Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The spicy dungeness crab with roasted vegetables is seen at Chang 'An restaurant in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday February 9, 2015.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

2.5 out of 4 stars

Chang’An Restaurant
7-1661 Granville St., Vancouver, British Columbia
Noodles and vegetables, $15 to $22; specialty plates, $28 to $98
Northern Chinese
Rating System
Additional Info
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.

Even before stepping inside, you can tell Chang'An is different than most Chinese restaurants in Vancouver and Richmond. The parking lot is filled with Range Rovers and BMWs. This new waterfront restaurant is a pricey import from Northern China. And the clientele it attracts is obviously very wealthy.

Fine Chinese dining is back in vogue. Vancouver has not seen such expensive menus and exquisite settings since the glory days of Dynasty Restaurant in the old New World Harbourside Hotel. In Richmond, Chef Tony Seafood Restaurant gilds its private dining rooms with truffles and foie gras. At the Peninsula, customers order $100 plates of abalone-laden fried rice for the ostentatious show. Unlike the Cantonese restaurants of old, these are Northern restaurants that cater to affluent newcomers from Mainland China.

Now there is Chang'An, the first of several high-end Chinese restaurants set to open downtown in the next couple of years. It is on False Creek under the Granville Street bridge in the space formerly occupied by Nu. The room is unrecognizable, having been completely renovated from front foyer to kitchen. The chandelier lighting is dim, the tablecloths are high thread, the chopstick holders are ornate little birds embedded with crystals.

Story continues below advertisement

Peking duck is the house specialty. The golden-skinned fowl are roasted in-house, in a custom 1,800-kilogram stone oven that takes pride of place inside the front entrance. Two cooks work the station, hand-torching the hanging birds to a crispy finish. You'd be wise to order your duck in advance when making reservations. Even at $88, they sell out quickly.

Why so expensive? (Most restaurants charge $44.) Your guess is as good as mine. They're just regular, local ducks. When I called later to inquire, I was told that the executive chef has 20 years of roast-duck-making experience.

The restaurant does offer an elaborate, and unusual, table-side presentation. A cart is rolled up between the widely spaced tables that give the servers plenty of room to manoeuvre. With a thick-bladed knife, a cook gently pries off the crispy skin and carves it into small rounds. It's served on a platter with raw sugar on the side.

Yes, sugar. This was new to me, but apparently common in Beijing. You dip the fatty side of the skin into the sugar. The grains have to be large or they'll melt and you'll lose the crunchy texture. And it really is quite a sensual sensation. The sweetness of the sugar heightens the umami richness of the fat, while the tiny crystals crackle and pop against its buttery softness much like finishing salt.

For the second course, large cuts of meat are served with tissue-thin dough wrappers and two condiment platters: a typical hoisin sauce with cucumber and green onions (finely sliced into threads); and a decidedly nouvelle strawberry jam with slivered Asian pear. The latter was an overpowering assault of sweet on sweet. But I guess that's how they roll in Beijing.

The empty carcass was rolled back to the kitchen and used for a strange tomato soup, which was very thin and bland. Chang'An does not offer the usual stir-fried lettuce wrap course.

We did not get the chef's name, but he apparently comes from Xi'an in north-central China, a region on the old Silk Road trading route with a heavy Muslim influence over its cuisine. His signature dishes are traditionally spiced with lots of Sichuan chili and oil. There are several types of lamb and lots of hand-pulled noodles.

Story continues below advertisement

Duck might be the restaurant's signature dish, but I think the noodles are its best assets. The silky dough is very light, thin and not too floury tasting. We tried spicy hand-cut noodles and dry (without sauce) ground-lamb dumplings. Both dishes were excellent.

Lamb belly was rustic and heavy, served "encroute" with a light flour crust. It came with cumin, red pepper and salt on the side. The meat really needed the salt to sharpen its fattiness.

Dungeness crab was fried with tons of Sichuan chilis (we ordered extra) that gave the lips a nice mentholated buzz without killing the palate. The legs were served on a bed of roasted vegetables – taro, lotus root, cauliflower – almost like a home-style Sunday dinner roast. For $57 (market price), it was a generous, nicely balanced special.

We also had a fresh, vibrant peanut, red onion and cilantro salad, along with asparagus and mushrooms, lightly cooked in soy sauce and red bean paste.

Our main quibble had to do with service. If a restaurant is going to splash out with table-side carving, it might want to pay more attention to clearing plates. Especially with flavours this bold. In Cantonese restaurants, it is common for the servers to offer a clean plate with each course. They are sometimes changed up to half a dozen times in one meal. The servers here changed the plates once, and only when we asked. Nor did they keep up with transferring half-eaten dishes to smaller plates.

The Cantonese attention to service is a British influence. I'm told that in Mainland China, the service is generally lacking. So perhaps Chang'An's Chinese customers won't mind. Westerners and people from Hong Kong, well, that could be a tougher sell, especially at these prices.

Story continues below advertisement

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies