Seven hounds gathered today for lunch at Sun’s Chinese Cuisine in San Mateo. The menu states that the dishes are inspired by the mix of cusines found in the Chinese military villages where cooks from various regions brought their local favorite recipes. An interesting way to resolve what otherwise might seem to be a problem of confused identity. The menu includes dishes from Hunan, Szechuan, Taiwan, Shanghai and elsewhere.
Our lunch included--
Complimentary appetizer—beef tendon, pig ears and tripe
Little Juicy Steamed Buns
Pan Fried Minced Beef Bun
House Special Stir Fried Pan Cakes Strips
Spicy House Cold Noodle
Fish and Chive Dumplings
Thousand Year Old Egg & Bean Curd
Taiwan Style Braised Beef Noodle
Meat Ball Clay Pot
Lotus Leaf Steamed Fish
Braised Bacon-Cut Pork
Dessert- mochi balls with black sesame and peanuts (not its official name)
Overall I thought it was all pretty good but nothing was really spectacular. The spicy dishes were not very spicy.
I was pleasantly surprised by the appetizer, which I had expected to be too chewy for me. I am not a big fan of tripe— it sometimes feels like I have to chew forever to dispose of something with no flavor. Here I got a thick piece of tripe which was actually fairly tender. The pigs ears were thinly sliced and easy to chew. Likewise the tendon was thinly sliced but in this case I wish it had been thicker— I like tendon and it’s soft enough it doesn’t need to be so thin. It was moderately spicy with nice flavor.
My favorite mouthful of the lunch was my first taste of the Thousand Year Old Egg and Bean Curd. The strong salty taste of the eggs (not particularly intense by 1000 year egg standards if my memory of past experiences is correct) was set off nicely by the light fresh taste of the tofu mixture. I later got a mouthful of just the tofu part and it was very plain by itself.
My second favorite taste was probably the meat balls in the Meat Ball Clay Pot. They were tasty and very soft. This dish was more of a soup than what I expected.
I also liked the Spicy House Cold Noodle. It was only mildly spicy and had some tang.
The pot stickers were meaty with pretty good flavor. I would have liked mine better with a sauce but there was nothing immediately available so I had it plain.
The fish and chives dumplings had a nice balance and I enjoyed them even with minimal sauce. The small dish of soy-based sauce had slivers of green onion— it needed to be more plentiful or thicker to satisfy my desired ratio of sauce to dumpling.
It was probably not in the cards for me to love the Braised Bacon-Cut Pork. My delight with the divine version at Mao’s Kitchen was so great that I doubt that even a repeat taste of the Mao’s Kitchen version could equal my memory of it. ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6598... ) This is often the case with me—I find such intense delight in a particular dish and my expectations become so inflated that later tastings of the exact same dish will fall short of my initial cosmic food experience. Actually Sun’s version isn't bad. It was less sweet and intense and duller in color than my memory of Mao’s Kitchen. It was definitely less spicy (heat-wise).
I wasn’t very impressed with the Taiwan Style Braised Beef Noodles. They were OK, but the huge chunks of beef didn’t have much flavor.
The only dish I didn’t like had a thick fried skin with a meat filling. It was probably the Pan Fried Minced Beef Bun but I’ll have to wait for photos to be posted to be sure which one it was. The thick skin was hard to cut even with the serving spoon provided and I had a hard time getting a reasonable sized piece of both skin and filling into my mouth at the same time. The filling was fine but the thick, oily and relatively tasteless skin was a turn-off for me.
The dessert consisted of mochi balls with black sesame filling on a plate with ground peanuts and some sugar grains. The peanuts complimented the mochi and sesame well and my overdeveloped sweet tooth appreciated the unnecessary extra sweetness from the sugar. A few lucky hounds got some with a peanut filling— I will have to take their word for it that they got something even better than the regular ones.
KK’s previous post ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/692117 ) aptly described Sun’s dishes as comfort food. It was good solid stuff and I would come back, but nothing really rocked me. It was well worth the $15 per person including tip.
Thank you, Pia and Melanie, for getting us together.
Sun's Chinese Cuisine
251 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401