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Apr 8, 2011 12:00 AM

Chowdown Report: Crab•Crab•Crab + Duck Dinner at Yum’s Bistro in Fremont

The ‘hounds enjoyed our Chinese New Year dinner at Yum’s Bistro in Fremont so much, , we hatched a plan to return for the crab specialties on the menu before season’s end. Tonight twelve of us celebrated Dungeness crab with the rites of Bacchanalia. KK’s list of drool-worthy preps was circulated ahead of time for consideration to help us narrow down to order three different styles.

1. Hong Kong spicy crab ("Under Bridge style", lots of chilis and garlic
)2. Salt & pepper crab
3. Ginger scallion crab
4. Jakarta chili crab with steamed buns
5. Salted egg yolk batter crab
6. Typhoon shelter crab (bei fung tong with deep fried garlic xo sauce)
7. Steamed crab with Chinese wine sauce and garlic
8. Hunan crab in clay pot
9. Baked crab with butter and black pepper
10. Baked crab with cheese and butter sauce
plus not on the menu,
11. Soy sauce king marinade and garlic crab
12. Chiu chow style cold crab

Our waiter, Jason, steered us away from the Chinese wine sauce crab, one of our top choices, saying the sauce would clash with our many bottles of (Western) wine. Our final picks were:
Soy sauce marinade and fried garlic sautéed crab
Hunan crab in clay pot with vermicelli
Jakarta chili crab with mantoh
For twelve of us to share, we ordered two 2.5-pounders ($28) of each style, and that turned out to be the perfect amount. I also requested that they be served in that order from mildest to richest.

But before the crab fest, we started with a special advance order soup on this chilly day. The product of simmering chicken feet, pork, dried scallops, duck bones, duck gizzards, Chinese almonds, and much more for six hours, the cleansing broth was served up in a huge tureen with long-boiled peppery watercress, whole coins of dried scallop, and sliced gizzards.

Then the three crab preps, served up sequentially with a clearing and replacing dinner plates after each, and changes of lemon-scented hot tea finger bowls.

Next, the boneless duck stuffed with eight treasures. The barley-based dressing exploded from the well-browned whole duck. Bathed in a rich brown gravy, the whole shebang was ringed by broccoli florets. Lotus seeds, Virginia ham, black mushroom, slices of tender ginger, roasted chestnuts, dried scallop and more studded the filling.

Alongside, water spinach (ong choy) stir-fried until barely softened and still crisp with a ton of fragrant garlic.

Then, an off-menu item, abalone sauce cho mein, silky and firm wide noodles bathed in umami-laden juices and tossed with thick slabs of shitake mushroom and tender greens.

And, finally dessert, birthday peach buns filled with sweet bean paste and a hot soup of tapioca and taro coconut cream.

Our photographer will be sharing pictures soon, and our wine scribe has the details for the bottles opened tonight. Let’s hear from my fellow ‘hounds about their favorites at the table.

Yum's Bistro
4906 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont, CA 94555

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  1. A special thanks to Melanie for organizing the dinner. It was great getting together with like-minded 'hounds for a crab feast.

    Of the three crab preparations, my favorite was the soy sauce/garlic marinade. It bordered just on the edge of being too salty but had me licking at the leftover shell shards to get the last of the sauce off of it. Salt and garlic just push the right buttons with me. The clay pot preparation of crab was new to me and while good, it didn't best the simplicity of the soy sauce/garlic. I did enjoy the chili crab as well, but having recently had the similar chili crab in Singapore (with deep fried, not steamed mantou), I was disappointed that it wasn't the same. (I'm completing ignoring that the crabs in Singapore are a different variety.) I'm not complaining mind you, and Fremont is a whole lot easier to get to than Singapore.

    The soup that kicked off the meal was spectacular. The flavors of the ingredients melded beautifully. Normally, dried scallops and I do not get along. In this preparation, the briny scallop flavor had mellowed from the long simmer and disappeared into the delicate soup. I think I could have drunk just the broth and been more than satisfied.

    The duck was great, being mostly boneless and filled with a well-balanced melange of ingredients. Were I not on a diet, I would have chowing down on a lot more of this dish.

    All in all, it was a wonderful dinner and celebration with Melanie. I was privileged to take part!

    1. With apologies for the delay, photos:

      I've always loved Dungeness crab, with happy childhood memories of fingers messy with bits of crab meat and melted butter. Restaurant preparations often fall short, with overly dry meat or excessive glop. Happily, the crabs at Yum's Bistro were delicious.

