A great meal to start off Chinese New Year.
Gung Hey Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year. The year of the Sheep is upon us and I wish good fortune to everyone. My good fortune is having the opportunity to try some of the best Chinese food in the Lower Mainland in my 30 Days Of CNY adventures. Today’s adventures takes me back to my favourite meal of the day, Brunch or as the Chinese call it, Dim Sum. Top Shanghai Cuisine Restaurant serves up some wicked Xia Long Bao or XLB, delicate dumplings filled with pork and soup. Top Shanghai serves up what is commonly referred to as Shanghainese, cuisine specialized and made popular in the Shanghai region of China. There are a few places all over Lower Mainland that excel at Shanghainese but Top Shanghai is one of the best in Richmond according to Stephen Wong, founder of the Chinese Restaurant Awards. Let’s eat!
Top Shanghai is yet another restaurant in Richmond that it is probably easier to get to by Canada Line than it is to drive. It’s at 8100 Ackroyd Road off of No 3 Road which is equal distance between the Lansdowne and Brighouse Canada Line Stations. If you do drive it is part of a strip mall so there is plenty of parking available for you. I advise you to take the Canada Line though as a walk after a meal is always a good thing for the digestion.
Once again my strategy of arriving when the restaurant first opens up guarantees me and my friends from Seattle and Calgary a good table. It’s Chinese New Year after all so it doesn’t take long for restaurants to fill up with hungry diners. A helpful part of the decor in Top Shanghai is that there are large photos of the various dishes displayed throughout the restaurant. So if you are like me and you don’t know what it’s called you could always point to the photo and say I’ll have one of those.
Stephen Wong has joined us for Dim Sum so we are completely in his hands as he orders us up a feast. Are you seeing a trend with Chinese New Years celebrations, it’s all about abundance and wealth = feast. Like every meal in a Chinese restaurant we start of with Jasmine tea and hot water. We also start with another traditional Chinese drink Soy Milk. We had our choice of salty or sweet and the vote at the table was to try the salty. I was expecting it to come in individual glasses for us but instead it arrived in a large bowl and we each ladled our portion into our smaller bowls. Chunks of pickled ginger and green onions are in the milk which is thicker and has way more flavour than I expected. It was actually quite flavourful and very warming. A surprise hit and a dish I would definitely want to try again.
The next two dishes are the ones I was the most looking forward to, traditional steamed Xia Long Bao and Pan Fried Xiao Long Bao. The pan fried version were fantastic and reminded me of monkey bread as you had to pull them apart from each other. The filling was exactly the same as the Traditional XLB and was delicious. The traditional XLB were divine little dumplings that explode in your mouth. Here is a trick on how to eat XLB without losing the soup and burning your mouth. Step 1 you pick up the dumpling with your chopsticks by the little knot that has formed at the top of the dumpling. Step 2 you dip the dumpling in the sauce that accompanies it and then you place the dumpling in your spoon. Step 3 with the dumpling in the spoon you cause a small tear near the top of the dumpling to allow some of the steam to escape. Step 4 when you are confident it is cool enough not to burn your mouth you place the spoon with the dumpling in your mouth and eat it. Explosion = awesome.
I could honestly go home happy at this point but we’ve only just begun. Chinese Donuts and Wontons with Chilli Sauce are the next dishes that arrive in quick order. If you are expecting super sweet donuts like Tim Hortons then you’ll be disappointed. While Chinese Donuts are fried dough they are far less sweet. Quite nice actually but I wouldn’t be eating a dozen of these at a sitting. The Wontons were exactly that, boiled wontons. I was expecting a little more heat from the Chilli Sauce so that was disappointing, but otherwise it is a nice and easy dish to enjoy – add more spice though if you are like me.
Daikon Pastries and Spring Rolls are the next two dishes served up. I loved the Daikon pastries, with the daikon shredded and the bun coated with sesame seeds they were light, not greasy and mild in flavour. I’m not sure if you are supposed to but dipped in Soy Sauce they are yummy. The Spring Rolls were just ok. Unfortunately the spring rolls at Golden Paramount set the bar really high and these were not up to that. Good but I’ve had better and within the last couple of days.
The next dish is a surprise dish to me. Stephen described it as being like the Shanghainese version of an English Fish & Chips without the chips. Seaweed Battered Fried Fish. I think the fish used was called Basa which is a common white fish in China. I didn’t think I would like it but surprisingly it was delicious. As you know I don’t eat a lot of fish but I could definitely have a piece of this on my plate and be happy.
We have three dishes left to go, Sticky Rice filled with Pork & Chinese Donut, Shanghai Noodles and Beef Noodle Soup. I have to be honest I didn’t try the Sticky Rice, I was getting full and even though it looked pretty tasty I just couldn’t. By not eating the rice I had room for one of my favourite dishes ever the Shanghai Noodles. What can I say I love Shanghai Noodles and these were particularly good. I also loved the Beef Noodle Soup with the beef heavily spiced with Chinese 5 Spice. Plenty of greens, noodles and those tender pieces of beef. This soup could replace Chicken Noodle Soup on days I feel crappy.
There you have it – another amazing feast in celebration of Chinese New Year. At one point the table was so full of dishes we had to start stacking to make room for more. I had some stand out dishes today and some not so stand out but overall this feast was a big hit. Gung Hey Fat Choy – Best Wishes and Congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year.
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