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Mar 24, 2007 09:44 PM

Blue Sky Cafe - "HK" style western in Belmont

Thanks to dabinlo (aka HK hot pot) for the heads up about this new place in Belmont.

Blue Sky Cafe, a new HK style western cafe kind a place, occupies the space that was Sichuan Court, nested in the corner of a complex of primarily office/business dwellings. Although the Sichuan Court huge signage is still around, the entrance doorway now says Blue Sky Cafe.

BSC is a little bit difficult to find. The address might not make sense when you are driving but that's what it says on their business card. You need to look for Holiday Inn Express and Papa Murphy's pizza across the street. Near the entrance ramp from El Camino into the complex is a sign by the curb that points where BSC is.

This is a rather small space, with about 12 ish tables. The menu is in English and Chinese with a white board specials of mostly rice plates and stir fry. The offerings are generic Hong Kong style cafe's, although I did note that the Chinese characters on the menu are shorthand, not traditional, indicating that the owners may be from China/Southern China and not Hong Kong (although I did have a nice chat with the owner who spoke perfect Cantonese herself although with a bit of a Mainland twang, didn't ask where she and her staff are from)

Entrees are very affordable, ranging from $4.95 to $6.95. Tons of varieties of rice plates, stir fry rice or noodles, noodle soup, ho fun, congee, and a few baked rice/baked pasta a la HK western style dishes, and also the obligatory HK style milk tea.

This place opened probably less than 4 to 5 days. I popped in earlier to get some take out, which currently makes up the bulk of their business. I had the French Toast which was quite authentic, basically two pieces of toast with peanut butter sandwiched together and deep fried (crunchy batter outside), served with syrup and butter for extra artery clogging goodness. Beef congee was sadly more watery than ricey/cottony but the beef was not bad. HK milk tea is definitely good, not superb, but way better than Top Cafe, and even better the Broadway Bistro's in Millbrae on their off day. In fact the owner apologize for the tea I got when I ordered it on ice, as she said the tea batch was still hot from brewing this morning, and the ice melted very quickly. Good flavor, not terribly strong, but it works. I went home and added more ice myself.

Currently cash only, open from 11 am to 11 pm everyday. They have not even advertised yet, and have to deal with the City of Belmont to apply for a permit to replace the Sichuan Court signage above the entrance door with their own.

The manager/owner recommended their won tons. Hopefully this place is decent enough on the other offerings for me to check them out again next time.

Blue Sky Cafe
1625 El Camino Real #9
Belmont, CA

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  1. Thanks for the lead KK, today after reading your post and ran up the road to give them a try. I order the Shrimp Dumpling (water dogs) to see if you recommenaton wourld be good. I was very happy with my order. Lots of shrimp, but the clear broth could be better but I will live with it. I did listen to the chefs in the kitchen and they sounded very Cantonese to me.
    I was surpise that I want the only one there.

    Service was quick and I will be back for another try soon than later. Sorry to say my Chinese was not good enough to read the white board. Maybe next time I will have the young lady read it for me.

    Need to try some of the

    5 Replies
    1. re: yimster

      Thank dabinlo for the initial lead. I just followed up on it with a bit more detail.

      People from Guangzhou and 1 hour north of there Toishan, which is still considered Southern China, speak Cantonese. The use of shorthand Chinese characters on the menu which is not done in Hong Kong, let alone Chinatown for HK style cafes, or amongst HKers, was a bit of a giveaway that they might not be from HK

      Thanks for trying the shui gow/shrimp dumplings. Did you get them plain or with egg noodles, and if the latter how were the noodles? That's a good test (along with shui gow), but it sounds like it is certainly not in the quality of Cafe Selena/Broadway Bistro or the Millbrae Ming Tai which sadly shut its doors.

      1. re: K K

        Only had the dumpling but will try the noodles next time, but they are close to Ming Tai in Millbare. After there closing I fear that I would have to go the city to have good wontons. But now I have something much much closer and will be back to try other dishes. I sure that the other are/were better but Blue Sky is closer to me. With gas as high as it is that makes me happier.

        So I feel better that now that you explain that this was the short form Mainland writing since I am still learn the old form and was at a lost in trying to read the white board.

        1. re: yimster

          I remember taking a quick glance at the white board, but did not study it because little kk was running rampant around the restaurant. The Chinese characters looked traditional (full) for the white board, but the regular menu was for sure entirely in shorthand (for the Chinese bit).

          Did you taste any pork fat in the shui gow? That's also a reason why Ming Tai's version is(Noriega) / was(Millbrae) so decadently tasty. How about wood-ears?

