Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dumpling Inn

Xiaolongbao!!!!!!!  It is so lovely.
You have many options of things to make your dipping sauce.
I like to use ALL of them.  Miko likes ONLY white vinegar...

...and just a bit of chili paste.  With exactly one shred of ginger.

I'm always so sad when they're all gone that I eat the cabbage from the plate.

Sea bass with black bean sauce.

The rice is fine.

We call these "crack greens" because we ALWAYS have to get them
Even though Miko says she hates vegetables.
Rating: Two thumbs up! 
Date: 12/23/12 
Time in: 5:40 PM (sat down at 6:30 PM)
Time out: 7:26 PM 

Servers' recommendations: Sea bass with black bean sauce. 
What we ordered: Sauteed greens, sea bass with black bean sauce, small pork buns (xialongbao)
Number in our party: 2 

Final check amount: $31.61
  • It's a teeny-weeny restaurant that's packed with tables.  They would probably hire more servers if there was extra room for staff to walk around, but there isn't any.  That means the servers are always insanely busy, so expect the service to be brusque.  They're not rude, but they won't fawn over you.
  • We had forgotten, but Dumpling Inn's xiaolongbao is CLEARLY the best when they are on top of their game.  If we were very hungry and it was a busy time, we'd lose patience and go to Red Moon, but if we really wanted xiaolongbao specifically, we'd wait in line for Dumpling Inn.  No other dumplings give us the same warm, cozy feeling that we get after we eat a plate of Dumpling Inn's xiaolongbao.  It's like the X factor is INSIDE each little bun.  "I could eat 3 orders of these without much problem," says Jenne.
  • We take great joy in mixing all the condiments together to make our own special sauces to fit our tastes.
  • The fish in the seabass dish is nice and fluffy.
  • All the vegetables in the dishes are bright colors -- nothing looks dingy and overcooked.
  • They changed the lighting from the awful fluorescent lights to hanging lamps!  It makes it cozier inside.
  • There's no restroom; you have to go next door to the Korean market.  It's a little bit gross back there.
  • You can bring your own beverage!  We recommend this, since the servers often forget to bring your water till very late in the meal.  Or not at all.
  • There's no music.  We liked that because we enjoy hearing cooking sounds.
  • We really like that they give you Starbursts with your check instead of lame-o mints.

Address: 4619 Convoy St, Ste F
Phone number: 858.268.9638
Accepts credit cards? Yes, $10 minimum
Parking: Shared lot that's not as bad as other plazas on Convoy.  Usually, there's a spot or two available.
Ideal group size: 
2-4 maximum.  If it's not a busy time, you could go on your own. 
Available vegetarian options: Sauteed greens, vegetarian dumplings, mapo tofu without pork

Who not to bring: People who don't like to wait
Noise level: 3.75

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jasmine Seafood Restaurant

Shrimp har gow

Chinese broccoli

Turnip cake cart--it was hard to get a good picture since it was right behind me, but we were charmed by the lady grilling the cakes right there in the aisle. Fun!

Turnip cake

Taro thing

Flaky pork thing

Shrimp noodle, yum.  The noodle part was more delicate
and less gloopy than others we've had.

Foreground, BBQ pork bun.  Background, egg custard bun.

"Soup" dumplings -- not very fresh, so no soup any more!


Sesame balls, still warm and so good!  Anna even liked them
despite having overdosed on them as a child --
 her mom worked at a Chinese restaurant and brought them home all the time. 

