It’s that time of year, the most wonderful time of the year as Wendy calls/sings it: king crab season, and her and I got a chance to indulge, not once, but twice! We decided to treat her parents one weekend, and they kindly returned the favour the next. For our treat it was M’s Seafood in Richmond Public Market, a relatively modest Chinese banquet place, which is a sister location to the Victory Seafood in Crystal Mall. Things can get a tad bit confusing here since the same owner runs a travel agency, which shares the same name as M’s in Chinese, which ALSO has locations in Crystal Mall and Richmond Public Market. Phew!
We had some bewilderment with regards to reservations as well, since we were directed to the Kingsway location after calling the Chinese Restaurant Hotline. Then we were given someone’s private line by the Kingsway location, but in the end it turned out we didn’t need reservations anyway since the place was completely empty when we first arrived.
I was pretty astonished at how quiet it was considering every time we’ve been out to eat on a weekend in Richmond everything seems to be jam-packed. It’s only been open four or five months though so maybe that accounts for the lack of patrons, and things picked up with a fair sized birthday party later on in the evening. On second thought maybe it’s the terrible reputation their Burnaby location has, but thankfully our visit to this new spot was pretty satisfying overall. We picked the Alaskan king crab set menu for four ($188), and after a preliminary round of tea the first appetizers arrived.
This was a pretty impressive looking first dish and set the tone for the evening nicely. Battered seafood cakes drizzled with a sweet chili sauce alternated with cucumber spears and tiny cubes of marinated beef shank, artfully plated with a serving of sesame jellyfish in the middle. I personally couldn’t get enough of the seafood cake’s perfect textures and the sauce was used sparingly enough to not overpower them. The beef was sweet and satisfying, and the jellyfish tasted better to me than usual.
We all got some fairly generous hunks of crab meat in the fish maw and crab soup course, not too much to say about it other than that it was decent.
Now for the main attraction, the crab! And done the way I like it best, steamed with butter and garlic. I was happily surprised to have it served this way since I was under the impression Asians didn’t like this style (see previous experience at Top Cantonese). Wendy jokingly told me it’s white boy style since they are afraid I would get angry and cause a scene if it’s not served that way…this is a running gag with us: whenever we get good service at a Chinese restaurant it has to be because I’m there and white people have a reputation of complaining at these places 😛 According to Wendy the portion was decent for a set menu, and I was quite happy with it; I think we all had our fill.
This was one of the sides, the pea shoots were a little less fresh tasting than we would have liked but there was a nice variety of mushrooms: white button, abalone and shimeji, and the abalone sauce went well with them.
I’ve never been a fan of this style of cold chicken with the skin on, and this was no exception even when dunked into the ginger and green onion oil. But if you like this dish you won’t be disappointed; Wendy and her parents seemed to have no problem devouring my portion for me. M’s calls their version Crystal Chicken.
This wasn’t part of the set menu, but we liked the buttery sauce from the crab so much we didn’t want to waste what was left on the platters so Wendy’s Mom had the great idea of adding it to some noodles. I definitely don’t want to add up the grams of fat consumed that night, but it was worth it.
By the point I tucked into the rice I was having seafood fatigue which may have clouded my judgement a bit, but I think if I hadn’t been so full I probably would have enjoyed this dish as much as the rest of the meal. It was fried up with egg white and scallops, both fresh and dried. It was chewy, which is an indicator of good fried rice.
Even after we all ate to our hearts content we still packed plenty of leftovers for take-away, and overall they were very generous. Including when it came time for the dessert. We started off with the usual red bean soup, which was nice, but Wendy’s Dad spotted a toddler with a mango pudding and asked the waitress, “Hey, how come the kid gets one and we don’t?”. Her Dad has quite the sense of humour so I figured he was just joking with her, but after a few minutes we were given two mango puddings to share between us, free of charge! Speaking of our waitress, she was quite friendly and attentive, but maybe a bit overly so…she spent the entire meal hovering about four feet from our table at all times. It was convenient when service was needed, but a bit creepy at the same time. Minor complaint though, and I thought it was kind of funny myself.
The following weekend we went to the pretentiously-named Excelsior, also in Richmond. This place was absolutely jam packed, and as soon as a table would finish the next would be seated. I noticed a lot of people were having the king crab, so that made me think her parents had made a wise choice. I’m not sure about the prices for individual dishes, but I sneaked a peek at the bill at the end and the total for the 6 of us was about $400.
First up was a pork and papaya soup. I hadn’t had this one before so I was kind of expecting something sweet due to the papaya, but it was more akin to a carrot when heated up in the soup (which I probably mistook AS papaya as it was also present in the soup). There was also two types of Chinese almond in the dish: north and south, which Wendy’s aunt explained contain opposing bitter and sweet tastes. They are also supposed to have some healing properties, as most Chinese soup ingredients seem to. The soup was quite delicious, and at one point I found a round black object in my spoon. I assumed it was a peppercorn, expecting a burst of flavour when I bit into it, but a moment later I noticed everybody had little piles of the black objects on their plates and clued in that it was a papaya seed. Whoops!
This is the Famous Chicken, as they call their specialty dish. It’s a type of soy sauce chicken with a bit of a sweet floral taste to it. If you remember from the first half of the post I’m not big on Chinese chicken, but this one blew me away. Highly addictive stuff, the sauce really soaks into it and juices it up. I had to remind myself to save room for the crab. If you decide to go for this one, it needs to be ordered a day in advance.
…And here it is. Red king crab; I hadn’t tried this type before either. Quite a monster too!
The legs were served two different ways. First was ginger and scallion cooked in oil. It’s kind of hard to judge scale from the pics, but each one was the size of a small lobster tail. The meat was really succulent and the ginger added a fresh bite to it, but I prefer the white-boy style of butter and garlic. Give me this crab cooked in M’s style and I would be in heaven!
Round two was green onion and garlic, again in oil. Hard to pick a favourite here…
Oh wait, here it is. This was my favourite, although a bit tougher to get at the meat. It’s the joints, deep fried then pan fried in tau chau, which is a premium soy sauce from the first pressing of a batch. It also has a lighter flavour than standard soy sauce. Everyone was getting pretty full by this point but Wendy’s Dad and I made a valiant effort to polish these guys off, leaving only two stragglers for Wendy’s work lunch the next day.
Here’s the crown jewel, the crab’s head stuffed with rice and bits of leftover crab meat, then smothered with Portuguese sauce: a coconut infused, Hollandaise-textured sauce. Super rich and filling, we couldn’t have possibly finished this off even between the six of us.
Noodles in the crab juices again. Apparently this is a common strategy for getting the most bang for your buck out of the crab. Good stuff, and this one is perhaps better with the oil than with butter.
The obligatory pea shoots. These were better than the ones at M’s.
And again with the red bean soup. Same as the one at M’s as far as I could tell, but this time we snapped a pic. Tastes better than it looks, good stuff, however Wendy and I both like it better when it has black glutinous rice added to it. Two big meals that went off without a hitch, we would recommend either place, but make sure to book reservations if you go to Excelsior.