Tag Archives: Dim Sum

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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Crazy Rich Food + Reflections

This weekend is the opening weekend of Crazy Rich Asians, the film based on the bestselling book of the same name by Kevin Kwan. And while many of the articles for the film focus on its importance in Asian American representation in Hollywood or the cultural conflict of the plot between traditional class hierarchies amongst rich Chinese versus “rags to middle class riches” Chinese Americans, I, of course, want to write about the food mentioned in the books and movies. In the book series there are liberal mentions of various places that the exorbitantly rich of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai dine in, which does include places open to the public and are relatively affordable. Below you can find a few of those places found in the film and/or books in Singapore and Hong Kong and my thoughts on them (if I have been). Be aware, there will be some spoilers of the movie and/or books below.

[Following that you’ll find my reflections of the movie].

Singapore:

Newton Food Centre – After Araminta and Colin pick up Nick and Rachel up they head to Newton Food Centre where they order from different stalls specializing in their own dishes. I’ve never eaten at Newton Food Centre but in the scene you can see the foursome chow on various Singaporean dishes like Satay at TKR Satay, Oyster Omelette at Hup Kee Fried Oyster Omelette, and ice kachang at 88 San Ren Cold and Hot Dessert. For reference, in the book they actually go to another hawker centre, Lau Pa Sat, though Nick prefers the satay at Newton.

Hong Kong:

Roast Goose Rice and Tong Choy at Yat Lok

Roast Goose Rice and Tong Choy at Yat Lok

Yung Kee – In the books, Yung Kee is described as the place where the uber rich go dine on roast goose. And while the refined trappings of the restaurant remain intact, a family feud a few years ago led to a split. The better Kam family roast goose now lies at Kam’s Roast Goose in Wan Chai (in decidedly less upscale digs) which also racks up a Michelin star, unlike Yung Kee. Although Kam’s Roast Goose is fantastic, I do have a preference for Yat Lok (also a Michelin star earner) in Central.

Fook Lam Moon – Although I don’t recall this so-called “Tycoon’s Canteen” being in the books, it was mentioned by Kevin Kwan as a place where old money still eats. And honestly my one visit to their TST location showed perfectly why, and it’s not because of their food (which is good but not mind blowing spectacular). It’s because of their service, where they have a number of private rooms, a multitude of wait staff to refill your tea cups so you never have to, and even nice small shelves so your bags never, ever touch the ground (or hang over your seat). Reservations are probably required but it’s not too hard to make one online.

Dim sum at Lung King Heen

Dim sum at Lung King Heen

Lung King Heen – In the book when Rachel is at the bachelorette party on Samsara Island, Kitty and Alistair are purportedly seen at this three Michelin star restaurant, the first (but now not only) three Michelin star Chinese restaurant in the world. The food might not be the most innovative compared to other high end Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong, but the dishes are well executed. Like most higher end Cantonese restaurants, the cheaper option is to eat the dim sum ate lunch (which even for 2 people will probably set you back around $40 USD). Advanced reservations of a month or two are advised.

REFLECTIONS

And now to my reflections on the film. Of course, there’s many things I could say about the movie, but I want to focus on how particular parts of the movie affected me. Like Love, Simon, Crazy Rich Asians was an important movie in terms of its cultural impact as a romantic comedy to me. While neither obviously hewed super close to my experience, both movies were well made movies based on reader adored books (of which I read both books before either were movies) that hopefully launch a number of other movies beyond the straight, white upper middle class narrow confines of the vast majority of major studio romantic comedies of the past.

