Sika Deer Chinese Cuisine

Sika Deer specializes in “Northern” Chinese cuisine and offers a typical menu of stir frys, noodles, xiao long bao and their specialty Beggar’s Chicken. We visited the restaurant on a Saturday for an early dinner.

Atmosphere: Although on the corner of a shopping plaza, the restaurant was hard to spot as the most prominent signage was in Chinese with the English name in a much smaller font. The restaurant interior was clean and pretty standard for a casual, family restaurant with lots of tables crammed together.

Service: Again, there was nothing stand out or under par about the service at Sika Deer. The Beggar’s Chicken needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance, which we did, yet when we arrived the manager informed us that the dish wouldn’t be ready until 45 minutes into our meal. The reason for this being that our reservation was early, 6pm, and the chicken would taste more flavourful after an hour. Knowing our reservation time, and our pre-order, the dish should have been prepared on time. Every other dish did arrive quickly. Our server waited patiently for me to snap pictures while she unwrapped the Beggar’s Chicken at our table.

Food: Dinner started with two stir fries, an eggplant and sliced beef with green onion. Both dishes were standard, well seasoned albeit a little oily. We ordered two trays of xiao long bao, one with crab and one with just pork. The skins were thin and the bao were wrapped well but the size of the filling was a mouthful. There was plenty of soup in each dumpling. Next to arrive were egg white with seafood and pea sprouts. I liked the pea sprouts, which were fresh, light and lightly blanched. The Fiance liked the egg whites dish but I wasn’t a fan. Whole shrimps were used and I couldn’t taste any crab.

My hometown in China is Suzhou and one of our traditional dishes is the Squirrel Fish. A freshwater fish is meticulously filleted, the meat expertly cut into thin strips, battered, fried and served whole with a sweet and sour sauce. Deep frying the fish gives each piece of meat structure and creates the dishes’ signature fluffy shape. The dish has a history over a thousand years old. I was not wowed by the interpretation at Sika Deer. The knife work was sloppy and the fish pieces were cubes, not at all delicate. The sauce tasted fine but was thick and didn’t evenly cover the dish. For close to $30, this was overpriced.

Last to arrive was the Beggar’s Chicken. Traditionally, the chicken wrapped in lotus leaves is covered in clay and slow cooked outside, buried under hot coals. Today however, most restaurants (Sika Deer included) skip the clay and use an oven. Our server brought the still wrapped chicken to our table and unwrapped it in front of us. Also wrapped in the chicken was sticky rice, which soaked up all of the delicious drippings. In fact, the rice was my favourite part of the dish. The chicken was tender, heavily seasoned with spices that did penetrate into the meat. I’m happy to have tried the dish but it wasn’t a “must-eat-again”.

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