Cantonese with Creative Flair

A new Chinese restaurant in Cupertino, iRestaurant, puts a contemporary spin on Cantonese dishes, using organic produce when possible and less oil and salt than the norm, says Melanie Wong. Its chefs hail from hotels in Guangzhou (Canton) and Dynasty Chinese Seafood in Cupertino, while its owner was formerly a partner in House of Sichuan, the previous restaurant at this location.

The i-Combo-002 set menu serves six to eight people for $128, and shows off some of the restaurant’s creative dishes, like a mixed fruit and shrimp salad. Melanie wasn’t sure about the “fruit” part, “but those giant shrimp were glorious in their sweet and snappy succulence. Hard-cooked eggs, garlicky croutons, cashews, toasted pumpkin seeds, honey-glazed walnuts, roasted peanuts, and maybe more were tossed with organic bitter greens and a cream dressing.”

Sweet and delicate stir-fried squid with sugar peas and baby corn exemplifies the Cantonese cooking ethos of simple and fresh preparations that highlight natural flavors, says Melanie. So does the exemplary seafood tofu soup, which was vibrant and clean-tasting, with a light hand on the thickener.

A dish of organic spinach poached in chicken broth and topped with firm, salty shreds of Virginia ham was also a hit. “The greens were so silky and exquisite in flavor, I had to compliment the chef for hitting it perfectly,” Melanie says.

The charbroiled whole sea bass with garlic, butter, and dill had skin so crispy it seemed deep-fried. Presented on banana leaves, it comes with a side of sweetened mayo. And the minced salted fish and chicken stir-fried rice is made with a minimum of oil and has a lovely toasty fragrance, while the tiny bits of fish infuse it with “an uncommon savoriness.”

Stir-fried dried shrimps with shredded taro may be an acquired taste, but Melanie warmed to it eventually. “Crispy shreds of taro were stir-fried with umami-laden dried and reconstituted large shrimp, puffed long rice, juicy stalks of intensely flavored Chinese celery, barely softened slivers of sweet onion, and sesame seeds.”

Dessert was a very good chilled coconut milk soup with tapioca pearl, litchi, and snow ears fungi.

They’re still pushing the envelope here: Melanie’s group was asked to taste-test an experimental dish of “sweet shrimp steamed on sections of organic Chinese okra topped with fried garlic.” It wasn’t perfect, but showed that these chefs aren’t interested in dishing out the same old stuff.

The regular lunch menu features familiar dishes like mapo tofu and Singapore-style stir-fried noodles, but they’re pretty bland, says Claudette. Better are the pan-fried chow mein, in a particularly flavorful dark sauce with just-cooked seafood, meats, and baby bok choy; and beef chow fun with half-cooked egg, which has a scrambled egg sauce fragrant with wok hay.

iRestaurant [South Bay]
20007 Stevens Creek Boulevard, Cupertino
408-777-2988

Board Links: Wo Choy @ i Restaurant, Cupertino
New Chinese resto in Cupertino

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