Monthly Archives: July 2015

Dragon Beaux, San Francisco

Dragon Beaux
5700 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94121

When I first found out that the owners of the venerable Koi Palace were opening a place in the city/county of San Francisco, I knew I had to go. Unfortunately, its location in the Richmond was not favorable to my busy late Spring/early Summer schedule of moving, settling into my new work position, and weddings. This delay, however, was a blessing in disguise because it made the choice of where to celebrate my birthday pretty easy.

Hot Pot

Cantonese Hot Pot at Dragon Beaux

Cantonese Hot Pot at Dragon Beaux

I invited a few friends to eat hot pot with me at Dragon Beaux for my birthday. Now, while some of you may find it alarming that I would be eating hot pot in the summer, many Bay Area residents will tell you that the dense, cold fog that blankets the area at night in June and July is really the perfect weather for this. An added bonus was that Dragon Beaux serves Cantonese style hot pot, which is hard to find since most hot pot restaurants serve Sichuan or Taiwanese style hot pot.

My friends and I met up at about 7:30PM and I almost immediately took up the reins of ordering for the table. Since my goal was to experience Cantonese style hot pot, I immediately crossed the Sichuan style mala broth off the list. Of the four remaining broth bases, I chose the herbal chicken broth and the miso sake broth becacuse they were lighter and would help augment the flavor of the items we were cooking, instead of overpowering. To cook, we got the following ingredients:

Geoduck at Dragon Beaux

Geoduck at Dragon Beaux

  • Geoduck – When a manager offered us their ‘special’ $28 plate of geoduck, I immediately took him up on the offer as it’s my favorite seafood. The geoduck was very fresh and with just 10-20 seconds in either broth they came out very nice and delicately chewy. The plate had different cuts of the geoduck meat too so one could eat parts of the trunk as well as the meat in between the shells.
  • Prime Rib – The meat was nice and I felt went really well with the herbal broth. However I felt it could have been a little fattier.
  • Pork Belly – Delicious in both broths and went perfectly with the scallion infused soy sauce
  • Shiitake Mushroom – It was great to have fresh, instead of rehydrated, shiitakes and these were great with just a little soak in the boiling broth
  • Watercress – Since it is a lighter vegetable, it helped balance the many heavier and protein rich items I ordered
  • Organic Tofu – The medium firm tofu was pretty good, and the absorbency of the tofu meant it picked up the rich flavors of the broth and dipping sauces
  • Lotus Root – These were probably the freshest lotus root I have ever had. I loved the nice crunch and mild flavor that helped balance the meal.
  • Pea Shoots – Admittedly these are one of my favorite vegetables to eat, so I had no complaints about them. Like the other items, they came out really fresh as well.
  • Taro Noodle – Similar to mung bean noodles, they came prepared in a knot. Unfortunately the knot presentation detracted as the noodles took longer to cook and the compactness of the center of the knot meant there was an uneven consistency. Honestly, I would rather have sweet potato/mung bean noodles that were sprawling out and occasionally lost in the hot pot broth.
  • Miso Sake Broth – Great broth with a nice flavor, though I felt the sake might have made the broth a little too dry in the mouth.
  • Chicken With Chinese Herb Broth – Felt like I was eating hot pot at home, including a liberal sprinkling of gogi berries. Unfortunately the broth, while it did get hot, never quite boiled.

All in all, I loved eating hot pot at Dragon Beaux. It was the closest experience I’ve had eating Cantonese hot pot (打邊爐) including the use of two chopsticks per person (one for raw food and one for cooked food) and scallion infused soy sauce. It was such a bonus to share something so ingrained in my childhood with some of my friends in the Bay Area for the birthday. Next time I go for hot pot, though, I definitely want to try their other broths, including the congee broth.

Dim Sum

Hot pot, however, isn’t the only thing that Dragon Beaux has on the menu. During the lunch they also serve dim sum. I got to try their dim sum a few weeks later when some friends of mine from out of town were visiting. We met up at around 1:30PM on a Sunday a managed to get a table of 3 in only 15 minutes, which was pretty good given how long most waits are for dim sum in the Richmond on a Sunday.

