Urban China

Growing up (half) Chinese, I had my fair share of exposure to dim sum over the years. It was always a weekend brunch activity, where myself and my parents, or sometimes a huge portion of my Lee family clan, would head to our favourite dim sum restaurant and satisfy our cravings for bite-sized shrimp and pork dumplings. Siu mai was life.

And yet, never in my life did I have dim sum for dinner until February of this year. In a world where you can get a Tim Horton’s double double at any hour of the day, or go to the gym at 2:00 a.m., it can come as no surprise that dim sum, traditionally served for brunch, is now served all day at a number of restaurants. I’ve never even considered eating it past the early afternoon, but when my friend Dana suggested we grab dim sum for dinner, I was intrigued.

Enter Urban China. I’ve heard great things about their dim sum but have never managed to make it out on the weekend. An evening meal was the perfect time to try out their dumplings.

The restaurant is well taken care of, with white tablecloths, plenty of traditional decorations, and a nice, relaxing atmosphere. It’s a little classier than many of its Chinatown competitors and the price point reflects that–it’s a few dollars more per dish than restaurants like All Happy and Garden Bakery, but the food is made fresh and the service is much more attentive. While I do love the occasional greasy spoon, Urban China is about midway between the bustle and bluntness of All Happy Family Restaurant and higher-end Asian restaurants like East. It honestly just depends on your mood.

And we happened to be in the mood for dinnertime dim sum. Do you know why there are no pictures of siu mai in this post? Because we ate them much too quickly for me to even grab a photo. They’re delicious. Firm, non-greasy, and tasty–a dumpling to write home about. The har gow (which, despite having gluten, never seem to affect me) were little pieces of heaven, wrapped firmly in dough that held together steadily when picked up by chopsticks. The sticky rice was delicious, but could have contained a little more meat for my liking.

One thing about going for dim sum in the evening is that, without the constant train of carts, you select only the items that you know you like. We didn’t waste space on trying out something new; instead, we indulged in multiple orders of our favourites (two pieces of siu mai is never enough for one person).

Overall, I was impressed with the food and the service at Urban China. It’s a little pricier than my usual dim sum haunts, but I’d rather pay a few dollars more for fresh, non-greasy siu mai, since the alternative can be extremely unappetizing (i.e. pre-closure Mirama). I probably wouldn’t go there if I was starving and looking to down a million pieces of har gow, though–those beautiful little dumplings just go down way too easily.

Urban China
10604 101 St NW
Edmonton, AB T5H 2S1
(780) 758-1888

3.5/5

97 Hot Pot (Lunch)

Hot pot. I can never get enough–especially once the cold weather hits (although I’ve never been one to turn down a summer trip to Chili Hot Pot). I usually don’t branch away from my favourites but, when I heard that 97 Hot Pot offered a pared down version of hot pot for lunch, I knew I had to try it out.

One of the most glorious and gluttonous things about hot pot is that generally, you eat your fill. Each hot pot restaurant charges a set price (usually $25-$30) and you indulge in a hedonistic all-you-can-eat extravaganza. Lunch, on the other hand, doesn’t quite give you the food baby you’ve come to expect from a hot pot experience…and that’s probably a good thing.

At 97 Hot Pot, $12.95 gets you your choice of broth, five items from their menu of entrees, and a bowl of mixed vegetables. Definitely not all-you-can-eat, but not exactly Weight Watchers, either.

Sauces

My go-to soup (satay) wasn’t on the menu, so I chose the Szechuan spicy chicken, which was delicious and had the perfect amount of spice–I still like to be able to feel my tongue afterwards. For entrees, I went with the sliced sirloin beef, sliced lamb, winter melon slices, Japanese crab sticks (some of these aren’t on the full menu but they’re on the checklist you’re given), and fish balls. The mixed vegetable bowl came with broccoli, a portion of corn on the cob, squash, sui choy, bok choy, and a handful of enoki mushrooms. And, since going back, I’ve tried the handmade fish mash, which is also very good, although I’d prefer a shrimp mash if it was an option.

