Richmond is a just short skytrain ride away but it seems a world away. Recent immigration from the Mainland China has brought waves of new and interesting kinds of specialty eating. It is a very different dining scene from what we have in Vancouver. Here, we are experiencing a strange and delicious explosion of regional cuisines: hotpot, bubble tea, waffle spots, shaved ice, BBQ skewer joints … I could go on.
Too Two Chinese Sauerkraut Fish, a branch of a reputable 18 location chain from China, is a one-dish specialist. It serves a Sichuan-inspired, Guangzhou Taiyuan pickled fish soup (suan cai yu) in giant hotpot sized ceramic bowls. It is meant to be shared between at least four people.
From what I can gather, the name “Too Two” comes from the brand mythology of how the owner insisted that he would select and use only the best ingredients. And, the legend continues, he would rather close the restaurant for the day if these best ingredients were not available. Thus, his staff nicknamed him “Too Two” which is local Mainland slang and homonym for “Silly Boss”. Or something like that. If you know the truth behind this, I’d love to know!
The “Sauerkraut” is their special housemade pickled mustard greens. These lend the soup its characteristic funk and tartness. Behind a glass wall near the the entrance, you will see a phalanx of large clay jars wherein sun-dried mustard greens is left to ferment for a few weeks. They are rightly proud of this stuff. It is quite good. They even have a sign proclaiming it “better than the fish”.
Sichuan province is landlocked so, traditionally, cooks have only ever had access to fresh water fish like grass carp. Here, they used tilapia, a special that has a tendency to disintegrate into a gelatinous mess. But they managed to poach it perfectly here, and it holds together. You can also add to the soup from a selection of other ingredients listed on the menu.
The spicy, tart, oily, salty broth is redolent with the flavours and aromas of Sichuan cuisine: chili pepper, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic. Too Two adds their own secret blend of spices to the mix. Do I detect chrysanthemum? Star anise? White pepper?
The soups range from $40 for the “small” size to $90 for the “large”. Each additional ingredient is $2. The Sichuan appetizers and sides (which were also very good) range from $6 to $9. My group of eight ordered four or five sides. I think we could have used a few more. Until recently, Too Two’s menus were only in Chinese, making it a challenge for many. They now include English translations, which should make ordering a lot easier.
It is a popular place with occasionally long lineups. Most of the clientele are young, affluent Mainlanders. I see its arrival as a bellwether signalling the imminent import of more of these trendy specialist Chinese chains into this part of the world.
Bring it on, we are ready.
4940 No. 3 Rd, Unit 101 | Richmond, BC | 604-303-0490 | No Website