Rainflower Restaurant – Review 3

Restaurant: Rainflower Restaurant – Review 3
Cuisine: Chinese/Dim Sum
Last visited: January 9, 2011
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 3600 #3 Rd
Price Range: $10-20 (dim sum), $30-50+ (dinner)

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

Food: 3.5
Service: 3
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Considered a higher end dim sum restaurant
  • Traditional and creative dim sum dishes
  • Very popular to Chinese locals
  • 20% off before 11am
  • Not very consistent
  • Some hit and miss dishes, most are hits
  • Ordering form service
  • Busy, but plenty of seating
  • Spacious, fancy set up
  • Private rooms/banquets available
  • Chef’s special dim sum items 10am-3pm
  • Dim Sum 9-3pm
  • Dinner I think 5pm? – late

**Recommendations: Pan Fried Prawn Basil, Beef Cake in Shan Tung Style, Baked Sliced Radish Cake, Fried Spicy Leatherjacket Fish, and Steamed Noodles with Spare Ribs & Black Bean Sauce. The fried rice and noodles dishes were actually very good, in particular the Scrambled Egg & Shrimp (or Scallop) Fried Rice Noodle, Hometown Style Pan Fried Silver Needle Noodle, Salty Fish & Diced Chicken Fried Rice. If you like Chinese desserts try the Steamed Bun with Egg Yolk & Carrot Juice, and if you like durian try the Durian Rolls which are famous.

Along with Top Gun J & C Restaurant, Rainflower Restaurant is probably the other dim sum restaurant I frequent most often in Richmond, BC. Having said that I also have a pretty good idea of what this place can do, and I must say that I really did like their dim sum, until this visit. I hope it was only a one time thing, but the quality of the food really went downhill from when it first opened, and I really started to notice on this occasion.

My biggest issue with Rainflower is consistency. They change menus all the time, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s hard to know what to recommend because they can offer the same things, but with a new recipe too. It’s really a gamble! I also feel like they might change chefs frequently hence the recipe changes. If I compare my posts from my first visit, second visit and this visit at Rainflower the photos will all look different.

I’ve been to Rainflower numerous of times, and maybe even once every 2 months since it opened in September 2009. Therefore I’ve racked up a ton of pictures from dim sum and have decided to combine a few pictures collective from my last couple visits from the last couple months. This post will show before and after shots, but please don’t let this stop you from giving it a chance because it still is good, but definitely not as great as it once was. However restaurants can change for the better and I hope they’ll start offering up the fine dining Chinese dim sum I once enjoyed so very much here.

Please Rainflower, don’t disappoint me, you were in my very good books for the last year hence why I support you as a business. Aaaannndd chances are NO ONE from Rainflower will see that comment or this post… Asian restaurants tend to really fall behind when it comes to any online/social media technologies. I mean I feel lucky when I even see a website from an Asian restaurant!

Okay I literally just spoke with my mom and they really did change owners, chefs and menu… that explains it ALL! Thanks Mom! You do know best!

On the table:

Rainflower Steamed Shrimp Dumpling – 3.5/6

  • $4.65
  • Rainflower used to be my favorite place for har gow (shrimp dumpling), and now they aren’t.
  • When it first opened they were excellent and now they’re  just good, but not the best. I feel bad because I’ve defended their shrimp dumplings and positioned them as the ones to beat.

  • The skin was nice and chewy, but a bit thick and dry. The skin should be thin and chewy.
  • The prawn ball itself was mixed with bamboo shoots to make it extra crunchy, but the prawn itself wasn’t as juicy as I would have liked.
  • These prawn balls are traditionally made with pork fat to give it that crunch and rich flavour, but not many places use that technique anymore because it’s so greasy and people are more health conscious nowadays.

Steamed Shao Mai with Shrimp & Pork – 3/6

  • $4.65
  • These were pretty good, but I actually prefer the ones from Good Eat Seafood Restaurant and they were only $2.50!
  • The main difference is that the ones at Good Eat use an entire prawn (see here) and you can really taste it.
  • The ones here have the prawns minced and mixed into the pork, just like a lot of places do it, but for that reason you don’t get as much prawn or prawn flavour. It is a more affordable method though.
  • Besides that the meatball wasn’t as tender and actually a bit chewy with large chunks of pork, but still good.
  • It was savoury and sweet with some Shiitake mushrooms and there was a ton of cod roe on top which I really liked.

