Part 3: Chinese New Year Dinner at Fisherman’s Terrace
A traditional Chinese New Year dinner at Fisherman’s Terrace in Aberdeen Centre
You must have guessed it! Where else could Tourism Richmond be taking us for a formal Chinese New Year dinner in Aberdeen Centre? I mean out of the restaurants it was either Qoola (fro-yo), Aoyama Cafe (Japanese Cafe), Tropika Restaurant (Malaysian cuisine), Hot Pot One, Chef Hung Taiwanese Beef Noodle, Guu (Japanese Izakaya), Northern Delicacy (Shanghai cuisine) or Seventh Heaven Cafe (Hong Kong style cafe)… darn it, I’m so close to having posts for all of the Aberdeen restaurants! I’ll get there!
Fisherman’s Terrace is one of Metro Vancouver’s fine dining Chinese restaurants an it’s one of the popular ones in Richmond, BC. I’ve been here for dim sum and for banquet dinners before, but it’s been a while. Trust me, the “bug rumours” and cleanliness of Fisherman’s Terrance did cross my mind, but I’ve never personally experienced them. Therefore the record continues to be clean for me even after this dinner, although I can’t speak for the experiences I’ve heard from others. Trust me, if a restaurant is dirty (I’m not talking about the forgivable accidental hair in the food dirty, but I mean really DIRTY) I will expose it until it gets the attention of health inspectors *ahem* Floata Seafood Restaurant.
What better way to celebrate the Year of the Rabbit then by eating one!? Just kidding! Unless you’ve been reading my blog for a while, then you would know that I really did go have rabbit to “celebrate” Easter last year though (see my post here). Anyways in a culture where they eat almost anything, rabbit is surprisingly uncommon in Chinese cuisine. The purpose of this dinner was to experience a traditional Chinese dinner in celebration of Chinese New Year. Aberdeen Centre will be hosting their own Chinese New Year fair starting today (Jan. 28 – Feb. 3), for more details see here.
This was a hosted dinner from Tourism Richmond and there was 6 of us, so we did the logical thing and ordered a “Fat Choy Shark’s Fin and Lobster” set menu for 8. No worries, no shark’s fin here! We replaced it! Overall the food was very good, but not the best I’ve had and at times a bit too salty. I was pleased with some of the dishes and some of the dishes fell flat or were missing certain expected ingredients. It was also missing a noodle dish which is pretty essential to any banquet dinner. The menu will vary according to party size and restaurant so let this be only an indication of what to expect.
Chinese New Year is about celebrating with family, friends and food (my favourite “f”s… and also fashion!) so having a proper Chinese New Year dinner is something that requires a group. I have had many many banquet style Chinese dinners in my life time, so I will be drawing comparisons from quite the foodie database of Cantonese style Chinese banquet food.
I should add that there are other choices in Richmond for fine dining Chinese-Cantonese restaurants including: Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant, Rainflower Seafood Restaurant, Red Star Seafood Restaurant, Empire Chinese Cuisine, Empire Seafood Restaurant, Dragon View Chinese Cuisine, Gingeri Chinese Cuisine, Shi-Art Chinese Cuisine, Top Gun J & C Restaurant, Vivacity Restaurant, Shun Feng Chinese Restaurant, Shiang Garden Seafood Restaurant, Sea Harbour Seafood Restaurant, Jade Seafood Restaurant and Kirin Seafood Restaurant. Yeeeaaah, if you’re allergic to seafood then Chinese food is a tough category to appreciate. I’ve had either dim sum, a banquet dinner, or in several cases both at all of the listed restaurants, but I just don’t have posts for all of them… yet
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!! **Recommended
On the table:
- The variety for this cold appetizer platter will vary from menus and restaurants. The standard is BBQ pork, jelly fish, and beef shank slices.
- The variety on this one was alright, but I would have preferred one of the meats to be replaced with another seafood appetizer or those mushroom bean curd wraps.
- Jellyfish (centre) – 3/6 - It was fresh, tender and crunchy, but not marinated well and just salty. Usually it’s marinated with a little sugar, sesame oil and some chili flakes so I found this version a bit bland, although still good, just not great.
- BBQ Pork (2:00 position) – 4/6 – It was good! Savoury and sweet and the meat was tender and not too fatty or oily.
- Beef Shank Slices (4:00 position) – 5/6 – I’m usually not a fan of this because its tendon gelatinous quality turns me off, but I’ll still always have a bite just to see if my palate changes. And guess what?! It did! I liked the one here! It was sweet and honey like and very soft and tender. I couldn’t even taste or feel the crunchy gelatinous part I hate so much.
- BBQ Duck (8:00 position) – 4/6 – Nicely done duck with a crispy skin and tender meat. It wasn’t too fatty or greasy either.
- Pork Hock (11:00 position) – 1/6 – Another crunchy chewy gelatinous slice of meat I can’t stand. But hey, let me give this one a try since I liked the other one! A nice bite… and no. This one was definitely gelatinous and texturally not good for me. Baby steps Mijune… baby steps…
- This was originally supposed to be “Shark’s Fin with Shredded Chicken in Hot Pot”, but I proposed an alternative. Good thing too because the majority of us didn’t eat shark’s fin anyways. One step at a time guys… as much as it is a delicacy, it is one that will slowly fade out.
