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Dongbei and Shanghainese at Bamboo Garden in Mountain View


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Dongbei and Shanghainese at Bamboo Garden in Mountain View

Melanie Wong | Dec 8, 2010 12:12 AM

In another thread about two new Chinese restaurants in Cupertino Village, ckshen and KK referred to Bamboo Garden in Mountain View.

William and I gave it a try last week. In the cold and rain, the idea of Northeast (Dongbei) food sounded so appealing. This is the third restaurant I’ve patronized at this address. At the first one some years ago, we had to endure a shouting matching between the husband and wife owners followed by a dramatic exit by the wife. When the next iteration, Shanghai Family Restaurant, appeared shortly after, we figured they got a divorce and sold out. Now enter Bamboo Garden, still flying the “Grand Opening” banner promoting Shanghai and “Mandarin” cuisine. We chatted with the friendly female proprietress (who speaks excellent English) and learned that she is from a small city not far from Beijing. We asked her to point us toward the Dongbei specialties on the menu.

First up, Pork with Mustard Tuber soup, $9.95 (small). I’d gravitated toward the lamb version, but the owner said the pork was better to her taste. The housemade pickled cabbage added a tangy lilt to temper the fatty richness of the thin shavings of pork belly poached in the light stock. With wide cellophane noodles, the soup was so satisfying on a chilly night. I’ll mention that the serving size was at least three quarts, more of a medium than a small size tureen. If you like pork and sauerkraut, this dish is for you.

Then from the section of (unmarked) Dongbei specialties: House special spareribs stew string bean (sic), $9.95. The owner admitted that she doesn’t like eggplant and steered us toward the green bean version of this dish. Another giant serving and not much to look at, but the aroma of star anise and other sweet spices that wafted up from the plate when it landed on the table was amazing. Yet while very aromatic, the seasoning was quite restrained and did not overwhelm the flavor of the tender pork. The spareribs were hacked into bite-size pieces with a good amount of fat on them still. The juices were slightly thickened by concentration and gelatin from stewing and not by starch. Soft boiled green beans suited my brother, and they soaked up a lot of the stewy flavor. Despite having a Dongbei sparerib stew at two other places, this is the first time I really “got it”. Maybe there’s a weather play here, but I liked this one very much.

House Special Spareribs Stew String Bean (sic) photo

From the Shanghai side of the menu, we had to try the xiao long bao, offered with a “crab paste” option here. The very soupy, extremely thin-skinned pork and crab xiao long bao, 6/$6.95, had thin but strong walls to contain the sloshing soup inside. The pork filling was a bit coarse and had just a few shreds of crab but the flavor was quite good. And, these each had more than a Chinese soup spoon full of juices inside.

Crab and Pork Xiao Long Bao (XLB) photos

We also tried the Shanghai style pan fried buns with pork AKA sheng jian bao, 6/$5.95. I’d asked the owner if these were very soupy and she described them as “juicy”. They were fried nicely with golden brown bottoms. But they do not squirt like the ones at Shanghai Flavor Shop and the flavor tends toward bland.

Sheng Jian Bao photos

The complimentary dessert was coconut milk, tapioca and taro sweet soup, and very good. The tab was about $40 and we had a lot to take home.

My brother returned here soon after with a friend to have the crab XLB again. He also tried the Preserved Pork and Bamboo soup and says that it’s not as rich as he’s had at other Shanghainese restaurants. He also tried the House Special Knuckle (tipang) and enjoyed that.

The menu also includes a three dishes for $19.95 section (in Chinese) – anything interesting?

Prices are quite reasonable with generous portion size. Communication is easy. The hearty Dongbei dishes will be just the ticket for winter time. Bamboo Garden is worth checking out.

Shanghai Flavor Shop
888 Old San Francisco Rd, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

Bamboo Garden
108 S Rengstorff Ave, Mountain View, CA 94040

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