Melanie had heard some good things about the dim sum at Pacific East Seafood Restaurant in the Pacific East Mall in Richmond, so four of us met there for lunch Friday.
In a word: disappointing.
I'm having trouble saying exactly why it wasn't good -- I wasn't taking notes and nothing really stood out. And perhaps that was the problem.
Melanie was intrigued that there were a couple of Teochew specialties on the menu: Chao's Style duck wings and Chao's Style Tofu, and perhaps not surprisingly, they were the best dishes of the bunch. The batons of tofu had been fried to a toasty brown exterior which complemented the creamy interior, and the duck wings, which are basically skin over bone, had an interesting chewy texture. However the taste made no impression on me whatsoever. I think my favorite was the "little yellow melon" which was actually lightly pickled cucumber sprinkled with a few wolfberries. But then I always like pickled cucumber, and the tangy-cruchiness provided a counterpoint to the other dishes. The shrimp dishes -- har gau and shrimp rice noodles -- were okay, decent although not outstanding shrimp, but the skins were a bit gummy. Melanie and Gordon thought the steamed bean curd rolls were okay, but I didn't care for them.
We also had the Steamed House Cilantro Ball (pork), which was actually mostly shrimp, had little flavor of pork or cilantro, and had a musty "off" taste; green chives and shrimp dumpling, which had a skimpy filling and overly thick wrapper; deep-fried taro dumpling with minced pork, also skimpy and doughy; and steamed spareribs with black bean sauce, which were hot from jalapenos but had no other flavor. Pan-fried rice noodle rolls with XO sauce were sloppily made, the gummy rice noodles unevenly fried and sauced.
To summarize, almost every dish suffered from blandness, poor execution, or both.
At least we didn't cost us much (besides lost chow opportunities) to check this place out: all the plates were $2.00, plus a $1/person for tea, so with tax and tip we were out of there for $8 each. I had to go home and paint, hopefully the rest of the gang was successful in their quest to find something better in the mall for dessert!
FYI: the restaurant is under the same ownership as East Ocean in Emeryville, and Melanie had heard Pacific East was better. Since I had a poor (and expensive) dim sum experience last year at East Ocean, I'd have to say that both places should be avoided, at least for dim sum.