Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant
3888 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V5V 3P1
Reputation is a funny thing. Through various means, usually newspaper reviews, internet forums, or word of mouth, a certain establishment develops a particular reputation – either positive, or negative. Those restaurants on the negative side have a tendency to disappear very quickly. Positive news, on the other hand, seems to launch through channels like wildfire – a restaurant becomes the choice du jour – the place everyone is going.
Fast forward some years. The restaurant is established. It has a steady clientele. And many of the impressions drawn from the first few months are still very much prevalent in most mediums. The issue of course is barring an amazing experience that requires consistent, repeat visits, most people will not go to the establishment more than once or twice, yet they still have a very firm opinion on it. Positive reviews, however, date back 5 or 6 years – you all know places like this. Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant is one of them.
The original Sun Sui Wah on Main has an excellent reputation for Dim Sum, and with the positive reviews, rewards, and accolades, a fairly sterling reputation over all. “Best of the City”, “Best High End Chinese”, “Best Seafood”. High praise in a dining city as diverse, filled with excellent quality choices, as Vancouver.
It was a Saturday, and we woke up late. Previous evening’s activities kept us out a bit later than usual, which is really quite late! Not feeling like making the drive to Richmond to go to Sea Harbour, and not up to trying Red Star, the much respected fmed’s (from Chowhound) recommendation, we decided to hit the Sun Sui Wah on Main instead. Much closer, and in our condition, close was good. We were hungry – famished really – and needing a greasy breakfast. At 1:30pm of course.
Sun Sui Wah is a very well designed room. Great use of natural light, clean and simple lines, it is clearly well designed for banquet services. This transalted into fairly reasonable dim sum service as well, as wide, easy to navigate corridors are needed to help facilitate ease of transport. No funny angles, and odd table crammed into nooks and crannys trying to fit every last seat available.
By the time we had arrived, the restaurant was starting to wind down. It was maybe 25% full, and they were starting to set up for a banquet. We were told they carried Dim Sum service till 3pm, so we had plenty of time to get our food. We offered to leave if it was inconvenient, but they insisted we stay, though warning us that there could be slightly longer waits than usual, and if we didn’t see what we wanted, we’d have to order it and they’d make a fresh batch.
The first thing we had an interest in is the BBQ Pork “Crispy Bun” – Cha Sao Bing. Usually, the layers of the sao bing (which in Taiwan, a more traditional take on the dish, are eaten with fried doughnut and fresh soy milk, and not BBQ Pork) are flaky and multi-layered. Pastry rolled back against itself over and over and baked until a bit will shatter in your mouth with crispy, oil shards. These were a bit flaky, but fairly thin, and upsettingly, quite cool. The pork was decent, though on the sweet side, but i disliked the sao bing. The dish was unsuccessful in my mind for these reasons.
Shrimp and Chive dumpling, these were steamed and pan fried to perfection. Crispy on the top, a nice thin gelatinous skin, and a moist, flavourful filling. Other than wanting a touch of seasoning (preferably incorporating a bit of soy into the pan fry process), they were excellent.
Gelatinous rice roll with doughnut. As i mentioned in a previous article, i am not generally a fan of these. These were no exception. They were soggy, the rice roll was bland, this was a generally unpleasant dish.
As we saw fewer and fewer carts, most of them recycling the same dishes, we called a manager over to order some of the standards. These came a bit slowly, but understandably so. Nonetheless, waiting 20 minutes for your dim sum to show up, while you’re within acceptable dining hours, is a bit annoying.
Sha Jiao – definitely not worth the wait. Impossibly thin skins that were oversteamed, stuck to the wax paper, and came broken. While the filling was ok, they really are a dish that requires a careful orchestration between the two.
Siu Mai, shrimp and pork balls wrapped in cabbage and topped with Roe. A very reasonable rendition, but the pork was a bit rubbery – likely worked too much. Nonetheless, it was a reasonable way to end the meal.
All in all, Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant was a reasonable, yet disappointing Dim Sum experience. There was nothing wrong with the food per se, but based on the recommendations, and the reviews, I was expecting a lot more. Sadly, all i got was another average Dim Sum experience. This leads me to question how often people really dine here – because while the quality of their reputation lives on, the food clearly fails to match. I wonder if in this case, the restaurant has lapsed into complacency – content to live on their reputation alone. That would be disappointing, because if they truly deserve the reputation they’ve carried for 20-some years, I would expect something better. Much better.