Chowdown 4/4/2008 Hong Kong East Ocean
Nine East Bay hounds convened for a leisurely Friday lunch of dim sum at Hong Kong East Ocean, way at the end of the peninsula in Emeryville. With the spectacular Bay view came passable, if not noteworthy, dim sum dishes:
1. Pan fried noodles with XO sauce. Good sauce, and better texture than other examples around town.
2. Salt and pepper calamari. Kind of greasy (in fact, all of the deep-fried dishes were unusually greasy), and the salt and pepper flavor was minimal.
3. Pan fried stuffed chili peppers. Jalapenos sliced in two longitudinally, with a mystery stuffing. Good flavors in the stuffing.
4. Salt and pepper jumbo shrimp. The only dish selected from a cart (this is mostly a pencil-and-paper dim sum place, not a cart-and-point dim sum place). The spectacular presentation and tasty dusting of salt and spices was overshadowed by the less than fresh texture and flavor of the shrimps themselves.
5. Rice noodles stuffed with shrimp. A fine version of this classic.
6. Deep fried taro dumplings. Ditto.
7. Siu Mai. Ditto
8. Steamed spareribs with preserved olives and black bean. Tasty sauce, but not my style.
9. Pan fried daikon cake. Excellent texture and flavor.
10. Chinese donut in rice noodles. An odd dish--chinese donut wrapped in thin rice paper with the same kind of sweet-savory sauce that comes with (5). The donut was extraordinarily greasy.
11. Clams in spicy sauce. Best sauce of the meal, deep and warm, we wished for some rice to sop it up with.
12. Seaweed with octopus. Another spectacular presentation, but I didn't feel like trying it.
13. Shrimp dumplings. Another fine version of this standard.
14. Fried sesame balls with sweet bean paste
15. Mango custard. Both this and the previous dish had a delicate floral aroma. The sesame balls were, yes, greasy. The custard was excellent.
16. Silky tofu. I don't care for this dish, so I didn't try this version.
There were two varieties of tea, and Nick brought a tasty Riesling Kabinett .
In all, the food was fine, but there is better dim sum at other places around the East Bay. It was good to check in on this venerable restaurant, though, and many thanks to Melanie for organizing the event.
It was nice to rejoin the Chowhound fold during my first week of residence back in the East Bay. There were a couple of dishes at this meal that I thought were really good: Har Gow, turnip cake, mango pudding, and shrimp rice noodles were very good. I was the last to arrive and ate the last salt and pepper shrimp, and I guess I must have been lucky for that because the one I had was very good.
I would return for a small meal of those better items, plus try a few more new ones. But overall I felt the food was only adequate and if were looking for a big meal with a wide variety of excellent dim sum items, I would go elsewhere.
The wine I brought was a Spreitzer 2006 Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Kabinett from the Rheingau region of Germany. It's one of the very few 2006 German Kabinetts that I have tried that actually taste like a Kabinett: fresh, light, and brightly acidic. It'll retail at about $26. More info here: http://www.skurnikwines.com/wines.cgi...
Ernie, thanks a bunch for taking such good notes and to everyone there for your good company and critical eye on the chow. However, I'll say that my recollection is that you were hankering for a baguette, not rice, to get at those juices. Me too!
It's been quite a few years since my last visit to HKEO. Somehow the view seems even better than before, if that's possible, and the replacement of the Mexican tiles to the current clean lines of the interior decor makes for a lovely setting.
The panfried turnip cakes were definitely my favorite. In the S-M-L hierarchy of dim sum pricing, this dish is usually one of the least expensive in the Small category. But here it's priced a little higher at a Medium, and I like the extra quality and care that goes into it. I liked the long batons of daikon and think I'll try that, instead of dicing, when I make this dish at home next. It gave the dish more of a vegetable, instead of floury/pasty taste, and I liked biting into the juicy, tender pieces. It would have been even better if I'd had some of the hot chili paste condiment that I'd requested early on to go with it.
XO rice noodle rolls were tasty, although I would have liked less of a soy sauce signature to let the XO sauce flavors shine more. Also, even though we ordered via the paper sheet, I think these were pulled off a cart and not pan-fried to order, as they didn't have the fresh-out-of the wok aroma. But, reheating the leftovers today for my lunch, they were still quite enjoyable.
