September 26, 2022

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Chorney-Booth: Golden Sands raises the bar for local dim sum and Chinese seafood options

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Chinese food has long been a part of Canada’s cultural fabric. Westernized Chinese restaurants are important to food communities throughout North America, while places that serve more traditional Chinese food are becoming easier to find in major cities, drawing in customers looking for cuisine from various regions in China, as well as local takes on modern food trends. Chinese food devotees will often say that the best of these less-Westernized Canadian restaurants can only be found in Vancouver (or even better, in Richmond, out by the Vancouver airport), but a new restaurant in Thorncliffe-Greenview is specializing in fresh and flavourful food that rivals that of the West Coast.

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Golden Sands was dreamed up by Anna Ho, who moved to Calgary after running a restaurant in Vancouver but yearned for the food she enjoyed in B.C. Ho long wanted to open a restaurant in this city to satisfy the cravings of other Chinese-Canadians who missed dishes that they couldn’t easily find here while introducing a style of food to the rest of us that we may not have been experienced before. When a large restaurant space on Centre Street north of McKnight Boulevard became available, Ho knew she’d found the perfect location. She and her business partner Jason Lu set about building their restaurant.

Owners Jason Lu and Anna Ho of the Golden Sands Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Calgary. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
Owners Jason Lu and Anna Ho of the Golden Sands Chinese Seafood Restaurant in Calgary. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

“One of the reasons I moved here from Vancouver was because there is so much opportunity, but I also found that Calgary was missing some of the food options of Vancouver where everything is just fresher,” Ho says. “We felt like there was a void we could fill when it came to the quality of the ingredients.”

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The renovated room is light and bright, with 160 seats, many at large round tables designed to bring together groups of people to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions. In the back, tanks are filled with giant crabs, one of the restaurant’s luxurious specialties. The room is comfortable but also has a sense of white-tablecloth formality to match Ho’s dedication to the best-of-the-best when it comes to ingredients. While Golden Sands has found a number of good suppliers to deliver fresh seafood and other items, it’s not unheard of for staff to drive to Vancouver to source some specialty ingredients that aren’t readily available in Calgary.

The Golden Sands Chinese Seafood Restaurant in north Calgary is well set up for families and groups. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
The Golden Sands Chinese Seafood Restaurant in north Calgary is well set up for families and groups. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

Armed with kitchen staff who come from some of those next-level Vancouver restaurants, it’s been made more than clear that Golden Sands offers something special when it comes to its food. After opening last fall, the restaurant quickly caught the attention of some of Calgary’s most discerning food bloggers, who were particularly enchanted by the restaurant’s lunchtime dim sum offerings. It’s easy to see where that excitement came from — Golden Sands’ dim sum list is lengthy and the food is extraordinary. The menu includes favourites like steamed pork shao mai sticky rice dumplings with fish roe ($7.50), gorgeous swan-shaped taro puffs ($7.50), sweet egg custard tarts ($5.50) that often sell out, and steamed BBQ pork buns ($6.50). Lunchers and brunchers can also order from a menu of filled rice crepes, congee, and rice and noodle dishes.

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Crispy Chicken with Garlic Slices, in front, Salt and Pepper Squid, top left, and Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapple dishes from the Golden Sands Chinese Seafood Restaurant. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
Crispy Chicken with Garlic Slices, in front, Salt and Pepper Squid, top left, and Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapple dishes from the Golden Sands Chinese Seafood Restaurant. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

Dinner is another affair completely and at 5 p.m. Golden Sands turns into an elegant seafood restaurant. This is where delicacies like abalone with sea cucumber ($43.88) and those giant live crabs and lobsters (market price) come into play, along with other dishes like salt and pepper squid ($18.88), chilled chicken with black truffle sauce ($18.88), a lemongrass pork chop ($16.88) and various hot pots.

Golden Sands is located at 5010 Centre St. N.E. It is open daily for lunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended, especially for weekend dim sum. The restaurant can be contacted at goldensandscalgary.ca or 403-455-2777.

One of the specialties at Golden Sands Chinese Seafood Restaurant is fresh crab. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia
One of the specialties at Golden Sands Chinese Seafood Restaurant is fresh crab. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

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In other restaurant news, now that staffing is starting to become more stable and more workers are being called back to their offices, restaurants that were previously sticking to dinner only are expanding to offer lunch service. One such place is D.O.P., the ultra-popular (and extra-small) Italian restaurant that took over the space previously occupied by Bar Von Der Fels last year. Because of the buzz and the size, getting reservations D.O.P. for dinner has not been an easy task, but the restaurant recently added lunch service on Thursdays and Fridays to make room for intimate business lunches and casual end-of-the-week day drinking and robust eating.

Other popular dinner-only restaurants are likely to follow suit as more and more Calgarians leave their home offices, so be sure to check with favourites to see how things may be shifting as we all get a little more used to breaking bread together. In the meantime, D.O.P. is located at 1005A 1st St. S.W. and reservations can be made at dopyyc.com.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @elizaboothy or Instagram at @elizabooth

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