Address: 2301 Brimley Road
Type of Meal: Dinner
Dragon Dynasty is like many uptown Chinese restaurants – located in an unassuming strip mall in a suburbia neighbourhood. It’s one of the nicer restaurants located in Scarborough that I often visit and thought I’d take this opportunity to share with everyone a Chinese banquet meal.
Ten course dinners are typically eaten on special occasions including birthdays and holidays. Restaurants will offer a multitude of menu options with varying in price ranges. The one in this blog is just one of many offered by Dragon Dynasty.
The first course is almost always some sort of roasted meat. In this menu it was an entire roasted suckling piglet but sometimes can be an assorted meat platter. The one served this night was one of the best I’ve ever had – the pig was cooked perfectly so that the meat was tender and juicy but the skin extremely crispy and delicate. There was just a paper thin layer of fat between the skin and the meat that added great flavour. You can eat it plain, with hoisin sauce (my preference) or with sugar.
Roasted suckling pig (1)
The second course is generally a seafood based appetizer. Normally, the most popular version is the deep fried crab claws, but with this menu we were served baked stuffed conch (?). I appreciated the change and found the curry an interesting flavour with the vegetable, conch and other seafood pieces. For those that are squeamish about ingesting snail like creatures, the mixture is not slimy and the spices mask most of the texture and tastes. Almost like an oyster Rockefeller, but without the cheese, the dish was wonderfully hot and delicious.
Usually the third course is a stir-fry. In this case, we had chicken,shrimp, sugar snap peas, celery and white garlic chives (essentially garlic chives that are not exposed to sunlight). For those who have never had garlic chives, they are milder in taste than the chives on baked potatoes, so can be eaten whole rather than chopped into little pieces.
Oddly, in Chinese set menus the soup is normally served fourth. We had shark fin soup with crab meat at this dinner. I know about the horrors of how sharks are de-finned and thus have vowed to never order the dish myself. But, to respect the elderly during times of celebration I will eat it if served. I was surprised to see it given I had thought it was banned in Toronto, but, it appears the ban has been over turned.
To be honest, I could make do without shark fin and was just as happy when restaurants were serving crab and fish maw soup as a substitute. What makes shark fin soup good is the soup base, not the shark fin. The base is generally made by boiling chicken bones, Jinhua ham and other ingredients for a long time. The shark fin is tasteless given it’s really cartilage and has a crunchy, smooth, yet gelatinous texture. Shark fin soup tastes good because of the melding of ingredients creating an “umami” taste – akin to having a bowl of ramen; the noodles themselves have no taste but become perfection with the right soup base.
To follow, we had braised abalone with Chinese mushrooms and snow pea shoots. Abalone is a type of seafood and is a mollusk in a shell. For this dish they are originally dried, the restaurant will then rehydrate the abalone by braising it for many hours. The flavour is unique and unfortunately I’m at a lost to find a comparison, so you will have to try for yourself. However, the texture is similar to eating a large, meaty shitake mushroom, without the fungi taste. As always, Dragon Dynasty cooked the abalone well – allowing it to be tender and flavourful without overcooking to the point that the outside is too soft. However, I found the dish too salty this evening so had to scrape some of the sauce off.
These final five dishes are served at the end of every Chinese banquet – chicken, fish, lobster (sometimes substituted with crab), noodles and rice. As soon as you see one of them, you know you’re at the half-way point!
The fish in this case was stir-fried pieces with gai lan (Chinese broccoli). The fish was a strange texture – which could mean it was either under cooked or was previously frozen so was disappointing. I would have preferred the normal whole steamed fish that accompanies a banquet. The gai lan on the other hand was great –thin pieces with the ends of each one peeled so they were extra crispy and tender.
Stir-fried double lobsters in a maggi sauce were the last proteins for this menu. The lobster was nicely cooked and retained its juiciness. The choice of sauce, which tastes like a sweet soy sauce, detracts from the succulent flavour of the lobster, in my opinion. My preference is for a simple green onion and ginger stir-fry.
The last dishes to arrive were the stir-fried e-fu noodles and fried rice. For those who haven’t had e-fu noodles, they are noodles that have been fried and then dried. Restaurants later rehydrate the noodles and stir fry them with sauce and vegetables (in this case Prince mushrooms and garlic chives). The cooked noodle is an interesting texture that’s soft but very chewy and soaks up lots of flavour.
The Yeung Chow fried rice was good and had a decent balance of rice and fixings (roasted bbq pork, shrimp, Chinese sausage, green onion and egg).
For dessert we had sweet red bean soup with black sesame filled glutinous rice balls. It may seem strange to have beans with dessert and is an acquired taste. The beans are boiled for many hours with dried orange rind, then once it becomes soft and bursts from its skin, rock sugar is added to sweeten the mixture. The soup itself is then thickened, sometimes with chestnut powder. I love the glutinous rice balls and was disappointed there was only one per bowl; they are lovely balls of dough filled with a thick sweet black sesame paste. These balls are usually eaten during Chinese New Year and symbolize togetherness.
The restaurant’s décor is slightly tacky with gold phoenix and dragons’ adorning the walls and strange patterned carpeting, but this is characteristic in many of the older Chinese restaurants. What sets Dragon Dynasty apart is that their staff is relatively nice and attentive – sadly a quality that can hard to come by. Additionally, I like that they maintain a good pace at serving each dish – not too fast that you feel like you’re rushing through them. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a place that serves “real” Chinese food that’s clean and good, this is the place to go.
Overall mark - 8 out of 10
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!
- In my haste to start I forgot to take a picture of the first dish and only have a picture of one slice of roast pork. Luckily, was able to find a picture of the entire piglet from Chrisleecm's Flickr account - http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrislee-cm/7181003233/in/photostream/