Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ningbo Seafood Restaurant 寧波海鮮酒家

Ningbo Seafood is located in Richmond at Parker Place and serves Shanghainese as well as Cantonese Chinese cuisine. I had high expectations for the restaurant because a friend of mine was telling me how his friend in Shanghai has tried the restaurant in Ningbo. Apparently, the owners have a similar restaurant in Ningbo which is a city near Shanghai. In addition, I read Doofnik's blog post on the restaurant and the peking duck looked great; crispy skin with no fat or meat. But nothing was good about our dinner, neither the food nor the service.

We walked in on a Friday at 6:00pm and the restaurant had only one seated table. Similar to Le Crocodile where I had lunch earlier, we were asked if we had reservations and a few of the staff talked amongst each other "no reservations". The two of us were seated beside the counter (table touching) where the staff walks up to frequently and when we requested for a different seat, they were all reserved! Really now? At first I thought wow, perhaps the food is really good and I got excited about what was about to come.

Rating: 2/5.
As we were ordering, our waiter kept cutting us off and speaking for us. Example, when we ordered the wine chicken, he kept saying "house special chicken, house special" and we had to correct him that we wanted the wine chicken. About that wine chicken, the meat tastes tender but there is no flavour. The chicken is not even marinated and is a generic steamed chicken poured with wine sauce! I guess that is why he wanted us to order the house special… We ended up packing the chicken and the following day, it was wine chicken! Not sure why the restaurant did not even bother marinating the chicken, especially to prepare for the weekend.

Rating: 2/5.
We only ordered 1lb of spot prawns but received 1 1/2lb, not sure why a restaurant would do that. Perhaps our waiter was speaking for us again? The spot prawns are a good price but are also undercooked and the heads are slightly gooey. As for the sauce, it consists of soy and black vinegar.

Rating: 1.5/5 (In Asia, -5/5 because no restaurant serves ripped XLBS).

The xiao long bao is not on the dinner menu but the restaurant does offer them. There is a thin layer of skin but the XLBS are poorly made and more than half arrived already ripped.
The rest we picked up broke as well! As for the taste, I would have preferred a bit more fatty pork for that nice smooth texture but there is a light wine and ginger flavour. Although considering this is Richmond, there are plenty of better XLBs almost anywhere.

Rating: 2.5/5.
We requested for the napa cabbage to be cooked for a bit longer than usual so the vegetables will taste more tender. There is a light clear flavour, but no taste of salted pork. The restaurant uses pork rather than salted pork so not sure why they even offer bacon on the menu. Fortunately though because of our request, the vegetables taste good and neither tough nor rubbery. If I wanted to be fussy, the photo showed six slices of salted pork on the menu but we only received a couple.

First course, Peking Duck skin and crepes with green onion, cucumber and hoisin.
Rating: -5/5.
There is never really anything to say about the crepes for Peking Duck and there are a few kinds. Some are easy to chew and not too elastic (a preference of mine). Others are a bit doughier, have too much elasticity and taste chewy. Then, there are those that are too thin or thick, dry or damp, or there is a bit too much flour. In this case, the crepes have been steamed for too long and stuck together. We used our hands and managed to rip up at least three layers that were stuck together before managing to get one we could use. This is a very careless mistake which could have been corrected by steaming a new order. I mean, Peking Duck is sometimes only ordered for special occasions.

Rating: 1/5.
As for my favourite part, the skin! After flipping over the first piece, there is no fat and only a bit of meat. The skin does not taste crispy as expected and is soft, but not soggy. See how sometimes people feel the need to justify themselves when having an improperly prepared dish? Settling for soft because there is worse like soggy? After having a few more pieces, none of them were crispy and a few had chunks of meat as well as fat. Then things got worse.

Halfway through when I bit into the crepe, there was a loud crunch which turned out to be a freaking bone! Shortly after, BF experienced the same thing within seconds so we flipped some of the remaining pieces. WTF? Does the restaurant not have the @#$%ING decency to remove the bones? Who does this? Even at the crappiest wonton restaurant I have been to, no cook has ever been that lazy or careless to slice the bones along with the skin. And to serve this? Clearly this restaurant does not give a shit about their customers. If I wanted to go all out, the restaurant even uses cheaper shrimp crackers.

Second course, Peking Duck with lettuce wrap
Rating: 2.5/5
Following, the second course is a lot better than our previous dishes. The meat tastes moist and not aggressively seasoned. When wrapped with the fresh iceberg lettuce, the meat tastes even more moist. In addition, I like the subtle crunchiness from the water chestnuts. The meat is neither mushy, too soft or crunchy.

Third course, Peking Duck bone soup.
Rating: 1/5.
Ningbo Seafood offers three courses of peking duck, which many restaurants do not advertise but will offer if requested. However, the soup is very mediocre. The soup tastes bland and there is neither a mustard green vegetable flavour nor tofu. Furthermore, the soup is lacking that thick white tofu creamy taste. Essentially, the soup base resembles a clear wonton soup but without the chicken broth.

As for the staff, despite the not busy restaurant at all and more than four people on the floor, no one bothered to serve the soup. We are not asking for five bowls, only two. It was also annoying because I had to stand up to serve the soup since our table was full and the staff would walk past and brush against me. At many Chinese restaurants including dives, most of the time the staff will always serve the soup because it is a Chinese thing. Plus, Chinese restaurants located in malls are supposed to be a bit more "higher end".

Unlike many Shanghainese restaurants, Ningbo Seafood offers red bean soup for dessert. The soup is served hot and has a nice medium level of sweetness. The red bean flavour does not taste rich and the consistency is a bit watery, but is good enough.

TOTAL: $107.95 + TIP $10.05 = $118.00.

About all the seats reserved… well, guess that was a lie. When we were waiting for the bill, the restaurant was not even half full. Also, none of the staff even asked those tables if they had reservations! Why lie to customers? I honestly do not understand, and the counter seat sucked. When the staff needed more space at the counter, they pushed or tilted our chairs as we were still sitting and rested their hand on the chair.

Ningbo Seafood is a very sloppy restaurant. The staff is not friendly, there is no service and the food is very mediocre. Our visit was on a Friday evening and the restaurant was not even busy. Do they that know what repeat clientele or word of mouth is? This is not Modern City, where there is only one Shanghainese restaurant in the area. Plus, at least the XLBs taste good there. This is freaking RICHMOND, how many better or at least average restaurants are there? If the food sucks, I am always more forgiving if there was service or friendly staff, which was not the case.

- Disposable toilet seat covers in the washroom

- No service
- Careless cooks
- Sneaked in an extra 1/2lb of spot prawns
- Bones in the @#$%ING Peking Duck skin

- Asides from the usual Kirin, Red Star as well as Sun Sui Wah, Imperial Court and Zhao's Soup House make good peking ducks!

Food: 2/5
Service: 2/5

Ningbo Seafood Restaurant 寧波海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

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