Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ningbo Seafood Restaurant 寧波海鮮酒家


Ningbo Seafood Restaurant is one of the newest additions to Parker Place. The city of Ningbo is only 220 km from Shanghai, so the cuisines of the two cities are rather similar. The interior of the restaurant was bright and new thanks to the complete makeover from its days as a karaoke establishment. Unfortunately the service left much to be desired as we found we were given the most attention only at the beginning and near the end of the meal. At the beginning because they wanted to seat us as soon as possible, and near the end because they wanted us to leave so they could seat others. The mentality is that once you're seated, you're pretty much stuck and you have to pay the bill even if the service is crappy.


The owner must be super rich because the menu was one of the prettiest I've seen. The pages were thick and glossy, complete with coloured photos of every single dish. There was also a black and white photocopied special menu with great prices for a few of their signature dishes including XLB (juicy pork dumplings) for only $3.95. Of course they "forgot" to give us this special menu until we reminded them we saw it in a Chinese newspaper ad.


We started off with savoury homemade soy milk (鹹豆漿) ($2.20). The portion size was unusually small for the price; it was only slightly larger than a typical Chinese rice bowl. Unlike other savoury soy milk I've had elsewhere (like the one at Dinesty for example), the only ingredient in this one was Chinese doughnut. No preserved veggies, no green onion, no chili oil, nothing!


I saw the table beside ours eating the sticky rice cake with seaweed (苔菜粢飯糕) ($4.84). It looked quite interesting, so I decided to try it as well. The rice cake was made with densely packed sticky rice and seaweed powder, then it was fried, cut into slices, and fried some more to create a crispy and chewy texture. I liked the seaweed flavour, but the rice was very filling and chewing it was a nice jaw exercise.


The Chinese doughnut (油條) ($1.50) was one of the best I've had in Vancouver. The skin was crispy while the inside was soft, fluffy, and slightly chewy. I should have ordered congee with this.


The juicy pork dumplings (招牌小籠包) ($3.95) were excellent, especially considering the special price. The skin was the perfect thickness and there was an abundance of hot and savoury soup inside. The skin didn't tear easily despite being quite thin, so all of the soup stayed intact.


We had the red bean paste pie (豆沙鍋餅) ($4.36) for dessert. The skin was soft like a crepe and the red bean paste filling was smooth and subtly sweet.


A big flaw with this dessert was the excess of oil. The oil literally dripped out from inside and it felt a bit gross as I bit into it. Just look at the amount of oil left on the plate. I don't even want to imagine how much of that I actually consumed...


There's a long story about where this next dish came from. I had a deal voucher (which I bought for $5) that includes a choice between 2 dishes according to the description on the deal site. When I gave the voucher to the waiter, he said he had never seen it before and would have to check with the manager who wasn't in yet. We flagged down the same waiter several times after, and every time he would say the manager was still not in. Halfway through the meal, we lost our patience and asked him when the manager would be here and were then told that the manager wasn't going to come in after all. Uhhh well then why didn't he tell us sooner? At that point, he read the voucher (for the first time) and told us the dishes listed on it were no longer part of the menu. I asked him what the restaurant was going to do about this, and he finally agreed to check with the owner and came back with some "good news". We could pick whichever dish we wanted from the menu, but we were reminded that we would not be allowed the same deal "next time". So are they saying that if I had bought more than 1 voucher, I would not be allowed to use the other ones? Ridiculous... I hate it when a restaurant runs a deal and then refuses to honour the terms. So anyway we decided on the spare ribs in plum sauce (梅子寸骨) ($9.80) and when we ordered, the waiter quickly scanned the price and then said, "How much did you pay for this voucher? $5? Ok that's fine." And when we received the dish, there were a total of 5 pieces of ribs. I'm pretty sure the normal portion for a $9.80 dish would be much larger, so we didn't really get much of a deal at all. At least the ribs were good and the sweet and sour sauce was tasty and appetizing.


Oh and did I mention that the waiter then had the nerve to charge us $5 for the ribs on the final bill? He immediately fixed it when I reminded him that I had already paid for the voucher, but still I was not happy, especially after what I had already gone through. In terms of service and efficiency, this restaurant completely fails. I should be thankful that at least the waiter was courteous enough throughout the whole ordeal of me attempting to redeem that stupid voucher. Despite all the shortcomings, I would probably still come back to try some of the other dim sum dishes because the food was really quite good. I'm hoping for slightly better service next time.

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