Restaurant: Dinesty Chinese Restaurant
Cuisine: Shanghainese/Chinese/Taiwanese/Dim Sum
Last visited: February 25, 2011
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: Unit 160 – 8111 Ackroyd Road
Price Range: $10 or less (Dim sum) $20-30 (Dinner)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Service: 5 (I had a great server)
- Shanghainese (Taiwanese) cuisine
- Home made
- Extensive menu
- Popular/busy lunch/dinner
- Local favourite
- Award winning
- Excellent menu set up
- English/Chinese/Picture menu
- Cheap eats/budget friendly
- Smaller portions, great value
- Vegetarian friendly
- Dim sum/lunch/dinner
- Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, 5:30pm-10pm
- Sat-Sun 11am-3pm, 4:30pm-10pm
**Recommendations: Steamed Pork Dumplings, Chinese Spinach with Bean Curd, Deep Fried Tofu Pudding in Garlic Sauce, Spicy Beef Tendons, Coconut Tapioca
Dinesty Chinese Restaurant is always packed for lunch and dinner and it’s one of Richmond’s most popular Shanghainese restaurants. It recently won the Diner’s Choice Award for “Best Northern/Shanghainese Cuisine” at the HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards, so I did have a certain level of expectations. However winning the “Diner’s Choice” Award doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best since it’s usually based on popularity. On the other hand it must be so successful for a reason, and I had to see why.
The menu is extensive and I haven’t tried everything, but based on the items I did try I would say some items were great and some I’ve had better elsewhere. I was generally very happy with the whole experience, but did it exceed any expectations I may have had? No, not really. But would I recommend it to try? Yes, definitely and here’s why.
If you’re not familiar with Shanghainese food then Dinesty Chinese Restaurant is probably the perfect place to start. It’s clean, contemporary and there’s a professional photo of pretty much every single item on the menu. It’s an incredibly “user friendly” menu and almost everything looks appetizing and comes out pretty close to what is actually shown. There’s Chinese and English and the English is near perfect as well. I know! What a surprise! That may cause you to question the authenticity since spelling errors speak of “authenticity”, but the food is actually quite good.
I should start by stating that Shanghainese food is never really authentic in Metro Vancouver. It tends to cater to Cantonese taste buds and to be honest, authentic Shanghainese food is incredibly oily and can get really salty so I’m not even a huge fan of the style. I’m speaking and blogging really generally here, so it’s just my very general perspective in a nutshell.
The style of Dinesty Chinese Restaurant is actually more Taiwanese and it caters to Taiwanese and Cantonese tastes. Authentic or not though, we’re not in Shanghai and when it comes down to it, there are lots of great Shanghainese restaurants in Richmond and Metro Vancouver. Others in Richmond which I’ve tried and more or less enjoyed include Northern Delicacy, Shanghai House, Suhang Restaurant, Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen, and Shanghai River.
On this occasion I came for dim sum, which was a full house of steady traffic. It’s spacious though and the service and atmosphere is quick and casual so it shouldn’t take long to be seated, although reservations are recommended for dinner. I wanted to stray away from the “typical” dishes so I asked the server for recommendations. She was hesitant at first and it was obvious she was recommending the dishes that appeal to “Western tastes”, but it didn’t take long for me to convince her to give me the real deal. Therefore everything I ordered was the “insider’s perspective” on what’s good here, not just what’s popular, although the good things tend to be popular as well.
I really loved the set up of the open kitchen and menu, and it’s definitely excellent value. The portions are smaller and extremely affordable so it makes it easy to order a decent variety with fewer people… in this case we were two, starring at 9 dishes for lunch. For any non-Asian restaurant that would be considered a dent, but in this case it was just a sample of their dim sum, appetizers and side dishes. I definitely have to come back because the dinner items are very different, which is the case for any Chinese dim sum and dinner restaurant.
On the table:
**Steamed Pork Dumplings – 4.5/6
- The famous xiao long baos (XLB) or juicy pork dumplings, or whatever you want to call them, is a must try at any Shanghainese restaurant.
- The ones here were good, but they were really small. It was the smallest ones I’ve had at a Shanghainese restaurant and they almost deflated after 3 minutes.
