Restaurant: Lin Chinese Cuisine & Tea House
Cuisine: Chinese/Shanghainese/Dim Dum
Last visited: May 25, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Fairview)
Address: 1537 W Broadway
Price Range: $10 or less, $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 3.5-4 (based on what I tried)
- Cantonese & Shanghainese cuisine
- Award winning
- Attracts locals and tourists
- Somewhat catered to Western tastes
- Famous for “Shanghai Juicy Pork Dumplings”
- Handmade noodles
- Local favourite
- Cheap eats/budget friendly
- Chinese & English menu
- Minimal service
- Lunch specials
- Bubble tea available
- Take out 10% off
- Free delivery
- Open daily 11am-3pm, 5pm-10pm
- Closed Tuesdays
**Recommendations: If you want great and specifically Shanghainese cuisine, then head to Richmond for it, but if good will do, then Lin’s will do. I’d say order Shanghai Juicy Pork Dumplings (xiao long bao) and Beijing Style Chicken Fenpi from what I tried. Their other specialties that I haven’t tried yet include Tofu Noodles in Soup, Tea Smoke Duck, and Braised Meatball Hot Pot.
It’s taken me forever to finally try Lin Chinese Cuisine. I always hear so much about the restaurant and how they have “the best juicy pork dumplings (aka xiao long bao or XLB)” in all of Vancouver, BC. Of course one would have to try every single XLB in the city to know which one is truly the “best” though. Anyways, the XLB was definitely on my must try list, but I had to see why else locals and tourists seem to flock to it.
I actually didn’t have that high expectations coming in, even though I knew that it was an award winning restaurant with award winning dishes. I had spoken with some friends familiar with Shanghainese cuisine and they had mentioned to me that they found it a bit overrated. So I was prepared with what to expect. I didn’t make a huge dent in the menu, but from what I tried, I could not agree with them more.
It was lunch time and the place was packed. I was actually surprised to see so many Chinese locals eating there because honestly I found almost all the dishes I ordered catered to Western tastes. It’s not comparable to my Din Tai Fung experience, but it was reminiscent of it.
In cases like these, I’m not hesitant to use the word “authentic” and say there is truly more authentic Shanghainese than this in Metro Vancouver. The menu showcases a lot of Cantonese dishes too and there’s more authentic for that as well.
The food I ordered was a decent representation of Shanghainese cuisine. Yes, it was good and very affordable, but I could also get the same thing and better in Shanghainese restaurants in Richmond (15 minutes away from Lin’s). I could maybe even find it in Vancouver, but I haven’t tried that many other Shanghainese restaurants in Vancouver, and this one is supposed to be “it”.
Therefore I have to say that Lin’s is probably good for the neighbourhood, where there’s not much competition for Shanghainese, but there is easily better 15 minutes outside of the city… in which case I’d make the drive.
On the table:
- I don’t know if it’s the brand, quality or actual flavour of the tea leaves they’re using, but it tastes like dirt.
- I don’t know how else to put it, and I don’t want to be rude, but that was the flavour. Maybe it just needed a couple rinses before steeping, but I didn’t enjoy it.
- I don’t normally comment on tea, but it was noticeably different tasting here.
**Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Juicy Pork Dumpling) – 4.5/6
- $4.99 (6 pieces)
- This is their claim to fame and their famous Chinese Restaurant Award winning dish.
- They might have made them popular and if they were first to introduce it to the city, then yes it would have been amazing and “the best”.
- The price is good and the dumplings are very good, but again there is better.
- The skins were handmade with one of the thinnest skins I’ve seen which is great.
- The pork soup or juice was hot and the flavour was good, but it wasn’t particularly anything to rave about, however the amount of soup in it was because there was a lot.
- In case you didn’t know already, but the soup comes from the fat from the pork as well as a pork stock that’s made into a gelatin and incorporated into the meat stuffing (thanks Sherman for the gelatin part, makes me feel less guilty for eating the tray).
