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The Crab was Flying at Sea Harbour: A Chowdown Report (Richmond BC)

fmed Sep 18, 2009 05:20 PM

Sea Harbour
3711 No. 3 Road
Richmond, BC

Pics: http://picasaweb.google.ca/gustibus.maximus/SeaHarbour

It was another great Chowdown - not all the food was fantastic, but everyone could clearly see why Sea Harbour is considered one of the top Chinese restaurants in Vancouver. We were all very well fed for about $30 per person....but it could have very easily been much much more.

Clearly this is a restaurant where fresh (and expensive) seafood is the focus. The very daunting tome of a menu listed individual dishes that can be had at nearly $100 per person (...this is per dish - items like abalone, and sharksfin and other seafood exotica). It would be very easy to have a meal here that would blow out the budget of even the most well-heeled fine diner.

I had heard that this restuarant is related to Sea Harbour in the Los Angeles area (the heavily Chinese ethno-burb of Rosemead to be precise: http://www.seaharbour.com/). I called today to confirm this tidbit as fact.

Going back to our dinner last night...we ordered some non-seafood dishes that didn't rise up to the level of the seafood dishes that we had. A couple of the dishes like the Lotus Root with XO sauce (chewy pork and the XO didn't appeal to some of us), and the Salt-baked ("Hand Shredded") Chicken (chewy chicken, but flavourful...and very good oil and salt dipping sauce) were examples.

The dishes were not bad...actually, they were good and well executed, but they just didn't do it for some of us due to personal preferences and other reasons. Certain dishes didn't make it to the "favoured" list because of seafood allergies. Of note are the Geoduck dish, the Fried Oysters, and the Crab Hotpot.

The two stars of the evening were definitely their famous Dungeness Crab with Kabocha Hotpot, and the Steamed Live Rock Cod. Both items were impeccably fresh - and actually living mere minutes prior to their service. The Hotpot was sauced with a flavourful and balanced blackbean and soya concoction. It would be very good with white rice (had we had any). Crab is always a messy eat....so we had our messy moments of flying crab parts. The Rock Cod was executed with restraint - the sauce was subtle so as not to mask the freshness of the fish.

All the dishes tasted clean and the flavours were quite distinct - hallmarks of good Cantonese cooking.

We had decided to order in a round robin fashion and ultimately, I think that ordering a set banquet might have provided us with better results (it would also be easy enough to customize the banquet menu if your group desires).

Otherwise, I believe that the appropriate strategy here at Sea Harbour is to play to their strength: Seafood. Order as much seafood as your budget can handle and augment it with some items from the Seasonal Menu and some of their smoked specialties (I really like their tea-smoked duck here, for example). The often have dishes with western influences that would be an interesting order (they have a Scallop and Foie Gras listed as Scallop and Goose Liver, for example).

I don't think it is even necessary to order a separate vegetable dish because the seafood dishes were well appointed in this regard. (The vegetable dish we did order was very good - Lotus Root with Ginko Nut - everything taste fresh). There are quite a number of dishes that need to be pre-ordered - so it is a good idea to peruse the menu in advance.

The service here is top-notch - napkins were unfolded individually by the waiter and the the managers and waitstaff came to check on us regularly but unobtrusively. We were given tea and complementary jelly desserts. The ambiance is typical of a high-end Chinese restaurant - bright lighting and comfortable acoustics. All the tables were banquet sized and there is a sectionable area on the North side of the room for larger parties.

We were all a little surprised to have paid a seemingly paltry $30 per person last night considering the sheer amount of food and level of quality. They also serve high-quality dim sum here during lunch.

Pics: http://picasaweb.google.ca/gustibus.m...

 
 
 
 
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  1. Cancuk Sep 18, 2009 05:49 PM

    As always, great write-up Fmed.

    I also really liked the fried rice with white sauce, shrimp, and whatever else was in there.

    The obvious standout, to me, was the Crab Hotpot with the Fish in second.

    Until next time!

    1. c oliver Sep 18, 2009 06:04 PM

      I know Scargod is going to "favorite" this. BTW, did you have alcoholic beverages? I'm not really a beer drinker but for Chinese food, it's what I prefer versus wine.

      8 Replies
      1. re: c oliver
        fmed Sep 18, 2009 08:13 PM

        A few had some Chinese beer. I can't wrap my mind around wine and Asian food...I know it's possible, but it just ain't right. They do have a wine list, but I didn't bother to look at it.

        1. re: fmed
          Cancuk Sep 19, 2009 12:25 PM

          Asian food + Alsatian/German white's or sparkling is superb.

          I always wish that some of the Asian restaurants would invest in a good wine program.

          1. re: Cancuk
            c
            ck1234 Sep 19, 2009 12:48 PM

            Gee...I think red wine goes with anything, including Asian food! ;-)

            1. re: ck1234
              fmed Sep 19, 2009 01:07 PM

              We had a discussion about wine and Asian food during this Chowdown. Of course, Cancuk is quite right - a nice German White will pair very well with Asian food. Even reds like certain Pinot Noir will work depending on the dish. I have had some assorted other wines at Asian-food centric dinners (er sparklers like prosecco, vinho verde, etc.).

              The ultimate test...at a Chinese restaurant - two drinks are placed in front of you: a glass of white Riesling vs a cold Tsing Tao. Which will win out? I know what my choice will be ;-)

              1. re: fmed
                c
                ck1234 Sep 19, 2009 01:24 PM

                I wasn't saying it in a knowledgeble, wine pairing way at all! I was basically just saying I drink red wine with anything, right or wrong! I will say at breakfast - brunches, I'll drink champagne rather than red though!

