Bobby Chao’s Chinese Cuisine and Dim Sum – Calgary, AB


Bobby Chao’s Chinese Cuisine and Dim Sum
#18 – 34 Edgedale Drive NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 207-7840

When you look at Chinese cuisine, I find it to be an interesting study in regionalism. While we often lump “Chinese” food together into one category, I can think of no other culture that has such a clear differentiation in ingredients, styles, and techniques between regions. Whether it’s four, eight, or ten defined regional styles (with thousands of provincial distinctions), the differences between regions can be as pronounced as the difference between most countries.

I think I sometimes forget just how big China really is – and that regional differences, climate, and local ingredients are bound to strongly impact how a cuisine develops. In fact, based on how old  Chinese culture is, are we looking at the future of other large countries – say for example the US,  and what lies in store thousands of years in the future? Very strong, independent culinary identity based on geography?

In Calgary, the lines between regions in Chinese cuisine are blurred- mostly because there aren’t a lot of restaurants that present “pure” cuisine. In fact, i’d argue that there are none, but the most predominant cuisine is almost always Cantonese. Not a huge surprise based on the makeup of the Chinese immigrants in Calgary itself.

While most Chinese restaurants are concentrated in a small area between 4th Ave and 16th Ave N, in the deep Northwest there are small enclaves of high quality Chinese restaurants. One of my favorites, Edgemont Palace, was a standard for years before a variety of unfortunate incidents removed it from the consideration. Bobby Chao’s is another of those establishments.

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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