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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

The Kangaroo Stops Here

Often touted but rarely reviewed, Phong Dinh is good for more than their famous baked catfish and exotic meats, says pleasurepalate.

It’s a good idea to pre-order the baked catfish, a feast in itself. It comes with all sorts of veggies, vermicelli and rice-paper wrappers. The fish is delicate, moist, and tender.

Charbroiled goat spare ribs are glazed with an amazing spicy bean curd marinade. It’s only a little hot, but it’s a sweet heat with a subtly smoky flavor. The goat ribs are surprisingly meaty.

Quail eggs covered in shrimp paste and crispy sweet rice flakes, served with ginger plum sauce, are also really good once you get over the surprise of seeing green eggs. (No, there’s no ham.) The shrimp paste and sweet rice stand up to the usually gamy flavor of quail egg, taming it into an interesting flavor combo.

The menu includes boar, kangaroo, ostrich, quail, snake, and frog legs. Kangaroo sauteed with black pepper and flambeed is tender and cooked well. The meat has a strong taste, like goat or lamb.


Phong Dinh [San Gabriel Valley]
2643 N. San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead
626-307-8868
Locater

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Broiled catfish and more

The Yum in Yum Cha

Yum Cha Cafe offers an unusual treat: brown sugar rice cakes. ipsedixit discovered this little shop tucked into the San Gabriel Superstore.

Brown sugar adds a whole new dimension to the rice cakes’ subtle sweetness. If you love rice cakes, these are irresistible.

They also have very good char siu bao (BBQ sauce is sweet and tangy, but doesn’t drown out the pork bits) and cheong fun, or rice noodle, that’s fresh and tender, with a tasty (optional) shrimp filling.


Yum Cha Cafe (inside San Gabriel Superstore) [San Gabriel Valley]
1635 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel
626-280-0978
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Brown sugar rice cakes

Teance Tea Room

Teance Tea Room sells high-quality teas, predominantly Chinese teas, for brewing at home, but the real draw is the tea bar, where you can taste a variety of teas for a nominal cost. It’s perfect for helping you decide what to buy and take home. The staff is very enthusiastic about tea, and happy to educate novices. Morton the Mousse thinks it’s easily the best tea house in the East Bay, if not the entire Bay Area–even better than the highly regarded Imperial Tea Court. “If you love tea, or if you are interested in learning more about it, you must visit Teance,” he insists.


Teance Tea Room [East Bay}
1780 4th St., Berkeley
510-524-2832
Map

Imperial Tea Court [Chinatown]
1411 Powell St., San Francisco

415-788-6080

Locater

Imperial Tea Court [Embarcadero]
at Ferry Building Marketplace, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., #27, San Francisco
415-544-9830
Locater

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teance in berkeley–fantastic,or what?

Bobby G’s Pizzeria

Agent 510 likes Berkeley newcomer Bobby G’s Pizzeria for the nicely charred crust and high-quality toppings on their New York-style pizza. Slices cost $2.25 plus 50 cents per topping.

Toppings range from the usual pepperoni, garlic, and olives to the unusual, like soy cheese and smoked oysters. rworange notes that Bobby G’s takes the Hawaiian pizza (Paradise Pie) to a new level by topping it with a swirl of mango puree.


Bobby G’s Pizzeria [East Bay]
2072 University Ave., Berkeley
510-665-8866
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Bobby G’s Pizzeria–Berkeley

Chinatown Brasserie: Dressed-Up Dim Sum and More

Chinatown Brasserie, a posh palace thick with self-consciously uber-Chinese decor, seems to be the kind of restaurant that chowhounds love to trash. But there’s some great upscale Chinese chow here, thanks in part to a dim sum master lured away from Brooklyn’s well-regarded World Tong.

“Chinatown Brasserie is all that!” marvels Pan. “Best dim sum I’ve had outside of Asia, and certainly the best in New York.” Chef Joe Ng, who won a following for his fresh, inventive dim sum in Bensonhurst, offers a pared-down selection in Soho, but it’s first-rate. It’s also pricey, costing several times what you’d pay in most Chinese restaurants. Highlights include steamed roast duck-shrimp dumplings, crispy taro root shrimp, and pork-and-crab soup dumplings (“heavenly, delectable morsels of yumminess,” sighs Dandel). Flavors are vivid–fresh chive notes sing out in shrimp-chive dumplings, for example–and occasionally surprising, like the kaffir lime that accents delicious pan-fried curried chicken dumplings.

Beyond dim sum, the menu offers mostly Chinese-American standards–overseen by a different chef–and they’re surprisingly good. xavier credits top-quality ingredients and unusually skillful prep work. Recommended: crispy orange beef, Peking duck, kung pao chicken, roast duck spring rolls, dry-sauteed string beans with roast pork. These dishes, like the dim sum plates, are more expensive than average; prices run from the high teens to the high $20s.

But you’re paying in part for the scene, and some don’t mind that. “Chinatown Brasserie is one of the few Chinese restaurants with a hip ambience and upscale decor,” observes Dandel.

So what’s going on back at World Tong under chef Ng’s replacement? Regulars say dim sum is still better than average, though not quite as good as before. bolletje reports a recent lunch of familiar favorites–shumai, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, beef rice noodle rolls, green sesame balls–plus some new winners, including fresh, juicy pan-fried dumplings filled with shrimp, pork, and greens. Generally, steamed items are as good as ever; fried items seem to have slipped. And–who knew?–they serve delicious coffee, bolletje adds.