Crazy Rich Asians itself resonated with me loudly in no small part because Kevin Kwan wrote the book for and in the perspective of the Asian American experience, especially those like me who are Millennial children of immigrants. The impetus to root for Rachel is because Rachel is like many of us, children of Asian immigrants that moved to the United States with immense sacrifice to hopefully provide opportunity for their children. (To be clear that’s not the entire Asian American experience which also includes refugees of war as well as those whose families had means to send their Baby Boomer and Gen X children to colleges in the US and Canada)

As such, what Rachel deals with in her trip to Singapore to meet Nick’s family and childhood social circle, she, like us, have a very fish out of water experience when visiting the Asian motherland. There are customs and traditions, regardless of your class or ethnicity (though in the Crazy Rich Asian series, accentuated by class) that are generally known but not quite fully experienced until you visit your ancestral home (or in Rachel’s case, a nation where the majority of folks are Chinese like herself). And in those moments many Asian Americans realize that you’re not quite [Asian ethnicity] enough, but similarly you’re not quite “American enough” for non-Asian, especially white folks, at home.

This is crystalized in 2 of the most powerful scenes of the movie: the dumpling making scene and the mahjong scene [major spoilers ahead].  In the dumpling making scene, Rachel makes dumplings for the rehearsal dinner along with a couple of Nick’s cousins, Nick’s aunts, and Nick’s mom. There’s visible tension between Rachel and Nick’s mom, Eleanor, which comes up to a head when Eleanor catches Rachel as Rachel is lost finding a restroom. The end of the conversation, after Eleanor regales Rachel on how she wasn’t seen as good enough to marry Nick’s dad, hits with a sting when Eleanor, played by the incomparable Michelle Yeoh, tells Rachel that she will never be good enough.

“You will never be good enough” is a phrase that serves both the plot narrative and a line that touches like a cattle prod to Asian Americans like myself. On one side, people like me are told by our Asian immigrant family and family (or people in general) living in Asia that we will never be good enough to meet expectations, including language fluency and respect for ancestral cultural norms. We are, in effect, too American. But then outside of Asian American enclaves at work or school where we try to fit in, we are criticized for having an accent (even if we might not have one – in which case we’re praised for having “surprisingly good English”), eating gross looking or stinky food (which then get popularized a decade later by white chefs that “discover” it), accused of eating cats or dogs (when we don’t), or exoticized for real or assumed body features and sexual desires. It may not be as pointed and direct as what our family members or those in our ancestral lands would say to us, but the effect is the same, we’re too Asian to be an American. It’s a dual hit for Asian Americans like myself who try to bridge our identities and be proud of these different identities, but are told that we aren’t good enough for either.

But as much as those words in the dumpling scene hurt (and when I shed a few tears on my second watch), the mahjong scene near the end turns the table and shows how Asian Americans can have agency and a potential to use perceived weaknesses into strengths. In that scene, Rachel invites Eleanor to play mahjong where they have a pointed conversation about family and cultural compatibility vs. following your heart. What Eleanor doesn’t know, but Rachel soon reveals is that she rejected Nick’s engagement knowing that what Eleanor thinks is a winning hand (marrying Nick) is not one at all and in Nick’s current situation it would be lose-lose. So Rachel chose for him and shows the strength and power of Asian Americans. Rachel then leaves, revealing that she would have had a winning hand but knowingly gave it away to Eleanor (which you can read more in AngryAsianMan’s excellent primer on the scene). The scene shows that Asian Americans like myself actually do understand and respect both the Asian cultural traditions of familial piety and American cultural understandings of individualism and freedom to follow your passions. But the choice isn’t either or; by understanding both cultures you can make your own decisions and not be boxed into one way of doing things.

The movie isn’t perfect by all means, but the books and the movies are so emotional and powerful for Asian Americans who have experiences like myself because it’s one of the first stories we’ve read and seen on the screen that reflects our dual cultural experience. It’s not a story by and for the people (especially the fantastically rich) of Singapore. It’s not a story even for immigrants like my parents who do live in the US now but their major cultural upbringing was from where they were born (who I’m sure will like most of the story anyway, if my aunt is any indication). It’s a story by and for Asian Americans, like Rachel, born and raised in America.

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Disney World Asian Food

First, I should note that I was not deliberately seeking out Asian food on my trip to Walt Disney World with my family. I know some of my readers may find it hard to believe, but I would have been perfectly content with Fish and Chips from the UK Pavilion at EPCOT and multiple servings of hash browns at the closest Waffle House (which I, in fact, did do for my first meal).