Szechuan spicy chicken soup

Overall? I was really impressed. You get a significant amount of food for half the price of regular hot pot and it’ll leave you feeling full and satisfied, but not uncomfortably stuffed, which is perfect if you have to go back to work afterwards (as in my case). The food items aren’t as fresh as Chili Hot Pot, but everything was still extremely tasty and the service was lightning fast. But seriously, how can you go wrong for only $13?

Sliced sirloin beef and sliced lamb
Fish balls and Japanese crab sticks

I’ve been back since and will be going again next week, so I’d say 97 Hot Pot is onto something smart by offering a lunch version. Asian Express Hot Pot is currently also offering lunch, but I haven’t seen anything yet from Urban Shabu or Chili Hot Pot (though the latter might be a little too out of the way for a lunchtime excursion). In any case, I’d recommend this restaurant if you want a quick, tasty hot pot lunch but would defer you to Chili Hot Pot if you want to invest more time in an evening hot pot experience.

97 Hot Pot
10602 92 Street
Edmonton, AB
(587) 521-1888

4/5

ALL HAPPY FAMILY RESTAURANT

For years, Chinatown’s Garden Bakery was my go-to Chinese food hotspot. The dishes were delicious, the service prompt, and the bakery downstairs always sold my favourite curry puffs and peanut balls.

Dining there recently was a huge shock. I don’t expect to be eating food cooked by a Red Seal chef, but I do expect that my noodles will be fresh and al dente, rather than microwaved into a gelatinous blob reminiscent of an antagonist in a 1958 horror film.

When a restaurant goes downhill to this extent, it’s time to take up shop elsewhere. In my case, I moved my loyalties next door to All Happy Family Restaurant.

All Happy is best known as the place to go after a wild, drunken night at the bar. They’re open till 4am, allowing you to fill your junk food cravings after spending the night dancing and drinking your face off at Knoxville’s or Central Social Hall. It’s cheap, the food is served within minutes, and it’s a delicious alternative to a packed McDonald’s drive-thru.

However, unlike many of my friends, I also like to eat in Chinatown during the day whilst still moderately sober. I visited All Happy for a dinner with my friend Amanda–my usual date for a Garden Bakery romp–and we were sold. The noodles were as good as the Garden Bakery’s used to be and had all of the flavour that its next-door neighbour appears to have lost.

Amanda and I are purists when it comes to our Chinatown dinners: we order the same two things each time (but don’t worry–as a halfer, I’ve tried a variety of Cantonese cuisine and a smorgasbord of Mandarin delicacies throughout my life).

The Seafood Chow Mein was beautiful. Crispy, fresh noodles served as a bed for a mound of crunchy gai lan, tender scallops, shrimp, carrots, and squid. The sauce, which can turn to jelly if old, left sitting on a counter, or microwaved, had a perfectly thick consistency and was full of savoury seafood flavour.

The Beef Chow Fun with Gai Lan–my personal favourite–was so fresh and hot that I burnt my mouth slightly in my haste to devour it. This version of Beef Chow Fun is the ‘wet version’ (something you should mention if you order it in a restaurant), which differs from the usual ‘dry version’ that is stir fried in spices. I prefer the sauce on my noodles, which is why I order this version. It’s tasty and a nice change from the usual if you’re feeling only slightly adventurous. Gai lan is my favourite of all Chinese vegetables; known as ‘Chinese broccoli,’ it’s crunchy and has a distinct flavour similar to kale.

I also ordered a Litchi (lychee) Cooler, a refreshingly sweet drink full of litchis, which are great as an impromptu after-dinner dessert.

Dinner for two at All Happy came to under $25–a bargain and perfect for those who love a cheap and cheerful Chinatown snack. If you haven’t managed to stumble into this restaurant in the wee hours of the morning yet, give it a shot. Maybe even try it during the day. You might just like it.

P.S. They deliver! Just make sure to order an hour in advance.

All Happy Family Restaurant
10011 106 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5H v2S1
(780) 421-8297
Open 11am to 4am daily

3.5/5