Restaurants & Bars Minneapolis-St. Paul

[MSP] Jun Bo Review

L and R | | May 24, 2007 11:32 AM

My husband and I are coastal transplants to the midwest. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay area while I still think of NYC as home and we sorely missed the availability of Chinese food when we first moved to Minnesota. After spending four years here, we have found adequate Chinese restaurants but no Dim Sum houses that come close to the ones in NYC, San Francisco or even Chicago Chinatown. Therefore, we were thrilled to read about Jun Bo when it was rated the best Dim Sum Restaurant by the City Pages. We also read the mostly favorable reviews on Chow Hound and decided to give it a try.

We went on Friday, May 18, 2007, around 5pm and the place was pretty empty. There were only two other tables of two, one Caucasian and another Asian. I overheard the servers speaking Cantonese although the music videos playing were mostly in Mandarin. The servers were friendly, though not the most efficient, and we ordered both dim sum from the cart sitting in front of the dining room and off the menu. Although there was still steam emanating from the metal baskets, the dim sum was definitely not as fresh as it could be and the taste suffered consequently. We ordered some of the basics: har gau, siu mai, cilantro dumpling, sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves, Shanghai soup dumplings, and pork wrapped in tofu skin. I asked about the bitter melon fritters and was told that they were out.

Only the Shanghai soup dumplings were freshly made/steamed (the server asked us to wait 15 minutes), while the rest had been sitting inside the cart (for who knows how long) and we could taste the difference. Whereas the Shanghai dumplings were good, the others were only adequate. My husband compared the dim sums to ones he could get from a take-out place in Oakland or San Francisco Chinatown, and only at a fraction of the price we paid ($38, with $5 tip). He also pointed out that the frozen dim sum from Asian grocery stores, when freshly steamed and not past their expiration date, will taste just as good! He (an excellent cook) added that the pork wrapped in tofu skin just didn't have all the various seasoning and vegetables we have come to expect and wasn't wrapped as skillfully. Similarly, the sticky rice could have been seasoned instead of just plain with a filled center.

My husband loves char siu chow fun (barbecued pork with wide rice noodles) and orders it in every new Chinese restaurant we try as a measurement of the restaurant. We specifically asked our server whether the pork chow fun on the menu was the char siu chow fun and the answer was in the affirmative. The Chinese writing on the menu stated it was, but he wanted to be certain and inquired in Cantonese while I confirmed in Mandarin. We were very surprised when the dish brought to our table only contained braised pork. The dish lacked the distinctive flavor imparted by the char siu although it was adequately prepared otherwise.

The service was adequate. We may have had better service because the restaurant was fairly empty, the two seated tables left and were replaced by two parties of three, or because we were Chinese and spoke the language. Even then, the water glasses weren't filled as quickly as at some other dim sum restaurants. We didn't order any tea since the temperature that day was in the high 70's with some humidity.

We have tried the dim sum at Yangtze (8/2004) and Yummy (2005) and feel that Jun Bo is slightly better. Unfortunately, Jun Bo can't really compare to the numerous Dim Sum restaurants in Chicago's small Chinatown, much less to the ones in the cities of NY, SF, Vancouver or Hong Kong.

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