We sat down and got to ordering from their menu, which included standard items like siu mai and more exotic items like an abalone egg tart. On the whole we stayed toward the tried and true side, ordering the following:

Steamed Daikon Cake and Sugar Puffs at Dragon Beaux

Steamed Daikon Cake and Sugar Puffs at Dragon Beaux

  • Sugar Puff (白糖沙翁) – These egg puffs were delicious, albeit since it was one of the few items that were rolling out on trays and not totally fresh, they weren’t as hot as I’d like.
  • Savory Daikon Custard (碗仔蘿蔔糕) – This was a nice twist to the standard pan fried daikon cake. This daikon cake was steamed and drizzled with sweet soy sauce, helping to enhance the flavors of the dried baby shrimp and minced chinese sausage in the cake.
Roasted Pork Belly at Dragon Beaux

Roasted Pork Belly at Dragon Beaux

  • Roasted Pork Belly (明爐爆腩) – This was some of the best roasted pork I have ever had. Beautifully crisp skin with a little salt, fat that was tender but not overwhelming, and meat that was chewy but not tough came together very well. 
  • Honey Barbecue Pork (蜜汁叉燒) – The honey infused marinade provided a nicely sweet flavor for the barbecue pork. Underneath the pork were some boiled peanuts that became soft and delicious after being cooked and drenched in the marinade.
  • Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce (蠔油芥蘭) – I was very thankful that the blanched chinese broccoli and the oyster sauce were presented separated. The broccoli were fresh and blanched perfectly and the side oyster sauce allowed me to dip just the right amount for my liking.
  • Pot Sticker (生煎窩貼) – These potstickers were the most disappointing item of dim sum. While they weren’t bad, per se, the relative lack of meat in the potstickers and the blandness of the filling made these rather unexciting.
  • Crab Roe Shiu Mai (姜汁蟹子燒賣) – The flavors of the wonton wrapper, pork filling, and crab roe matched well to create a great dumpling. However, I felt the pork might have been slightly overcooked.
Juicy Pork Xiao Long Bao at Dragon Beaux

Juicy Pork Xiao Long Bao at Dragon Beaux

  • Juicy Pork Xiao Long Bao (南翔小籠包) – The soup dumplings had excellent soup and a nice, fatty pork filling. While the soup spoons provided a nice presentation, the execution wasn’t the best with the ginger and black vinegar. The skin was also a little too thick, albeit tasty. While this sounds super critical, I will say that this is one of the best versions I have found at a Cantonese restaurant (as soup dumplings are a specialty from around Shanghai).
  • Classic Shrimp Dumpling (經典蝦餃) – The shrimp filling was very fresh and lightly seasoned. The skin had a nice texture. The problem, like other American dim sum restaurants, is that they tried to put too much shrimp filling into a dumpling skin that is not that elastic. While it was tasty, my pursuit of a perfect shrimp dumpling in the United States continues.

For dim sum, Dragon Beaux does it pretty well. I would say that Hong Kong Lounge II is a little bit better, but Dragon Beaux provides another great option in an already dim sum crowded scene in the Richmond. Next time, however, I will have to try more adventurous items like the chilled honey bitter melon which is supposed to be pretty good and not at all like the bitter melon my parents would cook.

In total, Dragon Beaux is a very welcome addition to San Francisco’s Chinese food scene. It provides Bay Area people with the chance to try Cantonese hot pot as well as decently executed and innovative dim sum items you would not find elsewhere in the area. My first meals here tempt me to take more hour public commute treks from Oakland into the heart of San Francisco’s best area for Cantonese food; something which my friends in the city and my stomach are delighted to hear.

Egg Waffles (鷄蛋仔)

After dinner Sunday night my friends and I decided to go to a Hong Kong dessert place. We stumbled on the place by pure accident, but it gave me a chance to eat one of my favorite dessert items for my birthday: an egg waffle (or 鷄蛋仔 as it’s called in Cantonese and eggette as an alternative in English).

Egg waffles, if you don’t know, are very popular dessert/snack items sold on street stalls throughout Hong Kong. While the origins of this snack item is little known, the modern day form is an egg rich batter that goes into a waffle like griddle with egg-like pockets where puffs of chewy dough form. An ideal egg waffle is crispy and crunchy on the outside while also being soft, slightly sweet, and a little chewy inside the puffs. These can be enjoyed throughout the day, but usually I have them either as a mid-Afternoon snack or a post-dinner dessert.

