Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A tale of two menus

If you can't read Chinese, you're better off eating at Huangpu River rather than ordering takeout

  • Print

The name is the same, and the plain but comfortable interior looks the same, but this isn't the Huangpu River I reviewed approximately eight years ago. No longer can we have that rare Shanghai soup dumpling -- the one with the soup inside; in fact, we can't have any dim sum at all. The restaurant is under new management and everything is new -- the owners, the chef, and the menu.

There's nothing new about the takeout menu, though, which reads like most you've ever seen, right down to the dry wontons, chop sueys, chow meins and anything sweet and sour. But look on the other side and it becomes clear that this isn't just another neighbourhood takeout joint. These listings are printed in Chinese only, close to 200 of them, with not a single translation -- annoying to those of us who won't be able to eat authentic Chinese at home, but proof, on the other hand, that the restaurant caters to a knowledgeable Chinese clientele.

In other words, for the real stuff you'll just have to visit the restaurant, where the wide-ranging in-house menu lists all those mysterious items in English -- possibly even more of them -- with glossy colour photographs as helpful guides. The chef, we were told, has cooked in different areas of China, and the menu features dishes from various provinces. Portions are copious enough to feed four to six easily, with leftovers, with most main courses are priced from $10.95 to $12.95. The choices are varied and interesting enough to give me a headache when trying to make decisions. The servers though, were wonderfully patient during my dithering, and knocked themselves out to help.

The hot sour soup was robust and flavourful, but needed a few splashes of Chinese red vinegar to live up to its name. It wasn't actually needed, but the same vinegar is optional in the delicately flavoured deluxe seafood soup, liberally crammed with bits of shrimp, scallops, squid, bean cake, squiggles of jellyfish, and streaks of egg white -- so satisfying I was inclined to forgive the many pieces of fake crab meat.

There are a number of interesting cold dishes. Crunchy, noodle-like jellyfish with slices of chicken, glossed with a sesame sauce is common enough. Not, however, the mysteriously named Icy Smoked Petittoes, which we assumed was a misspelling of potatoes, but which turned out to be chewy, galantine-like slices of boned pigs feet, jazzed up by a bracing topping of ice-cold minced garlic and chili. And not the harmless-sounding but tongue-searing surprise of Spicy Beef with Cucumbers, which was one of the hottest dishes I've ever had -- spicy dishes are marked by pepper symbols, but they don't always tell the whole story.

The undisputed winner of two visits was the superb Sizzling Iron-Plate Eggplant, the skin crisp, the inside meltingly tender, stuffed on one visit with ground pork, on another with sliced pork, but on both grilled to a miraculous crispness and cloaked in a slightly sweet, slightly nippy sauce, with a few token spears of broccoli on the side.

Another gem -- listed as Chicken in a Copper Pan -- turned out to be little bone-in nuggets strewn with whole garlic cloves and slices of ginger, sealed in foil and baked, a process that concentrated the flavours wonderfully. Also excellent was Three Sauce Chicken, cooked in soy sauce, wine and sesame oil.

A simple-sounding but delicious dish of stir-fried crunchy green beans sprinkled with salty crumbs of pork was only moderately spicy. They didn't hold back on the spices for the chili-flecked Mapo Tofu bean cake with pork, and I also liked the tender chunks of pork boldly seasoned with cumin, and the beef stir-fried with mushrooms in a rich brown sauce,

Don't miss the plump, juicy shrimp dotted by candied walnuts -- not (thankfully, at least for my taste) glopped up with mayonnaise as I've sometimes had it elsewhere. Also good was a combination of shrimp, scallops and remarkably tender strips of squid stir-fried with gai lan and plenty of garlic.

As if 200 items on the menu aren't enough, there are specials listed in Chinese only on a board near the entrance, and our server was kind enough to translate some of them, and wise enough to steer us to two of them. Both were terrific -- salty-crisp balls of sweet-fleshed basa fish in the lightest possible coating of crumbs, and a casserole of an unnamed fish (basa, I think) in an intense, almost winey sauce.

The Singapore-style vermicelli with tiny shrimp and bits of barbecued pork was OK, but I think I'd skip it next time, since it is available everywhere, in equally OK versions. I definitely would skip the ho fan flat rice noodles with beef that tasted pulpy from tenderizing in a bland, undefinable sauce.

The only dessert is a kind of watery tapioca; I don't recommend it.

Service was attentive and super-friendly, although by 6 p.m. on a Saturday night, we were in competition with innumerable takeout orders, and it did occasionally bog down. Like most Pembina Highway addresses, this one is also almost invisible, so note that it is just past Plaza Drive, and the entrance to the strip mall is marked by the huge A&W sign.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2012 C3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

The Creation of Wicked

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Two Canada geese fly Wednesday afternoon at Oak Hammock Marsh- Front bird is banded for identification- Goose Challenge Day 3- - Apr 30, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Geese fly in the morning light over Selkirk Ave Wednesday morning- Day 22– June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What do you think of the new Blue Bombers uniforms?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google