Steamed Beef Ball with Aged Orange – 3/6

  • $3.95
  • I’m not a fan of this dish, so personally it’s a 2/6 for me, but people who like it thought it was decent here.
  • I’m not a fan of the orange peel and beef ball combination, but it does make for an aromatic meatball.
  • These were soft and tender with crunchy minced bits of water chestnuts, which isn’t a typical addition. It was also wrapped in dried bean curd skins which is a typical addition.
  • I actually liked the water chestnuts because it gave it a nice refreshing crunch, although I can see others being caught off guard and not liking it.
  • They’re very good if you dip them with the Worcestershire sauce served along side.

**Pan Fried Prawn with Basil – 6/6

  • $7.80
  • This is my all time favourite item here.
  • As much as they have changed, they have never changed to the point of not blowing me away out of everything I ordered.
  • They were featured as one of my top 10 picks in 2009 see here, and I’d still keep it on there.

What they used to look like. Picture from few months ago.

  • As you can tell, they have definitely changed in presentation, however as long as the flavour is there I don’t really mind. The flavours are still pretty true to the original version.
  • It a crunchy delicious butterflied prawn and they’re massive!
  • The prawns are pan-fried in a freshly cracked black peppercorn sweet soy sauce with onions, scallions, cilantro and fresh Thai basil leaves so they’re incredibly flavourful and aromatic.
  • It’s sweet, savoury, slightly spicy and absolutely delicious!
  • The shells aren’t quite deep fried enough to eat, but the legs are! Don’t let that freak you out, the legs are edible and very good! Extra protein… right?!

**Steamed Noodle, Spareribs in Black Bean Sauce – 4/6

  • $5.80
  • This is a rather modern dim sum dish that has been introduced to Metro Vancouver in the last year. It’s worth a try if you’ve never had it.
  • I first tried the dish at Shun Feng Seafood Restaurant for dim sum early last year, and since then I’ve been seeing it slowly offered at other places.
  • The spare ribs are actually quite meaty here, compared to a lot of other Chinese dim sum places. They’re well marinated with a nice black peppercorn and black bean sauce which gave it a potent saltiness. It’s very savoury with a hint of tang and bit of heat, but it’s not spicy.

  • The noodles are not the traditional noodles you’re used too. It reminds me of the Chinese version of parpardelle noodles.
  • They’re actually thin sheets of transparent chewy “noodles” called mung bean sheets.
  • It’s almost like eating the skins used to wrap fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, but these are much chewier. They’re not like rice flour rolls either.
  • This noodle is made out of mung bean flour and they don’t have much flavour, but they are nice and chewy and slippery. They have a springy texture and they hold onto this black bean sauce well. I really enjoy them!

**Beef Cake in Shan Tung Style – 5/6

  • $4.65
  • I love these! I first had them at Gingeri Restaurant 5 years ago and they haven’t made their way to many dim sum restaurants.
  • It’s not a traditional Cantonese dish, but Shan Tung is an Eastern province in China and I’m not to familiar with their cuisine so I won’t comment any further.
  • It’s pretty much an Asian style “meat pie”. It’s completely savoury, but does have sweet mushrooms and a sweeter nutty sesame pastry.

  • The inside is stuffed with minced beef, onions, sweet Shiitake mushrooms and some dried shrimps. It’s all wrapped around a thin, flaky and tender shortbread pastry toasted with sesame seeds.
  • I think they’re pan fried first with a crispier crust on the bottom and then baked to create a nutty toasted sesame topping.
  • It’s very crumbly and tender and just full of flavour. These ones weren’t dry, but on the drier side and I recall the ones at Gingeri being a bit saucier for the filling, but regardless they were both very enjoyable.

