Friday, October 7, 2011

二訪 知味館 Yum's Bistro (2nd visit) Fremont, CA (USA) classic Cantonese at its finest

Don't let the front entrance, and the fact that it is in a random non-descript strip mall within minutes of a residential block fool you....the master chef here is hardcore. Chef Boson Yum (任旋) is seriously a Cantonese culinary treasure in San Francisco Bay Area.

Previous visit can be found here

For those who don't have an "in" with the chef, and would like to try the more off the beaten path items, might want to look at the Chinese specials board. What's interesting is that it is written in shorthand Chinese, although the chef's mastery is all Cantonese in nature

A combination of properly fused flavors, along with classic rustic styles. Try to find something like this at some snotty upscale seafood restaurant in town.
Or if you want to pre-order certain dishes, but don't know what to get, the restaurant now has a separate "private kitchen specials" menu
There is a $200 soup for 10 called 海中宝. While I have no clue what's in it, they say it contains a mix of seafood (likely the dried usual suspects). The rest of the other soup varieties are rustic and really unusual, and I'm sure requiring a lot of time and effort to prepare ahead of time, ditto for the special stuffed duck and the stir fried sticky rice stuffed chicken (where a whole chicken has its meat and bones removed, the cavity stuffed entirely with stir fried sticky ingredients and really time consuming to do with a silly low profit margin, hence the US$38 price tag, but it is ridiculously cheap compared to the $70 to $80 price you pay at Luk Yu Tea House in Central during dinner) .

Every hipster out there knows what omakase is, in other words, "chef, sock it to me baby!"
If you know the chef well enough like some of his regulars, and have developed a personal relationship with him (perhaps a select few), it can be done here too...he will sock you, and do it really well. Even if you order from the white board, you will not be disappointed.
紙包乳鴿 deep fried edible paper wrapped squab
Roast squab (deep fried actually) is available on the menu. The chef can execute this dish with his hand behind his back and his eyes closed. But repackaging and re-doing this classic, he chose to wrap sliced squab meat, then deep fry it. Well this is technically not like the versions in Hong Kong at the regional Cantonese joints, but still very well executed and unusual.
But that's not all....the chef even made XO sauce to dip this stuff in! After having his XO sauce, you don't want to eat the BS from the imported jars (not even Lee Kum Kee)
自家製XO醬(配紙包鴿) - house made XO sauce for the squab. Top ingredients, freaking awesome 

迷你燉節瓜湯 (蟹肉, 火腿絲, 瑤柱, 蘑菇, 鮮蝦) - mini stewed/double boiled soup embedded inside a Chinese melon. Supreme broth with crab meat, shredded Chinese ham, dried scallop, mushrooms, and fresh shrimp.
The amount of effort into making this miniaturized version of the classic winter melon soup, instead using hairy gourd 節瓜 (sometimes known as hairy melon/squash) was greatly appreciated. Other than the aluminum foil, this was a mini extravaganza from top to bottom.
Next one seemed like a blast to the past (village style) and even more amazingly done than Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco.
XO醬炒豬肚仁 (非常爽!!) - XO sauce stir fried pork stomach
Pork stomach may be a little bit hard to stomach for many, but with the right touches, this is a truly comforting delight. The chef doesn't just pick any ordinary pork stomach, and he has to find a very particular cut that yields the right texture. It is said he once made a pork stomach tip 猪肚尖 (where he had to go through 20 pigs to find a portion for the dish) so don't even ask for it....but it is also said that this particular dish 炒豬肚仁 was even better... The crisp and mild crunch factor, coupled with the wok heat and the savory XO sauce, made this a real winner. I hate celery, but couldn't help eat as many as I could from the dish as it tasted so good.
The next one is a banquet classic
海参鹅掌 - sea cucumber and goose webbed feet with mustard greens
I love it....banquet style dish (and high level execution) in a Cantonese bistro! The chef has done thousands of these dishes when he was executive chef at the various SF Bay Area seafood restaurants in the last 20 years, so if it feels like Fook Yuen, ABC Milpitas, South China Seafood Village, HK Flower Lounge Millbrae, there's a reason (he used to work at these seafood restaurants!)
香芒牛柳粒 - mango beef (dope ass good)

This dish is on the specials board, and is a must order. With Mexican mangoes in season, it was time for some good ol' SE Asian style with Cantonese touches fusion. Tender/superior cuts of cubed steak with an end result that was sweet and sour, but not the Americanized version you are used to. The natural sweetness all came from the mango. You like Vietnamese style lúc lắc (Shaking beef)  with the Maggi sauce flavoring? This is even better...
And finally, what's a dinner at the crab (and lobster) specialist without a crab dish?
賽螃蟹 - Shanghai style stir fried crab with egg whites 2 way (the other way is salt and pepper fried crab)
It is said that Empress Dowager Cixi 慈禧太后 from the Qing Dynasty was craving crab one day, and being in landlocked Beijing had its challenges to procuring live fresh seafood (especially so last minute). The Imperial Chef came up with a solution by stir frying egg whites with some fish, and provided some black vinegar dipping sauce. She loved it to bits and became a royal hit. Then supposedly this dish made its way to Shanghai and the rest is 賽螃蟹 history.
Now here's the funny part... whoever started this trend by taking the 賽螃蟹 has dish, but adding REAL CRAB, is in a way taking the piss. Upscaling a dish that was orginally meant to have no crab (by virtue of geographic location) and changing it into something else.
Koi Palace in Daly City (the other restaurant that has this on the menu), but if the cards are right, you can also get this in similar quality right here. Out of the box, and really delicious. Don't let it get cold though, won't taste as good.
And yes....I was socked real good, till I was socked out.
In the words of the Terminator.... I'LL BE BAAAAAACK!

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