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Restaurants & Bars 3

Smiling House: New Chinese restaurant on Cupertino/Santa Clara border

zartemis | Dec 3, 201112:14 PM

I'm not sure which Chinese cuisine this restaurant focuses on, or if it's an eclectic mix. They have some dishes I've not seen frequently on San Jose and nearby Chinese restaurants: various pork intestine dishes and Chinese bacon dishes ('smoked preserved pork' on the menu. A house-made lop yuk). They also have some Sichuan dishes, some that seem more Muslim Chinese (cumin lamb) some common American Chinese items, as well as odd items they made up: ground beef and cheese egg roll. I do admit, though that my South Bay Chinese restaurant experience is limited (we like Mama Chen for Taiwanese, Cooking papa for comfort Cantonese, Fatima for Muslim Chinese, but I have less experience with some of the Milpitas or Cupertino places, and even less with the up the peninsula San Mateo and north gems).

Smiling House has opened in what was Rice Cafe (which the owner called 'private cuisine' since she used her own family recipes) and which closed a few months ago.

After a decent, but not spectacular first visit (where we had the signature egg rolls (not my favorite), eggplant claypot (a decent, not sweet version that could have used more garlic, etc), wontons in hot oil (decent, but done better by Mama Chen), and shredded pork with garlic (excellent)), we went back for a much more successful second visit.

This time we were more adventurous and got Beef Stew with White Radish, Pickled Cabbage with Intestine (clay pot), and Preserved Smoked Pork with Leek. When the server expressed surprise at our order and we assured him we really wanted to try these, he suggested that he could make us Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice (not on the menu). We took him up on the offer.

This visit we were really impressed with the food. Although not marked spicy on the menu, the beef and daikon stew was a bit spicy and really good. The beef was rich and tender -- reminding me of the great short rib cuts at the Korean restaurant Kunjip. Broth was rich in Sichuan peppercorn flavor, penetrating the stewed daikon nicely. We'll probably be getting this dish most times we visit.

I haven't had intestine (at least not recently enough to remember), but I found I love this offal (I love tripe, too, so it's not surprising). Theirs was served in a clay pot with sour cabbage, snow peas, asparagus, carrots and other vegetables, but the overwhelming flavor was the great very sour cabbage. The intestine was very well prepared and tender, reminding me of braised rolled bean curd skin. We ordered this because they have multiple intestine dishes on the menu. The server suggested if we liked this, we should try the crispy intestine. Next time.

We weren't sure what the 'smoked preserved pork' would be, but when the dish came, it was clear it was Chinese bacon! We asked and they make their own. What a find.

The salted fish fried rice was a nice complement -- the preserved fish held up well in the mixed rice dish.

The only dish this visit that was a disappointment was the green onion pancake. Light on green onion and although layered, many had congealed together, making it slightly gummy.

The extensive menu seems overly broad, but they have some incredible gems in their repertoire. Their service lives up to their name, very friendly and inviting. We called last time 15 minutes before they were closed asking if we could show up just at closing time and were enthusiastically encouraged to come, that they would wait for us.

Photos here are of the Smoked Preserved Pork with Leeks, Stewed Beef with White Radish, Pickled Cabbage with Intestine in claypot, Tofu with Mustard Greens, Eggplant in Claypot, and Wontons in Hot Oil.

Mama Chen
5075 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

1066 Kiely Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95051

Smiling House
10074 E Estates Dr, Cupertino, CA 95014

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