                1. re: ck1234
                  fmed Sep 19, 2009 02:28 PM

                  I knew what you meant CK ;). I agree - red goes with everything!.

                  1. re: fmed
                    grayelf Sep 19, 2009 02:59 PM

                    Red is the new black :-).

                    I'm going to give cancuk and starlady a coronary here but I think that riesling goes with everything, even short ribs. I have 8 different rieslings in my basement as I type :-). The whole wine pairing thing is kinda lost on me, though I do enjoy trying different combinations. I'm never going to be an oenophile, clearly, I just knows what I likes.

                2. re: fmed
                  c oliver Sep 19, 2009 01:59 PM

                  I'll go with the Tsing Tao. Basically that and Tecate (and one unavailable in the US Brazilian) are the only beers I drink. I have neither a food nor wine vocabulary but beer just seems right.

        2. s
          sf toronto Sep 18, 2009 07:00 PM

          Great write-up fmed, and man oh man, would you check out the photos ;)
          Nice touch for giving a shout out to the missing steamed rice.
          It's such a pleasure dining with the CH'ers as I'm bound to try so many wonderful things. I loved the geoduck and all that ginger - I kept thinking that it would have made the perfect cold-weather comfort food. And, as you say, the rock cod was mild and fresh.

          1. fmed Sep 18, 2009 08:17 PM

            I just noticed I posted an incorrent URL to the Sea Harbour in Rosemead. I can't find a website...but here is a Chow Place: http://www.chow.com/places/9780

            1 Reply
            1. re: fmed
              grayelf Sep 18, 2009 10:26 PM

              Even though I helped organize this Chowdown, I was a bit worried because I am the one with the certain-seafoods sensitivity :-). Not a problem though -- there was plenty to eat. I loved the kabocha and sauce, and could appreciate the freshness of the crab as I met him/her before prep! I could have eaten more sauce with the MIA rice but as fmed said, we didn't get any -- a miscommunication with the waitstaff.

              The geoduck had good wok hei and was the SO's favourite dish of the evening (he can eat crab but... sob... doesn't love it, so left it for the crab hounds). A surprise hit for both of us was the fried rice. So rich and creamy, unlike any other fried rice I've had before. Reminded me a tiny bit of my long-lost favourite prawns with scrambled egg and rice -- great high end comfort food. SO and I both really enjoyed the pork belly with green beans as well; lots of umami and the beans were beautifully crunchy.

              We started with a seafood hot and sour soup which was the only dish the SO and I had tried before, and it was just as good as last time -- I think Sea Harbour may have the consistency issue in hand, which might also partly explain why it gets a lot of props. I heart consistency!

              Thanks to the 'Hounds in attendance for making it a great evening, and for giving me the confidence to invite the P2s there for dinner soon to show them what "real" Cantonese food is like!

            2. Scargod Sep 20, 2009 04:12 AM

              What a great write-up fmed and all of you. I am envious of your experience. I swear that when I came to the picture of the hot and sour soup I could smell it!
              The idea of having a set menu seems the way to go but we sure did enjoy the Hangchow duck soup with savory ham when we were at Shanhai River and I could eat duck fixed any which way. SO would love the Scallop and Goose Liver...
              The vegetable dishes looked appetizing and fresh. There is so much for me to learn about Cantonese food and some of these combinations of vegetables. With only one mouth to help me (and a small belly attached), it is hard for the two of us to get very far into the plethora of beautiful food on the menu.
              I don't know what wok Hei means. Couldn't figure that out.
              About alcoholic drinks: I do like a lager with spicy Asian and also Riesling and sauvignon blanc. I could only do reds if it went more savory with more umami and stronger flavors. Still, my SO thinks reds are it. I'm slowly winning here over to pinots with lighter fare. To each his own, but I'm more traditional. I love whites and reds; an equal opportunity drinker.
              I did sea bass the other night. It was grilled over mesquite with chipotle/lime seasoning. Her pinot was good with it. I drank a French Sauvignon blanc.
              I do hope I/we get to dine with some of you eventually. I was drooling over the pictures! Thanks.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Scargod
                grayelf Sep 20, 2009 09:09 AM

                Oops, shouldn't assume, seeing as I only recently learned about it myself, from fmed. As I understand it, wok hei is that hard-to-describe (and find) flavour/texture/composition that comes from food being cooked properly in a wok. You know, the sorta smoky, on the verge of being burnt but not burnt at all, tender but not undercooked fresh-tasting deliciousness that you can get even without any sauce if there is a person of competence wielding the wok. Rats, now I'm hungry :-).

                1. re: Scargod
                  fmed Sep 20, 2009 09:11 AM

                  Thanks Scargod.

                  "Wok Hei" is the flavour and aroma that a very hot wok imparts on the food you cook in it. It is sort of a pleasant toasty smokiness. If is often called the "breath of a wok" ( http://www.graceyoung.com/aboutBreath... ). It is something that many aficionados of Chinese seek in certain dishes. You can only really achieve wok hei on a stove like a restaurant wok burner.

                  I do love red wines myself - both during a meal and on its own. I'm starting to enjoy more and more whites (with Rieslings leading the way). A red will work in a dish like a pork hot pot or braise that uses stronger seasonings (eg soya, ricewine, star anise braising liquid) or with a smoked duck, etc.

                  Next you are up - give us a shout.

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