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Restaurants & Bars 9

China First -- review

PekoePeony | Nov 11, 200303:33 PM

Based on the reviews from this board, nine friends and I went to China First in Milpitas to savor some of their Shanghainese dishes. Since some of us were able to read Chinese, we ordered exclusively from the Chinese menu.

* Xiao long bao (Shanghai dumplings) were on the small side. While good, they weren't as great as we were hoping -- the meat taste wasn't special. We also ordered the xiao long bao with crab, and they were soupier and a bit better, but not as good as at Joe's Shanghai (is that sacrilege?). Overall, both boas were okay but not special. I think the XLB at Koi Palace for dim sum is better.

* Nien gao (rice cakes stir fried with bits of Chinese veggies and pork) is a very simple dish. This version might be good for nien gao lovers, but the diners at our table prefer food with stronger flavors and found this a bit boring.

* Clear stir fried shrimp had nice texture and a pleasant taste, but it didn't seem particularly sweet and fresh. It was still good, though.

* Side pork had a soft, silky layer of fat that was quite good, but the meat under the fat was curiously overly dry.

* The pork shank came with baby bok choy. The meat was flavorful and excellent, but it was so large and rich that we were glad our party had 10 diners since no one could eat more than a few bites.

* Fish with sweet sauce, topped with carrots and peas. This was a very disappointing dish, with the sauce being overly sweet and overpowering the fish, which didn't have much meat to begin with.

* The drunken chicken was okay. It was served in a small bowl with quite a bit of the wine marinating the chicken, but as mentioned with the nien gao, the flavor was a bit mild for us.

* Dou miao (pea sprouts) were simply prepared and good, but not the best I've had in the Bay Area.

* Finally we ordered another bao, this one with a white puffy skin and lots of scalding hot liquid inside around the meat. This bao was good, but the liquid was way too hot!

Cost came to $15/person including tax and tip. I had eaten at China First once before and only ordered from the English menu, and didn't think it was that special. This dinner with my friends confirmed that thought. While the baos are decent, they weren't enough to make this restaurant one I'd go to when I'm in Milpitas -- I'd prefer dinner at Vung Tao 2 across the street, or at one of the many other Chinese restaurants in Milpitas.

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