- The soup is really chunky and it has a slimy slippery texture with crunchy pieces of fish maw (gas bladder of a fish). Fish maw is a Chinese delicacy and it’s not endangered and I do enjoy it. This one was loaded with fish maw.
- On the other hand it was missing a lot of crab. There’s supposed to be chunks of crab meat throughout and I’m not sure if I just got ripped off with my bowl, but I had 2 very small pieces.
- There’s no dairy in the soup but it has a thick jelly like texture and broth that’s made from seafood flavours. There was also some scrambled egg white to give it that silky quality.
- Typically this soup is enjoyed with red vinegar, which gives a nice tangy contrast to the savoury rich soup.
- I like Kirin‘s version of this soup better – see here. However if you want to just try fish maw you can order it for dim sum. Click here to see an excellent Fish Maw for dim sum. They probably offer it for dim sum here at Fisherman’s Terrace e as well.
- This is probably the most important dish in any Chinese New Year dinner.
- Compared to all the versions of this dish I’ve tried, this was a very good one. BUT, and a big BUT, I am very tempted to drop it to a 3.5/6 because they made a major no no and left out the most important ingredient – the “fat choy”! How can I Gong Hey Fay Choy without my FAT CHOY?! Oiy… this is one of the most important ingredients to any Chinese New Year meal and I was very disappointed to see it missing whether it was by accident or not.
- It’s typically quite an overly sauced dish so don’t let that throw you off… and why would it? Sauce is awesome!
- The dish should include traditionally “lucky” ingredients such as: dried oysters, lettuce, Shiitake mushrooms, some form of pork and FAT CHOY aka “black moss” or “black mushroom fungus”. You may get some dried scallops if you’re lucky. I know that all sounds really delicious (sarcasm), but it actually really is (non-sarcasm).
- What made this one very good was by far the dried oysters. The quality used was excellent! They were soft and tender oysters, not jerky like, tough or too pasty in texture, but still a bit pasty (naturally it will be). They have a very meaty quality and for someone that likes her oysters raw 99% of the time, I really enjoyed these ones.
- The sauce is pretty gluey and slimy, it usually will be. It’s a thick savoury sauce made from soy sauce and oyster sauce. It end ups giving a slimy quality to everything else, but I’m used to it and I like it.
- Throughout the dish was also tiny cubes of diced pork pieces, which were pork hock. It had a very fatty skin, which I discretely removed since it wasn’t melt in my mouth tender, but the meat itself was very tender and delicious.
- To see Kirin’s version of this dish see here – the oysters were better here at Fisherman’s Terrace, but Kirin had the FAT CHOY! Love that stuff!
- Shun Feng Seafood Restaurant actually does a great FAT CHOY dish as well – see here.
- I’ve had this dish many times. This was one of the best times I’ve ever had it. I know. Bold statement, but they did a fine job with it here.
- The lobster was sauteed perfectly and I could tell that they gave the lobster a light coating of flour before pan frying it. It added a slight crust and nuttiness to the shell and it was delicious. The meat was also crunchy, tender and perfect.
- I was so happy there were only 6 of us eating because I seriously ate 8 pieces of this. Usually you would only get 2-3 by the time the lazy susan stopped rotating.
- It wasn’t only the lobster, but it was the SAUCE. The SUPREME SAUCE was definitely supreme!
- It was almost creamy and probably made with some butter. It didn’t taste like lobster stock, but more like a chicken onion stock, but I didn’t care because it was so good!
- It was rich and thick with garlic and shallot flavours and a little bit of ginger and scallions. It was a tad overly salty though.
- They do an excellent version of this dish at Empire Chinese Cuisine as well – see here.
- The sauce is made with lots of dried scallops (delicacy), sweet Shiitake mushrooms and it’s pretty much the same sauce as the one in the oyster dish above.
- It’s a thick, gluey rich savoury sauce, but it’s not greasy.
- For Chinese people, the more dried scallops the better and this one was filled with them. They’re chewy and a bit stingy but very delicious with a jerky like quality.
- It’s a sweet and savoury dish with lots of textures especially with the slippery sweet Shiitake mushrooms mixed in.
- The sauce was fine, but the pea tips were a bit old. I mean they were fresh, but they were older ones so the flavour wasn’t as sweet and the leaves weren’t as tender.
- Fresh scallops. A standard for any Chinese banquet menu. It was nice to have the menu set up with fresh and dried scallops too.
- The veggies were very fresh and crunchy and there was some nice garlic sauteed into it and it wasn’t overly greasy.
- It was boring though, just in terms of ingredients and colour. That matters for this dish. Usually there’s snow peas and snap peas and more carrots. Sometimes there will be chicken, or squid as well but that comes with price.
- The scallops were tender, meaty, and slightly tangy and the tang was unexpected.
- Overall I always prefer my scallops seared, but they aren’t seared often in Chinese cuisine. Boo. But hey, I can’t argue with traditional cooking style.
