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The secret is out... Chef Andy Wai's own restaurant in San Mateo

  • K K Oct 19, 2006 10:21 PM
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Someone let the cat out of the bag already, so I might as well steal the exclusive here...

Chef Andy Wai, former executive chef of Harbor Village, East Ocean in Emervyville (short stint) and just recently departed Tai Wu in Daly City has opened up his own restaurant in San Mateo aptly named Chef Wai where he is owner and executive chef, replacing the now defunct Iron Chef across from Draegers (which was not a great place to begin with).

Cantonese food fans already know about this place as there were reports of long lines. If you know him personally he'll even customize some dishes for you, a practice that has been frowned upon by all the restaurants he used to work for (stick to the regular menu, experimentation is costly and might not cater to everyone).

A bit of background: Chef Wai writes regular columns (or used to?) for Sing Tao HK Chinese newspaper SF Bay Area edition. I think he still writes freelance articles for certain publications, and the most recent one is EastEats gourmet magazine which the first issue was published by the Cupertino Village mall group. I also recently learned he was an apprentice to one of the top acclaimed chefs at Hong Kong's premiere seafood restaurant, "#1 Abalone" many years ago.
To say he's the Einstein of Cantonese food might even be an understatement.

I have yet to go, but I'm sure it will be very interesting.

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  1. Ahhhhh, thanks for the heads-up!! I walked by there a couple of weeks ago and noticed renovations in progress, and was curious what was going in. I have a friend in the neighborhood, so I'll check it out sometime soon.

    1. Is this the Iron Chef in downtown by Central Park? If so, do you know if they open for lunch on weekdays? I work right by there and this sounds like a place I want to try.

      1 Reply
      1. re: S U

        Across the street from Draeger's? It has to be the same place. How many other Iron Chef's could be that close to Central Park?

      2. The buzz among my mom's friends (all chinese group) is the service is lacking, they had to wait quite a long time for their food, aparently they are still working the bugs out. This was last week.

        1. WOW, you have great sources. I just got a call yesterday from a fan of food but not a hound inviting to try Andy place next week. I did not post since I did not have a second confirmation and had not been myself.

          But I glad Andy found a new place.

          Yes, Chowfun you guessed correctly.

          3 Replies
          1. re: yimster

            I'm good!
            I Must have a good teacher!!
            Lucky San Mateo...Joy Luck and Chef Wai within the same block...an embarassment of riches!

            1. re: ChowFun_derek

              But not good enough to get a invite to lunch. Will report back after I try.

              1. re: yimster

                rotfl!

          2. Yes, Chef Wai took over the spot that was Iron Chef (same owners as its prior incarnation as a Malaysian restaurant, which I thought was pretty good to begin with, and once they converted to Cantonese food it went downhill after that). Before the Malaysian restaurant it was uhmm...Fung Shang Cafe or something like that?

            I wonder if Chef Wai (the restaurant, not Andy) will be offering dim sum during lunch (Andy himself does not do dim sum), but even if not, Joy Luck is going to have some stiff competition nonetheless.

            1 Reply
            1. re: K K

              Amazing how "restless" this location is. Before Chef Wai, it was Iron Chef, Island Cafe, Fung Shang Cafe, and Cindy's Buffet the last 3-4 years. Did I miss one?

            2. I am happy for "wah-geh" as people in the business like to call him. I have personally followed him since the beginning of Harbor Village, many many years ago. Most definitely he is a talented and knowledgable chef, what amazes me most is his know how and experience with other ethnic foods, as he incorporates other ingredients and cooking methods to compliment his cooking style. Not sure if I was to share this... but, he will eventually introduce a private menu upstairs for VIP's only.
              I wish him luck, as I will be back tonite for another round of good eats. If anyone has not tried his claypot clams in special sauce, request and substitute with Andy's Ramen, one of my favorite dishes.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Rina

                Yes it is superb news that he finally has his own place, thus his own creative and business freedom versus working for someone else. His cooking (non menu items that he comes up with) easily is as good as the best in Hong Kong and Vancouver, which is why he has that Cantonese cuisine Bay Area treasure status especially amongst the VIPs that you just spoke of. I'm not in the least bit surprised at the VIP room.

                1. re: K K

                  Thank you very much for the heads up on Chef Wai! Now we really must have a proper chowdown. K K, perhaps you'd like to gain even more good karma by organizing a dinner to celebrate Chef Wai's new place? DH and I would be most eager to attend!

                  1. re: pilinut

                    Had lunch yesterday. Just me so didn't get to sample a lot. Had steamed kabocha squash with dried cranberries and stir fried seafood.

                    It was very good,(but could see or taste the cranberries), with a savory,mildly spicy sauce. Perfectly cooked shrimp, scallops and geoduck(!) clam sauted with (I think) a type of cucumber, with some squash that could be scraped from the shell. I only wish the sauce wasn't quite so thin as it didn't offer as much flavor as a I would have liked. As I suspected this was an October special - squash = pumpkin for halloween- even tho not listed as such on the menu. I'm looking forward to a lot more tasting :)

                    The service leaves a lot to be desired - but as my waiter said he had only been there one day I expect it will improve with time.

              2. I walked by this new place earlier today and took a peek inside. Decor is quite beautiful from a quick glance. I didn't go any further than the reception area, and asked to see the lunch and dinner menu. They were basically a long laminated placard for each time of day, double sided, not a fancy schmancy leather bounded menu. Did a real quick scan, and really didn't absorb much into memory.