That said, my siblings were fully invested in tasting this Disney World food bucket list which included a number of Asian items. As I am game for trying any type of food, I happily went along and ended up having enough content for a blog post.

As a caveat, this post is really limited to EPCOT and Animal Kingdom. I personally avoided Magic Kingdom (which is essentially a larger Disneyland) as much as I could and had no time to eat at Hollywood Studios. So with that noted…

EPCOT

My first day at Walt Disney World this trip was spent entirely at EPCOT, which is also my favorite Disney theme park. I could probably just spend a whole day at the World Showcase part of EPCOT and still not be bored. 

As noted above, for lunch I had actually wanted to go eat fish and chips at the United Kingdom pavilion but my sister vehemently disliked the proposal. We found the French options to be fairly pricey so we scooted along to Morocco. Since I wasn’t in the mood for Moroccan food we ended up compromising by eating at Japan pavilion’s Katsura Grill.

Spicy Seafood Ramen at Katsura Grill

Spicy Seafood Ramen at Katsura Grill

Katsura Grill is Japan pavilion’s fast casual eatery with a number of items including bento boxes, ramen, udon, sushi rolls, and appetizers. My sister ordered a bento box while I decided to go with the ramen. I got the Spicy Seafood Ramen which was served with a lightly spicy seafood broth. The shrimp were cooked decently, though I didn’t taste that much garlic while the broth was a bit lighter than I hoped for. The ramen noodles were cooked decently but all in all the dish could be described as solidly average. I did try some of my sister’s Chicken Teriyaki Bento which was pretty decent with chicken that was cooked well and had a good amount of sauce without overpowering the chicken. All in all Katsura Grill was basically a Disney-fied version of mall food court Japanese food.

After lunch we strolled along to the other pavilions, stopping to get our EPCOT passports stamped at the US, Italy, and Germany pavilions before swinging by the China pavilion. We took a small break by the koi ponds at the China pavilion where I took the opportunity to go to Joy of Tea, the drink stand of the pavilion. Over there they had a Lychee Iced Tea that was super refreshing and perfectly sweetened with lychee syrup. I would highly recommend buying a cup of the tea for a nice stroll around EPCOT on a hot, sunny day. Honestly, the tea tasted as good as some of my favorite bubble tea places and I’m glad my sister-in-law found the place.

Animal Kingdom

After our first day of food at EPCOT my sister and sister-in-law texted me that they wanted to try a couple items the next day at Animal Kingdom. After doing some quick research I found out that both of those items could be found at Yak and Yeti, Animal Kingdom’s Asia area full service sit down restaurant. I quickly made a reservation for 5 for 2PM on Disney World’s app, which allowed my sister and I to wait and take a ride at Pandora’s Flight of Passage.

We arrived a little bit early for our reservation but nonetheless was seated in about 15-20 minutes. The decor is what I would describe as a fascinating “attempt” at something Nepalese or Bhutanese but with some Southeast Asian motifs. That aside, we settled into our rather large table and ordered the following:

Ahi Tuna Nachos at Yak & Yeti

Ahi Tuna Nachos at Yak & Yeti

  • Ahi Tuna Nachos – My sister-in-law’s pick was a heaping mound of nachos with marinated ahi tuna and some Asian style slaw. While it might have been a shareable “meant for 2” it certainly fed a lot more. I personally don’t like tuna very much but I did enjoy the dish and I found the crunchiness of both the nacho chips and the lettuce greens to work very well with the wasabi aioli. I would definitely order again
  • Dim Sum Basket – The dim sum basket had a couple of each item, some were hit and some were miss. The hits included the cha siu bao and the pork potstickers, both steamed really well with flavorful fillings. The shrimp dumplings and siu mai were a bit of a miss though and didn’t come near decent quality for them, even if I did admire their attempts at a thin dumpling skin.
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Korean BBQ Short Ribs and Dim Sum Basket at Yak & Yeti

