First of all I'd like to thank tanspace for recommending Joy restaurant in Foster City.
My wife and I almost went up to San Francisco instead (to watch the Chinese film "Together" then I had the devilish idea of satisfying my sweet tooth at Kowloon Tong but never went!)
So we opted to stay local and went over to Foster City's Joy restaurant. We are still trying to get familiar with our new hood, but we did pass by the complex before. Didn't think that a single Chinese restaurant in a "ho hum" type complex would be such a surprise/hidden secret.
By the time we arrived right past 6:30 pm the place was almost at 95% capacity. We were very fortunate to have gotten the last table (the others were reserved). Judging from the customers (which were mostly Mandarin speaking folk), we knew we were going to be in for a treat.
Once we sat down, our waitress gave us two menus, which were entirely in Chinese. This caused a lot more excitement, as not only did we see this as a sign of good things to come, but we recognized a lot of dishes that are rather famous. There were also quite a few items on the menu that I was surprised to see in a Taiwanese restaurant, like "beggar's chicken" (a more higher end Pekingnese dish).
Since this was our first time, we wanted to sample a few of their more recommended dishes (noted by a * on the menu). It was a tough call because a lot of the stuff looked really good, and everything was so tempting. In the end we decided on some "fail safe" items to test the capabilities of the chef. So this is what we had:
Minced Pork over rice
Stir Fried "A" vegetable
3 Cup Chicken
The vegetarian goose came out right away. It was a bit on the cold side, but very well done. The tofu skin was marinated and cut to resemble that of goose meat slices (although it seemed to rough...but anyway presentation is not important here). In the center of the tofu skin wrap were delicate layers of chopped mushrooms (also marinated). Very well done.
The Minced Pork over rice (Loo Roh Fahn) was also a nice touch. Small bowl, but good size to share with 2 people. The pork was marinated with soy sauce, sugar, and perhaps one or two other things, then probably stewed for a while. It was so soft it melted in our mouths. The only setback was that there were nice chunks of fat in there, so it gave it that creamy and oily texture. Not healthiest of options but it tasted very nice. The sauce saturated the rice a bit too much unfortunately. Overall I'd give this a B+. Nothing has topped the minced pork/beef over rice that I had at dan shui in Taiwan.
The stir fried "A" vegetable is my wife's favorite, since she grew up in Taiwan eating that. I've had it cooked at home, and also have ordered it at the peninsula/south bay Tainan Delight joints, but disliked it for the longest time. This is not a pricey vegetable, but it's only available at certain markets, like 99 ranch. However tonight I had the BEST stir fried A vegetable at Joy. They did charge a hefty price for it...$7.95, but the portions were generous, and they did a smashing job on the cooking. Small chunks of garlic, and the vegetables came out very juicy and crispy. We wanted to have the xiao yu shien tsai (which is a cousin of spinach, but cooked with "little fishies" I guess) but they were sold out.
Next...stinky tofu. They say that the stinkier it is, the more authentic it is. I've smelled really skanky a$$ stinky tofu in Taiwan, but when you eat it, it's an entirely different story. I'm quite happy to say that I really enjoyed Joy's Stinky Tofu. The only thing that I didn't like was that they slabbed a big chunk of spicy sauce (doe bahn bean sauce maybe?) on one side of the dish, and the sauce was very very salty. The upside is that they gave four HUGE cubes, so all in all there were 16 bite sized pieces to enjoy.
By this time we were almost full, so the final dish was the 3 cup chicken. This is a no brainer dish and it's very easy to make due to its name (1 cup cooking wine, 1 cup soy sauce and 1 cup errrr....vinegar? Then of course other seasonings). My wife thought it was a bit on the sweet side, but this 3 cup chicken had the best flavor, and beat Chef Chu's version (the one in Los Altos) hands down.
We were also happy to see that they serve Taiwanese "dim sum" on the weekends....the typical soy milk, sticky rice roll, oil stick/fried bread, and the not commonly found "ger bao" which is a kind of sliced steamed bun with some sort of meat or preserved meat on the inside.
They had a special item on the wall that was curry fish head, but I couldn't see the price. Another table we saw a big group having a hot pot seafood soup that looked very interesting, as well as a very neat looking shaved rice with red bean dessert platter.
A wonderful first time experience overall. We are definitely going back there again and trying some of the higher end items with family. :)