Wake up for this one: Western Lake Chinese Seafood Restaurant

I do believe that I got overstimulated last weekend when we went slightly bonkers in terms of dining out. It consoles me that there was one other, not NPY, who also managed to be at all the eating events!

On Friday, we dined “in style” at Azia downtown. There were audible mumblings that prices were a rip off: “cheat Caucasians” in a town where you can get a fried rice dish for half as much as they were charging. But you don’t get beef rendang curry at the places I like to go to for any cheaper so I think NPY did well to have ordered it. It was the service that was most lacking – granted, we were a larger group of 20 or so, but there were just a few too many mix ups as far as I could tell from my corner seat of the long table.

Saturday night, we ordered in from Anton’s Pasta Bar. We do not understand why there is a long queue outdoors to get a table whether it’s for a very early or late dinner… or even on a crummy weather day! Oh yeah… their portion sizes. The pasta tastes fresh but I’m pretty sure, from the several times we’ve ordered, that they take a very heavy hand towards the sauces, that is, they taste really unhealthy for you! The smartest option is to get takeout — bypass that line waltzing in and out with your food.

On Sunday afternoon, I arranged for a few of us girls to have French-style tea at Provence in Yaletown. I was a little surprised it wasn’t more traditional and French in the restaurant but more like a casual bistro, at least by day. The tea service was quite good – lighter than the British ones I’ve had such that I didn’t feel sick when we were finished eating. However, there weren’t quite enough items that I loved without reservation that I was mildly disappointed. Oh, but the presentation was very nice and colourful!

The meal that I remember most fondly was the lunch we had on Saturday spontaneously arranged since we were all awake and available early in the day. We went to Western Lake in East Vancouver, a restaurant new to me in that 15-block stretch of densely packed Chinese grocers, bakeries, and restaurants. One huge convenience of the restaurant is that they take reservations. We still waited 15 minutes after the reservation time but the group of 7 of us were rockstars by comparison to the masses waiting for 60 to 90 minutes.

northern style chicken salad
I really do get very excited when we have a group of four or more to go for dim sum because of the possibility of getting interesting and fancy dishes in addition to your standard dishes.
For example, we had enough people to pick at the cold chicken salad (above), a more Northern style dish of shredded chicken, jellyfish, and julienned carrots and peppers in a light chili nutty sauce. The fried spring roll wrappers were unexpected but I never complain when my food has crunch to it. :D
We got a good deal of the “normal dishes” like lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice and shrimp dumplings. With more people, I did not have to eat any of the dumplings – I generally don’t like the sticky wrapping and then it gets worse if the shrimp is not fresh. If I have to eat it, please pass me the dish with chili oil or XO sauce!
typical stuff
In total, we ordered 18 dishes (17 unique ones) for 7 people, and paid on average about $11 a person. The picture below shows our lazy susan with just some of our dishes – it was a gloriously big feast!
half the food
Aside from the variety we enjoyed, I liked the presentation of the dishes. Chinese food is not much to look at short of a fine dining version but just a bit of garnish not only adds to the taste of morsel of food but punches up the look of the dish. The deep fried squid dish was composed of squid sheets where I’m used to the tentacles. Again, I did not eat the scallop and green onion garnished shrimp dumpling – people like this standard dish and I’ll stand out of the way!
The traditional dish I generally look forward to is egg tarts even though their quality at dim sum restaurants can be average to poor while far more fresh ones can be found at a bakery nearby! With options like what I’ve had at recent dim sum, I won’t miss my egg tart dish so much….
At Western Lake they serve a deep fried sesame ball with black sesame paste. Usually it is served filled with a (dried up) red bean paste that I merely endure but molten sweet black sesame paste is the best! If I were so clumsy to drip some of the paste on my plate, I would have licked it up… cried if it had fallen on the table!
sesame balls

The last best dim sum dessert I had was at Happy Valley further east, near Burnaby. For some reason, I don’t have pictures from that lunch so I can only describe the pastry known as “Running sand bun” (transliteration from “lao sa bao”, 黄金流沙包). A euphemistic name in English is “egg custard” bun and there are two varieties, in fact. One variety that I truly agree is “egg custard bun” (“nai wong bao”, 奶黄包, literally means “milk yellow bun”) has this slightly jelly coconut-egg paste. It is not bad but I don’t drool for it — I like my egg tarts better. The second, less prevalent variety I really do hesitate to call it “egg custard bun” for the filling is a molten, nearly runny sweetened coconut-egg paste (sauce?) that has a lovely grainy texture — yum — that is a perfect Cantonese balance of salty and sweet. Even Chowhound devoted an article to the best of the runny variety, the true “lao sa bao”.

I’m quite loathed to go to Richmond for the famous and good dim sum spots given the silly extreme traffic on the main Richmond roads so it’s really great to find good dim sum spots in the city. Yes, I can spend all of my Vancouver days just in Vancouver municipality!

Western Lake Chinese Seafood 西湖海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

One Comment

  1. Oh, my gosh, that chicken salad looks scrumptious!! I’m drooling now.

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