Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mock Duck, Lions' Heads and Xiao Long Bao

Ever since my Aunt Norma took me to the Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Manhattan's Chinatown many years ago, I have been a fan of dim sum. Dim sum encompass an endless variety of Chinese noshes or antojitos.

Our last, great dim sum restaurant meal was at Sunny Shanghai, in San Bruno, CA, back in 2011. Alas, it has since closed. Many future dim sum delights will be measured against that experience.

New possibilities appeared during my culinary investigations while planning a visit to northern New Jersey.
I found Chef Jon's Authentic Chinese Restaurant in a suburban shopping center in Whippany, NJ.

The dim sum menu is offered only on weekends, from 11 to 3, so we made haste to arrive at a little before noon on Saturday. The dining room was still quiet when we arrived and we were warmly welcomed by the youthful wait staff.

We settled down with the several menus, but I found the most useful was the web site menu, read on my iPad. Luckily, the restaurant featured wifi.

We started with Salty Soy Milk Soup. Our waiter tried to guide us to the sweet version, but ever since our first taste, in the now closed Foo Loo Soo Restaurant, in Campbell, CA, we preferred the "Salty" version. It had mysterious but tasty chunks in it as well as preserved mustard (?) greens. I think that the chunks were pieces of yu tiao, a sort of Chinese unsweetened cruller vaguely similar to a churro.

Salty Soybean Milk Soup
At the same time, we had Scallion and Beef Pancake, a variety of our old favorite Scallion Pancake. This embellished version was o.k. but too heavy and with too much Hoisin Sauce.

Scallion and Beef Pancake
We then moved on to the centerpiece of our meal: the Xiao Long Bao, hence "XLB". XLB are the famous Shanghai soup dumplings. Our waiter demonstrated the correct technique to eat them.

Pork XLB
The dumpling is carefully picked up with chopsticks and placed in a Chinese soup spoon. You then bite a small hole in the side of the dumpling and slurp out the savory juices. You can then season it with a vinegar-soy sauce mixture and shreds of fresh ginger.

XLB Demo
XLB dipping sauce
The XLB were very good, despite the somewhat heavy dough. The crab version was not worth the extra money as there was only a minuscule trace of crab present.

During the next pause, I studied the hot and spicy specials poster, written in in Chinese, without a clue but for the help of our waiter. These are posted separately because as a Shanghai restaurant, the main menu does not have Sichuanese and Hunanese dishes.

Sra. Cuevas was taken with the idea of Vegetarian (Mock) Duck, and ordered it despite my insightful counsel. I chose Red Cooked Meatballs, which turned out to be the famed Lions' Heads.

There was a disparity between the image of the Vegetarian Duck as depicted on the Chef Jon's web site and the reality.

Web Mock Duck
Real Mock Duck
The Vegetarian Duck was chewy and mildly flavored, with thinly sliced mushrooms inside. I wasn't fond of it, but la Sra. enjoyed it, and what she couldn't finish immediately, she demolished the remainder that evening at the house.

The Lions' Heads consisted of three, large meatballs in a luscious gravy, flanked by baby bok choy. (I wished there had been more bok choy.) The pork meatballs themselves were light and unbelievably tender. We ate about half and took the rest home.

The Missing Photo appears!

Lions' Heads Meatballs
We enjoyed our meal and although some dishes were better than others, which is to be expected.

The final check was remarkably modest. The total was $43 USD, plus a tip.


Food: ***1/2

Service: ***** Very helpful and attentive waiters.

Ambience: Standard, pleasant Chinese suburban restaurant; booths and tables.

Cost: $$ Bargain!

Restroom (men's): Clean but needed tidying.

Parking: free, close by and lots of it.

Chef Jon's Authentic Chinese Cuisine
831 State Route 10 East, Whippany, NJ 07981
Tel: (973) 585 6258

Monday – Thursday:11:30 am – 9:30 pm
Friday – Saturday:11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Sunday:11:30 am – 9:00 pm
Reservation Highly Recommended.
Welcome to B.Y.O.B.
We Accept All Major Credit Cards.

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jennifer rose said...

Gluten mock duck sounds just plain wrong, like something served in prison or a school cafeteria.

DonCuevas said...


Saludos, Don Cuevas

Steve Cotton said...

Another interesting culinary adventure. I was introduced to dim sum in the Chinese restaurants of London's Soho. Other than in China, I am not certain there is better.

DonCuevas said...

I've never been to Soho, so I can't compare. But we have had dim sum in several SF Peninsula restaurants as well as in Nuevo York.

Don Cuevas