As Yimster mentioned in the New China Delight thread, Trend has indeed changed its Chinese name (good observation). The restaurant has now shifted in a different direction.
Supposedly one of the Trend Sichuan chefs is still in the kitchen, but the Chinese name has changed from "Sichuan outside of Sichuan" to "Piao Hsiang Ju" (floating fragrance residence) They also hired a Taiwanese chef to prepare what is supposedly military dependent's village cuisine (MDV explained here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military...), who grew up in one of those designated areas. And it turned out the other Sichuanese chef grew up in one of the military camps in China, and I suppose the owners went "duh" and the new formula was born.
This style of cooking can also be thought of as a mish mash of non Canto Chinese, like a melting pot (think of the diversity of Asian in Hawaiian minus the fusion, in parallel) Now Sun's in San Mateo can no longer make the claim they are the only folks to do so. I would imagine Liang's in Cupertino (a branch of the succesful excellent SoCal chain) being the most superior, although they too are new and are trying to handle scale (and currently not too well).
7:30 pm on pre-Memorial Day Saturday, and suddenly Trend became Taiwanese overflow central. People waiting outside the door. Even overheard people leaving saying that last week the place was empty. I guess advertising in the Chinese local media paid off.
Food was slow. Menu is all over the map, but if you can read shorthand form Chinese, look for a white board near the receptionist area for the MDV supposed specials. The thing is, it feels like a crapshoot with ordering, even with the supposed paid advertising writeup (the author probably got hooked up with no wait).
Supposedly the lion's head meatballs are good (entirely made by hand) but they sold out. The manager decided to recommend their Taiwanese stewed striped bass with garlic and tofu ($12.95) that they proudly claim is imported from Taiwan (re: purchased from Tien Tien market) and unfortunately it was not stellar (fish meat was very chewy, unlike fresh striped bass if you can score it off the tanks in the South Bay Asian markets). In retrrospect we should have picked the bottom item from the specials board: rock sugar red date pork shoulder thingy.
This might just be the only restaurant in town that serves the exotic noodle known as Crossing Bridge Noodle (Guo Chiao Mi Xien). 8 years ago, Z&Y in Chinatown (before it became 100% Sichuan) offered this as well and it was way better, but alas no more. CBN is actually Yunnanese in nature. The rumored origins of this noodle goes something along the lines of a scholar who decided to study his final exams on an island (in isolation) separated by a bridge. His wife wanted to bring him cooked food from home and discovered that a hearty chicken soup with a layer of chicken fatty oil would keep the broth warm, and she packed up additional ingredients and noodles separately, then served them together.
The waitstaff brough over a plate of mixed stuff (bean sprouts, yuba/tofu skin but didn't bother cutting it up so it was one big sheet, chicken, pork, scallions, shrimp. The noodle was a lot thicker than Z&Y's, but not bad. Stock was decent. Huge portion, ran about $8. If Z&Y's was considered authentic, then this was average in comparison, but the most delicious item of the evening.
Pork and chive dumplings.....oh man mondo screwup. It was undercooked. They took it away, then 20+ mins later, still did not replace it until we asked. Then server came back and put it on our table. We thought, did they just boil it some more? Nope...they somehow morphed into pork and cabbage dumplings. Skins were mildly chewy and decent but the insides were overly marinated and not right (nowhere near as good as Kingdom of Dumpling SF, or Everyday Beijing San Mateo, or San Tung SF).
Best to come when this place is not so crowded. However I think they still need a lot of work, and to me the food falls short of authentic, although very edible for the most part. Perhaps there are other gems, but I'm not itching to return soon.
It appears the restaurant kept the buffet, but it appears to be more now of a self serve side appetizer dishes (including husband and wife "lung" [re: tripe and tendon] slices).
637 South B Street, San Mateo, CA
San Tung Chinese Restaurant
1031 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
Kingdom of Dumpling
1713 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA
400 Moffett Blvd, Mountain View, CA
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