With East Ocean serving up good dim sum just a block up Webster, I never would have checked out Chef's Wok due to its unpromising advertising focused mostly on American-Chinese food (looking for tomato beef chow mein? crab Rangoon? BBQ pork egg foo young?). But someone mentioned that Sing Tao had reported that they had a famous chef from China and a dim sum chef from Macau. Furthermore, there were positive reports on the food from the "Chinese" menu, which was supposedly not in English.
Yesterday there was a positive post on the board about the dim sum, so I rounded up my sister and BIL, and we headed off for dim sum lunch.
The first thing I noticed is that all the Chinese specials on the wall are translated into English, as are the set dinner and banquet menus. Not only that, but they look really good!
Still, we were there for dim sum, and we had:
shrimp and scallop dumplings (the ones that look like a canoe) -- excellent
turnip cake; nicely browned with good turnip flavor and just the right amount of "stuff": very good
shrimp and spinach dumpling: very good
sui mai; mostly pork (not shrimp), with good porky flavor: very good
shrimp rice noodles: very good
taro puff; too oily: fair
bean curd skin rolls; excellent sauce: very good
teochow fun gor; too many peanuts for my taste: good
and the two clear standouts:
a dumpling I've never had before: pale fried half-moons of sweetened rice dough filled with shrimp, diced water chestnut, mushrooms, etc., and flavored with cilantro, served with a small tureen of rich chicken broth that the cart lady indicated was for dipping the dumplings. This was a wonderful combination of flavors and textures, and the broth did somehow bring it all together: excellent
dofu fa; simply the best I've ever had, with really gingery syrup. My sister and BIL had never had this before, and they slurped it down and said next time we would have to get two orders.
Prices: small: $2.00; medium: $2.60; large: $3.20; Chef specials: $4.50. Our generous lunch for three came to $31 including tax and tip. There are menus on the table, so you can order something if you don't see it come by, and there's a choice of five teas "standard" (I was pleased that our server asked me what tea I wanted -- too many times they automatically bring the gringo jasmine tea, and I only find out later there were others available).
There's a small parking lot next to the restaurant that was full when we arrived just after 12:30 -- street parking is easy in that area, however. The restaurant (which is much larger than it looks from the outside) was also full with a 90-percent Asian crowd, but we were seated in less than ten minutes.
Overall, excellent -- slightly better, I think, than East Ocean. I'm hesitating, because I did get a slight MSG aftertaste -- I'm guessing the broth was the culprit. Plus it was noisier than East Ocean and the service was nowhere near as good (although the hostess did see my dismay when the dofu fa cart that had stopped at the table just ahead of us disappeared into the kitchen and made sure it came by when it came out again). The delicious-looking dishes on the walls had us making plans to come back for dinner as we left.
1821 Webster (at Buena Vista)