Neighbourhood: Fort Garry
Address: 1-1521 Pembina Hwy
Chinese ex-pats flock to Yougot Chinese Restaurant for comforting, familiar flavours. The restaurant works directly with suppliers in China to bring in impossible-to-find spices to make sure food tastes just like home. Talented chef Yang Song’s mastery of sauces makes it well worth the visit to this unassuming, suburban eatery on Pembina Highway.
Many of the 150 options representing regional foods across China are authentic. A lucky knot symbol is posted next to these traditional dishes on the take-out menu. When dining in, look to friendly owner Zhong Ren, who loves to make suggestions. He doesn’t lead diners astray.
As a brief resident of Xi’an, China, my heart skipped a beat when I saw Chinese barbecue listed as a house special. Could these be the same lamb skewers cooked over coals that I adored so much? They were. Each juicy, bite-sized morsel of meat was covered in a rare 13-spice blend. While they are not cooked over coal heat, as is the tradition, the moderately spicy seasoning alone make these fragrant skewers a must to begin any meal.
Crispy, house-made potstickers are another captivating appetizer. The savoury filling of tender pork combined with slivers of green onion is complemented with a salty and sour garlic, chile oil and seasoned black rice vinegar dipping sauce. The bottom of each pillowy dumpling is covered in a pleasing crackling crust from a quick pan-fry.
A small selection of cold dishes are offered, including a feisty noodle plate bathed in garlic, white and rice vinegar, and powerful chiles. Once you master twirling the slippery, glassy house-made green bean noodles around chopsticks, prepare for powerful herbaceous, spicy taste in each mouthful. This heaping dish is topped with julienne carrots, cucumbers and sprigs of cilantro for calming refreshment.
Garlic, popular in Chinese cooking, jumps to the forefront again in the light brown sauce coating a medley of chopped eggplant, potato and green pepper. The eggplant, in particular, is pan-fried to perfection with a slightly sticky outer shell that reveals a silky-soft, sweet centre. Tiny pieces of pork in the sauce lend savoury depth.
Don’t expect the syrupy, cloying sweet and sour sauces used in your typical Chinese takeout joints in North America. Here, breaded and fried slices of succulent pork are coated in a tangy, house-made sweet and sour sauce that sings with bold orange notes.
The house special ribs are little nuggets of lightly breaded, deep-fried pork on the bone. They won over the table and were quickly devoured. A mild blast of heat comes from a delightful orange coating of crunchy bread crumbs made with chile pepper, carrots and itty bits of green pepper.
We went with the owner’s suggestion and ordered the steamed pomfret fish (also known as butter fish). Served whole, Ren aptly deboned the luscious fillet at the table. “This is the best part,” said Ren, as he pulled out its tender cheeks. Pork is used to flavour the fish and is found in the intriguing sauce that beautifully balances spicy, salty, garlicky and sweet tastes.
Décor is spare in the 30-seat eatery. Jumbo food photography on the walls whets appetites, while a contemporary white carnation print adorns black lacquered tables. The same pattern appears on the fabric-covered chairs, polishing off the small space.
Yougot is open Mon-Sun 11:30 am-11 pm.