Question: which of these statements is false?
a) Lindsay likes Hainan Chicken
b) Lindsay likes fried chicken.
c) Lindsay likes roast chicken.
I got you, I got you SO GOOD. You wanted to say a), but now I’m telling you they’re ALL true!
Or, you have no idea what I’m talking about, which would be a fair answer, too. I will quickly fill you in: over the course of this year, I have not cared for Hainan Chicken, a specialty dish you can read about here. Yesterday, however, I finally enjoyed a plate of it, thus triggering a sense of accomplishment I should probably reserve for conquering Kilimanjaro, but whatever….
Where was I? Excelsior, a small Chinese restaurant right near Brighouse Station. Who was along for this momentous occasion? My old pal Lindsay from university, who is fortunately “up for eating anything.”
Aesthetically, Exclesior looks as though its glory days were a decade (or two) ago, but we all know that when it comes to food, shabby isn’t always a bad thing. Excelsior has a reputation for putting on impressive King Crab feasts, but Linds and I were looking for something a little less grandiose. We went with recommendations from Twitter and our server, and ended up with a plate of fried sticky rice ($12.98), gai lan stir-fried with garlic ($13.98), and of course, half a Hainan Chicken ($12.98 – “Hai Nam” chicken on their menu).
We were first brought a complimentary bowl of soup, which had chunks of soft, pale winter melon in a mild broth.
The cold Hainan Chicken arrived next, served with a spoonful of salted fried peanuts (aka, the best things on earth that should come with everything), and a dish containing chili sauce and a slightly green pureed ginger sauce. So, what was it about Excelsior’s version that brought me over to the Hainan side?
First: THE SAUCES.
These were absolutely the best sauces I’ve been served with Hainan chicken in Richmond, and perhaps two of the better sauces I’ve ever been served, especially the ginger. There is no better word to describe them than “ZING.’ Technical, I know, but it’s true – both sauces were pure, serious punches of zingy flavour.
I want to put them on everything. Including dessert.
Anyone know a good tattoo artist? Cause I’m considering getting a picture of these sauces inked on my lower back.
If I have twins, I’m going to name them “Chili” and “Ginger” and change my last name to Sauce.
I hope I have sufficiently demonstrated just how much I enjoyed them.
Second: the bird had substantial meat on it, so I didn’t feel like I was constantly navigating between chicken skin and bone. Of course, there were still plenty of bony pieces to gnaw on, but it was also possible to get substantial bites of the delicately flavoured white meat. Which I smothered in sauce, of course.
Third: the addition of the fried peanuts was brilliant. They provided a variation in texture, added to the flavour of the dish as a whole, and lent a little colour to an otherwise pale plate. I’m still not a fan of the soft skin (and probably never will be) but you can’t win ’em all, right?
Our next dish – the fried sticky rice – was also a big hit. We couldn’t even find it on the menu, but with FMed’s tip on Twitter, we asked for it directly. You should too.
The glossy, pearly little grains of rice were fried with green onions, ginger, tiny dried shrimp, bits of salty pork, and topped with GUESS WHAT – more fried peanuts! Lindsay and I both loved this dish, which is certainly some of the best fried rice I’ve ever had.
Finally, our gai lan order was pretty standard, but it was nice to have such a vibrant plate of greens to round out our meal.
This was the perfect Monday lunch. I got to catch up with a wonderful friend, and conquer another “I’m not sure I like this” food. I also now have inspiration for my first-ever tattoo, and know just how high the bar can be set for a plate of fried rice.
Guess what the Latin word Excelsior means? “Still higher.” How very appropriate.
Vegetarian options available, though the menu is quite meat-heavy