                Although the lunch menu has practically zero dim sum (probably as a tip of the hat, or keeping the holster closed, to Joy Luck Place), they do offer the standard homey Cantonese fare that Joy Luck also does (that I'm sure Andy grew up eating as a kid), including won ton noodle soup, congee, ho fun, stir fry noodle and chow fun, bbq pork/cha shiu appetizer etc, and I could have sworn I saw cheung fun as well (rice vermicelli rolls/Cantonese banh cuon) but that was it.

                The dinner menu has a nice variety of dishes including a vegetarian section that might have some gems in it. The preserved veg (mei cai/mui choy) with eggplant clay pot was an example of something that did look quite unusual. Lots of interesting and original dishes overall, but nothing that immediately stood out as out of the box (perhaps those are for designer VIP style dinners), though the regular menu fare was certainly not common boring tried and true dishes that other restaurants were offering. Did not pay close attention to examples or prices as I did not study the menu for too long.

                Pilinut, I'm flattered at the nomination but my schedule does not allow me to do dinners at this time. I'll defer this to the more experienced folk :-).

                5 Replies
                1. re: K K

                  What else looked interesting on the menu. My friend and I will be going very soon. Would like a heads up before I get there.

                  Thanks

                  1. re: yimster

                    I think you can go in with no expectations (pretend you didn't even read what I posted), and ask for recommendations by the waitstaff (or if you are lucky enough to be able to talk to Andy himself and ask him), and see what happens. I don't want to ruin it for you, plus I really really don't remember what else was on the menu, as I didn't spend much time browsing it. I would suggest not ordering any tried and true kind of dishes if you can, but even if you do. at least do a wide variety so you get an idea of the kitchen and chefs strengths and weaknesses (perhaps a dish from each category).
                    Go on a weeknight vs a weekend, and see for yourself on the quality/consistency.

                    I'm not sure when I will go myself, and it looks like you might be there well before I do, so do share your experience, which I'm sure is more influential on this board to a wider audience than from 2nd hand info right now.

                    1. re: K K

                      I will report back when I get to go which will be soon, but I do not know when.

                      I too have had Andy's cooking before. Glad he now has he own platform to show off his skills.

                    2. re: yimster

                      I'd love to hear what you think of Chef Andy's new place, Yimster. I can't wait to visit this restaurant.

                      1. re: Nancy Berry

                        As soon as I go I will report back.

                  2. Ate there Friday for lunch.

                    Had, gai lan mama style, shrimp in egg batter, pan-fried noodles of some sort with scallops and shrimp, and a beef stew...

                    Everything except shrimp was top-notch and proclaimed so by our Hong Kong colleague as high-quality Cantonese food and showing the signs of that genre.

                    Shrimp was kind of like lame salt and pepper prawns.

                    Gai lan was amazing - simple, in a wine sauce, garlic, ginger, but the best gai lan I have ever had.

                    Beef stew was delicious, with potatoes and carrots and the star anise taste.

                    Noodles were also good, crisp and then the sauce on top with high quality scallops, juicy, tender, sweet.

                    Not cheap but not expensive per se, kind of like ABC Seafood in Foster City for prices. Quantity is a little low however.

                    We will go back.

                    1. Posted a TR from my meal there last night: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                      1. Finally had the pleasure of dining at Chef Wai tonight with family who entertained an aunt visiting from Hong Kong (who was extremely impressed with the meal and is an upscale food hound and wine drinker herself). Got there late so food had already been ordered, and I have no clue what was on the menu or off, but there were some very interesting creations that had Andy's personal touch.

                        It was not very busy on a Monday night, contrary to reports from family and friends who have been on weeknights to witness a near to full house.

                        We started off with an appetizer that had a mish mash of things in it, like a cold plate/salad mix, including thinly sliced cucumbers, fuyu persimmons, cashews, the most tender duck and pork that were simliar to roast duck and bbq pork but not quite. This apparently is on the menu but is more scaled down. We got a larger order as requested by my uncle who knows Andy (and perhaps been following him around too long as well as going to his establishments too often), and apparently Chef Wai is the only person who is reproducing a Hong Kong restaurant original dish (apparently this "salad"/cold appetizer originated in the Hong Kong Harbor Village, yes the original, no not the SF one) and does it to a T.

                        Next was a very interesting herbal soup that had so many Chinese herbs and ingredients in it, including....deep sea coconut (strange enough coconuts apparently grow in the ocean). Broth was almost like a red bean soup, and I noted big pitted red dates inside.

                        We also had an appetizer of roast pork with crispy skin. But here's a twist...this is actually an Andy special, where the cut of pork is from the belly. This needs to be ordered in advance, or you can take your chance and see if he has any he roasted that day.

                        Next dish was chicken served two way: roasted with crispy skin and one that looked like soy sauce chicken but was actually marinated in Imperial Tea or King Tea (Cha Wong). The mix of flavors was quite interesting.

                        Next was goose webbed feet with large pea sprout veg (dou mieu) and sea cucumbers. Normally the goose feet are imported frozen from Canada so when most restaurants cook this, as best as they do it, it still ends up being a little chewy. Chef Wai was able to make this dish a real winner, with the skin and meat of the feet literally fall off the bone when you bite into it (along with the great collagen from these things). Sea cukes melted in the mouth. A superb rendition of this dish that goes for $18 to $25 easy at most restaurants.

                        Next was steamed fish. I don't know the English name nor did I catch the Chinese name of the fish, but it was a deep sea swimmer. Maybe it was because I was very tired and fighting the remnants of a cold, but I did not enjoy this very much. Others at the table raved how great and perfect the fish was, but I happened to have bit on a drier chewy piece.

