Monday, April 19, 2010

Alvin Garden - first of the 8GTCC


Alvin Garden

4850 Imperial St., Burnaby

Alvin Garden on Urbanspoon

Food: 4

I usually start every post with a score for food, service and price, but this post I only scored the food. The reason is that this meal was special, because this was a cater dinner organized by Chowtimes. It was the first dinner of their Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine event (8GTCC). They have extended the invitation to their readers to join them on this quest to taste the 8 great Chinese cuisine.

The 8GTCC teams has decided the first dinner was going to be the Xiang cuisine (aka Hunan cuisine). The Xiang cuisine is known for it's liberal use of chili peppers. They also tend to use lots of garlic and shallot. The main difference between Chuan (Sichuan cuisine) and Xiang cuisine is that Chuan uses lots of peppercorn, thus resulting in a very numbing effect. Xiang on the other hand is just simply spicy.

After much research, Chowtime and the 8GTCC team has decided on Alvin Garden for this event. What started as a idea for a small group of people, turned into a mega event where a total of 52 people attended, that's the power of Chowtimes readership. So it's a good thing that the restaurant was relatively large. The reason I did not list the price for this place is because our meal was predetermined, thus the price was a steal. We had a total of 5 appetizers and 12 dishes of only $20/person (tax and tip included).
First up is two appetizers: Hunan pickled daikon/carrot, and spicy dried bean curd with celery. The pickled daikon were great, it was crunchy and spicy. I don't really like bean curd nor celery, needless to say, that for sure was not my favorite dish.
Next 2 appetizers are the 5 spice pork heart and spicy pork ear. R loved the pork heart, the meat was like extremely lean dense pork and quite chewy too. The pork ear was good, but way too spicy. After only about 2 bites, I was seriously heating up.
The last appetizer was the tea smoked BBQ duck. This apparently also won an award and I can see why. The meat was tender and flavorful with a nice smoked flavor, I will definitely order this again.
The restaurant sponsored a free soup to go with our meal. It was a one of those traditional Chinese soup that is cooked in a clay pot that take 3 hours to make. The soup had rich meaty flavor from the pork bone and a distinct sweet flavor from the corn.
First dish of the night is the Dongting boiled fish. This dish looked scary spicy, but really it wasn't that bad, as long as you don't scoop too much of the chili pepper up. The fish slices were tender and good, it absorbed enough flavor, but still was not too spicy.
This has to be one of my favorite dish of the night: Hunan Brasied Pork. The pork was packed with sweet soy flavor. The fat part just melt in your mouth. I highly recommend trying this is you are not scared to eat the fat portion of the pork.
This is the free ranged chicken with ginger. There was a distinct ginger flavor, which should be obvious by this picture.
Steamed Lingcod heads in chili sauce was very good as well. I find the meat on fish head are usually more tender than the body, and this also is the case here. The chopped chili pepper was actually not that hot, it adds a good kick to the dish.
Pork belly stir fried with jalapeno was overall a good dish. The pork was really thin, so it absorbed the flavors well. Actually I am not too sure if it's jalapeno, because it wasn't too spicy.
The stir fried garlic bolt with smoked pork was good. The garlic bolt was crunch and the meat was chewy. You know, I thought this was a Chuan dish, but maybe I am wrong.
This was R's favorite dish of the night: chicken giblet with Hunan white chili. This was by far the spiciest dish of the night. The white chili are extremely spicy, but it's such a rush to eat this. This is the kind of dish that once you take a bite, you will want another. All I can say is prepare to drink a lot of water or eat a lot of rice if you plan to order this dish.
This would be the beer duck. Despite the name, there wasn't really any beer flavor in this, but maybe that is a good thing, since I hate beer :P
I think the Cumin lamb was the biggest disappointment for me. Usually the cumin lamb is stir fried to a point, there are no oil or sauce left. But this lamb came drenched in oil/sauce. There was a distinct cumin flavor, but something was lacking.
This is our hot pot of the night: chicken with Hunnan chili and vinegar. This was okay, nothing too special.
The eggplant with garlic and chili was also another favorite of mine. The eggplant was soft but infused with lots of garlic and chili taste. This sauce would be perfect on rice.
The last dish we had was the spicy and sour stir fried potato shred. This was not bad, because the potato retained it's crispy texture.

In the end, this was a excellent meal. The food was good, the price can't be beat. Therefore I would like take this opportunity to thank Chowtimes and the 8GTCC team, for the hard work they put into this event, and let us the readers reap the benefit. All I have to say is I can't wait for the next event in the 8GTCC. :)


Ben and Suanne April 19, 2010 at 6:24 PM

Thanks for the write-up, Jenny. I was telling Suanne that you (and Tiffanie) were the ones who were providing the entertainment for our table with all your chatter. LOL! Thanks for making this such a fun evening.

TS of eatingclub vancouver April 19, 2010 at 7:29 PM

I thought the best dish was that tea-smoked duck. So good. My other favorites were water-boiled fish, garlic bolts, and the potato shreds. It was fun meeting you and R!

Jenny April 20, 2010 at 2:31 PM

Ben and Suanne: it was a fun night for R and I too, we had lots of fun chatting about the different Chinese cuisines, we can't wait for the next one in this series.

TS: It was great meeting you and Jojo too. Yeah, that tea smoked duck was excellent, how about you try it out and teach it to the rest of us :D

I Love Food Blog April 21, 2010 at 2:38 PM

That's ALOT of (spicy) tasty-looking food! Glad you enjoyed the meal.

Jenny April 21, 2010 at 7:21 PM


Indeed, it was A LOT of food and tasty too :)

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