**Baked Slice Radish Cake – 4/6

  • Traditionally this is a Shanghainese dim sum dish, not a Cantonese dim sum dish. See the authentic Shanghainese radish cake from Shanghai House here.
  • In the typical Cantonese version, the radish will be shredded and pan fried rather than shredded and used as a filling around flaky pastry.
  • The one here was catered towards Cantonese tastes, which makes sense considering it is a traditional Cantonese dim sum restaurant, although they do offer a selection of Shanghainese dim sum.
  • I was incredibly impressed with the artistic presentation of these radish cakes which presented themselves in multiple layers of tender flaky sheets resembling a rose.
  • The pastry is buttery, rich, flaky, and tender and not crispy even though it looks like it would be.

  • The stuffing is very similar to the Beef Cake in Shan Tung Style pictured above. They are similar dishes, but from different provinces, but if you like one, chances are you will like the other.
  • It was stuffed with shredded Chinese radish (not spicy), sweet Shiitake mushrooms, chives, dried shrimp and dried pork meat that’s similar to Chinese sausage.
  • It was savoury with some light soy sauce and I like the crunch and moist textures it added to the drier and flakier pastry. Again it was tender and crumbly and best eaten hot… like all dim sum is.

Baked BBQ Pork Bun – 3/6

  • $4.65
  • This is a staple dish for me, but this version is not my favourite. My favourite baked BBQ pork buns are from Top Gun J & C Restaurant – see here.
  • The recipe for this KEEPS changing here and all 3 of my posts feature a different version. See Baked BBQ Pork from Sept. 16, 09 here, and Baked BBQ Pork from Nov. 11, 09 here.
  • Firstly, I always prefer my Baked BBQ Pork Buns to have the “Mexican Bun Topping” rather than the “Pineapple Bun Topping” shown above.
  • The Mexican Bun topping is softer, tenderer, richer, more flavourful and has a finer and more delicate crumb.
  • These are savoury BBQ pork buns but they have a sweet baked on crumb topping that’s made from butter and sugar. With the sweet and savoury saucy BBQ pork filling it’s almost like a meat dessert! I love these… but just not here. They’re good here, but not great.

Green Onion & Dried Shrimp Rice Roll – 3/6

  • $4.65
  • I was really disappointed in these. They were still good, but just because the dish itself was good, not because they made them particularly well. Actually they didn’t at all.
  • Traditionally, this is “peasant food”, but it’s one of my favourite dim sum dishes and comfort food.
  • The ones here didn’t have much dried shrimp and the rice rolls were a bit thick and not as delicate. They didn’t taste as home made or fresh.
  • They’re eaten with soy sauce poured on top and then dipped into Hoisin sauce and Sesame sauce, which is pretty much a solid combination.
  • Everyone loves this dish, but the ones from Good Eat Seafood Restaurant is the best I’ve had thus far. Those are only $2.50 too! See their “Steamed Rice Roll with Sesame” here.

This is what they used to look like at Rainflower. Photo from a few months ago. These ones were actually very good too and it’s obvious just by the photo.

Rice Rolls with Fish Paste & Chinese Donut

  • $5.80
  • This is a bit misleading because the menu description says “Chinese donut” but it’s actually not a Chinese donut at all. This would be incredibly disappointing to anyone expecting a Chinese donut because instead of the donut they use dried bean curd skins.
  • The traditional version of this dish does use a Chinese donut, so this bean curd twist is Rainflower’s original recipe.

  • It’s definitely a healthier version of the actual dish, but it doesn’t nearly taste as good. Well the older generation tend to like it more than the younger generation.
  • The bean curds were fried crispy to imitate the crispy donut, but in the end it is not a donut.  I mean donut or tofu? The choice is obvious.
  • The inside was actually filled with fish paste, crunchy black wood ear mushrooms and some orange peel and bamboo shoots and I really just didn’t like the flavours. It reminded me of the seafood version of those steamed beef balls we ordered above. It’s just much too “Chinese tasting” for me. Pass.
  • I could perhaps appreciate it if the fish paste was something else, but overall… where’s the donut version?

