February 6, 2020

GRUB | New in Town x Old Bird Chinese x Riley Park

"Chinese food with attitude."
Old Bird Chinese Restaurant | Riley Park–Little Mountain, Vancouver

Riley Park–Little Mountain—(February 4, 2020) Old Bird Restaurant's new Taiwanese and Shanghainese street food dining concept is quietly trying to establishing itself—taking over Nomad's old location on Main Street. The elevated Chinese restaurant boasts an impressive pedigree from a trio of women headed by owner Sophia Hin, Executive Chef Deseree Lo, and GM Shawn Jones.
Old Bird
/ ōld bərd // Lǎo niǎo / (adjective)
  1. Unapologetically themself
  2. Sassy but fair with a few gray hairs
  3. The real deal
Old Bird certainly welcomes its east meets west Chinese heritage despite the heavy western, fusion-style influences. The pretty much unchanged glassy 1,500-square-foot, fifty-five seater space has always been a standout in its neighbourhood with its appealing corridor flow and high ceilings.

Old Bird Chinese Restaurant | Riley Park–Little Mountain, Vancouver
braised pork ragu over rice (with egg and hot peppers)
I must say the cocktail program from bartender Chad Coombs feels impressive so far. Our "Lapsang Gilmet" welcome cocktail was a sharp and syrupy treat with a heavy bite to it. I quite enjoyed the namesake "Old Bird" drink with its strong bourbon flavour mixed with ginger and cinnamon.

We also found the "Two Way Street" rather interesting as it's available to be prepared as the name suggests in two very different, distinct ways: shaken (like an espresso martini) or stirred (think classic negroni).

Old Bird Chinese Restaurant | Riley Park–Little Mountain, Vancouver

As for the food, it's a bit of a mixed bag despite some enticing flavours and tastes (or "attitude"). Most of the "snack" or "small" tapas-style dishes were rather underwhelming due to their slight or awkward portions (often split in threes for some reason).

A single Tawainese pork sausage served alone seemed odd and unremarkable despite tasting good while the sad-looking bowl of HK-style fishballs in seafood curry broth was forgettably generic and included only three balls. Another dish, the smoked half-chicken was quite flavourful but was basically the equivalent of two chicken pieces (a leg and breast, so a "quarter-chicken" then?) unnecessarily served with disposable gloves to avoid messy hands.

Old Bird Chinese Restaurant | Riley Park–Little Mountain, Vancouver
steamed black cod (with ginger and garlic + scallion sauce)
Both the fish (very saucy) and pork ragu (comforting) were fairly tasty and overall pleasing to dine on. A common theme was the mains ("share") or more substantial dishes were much more satisfying. Finally, the highlight might've been the delicious ginger milk custard (a crème brûlée type dessert) for its richly sweet and contrasting flavours that really popped.

Old Bird is now open for dinner service looking to make a mark with its remixed Chinese dining credentials in Riley Park. There's some promise but just as much skepticism thus far.

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