On Oct 3rd, I met up with the regular ChineseBites crew to try a few signature dishes at Nong Chinese Restaurant right at 41st and Granville Street. Growing up in Kerrisdale, I had been to Nong (formerly The One) before but was interested in trying some dishes my family and I do not usually order.
To start things off, we were served a plate of thinly sliced Marinated Beef 五香牛肉. Similar to cold cuts of meat, the meat was not super tender but quite flavorful. To me, the beef seemed a tad dry but that could be chalked up to a variance in technique on the chef’s part.
The second dish I tried was the Vegetarian Duck 素鵝. This dish may be confusing to many as it is basically a bean curd wrap with diced mushrooms and other veggies. Dipped in a little chilli sauce, the wrap is actually quite good. For a set dinner heavy in meat, this is definitely a recommended dish to help balance things out.
The third dish was a plate of Jelly Pork 肴肉. As a huge fan of Siu Yuk or crispy roast pork, I usually do not like Jelly Pork but this dish was not bad. Similar to the marinated beef, this meat dish is served cold which may or may not appeal to some. The skin itself is also soft, almost like gelatine, but without a lot of flavor. Some chilli oil is definitely needed to up that taste profile a little.
The fourth and final starter if you will was a plate of Chicken in Chili Sauce 四川口水雞. I really enjoyed this dish as it reminded me of a spicy tofu dish except with chicken. With a bowl of white rice, the chicken and sauce would make for a sublime combination. A dish with bold flavor I would definitely order again, highly recommended.
The fifth dish of the evening was a gigantic bowl of Crab Meat with Winter Melon Soup 蟹肉冬茸羹. Akin to fish maw soup, this offering is slightly heavier with the shredded crab meat and winter melon. I was a bit surprised that the soup was not more flavorful but fortunately I could taste the subtle sweetness of the crab meat. Not a big fan of winter melon but it did lend the soup some much needed substance.
The sixth dish was definitely a crowd pleaser, offering up a heaping plate of Lobster with Bitter Melon and Shredded Pork 涼瓜肉碎炒龍蝦. Although I dislike the taste of bitter melon, the lobster itself was quite good. The crisp shell housed succulent pieces of well seasoned lobster meat garnished with crumbling bits of pork. I gingerly avoided the bitter melon and overall enjoyed the dish.
The seventh dish was hilarious to look at but also very tasty: Dong Po Pork Hock 東坡肘子. There was an overwhelming amount of fat on this cut of pork which may be a bit much for some. The actual amount of pork meat is quite stingy so I highly suggest getting what you can. I did note that the underlying bed of greens did taste great soaked in the dark sauce.
The eighth dish was even more pork with a plate of Braised Pork Belly 梅菜扣肉. At this point of the meal I was getting pretty full however I did really enjoy the dark sauce that the pork was marinating in. Again, the pork seemed a little tough but I managed to get through one or two pieces.
The ninth and tenth dishes of the night would have gone very well with a couple bowls of white rice. The Lamb with Spicy Cumin 籽然炒羊肉 and the Stir Fried Shrimp with Vegetables 勝瓜雲耳蝦球 were both quite good with the lamb being tender and well seasoned and the shrimp being plump and fresh.
The eleventh dish was a huge platter of Tea Smoked Duck 馳名樟茶鴨 which we were told is one of the most popular signature dishes at Nong. Different from the better known Peking Duck, the skin was a different texture but still crispy. The actual duck meat was a tad red for my liking but tasted fine. Splitting open a warm white bun, one or two pieces of duck made for a rather delicious sandwich.
The twelfth dish was a small pot of Vegetable Salty Pork Rice 鹹肉青菜飯. I lament at how full I was at this point as the fried rice was actually very good. The rice was light and the pork brought the ideal amount of saltiness.
To finish the meal off, we were served a few servings of Shanghai Dumplings 小籠包. The dumplings were hot and went perfectly with the vinegar accompaniment. Not the best dumplings in the city but definitely respectable.
To wrap up with a few final thoughts, our ChineseBites media dinner at Nong was overall a very strong showing. Although we tried a few dishes I personally would not have ordered, there were no clear cut misses amongst the formidable menu. The meal was very traditional and for those familiar with Chinese cuisine, this restaurant will feel extremely familiar. On future visits, I would definitely try to balance the meal differently but at the end of the day, the meal was extremely generous and of a respectable level of quality.