I was happily satisfied and terribly stuffed after our last delicious dinner at Snow Palace, in NW Calgary’s Crowfoot shopping area at 25 Crowfoot Rise NW across from Crowfoot Dodge. We ordered the Peking duck, yu choy in preserved tofu sauce, and steamed tofu and white fish dish with shredded pork.
The 2 dishes, yu choy and steamed tofu w/white fish dishes were daily specials from their Chinese menu, not the English menu. In other words, if you want something more authentic in Asian flavors and textures, you have to ask the servers what is on their special Chinese menu. But, do note that if you ask, there is no guarantee that they know the English names of certain foods beyond their general category. For example, the server was able to say the Chinese name for the white fish we ate but didn’t know the English name. Best suggestion, in this situation, is (1) ask how it is cooked (e.g., steamed, deep fried, etc.), (2) trust their recommendations, and most importantly, (3) be open and adventurous. If you don’t like how the item is prepared (e.g., too deep fried sounding), explain you prefer steamed and ask if they have some alternative recipes in that style. Of course, it’s always easier to go with an Asian to have them translate for you.
The review now … first item: the Peking duck. You choose from either 1 serving (just the duck meat: $29.95), 2 servings (duck meat + a noodle plate, $35.95), or 3 servings (duck+ a noodle plate + soup made from the duck bones). The first serving comes with a plate of 20 Chinese ‘pancakes’ (flat crepe-like wraps), a small plate of onion slivers and sliced cucumbers, a bowl of hoisin sauce, and a large plate of juicy, fatty slices of duck, cut diagonally off the top layer of the meat. The rest of the duck is used in the 2nd and 3rd servings, a stirfry noodle dish with shredded duck meat and a soup using the remaining duck meat and bone. To eat the duck, you layer some hoisin sauce, onion, cucumber and duck skin / meat on a pancake. Wrap and enjoy the fusion of textures and flavor.
At the Snow Palace, the duck skin was crispy with a layer of tender meat. The pancakes were malleable and easy to use. The side of shrimp chip was crunchy instead of the possible rubbery taste of old shrimp chips. A tasty dish, albeit not terribly too healthy with all the duck fat.
The second item: yu choy with preserved tofu. Asians tend to assume that the preserved tofu is an acquired taste reserved only for Asians. However, in their version with yu choy, the flavor is subtle and mild. On the whole, the yu choy was tender but I would have preferred it a little more al dente. The portion size was huge but pricey at $12.95 for a simply vegetable dish.
The third item: steamed white fish with tofu and shredded pork. The server claimed it to be the restaurant’s signature dish and very popular with everyone. She warned that it would take 15 – 20 minutes to cook so if you were rushing out, you wouldn’t want to order this dish. We had the time so we decided to try. The fresh tofu lined the bottom of the plate followed with a layer of solid pieces of white fish (about 1×1 inch squares). Shredded pieces of pork was sprinkled on top of the fish with some slivers of onion finishing the dish. All this was steamed together. A combination of hot oil and light soy sauce surrounded the tofu and fish. The layers of tofu and mild fish were perfectly balanced, in my opinion, with the soy sauce / hot oil mixture. The shredded pork was a little annoying to cut through though. On the whole, a nice dish to wait for if you have the time. I tried to remember the name of the dish, but, case in point, she stated the chinese title that the chef named it as yet she couldn’t translate it into English. She told us that if we wanted to order it again then to simply mention a dish with white fish and a layer of tofu on the bottom. They’ll know what you are talking about.
The decor: It’s a typical Chinese restaurant that’s not chain owned. Clean but modest. A few small white boards with handwritten Chinese menu items listed on white board, a few well made posters, and basic linen and furniture. The ring of mirror around the entire room makes for uniqueness, one would say.
The service: The staff are friendly and efficient. They were constantly refreshing our glass of water and asking if we needed anything more. At the end of the meal, they cleared our dishes quickly and presented our bill with a small treat. For the ‘non-Asian’ customers (ones I presume ordered from the English menu), they were given fortune cookies. For us, we got small bowls of a sweet dessert made with small cubes of chestnuts and egg droppings, served warm. Yummy.
I liked the Snow Palace. Like I had previously mentioned, I rolled out of there satisfied and full. We even had a doggy bag with our leftovers to take home!
John’s take: If you want to try some more authentic Chinese food and not just the American style offerings that you will find at any of the hundreds of take away shops in the city I think you need to look for a place like Snow Palace. One that has a little less English on the menu that can offer customers a selection of flavors they may not have experienced before. It can be intimidating to do this, not to mention you may need to be firm in order to get food from the other menu especially if you don’t have someone that can read the menu or speak to the staff in Chinese. You should think as you would if you were traveling and persist, asking what things are or for suggestions. Authentic dishes are worth making the effort.