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Friday, 10 February 2012

The Dynasty of Chinese Food – Dinesty!

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Yesterday, my ma and pa were going back to Hong Kong. Of course, being the good son that I am, I decided to have Ying treat us all to lunch before they take off! Since Dinesty (聚) was closed for a celebration party the other night (see Top Shanghai post), we decided to come again in search of yummy Chinese food :D

I first noticed this restaurant when I was stuck on No. 3 Rd years ago but I never paid much attention to it. The last few months, I have been hearing and reading much wonderful things about this place. So it was on the top of my list when it came to finding a good place to have food with my parents.

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IMG_7710 copySince we arrived quite early (11:30am), we had no problem getting a table. We were promptly seated and given tea. An ordering sheet (see picture on the left), was given along with the menu. I always like ordering sheets because it saves me the trouble of flipping back to the pages I had to memorize when I order with the server. Despite having an ordering sheet, we were given a menu as well. Chinese restaurant menus are eye candies nowadays. In fact, the darn thing looks more like a photo album  than a menu… Ying was matching up the ordering sheet with the pictures in the menu before deciding on what she thought were appetizing. The ordering experience was totally painless and quick. 

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The ambiance is rather enjoyable in this restaurant (see pictures above)! This place looks modern, comfortable and clean. I especially like the open kitchen concept. You can see the cooks at work preparing the yumminess you ordered in an efficient and sanitary manner (hopefully). Occasionally, you get the big fire coming up from the stove when the chef is tossing food using the wok (wow). Compared to other Asian diners we've been to, I did not feel like a sardine packed in a can.  

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After Ying diligently hand picked our lunch dishes, I waved down a server and she quickly attended to us. She took the time to review our order and courteously told us that they were sold out on the pork pan fried buns and fish soup dumplings.

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If you've read my other posts, you would know that Ying has this obsession to eat spicy food. The very first dish that came was to satisfy this obsession of hers. It is the Dinesty version of spicy beef pieces (夫妻肺片), a traditional Szechuan dish we also reviewed at Golden Szechuan several days ago. In terms of presentation and taste, Golden Szechuan blew Dinesty’s out of the water (after all, Golden Szechuan specializes in Szechuan delicacy)! Golden’s looked more appetizing with plenty of peanut flakes and cilantro. The beef pieces were more thinly sliced and there were more shank pieces at Golden Szechuan. Mind you though, today's offering was not bad at all despite the comparison. The meat used here was mostly tendons and stomach. Thus, giving the it a very chewy texture. Mixed in with Chinese celery and hot chili oil, this dish was a great start!IMG_7727 copy

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Look familiar? The above is the fried steam bun again (金丝卷)! We reviewed this at Top Shanghai and Golden Szechuan as well. We can never get enough of this delicacy. The outside of the bun was crunchy and the inside was moist. Sweet condensed milk was served as the dipping sauce and it truly complemented the bun. Thumbs up! 

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Ying got pretty excited when she saw this dish on the menu. It’s called 韭黃膳絲面 or Yellow Chives and Eel Slices in Noodle. Yellow chive and eel are her favouritest foods in the entire world. Yellow chive is basically normal chives grown without exposure to direct light, which results in yellowing of the leaves. This veggie is fairly cheap in Asia but pretty darn expensive in Canada (up to $13.99/ lb). Ying likes it because of the milder chives taste. To our surprise, the bowl of noodle was pretty big and had many pieces of eel. It was definitely enough for four people to share (in smaller bowls – see picture on the above left). Aside from chives and eel, it has green onion and carrot slices. It was not too greasy but a little bit too sweet for my taste, though typical of Shanghainese food. Ying commented that she will likely return just to have these noodles.

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Dinesty is famous for their different variations of soup dumplings (小籠包) and I can understand why after trying them. We talked about this dish on our Top Shanghai post. Dinesty offers more – the classic pork (which we got), kimchi with pork, and a fish one 翡翠小籠包 (which wasn’t available that day). The classic pork ones (picture above), came looking slightly shriveled, not as plump as the ones we had at Top Shanghai but the taste was better. The soup was flavourful (?MSG) and the skin was really thin. I do, also, like having my own vinegar and ginger slices dipping sauce so I can double dip without getting yelled at. IMG_7723 copy

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The above dish is 鮮魚蒸餃 (fish dumplings). The skin was thin and the fish was fresh. The bok choy inside gave it an pleasant texture and fragrance. However, it felt like it’s missing something -- excitement. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the soup dumplings, which I felt were superior in taste. My parents seemed to have enjoyed them. 

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IMG_7754 copyThe second last dish to come was the beef stuffed bun (牛肉餡包). Judging from the look, they weren't too interesting – circular buns that were pan fried on both sides. The amusement came only when we cut it open. Juice spilled out instantly and that was something unexpected, since the outside was dry and crunchy. It was an interesting sensation when you take a bite. Aside from this, like the fish dumplings, these buns weren't too exciting in the department of tastiness. I certainly don’t mind them as they are rather economical ($3.95) and filling. 

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The Taro buns (芋頭包) were the last item to come. Contrary to many Chinese restaurants, Ying appreciated how they asked if she wanted the "dessert" dish to arrive last. Upon prompting the waitress for this dish to be prepared, it arrived steaming 10 minutes later. By this time, we were quite full since the food was starting to settle. I jokingly remarked that they were boobie buns and that earned me a smack from Ying. If you are wondering what the red dots are on top, I don’t know. It is quite common for buns to have a dot of various colours on the top. My guess is that they help the staff identify the identical looking buns with different fillings. The colours used of course, would be based on the filling inside. Back to the taro bun, it was was sweet and moist. Unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy this dish as I was about to loosen my belt. I am sorry taro buns. I cannot talk about you with passion. On the other hand, Ying commented that she really enjoyed these buns, as they had plenty of taro flavoring and was not overtly sweet. At $3.00 for three of them, I suppose they were a decent  addition to our meal.

All in all, this dining experience was pleasant. The food was good and good value. The service was attentive as they filled out tea constantly. At one point, my dad dropped a napkin, and the waitress immediately picked it up and replaced it with a new piece. Impressive! Ying wasn't quite so impressed when she asked for the beef buns to be cut up and was handed a pair of scissors to do it herself though... The atmosphere was enjoyable and do not leave you wondering the cleanliness of this place. Ying and I even started talking about what we would get the next time we revisit. I would definitely give the kimchi soup dumpling a go. If you are wondering if Ying paid at the end…. Nope. My parents paid :) One other note, we noticed that there were enough veggie and fish dishes that maybe Nabs can have a dim sum meal! Stay tuned!

The Yummies:
  • Good service for a Chinese place
  • Plenty of parking space available, but too many Chinese shoppers occupying them...
  • Some dishes were done really well! The ones not done really well were still very decent
  • Affordable 
The Yuckies:
  • To be picky, the sun was in my eyes... escaping through the blinds they had pulled down
  • Other than that... no real complaints!

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