Showing posts with label snowpea shoots. Show all posts
Showing posts with label snowpea shoots. Show all posts

CLOSED: Lychee Bay Cuisine 荔枝灣 (Toronto)

Location: Scarborough, Canada
Address: 4771 Steeles Ave E
Type of Meal: Dinner

My dinner at Lychee Bay Cuisine happened by chance. We had intended to eat at their neighbor, Ba Shu Ren Jia, only to be greeted by a renovations notice. Not wanting to find another place, Lychee Bay seemed like the best alternative - and it was a good choice. In fact, I ended up visiting again within the same month.

Lychee Bay is an area in Guangzhou that offers various seafood delicacies. At the restaurant, the large lobsters seems to be the popular choice amongst patrons. Unfortunately, their smallest lobster is five pounds ($16.95/lb) so unless you’re with a larger group it’s not the most conducive dish to order. So, we ordered a crab instead. Given that by itself it's already $50, the meal for four ($118 and includes a crab) is an economical choice.

To begin, the normal complementary pork and vegetable soup was substituted for shark fin (complementary soup pictured on left and shark fin on the right). I was a bit surprised it was real shark fin as I thought it’s banned in Toronto. Generally, for ethical reasons, I wouldn’t order it. But, I guiltily admit the soup base was good – thick and with a rich ham, chicken and seafood essence. It also had plenty of crab meat and shredded chicken. The shark fin itself is tasteless but adds a crunchy texture to the smooth base (personally I find bamboo shoots can serve the same purpose).

The star crab dish was steamed in Chinese wine allowing the crab’s natural sweetness to shine through. The crab was a bit thin so lacked the plump meat I’d like but was still satisfying. Underneath were thin bean thread vermicelli which soaks up all the delicious juices and is such a great part of the dish.

The stir fried clams with spicy black bean sauce was a decent interpretation and certainly had a kick from the chili pieces strewn throughout. The clams were a fair size and cooked perfectly.

If you’re ordering the set meal, remember – the vegetable dish that comes with it is yu choy (more on this later). Sitting in a flavourful supreme soup sauce with julienned Jinhua cured ham on top, it was good and not overdone.

The crispy roasted pigeon squab took forever to cook (we almost finished everything else before it finally came). But, it was worth the wait arriving piping hot, juicy and crispy. If you’ve never had pigeon squab, it’s a gamier fowl (more so than duck and quail) so can be an acquired taste. Marinated with five spice powder, soy sauce, vinegar and rice wine, the meat is full of flavour. Then it’s roasted and at some point blanched with hot oiled to really crisp up the skin. If you like Peking duck, you’ll probably want to try this dish.

On the whole, the set meal was fine but really not the greatest. Personally, I enjoyed the a la carte dishes more, even though they were more “everyday” non-fancy offerings. Below are the ones we've tried. 

Trust me, you’ll want to order the salt and squid ($8.95). Not only was it a huge portion at a low price, but the squid was tender, had a great crispy crust and was well flavoured. Although it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had (I’m partial to My Wonderful Kitchen), it was nonetheless delicious and satisfying.

The pan fried pork neck with lotus slice and chili ($12.95) may sound odd but is rather a tame dish. Essentially, the pork neck tastes like lean pork but more tender and has a somewhat crunchy bite to it. The lotus root is what drew me to the dish as I love when it’s just quickly stir fried and remains in its crispy fresh state. Just be mindful of the peppers mixed throughout as they’re much spicier than they look.

As a child, I loved having the sizzling “ja ja” chicken hot pot ($10.95) at a hole-in-the-wall in Broadview.  Sadly, the restaurant has long closed and I’ve been to various places trying to relive the wonderful taste. I didn’t find it at Lychee Bay but it wasn’t horrible. If only it wasn’t so overcooked (the chicken a bit shrunken looking and a tad dry) the dish would be better. Lychee Bay also adds sweet cured lap cheong to the dish to give it more flavour and a fatty essence.

The eggplant in hot pot ($8.95) was a mixture of sweet, spicy and savouriness. At Lychee Bay, I found the dish slightly tarter than most. But, this saucy dish is a great to eat with plain steamed rice.  

I found the stir fried snow pea leaves with prince mushroom ($16.95) to be an average interpretation. The vegetables were crispy and tender but the mushrooms sliced too thinly so the “meatiness” I enjoy in the mushroom was lost.

You’ll also receive a complementary dessert. During our first visit we were treated to a great milk soup with bird’s nest. It was such a great silky texture and ever so lightly sweetened. The second visit we were served tofu pudding, which is much plainer. But, it was piping hot and had a great soy flavour (rather than being the tasteless powdered versions that is so often served).

