Richmond – Pacific East Mall – Best of Daimo Chinese Restaurant
What more can be said about Daimo, the 200 seat Hong Kong chain whose 500 item menu spans everything from humble congee to exotic ostrich … and good ostrich from what I’ve read.
Adding to its popularity is it is open from 9 am to 3 am.
I’ve never been. While the many positive reports stick in my memory, I couldn’t remember what was recommended.
So after going thru a lot of reports and newspaper reviews, I thought I’d pull out some great reports and links and put them here for other Daimo first-timers.
A good starting place is this 1999 … yes 1999 … SF Chronicle review. It seems Daimo is timeless. The review has a nice description of the won tons which is what I plan to have first based on so many positive comments. The Chron wrote …
“The filling is a dense amalgam of nearly whole shrimp, coarsely ground pork and a hint of pepper and ginger. Portions the size of golf balls are wrapped in gossamer-thin dough that infuse the broth with … a stock that, using a traditional method, is prepared by simmering chicken in a pot that rests inside a steaming wok. The result is a crystal clear, double- boiled soup that is rich in chicken flavor and not the least bit greasy … cooks snip some yellow Chinese chives over the top, adding one more layer of character.”
Johathan Gold in another review says of the filling “whole shrimp sandwiched between a fresh scallop and a dried one.”
My question here … which won ton to order? It seems people lean toward the war won ton soup.
Other Daimo questions …
How many menus are there? Besides the menus on the wall, I read there are two menus with a suggestion there is a third. A Chowhound wrote …
“While eating at Daimo last night I noticed someone just seated at another table go back to the entrance and pick up a different menu. Checked on the way out and they have printouts of the daily specials. Also noticed a third menu of interesting set dinners.”
Is there a best time to go? It seems the most negative comments come from people who use it as a late night stop. Is it a Cinderella story … after midnight the magic is gone?
It seems the price edge Daimo has is gone and I read a report (unreliable) of an ownership change in the past two years. Any truth in this?
Positive mentions of dishes from the Chowhound links at the end …
SALT AND PEPPER CRAB
“ I think Daimo has the best salt-and-pepper crab that I have ever tasted. It's salty, mildly spicy, but also with a slightly sweet aftertaste that balances out the 2 stronger flavors as they linger in your mouth. The coating is a nice, thick batter that slides off if you use your teeth on the shell as you suck to extract the meat (probably not the most polite way to eat crab).”
“My favorite dish here is their salt-and-pepper crab, which has a slightly sweet taste that balances out the stronger flavors.”
“I really enjoyed the congee I had there when I was there last (shredded pork and preserved egg). The egg was perfect in taste and quantity, and peanuts were a delicious addition”
“Half a "Daimo special roast chicken with garlic" It came with the skin crispy fried, but tender and juicy inside and served with fried garlic slivers and black vinegar for dipping)”
The East Bay Express has a lovely description of the roast chicken …
“roast chicken looks perfectly lacquered, brown and shiny with soy sauce. The skin is as brittle as scorched parchment in places; it clings tenuously to pieces of succulent meat”
There’s also a nice description of the steamed spot prawns and pig’s knuckle.
BEEF BRISKETS IN HOI SIN SAUCE
"Beef briskets in Hoi Sin sauce" (in the Hot Pot section of the menu). And it was just that! Thick slices/chunks of brisket, no veg, and not very much sauce, actually. But man, the brisket was fork tender. The pieces seemed large at first, but fell apart pretty easily in my rice bowl. The sauce was more savory than sweet, even with the jolt of 5 spice. The hoisin beef hot pot was perfect; tender chunks of beef redolent of anise.
“One regular-menu item we often order is Peking duck "two-style": first you get a platter with crispy skin and buns, later they bring out the meat stir-fried with garlic and black beans.”
“I am partial to their Cantonese roast duck, which comes with little marinated soybeans. It is pricier than most places, but way better than the duck from Ranch 99. I get the duck cut up, save the neckbones and other less meaty pieces to make excellent soup broth.”
