Vivacity Seafood Restaurant

Restaurant: Vivacity Restaurant
Cuisine: Chinese/Dim Sum/Seafood
Last visited: October 7, 2010
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 110-8351 Alexandra Road
Price Range: $10-20, $20-30

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

Food: 3
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Popular for Chinese locals
  • Popular for dim sum
  • Authentic Chinese
  • Busy at peak hours
  • Chinese and English menu
  • No push cart
  • Mon-Sun 20% off before 3pm
  • Reasonably priced dim sum
  • In house seafood tanks
  • Banquet bookings
  • Special group menus
  • Free parking (limited spaces)
  • Accepts Visa/MC

**Recommendations: Steamed Pork Dumpling, Steamed Fish Maw with Shrimp Paste, Longan and Wolfberry Pudding, Baked Tapioca pudding at dinner

Vivacity is a popular Chinese restaurant in Richmond, BC. I’ve come here a handful of times and I actually like it better for dinner than I do for dim sum. I’ve also been here for a banquet once and the food was quite good as well. It’s reasonably priced and still one of the nicer Chinese restaurants, but it’s not a gourmet high end one like Kirin Restaurant either. It’s quite reasonably priced but if I’m on Alexandra Road I’d probably hit up Empire Chinese Cuisine or Jade Seafood Restaurant first, although both are a bit pricier.

While I was taking photos someone from my table mentioned that I write about food so unfortunately my cover was blown and, for that reason, I can’t comment on the service. The owner made some recommendations, gave me a lot of history, various menus and promotional material so it was quite a different situation… Anyways food always speaks for itself so I’m going to be honest about it. It’s not my favourite place for dim sum, but I would come again, although it’s not my top 3 choices. I go for dim sum a lot so I’m “rating” each dish with a lot of comparison.

On the table:

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling aka Har Gow – 3/6

  • $4.35
  • It was good, but the prawn isn’t as juicy and crunchy as I’ve had it. The skin was nice and thin, but also not as chewy as I would have preferred. It is chewy, but some places have it super chewy and it should be chewy.
  • I like them better at Empire Chinese Cuisine or Rainflower Restaurant.

Steamed Pork Dumplings with Peanuts – 4/6

  • $3.95

  • It’s a savoury meat mixture with some celery, cilantro, sweet shiitake mushrooms and minced pork in them. They were well stuffed with lots of meat and they were better than the ones at Empire Chinese Cuisine which have a lot of radish – see here.
  • The skin was chewier than the skin around the shrimp dumpling. It had a few crunchy peanuts and that part isn’t for everyone. I used to hate them, but now I don’t mind them. I think there was some pickled Chinese radish in there as well (that yellow piece you see in the photo) and that fave it a nice crunch.

**Steamed Pork Dumpling aka Shiu Mai – 4/6

  • $4.35
  • These were actually very juicy and well made. There’s a meatball made with pork, shiitake and then a prawn in it as well. It’s crunchy and juicy and topped with tobiko. They were quite big and actually one of the better steamed pork dumplings I’ve had.

Steamed Beef Ball – n/a

  • $3.85
  • I didn’t try these because I’m not really a fan, but the consensus was that they were okay. They had a bitter orange peel in them but they were decently tender, but pretty average. They were a bit oily and sitting on a bed of frozen vegetables so that was a bit unappetizing.

Deep Fried Shrimp Ball with Almond – 3/6

  • $4.85
  • I promise this is the last “ball” I ordered.
  • These are also offered at Rainflower Restaurant but they’re not available everywhere. It’s a modernized Chinese dim sum dish.
  • This one was a bit oily, but it’s pretty much a ball of shrimp paste rolled in almonds and deep fried. I like the contrast of tender prawns and crunchy almonds, but it’s kind of whatever at the same time. The one at Rainflower has a sweet and sour dipping sauce and that makes it better and more unique.

Deep Fried Vegetarian Spring Rolls – n/a

  • $4.35
  • I ordered these for the token “gwai lo” at the table. I didn’t try them for obvious reasons.
  • Some Chinese restaurants actually make good spring rolls, however vegetarian ones are hard to come by.
  • The inside had some artificial meat made out of tofu and then it was stuffed with frozen vegetables.
  • The frozen Green Giant vegetables are a major turn off. It was a super Westernized version of them (besides the fake vegetarian meat) and I don’t even expect to see this in the frozen isle of a grocery store.

Baked BBQ Pork Buns – 3.5/6

  • This is only available upon request and it’s not on the menu. It’s around $4.35
  • These are my favourite things to order at dim sum and I’m super picky on them. My favourite is at Top Gun Restaurant – see here.
  • I usually love these, but there’s better than this one.
  • This one didn’t really have the sugary crust on top and they were soft all around. The best part is the crispy sugar crust topping!
  • The bread part is super soft and fluffy and that part was very good, but I really ned the topping!
  • The BBQ pork stuffing was decent but I wish it was saucier and it was a tad on the dry side.

