Restaurant: Empire Seafood Restaurant 帝苑海鮮酒家
Cuisine: Chinese/Dim Sum/Seafood
Last visited: February 24, 2012
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 200-7997 Westminster Hwy
Train: Brighouse Station Northbound
Price Range: $10-20 (dim sum) $20-30+ (dinner)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Chinese owned/operated
- Authentic Cantonese cuisine
- Higher end Chinese dining
- Dim sum/dinner
- Busy at peak hours
- Sister to Empire Chinese Cuisine
- English/Chinese menus
- Daily specials
- Fresh seafood
- $1/person tea service
- 20% off before 11am
- Free parking
- Mon-Sun Dim Sum/Lunch 9am-3pm
- Mon-Sun Dinner 5pm-10pm
**Recommendations: Baked BBQ Pork Bun, Preserve Egg Congee with Salted Pork, Pan Fried Halibut with Ginger & Onion, Baked Tapioca Pudding
I’ve been coming here for years, but I’ve never gotten around to writing a blog post for it. I usually visit its sister restaurant Empire Chinese Cuisine on Alexandra Road also in Richmond, BC. Both are considered more upscale in the context of Chinese dining in Richmond, and I’ve had rather consistently positive experiences at both, so I find either good options for dim sum or dinner.
The place was packed upon arrival and I took this photo as their dim sum service was coming to an end. It’s not my usual dim sum spot, but I wouldn’t veto the decision to come either. The food was decent, although I kept thinking of other places that made the dishes I ordered even better, and it wasn’t necessarily hard to come up with. There was nothing to complain about and nothing really to rave about, although it’s better than average for sure. Regardless I would still come back and it is frequented and popular with the Chinese locals.
Honestly, it drives me insane when everything is written in Chinese and I’m too scared to ask for a translation, let alone feel confident enough I would get one. It would help if you could get this translated ahead of time because it’s their daily specials. (Part of me is hoping a lovely Follow Me Foodie reader who can read Chinese will kindly leave a comment with the English translations – thank you in advance!). I was tempted to just “one of each” them all, or “when in doubt choose C”, but I’ll save that experience for when I’m with a bigger group.
On the table:
Usually I would start a dim sum post with the XO sauce, but they charge $2 for it here. XO sauce is only available at nicer Chinese restaurants and some places offer it complimentary, but not here.
Steamed Shrimp Dumplings – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- This is a dim sum staple and shows the skill of the chef. It sets the standard for the rest of the menu.
- That isn’t very good. I’m referring to the rip in the skin on one of the dumplings – take a closer look at the one on the bottom left.
- I’ll let it go cause it’s not like a rip affects the flavour, but for a restaurant like this, a teared dumpling skin is a bit taboo to be served.
- The dumplings had a decently thin skin, but not quite translucent and they got quite thick near the top.
- Each dumpling was filled with 2-3 pieces of crunchy juicy shrimp and the skins had a decent spring and chew.
- I prefer the ones at Top Gun J&C with thinner skins – see their Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings).
Steamed Meat Balls – 4/6 (Very good)
- I’m not a huge fan of this dish, but for people who like it, it was considered very good.
- The beef meatballs were quite loose, juicy, plump and tender with a strong flavour of dried orange peel which I’ve never been so keen on. I like dried orange peel, but not so much in these, although that is traditional of the recipe.
- There was some watercress in the meat mixture and the tofu skin was missing which is usually wrapped around the meatball.
- The watercress was strong giving it an all around peppery and pungent flavour that it naturally has, so you have to love watercress and that dried orange peel flavour to appreciate this dish.
- It was very aromatic which is a desired quality in the dish, but even more so than usual and a bit overwhelming for me.
**Baked BBQ Pork Bun – 4/6 (Very good)
- This is one of my all time favourite dim sum dishes. If it’s on the menu, it’s guaranteed on my table. I love them.
- They are almost always very good to me, and my friend calls them savoury Krispy Kremes since they’re sweet and savoury and melt in your mouth (but not really with the ones here).
- It’s a house made baked BBQ pork bun with a crispy, butter crumbly sugar crust on top.
- That topping/crust is called a “Mexican bun topping” and it’s the best part.
- The bun part is a sweeter bread and it’s only made okay here. It wasn’t as tender, soft, fluffy and moist as it can be.
