1525 North Main Street, Walnut Creek, CA | 925.988.8008 | website |
The lovely Modern China Cafe was opened in early 2010 by Eric Zhang, who formerly owned Zheng Long Noodle House, which closed in 2008 after a terrible fire. It’s right downtown with an outside area in the front where you can enjoy the summer breeze while kicking back by the stone buddha fountain and watch the world go by… They have a full bar with an exciting happy hour menu that includes a $10 dimsum buffet on Tuesday evenings, especially cool because you just can’t find good dim sum served at dinner.
The interior is modern yet very comfortable with sleek white oak tables mixed in with Asian artwork, antiques and grainy photos of old Shanghai hanging on the walls.
I like the bold contrasts between the old and the new…
The regular menu is broken into four categories: land, water, grain, and greens. I say regular menu because they have a separate one for lunch, dinner, parties, one written Chinese, and a separate one for Dim Sum, which was created by Chef Wang, the former Dim Sum Chef from Koi Palace in Dublin.
We got there early for a small family reunion and ordered a few plates from the dim sum menu to share while we waited for everyone to show up. The pork potstickers were huge things, stuffed with ground pork, ginger, napa cabbage ($3). The wrappers were thin and deliciously blistered along the crunchy bottoms. They were served with a spicy ponzu dipping sauce that had a good chili kick.
The stuffed eggplant were quite large and had to be cut into pieces which we shared. The eggplant was soft and creamy, filled with shrimp paste and topped with a savory black bean sauce ($3.50)
These plump round dumplings ($3) were filled with a deliciously pungent mixture of Chinese chives (also known as garlic chives) and shrimp. Chinese chives have a fantastic garlic scent and flavor which pairs well with the tender pieces of shrimp. The texture of the wrapper seemed a bit dense and chewy because the dumplings were served on a plate rather than traveling around the room in the steam basket.
The Stuffed Bell Peppers topped with shrimp paste ($3.50) were served with more of the spicy black bean sauce.
The pork spareribs with black bean sauce ($3) were rich and meaty and my Mom couldn’t get enough of the savory morsels… Just looking at these photos reminds me that is has been way too long since I’ve feasted on dimsum.
Because we wanted to share everything, we ordered most of the dishes from the dinner menu, rather than the lunch menu. The meal began with Roast chicken in Lettuce Cups with pine nuts, mushrooms, crisp bits of water chestnut and crunchy fried rice sticks ($9). The iceberg lettuce has its place in the world and excels in its role here as edible wrapper, adding the perfect crisp to this classic dish of exquisite textures.
The home made Peking crispy roast duck with pancakes ($15) seemed much less fatty than most, although the crispy skin did have the requisite layer of fat underneath. The fluffy buns were the perfect shape to cup in your hands while you smear dark smoky hoisin sauce down the split in the bun and tuck in shredded green onion and then bits of crispy skin or succulent meat.
Spicy scallops & shrimp and eggplant slices cooked w/ fresh basil, jalapeno and onions $14
I had to order the Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage (9) when I saw that on the menu. The rice dish was full of crisp pieces of sauteed bok choy, peas and carrots, pieces of egg and liberally dotted with bits of the luscious chewy sausage.
We gobbled up the Shaking Black Pepper Beef (10), which is normally found on contemporary Vietnamese menus. The pan-fried thin slices of meat were marbled with fat and infused with a sweet garlicky marinade. It was served with a small bowl of fresh squeezed lime juice mixed with salt and black pepper to dip in. I loved the combination of flavors.
The Sauteed Pea Shoots had a garlicky wallop and added a good vegetable crunch.
And any kind of celebratory meal must include noodles for long lives, so we ordered Hong Kong style Crispy Noodles, which were topped with big chunks of chicken and beef and lightly sauteed vegetables. ($8)
The last course was bamboo steamed Chilean Seabass, which was fragrant with ginger, green onion and cilantro. The bulbous eye jiggled ominously.
Underneath the pile of fragrant fresh herbs, the flesh was tender and sweet and fell off the bones. Why do these gigantic fish dishes always come at the end when you’re really too full to eat, but can’t resist the intoxicating aroma?
Awww, here’s my cousin Roy with nephew Ken, who has the sweetest smile ever…
The tea was served in heavy iron pots that required almost two hands to pour when full, but kept the tea warm throughout the meal. Our server was very attentive and checked in with us frequently.
It was a fine meal and we were glad to have found this Chinese restaurant in Walnut Creek after our old favorite Tin’s Tea House closed last year. Since it was a hot day out in CoCo County, afterwards we walked down the street to the San Francisco Creamery where we enjoyed refreshing ice cream cones and treats.