Steamed Rice Roll with Shredded Chicken- 2.5/6

  • $4.50
  • This was their own take on it and it wasn’t filled with shredded chicken. It was actually fairly large pieces of dark meat chicken with some diced pickled Szechuan radish that’s very sweet and sour and sharp in flavour. It’s not the yellow Japanese radish, but it’s a darker brown radish that’s much tangier in flavour and sometimes a bit spicy. I like them but I could have used without the radish in the context of this delicate roll. The rice roll skin also wasn’t very chewy and a bit thick.
  • It’s a savoury dish and then sweet from the sweet soy sauce but the radish just threw things off a bit.

Steamed Rice Roll with Beef – n/a

  • $4.50
  • Someone ate the top row before I could get a photo.
  • I didn’t try this either, but the consensus was it was okay. The meat wasn’t as tender and the skin was a bit thicker, which was the same for the chicken rice roll above.

**Steamed Fish Maw with Shrimp Paste – 5/6

  • $4.85
  • This is a Chinese delicacy. The fish maw is the gas bladder of the fish and it’s highly prized. It’s spongy and tastes like a juicy soft sponge. It absorbs a ton of flavour and it can be a bit slimy. I really like it, but it is acquired.
  • It’s a savoury dish and served with a supreme broth underneath which is very flavourful and savoury. It’s a clear seafood broth with intense flavour and made from the steamed fish maw and shrimp.
  • The fish maw pieces here were very thick, fat and huge! It was great quality and the most generous serving I’ve had when I’ve ordered this at a Chinese dim sum restaurant.

Deep Fried Leatherjacket Fish in Soy Sauce2/6

  • $7.75
  • I love this dish, but it was over fried and the meat was dry. It also had a lot of bones and I wanted way more garlic. Asian people are so good at doing the soy sauce and garlic thing that I rarely have it “messed up” and I found it was messed up here. The sauce seemed dry as well which sounds weird, but it was and it lacked flavour.
  • The Deep Fried Black Cod with Garlic at Empire Chinese Cuisine next door is much better – see here.

Stir-Fried Mushroom – 3/6

  • $8.25
  • This is one of their signature items and not available at other places. It was recommended so I tried it. It was overrated especially for the price, but I do love mushrooms and there were a lot.
  • It was sauteed slices of massive oyster mushrooms and some whole shiitake mushrooms as well. They were sweet more than savoury and I wanted more sauce because they were almost dry fried. The soy sauce just seeps into the mushrooms, but they should have been juicer in that case. They were a bit wrinkly and dry.
  • It was quite simple and served with a side of steamed broccoli. It’s good for vegetarians.

Rice Rolls with Spare Ribs in Hot Pot – 3.5/6

  • $7.95
  • This dish is unique to Vivacity and I haven’t seen it offered at other places.
  • The flavour was good, but it was incredibly greasy and oily. There was tons of meat but it was that chewy cheap quality spare rib meat, which is common from all Chinese restaurants. If you like that steamed spare rib dim sum dish, you’ll probably love this.

  • I loved the idea and I love rice rolls in general. They pan fried these ones first and smothered them in delicious thick sauce.
  • The sauce was a black pepper, black bean garlic type of sauce and it was thick like a gravy. It’s a bit gluey and gummy but it stood up to the thick rice rolls well.
  • Token white guy at the table said it was “slimy” and I have to agree, however in a way it was very authentic Chinese.
  • In the old school days this would have been “peasant food” because the ingredients are inexpensive, however I call it comfort food.

Steamed Chinese Sponge Cake with Nuts – 4/6

  • $3.85
  • This was actually pretty good. It’s served warm and it’s light and fluffy and very lightly sweetened. It had almonds and I think some walnuts throughout and also some almond extract. It’s very airy and it could have been more moist. It’s easily enjoyed during dim sum or afterward.

**Longan and Wolfberry Pudding – 3.5/6

  • $3.50 a la carte (This was complimentary and unexpected)
  • I think it’s usually offered during dinner and I’m not sure how it’s normally served if ordered at dim sum.
  • The presentation was intense and appetizing as well as not appetizing.
  • It’s jello, not pudding and it has a very delicate, milk and lightly sweetened taste. It’s fruity and floral in flavour and tastes like honey tea flavoured jello.
  • There’s pieces of longan and gogi berries throughout and they’re not dry or hard either. The jello was soft which I like because usually I find they add too much gelatin in it.
  • It was a nice spin off off of the traditional Chinese chrysanthemum jello. Considering I don’t like Asian desserts, I liked this one. Everyone else actually loved it.

The special XO Chili sauce is only at higher end Chinese restaurants. I love it. This one was almost all dried shrimp without much scallop though.

