Ah, Chinatown. I used to go here all the time with my parents because when I was little, there was only one Chinese grocery store in Richmond, and only a few scattered restaurants. Talk about dating myself! For me, Chinatown can be summed up with dim sum, smelly meat and fish shops, cheap hair cuts and kung fu shoes. I went to Chinatown last week and had a stroll down memory lane. I couldn't believe how some of it was exactly as I remember (filthy, minging and chock-full of junkies) and other parts were modern, clean and completely unrecognizable as the same place.
The first stop on the Chinatown tour was Floata Seafood Restaurant. Holy cow, talk about a bad rating and some really nasty reviews of this place on Urban Spoon, haha! I've been to Floata before - a few times in the old Richmond location and once or twice before at the Chinatown location, but all those times, I never had a camera with me....strange. Anyway, I've only been to Floata for dim sum, and never had any problems, but after reading some of the other reviews of this place, I better get some shots before my next visit:
First, a couple of interesting facts. The restaurant can trace it's roots back to HK (that could explain the clientele's habit of "cleansing" their utensils with hot tea, haha!), and it's Canada's largest Chinese restaurant boasting a seating capacity of 1000 people = mass production Chinese food.
My buddy Vince got there first and started ordering food. They've got this early bird special for dimsum and it's a bit cheaper if you eat there before 11am. The place was filled with seniors sipping their morning tea, with one or two items on their table, reading their Chinese newspapers after their morning tai chi. Most folks were there just to hang out, and there wasn't a whole lot of eating going on there, except for me and Vince who were there to pig out on the cheap dim sum.
I'm starting to think that there must be a massive siu mai factory somewhere that all the restaurants get their supplies from. I swear this tasted like a lot of other places I've been.....or maybe it's such a simple dish, it's hard to get a variety that's done totally different.
I don't know what this was called, but it was basically a deep fried dumpling (possibly a wonton) with some veg and prawns (sea bugs as my friend Jeremy calls them, haha!) so yes, we had some bugs in our food during this visit.
Guts! As Vince says, it's all in the sauce. And the sauce here was basically sha cha jiang. The dish itself was pretty good overall, nice and tender, not chewy at all, and didn't have the strong aroma of stomach liner. Overall, not too bad, and not a catepillar to be seen.
The lo mai gai here was bigger than other places. I learned something about this particular item and apparently there's a difference when it comes in this size versus the steamers that come with two or three smaller ones.....but I forgot what Vnice told me. Haha, anyway, this one came with loads of ground pork and other bits of filling and no, there were no catepillars or plastic zip ties in it.
The steamed rice noodle with beef tasted as good as could be. The meat filling tasted like the typical beef meatballs (which is mostly fish paste, haha!).
The Chinese sponge cake tasted good too. It was nice and fluffy and didn't have any catepillars in it.
Be built a tower of steamers and wanted to see how high we could stack it before someone took notice and came a long to clear them......
.......we got pretty high before it was taken.
If you're expecting fine dining here, don't, especially during dim sum. I wouldn't say it's bad service, but rather lack of service. It's not like I could single out any particular server to be described as rude because when they did manage to get around to serving us, most were friendly. But I don't think the staff shoud be blamed for the ratings of this place. If they weren't so understaffed, they would be able to address the health and safety concerns, they would have enough people to clean the washrooms, and customers would not bne neglected, or made to fetch their own tea or hot water from the back end. Yes, on more than one occassion, we went to the back with our teapot to get our own hot water, sauces, etc. The staff didn't even bat an eye, as if it was completely normal. We started doing this because we saw many seniors (who were probably regulars) do the same thing.
As far as bugs in the food, well, I didn't read about that until after my most recent visit. I find that pretty gross, and it really makes me hesitate to go back because the restaurant wasn't particularly sanitary. The washrooms were filthy the last time I went, and customers are allowed to walk in and out of the prep/kitchen area, bringing in who knows what kind of filth. The shame and blame should be paced on management though, for keeping the place so understaffed and underpaid. If you overwork your staff and pay them bare-bones, they are not going to care if there are catepillars in the food. Floata could have been a grand restaurant, but the owners and management are running it into the ground. It will take a lot of effort to turn the place around. Well, on the bright side, at least the catepillar was cooked, haha!