Slap me on the back and give this gal a high-five, because I tried durian again yesterday. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a spiky, dangerous-looking fruit that smells of stewed socks/gym bags/overcooked eggs/monster onions. Ab-so-lute-ly NOTHIN’.
My friend Gordie, a sound-engineer, joined me at Rainflower Restaurant yesterday for his first-ever dim sum experience. He and his fiancee Caitlin spent several years in South Korea, so while he’s no stranger to new foods (including durian), he had yet to participate in a full-on Richmond dim sum experience. We went to Rainflower Restaurant, which had a more lavish interior than I’d expected.
Customers are greeted by a foyer rich with brocades, gilt couches, and shimmering, scenic wallpaper. Here’s Gordie enjoying one of their luxurious seats:
The dining room is an extension of this. At its centre there’s an extravagant chandelier, with a hardwood floor below it (and disco ball to its side) suggesting the space can easily become a dance floor. Being Chinese New Year, the restaurant was very busy, but we came a little after 1pm and didn’t have to wait for a seat.
I decided to give my fruit-foe another try because there were durian pastries on the menu with a little ‘Chinese Restaurant Awards’ logo next to them, meaning they’ve been recognized as one of Metro Vancouver’s most notable Chinese dishes. Since no food writer worth her expensive, smoked salt would pass on a signature dish, I ordered them.
When the pastries arrived at the table, we asked the woman to cut them in half and awaited their odoriferous (thanks, thesaurus!) scent to reach our noses. In appearance, Gordie could not have described them more aptly: “They look like grubs.” It was true, they did look like fat little cartoon worms, which I found hilarious considering when I’d asked Gordie if there was anything he didn’t eat, he’d replied “I eat everything. Including bugs. Though I’d really prefer not to eat bugs, if that’s alright.”
So how was my second durian experience? A lot easier than the first. Unlike the durian mooncakes, these didn’t taste the same way they smelled. With the pastries, the hardest part was just getting them past my nose, and once I was chewing they were just soft, very buttery, and slightly pungent. Almost mild, I would say. I’m not quite over to the durian side, but I’m closer to sitting on the fence.
The rest of our meal was great. We had a crispy Chinese donut in a rice roll topped with rousong, which was a pleasing mix of sweet, salty, crunchy, and chewy.
The grilled eggplant with steamed shrimp paste was nice, though while the shrimp was good and ‘bouncy,’ I would have preferred this dish have a bit more flavour.
The steamed buns with custard and egg yolk were like big fat eggs – smooth and purely white on the outside, with a vibrantly orange filling.
Warning: if you bite recklessly into these when they’re still warm, there’s a good chance that you or the person across from you will end up with egg on their face, quite literally.
The filling is very runny and rich-tasting, with a sweet, fluffy white bun containing it. These are a must-order from Rainflower.
The steamed shrimp dumplings were excellent, with especially tender wrappers.
Interestingly, I found the pan-fried radish cakes with preserved meat to be rather on the bland side, while Gordie found them to be too strong. That just goes to show you how subjective foods can be.
Next up, we ate the feet of an elusive, mythical creature – the phoenix! Truly, that’s what this dish was called on the menu; apparently, this guy rose from the ashes just in time to be butchered, steamed in a dark brown sauce, and placed on our table. While we both felt quite renewed by eating it, we agreed that phoenix’s feet taste similar to those of a chicken, with just as many tiny bones to pick through.
Steamed sticky rice with preserved meat in lotus leaves is now officially on my Comfort Foods List. Rainflower’s version was sticky, flavourful, easy to eat, and thoroughly enjoyed.
We ordered the steamed beef balls with aged orange peel simply out of curiousity to try the peel, but it wasn’t really a flavour that made itself known. Apparently, aged orange and tangerine peels have medicinal properties, and are thought to help with digestion and excess phlegm. Perhaps I’d need to try the beef balls without this ingredient in order to recognize its presence.
For dessert, we had the honey osmanthus pudding, a wobbly, jiggly dish that was like a refined version of jello with bits suspended in it. Those bits were dried osmanthus, which is a plant native to warm climates around Asia.
Some of the dried flowers’ health benefits include better skin, a balanced state of mind, digestion, and detoxification. I don’t know if I achieved any of those by eating this dessert, but it did prompt me to do some research, which increased my general food knowledge, which therefore made me a more well-rounded person. So, in addition to being fun to eat, this dish did benefit me in a few other ways.
After dim sum, I cycled over to Minoru to check out a brand new bakery called L’Opera. Its interior was just as opulent as Rainflower’s, and I was thrilled to discover that in addition to their French-inspired pastries and macarons, they offer High Tea on Saturdays! A helpful hint: tea must be booked 48 hours in advance.
I’m going to go back on a weekend and write a proper review, but I couldn’t resist buying something.
So, here’s a little L’Opera teaser: a pale green pistachio macaron which I discovered, upon biting into it, had a juicy concord grape at its centre. It was delicate, barely sweet, and dreamy. I can’t wait to go back.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all!
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available