Thanks to everyone who gave me advice when I asked for dim sum/brunch options! Plans veered btwn. the East Bay and Peninsula and our group of 4 adults and 1 baby eventually landed at Legendary Palace in Oakland Chinatown (see link). Sorry, no photos.
I had never been to this Chinatown before so it was refreshing. Very conveniently located off the 880 (from south, exit Broadway), we quickly found parking at the underground garage around 9th and Franklin for $1.25/hr. Convenience level for this Chinatown is a big plus!
Got there at 11am on Sunday and the wait was only 15 minutes! Place is huge w/ two boisterous levels. We were seated at a well-trafficked central table upstairs. While all of us are of Asian descent, no one is Chinese-speaking or that dim sum savvy. We were also more focused on catching up and bobbling the baby around so my CH hat and acumen were set aside, so we probably didn't get the best sampling. Searched in archives for recs and didn't find many specifics for dim sum beyond fried pork belly (which we didn't order).
Overall, the food was good and fresh. Lots of shrimp dishes, and their shrimp is plump and sweet. Standouts included the deep-fried crab claw w/ shrimp chunks (size of my fist!), fried taro ball, fried tofu w/ a light brown shrimp and green onion sauce. Hmmm...I seem to like the fried things there. Their egg custard tarts were very good too...not overly rich or eggy w/ a flaky puff pastry-style crust.
Negative standouts were the bbq pork bun (too sweet!), fried eggplant (too greasy), and har gow (bland and fragile wrapper). I wasn't particularly wowed by their noodle or dumpling work. I also wanted a little more variety; after the first big wave of dishes, choices seemed repetitive or ho-hum. Probably would be different if I were w/ dim sum hounds. Solicitous cart-style service. Cart ladies were patient w/ our questions but communication wasn't always clear...to be expected.
No idea how many dishes we ordered, but we are moderate eaters and ordered w/ abandon til we were adequately full. Total cost for 4 came to $54 pre-tip. Not a great value (as I was warned) since it wasn't a feast, but fair enough. I would return for another sampling if I were in that area, but not til I try Yo Ho or Joy Luck nearby. Things seemed to really quiet down by 1pm, so seemed like a good time to get there if one missed an early start. We were there for about two hours and didn't feel pushed out at all.
What are favorite delis, bakeries, and markets w/in walking distance for me to explore next time??
Headed up to BERKELEY afterwards and a few notes:
The Spanish Table: Great store. Not as big as I imagined, but selection was interesting and good. Prices seemed reasonable. Wish they had more food products and less pottery, but got a few basics for paella and cooking and was intrigued w/ their wine selection. Passionate and helpful staff. Looking forward to sampling the bottle of port we purchased. Any wine standouts that are good value or difficult to find elsewhere?
Acme Bread: Slipped in at 3pm right before closing so didn't get the Epi or whole wheat walnut as I intended. Snagged a walnut levain and regular baguette and I always stagger w/ delight every time I bite into their bread, even though I've had it many times. I wish they could bottle the sweet, yeasty aroma inside the bakery into scented candles so my house could smell like that!
Pasta Shop on 4th St: Looked kinda pretentious and overpriced at first, but I was engaged by their selection of goods. Bought some Epoisses, Bellwether Farms fresh ricotta, Rustichella bulk pasta. Both cheeses were very good and well kept. Their holiday prepared foods menu looked good and not ridiculously priced.
Cafe Rouge Meat Market: Entered via Pasta Shop. Much smaller than I had imagined. Tempted by the onglet ($11.95/lb) and boudin sausage ($8/lb) but passed. Couldn't take my eyes off the meat aging case w/ funky looking but undoubtedly delicious goods.
Sketch: Main reason for coming to 4th St. since I follow the ice cream threads closely. After sampling persimmon and pistachio ice creams (limit 2 samples), I settled on pistachio. To be honest, I was rather let down by their ice cream (sorry Morton). While I appreciated the natural pure flavor and color, thought the texture wasn't dense or suave enough and flavor not intense enough. Sort of "light" and not very refined or distinctive w/ a heavy price tag ($3.50 for very small cup). What bugged me most was the wooden paddle spoon since it imparted a distinct wet wood flavor. Small but important detail that led to a "what are they thinking?!" moment. Should have gone back in to grab a plastic sampler spoon but I was lazy. Polished boutique-style storefront felt misleading when the goods didn't live up. If I happen to be in the area, I'll be tempted to try the burnt caramel though. Friendly staff and the candy did look good. Will try Naia when I'm back in town.
Lastly, thanks to all the East Bay hounds who keep the local food coverage flowing and lively!! It was really comforting to constantly spot eateries that get mentioned here and have some sense as to good prospects (and don't bothers) should we get hungry later. I had Gregoire's burger and potato puffs in the back of my mind, but alas, no stomach space. I still have Sushi Sho's omakase at the top of my list, but will return when I am more apt to appreciate. Next time!!