Five Chowhounds went to Ton Kiang's controversial dim sum today to taste for themselves. This was my second visit to the restaurant--I had a fab feast there about 5 years ago that I have been dreaming about ever since (I lived out of town at the time). I was flabbergasted by never-before-seen-by-me variety and incredible freshness of ingredients. I had a personal interest in seeing if TK's dim sum deserved that special place in my heart.
The short version: Ton Kiang is more than decent, but not worthy of the pedestal I had put it on. No single dish was excellent, though most were good. I also think that it deserves more love from the Bay Area Chowhounds. Though it's not the best, I would recommend it to a friend, especially since it's within the city limits. A fellow diner said he would rank it #4 or #5 in Bay Area dim sum.
Among the diners was North Team dim sum battle member Derek, who is a much tougher and more experienced dim sum critic than I. Look for his post.
At 11:30am on a weekday, there was no wait for a table. We sat in the downstairs dining room, among a mostly gweilo crowd. Here's what we ate:
Roasted duck--Not as succulent as it can be, the texture of the duck was a little grainy, the skin was slightly crispy. Fair
Fried calamari--I *think* this was prepared in the salt-and-pepper style (I am not a Chinese expert yet), though the batter seemed a little thicker than usual. Though very slightly chewy, I still liked this dish and liked it even more when I dipped it in the fiery, garlicky red sauce that TK puts on the table. Very good
Xiao long bao--A fine version of this sought-after dish. Though a burst of juice did not come with the first bite, overall, each dumpling was very juicy throughout. It was more as if the soup had permeated through the minced meat, instead of staying between the meat and the wrapper. Still earns a Very Good from me.
Salt and pepper shrimp--Very large shrimp, with heads and beady eyes, were juicy, sweet inside and just barely fried outside. Very good.
Shrimp har gow--Smaller than usual dumplings, stuffed with sweet shrimp. Someone commented that this dish was a little salty. I ate this dumpling as soon as it arrived on the table and found the wrapper to be thin and delicate. Others commented that it became a little gummy when cooled. Good.
Braised tofu skin rolls--Nothing memorable here. The North Team found that these lacked depth of flavor, and I have to say I agree. Still I ate it! Fair.
Sauteed long beans--Inch-long, beautifully green long beans were unfortunately overcooked, resulting in limp stalks. In my eyes, the delicious, delicately tangy sauce it was sauteed in nearly redeemed the lack of crispness, raising my overall rating from Fair to Good.
Shrimp balls-Two-inch-diameter globes that were beautifully presented, with fried fringes sticking out around the the globe. The minced shrimp inside was flavorful. Very good.
Shrimp noodle--A thick, floury-tasting noodle stuffed with tiny sweet shrimp. I found the noodle was a little doughy. Fair.
Taro cakes--Very finely minced inside with a greaseless outside. Good.
Chicken feet--Cut up into small, manageable pieces, and braised in a spicy red sauce till the meat falls off the bone. Very good.
Turnnip cake--Just as greasy as this dish always is, this rendition didn't taste of turnips. Other Chowhounds said the flavor was 'off.' I never order this dish, except when with Chowhounds, so based on their comments, this one earns a Fair.
Zha dan (egg bomb)--My second-ever tasting of this dish was greaseless, globe-shaped beignet-like fritter. Good
Egg custard tarts--small tarts with a nicely flaky crust. These were fairly eggy with a hint of sweetness. Very good
Mango pudding--Silky smooth with small bites of fresh mango. Good.
Overall, some diners said the food was a little salty.
Of course, as soon as we got the check, a bunch of interesting dishes started appearing, such as a fried oyster concoction that looked very intriguing. Next time I am going at 12:30 on a weekday to get the more exciting stuff. We paid $20 per person, including tip.
To my fellow diners: If I forgot something, please post!