The first impression of Lee Garden is the sheer size of the restaurant. With locations in Burnaby and Surrey, Lee Garden has established its name for quite a while and is always a popular spot among local folks who do not leave the neighbourhoods for dim sum and authentic Cantonese food. But is the restaurant good enough for people from Vancouver or Richmond to travel all the way? I am about to find out.
It’s that time of the year again, my birthday dinner organized by my beloved UBC friends. This year the other birthday girl Loretta suggested Lee Garden, which quickly concurred by me. I have always wanted to try the place, as the location in Burnaby is always a top choice for Cantonese cuisine in the city. However, Grace warned me – it might not be up to my expectations if I eat a lot in Richmond.
The restaurant has a parking lot in the back but it seems always full. There are also parking on the side streets and the best bet is the front of the restaurant on Kingsway. However, with the sheer size of the restaurant, it is quite the walk to the main entrance in the back if you park on Kingsway.
We didn’t waste much time placing our order. We didn’t go overboard this time – No Fried Squab or Winter Melon Soup. The menu is listed with mostly classic Cantonese dishes. The most extravagant dish is the Beking Duck ($55) 2 Ways. It came with 2 courses, the Crispy Duck Skin Wrap, and the Duck Meat Stir Fry. You can also get Diced Duck with Lettuce Wrap too, but for a table with 10 adults and 4 little children, you probably end up needing an extra charge of lettuce leaves. Both dishes are decent, with the duck skin crispy enough but the portion seems a tiny bit small.
The savoury clay pot dishes are warm and seasoned properly. The Halibut with Ginger and Scallion Pot uses Halibut collar pieces, tasty but not friendly to folks who don’t like fish bones. The meat in Lamb Belly & Fried Tofu Skin Pot could be a little tender. The Seafood and Vegetable Pot was nicely executed, exhibit sweetness from the seafood and crunchiness from fresh vegetables.
The Sweet and Sour Pork was surprisingly delightful. As one of the most common dishes, this is the ultimate test for any Cantonese restaurant. This is no Hoitong‘s but it’s better than the famous one at Golden Paramount, with light breading, fresh-tasting pork, and perfect texture.
The vegetarian-friendly dishes were enjoyable. The King Shan Tofu was tender and luscious while the Pea Shoot Stir Fry with Garlic is fresh and appetizing. For birthday dinner, the Pan-Fried E-Mein Noodles is a must. I like the version here with the aroma of shiitake and the noodles do not taste oily at all.
The bottom line: they nailed the Sweet & Sour Pork. That means a lot in Cantonese dining. Lee Garden reminds me of Continental Seafood in Richmond, a bit off the city centre but taking advantage of the cheaper rent to offer a huge space. For diners who like Chinese food but prefer somewhere a bit quieter and not so crowded, Lee Garden is a great choice. Food-wise, such restaurants would face the same issue – how to be consistent with handling so many customers at the same time. Our group dinner (10 adults + 4 kids) was quite decent considering there was a wedding banquet going on in the main area the same evening. The restaurant was fully packed. For Cantonese dishes more refined, I would rather find my way to Richmond city centre.
Lee Garden Seafood Restaurant 利苑海鮮酒家
6401 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC V5E 1E1
(604) 428-8885 or Lee Garden on Facebook