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Mountain View Advice? Ramen?

If you like pork belly... the Braised Pork with Chestnuts at Chef Zhao Bistro on Moffett is pretty decadent. The spicier fare and vegetables also are good.

Chowdown Report: Little Shanghai in San Mateo

A fun evening, and I would order again: the pig's ear with five spice sauce (tender!), sweet and sour spareribs Shanghai style (made with "boneless" rib tips with edible cartilage!), and the radish pancakes (toasted sesame seeds!).

Shanghai Chowdown at Bamboo Garden [Mountain View]

Eight hounds gathered at Bamboo Garden last Wednesday evening, in the strip mall at the corner of Rengstorff and Central Expressway, for a filling repast of:

Ma Lan Tou Tofu
Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs
Xiao Long Bao
Chicken in Wine Sauce
Pan Fried Buns
Tea Smoked Duck
Preserved Pork Bamboo Soup
Fish Fillet in Wine Sauce
Glutinous Rice Pork Belly in Bamboo
Yellow Chives with Eel Paste
Bitter Melon with Chinese Bacon
Stir Fried Rice Cake Slices Ji Cai
Chicken Feather Vegetable
House Special Yellow Croaker

Photos can be viewed at

Has anything changed for good or ill since this 2010 report?

One of our cookie fortunes advised: "If you have no critics, you'll likely have no success." So let the commentary begin!

Chowdown at Jai Yun [San Francisco, Chinatown]

Jai Yun is not like other restaurants offering a $100 prix fixe lunch. For example, you might be accustomed to the waitstaff naming its purveyors and describing the preparation in loving detail. Here, unless you speak Mandarin, you might only be told, when pointing to a tall stack of thin slices, "meat." And there is no written menu. But in some ways, the mystery fuels the excitement of experiencing Chef Nei Chia Ji's intricate, subtle, and unusually delicious offerings. For hounds, unraveling the secrets of a dish is something of a sport. What else ya gonna talk about for 3 hours?

Without further ado, photos:

Let the discussion begin!

And many thanks to hyperbowler for organizing it.

Chowdown at Fey Restaurant [Menlo Park]

Too late to post impressions, but here are photos from the second table:

Fey - promising sichuan menlo park

Fey is a bit of a puzzle. It seems consistently understaffed when I dine in, but they are able to deliver take-out orders to the front counter promptly. Dishes that on one visit are literally crunchy with Szechuan peppercorns will be missing the essential ingredient on another. I can't tell whether the problem is on the order pad or in the kitchen, but I hope eventually to crack the code because the good times are quite good.

Spicy Boiled Fish Fillet - there are two variations on the menu. #155 "Chongqing Spicy Boiled Fish Fillet" for $13.95 is a generous portion in a light, nicely flavored broth with tons of bean sprouts. I was surprised that the soups is spicy without the heavy layer of spicy oil; I'm not quite sure how they do it. #158 "Spicy Boiled Fish [or meat]" $11.95 had the customary oil but the spicing doesn't seem to fit as well with fish fillets. Definitely recommend #155.

Cabbage - #122 "Spicy Stir Fried Cabbage" $7.95 is one of those maddeningly inconsistent dishes. While the cabbage is consistently tender and naturally sweet, if the Szechuan pepper is omitted, it's dull.

Pancake "chow mein" - #141 "Beijing Style Stir Fried Pan Cake" $7.50 can't be good for you, but hand-slivered pancakes make a delicious alternative to hand-cut noodles. I think there are shreds of pork in this dish.

Fried Chicken - #152 "Chongqing Spicy Diced Chicken (with Red Chili)" $9.95 features small pieces of bony chicken that are quite hot and a bit on the salty side for me. They seem like more of a beer snack than a main course.

Cumin Lamb - #48 "Xinjiang Fried Cumin Lamp" $11.95 was tender and tasty, but I had it so long ago I can't recall the details.

Whole Fish - #162 "Hot Braised Whole Fish" $15.95 was a huge portion, nicely cooked. I'd describe the sauce as savory but unexceptional.

String Beans - #128 "Dry Cooked String Beans" $8.95 were good but not special.

Frog - #148 "Hot & Spicy Frog" $9.95 isn't something I'd try again. The pieces were meaty, but a little too fishy, and the sauce was gloppy.