Like Gordon, I found the shrimp in the rice crepes and the jumbo har gao (5 to steamer) to be on point. It's hard for me to draw a bead on this place as a HK-style seafood specialist given the inconsistency in ingredient quality. The salt and pepper prawns and some of the clams lacked the pristinely fresh taste of good sourcing, and the calamari was a flop. Yet, then we had those lovely shrimp in the steamed dishes. Can't really draw any conclusions.
I was surprised by the amount of collected grease in the little dishes of steamed spareribs. Loved the taste, and the addition of olives was an extra touch.
With the stuffed jalapeños, one bite was mild, and another later was medium spicy. I liked this dish and think the filling was fish forcemeat, maybe with some pork mixed in.
Nice siu mai, for the pork purists, these did have a good quantity of shrimp blended in the filling. But the sweetness of the seafood didn't obscure the porcine richness, so I didn't mind. And again, in this steamed dumpling, those were good quality shrimp.
Pretty good taro dumpling too, but tepid when it got to the table. It was one of our first dishes after a seemingly interminable wait, and I would have expected it to be piping hot.
Service was scattered. When our waiter was at the tableside, he was attentive and very helpful. But he was away for too long and we had too long of waits to make requests. He didn't blink an eye when I asked him for two kinds of teas, which not every dim sum house would accommodate so easily. As noted, I had to remind him that we hadn't rec'd the octopus and seaweed salad dish checked off on the list. At that same moment, I also ordered a half roast duck, which never came, however, we weren't charged for it either.
Many thanks to Nick ( TasteFirst.com ) for sharing the beautiful Rheingau riesling with us. I believe it was the 2006 vintage of Spreitzer "Oestricher Lenchen" Riesling Kabinett. Corkage was $10. Our server iced the bottle for us and he seemed comfortable with wine service.
Again, thanks to you all for joining us and for your chowhounding spirit!
This was our first chowdown, it was great to finally meet the people on this board!! Thanks to Melanie for organizing and Nick for bringing the wine (btw, I wanted to get a shot of the label for the wine to remember what it was, but they took it away already. Does anyone remember what winery and other details??) and Gordon and Ernie for taking notes. The scenery was perfect and company was great. Too bad I was just too hungry to concentrate on taking good photos of the food. I thought that the service was lacking, but some of the food was good. I particularly enjoyed the siu mai and the pan fried turnip/daikon cake, I think the turnip cake was the star of the table! Perhaps it was that these two dishes were hot (freshly made or freshly out of the steamers) that made it better?
As for the Chinese donut in rice noodles (炸兩), I found it just mediocre, the Koi Garden has a much better rendition with smaller (less greasy as well) chinese donuts and a really tasty spicy sesame sauce. I didn't particularly care for the desserts, I guess I just can't stand things that are too sweet, the texture and aroma of the mango custard was good, it was too sweet for me. The sweet tofu (豆花) was fine, but again too sweet.
I really enjoyed eating with a bunch of people who are so knowledgeable about the food. Definitely will show up for a chowdown again! =)
I've never seen those donut in rice noodles with a sauce. Looks interesting. What's the pin-yin? As I'm from the East coast, I don't think I've seen this before. Is it common at the dim sum parlors in the Bay area?
I was actually there a few weeks ago with relatives. We thought the food was great. But the view was spectacular! You guys definitely have NYC beat in the dim sum area.
re: Miss Needle
In Cantonese it is called a Jar Leung, just a fried Chinese donut wrapped with a fresh rice noodles. the soy sauce is a sweeten soy sauce. Next time I make it I will post a recipe. I hope I remember to make notes how much Chinese rock sugar.
The more interesting one available in the Bay Area is the one at San Mateo Joy Luck. If my Chinese written is English is up to the task Law Bak See Jar Lenug.
Not a hard dish to make if you can get fresh rice noodles.
Sorry no knowledge of pin-yin or any right to write Chinese in a English format.
re: Miss Needle
The sweet soy sauce is added only after you order it. There is a metal (normally it is a metal) bottle on the tray or cart. They server pours it at your table.
On a recent trip to China I was told that Lee Kum Kee has a new product on the way that is a prepared sweet soy sauce for this and for clay pot rice.
