Epicurious 

Tea is the key

If you venture up the stairs next to Zog's, you'll now discover that there are two very distinct flavours of Asia living side-by-side.

For a new neighbour has moved in next door to the ever-popular Sushi Village - The Chinese Bistro - which means that you'll have to stand at the top of the stairwell for a few minutes while debating which cuisine you're in the mood for that particular night (isn't choice a wonderful thing?)

The Bistro opened up for business just a few weeks ago, setting up shop in the former home of Amami, totally transforming the space with a sleek new décor and layout in the process. But most importantly, they've brought in a brand-new menu and culinary team to get Whistler residents excited about traditional Chinese food again.

I was extremely excited to see Whistler's newest eatery actually has dim sum (which is a Cantonese term for small individual portions of food, usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate.) Dim sum is linked to the tradition of teahouses, which were located along the Silk Road and provided respite for weary travellers and rural farmers. Tea, they discovered, was key to aiding the digestive system during their mid-day meal - genius, I say! One thing is for sure, these pots of loose, fragrant teas also lend a certain air of authenticity to a traditional Chinese meal.

Consider yourselves forewarned, as well: the tea will be needed! The menu at The Chinese Bistro is massive (way too much choice can also be borderline stressful for those of us who suffer from "order anxiety"), so if you tend to get overwhelmed when faced with a multitude of options, don't hesitate to ask the friendly and attentive wait staff at The Chinese Bistro for their top picks. That's what we did. (And if you don't believe that the menu really is impressive, check it out online at www.thechinesebistro.tumblr.com).

We began our meal with the spicy chili prawns ($7.95), piping hot and crispy tempura-battered prawns tossed in a creamy sauce that had just a hint of heat, enough to have me reaching for my tea in preparation for the dishes to follow. Next up were two types of delicious dumplings - steamed pork ($4.95) and shrimp ($4.95) - served with hot mustard dipping sauce, followed by my favourite: crisp Peking duck spring rolls ($4.75). While the serving sizes may seem small when compared with our North American appetites, just remember that the beauty of traditional dim sum is the whole small plates-concept (kind of like tapas) so you just try a bit of each dish before moving onto the next! So on we went.

Shanghai-style pot stickers ($4.95) were bursting with flavour, and were clearly pan-fried rather than deep-fried (a big plus), with a crispy layer on the bottom. The roasted Peking duck with pancakes and scallions ($19.95, half order), while slightly unwieldy at first, was well worth the struggle: the sweetness of the onion was a perfect complement to the savoury, crisp duck. But the big hit was the duck lettuce wrap - or, as the manager dubbed it, the "Chinese burritos": iceberg lettuce leaves stuffed with a crispy, savoury duck concoction.

While we were sufficiently sated at this point, there were still two more courses to come:  the steamed black cod in black bean sauce ($18.95) and Yang Chow fried rice with barbecued pork, shrimp and peas ($10.95). The cod was thinly sliced and beautifully prepared, served in a green onion- and cilantro-scented broth, a lovely, light dish, but a bit on the small side, if you're going to be sharing. The rice was definitely not an Americanized, greasy version: loaded with pork, peas and shrimp, it was fluffy and soft, not hard or oily in the least. Last but not least, we cracked open the fortune cookies and washed them down with the last dregs of our tea. Gung hei fat choi!

 

 

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