Chowdown report: Shao Mountain in Fremont

My previous experience with Hunan flavors was limited to some smoked ham, so I had no idea what to expect. With the exception of our fish, the food did not seem very hot, certainly not in comparison with our recent Sichuan dinner in El Cerrito.


The first thing I tasted set the pace: the Western Style Hunan Smoked Pork, with bacon-like slices of smoky pork belly stir-fried with crunchy vegetables and chillies. The smokiness was heady and delicious and the pork was wonderfully tender. I found the salt level to be a bit high for me, though; I would have eaten much more of this dish if it had been less salty. In comparison, the Smoky Flavors Steamed Together, with two kinds of pork and salt fish, was much, much too salty; I would avoid that one completely.

Next up were vegetables. The Sauteed Lotus Root with Chili in Wooden Tub and Shao Style Shredded Potato were tender and tasty. The sauce on the lotus root could work with almost any ingredients, and if you happened to get a piece of garlic with your potatoes, it was a brilliant combination. The Sauteed Lily Bulbs With Celery made a light palate cleanser. The bulbs were very tender with an almost potato-like texture, unlike the crunchier ones I've had elsewhere.

Griddle Cooked Pig Intestine arrived over a flame, and by the end of the meal, the raw onions at the bottom of the pan were tender and caramelized. The intestines, meanwhile, were somewhere between tender and chewy, well seasoned, and as tasty as I think possible with this body part.

The frog in the Bullfrog with Chili Pepper in Stone Pot was tender with plenty of large meaty pieces; probably the best frog I've ever had. The mildly sweet sauce was reminiscent of Southeast Asian flavors. (Possibly yellow soybean paste?) This would be an easy introduction to frog for those haven't tried it (just reserve the bonier pieces for the experienced eaters).

Two things surprised me about my first taste of Braised Pork with Wild Bamboo: a thick slab of pure pork fat and the wonderful texture and vibrant flavor of the bamboo. Forget about canned (or even fresh) bamboo shoots; I want more of these. And the succulent pork, of course.

Because the restaurant was out of fish heads (or just didn't want to serve them to us), we got the fish fillets instead. This probably was a good decision for our group since they're much easier to serve in tasting portions -- and saving $5 probably works for most people. Two parallel rows of fillets were topped with red and green sauces of fresh chillies on alternate sides. These chillies really had a bite, especially the green ones; interest in Melanie's bottled ale immediately increased. The green sauce reminded me of a very potent and garlicky green dipping sauce served with steamed seafood in Southern Thailand. I wonder whether the recipes are similar?

Our soup came in handy after the fish. Although it contained (dry, played-out) pieces of pork, it tasted a bit more of chicken. The mountain yams, which often have a slimy texture, were tamed in this preparation, feeling a bit more like turnips in the mouth than potatoes.

I got around to the House Special Fried Noodles after the seafood was gone. Despite the dish's unique cumin flavor, it seemed a bit boring compared with the rest of our meal.

Our first dessert was a yam "cake" topped with blueberry sauce. "Cake" should not be misunderstood to refer to a baked item; it was a puree of mountain yam with just enough stickiness to hold the shape of a heart. In a word: baby food.

Our second dessert is listed on the take-out menu as Glutinous Rice Dumplings In Sweet Rice Wine, but the word "stinky" was associated with the dish by our waitress and on the receipt. Does this refer to the smaller-than-a-gumball sized rice dumplings, to the mysterious egg-like ribbons, or to the broth? Who knows. It's a warm, sweet dessert soup with chewy stuff in it, and you either like that sort of thing or you don't.

Wow, good lunch. I did need a 90 minute nap afterwards, so I'll probably skip the desserts and eat a bit more moderately next time.

New place, not yet open on Clement in SF...called "Xiao Long Bao"

If I recall correctly, Daimo at the Pacific East Mall (Central Avenue exit in El Cerrito, but technically in Richmond) steams their Shanghai dumplings in little foil cups. They don't do anything for the flavor, but avoiding broken or stuck-together dumplings and the inevitable loss of broth might be an acceptable trade-off.

CHOWDOWN REPORT: Happy Golden Bowl in El Cerrito

Pulling up to the restaurant, I was concerned that the awning now reads Ancient Szechuan. Peering inside, I recognized a couple familiar faces, and we were warmly welcomed by the staff. The large menus replete with hilarious typos no longer match the Happy Golden Bowl website, but they do not (yet?) have a new website).

