Sherman's Food Adventures: August 2022

Pearl Bay Restaurant (Dim Sum Service)

Yes, back-to-back posts on Pearl Bay in Fremont because well, we only ate at one restaurant while we were here for 2 days.  Actually, we weren't supposed to go here for Dim Sum before our flight since we didn't have that much time.  However, I was alerted that our flight was delayed by an hour, hence, let's go for Dim Sum!  Of course during our meal, I got a notification that our flight was on time once again and that sent us scrambling to the airport.  Then we discovered it was delayed by 2 hours.  Sigh...  At least we got some good food prior.

About that food, we started strong with the classic Siu Mai (Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumplings).  Interesting that they steamed the dumplings with the tobiko.  For visuals, I much prefer they add it on raw after the fact.  But that is nitpicking as the dumplings were pretty good.  Texturally, the pork filling was buttery, airy and bouncy.  Furthermore, these were pretty juicy, so they were bursting with moisture.  Seasoning was on the milder side, but it wasn't bland.

With a brush of gold, the Ha Gau (Steamed Shrimp Dumpling) were also good.  It featured a medium-thick and somewhat translucent dumpling wrapper.  It had plenty of elasticity, yet was a bit on the firmer side.  Inside, the whole shrimp filling was moist with the desired snap texture.  There was enough pork fat mixed in to give it some aroma in addition to the other seasonings.  There was a nice natural sweetness to the shrimp.

Over to one of my must order dishes for Dim Sum - the Bean Curd Skin Roll.  I just love the chewy, yet tender texture of the fried, then steamed bean curd skin.  This one was perfect with an initial chewiness giving way to soft layers of bean curd skin.  The filling was a good mixture of tenderized pork and crunchy wood ear mushroom.  Although the sauce was a bit watered down (could've used more starch), it was flavorful and not in overabundance.

Maybe a bit too pale and inundated with too much green onion, the Beef Meatballs ate better than they appeared.  Besides, the color could be corrected with just a bit more dark soy.  In terms of texture, the beef was processed enough to whip in air to create that classic light rebound texture.  As mentioned, the plethora of green onions did dominate the flavor profile.  However, when dunked into Worcestershire, it was quickly erased.

Even though the Steamed Chicken Feet could've been fried longer during the preparation process, it still was quite good.  Usually, the skin would have a bit more resistance, but that wasn't a big issue.  The chicken feet were super plump and steamed just enough. Hence, the skin, fat and cartilage were super tender and moist.  I could eat off all of it clean from the bone.  It was also seasoned well with equal parts sweet, savory and spice.

I personally love the Deep Fried Taro Dumplings even though they are some of the greasiest items on a Dim Sum menu.  However, these were easy on the grease even though the mashed taro underneath soaks up a good amount of oil.  Therefore, the dumplings were crispy on the outside yielding to soft creamy mashed taro underneath.  The filling was featured tender ground pork that was mildly seasoned.

We ended up with two types of Rice Noodle Rolls including prawn and mixed mushroom.  I was impressed at how thin the rice noodle sheets were and that they didn't tear.  That was because the elasticity kept it from doing so.  Although, the rice noodle sheets were still soft and delicate.  The large prawns were meaty and had a buttery snap.  For the mushroom, there was plenty of it and I didn't even miss the meat.

Another Dim Sum staple is the Steamed Pork Spareribs with black beans.  This one also contained peppers which added another layer of flavor to compliment the salty black beans.  Most of the pork rib pieces were meaty and lacking in cartilage and fat.  The meat had been tenderized enough so it was easy to chew while still retaining a good meaty bite.  As you can see, it was also a good portion size.

Probably the best dish of the meal was the surprising Pan-Fried Taro Cake.  The considerable amount of shredded taro added both aroma and texture to the cake.  Usually, there is much more pudding cake than taro.  Also, the way they fried it up made it extra tasty and texturally appealing.  As you can clearly see, the exterior was beautifully browned and subsequently crunchy and nutty.

So of course I had to dabble in the offal because that is my favorite part of Dim Sum!  Hence, we ordered the Steamed Beef Belly with Satay Sauce.  Not only was this stacked full of tripe, the dish was also on point.  The large strips of tripe were super tender and soft with a slight chew.  The texture couldn't have been any better.  As for the satay sauce, it was sweet and salty with a bit of background spice.

