Tag Archives: Cantonese

Tang Gong, Monterey Park, CA

Tang Gong

111 N Atlantic Blvd #350

Monterey Park, CA 91754

After a long hiatus, blog posting is back on! In general I’m still trying to dine outdoors as much as possible. However, regardless of where in the restaurant one dines, the dining experience is still (and may never be) not quite pre-pandemic “normal” in most major US cities. Given that, I decided to take my recent trip to Los Angeles as an opportunity to try a new restaurant and post a new review.

I chose Tang Gong because of it’s good reviews from other folks I trust and the fact it opened months before the pandemic began. As I was also meeting up with a friend of mine who was also visiting LA, I asked if he’d like to grab dim sum and meet up there.

Tang Gong is located in the location that used to house Empress Harbor Seafood Restaurant, which was a venerable dim sum and Cantonese seafood restaurant for many decades. I have attended a number of dim sum lunches at Empress Harbor and more than a few Chinese banquets there, so I had high hopes when Tang Gong opened. The plaza it’s in may be well past its late 90s heyday, but I was glad there was still a well rated Cantonese restaurant still there.

My friend and I ate on a Wednesday, so lines and a wait were nonexistent. While there were a number of people eating indoors and outdoors (though I think slightly more outdoors), there was plenty of seating for both. I checked in at the host stand and chose a table outside but close to the front doors. To minimize contact and risk with COVID-19, we were given disposable plates and chopsticks while we were seated, in addition to a menu to tick off food to order and tea which came with our own hot water thermos to refill hot water whenever we needed (which, to be honest, should be standard at dim sum restaurants regardless of a pandemic). After a few minutes we ticked off about a half dozen items to eat and waved a staff member to place our order.

Image of Dim Sum at Tang Gong
Dim Sum at Tang Gong

We ordered:

  • Shrimp Dumpling – 唐官蝦餃皇 – The shrimp dumplings were relatively good. The wrappers were probably a little thicker than I liked but held up well. The shrimp quality was good, but perhaps could have used a touch more salt and white pepper. All in all, pretty solid and up to the basic standards of San Gabriel Valley dim sum.
  • Pork and Shrimp Shun [sic] Mai – 蝦子燒賣王– The shu mai were pretty good with very juicy pork that was tender and melded well with the shrimp. Didn’t taste too much of the salmon roe (the steam likely overcooking them a bit), but overall a solid choice
  • Baked Crispy Pork Bun – 法式酥皮餐包 -This is the unofficial dim sum speciality of Tang Gong and it is AMAZING. It’s like if you took the Tim Ho Wan char siu bao and kicked it up a notch. The baked custard top with corn flakes were a great textural and taste complement to the pork filling on the inside. Would definitely order more if I had room!
  • Pan Fried Turnip Cake – 家鄉蘿蔔糕 – Honestly, these were okay. The fry on them was great so the texture was on point, but the filling could have used a little more seasoning.
  • Garlic Spare Rib Rice Roll – 蒜香排骨粉卷– This was another standout dish, agreed upon by my friend and I as the best dish of the meal. The pork spare ribs were tender and flavorful, the rice noodle rolls were soft but still retained its chewiness in the sauce, and the bits of pumpkin were soft and complemented the pork, sauce, and rice noodle rolls very well.
  • Pineapple Bun – 菠蘿包 – Pretty solid pineapple bun. May have been a slight let down in comparison to the baked crispy pork bun, but this was easily a nice dessert and I enjoyed another one as a snack for a DoorDash shift later on in the day.
  • Baked BBQ Pork Pastry – 香麻叉燒酥 – To be honest I was too stuffed to try these and it was probably the dish that least appealed to me in the beginning. BUT, I asked my friend who did eat them and, in his words, he really liked them as essentially a cha siu bao but in puff pastry form.

All in all, Tang Gong was pretty good. It was definitely worth coming here for the baked crispy pork bun and garlic spare rib rice rolls alone. Parking and the wait was not bad either (and I surmise it probably isn’t that terrible in the weekend compared to other places like Lunasia or Sea Harbour). The bill came out to be less than $20 a person too, which is quite a bargain for menu based higher end dim sum nowadays. If you are in or around LA, I would definitely recommend stopping by Tang Gong for some dim sum.

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My Hong Kong “Borscht” 羅宋湯 recipe

I am back from my hiatus with some new content (it was a bit hard to do a blog mostly reliant on restaurant reviews when neither dining in was allowed nor was I comfortable doing such).

Before I dive into my recipe for Hong Kong style borscht, I do want to note that my heart is heavy after a year plus of dramatic increases of anti-Asian hate crimes, including the death of six Asian American women in and around Atlanta this week. To say it’s been traumatic for many of us in the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is an understatement. There are undoubtedly many organizations to give to right now, but if you can I would give money and/or time to NAPAWF Georgia and AAAJ-Atlanta, in addition to local Asian American organizing orgs in your area. Feel free to reach out to me if you would like to know more about AAPI organizations in your community.

With that said, the reason for my blog post today is that I just got vaccinated with my second COVID-19 vaccine. In preparation for the side effects that are likely to come (at least a sore arm and possibly other symptoms like fatigue, chills, etc), I decided to make one of my family’s ultimate comfort soups: Hong Kong style borscht.

