Empire Seafood Restaurant Review – Dim Sum

Empire Seafood Restaurant is located on Westminster Highway, in the same complex as London Drugs and Milestones. As with most dim sum restaurants, seat spacing is quite minimal. Empire is usually booming busy at peak times, and can get loud, but that I guess is part of the dim sum experience. Regardless of which dim sum restaurant we visit it’s easy to characterize the service as indifferent–as long as no food is thrown at us we’re happy.

Dim sum dishes are 20% off regular price before 11:00am, making this a hot spot in the hour leading up to the end of the deal. Richmond is not one of my favourite areas of the Lower Mainland, but it does have one thing going for it – good Chinese eats. You can find pretty decent Hong Kong style cafe food and Cantonese cuisine in Richmond; some dishes are certainly on par or even tastier than what you can get in Hong Kong. Parking and driving can be treacherous and downright scary at times, but that’s the price to pay for good food!

We’ve been going to Empire for dim sum for years. Even back when we lived in Victoria, we’d enjoy dim sum here during our visits. The chefs in the kitchen have changed hands numerous times over the years and consistency remains an issue, but on this visit we were quite pleased with the quality and taste of the dishes.

BBQ Pork Buns – Served piping pot, these fluffy steamed buns (Char Siu Bau) contained sweet and saucy barbecue pork filling. They were superbly fresh and executed well.

Beef Balls – Finely-ground beef shaped into balls and then steamed with preserved orange peel and served on top of a thin bean-curd skin. Because of the steaming cooking process, these fragrant meatballs were succulent and moist, and also had hints of pink but don’t–that’s due to the marinade.

Shrimp Spring Rolls – Deep fried and served piping hot, containing large pieces of crunchy shrimp with some Worcestershire dipping sauce (which is also served with the beef balls). They weren’t super greasy at all, which was nice.

Beef & Black Bean Sauce on Crispy Noodles – A classic noodle dish that can be used as a benchmark in most Cantonese restaurants since it’s widely available. The beef was marinated well and tender (sometimes it’s marinated so much it ‘melts’), and the noodles were standard, crispy along the perimeter as the nicely seasoned black bean sauce drenched the middle. I would order this again.

Phoenix Claws/Chicken Feet – Deep fried and steamed first to make them puffy before being stewed and simmered in  sauce. The thought of eating chicken feet, in particular gnawing on skin and cartilage might not sound appetizing–but it’s amazing what seasoning such as MSG can do! These were good (Gary loves them).

Har Gow/ Shrimp Dumplings – This is the ultimate test of any dim sum restaurant–the shrimp dumpling. Here, it was served nice and hot, with the thin translucent wrapper strong enough to hold together when picking up the har gow with our chopsticks. Within we found whole pieces of crunchy shrimp.

Lo Mai Gai – Steamed glutinous rice with chicken, egg yolk, dried scallop, mushroom, wrapped in a lotus leaf. The Lotus leaf infuses its flavour during the steaming process. The sticky rice was cooked perfectly and not overcooked into mush you find sometimes, while not being densely packed either. This was some tasty LMG.

Here’s a picture of the LMG unwrapped.

Baked Tapioca Pudding – This is one of my favourite dim sum dishes, but it’s sometimes not always available on the menu at other restaurants. Luckily, it’s always available at Empire. This delicious dessert has a crispy exterior similar to what you’d find on a pineapple bun but a little thicker. Hiding below the topping is a creamy, tapioca custard. Definitely one of the must-try desserts!

Empire Seafood can be a hit or miss with their dim sum, and on this visit they didn’t disappoint. Service wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t spectacular either. We were able to easily get the attention of servers when we requested it, so that’s a bonus. We will be coming back–but next time it’ll be to kick off the king crab season at Empire! Stay tuned.

Empire Seafood Restaurant 帝苑海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon

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About Taya & Gary

Gary and Taya Ng are the Founders of Eating In Vancouver & the World. This husband and wife team search for the best dining experiences - including restaurant launches, new menu tastings and culinary events. Learn more about the couple here and connect with them on Twitter and Facebook.

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