Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yum's Bistro 知味館 Fremont, CA (USA) Cantonese

OK this place is not in Taiwan, but somewhat local to me, and I feel deserves a strong mention

It is so difficult recommending a good Cantonese Chinese restaurant. The famous joints are inconsistent, overcrowded, and thus try to turn volume instead of doing right by you, unless you are a spendy A$N golf pimp VIP tight with the mgmt, then maybe it's REAL good, but those are rare cases. Sigh, I might as direct you to PF House of Chang King Express Biztro where you know you are getting the shaft.

Also, after living here for a while, you get used to the "standards" here and even attempts at a lil' innovation are risk taking gastrosexual adventures that may involve trips with M$G, wallet rape, and disappointment.

So when word came what was deemed THE BEST CANTONESE IN THE WHOLE SF BAY AREA, I knew I had to do something about it. And that is to boogie down here with friends then fam.

Quick background, chef Boson Yum (任旋) and his wife (the only "waitress" here) run the place. Chef is quite the legend, having executive chef experience not only at Hong Kong Flower Lounge (Millbrae) as others have reported, but also Fook Yuen (Millbrae), ABC (Foster City), Grand Hyatt Hotel (Hong Kong), and South China Seafood Village (San Francisco) to name a few. He originally retired some years back, but got bored at home as he stopped doing what he does best and passionately. The rest is history, as he is a Popeye in the kitchen again.

Two nights in the same week.

First night: big heartful thanks to those who joined me to try YB, without me even name dropping to get the good stuff (and still got it to some extent!).

YB specializes in crab and lobster dishes. Don't believe me? Go to their website

looky standard menu. TEN+ different preps EACH. For a 1st timer, get the signature Under Bridge Spicy Crab (Kiew Dai Hai / 港式橋底蟹 ). While it looks nothing like the one Bourdain ate in No Reservations HK, this dish alone is a testament to BY's godly stir fry skills, keeping the crab toasty and insanely juicy inside. The Indonesian version isn't bad either, messy with the sauce (which the steamed buns provided helped soak that up). Tho the salted egg yolk batter version is one we all loved a bit more deeply.

Note the white board wall rotating specials menu in Chinese. Ask Jason (the only waiter there) if he can help translate, as you may get off the beaten path authentic innovative cuisine. Though some may be wacky, like dried mountain yam ostritch, or mango beef, or our fave the pork "neck" meat stir fry Malay style (belachan) yellow chive and bean sprouts.

Now the 2nd visit with fam has me bowing down "I'm not worthy" style to YB. For this meal, it required 1) recommendation through a regular who has an "in" 2) you speak Cantonese 3)knowing what BY can do beyond the menu (like how the A$N pimp golfers knew how to do the same with Andy Wai) and 4) advanced ordering off the menu.

Here we go

comp'd squab (perfect true HK style w/o need to dip in salt/pepper)

A family member brought this along, 93 point Cambria Pinot Noir

Deep sea grouper served two way 一魚兩吃 - fish two way. Soup and meat with tofu and mustard greens.(creamy savory soup and part of body stir fried)

Enoki mushrooms fatty beef roll (金菇肥牛卷) in delectable authentic HK style black pepper sauce that paired great with the pinot noir

HK style fried chicken (za zi gai) stuffed with fried sticky rice, whole thing called Lor Mai Gai (糯米雞) - chicken stuffed with sticky rice. Labor intensive and exclusive special order., served with a dried scallop/mushroom dip sauce that elevated this to great heights (v. labor intensive job!)

Soy Sauce King marinade (with garlic) stir fried crab (See Yau Wong Hai or 豉油王蒜蟹) - another off menu item, soy sauce and garlic crab. Authentic HK flavor.). Maybe no pre-order required, and so good! This prep can also be done w/lobster or shrimp (least messy as you can eat the shells too). Another testament to the PIMP stir fry skills of Yum.

Steamed deep sea grouper (蒸石班). This restaurant stocks only black bass, so any geoduck or deep sea fish requires advanced order. Steaming fish is truly an artform, and Chef Yum perfects it.

臘腸, 臘鴨 - preserved meat (sausage and duck). Super salty, unhealthy as hell but tastes so good.

Lap Mei Fan (臘味飯) - claypot rice to go with the preserved meats, another special order.. 3 words to make a HK guy go full erect (in appetite I mean). Preserved sausage, smoked duck over clay pot rice. Turns out the meats were steamed separately. The rice was lightly seasoned. Cured meats were hand picked by the chef from outside. This is seriously good Cantonese style salumi, though not healthy...

Curry beef brisket claypot (咖哩牛腩煲). By this time I turned into a bulging fatass, and could hardly eat any further. Very tasty, similar to Indo crab prep, but falls short of Andy Wai's version (which he only served to pre-orders by regulars, including former HK guv'nor Tung Chi Hwa when he visited Harbor Village in the 90s).

Dessert (special ordered...WTF?) called Hung Yun Loe (杏仁露). Pure almond goodness, grounded from whole nuts. If you've had traditional Canto desserts like black sesame or walnut paste, it's similar, except no grains are added to thicken it (I'm sure there was some sugar added). Egg whites added for a counterpoint!

Don't come here for fast food. Service can be a bit slow. Chef has one assistant. Expect a French (re: Chinese) Laundry pacing, but world class true Canto food with fine touches you will get.

Chef Yum, RE$PECT!

Yum's Bistro 知味館
4906 Paseo Padre Pkwy
(between Capulet Rd & Deep Creek Rd)
Fremont, CA 94555
Tel: (510)-745-8866

Lunch Hours: 11:00 am - 2:30 pm (M-F), 10:30 am - 3:00 pm (Sat & Sun)
Dinner Hours: 5:00 pm - 9:30 pm (M-F), 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm (Sat & Sun)


  1. I love me some quail. Except I really don't make it to Fremont much these days/years...

  2. mmmmm, beefnoguy that was such a good looking feast...