When it comes to finding good quality Chinese food in Vancouver, there is a phenomenal abundance of choice. Although many locals may tell you to head directly to Richmond or Burnaby, it should be noted that there are a few good Chinese restaurants in central Vancouver as well.
In May of last year, I moved to Fairview Slopes and one of the first places I ate at was Lin Chinese Cuisine just off of Granville and West Broadway. After my first few visits, it was not difficult to see why locals had fallen in love with this comfortable establishment.
After 7 successful years in the Fairview area, the owner and head chef of Lin have opened a second restaurant two blocks west at Burrard and West Broadway. Taking up residence in a prime location vacated last year by Posh, Sen Bistro promises a menu inspired by a fresh and innovative take on traditional Mandarin cuisine.
Upon arriving to the media dinner, we were treated to beef curry spring rolls and cumin lamb cubes served with a quarter glass of St. Hubertus Rose VQA. After a brief interval to settle in, the multi-course dinner began.
To help whet our collective palette, we started off with Sen’s Salad Trio which consisted of Celery & Dried Scallop, Chicken salad with spicy peanut dressing and Lotus roots. Although the composition of this share plate may have appeared disjointed, the three dishes actually went together remarkably well. The flavors and textures combined nicely for what turned out to be a very refreshing, albeit strange salad. A thick Broad Bean & Sherchal Mash was also served with this salad trio.
One of my favourite dishes of the evening was also one of the simplest! The Chicken, Enoki & Shitake soup was exceedingly unassuming but was wonderfully tailored in both consistency and flavour. The broth was clear but the rich profile of the chicken stock melded in sublime fashion with the luxurious mushrooms. A beautiful, clean soup that I would definitely order again.
Next up were two hot appetizers which turned out to be a bit hit and miss for me. First off, the Lormi Xiaomai was an interesting concept but did not really come together cleanly. The sticky rice was fragrant and fairly good but it was a bit of a strange decision to serve in the sticky, glutinous shell. I had a bit of trouble chewing the rice packed dumpling of sorts as the ‘har gow’ type casing did not really go with the rice.
The other hot appetizer was an easy crowd favourite amongst the assembled media. The Salt & Pepper Crunchy Tofu came in a basket and were rapidly consumed like popcorn by our table. There was a chili garnish on the tofu but very little heat so there is no need to be hesitant. A great snack appetizer to order before the entrées make their appearance.
A visually spectacular dish kicked off the main course round in the form of Flambé Salmon. A chef went to each table and personally lit each salmon offering in a showy blaze of blue tinged flame. The salmon itself was not bad but not something I would typically order in a Chinese restaurant. One highlight of the dish was the accompanying King Mushrooms which were meaty and quite delicious.
The next big main was a plate of Braised Pork with Pumpkin in Soybean Paste. This rich, indulgent cut of pork was served alongside steamed crêpes and buns. Comparing this representation to other similar offerings around the city, Sen did quite good. The pork was rich and fatty and the sauce was kept very traditional. Placed into one of the white buns or on a piece of crêpe, the pork really shined in both tenderness and taste.
Another of my favourite dishes of the evening was the Double Prawn Delight entrée. Served two ways, the prawns were fairly large and plump. We did not get served any rice but this dish definitely calls for a bowl or two. I have had a similar menu item at Lin’s and can say the quality at Sen is easily comparable.
The final dish for the evening was a bowl of Wok-fried Vegetables. Nothing really impressive about this dish other than the generous helping of eggplant. Not a bad dish but again, like the salmon, not something I would personally go to a restaurant to order.
To wrap the evening up, we were served a Pumpkin based dessert along with an assortment of paste filled Lormi-zhi. At this point in the evening I was very full so only took a small bite of both. As a general rules, when I go out to Chinese restaurants, I almost never order dessert. I prefer to indulge in appetizers and mains and just skip the sweet course as they rarely appeal to me.
Looking back on the dinner as a whole, I understood what the owner and chef were trying to do. For Sen Bistro to present an identifiable, unique presence in the Fairview area, they had to show something fresh and memorable. As I live literally 5 minutes away, I was pleased at the general level of quality of the food and would definitely return. I actually look forward to my next visit to see if I can decipher how Sen Bistro seeks to differentiate itself from her older and more popular sister. Overall, an enjoyable evening with a few very tasty dishes.
Sen Bistro | 101-1788 W. Broadway, Vancouver, BC | (604) 558-3989 | senchinesebistro.com