      The soy sauce marinated crab was addictively sweet and savory and garlicky. From the aroma, I'm pretty sure the marinade contained Black Soy Sauce or a similar thick, salty-sweet variation. Although it was fried, it did not seem oily. Highly recommended for garlic lovers.

      The Hunan crab in a clay pot was multidimensional. The chillies worked surprisingly well, delivering a quick jolt of heat but fading almost as quickly to allow you to enjoy all the flavors. The meat remained very succulent, while the bean threads captured the tasty juices that escaped. I eat a lot of spicy food, so this was a good level for me, but for some the "hot lips" caused by sucking on the shells might be a bit too much.

      I found the Jakarta chili crab less exciting than the first two. The rich gravy-like sauce was fun to eat with the steamed bread, but it may have been a little too subtle to follow the strong flavors of the first two preparations.

      Aside from the crab, the soup broth was particularly amazing. After simmering for six hours, the chicken, pork, duck and dried scallop flavors fused into a smooth, rich, sweet miracle -- served in a tureen that could have fed twice as many. I look forward to enjoying some of the leftover soup very soon.

      I could go on, but I'm getting hungry.

      Yum's Bistro
      4906 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont, CA 94555

      1. OK, your friendly neighborhood wine scribe finally found some time this weekend....

        First wine opened was '10 Rose of Pinot Noir from Navarro Winery. Thirst quenching and well balanced.

        Next was non-vintage Gruet Brut from New Mexico. Very nice, but I can't say I paid too much attention to this one.

        Then there were a series of German Rieslings.
        '02 Serriger Schloss Saarsteiner Kabinett, Schloss Saarstein (Mosel, specifically Saar) - This was lovely. Nice acidity and minerality. Real Kabinett which these days is not so common (most Kabinett tastes like declassified Spatlese nowadays).
        '02 Rauenthaler Baiken Spatlese, Kloster Eberbach (Rheingau) - Fuller and richer than the previous wine. More peaches and ripe apples. 2 very different expressions of Riesling.
        '09 Dr L Riesling, Dr Loosen (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer) - Nice wine, especially given its pedigree. '09 was a riper vintage which helps non-vineyard designated wines not seem as severe as they can be.
        '90 Hochheimer Domdechaney Spatlese, Schloss Schonborn (Rheingau) - Unfortunately, this particular bottle was over-the-hill, showing no fruit notes whatsoever

        Next was a BADLY corked bottle of '04 Trimbach Riesling (yellow label) from Alsace.

        Then it was onto the two reds
        '09 Syrah collines rhodaniennes, Faury (Northern Rhone) - Excellent expression of Syrah (some olive and bacon notes), but some fairly fierce tannins at this stage.
        '07 Bourgueil "Franc de Pied", Breton (Loire) - Dynamite Cabernet Franc. Some brett, but it came across as a nice backing note rather than being a dominant feature.

        Oh yes, the food.... :)

        Of the three crab preps, it's hard to choose between the soy sauce/garlic and Hunan clay pot as my favorite. I loved both. As spicy as the Hunan one was, the spice didn't cover up the sweetness of the crab meat. Both were truly finger lickin' good!

        I could say more about the food (the duck and soup!!), but I gotta run. Melanie, thanks so much for organizing this. Simply terrific!

        1. WOW.... sounds delicious.

          1. Tonight four of us had a dinner to try a few dishes.

            This the second time I have had the chance to have the Crab with salted duck egg coating. It was as good as the one we had at Hakka during last Chinese New Year. The crab was very fresh and sweet.

            The other dishes were Cod Head and Fillet Tofu Clay Pot which was a delight in the taste was fresh, clear and the texture of the cod head was a wonder. Mongolian Beef, Hot and Sour Soup and Deep Fried Squad . All were good and none of these were out standing. But well worth a return trip.

            Clay Pot
            809 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

            1 Reply
            1. re: yimster

              Maybe we were hampered by not having a Cantonese speaking guest at our table, we tried to order the soy sauce crab and the waiter seemed perplexed and kept explaining the levels of spice on the menu dishes. We caved and ordered a Hong Kong Style Crab, a Clay Pot Crab, Peas Sprouts, and stir fried vegetables.

              The crab was juicy and flavorful, but seemed a tad small as the waiter asked if we wanted the "big crabs" and the charge was $30 per crab.

              The clay pot had a delicious sauce that soaked into a bed of glass noodles. We were not provided with lemon water for fingers, or service was definitely rough....had a hard time ever getting the waiter back, for water, tea or rice.