Bobby Chao’s Chinese Restaurant, Calgary

Bobby Chao's Chinese Restaurant serves up authentic, Toisan-style home cooking

Bobby Chao’s Chinese Restaurant serves up authentic, Toisan-style home cooking

Black bean and garlic pork ribs with bitter melon, home cooking just like when we were kids

Black bean and garlic pork ribs with bitter melon, home cooking just like when we were kids

Man, I haven’t had home cooking like this since the ’60s and ’70s when my parents had a Chinese take out restaurant in Parkdale, a northwest Calgary neighbourhood near the Bow River.

My friend Gary had been raving about Bobby Chao’s Chinese Restaurant for months, and I’d been eager to get to Calgary to try the place.  Gary had been telling me that Bobby Chao’s was his mom’s favourite restaurant in  Calgary.  And when a Chinese restaurant recommendation comes from an elderly person of Chinese origin, that’s an pretty much an iron clad source.

Over the Christmas season, my Toronto cousin Julie was visiting her parents (my uncle and aunt) in Calgary, and now in her eighties, Aunt Jane is the reigning Yip family expert when it comes to authentic, Toisan-style Chinese cooking as it was done in The Old Country.  Meals at her home are always much anticipated festivals of Chinese home cooking.  Before personally trying Bobby Chao’s, I had recommended that Julie try it with her folks, since Gary kept saying how good it was.  The dined at this suburban eatery and came away giving it a lacklustre “meh” rating.

So I had to find out for myself if Gary’s taste (normally spot on when it comes to finding excellent dining experiences) was off, or if my relatives had hit a bad kitchen day.  With Gary in tow and my Dad and sister along to add another set of critical taste buds to the meal, we visited Bobby Chao’s on a Wednesday for lunch.

Fish and Tofu Hot Pot

Fish and Tofu Hot Pot

Salted Fish Steamed Pork Pie, authentic family cooking cusine and a dish I've never seen on a Chinese restaurant menu

Salted Fish Steamed Pork Pie, authentic family cooking cuisine.  Delicious, but an acquired taste, and a dish I’ve never seen on a Chinese restaurant menu


I let Gary order his normal favourites, all of which may or may not be on the menu.  He ordered Bitter Melon & Spareribs in Hot Pot ($13.95), Fish Belly with Tofu and Garlic Hot Pot ($14.95), Steamed Salty Fish with Ground Pork ($12.95) and two Dim Sum (Chinese luncheon/tea dishes) Shrimp Dumplings (aka Har Gow, $4.95) and Pork Dumplings (aka Shui Mai, $4.95.)

When the food arrived, my sister and Dad proclaimed the three main (non Dim Sum) dishes to be The Real Deal.  Yes, we all agreed, this is true, authentic, Toisanese home-style cooking.  Deb said the black bean and garlic ribs with bitter melon was ‘just like’ the dishes she remembers our restaurant’s cooks (all of whom were from Toisan province in China) made for the kitchen staff’s suppers after the evening dinner rush was over.  The Salted Fish (fermented fish sauce, which has a strong, pungent flavour and is an acquired taste) and steamed pork pie is a dish I haven’t enjoyed in literally decades.    Steamed pork pie is definitely a ‘home cooking’ dish, and one I’ve never even seen on a Chinese restaurant menu.  The Fish Belly and Tofu is likely mis-named; fish fillets are used, so there may be a problem in translation.  Don’t be put off by the name; I think it’s wrong.  This tofu dish is just like the ones I remember growing up with.

The two Dim Sum dishes are the ones most North Americans are familiar with – steamed shrimp and steamed pork dumplings, but Bobby Chao’s style is different; normally, these are dainty dumplings, but Bobby Chao’s serves them up very large.  So they get a big thumbs up in the value department.

My sister, Dad and I agree with Gary’s recommendation.  Bobby Chao’s serves up an impressive and unique Toisan-style home cooking, and for that, it’s Highly Recommended.  It may not be for everybody, especially if you’ve grown up on a diet of Canadianized Chinese’ food – sweet and sour shrimp and chicken fried rice – from the typical small town, family run Chinese restaurant on the Canadian Prairie.

Bobby Chao’s Restaurant has two sides (and individual entrances), both served by the same kitchen.  One side is Chinese cuisine, the other side is Vietnamese cuisine.

Bobby Chao’s Restaurant, 34 Edgedale Drive NW #18, Calgary, AB.; Tel.: 403-207-7840

Hours:  Sunday-Thursday, 11:00 AM -10:00 PM; Friday-Saturday, 11:00 AM-11:00 PM



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