Cafe Salina in Milbrae
[This topic was split into a new thread by the Chowhound Team. It was originally part of this thread:
While you are at Cafe Selena, you might consider one of their dessert puddings. I am partial to their ginger milk pudding..one of the best in the area. I also think their pan fried daikon cake(Lo Bak Go) is nice since there are actual pices of daikon in the rice mixture.
I would also avoid having daikon cake during breakfast or lunch, as for some reason they've been mediocre (in addition to other items) and could be a chef shift thing. Last time I had the daikon cake during dinner was a while back but it was superb.
Their stewed egg custard or milk egg white custards are great too (dun dan or dun lai). Sesame paste is flavorful but a bit watery. Though with 100% Healthy Desserts up the street, it might be more worthwhile to go there for sesame paste and other things to satisfy those sweet teeth (way more variety).
On the way up to the City on Sunday, I had dinner with my folks at Cafe Salina. I can give you an idea of what NOT to order there.
Baked ox tongue with rice, $9.50 -
The tongue was tough and completely tasteless on its own, plus the outer skin was left on and even tougher.
Lemon grass chicken wings, $6 -
These were actually pretty good, but pricey at six middle joints for six bucks. Nice marinade, the lightest dusting of flour, and very juicy. The Viet-style pickled daikon and carrots were a nice touch.
We also ordered a plate of water spinach with shrimp paste, $8. Too much of the tough stem ends on the plate.
We only polished off the wings. And we didn't take the leftovers when the staff asked if we wanted boxes. As my mom said, "Well, we don't need to come back here again soon."
re: Melanie Wong
I haven't had the ox tongue at Selena in ages, but so sorry to hear you got a bad prep or the chefs weren't up to snuff.
Last time I was there my baked pork chop over rice was excellent, and some of the white board stuff was great, like their fish soup + your choice of meat (we chose chicken) with mai seen (like the Yunan style crossing bridge noodle although it was closer to the kind offered at Fat Wong's but better). It was a big clay pot that easiliy fed 3 to 4, the broth was perfect although they added a bit too much pepper.
re: Melanie Wong
I guess I've been really lucky with consistency for the most part.
Here's a summary of the offerings that have never failed me yet:
Yuk See Dzeen Meen - bean sprouts, mushrooms, julienne pork and yellow chive stir fried over crispy noodles. The thick sauce from the ingredients melts into the noodles. With white pepper this dish is supreme. An excellent rendition here of a classic simple dish.
Dry fried beef chow fun - don't order this to go or it will taste aweful. Superb wok energy, great prep, ho fun comes out bouncy and toothsome. A tad bit greasy but really better than a lot of other places.
Shui gow - shrimp dumplings with woodear funghi, plump shrimp, pork fat, yellow chive. BEST version since Ming Tai Millbrae closed. No need to drive into SF if you live in the Peninsula and definitely makes Blue Sky Cafe in Belmont's version forgettable. Egg noodles however are aweful. Go for a bowl of plain vs shui gow noodles. I'd say this is one of the must orders. Had it twice in 2 months and the consistency stayed.
Baked pork chop over rice - a nice thick phat ketchup based sauce with good cuts of pork chop that is not all fat unlike the el cheap HK cafes. The base is fried rice that has some ingredients, not white rice. The ketchup sauce goes GREAT with the rice once mixed together. So far the best version I've had so far. Hope they keep it up.
Lor Bak Go - fried daikon cake. For a non dim sum place, this restaurant does this appetizer superb. Great daikon flavor and they don't skimp on the ingredients. Stick with ordering this during dinner. I had one bad prep during a weekend lunch a while back.
Borscht soup - HK style take on the Russian sour minestrone. This one is rather spicy, but has all the flavors of a fancy HK cafe in HK during the 80s. It's a lot thicker than other Bay Area HK cafe preps (usually watery and not cooked for long and with less materials) . Here the consistency is thicker, definitely general chunks of meat were used in the broth. The cream of chicken and corn soup is equally delectable and tastes exactly like what I had in the 80s at some of the best run of the mill HK cafes in Hong Kong. T28 Bakery and Cafe on Taraval in SF used to come close with their version but they eventually watered it down a lot.
Seung Pei Dun Lai (dessert) - steamed egg white custard. This is traditionally supposed to have 2 layers, hence the Canto term Seung Pei (x2 skin). The top layer would be like a thin sheet or film (if you cook soy milk long enough, a layer of skin forms and that's the makings of tofu...the coagulation!), and the 2nd layer being the milk egg white custard mix. As great as this tastes, sadly the layers are not present, in fact a bit ugly looking overall but tastes good. The steamed egg yolk based custard is just as good, though more cholestrol and calories for the health conscious.
Black Sesame Paste (dessert) - a bit sweet but at the correct density and consistency. So hard to find an in house made version that's authentic like the ones in Hong Kong. The next best thing would be the black sesame gelato at Marco Polo in San Francisco, that's another personal favorite flavor (next to the Lung Jeng/Dragonwell Chinese green tea gelato). I'm sure 100% Healthy Desserts does an ok version but I haven't been back.
