Writing about dim sum can be tricky. More than once I’ve found myself on thesaurus.com, scanning desperately for another way to say, “The dumpling wrapper was firm,” or “Those pastries were mad flaky!” Sometimes, writing about dim sum makes me feel like an unimaginative idiot.
But now Chef Tony is in town, and dim sum’s gotten a shakeup! Thank you, Chef Tony, for allowing me to employ some shiny, brand new adjectives in this post. I can’t wait.
Also, I should warn you that the restaurant itself is actually quite shiny, so I don’t recommend visiting on a bad hair day. There are literally just too many reflective surfaces in which you can see yourself.
Relatively new to Richmond, Chef Tony is located on No. 3 Road, just south of Parker Place Mall (a short walk from the Aberdeen Skytrain station). It’s a slightly more upscale place than your typical dim sum joint, and the prices reflect that. Some of their signatures are riffs on traditional dishes, like the siu mai with black truffle.
My friend Kendall joined me for lunch, and we ordered seven dishes between the two of us. We managed to eat most of it. Go team.
Baked egg white and cream buns:
These came to the table first, which meant we essentially started the meal with dessert. The buns were covered in a sugary crust, with that sweet, tender dough I love so much. Inside, there was a generous scoop of white, creamy (yolk-less) tapioca custard, which I was into.
The filling was very hot when they first arrived, so let them cool a bit, or you’re in for a world of hurt.
Bitter gourd and shredded chicken rice noodle:
This was one of the most visually striking dishes of the meal, with flat rice noodles made a pale, grassy green by the addition of bitter gourd. While I’m not the biggest fan of the bitter ol’ gourd, I wanted to give this a try, just because it’s something different. I was rewarded; the bitter taste was hugely diluted, and I just got a little in the aftertaste, making it interesting and pleasant to eat. The noodles were just a touch too soft, but not enough that they were impossible to pick up. Except that one I dumped in the dipping sauce and took forever to retrieve…
Assorted mushroom pastries:
I am an absolute sucker for anything in buttery puff pastry. I would happily go to dim sum and order nothing but puff pastry-based dishes, however because I would be mocked, I have yet to do so. These little Yin-Yang-topped tarts were good. Puff pastry. Love you.
Deep-fried radish balls with bonito flakes:
As many other bloggers have pointed out, these look very similar to takoyaki! Especially with the paper-thin slices of bonito waving around on top, glued there by a small blob of mayo. While I couldn’t really taste the radish in these, I did enjoy them, with the crunchy coating offsetting the chopped shrimp interior, and a little spice added from the house-made XO sauce our server brought us.
Black truffle, pork, and shrimp dumplings:
This is a pretty clear-cut example of Chinese fusion cuisine – a traditional dish with a decadent, European addition. I liked it, though be warned – they’re pretty rich! The earthy scent of the truffles rose up as soon as they were set down on the table.
Steamed egg sponge cake:
Our server talked us into three desserts which, to be honest, wasn’t a very difficult task for him. This classic steamed sponge cake was a really light way to end the meal – it had a toasted, brown sugary sweetness I liked.
Chilled osmanthus jelly pudding:
Shallow as it may sound, I straight up loved this dish for its looks. It had perfect, alternating layers of white and golden yellow, the latter of which had herby osmanthus flakes suspended in them. The diamond-shaped towers jiggled at the slightest touch of the plate, making it a beautiful, wiggling, amusing little dish. As for the flavour? It was faintly sweet, and the jello quite firm, so half a piece was enough for me.
Fried pumpkin cakes:
These kind of looked like orange mooncakes, with a crusty fried exterior holding a creamy sweet filling. The fried flavour overpowered the pumpkin, so it wasn’t my favourite dish of the day. I’d rather have more cream buns!
Our bill, before tip, came to $43 plus change. A note for English-only speakers: There’s no English ordering sheet at Chef Tony, but this wasn’t a problem at all. The staff were super friendly, and Wallace – the manager, a real character – was happy to take our order directly from us in English.
Crazily, Wallace remembered me from when I visited Neptune Restaurant, where I assume he used to be manager. I’m 90% sure he doesn’t remember me as the 365 Days of Dining blogger, but rather, as the white girl who’d ordered durian for dessert. HE REMEMBERED THAT. He even knew where I’d been sitting.
How do I know he simply couldn’t have read the post I wrote about Neptune? Because while we talked at Chef Tony about my time at Neptune, he said “Yes! You ordered the durian cream rolls – and you liked them!” Yes, I did order those at Neptune, but we all know I strongly, strongly dislike durian. Sorry Wallace – I must have lied to your face. But, I am hugely appreciative of the fact you remembered mine.