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SFLS #31 Report - Chow Dinner at Lily's House in Lafayette

Melanie Wong | Dec 22, 200502:16 AM

For #31 in the San Francisco Lunch Series, 20 hounds made a field trip to Lafayette to celebrate the winter solstice at Lily's House. I'll lead off with a few comments and ask my co-celebrants to post their opinions here.

This time the food was even better than my first visit and well worth the drive in the rain. Yet, I believe my lasting memory of the evening will be seeing the broad smile of our chef and his obvious pleasure at cooking for our big group. During our time there, a handful of customers passed through one-by-one to pick up take-out orders, and there might have been a couple other diners sitting down for a quick meal. I couldn't help but think that a chef of his caliber gets bored in that daily grind.

We started with a round of cold dishes, all of which are available from the Chinese language menu. A couple of them are included on the English menu as well. The cold dishes were:
Veggie duck
Whole shrimp sauteed in shell
Cold tofu with preserved egg
Soybeans with black pickled snow cabbage
Chicken with wine sauce
Tea smoked fish

Our main dishes included some things that required advance order either due to the preparation needed or to acquire ingredients not used daily. These were:
Beggar's chicken
Red-cooked pork trotter (tipang)
Pork kidneys with shrimp
Pork tendon with shrimp roe

We also had:
Fresh winter carp tail braised with brown sauce
Pan-touched tofu with spinach
Yellow croaker chowder
Steamed rice

And, for dessert, Tang yuen in rice lees syrup.

When I first saw the bill, I burst out laughing. Peter Yee, sitting next to me, asked if this was hysteria from an outrageously high cost or disbelief that it was so cheap. It was the latter, ridiculously low. The total for this dinner to feed 20 people, tax, and $28 corkage for 4 bottles of wine was $415. We ante'd up $500 in cash, and looking back on it that was still too little.

Lily's House
3555 Mt Diablo blvd.
Lafayette, CA

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