A New Face in an Old Space
China Marble Restaurant
10566 97 Street NW
With our local Chinatown losing the long-beloved Pagolac Restaurant – remember the “7 Courses of Beef”? – our community has experienced a bit of a foodie hole. Missing the comfort of that delicious (if a little well-worn) eatery, I’d often wondered if something would come along to fill the hole.
Good news! I recently noticed that the exterior had been repainted with spectacular red, yellow, and green multi-coloured bricks, and a bright red sign put up to announce the new home of China Marble Restaurant. It was time to make a dinner date and check out the new place.
The exterior isn’t the only thing that is all spruced up. While being seated, we could see that care was taken to make the interior experience lovely too. The space seemed both comfortably familiar and yet new, with freshly painted green trim, tiled floor, and traditional Chinese decor on the walls. Tables and chairs were all decked out with elegant golden covers, all the better to set the stage in hopeful anticipation of food that’s been prepared with as much care as the setting.
The cheerful server let us know that there were two different menus. China Marble offers a Westernized “Chinese” menu for eat-in or fast-food take-out, and for the real thing, their proper Chinese menu has an extensive three-page list, with dozens of different hot pots, fried and Chow Fan noodles, rice dishes, seafoods, meats, soups, Lo Meins, vegetables, and congees, as well as a “Chef Choice” section.
The “real” Chinese menu looked fascinating, and with such variety, we wanted to find out what the “Chef Choice” category had to offer. For a new experience, we chose the China Marble Bitter Melon Chicken as our first item. Bitter melon was an unfamiliar taste, so we were intrigued to find out that this was more of a vegetable than what we typically thought of as “melon.” It has a deep, earthy flavour with the bitterness being reminiscent of broccoli, kale, or endive, and it paired well with the stir-fried veggies and sauce.
We also wanted to try the seafood, so our next and equally large dish to arrive was shrimp on eggplant with green peppers. We could hear it as soon as it left the kitchen, presented on a sizzling-hot cast iron platter. A mouth-watering aroma rose up from the bubbling sauce, promising gentle sweetness, saltiness, and super-moist shrimp for which I will definitely be back.
Both the dishes had portion sizes that were very generous, and it was clear that China Marble’s dishes are sized for sharing among several diners. This would be a great spot for work groups or family-and-friends gatherings, and there was plenty of room in two sections to arrange tables for convenient seating, as well as tables for couples or singles.
To complement all of the protein and veggies, we ordered a bowl of steamed rice, which my partner thought was slightly firmer than she liked. I didn’t mind that and thought perhaps it was done that way so that it can go into soup or soak up flavourful sauces.
We also wanted to try the drinks, so I ordered a Hong Kong Milk Tea, while my partner enjoyed sipping the traditional Chinese tea. These were a perfect dessert after the substantial feast, with so much food that we were able to take home the rest for a tasty lunch the next day.
Service was pleasant and attentive, with genuine interest in the customers’ enjoyment of the food, and without being intrusive. The staff know what they’re doing. A chat revealed that China Marble started on the south side, and that the new 97th Street location was staffed by very experienced chefs.
With such an extensive Western Chinese and real Chinese menu, and being able to accommodate all sizes of groups, China Marble provides something for everyone. We’ll definitely be back, for both the comfort food and when we want to try something new, or when we have a large group. It’s great to have a new spot in the neighbourhood.
Alan lives in McCauley. He is the Chair of the paper’s Board of Directors.