I am visiting with Grant, a friend, and discussing restaurants. It happens, often. He asks about Dim Sum, and I must confess that although I enjoy Dim Sum, my knowledge of it and of the Chinese culture and long traditions behind it are too poor for me to write a review. Helpfully, my friend recommends a friend of his. A fellow who is Chinese, a chef of some note, and a self-appointed, good-will ambassador to Victoria’s Chinatown.
Les Chan (leschan.com) is author of the now out-of-print Don’t Stir Fry in the Nude, an introductory cookbook to Asian cuisine. He has also introduced many locals and tourists alike to Victoria’s Chinatown, leading walking tours that always end with Dim Sum.
I and my friend Larry, meet Les early, 11 a.m., at Golden City Restaurant to beat the rush. This is an incredibly spacious place, echoing empty on arrival but by noon filled with the babble of a full house. Dim Sum is a communal meal, Les tells me, meant for conversation, and preferably eaten at a round table with a lazy-server at the centre – a round table being much better for incorporating everyone into the family or group discussion. As we are only three, a square table works for us. Tea ($2) is served automatically.
|Unofficial Chinatown Ambassador Les Chan has introduced many to Victoria’s Chinatown, leading walking tours that always end with Dim Sum. (image supplied)|
Les quickly orders Har Gow and Siu Mai (each $8.50/4pcs.), one order of each, marking the order sheet laying on the table. Impatient fans waiting for BC Ferries to reopen the Pacific Buffet will recognize these as the two Chinese dumplings offered there, the first with prawn, and the second with pork, but these are far more: they are handmade, larger, fancier and more flavourful than those on the ferry, and the Siu Mai here includes prawn meat as well as pork.
In addition, we order Traditional Sticky Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaves ($11.95). Steaming the rice within the leaves imparts a delightfully earthy flavour and plentiful chicken and slices of chicken liver sausage make this a hearty dish. All are served family-style, which requires the etiquette, for those who use chopsticks, of serving oneself with the square ends of the sticks and eating only with the round ends.
The carts of old, laden with their assortment of dishes, still ply the tables at Golden City, and from them we order Deep Fried Prawn Spring Rolls ($12.95/4pcs) scissored at the table into eight. These are many layers of rice-paper wrapper, much like phyllo pastry once deep-fried, filled with nothing but prawns. The Baked BBQ Pork Buns ($6.99/3pcs.), scissored again, are soft white buns filled with saucy bites of pork and coated with a sweet glaze. Finally, for dessert, we choose the Deep Fried Sesame Balls ($7.49/4pcs). A gelatinous sticky-rice flour dough is filled with sweet bean paste and rolled in toasted sesame seeds, making a perfect, not-too-sweet end to our rather fulfilling meal.
Two caveats. One, MSG happens. Two, our choices are notably lacking in vegetables. The lotus leaves, which we didn’t eat, can’t count. But this is, in part, our fault, for vegetables, though rare on the menu, do happen: Pan-Fried Eggplant with Shrimp Paste, Durian Fruit Sticky Rice Flour Balls, Pan-Fried Pork with Veggie Potstickers, and Deep-Fried Spring Rolls with Pork and Veggies are a few of the exceptions. There are no vegetarian dishes, but the food is so delicious and so comfortably filling that I almost didn’t notice.
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