Monday, August 31, 2009

Chili Secrets

Lee A, Lee E and Hsieh J.

9021 Leslie St, Unit 9, Richmond Hill
(Toronto area)

Weekend dim sum uptown - a treat! Chinatown is good for mid-week penny-pinching eating out, but when it comes to dim sum, it's go sublime or go home. Uptown is the best I can get when I'm not in Vancouver. This Sichuan-ish (I add the "ish" because they're serving Cantonese dim sum) restaurant anchors a newer complex right beside Times Square, but that didn't stop a long lineup from greeting us at the door. After finally getting a table for 7, everyone agreed all around that shark fin soup dumpling was a must and a bowl arrived for each person. I was excited! Shark fin soup dumpling is rather uncommon downtown.

Figure 1.
Shark fin dumpling from Chili secrets (left) containing artificial crab. For comparison, shark fin dumpling from Sea Harbour in Vancouver (right) with a giant chunk of shark fin.

First thing I noticed about the dumpling, a lot of cabbage (Figure 1)! That's not necessarily a bad thing as I love my greens (gotta protect that colon!), but as I continued eating, I found myself looking for the shark fin. I never found it. I did however, find a big chunk of artificial crab. Perhaps I'm unfairly making assumptions. Nowhere in the dish's name did it mention "shark fin," but every one I've ever tried in Vancouver came with some. I commented on this to Mr. Lee, who made his usual "Vancouver snob" retort.

The next dish that arrived was the chicken with fish maw and chinese mushroom dish (don't know how to translate it from Cantonese).

Figure 2. Chicken with fish maw and chinese mushroom, sans the SINGLE piece of fish maw and mushroom that arrived with the dish. Note the red chili dotting the chicken.

My beef with this chicken is regarding the chili (Figure 2). I know it's a Sichuan restaurant, and I'm aware it explicitly says "Fusion" above the main entrance, but in my humble opinion, the chili added nothing and actually detracted from the supple nature of this dish.

Figure 3. Half of the plain rice rolls. Not shown: sesame sauce for dipping.

The rice rolls (Figure 3), however, were a different story. The pastry was incredibly silky, which could explain why my dining companions polished off this dish so quickly.

Figure 4. BBQ pork bun split open.

The filling of the BBQ pork bun (Figure 4) was unexceptional, but the bread was fluffy and not overly thick (note the good pork to bread ratio). Everybody was still weary of char siu bao because of an earlier scare involving supposedly cardboard derivatives of BBQ pork from China, so more for me!

Figure 5. Chicken rice wrapped in lotus leaf. I didn't actually taste this dish, but rather, I posted the picture so somebody may enlighten me on why it's so yellow!?!?!

Last but not least, dessert. The ginger-scented double boiled egg was mediocre, but again, a dish not commonly found in downtown's Chinatown. The custard bun was interesting in that right smack in the middle was a single salty egg yolk (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Steamed custard bun. The dark orange spot in the middle is a salted egg yolk.

The salty-sweet contrast is almost always a winner, and the thin layer of bun met everyone's approval except for Mr. Lee's grandma. It turns out diapers isn't the only thing in common with early childhood and the senile elderly, plain carbohydrates falls under this category as well.

Conclusion: Overall an unspectacular dim sum experience, but this restaurant certain excels at the pastry of the dishes. This isn't just my Vancouver snobbery talking.

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