- These dumplings are all made upon order of course.
- The thin skins that are strong enough to hold the hot soup is key to a great XLB. (XLB sounds vulgar…)
- They held soup, but it wasn’t as juicy as I wanted. I love the ones that just fill your mouth with hot soup, like the ones from Shanghai River or Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen.
- The ones here seemed like the pork was marinated in more soy sauce and it was giving off a noticeably darker colour than most. The juice was a bit on the sweeter side and it’s actually made from the pork fat that is released from the meatball during the steaming process.
- The meat was tender, and basic, and it didn’t have the green onions or really much garlic or ginger as say the ones from Suhang – see here. Not all places will use onions and ginger though, so it just depends on what you prefer.
- The broth was meaty, but not as creamy or rich in pork flavour.
- The skins were very thin and didn’t have much of a chew, but they were strong enough to hold the soup.
**Chinese Spinach with Bean Curd – 4.5/6
- This is one of my favourite Shanghainese dishes and it’s quite popular in Shanghai as a side dish or appetizer.
- It’s a cold salad and it’s very light and healthy and it tastes great. It’s unique if you’ve never tried it.
- Think of it as a tangy and cold chopped spinach and egg minced salad.
- The best version of this salad is still at Suhang Restaurant, that one is more marinated and also has a better balance and variety of Chinese radish- see here.
- It’s a very bitty and crumbly salad, but it’s not dry… well it shouldn’t be. It comes pre-marinated and tossed in a tangy vinaigrette.
- The Chinese spinach is a mustard green, so it’s quite mustardy tasting and it’s also minced with firm tofu and some Chinese pickled radish that give it a salty bite and extra crunch.
- It’s crunchy and aromatic with some sesame oil, but it didn’t have much of a vinegar tang that it should have.
- This version was noticeably fruitier and I feel like they drizzled some extra virgin olive oil on it, which is not authentic, but still gave a unique flavour that I’m indifferent about.
- Cheap! Even if you try it and don’t like it, who cares!?
- This isn’t’ really something you can’t like unless you don’t like egg though.
- It’s nothing impressive or really unique, but if you have picky kids, then just toss them one of these.
- It’s a Chinese version of a fried egg wrapped in a crepe. Compared to French crepes, it’s thicker and doughier.
- The onion pancake is made in house and it’s nice and thin and fried with an inner layer of fried egg. It’s nice and salty and a good balance of pancake to egg.
- It’s not really crispy and it’s definitely not fluffy, but it is what it is.
- It’s drizzled with Oyster sauce which makes it extra salty and gives it more flavour. It’s really simple, and it’s not bad, but not anything you would crave either.
- It’s a snack or appetizer and it’s really common in Taiwanese cuisine. See the Taiwanese version from Pearl Castle here.
**Deep Fried Tofu Pudding in Garlic Sauce – 5/6
- Oh god, these were delicious! It’s a vegetarian dish and it’s a great appetizer.
- It’s Shanghainese style Agedashi Tofu and I liked it so much more!
- I would highly recommend these, but the only thing is that you need to eat them right away because they get soggy quickly with all the sauce they’re served in. Also make sure you get a good amount of sauce with each piece… use your spoon.
- Ohhh yeah!! Okay the inside of these deep fried tofu pockets is a silky smooth and soft tofu pudding that was almost like a custard.
- This was like indulgent baby food! It was so soft and tender with a crispy lightly battered popcorn like crust and then you bite into and it’s a bubble of soft, creamy and silky tofu.
- Even non-tofu eaters will like this because the tofu is a custard/pudding and it’s almost eggy. It’s not really sweet like dessert, but it is sweeter and the texture is melt in your mouth beautiful.
- It soaks in a garlic sauce that is savoury, sweet and actually quite spicy since it’s made from very fresh minced garlic. There’s a definite kick and spice to the sauce especially if you load up on it with your tofu.
- It’s a fantastic dish that wasn’t too greasy or oily, and the sharpness of the intense garlic sauce and light tofu makes the deep fried aspect feel and taste less indulgent.
- If you like this silky custard tofu I would also highly recommend the Red Chili Tofu at Terracotta Modern Chinese Restaurant.