          Broadway Bistro and Cafe Selena have pretty decent won tons and shui gow, but I hear from family that Chef Wai in San Mateo has even BETTER versions (lunch time only). You might want to try it there too.

          1. re: K K

            The shui gow did have pork fat and wood ear and very good. Told my son about a place that may match Ming Tai in Won Ton, he pick me up after my work out and we had lunch.

            Won Ton Noodle soup
            Salt and Pepper Squid
            Portguese Chicken Baked over rice.

            Very please with all. The wonton were close to Ming Tai and the son said thank god no more driving to the city.

            The salt and pepper dish was close to be outstanding thin coating made with local squid (the small ones), wish the salt and pepper flavor was strong but I can live with minor thing.

            The noodles had bite and I did over hear where they got the noodles and will check the that store whenever I get to the city.

            My other chioce for good won ton is Joy Luck in San Mateo. But I will have to try Chef Wai too.

            The hand writing on the white was not clean and clear when I got a closer look today.

            1. re: yimster

              Went to Chef Wai for lunch today. Looks like there's no shui gow on the menu, only won ton noodle soup. Will write a more in depth review later, but basically it is identical to what higher end seafood sit down restaurants in Hong Kong would serve (at least from memory in the 80s), versus the more dirty and downscale won ton noodle shops or at the tea cafes in Hong Kong.

    2. Just had lunch there today. Thank goodness for a fair choice in the Belmont/San Carlos area for won ton noodle soup. The won tons were full of shrimp, the noodles a bit soft for my taste, but there aren't many choices around here so it'll do...I had the beef stew won ton noodles. The beef stew was tender and basic. The hot milk tea was decent, though I prefer the one at Broadway Bistro, Millbrae. Can't wait to try other dishes. It's in the mini-mall north of the Neptune Society, if you still can't find it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: peppatty

        Finally, something mid-Peninsula. Here's a link to dabinlo's posting and head's up on Blue Sky Cafe.

      2. Anyone else who goes, please report back if they make a great baked pork chop over rice. Sounds like the won tons and shui gow are worth the trip if you are in the area. Thanks.

        4 Replies
        1. re: K K

          Had the baked pork chop rice in a combination dish with some baked fish. I have not had HK style western food so I not the one who should post on this but the pork chop was pan fried prior to baking and had good flavor and texture.

          I had a meal with my son and were order the oxtail clay and found good but WOW, also we order the salt and pepper squid and had a bad one on this meal (the earlier one was great)

          Also read the menu that they have a discounted tea time special are reduce prices, will have to return later to check this out. 3:30 to 5:30 PM daily.

          1. re: yimster

            My dad and I were in Belmont again today and had a snack this afternoon during the 2:30pm to 5:30pm happy hour. Here's a photo of the menu, which has afew more choices than on the now printed take-out menus.

            When we arrived at 4pm, we were the only ones there. But soon 7 others trickled in and it seemed that some were return customers, so I think the word is getting out about this place, now in its third week. The lady server (owner?) recognized us and made us feel very welcome.

            Dad had the beef stew noodle soup, $3.25. He asked for more of the tendon and the lady said she'd ask the kitchen to fish out some for him. Later when she saw him struggling a bit with the long noodles, she said she'd ask the kitchen to cut them for him next time. Then she got a fork and knife and asked him if she could cut them in the bowl for him. The chunks of stewed brisket had nice spicing but as margret points out from her visit, could use a longer time on the fire. The broth was quite good and the noodles were much better than our first time with more spring to them.

            I had the minced beef and preserved vegetable rice noodle soup, $3.25, and a hot milk tea, $1. Tasted on its own, the broth for this was low in salt and bland. But when the Rio Negro of the saucy minced beef and veggies blended with the Rio Solimões of the murky, lighter-colored broth, the seasoning was just right. The stocks seem fairly MSG-free.

            That said, I'd order the beef stew bowl again, not sure about the beef and preserved veggies.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              My son and had lunch today and enjoyed the three dishes for 18 or so.

              I ordered the following
              Beef Stew in a Clay Pot
              Salt and Pepper Fish (it read Flounder but it could have been Basa)
              Chicken with Green onion and Yellow Stir Fry (I misread it as something else)

              The Stew and Fish were both outstanding and would order again.

              The Stir Fry is not something I would reorder until I try other dishes.

              Now I have to try the afternoon tea specials next.

              The staff was more friendly as the young lady knew us as return customers. There at least five other tables of customers and all expect one table had Cantonese speaking cumtomers and I hope they make a go of it. I do not have to travel as far for good Cantonese comfort food.

