Enter to Win a stay at the Fairmont

Today it’s my pleasure to announce the winner of the 365 Days of Dining Tea for Two and a Taste of Luxury contest.  Congratulations to……

Jane Wiber!  You’ve won a one night stay at the luxurious Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel and Afternoon Tea for two in their beautiful restaurant, Globe @ YVR.  Thanks to everyone who entered for sharing their favourite holiday traditions.  I’ve decided my new favourite tradition is drinking cocktails during High Tea……

Now on with today’s post!

Empire Seafood Restaurant interior

Before my parents flew home yesterday, we decided to go for dim sum.  We made a reservation for 12:30pm at Empire Seafood Restaurant, arrived on time, and were seated almost an hour later.  That’s a long wait when you’re starving!  Anyways, I’m (slowly) learning that reservations don’t mean much on a busy day at a huge Chinese restaurant, but such is life.

Empire Seafood Restaurant Menu

We were eventually seated at a small table in the corner with a view of the vast restaurant, and I wasted no time in placing our order.  We had the steamed shrimp dumplings ($4.25), steamed beef balls ($4.45), deep-fried lotus root and pork pancakes ($4.45), baked BBQ pork buns ($4.45), pan fried pork and chive buns in a stone pot ($5.75), pan-fried halibut with soy sauce ($7.75), steamed rice roll with scallops and pea tips ($5.25), and baked tapioca pudding ($4.25).  Then we waited for the food to come in, which it did, fast and steady.

First up were the rice cakes with pea tip and scallops; these were lovely, with the bright green pea tips showing right through the sheets of steamed rice.  This was a nice, light way to get started.

steamed rice cakes with pork and pea tips
Next were one of Empire’s most famous dim sum offerings: the baked BBQ pork buns.  I can understand what all the fuss is about, because if you’re a fan of sweet + savoury, these are awesome.  The buns are light, covered in a sugary crust, and filled with tender, vibrantly red BBQ’ed pork.  My dad found them to be a little too sweet, but my mom and I loved them.

baked BBQ pork bun from Empire Seafood Restaurant
More to my dad’s liking were the deep fried lotus root and pork pancakes, which looked nothing like I’d imagined them to be.  Instead of pancakes, the chopped crunchy lotus root and pork were more like patties or meat fritters.  They were sort of sausage-like, and we joked that if you put them between a biscuit with some egg and cheese, you’d have one awesome breakfast sandwich!

deep-fried lotus root and pork pancakes at Empire Seafood Restaurant
Another oft-recommended dish from Empire is the steamed shrimp dumplings, so we tried them.  They were excellent.  The shrimp was cooked just right, and the wrappings were soft, but not gummy.

steamed shrimp dumplings from Empire Seafood Restaurant
The pan-fried halibut with soy sauce had a beautiful flavour, but the pieces of halibut were overwhelmed by the batter they’d been dipped in before frying.  They tasted more deep-fried than pan-fried, and oddly enough, our favourite things on the plate were the sliced onions – they were incredibly sweet, coated in the salty soy sauce, and soft.  I could have eaten an entire plate of those alone!

pan-fried halibut at Empire Seafood Restaurant
The steamed beef balls were juicy, full of flavour, and unlike any dim sum I’ve had before.  We really enjoyed them.

steamed beef balls at Empire Seafood Restaurant
I wasn’t as crazy about the pan-fried pork and chive buns in a stone pot, which seemed more steamed than pan-fried, and all pork with no chive.  The dough was sort of mushy, and the filling bland.  They just completely fell flat.

pork and chive dumplings in stone pot at Empire Seafood Restaurant
The surprise mega-hit was the baked tapioca pudding.  It arrived looking like a pineapple bun set within a bowl, and before we tried it, my mom told me a tapioca story from her childhood.

Baked tapioca pudding at Empire Seafood Restaurant
When my mom and her sister were both small, my Nana took them to their scary, super-British Great Aunt May’s house for lunch.  Aunt May fed them all sorts of unpalatable food, which they managed to choke down, but then she left to fetch dessert – tapioca pudding with stewed plums, their least favourite food in the world (which, to their credit, can be like eating corn-starched fish eggs if made poorly).  My aunt, a very precocious child, declared she would NOT be eating the tapioca pudding, to which my Nana replied in a sharp, somewhat desperate whisper, that if she chose not to eat the dessert, there would be consequences.

Great Aunt May returned with the puddings, and set them down on the table.  Without even lifting her spoon, my aunt, then aged five, turned to my Nana and said “I’ll take my consequences now.”

My mom doesn’t remember what happened, but she’s now forever associated tapioca with fish eggs and scary Great Aunt May.  So here’s some good news – yesterday’s dessert changed her mind!

This baked version of tapioca was thick, custard-like, and topped with the same biscuit-y crust that’s used on pineapple buns.  At the center of the pudding was a core of sweetened, mashed taro, giving the dish variance in not only texture and taste, but also in colour.  I was surprised by how much I loved it, too.  It’s rich, so four people could easily share just one order.

baked tapioca pudding at Empire Seafood Restaurant
We may have had to wait awhile for our meal at Empire, but the tapioca pudding, alone, was worth the wait.  It was one more splendid thing to share with my parents before they left.  Soon they’ll be back amongst the snowbanks, caring for our quirky little dog, and hearing about my eating adventures over the phone, rather than in person.

Congratulations again to Jane, and now I have another question for readers, though unfortunately answering it won’t make you eligible for any prizes!  It’s just an interesting thing to think about – what was your favourite meal of 2012?


Empire Seafood Restaurant

5951 No. 3 Road, Richmond BC


Cash and cards accepted

Vegetarian options available