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The New XLB Champion in Vancouver

  • fmed Jun 24, 2008 08:17 PM

I have amassed some data from eleven XLB joints here: http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

I can now pronounce (unequivocally) that my favorite Xiao Long Bao in the GVA is served at Lin Chinese Cuisine. The broth is thin and flavourful, the pork ball is light, and the skin is Din Tai Fung thin.

Close seconds are the XLB from Chen's (Richmond), Northern Delicacy (Richmond) and Wang's (Burnaby).

The trump card could still come from Shanghai River or Shanghai Wind where I have yet to sample this dish. I'll update as soon as I get a chance.

I know that management and kitchen at Shanghai Wonderful used to be the management and kitchen at Shanghai Wind. The owners could have very well taken their dumpling makers along with them when they sold to the Shanghai Wind's new owners.

Also I have tried the XLB from other places such as Long's Noodle House - but it has been a while. I am going by memory on some of these places. I didn't included them in this survey.

Good dumpling makers are traded and moved around like elite athletes so things could change at a moment's notice.

If anyone has any XLB recommendations, please post it here.

Pics: http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

-----
Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House
1537W Broadway W, Vancouver, BC V6J1W6, CA

 
 
 
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  1. Imagine my delight that your front runner is mere steps from my office! Keep up the good work, fmed -- it's appreciated. Just curious: where did the other Vancouver proper contenders -- The Place, Peaceful and Legendary -- fall in the list of 11?

    2 Replies
    1. re: grayelf

      I would say that the XLB at The Place and Peaceful are worth eating and probably fall within the top 5 or 6. The ones at Legendary were quite poor.

      1. re: fmed

        That was my sense as well, though I don't have nearly the comparators you do. As I recall, I didn't even know that the ones at Legendary were XLBs the first time I ate them, and we haven't ordered them since as we prefer their other dumpling offerings.

    2. It's time to check Lin out.

      My current fave is Chen's.

      The last time I was at Northern Delicacy was 2 years ago. The XLB was just decent then. Should I give it another try? The Tea Duck was very good.

      Where is Wang's in Burnaby?

      I find the XLB at The Place to be too big. The lamb skewers were great though.

      9 Replies
      1. re: kwailan4

        Wang's is in Crystal Mall. It has the cheapest XLB in town. The skin is also very thin.

        Northern Delicacy a great restaurant. Nearly every dish is well executed. I think their Tea Smoked Duck is the best in town. I usually try to sneak in a meal at ND with a trip to Daiso. Give it another try - it has been a few months for me too.

        The word on the street is that the dumpling maker at Lin used to be the dumpling maker for The Place (Lin used to own The Place and then sold to new owners). I agree with you about the size of the XLB at The Place - too big.

        Now The Place is interesting - they also have an honest to goodness Sichuan chef. Their Sichuan dishes taste proper (with "ma la" from Sichuan peppercorn, and they use the right fermented vegetables and beans etc.). Hhhmmm....I may do a full review. Pics from my most recent visit: http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

        1. re: fmed

          I had tea smoked chicken at Chen's last week. Yummy! What I really wanted to try was the fatty pork hock (ti-pang). It's on the menu, but they hardly ever make it. I was so choked.

          I heard that the XLB grandma at Wang's used to make XLBs for Chen's.

          Thanks for the report on Lin's, fmed. I'm going to make it my next XLB stop.

        2. re: kwailan4

          Just came back from Lin's. I liked the XLB,. It was as fmed described. However, I think there was a bit more broth at Chen's, but the Lin's skin is thinner yet does not break easily.

          Sad to say, the overall experience was not as good though. I arrived around noon on a Saturday. The room was nice decorated, and nice cutlery too. There were 5 other tables, 4 with no food on the table and 1 about to leave. Apparently, the other 4 has not even ordered. I heard the server mumbling "What's the hurry?" to herself when a neighboring table flagged her down to place their order. Perhaps that's when my mood changed.

          I waited about 5 minutes for a menu and another 15 to place my order. I ordered the XLB, Shen Jian Bao and Smoke Duck (my usual 3 dishes). Smoke Duck arrived 30 minutes later, XLB another 10 minutes and Shen Jian Bao another 5.

          The 3 dishes that I ordered all takes time to cook. I understand that, but it is still too long for a restaurant has only 4 other tables. Perhaps it was because I was by myself, the wait seemed longer.

          BTW, the smoke duck was ok, but the shen jian bao was bad. The pork ball was mushy and it probably needed another few minutes in the pan. Maybe it was because I rushed the server, so ...

          So for now, I still prefer Chen's overall for a meal with XLB because they do all my usual dishes very well. Lin's menu has a lot more variety which looked interesting (next table had a reddish/orangy pork dish in a round vegetable). But for XLB heads-up, it's a tough call.