“whole bbq duck - juicy but fatty, skin s/b crisper”
CHOWHOUND WON TON COMMENTS
“Daimo's known for their wontons, which are incredibly fresh with a whole shrimp in each one.”
“The wonton noodle soup had only five wontons, but they were packed full of crunchy shrimp with little other filler. There was a generous quantity of al dente noodles. “
“Their shrimp wontons and noodle soup is superior.”
OTHER POSITIVE MENTIONS
“We had steamed bbq pork buns; soft, yeasty, and sweet buns filled with tender pork and a judicious amount of sauce. These are my now-favorite version!”
“The tomato beef chow fun was fantastic. Nicely charred noodles with big pieces of tomato that clearly tasted of TOMATO, and lots of beef strips.”
“We also had gai lan in oyster sauce that had a nice crunch.”
“Gai lon w/oyster sauce - huge portion, perfect”
“We ordered the Frog legs and eggplant in XO sauce. Tim said this amazingly tender, with plenty of garlic. (gee, is that why none was left for me??!)
“Clay pot spicy eggplant with seafood. The eggplant was not at all spicy, and the squid/scallops/shrimp in it was very tender and succulent.”
“gotta go for the salt/pepper fried calamari”
“Their wok charred salt & pepper calamari is always tender and fresh.”
“The stir-fried dishes always arrive piping hot and with that special smoky aroma that is the mark of the chef's skill with a really hot wok.”
“Their rice plates lunches are also excellent”
“Pea shoot leaves (the Big ones) - exceptionally good, perfect leaves, seasoning garlicky but not too”
” Some other successes I've had are their fresh greens, including large pea leaves (da dou miao) prepared with dried scallops or fresh crab "gravy" and water spinach(on choy or kong xin cai) with preserved fish.
“Noodles w/enoki mushrooms - noodles were soft-chewy, just right”
“Salt & pepper spareribs - fried to juicy perfection w/ garlic chips and chili, almost pork chop-like”
“Roasted pig - tasty lean pieces of meat w/very thin crispy skin atop, should have asked for the rib section which would have been less lean”
“Brisket & turnip soup. Not on the menu. The broth is infused with wok fried basil. It's as good as it sounds.”
Of course this only scratches the surface. I haven’t read EVERY post. There are lots of one-line mentions.
Here are a few dishes recommended: good clay pot dishes, Dungeness crab in XO sauce, Stir-fried convolvus with preserved tofu, Fried salt-and-pepper tofu, Beef with bitter melon, Fook king chow fan, Pork, tofu, and oyster clay pot, BBQ Pork, chicken and corn, braised crab dishes fish congee, Shang Hai dumpling, fried tofu, honey walnut shrimp, Spinach with Garlic, Eggplant with Chili Sauce, pork with shredded mustard greens and taro, braised crab dishes, fish congee, Shang Hai dumpling, fried tofu, lo mein noodles with duck, HK milk tea.
Of course it isn’t all raves. There are people who think ‘eh’. Some dishes like this are misses …
“Singapore chili crab .,.. Crab was a decent size and tasty but the sauce was all wrong, from the color (a strange yellow - turmeric?) to the taste (a little off to my palate). Dish was served with soft steamed buns - I would have preferred a crusty”
This doesn’t seem to be the place to go specifically for dim sum as there are quite a few comments that it is limited.
Any other weak spots here to avoid?
From a Chronicle ‘Best of’ mention, here’s a little about the fish tanks …
“You pick the fish (it's sold by the pound), and select from more than two dozen preparations, ranging from a plain blanch in hot water to an elaborate saucing of black beans or curry”
So … any other tips? Do you agree with the above? Any favorites that were missed?
Daimo Chinese Restaurant
3288 Pierce Street
Richmond, CA 94804
Daily: 9 am – 3 am
Does this place ever close for holidays?
Just a few previous Chowhound posts … Those with the name in the title.
Yikes, that's too much info for me to try to read at one sitting. Thanks for taking the time to compile it!