As usual, a lively bunch of diners, and thanks to Hyperbowler for organizing. The location was convenient for my Dad's first chowdown; I think he left as overstuffed as I did.

I was seated at "the other table" where we overlapped only on a few dishes. Our waitress helpfully steered us to a couple of selections, and hinted that we should pass on one dish (unfortunately we failed to take the hint). So without further ado:


Sesame Pancake - thick, with a texture like focaccia, seasoned lightly with a little green onion, crisped on both sides in a pan, and crusted with sesame seeds on top. Arrived well into the meal, but worth waiting for. Great for sopping up sauces.

Green Onion Pancake - we didn't order this, but enjoyed it nonetheless. Nice crispy parts; a touch oily.

Sichuan Home Style Chicken (or mouth watering chicken) - a spicy sauce lurked below cold sliced chicken topped with chopped peanuts. Tasty, but since it arrived after several hot dishes, it's hard to know how one would perceive the heat level as a first course.

Rolled Bean Curd with Cucumber (cold) - we sent back the first plate because it was so very, very salty, and its replacement had a nice balance of salt and vinegar, with classic Sichuan fragrance. A welcome palate cleanser when it arrived in the middle of the meal after many spicy dishes.

Main Courses

Wok-Charred Cabbage - I'm not sure this is on the menu, but it was delicious and had a wonderful fragrance (rarely said about cabbage, I suspect).

Braised Duck with Hot Sauce - recommended by our waitress, some of the meat had almost dissolved into the savory sauce redolent with star anise. Definitely one of our favorites, despite the occasionally sharp bones. Nibbled carefully but with great relish.

Boiled Fish Fillets with Flaming Chillies - similar to the boiled lamb dish at the other table, this is a classic preparation where the top surface of the broth is covered with wok-seared dry chillies and chilli oil. Below the surface you find white fish fillets (good texture; surely frozen fillets are used) and soybean sprouts. There was a proper amount of numbing Szechuan peppercorns in the broth.

Pork Shoulder with Red Dates - one of our non-spicy choices, the meat was rich and amazingly tender (this could not be said of the dates, which could have used some further softening). They also make a spicy version, which might be a good match for this rich cut.

Dry-Sauteed String Beans - perfect tender-crisp texture and lots of bits of garlic and preserved vegetables. A bit over-salted in my opinion.

Hand-Shaved Noodles with Pork - these chewy noodles did not distinguish themselves, lacking a wok char and feeling underpowered in flavor and spicing. Those who ordered this dish on previous visits said it usually has been better.

Steamed Lamb in Bamboo Baskets - it's not clear how this lamb was seasoned, although it seemed to have been dusted with roughly ground rice and the barest hint of curry. Too boring after all the high-powered dishes.


Pancake Filled with Red Bean Paste (name unknown) - the crispy exterior and squishy interior make it both fun to eat and a bit messy. Not overly sweet.


SF Dish of the Month (Nov 2012) Nominations

Now that the weather has turned, I think of


in all its variations: Cioppino (SF/Italy), Bouillabaisse (France), Caldo 7 Mares (Mexico), Chupe de Mariscos (Peru)...

SF Dish of the Month (Nov 2012) Nominations

One of the fun things about Green Papaya Salad is the unusually wide variety of outlets, from fancy Asian fusion restaurants to Sunday fund-raisers at Buddhist temples. Also, it's quite affordable.

On the other hand, it's cold. Ones of the stews or curries or a soup might be a more appealing Winter choice. Hmmm...

SF Michelin stars 2013

From the Press Release: "The MICHELIN Guide 2013 editions include two new symbols: one highlighting notable beer lists and the other indicating restaurants with a dim sum offering." The highlighting of dim sum seems unusual. Have they done that with other categories of food? One precedent might be a food pub icon for the U.K. guide.

Sichuan Specialties at Mandarin Gourmet [Palo Alto]

I've always figured Mandarin Gourmet to be the "safe" choice for those who preferred pretty plates and smooth service over adventure. Not that I would turn down an order of their Chang-sha Chicken or nicely tender-crisp Dry Sauteed String Beans.

