Empire Chinese Cuisine Restaurant – Alaskan King Crab Dinner

Restaurant: Empire Chinese Cuisine
Cuisine: Chinese/Seafood
Last visited: April 15, 2010
Location: Richmond, BC
Address: 8251 Alexandra Road
Price Range: Dim Sum $10-20 / Dinner $20-30

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5.5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Dim Sum/Lunch/Dinner
  • Busy/line-ups
  • Popular to Chinese locals
  • Traditional, authentic Chinese food
  • Fresh seafood, in house tanks
  • Lots of variety
  • Great for dim sum or dinner
  • Moderately priced
  • Good quality, reliable, quick service
  • Clean, comfortable, spacious
  • Great service esp. for Chinese restaurant
  • Same owners as Empire Seafood Restaurant
  • Better than Empire Seafood Restaurant
  • 10% off before 12pm? (I think)
  • Available for banquets/private parties
  • Reservations recommended
  • Free parking, but fills up quickly at peak hours

**Recommendations: Dim Sum, crab, lobster, steamed soy sauce prawns, steamed broccoli with crab meat and egg whites, Peking duck wraps, steamed scallops on tofu with back bean sauce, crispy chicken with soy sauce tea leaves, baked tapioca pudding with taro paste – everything at this particular dinner was excellent!

Empire Chinese Cuisine restaurant is located on Alexandra Road, also known as “eating street” in Richmond, BC. I’ve posted on the dim sum and the banquet dinner offered at Empire Chinese Cuisine restaurant, and this post is on their Alaskan King Crab dinner. There’s a reason why we (family/friends) keep coming back to this place, and that’s because it has consistently great service, food and ambiance. It is considered to be on the Chinese fine dining level, but the prices are still reasonable and it’s worth it in my opinion for the quality of food they offer.

It’s always busy for dim sum and dinner and although they have quite a large (free) parking lot it fills up super quickly, so early reservations are strongly recommended. On this occasion we came for their Alaskan King Crab dinner, which is one of the many dinners I have had here. I was actually more impressed with their regular dinner than banquet style dinner and dim sum.

The Alaskan King Crab dinner is one of the best Chinese meals ever. It’s seasonal (around March-May) and although they still have some in stock throughout the year it’s very expensive and not as good to have it out of season. It’s extremely popular and famous to have Alaskan King Crab in Vancouver because we’re close to the source and have outstanding Chinese food in general. It’s not out of the ordinary to hear people from Hong Kong and other parts of the world traveling to Vancouver just for Alaskan King Crab season. It’s a substantial meal so it’s a dinner that’s good for groups of 6 or more and they charge according to the weight of the crab ($9.99-19.99/lbs).  Alaskan King Crab is a Chinese delicacy and as a full set meal it’s usually prepared in 3 general parts: Steamed Alaskan King Crab legs, deep fried Alaskan King Crab knuckles, and Baked Alaskan King Crab fried rice. It’s really a must try meal and everything from the shells, meat, and guts is used in this gourmet dinner.

On the table:

**Peking Duck with Crepes – 5/6

  • Peking Duck – Part 1
  • It was a bit different than the banquet style Peking duck I had here last time, so they’re not as consistent.
  • Instead of serving just the skin, they actually sliced it with duck meat as well. This is actually how they would do it in Beijing (where Peking Duck originated).
  • If you want it with only the skin than Kirin does it best, however I like it when there’s a bit of meat attached to it as well.
  • Despite the meat looking dry in the picture, it was actually quite tender and the skin was very crispy.
  • The meat was leaner as well and the fat between the meat and the skin was thin and not chewy, but tender.
  • It’s not as desired to have the overly fatty or greasy duck like the Imperial Peking Duck from Wing Lei in Las Vegas.
  • See my post for Peking Duck in Beijing for details.

  • The crepes are homemade and always nice and thin here with a slightly chewy texture. You wrap a slice of duck, green onions, cucumber and Hoisin sauce in it. Delicious!

Daily Soup5/6

  • Chicken & honey date soup.
  • I love the daily soup, and I’m not sure what the exact name of it is. It’s basically Chinese style chicken soup and it’s excellent. It’s sweet from the dates and dried gogi berries, savoury with lots of chicken flavour and slightly bitter at the end, probably from the ginseng. It’s very healthy, not oily, and a great light soup to start off a traditional Chinese meal.

  • The ingredients used to make the soup are presented on a separate plate, however if eaten at home it may just be in one bowl. In this case there was tons of lean chicken, dried Chinese red dates, Chinese Wolfberries (dried gogi berries), Astragalus root, and probably some Ginseng. The ingredients is served with a side of sweet soy sauce for dipping.
  • The chicken has a dry in texture on it’s own because all the flavour and juices cook into the soup. However it’s still excellent when dipped in the sweet soy and the meat is very lean and still flavourful from the ingredients of the soup.
  • The red dates (honey dates) are plump, fiberous, mushy and mildly sweet and I love those. The Astagalus root is fiberous and almost tastes like yucca root or a potato. It’s the pale yellow slices in the pile.
**Garlic Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs – 6/6
  • Alaskan King Crab – Part 1
  • These are pretty much the best things you could have ever. It’s the best seafood I’ve had in general and it’s seriously the best kept secret (not so secret) to Chinese cuisine.