A brief history before going to the recipe itself, Hong Kong style borscht came to Hong Kong via Russians who immigrated initially to Chinese port cities like Shanghai before fleeing to Hong Kong in/around the Chinese Civil War. Goldthread has a good explainer video on its path to Hong Kong. As Hong Kong developed into an industrial hub in the 1960s and 1970s, a uniquely Hong Kong fusion cuisine was born adapting “western” cuisine like pork chops and fries to suit the palates of the growing Hong Kong middle class. One of the many offerings at these Hong Kong style cafes (more like US diners to be honest) that became popular was Hong Kong style borscht, or 羅宋湯 (Russian soup) as it is known in Chinese.

This soup was a favorite for my mom’s family, who dined at early vanguards for Hong Kong style western foods like Goldfinch (made famous in the movie In The Mood For Love). My grandmother and then my mother brought their take on the dish when they immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s and cooked it regularly for me and the rest of my family when I was young. Unfortunately the loose concept that could be considered our family recipe was lost forever when my mom suffered a debilitating stroke in 2011 and passed away a year later. A number of our family members have valiantly tried to recreate the dish in the decade sense, borrowing from others and adapting flavors to suit their own tastes and memories.

So to be clear, this is not necessarily a family recipe, but this is my recipe based on my tastes and nostalgia. I should also shoutout my cousin, who’s recipe I adapted this from. This is certainly quicker than my mom’s recipe which would have involved making beef stock overnight and then adding additional ingredients in the morning for an almost 24 hour process. I am far too impatient to make such a labor of love, but I think this recipe is *almost* as good.

If you do make this recipe, let me know how it goes! Without further ado…

Kitchen Utensils You’ll Need:

  • Stock pot or 6+ quart pot/dutch oven
  • Ladle
  • Tablespoons to taste as you go
  • Knife
  • Large cutting board
  • Couple large prep bowls (don’t need to divide ingredients)
  • Baking sheet (if using potatoes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart beef broth or beef stock
  • 3-5 bay leaves
  • 2-3 tablespoons of paprika
  • 2 yellow or white onions
  • 4-5 medium sized carrots
  • 3-4 stalks of celery (optional)
  • 1 small head of cabbage
  • 5-6 medium sized tomatoes (can substitute with 1 can of crushed tomatoes or tomato paste. Perhaps an ideal is a combo of fresh tomatoes and tomato paste)
  • 3-4 small to medium yellow potatoes (optional)
  • 1 pound of oxtail (if unavailable, double the stew meat)
  • 1 pound of beef stew meat
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • water

Prep:

Image of ingredients ready to prep
Prepping Ingredients
  • Season beef with salt and pepper. Ideally have it seasoned, sealed, and refridgerated for at least a few hours, if not overnight, but in a pinch it will be fine to do it right before making the soup
  • Wash, pat dry, and rough chop the vegetables. (ex. tomatoes can be quartered, carrots into 1-1.5 inch pieces, onions in 1/8 or 1/16 chunks). If using potatoes, set aside on baking sheet from rest of vegetables

Directions:

Image of soup simmering
Ingredients Simmering
  • Heat up pot with oil
    • Heat oven to 400 (if using potatoes)
  • Sear and brown the beef. A couple minutes on each side will be fine
  • Add beef stock/broth, prepped vegetables (aside from potatoes), paprika, bay leaves (I like more bay leaves but I leave the amount up to you), and a generous helping of salt and pepper. (I do at least 30-40 grinds per salt or pepper grinder. Yes, use a liberal amount of pepper!)
  • Top off the pot with additional water (will be around 4-5 cups)
  • Bring up to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes
    • If using potatoes, season with oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 20-30 minutes
  • After 30 minutes of simmer, spoon away the fat that bubbles to the surface, do a taste and add more salt and pepper to taste (I typically then add another 28 grinds of each with my salt and pepper grinders)
    • If using potatoes add potatoes around the 30-45 min mark of simmering
  • Simmer for another 2 hours. By then the soup will start to get ready. Use ladle to help mix the ingredients together more and do another taste, add more salt and pepper as needed
  • I generally simmer for another 3 hours before I consider it ready (and yes, I might even add MORE pepper) but at this point it’s up to you.
Image of Finished Soup
Finished Soup

In general, the longer the soup simmers the richer it will be. I generally help myself to one bowl once it simmers for about 4-5 hours but continue to simmer for another 1-2 hours before calling it done and saving for the next day. This recipe is flexible and adaptable to suit your tastes. After all, each Hong Kong style cafe and family will have their own spin and recipe. Regardless, though, every bowl is a comforting sense of home, which is especially important as I rest up for my second vaccine shot.

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Tiger Fork, Washington, DC

Tiger Fork
922 Blagden Alley
Washington, DC 20001

Toward the end of my time in DC in July I spent a couple dinners at the relatively new Tiger Fork. Tiger Fork is one of two recently opened restaurants in DC that specialize in the food, especially the street food, of Hong Kong (the other being Queen’s English in the Columbia Heights/Pleasant Plains neighborhood). As a son of immigrants from Hong Kong and a person raised on the food of Hong Kong, I was intrigued that DC’s first foray into the specific food of my parents’ birthplace, especially as it wasn’t through a more proletarian Hong Kong style cafe/cha chaan teng.

