Sun's Chinese Cuisine San Mateo
- K K Mar 3, 2010 04:33 PM
Melanie was trying to put together a few pieces of information from various threads and bumped Chandavkl's initial post of this place with a fish dumplings inquiry
So I thought I'd summarize everything in one thread with the multiple visits under my belt.
Although I haven't been in a while I really like this place.
The food is not mindblowing good like Everyday Beijing in their prime some years ago, or San Tung San Francisco for somewhat similar comfort food (noodles/dumplings), but what I like very much about Sun's is the no nonsense food, the fact that they don't use MSG (everything tastes very simple and natural, but not flavorless), excellent service (provided that the restaurant is not too crowded), and the owners who are not only eager to please, but improve upon what they offer, as well as try experimental/new dishes (as exemplified by the rotating handwritten white board specials...not easy to predict what will come next, unless and perhaps if you talk to them to find out).
Mr Sun (or Suan rather, as in Lao Suan Tsaan Guan....Old Suan's restaurant) is actually a former Everyday Beijing employee, and he teamed up with a mom from Southern Taiwan (who apparently does and offers the more Taiwanese side of the menu) to bring what is called Military Village style cooking dishes from both the China and Taiwanese side. So you will find Shanghainese, Sichuan, Taiwanese, and bits of regional Mainland Chinese dishes represented (like a melting pot).
There are your basic dumplings like pork and cabbage, fish (and chive I believe), shrimp and cucumber. About on par with Everyday Beijing's in terms of quality, and the shrimp and cucumber dumplings are a current fave right now.
The standard beef noodle soup they have is clear beef bone broth goodness, with a slightly chewy noodle (made in house) and paired with pretty decent slices of beef that remind me of the sliced brisket you find at the really good pho restaurants. A little spinach and it all works out very nicely. Maybe not recommended if you prefer the stewed spicy version (although they now have a Taiwanese style beef noodle soup, where the broth is similar to the clear broth but they added soy sauce/beef stew sauce to enhance, along with sliced beef shank). The pork rib noodle soup (pai gu tang mien) is pretty decent, although with an accented herbal flavor (good if you are into that) which is quite refreshing, so if you're looking for a deep fried pork chop, you either have to ask or this is not going to fulfill that need.
The best selling entree here at least during set lunches appear to be their steamed white fish (rock cod)? fillet on lotus leaf. It's done so well with a delicately seasoned soy sauce and a very tiny chili pepper I could not identify, that gave it a mild kick and more importantly fragrance. The sauce alone is superb with rice. It's all boneless too, so good for the kids as well.
They apparently make their own chili oil in house, so ask for a sample. Last time I was here they offered me a sample of some in house made liquor (rice wine type of stuff), and it's supposed to taste like the kind in China. Let's just say a drop felt like moonshine....not my bag. And it can burn. The smell alone is quite amazing, so if you are into Chinese spirits and liquor, this might be your bag.
Now on weekends this is when it gets a bit more fun. They offer the Northern style brunch fare, although perhaps not as expansive as 5 Joy in Foster City (formerly known as just JOY). They only offered the xien beifang doufu nao (tofu brains, aka savory hot and sout soup w/o the sour flavor with tofu, hot and sour soup ingredients, chopped cruller) once on a weekend on the specials board, and I never saw it again. I'm sure if enough people ask, they can either make it or put it back in rotation. The chive box pastry (jiu tsai hir zi) was excellent and better than the green onion pancake. Crullers/yoh tiao were ok and not as greasy as 5 Joy's. Soymilk wasn't anything to write home about but better than China Bee (bleh) and doesn't have that signature "burnt" taste like Everyday Beijing's. The Northern style brunch fare is an integral part of Military Village style cuisine and food culture, at least in Southern Taiwan (coincidentally also where the Taiwanese mom who works there is from). The only thing missing in the lineup is baozi (steamed meat and/or vegetable buns) but maybe that offering is not too far in the distant future.
XIao Long Bao here is also nothing to write home about, so I would skip it unless you have a massive craving (and for that you can also find it at Happy Cafe across the street). 5 Joy's XLB is easily better (albeit with slightly thicker skins). XLB is offered all day.
Fan tuan (sticky rice roll) is good here too. Another weekend only item.
Shaobing Jia Rou (baked flatbread layered bread with sesame seed on top with marinated meat sandwiched inside) are decent but don't compare to Taiwan.
I haven't tried any of these yet but they also have these rice plates, but served on a lotus leaf in a bamboo steamer. China Palace in Milpitas was the first place I saw them offer these bamboo steamer rice items, then Chef Xiu in Mountain View.
I can't remember where I heard or read this, but I recall learning that the chef came from Noodle Shop (San Mateo), I suppose during the Mao's Family Kitchen era (and not the Shanghai Dumpling King/Shop/Candlestick era).
Also one of the claypots they have, it's somewhat similar to Sa Guo type, but the combinations of items they put in there are not very commonly seen. Two of them contain herbal/medicinal type stuff. There was one with vegetables, tofu, bean thread noodles, and meatballs that was quite light and decent, with the in house made meatballs being a real highlight. They're pretty much stews/soups on top of that too.
The pickled cabbage and pork intestines dish might be something to try next time....