|Shrimp dumplings or "Ha gao"|
During family vacation, we round up the family for early morning dimsum at Vivacity Restaurant, a favorite amongst the Asian community. With white decor accented with touches of black and splashes of red Asian panels, the decor is fairly standard at what you'd see at most Chinese restaurants. Unlike some dim sum serving restaurants where you have dim sum ladies pushing around food laden carts haphazardly throughout the restaurant calling out their wares, Vivacity Restaurant's dim sum service is presented on a sheet of paper. The entire dim sum menu is on a checklist, and your table and guests scribble down how many of each dish you think everyone can finish or want to try, hand in the completed checklist, and the dim sum is made to order in the kitchen. After a bit of a wait, a steady stream of dim sum starts weaving its way towards our table!
Vegetarian bean curd sheet roll
Fu pei guen 腐皮捲
Layers of bean curd sheets are rolled up around minced bits of savory vegetables (bamboo shoots, Chinese mushrooms are amongst the recognizable veges) into mini rolls, deep fried to a golden brown and then braised in a rich brown gravy until the bean curd is tender and absorbs all of that savory saucy goodness. When you bite into it, a small gush of the rich sauce hits your tongue. Nom!
Steamed BBQ pork buns
Char siu bao 叉燒包
Apparently Vivacity is well known for their char siu baos - and their reputation is well deserved. The bao is fluffy, light and melt in your mouth tender... encasing savoury and sweet diced chunks of BBQ pork swimming in a thickened BBQ sauce. The buns split open a little bit as they steam, revealing tantalizing glimpses of the meaty filling inside, and cues you to which meat filled bun you want to eat as the dim sum dishes rotate around the table on the lazy susan. Red filling = BBQ pork bun, pale filling = pork or chicken buns!
Steamed chicken buns
Gai bao 雞包
With the same dough used as the steamed BBQ pork buns, the tender soft steamed bun encases small diced pieces of chicken swimming in a rich creamy ginger root laced sauce loaded with lots of mushrooms. Mmmm. Buns can be easily split in half to be shared, or you can nosh on a full one... just keep in mind in dim sum there's lots of dishes, so to have the ability to try more food... sharing is a good thing!
Fish rice noodle rolls
Yu cheung fan 魚腸粉...
We usually see these paper thin sheets of rice noodles rolled up with variations such as shrimp (my fav), ground beef, ground chicken, or vegetarian with diced green onions. However, we tried fish rice noodle rolls today. The large chunks of fish tasted like basa fillets, which were steamed to a silky perfection and enrobed in a very smooth, silky and paper thin sheets of rice noodles. It was garnished with a few pieces of blanched gai lan (a Chinese vegetable similar to Swiss chard), and instead of having the kitchen pre-drown your noodle rolls with the traditional sweetened soysauce its normally served with, you're provided with a small container of the same so you can dispense as much or as little of the sweetened soy sauce on your noodles as you like *gloop bloop*
Shrimp stuffed fish stomach
Bac fah yu to gao 百花魚肚餃
Better tasting than it sounds in English, (the Chinese version roughly translates into white flower fish dumpling) the fish stomach has a delicate flavor and is a spongy soft tender melt in your mouth yummy. The large amount of shrimp its stuffed with, is fresh, and very crisp tender savory shrimp goodness. I think they decimated a shrimping farm with all the shrimp they used in this single dish.
Phoenix Claws Fung zao 鳳爪
Okay, so the fancier name of phoenix claws doesn't quite disguise the fact that yes, this is chicken feet. Very tasty chicken feet as its seasoned, deep fried and then braised until the meat almost falls off the bones in a special rich brown sauce laced with plenty of garlic and a hit of chilis. If the appearance is off putting, have someone cut them up into smaller pieces so you can still enjoy them minus the somewhat disconcerting look.
Pork and Vegetable dumpling
Awe zhe fan gwor 娥姐粉果;
This dumpling has a story behind it. Awe Zhe is the name of a maid that cooked for some important fellow back in ancient China. She made a rice flour dough and stuffed it with bamboo shoots, pork, mushrooms and shrimp, and it was a hit with the important fellow. A thin semi transparent dumpling wrapper is stuffed full of crisp shrimp and minced vegetables. Its kind of neat you can almost see the ingredients its stuffed with through the soft wrapper. For its large size, its a bit difficult to manoeuvre into your bowl without piercing the thin wrapper. Not the best we've had, but not badly executed.