- The inside was filled with only a little BBQ pork and I could have used more.
- It’s not usually stuffed full with pork, but there should be a bit more than this.
- The BBQ pork was nice and saucy and not too sweet and the pork quality was good and not just fat.
- The savoury and sweet balance was great, but the bun can get so much better.
- My favourite ones are at Top Gun J&C again – see their Baked BBQ Pork Bun.
Steamed Rice Rolls with Dried Prawns – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- This is another one of my favourite dim sum dishes and it’s almost considered comfort food to Asian kids.
- It’s a house made rice roll made from rice flour with dried shrimps (delicacy) and chives.
- You pour soy sauce on them first and eat them with sesame sauce and Hoisin sauce served on the side for dipping.
- This one had a lot of dried shrimps, which is a good thing because it’s a costly ingredient, on the other hand the quality of the shrimps used weren’t so great.
- The dried shrimps were a bit gritty and the bigger they are the better. They are typically smaller in these rice rolls, but the quality can get better even if small.
- The skins were a bit thicker and there wasn’t much chew in the bite.
- I still enjoyed these regardless of them not being great here.
**Preserve Egg Congee with Salted Pork – 4/6 (Very good)
- It’s not an amazing congee, but for the price it sure is!
- This is really cheap and it was a bang for your buck.
- Congee is normally a breakfast food and it shouldn’t be expensive (pending on toppings), but this one was still cheaper than usual.
- It was a pretty big bowl of congee (enough for 4) and it was served nice and hot which is key.
- The congee was thick and creamy and it had flavour, but not necessarily that of pork bones or dried scallops. I didn’t expect the scallop flavour though considering the price.
- There was a good amount of preserved egg (century egg/Thousand Year Old Egg) and the preserved pork was more like shredded cured butt end ham.
- The congee had good flavour and even if it was $4.50 it would still be fine.
- One of my favourite versions of this at a dim sum restaurant is at Jade Seafood Restaurant (see their Preserved Egg, Dried Oyster & Pork Congee), but otherwise congee houses like Michigan Noodle House and McKim Wonton Mein Saga do a great job too.
**Pan Fried Halibut with Ginger & Onion – 4/6 (Very good)
- Any pan fried fish with ginger and onion is usually a solid bet for me at dim sum. The combination of those ingredients rarely fail.
- It was pan fried and perhaps boarding on deep fried because it was so oily, but there was no batter.
- There was a good amount of fish and since it was halibut the bones were big which makes it easy to eat.
- The pieces were not dry at all which is what I fear when ordering halibut. In fact, the meat was so juicy it was almost melting off the bone.
- It was moist and aromatic being sautéed with ginger, garlic, onions and chives.
- It was pan fried in a sweet and sticky soy sauce glaze and it wasn’t too salty although quite greasy.
- The big and thin slices of ginger were almost like jerky and they weren’t spicy and I was eating them whole as is, which I wouldn’t normally do, but they tasted great.
- Another great version of this dish is at Kalok – see their Fish with Ginger & Onion.
**Baked Tapioca Pudding – 4/6 (Very good)
- It’s 5/6 for the dessert in general, but this one was a 4/6 since the topping was a bit burnt and I think it was sitting there for a while before being served.
- I’m not keen on many Chinese desserts, but I absolutely love this one! It’s one of my favourites.
- It’s a warm dessert and it’s almost like a baked custard pudding meets a rice pudding, but with tapioca instead.
- The crust is my favourite part and it’s a sugary sweet crispy and crumbly crust.
- It was a very rich and creamy dessert and almost like a creme brûlée, but heavier with the egg yolks and made with evaporated milk.
- It’s denser than a rice pudding and less dense than a bread pudding.
- It’s not too sweet and the tapioca pearls are soft and not chewy and the thickness of the custard almost coats the roof of your mouth.
- Kalok, Kirin, their sister restaurant Empire Chinese Restaurant (see their Baked Tapioca Pudding with Taro Paste in full size), VivaCity, and Koon Bo Restaurant in Vancouver also make excellent versions of this which I highly recommend trying.
- Usually you would have to preorder them at dinner because it’s such a popular dessert.
- Sometimes the middle may have black sesame paste, red bean paste, taro paste or lotus seed paste, and when it does, I become less of a fan although it’s traditional.
