Ambassador Chinese Cuisine
Ambassador Chinese Cuisine delivers quality with an innovative spin in the fiercely competitive dim sum scene. Albeit steeper prices, the restaurant provides a more upscale experience with refined offerings in Richmond Hill. Too impatient to endure the usual excruciating wait at my more affordable options, I decide to treat myself to a lazy Saturday brunch.
Inside is a bright, elegant space that evokes a sense of serenity rarely found in such dim sum institutions (and at lunch hour too!). And though I love the chaotic energy of typical dim sum eateries--hungry, bustling crowds, push carts stacked with bamboo steamers, diners and staff yelling right, left, and centre--the relaxed ambiance here is a pleasant change that I welcome on this afternoon.
From my experiences, most dim sum restaurants I've been to in the suburbs target the Chinese population almost exclusively. In comparison, Ambassador gives considerably more attention to address the needs of other diners. The English translations to menu items are more detailed and thoughtful, and an illustrated menu is provided to serve as a helpful guide. Throughout my meal, I spot several non-Chinese diners, and I'm happy to know that good food extends beyond cultural borders.
First up is an expertly-executed basket of steamed shrimp dumpling, perhaps better known as Har Gow (L)-- four translucent rice flour morsels filled with plump, juicy shrimps. The dumpling is flavourful, wonderfully moist and delicious without any need for sauce or condiments. It might be a boring old staple served at every single dim sum restaurant in the world, but it's an irresistible order here.
I have a soft spot for cute details, so I'm delighted when the steamed noodle roll with deep fried dough (M) arrives with a chic little pot of sweet soy sauce for pouring. Gimmicks aside, the dish itself is very tasty. The balance between the velvety rice noodle and crispy, deep fried dough is perfect, and neither component is overly greasy. The accompanying sweet and nutty dips are strangely addictive and a sprinkle of chives and dried shrimps complete the dish with finesse.
While I love classics, I'm always eager to explore unconventional offerings. Our next selection from a special menu -- crispy shrimp rolls (L)--resembles a longer and leaner version of the traditional spring rolls and is served with a sweet, tangy sauce. It's a playful, crunchy snack that invites you to abandon chopsticks and dig in with your hands. I particularly enjoy the moist and tender shrimp filling (presumably the same ones in the Har Gow) and the sweet sauce adds a pleasant tang to the savoury roll.
Also from the special menu, the egg custard and coconut sweet dumplings (M) are intended to be a dessert course. So naturally, I'm slightly annoyed that they are not the last to arrive. In spite of that small glitch, the creative presentation scores points for me, and I'm tempted to immediately grab one of the spoons and pop it in my mouth.
As I carefully bite through the chewy exterior (made with glutinous rice flour), golden egg custard seeps out and I try to catch every glorious drop. It's a tasty combination of sweetness and richness, though I fail to detect any coconut flavour at all. In addition, the dumpling skin is a slightly too thick for my liking, but it's an overall successful dish.
At last, the deep fried taro with pork and seafood (M - top photo) is brought to our table, long after everything else has pretty much been devoured. This is a pretty popular dim sum concoction that I regularly order, but Ambassador's version manages to surprise me by incorporating curry into the taro filling. The curry is subtle, but it's a nice touch that transforms an otherwise ordinary item into a unique one.
After all the food is gone, we linger around to relax and sip tea without pressure to vacate our table for waiting diners. My friend is impressed that Ambassador continuously replaces the tea leaves (rather than merely adding more hot water to the pot, as most places do). Meanwhile, I'm already eyeing other items that I would like to order for my next visit. There are, undoubtedly, cheaper dim sum options available around here, but once in awhile, I'm willing to pay the premium for what Ambassador has to offer--friendly service, enjoyable atmosphere, and above all, good food.
Small dishes (S) cost $2.40, medium (M) are $3.80, large (L) are $4.90, extra large (XL) are $5.90, and special (SP) are $6.90.