Chinese in Calgary
Hey everyone, so I'm looking to try some Chinese in Calgary... Authentic, not westernized. Embarassingly I'm a total 'virgin' in this department, and even if I get a restaurant recommendation I'm kind of lost with the 'War-and-Peace' length menus. I've done some digging on this board, and found a few names that seem to be cropping up but I have no idea what to order there, and additionally many of the threads are going on 3 years old now, so a more current take on the situation would be nice.
I understand Delicious Country is a well liked option around here, but are there any stand out dishes there? What do I order as a first-timer?
Also, am I correct in thinking Harbor City and Forbidden City are the dim sum favorites? I have only ever tried the dim sum at the Calgary Farmer's Market, so I don't have much to go on.
Also, any places that are better than those I mentioned?
Thanks in Advance!
Let me just tackle dim sum to start.
We like Grand Central on 16th ave and Center north for their egg tarts and they have carts. Carts can be easier for newbies as you can see your food and can just point. The egg tarts have to be ordered,. Once in a while a waiter will carry a tray of them around because they are best right out of the oven.
T-Pot is better for some other things but you order by ticking items off on a paper menu. The food is fresher that way and they have some less traditional items. The down side is that it can be pretty hard to guess what you are getting from the odd descriptions. They call oyster sauce abalone sauce, for example.
If you live in the NW you could also try Peking Garden in Varsity or Snow Palace in Crowfoot both of whom have a shorter pencil and paper system.
Ginger Beef Bistro Cafe House or whatever the long name is for their newest place on Country Hills Blvd by the theaters isn't bad, they have a window into the kitchen and a paper check-off menu about as long as T Pot.
Wherever you go for dim sium try BBQ pork buns (sha shoo bow) That's MY version of the phonetic pronunciation. Shrimp dumplings are also not too difficult for the western palate (har gow). These days everyone is hot for XLB or Xio Long Bao (sh ow (as in ouch) long bow) or soup dumplings. I haven't had any really great ones in Calgary but most places have some version. We also love what some places call rice pancakes. I can barely manage to say the name so that Cantonese speakers can understand it so I won't try to write it out.
I haven't been to Forbidden City but Harbor City overcooks the rice pancakes and since there are so many better choices with easier parking we have no interest in returning.
For non dim sum lunch I would suggest the place on 2nd ave E facing north whose name escapes me right now and just have the daily special.
For dinner we like Snow Palace because their menu has a section of traditional food in the back in English and we don't always have someone with us who can read Chinese. Also, we had dinner at Shanghai Gardens by Superstore on Country Hills the other night and when they found out we want traditional food but can't read their 'special menu' they helped us. We ordered shrimp, beef and noodles and it was excellent.
+1 for the egg tarts at Grand Central.
T-Pot is good for dim sum (a little more expensive then other places). When you enter T-Pot, there is a set of tables to the right which is more indicative of a Hong Kong style snack house. I like eating there and the prices are good.
The rice pancakes that sharonanne is talking about is called Cheung Fun (or some variation of the spelling). The shrimp ones at T-Pot are good (har cheung), and I always order the Chinese Donut Cheung Fun (I can't phonetically pronounce this). If you are just starting out, this is a good dish to order. I have not found a decent XLB in Calgary yet.
Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf (Lo Mai Gai) is also a good one to try. Deep-fried dumplings (Haam Sui Gok) is a sweet/savoury dumpling which is good too.
Rice porridge or congee is very popular for lunch as well. Get it with some Chinese donuts to dip.
Chinatown, I prefer U and Me for dim sum. It also has a check-list.
Regency Palace is OK, plus you can pick up stuff yourself.
If you are in the NW, Edgemont City has a small dim sum menu for lunch. I really like it for dinner though. The waitresses there have excellent English so you can always ask them what to try, or to interpret the Chinese menu. I like the Peking duck there as well. Better yet, go with a couple friends and order the Chinese dinner for 6 set menus (not the English one) and give it a whirl. That gives you a pretty good cross-section of authentic food. You can order a ginger beef (Calgary-style) or sweet and sour pork to go with it.
Grand Pearl on 64th Ave NE is fairly good - a little bit greasier.
Rope some Chinese people to go with you - we all like to eat!
Go to Szechuan Resturant at 414 16 Ave NW (beside the Co-op Wine and Spirits with that huge parking lot). They have a lot of similar dishes to Delicious Country (but I think Szechuan Restaurant is better). Their spicy eggplant dish there is really good as well as their double cooked spicy pork (Hui Guo Ro).
Thank You for the suggestions everyone! I'll definitely have to check out T-Pot and Szechuan Rest. soon!
Let me clarify though, I'm not sure I have what you'd consider a 'western palate' I love plenty of pretty out there foods from many different cuisines, I just haven't really explored Chinese cuisine before, mostly because the menus are so extensive I have no idea what to order. Thank you for the suggestions, I just wanted to clarify that I'm willing to try anything if it's good.
Also, where would I go if I wanted to find Dan Dan Mien?
Great Taste Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown (formerly MBA BBQ Noodle House) does a tasty version of Dan Dan Mien. I liked it much better than the version from Szechuan Rest.
I've also posted some of my thoughts regarding Delicious Country, Szechuan Rest. and Great Taste Chinese Rest. on this other thread previously.
Great Thread and great replies. I to am a little overwhelmed by where to begin with the diversity of authentic Chinese cuisine, so I'll be watching the advice here with a watering mouth...
Likewise, this recipe for Ma Po Tofu (mapo dofou) has caught my attention on the Chow.com main page a couple of times: http://www.chow.com/recipes/29102-ma-...
From what I gather this is a pretty common Szechuan dish. Is this something I should be able to find at Szechuan Restaurant or Delicious Country? Does anyone have a recommendation?
Szechuan Steamed Pork Belly @ Szechuan Restaurant - heart attack on a dish, but terrific:
Definitely try the Ma Po tofu, as well as the Dan Dan Mein (Noodles) and compare to the other places. The Lamb with Cumin is very good at Szechuan.
At Szechuan, the boiled fish is excellent, but really spicy (I think miss.foodie mentions that already in her other post). Get a small serving if it is just a couple of you - the large one serves a whole table.