Big meal at Big Chef in Richmond BC
We had a special guest up from San Francisco last week. One of the long time San Francisco Chowhound – susancinsf – made a foray north to Vancouver to attend a conference and tapped our very own grayelf (our nexus to the the San Francisco Chowhound board) to help her eat through the city. Susan had moved from San Francisco into the Central Valley and is badly missing good Chinese food. We were more than happy to oblige.
It is always interesting to hear an outsider’s perspective on our Chinese food scene. While their own city is seen by many Americans as having the best Chinese food in North America, the San Francisco Chowhound community will often deflect those accolades northwards to Richmond BC. For a very long time, San Francisco was the city best known for its Chinese food, but things have been changing rapidly as more recent immigration patterns have completely changed the gastronomic map. Los Angeles and the surrounding areas and perhaps Queens, NY, where large numbers of new Chinese immigrants are cooking some very fine regional Chinese food and are perhaps the new centres of Chinese cooking in the US. In Canada, Toronto and suburbs are challenging if not usurping Richmond’s (BC) hold on the Canadian title.
Here in the GVA, Richmond of course is where one will find the best Cantonese food. The scene is of a uniformly high quality, but as most picky eaters of Chinese food now, it is actually pretty hard to find a restaurant that can deliver the goods with consistency. After having a number of meals here now, I think I can now safely recommend Big Chef. The cooking here is tight, unfussy, and consistent.
My first meal at Big Chef was dinner with some of the foremost experts in Chinese food in our city – and those around the table that evening were impressed with overall quality of the food here. In fact, two dishes won Chinese Restaurant Awards: the Pan-Fried Dungeness Crab with Salty Egg Yolk and the Hot Pot Soy Chicken. We of course ordered both those dishes and they both met the high expectations. The crab with its finger licking good egg yolk coating was the clear winner at the table. The Soy Chicken – while perhaps not the best version I have had here at Big Chef – was still the finest example in the city with its perfectly textured meat and a beautiful skin.
Most of the rest of the dishes were also very good. In particular the silky-smooth Chawanmushi-like savoury custard which was listed strangely as “Steamed Assorted Preserved Egg with Dry Scallops”. The Ham Yu (Steamed Pork with Salt Fish) was a homey, full-flavoured dish that was elevated by its precise, straightforward execution. The only miss was the Pan Fried Beef Tenderloin which suffers the same fate as nearly all the tenderloin dishes in Chinese restaurants here – bland and over-tenderized.
It was a great meal and with the bill coming to $35 per person, it was surprisingly cheap. You can read grayelf’s post on Chowhound for a second opinion.