The new restaurant in town is starting to make me look like a big fat hypocrite. It’s no secret that I don’t like rice, and beyond wonton soup, I don’t like Chinese food either. So when Mario suggested last month we take our New York friends to the new Asian fusion restaurant, Wild Rice, I was dubious. Not only was it Chinese, it had rice in the name – it could not possibly be good.
Oh how wrong I was.
Wild Rice has been operating in Gastown for 10 years, and just opened its second location down the quay from us in New Westminster last month. As I mentioned in my first blog about this place, this is not your typical $10, all-you-can-eat, MSG filled buffet – this is art.
Our second visit to the restaurant, last night, was all my doing. When I spotted a brief in the local paper that the restaurant’s executive chef was conducting dim sum cooking demonstrations on Monday nights, I was in. More for the food than the lesson.
Chef Todd Bright is like your anti Gordon Ramsey. Spiked mohawk. Aussie accent. Soft spoken manner.
When I wasn’t drooling over the art of the creations, or completely mutilated the sui mai (I knew I shouldn’t have volunteered… damn peer pressure) I learned that this restaurant uses as much natural, fresh, and local product as it can. Nearly everything is made from scratch, aside from the dumpling wrappers which are purchased out of a mom and pop shop near the Gastown location. The chicken is hormone free, the beef is grain fed, the lamb is local – as are the other animals. And every part and piece of the animal is used. “It’s really about utilizing every part of the animal from snout to tail,” said executive chef Todd Bright.
It didn’t matter how hard I concentrated, that sucker was not getting any better!
Every farm that Wild Rice purchases from, whether it be the mushroom farm in Abbotsford, or the lamb farm on the island, or the apple orchard in the Okanagen, owner Andrew Wong visits first to determine whether the farm’s values are in line with the Wild Rice values, then purchases.
After about an hour and a half demonstration, the large group of us (about 20 or so) sat down communal style. I’m not usually a chatty person with people I don’t know, but in the communal setting (which I’ve also experienced in New York, Bruges, and Berlin) you kind of got to get over that. And when I’ve got the most savoury wonton broth I’ve ever tasted in my mouth, and the sweet aroma of organic mushrooms wafting up from the steamed buns on my plate, there’s no way I’m staying quiet – that alone was enough to give me the gift of gab!
At the communal table.
This month’s theme was dumplings, next month, it’s vegan. Wild Rice me up baby!