          1. re: kwailan4

            Yep -- Lin's certainly has some service issues. Chen's on the other hand is fast, efficient and friendly. Wang's is also superfast - without the baggage attached to a full service restaurant. Long's service is also very fast and friendly.

            1. re: fmed

              Why does "chinese food" and "good dining experience" sounds like an oxymoron in the same sentence?

              I can probably count on 1 hand the number of restaurants that serve chinese food and provide a decent dining experience. I am not even talking about "good chinese food" and a "good dining experience".

              Note that I am not talking about fine dining.

              1. re: kwailan4

                I'm used to the terseness of eating Chinese. It's even worse in Asia ...unless you go to the four-star places. Some of the places in Richmond are near hostile.

                The young servers (sons and daughters of the owners, I believe) at Peaceful are very friendly. ...probably the friendliest Chinese service I have ever encountered.

                1. re: fmed

                  Agreed, fmed -- we were at Peaceful last night and both the son and daughter waited on us. There was a slight mixup with one dish we ordered (understandable as they are both prefixed with Xi-an) and it was taken off the bill. We went late so they were out of the cold noodles we wanted but brought the lamb stew instead. The menu has been completely redone to good effect I think -- by the daughter, so she said. The XLB are now called XLB too :-). And BTW we ordered the 1000 chili dish which was really excellent. The ma la you talk about was definitely in evidence and very addictive.

                2. re: kwailan4

                  "Why does "chinese food" and "good dining experience" sounds like an oxymoron in the same sentence?"

                  It certainly does not to me. I have been to your fair city a number of times and have eaten at many a Chinese restaurants there. I have also spent lots of time in Monterey Park, SF Bay Area, Toronto and Hong Kong. The services at Chinese restaurants range from the very bad to the very good.

                  In Vancouver I have experienced some of the best Hong Kong style service, comparable to the best and finest in HK.

                  I don't know why your experience is different from mine. But I can tell you that good dining experience and Chinese food is definitely not an oxymoron.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    I did qualify I am not refering to Chinese fine dining.

                    What do I consider a good dining experience? Nice clean room, friendly non-rushed service and food served timely. A decent drinks list helps too.

          2. Because of you fmed (and admittedly, a few others) I started getting into XLB and other Chinese dishes previously unknown to me. These dumplings are absolutely wonderful. I've only ever had them at two places, Lin and Peaceful. Both were good, but you could tell the ones at Lin had a bit more finesse to them. Super thin skin and a very tasty broth.

            It's unfortunate that I'm sitting in my basement in suburban Calgary... if I weren't, I think it would be time for a little XLB adventure. September couldn't come any sooner.

            Great pics of the XLBs!

            1. Thanks for the report! Please keep us updated (it's a tough job but somebody has to do it ;)

              1. I have to try Lin's again. I went about a month ago and still prefer Chen's. To be fair, when I was at Lin's, there was some confusion with making of the XLBs, eventually after we've eaten everything else we ordered, one of the waitresses went behind the window and started making them. Not sure if she's the one normally making XLBs or if it's another person. So for now, my vote is still Chen's =)

                23 Replies
                1. re: gourmet wife

                  If you didn't get the XLB A-team, then yes, I can see how it can end up second rate XLB. Even at Chen's, I have had a second rate product because I came in the middle of the afternoon.

                  Here's how XLB can go wrong:

                  -XLB takes years of skill to get right....like sushi or patisserie. You apprentice for many years and by the time you are in the A-Team you may have made hundreds of thousands of these things. If your XLB is not made by the best XLB maker or worse a quasi-XLB maker, then you will get a second rate product.

                  -Some places outsource the XLB production. The XLB are either pre-prepared and/or pre-frozen. This results in dense meat balls, no juice and chewy and bubbly skin.

                  -Even some of the top places only make fresh XLB up to a certain time...after that, you might be getting prepped XLB that has been refrigerated for a while. This also results in the same kinds of problems as I previously outlined.

                  To avoid these issues -

                  -Look for the XLB lady behind the glass. If she is there making bao, then you are good to go.

                  -Go when it is busy so they have no time to refrigerate the prepped XLB. It just goes from the XLB lady straight into the steamer...then to your table.

                  -and of course, go only to places that have a dumpling specialty. It's all in the dough.

                  1. re: fmed

                    Fmed, you are spot on. At Lin's and The Place, you can easily see if the XLB Lady is on active duty. The first time we went to Lin's we ordered XLB, tried them and wanted to order a second batch but XLBL had "retired" and no more were to be had -- this was during the noon hour lunch rush!

                    1. re: fmed

                      Great report and pictorial lineup on Picasso, fmed.

                      I was up in Vancouver recently and tried out Peaceful. Great noodles and dumplings, but the XLB were subpar in my opinion.

