For the last couple of days we have been looking forward to Sunday morning dim sum at the Western Lake. So, this morning we got ready and headed out on the bus, only to discover that they were so busy (no real surprise) that a table for two would be more than an hour’s wait. disappointment one.
We decided, therefore, to get back on the bus and go down to the Pink Pearl, which in the old days used to be our favourite. But whether the long hiatus in business there has changed things, or whether we are now just so used to the superior food at Western Lake, I found the dim sum today to be the second disappointment.
The Pearl’s mixed menu-ordering-plus-foodcarts system is confusing, I thought, and meant that we didn’t get everything we thought we ordered. And what we did get just didn’t cut it when compared to the Lake. The service was excellent, though, I have to say. But that’s not enough to keep me coming back. I just have to remember that making a reservation at Western Lake is a good idea.
We just came back after dim sum with some friends at the newly re-opened Pink Pearl on Hastings. What a pleasure to be back. The place has been closed for about 2 years, since the fire, and they have rebuilt the interior almost exactly the way it was. The floor is new, and their “special orders” serving table is gone, but everything else was so — familiar. One of the servers we recognized, Sandy, ran up and hugged my wife.
There were still a few trolleys being pushed around, but the Pearl seems to have gone over almost completely to a list service, where you mark your selection on a menu form and hand it in. I miss the trolley service, to be honest; it is the best way to discover new things that look good. But the food was as good as ever I remember. Smaller portions, still, than Western Lake, but wonderfully tasty.
The problem now is that I have two favourite dim sum places that I have to choose from. I guess we’ll keep going to both.
The friends that we usually go to dim sim with have been away for a few weeks, so it was especially good to go out with them this morning. With the Pink Pearl now seemingly lost forever, we are on a mission to find our next favourite dim sum place. Our landlord, Chinese, strongly recommended Western Lake on Victoria at 34th, and so off we went.
It is an unprepossesing building, and not very large inside. But even as we got there, a whole gaggle of people were already crowding the tiny front door, either waiting their turn to collect a number from the desk or eagerly expecting to hear their number. We waited about half an hour — not like us really to be that patient — but we were well rewarded.
The Western Lake is too small for roving carts of food and so they use a menu ticket system, which is easy enough so long as you have a pretty good idea what it is you want. We didn’t notice anything special to the house on the menu but all the regular items were there and we had shu-mi, har-gao, squid, char sui bau, gai lan and a couple of other plates. Each was wonderful, and the individual portions were noticeably larger than many of the other places we’ve tried. The tea was great, the service was excellent, and what with all the catching up with each others’ lives, we had a fine old time there. $33 for four very satisfied appetites. Hard to beat.
Apart from us four, there were virtually no Caucasians in the place. It was packed with Chinese; always a good sign! As we were leaving, some of the people who had arrived just after us were only just being seated, but everyone seemed happy enough. They do take reservations and I would recommend that for the future. We will certainly be going back pretty soon, I am sure of that.
We visited the Chinatown Night Market on Keefer Street tonight for the first time in a number of years. It was a huge disappointment. As I recall it from before, the Market stretched the two blocks on Keefer from Gore down to Columbia, with a break for Main Street. Tonight the entire action was on the single block from Columbia to Main, and the booths were not squashed together either. I guess the night market in Richmond has drawn away some traffic, but still we were surprised.
It looks fairly busy, but in all honesty it wasn’t. Probably half the stalls were food vendors, and not all of them were Chinese. There was the potato tornado, for example:
The bra stall was still there, as were the cheap jewelry stands. And I did find some pretty Chinese umbrellas, but there was not much else.
The Keefer block between Main and Gore was dead at 7:00pm. Very sad as it used to be so lively on Market nights. We couldn’t even buy custard tarts because the bakeries were already closed. I read that Hon’s Restaurants, the main branch of which is in that block, is in serious difficulties and I can imagine that to be so. In the old days, the Market must have brought them a lot of business. But not now. It was all rather sad.
Vancouver magazine’s May edition contains the “19th Annual Restaurant Awards” — the best in Vancouver eateries for 2008. It is the only edition of the magazine I ever buy. There are 179 winners and, as usual, only about three of them are east of Cambie.
I was triggered to write this because we went to the Pink Pearl this morning. We were privileged to enjoy the freshest dim sum either of us could ever remember. The tastes were subtle, different, clean and delicious. The Pearl is always wonderful, but this morning was beyond that. And the Pearl was not even acknowledged in the awards.
Three restaurants on the Drive were mentioned. Rinconcito Salvadoreno received the Silver award in the Best of the Americas category, while Lombardo’s garnered an Honorable Mention for Casual Italian. Me & Julio’s also received an Honourable Mention in the Americas category, which is odd — it can hardly have been open when the voting took place for this edition. But good luck to it!
I have to give a plug here to the always wonderful Pink Pearl on Hastings at Glen. It never fails to produce something new for dim sum while maintaining the quality of our favourite standbys. The Pearl seats 700 and is full for dim sum every weekend, with lineups if you get there after about 11.
We enjoyed time there this morning with three friends and each of them ordered something we might not ordinarily eat, as we did for them in return. The result was a great eating experience — one of many we have enjoyed at the Pearl. The new things for me today were a curried squid, a vegetarian dumpling, and a deeply baked tapioca pudding. These plus the ha gao, fried squid, su mai, hot and sour soup, vegetarian bean curd, and a few other items I don’t recall just filled us right up.
A great start to a Sunday.