                        Basil baked crab - this is a true Andy invention. I've had this at Tai Wu when he cooked this for our table. Imagine a basil based sauce with some butter, garlic, and whatever mysterious ingredients. Tonight's version was not as good as the one at Tai Wu when he was there. After having this preparation, the R&G salt/pepper version, or a baked one with salted duck egg coating, or ginger/scallion stir fry, seem very boring indeed. I don't believe this is on the menu, but Andy fans know this very well from the past.

                        Stir fry filet mignon with green onion and green garlic (leek looking veg). Very homey tasting of stir fry steak cubes, using a nice cut that tastes like filet mignon. Apparently if you let it sit overnight as leftovers, it will be superb.

                        Didn't stay for dessert but we had to leave before it came. Andy saw me on the way out, and I thanked him for an excellent meal, and asked me why I couldn't stay for dessert (heh heh). He gave me his restaurant's business card as well. He is a very modest man. My uncle was singing praises of him in front of everyone at the table when Andy came to see how we were doing and he almost immediately walked away (like he was blushing). Before that I told him I read his article on preparing cha shiu, to which he smiled.

                        Apparently Chef Wai also does XLB, but Andy himself does not make this. I'm told the restaurant has a chef from Northern China who does the regional specialities. Yelp review(s) might have mentioned how good they were.

                        Your mileage might vary at this restaurant, as family noted that the beef was not as good as their previous visit (I thought it was still quite good). Other comments included very good won ton noodle soup, so maybe ahong can take the trip up here to try it during lunch. Curry beef brisket is apparently another good version here. Guess I'll have to come for lunch and check it out for myself.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: K K

                          Thanks for the excellent report of what sounds like a most excellent dinner! I had a res there on Friday, but had to cancel when my friend was running late. The reservation ladies were easy to work with on the phone, but did warn me that a table could only be held for 15 minutes on the weekend.
                          http://www.chefwai.com/

                        2. I had the xiao long bao this past Saturday at lunchtime. Unfortunately, while the meat filling was tasty, the skins did not hold up well and the soup in most had dripped away. 10 for $9.00......=-/

                          The spareribs with preserved plum, XO sauce rice rolls and seafood chow mein with crispy egg noodles were all winners. Meatless Szechuan eggplant was not quite as well-received by me and my 3 dining companions.

                          I've still got a long (and happy) ways to go before I sample everything on the menu that I want to there.....=-D

                          1. kk, curious about the article by Andy Wai on preparing cha shiu - is it available online?

                            1. My bad, it turns out Andy used to work at the original Tsui Hang Village (aka Harbor Village) in Hong Kong years ago according to whatever online articles are available via google search on the man, which explained why he was able to re-create that appetizer I had last night. It was a very refreshing version of a "ping poon" or banquet style appetizer (you know the usual crispy skin pork, bbq pork, roast duck, jelly fish, baby octopus...yawn) but with unique ingredients. The mix was so out of the box and whatever seasoning he used made this dish a winner. It might be a 20 year old receipe, but for the Bay Area it is brand new. The Chinese name had the word "meat" in it, sorry my memory is still foggy from a recovering cold and fatigue.

                              Melanie you should try and go back there again.

                              They have a separate banquet menu, well maybe not banquet but set dinners for groups of 4, 6, etc people. Not sure how those are and I didn't scan it properly.

                              Although XLB seems decently received by most, this is not something Andy himself or his restaurant specializes in. I didn't see the Northern Chinese chef last night, then again I wasn't looking for him. That's like going to Koi Palace for XLB, while it can be great, it certainly is not a destination spot for it (whether it be during dim sum lunch or dinner). When was the last time a Cantonese dim sum restaurant did a XLB as good as Shanghai East's version for example?

                              Gordon I'll check my issue of the EastEat(s) magazine tonight and see if there's a website with the cha shiu article archived (it is entirely in Chinese, but if time permits I'll do a translation as best as I can on the Home Cooking board). I got this free at the Marina San Mateo Sheng Kee Bakery, and you might be able to get it at the Cupertino Sheng Kee as well or at select Cupertino Village shops/restaurants. Not sure what the latest issue is or how frequent this comes out, or whether Andy will contribute another article. I'd also be curious if Chef Wai's book (a collection of his Sing Tao newspaper articles) will have a similar cha shiu receipe.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: K K

                                At Tai Wu in Daly City, presumably post-Wai, I had a fantastic char siu made from pork neck/jowl. Would love to hear about any gordon wing experiments working with that cut.
                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                1. re: K K

                                  hi there, I have the menu here:

                                  http://static.flickr.com/100/29361614...

                                2. and the english version, (the size is enlargable.)

                                  http://static.flickr.com/101/29361614...

                                  1. Thanks for posting the banquet menu!

                                    The "Peacock Blossom Platter" is indeed that very dish I had (the Tsui Hang Village Hong Kong restaurant original) with fuyu persimmons, pork, duck, cucumbers, cashews. The combo might be weird, but it is superb.

                                    1. A visit to Chef Wai’s Saturday evening was a bit disappointing. Perhaps expectations ran too high. Though the food was mostly good, service was wanting (snippy waiter, big staff but seem disorganized), it was not overly expensive, and portions were medium. Chef Wai’s menus are not as extensive as I thought.

                                      The luncheon menu starts with 25 items. Although there are items like dumplings, pan-fried and steamed buns, won ton, dumplings (10 XLB for 9.00), spring rolls, roasted pork belly and duck, rice noodle rolls, and pot-stickers, Chef Wai really does not really offer a complete dim sum fare per se (i.e., there is no har gow, sui mai, or fun gwor, etc). The rest of the luncheon menu has 27 items from congee to noodles, and to a few rice plates.