War won ton just means won ton soup topped with whatever the kitchen has handy cooking on the stove. It's a meal in a bowl, but not one that will show off won ton making particularly. Sort of like ordering a burrito when you wonder how good the tacos are at a taqueria.
Wor won ton,
re: Melanie Wong
Thanks. Yeah going thru the reports started to confuse me on what to order so I cut and pasted to organize my own thoughts ... all I got out of that exercise was ... order won ton first ... and maybe that pork bun.
But on my second trip I'll have some notes to refer back to. And then there's the rw factor in all of this ... ordering something no one has ever mentioned anywhere.
I guess Jonathan Gold once did a review of Daimo. I was looking for that (couldn't find it online) when I saw his won ton review.
re: Melanie Wong
Hmmm ... I though I reported on the won ton soup, but maybe in another thread. Anyway, thanks for the suggestion. I ordered the plain won ton soup first ... IMO, that's the thing to go with since this soup is all about those golf-ball sized won tons with the wisp of a wrapping holding together a lot of shrimp and other stuff ... didn't detect the scallop that Jonathan Gold mentioned.
For 5.50 there is a large container of soup with another container of 10 won ton.
The problem with the war won ton was the price discrepancy ... it is $14.75. What that gets you is another container with sliced chicken, bbq pork, squid, baby bok choy, whole black mushroms (3), whole scallops (2), shrimp (4) and a carrot piece or two.
I'm not that compulsive, but I was splitting it up into three bowls because it is a lot of soup. So I was trying to even things out. I'm sure the mixture is the luck of the draw.
However, that extra container just isn't worth the nearly 10 extra dollars. If you must fill up, get the war won ton noodle soup which is $5.50 also. None of the 'war' ingrediants was up to the 'won ton' level. They were fine, but that's all.
The broth is rich but the taste is on the salty (msg?) side. Doesn't matter though. Good won tons.
Good taco/burrito analogy.
Does Daimo have the Bay Area's worst musak or what? It is like a paradoy of musak ... like they bought the first musak tape ever made and keep playing it over and over. Today it was "Memories" from Cats and ":Yesterday" ... I guess there was a theme. It is always so bad it ceases to be background music and annoyingly catches my attention.
i had the beef brisket with hoisin last time i was there. that was my first time having it, and it was wonderful. I haven't had brisket prepared that way before and I am glad it was a great first experience. just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
I don't think they're open till 3am any more.
Funny, we've eaten there at least 20 times and have had hardly any of those dishes. That's probably because we order mostly daily specials off the wall.
We almost always order pea leaf stir-fried with garlic if it's in season. Peking duck "2 style" is one of the few regular-menu items we order. Probably every visit we order at least half things we haven't had before.
Didn't have great luck with noodles or congee so mostly avoid those. Never tried any of the wontons. Wasn't thrilled with the smoked sea bass. Clay pot dishes weren't as good as Yuet Lee's.
There used to be a noodles & jook menu and a full-dinner menu. I'm not sure they still do that.
Prices were never a bargain except relative to the quality. I haven't noticed any change in the food. It's a chain so I a change in ownership wouldn't necessarily be noticeable.
That Chronicle review was by the excellent Kim Severson, who's now with the New York Times. Speaking of reviewers, Daimo was one of Jonathan Kauffman's "last suppers" before moving to Seattle (where he's not far from the Vancouver branch):
How about attributing quotes with usernames and/or links? To me that's essential information in evaluating the recommendations.
re: Robert Lauriston
Didn't know about Kim Severson. Yeah, I like the reviews I've been finding. Thanks for that link to the East Bay Express review.
The menu and door hours still say 3 am, but I'll check. Thanks for the tip about the congee because I was going to get it here. WIll maybe go to168 instead.
All the quotes are from the links at the end of the OP. It was daunting just picking those out. There's lots more stuff in the links ... and the almost 200 mentions in board threads.
re: Robert Lauriston
Maybe the time to order the congee is in the morning. When I was picking up my won ton soup to go yesterday I noticed that every day from 9am - 11 am there's a breakfast menu.