Tiger Fork can be hard to find in Blagden Alley, just blocks from the Mt. Vernon Place-Convention Center Metro Station, but once you see the neon sign of the restaurant’s Chinese name and the large Chinese style wooden door, you know you have arrived. There can be a wait, given that it is a popular restaurant, but both times (on weekday nights) I have managed to get a seat within 20-30 minutes.

After sitting down I browsed the fairly pared down menu on one page the sides of a paper placemat. Through my two times there, I ordered the following:

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Hong Kong Milk Tea at Tiger Fork

  • Hong Kong Milk Tea – A bit pricey at $5, but it is absolutely fantastic with a perfect balance between the strong, slightly bitter tea blend and sweet creamy notes of the condensed milk. I could easily chug a couple of these in one sitting but that can add up real quick. This is probably one of only a few areas in the entire DMV region that has a proper Hong Kong milk tea.

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Chili Wontons at Tiger Fork

  • Chili Wontons – Despite being a Cantonese restaurant and not a Sichuanese one, these wontons were pretty good with just enough heat from the oil pairing perfectly with the chicken and shrimp wontons.
  • Ong Choy – These are one of my favorite vegetables to eat. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the Tiger Fork preparation of this dish. While I love the flavor of fermented bean curd, the version I had used too much vinegar and ended up being a bit of a slightly too sour mess. (Queen’s English version is a bit closer to what I remember loving as a kid)

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Garlic Scapes at Tiger Fork

  • Garlic Scapes – In comparison, my friend and I loved the Garlic Scapes. The chives and scapes were stir fried perfectly with a bit of crunch and herbal nuttiness that was sublime. We consumed this dish very rapidly.
  • Beef Chow Fun – This is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, but unfortunately it missed the mark for me. First of all, I’ll say that the beef brisket they use is phenomenal. It’s well seasoned and cooked to mouth watering perfectly. Unfortunately, the noodles are a little soft and gummy. The dish should have “wok hei”, stir fried with just a touch of crispy char to give a play of textural and heat crunchiness with the tenderness of the ingredients. This dish had none of that wok hei which was disappointing.

Char Siu Plate at Tiger Fork

Char Siu Plate at Tiger Fork

  • Char Siu Plate – The BBQ Pork, on the other hand, was delicious with the fattiness of the pork balancing perfectly with the sugary glaze. The rice and ginger scallion sauce was great to help soak up the flavor of the pork too.

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Egg Tart at Tiger Fork

  • Egg Tart – At the end of one of my meals there I had an egg tart and this was the best egg tart I had since my last visit to Hong Kong earlier this year. The shortbread crust was buttery and slightly flakey with a custard filling that had that signature touch of sweetness.

All in all, Tiger Fork is an excellent example of Hong Kong food in DC. While it has a couple misses, there are many outstanding items to capably represent the food and culture of my parents’ birthplace. I am excited to try even more dishes on my next trip to DC. 

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Harborview, San Francisco

Harborview
4 Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, CA 94111

Late last year Harborview opened up in the space that housed former Crystal Jade Jian Nan (a branch of the famed Singaporean Crystal Jade chain that opened to harsh reviews). The new restaurant was opened by a former founder of the vaunted R&G Lounge in Chinatown and serves Cantonese food. In a typical Cantonese seafood restaurant fashion, they serve dim sum during lunch hours and higher end seafood specialities in the evening.

Since they serve dim sum, of course I had to try it and so I invited a high school friend of mine a couple weeks ago to see how it is. I made a reservation and we were seated with ease at 1PM on a Sunday. We were given a menu but since carts came around fairly regularly (and, perhaps, a bit aggressively on occasion), we decided to just order off the carts. Over the course of the hour and a half we were there we got the following:

Steamed Kurobuta Pork & Shrimp Dumplings (Siu Mai) at Harborview

Steamed Kurobuta Pork & Shrimp Dumplings (Siu Mai) at Harborview

  • Steamed Kurobuta Pork & Shrimp Dumplings (Siu Mai) – The siu mai were fairly good with a nice snap of the pork and shrimp. They were topped with a little shrimp roe as well. They could have been seasoned a little more or perhaps added with slightly more flavor, however.

Steamed Rice Flour Rolls with Beef at Harborview

Steamed Rice Flour Rolls with Beef at Harborview

  • Steamed Rice Flour Rolls with Beef – The rice noodle rolls were very nice, absorbing the sauce and holding the thin ground beef mixture while keeping its shape. The sweet soy sauce was nice without overpowering and the ground beef mixture had a nice hint of cilantro and scallions.
  • Steamed Shrimp Dumplings (Har Gow) – The shrimp dumplings were solid. The shrimp was plump and just the right amount for the dumpling wrappers. The wrappers were a touch thick but the perfect texture so they were too gummy or delicate. I do wish the shrimp had a little more salt and pepper but overall pretty good.

Chinese Bacon and Sausage Sticky Rice at Harborview

Chinese Bacon and Sausage Sticky Rice at Harborview

  • Chinese Bacon and Sausage Sticky Rice – Harborview’s stir fried sticky rice had liberal amounts of diced lap cheong and salty Chinese bacon, topped off with some thin slices of steamed egg (which I had never seen before). While it was well executed in general, it did feel a bit one note with the salt and umami of the protein. It probably could have used a little more green onions or some more pepper for some brightening for flavor.
  • Steamed Pork Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce – The pork spareribs were pretty meaty and because they spent very little time in the carts, was cooked well but not overcooked. The black bean sauce was pretty light but enough to give that signature savory umami flavor.
  • Deep Fried Glutinous Rice Dumplings with Assorted Meat Filling – This was probably one of the better “ham sui gok” (鹹水角) I have had. The glutinous rice dumpling skin was perfectly fried and the minced meat filling was well seasoned with a good mix of mushrooms and ground meat. Given that I didn’t quite have high expectations for this dish in general, the Harborview version was surprisingly good.

