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$1.79 Calamari and Excellent Boon Tong Gao

On Thursday we grabbed a late dim sum lunch out on Noriega. The last time I stopped here (too long a line to stay), the glass in the entry way had the Chinese characters for Tai Wu. Now, it's painted with "S & T Hong Kong Seafood". I don't know if this indicates yet another ownership change for the restaurant or a sub rosa name for another branch of Tai Wu.

We ordered from a check-off list. My mother noticed the sections priced at $1.79, but the print was too small for either of my parents to make out the dishes. Our waiter read them off to us. Mom picked a sticky rice roll and the salt and pepper calamari from the $1.79 list. We also ordered a plate of beef chow fun (ordered dry and hold the bean sprouts).

The calamari came out first, and it was a bigger serving than we expected for so little money. The texture of the squid was spot on, tender with just a bit of resistance. It was quite tasty too with red and green fresh chilis, deep-fried garlic bits, scallions, and a good dose of salt and pepper to highlight the sweet flavor of the squid. The batter was thicker than we like, but it was airy and not greasy. We liked this very much despite the tentacles being stuck together in a ball of batter.
Image of $1.79 salt and pepper squid -
http://static.flickr.com/65/197818256...

The beef chow fun was excellent with a nice sear on the thin and tender slices of pounded beef. The rice noodles soaked up the beefy flavors. In lieu of bean sprouts, the plate included yellow leeks, green onions, and thick slices of charred yellow onion. At first my mother wrinkled her nose at the big onion pieces, but then she said, "The onions are good. Try it, they're sweet and still a little crisp."

The sticky rice wrapped with steamed bread was too starchy and blank for us. Still, we thought the sticky rice was done well, firm and chewy with a good amount of char siu, lop cheong, and dried shrimp. We saw some sang chow sticky rice go by and would order that instead next time. The har gao looked good, made with whole shrimp and thin translucent wrappers. But they were not as sweet and pristinely fresh as versions tried recently at SF's Great Eastern and Tai Wu in Foster City.

The star of this meal was the boon tong gao ($5). The wrapper of this large dumpling was so thin and fragile, almost gossamer-like. Inside, chunks of fresh scallop blended with shrimp, grass mushrooms, shreds of dried scallop, black mushroom, and more. And, oh the double-boiled soup! Almost crystal clear, greaseless and so light, yet extremely flavorful with briny, savory, and meaty components singing perfect harmony. The portion of soup was generous too, enough that I could ladle out nearly a rice bowlful for both my mom and dad to share. Anticipating KK's question on how this compares to our gold standard at the dearly departed Seafood Harbor of Millbrae, I'd say very well. The soup is a bit deeper and not as ethereal and has more white pepper accents. The skin on the dumpling is superior and as a bonus, there's actually real sharks fin. About a 2"x 1" piece of fin was hidden underneath the dumpling. I was so pleased with this dish that I bubbled over with enthusiasm to the manager when I paid the bill at the register. He pointed out the "sifu" who was eating at the staff table and called out my compliments to him.

Image of Boon tong gao (sharks fin dumpling in soup) -
http://static.flickr.com/63/197818257...

Here's a relatively high res photo of the dim sum menu. I'm hoping that some of our more literate 'hounds can tell us what the untranslated portions (especially in the $1.79 section) offer.

Image of Dim sum menu (1280 x 960 pixels) -
http://static.flickr.com/69/197818255...

What else do chowhounds recommend here?

Tai Wu/HK Seafood thread -
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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    1. Melanie,

      Do you know if the price is also $1.79 during the weekend, or is this a weekday special?

      Thanks

      1. Thanks for another great report. Could you tell me the cross street? Thanks!

        2 Replies
        1. re: chaddict

          33rd Ave/Noriega.

          I believe this is an ownership change as I saw the permit/application a few weeks ago.

          1. re: manda

            Thanks, Manda. Here's the address:

            2588 Noriega St. (@33rd Ave.)
            San Francisco
            415-665-8338

        2. $1.79 Menu as follows:

          Steamed white buns or flower rolls.
          Home style green onion pancake.
          Red bean cake.
          Tofu hua or super sweet silken tofu.
          Beef balls with bamboo shoots.
          Mala gao or mala steam cake.
          Sticky rice roll.
          Salt and pepper salmon cheeks.
          Salt and pepper calamari.
          Chinese chives with chunks of pig blood.
          Blanched pigs knuckle or pork (not 100% sure of this one).
          Salt and pepper tofu.
          Chow jew style stewed tofu.
          Albalone flavored chicken feet.

          They also have some interesting dim sum like bitter melon with chicken rice noodle roll, Chinese sichuan pickle with beef rice roll, Shanghai dumpling and ja leong (Chinese crullers wrapped with rice noodles).

          6 Replies
          1. re: theSauce

            Thank you so much for the translation!!! The salt and pepper salmon cheeks is one that I didn't understand or remember, and now they're calling me.