Stir Fried Radish Cake with XO Sauce – 3.5/6
- I’ve had this before, but I enjoy the Cantonese versions better.
- This one lacked the salty aspect of dried shrimps and dried scallops, which add incredible flavour to dishes like this. It was still good, but it’s not what the chefs are cooking at home.
- The portion was large and the cubes of radish cake were creamy, but some of them were over fried and the exterior became a bit wrinkly and dry.
- It’s dry fried in XO sauce which is a spicy chili sauce that tends to be a bit oily, so naturally so were the cakes.
- This was a very cheap version of XO sauce though because there weren’t any dried shrimps or scallops, which is the best part.
- The radish cakes were very smooth, but it used more flour than radish.
- There was a couple Shiitake mushrooms and Chinese cured sausage mixed in the radish cake, but honestly they were so frugal with them that it was pretty much one tiny minced piece of each per cube if you were lucky.
- The spiciness was gradual, and they had a smokiness from the wok frying, but it wasn’t necessarily flavourful and it had much more potential.
- It was served with some stir fried vegetables which just added texture to the dish.
Steamed Green Vegetable & Egg Dumpling – 3/6
- The server kept recommending this, but I found them underwhelming or at least under seasoned.
- The skins on the other hand were great. They were very soft and tender and made in house and they were almost transparent with a nice resistance. It reminded me of the skins on prawn dumplings at Chinese restaurants.
- It’s definitely fresh and made with a lot of ingredients, but the flavours were muted and the texture was very bitty and soft lacking some crunch.
- These have to be eaten with the ginger vinegar served with the XLB’s.
- It’s a sweeter dumpling from Shiitake mushrooms with a slight mustard flavour from the mustard greens. It’s also mixed with egg, dried bean curd, sesame seeds, and chives, but it sounded better than it tastes because it lacked so much flavour and there wasn’t even much egg.
- There is lots of stuffing, but it came across as unsalted steamed green onions with some mushrooms.
- The whole thing was a bit mushy and I think the size of the minced ingredients are so easy to overcook. They actually really did just overcook and loose texture as well as flavour during the steaming process.
- This is a very typical Shanghainese dish that isn’t available at all restaurants. The best I’ve had them are at Shanghai House – see here.
- The key to this dish is in the kneading of the dough and the pastry that holds the filling.
- It’s more like a “pizza pocket” than a cake and these ones were a bit smaller than I’m used to, which I don’t mind because they’re filling.
- The crust was very light and flakey, but not buttery and it’s crusted with sesame seeds to give it a little nuttiness. It’s like a crispy pie shell and the bottom of the crust is thicker than the top and it’s very starchy. It’s a rather rich pastry with a great texture, you can’t tell it’s rich either because it’s somewhat neutral in flavour.
- The filling was very non-traditional Shanghainese, or at least I’ve never had a filling like this one before.
- It was very strong with freshly cracked black peppercorn and it was quite spicy and ended up overpowering the other ingredients.
- It was stuffed with radish, green onions, and what seemed like shredded pork, but it was actually dried shrimps so it ended up being a bit fishy tasting as well as spicy.
- It was a very different execution for a Shanghainese radish cake and I wanted way more shredded radish texture and flavour in the filling.
- I’m not really a beef tendon kind of girl, but they’re slowly growing on me… ew… sorry I just had a mental image of tendons actually growing on me…
- The best tendons I’ve had were from Hong Kong at a beef brisket noodle shop – see here.
- This was highly recommended and it would be a nice side dish to rice, although it’s often enjoyed alone as an appetizer.
- It’s a very typical Shanghainese dish, although I think it may have some Szechuan influence.
- For someone like me, who hates really gelatinous textures and chewy fat, these were very good and melt in your mouth tender. It was probably braised for several hours to get them this way.
- A few pieces were a bit too gelatinous in texture for me, but then others were incredibly soft and silky smooth and seemed like poached egg whites with a meaty flavour.
- The tendons were incredibly tender, but not that spicy at all. It wasn’t even that salty or greasy although it looks like it.
- If you go for the smaller pieces it was almost like eating savoury jello.