The total bill for these 6 items ended up being around $60 which is fairly steep at $30 a person. However, I would say that the dim sum is well executed, even if a little pricey. If you want good dim sum at a refined setting without going to the Richmond or Koi Palace, Harborview is great and arguably even better than fellow neighborhood swanky dim sum place, Yank Sing.

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Social Place (Silvercord TST), Hong Kong

Social Place
303, 30 Canton Rd
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

Over the course of the last few years I’ve visited both posh Michelin-starred and hole in the wall dim sum places during my visits to Hong Kong. So when I visited Hong Kong a few weeks ago on my latest trip, I decided to give my Michelin Guide some rest and venture to other dim sum restaurants that caught my eye (admittedly, mostly from Instagram and eye-catching Facebook posts).

One of those place was Social Place, which has very Instagram friendly dishes that are also fairly unique. My friend and I decided to swing by for dinner one of our first nights in Hong Kong to see what the fuss was about. Like many casual places in Hong Kong malls, we grabbed a number from the table waiting touchscreen. While we waited the 20 minutes it took for a table to open up, we looked at the menu to see what to order (crossing off those dishes that the restaurant had indicated were sold out for the day). After some pensive deliberation, we ordered the following:

  • Social Platter (Pickled black fungus, iced okra, Sichuan spicy sausage) – The social platter is an appetizer course where you can choose 3 small plates of different items. Since one of the vegetarian items we wanted were out, we substituted with spicy Chinese sausage instead which had nicely flavored meat and a good snap, but perhaps a little too oily with the chili oil. The ice okra was amazing, however, and I loved the perfectly cooked texture of the okra which gave it a nice snap and chew without any sliminess. The fungus to me was okay, but I think it’s because I generally don’t like pickled black fungus to begin with.

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Dragon Beard Kale at Social Place

  • Dragon Beard Kale – Despite the misleading “kale” name, this dish contains Chinese Broccoli cut into the shape of “dragon beards”, blanched perfectly and stir fried with gogi berries. This was one of the best dishes on the menu and my friend and I couldn’t get enough.
  • Truffle Shitaake Bun – The buns were cute and shaped like mushrooms, but I found the filling a little off-putting. While I appreciated that I got my “money’s worth” of truffle, so to speak, it was VERY truffle forward. If you like truffles, this is the bun for you, but as a person that only likes a hint of truffles, this was a bit much.
  • Noodle with Scallion Oil – The noodles were well stir fried, if a little bit oily. I liked the flavor overall but sadly this normally vegetarian dish got tainted with dried baby shrimp. Normally I wouldn’t mind it so much but the dried shrimp was a lot and completely unexpected, marring this dish somewhat.

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Pig-Shaped Taro Bun at Social Place

  • Pig-Shaped Taro Bun – These buns are priced at 1 in each basket, so they are a little pricey. However, I would say they are worth it because not only are they incredibly cute, but they have this lightly sweet taro filling that is equally as pleasing to the palate. If they weren’t nearly $4USD each, I would have definitely order another one.

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Charcoal Custard Bun at Social Place

  • Charcoal Custard Bun – These “lava” custard buns look stunning, like many other items on the menu of course, but were just as good tasting. The custard was runny but not super messy and the bun was slightly chocolatey giving a very nice texture for dessert.

Overall, most of the dishes here taste good and look awesome. Like most every place, there are hits and misses and obviously many dishes are more Instagram focused than focusing on flavor. Ironically, I do think the more beautiful dishes are the better tasting dishes, although many of them have a higher price to match. I would definitely recommend others taking a visit in Hong Kong to take a little detour out of the safe and ordinary dim sum dishes at other place.

 

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Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village, San Gabriel

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91176

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village has been on my radar for awhile given its generally good reviews and occasional mentions as a solid dim sum recommendation among Chinese food writers and bloggers in the LA area. However, given the number of newer dim sum restaurants that have opened up in the San Gabriel Valley the last couple years I spent more time reviewing them rather than seeing how this restaurant stacked up.

Seeing that there weren’t any new and notable openings that I know of, I look the opportunity of having dim sum with a friend to check the place out. We arrived Friday after Christmas a little after 11AM and managed to snag a table for two with no wait. After browsing the menu and wanting to check off half of the items, we settled on the following:

  • Beef Ball w/ Orange Peel Sauce (陳皮牛肉球) – These were fairly decent beef balls, chewy but tender with a good amount of seasoning. The orange peel sauce gave the beef balls a slight tangy flavor that was nice.

