Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Emperor's Palace Chinese Cuisine Edmonton- dimsum yumyum!

Rating 7.0/10
Shrimp and scallop deep fried wonton
On a sorta sunny sunday morning, I had my butt dragged out of my nice warm bed so I could head down to Chinatown and grab a table for dimsum with family - who for the record are early birds, and are way too darn cheerful in the morning, but I love them none the less.  I'm more of a sleeping in species.  Edmonton is known for not having the greatest dimsum places and pale in comparison to Vancouver, Toronto and even our arch rivals Calgary.  Thankfully,  rising out of the ashes from a burnt out grocery store that sat vacant and derelict for years, is Emperor's Palace.  It originally opened with a horrible start - an abysmal number of dimsum carts, short-staffed, and tonnes of attitude from the servers.  It has since recruited a large number of well trained and courteous staff and has ironed out most of its major opening pains.  Owned and operated by the original people from Dynasty down on the southside, its flanked by smaller bustling restaurants and shops, and has slowly revitalized the little part of Chinatown it occupies.  Amber overtones with dark wood, gold accents and warm red notes along with a well lit bar and a floor to ceiling wine rack provide a classy, modern yet distinctively Asian feel.  Replica pieces of art is showcased through out the restaurant with an ostentatious gold throne in the foyer leading into the seating area.


Simple curved white tableware adds elegance in its simplicity and service is exceptional (pleasantly surprising for an Asian establishment) and discrete.  Well, the dimsum ladies did their best to tantalize you with their descriptions of what hidden treasures they have in their dimsum carts, so they were definitely not discrete, but helpful and friendly.  Most speak english, though its a definite benefit if you have anyone at your table that speaks Cantonese or Mandarin.  The atmosphere is loud and cheerful as the dimsum ladies call out their wares, merging into a blend of open air market and the background hum of conversation into a familiar sound you'll always recognize as dimsum! no matter which dimsum place you go to.  A supervisor/host circulated sometimes with a few plates of chef specials, and stayed in the periphery periodically checking on tables.


the FOOD
Well, being dimsum (dim - choose, sum - heart, roughly translates into choose what your heart desires), we don't order off their limited lunch menu and stuck with picking tasty plates of tidbits and peeking into mystery covered bamboo steam trays off a multitude of dimsum carts pushed by the dumsum ladies.  And the nice thing is, if you have a favorite dimsum dish and you're not particularly keen on waiting for it to hopefully show up in the procession of dimsum carts - you can ask the host or hostesses that circulate to send in a special order to the kitchen.  Here's a list of the staples my family usually orders in no random order.. and you can impress the ladies (dimsum and at your table) with the phonetic translations I have in Cantonese:

Steamed shrimp dumplings "hah-gow" Sweet savory morsel of shrimp is encased in a thin rice paper wrapper by hand and steamed in bamboo baskets.  Today they're a little smaller than usual, with a slightly thicker wrapper than I like - but since its a handmade item, consistency unfortunately is variable and depends on which of the half dozen chefs working in the back happened to make your batch.

Steamed pork and shrimp dumpling "seew-my" A savoury combination of sweet shrimp and salty pork meatball with a springy texture enrobed in a wonton wrapper and topped with masago - smelt caviar that delivers an extra delightful burst of salty-sweetness with a when you bite into it.  Some restaurants use a bit of carrot or salted duck egg for the topping, I find the masago not only adds a burst of flavor, its also nice to have the contrasting texture it adds.

Steamed rice rolls with shrimp "hah churng"
Thin translucent sheets of rice based crepe has whole shrimp hidden inside and steamed into a soft tender wrapper studded with sweet crisp shrimp and liberally doused in a sweetened soy sauce and a touch of oil to prevent sticking.  Almost notoriously difficult to pick up with chopsticks without breaking through the layers or having the shrimp escape as you manoeuvre it to your bowl, its worth the potential soysauce splashes and curses when you bite in... and try to out compete your fellow table members to another piece before they disappear. Nom. I can slurp these down all day... nom!  If you don't like shrimp, they have ground beef filling "ng-ow churng", sometimes chicken "guy churng" or a vegetarian one with green onions "zhai churng".

