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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Indian X Chinese = Green Lettuce

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We've been to Green Lettuce several times now, at least three times for dinner a couple of times for lunch in the past 6 months, and it has become one of our most frequented restaurants in Vancouver.  It's not the most easily accessible restaurant for us on an given day as it is located at Kingsway and Victoria Drive but every time we have wanted to come here the drive has not impeded our desire in any way.  Their other location is in Surrey and none of us have ever been there.  This unique restaurant stands out because it serves Chinese dishes infused with Indian spices; in fact, it was the first fusion restaurant of its kind in the Lower Mainland.  Since its opening, several other Chinese/Indian fusion restaurants have popped up, mostly in Surrey, but Green Lettuce still holds its own very well against its competition.  The best part about this place is that the cooks and the servers have spent time in India and China and hence the food here is an interesting authentic mix.  Heck they are able to fluently converse in Chinese or Hindi or Urdu!  Just try them! The next best part about this place is that Nabs can eat almost every dish on the menu (Halal), whereas other places we are always on the hunt for Nabs-friendly dishes.
IMG_6983 copy贵宾阁 – VIP Club? AKA Green Lettuce

It’s a pretty easy to find location as it's located at the north-west corner of the intersection of Kingsway and Victoria.  The best place to park is on Kingsway right in front of the restaurant or just down the street from it, or around the corner on Beatrice Street.  The parking behind the restaurant (accessible if you turn between TD and Green Lettuce) is limited to 6-8 vehicles and can be difficult to manoeuver due to tight space.  Once you find parking though, you're in for a treat.  Upon entering you're welcomed in to a small greeting area that is semi-separated from the main dining area.  This waiting area can get preeeettyy packed at busy times of the day so you better hope someone is finishing and leaving when you arrive.  In fact, every time we've come here its been pretty packed.  Empty seats are usually not visible.  Once you're seated though, the service is friendly and quick and has not cause us disappointment yet.
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IMG_7003 copy The menu here is pretty vast and has a lot of options in it.  The appies here are delivered in good portion sizes so don't pass up the opportunity to try some of their tasty appies.  All items on the menu have chili's drawn beside them to indicate how spicy they are ranging from none - 3 chilies.  On this visit we had a co-worker with us so we were able to order more food than usual.  Since she is a spicy food buff and I have a higher tolerance for spicy food than Rich or Nabs, we decided to be risky and order some spicier dishes than usual.  We ordered a medium tofu veggie hot and sour soup, fish pakoras, spicy veggie dumplings, kung-pao chicken (three chilies), beef fried rice (no chili), and pili beef (three chilies).  The beef fried rice here is our favourite dish and we had to keep with the tradition and order it this time as well.  With 3 entrees, one soup and two appies, we weren't sure if we would all be full but their portion sizes are generous and the food was more than enough.
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Hot and sour soup: Green Lettuce's offering of the classic "Chinese" soup isn't particularly exciting with the usual spicy and sour flavours. The tofu and veggie version contains some small slivers of tofu, sliced carrots, wood ear mushrooms, bamboo shoots and cilantro as a garnish. The medium bowl cost $5.75 and was enough for one small bowl for each of us. As I don't particularly like the taste of cilantro, I quickly offered to serve the soup and managed to distribute most of the cilantro to my three dining buddies before filling my own bowl. I liked how the soup was not too thick (i.e. too much starch). However, be warned that this soup is quite spicy! It was just what I needed on this snowy winter day in Vancouver; especially since we were seated really close to the front door, which kept opening and closing letting in more customers and the cold cold wind! IMG_7018 copy
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Fish Pakoras: This dish is Nabs's favourite appetizer ($9.95). It's a fairly large portion that can easily pass as an entree. This dish is small pieces of basa fillet covered in pakora batter that are deep fried and then served with a chili vinegar sauce. Nabs commented that this dish is pretty much like a South Asian version of French fries or chicken nuggets. Green Lettuce also serves veggie and chicken versions. The pakora batter has a very distinct taste that I suppose could be an acquired taste for some people. We were speculating that the spices cumin and tamarind might have been used, but it is definitely a multi-spice concoction. These little mouthfuls of deliciousness didn’t last too long at our table. Since Rich was too busy taking pictures, he didn’t get to have too many pieces. What can I say? You snooze you lose Smile