  • Korean BBQ Short Ribs – We added an additional half order of the ribs and the regular rib order was definitely large enough for 2 people. The ribs themselves were pretty good, with meat falling off the bone and a sauce that combined traditional barbecue sauce elements with a hint of gochujang (a Korean hot sauce). The shoestring fries were perfect and the slaw helped cut a bit of the richness of the meat. Like the nachos, I would order these again.
  • Chicken Fried Rice – The fried rice wasn’t anything to write home about, but was pretty solid and was a nice filler and way to sop some of the sauce in the nachos and ribs.
  • Garlic Noodles – The garlic noodles were perfectly cooked with a decent amount of sauce, though could have used a little more garlic. We honestly ordered this as a cheaper filler item instead any of the lo mein options and while this was fine, an order of lo mein probably would have been better.

Honestly the portions of food at Yak & Yeti are such that we could have done without one of the side items and still been pretty full. The food here was definitely better than EPCOT and a lot more innovative too. I almost went back to Pandora to take a bite of pineapple lumpia but my stomach was sufficiently stuffed after lunch.

All in all, the Asian food in Disney World is solid, if not spectacular. That said, very few people, including myself, really go to a Disney theme park for the food. But there’s enough quality food items at Disney World to also make some of the meals memorable, in addition to the rides and the overall ambience. That said, Disney could learn a lot from the kitchens at Universal’s Harry Potter worlds in terms of making food that is remarkably tasty but also reasonably priced. Hopefully with Disney’s theme park expansions, even better and more innovative food will be coming to a Star Wars or Toy Story land near you.

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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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Longo Seafood, Rosemead

Longo Seafood
7540 Garvey Ave, Suite A
Rosemead, CA 91770

As David Chan wrote in his latest Menuism article, Los Angeles (and mainly the San Gabriel Valley) is on the uptick on good, innovative dim sum again. After plateauing for a good decade where Sea Harbour, Elite, King Hua, and Lunasia dominated the top tier, the last year or so have seen an uptick again on innovative and solidly executed dim sum. And now, a few months after Xiang Yuan Gourmet hit the scene, we now have Longo Seafood in Rosemead trying to make its mark.

I went last Friday during my most recent trip to SoCal for the holidays hoping to see how Longo Seafood stacks up and to taste for myself on whether a new wave of innovation is, in fact, coming to the Cantonese seafood palaces of the San Gabriel Valley. Arriving around 11, I was seated quite quickly as a party of one. Like other top places in California, you order off a menu. The restaurant has a ton of interesting and innovative items so it took me a while to figure out what exactly I wanted to order. In the end I got the following:

Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry at Longo Seafood

Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry at Longo Seafood

  • Kaya (Coconut Jam) Pastry 傳統雞印包 – These little buns instantaneously look me to heaven. The outside is a superbly baked “pineapple” bun while the inside is filled with luscious kaya jam. Not quite as good as jam found in Singapore, but delicious all the same and I devoured every last one. This was a very unique and wonderfully delicious dish.
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BBQ Supreme and Golden Red Rice Rolls at Longo Seafood

  • BBQ Supreme Rice Rolls 燒味手拉腸 – The bbq in these rice rolls were nice, succulent morsels of roast suckling pig. The rice rolls were lightly and freshly pulled, making for a nice balance between the fatty pork, the delicate, yet dextrous, rice rolls, and the slightly sweet soy sauce. A little expensive, but would definitely ordering again.
  • Golden Red Rice Rolls 金絲紅米腸 – The “golden” part of these golden rice rolls are lightly fried dried scallop. The slight savoriness of the dried scallop balances out the light sweetness of the red rice rolls for a nice, fairly simple dish. Unfortunately I had 2 rice noodle dishes so I couldn’t really finish these all.
  • Longo Shrimp Dumpling 鴻德蝦餃皇 – These shrimp dumplings had a nice, not too big, filling of diced shrimp with just enough salt and pepper to enhance the shrimp’s natural flavor. While the dumpling skins were decent, these were just a tad too thick so it was a little more difficult in tearing.
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Mushroom Bun at Longo Seafood

  • Mushroom Bun 鮮奶油蘑菇包 – In another case of “I should have read the Chinese description first”, I found these to be disappointing. It wasn’t because the restaurant didn’t properly label in Chinese, but because I had hoped these mushroom buns were filled with, well, mushrooms instead of just looking like one. Unfortunately, instead of being a savory treat they were filled with cream. So as a cream bun in the shape of a mushroom, it was nice if a little less sweet than I’d like, but as a person who wanted a savory mushroom filling it wasn’t that great.

