Sen Bistro spins inventive northern Chinese cuisine

Metro Vancouver is home to hundreds of Chinese restaurants, but what some Vancouverites may not know is that there are many different types of Chinese cuisine. The majority of Chinese restaurants in the Lower Mainland serve Cantonese-style dishes—dim sum, fish and seafood, fried rice and noodles, wontons, barbeque duck, and even sweet and sour pork. The popularity of this type of Chinese cuisine in North America reflects the early waves of immigration, particularly the mass exodus of Hong Kong residents to cities like Vancouver and San Francisco in the 1980s.

In recent years, Vancouver has seen a rise in the number of immigrants and visitors from Mainland China, and this has been reflected in the growing number of restaurants specializing in northern Chinese cuisine. Seven years ago, Ru-Lin Zhang opened Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House in Fairview Slopes. The restaurant specializes in handmade noodles, smoked and braised meats, and xiao long bao—delicate, steamed, meat-filled dumplings.

Recently, Chef Zhang opened a second restaurant in Vancouver, Sen Bistro (1788 West Broadway). Similar to Lin, Sen Bistro serves northern Chinese dishes. However, while Lin focuses on more traditional Chinese flavours, Sen Bistro takes a slight fusion approach. At Sen Bistro, diners will find familiar items, such as hot and sour soup, salt and pepper deep-fried tofu, green onion pancakes, and ginger beef, but they will also get a chance to try Chef Zhang’s more inventive dishes: flambé salmon with oyster mushrooms and homemade hot-pepper sauce, pulled pork and daikon stew, and crunchy sliced celery and dried scallop salad.

Sen Bistro offers daily lunch specials for $8.95, and items on the dinner menu range from $5.29 to $16.99. The restaurant also offers sukiyaki—a Japanese-style hot pot—for $24.99, which includes beef or pork, tofu, vegetables, udon noodles, and broth.

At a media dinner on January 30, I had a chance to sample some of Chef Zhang’s new menu items at Sen Bistro. Have a look at photos below.

Chef Ru-Lin Zhang (second from left) worked in Hong Kong, China, and Japan before opening his own restaurant in Vancouver.
Michelle da Silva
Cold appetizers include chicken salad with spicy peanut dressing, pickled lotus root, and celery and dried scallion salad.
Michelle da Silva
Sticky rice-filled xiao mai riffs on Cantonese-style dim sum.
Michelle da Silva
Steamed white buns and crepes can help sandwich items like braised pork belly.
Michelle da Silva
Golden honey prawns and wok-fried prawns with garlic-chili sauce.
Michelle da Silva
Wok-fried seasonal vegetables include eggplant, mushroom, snap peas, and carrots.
Michelle da Silva
Sticky rice balls filled with sweet black bean paste are a favourite Chinese dessert.
Michelle da Silva
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