Every time I visit Vancouver, my fiancée’s family insist on taking me out to eat – naturally you’ll hear no complaints from me! This time, the cuisine of choice was Sichuan and we went to 89 Degrees Wonderful House Restaurant (I can only imagine something was lost in translation). To be honest, without their recommendation I wouldn’t have looked at this place twice but they’ve never led me wrong before. It’s a small place with around 30-40 covers are only two large circular tables for groups. The staff are efficient and keep a watchful eye over the table to ensure that new dishes are brought out as soon as you’ve eaten a space clear.
What you need to know:
- This is great for groups but you need to book ahead
- Get the duck. You haven’t had duck till you’ve had it here.
- Oh and the crab – it was a monster dish but delicious
- You can get leftovers (if there are any!) as takeaway so no worries there
Food: ★★★★★ Service: ★★★☆☆ Atmosphere: ★★☆☆☆ Value: ★★★★★ Overall: ★★★★☆ Meeting friends?
What to drink?
Unlike London, there isn’t as much of a pub culture so you don’t need to spend an hour in the pub before you gather enough people for dinner. That being said, there is a pub just down the street called Wings which will do in a pinch if you need a spot to kill some time. Or just hang out at the restaurant which keeps ice cold beer readily available!
What to eat?
Here I run into a bit of a wall. The food is absolutely superb but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what the dish was called (Becky help me out here?). But we’ll give it a shot and, when in doubt, just show them the pictures on your phone and I’m sure they’ll get right on it.
The first set of dishes to hit the lazy susan were a minced tofu and greens dome, a spongy tofu saturated with a savoury sauce, and a dark smoked fish. The minced tofu dish had a distinct nuttiness but was largely clean and refreshing in its flavours which made it a great starter dish to warm up your taste buds.
The spongy tofu and smoked fish were quite a bit stronger in flavours but still maintained a lightness which avoided any premature feelings of being stuffed. Not to fear, we definitely got to that point later on in the meal!
Next, we moved on to a Drunken Chicken (tender steamed chicken cooked in a red wine sauce) and a hot and sour soup (a thick soup that was spicy and tangy – great to invigorating the palate before tackling the next line up). I’ve had a drunken chicken type dish in London and the cold tasteless chicken always put me off the meal. Here, things are completely different with a depth of flavour from the meat and red wine that was very moorish. In fact, I think the chicken being cold made for crisper flavours which would have been more overwhelming if you tried for a hot option.
At this point, I started feeling the first tingles of being stuffed but I knew that attitude wouldn’t fly with the aunties who had undoubtedly ordered a dish or ten. And they didn’t disappoint on that score as, after a bit of plate jenga, our table was restocked with a platter of smoked duck with hirata buns, some sort of chicken noodle dish, a stir fried veggie and pork belly dish, another version of smoked fish, a glistening beauty of a roast bbq pork belly, and last, but most definitely not least, a beast of a platter of Dungeness crab cooked in a sticky sauce and served with sliced large rice noodle.
Where do I even start? I ate everything (and liked it) but the stars of the show had to be the smoked duck and the crab. The duck was succulent and was infused with an addicting smokiness that just made you crave another bite. I was a bit worried that the smoky flavour would quickly become overpowering and cloying but the balance was perfect. In fact, the only thing that would have made that dish better would be the addition of that excellent old fashioned I had earlier at the Nordstrom Café (yes, you read that right).
The sticky crab was insane in terms of quantity and a quality. Each crab was cooked to perfection with thick juicy segments of crab meat still in the shell and plenty of rice cake and bread to soak up the sauce. There were over a dozen of us attacking the plate and there were still leftovers when all was said and done. I would have been happy with just the duck and crab dishes so all the other delicious courses were just icing on the proverbial cake.
And yet we weren’t done. Apparently no meal is complete without dessert (even if the group is barely staving off a food coma) so we were served up a sweet soup with black sesame dumplings. I’m not a fan of hot desserts (although this is a standard Chinese thing) but the black sesame dumplings were delicious so I devoured a couple of them. After all, I’m on holiday!
What about a drink?
Drinks of the alcoholic variety are fairly limited but the Sapporo was ice cold and served in actual beer glasses so that was a win for me.
If you want something non-boozy, there are a ridiculous number of options for bubble tea and smoothies with pretty much everything imaginable. I don’t know how any one could fit a smoothie in with all that food but then again I managed to squeeze a couple of beers so that it possible.
Worth the dosh?
I can’t quite say given that one of the uncles was up like a flash to handle the bill before it was even presented. But yes, that meal was epic and I doubt it was more than the CAD equivalent of £20 which is the minimum I would have paid for a meal barely a shadow of this one so it was most definitely worth it.