Chinatown Brasserie [East Village]
formerly Time Cafe
380 Lafayette St., between Great Jones and E. 4th Sts., Manhattan
212-533-7000
Locater

World Tong Seafood Restaurant [Bensonhurst]
6202 18th Ave., at 62nd St., Brooklyn
718-236-8118
Map

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Chinatown Brasserie is all that!
Weekend Review- WD-50, Chinatown Brasserie long
Chinatown Brasserie —Pricey, but good
Chinatown Brasserie
World Tong review

Masterly Ravioli and Other Bites Around Arthur Avenue

In the Bronx’s Little Italy, Borgatti’s is a venerated hound destination for fresh pastas, none better than its ravioli. “Totally heavenly,” sighs rose water, after trying the ones filled with ricotta. “The pasta was light and fresh. And the filling was dense, salty, chewy and smooth simultaneously.” kenito799 recommends the smaller meat ravioli, whose filling is subtly seasoned and delicious. Cavatelli and dried pastas (plain, spinach, whole wheat, squid ink) are also excellent.

Chas shares a story about his Italian grandmother, a superb home cook who made killer ravioli. One holiday, he took over some of Borgatti’s. “After she tasted them, she looked at me and said, ‘I think these are even better than mine.’” He agrees: these babies are the best ravioli he’s ever tasted.

Another longtime neighborhood favorite is Calabria Pork Store, best known for its house-cured meats, but also a source of exceptional ricotta–exquisitely delicate and creamy, rose water reports. Among the meats, Cheese Boy singles out cheese-and-parsley sausages, loaded with bits of cheese. kenito is hooked on the dry-fermented sausages–especially the fennel and spicy varieties–that hang from the ceiling like meat stalactites and create the shop’s unmistakable funky smell. “It is a small miracle that places like this exist anymore,” he adds.

There’s also houndworthy cheese at Casa Della Mozzarella, just down the street from Borgatti’s. “Getting there just as the mozzarella is pulled from the water is like hitting the lottery,” says peasoup. Others are partial to Calandra for its intensely flavorful canestrato–“sweet, salty, tangy, a total cheese experience,” says kenito.

At Teitel Brothers, kenito adds, look for marinated white anchovies packed in a plastic tray: “Spread them out on a plate, sprinkle thin slices of hot pepper and capers on them, and add a squeeze of lemon juice: antipasto heaven.”


Borgatti’s Ravioli and Egg Noodles [Bronx]
632 E. 187th St., between Hughes and Belmont Aves., Bronx
718-367-3799
Locater

Calabria Pork Store [Bronx]
2338 Arthur Ave., between E. 186th St. and Crescent Ave., Bronx
718-367-5145
Locater

Casa Della Mozzarella [Bronx]
604 E. 187th St., between Arthur and Hughes Aves., Bronx
718-364-3867
Locater

Calandra Cheese [Bronx]
2314 Arthur Ave., between Crescent Ave. and E. 186th St., Bronx
718-365-7572
Locater

Teitel Brothers Retail and Wholesale Grocery Co. [Bronx]
2372 Arthur Ave., between E. 186th and 187th Sts., Bronx
718-733-9400
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Borgatti’s Ravioli and Egg Noodles

Cambodian Find in Echo Park

Phnom Penh is a little Cambodian gem, says lil mikey, who loves the beef salad. It’s much better than the similar beef salad at Thai restaurants, he says–fresher vegetables, tender meat, and perfectly mixed dressing with peanuts.

He’s never had a bad dish there, but the wonton soup is just so-so and the beef Szechwan style has pieces that are too big to eat without cutting–and you don’t get a knife.


Phnom Penh [Echo Park]
1305 Portia St., Los Angeles
213-250-5733
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Tasty beef salad

“Top Chef” Cliff: Not Enough Fluff

“Top Chef” Cliff: Not Enough Fluff

Marcel's hair finally gets its comeuppance. Or does it? READ MORE

Crusty-Outside, Fluffy-Inside Roasted Red Potatoes

Will Owen parboils and roasts red potatoes so they come out crusty on the outside and almost fluffy inside. This is a great recipe to make when you’re roasting a bird or beast or doing anything else with your oven. You can cook ‘em at pretty much any temperature, as long as you adjust the cooking time.

Here’s his method: Cut the potatoes into chunks of about 1 1/2-2 inches, and put them into a pot of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, add salt, and boil the potatoes for about five minutes. Drain, toss in the pot over the burner briefly to dry, and put them in a big bowl with olive oil (about 1/2 cup per pound of potatoes), salt, pepper, and dry herbs of your choice, and toss. Heat a large cast iron skillet in the oven; when it’s hot, add the potatoes and oil and roast for 25 minutes or so. Turn the potatoes over to brown the other side and finish cooking.

Leftovers are really good cut up and fried as breakfast potatoes.

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Okay to roast red potatoes?

Making Water Yummy

If trying to drink those recommended eight glasses of water a day is driving you crazy, here are some suggested additions to make water tastier and more refreshing:

Mint (try muddling it a bit)
Cucumber slices
Cucumber and mint
Citrus–lemon, lime, orange, or tangerine slices, or a combination
Cucumber and citrus
Strawberries
Strawberries and rosemary
Asian pears, sliced thin
Small splash of fruit juice
Tamarind paste
Star anise
Fresh ginger (steep in hot water, then chill)
Cider vinegar (about 1 tsp. per glass) and honey
Any interesting flavored vinegar
Angostura bitters–especially in sparkling water
A few drops of Rose’s Lime Juice–also nice in sparkling water
Red Zinger tea
Chili powder and lime juice

Cynsa adds a neat trick: If you’re trying to drink more water, sip it through a drinking straw. “It’s the straw that does the trick; eight glasses of water a day goes down effortlessly through a straw!” she declares.

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Trying to drink more water—how to make it more interesting?