Neighbourhood: West End
Address: 704 Sargent Avenue
Entrees: $12 – $19
Aptly lodged in the bustling strip of Winnipeg’s diverse west end, Emerald Palace is the place savvy foodists go to feast on Chinese fare. Little may have changed since opening in the mid-80’s, but the simple atmosphere and vibe, characteristic of many family-owned Chinese restaurants around the world, serves as a quiet backdrop to lively gatherings and boisterous flavours.
Because Chinese food was one of the earliest immigrant cuisines to arrive in North America, at a time when people were less cosmopolitan and familiar with world cuisines, restaurants came up with a formula that worked by adapting to Euro-centric palates, swapping out ingredients people were not partial to. As a result, the identity of Asian cuisine served in Canada has been shaped over decades by eateries balancing traditions with consumer inclinations.
Amidst 251 choices presented on the perky pink menu, there are many rewards to this cuisine’s defining duality. The single dish behind this institution’s devoted following is the mountain of butter chicken.The salty crisply fried coating cracks off with every bite, revealing steaming white meat that falls off the bone. This is a glorious version of fried chicken, a popular (albeit American influenced) street food in modern China, drawing guests of all persuasions from every corner of the city.
The kitchen delivers complex seasoning in dishes like seafood chow fan with shrimp, squid and scallops. Flat, wide rice noodles are seared in a hot wok with wilted gai lan and seafood resulting in slurpable forkfuls that permeate lingering smokiness.
To stay on the umami train, try mussels in black bean sauce. Mollusks piled high swim in a ginger laced silky sauce studded with mellowed onion. Opt for a hot pot and be treated to a robust meal in a bowl. Shrimp balls with assorted greens fill a brothless pot to its brim. Bite sized leafy greens, snow peas, precisely sliced carrots and white onions glisten against ping pong sized shrimp. The tender morsels are excellent, pairing with the crisp vegetables.
Chinese Canadian dishes, regardless of origin ooze goodness here. With growing popularity of adventures in dining, Emerald Palace is a staple for enthusiastic eaters of all backgrounds.