Goubuli 狗不理 (Richmond Hill)

If you’re on a carb-free diet, Gobuli should be avoided. They are best known for steamed buns or baozi, a soft white bun filled with a variety of ingredients before being closed with an exact 18 folds on top. What started as a small outlet in Tianjin, China has expanded to a global chain with the first Canadian restaurant arriving in Richmond Hill.

With their history, we had to try the baozi, which is made fresh on site. Diners get a glimpse into the process, a glass pane separating them from the two-people rolling, filling, and pinching bamboo baskets filled with buns. The ancient recipe marinated pork steamed buns ($8.99 for 6) are good, the quality not overwhelmingly different from ones found elsewhere. 

Six may sound like a lot, but they’re about palm-sized and the dough not overly thick, so you can have more than one. The steamed white bao is soft and pillowy and the pork filling had a slight funk – not in a repulsive way, merely different from the typical sweet and savoury options.  While it was savoury and even lightly sweetened, the flavour finished with an almost bitter alcoholic twinge… from Chinese cooking wine perhaps?  

Goubuli’s version of the soup filled dumplings or xiao long bao are juicy pork steamed buns ($9.99 for 8). The wrapper was thicker but still incorporated a slightly chewy consistency. Given it’s filled with more broth than competing options, this helped balance out the heavier dough. Nonetheless, I still prefer the translucent thin xiao long baos found in Shanghainese restaurants.

Some may find the stir-fried noodle with seafood ($12.99) a bit oily but I’ve had worse; it glistened but at least there’s not a pool of oil at the bottom of the dish. The noodles arrived with plenty of wok hay - I could smell the caramelized soy sauce and onion as soon as the dish hit the table. Just be aware the description “with seafood” is a bit misleading as its merely shrimp, pork, and vegetables (like the ingredients found in Shanghai stir-fried noodles).

If you enjoy Peking duck, the Tianjin smoked meat with home-style pancakes ($15.99) is comparable but heartier. A large slab of pork belly was well-roasted so most of the fat disappeared leaving a thin layer between the meat and smoke ring. The pork is sandwiched into a thicker flaky pancake (like spring onion pancake except without the onions) that’s well toasted for crunch. In terms of condiments, it also arrived with sweet hoisin sauce, cucumber slivers, and julienned scallion, but also included sweet fermented tofu for an earthy depth of flavour. The dish was tasty, but heavier so best shared amongst a medium-sized table.

I’m not normally a fan of desserts with dried fruits, but the 8 treasures rice pudding ($9.99) was surprisingly good. The sticky glutinous rice stuffed with a hefty portion of sweet red bean paste and topped with items like goji berries, lotus seeds, etc. to form a beautiful mosaic pattern. The lightly sweetened syrup bind everything together and since it incorporated some floral notes, helped to keep the otherwise substantial dessert light.

Most reviews complain about Goubuli’s service – customers feeling ignored or perturbed by staff arguments being overheard. During our weekend lunch, we didn’t encounter any major issues and found everyone attentive; our vinegar bottle was missing from the table, but was quickly replaced by a staff member. 

To be fair, the restaurant’s name Gou-bu-li and the story behind the name should be a warning: apparently, the founder of the restaurant, Gouzi, became so busy he started ignoring customers, refraining from small pleasantries, to ensure he could meet demand. His name was then shortened to become the restaurant’s name Gou-bu-li, which literally translates to “the dog ignores”. For those who receive terrible service, think positively: maybe staff members are merely trying to give you the authentic experience.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Richmond Hill, Canada
 Address: 420 Highway 7 

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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!

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