Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant – Richmond, BC


Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant
#102, 4940 No. 3 Road
Richmond, BC
(604) 876 1638

Sun Sui Wah (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

Go to where you know.

In this case, it could apply to one’s stable consideration set of restaurants when heading out to have a meal. It may be formed by factors such as proximity convenience, local knowledge of the geographic area, familiarity with the chef/cook/menu, or just simply knowing that you or your dining companions have had satisfying eating experiences there in the past. With this latter point, just how far back should one go back in time? One month? A year? Perhaps more?

I recently had a reunion with an old college friend. With the convenience of email, we’d managed to keep in touch off and on, and I had a general sense of his whereabouts and his mine. Given my often crazy global travel schedule, and his much more family-centered sedentary lifestyle, it seemed we could never meet in person over the past ten years. When we found out that we’d both be on the west coast at the same time (as he was coming up from the States for a holiday), it was easy to arrange a date to meet. But where?

During his youth, he had told me he had spent some years in Richmond, BC. It also seemed to be convenient for my friend given his planned accommodations in the nearby area, but with my limited knowledge of the restaurant scene there and no friends who could guide me (especially of the Cantonese speaking/reading variety), I was hesitant to name a place (and was subconsciously thinking of not selecting any place I’d previously reviewed on Foodosophy.

So in asking my friend if he knew any place or recalled one from his past, the first one that came out of his mouth was Sun Sui Wah. Not a big surprise I thought in my head, as its been around for a long time and has a strong name awareness among anyone who’s been to Vancouver (refer to Foodosopher’s earlier post on the Dim Sum offering at their Main St. location). I agreed, given I knew where it was, and he was comfortable in getting there again after spending the earlier part of the day in downtown Vancouver with his family, and it would be easy for them to get back to their hotel after our dinner.

After meeting in the restaurant lobby, we were led inside and I was immediately struck by how busy the place was, and how we were fortunate to get a table without a reservation. I am not in a position to say this is always the case, but with a 6pm seating, there was an ample crowd already dining. Most of the parties were larger groups of six or more, which looked like large extended Asian family gatherings as several generations were represented at virtually every table. While going through the menu at our table, I noticed several servers bringing out big baskets of fresh fish and Alaskan King Crab which were then shown to diners before being carted away back to the kitchen for preparation. How much bait and switch is going on, is unknown to me. But whenever I see this practice, I can’t help but think of used car salesmen and back alley electronics dealers.

With a pair of children under ten years of age at our table, I left it to the family to order knowing how fickle some children can be. To my surprise, the little one of three years of age, is a big seafood fan, especially scallops, which we had in a stir-fry with broccoli. Big plump scallops and the accompanying vegetables were just as large, and a vibrant green color. Perhaps a touch on the oily side (as can be seen from the shiny appearance from the image) though. I always try to match a dish like this with some kind of starch that can aid in covering up the oily feeling in your mouth by just eating something like this on its own, or with cups of hot tea.

The idea of trying some of their popular roasted squab came up, but in the end we declined. In its place, we chose the Peking Duck (two ways) with the first course of just the skin served with Chinese pancakes, sliver thin spring onions and a thick sweet Hoisin sauce. The skin had that nice filmy and crispy crunch texture and given that I haven’t had it in a long time, I found that I still liked it – but I don’t necessarily crave it on a regular basis.

The second course of the duck meat was served with lettuce leaves and was probably my favorite dish on this evening. Not overly seasoned and just the true flavors of the duck meat came through. Again, my liking this dish was no doubt due in part to the fact that its been so long since I’ve last had it. But I am sure there are other places that readers will say is better, and would love to hear from you for the next time I have the craving for Peking duck two-ways in the GVA.

The other dishes we had, a chicken and red/green pepper stir-fry and a basic fried rice were both quite pedestrian, but also kid friendly. I was really disappointed in the fried rice, as it was so bland and seemed overdone (eg. too many brittle/broken kernels of rice).

The decision to dine at Sun Sui Wah was based mainly on ease of access and familiarity. I asked my friend if his thoughts of this place had changed after many years away and he said it was quite as he remembered it. I didn’t want to press him further with my rather ordinary impressions of our meal, aside from the feeling I had on the duck after a long break in time since last eating it, and with that we parted ways. If I were asked to go again with other friends, I would probably try to convince them to check out other places along the same No. 3 road.

