November 11, 2017: Yesterday, we went to Yin Ji Chang Fen for their rice noodle rolls and congee. This is a restaurant that has been popping up on my Instagram feed since it opened sometime this year. It’s a franchise that grew out of a well-known restaurant in China for their delicious rice noodle rolls.
My mom and I arrived at about 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday night and the restaurant was beaming with people. It wasn’t packed enough though to have to wait for a table and we got seated right away (in a corner next to the supply closet — more on why this matters later). We received our menus and chose our items to share.
The food arrived relatively quickly. We ordered the Marinated Pork & Beef with Chives Rice Noodle Roll and Plain Rice Noodle Roll to share. This came steaming hot on a plate with the restaurant’s name on it.
We tried the Plain Rice Noodle Roll one first. Instead of being cut up already, the rice noodle rolls were large and rather fluffy. It tasted very smooth indeed as that’s what they’re famous for. However, I didn’t like that it wasn’t previous cut up which made it difficult to share and eat. The Plain Rice Noodle Roll is frequently paired with peanut butter sauce and sweet sauce but instead of having it in bottles ready for you to pour from, they served the two sauces in a tiny bowl accompanying the plate. I didn’t like that because then you couldn’t squeeze the quantity to your liking and you were limited by what they gave you. Also, when the server put this on our plate, she asked us if we wanted any sesame seeds on it. We said yes and it was only then she brought out the bottle of sesame seeds to pour the sesame seeds on the plate of rice noodle rolls for us. I didn’t like this either because we weren’t able to do it ourselves. I’m comparing this meal to that of Sam’s Congee Delight where they already have all the condiments for the congee and rice noodle rolls on the table for you to self-serve.
The Marinated Pork & Beef with Chives Rice Noodle Roll was just as smooth and fluffy as the plain one and I liked that the pork and beef pieces were very smooth and tender too. However, as with the plain one, I didn’t like that the rice noodle rolls weren’t cut up already. Also, the rice noodle roll ‘skin’ didn’t actually wrap around all of the the pork and beef. When you lifted the layer of rice noodle roll, all the beef and pork pieces fell out. I didn’t like that.
Next, our bowls of congee arrived. I love eating Hong Kong style minced beef congee (where the beef is a bit raw and it cooks further in the hot congee as you eat it; it’s mushy and soft). The Minced Beef Congee here at Yin Ji Chang Fen wasn’t up to my liking at all. The “minced beef” was actually just loose pieces of rough-tasting beef. When I used the spoon to stir it all together before eating, the individual pieces of beef just floated around in separate chunks. I already knew that this wasn’t the type of minced beef congee that I liked to eat. The congee also came with a small dashing of peanuts, shredded lettuce, crispy noodles, and cilantro — the lettuce and cilantro are parts that I don’t usually see paired with traditional Hong Kong style minced beef congee. (Actually, I guess that’s why it’s Guangzhou style food..) Once I started eating it, the taste confirmed for me what I saw with my eyes. This wasn’t the type of minced beef congee that I loved to eat at all. I was so disappointed. 😦
My mom ordered the Pork Blood Jello Congee. She liked hers.
Overall, I also thought that the congee wasn’t as “meen” or smooth and velvety as I liked. It was lacking in flavour too. I still think Sam’s Congee Delight has the best congee AND rice noodle rolls. Sorry, Yin Ji Chang Fen, you definitely failed to impress me.
While the service here was attentive and prompt during our stay, I didn’t like that we were seated in the corner next to the supply closet. This proved to be an annoyance because in the middle of the meal some of their staff members were finished their shift and retrieved their coats and belongings from the supply closet (which was right behind me) and ruffled for a long time before finally leaving. They were in my personal bubble space and I didn’t like being disturbed like that while eating.
I believe that the opening of Yin Ji Chang Fen takes over the space previously occupied by Pho Viet. Pho Viet had really good Vietnamese food! It’s sad that they closed down.
Yin Ji Chang Fen had lots of customers come in for dinner during our entire time spent there; I noticed it’s especially popular among Mainland Chinese people and a good meal for a single diner, couples, or a small family.