Help-Tomorrow Night (Popping My Downtown Dim Sum/Dumpling Cherry)
You guys always come to my rescue so I am asking for your help once again even though this is very humiliating to admit: I have not been to the amazing restaurants I keep reading about (Lin's, Dynasty ect...) on these boards since I have moved here. The Asian food is great locally and I was content.
Tomorrow night that is going to change. My Mom is visiting and she is jonesing for the kind of soup dumplings and noodles she had in Beijing and Taiwan. I want to proudly show her what Vancouver has to offer.
My question is about the etiquette and ordering. Please excuse my ignorance and lack of knowledge. I have looked at the websites for the restaurants and am completely confused as to how to order what we will eat.
Can you order dim sum in the evening for dinner? Can you order dim sum and also order items a la carte as well.
Thanks in advance for any assistance!
Hey cloudshoveller, be not embarassed. My understanding is that Cantonese dimsum is largely a thing of the a.m./early pm. What you appear to be looking for is more Shanghainese, at least in terms of the XLB (soup dumplings) your mater is craving. These can be had at all hours of the day. You order them along with whatever else your heart desires from the menu, which is all a la carte.
FWIW, my favourite XLB are from Lin's, by a wide margin. The rest of their menu is pretty hit and miss, so you may need to go elsewhere for the noodles she seeks, and I don't know of any real knockout Taiwanese beef noodles near enough by to make it an easy stopover from Lin's. I was hopeful about the new Wang's at Cambie and 16th but haven't heard anything good. For other good noodles, Peaceful is not too far. Hopefully others will chime in.
The first time is the best one ;-)
Cloudshoveller, are you looking at downtown area only ? Peaceful Restaurant now is in downtown at 630 Davie:
Quality is generally pretty good, you might get the odd miss than hit, but that could be a function of how frequent you eat there, so if first time, then you'll likely like everything you order. All their menu items are available all day (except lunch specials of course).
Wanted to help you out, this is a bit long but bear with me. Most dim sum in Vancouver is Cantonese, traditionally served for brunch. At most restaurants that serve dim sum, there's a specific dim sum chef who works during the day and usually the dinner service is handled by another chef. Which is why there sometimes can be descprencies between the quailty of the dim sum and dinner service at the same restaurant.
There are places that serve dim sum a round the clock like Azia (on Smythe by the Movie Theatre) downtown, but they usually are serving frozen dim sum then steamed, so the quality is not the best.
Most dim sum places now use a check off menu. I assume you're not Chinese, some restaurants have special picture menus that they can provide thier non-Chinese customers. Don't be afraid to ask. Better for you to know what you are selecting than blindingly guess from the descriptions.
Select what you like and hand it over to the staff. They'll bring back a print out with what you ordered. As they bring your items, they cross it off on the print out.
Most dim sum places will ask you what type of tea you want but since I'm once again assuming your not Chinese they may not and just provide you with Puh Er tea which is a black tea.
Most dumpling items will come 3 pieces per steamer. My family uses the following rule of thumb 6 to 8 pieces per person. So for 2 people, 4 to 5 items should be ok. If you are still hungry you can also ask them for another menu and check off more food.
Yes you can also order a la carte items along with dim sum but the items available may be more limited due the chef situation I mentioned.
Cantonese dim sum is characterize by seafood and rice wrappers, whereas Northern Dim Sum is more meat and wheat wrapper based. The variety of Cantonese dim sum is far more vast in comparison to Northern dim sum.
The Kirin on Alberni specializes in Northern Chinese cuisine and your mom maybe able to recognize a few items like Peking Duck which would be available for dinner. They do a dim sum service too but it's more Cantonese than northern.
Hope this helps!
, Vancouver, BC V5Y, CA
Wow! Thank you all for your wonderful replies, everybody :D My heart overflows with graditude. I am learning so much and this will open a whole new area of Vancouver cuisine to me.
I think we will go to Lin's for XLB for lunch,greyelf. That will be a real treat.
After that I am thinking either Peaceful (thanks lotusrapper) or Kirin on Alberni would probably be great for dinner. I am going to get my Mom to look at the menu's when she wakes up ;)
Moyenchow, your explanations are fabulous and I thank you for educating me. I am always happy to drink Puh Er or black tea but love knowing now that I only need to ask for other tea's that I also like (green etc..). I am not Chinese and often allow my Sister-in-Law (who is) to order for me, but it is good for me to learn to be self-sufficient in this regard ;)
We love roasted or BBQ duck, onion/beef/seafood pancakes, beef/prawn rolls, any kind of dumpling or fresh noodle, pea shoots, curry and love to try new things... so if anyone has any suggestions based on those dishes or want to give reccomendations please feel free to offer your suggestion.