It took me a while to figure out that the Szechuan items are listed in the "经典川菜" category -- the bright red text was a hint. Their 川味潑辣魚 "Fish Fillet Buried in Chili Pepper Soup" uses the same characters as the "West Style Spicy Fish Fillet" at Happy Golden Bowl in El Cerrito. That arrived in a tureen smothered by a layer of floating chillies that took the waitress several passes with a ladle to remove. Needless to say, it's not for your average "ladies who lunch"!

I wish them well with the new menu and look forward to reports. (Okay, and I would join a group of testers.)

MacArthur Park (Palo Alto)

Unless you're going for the architecture and an old time feel, I wouldn't go out of your way. Last two meals here (lunch and a holiday party in 2011) were not particularly successful.

Whole Chicken Stuffed with Sticky Rice - SF Dish of the Month (Oct 2012)

We went to Cooking Papa FC today and their chicken was indeed good. A more detailed thread has begun here:

Foster City Chowdown Report: Cooking Papa Stuffed Boneless Chicken 3.

Speaking of photos...

Somehow seven of us finished 10 dishes (counting whole Peking Duck two ways as two dishes). That's certainly a sign that the kitchen did a good job today.

The sticky rice-stuffed chicken was very good, from the beautiful exterior to the flavor and texture of the filling. I liked how the extra-crunchy dried shrimp in the rice mirrored the crispiness of the skin. Way, way better than our recent outing to Zen Pen.

Cooking Papa's xiao long bao were very juicy with delicate wrappers and tasty broth, but I like a heap of ginger threads in my vinegar and I saw but a single one. The flavor of the duck jaw (a monthly special) was great, but digging out all of the edible parts made for messy fingers. The rice noodle roll was remarkably tender, and the skin side of the roast pork belly was nicely crisp. The brisket was flavorful and tender, if a touch salty. The egg puffs were airy and tasted fresh, but unfortunately had retained too much oil.

The restaurant seems like a very good choice for a group lunch. Our table by the window had a nice view across the canal (?) -- where cookie cutter homes stood drying in the mid-day sun. While not architecturally exciting, it beats the view from any other banquet table I've seen. I'll be back.

Chowdown at Zen Peninsula : Report

I just want to start by saying: PHOTOS -

I've enjoyed dim sum at Zen Peninsula in the past, but this was my first visit for dinner. Overall, I would rate it as "fair."

Some brief notes:

* My first impression of the outside of the chicken was a flashback to the egg rolls served in our favorite "American Chinese" restaurant in the early 70's. The standard "crispy chicken" treatment would have been more delicious. The base flavor of the rice was unobjectionable, but it could have used some textural contrasts like gingko nuts. Leaving a little more meat inside the skin would have made the dish seem less like a sack of slightly mushy rice and more like a chicken.
* I didn't find my bites of fish too salty, and there was a nice light smoky sweetness around the rich flesh.
* The roast pork neck could have been a bit more tender, but the sprinkle of chopped peanuts and (I think) granulated sugar worked reasonably well as seasoning.
* I did find what seemed to be some dried shrimp fragments at the bottom of the lettuce pot, but there was no discernible shrimp paste flavor.
* The garlic sauce on the eggplant needed more oomph and less oil.

Finally, thanks to hyperbowler for the coordination, to VLo for the sake, and to all the attendees for their insights and entertaining stories. We could have talked all night (if they hadn't turned off most of the lights).

Chowdown Report: Crab•Crab•Crab + Duck Dinner at Yum’s Bistro in Fremont

With apologies for the delay, photos:

I've always loved Dungeness crab, with happy childhood memories of fingers messy with bits of crab meat and melted butter. Restaurant preparations often fall short, with overly dry meat or excessive glop. Happily, the crabs at Yum's Bistro were delicious.

The soy sauce marinated crab was addictively sweet and savory and garlicky. From the aroma, I'm pretty sure the marinade contained Black Soy Sauce or a similar thick, salty-sweet variation. Although it was fried, it did not seem oily. Highly recommended for garlic lovers.

The Hunan crab in a clay pot was multidimensional. The chillies worked surprisingly well, delivering a quick jolt of heat but fading almost as quickly to allow you to enjoy all the flavors. The meat remained very succulent, while the bean threads captured the tasty juices that escaped. I eat a lot of spicy food, so this was a good level for me, but for some the "hot lips" caused by sucking on the shells might be a bit too much.

I found the Jakarta chili crab less exciting than the first two. The rich gravy-like sauce was fun to eat with the steamed bread, but it may have been a little too subtle to follow the strong flavors of the first two preparations.

