Strength: Flavourful mala dry pot
Weakness: Too niche to be widely accepted
Chef Pin is a Chinese restaurant focus on serving “Mala Dry Pot”. The word “Mala” is a direct sounding of the Chinese language “numbing, and spicy”. Unlike Chinese “Hot Pot”, the “Mala Dry Pot” has no soup. It is stir-fried with a lot of herbs to make the pot aromatic and appetizing. “Mala Dry Pot” can also be called the “Spicy and Numbing Aromatic Dry Pot”. This Chef Pin location is on Kingsway near Joyce Street, Vancouver.
Chef Pin’s logo with a hot chili
Chef Pin’s color scheme is yellow, with some red and black. The logo has a red hot pepper on them, so you know you are getting spicy food here. They advertise themselves as a no-frill restaurant providing quality ingredients and services. You can see signs in the restaurant to know your money goes towards the food and not fancy gimmicks.
Located near the corner of Kingsway and Joyce
The color scheme has carried from their logo to exterior frontage and further into the interior space. This is quite attention-catching when you are driving on 41st Avenue towards the East.
30 Seats Small Restaurant
Chef Pin has limited seating. There are often line up. As soon as you walk in, the waitress will greet you promptly. If they are not busy, they will lead you to the table and give you a slice of watermelon. The interior space is painted with yellow a shade lighter than their logo so it’s not too hard on the eyes. Furniture in the space is all wood with dark brown cushion.
The restaurant use very simple tableware. They are plastic, and a little light. I believe this is part of their “no-frill” business model. Customers are not paying extra to help recuperate the cost of fancy-looking tableware. Their focus is on good food and good service. I can appreciate this decision as a customer. This is a place suitable to have casual dinner with people you don’t need to impress.
Chicken Wing Mala Dry Pot
The first step is to choose the base. You have a choice of prawn, short ribs, and chicken wing. We have tried the first two, so we ordered chicken wing base this time. You then add “sides” which is going to be stir-fried together to soak in the aroma. This is when you decide what level of spiciness you want to challenge. We know we cannot handle the highest level, so we ordered one level down.
This may not look like a lot, but everything in here is edible. If you finish the whole pot, it is actually quite filling. All pot bases come with celery, cilantro, potato sticks, and all the spices. We got side orders of beef omasum, fish tofu, lotus root, rice cake, and oyster mushroom. Rice is essential when you are challenging the palate with spicy food.
Ingredients with different treatment
The Chicken wings are split for ease of consumption. I think this is very thoughtful of Chef Pin. The beef omasum was a bit over cooked. It was chewy and quite elastic. Lotus root was fresh and very crispy to every bite. It is like a breath of fresh air in this spicy pot. However, you have to first dig out all the hot spices filling the holes of lotus root. The rice cake was unfortunately had an outer shell which was too tough on the teeth. My jaw gets tired after eating 5 of them.
Food not soaked in oil.
Most of the other similar restaurants would put a lot of oil as a medium to carry flavour from herbs to the ingredients. What I like about Chef Pin is the dry pot’s base is not over oily, but the pot still has a lot of flavour. The first couple of bites didn’t do much for me. Starting the 3rd bite, I feel the spiciness crawling from my throat into my mouth. The spicy taste burning to make me want to stop eating, but the different ingredients and perfectly balanced flavour urge me to continue.
Fresh Watermelon Juice
My watermelon juice is freshly blended. They taste the same as the watermelon slice. I cannot detect any added sugar. The juice is not blended too fine. Some of the texture of the melon remained. This juice aided me in combatting the spicy burning sensation in my mouth.
Iced Mung Bean Soup
Iced Mung Bean soup has seaweed added to complement the taste. It does not taste monotonous even though the green bean soup is just a dessert drink. This mung bean soup is very good at reducing the burning sensation in your mouth.
604 Food Critic Assessment
Chef Pin’s price point is about $26 per person. Of course, this depends on the sides you order. Yes, it is a little on the expensive side, but I think the taste is worth the trip. Chef Pin’s Mala dry pot’s taste is not really unique. In fact, most mala dry pot tastes quite similar. However, I know Chef Pin’s complex taste naturally comes from both dry and fresh hot chili pepper. We have no problem recommending Chef Pin to anyone who likes spicy food.
How to get in touch
- Phone: (778) 588-1360
- Address: 3293 Kingsway, Vancouver
- Hours: 5:00 pm – 2:00 am, Closed on Tuesday