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Sun Sui Wah

We have tried both branches of this popular restaurant and came away with rather different impressions. This may have been mere chance, or it may have been a reflection of the varying quality of their branch on Main Street and their more suburban branch on Number 3 Road in Richmond.

Our first visit was to their Main Street establishment, where we tried a number of dishes including their signature dish, roast squab. We had a pleasant meal. The food was good, but it was just that, good, not great.

Our second visit was to their Number 3 Road establishment. This started with a bit of confusion, as we are urban and rural people, and less comfortable in the suburbs than in either the city or the country. The restaurant is located in sort of the heart of a shopping mall, or perhaps it was a mall-ette, though clearly bigger than a mini-mall. There was no sign visible from the road, so it took us some exploring, and getting trapped in complex parking lots, before we found the place.

Once inside, things started looking up. Our meal was excellent, the cooking fantastic and the service enthusiastic. We started with a wonderful deep fried tofu with bits of fiery jalapeno, and huge oysters with black bean sauce. On the East Coast, one thinks little of a dish of six, or even a dozen oysters, but on the West Coast, particularly as one gets farther north, the oysters get gigantic. In Tofino, at the Wickininish Inn, they were the size of pork chops and almost as hearty. Here they were merely huge and wonderfully rich and seasoned with black bean sauce.

Then came the Peking duck, strikingly crisp and richly flavored, the patches of duck skin were served with the usual pancakes, hoisin sauce and scallions. We the meat of the duck meat minced in bowls of lettuce.

A sign of the success of the meal was our inability to stop eating. Normal humans would have been sated by now, but we ate on. We savored the slightly green flavor of bamboo pith, here served with dungeness carb meat and chinese broccoli. Then, we scarfed down the thickly sliced bacon slices stuffed with some kind of shrimp paste. We then ordered one of the day's specials, fresh prawns served on a bed of shrimp chips with hot and plain sauces.

At this point, we drew the line. We had to get back to Bellingham that evening. We ordered one more dish, the pork chops in an orange based sweet and sour sauce that set off the sweetness of the meat.

Reluctantly we staggered out to our car, vowing to return. We hadn't even tried the roast squab, and that was their signature dish.

Our conclusion: an unqualified recommendation for the Richmond branch, but mixed feelings about returning the the Main Street branch. We might have just been unlucky, or it might have been the chef's day off. Still, after our great experience in Richmond, we might not want to take our chances.

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