Review: Palais Imperial – Ottawa

272 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa, Ontario, (613) 789-6888 – Webpage

Date of Visit: August 16, 2011


Ambience and Service

The service on arrival was so rude and abrupt that I almost left. The elderly man who greeted me was waved me to a table in a surly manner, threw down a menu and then walked off without looking at me. Later, I had ask to a waitress to bring me dipping condiment and they were brought without a bowl to mix them. I asked the same greeter person to rectify this and he came back with much ill grace and rolling his eyes as though he had been put upon unfairly. The waitresses who brought me my food and drink were much better, though. One spoke little English and I didn’t interact with me much, but another was very friendly and was quite helpful in answering my questions about the food.

By the way, the Chinese character name (see the first line of Chinese characters in the picture above) reads  太上皇 酒樓, or  tàishànghuáng  jiǔlóu as pronounced in Mandarin. The first three characters mean ‘retired emperor’, or the father of the reigning emperor, hence, I presume, the word  ‘Imperial’ in the English name. The Chinese name does not contain the word for palace, rather the two characters 酒樓 translate most directly as wine building, which is one of the many ways in Chinese to indicate a restaurant. I can’t quite make out the first two characters in the next line but the final two, 粵菜 (yuècài), mean that the restaurant serves Cantonese cuisine.

 …

The Dishes

‘Footballs’ – These were identified on the lunch menu by the Chinese characters  咸水角,  pronounced  ‘Ham shui gok’ in Cantonese and xiánshuǐ jiǎo in Mandarin, meaning ‘saltwater horn’ (or ‘saltwater corner’). These so-called ‘footballs’ were quite doughy with a sticky, glutinous quality to the wrapper. The filling was supposed to be pork but it was quite sparse and really could have been anything. I know that sounds as though the dish was awful but, in fact, I quite enjoyed it. Rating : 3 out of 5.

·

Peanut dumpling – The Chinese name on the menu is 潮州粉果 (cháozhōu fěn guǒ). Chaozhou ( once Teochew) is an administrative district in Guangdong (Canton) province and fěn guǒ (fun gor) are Cantonese ravioli made with rice flour. The English name of this dish is a bit misleading actually as it contains no peanuts. The waitress explained that this is because so many people are allergic to peanuts these days and that they have replaced them with chopped barbecue pork.  The result was not bad but the dumplings contained a good deal of coriander which rather spoiled it for me. Rating: 2 out of 5.

·

Shrimp Dumpling – These are identified as 蒸粉果 or zhēng fěn guǒ on the picture menu but the waitress called them ‘Har gow’ (xiājiǎo). They were certainly not the standard xiājiǎo shape and the dough was not quite as thin and translucent as is usual. They were, however, one of the best shrimp dumplings I have had. The filling was a nice shrimpy paste with good size chunks of whole shrimp blended in. Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Steamed Squid with Ginger – The dish contained lots of fresh ginger and the steaming liquid was sweet and tasty. Unfortunately, the squid was a bit chewy and really could have done with being scored before being steamed. It was not bad overall but I have had better elsewhere. Rating:  3 out of 5.

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Chicken in Pandana Leaf – A very pretty presentation with a lovely aroma. The packages were deep fried in oil, which was very tasty but left the chicken a little dried out. It was served with a dipping sauce that had a very familiar taste but was hard to identify. It seemed to have been based on a dilute oyster sauce. Rating: 3 out of 5.

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Overall

The food was not bad but the excellence of the shrimp dumpling and the novelty of the chicken in pandana leaf dim sum only partially compensated for the rude service at the beginning.

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Palais Imperial on Urbanspoon

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