Restaurant: Wild Rice
Cuisine: Chinese/Modern/Tapas/Dim Sum/Vegetarian
Last visited: April 28, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown)
Address: 117 W Pender St
Price Range: $20-30
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Modern Chinese tapas
- Dim sum/small plates
- Executive Chef Todd Bright
- Trendy/Posh atmosphere
- Seasonal menus
- Good for groups
- Vegetarian friendly
- Vegan friendly
- Dairy free restaurant
- Cocktails/wine list
- Open late
- Sun-Thurs: 5pm to at least 10pm
- Friday: 11:30am to midnight
- Saturday: 5pm to midnight
- Wild Rice – Bao & Brew Menu (Visit 1)
It was only a few weeks ago when I blogged about the limited time Bao & Brew Menu offered at Wild Rice located in Gastown Vancouver, BC. That was my first dining experience there and I mentioned how the concept of “modern Chinese food” didn’t sit well with me. Surprisingly my experience was better than I thought, but I still wasn’t convinced of what Wild Rice had to offer. I don’t want that to sound “snooty” at all, but they know, as much as I know, that I fall in the market that would not likely dine here. That being said, I’m open minded with food and the only way to explore and learn unfamiliar cuisines is to try more of it. So that’s exactly what I did.
As I mentioned previously, the chef here is not your typical Chinese chef. For one, he’s white, however he’s trained in classic Cantonese cuisine. And for two, he’s white… I think that’s a big enough factor to at least state twice! To see more on Chef Todd Bright – see my last post here.
After my post, I was invited to try some items from their regular menu, which I agreed is a better representation of what they do on a regular basis. To be honest, my thoughts haven’t changed too much and I found the food okay, but overpriced and not as good as dim sum dishes I could get for half the price. I really tried not to compare modern and authentic Chinese food, but when it comes to what tastes better, I think it’s somewhat fair.
On another note, what is the concept of fair? Is it fair that an authentic Chinese restaurant can afford to charge half the price because they use cheaper unsustainable ingredients? Or is it fair that Wild Rice charges more because they only use local, natural and sustainable ingredients? Although the food might not be as good (for me), I have to give them credit for being one of the very few “Chinese” restaurants who support this sustainable initiative. Regardless, as diners, we have the option to invest our money on what we perceive as being important when dining out.
Of course I appreciate the philosophy of local and natural ingredients, but overall the flavour still has to come together to justify the cost, and it doesn’t always do that for me here. I do believe that the concept of “modern Chinese” can work, but I also want these new creations to taste better than the original or at least be innovative enough that it’s incomparable. I get the feeling that the concept of modern Chinese is going to get really popular in Vancouver and I’m really curious to see, or I guess taste, how it will all work out… or “wok” out!
On the table:
- A modern take on the classic Siu Mai. Just for reference, one of my favourite authentic Steamed Pork Shui Mai Dumplings (Siu Mai) is from Red Star Seafood – see here.
- It’s BC Spot Prawn season so I was hoping to see some on the menu, but probably not in this form. Having them chopped up and mixed with pork to make a meatball just seemed like such a waste.
- It was predominantly pork, but I could taste a couple pieces of shrimp, and everything was tender and very juicy and sweet, but it was more or less a pork meatball.
- The skins were wonton wrappers which were too soft, but it did give the dumpling a melt in your mouth quality.
- I could taste the sweetness of the meats and it was served with a sweet vinaigrette which just lightened up the dumpling. It wasn’t really required, but it was nice to have that contrast.
- I didn’t find it that impressive or innovative as a modern Chinese dish, and I’d chose their Seafood Siu Mai before I would this one.
- Ginger, shallot, daikon $13
- This was almost a modern Japanese dish rather than a modern Chinese dish.
- I love Albacore Tuna, so naturally this will be good for me. The tuna was excellent and seared perfectly, but more seasoning on the crust would be nice.
- It was served on a unique pickled ginger, shallot and daikon relish and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
- It was very light, bright and tangy, and the minced relish was almost like a Japanese pickled ginger salad.