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Next up were the Hot Chili Veggie Dumplings with Garlic ($5.50). This was essentially an order of 紅油水饺, which is actually a traditional Szechuan dish. I was very curious how Green Lettuce was going to attempt this dish. At the same time, our co-worker was really craving spicy food and the three chilies beside this dish's name convinced her to order it. There is also a chicken version, but out of respect for Rich's anti-chicken eating habits, we opted for the veggie dish. The filling of the dumplings consisted of vermicelli noodles, carrots, wood ear mushrooms and green onion. The dumplings are then garnished with a generous amount of chili peppers, red peppers, garlic, and cilantro. I found the filling quite bland and the amount of vermicelli really overwhelmed all the other ingredients. The flavour is all in the sauce, which is so dominated by the spicy sauce that you can’t really taste anything else. I probably wouldn’t get this dish again.
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After our appetizers, all the entrees were served at once. The dish above was Kung Pao Chicken (宫保鸡丁 – $11.75), which is another Szechuan dish! I can’t wait until I can bring Rich to Szechuan and have some authentic Szechuan food. Although this dish was rated as three chilies for its spiciness, I didn’t find it very spicy at all – at least not compared to the other three chilies dish we ordered. As per tradition, the dish had diced chicken breast with peanuts dried chilies (the small kind, not the traditional fat “facing heaven peppers” (朝天椒). However, the peanuts were unroasted and not crispy. Sad smile The tongue-numbing peppercorns were also conspicuously missing. Alas, true to its Western incarnation, the dish was also abundant in green bell peppers, celery, baby corn and onions. Not as good as traditional Kung Pao Chicken, but not a bad Western interpretation. Plus it’s probably the closest Nabs will ever get to Kung Pao Chicken. One thing to note: where are the Indian fusion flavours in this dish?
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IMG_7062 copy As you can probably guess, the dish pictured here is the all-time favourite Green Lettuce item: beef fried rice! This is quite a large portion of fried rice very reasonably priced at $9.75. The dish is just exploding with ingredients: from tender beef slices to peas, carrots, onions, eggs, cilantro and green onion. Nabs likes this dish so much that he’s under the delusion that the dish is called Nabs Fried Rice; and Rich can never say no to a plate of good fried rice. Winking smile To be honest, we didn’t have a very good taste of this dish tonight, thanks to the next dish, which I will explain shortly. Thus, I’m describing this dish mainly from memory. The definition of good fried rice is that all the rice grains should be separated, which can clearly be seen from the pictures. We think that Green Lettuce probably adds some soy sauce and tamarind powder, which gives the dish a mild spiciness. At the end of the meal, Nabs declared that he was full, but still wanted to finish as much of this dish as possible. At this point, there were no more beef pieces left, so he started picking out the peas. When we asked him why, he confidently stated that he was going to eat the most valuable ingredient. Nabs, peas are more expensive per pound than cilantro? Winking smile 
This last dish is called Pili Beef, coming in at $13.25, easily the most expensive and the most spicy dish of the night. Although it has the same three chilies rating as Kung Pao Chicken, the level of spiciness was definitely not on par with each other. Seriously be warned, this dish is TONGUE-NUMBING. In fact, so numbing that Nabs and Rich downed probably 5-6 large glasses of water and essentially became full on water. This is also the reason why Nabs and Rich didn’t devour the fried rice like they usually do. Plus, I have now proven my claim that I can tolerate more spicy food than Nabs! haha~ As for the dish, it had lots of tender pieces of beef, along with peas, carrots, and onion, all drenched in one of the spiciest sauces I’ve ever had. I think I tasted a mixture of Tabasco sauce, tomato and cayenne pepper. When I asked the server, all he told me was that the sauce is ground-up peppers. I probably wouldn’t order this dish again (or its chicken and prawn counterparts). IMG_7056 copy
Green Lettuce also offers a lunch special menu that features a number of meat and veggie dishes with rice for $6.50-$7.00. Rich and I have tried it two times and were not disappointed with our choices.


The Yummies:
  • Delicious beef fried rice!
  • Relatively good service for such a busy restaurant
  • Decently priced – can have a very good dinner at $15-20/person
  • Unique Chinese-Indian fusion flavours
The Yuckies:
  • Quite popular – can be very crowded around meal times!
  • Parking can be limited, but free parking can still be found Smile
  • The menu’s spiciness factor isn’t entirely accurate – so order dishes at your own risk!

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