So the fried rice we had for dinner at Pearl Bay was pretty darn good, but the Wok-Fried Vermicelli with with dried scallop, crab and egg whites was even better.  Loved how they separated the whites from the yolks, nice texture and color contrast.  The noodles were chewy and caramelized while the plethora of ingredients made this hearty with lots of texture.  Loved the addition of pine nuts as there was more aroma.

Typically, when on thinks about BBQ Pork Pineapple Buns, there is actually no pineapple in them.  Rather, the topping looks like a pineapple, hence the name.  However, they buck the trend here and add actual pineapple into the BBQ pork filling.  As a result, there was added natural sweetness to the pork inside.  The bun itself was soft and fluffy while the topping was crunchy, sweet and aromatic.

The Black Steamed Buns with salted egg yolk filling were striking with its color and also the gold streak on top.  It ate well too with a soft airy bun that didn't taste like the exterior color.  Inside, the liquid sweetened salted egg yolk center was nutty and sweet with only the slightest amount of saltiness.  It flowed up quickly, so one must eat this carefully or otherwise it will be all over the table or the person eating it. 

Lastly, we had the Coconut Pudding Bunnies.  These were cute and I really didn't want to eat them!  They were quite creamy and only mildly sweet.  Lots of coconut aroma and the gelatin wasn't overused.  So as I mentioned in my previous post, I'm from Vancouver, so I'm pretty picky when it comes to Dim Sum.  However, Pearl Bay does a good job and I enjoyed my meal.  Definitely better than the ol' spots such as Mayflower and Koi Palace in my opinion.

The Good:
- Solid food
- Well-portioned
- Decent service

The Bad:
- Still don't like that video wall


Pearl Bay Restaurant (Dinner Service)

So I wasn't really supposed to be in the Bay Area so soon...  I was scheduled to drive down in August on my way down the coast to visit with some family and also grab some eats.  However, my aunt passed and I hopped on a flight down to SFO for a quick few days.  Naturally being a somber time, I didn't bring my camera with me because it wasn't that type of trip.  But of course we still needed to eat food and ended up dining at the Pearl Bay for all 3 meals.  So this post is an amalgamation of 2 dinners and taken with pics taken with my phone.

We started both meals with the House Special Steamed Chicken served with ginger scallion condiment.  The large chicken was prepared quite well where the skin was nicely gelatinized and the texture was not flabby.  Since the chicken was of the free-range variety, the meat was leaner and hence less juicy.  However, that didn't mean it wasn't tender though.  Of course the dark meat was more tender than the white meat, but not by much.  Loved how there was a balanced amount of ginger to scallion in the condiment.

We had a vegetable that I've never seen or tried before - Squash Shoots.  Think pea shoots, but without the leaves.  This was wok-fried with consomme, fried garlic and Virginia ham.  Hence, we had the combination of subtle sweetness from the broth, aromatics and nuttiness from the fried garlic and the meaty saltiness of the ham.  As for the squash shoots, they appeared to be tough, yet that was far from the case.  They were tender and texturally appealing.

One of my favourite dishes was the House Special Rice that had everything but the kitchen sink in it.  In addition to the usual jasmine rice, we found wild rice instead.  In addition, there was shrimp, separate egg whites and egg yolks, tobiko, fried shallots and green onion.  There must've been some other ingredients too that I have missed.  The result was a study of textures that were layered with each bite.  We had this for both dinners.

A dish full of textures was the Stir-Fried Chive, Dried Squid, Taro and Dried Fish.  Cut up into bite-sized pieces, the squid was tender in a chewy-kind-of-way, if that makes sense.  Dried squid has this firm bite that is very different than the spongier fresh squid.  Add in the crunch and vibrancy of the chives and the starchiness of the taro, the mouth feel was appealing.  Moreover, the addition of dried fish added some brininess.

Something that was unique had to be the Singapore Style Oxtail served with deep fried mantou.  This curry might've looked spicy due to the oil on top, but in the end, it was quite mild and creamy.  What I particularly enjoyed about the hot pot was the plethora of silky eggs strewn throughout.  The sauce went really well with rice with an intense sweetness.  As for the oxtail, it was a bit underdone and could've been more tender.

