Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Empire Chinese Cuisine

It was my mom's 60th birthday over the weekend and we decided to go to the Empire Chinese Cuisine restaurant in Richmond. My mom wanted to go there because they had a special going on for one of their set menus. It's a pretty good deal. $398 for 10 dishes and it includes abalone, shark fin, lobster, squab and dessert. The only catch to this deal is that you can only book a maximum of 2 tables (20 people).

After everyone arrived, we flagged down one of the waiters and let him know that our entire party has arrived and that they can start serving the food. The service at Empire was quick, efficient and surprisingly friendly. I've been to this restaurant about 1 year ago and the service was slow and the waiters were snarky. It took 3+ hours to finish our dinner last time. I was hesitant at first to return here. But I'm glad that I gave this place another chance as the service was a thousand times better this time and the food came out relatively quick.

The first dish to arrive was a Cold Appetizer Platter that had prawns, jelly fish, mushrooms wrapped in bean curd and an assortment of pork.

I really liked the jelly fish and prawns in this dish. The jelly fish wasn't chewy and the prawns were fresh and seasoned well.
The next dish to arrive was the Crab Claws. These are crab claws wrapped with a prawn paste and then deep fried.

The crab claws were huge! I really liked them as it wasn't oily and the outside was crispy while the inside was still moist. I love to eat these with a little bit of red vinegar.

The third dish to come out was Dried Scallops with Lettuce and Garlic.

The dried scallops were huge too! This dish was pretty good. I usually find dishes with dried scallops to be too salty, but it wasn't the case with this dish. I was pleasantly surprised.

Dish #4 was the Braised Abalone with Vegetables. The vegetable that came with this dish is Shanghai Bok Choy.

The abalone was a bit small... But it was still good.

After the abalone, the Shark Fin Soup was next. The soup was served in individual portions in a small clay pot. When the soup came out, it was still bubbling!

The soup tasted like any other shark fin soup I had. It was pretty average.

Dish #6 is my favourite dish! Lobster with Sake. Originally, my parents wanted to change this dish to a lobster cooked with ginger and green onion. But the waiter said that lobster cooked with sake is a specialty and will taste better than the ginger and green onion. And he was right! It did taste better this way.

The lobster was presented neatly too. Most Chinese places would just shovel the lobster on a plate. At Empire, it looked like they took the care to place the pincers, tails and heads carefully to reconstruct a lobster-like shape.

Dish #7 was the Crispy Squab.

This dish was pretty average tasting too. The skin on the squab could be crispier.

Dish #8 is Fish Fillets and Broccoli. This dish had the fish done two ways. One of them being deep fried. The deep fried fish reminded me of fish sticks as the batter kinda tasted like the breading you would usually find on fish sticks.

This dish was really salty. This dish is the only dish that I didn't like.

And lastly, the fried rice dish! On the original set-menu, the rice dish is a Chinese sausage & Taro Fried Rice. My parents didn't want that particular fried rice so they changed it to a Seafood Fried Rice. I thought that the restaurant would charge extra for this substitution. But they didn't! So that was great.

And onto dessert! Since it was my mom's birthday, we chose to have the birthday buns (sou bao). These are peach shaped steamed buns filled with lotus paste. The reason why the buns are in a peach shape is because peaches represent longevity. There is a legend about a peach (sou tou) that ripens every 5000 years and whoever eats it is granted immortality. So instead of waiting 5000 years for such a peach, we'll eat the steamed versions of it instead!

And the last dessert: Green Bean Tong Sui. This is a dessert soup made out of green beans instead of the usual red bean. I prefer the green beans over the red bean one as I'm not a fan of the dried orange peel taste in the red beans one. This dessert wasn't overly sweet which I liked.

After dinner, my family and I headed back home and had some cake! This is just a fresh fruit cake from Pine House Bakery.

Overall Impressions: For $398 per table, this set-menu is a pretty good deal. Plenty of food and the food is good. We had a lot of left overs to bring home. The service was 100 times better this time than it was the last time I was there. The waiters were very observant and our plates were constantly changed and tea pots were re-filled quickly. Will I return to Empire to eat? Maybe... for another banquet-like dinner.

Empire Chinese Cuisine
8251 Alexandra Rd.
Richmond, BC
Phone: 604.303.9780
Empire Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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