Aside from the crab, the soup broth was particularly amazing. After simmering for six hours, the chicken, pork, duck and dried scallop flavors fused into a smooth, rich, sweet miracle -- served in a tureen that could have fed twice as many. I look forward to enjoying some of the leftover soup very soon.

I could go on, but I'm getting hungry.

Yum's Bistro
4906 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont, CA 94555

Vegetables that cannot (or at least should not) be eaten raw?

Fresh mushrooms are about 90% water, so 3% protein is good as a percentage of macronutrient content. You just have to eat a whole lot. :-)

Jan 28, 2011
Jefferson in General Topics

Lers Ros Thai restaurant (Tenderloin)

> fish sauce is "pla ra"

Pla ra is hard core! Might be safer to ask for nam pla (nahm bplah).

(I haven't had a chance to try this place yet.)

Chowdown Report: Chinese New Year Banquet at Yum’s Bistro

This was a good meal, and the portions were indeed ample: we would have been hard pressed to finish it all with two fewer diners.

Some memorable tastes:

In the combination plate, I was happily surprised by the smoky flavor of the tofu skin with mushrooms.

I've had shrimp paste in many forms, from Thai shrimp cakes to various dim sum, but Yum's bacon rolls were a novel and delicious combination. (I skipped the mayonnaise, though.)

I've only had it a couple of times, but Yum's crispy chicken stuffed with sticky rice was my favorite version of this dish.

The two vegetable dishes (scallop stir fry and pea shoots with crab sauce) sparkled, with beautiful colors and perfectly tender greens, and a good clean taste.

I don't have any complaints, although I'd probably change the lobster preparation and skip the dried scallops/oysters/moss combination. And I always want more mochi balls.

Photos online here:

And I have to give thanks to Vince for assistance with ingredient translation, and numerous shopping and restaurant stories that helped deepen our appreciation of the dishes and keep us entertained between courses.

Favorite Soy Sauce Brand to go with my xiao long bao sauce?

This thread is a bit old, but regarding using soy sauce with XLB: at Din Tai Fung in Taipei, they hand out a little trilingual instruction card recommending 1 part soy sauce to 3 parts black vinegar. It may well be that the salt content of the dumplings is adapted to this combination, and that the dumplings might taste underseasoned without some soy. DTF's recipe undoubtedly is adapted to Taiwanese tastes and differs from whatever might be considered the original in Shanghai. But the same might be said of XLBs in North America: whatever the chef thinks is right is what you get.

Jul 22, 2010
Jefferson in Home Cooking

Chowdown at El Hueco Peruvian Restaurant in Redwood City

Chowdown at El Hueco Peruvian Restaurant in Redwood City

Cruising down busy Woodside Road, you barely notice seven-month-old El Hueco in a strip mall at the corner of Central Avenue. Behind the unassuming storefront in Redwood City, executive chef Jaime Laos was reported to be serving up delicious homestyle Peruvian specialties that rivaled the best in the Bay Area. ChewChew and DeeGlaze called a Chowdown to share their find, and five other hounds answered the call.

The restaurant starts you off with a dish of "corn nuts" (roasted jumbo-sized cancha corn kernels with some bits of fried pork). These quickly dry out your tongue so you will soon need a bottle of the delicious Cuzqueña amber ale.

The first round of small plates were three ceviches: white fish, shrimp, and a mixto of fish, shrimp, octopus, clams, and mussels. El Hueco prepares its ceviche to order in a marinade heavy on the lime juice, and the tender (not mushy) texture and mouth-puckering juices worked well with thick slices of tender sweet potato and enormous corn kernels. Although these are called small plates, they were more than enough raw seafood for seven of us. But we couldn't stop there.

Our next three small plates were Papas Rellena, potato croquettes stuffed with beef; Ocopa, thickly sliced potatos smothered in a creamy peanut sauce rendered brilliantly green by Peruvian herbs and cilantro; and Anticuchos, skewers of surprisingly tender pieces of beef heart. The Ocopa, flavored with Peruvian Huacatay (imported frozen) was the favorite. I was amazed by the texture of the heart, which I would have believed was a short rib cooked sous vide, but it was a bit salty.