- The relish had a lot of dill and it tasted like dill pickle chips, but without the chips of coarse. I actually would have liked this with crispy garlic or shallot chips on top and I think that would play well with the relish.
- The relish was very strong especially with the dill and ginger and the tuna only needed a little bit of it.
- The balsamic vinaigrette was tang on top of tang so I just wanted another flavour or another texture to break things up a bit.
- Pickled ginger is often eaten separately and I enjoyed it more as a palate cleanser rather than a side to this tuna.
- Another classic Chinese appetizer that you can usually get for under $5, but not with these ingredients.
- This was also finished with a drizzle of truffle honey so it required no dipping sauce.
- It was tender shredded chicken with a bit or scallop and then some crunchy minced chestnuts in the filling.
- I could taste a bit of seafood, but the scallop felt a bit wasted in here too.
- I was most excited for the truffle honey, but I could only smell a hint of truffle and then taste the honey, but no truffle flavour.
- It was fried nice and crispy and it was savoury and sweet with a little bit of heat, but it’s not spicy. I think the heat took over any hint of truffle though.
- This was okay, but I would much rather have their Jiaoza – which are amazing! A must try in my books.
- I’d request any of their potstickers to be fried extra crispy.
- Vegetarian and Vegan $12
- About 40% of their menu is vegetarian and vegan friendly.
- It was a whole lot of sauce and it’s not really Chinese at all, except for maybe the use of Shiitake mushrooms, tofu and won ton skins for the ravioli wrapper.
- It’s very saucy, but the sauce was bland and I had remembered it being used in their Fun Gwau – which was actually a dumpling version on this exact dish. I’d prefer those over this because I found this a bit bland and repetitive.
- The sauce was a spinach, mixed herb and coconut milk sauce with a drizzle of chili oil for some heat. It’s not as rich or indulgent as it looks.
- The sauce isn’t that creamy and you almost wanted it to be rich like a green Thai curry sauce, or salty and nutty like a pesto sauce, or sweet like a green pea puree, but it was none of the above.
- The spinach doesn’t add much flavour or texture and I felt the same way about it the first time I tried it with their Fun Gwau.
- The ravioli skins are won ton wrappers and they’re very thin and soft and decently stuffed with a minced filling of smoked tofu and roasted Shiitakes.
- The filling was a bit bitty for my liking and I would have preferred the filling more whole so that I could taste the individual ingredients.
- I actually lost the tofu in there, but I know it was firm tofu that was being used.
- It’s somewhat smoky and a bit one dimensional and I just wanted more flavour from this filling and sauce.
- Bok choy, cucumber ribbon, jasmine rice $19
- Usually it’s served with a side of rice wrapped with a cucumber slice, but everything else is the same.
- This did not look that impressive to me at all for $19, but given that it’s “Yarrow Meadows Duck Breast” I guess the cost has to come from that. I still find it overpriced though.
- On another note, it tasted very good and it was very impressive for a modern Chinese place.
- It actually tasted pretty authentic to me and almost even better than a traditional “China Town” duck.
- This was the most traditional item I had, and it takes a lot of skill to master. I think they said it’s marinated for 2 days and hung dry for 1 or vise versa?
- It’s not really anything I haven’t had before, but I really didn’t think it would be as good as it was.
- The sauce was sweeter and more intense than a traditional Chinese sauce.
- It was almost like a soy duck au jus reduction rather than a gravy so it was bold, savoury, syrupy and sweet with sauteed garlic and shallots too. It wasn’t that oily either for what it was.
- Baby bok choy was the most obvious side, but I would have liked more variety with either more vegetables, some Shiitake mushrooms or just something to make it different if it’s going to be “modern”.
- The duck was all breast and it had a very crispy skin and a pretty substantial amount of fat. The fat was incredibly creamy, melt in your mouth, and not really that gelatinous or chewy at all though.
- It was a bit too fatty for my liking, but it was made well and the meat was moist, falling apart tender and incredibly well marinated. I barely had to chew it.
- Overall it was well executed and there was nothing wrong with it, but I think it should be at least $2-3 less especially since it’s just baby bok choy.
Ginger Panna Cotta Sesame Praline (Vegan) – $7