In other words, go where I don’t know.

Sun Sui Wah (Richmond) on Urbanspoon

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Hei Yuet Seafood Restaurant – Causeway Bay, HK


Hei Yuet Seafood Restaurant
517 Jaffe Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2980 2565

My visit to Hei Yuet Seafood Restaurant began with a memorable entrance…

After wandering around with an American friend of mine (who was visiting Hong Kong for the very first time to meet up with me during this trip, despite having lived in another Asian country for the past eight years) among the busy streets of Causeway Bay, we sought out some refuge from the masses of people and satisfy our growing hunger at the same time as it approached 8pm. After trying to get into several other places that we came across and had long lineups out the door, we continued zigzagging the streets until we came to the ground floor entrance of the restaurant.

Taking an escalator ride up to the first floor, we immediately saw a boisterous room and thought we would be turned back again. One of the waitresses was near the front and the first thing that came out of non-Cantonese speaking mouths was, “do you have an English menu?”.

Now, I am not sure if foreigners are a rarely seen presence here, but she immediately called over another worker and they broke out into a burst of laughter, while looking back in our direction. I made eye contact with my friend, who had just as bewildered a look on his face as I did. Scanning each other dressed in casual t-shirt & jeans attire and after spotting nothing out of the ordinary, I returned my confused gaze to the woman, as if asking for an explanation with just my eyes. It was not the kind of greeting we were expecting, and we didn’t know if we should be amused or offended. But she then grabbed some menus off a table and started leading us deeper into the restaurant. But by this time, all the people sitting at tables near the front had turned their attention to us in mid-meal, and it felt like we were making the long lonely walk to an execution chamber. Has this ever happened to any of you?

From here, things did not really improve as we got led all the way to the very back corner, and to a smallish table even though it was clear that others more in the middle of the room were open. Frankly, it felt like we were being treated like second-class customers. But with the language barrier, it made it hard to be understood, let alone protest the strange treatment we were getting. With our hunger being more important to satisfy, we resigned ourselves to this blatant discrimination and settled into the menu.  Furthermore, while placing our order, the male server seemed intent on “up-selling” us on dishes that included crab and abalone, when we were vehemently saying NO to, and clearly pointing to other dishes in the menu booklet.  As he walked away, we were not quite sure what he understood and what we would eventually get delivered to our table later.

An assortment of Canton-style dishes could be had, but we immediately knew we’d dig into some of the seafood-inclusive offerings. Looking back on it, I didn’t realize that prawns were such a heavy component of what we did end up choosing. The Har Gow was delicate, a perfect thin, translucent wrap around a nice meaty shrimp (Incidentally during my entire time in Hong Kong eating dim sum on several occasions, I never once experienced those much thicker filling wrappers that you unfortunately get too many times in dim sum restaurants on the west coast).

I tend to agree with those that say Cantonese cuisine is perhaps on the blander side, amid all the other regional styles of Chinese cooking that I have been exposed to. Some would go beyond this characterization and say its flat out boring. After more than a week in Hong Kong, eating mainly Cantonese, by the end of my time there, I was in full agreement with this latter group. I found it interesting that a few local Hong Kong people that I met had said to me that you could get just as good, or even better Chinese food in restaurants over in Canada (Vancouver and Richmond in particular) since so many top chefs had gone abroad.

Hei Yuet Seafood Restaurant was cleary a popular place with the many tables filled with diners, and our general summary of our dishes was of a satisfactory grade.  Nothing overly exciting was ordered, but everything that was, came out prepared solidly and not disappointing on taste.  I could not forget the service component of the evening though, so would have to say it did put a damper on our overall experience.  I still don’t know the Richmond restaurant scene as well as I could, to even justify the afore mentioned claim put forth by the Hong Kongers, but I am sure some of our readers have some thoughts on this matter and would love to hear opinions.

