Yesterday, two significant things happened:
2) I got recognized for the first time by the owners of an Asian restaurant in Richmond. If you’d assumed this happens regularly, I can assure you it does not. In Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, Malaysian, and Taiwanese restaurants, I usually dine in blissful anonymity, receiving regular service and occasionally, extra attention in the form of “White girl! Dining alone! Are you lost? Here, try this!”
Ethan and I met for dim sum yesterday at Vivacity Restaurant, which is located on Alexandra Road. It was busy, but the 11am reservation I’d made actually stuck, so we were seated right away. If you’re heading out for dim sum for the first time, I recommend starting with a smaller place like Vivacity or Golden Paramount, since you’re less likely to get lost in the crowd of people vying for tables at the huge restaurants.
We were seated in a room separate from the main dining area, which meant it was a little quieter. We’d heard Vivacity’s BBQ pork buns are great, so we ordered them, though requested baked rather than steamed, which were the only ones listed on the menu. We also decided on sautéed garlic pea tips, fried taro and pork cakes, shrimp dumplings, steamed short ribs with pumpkin and black bean, almond and corn congee, and pan-fried 5 grain cake.
The meal began normally, with the food coming quickly, and friendly, efficient service. Then things started picking up, and soon there were servers coming by every few minutes to fill up our tea, ask how we were, and offer us fresh plates. In fact, we were offered so many fresh plates, a small stack began to grow, which was added to with hilarious regularity. Here’s Ethan with just a few of them.
It became obvious they knew who I was when we were treated to a small bowl of XO sauce, then a finely-arranged dish of thinly-sliced eggplant with crab, dried shrimp, and cilantro at its center. Eventually a woman named Kitty – one of the owners – came by and chatted with us.
Kitty was one of the friendliest, most exuberant people I’ve met in Richmond. She explained they take special care to ensure their food is nicely-presented, healthy (a very important point), and prepared with skill. Several years ago, they brought in famous chefs from Guangdong (her former home) and had them do demonstrations for customers. With their eyes closed, they could apparently slice potatoes so thinly, pieces could fit through the eye of a needle!
Kitty said she loves living in Richmond. “Even the rain?” I asked, and she quickly replied “You never have to wash your car!” Touché, Kitty, touché. She was a sincerely gracious host, and I highly recommend going to visit her.
Now, to the food! The baked BBQ pork buns were really good, but only if you love the concept of meat dessert. The dough for Vivacity’s buns was particularly soft and sweet, and covered in a swirl of crusty sugar.
The BBQ pork inside was tender, but also a little on the sweet side, so you certainly have to love the combination of sweet and savoury to enjoy these. I sure did.
The sautéed pea tips were perfection – flavourful, healthy, richly green, and good with anything else on the table, especially the side of XO sauce.
The dumplings were also fantastic – the shrimp seemed especially well-seasoned, with a bit of crunch to them still, and the wrappers were tender.
The fried taro cakes with pork were great, though I think I prefer pan-fried turnip cakes with preserved meat. The chunks of fresh taro in these felt slightly dry in my mouth, but the flavour was nice.
The steamed short ribs were gnarly-looking, but tasted wonderful. The meat was strongly infused with flavours of the savoury broth it had been steamed in, with salty and sweet kicks added by the fermented black beans and chunks of pumpkin.
The corn and almond congee was excellent, though I think there were ginkgo nuts in it, not almonds. The corn was sweet, with fine slivers of ginger and bits of onion-y chive making this one of my favourite bowls of congee in Richmond so far.
Our ‘dessert’ was cause for a few laughs. When a server placed these jiggling, yellow squares on our table, she announced them as ‘cake with water chestnuts,’ so we politely informed her we’d actually ordered the ‘pan-fried 5 grain cake.’ She scanned our order form, talked to herself a little, then proclaimed the dish to actually be ‘pan-fried 5 grain cake.’ Suuuuure!
She was too sweet to argue with, so we decided we’d give cake with water chestnuts a try. It was the same sweet, vanilla-y tapioca base as the dessert Steph and I had at Golden Paramount, but this time there were chunks of water chestnuts suspended in it. I didn’t mind it, Ethan didn’t like it, but more importantly, it got us started on a whole conversation about molded jello salads, and this website I recently come across. It’s very entertaining, so enjoy.
All in all, our huge meal cost about $50, and I really enjoyed the food. I also discovered that Ethan and his Food Bloggers of Canada co-founders have just launched ticket sales for their first annual food blogging conference this April 12th-14th at the Hockley Valley Resort. I’m not entirely sure when this man sleeps, but he must squeeze in a few hours here and there.
If you’re interested in attending the conference, which has a madly-impressive lineup of speakers, click here to find out more. Tickets are limited (and they sold over half in the first day of sales) so don’t wait too long!
Thanks to Ethan for being such fine company, and to Kitty and the team at Vivacity for treating us like family. Of course, I acknowledge that my being recognized changed our experience, but I genuinely think it’s a friendly restaurant, and anyone would treated well. You may not have a stack of eight plates on your table waiting to refresh your current one, but you’re likely to get a few. And that’s enough.
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available
Reservations recommended on weekends