On the following night, we ordered more dishes due to the fact we had a bigger group.  A classic dish was the Stir-Fried Water Spinach with fermented bean curd.  As you can see, they did a good job minimizing the water at the bottom of the plate.  Usually water spinach lets off a considerable amount of moisture.  It was prepared properly where the hollow stems were crunchy while cooked through.  Although the dish wasn't lacking flavour, I would've liked to see more fermented bean curd.

For the kiddies, we got a couple orders of the Peking Pork Chops.  This turned out to be a fantastic idea since the adults enjoyed the dish just as much as the kids!  Each piece of pork was large in size and completely tenderized having a nice rebound texture.  They were fried crispy and in fact, they remained as such even though they were coated in sauce.  About that sauce, it was just enough to cling onto the pork.  Good balance of tanginess with sweetness.

Another interesting item was the Tender Beef Cubes with Japanese Tofu and honey sauce.  Again, lots of different textures at play here including the meaty, yet tender chunks of beef, crunchy veggies and the delicate silkiness of the tofu.  Better yet, the tofu was fried perfectly where the outside was lightly crispy.  However, the thing that really put this dish over the top was the intense flavour of the beef.  It was impactful being sweet and savoury.

Continuing on flavourful dishes, we had the Beef Short Ribs with garlic and black vinegar sauce.  The fatty short ribs were tender and had that unmistakable chewiness (in a good way).  The flavours had penetrated the meat and also caramelized on the outside.  Hence, there was plenty of depth and impact.  Nice aromatic sweetness.  The accompanying veggies were vibrant and crunchy.

Onto a dish that was a mix of items in the Wok-Fried Sliced Lotus Root, fish cake, wood ear mushroom and snap peas.  There was plenty of "wok hei" (wok heat that caramelizes the food) whereby the items were fully cooked yet still maintaining their texture such as the crunch of the lotus root and snap peas.  Loved the fish cake as it was squishy in a good way.  Just enough glaze clinging onto the food to provide a savory umaminess.

A super home-style dish was the Steamed Pork Cake with salted fish.  The trick here is to have the fattiest pork possible so that the meat cake is buttery tender.  It was definitely that here, but the chunks of fat were far too large, so it was not that appealing.  If they had diced it into finer pieces, it would've rendered better.  It did taste good with all the goodness of salted fish.  All-in-all, I was quite impressed with the food at Pearl Bay.  Since I'm from Vancouver, where arguably we find the best Cantonese food in North America (if not the world), it is a real compliment to this restaurant in Fremont.  2 solid dinners so far and Dim Sum on deck...

The Good:
- Good use of wok heat where food has caramelization and impactful flavours
- Decent service
- Decent portions

The Bad:
- That video wall is distracting


White Spot R+D Kitchen

Over the years, we've seen the metamorphosis of such restaurant chains like Joey and Cactus Club.  Formerly casual and family-orientated, these 2 places did not sport much in the way of gourmet eats.  In fact, I remember that Joey used to be Joey Tomatoes and Cactus Club had cows adorning the walls.  The sudden change in direction for these 2 chains happened many moons ago and they have been attracting a younger demographic.  Now it seems like White Spot wants to get into the action with their new R+D kitchen at The Amazing Brentwood.  We decided to check it out.

Now, the menu does have some specialized items only available at R+D, but much of it is still very White Spot including their signature burgers.  My parents stayed with the traditional and got some Dippin Chicken to start.  Nothing out-of-the-ordinary with this as it sported the usual chicken breast strips that were fried golden brown.  The coating was thin, yet crispy.  Inside, the chicken was tender and moist.  They chose the plum sauce as their dip.

For their main, they shared the 9oz NY Strip with roasted tomato onion adobo, rainbow carrots, roasted baby potatoes and crispy onions.  They asked for it to be prepared rare and it came exactly as such.  Although the sauce was pretty flavourful and spicy, my mom wasn't too fond of it.  Potatoes and carrots were nicely roasted but not overdone either.  Although advertised as 9 ounces, this appeared to be bigger.

My son went with the R+D House Wagyu Burger with aged white cheddar, hickory smoked bacon, arugula, tomato, pickle and mustard onion confit.  This burger was all classic White Spot except for the addition of arugula and the confit.  He found the bacon to be crispy while the confit to be sweet with a bite.  However, the most important part was not that great.  The burger patty was dry and not really discernible as Wagyu.