Dragon View Restaurant – Kuala Lumpur, MY


Dragon View Restaurant
82 Jalan Ipoh
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
+603 4044 4944

Being in SE Asia, I’ve learned that carrying an umbrella is a must.  I suppose in some ways, its much like Vancouver.  While out searching for a place to eat with some friends in Malaysia, the downpour came suddenly and we scattered into a nearby building that had open doors and ready for business.  Luckily, it was a place that some of them knew.  In that way, I suppose we were lucky in that it was not a complete tempting of restaurant Russian roulette.

The menu at Dragon View Restaurant was pretty standard Cantonese fare.  Based on some suggestions by my dining partners, our meal consisted of some meat, noodles, and soup.  It seems that whenever I dine with these fellows, this is the pattern we follow. 

As you can see, the interior is nothing outstanding, as food takes precedent over any atmosphere here.  I think the nearby food stalls on the sidewalk just behind me where I took this image, were more exciting as far as appearance goes.  Too bad they were deluged with water, as I think I would have rather gone there.

These pork dumplings in soup were the first to arrive at our table.  The dumplings were quite large, more than an easy mouthful.  The soup was flavorful, despite being quite light in nature.  With the rain falling down outside, it was a nice warm start to our late lunch.

This plate of noodles and barbecue pork actually came out on two separate plates – the image was taken after I had dumped the meat on top of the noodles.  It was how I was instructed to eat it.  The noodles were a thin variety and not overly cooked.  The slices of pork were from various cuts, some more tender and fattier than others.  The sauce was a thicker sweet one, which went well with the barbecue pork, and wrapped around the noodles easily.  I could have easily eaten more than what was on this single plate all by myself.

The large plate of barbecue duck was the main part of the meal.  Frankly, I don’t really sense a great deal of difference where I eat this dish, as I think its fairly consistent between ethnic Chinese communities is various parts of the world.  As one would expect, it did have an assortment of pieces, which I am sure everyone has their personal preference on when it comes to the leaner or fattier pieces.

These kinds of impromptu restaurant visits are something that I often do, but on this occasion, the direction was given by Mother Nature.  Should I blame her for a rather ordinary meal?  Well, perhaps.  It certainly did nothing to excite my taste buds, as its all stuff I have had many times before, in many different places.  My food odyssey in this part of the world continues…

Gee Gong Restaurant – Calgary, AB


Gee Gong Restaurant
206 Centre Street SE
Calgary, AB T2G 2B6
(403) 264-1533

Normally I love hole in the wall kinds of places. Small, low prices, occasionally dirty places, with an authentic vibe and a hodge podge of interesting characters for clientele. Something about them just feels…real. But rather than get caught up in the idea of the hole in the wall, it’s important to judge them based on the food.

I have some friends who love these kinds of places – and have been visiting the same ones for years. They like the way they are treated, they like how the establishment knows their order, and they like how comfortable things have become. However, when they brought me to their favorite hole, what mattered most to me was the food, and it was terrible. I couldn’t taste the kind treatment and the years of emotional investment, but what i could taste wasn’t for me. Gee Gong reminds me of one of these places.

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Gee Gong serves Cantonese cuisine, and has been located in Chinatown in downtown Calgary for a very long time now. Well regarded by many foodies as a classic hole in the wall choice for Chinese cuisine, it has many of the hallmarks of one. Small, slightly dirty location, with fairly inexpensive prices. At any given point, it could be empty, or full, with people enjoying the things they are best known for – Hot and Sour Soup, BBQ, noodles, and hotpot. Touting itself as “Authentic Chinese Cuisine”, i’ve never found that slogan to be all that inspiring.

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With respect to the food, I’ve never had the hot and sour soup, so I can’t comment on that. The hotpot and noodles are both reasonable, but there is nothing special nor remarkable about them. The noodles are a bit greasy, and the hotpots fairly sparse, but they are certainly edible, and for the price (which has gone up in the past couple years), are quite reasonable.

When discussing Gee Gong, most people talk about one thing and one thing only – the BBQ. Like most Chinese BBQ, they offer the standards of roast duck, roasted pork, bbq pork, sausage, and chicken. A lot of BBQ really comes down to personal flavour preference, but all Chinese BBQ should be the same. Moist, flavourful, and well balanced – salty and sweet, crisp and soft.