                      (Also, just a minor quibble because I'm anal about these things. XLB and dumplings are very different creatures. Just because a place can put out good dumplings does not necessarily mean that their XLB will likewise be noteworthy. Historically, XLB were a southern Chinese speciality, whereas dumplings were a northern delicacy.)

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Hey ipsedixit, nice to see you around these parts.

                        Yes - I agree about Peaceful's XLB...they are down the ratings list. Still good enough to eat - especially if you are already there to eat their Beef Roll ;)

                        I only mentioned "dumplings" because it is usually the XLB lady who also makes the jaozi, etc.

                        And on the origins of XLB - I had always thought that they were first developed in Nanxiang just outside of Shanghai. Wikipedia's XLB page seems to agree.

                        1. re: fmed

                          fmed,

                          You're absolutely right that XLB have their origins in Shanghai, but from where I'm from (or more precisely, where my family is from) -- Beijing -- Shanghai is "southern" China.

                          I really enjoyed Peaceful's beef noodles, and their beef tripe is something worth going for on its own. They should make a beef roll with just that tripe and some raw garlic slices! The dan-dan mien was also another standout.

                          I'm going to have to try Lin next time up there.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            >>You're absolutely right that XLB have their origins in Shanghai, but from where I'm from (or more precisely, where my family is from) -- Beijing -- Shanghai is "southern" China.

                            I can see that now. Looking at the map. It's similar to how Vancouver is often described as being in the Pacific "Northwest" I guess ;)

                            I see you are a Dan Dan aficionado. I have a Dan Dan Mian survey amassing now...still not done, but here's a preview:
                            http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

                            I'm still looking for one more place that serves one of the canonical versions of Dan Dan - the Chengdu, vinegar/chili style (as outlined in Fuchsia Dunlop's book).That seems to be a rare beast here in Vancouver, which is a city not known for authentic sichuan.

                            1. re: fmed

                              I should add that my favourites are served at The Place and at Northern Delicacy (Richmond).

                              Something happened to the once glorious Dan Dan at Lin's - it is no longer the dark toasted sesame rendition that I really liked. It is now closer to the run-of-the-mill sesame-peanut type. It's still good...but not revelatory as it once was.

                              This is a topic for another post.

                              1. re: fmed

                                Another great pictorial re: dan dan mien.

                                Have you ever tried the dan dan mien at Dai Ho in Temple City in the Los Angeles area? Best I've had so far in terms of the paste/sauce, but the noodles are not hand-pulled like at Peaceful. Too bad, if they were it might be the perfect meal in a bowl.

                                I didn't get a chance to try it, but have you had a chance to sample Peaceful's Xi'an steamed noodles?

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  >> Have you ever tried the dan dan mien at Dai Ho in Temple City in the Los Angeles area?

                                  I haven't. I may have to venture south very soon. I've been looking for a good excuse to go the LA and SGV and eat for a month.

                                  >> I didn't get a chance to try it, but have you had a chance to sample Peaceful's Xi'an steamed noodles?

                                  Not yet. I did have their Xin Jiang Noodles and Shan Xi Noodles. I may actually eat there for lunch today, actually.
                                  http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    >> I didn't get a chance to try it, but have you had a chance to sample Peaceful's Xi'an steamed noodles?

                                    Here you go ipsedixit: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/50013...

                                    It was good.

                                  2. re: fmed

                                    "Something happened to the once glorious Dan Dan at Lin's - it is no longer the dark toasted sesame rendition that I really liked. It is now closer to the run-of-the-mill sesame-peanut type. It's still good...but not revelatory as it once was."

                                    I agree, the dan dan mein at Lin's is really tasty, haven't tried the revised version but the dark one was amazingly good.

                                    1. re: gourmet wife

                                      Ah, so that's what happened. I remember the first time I had it at Lin and it was the incredibly dark sauced version. Soooo tasty (and inexpensive). The last time I had it though, it had changed and I thought to myself, "hmm... is this what the folks on CH mean by peanut-sesame Dan Dan?" Apparently it is. Still enjoyable, but I'd rather go to Peaceful for noodles now.

                                      1. re: peter.v

                                        If you are looking for that dark sesame Dan Dan - The Place makes an even better version than Lin's. (Remember that The Place used to be run by Lin)

                                        Perhaps its time to post my Dan Dan survey.

                                        Pics: http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

                                         
                                         
                                        1. re: fmed

                                          I've got to keep a database for these recs! That's fairly close to where I'll be living. I'll be sure to drop in.

                          2. re: fmed

                            "Look for the XLB lady behind the glass. If she is there making bao, then you are good to go."

                            Ha ha! Good stuff, fmed.

                            When I went to Lin's, the waitress tried to talk us out of the XLB and told us to get the pan fried buns instead. So we ordered both. The pan fried buns were good, but the XLB -- which were served much later -- were excellent. It didn't occur to me until after we left that they were probably out of XLB and they had to make it fresh (it was a weekend at 1:30pm after the lunch rush).

