Fancy BBQ Duck & Rice @ Wild Rice

As a little celebration for birthdays and passing of exams (really just any excuse to eat, since we had already "celebrated" at lunch), our little group of coworkers went out for dinner at Wild Rice, which is right across from Tinseltown. I had actually never heard of it before, since there hasn't been that much about it on the blogosphere, and I rarely even go down West Pender. After the suggestion by my coworkers, I wasn't that keen on it after reading a post by Follow Me Foodie, but since they had coupons from the Entertainment Book (for B1G1 Entrees) and I stumbled upon a deal with letsgofordinner.com, I was too lazy to complain.

Wild Rice essentially serves "modern" Chinese cuisine, created by a non-Chinese, non-Asian chef by the name of Todd Bright. Maybe he trained in China for 7 years, I don't know. That being said, the restaurant was quite full, but with non-Asians.

Here's a long (and somewhat bitter) rambling from me: What I found to be really interesting was that the top of the menu states that their "our dishes are meant to be shared so they are served 'family-style'." Very interesting. We kind of ignored it because the bill would be easier to split. In the end, we found out that no one should take that blurb to heart because the way everything was served was most definitely NOT supposed to be shared. It's pretty ridiculous. Every dish already had their own portion of rice or noodles, on the same plate as the "dish" itself. If it's meant to be shared, the rice should come separately right?! You don't expect people to be picking stuff off your plate when you're eating the rice off the same one. Also, their "dimsum" dishes are super tiny and expensive. $7 deep-fried wontons? We all expected at least four wontons (I mean that would still be pretty expensive at $1.75 a pop), but what came were TWO wontons cut in half. Sharing between four people (standard family size I'm assuming) means each person gets HALF a wonton! (I didn't have the chance to take pictures since it was my coworker's). Anyways, I just found it ridiculous that they made that a point and in the end, it was a complete lie. Okay, got that out of my system -- onto the food:

Somebody ordered the hot and sour soup ($7, enough to serve 2-3 people, surprisingly), which was very different from the traditional Shanghai soup. It was very broth-like, not thick, and had a very different variety of vegetables inside. The soup kind of reminded us of the Thai tom yum soup more than hot and sour soup since it had a strong herbal flavour to it (but not exactly lemongrass).

As for entrées, one of us got the buddha's curry on jasmine rice ($13, $6 extra for chicken). I had a small piece of bamboo, but that was all I had. I can't really comment on the taste, but my coworker didn't finish it all because it was quite big.

As for my entrée, I ordered the yarrows meadows duck breast ($19), as recommended by Mijune. From reading the description "chinatown style duck", I thought it was going to be like the eight treasure duck from Golden Paramount, but it was actually just roasted duck! So essentially, I paid $19 for roasted duck on rice, which is usually much bigger. (Interesting note: you can buy an entire roasted duck for $12-14 in Richmond.) Okay, so eating off of a styrofoam plate is different from a ceramic one and the setting is entirely different. But onto the food: the duck breast was delicately placed onto small Shanghainese bok choy, which sat on top of some sweeter-than-usual soy sauce. (My parents found really weird when I showed them, but it was acceptable for me.) There was some rice on the same plate, molded by a bowl. Besides the fact that the rice was on the same plate, there were only seven pieces of duck. How was I supposed to share it "family style"?! The duck itself was actually pretty good though. The skin was quite different from the normal Chinese type and was much drier, but that made it more crispy. I know some Chinese places can make the skin not as dry, yet the crispiness level is still the same. The meat itself was actually really tender, and it was deboned. One of the pieces didn't have any meat though, just skin and a huge blob of fat.

As for the rice, there were quite a few grains on my dish that were really hard and impossible to bite into. Eating this dish was a totally different experience from having the standard BBQ duck on rice since I would just use a plastic soup spoon to transport the rice into my mouth. But here I was quite the lady and used a fork and a chopstick since no spoon was provided. The rice was also sitting on top of more soy sauce, so the bottom grains were drowning in sauce. I ate every grain of rice though, since I was hungry and still hungry after the whole meal.

Even with the coupon, I still found it to be an expensive BBQ duck meal. Yes, the setting is different and this one here is probably a tad healthier with less fat on the duck, but still. I didn't really enjoy and neither did my coworkers.

Wild Rice
117 W Pender St
Vancouver, BC V
(604) 642-2882
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Nowadays, I don't really care about chef's origin. Granted, knowing the culture might have a slight edge; however, that does not mean he/she can't learn or that, because you are of that culture, the food they send out is automatically "good". What works against chefs in Vancouver trying to do Asian (specially Chinese) is the abundance of Chinese restaurant offering traditional good eats and, a lot of times, at a cheaper price. What bugs me, though, is one word: fusion - or, as some of us like to say, "confusion". Those attempts to mix two different unrelated cuisines can then blame disastrous results to the fact "it is fusion!".

As for Wild Rice, I have never been tempted to try it, specially when they were featured in Opening Soon (I think that was way back in 2001). That concept does not work for me because… Well, they don't cater to you or me. Probably because we have certain expectations for a Chinese "themed" food (specially in terms of what is served, how it is served and, most importantly, $$$). However, I am certain "white" people (as you noticed) will like it. I guess that's the reason why Bao Bei and Terracotta succeeds?

@KimHo: That's true, especially since I guess Wild Rice wasn't really trying to go for "authentic" Chinese cuisine, but more like "fusion" as you said. Yep I know they definitely don't cater to us, but rather those who are looking for drinks and somewhere "hip" to be (and have excess money to spend) might like it.

Someone told me about Bao Bei, but I'm a bit hesitant to pay that much for a shao bing. I have heard that there is a good mix of Asians and Non though...

I agree with Kim, and I similarly had a pretty bad experience at Wild Rice. Tiny portions of "Fusion" food that was overpriced. I always have hope for these places because I think it's a great idea to have Chinese fine dining, but I just haven't come across any "fusion" Chinese restaurant that has been able to pull it off successfully.

@Kim: I was excited about trying Zen... that was until the deal voucher fiasco happened. I got my voucher refunded since the owner told me when I made a reservation over the phone that I couldn't use it to order for the whole family. Then I read some reviews where people said for their 6-course tasting menu, steamed rice was apparently one course, and plain veggies was another course. Then I figured I wasn't interested in giving my business to dishonest establishments like that.

Hakkasan from what I heard is run by the sister of Zen's owner after they had a fallout? Have you been there and would you recommend it?

Krispymilk, I haven't been to either one and I have absolutely no interest in going. The Chinese in me prohibits me from going to such fancy places when "regular" Chinese restaurants will do just fine.

@krispy/Kim: I haven't been to either of those two either, but I have heard that Hakkasan was becoming cheaper and cheaper just because it wasn't able to sustain itself. That was a year or so ago though, so I was kind of surprised Kim mentioned it since I thought it wouldn't make it. Somehow "Chinese Fusion" does not have an appeal in Richmond.... I wonder why.....

I've been there twice over the last month thanks to the coupon promotion, but found both times to be dissapointing in everything except how the room looks.

Food wasn't great, price very high...

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