                                      The dinner menu starts with 11 appetizers (chicken lettuce wrap, roast duck, chicken salad, spring rolls, calamari, etc.), 8 soups (hot and sour, won ton, seafood sizzling rice, -etc. no shark fin nor bird’s nest), 18 meatless dishes (tofu, mushrooms, gai-lan, eggplant, etc.), and 9 rice and noodle items. The heart of the dinner menu consists of 18 “Chef’s Recommendation” items (seafood, beef, pork, chicken, etc.). The priciest item is “Hong Kong Style Dungeness Crab w/minced pork, black beans and herbs” at $25. Next highest are “Golden Blossom of Black Cod with a Sweet and Sour fruit glaze” at $20 and a Stir-fried Seafood and Sun-dried Cranberry in a steamed kabocha squash” at $15. The rest of the dishes are $10-$12.

                                      It is difficult to visualize a Chinese restaurant these days without live seafood tanks to be seen, but there are none inside Chef Wai’s! Crab season is coming up rapidly and there is only the one crab dish shown on the menu! Do not know what makes a “Hong Kong Style Dungeness Crab!” The only apparent difference would seem to be herbs. Can the addition of wondrous herbs alone elevate this crab dish to a higher level? “ Gon Gin Sze Jup Hai”with black beans and minced pork is about the easiest crab dish that I too can do at home in my wok short of simply just boiling or steaming the crab.

                                      The three of us arrived at the restaurant Saturday evening at 5 pm to avoid a crowd. The restaurant was only with about four to six tables occupied. We ordered “Appetizer Sampler for four” (It was written in Chinese as “Chef Wai’s Appetizer Plate” – thus thought it might be worth trying), “Clay-pot of Braised Beef Flank with potatoes, Clay-pot of Spareribs with preserved plums, and Pan-Fried Noodles with Seafood topping”. It took a long 15 to 20 minutes for our appetizer plate to come – two pot-stickers, two tiny egg rolls, 8 slices of char sieu, about 8 pieces of roast pork belly, and a small heap of green jellyfish topped by a Maraschino cherry. The skin on the pork belly was very crunchy, the char sieu, marbled with fat, was tender and tasty. Somehow, I was not enamored with the appetizer plate featuring pot-stickers and egg rolls! I had anticipated something more substantial and more imaginative!

                                      The sparerib clay-pot came next. The sauce on the spareribs was unusual and excellent. We ordered an extra bowl of steamed rice with which to consume all the sauce. The pan-fried noodles with seafood topping appeared next. It was excellent. The noodles were extra fine and extra crispy. The sauce was very tasty and just the right amount to go with pan-fried noodles. The seafood, shrimp, slices of fish, and squid, were fresh and juicy. We had intentionally ordered this as a basis to compare to other versions we have had elsewhere. Chef Wai came through well on this one! About a 40-minute wait after we had placed our order, the beef clay-pot finally arrived. The sauce was tasty enough, but there was not very much beef brisket. The beef was tough as if it had not been cooked long enough. Somehow, tough beef, potatoes and carrots is not my idea of a special “House Beef Stew clay-pot” as written in Chinese. I like Ken Hom’s version better. It is nice to try something in a different vein occasionally, but, in this case, Chef Wai’s version did not hit the spot!

                                      Soup du jour is $8, but we were comped with a sweet bean dessert soup with tiny tidbits of taro.

                                      Chef Wai has a banquet menu, ranging from $238 to $398 to $498 per table for ten. Shark fin is on the $398 and $498 menu. Black cod is on the $238 and $398 menu with “Hong Kong Style Lobster” on the $498 menu. There is no set “wo choy” dinners for small family groups, but what is interesting is that he offers the same banquet menu for half tables of five correspondingly at half cost so that one doesn’t have to round up ten people to sample the banquet fare.

                                      Oh well, maybe next time, under a different setting?

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: CYL

                                        Just to clarify, Chef Wai is not a dim sum chef. Although Harbor Village was well-respected for its dim sum, that was handled by a different chef. I can't remember if it was reported where he ended up.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Is there more than one Chef Wai?

                                          If you were to search on Chowhound.com for “Zen Peninsula” and click on the posting “Dim Sum Chef From Zen Peninsula” 9/17/05, it identifies a Chef Wai as a Master Dim Sum Si Fu.
                                          Melanie Wong posted on 9/17/05:

                                          "In a recent thread discussing change at the San Mateo branch of Joy Luck Place, a number of questions came up about Zen Peninsula's chef and weekdays vs. weekends as well. ZP's General Manager, Angie Ng, emailed me to clear up some of the issues.

                                          ". . . Your news is rather correct but incomplete. Let me give your more of the background.

                                          My head dim sum chef is from Fook Yuen and he is known as Master Wai. He worked for Milpitas ABC and then Cupertino Joy Luck and Milpitas May Flowers before we open up last summer. He is actually one of the founders of Zen Peninsula. So all the Dim Sum chef left behind as head Dim Sum chef for other restaurants including the one just recently moved up to Joy Luck Place San Mateo as head Dim Sum chef were all his assistant Dim Sum chefs for one point in time. That is one reason everyone called him “Master Wai” or “Wai Ci Fu” in Chinese. Don’t be surprised if you found similarity among the dishes because they are all kind of from the same Kung Fu College.