There is one dish I've found to be pretty consistent at Lin's if you want something other than XLB and that is the rice hotpot with veggies and Chinese ham. It is great leftover too.
If you go to Peaceful, try either the beef roll or the potato roll (D6). The latter seems to be slightly more consistent. The cumin beef and flatbread (D7) is also v. tasty. The mushu stir-fried noodles (F1) makes me happy, a noodly spin on a "classic dish" -- ask for it with the cutting noodles. Since it is finally warm, you might enjoy N21, the Xi'an cold steamed noodles which has a sesame sauce and julienned cukes.The spicy and tangy dumplings in sour soup is also refreshing (D14) though not really spicy. Or another good soup that sorta has dumplings is A17, Mandarin wonton soup which has cilantro, spinach and dried seaweed. I like the chive pockets but others find them a little grassy :-).
Have fun and let us know what you get with Mum!
Thanks again everybody :D Grayelf your suggestions for Peaceful dishes were great!
We have been back already since I wrote this, the food was SO good (and so much cheaper than we are used to paying in the 'burbs).
The XLB at Lin's were to die for and the rice hotpot with veggies and chinese ham is a great dish. Love it as leftovers with a poached egg on top the next day!
At Peaceful we both loved the mushu with the cutting noodles. We had to try the beef AND potato rolls. I think the beauty of these is getting them fresh. Mmmmm. My Mom found the cumin taste of the beef and flatbread a bit overpowering but I really enjoyed it. We loved the Sichuan cucumbers. The Wonton soup with the cilantro flavor is so good and especially in this weather.
My Mom was thrilled to find the quality of food. Especially the XLB that was the sort of ambience and texture that reminded her of travelling in China which she misses.
Thank you so much for your help. I can't wait to start checking out the other restaurants now :)
Yay! So glad the reccos were spot on for you. Peaceful is a favourite of mine but it can be hit and miss with such an enormous menu, and sometimes even my go-to dishes can be a bit off. I think it depends who's cooking. Also glad the prices worked for you. And thanks for the idea of turning the hotpot leftovers into breaky, I'm stealing that :-). Do keep us apprised of your continued adventures.
For good chowmein, hit the Cantonese spots. And you don't need to go high-brow neither. Congee Noodle House on Broadway between Quebec & Main does a decent job. Nancy Wonton House on Victoria Dr (~ 37th ?) is good too. And also Ken's Chinese Restaurant on Kingsway between Fraser & Knight is solid too.
I always ask for less sauce on the chowmein ...... like to have the noodles stay crispy :-)
Just a follow up on my post:
We went to Lin's today for a late lunch. We got there around 1:30 in hopes of missing the crowds. We ordered the XLB, the Hotpot (thanks grayelf) and the Chef Special Chow Mein (priced at $7.99 on the lunch specials, it's the same size as the $10.99 item on their regular menu according to our server). The chow mein was actually pretty good, nice amount of sauce and lots of toppings (baby corn, carrots, water chestnuts, bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, chicken, pork and shrimp) on a decent sized bed of noodles. The XLB were excellent. And the hot pot has been great as a left over.
Unfortunately, the service was terrible. Our server seemed unfamiliar with the menu, we received two orders of the chowmein (one of which was meant for the table next to ours), we didn't get the soup that was supposed to accompany the lunch special, the XLB came about 8 mins after the chow mein and the hot pot never came. I finally asked after about 30 mins and the new server (ours had disappeared) looked at me blankly and said she would get me a menu to show her the item. She never came back. I finally flagged down a male server/host who seemed to be in charge and he checked with the kitchen. Again, he didn't come back to tell me the status. We waited a for about 5 more minutes and finally decided that we should get the hot pot to go as we had finished all the other food awhile before, the tea was cold and my 3 year old was reaching his limit. Just as I stood to find the server our hot pot arrived. They quickly packed it to go and did apologize for the mix up but there was no adjustment to the bill or any sort of compensation.
In short, I would definately go back for the food but the service left alot to be desired.
True dat. Although I work a scant block and a half away, we long ago agreed that work lunches were out because of the potentially wretched service. Even takeaway doesn't fly -- I once waited 20 minutes in the resto for tan tan noodles to go, and it was 1:30 and almost empty. Then again, the service was just fine the last two times we went. It's a lottery. Sorry you lost, islandgirl, but I'm glad the rec was useful and the food tasty at least.