While I was visiting Vancouver a couple of weeks ago, my dining companions requested home-style Cantonese cuisine for dinner. Since we weren’t in the mood to drive to Richmond and I was at a loss for where to go, I called up my friend A and asked for a recommendation. The task at hand was to find restaurant that was good value and at the same time, the food had to be executed well. Since I knew my friend A and his family have a discerning palate for Cantonese cuisine, I was fairly confident that his recommendation would bode well with my dining companions. My friend A recommended Ken’s Chinese Restaurant on Kingsway as this is a place he often goes with his family for a casual dinner.
Like many Chinese restaurants, Ken’s has set dinners for two, three, four, six, or eight people. Even though there were four of us, we decided on the Dinner Set for Three ($40) as we weren’t particularly hungry and the portions are usually quite generous in these set dinners. The Dinner Set for Three included the Soup of the Day, three dishes of our choice from the special menu of about 55 dishes, a dish of either ranch chicken or marinated duck, steamed rice, and dessert.
Like most Chinese restaurants, the Soup of the Day is usually a home-style, slow-cooked comfort soup or what the Cantonese would call “Old Fire Soup. In this case, the soup was a pork broth containing carrots, and dried night-blooming cereus flowers (霸王花 or bà wáng huā). The flowers actually don’t have much of a taste but the Chinese believe they have nourishing and detoxifying properties.
The first dish we selected was Three Kinds of Seafood with Seasonal Greens. The three kinds of seafood in the dish included scallop, squid, and shrimp. The dish came accompanied with a dish of pungent Chinese salted shrimp paste (often known as hom ha). This is a classic condiment served with Cantonese seafood stir fries. I thought this dish was very well executed. The broccoli was crunchy and toothsome while the seafood was well-seasoned and tender.
Our second dish was Tung Choy with Chili & Preserved Bean Paste. Tung Choy is a Asian vegetable sometimes known as on choy or water spinach. This is a classic preparation for tung choy to be stir-fried with preserved bean paste (also known as fermented bean curd, preserved tofu, or fu yue). The preserved bean paste gives the sauce a distinct creamy flavour and goes really well with the tung choy. I thought this was executed perfectly. The chili provided the perfect amount of heat to the dish and complemented the preserved bean paste well. My dining companions were really impressed and commented that they could actually taste the “wok hei” in this dish, which is the essence and flavour imparted by a very hot wok during stir-frying.
Last but not least, we ordered the Beef with Ginger & Green Onion Hot Pot. This turned out to be my friend C’s favourite dish of the evening. The flavours were spot on. The beef was tender and flavourful. This was one of the better hot pots that I’ve had in a long time.
The set meal also included a dish of either ranch chicken (free range chicken) or marinated duck. We chose the Marinated Duck, which is better known as soy sauce marinated duck or Lo Sui duck. The dish is prepared by simmering the duck in a “Master” soy sauce based marinade (or “Lo Sui“, which translates to “old water”). This pot of “Master Sauce” is called “old water” because once this master sauce is made up in a pot, it never gets replaced. It is like the mother dough of your sour dough bread. The sauce only gets replenished and additional spices are added as necessary. The master sauce tastes better with age because the juices from the meat that is cooked in the sauce contribute to the flavours of the sauce and the flavours get more and more complex each time it is used. The dish of marinated duck was flavourful and tender. It didn’t have a wow factor but it was tasty and my dining companions enjoyed it.
The complimentary dessert was the typical sweet mung bean soup. I’m usually not a huge fan of it so I can’t really comment on this particular version.
Overall, my dining companions and I were pretty impressed with the execution of the dishes at Ken’s Chinese Restaurant. The decor is nothing fancy but the restaurant is clean. I would say Ken’s is a hybrid between a HK style cafe and a casual Cantonese restaurant. They do serve dishes that are typical of HK style cafes such as baked pork chop on rice yet they also serve more sophisticated Cantonese dishes. Ken’s has even won a few CRA awards for their seafood preparations in recent years.
Ken’s Chinese Restaurant