May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, so when my friend Stephanie Yuen, chair of the judging panel for the recent Chinese Restaurant Awards, asked if I wanted to join her and a few other like-minded aficionados on a little dine-around to sample some of the winning dishes, I could not, in good conscience —and lusting palate — say no.

We started at Ken’s Chinese Restaurant (1097 Kingsway), which won this year for its pink scallop dish, baked live in the half-shell, and doused in a light curry. Ken’s also won this year in the Alaska King Crab/Lobster category, for their braised lobster with taro noodles, cooked in a clay pot. The noodles were plump and tied into little bundles, and mixed with chunks of ginger, steamed vegetables and broth.

Next stop was Shanghai Village (3250 Cambie St.), which won the Most Innovative Signature Dish award for their stir-fried fish noodles with enoki mushrooms. The noodles are actually made from fish, and are tossed with the mushrooms and red pepper for a delectable slurpy meal. We also had some of their aromatic soups, which didn’t win any awards, surprisingly enough. These are brewed for several days in enormous clay pots, and change frequently. One day, it might be a tonic for the nerves, another day it’ll pep up your love life.

Our last stop for the night was at Lin Chinese Cuisine (1537 West Broadway), where we tried their winning dish for Northern/Shanghai dim sum. The chicken fenpi salad was an amazing noodle dish of wide, clear, glossy yam noodles mixed with diced chicken and cucumber, and a luscious peanut sauce that you liberally spoon over your serving. Last year, Lin won in the same category for their xiao long bao — juicy dumplings. These are hand-rolled by Mrs. Lin herself — she makes about 1,200 daily — and you can watch her rolling away behind the glass partition and you bite into these steamed, broth-filled wonders. The restaurant also won this year for best Chinese dessert with their 8-treasure sweet rice, which was packed with — among other things — raisins, sugar, nuts, dates, dried cherries, and much sugar.

Our nine-course sampling that night barely broke the surface of what’s out there for diners to explore, but hey, the restaurants aren’t going anywhere.

For more information on the Chinese Restaurant Awards, visit

New releases

From the southern corner of the Golden Mile Bench comes a new — and old — little winery named Rustico Farm & Cellars. The old-vine grapes here were formerly used by other local wineries, but in 2007, proprietor Bruce Fuller took over and the estate winery was born. The 2008 Farmer’s Daughter Gewürztraminer has a tart, citrusy palate, with a nose of lavender and roses. Available at Liberty Wine Merchants, Yaletown Liquor Store and other private wine stores for $17.95.

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