Wo Choy @ i Restaurant, Cupertino
After reading the initial reports for a new Chinese restaurant in Cupertino,
a month ago I had the chance to try i-Restaurant with some family members. My mom remembered the miserable dim sum lunch here when it was House of Sichuan with a split personality kitchen specializing in the cuisine of Macau and Sichuan. Fortunately this was a much, much better experience. Our first look at the new interior was eye-popping. Mostly large tables with slip-covered chairs make the room seem crowded.
While our party numbered only five, we ordered the family set menu, i-Combo-002, for six to eight people for $128 to try some of iRestaurant’s inventive dishes.
The first appetizer served was Sliced lotus root in orange flavor. This had a potent orange oil aroma and taste. While this looked quite pretty on the plates, the lotus root was cooked until soft and starchy, losing its sweetness and crisp crunch.
An even stronger starter was the generous plate of char siu (BBQ pork) slices on a bed of yellow beans. Fine flavors and juicy yet lean meat, and a big portion for each of us to have multiple servings. The beans were too hard, but that’ s a quibble.
Not sure about the “fruit” part in the Mixed fruit and shrimp salad, but those giant shrimp were glorious in their sweet and snappy succulence. Hard-cooked eggs, garlicky croutons, cashews, toasted pumpkin seeds, honey-glazed walnuts, roasted peanuts, and maybe more were tossed with organic bitter greens and a cream dressing.
The Stir-fried fresh squid with sugar peas and baby corn was oh so sweet and delicate. Dishes like this exemplify the Cantonese cooking ethos of simple and fresh preparations that highlight the natural flavors. Note that the ends have been clipped off all the pea pods.
The Assorted seafood tofu soup with less than usual amount of thickening was one of the best versions I've had. Again, very vibrant and clean flavors from high quality ingredients handled very simply.
Stir-fried dried shrimps with shredded taro took me awhile to warm up to. But I did come around to appreciate the fluffy mound of vegetables studded with briny bits. My cousin said it was her favorite dish. Crispy shreds of taro were stir-fried with umami-laden dried and reconstituted large shrimps, puffed long rice, juicy stalks of intensely flavored Chinese celery, barely softened slivers of sweet onion, and sesame seeds.
The Shredded salty Asian chicken, made with pale-skinned, free-range Loong Kong breed, was pulled off the bone and served room temperature. Served without condiments, I checked to make sure it wasn’t a mistake, and our waiter said that the natural flavor of the premium chicken was the star. Mom wasn't happy that it didn't come with grated ginger oil paste and even less so when she noticed that the next table had some. While cooked to the proper dregree of doneness with taut skin, it wasn’t not salted enough, and the bone of the bird were hidden underneath to prop up this pile of meat.
Spinach poached in chicken broth was topped with firm, salty shreds of Virginia ham. The greens were so silky and exquisite in flavor, I had to compliment the chef for hitting it perfectly. Our waiter pointed out that the spinach and salad greens were organically grown.
Char-broiled whole sea bass with garlic and butter had such crispy skin, it seemed more like it was deep-fried. All the same, it was quite delicious with the fragrance of dill. It was served on a banana leaf with sweetened mayo on the side.
Plate garnish for seabass
Minced salted fish and chicken stir-fried rice was made with very little oil and had a lovely toasty fragrance. We could have done without the peas and carrots, but this was still quite delicious. The salted fish, minced into teeny bits the size of coarse grains of sand, released all its flavor for an uncommon savoriness. This made a delicious breakfast as a leftover.
We were asked if we’d be willing to sample one chef's experiment, sweet shrimp steamed on sections of organic Chinese okra topped with fried garlic. Our feedback was that the garlic was too powerful drowning out the shrimp and that the okra would be better peeled of the tough skin.
The complimentary dessert was a good one, chilled coconut milk soup with tapioca pearl, lychee, and snow ears fungi.
We chatted a bit with the floor manager and learned that the restaurant is owned by one of the former partners in House of Sichuan. While the restaurant continues to have some dishes on the menu from other parts of China to serve the existing clientele, this is first and foremost a Cantonese restaurant. The kitchen has four chefs, one was formerly with Dynasty Seafood restaurant in Cupertino and two came from hotels in Guangzhou (Canton). Wherever possible, produce is organic. The cooking style is contemporary with many original dishes, and utilizes less oil and salt.
Service is a weak point here. At 6pm on a Sunday, we were the first dinner patrons, and things were fine with all three staff waiting on us. But as soon as another party arrived, things got scattered and even with only four tables filled went downhill fast. That said, I feel the cooking is both competent and creative enough at a fair price to return to explore more.
20007 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino, CA 95014
Has anyone been here recently? The homepage on the website talks about the Tuscan countryside! The photos of the dishes look like what I remember and the other pages do talk about Chinese cooking, but the ,pdf dinner menu is much reduced. I liked it before and wonder what's going on.
Thanks for finding it! My aunt lives nearby, so I expect to be returning with her on occasion. I enjoyed the food more than our recent dinners at Hong Kong Flower Lounge and The Kitchen in Millbrae.
The kitchen is quite good. I wish that the servers were better. The crew when we were there were certainly well-meaning but two of them didn't have the innate attentiveness. For example, when ladling out the dessert soup, even I could tell from looking at the bowl that it didn't hold five servings. Then the server filled the first two bowls to the rim and didn't have enough to go around. He went back to the kitchen to get more, got distracted with something else, meanwhile we're waiting for him to return. It took us a long time to get out bill, and then to run the credit card. Things like that, so try to go when it won't be busy.
I talked to my brother today and he had been back with his buddies, six of them, to order the same set menu. He said it was as good. He thought the taro dish was prepared even better the next time and maybe the charsiu portion wasn't quite as generous.