So, sorry I haven't been around much. I was in the field all last week with no internet (except on my phone, like I'm gonna blog on that thing), and yesterday Scott and I got a wild hair up our asses and came to Vancouver, BC. In this shaky financial climate I find it most prudent to just get the fuck out of Dodge. (Just joking, we're not rich enough or poor enough to feel any of this foolishness, although our mortgage is now mysteriously owned by another bank.)
We actually did premeditate this trip, in that we bought plane tickets and made hotel reservations a few weeks ago. Other than that, we didn't do diddly shit for planning. We literally stepped off the plane, got a car and a map and started driving around town to find something that looked good to eat. We were pretty tired after only getting 5 hours of sleep the night prior, and ended up snacking on some crappy pizza (think Pillsbury dough, pigeons and a Middle Eastern dude behind the counter). We did find a poutine place that was way too tiny for my tired, bitchy mood, but made a mental note to return to it later this week when the crowds thin.
Today we made our way to Chinatown, and after walking around a bit, realized there are really no restaurants around here. Like in Portland, the Asians here don't actually live and eat in Chinatown, they just own businesses and do their shopping for herbs, produce, bootleg DVDs and unlicensed Disney merchandise. We did, however, get extremely lucky to score a table at the packed little hole-in-the-wall, Jade Dynasty.
Dim sum is a regular Sunday brunch that we enjoy, and while we normally just go straight for our favorite shu mai, hum bao and a plate of gai lan with oyster sauce (the Holy Trinity), this time we were overjoyed to discover xiao long bao on the menu. I think I actually squeed my pants a little when I saw it on the menu.
Xiao long bao are also known as soup dumplings, and are my favorite dim sum small bite. They're difficult to find in Portland; in fact, I only know of one cart downtown that has them, and they aren't that great there. These, though, were succulent and flavorful dumplings of seasoned pork with unctuous broth. You dip them in tangy red vinegar, nibble a small hole in the "skin" and slurp out the broth hiding inside, then eat the rest of the dumpling two or three bites. Making a loud slurping sound will signal to the staff that you are thoroughly enjoying them. I recommend a cold Tsingtao to wash down the hot dumpling.
A guy seated next to us was visiting from Puerto Rico. He didn't know what to order, so we pointed him in the right direction. We shared some of our House Special Noodles with him (he gladly passed along some of his way-too-much salt and pepper squid in exchange). These noodles were pretty good - I liked the crispy bottom of the fried noodle, but parts of it were a little on the over-cooked side and tasted a bit burned. This is probably the point, but I still ate around it. The pork, shrimp and scallops were tender and unassuming with baby bok choy and mushrooms, and the classic Cantonese sauce was a familiar taste of soy, rice wine and garlic thickened to gravy with corn starch.
Caveats: Jade Dynasty was a nice place to sit and get away from the herds of junkies, tranny prostitutes and Asian shoppers of Chinatown, but I hear Richmond is where to go for the real action. The food here wasn't anything you couldn't get in any average-or-better Chinese joint in any town with a sizable Asian population, except for the xiao long bao, which were outstanding (despite the amateurishly clunky appearance of these dumplings, they tasted great).
We were annoyed, however, that insead of wonderful carts laden with tubs of congee, foil-wrapped packages of ginger chicken and stacks of small steamer baskets hiding the soft dumplings within, rolling around for you to lazily point and eat (the instant gratification feels so decadent), Jade Dynasty is far too tiny and cramped to accomodate a single cart, let alone a caravan of them. You make your selections on a checklist, and then wait for your food as you would in any other restaurant. The waitress got our sheet mixed up with our neighbor, and he happily devoured our hum bao before we noticed the mistake and had a painful, Rost in Transration conversation with our waitress to straighten it all out. I forgive them for this, though, and so should you, if you find yourself wandering around in Vancouver's Chinatown on a Sunday afternoon, hungry for dumplings.
137 Pender Street
Dim Sum served all day