  • It’s easy to eat, the meat is so juicy and tender and the sauce on it is fabulous! It’s covered with loads of sauteed garlic that is sweet and very nutty and in between soft and crunchy. I scoop the minced garlic and garlic crab sauce, made from the flavour of the shell, onto each piece before eating it.
  • Although there’s a lot of garlic, the flavour is very delicate and clean tasting because the sauce is like a soup broth so it isn’t oily or rich. It’s just amazing!

**Steamed Scallops on Tofu with Black Bean Sauce6/6

  • I’m not sure what the official name of it is on the menu, but it’s fantastic!
  • It’s a balance of rich and light ingredients so it’s a healthy, but still very indulgent dish. It’s more of an appetizer, but it could be easily eaten as a main course with a side of rice. The sauce is not to be wasted and a savoury treat on it’s own.
  • The scallops are jumbo and there is one on each cube of firm tofu. The texture of both eaten together is silky smooth and the flavour of the scallops really comes through. The scallops were tender and very easy to chew.
  • The black bean sauce is a thick and salty sauce that’s made from fermented black beans. It’s very pungent and very salty, like anchovies but without the fishy taste. It has a slight bitterness at the end and it’s the perfect sauce to what would be a very simple/bland dish without it. The crisp raw scallions helps brighten the fish up and break through the saltiness of the sauce.

**Deep Fried Alaskan King Crab Knuckles6/6

  • Alaskan King Crab – Part 2
  • These are as good, if not better than the steamed Alaskan King Crab legs with garlic.
  • It’s lightly battered and deep fried Alaskan King crab knuckles that are wok tossed and fried again with garlic, jalapenos, chili, salt and scallions.
  • It’s tres excellent! It’s nutty, salty, peppery, slightly spicy and so delicious!
  • Each knuckle is cooked to perfection with a crunchy outside and delicious juicy and moist crab meat inside. It reminds me of the lobster wings from The Hub Restaurant & Lounge – but these are 100x’s better.
  • This chili salt seasoning is a very typical Chinese seasoning an it’s almost always used with anything deep fried.

**Duck Lettuce Wraps5/6

  • Peking Duck – Part 2
  • The rest of the duck is used for the Peking duck lettuce wraps. It’s a sautee of duck meat, carrots, celery, onions, water chestnuts and scallions. It would be even better if they had some Shiitake mushrooms in the mix. The dish is served with fresh iceberg lettuce leaves and Hoisin sauce.

  • For some reason the Peking Duck lettuce wraps were better on a regular dinner night rather than the banquet night and probably because they have more time to prepare it. There was a better ratio of duck and water chestnuts and the duck wasn’t as dry. They do an excellent job with this dish here.

Sauteed Gai Lan with Garlic 4/6

  • This is just a simple vegetable side dish to complete the meal.
  • It’s sauteed Gai Lan also known as Chinese broccoli. It taste like broccoli stems without the florets.
  • It’s was tender, crunchy, fresh, not too oily, and they used a young Gai Lan so it wasn’t tough at all and naturally sweet. The minced garlic just adds another dimension of flavour and everything is always better with garlic anyways.

**Alaskan King Crab Broth with Noodles 4.5/6

  • Alaskan King Crab dinner – Part 2.5
  • So this dish isn’t always part of the Alaskan King Crab, but the restaurant will always offer it as an option for an additional charge.
  • They broth/sauce from the 1st Alaskan King Crab dish (Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs with Garlic) is used to make this noodle dish. So whatever was leftover on the serving plate from the 1st Alaskan King Crab course is used for this dish. They add a bit more of broth made from the shells of the Alaskan King crab and also toss in some scallions.
  • The noodles are E-fu noodles and they’re quite soft. They just absorb all the flavour of the clear broth/sauce.
  • It’s very light and simple with lots of garlic and onion flavour.

**Baked Alaskan King Crab Fried Rice 6/6

  • This is pretty much delicious. It’s fried rice served inside the shell of the Alaskan King Crab head with a baked Asian-Portuguese style curry sauce served on top.
  • The sauce is called Portuguese curry sauce and it’s a very rich, thick, creamy and buttery sauce made from the inards of the Alaskan King Crab, coconut milk, and curry powder. It’s super indulgent, super fatty and high in cholesterol, but totally worth it!
  • The curry is an Asian style curry sauce so it’s not spicy but more savoury and sweet from the coconut milk. It’s very aromatic and it tastes almost cheesy.
  • No part of the Alaskan King Crab goes to waste. Don’t let the “brain” part scare you, it’s just crab guts 😉 . The sauce is smooth and you wouldn’t even know there’s brain guts in the recipe unless someone told you. Alone the texture is like the gut-like mushy part of a mussel, but the flavour is like creamy salty crab flavoured butter especially when it’s melted or made into a sauce. It’s super delicious!

