There’s a great newish Chiuchow Chinese restaurant in central Richmond called Parklane (百樂潮州酒家). We tend to avoid the building it’s in (with the London Drugs on the second floor) because of the tight, low parking lot, but Parklane is a nice and affordable place for group/family dinners, so I’ll try to overlook it.
Chiuchow (also spelled Teochew, Chaozhou) refers to dishes that come from an eastern region in Guangdong province. Less known than fiery Szechuan or mainstream Cantonese food, Chiuchow cuisine has some distinct marinated and braised dishes.
I liked Parklane as soon as I got to the door because they had their neatly typed set dinner menus in Chinese AND English on display. The dining room is surprisingly serene and tastefully modern. There was no blast of eardrum-splitting noise when we opened the door.
The set dinners are astonishingly well-priced — seven dishes for $78 or $118 that feed four people, or eight dishes for $108 or $148 to feed six. Almost all include the signature Chiuchow dishes that you would be ordering anyway.
We had seven people plus a three-year-old, so we ordered the $108 dinner for six, and added one more dish.
Up first was the marinated cold platter, a pretty standard appetizer. The neon-edged squid was thinly sliced and tender. The tofu, duck wings, pig intestines and pork belly are all done in the signature Chiuchow soy-based marinade. I find duck wings so lean anyway that they barely registered with me, but the other three items were really good.
Of course, intestines are a bit of a stretch for some people, but if you ever want to try, Parklane is a good place to do it. Intestines done correctly are tender and even tasty, having soaked up some of the marinade. Done wrong and they’re chewy and smell like bleach or mothballs. For realz.
Don’t let the title of the soup turn you off. The pepper pig stomach and salted vegetable soup is an incredible, unique tummy warmer on a cold day. White pepper jumps off your tongue, then segues into puckery saltiness. The crunchy, pickled vegetable plays off the soft, slightly chewy pig stomach in a clear broth simmered for hours.
Parklane’s version of the Chiuchow classic marinated duck is spot on. Slices of breast have the perfect ring of succulent fat. Dip it into white vinegar and yowza yummy.
The BBQ ribs with plum sauce appeal to the kid in all of us. Sticky, sweet, deep-fried ribs piled into a pyramid are finger-licking good. I couldn’t taste much plum sauce but I still ate quite a few of these.
The prawn and crab meatballs that we added had nice chunks of seafood in them, but the deep-fried wedges were nothing remarkable. I did like the deep-fried crunchy spinach that came under them.
The fried oyster omelette is another signature Chiuchow dish worth trying if you like oysters. A good one is crispy on the outside with soft bits of oyster and green onion nestled inside.
The stir-fried gai lan was sliced thinly on the diagonal to my delight. There’s nothing more awkward than trying to deliver an overly long, thick stalk of gai lan with your chopsticks to your mouth. Simple, flaky white fish fillets complimented the vegetable in this dish that kind of clears the palate after all the deep-fried, and salty items.
Minced pork and olive fried rice rounded out the dinner. It’s my new favourite rice because of the salty, Chinese preserved olive.
Dessert was sweet green bean soup. Hot, beany soup. Oh Chinese desserts. I will say that I could stomach this one more than others.
Service was notable because it wasn’t the stone-faced, throw dishes onto the table variety. The servers were attentive and courteous.
Parklane Chinese Restaurant, 200 – 7997 Westminster Hwy., Richmond, B.C., (604) 273-0888. Open daily 9 a.m.-3 p.m. then dinner 5-10 p.m.
High chairs and boosters available. Get the table in the corner with the windows; it gives the kids a safe corner to play in and to watch the traffic below.