Richmond, B.C., might offer the most tantalizing dim sum this side of China. Or at least that is what the tourist guides say. But for diners in downtown Vancouver, the bustling Golden Triangle is not always convenient or affordable.
Enter Dynasty Seafood Restaurant. While not new – the Fairview Slopes establishment opened in 2009 – it is refined, innovative and highly recommended (perpetual medalist of the Chinese Restaurant Awards and Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards).
At Dynasty, the dim sum standard of two dishes per person plus one for the table costs approximately $30 for two people. Early diners, those in and out by 11:30 a.m., are offered a 15-per-cent discount.
Parking is free, albeit hazardous. (The incredibly tight underground lot must have been designed for bumper cars.)
Compare that to Richmond's hottest dim sum ticket, Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant, where the bill can soar to nearly $100 for a similar-sized meal when all the signature foie-gras-stuffed chicken wings and truffle-perfumed dumplings are ordered, and reservations are required about two weeks in advance.
The outdoor parking lot is, however, supervised by a flag-waving traffic controller. (Such are the perks of fine-dining these days.)
Those willing to brave a few nicks and dents, or are smart enough to pay for street parking, will discover that Dynasty offers an elevated dining experience replete with glass chandeliers, a panoramic view of the city and a forward-thinking menu that adheres to Cantonese ideals of tradition yet adds West Coast flights of fancy.
As with any decent dim sum restaurant, Dynasty charges only a single ($1.35) order a table for tea. Do not wait for the carts. Where are you, in the 1980s? It does not come like that any more.
Start with the char siu pastries for something familiar yet different. We ordered the BBQ pork pie with baked lemon as a bit of a joke. Pork pie? Baked lemon? Uh, laughs on us.
The pastry was incredibly buttery and flaky, yet infused with bright lemon that tasted as tart as Meyer. On its own, the pastry would have been sickly sweet, but with the tenderly braised pork? Whoa, curiously mellow.
Steamed mushroom dumplings are neatly pleated into triangles and scented with high quality truffle oil (not the ubiquitous, rank grocery store type).
The shrimp in the pan-fried chive and shrimp dumplings are firm and nicely plumped, not ground up and mixed with filler. The same goes for the shrimp and egg tofu, served on silky rounds of tofu in a clean bed of gelatinous broth dressed with crunchy bits of roe.
Pork spareribs are crosscut into one-inch pieces and succulently steamed with fermented black beans, ginger, chili and chestnuts, the latter of which give the otherwise flat-tasting dish a warm, wintry glow.
Chinese sausage with pancakes is a traditional peasant dish, but here folded with funky dried shrimp into a gelatinous, crisp-edged rice roll.
Desserts are given more than a second glance. Do try the sweet, squash-like sago pudding, thickened with tapioca pearls and buried under an almond shortbread cookie dusted with black sesame powder. If they were available, I would want to try the goldfish pastries and mini-pumpkin cakes.
Service is not overly friendly. And as with most modern Chinese restaurants, they do not dote on the tables or clear plates with the precision that Vancouver diners have become accustomed to.
Yet Dynasty is one of those restaurants that everyone keeps talking about. I haven't heard about it just once or twice in the past few months, but dozens of times. I can't wait to go back for dinner, which will be much more expensive. But this single dim sum lunch made me quite comfortably sated in the meantime.