Emperor’s Palace, the newest addition to Chinatown, mirrors Urban China in many ways. Clean and modern, they are both a part of a movement towards the kind of restaurants Vancouver (and Calgary, to some extent) already have down pat. We’re always looking for new dim sum places, so it made sense that my first two meals there were for just that: I checked out the restaurant once during the lunch rush on a weekday before Christmas with Dickson, and again a few weeks later for brunch with Mack and my family to celebrate Felicia’s birthday.
The restaurant is gorgeous, with bright yellow and red tones. The crystal chandeliers help lend the room a touch of elegance, though what really captured my attention was the stunning floor-to-ceiling glass wine case facing the dining room. As with Indian restaurants such as Origin India trying to encourage diners to pair wine (instead of the requisite beer) with their cuisine, perhaps Emperor’s Palace is trying to do the same with Chinese fare? (something that others are attempting elsewhere in the world.)
The high-backed chairs were visually appealing, and comfortable to boot, but unfortunately, did take up a lot of space, which prevented carts from going between some tables. This wasn’t a problem when dining with my family, but at a small table with Dickson at the rear of the restaurant, two tables stood between us and the aisle. As a result, the verbal exchanges between us and the waitress were a bit comical – we were nearly shouting to be heard above the lunchtime din.
The only other notable occurrence with regards to service happened with my family – a server leaned into our table, and in Cantonese, offered us a plate of fried shrimp wontons – “a dish that white people like.”
The food was a mixed bag on both occasions, with portion sizes far from generous. The shrimp dumplings were all right, but they had paper-thin skins; my preference is a thicker shell. The pork dumplings, another dim sum staple, were disappointing – too chewy. The BBQ pork buns were perfectly shaped and browned, but the bread was dry and unappealing.
BBQ pork buns
The temperature of the dishes also varied (albeit better at brunch than at lunch) – the rice wrap with BBQ pork, for example, was served to us lukewarm.
But we were surprised by other dishes – the spring rolls, for example, contained no filler, only shrimp. Hot and crispy, the skin was decidedly light in colour, and not the deep brown characteristic of a bath of old oil. A dumpling with pork, peanuts and chives had great texture. Rolls made of dough and sticky rice were new to me, delightfully garnished with what we took to be greens and egg. I also thoroughly enjoyed their custard tarts – but then again, I’m a sucker for warm custard tarts!
My sister and I both have a bit of a Chinese restaurant restroom fetish, but I’m sure I’m not alone in having a negative connotation of dive-bar restrooms in association with Chinese restaurants. Emperor’s Palace joins Urban China on the short list of nice washrooms, with lovely azure bowl sinks.
As a whole, though the décor is fabulous, the dim sum was only average. That said, flipping through their dinner menu (a huge, cardboard book), I think it would be worth a try, with options like squab and geoduck available.
So go for the decor, but as far as dim sum is concerned, don’t expect to be blown away.
10638 100 Street