From top right: Shrimp Dumplings with Chives, Har Gao, Steamed Spareribs, Sui Mai
We live in Burnaby (a suburb of Vancouver), on the edge of Coquitlam and New Westminster, in a gastronomically diverse part of town. Anyway, within walking distance there are about 3 Chinese restaurants nearby (all of which weirdly have the word ‘garden’ in them): North Garden on North Road, Yan’s Garden on Lougheed Highway, and Mui Garden on North Road. Of these three we prefer North Garden and Yan’s Garden; while the food isn’t spectacular, it’s quite good and convenient for us. This past Saturday my husband Shane and I went for Dim Sum at Yan’s Garden, which is by far the biggest and ‘fanciest’ of the three.
The restaurant has a ‘Chinese Banquet’ feel, with large round tables and white tablecloths. The restaurant is divided into two rooms, one of which is large and bright, with many windows and even stain-glass panes; the other section seems always dark and a bit dreary with blinds always drawn closed, and probably only used when the restaurant is at capacity. When you walk in there is a large lobby area with aquarium fish opposite the front door, and crabs and lobster tanks along one wall.
Not fond of crowds or waiting, we arrive at around 10am, which is generally a good time for dim sum because you get a good table, the food is plenty and the service is generally better. Upon sitting, the server asks us what kind of tea we want, and as always, we reply ‘Jasmine’ (ok, I like jasmine tea, but what other kinds do they have? I ways feel panicky when they ask me that question so abruptly). What is great about weekends (and holidays) at Yan’s is that they always have dim sum carts, old-school style. There are also servers carrying trays of not-so-popular dishes, ensuring freshness, and there is also a small dim sum menu that you can order other dishes from. If you go to Yan’s on weekdays, you’ll just get a paper form to fill out to indicate what dishes you want to order. I like going on weekends—there’s a pretty good atmosphere—lot of families, couples, and usually a table or two of Chinese old men or women, reading Chinese newspapers at the table.
Moments from sitting down a silver cart rolls over with steamed goods—right off the bat we get the Har Gau (shrimp dumplings), Sui Mai (pork dumplings), shrimp dumplings with chives, and steamed pork spareribs. The dumplings were pretty good, especially the plump, crunchy shrimp. The steamed spareribs were really delicious—tender, flavorful. I was surprised by this because I’ve had pretty tough, gristly spareribs at a lot of dim sum restaurants, but this was so delicious. Next came rice rolls with Chinese-doughnut inside—there isn’t a lot of flavor in this dish, but the contrast between deep fried doughy goodness and the soft, pliant rice roll was great. When another cart came we got the steamed sticky rice parcels (2 to a basket), and that was filled with ground pork and Chinese sausage which is one of my favorite things. The rice could have had more embedded flavors in it, but it was good and warm and filling.
Rice Rolls with Chinese Donut and Sticky Rice Parcels
For dessert we shared the deep-fried Sesame Balls, with sweet and nutty black sesame paste inside. It was one of the better sesame balls I’ve had. The balls were perfect size (about 2 inches in diameter), and the crust was crunchy and chewy inside. The worst part was seeing the puddle of oil left on the plate though. It’s a bit sickening to think about the amount of oil you just consumed.
We ordered 7 dishes total, each dish being only $2.95 each. There are three tiers of pricing here from $2.95 to $5.75 (on the special dishes), and it’s very reasonable. Plus, the price of each thing you ordered is written on the order form, unlike a lot of other dim sum places, so you know how much you’re spending and can keep track. Oh yes, they charge $1.30 for the tea, which is a bit unusual, I guess. Service is standard and a little indifferent, but I think you’ve got to forgive a lot when you go to cheap Asian restaurants.
We left while the restaurant started to seriously fill up. We were stuffed and happy.