Yang BBQ aka Chef Yang's, New in Cupertino Village
After finding Smiling House shuttered and a call to i-Restaurant proved it was also closed, I packed up Mom, Auntie, and my brother to head over to the other side of 280 to Cupertino Village where we'd have many choices for dinner. We had a very good dinner at Joy Luck Palace, and afterwards I did a quick walk around part of the shopping center to see what might be new.
On the side shared with Southland Taste, I found a new spot called Chef Yang's (on the outside signage) or Yang BBQ (on the menu). This is a small space with bare bones tables and chairs for casual service and the heady scent of cumin and smoke in the air. I asked the sullen cashier what style of food it served. She answered, "This is Chinese food." My next question asked which part of China and the reply was, "In the north." Continuing to pull teeth, my follow-up query iterated Harbin, Beijing, etc., and she answered, "XinJiang". Bingo!
No take-out menus available for further study, so I only had a quick peek at the offerings. Interestingly, there were several pork dishes, so presumably, this is not a muslim place. The diners at small tables had a central platter to tackle piled high with stacks of meat-laden, metal skewers. And I spotted something that looked like a hotdog on a stick, fanned and charred along diagonal slashes.
Looks worthy of chowhound investigation to me, hope to hear from local 'hounds who check it out.
Although JLP is more well known for its dim sum service (which I'm a fan of), Joy Luck Palace does a decent dinner too, but they've always had trouble filling the house at dinner. They do have a perpetual service / attitude problem, but most larger places are guilty of that to some degree.
We like the set dinner where you can pick out a soup, BBQ, 2 substantial entrees and a live seafood for $80-ish.
Last time we went, we picked out a daily soup, steamed chicken, stir-fried squab, lamb stew, 4 princess clams. Everything was pretty much spot on that time.
Nearly 10 months later, I returned to try it myself. In the interim, a few more Xinjiang-Beijing skewers places have opened in the South Bay and San Francisco, as well as pancake specialists and dumpling/noodle makers, the other two legs of the Northern Chinese xiao chi snack trio. “hyperbowler” reported on San Mateo’s Street Food, serving a similar menu, here,
Arriving after 8pm, the place was packed on a Friday night. We put our name down, did some more shopping and had a brief wait when we returned, probably 45 minutes total before something opened up. Luckily the surly staffer I’d encountered before seems to be gone, and the staff were quite friendly, accommodating of my mom, and bilingual. Single skewer orders are fine here, good thing as I would have hated to buy double amounts of what turned out to be mostly unsatisfactory food. I asked for everything “spicy”.
First to come out, the spinach tofu soup. A huge bowl, the spinach and tofu were fresh and plentiful in a very light colored, near flavorless stock thickened with egg white. Some of the white was uncooked and floating on the surface in clear blobs. Ick.
As the skewers come out from the kitchen, they’re placed on a paper-topped communal plate on the table. A couple of times, we were served something that I didn’t order. When I pointed it out, the waiter would pick it up off our plate and then take it to the correct table. At this point I was wishing that my seat was facing the kitchen so that I could see if our food had made a similar transit around the dining room, put down on someone else’s plate and then shuffled back to us. Another ick.
Here’s what we tried:
“A” cai – Turned out to be the best bite of the meal, stalks of crunchy, juicy A-vegetable strung on a skewer and brushed with spicy marinade.
Sausage – Actually a hot dog, but fancified with some elaborate knife cuts that make it fan out when cooked. The best of the meats. Notice that the servers just pile each skewer on top of whatever remains uneaten on the plate.
String beans – Recommended by our server. Horribly tough and overly mature, mostly inedible.
Yam – My next favorite item, the caramelization gave it a little different taste than just the cumin-chile spice mix used on everything which had rapidly become boring and monotonous.
Chicken wings – Undercooked, red, raw and flabby flesh that I spit out.
Beef and lamb skewers – Both cooked to well-done, not quite as criminal for the lamb which could still be chewed, but the beef one had adhered to the skewer and had to be chipped off then turned out to be too tough to bite into.
Wondering if anyone else has tried this spot?
re: Melanie Wong
If you're interested in more of this kind of restaurant (I've never been to one), there's one in Milpitas Square.
There's also another one in the "Times Square" plaza in Fremont, the one right off Mission Blvd. with the new Marina in it, but I don't recall the name.