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Jan 7, 2002 12:35 PM

Chowhound dim sum -- chowhound dinner 2002, #1

  • r

The first thing you need to know is that South Sea Seafood Village is not between 9th and 10th as I mistakenly remembered (1420 Irving), and that the best place to park is one block over from Irving on Lincoln. Then you won't be half an hour late like me and end up doing the report [g].

The other lucky hounds who arrived before me were:

Derek Durst
Mark B and Louise
Pia and Philippe
Burke and Wells
Rochelle and Michael
and our charming host, the Limster

When I arrived and squeezed myself into the crowd at the round table, the feeding frenzy was well under way. Ordering was done from both the menu and off circulating trays. We tried almost half the 56 items on the dim sum menu and several off menu items. It's all kind of a blur, but surveying the replete group around the table came up with a few favorites.

In general, the quality was good. Limster pronounced it at the same level with Ton Kiang and Harbor Village (but a lot less expensive -- people were surprised that even with a generous tip, the bill came to $21 each (bill before tip was $193)).

Several people, including Rochelle and Wells, remarked, for example, that in even the familiar sui mai were exceptionally good.

Other favorites:

Derek particularly liked the pan fried bean curd roll with shrimp;
Louise singled out the shrimp stuffed in green pepper;
Philippe picked out the rice noodle rolls in XO sauce;
Michael liked the turnip cake;
Pia and Mark liked the steamed fish maw chicken, as did Limster, who also went over the menu with me and praised the rice noodle rolls with XO sauce, roasted duck, drunken chicken (cooked bloody at the bone with way he likes it), octopus with seaweed and the sliced cold pork shank with jelly fish.
Among the sweet items, I think we all liked the egg yolk layered cake with coconut.

When I arrived at 11:30 there were still a few empty tables, but it was filled up and there was a wait long before we staggered out of there at 1:30.

The End!

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  1. At over dim sum, the question of where to get Russian food in the city was re-introduced.

    Serendipitously, as I was walking back to my car I realized I was quite thirsty, and started looking for a place to buy a bottle of water. In the next (1300) block I wandered into the Quality Market and was surprised and delighted to realize it was actually a Russian deli. I perused the shelves and picked up several interesting tidbits (Russian tea, chocolates filled with black current liqueur, red pepper eggplant spread, etc.). Some of the fresh items in the deli case looked sad, but the sausages, salamis, and numerous pickled items and salted fish looked interesting. The also had a small selection of baked goods -- piroshki, poppy seed pastries, etc. Unfortunately the one person running the deli counter was slow, there were several people waiting, and then the slicer jammed and she cut herself trying to fix it. So I just paid for my goodies, but mindful of the discussion a just prior, I asked the proprietor where the good Russian food in town was.

    After a long discussion about whether I was interested in decor, music, etc. I managed to convince him that the quality of the food was paramount. He opined that Traktir (4036 Balboa) has the best food. He also recommended Russia House (2011 Bayshore Blvd.) and Russian Bear (939 Clement).

    6 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Ah, a topic near and dear to my Russian heart! I heartily second the Traktir recommendation for overall food quality, if not the service. Last time I was there with non-Russian speaking friends I would up doing the liquor service myself as the help was nowhere to be found. They did not even go to the trouble of lighting the sign so my friends milled about forever looking for the place. Still, the fish kebab was well worth the trouble. One thing though, Traktir is not a "Russian" restaurant at all -- almost everything of the menu is Georgian. Now there are folks who say that Georgian is the only edible food in Russia, but we will not heed the naysayers. Traditional Russian cooking is wonderful, if your palate runs to understated seasoning. Unfortunately there is none to be found this side of NYC, and I have looked, believe me.

      I would give both Russia House and Russian Bear a wide berth, unless you like really bad food and drunken Russian mobsters for dessert. You can get reasonably competent if not inspiring home cooking at the Cinderella Bakery (don't be fooled by the name) on Balboa at 6th (I think). I have also heard good things about Katia's, located catty-corner from Cinderella, but have yet to get it together to try it for myself. Other than that, you will just have to get yourselves invited to dinner at a house that features a babushka who doesn't cut corners in her cooking. Even then you won't get the more sophisticated dishes like roast lamprey (can't get them here), kulibiaka (it takes two days to make), or porcini in sour cream (babushkas are easily sticker-shocked). At least you can get proper schi now that sorrel is available, wonder of wonders.

      Good eating!

      1. re: David

        Hi, David! Welcome to the board. You might want to pick a more distinctive handle than "David" -- lots of "Davids" on chowhound, and we'd like to give you credit for your good taste and opinions.

        "Really bad food and drunken Russian mobsters" sounds pretty authentic to me [g], but perhaps in this case "authentic" is not what it's cracked up to be!

        1. re: Ruth Lafler
          The Mad Russian (David)

          Thanks for the warm welcome, Ruth! As you can see, I took your advice .

          I have to say that there are many kinds of "authentic" when it comes to the Russian food experience. The mobster scene is definitely one. Feel free to explore, but be sure to bring a large friend who enjoys a good fight and doesn't mind a black eye to go with the tab. And if you think I am being facetious, check it out for yourself. Then there is the civilized, if boysterous, dinner with strolling gypsy violins and spectacular food washed down with a great deal of ice-cold vodka. This had largely disappeared from Russia proper by the time I left (a frighteningly long time ago), but it lives on in Paris of all places. I had one memorable meal at a small restaurant near the Trocadero, I only wish I could recall its name. I have been hearing of a revival of culinary arts in Russia, and I plan to taste and report when I go this summer. I hope it's true!

          1. re: The Mad Russian (David)

            My family lived about two years very close to the traditional White Russian neighborhood, where many tsarist sympathisers settled, around rue Daru in the 8th, farily close to the Parc monceau. There was a good deli on rue Daru, great blinis.

            I wonder if the area has been reinvigorated with more Russian immigrants lately of if the current wave settled elsewhere in Paris.

            1. re: garçon

              Last time I was there I failed to find a new wave of immigrants. No doubt they exist, but I think it would be singly, not concentrated into neighborhoods. I believe you'll find that the new Russians in Paris are, well, New Russians, meaning very weatlhy people with slightly shady pasts...


        2. re: David

          Here's an earlier thread on Traktir and Georgian cuisine.


      2. My two cents...the most fun thing was to meet the good and interesting people from this group! If you have never attended one of these outings, I heartfully recommend it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: derek durst

          It's definitely fun to have a meal with ten other people who will happily to spend every minute discussing not only the food you are eating but the food you have eaten and the food you plan to eat in delicious detail.

          As Melanie has often noted, it's amazing that there don't seem to be any jerks among us, even among the 70+ people at the picnic. Other regions haven't been so lucky, so we here in the Bay Area should pat ourselves on the backs for not only being chow-savvy but for being good folks, too.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            Dave Feldman

            Ruth said:

            As Melanie has often noted, it's amazing that there don't seem to be any jerks among us, even among the 70+ people at the picnic. Other regions haven't been so lucky, so we here in the Bay Area should pat ourselves on the backs for not only being chow-savvy but for being good folks, too.

            DF says:

            Yeah, but it works out fine at NYC gatherings. We're all jerks, so everyone gets along.