              1. re: yimster

                Good, I think we've got the beef stew variations and salt and pepper style dishes clearly in the win column here. The kitchen seems to be cooking with no or a minimum of MSG compared to other inexpensive Cantonese spots.

                When I was in a Mexican grocery store recently, I noticed a pack of frozen "flounder" from China. It had the pinkish-beige color that I recognized as the same fish I've had in various filet of flounder dishes at Cantonese spots. That always tastes like basa to me too, and I'm wondering is that's what it really is.

        2. Got a drink to go earlier this evening on the way home and had a chance to study the white board a bit. About 90% of it in traditional full form Chinese and 10% shorthand, which was weird (maybe laziness after writing so many items, assuming they started full and ended short...)

          Beneath the white board and easily missed were some specials in English that did not match the white board items, and were strictly for being non Chinese friendly. I suppose in a wacky way this part is the "white" board (almost every Chinese run restaurant would have something like this, even Chef Wai in San Mateo during lunchtime today on their menu as lunch specials/combos).

          From what I remember on the Chinese white board today, were "chef's recommendations". Nothing super or extra ordinary:

          Stir fried dow miew with garlic (what were these called again in English? Pea shoots?) forgot if they were the big or small kind

          some kind of small (dried?) fish stir fried with gai lan (dark leafy green "chinese broccoli" but that's probably an incorrect translation)

          Another veg, clear stir fry prep

          (basically you can custom order any style and/or type of veg you want, shouldn't cost an arm and a leg, and it is not a unreasonable or odd request)

          salt pepper fried chicken wings

          salt pepper fried quail

          yellow fur chicken (free range chicken, likely poached or steamed)

          clay pot (salted fish with other ingredients, can't remember if it was tofu and chicken or something else)

          And 6 more items I can't remember. At least one or 2 of those were rice plates, but nothing remarkable to me.

          I don't recall prices, sorry.

          I think that white board is more or less this the restaurant's way of saying, hey we offer all sorts of stuff, including snack fare (butter or PB toast, or french toast etc), the HK style western part (HK style milk tea, baked spaghetti or rice dishes with meats), the stir fried noodles or rice dishes, congee, noodles (to satisfy that niche of Cantonese simple comfort quick fare), and now including beyond the regular menu; sit down restaurant family style fare of stir fry dishes (outlined above) with what we have available/fresh today veg wise and what the chef can also do that we might not have had the chance to put on the regular menu or just trying it out.

          11 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              From right to left:

              Blue Sky Cafe Yellow Fur Chicken Congee - $6.95
              Salt Pepper Chicken Wings - $5.50
              Salt Pepper Quail - $4.95
              Red Wine (braised) Ox tail clay pot - $7.95
              (secret receipe/self made) Lamb brisket clay pot - $7.95
              Salt fish, chicken, and tofu clay pot - $6.95
              Beef over rice (with bamboo?) - $5.95
              4 season beans - $5.95
              salt fish, chicken, and eggplant clay pot - $6.95
              clear stir fried yoh chow sum - $6.95
              gai lan stir fried with dai day yu/some sort of (dried) fish -$7.95
              Garlic stir fried large pea shoots/dou miew - $7.95

              1. re: K K

                Many thanks! After we'd eaten, I asked our waitress, who I think might be one of the owners, what she recommended on the board for next time. She seemed very proud of the yellow fur chicken and the quail.

                You know I've had the gai lan with the dried fish (translated by a friend's father as 'big land fish') at R&G Lounge and Hong Kong Pavilion in Millbrae, based on servers' recs, and neither version seemed that special to me.

                Here's a photo of the door with the name of the new business.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Dai Day Yu/Big Land fish, I am not sure it is dried or not, but I'm guessing it is based on the price. I might have had that stir fried with veg before, and that's typically something that anyone can make at home. Marina, 99, or any Japanese supermarket will have dried anchovy or any type of small dried silvery fish. I might have done that a while ago at home (just to see how the two would complement or disharmonize rather from each other which I learned in the end) and the dried fish made the veg taste terrible....really bad.

                  The dried fish stir fried with veg dish, sounds very much like home style / countryside cooking, in the old days when meat was expensive.