                            I also had the Dan Dan Mian, which I thought was really good. I liked it better than Peaceful's. Then again, I'm no Dan Dan expert, and I have no idea what authentic Dan Dan Mian is like. For years, my idea of Dan Dan Mian was more along the lines of the Japanese version, Tan Tan Men, which I also love if made right (head down in shame :-).

                            1. re: aburitoro

                              Inspired by the dan dan tangent on this thread :-), I dropped by Lin's today for a takeout order for lunch. As usual, strange service. Took a while for them to notice me and I'm not diminutive or retiring. Finally kitchen guy at the back points me out and waitron takes my order and bids me take a pew. Five minutes later, same waitron asks if I've given my order! This may in part explain why I waited 20 minutes for my noodles, as the resto was nearly deserted at 2:10 pm. When the noodles finally arrive she informs me I have a discount, no idea why. Whatever. I'd only had the "dark" version before so was interested to try the ostensibly more peanutty one. Must say I wouldn't order it again. The broth was much lighter and cloudier as though it did have either peanut or sesame in it but had no flavour to speak of, except a bitter aftertaste. Wasn't salty enough either. And the noodles were overdone. Doh.

                              On a brighter note, while I was waiting I observed an XLB Lady making the chive cakes (which actually look like crescent shaped dumplings to me). They looked amazing, super thin skins and lots of lovely green filling -- I'll be back for those...

                              1. re: grayelf

                                To continue with the dan dan tangent (sorry for hijacking this post!), my GF and I went to Lin's the other day and ordered the dan dan mian and the xlb. While eating the dan dan mian, I kept your post in mind, grayelf, and can understand where you're coming from. The flavor and saltiness is definitely on the light side for dan dan mian. But we liked it that way, since often times, the soup can be a bit too thick, heavy, and MSG-eezy for us. The noodles were cooked nicely. A bit firm and 'springy.' Definitely had substance to it. Is it possible that your noodles have gotten soggy on its take-out journey?

                                Authenticity aside, I'm not so sure that the sesame-peanut soup is something of the west. I've had dan dan in HK with peanuts and/or sesame. And don't they do a similar version in Taiwan? Anyways, maybe not authentic, but still tasty in my opinion. Even if I tried the real thing, I'm almost certain I would still enjoy the versions available here. After all, I still enjoy eating ramen, yakiniku, and Japanese curry :-)

                                Back to the topic of this thread, the XLB were quite good, though the meat was quite coarser than the last time I was there. There were lots of crunchy cartilaginous bits in it. No big deal, as the XLB were still delicious.

                                1. re: aburitoro

                                  On the peanutty-sesame dan dan:

                                  I've had it in Asia as well. HK and Taiwan could be where it started...or it could be of US origins....then moved back to Asia.

                                  The first time I had dan dan mian was at Szechuan Chongqing on Commercial Dr many many years ago and I instantly fell in love with it.They serve a thick peanutty-sesame sauce (not brothy/thin). It was only much later (in Sichuan) where I had the authentic Chengdu-style dan dan.

                                  I like all three types (Chengdu, Xie Laoban, and the sweet Peanutty-Sesame)...authentic or not you can get delicious renditions of all three. The Chengdu style is also an acquired taste - not sweet, very chili hot, lots of numbing sichuan peppercorn and toasty-earthy...many people may not like it if they are used to the other more common types.

                                  1. re: fmed

                                    The whole dan dan (or tan tan, as I first had them) thing is confusing. Up until recently, whenever I ordered it I got a noodle dish as opposed to a soup. It seems the soupy version has taken over regardless of the toppings. I kinda miss the drier, peanuttier, spicier versions but I'm willing to branch out and look forward to trying The Place's one.

                                    BTW aburitoro my office is a block from Lin's so I don't think I can blame the travel time for the noodles -- maybe just an off batch??

                              2. re: aburitoro

                                The Japanese version looks far more authentic than the Westernized sesame-peanut monstrosity.

                                I first ate Dan Dan Mian here, and it was the sesame peanut gloop. Then I went to China, and had it in Chengdu. After experiencing the real thing, I can't eat it here anymore. So consider your ignorance a good thing. I am spoiled. :(

                                1. re: miss_bennet

                                  I remember the Chengdu dan dan too. The most common ones are chili/soy/vinegar/ya-cai sauced wheat noodle with crisp-fried pork mince. There is another version that is authentic, but less common in Sichuan province - and it does contain sesame paste but no peanut butter. (I posted to another thread - so I won't expand on it here).

                              3. re: fmed

                                With a little practice I think anyone can make an excellent XLB. One of the best and most popular XLB place in Los Anglese, Ding Tai Fung, the XLB "ladies" are guys from south of the US border. None of whom, I assume, knew what XLB's are before they started working at DTF.

