Our family Christmas eve dinner was held all the way over in Hayward of all places last night. A family member who is quite the food and wine hound himself yet manages to unearth another gem from his friends (also hounds) and shared this with this. So without further ado, I present to you another rather nice find (especially if you liked Lucky Buddha in San Carlos...then please read on)
The restaurant is at 21933 Foothill Blvd in Hayward and for those coming from the Peninsula it is an easy almost all straight road drive from 92. Quite a decent sized place. I didn't get to see how many tables there were but we were seated at a table that just about held 8 people near the back entrance. The place was near full with all Chinese customers.
Here's what was ordered (and what was served), which was left entirely to uncle hound who had been there quite a few times already.
Soup of the day - A nice light broth with a lot of flavor from pork and chinese melon (jeet gwa) which had a similar texture as winter melon. There's something wonderful about hot and slow/long cooked soups on a cold night. I believe this selection changes daily
Salted egg yolk dungeoness crab - The salt and pepper baked crab concept had pretty much worn out its novelty. Since we haven't had a decent version of this, uncle hound decided to get it. The batter had good salty egg yolk flavor to it and absorbed through the shell too. Not bad, but the crab wasn't as meaty as I had hoped.
Fried stuffed tofu - This was one of the supposed four famous dishes in the restaurant and a signature Hakkanese dish. While I've never really had the real deal, this was fantastic and well received by all. The tofu wasn't really stuffed, but there was a nice chunk of minced pork that was embedded on top of the tofu slices. Stir fried, but not crispy although with great aroma. A thick sauce was served with it.
Stir fried pea sprouts with garlic - Decently done, but the least interesting dish of the evening
Salt Baked Chicken (whole) - Another signature dish of the restaurant. Many other places in the Bay Area claim to make this dish, but really end up making a salt baked flavor steamed chicken (which translates to salt water chicken). If you haven't had the real deal, then this would be worth trying. I can't think of another place that makes salt baked chicken this well. Even the white meat was juicy and soft.
Stir fried beef with green onion - Good wok flavor, pretty standard Cantonese/Northern style Chinese dish. The beef was sliced well and also chewed well (refer to my criticism on poorly sliced beef at Ming Tai Millbrae).
Stir fried clams with basil - I wasn't sure what to expect as I'm so used to the black bean sauce version. Black bean sauce has a tendency to mask the nature flavors of seafood (good if you don't like fishy, bad if you want to taste the freshness and even more bad if the fish is not fresh and you don't know it!) However this basil clams dish was done very well. It had a much lighter flavor to it, and with the clams being quite fresh, we could taste it too.
Stir fried dried tofu strips with pork - more of a Northern Chinese style dish. Not bad but didn't quite belong with the others
And finally the last signature dish that everyone else has been waiting to hear:
~ØJ÷ - Kau Yuk in clay pot with preserved veggies. The third signature dish of the restaurant (I don't remember what the fourth one was but I don't think it was ordered) Personally I am not a fan of this dish due to the pungent flavors of the preserved veg. Tonight I was feeling adventurous and tried a piece of the fatty pork with a serving of the veg. I don't think I've eaten a good version of this and haven't quite had it in the Bay Area as well. Last night's version received multiple comments of it being much less oily than other restaurants. To me the preserved veg and sauce were on the sweet side, which is good because it didn't quite have the pungent flavor. The kau yuk was great. Meat was soft, not dry, and the layer of fat a decent small size (thickness wise).
We were given hot sago dessert at the end, which was a little too sweet.
The last best thing of the dinner was the price. It came to under $100 after tip. You obviously can't get this kind of deal, value, and taste elsewhere.
If you don't like Ton Kiang, then this place is definitely worth giving a try. If you love Ton Kiang, you should also give this place a try.
Saw an item labeled as "Taiwanese style egg plant" on the menu, but it was not ordered. If anyone tries this I'd love to know how it is. :-)
Bottom line is that while this restaurant serves good Hakkanese dishes, it is still not the real deal (Hsinchu area in Taiwan would be an example), but does come a notch closer for some dishes than at a lot of other places.