Unsurprisingly, I was tuckered out after an evening of Mad Men revelry. It took me half the day to get going yesterday, and by the time I made it to Richmond, I based my dining decision on these two important factors: I was at Lansdowne Station, and it was raining. I wanted to be inside asap, so I had an early dinner at Harbour Spirit Restaurant.
I was really hoping they’d still have some dim sum items on their evening menu, but unfortunately the closest I could come to dim sum was an order of their handmade dumplings. I also ordered a plate of pickled green beans with pork ($14.80), just because that sounded delicious. Shortly after ordering, my server came by to say they’d sold out of the handmade dumplings (blast!) but suggested wontons ($12.80) instead. Close enough. The rest of the menu was heavily seafood-based, and seemed to be a mix of Cantonese and Sichuan-style dishes.
Harbour Spirit is another vast, elaborately decorated Chinese restaurant, the kind with dressed chairs and beaded drapes that make each window look like a wedding cake. It’s fancy, and yet last night the restaurant had a pleasantly casual air to it. There was a family seated near me that had a laptop out so they could look at pictures, and in the far corner there were several tables playing a game. I couldn’t figure out what the game was, so I asked my friend Stacey, and described it as “Four to a table, with what sounds like a TON of chips being shuffled between rounds.”
She correctly suggested Mahjong, a game of strategy that originated in China, is commonly played by four players, and utilizes 136 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols.
I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I am really not a game person; therefore, mahjong is my nightmare. 136 tiles? Complicated strategy, calculation, and skill? Three other people who will crush me? No thank you. But I sure did enjoy watching those people play at the back! They had special overhead lights setup at each table, so clearly this is something that happens at the restaurant regularly.
So there were the mahjong groups, a big family dining together, and me, solo girl in the middle. The staff was very friendly though, and I enjoyed my meal.
The pickled green beans with pork tasted instantly ‘Sichuan’ – the finely chopped beans had been sautéed with ground pork, preserved vegetables, dried chilis, and Sichuan peppercorns. Seeing all the chilies in it, I was worried this dish would completely annihilate my mouth upon, but it didn’t! We got along just fine. It was spicy, but in a way that made the dish addicting, not painful, and the ground pork in it was pure, tender flavour. I REALLY liked it.
The bowl of wonton soup was huge of course, as it’s meant for a family, but I still managed to get through a lot of it.
It had a mix of pork wontons and shrimp wontons, all looking like wrinkled little brains in a golden broth (a somewhat off-putting description yes, but one that’s just so darn accurate).
I preferred the pork wontons, which were saltier, but both were nice. The broth was lovely, and I appreciated the whole steamed baby bok choy also in the bowl.
This was a simple meal, and one that I enjoyed. Before this year, I never would have thought to dine at a big Chinese restaurant alone, but now it doesn’t seem so scary. At least, a heck of a lot less scary than the though of learning mahjong.
Cash and cards accepted
Some vegetarian options available