                                          KK's Oct 21 posting above said that "Andy himself does not do dim sum." If Chef Andy Wai is not a dim sum chef, is the Chef Wai who is a master dim sum chef Si Fu another person?

                                          1. re: CYL

                                            There is more than one Chef Wai. Andy Wai, owner of Chef Wai, has not worked at Zen Peninsula.

                                            And to make it more complicated, the dim sum master at Harbor Village was Chef Choy Wei.

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              And to follow-up, do we know the current whereabouts of Chef Choy Wei?

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                Let’s play a “Who’s Who/Where is The Chef Now?” game.

                                                1. We know where Andy Wai is. He has just opened his own restaurant in San Mateo. Andy was executive chef at Harbor Village when it closed circa 8/05. Andy left HV to East Ocean Emeryville to Tai Wu Daly City to now Chef Wai San Mateo. Andy Wai writes for Sing Tao HK and SF Bay Area; he used to apprentice to a top acclaimed chef at HK premiere seafood restaurant #1 ABALONE many years ago. Andy Wai puts forth a lot of good food, but he does not do dim sum.

                                                2. After HV closed , the head dim sum chef, Choy Wei, took a break and was not working immediately after. Is Chef Choy Wei working now? Where is Chef Wei? He is too skilled not to work for long!

                                                3. Circa 9/05, the manager of the Zen Peninsula identified her dim sum executive chef as “Master Dim Sum Si Fu Chef Wai.” This Chef Wai worked formerly as executive dim sum chef at Milpitas ABC, Cupertino Joy Luck and Milpitas Mayflower. The head dim sum chefs now at these establishments was said to used to work under Chef Wai (including a chef who had moved to Joy Luck San Mateo 9/05). Is Dim Sum Si Fu Chef Wai still at Zen Peninsula? If not, where can I sample Chef Wai’s masterful dim sum now?

                                                4. It is assumed #2 Chef Choy Wei is not #3 Master Dim Sum Si Fu Chef Wai? What is #3 Chef Wai’s first name? Don’t tell me it’s “Choy” and I mispelled his name! (Sure, Wei left HV circa 8/05; made a slight last name change from Wei to Wai, took a short break and started work quickly thereafter at ZP 9/05? – anything possible these days?)

                                                Any chowhounders, do not hesitate to play!

                                                1. re: CYL

                                                  LOL! Well done, CYL. For the second round of "follow the Chinese chef," what happened to the former R&G Lounge #2 and #3 chefs who went to Parc Hong Kong in Sunnyvale? Did they stay when it was taken over by the Saigon Seafood Harbor owners, or did they move on somewhere?

                                            2. re: CYL

                                              So these two "Chef Wai's" are now located accross the street from one another in San Mateo (lucky them!) Joy Luck and Chef Wai's!

                                        2. Wow, when we had the beef stew it was delicious, tender, great flavor, carrots had caramelized etc.. Maybe they just weren't ready for early diners when you were there?

                                          1. I would have to agree with CYL on that beef brisket clay pot, which was one of three to go items I picked up for dinner with my parents that was a disappointment. The meat was dry and surprsingly chewy. Yes there were potatoes and carrots, but there was also hint of coconut in it, as if there was some uncertainty as to whether this was a traditional beef brisket clay pot or a thai style curry (but w/o the curry flavor).

                                            The 2nd item that my parents loved was the preserved veg with egg plant although it didn't jive with me that much. There were bits of ground pork with the preserved veg, which I'm sure was key to bringing out much of the flavor.

                                            Finally the mixed mushroom and greens with fried tofu+egg white was a true winner.

                                            CYL's appetizer mix sounded wrong (egg rolls and pot stickers). The peacock blossom appetizer is likely a much safer bet to get (and it is on the menu). If you do not like fruit flavors in your meat, nuts etc then don't bother. But this is a refreshing take and doesn't have pot stickers and egg rolls.

                                            I can understand the live seafood tanks appeal, but I would think from a logistics and business standpoint the restaurant might suffer from it. The other guess is that perhaps Andy's restaurant is not meant to be one that appears like those high end seafood places (with the snobbery that comes along with it) that Andy used to work for (and departed from them to open up his own place). I can ask Andy this when the next opportunity comes and get his opinion and vision on the matter.

                                            Who and where is Ken Hom?

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: K K

                                              Ken Hom start out in this area as I remember had a cooking show on PBS and serveral cookbooks. The last time I had heard about him, he was living in either England or France and doing a show on BBC. Does old school Chinese and newer Fusion Aisan. Lot of great new ideas. Have a few his books. Interesting reading and cooking.

                                              1. re: yimster

                                                I agree that Ken Hom's books are interesting reading and have good recipes. He still has a BBC cooking show and I think he still lives in England (maybe part of the year in France? - ah lucky fellow!) I really love East Meets West, a fusion book from about 10 years ago, give or take.

                                              2. re: K K

                                                Hi KK,
                                                You mentioned the Peacock Blossom Appetizer and that it is on the menu - I've read about this previously and would like to order it as part of a luncheon. Do you know if it's on the lunch menu or only dinner? I've pulled up Chef Wai's website several times only to find that it doesn't seem to really do anything... Do you, or does anyone else, have a menu, other than the banquet menu, that they could post for us to drool over?

                                                1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                  Best thing to do is call the restaurant and see if they offer it during lunch, but I recall this might be a dinner only appetizer. No sorry I don't have a menu. Maybe Rina might? :-)

                                              3. Chef, instructor, resturanteur, author. His recipe for gnow nom from his book "Chinese Technique" is widely quoted. Used to have cooking show on KQED long ago. Google "Ken Hom" for further details.

