My addition to the comparison of the "low-end" dim sum places is that although none of my wrappers fell apart, I still prefer taste over presentation.. in this case I feel Imperial Garden in S.F. (on San Bruno Ave.) acquited itself quite nicely in this area. (I have now eaten there 4 times) Fu Lam Moon (in Milpitas) on the other hand I have only eaten in once (and never again...more on why later!) As I have previously written, the Bay Area seems to have a notorious problem with consistency (or inconsistency!) in its' restaurants Why, I don't know (it can vary weekly(!) Our last dim sum battle at Fu Lam Moon was difficult for me...any memories I had about pleasent dishes were shattered and overshadowed by the "Cockroach" incident. This didn't affect some people, but for my sensibilities it was a killer! I know you say...come on Derek you're from New York City..the Times has written about the ubiquitous nature of these scurrying creatures..they are found across socio-economic lines. In fact Park Avenue matrons were having such a hard time evicting them from their homes that many have created little maids uniforms for them and taught them how to serve!
but for me, they are what "up-chucking" is for...so it was with great need, that our walk after dim sum was such a relief..the free jasmine bubble tea helped clear my palate and settle my stomach (although those little globular chewy things(!) kept reminding me!! But, then we found China First Gourmet..a rather ordinary looking flourescent lit plastic place with a line out the door! This was a good omen for Chowhounds....although the English menu (and even the signage outside) did not hint that we were at a Shanghai Chinese eatery...so to make a very long story (somewhat) shorter my day went from "...the ridiculous to the sublime!" we were seated and served the most wonderful Xiao Long Bau..both pork and crab/pork combination. these came steaming (we waited for the wrappers to firm a bit, and then each one gushed when we bit and released the soup within.) The crabmeat pork combo had crab roe and fresh crabmeat mingling in a perfect, juicy, cross species intermarriage of taste and texture.. The wrappers ,including the top knot, were firm enough to contain the filling, but not too chewy to be enjoyed (and enjoyed they were!) These were the best of type that we have found yet in the Bay Area (and we've been looking!)..next we had a Rice pot (cooked in a real clay pot, which added a smokey richness to this incredible rice dish)..it was filled with salt pork (ham?) and mustard greens. but best of all was the crispy-crunchy/chewy rice from the bottom of the pot! A true Rice Revelation! As were the rice cakes with snow cabbage, bamboo shoots and strips of pork..these had lightness yet depth of flavor as well. All of these dishes led up to my favorite Shanghai dish...Red-Cooked pork... a wonderful braised dish with a sweet smokey sauce created by braising the meat for hours and then boiling down the sauce made from Chinese brown rock sugar into a mollases like texture..here balancing tender (not at all stringy) meat and a flavorfull layer of melt on the tongue perfumed braised unctuous fat!! Definitely one of, if not the best version of this dish that I have yet had! The food was fabulous, the Friends to share it with- the best! A wonderful conclusion to one of the more "interesting" Chowhound outings.