Deep fried shrimp and scallop wontons "lung hah gock" - literally translated as lobster deep fried dumpling, for cost effectiveness, most restaurants have a filling of shrimp and occasionally shrimp and scallops - Emperor's Palace being in the latter more esteemed category.  Bursting with large juicy shrimp and a scallop or two, the wonton wrapper is fried to a nice crunchy light golden nugget well drained of grease.  It comes with a little extraneous bowl of miracle whip that for some reason is always served with this dish anywhere you go. Forget the miracle whip and just dig in!  You may have to order several plates from the host/hostess as these ones tend to always disappear like magic from the dimsum carts long before they get to you.


Beef tripe "ng-ow pat yeep" Tender chewy crisp morsels saturated in a ginger chili sauce and garnished with green onion bits - they're addictively good with the texture of calamari.  Yes, they're made with an organ meat - just get past the fact they're made of the lining of a cow's stomach... If you've had sausage before, you'd definitely eaten various animal's digestive tracts before - where do you think natural sausage casings come from? Be adventurous.. better yet, just close your eyes and pop it in your mouth and taste it without thinking about it. Its Yum. Truly! Still no? Okay, more for me!!

Steamed BBQ pork buns "cha seew b-ow" Soft fluffy fresh dough is made every day and makes a pillowy soft bun with a subtle sweetness that contrasts nicely with the moist BBQ pork mixture inside.  I find the BBQ pork bun stuffing better executed than the steamed chicken buns "guy b-ow" with a mixture of finely diced chicken and onions, but to each their own.

Braised chicken feet "Foung zh-ow" The oft maligned dish mainly due to its appearance despite having Phoenix as part of its name.  Fried and then braised till it just melts in your mouth, the dish is just brimming with flavor from the light brown  sauce that doubles as a glaze.  Hints of ginger, garlic and chili oil give the dish additional depth.  Its a delicious dish, but the hardest part is getting past its appearance.  Have a friend cut it into little pieces and pretend you're nibbling on a chicken wing tip if its your first time.

For the truly adventurous foodies, ask for the cold pickled chicken feet... they don't make it all the time as they're blanched, brined overnight, tossed with a tangy chili laced vinaigrette and served with a side of tangy coleslaw.  Its served cold and has a crunchy crisp texture rather than warm like the braised version.

Chicken sticky rice in lotus leaf "lor my guy" A clump of sticky rice hides a finely diced mixture of seasoned chicken and vegetables with the distinct flavor of lotus leaves infused into the super sticky glutinous rice.  Though in much smaller portions than most places, splitting the rice portions into three smaller ones is a great idea as the smaller portions have a greater lotus infused flavor and are much more manageable - while whole grains of the rice are discernible and its not a overly cooked glob of rice goo, this sticky rice is still inherently very very very sticky and will cling to your chopsticks, your fingers and your friends that attempt to help you when you try to open up the leaves to get at the tasty savory interior.




the VERDICT
Chicken sticky rice in lotus leaf
Overall with excellent friendly service, decent sized and tasty dimsum, Emperor's Palace is a welcome addition to Edmonton's Chinese dimsum landscape.  My main quibble is inconsistency of some of the dimsum dishes as the quality of craftsmanship and execution is highly dependant on who happened to shape/fold/mold/form your dimsum of the day... so you can have great dimsum or you can have dimsum that mirrors the mediocre dimsum fare we all expect in Edmonton.   Although with all of the dimsum dishes priced at $2.99 (except for speciality dishes the host/hostess walks around with and lunch menu items), its a a great deal, as most other restaurants in the city start at $4.99 for the small dimsum dishes.  The service is vastly improved since its inception and the time spent in recruiting more well trained staff is clearly seen, and they have ironed out most of the kinks involved with the opening and running of a new restaurant - other than inconsistency in the kitchen.  So call up your friends and head out for some decent dimsum... just don't sleep in too much, as dim sum service stops around 2pm.

Emperor's Palace Chinese Cuisine
Address 10638 100 Street Northwest, Edmonton, AB
Phone (780) 757-2288
Hours 8am - 2pm for dimsum daily, 4-11pm dinner daily
Emperor's Palace Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Map 

No comments:

Post a Comment