  • The fried rice itself is just a simple fried rice with some onions, a bit of egg and curry powder. It wasn’t oily or too dry despite it being baked after it was fried. It’s perfect with the creamy curry sauce and the perfect way to end off a perfect meal.

Dessert

**Chinese Dainty Two5/6
  • Almond Cookies and Sesame Ball Cookies
  • These are complimentary along with the red bean soup that I never like and they always give 🙁
  • I do love these cookies though. They’re very light and not that sweet, but very nutty in flavour.
  • The round almond cookies with the sesame seeds have a crispy exterior but a tender and soft crumb so it’s in between hard and soft. At Sun Sui Wah they top them with almonds, and at Kirin with walnuts.
  • The sesame balls cookies are drier and have a crumbly texture. They’re a bit harder, but they have a soft inside when you bite into them and they have a nice almond and sesame flavour.

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13 Comments

  • Elaine says:

    I love King Crab season! Was this from a while ago cuz it’s not in season right now right? But what I have realized is that King Crab is the best when my mom cooks it! It’s cheaper and we know for sure that the exact portions are there. I love how the minced garlic put on top of the King Crab is so flavourful but without the strong taste of garlic that I usually dislike. I can eat scoops of it just by itself =P

  • Mijune says:

    Hi Elaine! Yup – my “last visited” on the post is from April 15, however I had dinner here not too long ago and I still saw a couple in the tanks.

    Wow! Making it at home? I don’t know if I’d be confident enough to do that since it’s just a pricey ingredient… would be such a waste if I ruined it. I need to watch/learn first, but home cooked is almost always best!

    I love that garlic too!

  • ^_^ says:

    To be frank, you’ll get better result when steaming Alaskan Kingcrab at home, whether you steam it on it own juice or wrap it with rice, with ricewine, ginger/garlic juice, soy sauce or miso. Restaurant cooks use minced garlic bought in bulb like this one in the photo
    http://addictedtocostco.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/img_5105.jpg

    Thus we normally stick to the “pepper & spicy” version. It is harder to achieve the “wok hei” effect at home.

    Can’t resist this one, 14 pieces … hmm …. 😛

  • Elaine says:

    I heard from my mom it’s not that hard to make the King Crab at home, but she said it’s the garlic that takes the most time to prepare for. Plus it’s a lot cheaper to just buy it at TNT or something and make it at home ^_^

  • Mijune says:

    homecooked…. restaurant… I’ll take it anyway I can get it! 🙂

  • Christine says:

    Poor service
    The waiters ignores people’s request, first we ask if there was another menu beside set dinner, and the waitress refused to give it to us, and said she has to ask the manager… She never comes back…. Later, we found the manager, and he gave us another menu… We then asked to pay the bill, one of the manager said there is still desert to serve… We waited for another 10 minutes, ” no desert” or the bill… we have to find another waiter and he then later came back for the desert… We then asked to pay the bill, and the waiter take the ticket on our desk and left, and he never came back… We have to ask another waiter to place another request for the bill… And in the end, they insist they need a bigger tip even with this lousy service.

  • LotusRapper says:

    @Christine – sorry to hear you had a bad experience with their service. It’s not uncommon for the server staff to look (and act) discordant, out-of-sync, discombobulated etc in Chinese restaurants. Not knocking on Chinese restaurants specifically, but what you said doesn’t surprise me.

    Just Friday night, my fam and I went to Alleluia in Richmond after hearing many good things about their food. And we weren’t disappointed. The food quality, preparation, taste and value were all as reported. We were very pleased. But the service was poor. There were numerous waitresses all rushing back and forth all night, bustling. But while we were in the middle of the room close to the front counter, we couldn’t get their attention most of the time. They looked, and were, indeed busy, but never make eye contact as they walk by. Even with my “hailing a NYC cab” arm up in the air, I still couldn’t flag someone down whenever I wanted more tea, another napkin or spoon for my son, etc. And when they did tend to us, they’d disappear and never came back with what we requested. Frustrating to say the least. Even the final request for our bill took 5 mins to have someone come to our table. Then again, that waitress never came back. Finally I just walked up to the counter, told the maitre ‘D our table (almost right in front of him), what we ordered (two dishes only) and slapped down $25 (I pre-calculated the bill, I had lots of time to do that) and walked away.

    BTW, in most if not all Chinese restaurants, the tip money is pooled and divvied up among all the staff at the end of the night. So you don’t have to worry about tipping small for bad service.

    Sorry (to Mijune) for the rant. I totally feel for your bad night.

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