- The Entree
- The Side
- The Atmosphere
John’s Chinese BBQ Restaurant is on Highway 7 just east of Bayview. It’s a comfy laid back restaurant with fantastic Chinese BBQ (duh) that has become a staple for our family dinners. Tonight, we dropped by again for my not-so-baby sister’s big day… convocation! John’s Chinese BBQ is located in a little nook in a plaza off of Highway 7 that’s pretty easy to miss. Like most Chinese restaurants, the place isn’t much to look at from the outside and but the inside is simple and comfortable and service is truly quite minimal. Restaurants like these are focused on efficiency and really good food and honest to goodness – I LOVE THAT ATTITUDE. A restaurant that’s not trying to be hip. It’s so refreshing sometimes!
|John’s Chinese BBQ Restaurant
328 Highway 7 E.
Richmond Hill, ON
Now John’s BBQ is a traditional Chinese restaurant, quite different from North-Americanized Chinese places like Mandarin and Manchu Wok. This stuff is good, and traditional fair is far less oily and less fatty than its North American counterparts. Great flavour is created through meticulous care and attention to the stove’s fire-power, the natural sweetness or essence of certain slow-cooked ingredients, and plenty of spices.
Chinese meals are a communal affair. The dinner party will order their food together (with elders taking priority most of the time) and it is expect that everyone shares. So, like most Chinese restaurants, the tables are round and right in the middle is a most wonderful lazy Susan. If you think lazy boys are great, just check one of these babies out. No need to “pass the buns”. No need to reach over. Just turn the table and you have access to all the dishes and the tea!
This night, eight of us got together to celebrate my sister’s gigantic brains so we ended up ordering 7 dishes. Two of the dishes had to be pre-ordered – the winter melon soup ($85) and the pei pa duck ($35) (also called pipa duck but more on that later). Call a couple days ahead of time and let them know you’d like to have these when you make your reservation. Also keep in mind that in many traditional Chinese restaurants, rice is ordered separately from the dishes. Each bowl is usually 1-2 dollars and is often large enough to share between two people.
We started our meal with the winter melon soup. Winter melon soup is prepared by different restaurants in different ways. Sometimes, they use a knife to draw elaborate pictures on your uncooked melon and pour the delectable soup inside and this time, they made the soup, pour it into the melon, then cooked it some more. In this case, after a session of our oohs and aahs and my multiple attempts to take a proper picture, our server began serving the soup. As she scooped the soup overflowing with delicious ingredients, she also scooped out the soft sides of the melon and this became a part of the dish.
What was in this fantastic concoction? Well from my best guess…
- winter melon (duh)
- probably some in-house chicken broth
- enoki mushrooms
- duck gizzard
- sea cucumber
- dried scallop (very different from the fresh type in terms of flavour)
- roasted pork skin
IT WAS AMAZING! Each bowl was PACKED with ingredients. I think I must have had 4 bowls. Chinese soup is much like what the English would consider a consume, the beauty of the soup lies in the essence of what is, or once was, placed in there as an ingredient (like pork bones). The natural sweetness of the seafood really shone through in this slow-cooked dish. There was so much stuff in that melon that even after multiple bowls we still had some to take home. Yum!
Next came the lemon chicken ($14). The lemon chicken is a lightly battered and fried chicken that is placed into a thick lemony sauce. The dish was okay and we as a family definitely agreed that it was the weakest of the 7. Overall the battered coating was too powdery, i think they may have over-floured it, but the chicken was very tender and juicy and broke apart with a light touch. The lemon sauce could have been more real-lemony. It was thick and sweet. There wasn’t much sourness or tangy-ness to it.
Next came the pei pa duck (or pipa). I asked my mom why it was called the pei pa duck and apparently, the name is in reference to the way the duck looks when they cook it. This duck is apparently split in half and opened up while they cook it with hot oil, so it looks like the shape of a pei pa (or a pipa), a Chinese instrument. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. The duck was great – so succulent and the skin was nice and crispy. The dish was a tad salty for my taste but it was still very good.
Next came my second favourite dish of the night – baby bean plant with the fish belly ($20). If you want to be really specific, it’s the part that makes the fish float, it’s a bit of a delicacy. I love my veggies, especially the baby bean plants smothered in a thick salty sauce that was a bit like hoisin sauce. It’s slurpy, flavourful goodness. The fish belly doesn’t have much of natural flavour but a texture and taste similar to beef tendon.
Next came the steamed tilapia ($18). Like most fish in Chinese cuisine, this fish was steamed whole with ginger and onions, then drizzled with soya sauce with a touch of sugar. The key to this type of dish is how fresh your fish is, how well you clean it, and how perfectly you can steam it. This was quite yummy and the meat was very tender and juicy.
Next up was the lobster ($26). These lobsters were stir-fried in high heat with a mix of garlic, green onions, yellow onions and smothered in a delicious thick sauce that really stuck to the meat. The meat was perfectly cooked, very flavourful, and remained very juicy. It’s a very different take from American lobster with butter and it’s a fun change.
Our last dish of the night was the pork neck ($14). MMMMMM. Pork neck is probably one of my favourite cuts of meat and perfect in a stir-fry or hot pot. This cut of meat is bouncy, almost chewy and has rather rich, full flavour and this is probably because of a higher fat content (so don’t go buck wild!). In this dish, the pork neck was stir fried with snow peas, carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic. It’s a great dish that goes very well with a nice bowl of plain warm rice.
Last but not least came dessert… and it was free! Dessert and the daily soup are often free in many Chinese restaurants. Today, they served the sweet potato soup. It’s a very common Chinese dessert. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of sweet potato… because it’s so sweet… and when you serve sweet potato in a sweet soupy liquid well… it was too sweet for me. However, I can say that it was very well cooked and the potato was just the right amount of softness.
Overall would I recommend this restaurant? Yes. I would definitely recommend a visit to this place for anything from a bowl of slurpy roast duck noodle to a full 8 course meal with all the fancy stuff. It’s a casual, comfy restaurant with a good sensible focus on food. I think they’re open late for “siu yeah” or midnight snacks as well. Maybe next time I’ll try that!
The Damage: $251 after tax