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Jul 14, 2009 11:30 AM

Chef Xiu in Mtn View

We had a tasty and amazingly economical meal at Chef Xiu in Mtn View the other night. This is the cozy, miniscule restaurant that replaced the former Shanghai Taste Delight, on El Camino.

The waiter gave us a big plate of seaweed as an appetizer, which I thought was a promising start.

We ordered:
- Home style tofu: nicely spicy
- steamed whole sole: with ginger and green onions
- fried string beans (gan bian si ji dou)
- pork with preserved vegetable: fresh bacon steamed with dried mustard (mei gan ko rou), a hakka dish
- "cumin seed lamb in hot plate": think cumin lamb fajitas--dramatic and popular with the other customers
- "three kinds of seafood w/ tofu skin vegetable": misidentified; the "tofu skin" is actually mung bean skin (la pi)

Everything was quite good, especially given the serving sizes and the prices (hey, did I mention the prices?). I lamented the passing of Shanghai Taste Delight, but this certainly gives me consolation.

The front of the take-out menu says "bei3 fang1 te4 se4" - "northern specialties"? Not sure exactly what that entails, but I was happy to find that the entire menu is translated into english. There was a secret menu posted on the wall, but the printed menu is sufficiently exotic that I don't feel like I'm missing out on too much.

Chef Xiu
855 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

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  1. Nice find. Thanks. What are the prices like?

    1. This place provides some typical Chinese/Taiwanese comfort food, and the prices reflect that. Don't go expecting typical Chinese "banquet" style dishes, but the food is simple, tasty, and quick. Decent noodle soups in addition to classic dishes. My favorite menu item here is the Sesame pan roll with seven spice beef.

      1. Thanks for talking up this Dongbei restaurant. My brother and I tried it yesterday and it's so much better than Nutrition House in Milpitas. The food is simple, but in enormous portions and for the most part, executed quite well. Prices are rock bottom, so the popularity is easy to understand.

        Green bean sheets with green pepper pork, $4.99. A huge serving, and those strips of green chilis were HOT. Green bean sheets were overcooked and soft, and the pork had the scent of offal. We wouldn’t order this one again, but would go for a cold type of liang zhang pi.

        Braised lamb ribs (mistranslated as "steak" on the menu) with rice steamed in lotus leaf, $5.50. Another enormous serving, and our favorite of this meal. Beautiful, highly polished rice with perfect al dente texture and scented with the aroma of the lotus leaf. The veggies picked up the gamey mutton taste of the lamb.

        North style stewed soup, $7.25, is not a soup at all but a hearty stewy mix of fried pork belly, poached pork belly, potato slices, tomato, eggplant, bell peppers, and onions in an adobo-like tart and sweet savory light sauce. Very concentrated, and makes the lips stick together from the dissolved collagen. We each had two servings, and then had two QUARTS left to take home.

        Tung Po pork feet meat priced on the menu at $10.95, and just about the most expensive thing. I asked our waiter how large it was, and he counter-offered saying we could have a special price of $7.99! The skin was quite luscious and the sauce was less sweet and sticky than at a straight-ahead Shanghai place, so we enjoyed it more.

        And, some of the specials posted on the wall. There’s also a separate white board with more. If anyone would like to take a stab at a translation, we’d be grateful.

        There are two menus printed in English. One had lunch specials and some typical Chinese-American type stuff arranged by protein (e.g., chicken, pork). Then the larger menu was arranged by cooking style and price, making it a little hard to scan quickly.

        One item that we saw a lot of tables ordering from the specials was “crispy lamb”, that looked like battered and deep-fried slices. The plates were adorned by rose carvings.

        Cash only, more parking in the back (walk through Frankie Johnnie Luigi's parking lot to get to the front)

        Edited to add: Service was harried but friendly and competent. Our waiter boxed up our massive amount of leftovers for us. The tea is better than average.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          "And, some of the specials posted on the wall. There’s also a separate white board with more. If anyone would like to take a stab at a translation, we’d be grateful."

          Di San Xien (地三鮮) $5.50. Searching this dish on the net reveals it is a vegetable stir fry dish, with the name hinting three fresh (veg) from the ground, or whatever is in season. Potatos or beans, eggplant, and bell peppers. Or it could be tomatos and/or melons/squash. Chinese page results show that this is a typical Dongbei dish.

          The $6.50 item is grilled eggplant, and the signage with the same price to its right is Dou See (bean sauce or whatever is the appropriate translation) stir fried clams.

          The white paper with red writing, is lamb chops at $7.99. To the right of that, salted fish chicken and tofu in clay pot (Cantonese dish).

          Clear stir fried Si Gua (loofah or silky melon/squash) - $6.50 (that's the sign to the left of the salted fish chicken tofu clay pot)

          and finally lotus root with combo stir fry (probably with veg and maybe meat of some sort) $5.50.

          Bottom line, not everything dongbei. You don't seem to be missing out much.

          In the next photo:

          Shanghai style stir fried nian gao - $5.50
          Stir fried nian gao with preserved veg (shir cai) - $5.50
          Shui Ju Yu (boiled fish, but no mention of mala) - $7.50

          1. re: K K

            Thanks much, KK! When Paris Dreamin described it as Taiwanese comfort food, I hoped to find three cup chicken (San Bei Ji, 三杯鸡), but it's not on the menu.

            I did see a bowl of the black bean sauce clams on another table that looked good. Many orders of nian gao passed by as well. One gentleman was slurping from an enormous bowl of soup noodles. This place serves up big quantities.

