had some crispiness in each bite which gave it great texture. My favourite dish out of everything we ordered.

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Specialty BBQ Pork Buns
I wish the sugar coating was more crunchy and crispier, because it didn’t really give the bun much texture than it was just steamed. It wasn’t bad, just the sauce was a little too “goopy” for my liking.

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Pan Seared Radish Cakes with Chinese Sausage
These were pretty good! Yet, I haven’t found a place that has made it that I haven’t liked…

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BBQ Duck Thick Rice Noodle Soup
This is one of their specialty’s but truth be told, I didn’t find anything rave-worthy about it. The noodles were cooked perfectly though!

Red Star Seafood on Urbanspoon