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San Francisco Bay Area

Yi He Garden Millbrae report


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Restaurants & Bars San Francisco Bay Area

Yi He Garden Millbrae report

K K | | Jul 5, 2007 09:43 AM

This place used to be Jumbo Seafood (Cantonese) restaurant, and from what I was told it started going uphill right before it went out of business, so it a sense went out at the top of their game. Too bad I never got a chance to try it out.

Came to Yi-He last weekend to try this place out despite Gary's description of the anatomically incorrect XLB, and because of that avoided ordering it altogether.

The floor manager on duty was very polite and also chatty with us. We learned that Yi He is Taiwanese owned, and she herself was too. Other waitstaff spoke Mandarin and Cantonese to satisfy a majority of the local Chinese clientele. Decor is mildly impressive, very clean, with rather comfortable chairs.

The restaurant's specials on the Chinese signage outside state a few of their proudest offerings, which include a braised eel dish, a sticky rice roll of some sort (not fan tuan), soy milk, yoh tieo (fried dough stick), and a few others.

Ordered these for dinner:

garlic stir fried ong choy - finely diced garlic with this hollow stem veg. Lightly crunchy stem with soft juicy leaves. Quite well done but not superb like Joy in Foster City (who do an even better job at stir frying A-chai and arguably ong choy too. (In Mandarin it is called Kung Xin Tsai or hollow center/stem veg).

kung fu mien - This was a long but flat noodle dish with minced pork and sauce, quite delicate and tasty, along the style of Taiwanese "gan mien" (dry noodle), which is technically not dry per se, but is hot noodles with sauce over it, with some meat and other ingredients. I'll dare say this prep is not for everyone, but if you've had "gan mien" in Taiwan and like that you may enjoy this. The noodles I did not ask if it were made in house but would gladly satisfy. Not as wide as fettucine, but were cooked well al dente and had great texture. As temping as it is to always try the tried and true "beef noodle" or other standard yawny dishes, it is always more fun to opt for something different.

Chicken soup - "yuen zhong ji tang" - this is a small mini personal sized pot of stewed (range?) chicken soup with a few other ingredients. The container is a tad bit bigger than what they use at dim sum restaurants for sharks fin dumpling. The broth is fantastic, and arguably comes close to the same range chicken soup/broth at Din Tai Fung in Arcadia (Southern Cal) which is a famous item (but not as famous as thier XLB). There were little to no traces of MSG in this, very flavorful and quite a surprise. $5 to $6 if I remember correctly.

Tung Por Mahn Rou - I guess you can say this is braised "tung por" style pork belly meat in clay pot. Most Shanghainese restaurants would have this. But this restaurant takes it a step further. While this dish is a whopping $14.50, Yi He market this as one dish, two ways of eating it. They include six piping hot steamed white doughy buns on the side (in bamboo steamer), similar to the kind served with Peking Duck but bigger and softer, alongside a tray of condiments that include cilantro, roasted diced peanuts, sauce, sour veg/pickle. The idea is that you take a nice slice of pork belly, add the ingredients and sandwich them into the curvy white buns and you eat that together. And now you have the classic Taiwanese snack, "Ger Bao" or "Gua Bao". While I did not have this in Taiwan, Yi He's version was very pleasing. This is not only mentioned on the restaurant entrance's window, but also on the regular menu under "specials". The pork belly had some bite in it, although the meat was soft. The buns couldn't readily absorb the meat juices so it became soggy a bit quickly, but that could also be a preference thing for some.

Service was excellent, which is almost an oxymoron in a Chinese, let alone a Northern Chinese style restaurant. A very helpful and thoughtful floor manager really added to the dining experience. We observed her to also be really good with toddlers/kids, and going the extra mile to bring some cutesy kids bowls and plastic spoons/forks so they could play with them.

I over heard the floor manager tell a customer that their specialty here is the "tang bao" which is somewhat synonymous with XLB. "tang bao" translates directly to soup dumplings, and some restaurants throw people off into thinking XLB = tang bao which is not always the case at Bay Area restaurants. Some places do XLB that have a small amount of "meat juice" and of the one or two places I had "tang bao", a ton of liquid pours out from the dumpling upon breaking the skin.

I'll have to try an order of that next time at Yi He to see.

This place has a lot of potential. When I received the check, I also got a $3 off coupon for the next brunch visit (only good towards the Northern style dim sum, aka soy milk yoh tieo and others). I'll be back for sure.