I hope you realize the gravity of the situation here, in that I’m about to tell you about my favourite restaurant in all of Vancouver. As in, if I were on death row somewhere, I would want my last meal to be from this place. As in, if I could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of my life, this would be it. As in, I just had lunch there today but after writing this post I think I might go back for a little snack.
And it’s not some fancy-schmancy restaurant where they serve multi-course chef’s tasting meals, featuring deconstructed lasagnas or avocado foams. It’s not a place where you’ll have to eat dust and water for the next month because the meal was so expensive.
So, take this very seriously when I tell you that my favourite restaurant, in all of Vancouver, is Long’s Noodle House.
It’s a cramped, steamy restaurant where the tables are a little too close together, you can hear banging pots and pans in the kitchen, and you’re not expected to linger. It’s run by a husband-and-wife team who moved to Vancouver a few years ago. Word on the street is that the husband, who runs the kitchen, was the top chef in Shanghai. His wife, Sandy, is a lovely woman who manages to seat people, take orders, serve food, bus tables, give out bills, take money, make change, handle the pick-up orders, and answer the phone. When she’s not busy saving the world, she also makes soup dumplings by hand.
Ahhh, the soup dumplings. These Shanghainese specialties are steamed pork dumplings, but they’re not just any dumpling. There’s some magic to the filling that results in a soupy, sloppy filling inside of a beautifully thin skin. There’s a trick to getting them out of the steamer (don’t break them!) and into your mouth (use a spoon!) without getting soup all down your front, or in the eye of your dinner companions. They’re best eaten piping hot with a splash of the ginger-laced vinegar that arrives with them. And maybe some of the house chili oil, if you’re so inclined.
I really think the soup dumplings at Long’s are the best in the city, but even they pale in comparison to the spicy wontons. The wontons are also made in-house, and they. are. exquisite. There are a lot of wonton houses in Vancouver, all featuring some variation of tough, steroid-injected giant wontons that taste like nothing. At Long’s, the wontons are scrumptious, delicate, and flavourful. They have a slight sweetness to them that I’ve never tasted with other wontons. And the sauce they’re in, hot chili oil with some special house sauce, elevates this already perfect wonton to some other level of heaven.
I have no idea what’s in the special house sauce. There’s definitely ginger and vinegar, but also something dark and sweet (like a brown sugar sort of quality, but it’s not brown sugar), and something that gives it an amazing savouriness. I would kill to know what’s in the special house sauce, but – no surprises here – Sandy’s rather coy about its ingredients. She only says that each restaurant has their own special blend.
Finally, there are these daikon (Chinese turnip) pastries that are amazing. It’s shredded daikon with a smidge of diced ham and green onion, wrapped up in a rice-flour pastry. The top of the pastry is sprinkled with sesame seeds, and the whole thing is pan-fried. The turnips go all tender and sweet, and every once in a while you get the saltiness of the ham. I can never finish a whole order, but they’re still tasty after a zap in the microwave.
They also make a mean “drunken chicken”, which is chicken cooked with rice wine, beautifully presented in a tall green glass. And their spicy beef noodle soup is just the thing for rainy days. They’re not licensed, but they’ll keep re-filling your teacup as many times as you like.
And now, the caveat. This restaurant is small, and the only time I can get a table is on weekdays before noon, or after 2pm. It’s next-to-impossible to get a seat on the weekends, and dinner is always packed. They do take reservations, but you’ll need to make them a week in advance.
SO. I am really hoping that you don’t read this and immediately go to Long’s Noodle House, because then I will never be able to get a seat there. All of you can consult with each other and take turns, so that I can still enjoy eating at my favourite restaurant in Vancouver. They’re open six days a week (closed on Tuesdays) for lunch and dinner.
PS. Sandy speaks some English, but not much. (Actually, she shifts effortlessly between Shanghainese, Mandarin and Cantonese, so I usually only understand 33% of what she’s saying.) In order to assist you, these are the items I have just described, with their English names on the menu:
“Steamed mini pork buns”, $4.95 for six
“Small wonton in spicy sauce”, $4.95 for twelve
“Deep-fried pastry with radish”, $5.50 for three