During a visit to the Empire Center shopping plaza in Richmond, our intended destination was closed for the day, so we decided to chance upon Chef Tony.
This relatively new place occupies the former King Buffet on No 3 Road (and was the former location for Hon’s before that).
The waiting area is quite elaborate.
The dining room is almost glaringly bright, with a curious mix of elegant and ultra modern.
On our first visit, we stopped for yum cha. This is the dimsum menu
Everything appears to be familiar dishes with a curious twist.
We started with flaky almond meat loaf sticks
I’m not making the name up, that’s what it’s called on the menu. I’ll write it off to a weak translation. This dish is a roll of pork and prawn meat, surrounded by almond flakes and baked. It’s served over sliced cucumbers. It’s not bad. The pork and prawn center had decent flavor and seasoning, the almond crust was crunchy. I suppose this is good for gluten-free diners, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what the chef was thinking about when he came up with this one.
Next we had the yi dong special egg custard tarts
Egg tarts are kind of a must-have for us. These are fantastically delicate and flaky pastry tarts filled with a light egg custard, and baked. Easily the most tender and flaky pastry I’ve tasted in years. The egg custard is smooth and light, less “eggy” and more milky that most other egg tarts I’ve had. I’m not sure, I think I picked up a slight hint of almond in there as well.
Next we had shrimp nori and pineapple spring roll
These are the basic prawn spring roll, with a twist. The pineapple adds a little element of sweetness. The nori, while visible, doesn’t add much to the taste. It’s largely masked out by the taste of the prawns. There was some nice crispy crunch from the roll casing.
This was followed by pork spareribs with taro in black bean sauce
The twist here is the use of taro root on the bottom (instead of squash). The pork spareribs are tenderized and accented with black beans, garlic and hot chilies. The garlic flavor was pretty mild. This was pretty good.
Next we had meat and dried shrimp sticky rice dumplings
This is seasoned minced pork and dried shrimp in a rice ball, deep fried. No unusual twist with this one, at least not that I can detect. These were just okay. The filling had enough flavor, but the fried rice ball wasn’t particularly crispy. It think it could have used a few extra seconds in the deep frier.
Lastly we had ground beef ball
This was an accident on our part. We ordered the wrong thing when we checked the wrong box on the order card. That said, this was pretty good. It’s marinated finely minced beef and pork ball, accented with cilantro and water chestnuts, steamed and served over watercress. I didn’t notice any dried orange peel (which is good, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care for dried orange peel).
Overall, the dim sum was pretty good, albeit a tad pricey.
The room is very bright and clean (there are numerous small private dining rooms off on the western side of the restaurant).
The service, as chinese restaurants go, is quite good. Attentive and prompt, and about as pleasant as chinese servers get.
Update: we returned for a second visit to Chef Tony, this time for dinner. Was unable to photograph the menu, since it was not yet available as a hard copy (it exists only as an electronic copy on an iPad which the waiters leave with the customer until they place their order).
This was the soup
I’ll be honest. I have no idea what this soup (or anything else ordered) was, since I didn’t have a hand in choosing the meal. This is a soup made from dried fish, lean pork, sliced arrowroot and dried beans. The broth is pretty good and surprisingly not very fishy tasting.
Next was the mixed vegetable plate
This is basically lightly stir fried mixed vegetables (gailan, beans, peppers, onions, black fungus, lotus root, and ginko nuts. No noticeable twist this time. This was pretty good, but nothing special, and actually a rather small portion.
Wext was rack of lamb and mushrooms
This is marinated and grilled lamb chops (cut from the rack), served with fried basil leaves and battered deep fried mushrooms. The lamb was tender and very flavorful (marinated in soy and sugar). The deep fried mushrooms were overwhelmed by the deep-fried batter (couldn’t really taste the mushrooms), but they had a nice crunch.
This was followed by braised pea shoots
This is a large portion of pea shoots blanched in chicken stock with roasted garlic cloves. This was pretty good. The pea shoots were cooked to the right doneness, there were fresh and tender. The stock had lots of flavor.
This is the weird one. It’s dry style stir fried rice noodles with beef and gai lan
The noodles were fresh, the beef had decent flavor, and the gailan and mushroom stems were tender and everything was well seasoned. But the twist here was the use of truffle oil. So far, I’m not a fan of truffle oil. It does nothing for me, actually, I find the aroma somewhat unpleasant. So for me, I think it spoiled an otherwise decent dish.
Finally we had crispy skin chicken
This is partially de-boned air dried chicken that’s cooked with cascading hot oil, chopped and served with small pastry cups of fruit salad (rather than the usual prawn chips). This was a disappointment. The chicken was a little overcooked so it was dry. The pastry cups of fruit salad (dressed in sweetened mayonnaise) were okay, but not necessarily an improvement on the classic prawn chips.
For dessert, the ubiquitous red bean soup
This was okay. Not too sweet, and no noticeable dried orange peel (again, this is a good thing in my books).
The dinner service was pretty good. Very attentive and quick to replace dirty plates.
Overall, the dim sum fare was better than the dinner dishes (at least for the items we ordered). And it’s quite pricey relative to many other restaurants.
Judging by the photos in the waiting area, Chef Tony’s specialty is abalone. We didn’t try that, perhaps that’s the ultimate test for this restaurant.