You can tell from the breadth of her smile and the curve of her thumb, Madam Yu Miao knows her way around a dumpling.  Purse, pull, roll, put, pinch, plump, repeat.  At least, that was how my eyes registered something she did so quickly that I blinked and another bundle had appeared on the lightly floured surface of what tonight has momentarily become center stage.

Tonight’s guests have been invited to share three tables, a plentitude of courses and the attentions of one very talented team.

Madam Miao smiles and turns to the task at hand, readying roughly 72 of her prized parcels in celebration of a a very special night.

Tonight, Lin Chinese Cuisine turns three and her orange walls and her crew are beaming even more brightly than they do daily, bustling for both lunch and dinner near the northwest corner of Granville on Broadway.

As Dimsum Chef and Manager of Lin Chinese Cuisine and Tea House, she makes 1,200 of her award-winning Xiao Long Bao each day.  She is at her station, moving at a comfortable blur, chatting amiably all the while.

The minced pork mixture within is so divine, when steamed it creates its own broth which when touched by the accompanying mix of soy and ginger anchors Lin Chinese Cuisine as one of those absolutely-must-return restaurants – if only for the Xiao Long Bao alone. That, however, would do both the remainder of the menu a great injustice.

Executive Chef Zhang Ru Lin and Restaurant Chef Mark Zhou have already tabled the tender, shredded Szechuan Spicy Chicken and the rolled Cumin Lamb Skewers are being plucked from an autumnally amber gourd.

As with each course ahead, the dishes spoke their worth on many levels and paid testament to Lin Chinese Cuisine well-awarded by the HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards – for both the perfectly parceled and steamed Xiao Long Bao and their Chicken Fenpi Salad, a thing of gossamer noodle, shredded chicken, subtly spiced and sauced perfection.

Share meals with passionate people who know their Chinese tables and you soon learn a thing or two about bringing the meaning back to mealtime. On a night of celebration as such, the menu offers the music of metaphor that lingers long after.

They also hit all the right notes, ranging from the Shanghai ZiChai and Tofu Soup with diced prawns and fortuned with lucky greens to the red bean-filled, bunny-shaped dumplings and Eight Treasure Sweet Rice for dessert.  The Daikon Braised Pork spoke to the deep roots of country-style while the grilled Fish with Ginger & Scallion merged the elements of fire and water.   Fried chicke sausages, rolled with blueberry & Hawthorn compote, ridiculously purple, rich and sweet, celebrate both B.C. fruit and Lin Chinese Cuisine’s ingenuity alike.

Yes, the food here is delicious.  It also tells a story both on and off the menu.  To appreciate the art of their hospitality, you need only pay Lin a visit.  To loofa through the white loaf and get your head around actually reading a Chinese menu a good friend recommended to me A. Zee’s Swallowing Clouds: A Playful Journey Through Chinese Culture, Language, and Cuisine*.

For more information on the 3rd Annual HSBC Chinese Restaurant Awards, including the recently announced winners of the 2011 Diner’s Choice Awards, click here

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* I will admit, I have yet to finish it.  I have however, eaten countless Xiao Long Bao and consider this active meditation on such matters.

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