My family and I got together last night for dinner at Ming Tai in Millbrae. The restaurant is not very big, and takes cash only. They are on El Camino right at Comfort Suites. A very unusual location as one would not expect a Chinese restaurant within the facility of a hotel.
The Chinese name of the restaurant is interestingly not "Ming Tai" but "Hoy Wong" (Sea King). The menu is a lot smaller than Fat Wong's up the street, and does not offer anything unusual. There are separate set dinners for 4, 6, and more people listed on a separate Chinese menu placard, and on the back are chef's specials (also listed in Chinese).
My folks wanted to try the dishes (instead of getting individual noodles or congee items), so we got mostly those from the Chinese menu and then added two noodle items to try.
- Shui Gao Noodle - this is the enlarged version of the won ton with woodear. I've heard great things about Ming Tai's Shui Gao at the Noriega location, and was looking forward to trying the Millbrae location's. The portions of dumplings were very generous, maybe 5 to 6 of them tops. They were HUGE, bigger than what I've had before. This is one of the best shui gao's I've ever had, coming pretty much neck and neck with Broadway Bistro's version (which is very high quality but not in quantity). Ming Tai's version is chunkier and has more material. I must have counted three to four pieces of shrimp in one dumpling alone, which is quite a treat in itself. The only downside I can see for consciencious dieters is that I tasted a good amount of pork fat inside the dumpling. That was probably why it tasted so darn good :-). BB's version doesn't taste anywhere near as fatty.
- Golden mushroom with shredded dried scallop lo mein. This was originally on the menu served with e-fu noodles (yee mein), but given the fact that they are pre-fried noodles we opted for lo mein instead which the waitress/cook questioned to do at first but in the end was willing to accomodate our request. This dish actually came out the last, and was smothered in the thick dark sauce with multiple helpings of Chinese mushrooms and greens on top, and a good dose of golden mushrooms and dried scallops mixed in with the lo mein (which are the won ton noodle soup noodles). The chef did really well here and knew how to control the ingredients. The noodles came out excellent with the sauce flavor absorbed in, not soggy or all stuck together. A mark of a skilled chef.
- Stewed tofu (Hung Siu tofu) with mushroom and greens. Not much to say about this other than it was done right. A hard dish to mess up.
- Cod with black bean sauce (See Jup Bahn Fai). The "Bahn" chinese character seemingly suggests garoupa as served in the higher class HK seafood restaurants, but apparently the meat used in this might have been ling cod. Either way the wok flavor was great in this dish. It was your typical stir fried black bean sauce dish (using fish this time) with red and green bell peppers, onions. The flavor really went into the fish and we all loved it. The fish texture was soft and cooked just right. Apparently Silver House in San Mateo does this dish very well also.
- Salt & Pepper spare ribs. I remember other restaurants from 10 years ago used to serve this deep fried with a layer of batter around it. This version was also deep fried but had an interesting flavor to it. There was some additional herb(s) in it that I cannot place....lemongrass? It tasted less Chinese and more Thai or Vietnamese, but yet not quite. The pork was very tender and again good "wok flavor".
- Oyster sauce beef with vegetables. When this dish came out we were a little disappointed. The beef was not sliced that well. Each piece was of varying proportion and did not look it would chew very well. Our instincts were proven right once we started eating it. To us this is a very standard dish that we can use to measure the benchmark of a good Cantonese restaurant. Interestingly, all other dishes impressed us greatly, but this beef dish didn't bode quite well. All was forgiven otherwise.
The restaurant also had jung available (zhongzi if I got my pingyin down correctly) but we did not order it. Also purportedly great is their beef stew/brisket which we will have to try again next time, perhaps with the congee.
Overall I thought this dinner at Ming Tai was more pleasing than what we had at Fat Wong's. Fat's may do congee very well, but they fall short on other cooked dishes.
Ming Tai also has some interesting offerings during tea time 2 or 3 pm to 5 pm. A good variety of noodle, congee, and snack dishes as well as drinks are all half off. The biggest plus of this place is that it is easy to find parking, unlike at the Noriega location. There's an underground lot at the Millbrae location (Comfort Suite's parking lot).