- The chicken is often a deep fried crispy chicken, but with this menu it came with a steamed one.
- This is a very yellow chicken and it’s most likely a free range chicken.
- I’m not actually sure what the marinade involves, but I’m pretty sure salt and sherry, or some cooking wine, with a sprinkle of sugar is in the recipe.
- It’s served chilled and it has a wonderful flavour and the marinade is well absorbed from the skin and throughout the meat. I don’t eat the skin because I find it texturally unpleasing… I know, how not Asian of me. If I eat skin it better be super crispy and the fat better be melt in my mouth tender.
- The sauce is delicious and it’s savoury, very slightly sweet and made from a combination of the chicken marinade, or brine, and the chicken oils. It’s not too oily or greasy though and it’s great with rice!
- The chicken meat was quite moist, but also not slippery. When this dish is done extremely well, the chicken will have a slippery texture yet tender and firm bite. This is achieved through the preparation and the length of time it marinades, steams and chills.
- This is the condiment used for the marinated chicken. I love it!
- The sauce itself is great, but it was only good here. Surprisingly this wasn’t as salty as it usually is. A bit ironic considering a few of their other dishes were a bit too salty.
- It’s a savoury dipping sauce that’s very aromatic with lots of minced ginger, scallions, salt and oil.
- It’s not spicy, but that can vary depending on the freshness or the occasional hot chili oil addition.
- It’s actually good the longer it sits because the flavours infuse into the oil more.
- The one here was minced with the ginger skin on, which made it taste a bit bitter as well. It shouldn’t be bitter.
- I’ve never really had this particular dish on a Chinese banquet menu, however I’ve had variations of it. This one is probably more original to Fisherman’s Terrace.
- I have real issues with this dish as much as I loved all the ingredients that went into it. It wasn’t the flavour or texture, but it was the execution that was bothersome.
- The seabass had bones! They should have been removed! It made it so hard to enjoy because as much as you wanted to eat each piece as a unit, you couldn’t help but to be slowly chewing it so carefully to remove the several big and small bones all throughout the fish. *Sigh*
- I know sometimes the bones are left in to represent its freshness, but for the purpose of this dish it just didn’t work.
- This is what I mean by a “unit”.
- The dish is supposed to be soft silky tofu, layered with soft, tender flaky and slippery seabass, layered with this savoury, sweet, and tangy topping of Shiitake mushrooms, shallots, garlic, onions, preserved Chinese radish and preserved pickled radish (2 kinds).
- Just close your eyes and imagine that texture and flavour, or if you feel weird re-read my description… okay now imagine having to find bones!! How distracting! I’m trying to enjoy all the unique flavours and wide range of variety in textures and then to have to stop and pick out the bones… it just made it so annoying!
- Therefore I had to enjoy the dish in layers, which made it almost a waste in enjoyment. Nonetheless the fish was fresh and good on its own.
- The topping was the highlight although a bit salty. It had two textures and flavours of preserved Chinese radish – one is similar to Oshinko and the other is much sharper in flavour. These radishes are some of my favourite preserved radishes in Chinese cuisine. Together they’re terrific and nicely balanced with sweet mushrooms and in a savoury soy sauce based gravy.
- Although different, but similar in theory, Empire Seafood Cuisine offers a Steamed Scallops with Tofu on Black Bean Sauce.
- So the dessert was either mango pudding or some sweetened hot yam soup. Stop right there. I know what I’ll chose! I know what sweetened hot yam soup they’re referring to and as you know I’m not a fan of Asian desserts… so I strongly suggested the mango pudding. I was really hoping for the Baked Tapioca Pudding that usually needs to be pre-ordered, see it from Empire Cuisine here.
- I appreciate the heart presentation, but unfortunately I had no love for this mango pudding.
- It was almost made of all milk and the texture was dense and almost spongy rather than a creamy, soft and silky mango pudding.
- There was barely any mango flavour and the bits of mango in it were mango jelly! Never have I experienced mango jelly in a mango pudding.
- I get it, mangoes aren’t in season… but then don’t offer it on the menu, or use frozen mangoes.
- The white liquid is evaporated milk that’s poured over top and that’s the typical way it’s served.
- I kind of missed my Dainty Two Cookies as well (sesame balls and those round almond cookies). These are also traditional desserts for banquets, which usually come complimentary. Sometimes you have to ask for them and literally say “are they free?” and they’ll “say nooooo” and you reply back “yessss, c’mon I know you can do it!” and they’ll bring them out and give them to you free… that’s how the culture rolls. Think of it as a routine that is successful 99% of the time.
Saint Germain Desserts – My final post for Part 4 of Chinese New Year tomorrow!
You gotta love Chinese restaurants for allowing you to bring outside desserts! We had bought these downstairs at Saint Germain Bakery and enjoyed them after dinner here. (I was expecting red bean soup, so I came prepared with a back up dessert… no red bean soup, but since the mango pudding failed, I was still thankful to have these cakes!)
After this meal I actually went home to bust into my bag of Chinese New Year candies – see my post for those here.