Tai Wu: Take Two
Take one was pretty darn good, and we wanted to see if a second visit--without the benefit of the company of a friend of the owner--would be as good.
This time, we had: (I am making a few spelling corrections--I hope they are not misleading)
#005 Chicken Claw in Black Bean Sauce $2.50
#026 Chiu Chow Style Dumpling 3.50
#047 Bean Curd Skin Roll w/ Shrimp 4.10
#050 Deep Fried Egg Yolk Ball 4.10
#075 Deep Fried Crispy Milk 5.80
#083 Pumpkin w/ Salty Egg Yolk 5.80
#089 Vegetarian Goose (Bean Curd) 5.80
#108 Suckling Pig 15.00
Whole Lobster Meat Dumpling 28.00
Fookien Fried Rice
Sweet potato sesame ball--not listed; our own description
Crisp-skin roast pork--not listed
Kitchen sink Chinese cake--not listed, our own description. To inquiries of "What is this delicious thing?" We were told simply "Chinese cake", and after more persistent questioning , something that sounded like "Bey Tao Kow". It seems to be some kind of mashed taro cake with white beans, black-eyed peas, Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, dried scallop, shitake mushroom, pickled vegetable, and green onions.
So, how was Take Two? Well, I was expecting an appreciable decline in quality and service, but I'd have to say that the few items we ordered again from round one were as good--or almost as good (the lobster dumplings were not as neatly made this time, but just as tasty). The service was not as attentive as when we were in more distinguished company, but still very good by dimsum house standards, especially when one considers that none of us speaks Chinese.
(Though I like to think that our eager appreciation of the food may have also disposed them in our favor.)
Price: approximately $140.00, including a 20% tip. $28.00 per person
Chicken claw--best since the loss of Joy Luck San Mateo
Chiu Chow Style dumpling (again)
Whole lobster dumpling--(actually the fried lobster pieces with salted egg yolk)
Kitchen sink Chinese cake
And, yet again, I would like to thank our Anonymous Friend who introduced us to what, to me, is currently the overall best dimsum I've had in the Bay Area!
Tai Wu/Mr. Fong
950 King Plz, Daly City, CA 94015
Five of us met for dim sum at Tai Wu last month. We ordered some of our favorites from prior visits and some new (to us) items. We had both highs and lows.
Unlike prior visits, the skins of the XLB and dumplings were unpleasantly thick, among the thickest I’ve ever seen. My take on what we had--
Roasted pork off the tray—nice crisp skin, tender meat, pretty good flavor
#001 Crab King Shiu Mai—excellent, the best shiu mai I’ve had in a long time
#005 Chicken Claw in Black Bean Sauce—tender, good flavor
#023 Chiu Chow Style Dumpling—nice crunchy texture but the very thick skin made it a fail
#083 Pumpkin with Salty Egg Yolk—very good, much better than a recent experience at Zen Peninsula but maybe not quite as good as the best I’ve had from Zen Pen and Hakka
#097 Soya Duck Tongue—tasty but not a lot of meat so I’d probably not order it again
Beef/Vegetable Noodle Dish (not sure which menu no.)—a fail. The beef was a little tough and the beef and veggies were fairly tasteless, but the noodles were good. I liked the crispy outside but it could have been more so.
Whole Lobster Meat Dumpling—the lobster quality was very good but very thick skins on the dumplings detracted from the flavors. The lobster pieces with the salty egg coating were every bit as delicious as on prior visits—the high point of the meal for me.
#075 Deep Fried Crispy Milk—very good
#050 Deep Fried Egg Yolk Ball—a travesty! Way over-fried and very dark on the outside. The inside was dried out with no liquid at all. When we complained and declined a replacement the charge was promptly and courteously removed from our bill.
Tai Wu now joins my list of dim sum places with a consistency problem, though they are still making some great dishes and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for all that they do right. I don’t have dim sum often enough to be sure who on the Peninsula is most consistent in quality, but based on my experience at this point it would be Peninsula Asian Pearl.
re: Melanie Wong
I can’t say I’ve had them at enough different places to be sure what the norm is but they were definitely much thicker than on previous visits to Tai Wu. Coincidentally I was meeting some of the same group at Koi Palace today so I checked my impressions with them and they agreed the wrappers had been unusually and unpleasantly thick. The effect may have been exaggerated by the fact they were also under-filled and the flavor wasn’t as good as in prior trips.
re: Melanie Wong
Yup, I'm afraid it was: I know what you mean by the Chiu Chow dumpling wrapper being appropriately thicker and more resistant (given the robust flavors and textures of the filling) than, say, a har gow wrapper, but Tai Wu's dumpling skins were way too thick and they seem to have been getting thicker. I'd say that the skins are at least twice the weight of the fillings. I noticed that I was not the only one at the table who left a small pile of half-eaten dumpling wrappers on the plate. The fillings themselves are pretty good, so it's a pity that they should be so crudely encased.
I should note that the siumai at Tai Wu are excellent--the best I've had this side of the Pacific--worth the trek from mid-Peninsula. It's the dumplings with semi-translucent skins that pull down the marks of an otherwise very good kitchen.
