Saturday, 20 August 2011

Red Star Dining

Vancouver is arguably one of a handful of Canadian foodie meccas thanks to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the wealth of agricultural resources in the region known as the Lower Mainland and being a cultural nexus in Canada for the Asia-Pacific nations.  Though I intended to try a wider variety of cuisines during my Vancouver trip, I couldn't deny myself the opportunity to try some Chinese cuisine here.  (It was also at times unavoidable as I was mainly visiting my grandparents.)  So, for my first dinner in Vancouver in years, we went to Red Star Seafood Restaurant on Granville St.
Soy Sauce Chicken
With it being the weekend, it was not surprising to see the place full, busy and seemingly a bit hectic at times.  In spite of that the servers were able to bring out dishes in a timely manner.  The first dish to arrive was Soy Sauce Chicken.  This dish is not as easy as it looks; the marinade is soy sauce based but care must be taken to ensure the marinade isn't too salty.  Here, the saltiness was acceptable, and though the cuisine at this restaurant appears to be Cantonese inspired, contrary to traditional Cantonese cuisine the chicken was fully cooked.  Tradition dictated that the chicken should be just cooked so the meat is fully cooked, but the blood within the bones hasn't solidified, a sight that may not be squeamish.
Pork & Peach Soup
Next to arrive was the soup of the day, which, if memory serves me right, was a pork and peach soup.  Peaches were definitely one of the fruit in season, and it made for a delicate and refreshing broth.  The sweetness was on the subtle side, allowing me to tolerate the mixing of sweet and savoury in a dish quite well.  Most soups of the day in Chinese restaurants are what's transliterated as "old fire" soups, where the soup is cooked for hours, usually since the morning.
Big-Headed Shrimp with Garlic
After that were the main dishes, first among them Big-Headed Shrimp with Garlic.  As the name implies, this variety of shrimp has disproportionately larger heads compared to other varieties, and it is prized particularly for the high amount of "tamale" in each shrimp's head.  Unlike lobster tamale, shrimp tamale turn a deep or dark red, changing colour along with the rest of the shrimp.  The shrimp were previously presented to us live from their tanks for customer inspection of freshness and liveliness.  It has been a while since I've had freshly cooked shrimp, and the sweetness is considerably stronger than cooked frozen shrimp.
BC Crab in Ginger and Green Onion Sauce
Next was a dish cooked in a classic Cantonese style, BC Crab in Ginger and Green Onion Sauce.  I found the use of noodles as a bed for the dish as ingenious, as the noodles helped absorb the sauce.  Not surprisingly, the noodles disappeared shortly before the crab did.
Sweet & Sour Beef (aka Chinese-Style Beef)
Next to arrive was Sweet & Sour Beef, transliterated as Chinese-Style Beef, apparently a favourite dish of my grandfather's.  The beef was stir-fried until medium and was tender to the bite.  Likely historically influenced by Western cuisines, this is one of the few sweet and savoury dishes I can tolerate, and this place had a good balance between those two contrasting flavours.
Deep-Fried Sea Bass
Another dish that was served was Deep-Fried Sea Bass, accompanied by a side of a salad of honeydew, cantaloupe and mayonnaise.  Sea bass is great served fried as its flesh is naturally oily.  This is also likely a historically Western-influenced dish, and though I didn't have any of the honeydew or cantaloupe, I did enjoy the moist, flaky texture of the sea bass.
Stir-Fried Gai-Lan with Garlic and Dried Fish
The next dish, to counter the number of meat dishes served, was Stir-Fried Gai-Lan with Garlic and Dried Fish.  The dried fish flakes, though edible, is used here more as a flavouring agent to this dish, much like conpoy, or dried scallops, would be used.
Eight Treasures Tofu Casserole
The last dish to arrive was the Eight Treasures Tofu Casserole.  Consisting of a mix of seafood, meats and vegetables, this dish was a belly-warming delight.  The seafood was not overcooked, and the fried tofu was able to soak up the flavours of the meats and the sauce.

Afterwards we were served a complementary dessert of hot Red Bean Dessert Soup, something I've personally never enjoyed since childhood.  My parents and relatives did enjoy it apparently, though they noted it wasn't served hot enough.  Overall it was a decent choice to go to Red Star Seafood Restaurant for dinner.  Though I enjoyed most of the dishes, I made sure I didn't gorge myself as some of my relatives, my parents and I had plans to explore a phenomenon that has been associated to the Chinese community for years, the Richmond Night Market. 


Name: Red Star Seafood  Restaurant
Address: 8298 Granville St., Vancouver, BC 
Cuisine: Chinese
Price Range: Dinner ~$15-$25/person
Accessible: Yes

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