Food that’s worth the wait in line
At a glance
KEN’S CHINESE RESTAURANT
Where: 1097 Kingsway,
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
If you hear accents from around the world and see out-of-province licence plates in the parking lot at Ken’s Chinese Restaurant (a wallflower Chinese restaurant on Kingsway), I’ll tell you why.
Earlier this year, Conde Nast Traveler magazine mentioned a dish here in a story about Vancouver being “home to the best Chinese food in the world.” That’s got to have blanketed the world in 80 seconds and landed on many a must-do list on travelling BlackBerrys.
And the manager at Ken’s has, indeed, noticed a lot of licence plates from Washington and Alberta when he looks out the window.
And yes, I, too, loved the golden Dungeness crab for which they won the Conde Nast accolade, as well as top “crab dish” awards in 2009 and 2010 from the local Chinese Restaurant Awards. The dish was invented by owner/chef Ken Liang.
His scallops with Portuguese sauce and lobster hot pot are also award winners.
What impresses me most, however, is that he is one of the first Chinese restaurants to not-so-quietly remove shark’s fin soup from his menu because of the inhumane and wasteful process for this symbol of wealthy dining.
The soup is a profitable dish and it’s a deeply embedded Chinese tradition for large celebratory dinners (not so much weddings at his modest restaurant) like anniversaries, births, baby showers and birthdays. He served his last shark’s fin soup in March to a party of 100.
Ken’s menu can be confusing for a first-timer as it rambles. There’s a Hong Kong-style menu, group menus, a Chinese language one, as well as a lengthy a la carte.
I found the seafood to be fresh and respectfully cooked; prawns and scallops featured very good quality ingredients. A pork cheek with chives in XO sauce and pan-fried Shanghainese rice cakes were delicious.
Seafood dishes average $15; meats and poultry are about $11; and vegetable dishes average $10.
Liang was not always a cook. He always liked cooking but before immigrating to Canada 20 years ago, he sold radios and TVs in China. “My English poor, so work in kitchen,” he says in halting English. He did a tour of duty in 10 restaurants, learning as much as he could. And now he’s inventing dishes, like his famous crab dish. He dredges the crab in flour, deep-fries it until 70 per cent cooked, then cooks it in a wok with a sauce of egg yolk, garlic, butter and Chinese wine.
(You can view him cooking the dish for a TV show on the restaurant website.)
Regulars also like his Triple A beef tenderloin dish, Ken’s special chicken (somewhat like Hainanese chicken but not the same), clams with spicy sauce and from the Hong Kong-style menu, the lamb rack gets a lot of compliments from regulars.
It’s a busy place. Soon after we arrived it was full and people waited for tables outside.
In other words, on weekends, you’ll have to reserve if you want some of that Golden Dungeness Crab. At the time of writing, the market price was $11 a pound and the average crab is about three pounds.
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