All in all I do think Longo Seafood is another spot raising the standard and innovation for dim sum in the San Gabriel Valley. Do I think it’s quite up to the level of Dragon Beaux in San Francisco in terms of execution yet? No. However given the sheer number of high quality, innovative items, it could be soon before Longo Seafood and other LA spots takes the crown again for best dim sum in the US.

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Fung Fung Yuen, San Diego

Fung Fung Yuen
10660 Camino Ruiz
San Diego, CA 92126

When I saw that the old Home Town Buffet my family used to go to (a bit) was turning to giant Chinese restaurant complete with dim sum, I was naturally curious. After all, if I could spend 10-15 minutes driving to dim sum from my parent’s house instead of 15-20 to one of the places in Kearny Mesa, I was all for it. However, I was also skeptical of such a large Chinese restaurant succeeding in Mira Mesa given that Silver Ark in a nearby (albeit less trafficked) strip mall closed after operating for just a few years, despite a reasonably large Chinese and Chinese of Vietnamese descent community within a short-ish driving distance.

Nonetheless, I had to go and took the opportunity to this Saturday on my quick trip to Southern California before my trip to Singapore. One of my really close friends happily agreed to go visit the restaurant too and off we went.

We arrived a little after 7PM and it was fairly easy to get a table. In fact, the restaurant was probably about 60% full. I was surprised they served dim sum at night as well, but it was a perfect way to sample dim sum items as well as a cooked to order entree dish. The dim sum came on carts (much to my disappointment) and, interestingly enough, they gave you a red and green painted cylindrical wooden block like you would get at a Brazilian steakhouse in the US. Green side up and the carts kept coming, red side up and it was a signal you were done (at least temporarily). So as our block continued to be green, we ate the following:

Beef Short Ribs and Sticky Rice at Fung Fung Yuen

Beef Short Ribs and Sticky Rice at Fung Fung Yuen

  • Beef Short Ribs w/ Black Bean Sauce (黑椒特級牛仔骨) – Our first item was probably the worst item we got. The beef short ribs (as you can kind of tell) looks sad. While the temperature was okay, the beef was overcooked, the sauce too oily, and the tendon a bit gristly. It’s probably one of the worst versions of this dish I have had
  • Sticky Rice Wrap (金沙瑤柱珍珠雞) – Luckily the next item, the sticky rice with chicken, was fairly good. The rice was sticky and moist and the filling had tender chicken, mushrooms, and pork sausage.
  • Soy Sauce Chow Mein – The chow mein was okay. The noodles were stir fried decently, if slightly a little oily. My main issue was the slight unevenness of the stir frying as some parts got a very nice mix of green onions, soy sauce, and noodles and other parts were practically sauceless.
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Beef Ball and Chow Mein at Fung Fung Yuen

  • Beef Ball (陳皮沖菜蒸牛肉丸) – The beef balls were fairly good, filled with some peas and water chestnuts. They were pretty moist and decent tasting. I was a little sad they didn’t drizzle wocestershire sauce on it like other places, but it was fine.
  • Chicken Spring Rolls (脆皮春卷) – While lukewarm (as it had been sitting on the cart), these were fairly good with a crunchy shell and a meaty filling that was decently seasoned with ground chicken and shredded mushrooms.
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Salt and Pepper pork chops at Fung Fung Yuen

  • Salt & Pepper Pork Chop (椒鹽肉排) – There non-dim sum menu is a bit spartan, but that may be to their blessing as this was probably one of the best versions of this pork chop dish I’ve had. The batter was thick enough but not too overpowering and fried just right to be crunchy without being too oily. The pork itself was fairly moist and the peppers they used to fry it with were perfectly cooked. This was by far the best dish of the night for me.

