Tucked away behind Metrotown (as us old folk remember it!) and the Bonsor recreation center in Burnaby is Alvin Garden. While some would disregard it driving by (as I have - I have a couple of friends who lived / live nearby and I've never even noticed it!), Alvin Garden would probably classify as a "fan toung" (a Chinese 'trattoria'?) for the locals as it filled up (and continued to fill up!) while we were there. There also seems to be a conflict in the name out front on the awning and the name on the napkins above. Perhaps similar to how Excelsior Chicken Noodle House has a completely different meaning from their Chinese name?
We ordered a number of dishes, ranging from soup to hot pot, encompassing egg, pork, duck, vegetables, fish and everything in between. However, part way through, we noticed that we hadn't ordered a lamb hot pot that we'd seen on every other table throughout the restaurant, or a tantalizing cauliflower and meat dish (and I LOVE cauliflower!).
I suppose we were a spectacle - a table of thirteen, madly snapping photos photos every time the server placed a dish on the lazy susan. I felt pretty normal for once - I was kind of in the shadow of a number of Canon and Nikon DSLRs, (and a tester Sony). Even with my red camera, I didn't stand out too much. :)
I honestly do not remember that much about the food - the beer-braised duck had nice flavour, although I detected more Shaoxing / cooking wine instead of beer. And somehow I managed to get all wing tip bones both times I tried to sample the dish. The soup was also a nice, sweet alternative to all the fiery chili that was going about the table.
I did come by this interesting spice in one of the dishes. [eating club] vancouver tells me that it is a Sichuan peppercorn. I can't explain the flavour - I thought I was chomping into a regular peppercorn, but it gives off this slightly soapy, floral, lavender-like mouthfeel as well. I think I'll use some with pork. Hmm.
There were a lot of interesting conversations going around the table - parking lot mayhem, certain restaurant review sites, and foodie talk alike. It was good to put some faces to online personas and to enjoy some food together, if only in our paparazzi-style obsession. :)
What I do not recommend ordering are the corn cake cones above. They were bland in flavour and had a texture reminiscent of playdoh. (Not that I would know...) The dough seemed to have been overworked and sugar / salt were absent from the recipe. As Sherman put it, "[I don't remember much,] but I remember *those* things!"
I do plan on going back to Alvin Garden - I'd reorder the pumpkin cakes, mapou tofu, and the steamed egg, and I'd try out the cauliflower dish and the lamb hot pot.
4850 Imperial Street [map]
Phone: (604) 437-0828