            I meant to mention how good the slices of potatoes were in the stewed soup. I know, I know, what could they do to potatoes? Well, they were thin slices with a waxy smooth texture, just barely cooked so they weren't starchy and stayed together, yet soaked up the flavors of the gravy. My brother hypothesized that they're added to the cauldron raw and barely poached by the heat of the stewed soup. I'd be interested in seeing what else this kitchen does with root vegetables.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Thanks for the follow-up reports, Melanie and KK.

              I wouldn't characterize Chef Xiu as Taiwanese. I'm guessing "bei fang te se" on the menu ("northern specialties") refers to Dongbei?

              Did anybody mention the large servings? ;-)

              1. re: snewdl

                I wouldn't classify 3 cup chicken necessarily as "Taiwanese comfort food" and if you ask any Taiwanese expat what their comfort foods would be, the answers would vary from street food items like oyster omlette, oyster/pork intestine noodles, pig feet somen noodles, simmered/marinated eats (lu wei), Tainan peddler noodles, or whatever the local specialty is (too many of them to count).

                But in general the ones that share any similarity to their mainland counterparts (in the case of naming "Chinese/Taiwanese") would be things like noodles/noodle soups, dumplings, starch based items like green onion pancake, sesame flat breads, soy milk etc. To the extreme numbing spicy hot pots (or sour cabbage and pork belly hot pots) could also do the trick (during winter time).

                Cheap and good is the name of the game these days. I'm going to have to drop in sometime and see what it is all about. Agreed....Nutrition House didn't blow me away. I miss Dongbei House in San Mateo (where Gau Pang is right now) before the chef was "deported" back to China a few years ago. That was the shortest lived gem.

                1. re: snewdl

                  Has anyone had the dumplings? We wanted to order some but the massive amount of food already on our table precluded that.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Had the pork and cabbage boiled dumplings today that the proprietress said were made fresh this morning. Very large pieces and not bad, thick skins.

                    Also had the lamb chops ($7.99) which was recommended over the crispy skin lamb (same price). The latter is now a new special offering, along with sour cabbage and fish.

                    They also have beef and lamb dumplings but they are steamed, not boiled.

                    They also have a selection of rice plates, served on top of lotus leaf in bamboo steamers, something that I've only seen offered in that China Palace place in Milpitas (the Ulferts Center, next to Milpitas Square).

                    Without having much knowledge of Dongbei restaurant food, it is not terrilby easy to figure out what's good in this restaurant, but based on what other Chinese patrons ordered, the selections do look quite decent.

                    Most of the stuff on the Chinese only specials white board menu is on the regular menu. One of these days I'll try the noodle dishes (beef noodle soup, Beijing style Ja Jang Mien, Ja Jang Mien with egg, Dalu mien, Three freshes Chao Ma Mien).

                    1. re: K K

                      Funny I was there for lunch today as well with my two kids

                      We tried the shrimp and chive dumplings - thick skins - a big order - not that great

                      the combo seafood noodle soup was quite good but i had to order it not too spicy for the kids - the broth was very flavorful but spicier would have been better for me :)

                      Also tried the steamed whole sole - very good and cheap! only $6.99
                      still had tons to take home

                      we will likely be back Friday or next week
                      waiter was willing to explain some stuff and at least he didnt give us the American menu lol

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Must have missed you takuhead, there were a few tables when we arrived, but I didn't see any kids.

                          Melanie, the lamb chops ("self made") were grilled till toasty, coated with cumin seeds and a tad bit salty, but overall a very tasty and addicting plate. I really enjoyed them.

                          They gave us free bowls of house soup, cornstarch thickened veg and tofu. Also a free cold plate of salted/vinegared green seaweed strands with a little garlic and sesame oil. Not bad.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Stop by for take out today and got some pork and cabbage dumpling and a spicy pork blood stew (I need to treat myself after being so good for so long in miss the rich and bad for me Chinese food). Dumplings were huge and the skin thin very good, will need to check the other ones soon.

                        The stew was spicy but not really spicy to my taste enough for two meals. Petty small and homey.

                        1. re: yimster

                          Made another visit today - turns out that they are closed for lunch on Tuesdays although the menu says open 7 days a week - was wondering why they were closed last Tuesday for lunch :)

                          Had the salt and pepper prawns today - a real steal at $6.50
                          huge shell-on and head on shrimp perfectly prepared - at least a dozen!

                          also tried the green onion pancake - again huge order - very good - even ok reheated at home since we couldn't finish the order at lunch

                          Also, enjoyed the gratis pickled shredded potato with green peppers

                          1. re: takuhead

                            Thanks for the heads up on Tuesday closing. I will return to try more soon.

                            Green onion pancakes are one of my favorites. Easy to make but I grown too lazy.

                            1. re: yimster

                              went by yesterday - new menu - higher prices - more american style chinese now :(
                              tried to get salt and pepper shrimp but sadly they are no longer preparing it with the heads still on - so I passed. I was really craving those too. Just not the same without the heads IMO

                              1. re: takuhead

                                I was there a week ago and I did not notice any price changes but I did not look that close. But our favorite dishes taste almost the same. Never ordered any seafood there. Mostly lamb, pork and stews which remain close. Did see the chef in the back a couple of weeks ago and he was the same but did noticed another person cooking in the back who was new.

                                But I will look closer on my next visit.

                                1. re: yimster

                                  There's a yelp report that the ownership changed. Don't know how true that is.