Rating: Two thumbs up
Date: 12/15/12
Time in: 12 PM
Time out: 1:33 PM
Servers' recommendations: Chicken feet (we really pressed her for a recommendation and I (Jenne) wondered if she recommended that to freak us out on purpose!)
What we ordered: Dim sum
Number in our party: 5 (Laura, Kate, and Anna as guest judges)
Final check amount: $69.07
  • The restaurant is huge, loud, and festive.  It feels like you're at a wedding or a giant graduation party.
  • We broke our rule and did not order the chicken feet.  Jenne wanted to, but I have a horror of chicken feet.  Shudder.  They look like they're going to grab onto your shirt. 
  • The cart ladies were very nice and didn't mind us constantly asking what things were.
  • The shrimp har gow was simple, but tasty.  A good baseline starter.
  • The strong fishy flavor in the turnip cake was surprising, but most of us liked it once we got used to it. 
  • The greens were good, not overcooked.
  • The filling could be better for the BBQ bao.
  • The fried taro was lukewarm -- it would be much better hot.
  • The shrimp noodle was QUITE delicious.  Better than China Max's!
  • I thought that the meat filling in the potstickers should be pureed a bit more. It was a bit gristly.
  • Favorites:
    • Anna: Any steamed bun, potstickers, flaky BBQ pork pastry
    • Kate: Greens, sesame balls, flaky BBQ pork pastry
    • Jenne: Shrimp noodle, sesame balls
    • Laura: Shrimp noodle, flaky BBQ pork pastry
    • Miko: Shrimp noodle
  • If you want to experience the crazy but fun chaos of dim sum on carts, go to Jasmine!  If you'd like a more relaxed atmosphere where you can talk, go to China Max!  Just don't ever go to Emerald!
Address: 4609 Convoy St
Phone number: 858.268.0888
Accepts credit cards? Yes, but they take a maximum of only 2 cards per bill.
Parking: Crowded shared lot
Ideal group size: Any, as long as you're willing to wait
Noise level: 3.5

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chef Chin

Tee hee.
Wine chicken.
Pork noodle soup.
Meatball with cabbage.


Barnyardy pork belly.

Sesame rice ball dessert--Howie and I loved this,
but it reminded Miko too much of the cơm rượu
(which you may remember from Cali Baguette).
Rating: Two thumbs up
Date: 12/8/12
Time in: 10:55 AM
Time out: 12:17 PM
Servers' recommendations:
What we ordered: Handmade dumplings, pork noodle soup with preserved cabbage, meatball with cabbage, wine-marinated chicken, pork belly dish that I didn't have a chance to write down the name of
Number in our party: 3 (Howie as a guest judge)
Final check amount: $68.09
  • It's cozy inside, like a Midwestern family restaurant.  They use lots of wood in their furnishings, and I expected black lacquer and fake marble.
  • When we walked in, the servers hastily removed the chopsticks from our table and replaced them with silverware.  WTF?  We have never been so speedily gaijined at a restaurant.  It would be interesting to see if their reaction is different if it's just Howie and me.  (For those who don't know us personally, Jenne is white, and Howie and I are Asian.)  Anyway, it was a bit off-putting.
  • The menu they first give you is for boring Americans.  Seriously, it's pretty much the same selection as a Panda Express. (Well, except for the Nude Party!)  You have to ask specifically for the Chinese brunch menu.  Howie suspects that there is at least one more level of secret menu. 
  • They did bring the chopsticks back once we ordered from the brunch menu.
  • I would come back for the pork noodle soup.  It was tasty!
  • The dumplings were delicious!  They were nice and simple -- the filling was satisfying and well-seasoned, and the wrapper wasn't chewy.
  • The pork belly dish was very tender, but it had a distinct barnyard taste that I didn't like.  Jenne thinks that flavor came from overcooking the meat. Howie really liked it, though, so maybe it's just us.
  • The wine-marinated chicken was surprisingly addicting.  I was a little taken aback by the boozey flavor in the first slice, but I kept reaching for more.
  • We turned to Howie, who is a greater authority on Chinese cuisine, for the final judgment.  He opines that Chef Chin is quite good -- much better than Chin's in Mira Mesa.  The pork with preserved cabbage was even better than Ba Ren's!
  • The tall lady (clearly a boss) was quite nice once we earned her respect with our order.  She packed up our leftovers and even gave serving suggestions for reheating and eating.
Address: 4433 Convoy St
Phone number: 858.499.8964
Accepts credit cards? Yes
Parking: Lot shared with Cali Baguette Express 
Ideal group size: 2-6
Noise level: 2