Like many small town-raised Canucks, my initial experiences with Chinese cuisine were shaped by small town greasy spoons. In my Saskatchewan home town, said greasy spoon was called George's. It was, apart from the gas station and a dubious fried chicken joint, the only place in town to eat. George's offerings consisted of deep-fried everything paired with that shiny red sauce. What is that sauce, I would think. What the hell is it supposed to taste like?
Until I lived in larger, urban areas, the likes of George and his ilk comprised Chinese food in my world. I am still largely unfamiliar with where to procure authentic Chinese vittles in Edmonton - thank goodness that Marlow Moo pointed me to the Red Phoenix.
The Red Phoenix is plunked right in the middle of a parking lot near Kingsway. It is, unfortunately, dead on a Monday evening and we are the only customers. It feels palpably empty and I am certain that the presence of larger crowds changes the vibe entirely. The meal commences with tofu skin soup. Large wrinkles of tofu bath in a salty, mushroom-infused broth. Its moderate salinity wakens my sleepy appetite.
Chicken wings stuffed with sticky rice are, hands down, the winner of the evening. Each wing has been cleverly disassembled and then reassembled with a filling of sticky rice. I wish I had an entire plate of them to myself.
Green beans with XO sauce (I had to look up XO sauce to figure out exactly what it was....) are on the crisp end of the tender-crisp spectrum and feel like a delectable and decadent snack. Who knew that green beans could be so exciting?
Our concluding dish features fried fish with a creamy corn sauce. Aesthetically, it is a bit bland - yellow on white - but flavour-wise, it is a functional and tasty intersection of sweet, salty and crisp.
Red Phoenix wasn't our original destination that night. A sudden downpour flooded the kitchen of our original destination and we were forced to leave. A good 90 minutes of aimless driving followed as restaurant after restaurant was woefully closed on Mondays. But that's another story....