Richmond Northern China Dinearound
Posted by Degan on August 16th, 2010
Note: this post was imported from EthnicEats.ca
It used to be that I thought Richmond was where the airport and IKEA were located and so I rarely made the trek, save when I was travelling or redecorating. But then the richness of the food culture opened up from the Richmond Summer Night Market to the splendours of Alexandra Road (with more than 200 Asian restaurants) – and now it’s a gastronomic destination in it’s own right. This is in large part due to the efforts of Tourism Richmond who recently invited me on a Northern China dinearound to a couple of restaurants specializing in key cuisines.
The first stop was the Point Zero Four Fusion Restaurant, a casual hot-pot and Chinese BBQ eatery frequented by students and families. When we arrived, a spread was already laid out for us, including a selection of cold appetizers, many of them pickled or cured in some way; Beijing-style pork “jelly” - boiled meat and pork skin allowed to gel into cubes, pickled Napa cabbage and lotus root, spicy black fungus, and beef slices with sour chili sui choy.
We filled up on hot pot cooked in two distinct broths (a milder chicken and scallion mix and a spicy chili soup) and served with two distinct sauces (sweet and sour Canton sauce and delectable Beijing bean curd and salted leek sauce) and BBQ’d skewers but there was a surprise. And then another.
A spicy chicken wing had been offered, almost as a dare. How bad could it be, I thought? And then it arrived at the table, coated in chilis and served with a “fire extinguisher” of frozen grapes and tomatoes.
I went slowly and had some grapes and while it was a little too hot to have much flavour, it wasn’t all that bad. I was the only one of the group to finish it all, but then some ”Chinese Famous Liquor” brand baijiu (56% proof rice wine, similar to grappa) was brought out and I was sure I was going to be breathing fire.
Somehow I managed to not kill my tastebuds and we continued on to secret Suhang, tucked in a corner of a strip mall. This is a more formal Shanghainese restaurant, specializing in some exotic delicacies. We had ma lan tou, a marinated bean curd and vegetable dish (made with a special type of leafy green, similar to spinach, that needs to be ordered from China and then flash-frozen), crispy smoked fish, gluten with sesame oil, peanuts and mushrooms, yellow fish deep-fried with seaweed and served with Worchestershire sauce.
But the pièce de résistance was a Hangzhou-style clay-baked chicken. Rice, gizzards, eggs and assorted other ingredients are wrapped in lotus leaf then covered in clay and baked for 5 hours in the oven. You have to order ahead for this one but then it arrives at dinnertime, looking like an asteroid on a plate. Deconstructed, it’s a delicious dish, but I’m not sure the same effect couldn’t be attained by roasting a chicken.
By this time our bellies were full to bursting but we still had one more stop and at least one more coveted item to sample. Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I love xiao long bao, those little dumplings filled with soup (and I’m sure some kind of edible crack), and Shanghai River has some of the best around. They arrived at the table and people dug in almost immediately, despite the temperature and despite the 2 previous dinners. They’re just that good. We also had an order of crab-filled xiao long bao, which I have only had at Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant in New York City. I don’t like them nearly as much as the pork dumplings (something aout the sea taste doesn’t come across as well) but these were miles better than theirs.
Next up was a Peking duck with hoisin sauce. Traditionally divided into two dishes – the skin and then the meat – we had a platter of crispy fried duck skin wrapped in crepes with scallion and hoisin followed by stir-fried duck meat and lettuce wraps. Both were done well, although I’ve had more flavourful versions in other restaurants.
I was planning on skipping dessert, because I don’t normally have a sweet tooth and I was so full anyways, but all of them intrigued me; a sweet, milky dessert soup, deep fried dumplings with red bean paste and pink sugar, and sesame dumplings with peanut coating. This last one, the sesame and peanut deliciousness, has now made it into the dumpling love club along with the xiao long bao. It is not too sweet, actually even a bit salty, with a creamy inside. It wasn’t on the menu but Stacey, our guide, assured me it can be found at most Shanghainese places. Despite ordering something similar yet not at all the same at Chen’s a couple of days later, I plan on attempting to order it everywhere from now on.
Point Zero Four Fusion Restaurant
160-8500 Alexandra Rd.
8291 Ackroyd Road, Richmond
7831 Westminster Hwy., #110