- The steaming process releases those tasty juices.
- The meatball was tender and there was a hint of ginger and white pepper in the seasoning.
- The broth wasn’t as rich and creamy as a lot of the “tres excellent” ones in Richmond though.
- The meatball wasn’t even as tender as some of my personal favourites that just melt in your mouth.
- The places I’d recommend for even better juicy pork dumplings are from Shanghai House, Suhang Restaurant, Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen, Shanghai River, and even Beijing Cuisine has a more flavourful broth.
**Beijing Style Chicken Fenpi (Mungbean Pasta) Salad – 3.5/6
- This is one of my favourite dishes and it’s award winning here, but I think it’s better at other places.
- It’s an appetizer, but the portion is huge and it’s quite substantial and filling.
- It’s rich, creamy, indulgent, and usually a bit oily, but I really like it.
- This one just had an overwhelming amount of sauce though.
- It had a decent amount of chicken, but it was a little on the dry side.
- There should be sesame seeds on top too.
- You mix it all together before enjoying it and it’s served room temperature.
- The “glass noodles” were smooth and slippery and jelly like with springy chewy texture, but they were too chewy.
- It’s a soft noodle, but they’re still supposed to break apart when you chew them and they just didn’t here, which was odd.
- It’s swimming in a pool of garlicky peanut sauce that usually has a combination of sesame sauce. Again, it was a bit too much sauce.
- This one tasted just like melted peanut butter with garlic and soy sauce though, and it had a distinct salty sweet flavour in the aftertaste more so than in the initial taste. This is likely from some MSG.
- It’s creamy, savoury, nutty and smooth and mildly spicy from some chili flakes.
- I like the one from Beijing Cuisine better – see Tossed Mung Clear Noodles in Sauce, Sesame Paste & Shredded Meat.
Honey Prawn Lunch Special – 3.5/6
- Available daily 11am-3pm. Meals include Hot & Sour Soup or Chicken Corn Soup, and steamed rice $7.99
- Honey prawns is another popular favourite and Lin’s signature dish, and they were good, but they didn’t seem that special to me and overrated.
- It’s a good deal for a sit down restaurant in the area, but just seeing the lunch special options it just screams out “Westernized Chinese food” outside of a food court context.
- It was almost like a warm crunchy Chinese style Ebi Mayo prawn salad served with rice. It’s better as an appetizer.
- One of their signatures, but they do taste like honey prawns I could get from other Chinese restaurants.
- They do give you a lot of prawns, but it is a very Western tasting dish.
- How do I say this? Well on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives Guy Fieri showcased an “authentic” Chinese restaurant in Alaska making a very similar dish and it was the house favourite.
- There’s basically a dish called honey prawns with walnuts and that’s what this was, but without the walnuts.
- The prawns are medium sized and they’re deep fried and apparently have no batter. They definitely taste like they have a batter though.
- I think maybe chef does some double deep frying with a coat of cornstarch and honey in some specific process. It doesn’t taste as complicated as it probably is to make.
- It has a crunchy like batter and then a firm and tender crunchy prawn, but it seemed so Westernized that I was caught off guard and was expecting something else.
- The prawns are coated in a simple creamy mayo and honey sauce so it’s sweet and savoury, but more on the sweet side given “honey” in the name.
- It also has a tang from some lemon juice they probably mix in the mayo.
- Deep frying anything and topping it with honey and mayo is usually a good sign of a Westernized dish… but with those ingredients, it is usually pretty good, and it was.
- I wouldn’t care to order them again as I prefer other versions of this at Chinese restaurants (some with sesame seeds and some with walnuts), but this was a fair deal and the honey prawns do make for a good shared appetizer.
- Yeah this was major “gwai lo” or “white” version of hot and sour soup.
- It was very simple with very limited ingredients which were basically egg white, couple Chinese black wood ear mushrooms, couple shreds of carrots and couple bamboo shoots and some firm tofu. It was mediocre at most.
