Thursday, September 12, 2013

Chen's Shanghai Kitchen 白玉蘭餐館

I am probably one of the very few that does not complain about parking in Richmond, since I have never experienced any problems before. That is... until I decided to visit Chen's Shanghai Kitchen.

This plaza has to have the smallest parking lot in Richmond! Well, it may not be true but I tried coming here a few days ago around 7:00pm and the parking lot was full. I waited fifteen to twenty minutes and chose to leave because my body was too hungry and could no longer function. On the second attempt, two days ago, I tried coming here again and luckily the parking lot was empty at 9:30pm. However, the restaurant closes at 10:00pm and to prevent a rushed dinner, I went to Kyung Bok Palace. On the third and final attempt, I deliberately came here at 8:30pm, hoped that parking would not be an issue and I was right! Chen's Shanghai Kitchen is a medium sized restaurant and could get busy during peak hours, I would not be surprised if there is a line up.

The soup is a home cooked style and tastes light, simple and refreshing. However, it also tastes bland and lacks flavour. I am all for bland and healthier types of soup, but this one was a bit too simple. As for the ingredients, the tofu has a nice firmness and does not taste mushy; the soup has a decent amount of sliced pork which does not taste chewy; and there is a good amount of shepherd's purse.

The cut of the chicken is the thigh and leg which tastes tender, not mushy. In addition, the chicken has been marinated long enough and has a flavourful strong wine taste. As for the price, it is pretty good compared to some restaurants that serve the cut of the wings with very little meat (Shanghai Lu).

The Chinese pancake is properly made with plenty of layers and there is a good amount of green onion. Also, despite the pancake deep fried rather than pan fried, the Chen's Shanghai makes it work. The pancake has a crispy exterior, neither overly crunchy, oily, nor dry, and the inside tastes moist with a flavourful taste of green onion.

The xiao long bao tastes very juicy as well as tasty, and has a thin layer of skin. The meat tastes very tender, smooth and delicious. Furthermore, despite losing some juice of out three XLBs because they stuck together and ripped, the meat itself tasted very juicy. The XLBs are one of the best I ever had and are not just juicy as well as tasty, but really tasty. Chen's Shanghai Kitchen is now one of my favourite places for XLBs and so far, the other would be Xu's Wonton House.

The buns are pan fried upside down with the twirl on the bottom to prevent the juice from squirting out after the first bite, and I like that. Also, the pan fried buns are topped with green onion before cooking; therefore sticking onto the buns rather than falling off. The buns taste very juicy and the meat tastes flavourful as well as smooth, not gritty. In addition, despite the skin being a bit too thick, the pan fried buns are still tasty. I have tried a few pan fried buns that are indeed tasty and juicy, but these are the juiciest and tastiest ones I ever had.

I did not want to set myself up for a possible bland tasting cream and butter sauce, so I asked the waitress what she recommends. She mentioned this type of sauce which I did not understand in cantonese or mandarin, and mentioned that rice cake as well as edamame are involved. Meh, why not try something new?

Turns out, the waitress was talking about a Shanghai style crab! The sauce she tried explaining is the one used for rice cakes (I forget what it is called) and tastes very flavourful without tasting overly salty or sweet. I guess the easiest way to explain the sauce would be… it tastes more flavourful than green onion and ginger, but lighter than black bean sauce (kind of a bad explanation LOL). The crab tastes fresh as well as flavourful, and pairs with the sauce. Also, the waitress mentioned that each crab is around 2lb and ours looked more like 2 1/2lb, which is pretty cheap for $28.00!

The skin has a light crisp and the meat tastes very tender; however, the duck could have tasted juicer. Although the duck is lightly smoked and does not taste too salty, Jin Jiang Shanghai's smoked duck tastes a lot juicier, like extreme juiciness… dripping with juice, not oil (despite that theirs tastes a lot saltier)!

The slices of pork are very thin and have a mild spiciness, along with a tender and pleasant chewiness. Furthermore, the dish is not too oily and has a good amount of fungus, cabbage as well as bean curd which are quite tasty. If anything, the dish could have tasted more spicy.

- Above average eats
- Delicious XLBs
- Friendly and helpful waitress

- Parking lot
- XLBs stick together causing them to rip (but the meat still tastes very juicy!)

- Yup, I will be coming back (could be a regular restaurant if the next two visits are just as good)
- I need to order the sichuan crab again!

Food: 3.5/5 (if the smoked duck tasted juicier, the rating would have been 4/5 which I rarely rate!)
Service: 3/5

Chen's Shanghai Kitchen 白玉蘭餐館 on Urbanspoon

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