Need something to do this weekend? Here are five dim sum spots where you can ring in the Year of the Rooster.
Golden Swan Restaurant, 5380 Victoria Drive
If you’re going to participate in the age-old tradition of digging into dim sum for Lunar New Year, you may as well do it up old-school at a joint that remains committed to the carts.
You know the ones we’re talking about: tiny stainless-steel trolleys stacked high with steaming bamboo baskets and pushed by cordial Chinese women whose loud calls of “Har gow, siu mai!” somehow manage to sound at once shrill and soothing. In fact, the push-cart system is how dim sum was originally served in the ’60s, though many Chinese restaurants have since adopted the à la carte method, which helps improve efficiency in the kitchen.
Luckily for the staunch traditionalists among us, however, Vancouver’s Golden Swan still offers its award-winning dim sum by wheel, treating a full house every weekend to standby dishes like steamed chicken feet, taro-root dumplings, beef noodle rolls, and deep-fried sesame balls.
The kitchen also cranks out specialties such as shredded duck vermicelli, pan-fried gai lan, and seafood noodle soup if you’re feeling fancy. (It is a special occasion, after all.) Reservations are suggested unless you enjoy loitering in tight entrances for 45-plus minutes. This place gets packed—and noisy.
Grand Palace Restaurant, 1163 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam
Everyone knows that the Evergreen Line is now open, bringing rapid transit all the way into suburbs that city-dwellers don’t usually venture to. But what you don’t know is that there is a popular Chinese restaurant in Coquitlam that is now only a SkyTrain ride away—and it serves up tasty dim sum.
If you’re a first-timer trying out these Chinese dishes, we suggest going for the classic baskets of har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (pork and mushroom dumplings). Other popular dim-sum items at this always bustling eatery include chicken feet in bean sauce, steamed barbecue pork buns, steamed spareribs with garlic, and custard egg tarts.
If you’re not full from the baskets of food, its menu offers a variety of fried rice and noodle dishes. It’s not unusual for a large lineup to wait at the front of Grand Palace on the weekends, so be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
3G Vegetarian Restaurant, 3424 Cambie Street
Let’s face it: the Chinese aren’t exactly known for adhering to specific dietary restrictions. But if there was one place (besides Buddhist temples) a meat-free Chinese restaurant could thrive, it’d be Vancouver.
Enter 3G, a culinary destination tucked away in the Cambie Village that has been attracting local vegans and vegetarians for years. Sure, some may scoff at the idea of dumplings sans shrimp or cha siu bao without the pork—the ingredient is in the name, after all—but 3G somehow manages to craft substitutes that are pretty damn close. (Trust us: the chefs have the textures down pat.)
Don’t skip the sweet-and-sour “chicken”, braised tofu covered in mushroom sauce, and the veggie wonton with soup. To kick off an auspicious Year of the Rooster, enjoy a plate of stir-fried rice or Singapore-style noodles (the long, uncut length of the carbs symbolizes an extended life) or the deep-fried “veggie fish”. (The Chinese pronunciation of fish, yu, is a homophone of the term denoting an increase in prosperity.)
Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant, 1132 East Hastings Street
The Pink Pearl proudly bills itself as having served Vancouver since 1981, but that’s not entirely accurate. In 2009, a two-alarm fire ripped through the kitchen in the early hours of the morning, after which the restaurant sat vacant for three years.
When the Pink Pearl reopened in 2012, the good news was that not much had changed. The room is still one of the largest in Vancouver. Despite its cavernous size, lineups are often a given, which testifies to the fact that the restaurant was one of the earliest—and most beloved—go-to-spots for dim sum in the Lower Mainland.
Those who had their first-ever steamed basket of har gow or siu mai at the Pink Pearl haven’t abandoned the place for more high-falutin’ rooms. Luckily, because of its size, the wait for a table is never long, and a food carts tend to roll by every couple of minutes. Adventurous types can opt for the Phoenix Talons (more commonly known as chicken feet or steamed bible tripe (cow stomach seasoned with ginger and green onion).
As for us, nothing beats the beef rice noodle roll, which—we’re ashamed to say—we’ve gotten no better at picking up with chopsticks than our Trans Am–driving parents were back when the Pink Pearl first threw open its doors in ’81. Some things never change.
Kirin Restaurant at Starlight Casino, 350 Gifford Street, New Westminster
Many people make their way to Starlight Casino not for gambling, but for another purpose: to eat good dim sum.
New Westminster’s Kirin Restaurant is known for its high-end Chinese dining atmosphere and its seafood-heavy banquet dinner menus. But for the breakfast and lunch crowd, it’s all about the dim sum.
This establishment is also popular among those who don’t want to brave the parking chaos at Richmond eateries on the weekends. Some of our favourite dim-sum baskets here include crispy spring rolls, barbecue-pork pineapple buns, shrimp-and-chive rice rolls, and fried scallop and taro.
For dessert, go for the egg tarts wrapped in a flaky crust or the sesame paste covered in crushed peanuts. If you’re visiting with a larger group, you might want to order multiple baskets of each item—just in case someone gets upset that they didn’t get to try the barbecue bun.