- The stock was a bit gluey, and it was more tangy than hot, but not nearly as tangy or hot as the authentic versions. The flavour was pretty flat, but it wasn’t bland.
mmmm i love XLBs.. i heard alot about this place in the past but not that many ppl are saying much now maybe because there’s so many other places to visit now – i’m glad the XLBs still stack up though but i’m sad that the soup inside is only ok 🙁
mmm i love honey walnut shrimp! i really like this other version from this restaurant on victoria and 41st.. i forgot what the name was lol the other version is honey peach shrimp and it’s just as delicious – i wish this one has the walnuts in it though because the difference in textures is what makes this dish delish!
We completely agree with you! This place was not “Chinese” enough…most of the dishes are catered to westerners. The food we ordered were not so great but we did enjoy the XLB. Just the other day, I was chatting with the GM at Top Gun J&C about not being able to find true version of hot & sour soup locally, some may taste good, but don’t have the right ingredients…hahahaha!
I know this place is very popular, but that’s because of it’s location, not because of the food. Had been recommended to try their Tan Tan noodles, average at best, not nearly as good as others I’ve eaten(Chongqin, Shanghai Wonderful, Shanghai House]; yes, Mijune, there’s better Xiu Long Bao and their War Teep aren’t special. Haven’t tried their duck, perhaps it’s good.
I think Lin’s was relatively better several years ago before the plethora of Shanghainese restaurants came to the scene, many (but not all) of them in Richmond. I don’t think Lin’s is all that bad per se, but if people (like us ever-hungry foodies) begin sampling all the other Shanghainese restos out there, then Lin’s rank begins to drop.
In (City of) Vancouver nowadays, I’d say Long’s (Main St), Peaceful (Broadway) and The Place (Granville) are as good as Lin’s when Lin’s first opened, if not better.
PS: Lin’s shredded daikon pastry, Beijing-style panfried pork-stuffed cake are quite good IMHO. Also their “all-family hotpot soup” is very good. Lastly my Mom, who grew up in Shanghai, loves their claypot vegetables & rice, says it reminds her a lot of home.
@Linda – Well the soup inside was good, but there’s better. So I’m just not really sure how eager I’d be to go back just for their XLB. And I agree… LOVE walnuts and it really makes this dish, but I can understand the cost I guess. Let me know when you remember the name of that restaurant you like though! 🙂
@Buddha Girl – Welcome to FMF!!! so happy to see a comment from you! Especially one that agrees lol… yeah there used to be a very authentic hot and sour soup where the TD is on NO 3 in Richmond by Shanghai House.. it was called Szechuan or Beijing Cuisine before… it’s in that plaza were La Patisserie is. It’s called something else now, but they did do a great hot and sour soup there!
@Bow – I knew you would have tried this place too! I was so tempted to order Tan Tan mein and then I just passed. Good to know it was right decisions.. I trust your tastes!
@LotusRapper – Yeah that’s what I was referring to as well… it probably was “the best” at one point. Almost like how Kintaro’s was the best at one point.
I gotta try Long’s and I remember you telling me about The Place which I still need to try.
Ohh thanks for the recommendations.. I do like the things you recommended except I’m unfamiliar with the family hotpot soup… will need to bring a group I guess.
Hi Mijune: the family hotpot soup at The Place is like something like this:
And Lin’s is similar too. My mom likes The Place’s version better (cuz it was $2 cheaper ?) while I personally like Lin’s version ($16).
My first true XLB experience (other than frozen XLB from T&T which probably doesn’t count) was at Long’s over the weekend… that first bite was pretty incredible, and now I’m going to have to try it against others in town! Sounds like Lin’s isn’t going to be one of my first stops, though.
@LotusWrapper – love the tips and calculations lol. Thanks for the photos and such a coincidence b/c my friend from Taiwan was raving about it as well today!