                                1. re: PeterL

                                  I recall from my last trip to DTF in LA that the XLB were excellent if not a little inconsistent. But I agree...with practice (and DTF's secret wrapper formula - how do they make it so thin and resilient? ) anyone with practice can make one.

                                  I know I have tried to make my own XLB a couple of times with less than stellar results. ;)

                            2. Great pictures. I need to have lots of slivered ginger and black vinegar with XLB's. Do all your top choiced serve them with?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: kirkj

                                The top ones do. The Place serves it with a white vinegar, but they have black vinegar at the table. The most generous vinegar/ginger condiment dish was at Lin's. Lots of slivered ginger.

                              2. A discussion of how to eat XLB has been split to the Not About Food Board:

                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/533142

                                1. I'm curious to see what you think about Shanghai River when you go. I haven't been in a long time but used to really enjoy their XLB. Also, how do you compare the XLB at Northern Dynasty?

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: twinkienic

                                    ND has fallen to 4th today. I was at Long's Noodle House and it edged up above ND. (This is sounding like the Democratic Primaries).

                                    The time I went, the dumplings at ND were quite large, the ball was good, the broth was tasty and the skin was thin. However, the pleating technique (which bunched them all up into a large pucker) was not as refined as the ones from Lin and Wang's were the pleats came to a finer point. As a result, the bao become chewier quicker as it cooled.

                                    The smaller and thinner the pleating, the less likely the XLB will become chewy there. The most interesting pleating is done at Chen's where they do a fine rosette - the pleats are thinner all along the circle - so less dough to become chewy.

                                    I'm starting to pick nits....I'd better stop.

                                    I'm aiming to try SR this weekend when I see my parents.

                                    1. re: fmed

                                      Hmm... Long's, eh? I've been meaning to go back there to get their drunken chicken and their dry rice cubes (wo ba) stirfried in salted egg. Yum.

                                      Just to clarify... when you say ND, do you mean Northern Delicacy (in Aberdeen) or Northern Dynasty (on Alexandria)?

                                      1. re: twinkienic

                                        Oops. I misread your post. Yes ND=Norhtern Delicacy in my last posting. I had the XLB at Northern Dynasty quite a while ago before I was paying any attention. I have to make it back there very soon to add it to my survey.

                                        Yes....Long's was good today. I was there around 1pm. The last time I had it was in the evening and it was not exemplary. I'm betting the XLB was prepped much earlier that day - so it wasn't fresh when put into the steamer.

                                        Have a look at the new photos from Long's that I just uploaded. http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

                                        1. re: twinkienic

                                          Oh yes...the drunken chicken and wo ba are great there. So is their gluten appetizer.

                                    2. Finally made it to Lin's... thanks Fmed for a stellar recc. My mother, who loves XLB was face down in her bowl all night. What a nice surprise on other levels as well: so clean, nice decor (relatively speaking) and amazing, kind, attentive service. I also had to try the schezuan beef noodle soup. Intense broth was very good. Didn't care for the fermented beans, and the beef was not at all tender, but very tasty.

                                      1. excellent...i was craving XLB, so i'll try Lin this week.

                                        1. Thanks to the power outage, I had time for a leisurely lunch yesterday. Dropped by Lin's and ordered XLB, lion head set lunch and the red pork belly dish I saw during my last visit.

                                          The hot and sour soup that came with the set lunch was disappointing. It was like drinking water with corn starch. The lion head was decent, XLB was good, but not hot enough. This is the first time I did not burn myself eating XLB.

                                          The highlight of the lunch, though, was the red pork belly dish. We were told it would take 20 min if we want it served in a carved pumpkin, and 15 without. We opted for no pumpkin. The dish came almost 45 min later.

                                          If you do not mind eating pork belly, this is a must-order. The pork simply melt in your mouth. I'll recommend ordering some buns to mop up the sauce too. Chatted with a lady (owner?) and confirmed we can call ahead to order this dish.

                                          1. Would you please list the addresses of some of these places (aside from Lin)? I'll be up in your fine city and would like to try some of these. I used the link to places feature here and could not find any of the other places listed. Thanks.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: PeterL

                                              Hi PeterL,

                                              I'll add the ones I personally like:
                                              Lin's
                                              Long's Noodle House
                                              Wang's in Crystal Mall
                                              Peaceful
                                              Chen's Shanghai
                                              Shanghai River (I actually haven't had it there, but I hear glowing reports from friends and Chowhounders I trust)

                                              -----
                                              Peaceful Restaurant
                                              532 W Broadway, Vancouver, BC V5Z1E9, CA

                                              Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House
                                              1537W Broadway W, Vancouver, BC V6J1W6, CA

                                              Crystal Mall
                                              4500 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5H2A9, CA