The service was refreshingly friendly and attentive … sadly, not something you can always expect at Chinese restaurants. However, each visit a mistake was made:

  • At the first dinner we were overcharged for a dish (sometimes it pays to be a blogger since I note down prices for each post). Of course, it could have been an honest mistake since Lychee Bay still makes bills manually and they were apologetic and fixed the error.
  • The second visit was worse and lowered the mark they ended up receiving. During this dinner we ordered the set meal. When the snow pea shoots arrived we naturally assumed it was the vegetable dish that’s part of the meal. It wasn’t until the second correct vegetable (yu choy) was served that we realized the error. The whole situation was rather uncomfortable as the waitress looked at us and asked if we still wanted the first dish. Indeed, we didn’t. But, having already eaten a portion, it seemed rather awkward to make her take it back. So, we grudgingly accepted it.

On the whole, these are small mistakes. But, you should carefully remember what you order and how much it costs. It won’t keep me away from visiting again (as I did enjoy the surroundings, service and dishes) but Lychee Bay won’t become a regular haunt. Their Cantonese style dishes were good; but, there are plenty of other restaurants that offer comparable versions without having to deal with the administrative errors. 

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more -

Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!


CLOSED: Chinese Dumpling House 真東北餃子館 (Markham)

Location: Markham, Canada
Address: 3636 Steeles Avenue East
Type of Meal: Lunch

Although Chinese Dumpling House specializes in the doughy pockets of joy, they still have a pretty extensive menu of other Northern Chinese favourites. The ordering sheet is written in Chinese (without pictures) and on the side a printed menu with English translations and pictures is provided. Ordering can be somewhat difficult as it requires matching characters from the sheet to the menu and the menu doesn’t seem to encompass everything so certain dishes will remain a mystery if you can’t read Chinese.

With about a dozen varieties of dumplings to choose from I had originally wanted the leek, pork and shrimp version (found in the English menu).  Unfortunately, we could not find it on the order sheet so settled on the pork, chive and egg steamed dumplings ($4.99) instead. Fifteen of them were made to order by two ladies constantly wrapping at the store’s entrance and within 15 minutes arrives at our table steaming hot.

The wrapper was an ideal thickness - thick enough to have some elasticity to it but still thin enough to not overwhelm the filling.  Be careful when biting in as they’re quite juicy and the hot liquid could spray your companion!  The meat mixture was a bit bland so you’ll need to rely on the condiments left on the table to give it flavour (red vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce, salt and a small bottle of something that smells like wasabi).

Another Northern China dish I love are soy sauce braised brisket noodles ($5.99). Strangely, although the literal translation is “red roasted beef noodle” the dish isn’t red or roasted at all.  Apparently, anything cooked with soy sauce is often labelled as “red roasted”. Chinese Dumpling House’s noodles are also made in house and one of the better ones I’ve had.  There’s a nice bite to it and held up quite well despite having sat in the broth for a while waiting for us to finish up the dumplings - dumplings are best eaten hot or the wrapper starts to get hard.

The brisket itself was pretty dismal - not flavoured enough and extremely fatty so about a third was inedible. Like the dumplings, the soup was pretty bland when it’s supposed to be a fragrant and rich broth. Needless to say, I had to add quite a bit of hot sauce to the noodles to give it some oomph.  Chinese Dumpling House does have other soup based noodles which I’d suggest trying instead; the neighbouring table ordered pickled vegetable with slivers of pork which looked better than ours.  

The order of sautéed snow pea shoots with garlic ($6.99) was a reasonable price.  You may find these look different from the dark green leafy ones found in other restaurants as these are cultivated in a greenhouse (understandably since we visited in the winter). Personally, I find the leafier non-greenhouse variety tastier as they have a stronger pea taste, but if you want to eat this year round this is a good alternative.

We ended off with a pan fried red bean pancake ($2.99) which was brought out near the end of our meal - I was pleasantly surprised as sometimes Chinese restaurants don't bother timing dishes and bring dessert out early to just finish up an order. The dough was rolled thinly and cooked to a lovely golden brown with crispy air pockets throughout.  There was also a fair amount of red bean paste in it - which was thankfully sweet enough - and quite delicious.  For the low price the pancake was surprisingly big and we ended up taking half to go.

For my dumpling cravings I’ll still likely go to Dumpling Restaurant to satisfy myself on account of their easy to understand menus and somewhat improved eating conditions.  Nonetheless, Chinese Dumpling House is still a good alternative offering budget friendly prices and does have better noodle consistency.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

Like the blog? You can now follow me on twitter for notifications -

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!