A delightfully Modern China Cafe in Walnut Creek

by foodhoe on August 22, 2010

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.

Modern China Cafe on Urbanspoon

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa August 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

Nice place and wondeful food!

Cheers,

Rosa

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grace August 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm

what amazing food! all of it looks magnificent…except for the icky eyeball. 🙂

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Single Guy Ben August 22, 2010 at 5:28 pm

This looks like a nice place for a family gathering. Was it a birthday party? That is odd that your big fish came at the end. Most times when I have dinner at a Chinese restaurant, it usually comes after the appetizer plate. On a side note: It’s rare to see dim sum at night because it really is a brunch thing to have with tea during the days. So the Chinese restaurants that offer them at night are usually doing it for the American public who craves dim sum. 😉

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Cookie August 23, 2010 at 12:08 pm

What a great place! One of my favorite Dim Sum plates as a kid was the Spare Ribs in Black Bean Sauce!

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consumable Joy August 24, 2010 at 7:46 am

Oh I so wish that I had known about this restaurant a week and a half ago, when I spent a whole bunch of time in Walnut Creek buying a new car! If we ever have a reason to hang out in walnut creek again 😉 we’ll go there!

(we had brunch @ Lark Creek, and instead of having dinner there we drove back to Berkeley)

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Juliana August 24, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Oh! Yummie! Everything looks so delicious…well prepared…my mouth is watering over the pictures…I better go and get some lunch 🙂

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hungry dog August 24, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Wow. Everything looks delicious…especially those little chive dumplings, I keep scrolling back to those! I’m spending a little time every week or so in Concord these days…maybe I can get to this place on the way to or from one day. YOur photos are, as always, beautiful.

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Bonnibella August 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

The prices are very reasonable. Have you been to The Door in Walnut Creek for asian inspired food? They have a similar reasonable happy hour. Your nephew Ken is adooorable.

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foodhoe August 26, 2010 at 11:42 am

grace, yeah that thing was kind of bothering me… I just wanted to deflate it and get it over with!
Single Guy, strangely the banquets I have been to always bring those whole fish out at the end… and count me in with the American public, I love dumplings for dinner!
Cookie, me too, we always order that
CJ, you are just spoiled by living in Berkeley… Va da Vi is good too, if you’re ever in WC again.
Juliana, me too!
Hungry Dog, why thanks!
Bonnibella, Isn’t little ken sweet? I havent’ heard of the door but will look for it, thanks for the tip!

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5 Star Foodie August 27, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Sounds like an excellent meal and a beautiful decor!

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