Empire seafood is one of the go-to places for high-end dim sum and Chinese fine dining. Upon my recent visit here for a wedding banquet, I was impressed by the great quality of their signature dishes. I would definitely recommend them if you are looking for ideas of a fancy Chinese New Year dinner.
The Cold Platter is usually served before a multi-course banquet style dinner, and the one here scores big both visually and gustatorily. With roasted piglet, smoked salmon, crab tempura, five-spice beef, and surf clam, the items showcase different techniques in Cantonese cooking, and how they preserve the wonderful tastes of fresh quality ingredients.
If you want to order a whole roasted piglet, you probably need to call them to order in advance.
Each piece of the Fried Crab Craw is not merely a crab craw, the craw meat is wrapped around with fresh shrimp paste, shaped like a ball, then deep-fried. The bouncy texture and the sweetness of shrimp and crab are the highlights.
The Fresh Scallops with Broccoli and Oyster Mushroom is super delicate. I really like the little touch of fish roe in the binding sauce of the stir fry dish.
The Braised Abalone comes with pea shoots and a light oyster sauce. For fans of braised abalone, a delicacy that most Chinese folks highly value, the chef here does a decent job here to capture the essence of both the look and the taste. But as how pricey it is, I would rather recommend ordering a lobster or a fish, which is far more exciting.
The Whole Lobster is always exciting to look at on a Chinese fine dining table. And if you want the full experience, the lobster should be at least 2 pounds, so that there is enough meat to give you that succulent texture. The preparation methods vary from using ginger and onion, garlic, to even light cream, but there won’t be a heavy sauce to mask the beautiful sweet flavour of live lobster.
When you hear Fried Chicken, you probably would think of KFC, but the CFC (Cantonese Fried Chicken) is a whole different story. Cantonese chefs use an oil-pouring technique to crisp up the skin instead of dumping the whole chicken in the fryer the whole time. And there is no breading!
If you want to experience an authentic Cantonese dinner, you must try the Steamed Grouper. Using the freshest fish is the only option at a fine restaurant like Empire Seafood. The seasoning is minimum, with little bits of ginger, garlic and green onions, a bit of soy sauce and maybe a couple twigs or cilantro as garnish. However, this is the best way to enjoy the most natural flavours of seafood.
The Yuen Yeung Fried Rice is a usually served at Cantonese wedding banquet, as Yun Yeung means the pair of Mandarin Ducks, representing the happily married couple. But the technique of pouring a white creamy sauce or a red tomato sauce on top is more likely from Fujian, a neighbouring province of Guangdong, the home of Cantonese. This is giving the frid rice, usually a very dry dish, some luscious texture.
Cantonese folks love the E-Mein Noodles at big occasions. The long noodles, representing longevity and prosperity, are made with flour and eggs, very pleasing in both flavours and texture.
The sweet options at the end of the formal Cantonese dinner are not a lot, but after a big meal like this, light desserts probably make more sense. You usually find the Deep-fried Sesame Balls or Red Bean Puff Pie among the choices.
Like other high-end Cantonese seafood restaurants in Richmond, Empire Seafood provides solid authentic dishes and a terrific dining experience. The main dining room is large and bright. However, they try to jam too many bigger tables here, which brings up the noise level on their busy days. But if that’s not an issue for you, I highly recommend the restaurant for a fine Chinese New Year dinner with a bigger group of people (at least 8). Indulge yourself and get a whole lobster!
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