雞蛋仔 at 利強記北角雞蛋仔  credit to Phillip Lai - "雞蛋仔 #lkk #hongkong" ( https://flic.kr/p/migDuc )

雞蛋仔 at 利強記北角雞蛋仔
credit to Phillip Lai – “雞蛋仔 #lkk #hongkong” ( https://flic.kr/p/migDuc )

The best place I have had an egg waffle is, of course, in Hong Kong. There is a famous stall in the North Point neighborhood called LKK (利強記北角雞蛋仔 in Chinese) on 492 Kings Road, at the corner of Kam Hong Street. On Kings Road it’s hard to spot, but once you turn the corner onto Kam Hong St. you will see an unmistakable line for these egg waffles. The place is an institution, with a number of photos of TVB stars, like Nancy Sit, eating egg waffles at the place plastering the wall of the stall. Yet, it’s location in a fairly working class residential neighborhood means it is never really mentioned in English or Mainland Chinese travel press, given the place a very local feel. They even have a couple of other locations in Hong Kong, testifying to its popularity. The egg waffles, of course, are super great as well with pretty much perfect texture and at a bargain of $2 USD for one.

However, you definitely don’t need to travel to Hong Kong to eat an egg waffle. If you live or visit a city with a large population of immigrants who were born and raised in Hong Kong, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, you can get a bite of one too.

San Francisco Bay Area

It should be no surprise that the Bay Area has plenty of food vendors and restaurants that serve egg waffles. After all, the Bay Area has the largest number of residents that are from Hong Kong according to the census bureau, and it’s the only major metropolitan area with multiple Chinatowns where Cantonese is the lingua franca.

雞蛋仔 at Hong Kong Snack House

雞蛋仔 at Hong Kong Snack House

If you live in the East Bay (around Oakland and Berkeley), like I do, there are a number of options for one to get a taste of an egg waffle. Probably my favorite is the aptly named Hong Kong Snack House in the Pacific East Mall. The tiny store is very reminiscent of a Hong Kong street stall and serve nicely cooked, if slightly underdone, egg waffles. In Oakland Chinatown there are a number of options. If you are on the go, there is the Quickly on 10th Street that can satisfy your on the go craving for both boba and egg waffles. However, if you rather have it at a sit down restaurant, you can go to one of several Hong Kong style cafes/cha chaan tengs like the more upscale Shooting Star Cafe or the more bare bones Yummy Guide.

雞蛋仔 at Creations Dessert House

雞蛋仔 at Creations Dessert House

The city and the Peninsula are not left wanting either. Just the other day my friends and I went to Creations Dessert House in the Richmond where they served perfectly crispy, if oddly misshapen egg waffles. There is also the 4 location chain called Eggettes where egg waffles are their raison d’être. Not to be left out is the well reviewed Kowlooon Tong Dessert Cafe. And if you want a feel of being on a crowded street in Hong Kong, there is Dessert Republic in downtown San Mateo.

Los Angeles

雞蛋仔 at Tasty Garden in Westminster

雞蛋仔 at Tasty Garden in Westminster

To eat an egg waffle in Los Angeles, one will have to do what they have to do to eat any other amazing authentic Chinese food item: drive to the San Gabriel Valley. Once you are in the SGV, however, the number of options are numerous. A vast number of Hong Kong style cafes/cha chaan tengs have them, so you can get your fill at places like Tasty Garden in Alhambra and Monterey Park, Cafe Spot in Alhambra, and Tasty Station in Rowland Heights. Don’t need a meal and just prefer desserts or snacks? Tea and dessert places like Puffect in Walnut and Fresh Roast in Alhambra.

If you prefer not to drive in the SGV, not all is lost. Tasty Garden also has locations in Irvine and Westminster, though I prefer the egg waffles at the Westminster location. And while I haven’t tried the egg waffles at Phoenix, they do offer them at their locations in Gardena and Garden Grove.

Elsewhere

Outside of the Bay Area and Los Angeles, egg waffles are a little harder to find in the United States. While there was an “egg cake lady” named Cecilia Tam that sold bits of egg waffles in New York City during the 80s and 90s, there is little presence of the egg waffles now. You still, however, can get them in Boston at a little stall in Chinatown. In San Diego, one can find them at E + Drink, which is interesting given that the place is mostly Taiwanese (albeit Hong Kong style dessert places in the Bay Area often serve boba instead of Hong Kong style milk tea).

But no matter where I have an egg waffle, eating one just brings me a sense of warmth and comfort. It’s the ultimate snack, a perfect way to finish a busy day of work or a nice bonus to a birthday celebration with friends. In fact, I wish I was eating one right now.

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