Empire Chinese Cuisine – The Alaskan King Crab dinner

Restaurant: Empire Chinese Cuisine
Cuisine: Chinese/Dim Sum/Seafood
Last visited: April 2, 2011
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 8251 Alexandra Rd
Price Range: $10-20 dim sum, $20-30+ dinner

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

Food: 4
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 4
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, and make sure you pre-order the baked tapioca pudding with taro paste for dessert… and the Alaskan King Crab dinner when it’s available of course.

The place was packed with a line up and every single person had one thing in mind. So what’s the “must have” of the season? For men and women? Even sharper than anyone in style, it’s the Alaskan King Crab! And just like fashion, it does go out of season, so hurry up before they’re gone! But at least this “fashion” does come back, but only after a year! Who can hardly wait? And don’t!

Yup! It’s that time of year again and I’m a bit late, but Alaskan King Crab season is back and I’m hoping to eat more than this one! I came here almost at the exact same time for Alaskan King Crab dinner last year, see here, and I was looking forward to coming again this year. I guess you could say Empire Chinese Cuisine is one of our “go-to” spots for Chinese dinners, although it may not be the best, or my all time favourite. I do think the food and service is very good and I’ve never had any problems, so it still has a gold star in my books.

The Alaskan King Crab dinner is an epic Chinese meal and gourmet delicacy. I’m going to be unfair for a moment and compare all seafood from every cuisine, but I’m going to say the Chinese Alaskan King Crab is pretty much the best way to enjoy crab. The Chinese method prepares the Alaskan King Crab in 3 different ways, and 4 ways if you want the noodles as well. In Chinese culture, let alone Asian culture, nothing goes to waste, and that’s perfectly represented in the Alaskan King Crab dinner. It’s truly an experience that everyone should try at least once, and quickly before the season is over.

Another example of this theory is presented in the Peking Duck. Quite often in Metro Vancouver it will be prepared in 2 ways: the Peking duck with crepe and then the Peking duck lettuce wraps. Also, be sure you ask to have the carcass bagged up to take home. It makes for great soup and it’s not an uncommon request. Traditionally in Hong Kong and parts of China they will also offer to make the duck soup at the restaurants as a third course, but I don’t know why they don’t offer that in Vancouver.

Anyways on this occasion we ordered both the Alaskan King Crab and the Peking Duck. Definitely both a treat and must try if you’ve never had it before. I even know of people that cruise up to Vancouver just to hit up Alaskan King Crab season. It’s one of those dinners you secretly hope not too many people are going to just so you can have more than a few pieces… or is that just me? I want to share the love for it, but maybe not my actual share of it =p

The following dinner can feed around 8 people and it was about $280 for a 9lbs Alaskan King Crab (including HST).

On the table:

Crab & Fish Maw in Supreme Clear Broth2.5/6

  • I’ve had this soup here at a banquet dinner last year, see here.
  • This is a gourmet soup and it’s made with expensive ingredients like crab and fish maw.
  • The fish maw is a Chinese delicacy. It’s chewy, jelly-like and has slightly crunchy parts and it’s also slimy. If you don’t grow up with it, it will probably freak you out a bit. I like it though.
  • The soup has a silky quality because there’s also added egg whites. It has a bit of a gelatinous and thick quality and the flavour is very mild.
  • I usually think this soup here is good, but this time it didn’t have any seafood flavour which was disappointing and I found it too salty.

**Deep Fried Alaskan King Crab Knuckles6/6

  • This is my favourite course to the Alaskan King Crab dinner.
  • They take the knuckles and deep fry them in salt, chilies, and lots of garlic.
  • It’s lightly battered and deep fried so it’s nice and crispy and then the meat is juicy, meaty and almost crunchy like lobster.
  • It’s incredibly aromatic, spicy and salty with a heat that lingers especially if you eat the chillies.
  • It’s not a spiciness that kills your taste buds because the garlic and salt balances it all out. It’s fantastic!

**Garlic Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs 6/6

  • Oh god. Seriously if you haven’t experienced these yet, you’re missing out. Like really missing out. Heaven.
  • The reason for coming here… and this is definitely worth the wait and awful parking.
  • I bet I could eat this 9lbs Alaskan King Crab myself.
  • It’s one of those dishes where the lazy susan spins really fast because everyone looks forwards to a second and third helping.

  • It’s steamed Alaskan King Crab legs topped with tons of minced garlic and lots of natural juices, which makes the sauce it sits on.
  • The meat was juicy and flaky and super tender and infused with garlic flavour and juices.
  • The garlic is sweet and not spicy and I just spoon heaps of it on before each bite. *Pah*… garlic breath galore (but that *pah* wasn’t on you lol).

