A couple Sundays ago I dashed up to the hostess and asked, Are you still serving lunch? Yes, she said, until 2:30pm.
It was 2:24pm, and I ran out to look around for my ever-patient friend Vince who had been waiting an hour for me. We hustled back inside to be told that we could sit down but all the dim sum was sold out and wed have to order off the menu. Too harried to go elsewhere, I decided to stay put for our pre-Christmas lunch. This was my first visit to my parents current favorite tea house.
We were seated quickly with a steaming pot of jasmine tea and the manager presented the menus. He apologized for rushing us, but said the kitchen would soon close. Some dim sum might still be available and he suggested that we order extras to be sure we had enough if others were sold out. Taking him to heart, I whipped through the dim sum menu picking out a large variety including items my parents had talked about and ordering a plate of chow fun with scrambled eggs and shrimp (one of the house specialties) for good measure. Vince raised an eyebrow and asked, How many other people did you invite to lunch?
Soon the dishes were appearing fast and furious, and as it turned out, only one item Id requested was not available. Our table was groaning from the ridiculous quantity of food for two people and we had to laugh at our situation.
We agreed that the best item was the sharks fin dumpling with soup inside presented in a crystal clear broth. The quivering jellied-liquid mass of savory pork and shrimp filling was encased in tender wheat pastry to make a giant pleated dumpling shaped like a half moon. The broth was delicately flavored and adorned with some floating confetti of snipped yellow leeks.
As my parents had recommended, the deep-fried items were indeed special here. These were prepared with a light enough hand and so delicious that even Vince "I don't eat fried anything", had a taste of each and pronounced them good. The hom sui gok (salty, football-shaped with pork filling) had a very satisfying crunchy-chewy resistance to the bite. The lacy taro root dumplings were fine and greaseless and the fried tofu sheets stuffed with shrimp were the right contrast of delicate crisp exterior and succulent seafood.
I also really liked the steamed then pan-fried chive dumplings. What didnt work that well was the chow fun dish. While I do like my eggs soft, these were runny and the prawns were translucent rather than opaque. Combined with the soft wet style of rice noodles, this undercooked dish soon turned into a gluey, gloppy mess.
Our total bill was $55. I ended up taking more than half of it home with me, five cartons worth. We could have fed two more people easily.
Joy Luck Place
10911 N. Wolfe Road
Cupertino, CA 95014