- Tender tendons… doesn’t sound or look appetizing, but go with a group of 4 and think of it as $1.50 each… not a bad risk in exchange for discovering something you might love.
- This is almost the only Chinese dessert I like, but not many restaurants serve it.
- This was actually very good, but my favourite one to date is the one from Kirin.
- This one was made with real coconut juice and also some coconut milk to give it a little creaminess and richness.
- There’s no actual coconut flakes or pieces in it, and it’s almost like a drink.
- It wasn’t too sweet and it’s a very cooling, light and refreshing.
- The tapioca pearls are like jellies and they were cooked well and slightly chewy, but also a bit clumpy and they shouldn’t be.
- I’d order it again and the fact that I could really taste the real coconut juice made a big difference.
Looks good Mijune. Thanks for the review!
wow – i love dim sum and reading this post made me want to leave work right now to get some lol 🙂
the chinese spinach with bean curd looks interesting – i personally don’t like firm tofu because i eat it all the time at work – i actually like the other textures better but with the combination of the spinach and radish, this dish definitely looks promising
on a side note, i hate it when restaurants call tofu bean curd lol
i went to shanghai last year and can you believe that i didn’t have enough time to even eat ONE XLB? i was so disappointed that i’ve been wanting to find really good ones here in vancouver – i must try the one at shanghai river! 🙂 this one looks really juicy too though – yum!
i bet the tofu from the deep fried tofu pudding is egg tofu – the color of it seems a bit yellow – then again, it could be the custard dessert tofu from sunrise 🙂
who doesn’t love tendon? i think growing up eating all these weird cuts of meat including tripe and etc really makes us appreciate it more when we see it in restaurants – i would definitely order this dish!
you should try making the coconut tapioca at home, it’s really easy – 1 can of coconut milk, 2 cans of water, 1/2 cup sugar or less to your liking, taro, tapioca balls 🙂
Mijune, if you go there on Wednesday there is a Beef noodle special with potstickers. The price is great too! I think it’s $7.95. The restaurant has a fabulous menu and dining atomsphere.
@Ivy – well I wish I could try EVERYTHING on the menu over and over again to make it an actual “review”, but I tried my best! You’re welcome!! 🙂
@Linda – ahhh love your long comment 🙂 Give the spinach firm tofu salad a shot, it’s almost like eggs you won’t really notice it’s firm tofu.
Oh and yes I did try Shanghai buns in Shanghai and honestly they’re equally as good here if you go to the right places. I mean the chefs ARE from Shanghai afterall and were doing the same thing when they were IN Shanghai lol.
Good call on the egg tofu 🙂 I agree.
Good girl for exploring! It took me some time to do that with certain meat parts.
I sure will try your lovely recipe!!
You are so sweet for all the comments! Thank you!
@Miss Jane – When we going? 😉
I have to add this place to my dim sum list. I ended up going to the buffet at the hotel here where I’m staying and was totally disappointed in the dim sum. Totally bland peking duck and dim sum. I’m looking forward to trying this place and the other ones on your blog when I get home.
Stewed beef tendon definitely caters to Cantonese tastes. You don’t like rice cakes ? Common to Korean and Shanghai cuisine, I love the texture of them, and love soup with preserved veggie and rice cakes. Funny, I don’t like the chopped spinach with bean curd unless it’s in the veggie dumplings.
@May – Aw thanks May!! I’m so happy you’re finding the blog useful. I hope your experiences end up matching my general thoughts as well! Oh you must be looking forward to Asian food like crazy!!!
@Bow – Oops did I say I didn’t like rice cakes?! I LOVE rice cakes!! I just find them filling and usually order them for dinner. But no, I LOVE them!!! Oh wait do you meat the chewy sliced of rice cake noodles? Or do you mean the actual rice cakes they serve soup over? The crispy ones? I enjoy them both!…. oh and really?!?! You don’t like that Spinach and Bean Curd Salad? Was it under seasoned when you first had it though? Try the one at Suhang… that’s the best one I’ve had thus far.
The spicy eggplant was amazing!!! Love this place. Can’t wait to try more dishes. Had the chicken with basil but ordered with bone in…not great for kids and the pork spareribs were really good but again bone-in. Shanghi noodles kids loved and the potstickers.