The Gold Standard

Red Star Vancouver  -

My wife had been feeling pain in several of her teeth for a few days and needed to visit a dentist.  The dentist that she planned on visiting just happened to be across the street from The Place Restaurant, which piqued my interest because they purportedly served a very large and very soupy xlb. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try the restaurant since I wouldn’t be wasting any gas by driving all the way out there just to try the xlb.  But telling my wife who had teeth pain that I was tagging along because I wanted to eat something close by seemed kind of insensitive . I should be supportive.  I decided that I wouldn’t think or talk about it until after my wife was done getting her teeth examined and treated.

Before we even left our house, my wife asked me if I knew where we could have lunch after she was done with the dentist. I told her I kinda had an idea. Then she said we could always go to Red Star if we couldn’t find anything else. I agreed that Red Star could be an option.

Red Star is nice and all, but I’d really like to try something new. Whenever we happened to be in the neighborhood during meal time, we almost always visit Red Star. So I told my wife that I did have a place in mind and it was called “The Place Restaurant”. Normally, she would object to trying a new restaurant when there was already a place nearby that she liked. But she was all for it this time. She knew that I needed to try new restaurants so I could write about them, and never being one to rain on my parade, she actually sounded excited to try the restaurant.

So we made it out to Marpole (I’m new here, but do people actually call this area Marpole  or is it just a historical name not commonly used?) with surprisingly few traffic delays. A good sign. My wife also didn’t have to wait for the dentist to see her. Another good sign. Then, after five minutes inside with the dentist, my wife came back out to the waiting room with a big smile on her face. She said that she didn’t need any work done. The dentist identified my wife’s pain as coming from gum sensitivity and not from any cavities or decay. A third good sign.

As my wife was paying for her services, she asked the cashier if the restaurant called “The Place” across the street was any good. The cashier told us that it was indeed pretty good. It was so good, in fact, that it was the go-to lunch spot for most of the people working at the dental clinic. Good sign number four.

Once my wife settled her bill with the cashier, we immediately jaywalked our hungry selves across the traffic-laden street to make our way to The Place. When we go there, The Place looked dark. The Place looked empty. There were no patrons; there didn’t even look like there were people working there. There was no one there! We were confused for a few seconds until we read the sign with it’s hours posted. It was closed on Wednesdays. Bad Sign. Bad, bad Sign.

There was no use getting mad at the bad physical sign. It was not the sign’s fault that the store was closed that day. We should’ve seen it coming. Four good signs in a row. That was a bad sign if I ever saw one. The number four is the ultimate bad sign in Chinese and Japanese. How could I be so…unsuperstitious? Anyways, the show must go on. We dragged ourselves to our usual lunch spot in the area, Red Star.

We were informed that there was a 15 minute wait when we got to Red Star. Having no other options, we said that we would gladly wait the amount of time required. The lady in front was actually really nice. She kept updating us on the status of our table every two minutes and actually rushed the bus-people and servers to get a table ready for us. In the end, we only actually had to wait around 10 minutes from the time we got into the restaurant to the time we were seated at our table.

Once we got to the table, we made quick work of filling out the order sheet and handed it to one of the servers responsible for placing the orders. The items we ordered started arriving at our tables around 8 minutes after we submitted our order sheet.

First came the phoenix claws (chicken feet):

Then half a roast duck (H.K. Style):

Next came the soy sauce fried noodles:

After that the marinated tofu:

We also ordered the soup dumpling:

Finally, egg tarts rounded out our meal:

There is no other word to describe the egg tart here but: Perfection. Perfectly bite-sized; perfectly warm; perfectly sweetened; perfectly flaky and crisp phyllo tart shell; perfectly eggy, silky smooth tart filling. This was the most ideal egg tart we’ve ever had, and it was as perfect as it was every time that we had it. There was no gimmick filling or uselessly-creative-without-concern-for-texture tart shell. This was just a perfectly normal egg tart, perfectly made.

The roast duck was equally perfect, and it was equally the best H.K. style roast duck we’ve had locally. This duck was as good as their perfect Beijing style roast duck. We we actually a little hesitant to order this roast duck because we didn’t think it would be remotely close to being as good as their Beijing style roast duck. But it was. The skin was crispy, slightly sweet, and unctuous with a thin layer of duck fat residing right under the skin. The meat was tender and juicy and, after a few bites, an aromatic herbaciousness takes over; leaving your mouth with a pleasant, fragrant aroma after the meat has been ingested. The duck sauce was also a perfect pairing with the roast duck. It tasted like concentrated sweet plum, with generous sprinkles or herbs throughout. The duck dipped in the plum sauce tasted like a sweet, herby, juicy piece of refinement that had no equal in the realm of H.K. style roast duck. Amazing.

The rest of the items did not approach amazing but were generally very, very good. The marinated tofu was full of flavour and silky smooth. It came hot and felt comforting, unlike the the run-of-the-mill ice cold, indifferent-feeling marinated tofu that I was used to having at other restaurants.

The phoenix claws also came piping hot. It had nice flavours and was nicely seasoned, being neither too sweet nor too salty. The claws themselves were of the bigger variety, with each claw possessing enough skin and gelatinous cartilage to satisfy the diner.

I was likewise satisfied with the portion size of the soy sauce fried noodles. The noodles were fully covered with soy but still didn’t taste like they were overly salty. They possessed a floppy but firm texture, creating an elastic bounce as they were drawn up by chopsticks. The bounce meant that the noodles had a nice bite, requiring the diner to chew them with the included bean sprouts and scallions to reveal a rustic combination of flavour and texture.

Both flavours and textures were plentiful in the soup dumpling. It had good flavours coming from the ingredients in the dumpling and the stock. I could also sense nice texture contrasts between the shark’s fin and the dumpling skin and ingredients. But when compared to Red Star Richmond’s soup dumplings, this version took a back seat.

Apart from the soup dumplings that were slightly inferior to the soup dumplings in their Richmond location, every other item was better than versions that I’ve had at any of the local Cantonese/dim sum restaurants I’ve been to. I know that Red Star is often mentioned as being on the same level as popular favorites such as Kirin, Jade, Sea Harbour, and Sun Sui Wah.  But I have never actually heard or read anyone claiming that Red Star is the best. Let me be the first one that I know of to fan the flames and make this claim: Red Star Seafood in Vancouver has the best dim sum that I’ve had in Vancouver (read: Metro Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, B.C., Canada, North America). It is my gold standard for dim sum in North America, replacing the Sea Harbour outpost in Rosemead, California… Please do not hesitate to start bashing and trashing this claim in the comments below…

Red Star Seafood 鴻星海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

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About dontcallmeafoodblogger

Just like most people can think of a song that perfectly fits the mood of a moment or a particular situation, I often think about meals or dishes that would be perfect for a specific moment. Most of my thoughts are about food and I think in terms of food. To me, food is much more than something you ingest, desire, crave, or dislike. It relates to culture, to family, to politics, and to every other aspect of my life. I admit I might be a little obsessed and maybe even addicted to food, but I've been afflicted all my life. I was born with it and with this outlet for my food thoughts, I'll have a chance to run wild with it.
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