**Alaskan King Crab Broth with Noodles 5/6

  • So this dish is available upon request and for an additional charge.
  • They take the leftover sauce from the steamed garlic Alaskan King Crab legs and toss it with egg noodles, chives and Enoki mushrooms!
  • It’s a very light and simple dish because the sauce isn’t very oily and it’s not pan fried.
  • It’s the same Chinese egg noodles used for chow mien, but they’re boiled and tossed in the sauce rather than fried.
  • Last year we had it with E-fu noodles, which I found too soft (see here), so I actually liked these “chow mein” noodles better because they were al dente and still had a nice bite.
  • It just made the dish extra crunchy especially with the crunchy scallions and mushrooms and the whole thing was really juicy with lots of sweet garlic and onion flavour.

**Baked Alaskan King Crab Fried Rice 6/6

  • It’s fried rice baked inside the Alaskan King Crab shell head.
  • It’s Chinese style gourmet “baked Portuguese rice”.
  • The top looks like baked on cheese, but it’s actually the tomalley (guts/sperm/organs/brains) of the crab and then they make it into a indulgent cream sauce with perhaps a hint of curry or turmeric for colour, but it’s not spicy.
  • It’s a creamy, rich and thick sauce that tastes like a curry bechamel with some seafood flavour.

  • The fried rice was well made and nice and moist. It wasn’t smoky in flavour and each grain of rice was separate and it was well executed, but a little smokiness would be nice.
  • The fried rice is usually quite plain for this and they put some turmeric or curry for colour.
  • The top tastes like a cheesy creamy sauce, but it’s very buttery, rich and extremely high in cholesterol… that’s why it’s so damn good though. It’s pretty much the sauce for the fried rice and it’s simply delicious.

Peking Duck – They carve it at table side and it’s roasted and smoked in house. Tip: You can ask for the carcass to go and make duck soup/stock with it at home. Don’t miss out!

**Peking Duck Skin with Crepes3.5/6

  • I’ve had this dish 3 times now here. 1st time (regular dinner), 2nd time (banquet), and this is the 3rd time, another regular dinner.
  • It’s a formal thing to order though, so I feel pretty lucky and happy when it’s on the table.
  • A lot of places claim to roast and smoke it in house, but it’s a very labour intensive technique, so a lot of places will outsource it. Fine dining Chinese establishments like this should be making it in house though.
  • The dish itself is always a 6/6, but it was a 3.5/6 on this occasion because the duck was really fatty and extremely greasy. The other times it wasn’t like this.
  • The best Peking Duck I’ve had is either from Red Star Seafood or Kirin Restaurant thus far.
  • For more details see my post for Peking Duck in Beijing.

  • The Peking Duck was just way too fatty and it was literally dripping oil as I picked it up from the platter.
  • Really fatty ducks aren’t too popular in Chinese restaurants in Vancouver anymore and the selection of the duck becomes really important.
  • See the excellent hand selected duck at Red Star Seafood here.
  • The meat looks a bit dry, but it wasn’t. It was actually pretty good, but it wasn’t very smoky in flavour.
  • The skin was nice and crispy and savoury, but the oozing oil and creamy fat was just too much.
  •  The fat was quite tender and not chewy, but it was just too much for me and not enjoyable.

I actually really like the wraps here. They’re thin, soft and chewy, but not doughy.

Peking Duck Lettuce Wraps – 3.5/6

  • It’s the mandatory second course to the Peking Duck dish. This is good here, but maybe not the best.
  • Almost everyone has had a lettuce wrap, but just not always with gourmet Peking Duck!

  • They use tons of water chestnuts, more so than most places, so it makes it very crunchy and almost extra juicy.
  • It had a slightly smoky flavour which was nice, but I do think it could benefit from slightly more aromatics like the celery, carrots and onions though.
  • There was hardly any duck pieces, which I find is often the case here, but the duck it did have was quite moist.

**Crispy Chicken with Soy Sauce Tea Leaves – 5/6

 

  • It’s a deep fried chicken that is pre-marinated in a nice brine.
  • It was free range, so naturally firmer and drier, but still tender and moist for what it was.
  • It was so well infused with a salty flavour and it was a very savoury and aromatic chicken.
  • It’s served with a natural chicken au jus made from perhaps some cooking wine, the brine it soaked in, as well as the natural chicken oils. It was savory, sweet and very intense in flvour.
  • It comes with a side of sweetened aromatic soy sauce infused tea leaves that you can eat alone. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste, but it’s a bitterness you look for because it’s so aromatic.
  • My favourite chicken dish at a Chinese restaurant is probably still The Jade Smoked Grandpa Chicken from Jade Seafood Restaurant down the street. Not really comparable, but just saying.