Pork & Shrimp Dumpling at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

Pork & Shrimp Dumpling at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Pork & Shrimp Dumpling (蝦子燒賣皇) – The shu mai here were pretty fabulous. They were filled with plump, juicy, well-seasoned pork with a little bit of shrimp. The shu mai had a nice snap as well and topped with a little bit of salmon roe for a slight pop of saltiness.
  • Abalone Rice w/ Lotus Leaf (鮑魚糯米雞) – While I shouldn’t have been surprised because of the price, I was a little let down that there wasn’t much abalone in this version of steamed sticky rice with chicken. However, overall the dish was a nicely made version of the dish that was well and evenly seasoned.
  • Steamed Crab Meat Dumpling (蟹肉荳苗餃) – Perhaps I was served the wrong dumplings, but the ones I got were very light on the shrimp and very heavy on the chives. Not bad, but just not what I expected.

Shrimp Dumpling at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

Shrimp Dumpling at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Shrimp Dumpling (晶瑩蝦餃皇) – Although the shrimp filling was fresh, seasoned just enough, and had a nice snap, the wrapping was very thick and really disappointing. While it definitely is decent, my quest for shrimp dumplings in the US as good as Hong Kong continues.

Turnip Cakes and Rice Noodles at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

Turnip Cakes and Rice Noodles at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Salty Pork Turnip Cake (上海咸肉蘿蔔糕) – These turnip cakes could have used a little more pork (or other meaty/umami flavor) and fried slightly more. They weren’t bad, but could have been better.
  • Rice Noodle w/ Beef (榨茶牛肉腸) – The ground beef and scallion filling was pretty flavorful and the rice noodles were fairly well steamed. I would say these were pretty good for a rice noodle roll.
  • Steamed Rice Noodle w/ Scallop (帶子白玉腸) – On the other hand, these rice noodle rolls were a little disappointed. The primary filling was tofu and the little bits of scallop seemed barely there. I would not recommend.

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Osmanthus with Red Bean Cake at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Osmanthus with Red Bean Cake (桂花條頭榚) – This dessert was literally my favorite item of the whole milk. The mochi-like outer layer combined with the red been paste inner layer made for a truly divine soft and sweet dessert to end our meal.

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Deep Fried Carrot Cake at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

  • Deep Fried Carrot Cake (經典蘿蔔酥) – These flakey daikon puffs had a nice filling that included some shrimp and mushrooms. While I am not normally a person that like savory dim sum items in puff pastry, these were pretty good.

Overall, Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village serves some solid, if not spectacular, dim sum. It does merit in consideration on being one of the better San Gabriel Valley dim sum places (and thus, fairly good nationally), but I would agree it’s not quite on the mark as other well loved places like Sea Harbour or the more newly open Longo Seafood. I would, however, say that I did miss an opportunity to try some of their more Shanghainese dishes on the menu. Those could have been more successful and may have made the meal even better.

All that said, I would say it’s worth a try because it is undoubtedly one of the best dim sum places for value in all of the SGV. Small dishes start at $1.98 and Medium dishes at $2.98. Those are prices that you’d be hard pressed to find at drabbier, more overcooked, dim sum places that still used carts, much less fancier menu order places. The total bill for all those dishes, before tip, came out to $32, which is quite the steal. So even if it may not be the best, certainly Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village is the best bargain for any dim sum lover looking to dine on a budget.

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Yue Restaurant, Richmond, BC

Yue Restaurant
8351 Alexandra Road
Richmond, BC V6X 1C3

My trips of Vancouver always contain a stop for dim sum at a restaurant I’ve never been to before. This weekend’s quick stop to see a friend going to grad school at UBC was no exception. This time we decided to go to Yue Restaurant (formerly Yue Delicacy) which was on my list to try from last year.

Yue Delicacy is a relatively small to medium size Cantonese seafood restaurant in one of the many food-centric strip malls that dot Alexandria Road in Richmond, BC. Parking was tight, albeit we were able to grab a spot quickly. Though if you don’t have a car, it’s a reasonably close walk from the Landsdowne Canada Line SkyTrain station. My friend, her friend, and I walked in at 11:30AM on a Sunday and waited a few minutes for a table with a reservation I had placed a couple days prior. However, I’d say the reservation might not be necessary as while the restaurant was full, there weren’t that many people waiting for a table.

Once seated we marveled at the very stately decor that was elegant yet modern (which Chef Tony could have learned from). But after a quick scan of the decor, we zoomed into what mattered most, the food! There were a number of things we wanted to try and eat so we ordered the following 9 dishes (all the Chinese names are correct, but the English names are approximate as I didn’t snap a photo of the English dim sum menu):

  • Pork Spareribs with Black Bean Sauce (豉汁蒸排骨) – These were probably the meatiest and fattest pork spareribs I have eaten in years! For the most part it was super juicy with just enough black bean sauce to give a depth of flavor, but not overpower. I would definitely eat more of these again!
  • Chinese Broccoli with Ginger Sauce (生炒薑汁芥蘭片) – In contrast, this dish was not that good. While the leaves seemed fresh, the stems were definitely a little old/too ripe with that acrid bitterness you can taste with not as fresh Chinese Broccoli. That said, the ginger garlic sauce was good which helped make the dish a little more edible.

Shrimp Dumplings at Yue Restaurant

Shrimp Dumplings at Yue Restaurant

  • Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (水晶蝦餃皇) – These shrimp dumplings were nearly perfect! Perhaps not as good as Kirin at City Hall or Ming Court in Hong Kong, they were on the smaller side but with skin that was thin, pliable, but dexterous with a filling of fresh shrimp, lightly seasoned, with a good snap. This is definitely an exemplary set of har gow that I wish all dim sum restaurants in North America would imitate.