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                So I went to try the place last night; it's a little hard to find, even with the above hints, I had to U-turn it at Harbor.
                So the Salt fish, chicken, and tofu clay pot is what caught my eye, so I was just going to order that to go. The owner (I think) told me that they have the dinner specials (3 dishes for $17.95, includes daily soup), which the salted fish clay pot was one of them. There were items were on both sides of the paper, but they didn't have as much as Silver Lake. I ended up getting also the Salt Pepper spare ribs, and Fish Filet with various vegetables. The soup was a egg drop soup with corn.
                The soup was pretty good, pretty tasty - a little heavy on the cornstarch, but I'm nitpicking.
                The salt/pepper ribs were a little heavily seasoned, almost on the verge of being too salty, but okay - They didn't cut a hole in the box, so it wasn't that crispy, but good amount of garlic, not that spicy.
                The fish/vegetable dish had celery, mushrooms, carrots, and snap peas. The fish filets were decent.
                The salted fish, chicken, and tofu pot was in a soup container - it was very heavy on the tofu - not a heavy salted fish flavor (I prefer more salted fish flavor) and the chicken was few. I wouldn't mind this if the ratio of tofu to chicken was a little better.

                Overall, the food was okay - the owner is Toisan; we were chatting because she was talking about her son.

                I think next time I'll try the oxtail clay pot -
                They don't have any togo menus yet printed, but hopefully soon.

                1. re: sandrachang

                  Toishan is about an hour north of Canton province/Guangzhou by train. The dialect is a derivation or spinoff of Cantonese in some senses. Interesting enough I knew someone by the exact same name as you whose family was from Toishan, but that's another story and world. That does explain the Cantonese "twang" the owner spoke.

                  Glad to hear people are trying this place out. I still have yet to have a proper sit down meal here myself.

                  1. re: K K

                    The "twang" comes from toishan people trying to speak standard cantonese. We had a decent meal there Sunday night. The place was indeed very hard to find. The woman owner noted that they are trying really hard to get the City of Belmont to speed up the sign change process. We had a mish/mash of food to test out their "cafe" strengths.

                    Water dumplings: good, on the small side, broth a little weak but decent;
                    Wonton Noodles: ok, wonton not very snappy; noodles were ok
                    Dried fried beef chow fun: Great wok breath, not overly heavy with the soy sauce, not greasy. A winner although we could of had more beef
                    Stewed Beef noodles (Ngou Nam Mien): Very good flavor in the stewed beef althought it needed a little more cooking
                    Baked porkchop rice: The sauce was standard tomato-based. The pork chops were forgetable but ok. The fried rice was fantastic...individual kernals and minimum fat. Very good.
                    Saute bean shoots: Ordered from the white board and this was a nice large plate of vegetable. Nicely picked through so that we had tender shoots.

                    We also had their freshly made HK milk tea and it is very good. Not up to HK standards but very enjoyable.

                    The place was pretty empty on Sunday night and I fear that people just don't know they're there. These people are trying very hard and perhaps if they advertise in papers or something, more people would know. The place is very hidden and you wouldn't even know a restaurant is even there. The food is good but not WOW enough for the word to get out to go there. I wish them luck.


                    1. re: margret

                      margret, we must have just missed you! We got there around 5:45pm last Sunday and left just before 7. A (non-Asian) family of 8 got there just ahead of us, and we rushed to get our order into the kitchen ahead of them.

                      My dad had the wonton dumpling noodle soup that he shared with us. Not WOW, but better than 80%, maybe 90% of what's out there. Here's the photo -
                      The noodles weren't as springy as I'd like, and it seems to me that they're the same as the ones TC Pastry in SF uses. I agree that the broth is a little weak. But for $5.50 and wontons made with whole shrimp plus tasty sui gao, this is a pretty good snack.

                      We did have one WOW dish, the salt and pepper chicken wings. Here's the photo,
                      These were on the salty side, but so juicy and succulent. Just the wing joints, the skin was perfectly crispy and nongreasy. William pointed out that arraying them in a single layer on the plate on a bed of lettuce kept them from steaming and each one stayed nice and crisp. Yes, that's a whole bunch of chopped garlic on top with scallions and bits of hot chilis, but can there ever be too much garlic? The 8 pieces were $5.50 and a no-brainer to order again. From the reports so far, it sounds like the s&p dishes are a strength here.

                      Then we had two dishes that were not good from the western side of the menu: baked Portuguese chicken and the oxtail rice plate. Our waitress (the owner?) noticed that we hadn't eaten them and offered to take them off the bill if we weren't happy, but we declined. She asked what should be different, and I was frank telling her that the oxtails had too much sweetness and needed more savory elements of onion, garlic, celery, spices. The chicken dish was a huge serving but equally bland. She comped us two desserts, the red bean ice.

                      My theory here is that there are two cooks in the kitchen and one needs more training because some of the dishes do show an experienced hand. My Chinese isn't good enough to understand everything our waitress was trying to explain to me. But I think she was saying that the western dishes are new for them and they're still working on them, also that the helper is from the previous restaurant here and is learning to make non-Americanized dishes. She recommended that we try more of the noodle dishes next time and order from the white board. From my small sample, I think it's better than D&A in SF and Oakland.

