Seven hungry and adventurous Chowhounds trekked to Our Family Chinese Restaurant Sunday for a Chinese Brunch. Some walked from their home in Campbell, and some drove from their home in San Francisco, but all were hungry by the time we were arrayed around the table.
Our Family Chinese has been open since May 2002. It is a small place with 24 seats at the end of a small strip mall in suburban Campbell. The chef is reported to be from Beijing and the menu features many Northern Chinese dishes which are unusual in the context of the primarily Cantonese culture of the Bay Area Chinese community.
The restaurant advertises in the local chinese-language press, and has a number of handwritten Chinese-language menu posters on the wall describing small plate specials.
Neither the food, nor the restaurant is pretentious. If you had grown up in Beijing this food would have been comfortable and familiar. It may have been exactly like what your mother would have put on the table. I am not Chinese, and I don't know what they would think of an old-fashioned American Diner in China, but Our Family Chinese Restaurant reminded me of a Chinese Diner.
Our group was the first to arrive, but by the time we had finished, all 24 seats in the restaurant were full of happy ethnic Chinese diners.
Yimster and his gracious wife acted as hosts, translating the menu and posters and placing the order.
The meal began with bowls of soybean milk: it was unsweetened, mostly likely from a bottle, and most of the attendees added a bit of sugar to make a light breakfast soup.
Along with the soup, we had some shredded turnip pastry. This was shredded turnip with dried shrimp baked in a flake pastry topped with white sesame seeds. Everyone thought these pastries were good, but some commented on the pointed saltiness of the dried shrimp.
Following upon the soup/pastry duo, came Hsaio Lung Bow, and Beijing-style pot sticklers. The Hsaio Lung Bow were hot and savory. Not all of the eight examples had soup, but most did. Probably the dough was loose on the soupless dumplings but everyone was pleased with the freshness and bright flavors. The pot sticklers were also a hit, having been sauteed to a nice crispiness.
As we were passing out the dumplings, a big bowl arrived full of hand-pulled noodles with bean sprouts and a salty pork sauce. These were very tasty and I thought they were one of the stars of the meal.
Next came BBQ mutton on a stick: It was well spiced and had good favor. Many of us were not familiar with mutton, and noted it was more fatty, tougher and more oily than lamb. Because of the mutton issue, the verdict on these was mixed.
Next came scallion pancakes, which were well made with lots of green onion. They had a rich and unctuous taste which Yimster thinks was due to the use of lard. These were served hot and crispy and were universally liked.
We also had some Three Seafood Tofu Stir Fry. One of the fish was missing-in-action, as we only found two types of seafood: shrimp and dried squid. The favor was good with the shitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots were especially savory, picking up all the favor. Some of us commented on the chewy and fishy nature of the squid, which Yimster ascribed to the fact that it was reconstituted dried squid.
Next (What!? More?!) came a serving of Chive Pork and Shrimp Steamed Dumplings. This dish had balanced mixture of all the three ingredients, was well-seasoned and they held together well. These were very tasty and everybody liked them.
Finally, and the hit of the meal, was a Fried and Braised Whole Rock Cod. This fish was fresh, moist and had good favor. The sauce was good, and after it was expertly deboned by Yimster, it flew off of the serving platter.
The cost per person for this Chinese Brunch Feast was $12.00 including a generous tip. There was a lot of food. Personally, I had skipped breakfast, and I survived the rest of the day on a few crackers with cheese, without a suffering in the slightest.
My conclusion is that Our Family is a family-style restaurant. Which, I suppose, is not a surprise. They serve Chinese Comfort Food. It was hot, tasty, filling, and left you with a rosy feeling of well-being.
Our Family seem to be experts at steamed dumplings (Xio Long Bao). You can purchase frozen dumplings here for $14 for a bag of 50. Four of us split two bags of these and spirited them home for use on future rainy and blustery nights when comfort food will make everything seem wonderful.
Our Family Chinese is in Campbell at 500 West Hamilton Avenue.