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Mar 6, 2013 09:15 PM

Looking for 'Best Of' for Chinese and other ethnic [South Bay]

What are the top Chinese and non-Chinese ethnic restaurants in the South Bay?

Thanks for any recommendations or pointers to articles (newspaper) on the subject.

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  1. Vesta- great ethnic neopolitan pizza

    1. I suggest you read this
      for first time users and also try the search function in the upper right hand corner. Search hint try "best".

      1 Reply
      1. re: wolfe

        wolfe, thanks for the link.

        You folks probably get a lot of requests (like mine) from people who don't us the site's Search feature.

        Actually, before posting I searched for

        best chinese restaurant in south bay

        and, oddly, got a lot of hits for restaurants not in the south bay and a lot of non-Chinese restaurants. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but obviously I have not figured out how to use chowhound's Search feature effectively yet.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Robert, thanks very much for the helpful reply!

          I read through those threads, and Puro Peru in Sunnyvale and Dishdash in Sunnyvale look promising.

          Do you have an opinion about chef Chu's , by any chance? I have not been there for decades (I moved away from the Bay but visit there periodically).

          1. re: SimSportPlyr

            The only tips I have for that area are to go to the Vietnamese food courts at Grand Century Mall and next to the Lion supermarket on Tully, and to Habana Cuba in San Jose (best Cuban I've found in the Bay Area). I don't get down there often.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Robert, thanks for mentioning Habana Cuba. I like Cuban food, although I don't have a lot of experience with it. I fondly remember going to a small Cuban place for burritos in the early 1980s in Sunnyval or Mt View (forget which).

              Looking at the reviews for Habana Cuba, it gets good reviews, although a few people call the food 'bland'. Maybe this is a problem with expectations, that the food is not as spicy as other Latin food?

              1. re: SimSportPlyr

                Some people find traditional Cuban cuisine bland, I think that's why it tends to get fusion-ized around here. Cubans pretty much never use chile peppers. Onion, garlic, bell pepper, sour orange juice, oregano, cumin, black pepper, that's about it for seasonings. Sometimes they use a lot of garlic.

              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                At Grand Century Mall on Tuesday we had some very flavorful Mi Quang and snail rolls (from the same booth I think)— the periwinkle rolls were especially good. Two of us thought the banh khot was not as good as on previous visits— the cakes were flat without as much flavor as before (but they didn’t skimp on the shrimp). Though the GCM banh khot booth is run by Vung Tau you might do better at the restaurant itself— my one time at Vung Tau (two or three years ago) the banh khot was excellent.

                Bun Bo Hue An Nam has a reputation for great (many say the best) bun bo hue. I really like it but don’t have enough experience to compare to others. Their pork pâté (available for sale to go as well as in the soup) is really good.

                I second RWCfoodie on Chef Chu’s excellent banquets, though I have been there with friends who ordered poorly and been disappointed.

                1. re: charliemyboy

                  Yes, I thought the Mi Quang was pretty tasty and those snail rolls were an unexpected surprise. They were called Cha Oc Huong and were described on the sign as "steamed periwinkle snail meat" at $1.00 each. I believe they were made with pork so it was sort of like a fine grained sausage without a casing, wrapped in foil and steamed. Nice little bite!

                  I was disappointed in the banh khot. Having had them at GCM before I can truly say that they've slipped quite a bit (or maybe it was just whoever was cooking that day). Totally not on the level of Vung Tau's stand alone spot in SJ.

                  1. re: charliemyboy

                    So, by 'ordering poorly', do you mean that your friends did not order Chef Chu's best dishes? Or, does it mean that they didn't really know the dishes they were ordering and were disappointed because they were expecting something different?

                    'ordering poorly' is not a term I'm familiar with.

                    1. re: SimSportPlyr

                      To me it’s the same as the fairly common idiom “choosing poorly” in the context of a restaurant. In this particular case I meant they didn’t order Chef Chu’s best dishes, though of course that’s subjective. I was trying to convey that Chef Chu’s menu has some pretty dull stuff in spite of their putting on some awesome banquets. I’d contrast that with Cooking Papa, where if I order at random I’m probably going to like almost everything I get.

                      1. re: charliemyboy

                        charliemyboy, thanks for the clarification!

                    2. re: charliemyboy

                      A Vietnamese friend says the GCM spot is not related to the Vung Tau standalone spots. I'll ask the next time I go.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Ah hah! That explains it. Someone on yelp said they were related but the product is very different.

                  2. re: SimSportPlyr

                    FWIW: We've enjoyed some very special meals at Chef Chu's. These were banquet meals with items not on the regular menu. In our opinion, they use very high quality raw ingredients and prepare them with great care.

                    1. re: RWCFoodie

                      RWCFoodies, thanks for the feedback about Chef Chu's. I appreciate it. I'll have to re-visit that restaurant.

                      1. re: SimSportPlyr

                        You're welcome - Charliemyboy has a very good point about Chef Chu's and the need to order well (but that's true pretty much everywhere...).

                2. I don't know about top, but these places should be pretty decent

                  Chinjin Eastern House - Islamic Chinese (San Jose)

                  Little Sheep Mongolian Hotpot (Cupertino)

                  Jade Cathay (San Jose) for Cantonese. May be similar to HK Saigon Seafood Harbor (Sunnyvale). Jade Cathay seems more promising.

                  Cooking Papa (Santa Clara) for casual Cantonese, rice plates, noodles, congee etc

                  Taste Good Beijing Cuisine (Milpitas) - probably the best Beijing style food in the South Bay (until you get to Beijing Restaurant in San Francisco). Apparently they serve lamb head too.