For myself, I decided on the Gochujang Fried Chicken Burger with Crispy chicken thigh, Gochujang sauce, savoy cabbage and mayo.  This was pretty solid with a juicy chicken thigh that was fried crunchy.  It stayed as such even though it was doused with gochujang sauce.  I know that gochujang has been overused as of late, but I enjoyed the sweetness and heat regardless.  Fries were a bit soggy though.

For my daughter, she went for the Tuffled Mushroom Pizza with cream sauce, seasonal roasted mushrooms, black truffle cheese, roasted garlic and arugula.  She instantly regretted ordering it after biting into the crust.  Honestly, if White Spot wants to compete with the big boys in the chain restaurant world, they need to up there game with the crust.  It was no better than the store-bought ready-to-bake variety.  It was not good.  On the plus side, the toppings were solid and flavours were earthy.

Viv opted for the Crispy Skin Arctic Char with rainbow carrots, roasted baby potatoes & basil hollandaise.  The skin was indeed crispy but you can clearly see that part of it was wrecked by either the cooking utensil or being stuck to the pan.  Not particularly appealing to look at.  Fish was a little overdone, but not by much.  It was well-seasoned.  Veggies were solid being cooked just enough.  

Of course my daughter wanted dessert, so we ordered the Triple Dark Chocolate S'mores Brownie consisting of Ghirardelli triple dark chocolate brownie, marshmallows, graham cracker crust & raspberry coulis.  The light brownie itself was rather sweet, but the tart coulis balanced it off.  I think the marshmallow was the culprit for the sweetness though.  Overall, this visit to White Spot R+D Kitchen was disappointing.  White Spot holds a special place in my heart as I grew up eating Pirate Paks and enjoying their classic dishes.  However, if they are trying to enter the crowded field of more premium chain eateries, they need to do much better than this.

The Good:
- Nice dining space
- Excellent service
- Menu has some new things and classic items

The Bad:
- That pizza crust is plain embarrassing when Pizza Garden in the adjacent food court does it way better
- Overall, the food needs to be better. It is as if they are trying without actually looking at what the competition is doing.

Fortune City Seafood Restaurant (Dim Sum Service)

Boy, we haven't been back to this place in quite some time.  Could it be the food isn't very good or could it be that the parking lot is prone to fist fights over parking spaces?  Maybe we just have too much choice in the GVRD?  Well, we were about to find out!  The real reason that we had Dim Sum at Fortune City is that we were meeting up with my in-laws.  Yes, that meant Dim Sum with my mother-in-law.  Guaranteed to be much screaming, yelling and all kinds of embarrassing behaviour for all to see in a public space...  sigh...

Anyways, at least we could drown our sorrows in the food right?  Almost immediately after we submitted our order sheet, the Deep Fried Taro Dumplings arrived.  Well, we knew why it showed up so quickly.  It was cold.  I don't blame them for trying to be more efficient in having items ready, but something fried like this is most optimal when it is hot.  Otherwise, the textures are not crispy enough and the mashed taro won't be as creamy (it has lard in it).  So despite it being a good version, the temperature ruined it.

So the XO Daikon Pudding Cake did arrive hot, yet that didn't make this a good dish though.  Even though the colour each strip of pudding cake was nicely browned, it was not crispy at all.  In fact, they were completely oil-logged and ate very greasy (like our lips were covered in oil).  To make things worse, the XO flavour was pretty weak.  I think they skimped on the amount of XO here.  However, the texture of the pudding cake was silky and soft.

We always get the Pork Sparerib Rice because the kids love it.  Furthermore, it is a great way to stuff them full of rice so we can order less.  LOL...  Anyways, this was decent as the rice was not mushy, being a bit chewy and nutty.  On top, we found plenty of pork spareribs with a mix of rib pieces and some cartilage/fat.  Texturally, the ribs were good having a rebound texture.  They were nicely seasoned with enough saltiness and garlickiness.

Of course we ordered the Shrimp Spring Rolls since the kids cannot do without it.  These were pretty good with a tightly wrapped exterior that yielded a crunchy texture.  Fortunately for us, this was made-to-order and came out hot and crunchy (unlike the taro dumpling).  Inside, the whole shrimp filling was moist and sweet.  There was the classic snap texture from the shrimp.

