3366 Douglas Street
J: Ed, myself and professional photographer Qué Banh were to hold a proper Chinese New Year celebration but unfortunately Qué fell ill, leaving the monkeys to run the zoo.
We took two flights of stairs to the basement of the Red Lion Inn. A former ballroom-turned restaurant, Jade Fountain was populated. My reservation for Sunday brunch, made over half a week earlier, meant nothing. Instead, we were given a number and directed down a crowded ramp in the vicinity of the washrooms. Today it appeared, was not a good day to be of either Chinese descent or big boned. Fortunately I was only the latter. Ed and I played the child’s game of ‘Traffic Lights’ for a half hour, slowly making our way towards the dinning tables before our lucky 13 was finally called.
E: Be glad it wasn’t the unlucky number four. In Chinese or Japanese, the word has two meanings: either the number four or death. For the most part, it’s considered an unlucky number.
After finally being seated, we were promptly served with a nice warm teapot filled with oolong tea. Since this was technically brunch, I didn’t hesitate to say yes when our first temptation of the day was chow mein. I tore into it not only because I was hungry, but because it was very flavourful. The bean sprouts that I saw peeking out at me tasted perfect and I enjoyed the smoky flavour.
J: I’m sure number four died on that ramp.
I was offered beef buns but instead I was mistakenly given steam custard. I was disappointed with our server but she was soon forgiven after I sunk my teeth into a delicious dessert. The fact that the restaurant was so filled it looked like an exclusive nightclub was understandable. One of the reasons behind this popularity is the chef himself. Although I’m not acquainted with his name, I learned he developed a loyal customer base at Don Mee over a period of years. When he left for the Jade, many followed. And I’m sure there is a parting of the water in this story somewhere.
E: Or it could be that the stacks of bamboo containers weren’t properly organized. Seeing that James was as happy as a clam with these buns, that dish was all his to enjoy. Myself, it was the Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (蝦餃) and the Shrimp and Scallop Shu Mai (燒賣) that I wanted to enjoy next. However, I thought they were a bit on the dry side. They were plump, and the steamed crab eggs on top were a nice touch, but it lacked the exquisite flavour I’m more used to when served uncooked.
J: In my boldness I chose the ducks’ feet off the next cart but after one bite, I left it on my plate. I’ve had duck before but this one was steamed in its own juices mixed with a soy sauce. Frankly, it was too greasy for me. Ed had no difficulty in finishing the cooked webbed feet. Much of what we sampled on this trip was limited due to our table size. Many trays and carts stacked with steam baskets were sadly turned away.
E: Yes, I would’ve killed for cow’s tongue or even some tripe, which is sometimes served, depending on the restaurant. Even steamed chicken feet would’ve been interesting, but I suspect James would balk at that. Who would’ve thought that James attempt at ‘going out for tea,’ or yum cha (飲茶) as it’s known in Cantonese, would result in him not touching plate of delicious greasy food.
I believe that this time, it was a culture shock since this is food that he hasn’t tried before.
J: I have culture? I’m still in shock!
E: It’s either that or we’ll have to travel to Scotland so you can sit upon the Stone of Destiny and establish your true heritage. But I digress …. Although we may have missed the dessert cart, the final meal were the shrimp rolls. They were wrapped in a bean curd and deep-fried. I loved that they were fresh out of the fryer; the core was toasty warm and it wasn’t greasy or overdone.
J: It’s also known as the Stone of Scone. Why is it we have to involve food or food references in all of our trips?
With the spring rolls, Ed dipped his into the mayo while I kept mine pure. I savoured the spring roll as the chef intended. Oh Ed, you heathen!
E: But you didn’t even taste what the dip was made of.
After having tea with James in the Cantonese tradition, the meal came to $30.60, not including tip. In the end, we had two plates and five bamboo containers filled with goodies to try. That barely scratches the surface of what one can find during dim sum. In a bigger restaurant, there can be up to two dozen delights to sample.
We’re certainly going to be coming back when Qué is feeling better. But for later in the day, I was off to the Victoria Tea Festival to partake in more fun.
3½ Blokes out of 5