Shrimp Dumpling Ha gow 蝦餃
A super thin rice wrapper surrounds a good sized chunk of super springy chopped large shrimp. A nice big hit of savory shrimpy goodness. Bonus points if you can get the dumpling from the bamboo basket to your bowl and to your mouth without piercing through the thin rice flour based wrapper. Nom. And the best part? Because of the menu checklist ordering method, we didn't have to sprint to the elusive dimsum cart containing these treasures to ensure our table got some lol!
Shrimp and chives dumpling
Gow choy gow 韭菜餃
This dumpling was semi transparent enveloping a few bites of shrimp and chive stuffing. The chives used were not the yellow chives which has a more mild flavor than regular chives - and also more labour intensive to cultivate as they need some growing time with no exposure to the sun. Still, the dumplings were executed well with a super thin wrapper (except for a thick area at the top), tasty and disappeared off the table after a few spins of the lazy susan.
Steamed pork, shrimp and scallop dumplings
Siu mai 燒賣
These little pork, shrimp and scallop dumplings are addictively delicious. When you bite in, you get a small gush of flavor juices from the ground pork, large shrimp pieces and scallop somehow squished into a compact round ball of yumminess wrapped in a wonton wrapper and topped with a bright hit of masago. Our table could eat these all day. Soooo good!
Fried chinese donut wrapped in rice noodle
Zha Leung 炸兩
This dish is normally a crisp Chinese donut wrapped in a thin layer of rice noodle, and topped with various toppings and served with a sweetened soy sauce. Vivacity's version is unfortunately made with a very thick layer of rice noodle (the thinner the better, and more difficult to execute), the donut was chewy and not the expected crispy, plus the addition of pork fluff didn't add too much to the dish. We may be overly critical as we've had really good versions of this dish in past, and have not had anything good since the chef retired at the restaurant we used to go to. But to give them credit, Vivacity's version was better than Kirin's.
San jook ngau yook 山竹牛肉
These beef meatballs surprisingly tasted better cold rather than hot. These meatballs were low on diced water chestnuts, which is sign of a good quality beef meatball, but I actually enjoy the "cheaper" meatballs as the water chestnuts add in a nice textural element and sweetness. It was served on a bed of steamed vegetables and corn. The meatballs are steamed - so of course the veges are steamed too lol!
Stir fried sticky rice
San chow lor mi fan 生炒糯米飯
This glutinous rice is lightly steamed, then stir fried with oodles of flavorful and fragrant diced Chinese sausage, scrambled eggs, and green onions. Despite it being a sticky rice, its executed well as each grain of rice is easily discernible, its not overly greasy (often lots of oil is added as its stir fried to prevent sticking to the wok). The rice is a mouthwatering golden brown, aromatic and this dish almost disappeared before I had a chance to snap a quick pic. Nom!
Pomelo Peel with abalone gravy
Ha zhi yoa pay 蝦子柚皮
We were surprised to see this dish on the menu. This is a very traditional Cantonese style of cooking a pomelo's pith/peel. A pomelo is like an oversized grapefruit that is very mild and sweet in flavor. My grandfather used to make this dish at home, and it was his favorite, so it totally made his day. He was very happy to eat it again as this dish is quite labour intensive. It is soft, tender melt in your mouth texture, and it takes on the flavor of the abalone sauce. It also resembles abalone after its stewed into a silky perfection. Mmmm. A must try, as you won't see this uncommon dish in many restaurants in Canada. Its even hard to find in places like Hong Kong!
Overall, a great place to grab dim sum with small or large parties. Its also quite affordable if your table finishes before 10 or 11am (I don't recall), as there is a 20% discount applied to the bill. And with the traditional pomelo peel dish, we'll be sure to be back!
Address 110-8351 Alexandra Road Richmond, BC
Phone (604) 279-1513
Hours 7 days a week for dim sum, lunch and dinner
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