Now the excellent shrimp texture did not translate over to the Stuffed Eggplant with black bean sauce.  These were probably fried too long as the shrimp mousse filling was rubbery and somewhat dry.  It was especially tough on the outside where the it was in direct contact with the hot oil.  Strangely, the eggplant was not overly mushy and had a nice bite on the outside.  As for the sauce, it was pretty bland and watered down.

I must say in all my time blogging, the Siu Mai (Steamed Pork & Shrimp Dumpling) here must be one of the worst I've ever had.  I can only remember one that was worse being the one from Grand Crystal which was all fat.  This one here featured pork that was chewy and sinewy. I could not chew through it and it was texturally very off-putting. Furthermore, the whole thing just tasted like plain pork.  It need better seasoning.

The same crappy pork was featured in the Bean Curd Skin Rolls.  My jaw was getting tired from chewy the tough pork.  Did they even try to tenderize it?  Hence, it totally diminished the excellent texture of the bean curd skin.  It had a nice chewiness but was super tender as well.  Moreover, the starch-thickened glaze on the outside was actually good as well being just enough and flavourful.  It is really too bad about the pork.

Not all was lost though as the Ha Gau (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings) were pretty decent.  These were medium-sized and featured a translucent dumpling skin that had a good elasticity without being too chewy.  I found the filling to be good with big pieces of shrimp.  Texturally, I think the shrimp was ever-so-slightly overdone, yet it wasn't too bad.  Hence, the shrimp still had a snap albeit not as juicy.  There was enough seasoning as well.

We were very aware that ordering Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Soup Dumplings) in a Cantonese restaurant would be sketch, so we had reasonable expectations.  So yes, the dumpling skin was on the thicker side, but there was a decent amount of sweet soup within.  However, since the dumplings were stuck together, all the soup leaked out when we moved them.  I thought the pork filling was not bad being tender and mild-tasting.

Of course we needed to get some offal (because I love it) in the form of Tendon & Tripe.  Now this was excellent.  The tendon was braised enough that it was super tender, yet without getting to the point it was melting away.  It took on all of the garlicky sweet flavours of the sauce.  As for the tripe, it was also perfect.  There was some chew left while being completely soft.  It also soaked up all of the delicious sauce.

Staying with the good dishes, the Phoenix Talons (Steamed Chicken Feet) were generally on point as well.  Sure, some parts had fallen off (such as the end part), but that didn't affect the eating enjoyment.  The skin was nicely textured with some bite while giving way to soft cartilage and fat underneath.  There was good spice along with equal amounts of sweetness and savouriness (as well as garlic).

The kids love their BBQ Pork Buns and we ended up getting that as well.  Fluffy and generally light, the bun was good while steamed just enough.  Loved the BBQ pork peaking out from the bun, made for great visuals and tempted us to eat them.  That we did and there was a good amount of filling inside.  Either they used lean pork or we got lucky because I didn't find a single piece of fat.  The glaze was balanced with sweetness and saltiness.

Another Dim Sum classic is the Steamed Beef Meatballs.  For those unfamiliar, the meat is whipped through either a food processor or mixer.  This adds air and in addition to the baking soda, makes the beef light and bouncy.  Well, these were exactly that and done right.  They might've been a touch pale though.  Loved they eased up on the greens and allowed the meat to stand on its own.

Lastly, we got an order each of the Salty Donut Rice Noodle Roll and the Prawn Rice Noodle Roll.  These were disappointing due to the fact the rice noodle sheet was stiff and had no elasticity.  Hence, they ate somewhat mealy and dense.  The prawn rice noodle roll was slightly better though.  Furthermore, the salty donut was stiff and dense.  At the very least, the prawns were large and had a meaty snap.  So as you can see, the meal as a whole was a disappointing.  Sure, some dishes were quite good, but when something wasn't, it was really bad. There is no excuse for that, especially in the Greater Vancouver area due to the intense competition and sophisticated diner's palates. They need to do better here.

The Good:
- Reasonable pricing
- Service was ok
- Parking available

The Bad:

- Food as a whole just not good enough for Vancouver
- Parking is available, but frustrating


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