Hope you try it soon.
re: Miss Needle
I think it is quite common around here, I don't know if it's a traditional dish or not, but the texture is definitely very good, crunchy on the inside. I've had it at Asian Pearl and Koi Garden and some other places as well. Seems like we're blessed with good dim sum here, comparable to anything you can get in the North America (i.e. NY or Vancouver)
Jar leung is my favourite dim sum item -- I order/grab it whenever I see it, which fortunately for me is pretty often in the places I frequent for dim sum. So good when it is hot and crunchy, with the coolness of the rice noodle as a foil... drooling... sorry... The real reason I'm horning in on your report is to mention that it is often served here (Vancouver) with a condiment dish of half hoisin/half sesame paste, in addition to the thin soy mix poured over top. Dang, now I'm gonna have to go for some this w'end!
Frankly I was somewhat disappointed with this visit. I have been a number of times to HK East Ocean and always felt that freshness was a hallmark. However, the is the first time I have had a less that stellar meal there. Ernie highlights the successful dishes, but there were a surprising number of misses compared to previous visits. Also, the service was not up to its usual standard. Condiments arrived very late in the meal and the cold seaweed and octupus (a dish that required no cooking) was brought at the end after a reminder to the waitstaff.
I was intrigued by the fried doughnut in rice noodle, finding the texture to be interesting. The clams and the ribs (both of which I liked) were the only ones which retained any heat when they were served, but perhaps I got to other dishes late.
Hats off to Nick for a superb kabinett which added the grace note to a gorgeous day by the Bay.
Thanks Ernie for starting off the topic and thanks to Melanie for organizing. We also had the opportunity to meet the lovely Mrs. Wong, Melanie's mother.
This is a place that I have gone to many times, mostly because its the closest and most convenient dim sum place for lazy weekend mornings. It also has a fabulous view and is pretty easy to park either in its lot or the lot for the park down the street.
As for the food, I tend to get a few of my tried and tested favorites, including the jumbo shrimp dumplings, the clams in broth, the rice noodles with shrimp, and the mango pudding. These are all very well made (to my taste) and freshly prepared because of the paper and pencil approach to ordering.
I did find a few of the dishes that were new to me today to be excellent and that I would like to add to my regular rotation here, including the spare ribs which had preserved olives and black beans but also tasted of black pepper there somewhere. I also really really liked the excellent texture (crispy outside and melting inside) and flavor of the pan fried daikon cake, a rather boring sounding dish that I enjoyed very much. The octopus in the seaweed with octopus fascinated me as they were perfectly shaped and yet not chewy and a rather bright orange/red color. Interesting and tasty for a big group but I would not get it for only two diners.
The one dish I did not really care for was the salt and pepper calamari(?) - it was greasy and not very good.
The service was a little scattered, but helpful when around. Total with tips came to $20 per head. I can't remember if they charged for corkage? Thanks for the lovely wine, Nick!
re: gordon wing
It was fun to share a table with some chowhounds (and Mrs. Wong) again. Food was OK to Good with a few misses.....service was remiss on some items ...... asked for condiments did not come until the meal was almost over but they were pretty good with replenishing tea if you tip the teapot lid in the universal position. And it did take a while longer to start getting food than I'm used to in a dim sum restaurant. In my prior visits I haven't encountered this problem. On weekends they would be totally in the weeds if they acted accordingly. Enough about that ...... there did seem to be a lack of heat to the food in general....something that I don't necessarily find critical always but I did notice that the very tasty and almost creamy taro pastries were not hot (which makes them even better) but still tasty and nicely fried (greaseless and crispy) The PF Turnip/Daikon cake was an excellent version. Our original dish from a passing cart of S&P Prawns was not the best start for me ...... the heads were less than pristinely sweet. On the other hand, the shrimp used in the rice rolls with shrimp and the har gow were tender and sweet....lovely.
the frying in general was good ..... although I agree with others that the calamari dish was a miss. And the fried chinese donut wrapped in rice noodle was an intrigueing texture but quite unctuous (oily) :~ ) XO rice noodles were pretty tasty. Sweets - fried sesame balls were crispy but thick and chewy when compared to some of the better versions. the mango pudding had nice coconut overtones with a floral note that was intrigueing. The flower tofu in ginger syrup was fine ..... The view is impressive and if you order the right things you can have a nice experience (maybe not a fast one? ) thanks to Melanie for organizing!
Nice of Nick to bring the wine ..... it was a big hit and a generous gesture.