Black Truffle Steamed Scallop Dumplings

Black Truffle Steamed Scallop Dumplings

  • Black Truffle Steamed Scallop Dumplings (黑松露帶子餃) – These dumplings were very good. Think a purely shrimp shu mai, add a scallop on top, and then add a little bit of black truffle and black truffle oil! That’s not to mention the dish roe on top as well. I think I still prefer the shrimp dumplings, but these were amazing with a nice balance of fresh seafood taste with the richness of the truffle and roe. Both the scallops and shrimp filling at that perfect snap which can be so hard to find.
  • Chicken Feet (金醬蒸鳯爪) – I’m not much of a fan of the dish but one bite of the skin showed that it was decently double fried with a good, but not gratuitous, amount of sauce. The dish is still too boney for me, but if you like chicken feet, this is a good set of them.
  • Taro Cake (五香芋絲糕) – I generally prefer daikon cake but this taro cake was perfectly fried with a crunchy exterior but soft and chewy interior. It also wasn’t too oily too. It’s probably one of the best versions of this dish I’ve had.

Red Rice Noodle Roll with Chinese Doughnut at Yue Restaurant

Red Rice Noodle Roll with Chinese Doughnut at Yue Restaurant

  • Red Rice Noodle Roll with Chinese Doughnut (鬼馬紅米腸粉) – These rice noodle rolls were made with slightly sweet red rice noodles that wrapped around a freshly fried Chinese doughnut that was stuffed with a shrimp and fish meatball. With the dark soy sauce they give you to dip it in, these rice noodle rolls were pretty solid and held up very well. The slight sweetness of the red rice noodles didn’t come out too well, but the shrimp filling and Chinese doughnut crunch more than made up for it.

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Lamb Fried Dumplings at Yue Restaurant

  • Lamb Fried Dumplings (孑然羊肉餃) – These potstickers were interesting with its crispy extra dumpling skin that looked like wings of sorts. The filling of minced lamb and chopped vegetables had a heavy lamb taste, but the flavors meshed well together.

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White and Black Sesame Balls at Yue Restaurant

  • White and Black Sesame Balls (麻茸煎堆仔) – Dessert was sesame balls with white and black sesame seeds on the outside with white sesame seed paste as filling. While we were dismayed that there were no sesame balls with black sesame paste, the dessert was still a hit with a very nice crunch flavor that lasted til we finished all the savory items.

All in all, I would rank Yue Restaurant as my number 2 dim sum restaurant in the Vancouver area after Kirin. It is definitely a place I would recommend to go to and certainly beats other places like Sun Sui Wah or Chef Tony in my book. Since it’s a newer restaurant, I would say Yue has a lot of promise, especially as it keeps on perfecting newer, more innovative dishes. While Kirin might offer a solid, near blemish free take n mostly classics with a very refined experience, Yue has all the ingredients needed to be the best dim sum restaurant in the Vancouver area (very high praise given the competition!) in the very near future.

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No Car? No Problem! BARTable Asian Food Goes East (Bay)

In Part 4 of this #BARTable Asian food series finally heads to my hood, the town of Oakland. Continuing along the Richmond-Millbrae line this guide will take you through West Oakland, 12th Street/City Center, 19th Street, and MacArthur Stations.

West Oakland

To be honest, this is the first station we can skip. The two places in remote walking distance of this BART station that serve Asian food are 2 Chinese American takeout spots, neither that serve food that’s any good.

12th Street/City Center

Downtown Oakland’s BART station is surrounded by Asian food, especially given its proximity to Oakland Chinatown.

Hainanese Chicken Rice at Shooting Star Cafe

Hainanese Chicken Rice at Shooting Star Cafe

In Chinatown one can, of course, find a veritable cornucopia of Chinese food and only blocks away from the station. For Hong Kong style cafe food, I like heading to Shooting Star Cafe (especially good for desserts and Hong Kong style milk tea) and Baby Cafe. For dim sum you can head to Restaurant Peony for arguably some of the best dim sum in the East Bay or Tao Yuen Pastry for some classic Chinatown grab and go dim sum. Gum Kuo and neighboring C&M Bistro are go to spots for Cantonese roast meats, though Gum Kuo also has excellent noodle soups and rice noodle rolls.

Dim Sum at Peony Seafood Restaurant

Dim Sum at Peony Seafood Restaurant

For non-Cantonese food in Chinatown, Spices 3 is the place to go for Sichuanese food and Shandong serves thick noodles and fabulous dumplings if you have a hankering for the heartier fare of Shandong province. And for one of the few Bay Area restaurants with Guilin style noodles, you can go to Classic Guilin Rice Noodles.

Chinatown, however, doesn’t just have Chinese food. For Cambodian food there is Battambang. Vietnamese food can be tastily sampled at one of my downtown favorites, Tay Ho, who’s signature item is the northern Vietnamese dish banh cuon. And for vegetarian Southeast Asian dishes, slightly out of Chinatown on 13th and Franklin is Golden Lotus.

The other side of Broadway in Old Oakland has a few Asian treasures as well. In Swan’s Market is the excellent AS B-Dama that serves great Japanese food. Le Cheval is a spot for decent Vietnamese food closer to the Oakland Convention Center.