                                              Long's Noodle House
                                              4853 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5V3R9, CA

                                              Chen's Shanghai Kitchen
                                              8095 Park Rd, Richmond, BC V6Y, CA

                                              Shanghai River Restaurant
                                              7831 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC V6X1A4, CA

                                              1. re: fmed

                                                Adding:
                                                The Place
                                                Shanghai Wonderful
                                                Northern Delicacy

                                                -----
                                                Aberdeen Centre
                                                4151 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond, BC V6X4J7, CA

                                                The Place Restaurant
                                                8028 Granville St, Vancouver, BC V6P, CA

                                                Shang Hai Wonderful Restaurant
                                                8380 Lansdowne Rd, Richmond, BC V6X3M6, CA

                                            2. Inconsistency seems to be the name of the game at Lin. We were there yesterday for lunch and although the service was super attentive and polite the XLB were pretty ho-hum. That said they were different from the ones fmed posted on picasa, the skins were visibly thicker. I found the filling to be lumpy (due to coarsely ground meat?) although the broth was good. Didn't think much of the sheng jian bao either (skin too thick, not fried enough), the green onion pancake was undercooked, the kou shui ji was good but quite salty (which I'm fine with if it's balanced out by hot and spice but it wasn't), sichuan green beans were ok but again very salty... what superb dishes have I missed and have to go back and try?
                                              After reading this thread I'm looking forward to a trip to Peaceful and the other recc's :)

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: mbe

                                                My girlfriend's biggest complaint about the XLB at Lins is the coarseness of the meat. We went to Northern Delicacy in Richmond today, and she thought the XLB there was better than at Lins. I had to disagree, but she values a 'smoother' meat filling more than I do.

                                                We also went to Peaceful last week, and were disappointed with their XLB. Not bad - just not as good as Lins or Northern Delicacy.

                                                1. re: aburitoro

                                                  glad to know I'm not the only one with a filling hangup aburitoro :) .. such an unwieldy and fickle beast the XLB is.

                                                  1. re: mbe

                                                    We can probably track this. It's probably the case of the XLB 'mistress' not working that particular day and the understudy was making them. What day were you guys there?

                                                    1. re: fmed

                                                      I think I was at Lin's on Sunday, July 6. But I can't say for sure.

                                                      1. re: aburitoro

                                                        I was there last Saturday (July 26th) around 2ish.

                                                        1. re: mbe

                                                          So perhaps Sat and Sun are not good days for XLB at Lin's.

                                                          1. re: fmed

                                                            The one time we had the XLB at Lin's was a Friday and everyone felt they were topnotch -- thin skin, tasty uncoarse filling, and very fresh (we watched them being made). Sadly, by the time we ordered a second batch, they were sold out. So go early on a weekday and order them quickly!

                                                  2. re: aburitoro

                                                    I went to Peaceful for the first time on Saturday and was disappointed as well. Wrapper was too thick, broth was too greasy and the meat seemed a bit rubbery. The jiu cai he (chive boxes) were not bad - the filling was good, but the skin was a bit too thick and chewy. I went to Wang's for lunch today and was not disappointed. I think Wang's is still my favourite out of the places I've tried in Vancouver (altho have not tried Lin's yet). The Wang's XLB grandma was training her 2nd helper. Guess business is good!

                                                    1. re: im_hungry

                                                      Two helpers. Excellent. They have a good thing going there at the Food Court.

                                                      Peaceful doesn't do a exemplary XLB. I only order it on occasion.

                                                      NB - I noted on another posting in this thread that Long's on Main St has destination-quality XLB (the last time I went - one Thur around lunchtime.)

                                                2. The Place used to be my favourite , but that's when Lin ran the show there , I haven't been there since

                                                  1. I was chatting with a Shanghainese friend couple of days back and naturally, we talked XLB! His favorite XLB stall was Top Shanghai Cuisine in Ackryod in Richmond until the dim sum lady opened up her own shop along Main. Right now, this shop called City Temple of Shanghai, is his go to place for XLB.

                                                    Out of curiosity, I stopped by for lunch today. Ordered my usual XLB, Shen Jian Bao, and Crispy Duck (they do not have the Tea Smoke Duck). Just to have a comparison for Peaceful's beef roll, we ordered one as well.

                                                    The XLB was freshly made. Fresh as in the lady took our order and went behind the counter to make it! The skin was thin but there wasn't enough soup in the XLB. The Shen Jian Bao was pretty good too but the crispy duck was a tad salty. I still prefer Chen's, but for these 3 dishes, I will rank this a little ahead of Lin's.

                                                    As for the Beef Roll, I really like the version here. This is only my second attempt at this dish and my only comparison is Peaceful's. The version here is a little more moist (quite generous with the hoisin sauce), more crisp cucumber and the bread tasted freshly made. I definitely prefer this over Peaceful's.