In an effort to try everything, we ordered seven big plates. From the menu, Aji de Gallina featured shreds of chicken breast in a rich sauce of mild yellow chillies; this was a pleasant dish, but compared with the robust flavors of some of the others, it was in my view more comforting than exciting. Quinoto featured quinoa and mixed vegetables; it looked like a salad, but was served hot and had a nice tangy flavor. For logistical reasons, we did not get around to the Parihuela, or Peruvian bouillabaisse, until we had consumed five other dishes. By that time, the broth had cooled and thickened, and the soup was uninspiring. Based on the quality of the other dishes, I'm assuming it was much better when first served.

From the specials board, we chose Carapulcra, a stew of pork and chicken (still on the bone) and potatoes. This dish uses dried potatoes, which maintained their integrity through the cooking process, providing concentrated potato-ness and no hint of sogginess. With big meaty flavor, the Carapulcra was a good match to the Zinfandel Melanie Wong so generously supplied. We also got Arroz Chaufa, a surprisingly delicious "fried rice" featuring much more intriguing spicing than your typical Chinese restaurant. And of course we got the Chupe de Mariscos, a soup of mixed seafood in a lively tasting broth enriched with eggs and probably some butter. I had about four servings.

Last but not least, we coaxed the kitchen into making us beef chow mein. Well, actually it was spaghetti-like Tallarin noodles in a Saltado preparation featuring beef, onions, and a bit of soy sauce. The beef was cooked just right, but the slippery noodles were a bit hard to eat (where are my chopsticks?).

To finish, we tried all four of the desserts. The Lacuma ice cream had a pleasant fruit flavor, and a hint of fruitcake or pumpkin pie or Thai iced tea spicing. It wasn't bad, but was overshadowed by the greatness of the other three. The Alfajores were properly delicate, buttery and sweet, and got powdered sugar everywhere. The Picarones were doughnuts served in a lightly spiced syrup. The balance of sweet and savory flavors, and the wonderful texture, could be quite addicting. The Pisco ice cream came on strong, like a vanilla ice cream milkshake spiked with brandy and studded with fat raisins rehydrated in brandy. Woo-hoo.

With its warm service and relaxed atmosphere, El Hueco made us feel very welcome. Our server made every effort to answer our questions about ingredients and sources, showing us the dried potatoes and asking chef Jaime to come out to tell us about (and give us a whiff of) Huacatay. She also was very accommodating with extra plates so that we could eat family style.

Thanks for the invitation, it was a great time.

El Hueco
593 Woodside Rd, Redwood City, CA 94061

Chowdown at Sun's Chinese Cuisine in San Mateo

It was great to get away to a quiet spot with some 'hounds. Too long have I eaten leftovers at my desk and called it lunch. But I digress.

I should disclose that my nose was under the influence of Flonase: it's possible that I wasn't smelling everything there was to smell. Still, based on the above comments, I don't think I missed too much.

The restaurant made a nice first impression, greeting us at the door and pointing us upstairs to a large table. The lengthy menu was bookended by small photos of a couple dozen dishes, so that made the selection a bit easier. Shortly after we placed our order, we got a complimentary appetizer featuring thin slices of tendon and pig ear, and small pieces of tripe, flavored with sesame chilli oil.

The cigar-width pot stickers were done to a nice crisp on the bottom, and the filling was fine. A plate of cold bean curd cubes with slices of thousand year old egg had a very pleasant sesame flavor and did not suffer from any of the runniness that can afflict a cold tofu salad. The fish in the fish and chive dumplings was so mild that one might not even realize what it was. The subtle vegetable flavor and simple light seasoning cried out for a sophisticated dipping sauce, maybe something with a touch of garlic, but even buck naked (I didn't see the little dish of sauce), they were fun to eat.

The steamed fish (rock cod?), presented in a puddle of sauce on a lotus leaf, was unexpectedly tender. The soy-ginger-scallion flavor was similarly delicate. For your friends and relatives who can't eat anything "fishy," this would be an excellent choice. On the other hand, if you have a cold, this probably would be too subtle. The pork meatball clay pot involved an actual clay pot, but unlike the usual braise, it was an enormous soup with generous quantities of napa cabbage, bean curd, and noodles, and a few pieces of shiitake. The meatballs themselves had a miraculous lightness, meltingly tender but not outright silky. The broth, though, was too mild for my taste; if you are serving a big bowl of tofu, cabbage, and noodles, I just think you need more flavor to offset the plainness. This was the dish that had the most left in it at the end of the meal. The spicy house cold noodle, topped with chicken and julienned vegetables, featured a light peanutty sauce that reminded me of dan dan mein, minus the usual sticky gooey gloppiness I associate with that dish. A nice intermezzo with a little zing.