                                                1. I have Chef Wai's menus! Fail to see a Peach Blossom Appetizer listed. I had the disappointing "Appetizer Sampler For Four" (Chinese characters simply reads "Chef Wai appetizer plate").

                                                  RWCFoodie - sending menus to you via e-mail (don't know how to transmit on Chwhound.com).

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: CYL

                                                    It is on the dinner menu... I assume you can read Chinese. Check the dinner menu and look for "Gum Sau Yuk Yeen Yeung". My bad, in English on the banquet menu it is Peacock (not Peach) Blossom. Since fuyu persimmons are in season I suppose that is the fruit being used. In English on the dinner menu there may have been the word melon in the translation, so in a few months Andy might use a different fruit.

                                                    1. re: K K

                                                      It's listed on the menu .jpg link in Rina's posts of Nov. 10 further up in this thread.

                                                  2. Yes, I see it on the menu! It's number 102 (second on the appetizer list). I oould not tell what it consisted of from the Chinese characters. The translation in English shows "Roasted duck, melon & Glazed nuts w/a Peanut sesame dressing." I also found it on the $238 banquet menu. Same Chinese characters, but in this case, English translation does say specifically "Peacock Blossom Platter."

                                                    You had duck similar to roast duck and pork similar to bbq pork (I've got plenty of cucumber, persimmon, melon and cashews at home) and we got crispy skin roast pork belly and nice char sieu! Hmmmmm. Both appetizers are $12 on the menu.

                                                    1. I just read through this thread and must say it is full of the reasons why I enjoy Chowhound so much–genuine pursuit of tasty things (and the people that make them) without pretension.

                                                      1. Last Tuesday I finally had a chance with three friends to enjoy lunch at Chef Wai. Thanks to Pia for asking if Chef Andy was in house - he was and graciously came out to visit with us and help with our lunch selection!
                                                        We enjoyed:
                                                        Barbecued Pork Cheeks
                                                        Lettuce Wraps of minced chicken, basil & pine nuts
                                                        Roasted duck, melon & glazed nuts salad with peanut-sesame dressing (thin shreds of fuyu persimmon, Chinese donut slices, cashews)
                                                        Shanghai Dumplings (XLB)
                                                        Braised Ramen with Seafood
                                                        Multi-grain Fried Rice with Smoked Salmon & Greens
                                                        Choy sum with carmelized garlic with supreme broth
                                                        Steamed pork dumplings
                                                        One other dish that I'm forgetting
                                                        Mango Pudding
                                                        Almond Jello

                                                        I enjoyed meeting Chef Andy and trying some of his unique dishes. My favorites were the Pork Cheek - lucious thick slices of juicy, flavorful pork; the Multi-grain fried rice with smoked salmon - it was difficult for me to stop at one bowl of this one, don't miss it; and the minced chicken with pine nuts and basil - excellent and different version of this dish.

                                                        The appetizer salad of roast duck was a bit of a let-down for me; the individual components were fine but just really didn't make that memorable a combination - the persimmon was cut into a paper thin julienne and really didn't add much in either flavor or texture. With Fuyu persimmons in great abundance right now, the julienne could add more to this dish if it was cut into more like matchstick size so you'd get more of the flavor and texture and they'd match the cut of the duck better also. This dish is interesting and innovative but I felt that it could have been more...

                                                        There are a great many items on the menu I want to try; here are a couple of them:
                                                        #303 Scrambled Egg Whites with seafood topped with crab roe sauce
                                                        #304 Golden Prawns in a Salted-egg Yolk Batter with Pine Nuts
                                                        #131 Stir-fried rice cake with shanghai pickled cabbage & lotus roots

                                                        Here are some photos:

                                                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/73893588...

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                          Thanks for sharing your review.

                                                          It appears that the version of the Peacock Blossom appetizer I had, while has similar ingredients to that roast duck appetizer you had, has a much different look (and taste)using your photo as a comparison. Should you have the chance to talk to Andy again, ask him to make that appetizer but in the style of the Tsui Hang Village version (hopefully that will signal him to make that specific version and not the menu version you had).

                                                          So while I am at this, in response to Gordon's question, the article that Andy wrote on cha shiu (BBQ pork) is not online, although the gourmet East Eat magazine has a website listed (in simplified Chinese only) at www.easteat.com and has nothing to do with Bay Area restaurants (or minimal coverage) or the local version of the magazine.

                                                          1. re: K K

                                                            You're very welcome - thanks for the info on the app platter - will have to try ordering it as you've suggested!

                                                          2. re: RWCFoodie

                                                            I had lunch there last week. Although the braised ramen was not my favorite, and the beef rice noodle soup very bland and disappointing, the stir-fried rice cake with shanghai pickled cabbage & lotus roots was fabulous. I normally don't like the sliced rice cake noodles anywhere else, but this dish was really great.

                                                            1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                              Great photos! Let's keep a running list of "To Order Next" #303, 304, 131...with the Steamed Pork Dumplings, which were light, fluffy in texture and very tasty morsels; the BBQ Pork Cheeks; Minced Chicken with Pine Nuts; Multi-grain Fried Rice with smoked salmon and finish with Chef Andy's Mango Pudding and Almond Jello. (or, just put a plate of the Multi-grain fried rice in front of me and I will feast with delight - it's the one dish that I couldn't stop eating until my rice bowl was empty)

                                                              1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                                I think there was strong agreement that the minced chicken with basil and pine nuts, the multigrain fried rice with smoked salmon, roasted pork cheek and desserts were the most enjoyable dishes.