Braised Beef Brisket in Chinese Celery – 4/6

  • $7.80
  • For someone who would never really order a dish like this, I actually really enjoyed it and so did everyone else.
  • It was one of the purest forms of beef broth and it reminded me of how authentic Vietnamese pho soup should taste like, but Chinese style.
  • The braised beef brisket was just slowly cooked in soup and it made a very rich broth that was full of flavour, but not of grease. I don’t think they use any beef bones, so it’s not quite a beef stock.
  • It was almost a very home cooked dish and it tastes like it was started in the morning and slowly cooked throughout the day.
  • The beef was incredibly tender although the meat a bit chewy and that could have been the quality of it. The cuts were also very gelatinous and tendon-y so it wouldn’t appeal to traditional American tastes as much. It was brewed so long that it did melt in your mouth and shred apart even by picking it up with your chopsticks.
  • It’s a savoury broth with intense beef flavour and it was almost milky like ramen noodle broth. If you like intense pork flavoured ramen noodle broth, this is like the beef version.
  • The soup is also infused with flavours of turnip and Chinese celery which cut the richness and gave it a lighter healthier flavour. The soup is not oily, but clean tasting.
  • There was also diced preserved Chinese radish which is one of my favourite ingredients. It’s a salty, tangy and sweet radish that’s similar to an oshinko carrot meets a salty preserved Napa Cabbage. I love its flavour and it adds a nice crunch to this soup.

Aged Duck Egg & Salty Pork Congee

  • $6.80/$13.80
  • The congee here is pretty good, but it’s not famous for congee so it’s not the best or anything.
  • The best Chinese congee I’ve had was actually in Hong Kong at Wong Chi Kei Noodle and Congee Restaurant, but we’re not in Hong Kong. However the stuff we get here is still excellent depending on where you go.
  • The one here is flavourful, but the congee broth is a bit thin and not as creamy.
  • There’s a decent amount of salted pork which is almost shredded like pulled pork and there’s a good amount of preserved duck egg, which is my favourite so I always want more.
  • The preserved duck egg or “century egg”  has a creamy texture and jelly like “white” part and the flavour is very potent and almost acidic… I know it doesn’t sound good, but it is. Well, it’s acquired for sure.
  • Any Asian under 35 will probably chose this as their favourite type of congee.

Rice & Noodles

Although it is dim sum, Rainflower as well as many other Chinese restaurants will offer large plate items. It’s the typical Chinese dishes, but they’re nice fillers and they’re pretty affordable and good for group dining. I was actually very impressed with their rice and noodle dishes and they were decent portions made upon order. I don’t know how consistent they are though, but the last few times they did not disappoint. *Fingers crossed*

**Salty Fish Diced Chicken Fried Rice – 4/6

  • $6.80
  • Acquired, but easily liked after a bite as long as you can appreciate a cured fish taste. If you like Mediterranean seafood and you like Chinese food, good chance you’ll like this.
  • It was a very well fried rice, not greasy, and perfect in technique. It had a little bit of that smoky wok flavour and every grain was separate and still chewy.
  • It has pieces of tender white meat chicken fillets and salty bits of salty fish that I love! It’s a very distinct sharp salty flavour with a very strong fishy taste, but it’s not the old fish taste, but more like a cured meaty dried fish taste. The smell isn’t pleasant if it’s your first experience with it, but it gives fried rice a wonderful aromatic flavour and smell.

**Hometown Style Pan Fried Silver Needle Noodle – 4/6

  • $6.80
  • I love this noodle! I don’t see it available that often because it’s a bit labour intensive, but if you find a good place, it’s very good!
  • It’s a homestyle hand rolled noodle and it’s a very traditional Cantonese noodle. I only know one person that makes it at home, but even so it’s only for special occasions. It does take a lot of time, although not much technique compared to hand pulled noodles. Ironically enough, in Hong Kong the “silver needle noodle” is considered a street side noodle.
  • It’s a chewy soft and doughy pan fried noodle and it tastes like gnocchi but without the cheese and egg. It’s made of rice flour and cornstarch.
  • This one was sauteed with a chili oil soy sauce with some dried and frozen shrimp, sweet bell peppers and crunchy Chinese cabbage.
  • It’s a dry fried noodle dish and I loved the seafood flavours, sweet veggies as well as heat from the chili oil. A bit greasy, but not too bad and expected for a pan-fried dish.
**Scrambled Egg & Scallop Fried Rice Noodle – 4/6
  • $6.80 (On menu it’s called “Scumble Egg…”)
  • This is probably the most accepted Chinese noodle dish that is loved by young and old. I love it!
  • This one had scallops and I actually prefer it with prawns, but I think it varies and they change often.
  • It used to be better, but this was still good.
  • The sauce is an egg swirl sauce and it’s creamy and rich with egg yolks swirled into it. It’s the texture of cream and corn and it’s a sweeter sauce, but still savoury.
  • The scallops were alright, tender, but standard.

