J Zhou Oriental Cuisine
2601 Park Ave
Tustin, CA 92782
Since I was in Southern California for Thanksgiving week, I figured I would eat around some of the restaurants serving dim sum that opened within the past year or so. Conveniently, I had a haircut appointment at my favorite men’s salon in Irvine so I figured that I would tag along a lunch trip afterward at J Zhou, a restaurant that opened in June in the District shopping center on the old Tustin Air Force Base. It’s one of several Cantonese style restaurants that have opened in Irvine in recent years and I was eager to see how this place stacked up against the more refined and innovative dim sum places in the San Gabriel Valley that I wish I had in Irvine when I was still attending UCI.
I arrived at the restaurant about 12:30PM the day before Thanksgiving and got a table relatively easily. They did, however, run out of 2 top tables so I had to eat alone on a 4 top, which was awkward at first but not too bad. I took a look at their fair big list of dim sum items on their menu and ordered a few, detailed below:
- Omassum In Spicy Wine (香茅辣酒牛柏葉) – The tripe was decent, though maybe a bit chewier than I am used to. I couldn’t taste the wine flavor too much, but the spicy broth was just right and gave the tripe a very nice and unique flavor I wouldn’t find at other dim sum restaurants.
- Chinese Donut (傳統炸油條) – I admit, I was actually looking for the dessert item they called Chinese cruller (鳳凰蛋散) and should have looked at the Chinese name of the dish so I would have known. However, these you tiao were pretty great and perfectly fried – crunchy without being too hard and oily without being really greasy. It would have been even better had I ordered congee, but definitely still good without it.
- House Shrimp Dumpling/Har Gow (凱悅軒蝦餃皇) – The shrimp was steamed very well with a very fresh taste and a light amount of ginger. The flaw, however, was the tougher and chewier than usual dumpling skin. This might indicate that there was too much water in the dough. Even with the imperfection though, it was one of the better shrimp dumplings I’ve had outside the SGV
- Steamed Zucchini Topped With Dried Scallops (瑤柱節瓜甫) – This was undoubtedly my favorite dish of the meal. First, the dish came piping hot fresh out of the kitchen as it should; in fact it was so hot that I had to wait a few minutes to eat it. The melon wasn’t zucchini, but actually winter melon, which I like even better. The winter melon was steamed perfectly and its milder flavor balanced the shrimp and pork stuffing, along with the dried scallop garnish, perfectly. The pork and shrimp stuffing was excellently steamed and had a simple, fresh flavor. The dried scallops put this dish over the top and provided an excellent note to top off the dish. I admit, if I wasn’t getting full from eating dim sum alone, I would order a second one in a heartbeat.
The chrysanthemum tea was pretty good as well and seemed of higher quality that most dim sum places outside the San Gabriel Valley. Of course, I should probably mention that absolutely stunning decor with nicely upholstered chairs and possible Chihuly glass hanging from the ceiling that made me feel like I was at an elegant 4 or 5 star restaurant in Las Vegas than a dim sum palace in Irvine. However, the service, while decent for often rude and perfunctory dim sum palaces, could have been better to reflect its ambitious attempt to be a very upscale, refined Chinese restaurant in Orange County.
None of that, however, deters from the food which definitely puts it at the top of all dim sum palaces in Orange County. In fact, J Zhou can probably compete toe to toe with some of the best restaurants serving dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley. That’s no small feat given that the San Gabriel Valley has the two very best dim sum restaurants according to my dim sum rankings. So even though I don’t live in Irvine anymore, I’m glad that Orange County residents finally have top tier quality dim sum without having to deal with all the horrific traffic on the 5 or the 57 to get to Rosemead, Monterey Park, or Rowland Heights.