19th Street Oakland

Further up in Oakland in Uptown and the northern part of the downtown business district are also a number of Asian restaurants, though they aren’t quite as concentrated as Chinatown. Some of these places below can also be accessed by the 14th Street or Frank Ogawa Plaza exits of the 12th Street/City Center stations but it was easier to delineate each BART station’s offerings at 14th Street.

Clear Dark Ramen at Shiba Ramen

Clear Dark Ramen at Shiba Ramen

Near 14th and Broadway you have some of my favorites for a work lunch break. I go to Shiba Ramen‘s Oakland restaurant every time I want a comforting bowl of ramen. For Afghan food, there’s the newly expanded Kamdesh. On 15th Street there’s Ma Me House for a pared down menu of solid Vietnamese food and Ichiro Sushi for solid sushi and lunch specials that are filling, but reasonably priced.

Further north, closer to my current office are a few more Asian spots centered mostly around 17th Street. There’s Aburaya for some extremely tasty Japanese fried chicken. A couple doors down is Pho 84 where you can eat classic Southern Vietnamese dishes in slightly more refined settings. Around 22nd and Broadway is one of the few Taiwanese restaurants in the East Bay, Taiwan Bento, where you can eat some Beef Noodle Soup and Gua Bao. If you need some fruit tea or boba to wash down your lunch at any of these spots you can saunter down to Yokee on Franklin Street where you can get some delicious boba or very Instagramable fruit teas.

MacArthur

The final Richmond-Millbrae line station in Oakland is MacArthur, conveniently also the closest to my apartment. It’s also the closest station to Temescal, the neighborhood that contains Oakland’s largest concentration of Korean food in Oakland (yet interestingly enough Koreatown is just to the South). 

For Korean food there are a number of options including Daol Tofu House and PyeongChang Tofu House for their namesake, and tasty, versions of soondubu. Hancook is the new restaurant in town that has Korean style hot pot. And further up Telegraph is Bowl’d, which serves a number of Korean dishes but best serves Bibimbap. Want Korean BBQ? I would venture a little further afield to Mosswood to Ohgane, a wonderful place with delicious BBQ that’s only $22 for All You Can Eat 10PM-2AM each day.

KMG at Hawking Bird

KMG at Hawking Bird

Temescal doesn’t only serve Korean food, however. Other Asian places include the oft-lauded Burma Superstar for Burmese. Down the street is Hawking Bird, the fast casual offshoot of James Syhabout’s Hawker Fare serving decent versions of khao man gai (Thai style chicken rice). Across the street from Hawking Bird and Burma Superstar is Marufuku Ramen which serves a pared down menu of excellent ramen. 

So while San Francisco has plenty of Asian food, take a BART train across the Bay to Oakland where your taste buds can expand with all these excellent options. I dare say that some of these restaurants are better than anything San Francisco has to offer on their particular cuisine.

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Sheng Hui Dim Sum, West Covina

Sheng Hui Dim Sum
2889 E. Valley Blvd Ste J
West Covina, CA 91752

West Covina is probably most known as the setting for the acclaimed (and hilarious) TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or ,to many San Gabriel Valley locals, as the town with the mall. While it is a fairly diverse city, one thing it isn’t known for is dim sum. Dim sum lovers in LA can rattle off a number of beloved dim sum seafood palaces in Monterey Park, Alhambra, Rosemead, Rowland Heights, San Gabriel, and even Temple City but West Covina, sandwiched in between the Chinese enclaves in the West San Gabriel Valley (i.e. Monterey Park) and the East San Gabriel Valley (i.e. Walnut), is conspicuously left out of the mix.

But now West Covina may have a legitimate dim sum contender amongst the fiercely competitive scene in the San Gabriel Valley. Sheng Hui Dim Sum opened in December and this West Covina dim sum joint already has garnered favorable reviews in foodie forums and by “celebrity diner” David Chan. Though to be fair, the part of West Covina it’s in is on a part of Valley Boulevard that’s practically Walnut or nearby Rowland Heights. In fact, the closest freeway exit is Nogales Road off state route 60, the same exit you would take to shop at the Rowland Heights 99 Ranch Market.

Nonetheless, I took my Chinese New Year trip down to SoCal as an opportunity to taste how Sheng Hui stacks up to the more famous places in the more established communities of the 626. I came around 1PM on Presidents’ Day and there was a small line. Sheng Hui is in a very small space and, thus, ordering can be a bit confusing. There is seating, but only about four 2-top and one 4-top tables and you’ll have to wait until they are clear. Otherwise you can order to go, as most people do. If you do wait for a seat you can either fill out the order tick sheet beforehand and wait or wait to sit down and then fill it out. I opted to do the former to save myself time once I sat. I ordered the following, though by the time I sat down around 1:30PM a couple items I wanted were sold out.

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings at Sheng Hui

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings at Sheng Hui

  • Steamed Shrimp Dumpling 鮮味蝦餃皇 – These were pretty good with wrappers that were dextrous and not too thick. The shrimp filling was decent as well with chunks of shrimp mixed with bamboo shoots for texture and a dash of salt and pepper. I’d say a solid 8 out of 10 for a shrimp dumpling.