Pan Fried Beef Rice Noodle with Vegetable – 3/6

  • $6.80
  • Another typical Cantonese dish that is well liked by young and old. I think it’s the noodle, give anyone rice noodles and they’re in heaven.
  • This was decent, but a bit too oily. It was sauteed with tender beef, bean sprouts and some chili soy sauce. It wasn’t spicy, but it had a little heat.
  • Not particularly outstanding here, but the beef was well marinated and noticeably tender.
  • I actually like the “sauced” version of this dish better than this dry fried version.
  • The “sauced” version isn’t available on their dim sum menu, but perhaps on the dinner menu. Although t is a bit too simple of a dish to offer at a fine dining Chinese restaurant like this.

**Durian Rolls (Dessert) – 2/6 (If you like Durian it’s a 6/6)

  • $4.65
  • This is an award winning modern Chinese dessert – it won at the HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards.
  • If you like Durian, than you’ll LOVE these. I do not like Durian, and the only time I’ve liked it was in Singapore at this famous King of Durian stall – see here. Give me a couple more years and I’ll perhaps grow into liking it.
  • As much as I do like appreciate Durian, these weren’t that bad and I can totally see why every table orders them. They’re pretty famous at Rainflower and it’s a signature item.
  • It’s served warm and the outside it a soft, tender, flaky shortbread pastry and the inside is this ultra rich and ultra creamy Durian cream. It’s almost like a Durian custard and it’s sweet, but not overly sweet since it is a Chinese dessert. It’s very aromatic and tastes like a pungent buttery papaya with a hint of almond.
  • It’s a very rich and indulgent treat and I’d say it’s worth a try if you’ve never had it. People say they just melt in your mouth… I had a bite and it did, but it’s just not for me.

Old Menu Items

These are some old menu items that may reappear. They rotate menus often and half the time I come these are offered, and the other half of the time they’re not. So I’m including them just in case they decide to reappear.

**Sticky Rice with Minced Meat Cake? – 5/6
  • $4.65 I don’t remember the exact name for them.
  • These should definitely reappear! It’s unique to Rainflower and I really enjoyed them!
  • It was the modern version of sticky rice meets baked BBQ pork bun meets deep fried pork dumpling, and it was awesome! A great balance of all the good in each one.
  • The topping was a baked BBQ pork bun with a sweet and crumbly butter sugar crust that’s bread like and soft like a tender sweet pie crust.

  • The inside was stuffed with this savoury saucy mixture of minced pork and sweet Shiitake mushrooms that resembled the filling inside the deep fried pork dumplings. It could have used more filling but the amount it had was not unreasonable.
  • The outside is sticky rice and it’s nice and chewy and almost pan fried first before it’s baked, so it’s a bit firm and dry but I still liked it.
  • Together this was like a sticky rice BBQ pork bun that was the perfect combination of sweet and savoury. It’s chewy with a crumbly topping and then the inside is tender and moist. Bring these back please!

Seafood Ball with Almond – 3.5/6

  • $4.65
  • It’s basically a deep fried prawn ball crusted with slivered almonds with sweet and sour sauce for dipping.
  • I enjoyed these, but they’re nothing spectacular although different and enjoyable.
  • I first saw these offered at Rainflower and now I see them offered at more dim sum places.
  • They’re tender and juicy with a nice nutty crunch, but the only seafood used is prawn.
  • It was a dim sum version of the popular and traditional deep fried crab claw or “shrimp balls with crab” served at formal Chinese banquet dinners – see here.
  • It’s sweet, tangy and nutty and the almond flavour is a bit overpowered after it’s dipped into sauce, but it’s very nice without the sauce as well.

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