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$1.79 Calamari and Excellent Boon Tong Gao


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$1.79 Calamari and Excellent Boon Tong Gao

Melanie Wong | Jul 26, 2006 07:16 PM

On Thursday we grabbed a late dim sum lunch out on Noriega. The last time I stopped here (too long a line to stay), the glass in the entry way had the Chinese characters for Tai Wu. Now, it's painted with "S & T Hong Kong Seafood". I don't know if this indicates yet another ownership change for the restaurant or a sub rosa name for another branch of Tai Wu.

We ordered from a check-off list. My mother noticed the sections priced at $1.79, but the print was too small for either of my parents to make out the dishes. Our waiter read them off to us. Mom picked a sticky rice roll and the salt and pepper calamari from the $1.79 list. We also ordered a plate of beef chow fun (ordered dry and hold the bean sprouts).

The calamari came out first, and it was a bigger serving than we expected for so little money. The texture of the squid was spot on, tender with just a bit of resistance. It was quite tasty too with red and green fresh chilis, deep-fried garlic bits, scallions, and a good dose of salt and pepper to highlight the sweet flavor of the squid. The batter was thicker than we like, but it was airy and not greasy. We liked this very much despite the tentacles being stuck together in a ball of batter.
Image of $1.79 salt and pepper squid -

The beef chow fun was excellent with a nice sear on the thin and tender slices of pounded beef. The rice noodles soaked up the beefy flavors. In lieu of bean sprouts, the plate included yellow leeks, green onions, and thick slices of charred yellow onion. At first my mother wrinkled her nose at the big onion pieces, but then she said, "The onions are good. Try it, they're sweet and still a little crisp."

The sticky rice wrapped with steamed bread was too starchy and blank for us. Still, we thought the sticky rice was done well, firm and chewy with a good amount of char siu, lop cheong, and dried shrimp. We saw some sang chow sticky rice go by and would order that instead next time. The har gao looked good, made with whole shrimp and thin translucent wrappers. But they were not as sweet and pristinely fresh as versions tried recently at SF's Great Eastern and Tai Wu in Foster City.

The star of this meal was the boon tong gao ($5). The wrapper of this large dumpling was so thin and fragile, almost gossamer-like. Inside, chunks of fresh scallop blended with shrimp, grass mushrooms, shreds of dried scallop, black mushroom, and more. And, oh the double-boiled soup! Almost crystal clear, greaseless and so light, yet extremely flavorful with briny, savory, and meaty components singing perfect harmony. The portion of soup was generous too, enough that I could ladle out nearly a rice bowlful for both my mom and dad to share. Anticipating KK's question on how this compares to our gold standard at the dearly departed Seafood Harbor of Millbrae, I'd say very well. The soup is a bit deeper and not as ethereal and has more white pepper accents. The skin on the dumpling is superior and as a bonus, there's actually real sharks fin. About a 2"x 1" piece of fin was hidden underneath the dumpling. I was so pleased with this dish that I bubbled over with enthusiasm to the manager when I paid the bill at the register. He pointed out the "sifu" who was eating at the staff table and called out my compliments to him.

Image of Boon tong gao (sharks fin dumpling in soup) -

Here's a relatively high res photo of the dim sum menu. I'm hoping that some of our more literate 'hounds can tell us what the untranslated portions (especially in the $1.79 section) offer.

Image of Dim sum menu (1280 x 960 pixels) -

What else do chowhounds recommend here?

Tai Wu/HK Seafood thread -

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