Monday, July 22, 2013

Star Anise Restaurant 聚湘園酒樓 (2nd visit)


Ever since BF noticed Star Anise, he has always wanted to try their dinner because the restaurant specializes in Hunan cuisine. And to be honest, I try my hardest to avoid coming here because I never think the food will be good. Plus, our first visit here for dim sum was not very good. However, since the last two restaurants that we visited (Fraiche and Poor Italian Ristorante) were not very good, I caved and we came here for dinner. 

Actually, we went to a random Chinese restaurant (Hing Fung) in Richmond but they were too busy so Star Anise was our second choice. The restaurants' interior is newly renovated, clean and spacious. One of the things that I always notice when passing Kingsway Street, is that the restaurant is always 85% empty. We even tried coming here a few times but I was too stubborn and chose another restaurant because they did not have fresh scallops or oysters.


TEAPOT. Although the plastic teapots are different than the usual white porcelain, I am not a fan because when plastic is constantly washed, it leaves behind weird smell. 

FRIED PORK SLICES WITH GREEN PEPPER ($12.95). The pork belly is sliced perfectly thin and tastes tender with a nice chewiness. As for the the green pepper, they have a nice crisp. Furthermore, the dish has a nice strong spicy taste which is not overwhelming. Although in the beginning I was not sure if the dish tasted good because it was spicy, or if the dish tasted good because it was an actual good tasting dish. Well, it is actually properly made and good.

BRAISED BLACK BONED CHICKEN WITH AMERICAN GINSENG SOUP ($12.90). Sigh... where to begin. On the last visit, we ordered the braised chicken with american ginseng soup ($7.95/bowl) which tasted like hot water. And when the owner asked how the soup was, we told her the truth hoping the restaurant can improve in the future. Well, this is it, untouched and how the soup is served.

The soup has a couple pieces of floating chicken skin (not meat, but skin) and tastes like hot water, similar to the last visit. However, there is a twist this time, consider it a bonus, whether good or bad. The hot water tastes like an extremely huge amount of chinese pepper was added with a kick of fresh green onions. What? Yeah, the soup tastes like hot water, chinese pepper and green onion. If anything, perhaps it is our fault for ordering the soup again because the owner did hint to try a different kind soup when we reminded her that it lasted like water the last time, but we were too stubborn and wanted our goddamn ginseng soup.

What was her response when we told her the soup tastes like hot water? "This is the mandarin style, cantonese style is when you add a lot of ginseng and steam it lots which is usually $69.00." The owner then mentions that she used to serve this type of soup at Cindy's Palace (I have always wanted to go there but was bitter because there is no "Emily's Palace," but now I have a reason to visit), and the soup tastes really good there. 

This is literally the only thing in the whole pot LOL...

Since the soup took an extremely long time, the cooks were most likely trying to boil the broth water for as long as possible to make it taste "flavourful". Honestly, the cooks just added a lot of chinese pepper and green onion by trying to pull off that this is how they make ginseng soup at the restaurant. Because when chinese pepper is boiled for a long time, it has a faint bitter taste which may possibly resemble ginseng. The cooks honestly really tried to make the chinese pepper taste like ginseng powder, but failed because they did not boil the soup long enough. If I really wanted to compare the soup other than to hot water, it tastes like the soup that comes with any rice platter at a Vietnamese restaurant, watered down 10 times.

CLEAR STEAMED PUMPKIN ($7.95). This is my favourite dish here. The steamed pumpkin tastes healthy, simple and not overcooked, a must order for those who prefer clean food. Such a simple dish but tastes so good...

DEEP FRIED BUNS ($7.00). The deep fried buns are extremely greasy, however, not over deep fried and has a soft crumb. Of course when paired with the condensed milk, tastes amazing. 

CLEAR STEAMED CABBAGE ($10.95). The cabbage would have tasted more tender if the portions were cut smaller. Also, the vermicelli noodles could have been cut shorter. The vermicelli is too long and tangled which made it hard to eat. If anything, the presentation is nice? Having the slices of cabbage spread out looks more appealing than having them placed on the bottom and topped with vermicelli? Furthermore, Star Anises' "signature" presentation seems to be adding diced green and red peppers, especially for dim sum.

MAO'S BRAISED PORK WITH BROWN SAUCE ($?). First thoughts, the pork looks extremely dark, more dark than usual. Second thoughts, the pork does not taste tender and tastes more pan fried than braised. The reason for the chewiness as well as dryness from the owner is again, this is a "mandarin style". Isn't this Hunan cuisine's specialty?

COMPLIMENTARY GREEN BEAN SOUP. Surprisingly the soup tastes pretty good! The green bean soup does not taste too sweet and has a nice somewhat thickened consistency.

- Clean, newly renovated and spacious restaurant
- Nice cosmetics

- Quite a few dishes on the menu are not available. Does the restaurant try to lure customers with the large selection of Hunan cuisine dishes?
- Since most dishes are not available on the menu, you are stuck with ordering what the cooks can prepare
- Star Anise rushed to open. If dishes are below average, why would customers return?
- To a Chinese family, the braised pork is extremely easy to make, pan frying it as a short cut is not an excuse
- It is unprofessional for the owner to say that any failed dish is considered the "mandarin style"

- Dim sum on Star Anise post [here]
- They should take advantage of their location, especially being a newly renovated restaurant
- The owner mentioned that they had a new cook since June, so the food should have tasted better than the last dim sum visit. Hmm.. not really the case
- Most dishes have increased by around $3.00 and the new dim sum menu starts at $4.00. I understand that they are trying to make the restaurant more "high end", but I think they have lost a lot of their first time customers. On the first dim sum visit, there was around four to five seated tables. Now, whenever I drive by, there is literally only one to two seated tables all the time (including weekends)
- Oh yeah, BF wanted to order the rice in clay pot ($2.00) which was not available (no surprise) so he got a bowl of steamed rice ($1.50).

Food: 1.5/5 (pork belly green pepper and steamed pumpkin 2.5/5)
Service: 2/5

Star Anise Restaurant 聚湘園酒樓 on Urbanspoon


  1. Agree! Came with my family for dim sum and food was not so good, the waitresses are rude too. Dinner sounds worse than dim sum

  2. I never had rude service here and am surprised you would, especially since they need customers. Dinner was not so great, if you do visit for dinner, I recommend asking what dishes they make best!



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