                                                                The XLB were disappointing: though the skins were thin, the filling was bland and and almost all the soup had escaped. Oddly, just as we were leaving, I saw a tray of XLB at the next table, and it looked much better than ours.

                                                                At this point, and although Chef Wai's dumpling and dimsum emphasis is Northern Chinese (ergo, not strictly comparable with Joy Luck's Cantonese dimsum) I'd really rather have dimsum at Joy Luck and go to Chef Wai for more creative dishes.

                                                                Still, as RWCFoodie says, Chef Wai is certainly worth a return visit, especially to check out his banquet selection, and anything with salted eggyolk or crab roe!

                                                              2. Thanks! I'm always greatly surprised when I manage to get my pix downloaded properly! I agree on the Multi-grain "fried rice" with smoked salmon - I forgot to mention that there was tobiko and I think some shrimp in it too... I still like the sound of #301 too - "Stir-fried seafood and sun-dried cranberry in a steamed kabocha squash".... I need to either scan or take photos of the menus and post them too. That's my next challenge!

                                                                1. Hey folks, just ate dinner at Chef Wai's for the first time. Didn't really read most of this thread until now, after dinner... just knew the place was getting a lot of message postings here.

                                                                  Two of us had the chef's daily soup (wintermelon), the garden greens in broth (identified as choy sum with caramelized garlic in a previous poster's flickr photos), the fried rice with salted fish and chicken, and the clay pot with spicy tofu with seafood. We also had the house red bean soup for dessert.

                                                                  Generally thumbs up, good robust flavors in all dishes, none too salty, especially the fried rice was quite good (always potential for oversalting from the salty fish). The greens in broth was a nice alternative to the typical greasy sauteed veggies from other Chinese restaurants. The tofu and seafood was ok, but not exactly a hit.

                                                                  Service was friendly, although we did have to wait a bit to have our order taken and for the third and fourth dishes to arrive. This place is still new, so I figure it will take another few months for the service to stabilize.

                                                                  For a Sunday evening at the 7 pm hour, the place was busy, but not absolutely full, so no wait to get seated.

                                                                  Another thing we noted was when we sat down, the place was very strongly air conditioned, and many guests still had their jackets and sweaters on. However, by the time I had all the soup, tea, and spicy food in me, I had to take my sweatshirt off to cool down.

                                                                  We did notice Chef Andy Wai step into the dining room briefly and talk to one table of guests.

                                                                  $44 before tip for two people, plenty of food.

                                                                  We don't often go out for Cantonese food (I grew up eating it a lot since my mom is from Hong Kong, so I rather explore other cuisines), but with Chef Wai (the restaurant) showing so much potential (the chef is clearly proven already), we'll definitely try other dishes there again. Reading in a previous post that he'll customize dishes is interesting - we may try that next time.

                                                                  Has anyone experienced a large group banquet there yet??

                                                                  1. Had the opportunity to eat at Wai's last night. Went in for an early dinner around 6:30 and it was fairly quiet. Completely full by 7:00, we got in just in time.

                                                                    I really enjoyed the environment. It was conversationally quiet. Very kid friendly and everyone in the restaurant seemed to be enjoying themselves and their food.

                                                                    It was only my wife and I so we didn't get to sample as many dishes as we would have liked.

                                                                    Tried the Basil Chicken lettuce wraps. It was quite delicious. I would almost move it to the end of the meal as the basil and pine nuts were so refreshing they'd make a great palette cleaner after heavier dishes.

                                                                    We also had the "Wrap to order" won ton soup. As served, the soup broth was divine, it picked up a little too much 'fishiness' over time which wouldn't have been an issue at all if there were 4 or more of us at the table as it would not have survived long enough. The soup had scallops, shrimp and squid as well as the excellent won tons.

                                                                    The broccoli was done well but there isn't much to say about broccoli. My wife is pregnant and broccoli is the craving du jour.

                                                                    Out main dish was the beef in a brown sauce. It was very tender and served with mushrooms (button) and red onions. The mushrooms were nothing spectacular but the brown sauce added enough savory character to prevent them from tasting like flavorless sponges which often happens with buttons. The onions added a wonderful sweetness to the dish that played well against the sauce.

                                                                    1. Had dinner at Chef Wai with family last night for a special occassion, 2nd visit there myself. I'll have to be honest that my uncle and aunt who were both at the dinner table last night, have known the managers, owners and Andy for a long time since the Harbor Village days, so the quality of our dinner would be different than that of someone walking in for the first time and randomly ordering, though I think this perspective might be still worth mentioning. The waitresses and waiters who seem to know them by face and came over, said hello and chit chatted as if they were at a high school reunion(amazed me to no end). My uncle told us some of the waiters/waitresses came from other restaurants that they recognized previously from frequent visits, and one of the management staff (dressed in nice slacks and shirt) came from Mr Fong's by the lagoon.

                                                                      We also met one of the co-owners who proudly stocked Chef Andy Wai's Magic Kitchen cookbook for sale at $20 each (the suggested retail price was HK$98 which is roughly $12 ish). Yesasia.com sells them for that much mail order (and you pay shipping) and might be about the same in SF Chinatown. I had a chance to leaf through one and was surprised to see that it was primarily receipes (I was expecting articles he wrote in Sing Tao newspaper), with tons of color photos and the receipes in Chinese AND ENGLISH, very simple stepwise procedures. So for those Andy fans who can't read Chinese, this book is definitely friendly in that aspect too. In fact the cha shiu receipe he wrote about in East Eats magazine was lifted from his book, though I'm told there are two versions perhaps one incorporates more recent articles/receipes.

