Review: Dim Sum at Empire Chinese Cuisine

by gigi on March 11, 2009

We had a large family get-together one morning and congregated at Empire Chinese Cuisine on Alexandria Road in Richmond for some dim sum. Even though we arrived at the restaurant at 10:30 in the morning, it was already packed with people.

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There were about about 13 of us and whenever my family goes for dim sum, we are always ready to eat until we’re stuffed. :) If you don’t believe me, check out this photo I took of our stacks of dim sum steamers:

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We first started with some congee, which was a relatively healthy start to our eating extravaganza. The salted pork with preserved egg congee was quite tasty with the salty pork imparting quite a bit of flavour to the congee. As usual, I wished that there was more preserved egg in this congee but other than that, it was quite well made.

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We also ordered a clay pot of steamed rice with spare ribs, Chinese sausage, and veggies. This dish always reminds me of my childhood when my mom would make my brother and I personalized little clay pots just like this for dinner. The spare ribs here were quite juicy and went very well with the Chinese sausages.

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The rice rolls with minced beef were fairly standard.  I liked that they mixed some spinach in with the minced beef, which gave the minced beef a bit more texture and a nice flavour.

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I preferred the minced beef rolls over the minced chicken with mushroom rolls. Although I find that chicken and shitake mushrooms usually make a great flavour combination, the beef version had more flavour overall.

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Of course, no dim sum meal is complete without the obligatory order of sui mai pork dumplings. There was nothing special bout these but they were tasty nonetheless.

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The har gow shrimp dumpings were another dim sum standard. I found the skin on these dumplings to be over steamed though and fell apart when I tried to pick the dumplings up with my chop sticks.

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The pineapple buns were fresh out of the oven and the warm crusty top just melted in your mouth. They were just crumbly enough and not too sweet, which I really liked.

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I always like nibbling on the deep fried chicken knees. They are crunchy and salty with a slight hint of spiciness from the jalepenos. My mom always likes to joke that the knees are brought to us by the chicken mafia. I prefer the less threatening description of Chinese chicken popcorn. :)

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Steamed sticky rice is another popular option and also a good filler item. The sticky rice at Empire had a lot of ground pork, Chinese sausage, and mushrooms for filling.

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A healthier version of the steamed rice rolls is the version with dried shrimp and chives. I enjoyed dipping this in the accompanying hoisin and sesame sauces. The rice rolls at Empire were all steamed just the right amount and were not mushy at all. They all had a nice consistency to them and I guess you could almost say they were cook al dente, Chinese style. :)

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Steamed BBQ pork buns are one of Jenkins’ favourite dim sum items. There was just the right ratio of bun to filling in these buns.

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Steamed beef tripe is one of my favourite dim sum items but I find that it’s not always available these days. If a restaurant does have it, the people I’m with don’t always want to eat it so I was lucky I had a lot of willing participants that day. :) I enjoy the crunchy texture of beef tripe the most although the seasoning they use for this is also quite tasty.

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We also had Chinese doughnut wrapped in rice rolls, which you can dip in either hoisin or sesame sauce. You have to eat this fairly quickly though because the hot rice roll can make the doughnut soggy and doughy. I found the rice wrapping to be too thick around the doughnut, which made the whole dish too heavy for my liking.

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The veggies with chicken broth and dried shrimp was quite tasty and provided a lighter fare to our array of dim sum items. The slightly chewy dried shrimp actually paired quite well with the veggies, although this dish was a bit on the salty side.

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The gai lan stir-fried with broccoli and fish sauce was aromatic and had a nice flavour but the leafy parts of these greens were overcooked.

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Just when all of us were starting to get full, my grandparents insisted on ordering a couple more items, just to make sure none of us went home hungry. :) First, we added the stir-fried mochi or “neen goh” type noodles, which were stir-fried with soy sauce and prawns. I really enjoyed the texture of these “noodles”, which were chewy and absorbed the soy sauce flavour quite well. However, I did find this dish to be quite oily so it’s probably not the best thing to order if you’re watching your weight.

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My cousin also chose to add what he called a Japanese or Korean-style congee (I can’t remember which). Instead of the thicker Chinese-style congee, this version was more brothy with a smaller amount of browned fried rice at the bottom. The rice must have been cooked with the broth so although the rice was once quite dry and crunchy, it was softened by the broth and had absorbed all its flavour. My cousin noted that this did not taste like the authentic version but since I did not know any better, I found it to be quite different and enjoyed it quite a bit. :)

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Finally, for dessert, a bunch of us shared some tapioca puddings. I found the crust on this to be a bit dense and I also would have liked it more if there was some red bean at the bottom.

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I found the quality of dim sum at Empire Chinese Cuisine to be fairly standard. There were some things that they made well and others that were sub par, but I did enjoy the variety of dishes that they had available. I had the opportunity to try some new items, such as the congee just above, so it kept our meal interesting. :) I’m not sure if there is a promotion if you eat earlier on the weekends because it did seem to be quite busy for 10:30 in the morning but I’m not sure since I was not the one paying. If you decide to go around the same time, it’s probably best to make reservations.

Details:
8251 Alexandra Road, Richmond
Tel: 604-303-9780

Summary:
Food: [rating:3]
Service: [rating:2.5]
Price: $$

Empire Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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