Monday, December 9, 2013

Fake Meat Dim Sum at 3G Vegetarian Restaurant

3G Vegetarian Restaurant on Urbanspoon When my pescetarianism friend wanted to try dim sum, going to a regular dim sum place didn't seem like such a good idea since so many items have some sort of meat. I had never heard of 3G Vegetarian Restaurant before, but the awards and reviews had me convinced that this would be a really decent place to try dim sum.

3G uses simulated meats. Even phoney prawns. For omnivores like myself, this makes 3G a tricky place to evaluate. You can either talk about the fake meats, or (harder) try to turn that part of your brain off and concentrate on whether the dish tasted good or not. The latter is much easier to do if you simply don't look at the meat too closely.

Before I get too far ahead, I should probably say that all the simulated meats I've tried have generally not been very good fakes. Some, like Yves Original Ground Round, do a really decent job in many ways, but overall there is still something "off" about it when compared to the real thing, especially in flavour if the appearance hasn't already biased you. This is obviously obvious. So really simulated meat is for people who have no choice -- vegetarians, for example. Beggars can't be choosers, so when you have limited options, you will likely think better of them. I'm not limited in that way. So be aware of this when you read about the food.

You will also notice that I will put down that many items are "nothing special". This should not be construed as "not good". If something isn't good, I generally try to write down why. "Nothing special" is closer to "mediocre" -- decently done but nothing to write home about and therefore not specifically recommended.
When I go to a restaurant, I only order whatever sounds interesting on the menu. When it comes to Chinese food, I grew up eating the stuff at home, so it's hard to top mom's cooking, especially when mom cooked really well. If Chinese food is a novelty for you, 3G will probably be a treat, especially if you are vegetarian.

The regular menu is available during dim sum hours, but (and this seemed surprising to me) some items may not be available, even if you are the first one in when they open the restaurant for the day. If there is something you absolutely must have, call ahead to make sure.

Vegetarian Chicken Drumstick ($8.99) fried with pepper and salt
  • 6 pieces of basically simulated meat on a stick, shaped roughly like a drumstick.
  • The "meat" is very meat-like in texture and tastes like some sort of meat. One of the best meat simulations I've seen.
  • Not so much like a chicken drumstick, however. More like pulled chicken or pulled pork.
  • Taste-wise this is okay. Like real meat items, it's about seasoning/sauce.
Crispy Baked Baby Pig ($11.95) veggie baby pig in sweet soybean sauce
  • The taste and texture of this simulated meat was for me closer to white chicken meat than the drumsticks. Overall, sort of tasteless.
  • They do try to crisp the "skin", but I think the process made everything sort of dry.
  • Very vaguely pig-shaped. Vaguely.
  • Smallish portion.
Steamed Veggie Pork Shu Mai ($3.50) picture
  • Four pieces.
  • Small bits of pink simulated meat with hardly any flavour contribution. Mostly this tasted sweet and had a crunchiness from the white vegetable used. Flavour-wise this isn't anywhere as richly flavoured as "real" shu mai with pork and prawns.
  • If I remember correctly, this tasted a lot like the Steamed Veggie Shrimp Dumpling ($3.50), except the dumplings were fully-sealed whereas the shu mai are little baskets.
Pan Fried Veggie Gyoza ($3.50) four bok choy filled dumplings
  • Decently done gyozas. Nothing special, but nothing wrong either.
Fried Plain Bun ($3.50) picture
  • Basically deep fried mantou. Quite firm and a fun sort of chewy. Served with condensed milk as a dipping sauce. Simple and tasty.
  • You can tear or cut it open and drizzle the condensed milk inside where the dough can absorb some of it. This alleviates both double dipping as well as losing too much milk from the milk sliding off the slick exterior.
Veggie Rice Roll with Veggie XO Sauce ($3.50)
  • I felt there wasn't quite enough sauce. Rice noodles are really kind of flavourless, and are there for texture and to fill you up -- like spaghetti.
  • Nothing really special here.
Deep-Fried Tofu with Spicy Sauce & Salt ($5.50) picture
  • Tender on the inside, really crispy on the outside. They did a really good job here frying this and making it fun to eat with the crispiness.
  • "Spicy" sauce really wasn't spicy. Despite "salt" being in the title, it wasn't very salty either.
  • Thinner cuts of tofu means a good ratio of tasteless tofu on the inside to crunchy skin and sauce on the outside. I'm not a fan of tofu, and thick slabs is one of the reason tofu is often a struggle to eat.
  • Overall, a really good choice to feed tofu to tofu-haters.
  • More sauce couldn't hurt.
Veggie Seafood Congee ($5.50)
  • Comes with fake slices of fish cake and fake prawns.
  • The fake prawns are actually pretty decent fakes. They are white with orange-red flecks (food colouring?). The "meat" has good firmness and crunch, and a slight sweetness, just like prawns.
  • Other than the portion size, nothing special here.
Crispy Taro Roll ($7.50) picture
  • Taro wrapped in bean curd roll, cut into sushi-sized pieces, and deep fried to crispiness.
  • Fun if you like deep-fried crispiness without oiliness. Otherwise just okay.
Fresh Lily Bulbs, Asparagus and Yam Rhizome ($12.95) also bok choi
  • I ordered this to check out the lily bulbs and yam rhizome.
  • The white lily bulb slices had a crunchiness to them but seemed to have a slimy after-effect in the mouth.
  • Smallish portion for price.
The restaurant is quite small but they do have a round table at the back for larger groups, of maybe 10 or so. On the Saturday morning our group dined, we were the first ones in right when the restaurant opened and it was fairly quiet until we left, with just a couple of other parties drifting in.
No huge dim-sum rush also means a more relaxed dining experience. At a "regular Chinese restaurant", you can expect staff buzzing around and the kitchen insanely busy cooking to order. At such places, they can get outright pissy if you try to order more than once because billing becomes confusing for them. Nothing like that will happen to you at 3G. There are dim sum checklists and regular menus, and you can order as you go, just like at any restaurant dinner service. On top of that, 3G doesn't charge you for tea and they seemed really good about keeping the teapot filled.

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