@Tony – Oh no you should still try Lin’s for XLB… because their XLB is still solid.. just everything else was meh.. but WHAT?!?! FIRST TIME?!?! Well you started off at a solid place although I haven’t tried longs… but I’ve heard! Try Suhang and Shanghai House and Shanghai Wonderful, Chen’s and Shanghai River… all in Richmond 🙂
@ Tony – I agree with Mijune. XLB at all those places she mentioned are quite good indeed.
Wouldn’t it be fun if one day Greater Vancouver somehow had a local XLB contest amongst all the restos to see whose XLBs are the best ? Maybe we can submit this as a question to Georgia Straight for their annual Golden Plates award 🙂
@LotusRapper – YES!!! Trust me that has crossed my mind several times… but getting a Chinese restaurant to do any sort of event is impossible.. almost! I want to get 8 people to each hit up an XLB place bring it to one central location and try them all, but that doesn’t work either because you have to eat them hot. Trust me, I’ve thought of several ways to make it logistical possibly.. but the hardest thing is getting them on board!!!
I have to disagree with the theme of this review. I went to Lins restaurant last night and was amazed by the quality of the food. I had the following between 2 of us.
Xiao Long Bao: These were great. Loved the texture. 5/6
Green Onion Pancake: They were a little doughy and could have had more flavor. 4/6
Pork and Vegetable Pot Sticker: These were really big and the filling was good. 4/6
Mongolian Beef: Mmmm this was so good. Beef was perfect texture and a hint of spice. 5/6
Spicy Braised Eggplant: Although not that spicy, this was a great vegetable dish that came with Tofu, which my partner liked. 5/6
I liked all of the items I tried and did read ahead of going to Lins on what was good. Very happy and would return.
@RzinDubs – nice to hear your thoughts. Just curious if you’ve tried any of the Shanghai restaurants in Richmond? If you like Lin’s this much, than some of those you might enjoy even more 🙂
@RzinDubs: the cool thing about food blogs is that the bloggers all experience the same restaurant/food (in this case Lin’s) differently, and describe their experiences as vividly as they can. We as viewers get to read about their spectrum of experiences, and when we go to the same restaurant, we formulate our own conclusions in-person.
And as a layman who just happens to *love* to eat, I’m pretty easy to please compared to many food bloggers who have been to far more restaurants and have tasted far more dishes than I ….. therefore it’s natural that their *relative* standards would more likely be higher than mine (and they are !) and perhaps most other non-food bloggers.
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong review, food (or the experience of eating out) is so subjective anyway.
I’m just happy to see you had a good time at Lin’s and liked their food !
@LR – wow. I couldn’t have said it any better. I just want to copy and paste that! lol not to sound “snooty” at all, but yes we eat out a lot lol… we also disagree with each other a lot too! If we all agreed every restaurant would be at 100% on Urbanspoon 🙂
@Mijune …… and no, I’m *not* starting my own food blog, LOL 😀
@LR – lol… it’s definitely not for everyone… but I thank you for reading mine!! Makes me so happy!
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Just reading a review of Lins to see if you had any photo’s of their food and I noticed that you had used the term gwai lo in your review.
I realize that it’s cool to be racist these days but I expect more from one of my favourite food bloggers.
Mark, as a Cantonse speaker, it is not racist; that’s Chinese speak for you. Just in case, check here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRpct4pLjZo
If I were to go to the racist route, we would have to take into consideration the endless times different Asian peoples are confused with other part of Asia countries – this usually done by Westerners. I myself have been mentioned to be Korean. Do I take offence? Despite we could, most Asian people don’t (unless you ask whether Taiwan is part of China or not).
Misnomer? Maybe; but, then again, English is a messed up language. For example, why call football a game where most of the time the ball is not kicked? Why a word with the same spelling referencing to the same thing have different pronounciation? So, take it easy. It is used in context and I am certain you grasped that idea.