Braised Bean Curd with Bok Choy – 3/6

  • This is just a simple vegetarian side that comes standard with the Alaskan King Crab dinner.
  • The dinner is heavy, so this is to balance the richness of the King crab.
  • The bok choy was tender and the braised bean curds were soft and juicy.
  • The sauce is simple and it’s more like a savoury vegetable soup. I think there’s a touch of soy bean milk in it because it has a milky texture, but it’s not creamy.
  • It’s just a basic home style side dish and it’s good, but it is what it is.

Red Bean Soup – n/a

  • Ack… sorry I don’t do red bean as you may or may not know… I love beans in burritos and savoury stuff, just not as dessert.
  • This one looked like a side to a BBQ, it was extra dark, extra beany and extra hearty… gross to me, but good news to lovers of the dessert.
  • People that ate it said it wasn’t that sweet and that it was good, but not hot enough.

**Baked Tapioca Pudding with Taro Paste – This is a dessert that is extremely popular here and it must be pre-ordered or they won’t serve it to you. I was so disappointed and I couldn’t bribe them nor my surrounding tables who had pre-ordered it!!

 

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21 Comments

  • Elaine says:

    I actually like their dim sum selection better =)

  • Sara says:

    That Peking duck looks really creepy with that much fat. I have to say though I honestly don’t care about the fat because little or a lot, I remove anyways. It’s just that I look weird doing it when I am at restaurants!

    The “Garlic Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs” just look perfect. I love when there is tons of garlic but it. So delicious! The idea of making an entire meal from the same crab is so interesting. The fried rice inside the crab shell, though, I am not too sure, especially after you said the top which looks like cheese is the “goo” inside the shell. When we make crab at home, my mom always throw it away saying it’s the “dirty part”. Not too sure about that though, but your version looks like “gratin” and actually not too bad. LOL

  • Linda says:

    goodness gracious – just reading your descriptions on the food you ate here is making me hungry lol

    i just had fish maw soup with crab on saturday and it was delish! sometimes i think growing up eating asian foods is definitely a major advantage – i know alot of westerners squirm and get super uncomfortable eating weird organs and offal from different animals and most of them don’t even try – i think this is the same with things that aren’t so weird like durian or even simple things like black currant candies that we all are so accustomed to but they have never had experiences with.. definitely glad that i look forward to eating things like chicken feet at dimsum restaurants and am not turned off when other diners stick the entire thing in their mouths lol

    mmm i like ‘jew yeem’ anything – i usually get the squid or the spareribs equivilent to what you had here – i love scooping up the copious amounts of fried garlic and chilies and just eating it plain with rice.. yum! everything king crab is tasty i think as long as the meat is sweet and juicy! that crab is just plain flavourful 🙂 wow i really that that was cheese on top of the rice! totally fooled me – this rice looks really good – i’ve never had it before but i always see ppl ordering it and the smell is just so intoxicating 🙂

    fatty duck is really my pet peeve – the same with squab – i always think the trickiest thing with peking duck is making sure the skin is well separated from the meat before cooking so that the fat in between both sections has a sufficient time to render out and create a super crispy skin.. at least yours was crispy but i totally get what you mean about the fat being too much.. almost like coating your mouth with butter before you get to the good stuff lol

    i usually don’t care for anything chicken at chinese restaurants because some of the time, it can be really dry – but the exception for me is definitely the crispy chicken! mmmmmmmmmm 🙂

  • Dilara says:

    This post is making my mouth water!! I’ve always wanted to try king crab dinner at a chinese restaurant but never had the chance. Now I definitely want to go! All the courses sounds delicious, including the rice! I’ve never had it but want to try it now! I totally thought that was cheese baked on top! lol

    I love peking duck! But I totally know what you mean about there being too much fat… that close up photo is a bit of a turn off for me. I love the crispy skin but too much fat just ruins the whole taste of it.