                                                    Personally, I will choose this place over Lin's for a general meal if I can't make it to Richmond. The room is quite run down, but the old couple running the place are very nice people. We conversed in Mandarin and I suspect English might be a problem. The menu is available is English and one can always point!

                                                    City Temple Of Shanghai
                                                    3755 Main Street, Vancouver, BC V5V 3N8
                                                    Telephone : 604-879-2078

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: kwailan4

                                                      I guess this is once again a question of preferences....

                                                      I didn't like the XLB at City Temple - the skin didn't have that stretchy resilience that I like. The texture was softer and almost pasty to my taste....and yes it was not as juicy as Lin's. The broth that was a tad greasy for me as well.

                                                      The beef roll was soft like a crepe rather than the crispy, flakey version at Peaceful. I still prefer Peaceful's.

                                                      Some pics here: http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

                                                      1. re: fmed

                                                        Which version is more common in Vancouver? The flaky one or the crepe one?

                                                        It is a case of preferences and familiarity. My friend didn't even know Chen's re-opened on Park Road and have not heard of Lin's. His other regular place for XLB was along Kingsway, west of Victoria. Couldn't remember the name or any other details. I drive past that junction often and never noticed any XLB places.

                                                        1. re: kwailan4

                                                          >> Which version is more common in Vancouver? The flaky one or the crepe one?

                                                          Both seem to be equally prevalent.

                                                          >> His other regular place for XLB was along Kingsway, west of Victoria. Couldn't remember the name or any other details. I drive past that junction often and never noticed any XLB places.

                                                          I don't recall any places west of Victoria. Ningtu (just east of Victoria on Kingsway) has XLB....but not a good one in my opinion. The skin is soft, puffy and pasty - not glossy, thin and stretchy (if you know what I mean). And the broth is greasy. They do have a great green onion pancake and other items though. It's a good restaurant for the most part -- real old-school Vancouver Chinese food.

                                                          I have pics of Ningtu's XLB in the XLB Survey folder at my Picasa account: http://picasaweb.google.com/gustibus....

                                                          1. re: fmed

                                                            Ningtu location.

                                                            -----
                                                            Ningtu Restaurant
                                                            2130 Kingsway, Vancouver, BC V5N2T5, CA

                                                            1. re: fmed

                                                              I agree. Ningtu's XLB is way too greasy. I used to go there about 5 years ago, when there weren't as many XLB options. Now ,I'd rather drive the extra 10 minutes east on Kingsway and hit Wang's.

                                                              1. re: fmed

                                                                Fmed
                                                                Speaking of old school Chinese food, used to go to Green Village(?) on Broadway and Nanaimo. IMO, not nearly as good as Richmond's Shanghai River but when you don't want to haul across the entire city, it was decent. Juicy but a little thicker on the dough than to my liking.

                                                                1. re: bdachow

                                                                  Yes indeed. I do miss Green Village (I live close by). It was replaced by Golden Phoenix - my family's go-to dim sum place....so not a bad trade. The XLB at GV was exactly how you describe - the skin is not too thin, but it is juicy with a light broth. Similar to Peaceful's.

                                                                  1. re: fmed

                                                                    So over the weekend I tried Lin's again but this time during lunch and not dinner. Wow, what a difference it was with the XLB lady. So juicy and the skin was so thin ! The meat was also very flavourful. This could be my all time favourite. My only quirk is that I like the texture at Chen's better. It's a tough call.............so close. Oh well, I guess I have to keep on taste testing.............;-)

                                                                    1. re: gourmet wife

                                                                      Yes indeed. It makes a BIG difference when a master (mistress?) is making them.

                                                                      Just to update my favourites...(they are all very close and one is not necessarily better than the other...and given the variances caused by factors discussed above...):

                                                                      Lin's Fine Chinese
                                                                      Wang's
                                                                      Chen's Shanghai
                                                                      Long Noodle House
                                                                      The Place.

                                                                      1. re: fmed

                                                                        So this weekend, hubs had a craving for XLB which is very unlike him and of course we had to give into his craving =). Once again we headed to Chen's. It's so close but right now I am going to say I like Lin's better because of the flavour (theirs has more ginger in the meat which I enjoy).

                                                          2. re: kwailan4

                                                            I've been having XLB cravings this week. I ate lunch at Chen's yesterday and I went by City Temple today around dinner time, and it was closed! But their sign said that they were open 11am to 9pm on Mondays. I hate it when that happens...