Some of the dishes fell short of their potential. By the time the XLB reached me, it was no longer piping hot or juicy; perhaps too much time had elapsed taking photos. A "pancake" folded around bits of bright pink beef had a deep bready flavor and chewy texture, but the filling itself was somewhat bland. The broth for the beef/tendon noodle soup seemed watered down, whether from noodle drainage or by design. (But I have had this reaction to other Taiwan-style beef soups, so perhaps my expectations are a bit high?) The braised bacon-cut pork looked great, and the flavor was okay, but somehow between half-inch layers of fat, the meat had managed to become a bit dry. There must be a way to fix that.

For dessert we passed a plate of what I can roughly describe as small "dumplings" of translucent glutinous rice dough filled with a liquidy black sesame or peanut filling, on a field of chopped peanuts and granulated sugar. I love these little things, so it was a terrific finish in my book.

I would like to try the cucumber and shrimp dumpling some time.

Oh, photos here:

Dinner at Shanghai Dumpling King

I had the pleasure of eating at Shanghai Dumpling King recently for brunch. With 5 adults and 2 kids, we could try a variety of things, including two rounds of the donuts (the kids knew them as sugar puffs).

The pork XLB were about perfect, and the crab XLB surprised me with their fresh taste. The fried dumplings (#12, didn't get the name, see photo) were my favorites, crunchy to almost burnt on the bottom, with thin-but-mysteriously-bread-like wrappers and a sweetish pork filling. The string beans were the right doneness, but a little oily. Crispy fried rice was good, but the sliced ham on top was jarringly salty. I think there must be a trick to eating that in balance. Some boiled dumplings were the weak link. And three other dishes, oh my.

I need to go back very soon. :-)

Maui Kitch'n Cooked chips?

If all else fails, this is from a two year old AAA article:

"Mail-order prices range from $26 for a four-package box sent via regular mail to $108 for an 18-package box delivered by UPS. Payment must be by money order or cashier's check. (808) 877-3652;"

Maui Chow: Sugarcane & Pineapple Pancakes

I will look for Yee's market next week. South Kihei Road is a few miles long; any nearby landmarks to help with finding it?

(Also, for anyone else reading, Gazeo = Gazebo)


Was lucky to attend a private dinner for 50 at Moto on Monday. I'm not sure it improves the flavor to convert sesame oil into a chunky powder -- served from gravy boats, "steaming" like dry ice -- but it made the meal more fun and gave us more to talk about. Always helpful during long business dinners. Some of the wine pairings were absolutely amazing; a couple seemed too extreme (like a pinot-style sherry that was super dry and very heavy on the wood).

Of many delicious "misdirections", the most successful in my view was the dessert of "nachos" featuring sweetened corn chips, kiwi bits, mango "cheese", chocolate ground "beef", and cheesecake-flavored sour cream. Definitely not something you could re-create at home.

May 02, 2007
Jefferson in Chicago Area

Is Spiaggia overrated?

I was fortunate to be invited to an "expense account" dinner at Spiaggia Saturday night. There was a snafu with the table (table for 10 broken up for other diners due to our late arrival), but the service was smooth otherwise. I agree that it is not a good value, but I might as well add a few comments on the food.

There was an amuse of a mushroom-flavored cream or creamy cheese, shaped into a tiny quenelle, in a tasty puddle of green sauce. That might have been the best little taste of the evening. I started with the beef tartare, consisting of diced strip steak formed into a squat cylinder lubricated with white truffle "essence" and perched on a small nest of micro greens. Nice, but for my money, not a $25 app. The person next to me ordered the most interesting looking secondi piatti, a plate featuring three preparations of lamb (sounds from your report as though the "chickpea polenta" was bad; perhaps that could be substituted). I had the California spot prawns, wood-grilled and served with polenta. This was of impeccable quality, but a bit boring. Unfortunately it was not a dinner where you could share lots of bites across the table. I forget what I had for dessert, not because it wasn't well constructed, but due to much too much wine. :-)

May 02, 2007
Jefferson in Chicago Area