I had a dim sum lunch at Saigon today (3150 Pierce st., Richmond 559 9388) - Just north of the Albany hump, east of the freeway.
If you want a big dim sum hall easily accessible to Berkeley this is it. The grade for the dim sum is "B", but I'm comparing it to SF ("A" grade). I honestly don't know of other dim sum places in the Berkeley environs with which to compare Saigon. I got there by asking an Asian man fixing my friend's computer a couple of miles away for his favorite local restaurant. He said, "You won't find better dim sum for 50 miles around." Sorry to disagree. But I would go back there again for lunch, if in the area. Certainly not worth a trip from SF though.
OK, I know, cut to the chow. At 11 a.m. there were probably 25 people sitting there in front of empty plates waiting for dim sum. When we left at 12:30 there were probably 125 people there. I ordered pure porridge $2.50. It was perfect. Donut was perfect $2.00.
So my hopes were high...the shrimp in the various dim sum did not have the sparkly sweet shrimpy flavor you love. Not bad in any way but just a clean proteiny flavor and a little tough. Most dim sum are $2.50 - $3.50/4 pieces. Har gow skin is thin, almost transparent and a bit rubbery. Siu Mai are kind of salty but nice and porky. Little pork buns are fine. Deep fried, very pretty, lacy big shrimp balls ($3.50/4)with duck sauce would have been wonderful if the shrimp had been higher quality. They also feature chicken feet, lots of taro things, the big crab claw breaded fish mousse things ($4.50/2) and egg custard tarts. Overall, the dim sum does not come out fast enough.
Unfortunately I didn't see the non-dim sum menu until we were leaving. What's on this menu is the reason I'll be back the next time I have to go over that way.
There are a lot of duck and clay pot choices. There are fish, lobster, and crab tanks (all prices for these are "seasonal") and they feature lots of choices for these "live" items(chiu chow style, supreme broth, satay, xo sauce, sashimi, butter cooked, wine sauce, sam pan style, preserved turnip with shallots, as well as the usual, like black bean sauce, salt and pepper, sweet and sour, etc.). They also serve calamari, sea bass, and scallop dishes on this menu, and "live shrimp." This must be the "good" shrimp that does not show up in the dim sum. They also feature about 4 animals I consider endangered, so I won't tell you about those if you don't mind.
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