First Review!! Imperial China

frontage

Imperial China's unprepossessing frontage

Imperial China is a large-ish restaurant on Lisle St in Chinatown. It’s unusual in that the entrance is actually set back from the main street and you have to cross a little wooden bridge (with koi carp swimming underneath) to reach the restaurant proper. This attention to good Fung-shui and aesthetic detail is, unfortunately and rather bizzarrely, somewhat rare in Chinatown but does enhance the experience greatly.

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Aforementioned wooden bridge with amusing papier mache bull

The first impression is that more thought has gone into the decor than average, with wooden panelling, a sunwell and handsome charcoal flagstones around the entrance. Although we didn’t take advantage of them on our trip, Imperial China has private rooms available for large groups, some of which come equipped with microphones and screens for karaoke, and as such might be a suitable venue for a birthday dinner. Ambience-wise, the light and airy interior and layout of the balcony 2nd level/mezzanine allows for a far less cluttered feel than at many of the larger and better known yum-cha dens on busy Gerrard St.

Ok so on to what we came for … the dim-sum. The quality of the food itself was patchy, with some standout dishes (the beef tripe and lion’s head meatballs in particular came in for much praise from our ‘panel’) marred by poor attempts at standard dishes (for those new to the world of dim-sum, these standard dishes often form the foundation of any yum-cha experience and as such hold a special place in every true junkie’s heart). The siu mai and har gau in particular were unanimously denounced as flavourless by our tasters.

As with any meal, drinks play an important part, and whilst one might go for a good full bodied red with a juicy sirloin, eating dim sum formed around the ancient practice of drinking tea (hence the reason we call it ‘yum-cha’, lit. ‘drinking tea’!). The usual selection of tea at many restaurants is confined to standard/low grade jasmine (茉莉花茶) tea which many now simply accept without further enquiry, however, a good tea can greatly enhance one’s yum-cha experience and so best to ask and see what’s on offer. At IC, tea-wise, they had a better than average selection and we went for an old favourite Tit Kwun Yum (鐵觀音) or ‘Iron Goddess of Compassion’ (after the Buddhist Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara/Kwun Yum), a very light and delicate green Fujian Oolong tea with particularly pleasant aroma.

DSC02285

Clockwise from top: seen juk guen, lion's head meatballs, ja leung cheung fun

So how did we do for our first review? Overall a pretty pleasant experience – great aesthetics with a lovely ambience, standard dishes a bit of a let down but with some interesting alternatives.

At a glance:

Décor/Ambience: Traditional/Modern, airy, quiet.

Food: 3/5

Service: Unobtrusive.

Value for Money: 4/5  (cost: £56 for 7 people)

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~ by yumchajunkies on September 2, 2009.

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