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El Cerrito - Little Hong Kong – them rice-stuffed chickens

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El Cerrito - Little Hong Kong – them rice-stuffed chickens

rworange | Jan 24, 2006 12:10 AM

... are on the menu if anyone is interested, but require an advanced order.

This restaurant had some positive posts on Chowhound but the owner retired last March. I’ve noticed driving by that it is usually packed. Even though the owner is gone, my waiter said that all the same cooks are there.

It looks pretty much like described in old Chowhound posts. The specials board is up front and the back wall is live fish tanks.

A complementary dish of peanuts is served with a pot of tea. Since the same cooks were there, I ordered a dish I remembered was successful from previous Chowhound posts – salt and pepper shrimp. Also ordered the mustard greens with black mushrooms. There is a complementary warm tapioca soup for dessert. Today it was a sweet red bean soup with tapioca which was a delicious end to dinner.

Past posts recommended ordering from the specials board, but it had things like mango chicken on there, so I went with the chef’s special menu which I believe is the usual secret Chinese menu but in English too.

On one side was the live fish menu with categories of catfish, geoduck, crab, live shrimp and lobster. They also offer daily live seafood prepared any way. Each category had different preparations of the live fish.

On the other side were the chef’s specials

- Frog with preserved duck drumstick hot pot
- Red wine ox tail hot pot
- Lobster in triple scallion
- Salt and pepper wok-roasted frog
- BBQ duck with coconut & taro root hot pot
- Pine nut black pepper steak
- Ginger rice-wine flavored preserved pork and broccoli
- San pan style dry fried spicy crab
- Dry fried style fish
- Fresh tofu skin vegetarian
- Apply curry chicken
- Egg foo yung with dried scallop and bitter melon
- Steamed fresh oyster with black bean or xo sauce
- XO oyster with leek

Lots of XO dishes. Uh, what is XO?

There were a few more dishes on the Chef’s special menu

On the regular you can get a Peking Duck dinner which includes:
- Peking duck with buns
- Peking duck soup
- Shredded duck with jelly fish
- Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce

Some interesting appetizers are:
- pork shanks with jelly fish
- salt and pepper wok-roasted octopus

I don’t know which won ton soup one family ordered, but there were plump looking won tons and the kids mentioned it was spicy. Lots of interesting soups including crab with fish maw.

Under the Pork and Lamb section are lots of dishes with unidentified ‘meat patties’ that are steamed or fried. They can come with salted fish or salted egg. There’s pork belly with preserved cabbage too. I have never seen veal on a Chinese menu before, but they have veal rib with black pepper sauce.

As for what I ordered - one of the previous posts described the salt and pepper prawns as follows:

Salt-and-pepper prawns: Perhaps the best I've had. The spicy/salty/sweet coating was just right, and the prawns themselves were exceptional. The first person to bite into one spurted juice across the table, and I laughed at him until the same thing happened to me. The prawns were full of savory juice -- this is the dish where you eat the whole thing, shell and all.

Ok, no sweet flavor in the coating just the spicy/salty. No juicy squirting shrimp either. The menu indicated they were cooking up live shrimp – head on. Mine were beheaded. I’ve never had this dish before, so I can’t compare it, only to say it didn’t match the above description. It did come with some nice chopped stuff – hot peppers, large black pepper, and a bunch of other minced stuff.

The mustard greens with black mushrooms were lovely – except it was baby bok choy, not mustard greens. However, the bok choy was bright green and fresh the mushrooms thick and meaty. However, there was too much oil/butter(?) for me.

If I hadn’t overheard another Asian table being offered the tapioca for dessert, I would have just walked out with a fortune cookie. So I asked for it.

To say I worked this restaurant is an understatement. I checked out other tables, eavesdropped on what other people were ordering, name-dropped, whipped out my notebook and took notes, inquired about the Chinese New Year menu, over-tipped, out-and-out lied and if I had my Chow passport I would have pulled it out.

The thing was that when I walked in I kept pointing to the live shrimp and three times the waiter pointed toward the sweet and sour shrimp on the regular menu. When the bock choy showed up instead of mustard greens that’s when I decided to see if the trick of pulling out a note book and writing things down worked in Chinese restaurants. In most restaurants I’ve been to, when you do this, and it is obvious you are taking food notes, service often improves. Damned if it didn’t work here too.

In the end the waiter gave me his name, chatted it up and gave me a lovely parting gift ... that doesn’t just happen at Gary Danko. It was 2006 year of the dog calendar printed on a nice scroll ... English version.

When I walked in I asked about the old owner and didn’t get too much info. After the note taking started I got more info about the waiter. My little lie was that I was there on the night the owner retired and was customer prior to that. Yeah, not a good idea. It turns out the old owner stops in from time to time, like YESTERDAY. No more future name-dropping about people I don’t know.

The waiter said business has actually picked up with the new owner. The prices are certainly reasonable - it was $7.95 for a dozen good-sized prawns. Everyone was taking home food, I mean everyone … due to portion size. He said they managed to keep the prices the same, lowered a few, and were still using the same quality food vendors. He said that weekends are really packed … which I noticed driving by.

So, maybe I can establish a working relationship with the staff and start getting guided to the more interesting dishes.

After all, the fortune in my cookie said "soon the credit for your input will be recognized". One can only hope. Maybe I’ll get the heads on those shrimp next time.

Little Hong Kong Restaurant

10443 San Pablo Avenue
El Cerrito, CA 94530

510-524-0888

Free delivery with minimum purchase $20. Call for Delivery areas from 5pm to 9 pm

Hours:

Open Daily 11 am – 9:30 pm

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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