  • Bow says:

    Nina Planck wrote a tremendous “must read” book titled: Real Food. She discovered that cholesterol is actually good for you ! Because it is a REPAIR molecule !!! Your body creates cholesterol to repair something that your lifestyle creates. Stop worrying about it. Rather analyze your lifestyle and change it. That being said…you are what you eat, you eat processed crap, you’ll feel like crap. A little King crab ain’t gonna hurt ya.
    The crab looks great, I still prefer a green onion, ginger sauce with crab,rather than steamed garlic sauce. I think the reason you didn’t find much duck in the lettuce wrap because the duck skin was cut too thick, really thin duck skin pieces wouldn’t have tasted too fatty. Some places cut the skin so thin you’d be hard pressed to find any meat(all skin). Wouldn’t have had crispy skin chicken after the duck but rather a marinated beef dish or an eel hot pot w. roast pork slices. Better contrast to the dinner.

  • Bea says:

    Hi mijune,

    Wow I was there that night too! And weird thing we had the exact same dishes!! LOL
    We didn’t get the baked rice however.
    Our duck wasn’t that fatty. But they didn’t carve it next to our table! We ordered the six ppl set menu and ordered the tea leaf chicken as an extra dish.
    Empire restaurant is definitely our go-to Chinese restaurant. My husband and I had our wedding banquet there. 🙂
    Love your blog – keep up the fantastic posts!

  • Mijune says:

    @Elaine – I wrote on their dim sum too! (Just click “dim sum” where I list recommendations) I like it 🙂

    @Sara – see for me I think duck is meant to be eaten with fat… but not THAT much.. so I had to remove some of it too. Omg… I just heard 90% of people cry when I read your mom throw away that part! It’s the highest in cholesterol but very good! Trust me.. the way they use it on the rice… you’ll think it’s baked on cheese. Try it!! I almost promise you’ll like it 🙂

    @Linda – I’m sorry… i almost gagged at the part where you mentioned sticking the full chicken’s feet in the mouth… ahhh lol that’s probably how sara feels about crab tomalley lol.
    I admire you for being adventurous and sticking to your roots! Good on you!! And what? You’ve never tried the baked rice? Ohhh you have too!!! Love your enthusiasm Linda!! now go get your king crab meal!! Oh and “Jew yeem”… you took the words out of my mouth… i had it on bugs and it was good… did u see my Hong Kong bug post?

    @Dilara – lol I think you’ll LOVE the crab… all you need is 4 people and you can consume this dinner no problem! We paid extra for the duck. and yes the duck picture looks pretty gross… I feel kinda bad… but it was a lot of fat!

    @bow – kirin!!! Kirin has just the skin! I think it’s about moderation… eating crab tomalley every day would be bad.. but once in a while i think is fine 🙂

    @Bea – Welcome Bea! Thanks for commenting and thank you for the kind words!! Omg!!! really!?! you were there?!? aww too bad I miss you!! Hope to catch you at another Empire outing 🙂 What? No baked rice? I thought that was standard with the set meal? We must have added. The place was packed!

  • Linda says:

    haha i was totally thinking about that bug post because i watched the video of you eating the water beetles and i felt so bad for you – i think it must’ve been the first time i’ve seen you apprehensive about trying something – o the wings!!!

    yeah jew yeem anything is good – sorta adds a big punch of flavour and makes my rice extra yummy 🙂

  • CrispyLardon says:

    OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD

    I am so jealous.

    Your blog makes me depressed I am not allowed in Canada (DUI), but I can’t stop reading.

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – lol awww you’ve been reading for a while!!! I was freaking out and TRYING to contain myself 🙂

    @CrispyLardon – lol what?! you’re not in Canada? A DUI makes you not allowed to be in Canada? Maybe there’s some King Crab wherever you are… ?

  • Dilara says:

    Don’t feel bad about the duck picture, it’s honest and that’s exactly what I like about your blog. Good or bad, you’re always honest and I totally appreciate that =)

    btw, I do LOVE Peking duck so don’t worry, I’m not turned off it at all…

  • Mijune says:

    @Dilara – lol awww thanks Dilara!! Oh an thank god! I was hoping I wouldn’t turn off ppl who haven’t tried it and then now didn’t want to give it a chance 🙂 xo

  • Nathan Chan says:

    Interesting, most of the places I’ve had Peking duck have the soup as well. I think it might depend on which set menu you order, whether you get your duck prepared ‘2-ways’ or ‘3-ways’

  • Mijune says:

    @Nathan Chan – oh really? Which ones are you going to? i’ve always started with the seafood soup or daily soup.

  • Nathan Chan says:

    Shanghai Wonderful, and although it’s been a little while, the restaurant in the same mall as Richmond Sushi, back corner of the mall, by Hazelbridge, the corner closest to Yaohan.

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