Monthly Archives: May 2017

Tastee Steam Kitchen, Oakland

Tastee Steam Kitchen
329 11th Street
Oakland, CA 94607

On most workdays I travel to Oakland Chinatown for lunch since it’s a fairly short walk from my office and I can get lunch at a reasonably affordable prices. When I’m in Chinatown, I usually make it to the corner of 11th and Webster where I eat lunch at either Baby Cafe or Shooting Star Cafe for some classic, filling Hong Kong style cafe food. Over the last few months, though, I noticed signs for a new restaurant called Tastee Steam Kitchen.

Since I’m curious about any new Chinese restaurant in Oakland Chinatown, I took a look and was fascinated by a restaurant dedicated to “steam grilling”, which I had never heard before (and seems like a thing in Hong Kong?). I was intrigued, especially since it was opened by the same owners of Shooting Star Cafe, but the price seemed like a pricey hot pot so I decided to wait.

But then came its addition to Michael Bauer’s top 100 restaurants of the Bay Area and I felt compelled to finally go. My aunt was thinking about getting together for dinner too and I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to try a new place out.

We went on a Thursday night and got seated right away. We carefully browsed the menu which was very similar to an ala carte hot pot place like Little Sheep. There was a list of congee bases you could choose from (the steam and the drippings from the cooked food combine with the congee base to create a congee at the end of the meal). Then there was a list of sauces you could choose for 25 cents each, in addition to the free soy sauce, vinegar, and hot chile oil they have on the table. Then there is a selection of meats, seafood, vegetables, and dim sum items you select to steam at your table. After looking at the menu, we ordered the following:

Marble Beef (before steaming) at Tastee Steam Kitchen

Marble Beef (before steaming) at Tastee Steam Kitchen

  • Marble Beef (肥牛) – Our first plate was marble beef that was steamed to just perfectly done. While thinly sliced, the fat in the beef help give the meat a nice, juicy flavor that matched well with the spicy soy sauce mixture I had. At $5, it was super cheap for the portion as well.
  • Egg Tofu with Ground Pork in XO Sauce (XO滑肉豆腐) – I think we were expecting more of a steam egg/meatloaf like dish but these pork meatloaf bits and tofu were nice, if less than exciting. The meat was juicy, though I was hoping for a little more spiciness and saltiness. It was hard to eat it together with the medium soft tofu. It was alright, if not exciting.
Snow Pea Leaves (after steaming) at Tastee Steam Kitchen

Snow Pea Leaves (after steaming) at Tastee Steam Kitchen

  • Snow Pea Leaves 大豆苗 – I love pea leaves and when these were steaming, it was so great to smell the fragrant, nutty aroma. They were steamed perfectly, and the milder flavor helped absorb the sauces well. I do wish, however, that this came in between the meat dishes.
  • Lotus Root 蓮藕 – There was a LOT of lotus root so if you love lotus root, this is exceptionally good value. The lotus root probably could have used more steam to make it softer, but the crunch was still nice and made for a good vessel for the sauces.
  • Custard Bun 流沙包 – Finally, we ended the meal with a bun filled with runny custard. Like the other items, it was steamed and timed exactly right. The buns were oozing with delicious runny custard that was a perfect end to the meal.
Cordyceps Flower and Chicken Congee at the end

Cordyceps Flower and Chicken Congee at the end

Afterward we had the cordyceps flower and chicken congee. While the rice and chicken cooked beautifully with all that steam and water, the congee was a bit lacking in flavor. However, that’s likely due to the fact that we only had one dish that had major protein juice drippings to help flavor the congee. It probably would have been more flavorful if we got a seafood dish instead of a vegetable dish.

All in all, I liked Tastee Steam Kitchen though I do wish they alternated between cooking vegetables and meat instead of cooking meat at the beginning then vegetables. I’ll definitely have to go again and order more meat and seafood to see how it flavors the congee in the end. There is certainly a lot of potential to this new type of cooking that’s as healthy as hot pot with the ability to have everything perfectly cooked on a “grill”. I’ll just have to go a little bit more before I can confidently say it’s one of the best restuarants in the Bay.

 

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Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen, Atlanta

Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen
931 Monroe Dr. Ste A-108
Atlanta, GA 30308

When it comes to Asian food in Atlanta, people generally think of Buford Highway, specifically the section of the highway in Chamblee and Doraville that is home to many of the area’s best Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean restaurants. So it was much to my delight and surprise when I was researching on where to eat on my East Coast trip that a Taiwanese restaurant in midtown was listed as one of Atlanta Eater’s 38 essential restaurants. Since I was planning to meet up with a couple of my friends that lived in midtown, the place seemed perfect with both its praised quality and close proximity.

My friends and I met up and walked to Ah-Ma’s, arriving around 6:30PM on a Friday. The restaurant was fairly busy but luckily a medium sized table opened up fairly quickly and we were seated in less than five minutes. We took a look at the menu, which is filled with a wide range of classic Taiwanese dishes, and I really had to resist my urge to order everything. Fortunately, we managed to narrow down our selections to the following:

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Fried Pig Ear at Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen

  • Fried Pig Ear – These crunchy and chewy morsels of pork were perfectly fried, allowing the light pork taste to shine and not be overpowered by oil or breading. My friend who insisted on ordering these was perfectly delighted. We only wished that there was more on the plate.
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Dirty Bird Bao at Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen

  • Dirty Bird Bao – A solid Taiwanese chicken cutlet that’s wrapped in a mantou bun with pickled cucumber and carrots. It was a pleasant, if underwhelming, snack bao. There was supposed to be some wasabi aioli but I don’t really remember the aioli having any of the heat of wasabi.
Pork Belly Bao at Ah-Ma's Taiwanese Kitchen

Pork Belly Bao at Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen

  • Pork Belly Bao – Ah-Ma’s version of gua bao, on the other hand, was fantastic. The pork belly was tender and juicy. The fat of the pork married well with the pickled mustard greens. Combined, it was an excellent, if slightly messy, bao.
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Lu Rou Fan at Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen

  • Lu Rou Fan – The braised pork in this dish may not be as sublimely soft and rich as the bowls in Taiwan, but it was a solid version for a dish in America. The pork was tasty and the egg was marinated. Perhaps my only real nitpick is that I wish there was more picked veggies and less cilantro garnish.
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Three Cup Chicken Wings at Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen

  • Three Cup Chicken Wings – While three cup chicken normally isn’t exclusively chicken wings or drumsticks, I did appreciate this spin on the classic Taiwanese dish to make it very American with staunchly Taiwanese roots. The wings were fried very well, managing to have a light and crispy skin with juicy meat. The sauce was very nice too with a hint of heat to augment the sweet flavors from the soy sauce and sesame oil.
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Beef Noodle Soup at Ah-Ma’s Taiwanese Kitchen

  • Beef Noodle Soup – One constant theme of Ah-Ma’s is that they know how to cook their meats. The brisket in the noodle soup was no different in its tender chunks with hints of five spice. The noodles were cooked perfectly too, allowing them to absorb the flavor of the broth without being too soggy. I did wish the broth was a little more spicy, but this was a solid version of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.

All in all, Ah-Ma’s definitely met expectations and I was instantly delighted that Atlanta has a solid Taiwanese restaurant that is within walking distance of mass transit. I especially loved all the nods to Taiwan, including the ability to drink a can of HeySong Sarsaparilla. Ah-Ma finds a way to make solid plates of Taiwanese dishes at reasonable prices in a very approachable way to non-Chinese people, something that many other middle to high end Asian restaurants in yuppie Millennial filled Asian neighborhoods fail to achieve. 

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