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Vivacity Restaurant on Urbanspoon

16 Comments

  • KimHo says:

    Last year, we had a conversation as to why I choose not to disclose to almost anybody I do food blogging, except to a limited few. I hope that “issue” you experienced here answered your question! 😉

    When I was growing up, my grandfather took me and my cousins for dim sum and the first thing that always got to was the baked BBQ buns. You can, of course, guess the reason: fill us up before we went for the rest of the dishes! 😀 Now, it is not that I don’t like them but, in the usual Chinese style, I would go for something else first, hehehe.

  • Bow says:

    I actually prefer Vivacity to the Empire; however I agree with you that steamed beef balls aren’t a fav. Chinese springrolls are poor in comparison to great Vietnamese ones( they’re oiler and heavier). Never like any dumpling with steamed peanuts. Har Gow and Siu Mei are the definite Cantonese dim sum specialties and every place makes them…sometimes they taste soggy and dull . That said, I think I like Vivacity because its easy for seniors to come to(I eat dim sum with my 99 yr. old Tai Chi master and his 91 yr. wife), and when I compare it to other Richmond places I prefer it to the Gala, the Jade,the Kirin, the Empire but that’s a personal preference. I find the food good enuff to come back to( I wouldn’t go back to the Fisherman’s Terrace, the Jade, or the Gala).

  • TimeToChow says:

    nice pic and depth of food items covered.

    i had trouble with the ordering menu/slip. it has Chinese with English translation on the bottom of the ordering menu. because of the spacing, i wasn’t clear on which boxed to check. i ended up ordering the wrong items. what a bummer.

    was here for dimsum recently and agree that i left unimpressed by the food. like you i have had better food in the evenings for dinner and also for late night(not after clubbing late) da lang.

    i came to dimsum with some decent expectation, as i have heard some good things about about their dimsum. BTW, i heard good things about empire(alexander) dimsum too. And left there even more dissapointed with the food and service. Have had better experiences at the other empire location. but to be fair service at dimsum is always minimal to bare and the food is freshly made, so there are always daily variances to food freshness, quality of ingredients and food preparation.

    the bbq pork bun look very light in colour. i like the sugary crust on top the savoury pork fillings. like the pinapple buns at lido but with bbq pork filling. speaking of buns. have you tried the no.1 bbq pork buns at sea harbour and their duck yolk steam buns? both quite good.

    best spring rolls I’ve ever had are fresh ones(popiah) they are not deep fried so they are better for you. my aunt makes fresh spring rolls, with freshly made spring roll crepes, that you wrap with topping and filling. A wafer thin rice flour tortilla packed with yummy savoury, sweet and spicy goodness. As for a deep fried version, my grandma makes one using caul fat as casing. Stuffed with marinated pork, chestnut, diced veg, liver. Actually i dont know what she makes it with. I just know they are incredibly delicious.

    agree with the comments about peanuts in dimsum. the peanuts didnt have the right texture and didnt add to the flavour. i’d give this item a miss unless. you grew up liking it. btw i didnt get veggies with my rice roll. 🙁 . Have you seen this kind of plating with wilted veggies of your rice roll before?

  • Mijune says:

    @KimHo – It’s not like CHOSE to say I was a blogger… so don’t judge please, I had no control over the situaion 🙂 hmmm but why would you want to fill up on bread? Traditional Chinese ppl hate buns b/c they fill you up and you can’t try other stuff!

    @Bow – Did you know Vivacity is more expensive than Empire… I didn’t notice that until now. $4.35 for har gow here and $3.95 at Empire. I think each place has their specialty… have you tried the other things I ordered here?

    @TimeToChow –
    – I love that sugary crust on BBQ pork buns!
    – yes! I have tried Popiah in Singapore and it was delicious! I have a post on it if you look under my Singapore tab and click on the “Hawker Centre” post. LOVE them!
    – Haven’t been to Sea Harbour, but now you made me curious.
    – Yeah I don’t expect any service at any Chinese restaurant.
    – hmmm what did you try at Empire that left you so disappointed? Sometimes it’s what you order right?

  • KimHo says:

    *That’s * the reason why I don’t say it! The less people know you do it, lesser are the chances somebody will “slip” and go rampant telling the restaurant you write about it!

    Let me try again: The first thing *my grandfather* got for us was the BBQ bun!

  • Mijune says:

    KimHo – Sorry Kim, people know you blog too and a lot of people know what you look like as well… must I recall the incident from Creme de la Crumb?…. People KNOW Kim 😉

  • Bow says:

    Mijune,
    Haven’t eaten in Vivacity for a while; didn’t know it’s prices went up…have been eating a lot of Shanghai food lately. Never was a fan of steamed sponge cake. The hotpot dish we generally order is beef brisket with rice rolls or chicken’s feet/spareribs and rice. I prefer the baked BBQ pork buns vs the steamed(although I love the steamed ones at the New Town Bakery in Chinatown).

  • Mijune says:

    Bow – hmmm, you should visit Vivacity again and see if your opinion has changed, let me know if you do! I haven’t done a post for New Town yet but I do like their apple buns and steamed pork buns that you mentions… but I still like the baked bbq pork buns with the sweet and savoury sauce the best.

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