                                                                      All dishes but two were ordered straight off the menu. My folks didn't want me and my brother treating to order non menu items like steamed fish for fear of raising the bill. (For a party of 7 to 10, you're looking at $60 easy for one good sized quality steamed fish to feed all...)

                                                                      Soup of the day - a daikon and carrot based broth with hearty chunks of pork bones, chinese herbs. More like a near clear broth soup with a hint of green. Refreshing, soothing, with a nice sweet taste. $8 for one order that apparently wasn't enough for 7 people, so we had to do 1.5 orders. Even then it was just enough for 8 or 9 small bowls.

                                                                      BBQ assortment platter - $18. I lost count of the pieces but basically two cuts of cha shiu and roast pork with crispy skin. Andy knew right away to give us the pork belly cut for the roast, and cha shiu was supposedly the "neck" meat but some say it isn't the neck, but the cheek. Who knows, but it was fantastic, and probably some of the best cha shiu and roast pork I've ever had. While SF Chinatown and Cheung Hing may offer something more down to earth, they are nonetheless more crude versions than what Andy has managed to create.

                                                                      Beef with chestnuts and crullers - The Chinese name for this dish is Gwai Ma Chau Ngau Yuk, with Gwai representing the gwai in yau ja gwai (Yoh tieou in Mandarin) aka cruller, Ma for Ma Tai aka chesnut. This was basically another take on a common stir fried beef with oyster sauce dish, but instead of pairing it with greens and/or mushrooms, last night's dish had lots of chestnuts (which people hardly ate) and very few small pieces of cruller cross cut sliced (had they given more it would have been great. Great flavor for this beef dish. $10 a bit pricey but portion wise was great for 7 folks.

                                                                      Salted fish steamed pork patty - I don't know if this was on the menu, but it was a suggestion by our waitress, offering steamed and also pan fried versions. We opted for the steamed version and it was as delicious and moist as described. What was interesting was that Andy used a whole side of salted fish, uncut, served it on top of the pork patty (whereas other restaurants would have random chunks). I hardly tasted any obvious fat in the pork, perhaps it was masked, but it was tender and juicy.

                                                                      Stir fried big pea sprouts (dai dou miew) with garlic - Tender greens cooked perfectly without the feeling of oiliness or MSG. Granted you can get this a bit cheaper around the corner from Hakka restaurant or other places, but the end result of the dish won't look or taste the same. The garlic was finely chopped or minced to some extent, and they clinged to the greens very nicely (so every bite of veg has that wonderous garlic flavor to it but not overpowering). Andy is the man.

                                                                      Sweet and sour pork spareribs - There's no other translation for this, but it was requested by a family member, and special ordered in Cantonese as "Gum Sah Gwut" (Golden Sand Ribs/Bones). I honestly have no idea what is in it, but these were huge pieces of pork ribs marinated and grilled very nicely. Has an obvious sweet and sour taste to it, but looks nothing like the Americanized Chinese dish also known as goo low yuk (that I hate). The manager said these same ribs would be superb cha shiu style or salt & pepper style. On the bill this was either $12 or $18 as "open item".

                                                                      Smoked chicken in tea leaves - looked to be a half order. I reviewed this dish before, except this time it was entirely tea marinated smoked chicken. Hardly any tea flavor, more like soy sauce chicken, not so smokey flavor, but superb.

                                                                      I don't think we got charged for rice and tea but I assume normally they do. They had chrysanthemum (spelling) and it was very light and mild (recommended for those who worry about insomnia from Chinese tea).

                                                                      We also got comped for desserts, and got several bowls to sample, including their red bean flatcake (dou sa wor beng) that they make in house.

                                                                      Mango pudding - hard to screw up right? Well I suppose Andy didn't make this. Mango is out of season anyway. One of the best versions I had was at Peony in Oakland in the late 90s. Nothing has matched that so far. Forgettable.

                                                                      Green bean soup - didn't try any.

                                                                      Almond tofu pudding - didn't try any.

                                                                      Red bean flat cake - Thin layer of crepe like wrap, with soft red bean paste on the inside. Piping hot. Very delicious. If you ever get offered free dessert, and get a choice, ask for this.

                                                                      Total was around $120 ish + tax + tip

                                                                      I'm very curious now about their lunch offerings and will have to come check it out later in the month.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: K K

                                                                        Thank you.

                                                                      2. The latest issue of East Eats Gourmet magazine (executive editor is Martin Yan himself) features Chef Andy Wai's receipe for his Peacock Blossom platter, which is a cold appetizer of fuyu persimmons, mixed veg, fruit, and roast duck. If memory serves, this is on pages 66 and 67, although it is written in Chinese, and also includes the receipe for the salad dressing that has some peanut sauce in it. This should be the same one I had, and identical to the one listed in the $238(?) banquet menu. The latest issue of the magazine is also available past the entrance door of ABC Foster City (where they also feature a small article on them). Apparently the new owners' daughter ran for Miss Hong Kong pageant within the last 2 years (we saw her there Friday night), and one of the managers used to work at Harbor Village (who is now there).

                                                                        Going back, has anyone been to Chef Wai recently? I'm told they have a new expanded menu, and prices may have gone up. Apparently their green onion pancake roll (roll form? not the regular pancake) is very good, though I have yet to try it myself.

                                                                        The "Golden Sand" ribs I had recently was featured in a Sing Tao free circulation article about food, and apparently the sweet/sour flavor is from an orange fruit based marinade.