                      We still have a couple months of weekly visits to Belmont ahead of us, so I'm happy to have this option near by. I hope we'll continue to hear from 'hounds as they sample the inexpensive food here to figure out what's good. Apparently they're doing a good lunch business during the work week. Our waitress was much more friendly and helpful than I usually run across at this price point and that itself makes this little cafe stand out.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Yep, just missed you. I would've love to exchange notes with you. We also had the chicken wings and i thought they were really flavorful. My dining mates all thought it was too salty. Thanks for the pic

                        1. re: margret

                          My first impression of the s&p chicken wings was too salty as well. But there's so much flavor, everything came into balance to my taste.

                          The tea time discount menu has the plain fried chicken wings for $3.25. Might be worth a try.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            I tried the s&p chicken wings, and even though they are a little salty, they are good - ditto on the won ton noodles - the won tons have good amount of shrimp, but I wasn't crazy about the noodles - the broth was well flavored. I also tried the fish balls in curry sauce (togo) - it was pretty good and I liked the curry sauce - had a little bit of a kick to it.

            2. Hi guys, sounds like we have some Blue Sky fans here, actually I am working on a Menus webpage for Blue Sky Cafe, it should be ready by April 15, 2007. The address is, the online menus will have everything you can order in store, including the Special Afternoon Tea, the $17.95 dinner menus and the famous white board. All food names will be translate into English, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese. You cannot order online, but you can always read the menus online and call them to order to go! Just a reminder, they do FREE DELIVERY when you order anything over $15.00.

              7 Replies
              1. re: faygorgor

                You might want to put a detailed map of BSC's location. Sounds like it is still not that easy to find for others.

                I personally would like to wish for the place to be open during breakfast in the near future, like 7 to 8 am timeframe. A good HK milk tea in the morning is sometimes better than coffee, along with a baked bun of some sort, and maybe some heart stopping deep fried French toast :-).

                I remember speaking to the owner the first visit, who had not gotten around (at that time) to advertising on Chinese TV channels or newspapers.

                With all the good word of online mouth coming from everyone here, maybe there's no need to now...

                1. re: K K

                  I will add the BSC's location to the webpage, maybe link to yahoo's search map too if possible. Maybe I should link it to a voting page also, to vote what should improve and etc..., thanks for the input KK

                  1. re: faygorgor

                    Just a update on the website, I was able to read all the menus on this site

                    Also the Blue Sky sign is up and the cafe is now easier to find.

                    Had the afternoon snacks and found it good for the price not any new dishes but like the jooks.

                    1. re: yimster

                      Thanks for the new url, . It looks like the 3/$17.95 menu is on pages 6 & 7.

                      1. re: yimster

                        Yep, nice afternoon CHEAP snackage at reduced but fufilling portions. Best of all, $1 drinks like Fat Wong's. The owner recognized me from my first visit a few weeks ago and hooked me up with a free re-fill of my iced milk tea.

                        I snuck in yesterday as well and about 3/4 of the meal Yimster walks in :-). Also thanks for the website. It was a pleasure.

                        I actually had a beef congee to go but forgot to mention it the first time. It was a bit watery, but were it not, it would have been good and hit the spot.

                        I too gave feedback to the owner (Sharon) that the salt pepper chicken wings were on the salty side. Perhaps this is better as is with rice or noodles, but when you eat it plain, it is very salty (or maybe this is better with Japanese sake?). The chef is a fairly young looking guy too, he's got some good skills there. BSC is pretty much a 2 person operation right now, so I suppose opening for breakfast will be out of the question in the short term.

                        Business for them is picking up, in large thanks it seems to this thread.

                        1. re: K K

                          Yes, the best part of yesterday was to meet KK, a real treat.

                          Sharon told me that she plan to open for breakfast soon. It seem that the chef and Sharon are husband and wife and this is turly a family business.

                          I ask if someday later down the road maybe a set wo choy menu. When that happens a possible chowdown site.

                          1. re: yimster

                            Went there for lunch today and ordered tomato beef jeen mein and black bean spareribs chow fun. Had high expectations going in and taking that first bite into each dish, I could sense the wok chi but all in all was just average. What was really outstanding and tasty was the complimentary soup which was some kind of melon. The service was very good but what was slightly annoying was how loud they had the volume on of the Calgary-Detroit hockey playoff game on the 46" flatscreen tv overhead. I'll probably go there again and try out something else, perhaps some dishes off the whiteboard