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Aug 4, 2006 09:26 PM

Chowdown lunch report - Sam's Restaurant in downtown Oakland

I went to a chowdown lunch today and met some very nice people. Thank you Joel for the wine and Marc for getting everyone together. We had the banquet meal which included many items. Here is my quick summary. I'm sorry that the food descriptions are not that great since I didn't see the menu. Better descriptions to come and let me know if I have forgotten anything.

Fish Maw soup - light and delicate with a great texture on the fish maw. It was not too bland and had just enough salt for my taste. Joel was right. The fish maw is the swim bladder.

Scallops - nothing really special about the scallops. They were prepared nice and had a good overall balance.

Crab - The flavor was wonderful with specs of garlic crusted over the shell, but the crab meat was a little too mushy for my taste.

Fish - had a slight gingery taste and good overall flavor. I though it was just a tad too oily but I did like the tenderness of the fish.

Chicken - the skin was moist and the chicken was cooked just right. It had a juiciness that is rare in most chinese places. The sauce that it came with complimented the chicken really well.

Duck with Taro in Hot Pot - I really enjoyed the duck and although I am not a fan of taro it was actually quite good. I didn't have much of the sauce but overall a good dish.

Vegetables with preserved egg - the preserved egg added a nice flavor to the vegetables.

Vegetables with garlic - generic rendition of this dish. nothing bad about it but nothing special either.

Squab - everyone's least favorite. It was a little bland, though I did like the crispiness of the skin. Other than not nothing special.

All in all, all the dishes were very good and no one left with an empty stomach. The highlights for me would be the chicken and the duck. My least favorite would be the squab and the fish.

Gordon took most of the photos although there are some more that I took here.

I've also posted this on my little food blog here.

Hoon aka crimson.

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  1. Hoon (Crimson), thanks for your summary of today's lunch @ Sam's Restaurant. My favorite dish was the pea shoots & preserved eggs. I'm not crazy about eating preserved eggs by themselves but the way they were used in this dish was just perfect.....they added a salty element as well as a visual one. The mixed seafood stir-fry was one of the better versions of this ubiquitous dish. Someone in the kitchen has a very nice way with the seasoning. Enjoyed the fish. The crab was sweet but the texture a bit soft. The chicken was popular - I would have liked it cooked just a bit less - still tasty,though. The duck/taro clay pot was very savory.
    Here's a link to my photos:

    Sam's Restaurant. 419 - 15th St near Broadway, Oakland,CA 94612 510.839-9026

    thank you Marc for organizing! The service was quite good - they changed our side plates twice and generally were on top of things .... refilling teapots, more rice, etc...
    There was a bit of a language barrier (no one fluent in Chinese and they didn't do English all that well ) but it all worked out. :~) Right now it's still Cash only - don't have their Credit Card system set up and they don't have a liquor license so Joel had to sneak a few tastes of his wine in tea cups.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gordon wing

      I just realized that you can click on any one of the mini pictures on the strip of images and get a bigger, more detailed image.
      Looking closer at the pea shoots & preserved egg - they also worked in egg whites to make the whole thing more creamy and maybe to ameliorate the funkiness of the preserved egg ... yin/yang like :~)

    2. This was my first official Chowdown lunch and except for a getting a parking ticket (fie horrible OPD parking ticket man), I absolutely loved it. The food was of a good standard and the company was outstanding!

      I think Hoon did a good job of describing the dishes. We got the banquet menu for 8-10 but it was in Chinese script and Gordon / Derek / Marlon did a good job of getting the lady who waited on us to translate and sub the 'Shrimp with Walnut and Mayo' for the Duck with taro in claypot dish.

      I would agree that the duck was both new to me and the dish I enjoyed the most. Taro is not something I am very fond of and find it bland and heavy normally. The dish was served very very hot and the taro cubes were firm but almost crispy instead of being too mushy. The sauce tasted like caramelized onion and soy and a sweet tinge of something (dark soy?). Maybe since it was a substitute it was either a special of the day or made fresher than the others in the family dinner menu?

      The chicken and crab and scallops were all excellent but I have to say I liked the fish a lot too. It was a bit oily but probably because the fish was fatty to begin with and it tasted really fresh to me. Loved the strands of ginger in the fish. The chicken also had slices of ginger in the sauce that I liked. I guess the food was very well flavored right from the delicate soup to the deep robust sauce with the duck.

      I would say I liked the duck and the fish the most, followed closely by the chicken / crab and scallops. Least favorite would be the squab felt overcooked. The salt to sprinkle on it was interesting though - does anyone know what that was?

      Really glad to have met all the lovely chowhounders and waiting for the next chowdown I can attend!

      Urmi aka jhinky

      1. The greens with preserved egg were definitely my favorite dish. Somehow, the egg added a nice creaminess that did not interfere with the crispy, fresh vegetables.

        I didn't mind the squab all that much, but mostly because it came right after the vegetable dishes, and it served as a nice foil for that, maintaining a sort of balance. But there wasn't a whole lot to the squab except for very crispy skin, and if I had to pick one dish to eat there, that wouldn't be the one.

        The taro claypot, though, was quite something. I also have never been all that fond of taro, but this may cause me to change my mind. It went very well with my rice, which had been flavored from a lot of the other dishes.

        Glad so many people could make it with almost no notice whatsoever! Look for an upcoming announcement for a pair of Champa Gardens chowlunches (two so we don't overwhelm them) that Marlon will post in the next day or so. It's not "downtown", but there are probably enough of us who can pick one person up that we can ferry people over from BART...

        2 Replies
        1. re: Marc Wallace

          Anyone who would like to help organize East Bay chowdowns and receive announcements by email can sign up here -

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Thanks Marc and Melanie...The evites have been sent and barring any technical problems should be in you inbox soon! I would like to echo the existance of the two groups SFlunchseries and the Eastbaychowdown which though they overlap also give people the chance to focus events to some extent. See you all soon!

        2. Another successful Chowlunch!! The group was in unanimous agreement that the majority of the dishes were good to very good, with only 1 (the squab) that would get an "Eh" review. It's nice when there are a lot of hits (steamed chicken, pea shoots with preserved egg, fish maw and seafood soup, duck & taro clay pot) with so few misses (squab meat kinda bland and crab meat was a bit mushy, though both dishes also had redeeming qualities in the crispy skin of the squab and the tasty sauce covering the crab).

          Props to Marc for recommending this place, and to Joel for providing his very nice 2004 Cab I mean fortified grape juice.

          1. It may be 'the sum is greater than its parts' dictum, but I thoroughly enjoyed today's lunch at Sam's; it is undoubtedly the excellent company of chowhounds that I relish and the comfort food of the Cantonese kitchen at Sam's. A bite of this and a bite of that; then a bite more makes a great lunch.
            -I am a taro addict and the duck with taro dish was very satisfying... the preserved eggs with greens, the fish maw soup also topped my list of favorites. Overall, nothing marred a perfect afternoon of friendly chowing.
            -For tonight's after-dinner dessert, we will have Fat Apples' fresh peach pie (my bonus for driving across the Bay Bridge)