Yaletown’s swanky new Chinese restaurant, Chinois, serves traditional Chinese food and modern interpretations with nary a French influence in sight, as the name may suggest

Chinois opened in November 2011 with a fantastic cocktail list (the Chairman Mao cocktail, $11, with Chivas Regal, Cointreau, smoked plum juice and black tea is amazing) and a delectable small plates menu (the crispy squid with chilies, $10, is fantastic). In January it added a weekend dim sum brunch with traditional yet friendly dishes like twice cooked pot stickers, $10, and vegetable spring rolls, $5.

What sets Chinois apart from other dim-sum-serving restaurants is the sultry decor and dark, nightclub vibe (Pierre’s champagne lounge is concealed by a black curtain at the back of the restaurant), with its brick feature wall, exposed cedar beams, big brass lanterns, charcoal stacked slate walls, dark hardwood floors, black chairs, black benches and black tables – including the round chef’s table illuminated by a soft, purple glow.

The brick feature wall is lined with a collection of nine canvases, inspired by the Chinese zodiac and 1930s Shanghai society posters by local artist Vince Dumoulin.


A window into the kitchen reveals executive chef Ryan Mah and his team hard at work, as well as BBQ ducks, cooked in-house, proudly hanging on display. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

General manager Gordon Fai told me that many of the dishes they serve are similar to what he and executive chef Ryan Mah ate as kids in their Chinese households, including a dish that’s become a signature for Chinois: the decadent honey walnut prawns, $10, with candied walnuts in creamy sweet and spicy sauce (pictured below).


(Image: Samantha J Walker)

When we stopped by for brunch recently, my husband and I devoured a selection of dishes from the menu, which range in price from $5 to $10.

Chef Mah’s fried chicken (pictured below), $10, is an absolute must-try. It's crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and intensley flavourful with a lip-smacking sauce.


(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

We tried three different traditional and temtping dumplings (pictured below, clockwise from top left), each $5 for four – Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai pork dumplings), Ha Gow (shrimp dumplings), and Siu Mai (pork dumplings) – with the Siu Mai dumplings winning my top marks.


(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

The chicken and mushroom sticky rice (pictured below), $7, topped with scrambled egg and green onions, has wonderfully sweet and chewy bits of chicken sausage and nice, plump pieces of mushroom.


(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

The deep fried crab claw with red vinegar dipping sauce (pictured below), $5, is a nostalgic symbol from Fai's childhood. He said that deep fried crab claws always appeared on special occasion menus and signified that something special was in store. The meaty claw is surrounded by shrimp and seasonings and then deep fried. Yum.


(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

We finished our brunch with the fried steam buns with condensed milk (pictured below), $5. They were so good it was almost criminal, and in my opinion every meal should end with dessert, so it was a fitting finale to our outstanding meal.


(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

Chinois is located at 1035 Mainland Street and is open daily for dinner from 5pm until midnight (with bar service until 1am on weekends) and on weekends from 11am to 3pm for brunch.

For more information on its brunch, dinner, cocktail and takeout menus, visit its website.