The BBQ at Gee Gong does not suit my preferences. A little bit dry from over-exposure to heatlamps, it is nonetheless flavourful, yet quite greasy. My biggest issue is the bbq flavour –  overly sweet and sticky, it lacks the depth of flavour and balance i prefer in my BBQ. There are better choices for BBQ both in Chinatown, and outside of it.

Overall, I know it seems odd, but I don’t have too much criticism for Gee Gong. The food is edible, and reasonably priced. It certainly is nothing special, but i wouldn’t complain if i had to eat here either. My issue is, as a hole in the wall, with no decor, and no real redeeming qualities other than the food, the food falls flat. It is bland, uninteresting, and I expect better. After all, when you’re not there for the service, or the decor, you better do a darn good job with the food. And they don’t.

Gee Gong on Urbanspoon

Golden Phoenix – Vancouver, BC


[As with all of our posts, please click on any image for an enlarged view]

Golden Phoenix Chinese Seafood Restaurant
2425 Nanaimo Street
Vancouver, BC
Tel: 604-253-9717 & 604-253-6183
Hours: Sun-Thu, 9am-11pm; Fri-Sat, 9am-1am

Popularized in western culture, dim sum is a style of Cantonese cuisine that revolves around an array of small dishes that are eaten with Chinese tea, and typically in the morning hours.  The act of drinking Chinese tea (yum cha) plays a key role in this type of dining, and its roots go back to the long ago times of teahouses where people would gather, socialize and share some simple meals.  There was an older Chinese gentleman sitting nearby who took this to heart, as I watched him drink tea constantly, and then occasionally taking a bit of some dish he had ordered, and this continued in ten minute bursts.  Personally for me, I think its a great combination as despite that fact that many dim sum dishes are steamed, and thus have the image of being healthy, a lot are fatty, oily and darnright salty, so the refreshing Chinese tea does aid in digesting it all.

The addition of the word “seafood” in this restaurant’s title is a bit deceiving, as checking out the menu, there is indeed a section for seafood but its just 14 items on a full menu that boasts a total of 106 dishes.  My main intent on this day was to check out their dim sum offerings, which still get delivered to your table by staff pushing around carts or carrying them around by hand.  There is a narrow yellow sheet of paper that tallies up your choices that ends up being totaled up to generate your final bill.  Items ranged from $2.95 to $4.25.  The randomness of it all is part of the appeal to me of going to these old-school dim sum places like at Golden Phoenix.  Its always a game to discover what is indeed under those little lids and sometimes it takes a tearing apart of the food itself to know what is contained inside.  Sure there are the staple beef, chicken, pork, prawn and vegetable offerings that I’ve gotten familiar with over the years, but sometimes there are many unknowns out there that raise my curiousity level.

At the Golden Phoenix, I felt that the servers were a bit pushy with trying to get your to try just about all the dishes that came around.  Everything was “very delicious” according to the staff, who must have seen that the overcrowded table could not possibly accept any more plates or steamed baskets.  I think I took more than was needed, and some I regretted: the lo mai gai (glutinous rice wrapped in a lotus leaf) is one of my favorites and it contained some chunks of chicken and mushrooms and was very flavorful; deep fried and coated in black bean sauce chicken feet – not my cup of tea; shaomai (steamed pork dumplings) were good, though you can’t get anymore basic than this for dim sum; something that resembled har gow (a large shrimp inside topped with a layer of scallop) was probably my favorite on this day, the shrimp was big and tender; and then some sweets whose names I can’t recall (one was a ginger flavored sweet potato mixture inside).

The Golden Phoenix is a mid-sized restaurant, with round tables scattered about and tight seating, which made it impossible for some of the carts to navigate around the room without bumping into someone or something.  Its brightly lit, with some simple faux-wood paneling on the walls and the tables were all clean.  Its a little out of the way for those who don’t live on the east side of Vancouver, and there are many other choices for dim sum in the downtown core or out in Richmond, but the Golden Phoenix should meet your dim sum craving should you be in the neighborhood and want to avoid the monsterous and busy caverns elsewhere where dim sum is served.  And this way, you can better enjoy your Chinese tea and not feel rushed.

Golden Phoenix Chinese Seafood on Urbanspoon