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Restaurants & Bars 4

XLB at Sun Tung in San Mateo

Melanie Wong | Apr 27, 200606:04 AM

Ever since reading Pia's rec for Sun Tung more than 4 years ago
([BROKEN LINK REMOVED]), I've been meaning to check it out. When David Farris (who's doing some stellar chowhounding) recommended it recently, I made a point to get over there. Peter Yee joined me for lunch last week. We decided to order heavily to make a one-stop decision on whether we liked it enough to return.

This doesn't appear to be a Shanghainese restaurant, and from the name and menu offerings seems to be Shandong. In addition to xiao long bao, the menu has a large assortment of other types of dumplings including shui jiao available in a variety of fillings. We picked the two most unusual, one with dill and the other with seafood.

First out was the seafood noodle soup (chao ma mian). This had a very light and delicate broth that I found quite cleansing, but others might consider too bland. The noodles were the softish squishy type. The calamari and shrimp were cooked just so to show their best texture and sweet fresh flavors. Slim slices of barely cooked cucumber provided the vegetable component and seemed particularly suited to the lightness of this dish. I liked it very much, but Peter seemed less taken with it. I'd like to try it in a spicy version.

The xiao long bao shown below had the heavy flared top knots pinching the reasonably thin and chewy skins. They seemed to be freshly made. The soft and not overly lean pork filling was rather monotonal but I liked the meaty note it struck. I'd describe these as "juicy" rather than soupy with a nice savory stock. I enjoyed them but they don't compare to the ones at Shanghai East, the cross-town rival.

On first sampling, both Peter and I preferred the dill and pork boiled dumplings. The flavor reminded me of pelmeni and I almost wished I had some sour cream to top them. The flavor was more assertive and unusual, whereas the fish/shrimp/leek seafood dumplings seemed too tame in comparison. Also, the skin on the seafood dumplings was the same thinnish dimension but was oddly tough.

However, taking the extra dumplings home and reheating them in some chicken stock, the seafood dumplings shined far more brightly. The intense dill flavor had become coarser and overpowered the pork taste. On the other hand, the seafood dumplings' clean and bright flavors pumped up even more in soup. Also, the wrappers hit a silky texture and I suspect that the toughness was due to slight undercooking the first go-round.

We agreed that this spot merits more exploration. Hope to hear more recommendations!

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

Image: http://static.flickr.com/53/135206647...

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