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A willingness to tweak traditions helped Richmond's Jade Seafood win top honors in this year's Chinese Restaurant Awards .

The Alexandra Road restaurant earned the

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Richmond's Jade Seafood is Cream of the Dim Sum Crop

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A willingness to tweak traditions helped Richmond's Jade Seafood win top honors in this year's Chinese Restaurant Awards.

The Alexandra Road restaurant earned the "best dim sum" and "best overall restaurant" titles in the diners' choice division of the competition.

While voters weren't required to submit any justification with their selections, Jade Seafood's menu features a number of notable deviations from standard Cantonese preparations, as I discovered when I recently dropped by for a midday meal.

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Jade Seafood's kitchen has a mushroom fluency that's audible in an umami-rich serving of braised oyster, shitake and enoki mushrooms with bean curd. The delicate dish has a clean and complex forest flavor. But Jade Seafood doesn't stop there with the mushrooms: It folds them in dumplings buzzed with truffle oil, and - in perhaps its most enterprising dish - bakes them in puff pastry shells blotted with cream sauce.

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I wasn't crazy about the cheese-covered results: Of all the western styles from which to borrow inspiration, I can't imagine how Jade Seafood settled on 1990s wedding hall cuisine. Nor was I sold on a blueberry ball, which reminded me of Black Forest cake frosting and cherries jammed in a gummy mochi skin. But it's the inclination of Richmond's restaurants to modernize and compete that makes the city such an exciting Chinese food destination: I wouldn't be surprised if I loved Jade Seafood's next experiment.

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In the meantime, I'm pretty thrilled with Jade Seafood's crisped prawn rolls with preserved eggs and ginger, and the restaurant's celebrated smoked Grandfather's chicken. Like many Richmond restaurants, Jade Seafood uses a Chinese chicken breed, so the meat is darker and gamier than what's found on an American bird.

But the excellence of Grandfather's chicken isn't just a matter of agriculture: The chicken, glossed with rice wine vinegar and soy, is terrifically tender. Someone ought to give this restaurant an award or two.

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