The white board special of the Yu Tong Mai Seen (clay pot fish soup with rice noodle/mai seen and meat/veg) was great (already mentioned).
re: K K
KK, thanks for providing this hit list for the next time I'm in the neighborhood. Are you liking Cafe Salina better than Broadway Bistro these days?
349 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030
235 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030
Fat Wong's Kitchen
1780 El Camino Real, San Bruno, CA 94066
100 Percent Healthy Dessert
328 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030
re: Melanie Wong
I just had lunch with my mom last week. The shui gow and won tons are really good. The noodles are okay, although I didn't think they were bad. They were not overcooked, which I don't like. You can always get the fun (rice) noodles instead. Broadway Bistro is quite expensive for what it is, although I am partial to their version of the baked pork chop over rice vs. Salina. Salina's dumplings are way better than any other place on the peninsula.
re: Melanie Wong
Cafe Salina is definitely not cheap for the genre of food, but I've enjoyed them way more than the two Broadway Bistro locations and have had much better experiences overall. I have yet to find a place that does the food better than they do, at least for the Peninsula (and random places in SF).
I've had really good baked ox tongue before at Salina. A shame they messed it up on your visit!
Don't recall having won tons at Salina, but I'm sure they are decent. Although when there's good shui gow to be had, ordering won tons are an afterthought for me.
re: K K
I was just there yesterday afternoon. The HK Style wonton noodle soup was excellent. The noodle itself was perfectly al dente, I think it is even better than Ming Tai. One pointer about parking there during the week, it is restrcited for either 1 or 2 hours only. I was not paying too much attention and got a ticket afterwards, turned out to be the most expensive bowl of wonton I've ever had.
Thanks for the update and the friendly warning on the parking. HK style cafe's were traditionally designed for PLJ (peng leng jeng) = cheap, pretty/quality, hits the spot. In other words, fast food that does the job, and in time. I can't imagine spending more than an hour at any cafe like that.
Last time I was at Salina, there was a satellite capture PC printout at the entrance door, that apparently the authorities are using satellite (a la 24's CTU) to tag people doing illegal style U turns to park on the other side of the street. It literally was an example of some fellow driving a rice rocket who made that illegal left, pseudo U turn to park. Meaning that big brother is watching, so don't do this "Chinese U turn" (but it's in our blood, I know I know....but just be careful!)
Thanks for the report on the won tons. I will have to try that again. I think the only way to get fairly full is to get one order of noodle soup and a separate bowl of plain gow or 'tons (depending on what the first order is)..
My mom went last week for won ton soup and was very disappointed. Watery soup, bad won tons. Hopefully this was just a bad day.
Ended up at CS again for dinner. Ordered the mixed veg in fish soup pot with thin rice noodle (rice line noodle/mai seen) and this time specified "no pepper" because the chef went crazy with it last time.
And a good choice it was. $9.50 mark and if you are really really hungry you could finish it entirely. After specifying no white pepper, the creamy white fish broth was just as good as some of the top Cantonese seafood restaurants, without the pepper masking flavors. Fresh shitake mushrooms and napa cabbage made for some great flavors. Your choice of beef, chicken, or "yu song" which ended up being fish cake (not bad, but I would have preferred sliced fish filets).
I was tempted to try the baked ox tongue dish again, but this time had something completely different and new to me, the spare ribs with black bean sauce clay pot rice.
This was a fantastic rendition, then again I haven't had one in such a long time I forgot what the proper version should be like. The rice was already somewhat flavored and a tad salty, but it tasted even better with the accompanied soy sauce on the side which you pour over the rice and mix it up (well I'm sure it has MSG in it, but this kind you WANT for the full on experience). A few slices of veg on top, and the spare ribs were cooked perfectly, moist, juicy, tender, and not oily like at some dim sum restaurants. Had they thrown in some phoenix claws/chicken feet like the dim sum places, this would have been superb.
My only gripe, there wasn't enough punch or heat to generate the "fahn jiu" or burnt rice crispies (the part of the rice that stuck to the inside wall lining of the pot). Either a cooking technique or just not enough kilojoules or BTUs.
The old fire soup that came with the clay pot was a nice one, restaurant quality, had big mushrooms in it, daikon, jun pei (dried orange peel), carrot, smoked pork meat near the bone, and other things that somehow made it nice, sweet, and a perfect ending to a real comforting meal.
Pricey at $10, then again CS is not a cheap HK style cafe. But at least it hit the spot.
I've now a renewed interest in clay pot. Will have to try their other variations next time.
That's on the bottom of things I want to try dessert wise, never liked it because my grandma used to force me and my brother when we were kids to eat it, and we were of the fruit or milk flavored popsicle and coke in glass bottle variety.
I'm sorry to hear that Cafe Salina did not work out for you. Can you share what you ate there last few times that did not hit the spot, and times of day?
Do you have a favorite HK cafe / cha chaan teng? Hopefully not HK Bistro or Top Cafe....