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Chinese Food with Wine – My Favourite Pairings at Old Bird Restaurant

This month, I had the pleasure to try out an awesome local restaurant that opened up this year. If you’re a big foodie like me and want to support local women-led small businesses, LISTEN UP because you need to check out this place. Old Bird is a modern street food Chinese restaurant on Main Street in Vancouver that adds a fun, funky twist on traditional Chinese dishes or what they’d call “Chinese food with attitude.” I love how this restaurant has an upscale, stylish vibe, which is different from the traditional local Chinese restaurants I would go to with my Grandma on Fraser Street.

It’s like a perfect mesh of modern with nostalgic traditional Chinese culture, which resonates a lot with my background as a Canadian-born Chinese.

Going into wine talk, honestly, I normally have tea over wine with Chinese food. Luckily, I got to chat with Old Bird’s General Manager, Shawn Jones, who curated an awesome wine list with BC wines and explained her strategy behind pairing wine with Chinese food. In this blog post, I’ll share how to pair wine with Chinese cuisine and the amazing wine and food pairings you can get at Old Bird.

Pairing Wine with Chinese Cuisine

Old Bird’s wine list is focused on dry, young wines with bright notes. They stick with non-oaked or neutral oaked wine, so the tannins are finer and the flavours are not too bold. One common characteristic of all their wines was approachability. Their wines were all easy on the palate, so none of them overpowered the flavourful, deep-fried dishes on their menu. Comparing Old Bird's wines with Chinese tea, what I found apparent was that these wines emulate the characteristic of Chinese tea – dry, light on the palate, balances well with the fattiness and spice of Chinese food, and ultimately attends to everyone’s palate (because I don’t know a single person that doesn't like Chinese tea). That's why I believe their wines paired well with Chinese food. So the next time you're pairing wines with Chinese cuisine, lookout for some of these characteristics in your wine.

Old Bird's Wine List

I can say without a doubt that Culmina is one of the best wineries in BC. This wine, I INSTANTLY LOVED. It’s elegant and very soft on the palate. It has a lovely sweet nose and bright notes of grapefruit, mango, and lemon with hints of zest and minerality. What’s cool is that this wine varietal is quite unique and rare. Culmina is the first and only Okanagan winery that has grown Grüner Veltliner, an Austrian grape varietal, hence why they use the Latin word “unicus” meaning “only” in the name. At the moment, this wine is only sold in restaurants, so if you want to try it, go to Old Bird. Since this wine is quite refreshing, I’d pair it with spicy dishes like the Crispy Cauliflower.

As the name says, I would only expect to see this wine blend in my dreams. Amelia is a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Viognier, which is quite unusual but surprising good. As the blend is different, so is the winemaking process where the varietals are co-fermented for 10 days and spend 11 months in French oak barriques. This wine is very dry and smooth with savoury notes of blackberry, violet, peppercorn, and eucalyptus. I think what’s important about this blend is that the small dose of Viognier actually makes the Syrah that much more approachable than it would be alone. This is definitely one to pair with homey dishes like the Pork Ragu. If you’re up for a beautiful surprise, try this wine.

Lock & Worth has definitely showcased a different side of an Okanagan Merlot here. Most people think of Okanagan Merlots as bold, full-bodied, jam-like, dark red fruit, but this Merlot is far from that. It’s quite pale, like a Pinot Noir. It also has a soft, delicate mouthfeel with notes of herbs and bright red fruit like cranberry. Ultimately, the fine tannins allow the wine to have a slightly dry, but smooth finish. That’s because this wine only spends 5 days in the skins and matures in neutral oak for 7 months, which is quite short for a Merlot. I thought this Merlot was great with deep-fried dishes like the Jian Bing.

I’m always down for a Gewürztraminer and the name of this winery really resonates with me as I’m in a family of 3 sisters. This wine has a very fresh scent, like fresh fruits and fresh flowers. As this wine has a pale orange colour, you’d assume it would be a patio wine. However, I think this wine can be paired with Chinese seafood dishes. This Gew is bone dry to the tea with light violet, stone fruit, citrus, and lychee notes. If you try this, make sure you close your eyes when you try it so your mind doesn’t make assumptions of this wine before you drink it.

Old Bird's Food Pairings

Jian Bing

Jian Bing is the Chinese version of crepes. Old Bird does this dish fantastically using a whole wheat wrap and egg folded around a Chinese donut, pork floss, and small diced greens. This is the bomb, period! It’s sweet, salty, and so flavourful. There’s a lot of flavour complexity to this dish, which makes your tastebuds go wild. What’s interesting is that it reminded me of the duck cabbage wrap dish meshed with Zhaliang (Chinese donut wrapped in rice noodle). I think that’s why I loved it so much - it wasn’t just tasty, it had nostalgic flavours.

Crispy Cauliflower

First off, this cauliflower is deep-fried (who doesn’t love that). What’s nice is that this dish had a spicy kick to it with Szechuan spice, peppercorn, and salt, so it won’t gradually burn your mouth. The texture was very balanced as well with the soft inside and crunchy outer layer. Overall, it was quite dry, so I’d pair this with a more refreshing wine.

Braised Pork Ragu

This one is the homiest dish out of the bunch. It’s a rice bowl with slow-cooked pork ragu, pickles, and a sunny-side egg on top. This is my definition of comfort food - high in carbs, fatty, low acidity, and is easy on my stomach. If you’re looking for something simple or in the mood for comfort food, order this one.

If you would like to check out Old Bird’s full food and wine menu, click here.

Old Bird is located at 3950 Main St. Vancouver, so be sure to try them out this holiday season and say hi for me. They do dine-in, take-out, and are on the delivery apps - DoorDash, UberEats, and FromTo. Last but not least, I’d like to share a special thank you to Sophia Lin, Shawn Jones, and the staff at Old Bird for hosting me!!

Be sure to support local small businesses this holiday! Have a Merry Wine-ful Christmas!!

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