                                                          3. 2 trips to YVR and here's my list from our XLB tasting tour:
                                                            * Shiang Garden - skin was thick, lacked in soup, meat was ok
                                                            * Kirin - gingery soup, meat was ok
                                                            * Shanghai River - tasty soup, thin skin, meat was very good
                                                            * Northern Delicacy - tasty soup, skin ok, meat was chunky

                                                            Of these 4 places, my fave is Shanghai River. We ordered the regular and the crab ones. When the server brought them to table she says, "be careful, they're juicy". They were both very soupy...almost sustained an injury opening one up for my toddler with the soup squirting out. The crab ones were ok, would stick to the regular ones. You get 8 regular and 5 crab, good value for what you pay. Daughter ate half of the regular ones, she loves all kinds of dumplings.

                                                            Also ordered some handmade noodles with pork, very tasty. Some shrimp and chive pan-fried dumplings (very good) and some pan-fried veggie dumplings (ok). The most popular dishes being ordered were definitely the XLB and the long donuts.

                                                            Second XLB pick would be Northern Delicacy, but I'd only go there to order the XLB and maybe the noodle dishes. Hubby skipped lunch that day so he needed to eat. We ordered some braised duck with chives (should have ordered the tea smoked), kung pao seafood, pea sprouts stir-fried with garlic, and some half moon fried rice (ying-yang chow fan). The dishes were ok, nothing to rave about and seriously over-priced; considering its location/mall costs built into food costs. This feast cost more than our dinner at Palace Kitchen in Seattle the night before and no where near the quality. Stick to the snacks and move on for the main course elsewhere.

                                                            So little time left here that Lin's and Chen's will have to wait till my next visit.

                                                            1. Bump!

                                                              12 Replies
                                                              1. re: fmed

                                                                Thx for the bump. Heading up from Portland end of August. . .any updates on the xiao long bao champions? The only decent source here (a neat little cart) changed hands a year or so ago and closed within a few months.

                                                                --mcz

                                                                1. re: mczlaw

                                                                  OP fmed is in your home city right now on an iphone so may not be able to reply right away :-). FWIW, I like the XLB at Chen's, Wang's in Crystal Mall and Lin's in that order (Lin's being my favourite). So much depends on your own criteria though -- is your deal breaker thin skin, unctuous soup or flavourful meat ball? Hard to find all three together that hit all the high points,no?

                                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                                    Thanks grayelf.

                                                                    Yes I was just in Portland over-indulging on your truly amazing food scene. I'm still recovering and wishing I had more time there.

                                                                    Anyway, grayelf covered it well. If I were to send a visitor to one Shanghai restuarant in Vancouver, it would be Long's. Their XLB is on the top shelf and the rest of the concise menu is also well executed. But if XLB is all you are after, then Wang's at Crystall Mall (a very easy skytrain ride away) is my top rec.

                                                                    1. re: fmed

                                                                      Thx much fmed and greyelf. No dealbreakers just need something competent or better overall. Last good xlb I had was in SF @ Yank Sing, so it's been a long dry year. I will try one of these places for sure. (Also been tracking all the dim sum discussion. Dim sum here in Portland is fairly poor, reputed to be great up your way. Anyway, will avoid being OT so again thank you for the xlb update).

                                                                      --mcz

                                                                      1. re: mczlaw

                                                                        fmed picked up on a typo in my post -- should have read Long's not Chen's (though I like Chen's for other stuff). Will be intrigued to hear your comparo with wherever you go and Yank Sing, which seems like an odd place to get XLB.

                                                                      2. re: fmed

                                                                        fmed, are you planning to post on your food finds on the Portland board? I'd love to hear about your experiences in the area.

                                                                        Cheers,

                                                                        Dave

                                                                        1. re: PolarBear

                                                                          Polar...are you a member of Vanchow? (I posted some quickies there). When I have some time, I post about my recent trip to the CH Portland board.

                                                                          1. re: fmed

                                                                            I get your invites to the Chowdowns (and drool) but not a member of Facebook. I'll look forward to your Portland post, thanks.

                                                                            1. re: PolarBear

                                                                              PB, you don't have to be a member of facebook. Just come on over to http://vanchow.ning.com/ sign in and get reading. Email me if you have any problems...

                                                                              1. re: grayelf

                                                                                Thanks so much, grayelf. I signed up with no problem.

                                                                                1. re: PolarBear

                                                                                  Okay now just be sure to log on at ning from time to time to see what's happening up here. And get your polarbutt to Vancouver for a visit. We can set up a Chowdown for ya if you so desire :-).

                                                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                                                    Will do, and we'd absolutely love a chowdown with the vanhounds on our next visit.

                                                                2. I recently tried Shanghai River for the first time this week. I liked the broth here more than Lin's. The skin was certainly not as thin (but still good) as at lin's.

                                                                  I could do without the crab XLB at Shanghai's.

                                                                  Overall experience at Shanghai River was better. (went before things got busy + reservation + got a table with good leg room. full disclosure hehe)Next on the list of places to try is Chen's

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Shanghai River Restaurant
                                                                  7831 Westminster Hwy, Richmond, BC V6X1A4, CA