            If you have time and interest, the other sections of the Chinese menu would be of definite use too.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Items below Taro dumplings (second column):

              - Pan fried taro cake
              - Pan fried seafood eggplant
              - Pan fried seafood mushroom
              - " " " bell pepper
              - Shrimp rice rolls
              - Shrimp with spinach dumpling
              - Shrimp with cilantro dumpling
              - Pine nuts with veggies dumpling
              - BBQ pork and lapcheung turnip cake
              - Shanghai soup dumplings
              - Pork and veggies steam dumplings
              - Pork tofu skin roll (not sure)
              - Spareribs with rice noodle or rice powder steam spareribs
              - Shrimp with corn sauce
              - Egg yolk thousanld layer cake
              - Egg yolk mala roll
              - sesame or peanut rice balls

              The $4.20 is hard to translate because it's one of those poem translations. The only ones I can translate are as follow:

              - Side street flavor rice rolls or chitterlings (This is one of those poem translation into food type of deal).
              - Tofu skin roll with seafood.
              - Soy sauce yellow chives chow mein (perhaps yee mein?)
              - Some type of fish dish.

              Disclosure: I am not responsible for false translation. Hee hee.

              1. re: theSauce

                Thank you, you're our hero! The first list (under the taro dumpling) is in the $2.80/dish column.

                Seems odd that the dishes aren't translated, as nothing seems "scary". Maybe there just wasn't enough space for more English.

                I will mention that the table of non-Chinese got a surprise when they ordered "spiced beef varieties" for $5. I don't think they were expecting curried honeycomb trip and other innards. They didn't touch it.

            2. re: theSauce

              Looking at the translation above, something caught my eye immediately - "Albalone flavored chicken feet" - has anyone tried it? Thanks so much for these translations!

              1. re: RWCFoodie

                To please my mom, we ordered both the chicken feet with black bean sauce AND the abalone-flavored chicken feet )...she liked both versions with the spicy abalone-flavored feet at the top of her list.
                -there is also a cold chicken feet dish on the $5 menu.

                Unfortunately, the green onion pancake, the deep-fried tofu skins with shrimp, the salt & pepper salmon cheeks, and the S&P calamari were all greasy today...alas, the very tasty xlb had no broth.

                On the plus-side: the lobster jook, the hargau, the shiu mai!

                1. re: Cynsa

                  Yum, Lobster Jook - That sounds incredible! So do Salt & Pepper Salmon Cheeks! I bet the cold chicken feet dish is probably the one that is always white - flavor is usually too subtle for my jaded taste buds :-)

            3. Whoa! There it is....on the Dim sum Menu Image, stamped in red (like an addition to the original printed menu), is a dish call "Flowing Sand bun". If this is what I think it is, it is a steamed bun with a rich sweet filling made with salted egg yolks. I first had these in Vancouver and later found them at The Kitchen in Millbrae. The Kitchen has them in two versions, steamed(Gum Sa Bow, golden sand bun) and baked with a crust(pineapple style, Gook Bor Lor Gum Sa Bow). They are really good and highly addictive. I'm gonna have to get down to Noriega and do a comparison. Anybody else know what I'm referring to??

              Margret

              5 Replies
              1. re: margret

                With salted egg yolks, no. So I assume it's gritty instead of custardy like nai wong bao?

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  No, it is not nai wong bao. The filling is loose, almost flowing and gritty. It used to be you have to go to LA for these (Seafood Harbor? I think) I'll report back when I try these. It's too bad that I'm technology challenged and can't seem to know how to work my digital camera. ;0)

                  Margret

                2. re: margret

                  The last time I was there with my daughter, the folks sitting next to us ordered this bun -- they had the baked version. We didn't order this because my daughter hates egg dishes, but our dining neighbors had come just for this dish and said that they liked it very much.

                  As for other things we like at S&T Hong Kong Seafood or Tai Wu Noriega, the pan-fried chive dumplings, shu mai, sticky rice w/chicken wrapped in lotus leaf, har gow (peppery, with lots of firm shrimp,) salt and pepper tofu, chicken feet in black bean sauce and seafood pan-fried crisp noodle are all very, very good.

                  1. re: Nancy Berry

                    The supplementary menu of jook and noodle dishes looks really good here. Lobster jook, crab jook . . .

                3. Thanks for the report! A shame I so rarely tread into SF these days especially for dim sum lunches. Glad to know there's a good version of sharks fin dumplings up there.

                  Did the beef chow fun have much grease on the plate? If not, that's a sign of a really skilled chef. Too bad we can't get Andy Wai to make one (I'm sure it is beneath him nowadays with so many other things he can do right), I'd love to taste his rendition.

                  1. No puddles and barely a sheen of oil on the plate. All the flavor was sopped up in the rice noodles.

                    Have you seen the buns Margret mentions anywhere around here?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Try the version at The Kitchen in Millbrae. Most people like the baked ones better but the steamed ones are more like the original.