On my recent trip to Vancouver last month, I was back at Nine Dishes again. One would never have thought that this restaurant would make it on my list of places that I want to eat at every time I’m in town, particularly because of some of the “service quirks” like having to bus your own table, having to get your own rice from the rice cooker, or having to write out your own order. But for me, these quirks actually don’t bother me. In fact, I think it’s part of the charm of the place. It has a home-style feel as if you’re eating at your friend’s place. The reason I keep on going back is because of how good the food is. I have yet to find another place that consistently executes my favourite dishes so well. I was so impressed with my recent meal there that I thought it warranted me to post about it again.
As I mentioned in my previous post on Nine Dishes, there are 4 distinct menus, each containing 9 dishes. Since there were only 3 of us on this visit, we limited the ordering to just all our favourite dishes.
We started off with an order of Deep Fried Lotus Root Stuffed with Minced Meat – L8 ($3.99). This is a must order item here, especially if you like lotus root. I have yet to find another place that consistently executes this dish so well. The lotus root slices are always juicy, crunchy, and toothsome. The batter encasing the lotus root sandwiches is always crispy and light. These lotus root sandwiches are always freshly prepared and served straight from the fryer. We actually have to remember to let them cool a bit so we don’t burn our tongues.
Next was the House Special Spareribs – C5 ($9.99). The spareribs are braised till the meat falls of the bone. The braising liquid is so rich and flavourful. It is well-balanced with just a hint of sweetness.
Our third dish was the Si Chuan Sausage – L5 ($3.99). This house made sausage is like a Sichuan version of chorizo. I love the complexity of flavours in the sausage. It contains both elements of classic Sichuan cuisine – the chili pepper and the Sichuan peppercorns. The chili peppers provide the heat while the Sichuan peppercorns give it the citrus, peppery notes. This sausage has a spice level similar to chorizo and is not overly spicy.
Our token vegetable dish was the Cucumber with Garlic – L3 ($3.99). I thought this dish was extra tasty this time as the cucumber chunks were well-marinated in the tangy garlic vinaigrette. The cucumber was crunchy and fresh. This acted as a nice palate cleanser to the other dishes.
Lastly, we ordered my favourite dish of all, the Boiled Fish Slices with Chili Oil – C1 ($15.99), which is also often known as Water-Boiled Fish or Shuizhuyu (水煮魚). Personally, I think this version from Nine Dishes is one of the best versions I’ve had thus far. The fish is perfectly poached in the spicy broth. I am impressed with how tender and soft the boneless fish slices have been each and every time we’ve ordered it. One of my favourite things in this dish is the crunchy bean sprouts at the bottom that have been blanched in the poaching liquid.
Nine Dishes is a great place for late night eats as they are open till midnight daily. Many of the dishes are small (tapas-sized) and inexpensive enough that you can order a few the share. The mains are larger and priced accordingly. As I mentioned previously, the service is quirky, unconventional, and much of it is DIY. If you go there with that knowledge in hand, you’ll have a better experience as you know what to expect. The reason this place is so popular is because the food is good, unpretentious, and inexpensive.