After reading the Chronicle’s Guide to DimSum, a group of us intended to try Dol Ho in Chinatown for lunch, which was mentioned as being seriously cheap. It ended up being a hole in the wall and not able to accommodate a group of nine, so we wandered over to Great Eastern, eager to try something different from our usual Gold Mountain. They have an array of banners posted in the window, commendations from Michelin guide, Zagat Survey, AOL city search, and a few others. The building shares a cheesey pagoda facade with one of the many benevolent associations which gives it the jaunty appearance where a martial arts fight could break out at any instant on the outside balcony.
We were seated in the downstairs dining room, but I noticed rows of aquariums filled with a variety of large fish lining the main upstairs dining area. This is the kind of dimsum that you order from a menu, they don’t have carts trundling around the restaurant, which is good because your dishes arrive piping hot and freshly cooked, rather than having been sitting around in a steam cart. I prefer the excitement of the carts coming around, peering into the steaming baskets and sometimes discovering dishes you had never seen before… Jay and Kent conferred first with Alexson and proceeded to order a pile of dishes.
These well manicured Chicken Feet Paws arrived, looking like worms and to be honest, they looked intimidating. Alexson said that they have a pure chicken flavor that he prefers over the braised version, but they looked too much like what they are and have very little appeal to me. However, I was sitting next to P who liberally dosed his with chili sauce and next thing you know, he poked himself in the eye with one of the protruding digits…
Now though, I have developed an appreciation for the Braised Chicken Feet also known as Golden Phoenix Claws, whose preparation includes frying which first makes the feet puff up, then marinating in a mixture of star anise, chile, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce and black bean, then steaming in the marinade to produce the final delicacy. The result is velvety soft flesh that requires little effort to coax off first the palm of the foot that is infused with the delicious sauce. What little meat there is nibbled delicately off the bones, along with tendons and ligaments that have been cooked until soft and gelatinous. Alexson pulls the three-toed thing through his teeth then deftly spits out a pile of bones.
And the next thing was a Plate of Tripe, which I am still trying to reconcile my tastebuds to the idea that eating rubber bands is good. The attraction of this dish is not immediately apparent to me. Like the braised chicken feet above, I think I’d like this if the tripe were cooked down in a delicious sauce, hopefully losing the rubberbandlike texture.
Ahhh, we had a couple of baskets of steamed shu mai, which are filled with ground pork, shrimp and black mushrooms and topped with crunchy fragrant fish roe.
We enjoyed an extravagant dish of Prawns and scallops Fried Rice (13.50) which had some nice pieces of fresh seafood and the grains of rice had a very nice firm texture, but I’d be just as happy with a less expensive version.
Lotus Leaves filled with sticky rice were big and bountifully bursting at the seams.
The soft sticky rice is studded with dried shrimp, chinese sausage and other goodies and drizzled with a savory sauce. I generally split one of these with someone else, because these are very filling…
The Shrimp Dumplings had thin, semi-translucent rice flour skins that were delicately pleated. Soft and tender, with just the right amount of filling, these dumplings were nearly perfect.
Deep fried Tofu Skin rolls were fried and filled with ground pork and shrimp and vegetables. The crispy layers of the tofu skin wrapper reminded me a little bit of pastry.
Alexson always orders Steamed Beef Balls which are usually cut in half with scissors and served on top of tofu skins with a small bowl of worcestershire sauce. These had a light airy texture and were mixed with a dark green leafy vegetable that created visual drama as well as additional crunchiness.
The Turnip Cakes were light and fluffy with nicely crisped exteriors.
Fried Shrimp and Crab Dumplings, are filled with shrimp paste and bits of crab meat, and encased in a thick wrapper that is fried until crunchy. Served with a little bowl of sweet mayonnaise, yes you know by now that I like fat on my fat…
DDR wanted Fried Shrimp-stuffed Crab Claws, which are big fluffy balls of fish paste filled with bits of shrimp and a crabclaw, rolled in breading and then deep fried to a golden crisp. Heaven!
We had a few different desserty dishes. Sticky glutinous mochi ball filled with luscious nutty and sweet paste made with black sesame and rolled in a ground soybean flour. I loved this.
We had another interesting plateful of fried mochi balls, these were filled with rich buttery custard, the same stuff that comes in cocktail buns.
The rich egg gives it a silky texture that is infused with vanilla and coconut and cream and tastes fantastic with the chewy mochi with a delicately crisp fried exterior.
bleargh, I agreed to try turtle jelly because I never heard of it before, and here’s a link to a site describing the Asian Turtle Crisis that I was appalled to read of course after we helped propagate this unfortunate trade… I can only hope it is something like shark’s fin soup and that they don’t really use turtle….
It was thicker than jello and a slightly sweet bitter flavor, I thought I detected the faintest hint of licorice, but that was probably because of the dark inky color… I was mildly freaked out when told that it had a purging effect, thinking that I would instantly be running to the loo, and limited myself to just a few bites. Definitely not something I feel that I need to include in my diet ever again.
Even with the scandalously expensive fried rice, we ate our fill for a very reasonable price. The total per person was probably about $14… The dining experience was very similar to eating at Gold Mountain, just without the activity of the carts, which is essential to some people for dimsum. The food was tasty, although not at the same level as Koi Palace or ABC Seafood (post coming soon). But I do feel lucky to be walking distance to such fine and funky lunch spots!