Roe Shrimp Shui Mai at Sheng Hui

Roe Shrimp Shui Mai at Sheng Hui

  • Roe Shrimp Shui Mai 魚子蝦燒賣 – Honestly these were some of the best shui mai I have had outside of Hong Kong (and heck, better than some I’ve had in Hong Kong). The pork and shrimp were moist and tender with perfect amounts of seasoning. What’s most significant though is that they put fresh roe on top on the shui mai after they’ve steamed to perfection. Honestly that is what makes the difference. Most dim sum places cook it with the roe, practically destroying the flavor of the roe, but over here you can taste both the succulent meat filling and the delicate flavors of the fish roe on top, all for $3.18.
  • Sticky Rice Chicken Wrapped 荷香糯米雞– They were actually sold out of what I wanted, the steamed spareribs rice, but this was a solid consolation. There were two jumbo sized packets of chicken in sticky rice. I like how the flavor of the sticky rice wasn’t too overpowered from the juices of the meat and sauces. However the meat was only so so and the dish was decent but not anything wow-ing.
  • Choy Sum Fried with Garlic 蒜香炒菜心 – This was a hearty plate of choy sum that was well worth the $5.99 paid for it. The choy sum was fresh and the garlic gave the dish a simple, yet flavorful, aroma. I wish there was slightly less oil but that’s just quibbling.

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Coconut Little White Rabbit at Sheng Hui

  • Coconut Little White Rabbit 椰絲小白兔 – Dessert was basically these cute little marshmallow shaped rabbits with dusting of coconut shavings. While they seem rather incongruous with dim sum, they tasted pretty good! If only there were some chocolate and graham crackers to go with it for some s’mores.

The verdict? Sheng Hui is pretty good with some of the best classic dim sum dishes in the San Gabriel Valley (and therefore the entire nation). I love that the dishes are steamed very fresh and there’s high turnover which means little to no items are oversteamed. I do like that they also have some creative items too in addition to the classics. But above all, I love that they do the classics right. I hope these small mom and pop business puts West Covina on the map as another San Gabriel Valley dim sum destination.

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Kenny’s Noodle House, Portland

Kenny’s Noodle House
8305 SE Powell Street
Portland, OR 97266

Portland gets critical raves for its food, beer, and coffee, and rightfully so. From a plate of Hainanese chicken rice at Nong’s Khao Man Gai to sipping a nitro coffee at Stumptown, there’s a lot of food and drink to please the palate. However, while Portland wins rave reviews for its Thai food, including the aforementioned Nong’s and Pok Pok, its other Asian cuisine restaurants are a bit under the radar, including its Chinese cuisine.

One of those places flying under the radar of all the blogs and travel guides is Kenny’s Noodle House, a small restaurant in Portland’s Jade District centered on SE 82nd Avenue. The specialty at this quasi hole-in-the-wall restaurant is Cantonese style noodle soups and congee. While it has been open since 2008, it wasn’t until a year or two ago that it was featured in an article in Portland’s alternative weekly, the Willamette Weekly. And with a 4 star rating with 351 reviews on Yelp, I was compelled to finally try it out this past weekend in Portland (though I had attempted to eat there last summer while it was closed for vacation).

My friends and I arrived at 6:30PM on a Sunday night, finding ample parking and a table for 3. While it was nice not to be in painfully long lines as many of Portland’s more famous restaurants, I soon realized the downside of coming here for dinner. They were sold out of congee, a breakfast staple in Cantonese cuisine. I couldn’t begrudge them too much given that I clearly should have gone here earlier for breakfast or lunch, but it was a little disappointing. Nonetheless, there were noodle soups to be eaten and after careful consideration we ordered the following:

Wonton Noodle Soup at Kenny's Noodle House

Wonton Noodle Soup at Kenny’s Noodle House

  • Wonton Noodle Soup 鮮蝦雲吞麵 – The soup was pretty good with a lighter seafood aroma accented by pieces of yellow chives. The wontons were on point too, being almost entirely shrimp that was seasoned well with salt and pepper. Sadly the noodles were a little overcooked but not enough that I didn’t find this one of the best bowls of wonton noodle soup I’ve had in the US.
  • Beef Brisket Noodle Soup 柱侯牛腩麵 – The soup was a little milder than I’m used to but otherwise it was fairly good and the beef brisket was tender and well marinated. Like the wonton noodle soup, the noodles were a bit softer than I liked, but otherwise a solid version of this classic dish.

Sliced Beef with Ginger & Green Onion in Oyster Sauce

Sliced Beef with Ginger & Green Onion in Oyster Sauce at Kenny’s Noodle House

  • Sliced Beef with Ginger & Green Onion in Oyster Sauce 薑蔥牛肉撈麵 – In a different turn I ordered an authentic style lo mein (as opposed to the ones you find at an Americanized Chinese restaurant). The noodles were a bit better here and I liked the beef slices. However, there could have been slightly less oyster sauce as it was a little overpowering at times.

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Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce at Kenny’s Noodle House

  • Bok Choy with Oyster Sauce 蠔油小白菜 – I really wanted to get the Ung Choy but sadly they were sold out. However, this was fairly tasty as the bok choy was blanched perfectly with just enough oyster sauce on the side to flavor but not overpower. Would certainly order again.

All in all, Kenny’s Noodle House is still somewhat of a “hidden” (to the non-Cantonese) gem that serves absolutely delicious noodle soups. I only wish I was able to try out the congee, but that just means I need to return to Portland again!

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