While some of the reviews (both on Yelp and other blogs) have complained about cold to lukewarm food, I didn’t have much of an issue with that. Also, it looks like they have fixed the kinks with amount of carts. They now have about 5 carts that do seem to circulate relatively frequently and do keep the food warm. That said, much of the dim sum does suffer because the items are kept in the steamers for quite a while, leaving many items to be overcooked.

All in all, I was a little disappointed that Fung Fung Yuen didn’t seem to be the new game changer needed to help elevate the ho hum quality of dim sum in San Diego. That said, there is promise in the cook to order dishes from the kitchen and it is nice to finally have dim sum a bit closer to home. It’s a decent option for dim sum desiring folks that live in North County close to Mira Mesa, but it’s definitely not a place worth going out of the way for yet, though it looks like they are improving.

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Xiang Yuan Gourmet, Temple City

Xiang Yuan Gourmet
9556 Las Tunas Dr.
Temple City, CA 91780

A month ago when I was in Southern California I wanted to try a new dim sum place. Fortunately, Chinese food writer and “celebrity diner” David Chan wrote this story on LA Weekly just before my trip so of course I had to try Xiang Yuan Gourmet.

So after doing some work and watching the solar eclipse, I drove from my hotel in Pasadena to Temple City. It was about 1:30PM on a Monday and it was fairly easy to get a table for one. Perhaps only one quarter of the tables were taken. After sitting down I looked at the menu and decided that the following items would give me a good feel of the quality of the menu:

  • Crystal Shrimp Har Gow (蝦餃皇) – The shrimp dumpling filling was fairly tasty with a little salt and pepper and slight crunch from a little water chestnuts. However the dumpling skin was a little gummy, perhaps because of too much water. In general, it was fairly good if perhaps not as fantastic as a place like Sea Harbour.
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Mushroom Bun at Xiang Yuan Gourmet

  • Mushroom Bun (野生磨茹包) – These, however, were fantastic. Not only did they look pretty, but the tasty of these mushroom buns were heavenly. The bun was slightly chewy without being too dry or dense and the mushroom filling was very tasty that was full of chopped shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and carrots. I couldn’t eat these fast enough!
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Beef Rice Paper Roll at Xiang Yuan Gourmet

  • Beef Rice Paper Roll (冬菜牛肉腸) – The rice noodle rolls were solid and I loved the separated sweet soy sauce to drizzle only as much as you like and not having the rice noodles too soggy when you eat them. The rice noodles themselves were pretty good, not being too sticky and the filling was tender with some preserved vegetables meshing well with the tender beef. There were some yu choy on the side as well for taste and garnish.
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Crispy Bamboo Shoot Roll at Xiang Yuan Gourmet

  • Crispy Bamboo Shoot Paste Roll (甘笱流沙包) – Then these came out and I was very awed by dim sum formed to look like a carrot. There aren’t any carrots at all on this dish but instead it’s bamboo shoot paste formed into a carrot like shell and deep fried. Inside was a filling of salty runny egg custard. The melding was intriguing and tasty, though the salty egg yolk was not expected. In retrospect, that could have been easily rectified if I had read the Chinese name. All those hundreds spent on Chinese school apparently went to waste…
  • Salted Egg Yolk Bun (流沙包) – Which meant that I double ordered salty egg yolk items. These were solid but after tasting the ones in the bamboo shoot paste roll ones, they were incomparable. I also ordered these trying to see if they would be the ones shaped like hedgehogs, but unfortunately they were not. Apparently, those are the taro buns.

All in all, fairly good new dim sum restaurant with creative items that are becoming more common in Hong Kong but still very rare in the US. I would definitely go again to try out more items with this promising start. If you’re in the San Gabriel alley soon and want to try a new dim sum place, check this out. Some of these items just might become the new standards at other restaurants.

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