                  Shanghai Flavor Shop (Sunnyvale) - pan fried pork buns with juicy soup inside. The place is a bit of a dive, but they do this item well. Some prefer going to Cupertino Village or Cupertino/Homestead for that, but it's more of a personal preference

                  New China Station (San Jose) for Vietnamese Chinese style Cantonese BBQ (roast duck etc). Heard you can pre order roast goose.

                  Chef Zhao Bistro in Mountain View has pretty decent Sichuanese food.

                  Chef Xiu (Mountain View) does some good Northern style style specialties, good value and affordable.

                  Bamboo Garden is pretty well liked (Mountain View), mostly Shanghainese and some Dongbei as well.

                  Liou's House (Milpitas) has a pretty good preorder banquet menu of select regional Chinese dishes (mostly non Northern), along the vein of 5 Joy in Foster City. The owner or cook used to be the personal chef of former VP in Taiwan. Honey ham, 8 treasure stuffed duck, lots of good stuff, but you'll need to call ahead to reserve and bring a party with you.

                  South Bay does have two "Chiu Chow Cantonese" seafood restaurants (sadly nothing like their counterparts in Hong Kong) that I don't believe upper Peninsula or SF has at all. Twins Royal and Golden Island, both in Milpitas. Though I'm still trying to figure out what is Chiu Chow about Golden Island, will have to drop by to peruse the menu next time I'm there. Might find a time to try out Twins Royal one of these nights.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: K K

                    KK, hey, that looks like a great list. Thanks!

                    'Islamic Chinese'?

                    1. re: SimSportPlyr

                      For some reason some people do not realize there is a long history of Islam in China and large population of Chinese Muslims. They eat halal Chinese food.

                      1. re: PeterL

                        I did not realize that 'Islamic Chinese' is a separate category of cuisine. What is it like?

                      2. re: SimSportPlyr

                        Hui / Muslim Chinese cuisines feature lamb and beef, obviously no pork, kebabs and other grilled meats, sauerkraut-like pickled cabbage, more wheat than rice noodles, dumplings, flatbreads. Chinjin is good.

                        Darda is a Hong Kong Cantonese place but they have a few Xinjiang dishes including an excellent cumin lamb.

                        There are also halal Chinese restaurants that serve more generic Chinese food. Muslim Chinese places aren't always halal, e.g. Old Mandarin Islamic in SF serves beer.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Robert, thanks for the informative into to Muslim Chinese food!

                          Does the 'spiciness' tend to be more like Hunan/Szechuan or more like Cantonese/Mandarin?

                          1. re: SimSportPlyr

                            Most Muslim Chinese dishes are not spicy, but those that are can be pretty assertive about it.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Very interesting and intriguing, Robert! Thanks.

                      3. re: K K

                        +1 to Cooking Papa (good luck parking) and Liou's House.

                        Also Liang's Village in Cupertino for Taiwanese. They went through a bit of a slump recently, but they're back on form. Onion noodle and beef roll.

                        Liang's Village
                        19772 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino, CA 95014

                        1. re: K K

                          Went to Golden Island about 10 years ago with my parents, who said it had a Chiu Chow leaning menu.

                          The meal was overshadowed by an incident where a mentally ill customer wrecked havoc (threw dishes off the table, knocked over restaurant props and grabbed one of our party members), so my apologies for not remembering more. I recall us ordering a platter with deep fried shrimp balls, deep fried crab balls, marinated duck and jelly fish as well as an oyster omelette. There was more, but I don't recall it. Thanks to that incident, we were too traumatized to return, despite the food being OK.

                          We tried Twins Royal Cuisine a few months back after also recognizing it as a Chiu Chow leaning place and ordered a similar selection (marinated duck, oyster omelette, deep fried shrimp/crab balls). Overall, Twins wasn't so good and had a tendency to overseason the food on top of the execution not being there.

                          1. re: Jon914

                            Thanks for the update. Sounds like I should set expectations ultra low for those two places if I still want to bother. But it can't be worse than Men Kee on Noriega in SF...the Chinjiew sauce chicken was a joke (was really black pepper sauce + celery + bell pepper stir fried chicken), amongst their other offerings. But for people who never had Cantonese style Chiu Chow, those two might be the only game in town that offers a tiny glimpse of the big picture.

                            1. re: Jon914

                              While we're doing the long look back at Golden Island, here's a dinner report from 2002. We were accompanied by a Hong Kong ex-pat who longed for some of the flavors of her childhood.

                              And my lunch in 2009,

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Thanks for the links.

                                If there's one braised duck I enjoyed, it was ironically at Champagne Soup in Milbrae, where I had previously chastised the other braised duck dish.

                                On a second visit, we ordered a different braised duck (the one that isn't marked as house special), and it came out much better. The duck was succulent, meaty and tender, and flavor-wise, the chef did a nice job balancing out soy sauce, black vinegar and a host of spices (such as whole star anise).

                                I wouldn't consider it Chiu Chow, but if you've had braised whole soy sauce chicken before, it's the same concept where they braise the whole thing, versus giving you a few pieces + filler.

                                One other place that does a Chiu Chow-style duck is at Saigon Seafood Harbor, where it's under the BBQ section alongside the normal Roast Duck, Hainan Chicken, etc. I don't consider it to be authentic, but it's not bad.

                          2. Even though this thread may continue for awhile, I want to take the occasion to thank everyone who took the time to reply.

                            Your suggestions have been very helpful for me, and I now have a list of previously-unknown-to-me restaurants on my To-Visit list.

                            Many thanks. You folks are great!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: SimSportPlyr

                              I hope you report back when you do visit these's always good to hear what people think of recommendations!

                              Dave MP