Or maybe it's deliberate: a dimsum chef once told us that he had to make his cheung fun much thicker than he would have liked because his clientele complained that the thin, silky wrappings he started out making did not fill their stomachs enough.
There were just 2 dishes for me that fell in the "just good" (not bad!) category...the Veg.roast goose, and fried crispy tofu skin with shrimp. These were good i really like tofu skin whether fried or braised..but these 2 dishes got lost among the REALLY VERY GOOD to GREAT other dishes that we shared! This place was a real find (although I think I had been there before...Deja Chow Vue......) I know i have been to Valerio's a great Philipino Bakery...I got some terrific fresh pastries and bread and chicken and a pork baked bun both with big pieces of meat and hard boiled egg, and perfectly balanced slightly sweet sauce...I was one happy (and stuffed) Chowhound!
Thank you Pilinut for arranging this outing! I will definitely return and soon....
We learned today that you don't have to show up with a friend of the owner to get some very good dim sum at Tai Wu. While we missed some of the special dishes we had last time (especially the special chicken salad) the quality of the food was still top notch.
The chiu chow dumplings were just as good as last time. We also got lucky with some new treats-- the "Chinese cake", Sweet potato sesame ball, and Deep Fried Egg Yolk Ball were all excellent. The Bean Curd Skin Roll w/ Shrimp was pretty uninteresting. The fried rice was better than most but I wouldn't order it again with dim sum because it's so filling and they serve a huge portion. My appreciation of some of the dishes was diminished because I got so full so quickly.
The Deep Fried Egg Yolk Ball, with a runny salty egg yolk in the middle surrounded by a thin layer of mochi coated with thin sliced almonds was really good, but then I have never met a dim sum sweet with hot egg yolk in the middle that I didn't really like. Unlike the versions of egg yolks in buns that lose quality by getting harder if you don't eat them promptly, the almond coating kept the inside hot and soft for a long time.
The lobster dumplings didn't seem as as juicy and flavorful as my memory of last time but the dish came after I was already pretty full. The pieces of lobster in the salty egg coating were so good it didn't matter how full I was-- they were the high point of the meal for me.
My next favorite after the lobster pieces was the roast pork. Both the pork and suckling pig have the crispiest, most flavorful skin I've had anywhere. I give the pork the edge because of its thicker, juicier and very tender meat. It tasted better eaten in conjunction with the skin than with the hoisin sauce provided.
By the time I got a piece of the chicken claw everyone else liked so much it was stone cold and I was so full I could barely eat another bite. I still thought it was good but will need another try to see if I'm as impressed as the others. A good excuse to return soon!
An excellent array of fine dim sum! I believe that Tai Wu is definitely on the up-swing compared to my last visit (a couple of years ago).
My faves are in line with pilinut and cynsa; the "kitchen sink Chinese cake" was so tasty - watch for the strolling ladies with trays as this is not on the menu (I don't think). A conversation with the manager provided info that this is something new on the local dim sum scene, I guess from Hong Kong.
Both the suckling pig and regular roast pig were so nice, juicy meat, crispy skin, probably some of the best I've had.
Most anything with salted egg makes me happy so I really enjoyed the pumpkin and the lobster - both nicely done.
Sweets: #050 salty egg yolk ball - didn't ring any bells with any of us but we decided to go for it - turned out to be 3 balls to a serving, the size of sesame balls. The outside was sliced almonds. This was not a heavy mochi ball but rather had thin walls with a salted egg yolk center. The deep frying process created a caramelized exterior. Very tasty and a fun surprise! Cynsa's photos are terrific and will make it easier to remember this particular morsel.
Haven't had the fried milk before and really liked it - crispy, sweet, dipped in sweetened condensed milk...
As already mentioned, some of the best chicken feet ever.
The sweet potato sesame balls with red bean filling were very good - much tastier than ordinary sesame balls - again watch for the tray ladies - these are not round, rather are sort of oblong shaped and are more orange in color - glad we snagged them.
Overall I felt that we received very good service. I look forward to returning again soon - maybe even some Saturday or Sunday to see what extra special goodies are available during prime time!
re: Ruth Lafler
Yes, this is the same Mr. Fong. I heard he sold or gave up the Foster City "Mr. Fong" location, though there is still a smaller Tai Wu in Foster City, beside Ranch 99 on Foster City Blvd. The last time I was at "Mr. Fong " in Foster City a few years ago, it was underwhelming: I would never have bothered with the food at Tai Wu/Mr. Fong in Daly City had our anonymous friend not taken us there. One needs trustworthy friends to keep one up to date on these dimsum quality cycles!
Tai Wu/Mr. Fong
950 King Plz, Daly City, CA 94015
Tai Wu Restaurant
1080 Foster City Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404
my faves of the table: Chinese Cake, chicken claw with black beans, Chiu Chow dumplings, and the Sweet Potato Red Bean jin duey. There were no disappointments on the table and the service and dim sum quality were consistent with our last chowing. Excellent company of chowhounds!
next time we chow at Tai Wu: soya tofu
The King Plaza also has a wonderful bakery with Coconut buns - Pan de Coco at Valerio's Tropical Bakeshop. The "sliced bread" is sweet and perfect for French toast or milk bread; the donuts are sweet and dense and just slightly wonderful - empanadas and ube pies...the choices will make your head spin.