If this isn't one of the top breakfasts in the East Bay, I don't know what is.
For $6.70 pick one from column A and one from column B. Milk tea is $1 extra and so, so worth it.
This has to be the best milk tea I've tried to date. Nice tea flavor and the condensed milk not overdone so that it makes your teeth ache. At first I wasn't sure if there was condensed milk in there at all because it wasn't sickenly sweet. An elegant version.
I've only had congee three times in my life so far. Once at Fat Wong's in Milbrae
The $2 take-out version at 99 Ranch
This was the best I've had to date. To my taste it far out-classed Fat Wongs and I paid a dollar less at Daimo.
The preserved egg and salted pork congee was thick and wonderful. The black egg pieces had a nice egg flavor and texture unlike the 99 Ranch version which were a tad sulferous and bordering on slimy.
The pork was delicate and delicious. What made this soup was the condiments ...green onions and peanuts on top with fresh grated ginger threads laced throughout the jook.
The Chinese donut was different from the crispy donut at Fat Wong's or the oozy-oily version at 99 Ranch.
This was served cold, cut up and was soft and yeasty almost like an American donut without the sugar. It just upped the deliciousness dunked in the congee. I have a lot leftover and they are nice little snacks with my coffee.
They also have a dim sum menu in the morning and seriously the steamed pork bun is true greatness. I've never liked the steamed version before but the bun was soooo light and tender. The one I warmed in the microwave for lunch was still fine, but ... MUST EAT THESE AT DAIMO IMMEDIATELY for sheer wonderfullness.
For the pork filling itself, Golden Gate Bakery remains my favorite, but this was good with the right ratio of pork & sauce to bun.
They also have those rice rolls that Fat Wong's sells. They are served daily from 9am to 3pm. Daimo offers: plain, dry shrimp, prawn, sliced fish, scallop and donut in rice roll. They have a rice BUN with pork that looked pretty good.
In the morning there are 4 congees as part of 'choice B' of the breakfast menu. "Choice A" includes rice rolls, donuts, turnip cake and pork sticky rice dumpling. There are 25 jooks offered on the regular menu.
The three other morning jooks from choice B - beef, assorted meat & pork organs ... that last would wake me up.
There's about a dozen dim sum items offerred from 9am to 5 pm & 10 pm - 3 am ... the answer to where you can get dim sum other than mornings.
Theres the standard stuff like egg custard tarts and sesame balls. Othere sesame items are sesame rolls and sweet rice roll with sesame seed. The table next to me ordered those and they looked great.
They also had a few less common ... to me ... items like steamed egg custard buns, steamed shark fin with crab meat dumpling in supreme broth ($6.50) and a very cool looking logan & madlan pudding.
Had some time to look through the full menu. Interesting looking presentaion of the head-on Empress chicken. There's also a soup of the day.
This has to be one of the best spots to breakfast solo. You can watch the kitchen making the rice rolls and dumplings from large fresh thin sheets of dough, the fillings laddled in. They are setting up for the day and lacquered mahogany ducks are put on display and huge hunks of bbq and roasted pork are hung for the coming day.
They are also very nice about letting you hang out ... at least during the week. Breakfast comes with a complementary pot of tea ... which I liked ... a touch of smoke and a hint of apricot color ... very pleasing. Anyway, I was lingering ...which I rarely do ... and watching the kitchen while finishing the free pot of tea and they offered to refill it. There wasn't any pressure to rush me out the door.
Great spot just off the freeway that is easily accessible for breakfast. If I get a job in the city again, I think my commute would include a detour for a cup of that milk tea to sip on the road.
re: Melanie Wong
It is times like these that I'm so grateful there is a Chowhound. Five years ago I would have had no clue about Chinese donuts, jook and rice rolls ... and on the chance that I did order the off the menu I would have had no clue about how to eat and enjoy them. I really appreciate all the info from posters on this board.