- This one actually had some taro paste in the centre which is the one I can tolerate the most out of the above list, and I would still order it again.
[Available every day] Special Price All $6.95
a. bean sprout shredded pork chow mein (stir fry noodle)
b. neptune (seafood) abalone sauce on rice
c. dried scallops and egg white fried rice
d. xiamen style stir fried vermicelli
e. scrambled egg and prawn fried rice noodle
f. veg and beef (sauced) on rice noodle
g. chiuchau style preserved meat (chinese sausage, etc) fried rice
h. lettuce and minced beef (Stir fry) on rice
i. blackbean sauce beef chow mein
j. 2 mushroom braised e-mein (noodle)
I’ll try my best – it’s my first time with food translations.
A. Noodles with shreded meat and mung bean sprouts (meat is usually pork)
B. Seafood rice with abalone sauce
C. Fried rice with conpoy and egg white
D. Xiamen-style Fried Vermicelli
E. Wide rice noodles (Hor Fun) with egg and prawns
F. Wide rice noodles (Hor Fun) with beef and veggies
G. Fried rice with preserved meat Chiu Chow style (preserved meat is usually sausages)
H. Fried rice with beef (usually minced beef)
I. Stir fry noodles with beef in black bean and pepper sauce
J. E fu noodle with 3 types of mushrooms
@Shirley – you are amazing!!! THANK YOU!!!! so sweet!!
@hr – YOU ARE AMAZING TOO!! Thank you so much for taking the time to do the translation! I’m sure readers will appreciate it! As do I!!
Thanks for this. Great rather thorough review and translations! Will have to keep your reviews in mind when I get a chance to visit Richmond!
Shirley and hr..I totally appreciate the translation, but now I have to memorize characters! Way too hard…better to verbally memorize my favorites? LOL!
@Laura – Pull this post up on your phone and you can just match the comments!! 🙂 I tell ppl to show photos of the food so the waitress can help you order 😉
@Jon Pong – Where are you located?! There’s excellent Chinese food in Richmond 🙂 Thank you for your comment!
So I hear 🙂 I am in another city with excellent Chinese food – Toronto! Will definitely have to visit Richmond one of these days.
no prob.. haven’t practiced my chinese characters for a while… and it does look like i have a few typos in my translation.. stick /w Shirley’s =)
@Jon Pong – TORONTO!?!?! You guys probably have better Portuguese/Italian food than us… but you gotta come visit us for Chinese food!!! You definitely need to plan a food trip here Jon!! At least a week!
@hr – lol u guys always wrote the same thing!! It was much appreciated regardless!
mmm dimsum is literally my favorite meal of the day! if i could just eat dimsum for the rest of my life, i’d be a super happy girl 🙂
i have to say that i’m super surprised that you didn’t order more on this trip lol… and no siu mai this time around?! the congee is totally dirt cheap.. look at the size of it!!!! i wish more places offered it as an individual portion because not everyone i go with eats congee and i love it 🙂 and that tapioca dessert.. o my.. i tried making my own at home but the consistency wasn’t as thick… any suggestions?
I’d love to visit, and I would visit just for the Chinese food too! But alas, I am too busy planning my wedding so it’ll have to wait. I’m sending a friend over though to help me do a video of one. What would you recommend as the best dim sum restaurant in Richmond?
@Jon Pong – That’s always the dreaded question lol.. “best” anything is hard to say.. it depends.. I think each dim sum place has it’s specialty… Sea Harbour is one of our top rated ones though
Fair enough. Sea Harbour it is. Thanks for the suggestion! Any other top dim sum restaurant suggestion? How about any in Victoria?
@Jon Pong – I wouldn’t say Victoria is known for Chinese food… just do it in Vancouver. Dynasty is rated high, Jade Seafood is rated as one of the best (I have a post on this), Kirin (most famous considered the best) I have a post for this, Fisherman’s Terrace (I have a post for this), Top Gun J&C (I have a post for this)… I have tons of posts so best to google “Follow Me Foodie” and the ones I listed if you need details!
That’s great! Thanks for the suggestions and infoin your posts. Now my friend is armed and ready with a ‘best of’ list! Btw, love the videos!
@Jon Pong – thank you for the support Jon 🙂