Originally this was a dinner with some colleagues, unfortunately it didn’t pan out due to schedule conflict. But the idea of trying Wild Rice in New Westminster got stuck in my head, so I had to arm-wrestle some friends to go with me. Quite honestly, it’s been ages since I last visited the River Market (aka the New Westminster Quay) so I was quite excited to be there again.
I was really curious to see how authentic their dishes are so I ordered the Hot & Sour Soup as appetizer. It was pretty good, but definitely sensed some Western touch to it. I liked the thick slices of meaty shitake mushroom; the shredded carrot and leek were still crisp and fresh – I’m guessing they were added just shortly before the soup was served. Traditionally hot & sour soup also has shredded bamboo shoot, which would give it a nice crunch as well. At first I found the portion to be on the small side, but it ended up to be just the right amount of soup. It’s slightly too sour and a bit too spicy for my liking. I actually had to wait a few moments before my taste buds were calmed and ready for the next course.
Because 2 of the 3 entrees were vegan options (you have to pay extra to add chicken to the Kung Po entree), naturally I went for the only meat option, Pemberton Braised Beef. It had a generous amount of tender, shredded braised beef with plenty of sliced red pepper and snow peas, and Shanghai noodles at the bottom. The pickled onions on top added some acidity to the dish, which was much needed as the sweet savoury beef reduction was rather sweet. Overall, it was a well-executed noodle stir-fry.
When I looked at the dessert options, I was intrigued by the name Szechuan Chocolate Brownie. I really like the combination of chocolate and chili so I was hoping that this would have a nice kick to it. I was disappointed. I couldn’t taste any spices in the batter. It was a piece of very moist brownie. It’s almost fudge like. It was chocolaty, but rather ordinary. I wish they offered some Chinese desserts, such as sticky rice balls in a sweet soup (Tang Yuan) or Chinese crepe with red bean paste. That seems to be a better menu progression.
Service was a hit and miss. One server was great and the brief moments we had with him were very pleasant. One of the servers wasn’t having her best day; she completely forgot about us when we asked for a drink menu, thinking she already brought it over. It’s normal for servers to come checking on us, asking about the food. But I found it odd when the question was phrased as “How was the food? Is it OK?” It sounded really uncertain. I sure hope the food you guys put out is OK!
I have to say, this space is very different from a typical restaurant decor. It has an industrial, yet artsy feel, with an open space on one side of the restaurant, which is very fitting with the River Market. Also like that they make the kitchen wide open so you can see the chefs and cooks at work.
For $18 I think this is a very good opportunity to find out what Wild Rice is about. The food was decent but I wasn’t wowed either. However, kudos to the chef for making an effort to make their menu very vegan-friendly. I think this will make a good alternative meetup spot for those living in the suburbs, instead of trekking all the way downtown.
810 Quayside Drive, New Westminster