In a Delicious Country

There’s just one Delicious Country in Calgary a Chinese restaurant located in the heart of Chinatown and with a name like that it has a big moniker to live up to. The food better be excellent.

Delicious Country’s menu holds a wide range of regional dishes from China — Szechuan Hong Kong Shanghai — and its neighbours — Taiwan Singapore and Malaysia.

Though the menu is geographically diverse the restaurant is compact with a small street-side seating area and a long narrow inner section. The crisp black wood grain and white walls give it a high-end sheen. A couple of select catalogue-style posters showcase suitably delicious-looking menu items.

Tsingtao ($5) China’s best-known bestselling beer is a natural choice to start the night’s meal. Drinks in hand we turn to northern-Chinese appetizers ordering rolled onion pancakes with sliced beef ($5.50) and one pan-fried green onion pancake ($2.50). The dishes arrive almost instantly. The first is comprised of a thin slightly crisp slightly floury crepe filled with well-cooked beef slices a bit of sliced green onion and a dollop of tian mian jiang a sweet wheat- and soybean-based sauce similar to hoisin. The savoury-sweet combination is smooth and satisfying. A couple of bites and it’s gone. The small onion cake is not as good but not terrible.

The first of our shared main dishes is special handmade noodles ($11.98). The plate is heaped with lots of wide thin rice noodles in a thin slightly pork-flavoured sauce. Mixed in is thinly chopped cabbage and pork big green onion sections peppercorns and small chili pepper bits. The two distinct pepper tastes are perfectly balanced in the sauce-infused noodles.

The house-made special pork chop ($12.95) is not so much a pork chop as it is chopped pork. The deep-fried bone-in meat morsels are like delicate dry ribs. They’re mixed in with tons and tons of dried deep-red chili peppers bay leaves cilantro and chopped green onion. Despite its deadly spicy appearance the spice heat is low and slow as long as we avoid downing too many whole chili chunks.

With the above mains we’ve also ordered braised Taiwanese vegetables ($8.75). These chopped greens are a softer less stalky version of the ubiquitous (in Chinese restaurants) gai lan and are simply prepared in a light garlic sauce. We agree that such skillfully cooked greens are the mark of a great kitchen.

A tabletop warmer is set down and a blob of Sterno set alight beneath a round wok-like bowl. This is the beer chicken in hot pot ($14.98). We let its cloudy mahogany broth simmer. Heaped into this bubbling broth are bone-in chicken slices cut across the grain sliced winter melon three kinds of mushrooms leeks and — you guessed it — chopped green onion. The flavoursome broth has transformed each of these ingredients into their best possible selves. That’s three home runs in a row. Even the gluey onion pancake is made great with a dip in the magical beer broth.

Patting our taut stomachs we sip a last cup of complimentary tea and spring a Chinese geography quiz on our gracious attentive waiter. He’s well versed and educates us on the famed terra cotta warriors of Xian his hometown. “But how was the food?” he asks. Excellent we reply and declare that it easily lived up to the restaurant’s name.