Sen Bistro on Broadway @ Burrard (1788 W. Broadway), has had a soft opening, but last week, they had their official opening with a Media Dinner kickoff. I was fortunate to be invited to attend. Sen Bistro is the sister restaurant to Chef Zhang‘s nearby Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House. Both feature Northern Chinese cuisine, which is different from the Southern Chinese restaurants that populate the Lower Mainland. I find that the Northern cuisine has more beef and lamb for example, as well as other spices like cumin being used. Chef Zhang opened Sen Bistro so that he could experiment with the Northern Chinese dishes; fusing food or spices from other parts of the world. I think all chefs like to experiment and grow.
This evening we also had wine pairings to go with the specific dishes served to us. Another nod to fusion; east meets west. In the reception, I enjoyed the cumin spiced lamb cubes. At first I saw large numbers of dried red chilies and thought that this might be a very spicy dish, but I was quite surprised that it was fairly mild. Also served was a beef curry spring roll. Our wine pairing was a St. Hubertus Rose from the Okanagan. Made from Gamay fruit, this rose burst with red fruit and red cherries. Off dry, it tasted a bit like candy. An OK wine, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
There was a Salad Trio, was really nice, with contrasts in flavors and textures. The celery & dried scallop and the lotus root dishes were tied for my favourite of the three dishes. The celery was crunchy and I enjoyed the sesame oil taste. The lotus root dish was very different. Thin slices of lotus root, marinated in a Chinese red vinegar, along with some sweet component. So you get crunchy, sweet and sour in each bite. Nice. The pairing for this was a Cono Sur Viognier 2011 (Chile). Cono Sur has been producing some good quality wines for many years. This Viognier was full bodied, nice and round mouthfeel, with lots of tropical and stone fruit. Along with the Salad Trio, we were served a Broad Bean & Sherchai Mash. It looked very similar to guacamole, but different flavour profile. The texture was similar to guacamole, but it was dried, and had a salty and spinach flavour to it. I had never heard of Sherchai, and was told it was similar to spinach. I did a quick search on Google but did not see it; perhaps I should head out to Chinatown to investigate!
For hot appetizers we samples a Chicken, enoki & shitake mushroom soup, Lormi Xiaomai, and salt & pepper crunchy tofu. The tofu was fabulous. If you like dry ribs and beer, the salt & pepper crunchy tofu would be a great replacement. Nice crunchy outside, spicy from crushed chili pepper, but not too much; just right. If you have gone for dim sum, you probably have had xiaomai (mixed ground pork and shrimp in a flour wrapper). The Lormi Xiaomai was stuffed instead with sticky rice. I do like sticky rice in lotus leaf. This is a bite size version, sans lotus leaf flavour component. The Chicken with enoki & shitake mushroom soup, was calming. The mushrooms added an earthy component to the soup. There were small chopped green vegetables, still with a bit of crunch to them.
I think the entrees showed most of the fusion component of the evening. The dishes were:
- Flambe salmon
- Braised pork with pumpkin in soybean paste
- Double prawns delight
- Wok-fried vegetables
- Steamed crepes & buns
Salmon, the patron fish of BC, was served on a hot plate, then flambeed at our table. The salmon was cooked perfectly, nicely soft in the centre. I really enjoyed the braised pork with pumpkin. The pork belly had nice layering of fat and meat and too that the soybean paste had 5 Spice powder seasoning. The pumpkin slice that accompanied too went well. Nice and soft, and of course matching with the 5 Spice powder (which has cinnamon and cloves). We paired the entrees with a Lucky Star Pinot Noir 2011 (California). The acidity in the Pinot Noir cut through the fattiness of the pork belly. Our table really liked this Pinot Noir. It had flavours of sour red cherries and a hint of violets. Light body, dry with low tannins. The steamed crepes & buns were good to sop up the soybean paste sauce from this dish.
The double prawns delight featured prawns cooked two ways; one deep fried and coated with a honey mustard sauce, and the other wok fried with a smokey / sweet / chili sauce. I preferred the latter, but several people at my table also liked the honey mustard version.
The last dish was the wok-fried vegetables, mainly consisting of thin slices of eggplant, mushrooms, and scallions. It was spiced with ginger and sauteed. Quite tasty.
There were two desserts. The first was “pumpkin sticks“, but it was more than just a “poki” style stick that you see at T&T. To this there was a yellow yam? pudding topped by a purple yam ball coated with dried coconut. The purple yam ball was a hit. The pudding was also good, not too sweet, but may be bland to some people not familiar with Asian style desserts. The other dish was the blackbean paste Lormi-zhi. We were presented with what appeared like Japanese mochi balls, that were each in a different colour. Each one had a different filling. One was the traditional blackbean paste, while another that I tried had 3 types of chopped nuts (peanut, cashew and almond I think).
I wish Chef Zhang best of luck in his new endeavor at Sen Bistro.