Over the weekend, I attended a food blogger dinner organized by Sherman of Sherman’s Food Adventures. It was only my second time attending an event such as this and I had the opportunity to meet other bloggers in the Vancouver area, including Kevin from 604 Foodtography, Jessica and her boyfriend from Yum-O-Rama, Kim from I’m Only Here for the Food, Wilson from La Petite Vancouver, Christina and ET from Doesn’t TaZte Like Chicken, Andrea from the Best Damn Food Blog There Is, and TS from the Eating Club. It was nice to see the face behind the blogs and even better that we got to do so over a meal at Alvin Garden in Burnaby. Alvin Garden is a Chinese restaurant that features food from the Hunan/Xiang region (near Szechuan). I’ve never had Hunan food before so it was quite a good thing that Kim suggested this place. The picture below was taken by Kim because I was too afraid of getting wet to venture across the street in the rain.
Each “blog” got to choose a dish and because all the ordering was coordinated via Sherman and Viv, I’m not too sure what was ordered. I have access to the menu though so I’ll try to give my best guess although you other bloggers who attended can feel free to correct my mistakes in the comments.
The food came pretty much all at once and before long, our large table was filled with several, mostly spicy dishes. Jenkins and I deliberated quite a while on what our contribution would be and finally decided on the pan fried spicy chicken, which was noted as a Xiang Special. Despite the abundance of chili peppers, I did not find this to be too spicy and the crispy chicken went really well with rice. Jenkins’ only complaint was the pieces of chicken were cut too small to be truly satisfying.
The Hunan-style braised pork was not too fatty, despite it being made with pork belly. The sauce was a bit on the salty side though so this is best eaten with rice.
The braised duck came in a curry-like sauce but was not spicy at all, in my opinion. The pieces of duck were cut quite small (similar to the pan fried spicy chicken) so we weren’t sure what the meat was in the dish initially. I found the duck to be overcooked and dry despite it coming in a stew-like format.
I enjoyed the Dongting broiled fish in chili soup although I had no idea that there was fish at the bottom of this bowl at first. There were quite a few chilis in this soup but not overwelmingly so.
The moist and flaky fish went very well with the bean sprouts in the soup and tasted great with a bit of rice.
The spicy Ma Po tofu was another dish that is best eaten with rice. The ratio of ground pork to tofu was just right for me and I found this quite a bit spicier than most versions I’ve had, which I really liked.
To temper all the spicy food we ordered, someone also ordered a pot of the daily soup. The simple flavours of this soup tasted very homey and included tofu, pork, corn, and carrots.
I felt that the green beans with pork were too oily for my liking and the meat was a bit on the salty side. The beans were nice and crunchy though and I suppose if you ate it with enough rice, the saltiness wouldn’t have been too bad.
The pork belly with peppers was ok but I felt that this was much oiler than the braised pork belly we had earlier.
The steamed egg with minced pork tasted exactly like the version that Jenkins’ mom makes. It’s best eaten with rice and was a nice change of pace from the many spicy dishes we had that evening.
I found this steamed fish head with chilis surprisingly salty and the several small bones decreased my eating pleasure. Despite the bones, I think I would enjoyed this dish quite a bit more if it wasn’t so salty.
These fried pumpkin cakes had a chewy consistency similar to mochi and its slight sweetness made it more of a dessert item than something you would eat for your main course. I also enjoyed the crispy outside and was a bit dismayed that I had to share mine with Jenkins.
These steamed corn cakes were the biggest bust of the evening. They were surprisingly hard and dry even though they were steamed. There was also no flavour to them whatsoever so someone suggested that maybe they were supposed to be eaten with some kind of sauce.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the unique dishes at Alvin Garden. It was great that we went with such a large group because we were able to sample quite a few dishes and now I know what to order the next time I’m there. Service was pretty prompt and by the time we left the restaurant at around 7:30PM, all the tables were full. The prices were also very reasonable. All the dishes we ordered worked out to $16/person at the end of the evening.
Thanks Sherman for organizing this fun event. Looking forward to attending the next one.
To read what the other bloggers thought of the dinner, click on the links below:
Sherman’s Food Adventures
I’m Only Here for the Food
La Petite Vancouver
The Best Damn Food Blog There Is
4850 Imperial Street, Burnaby