[Sunnyvale/ San Leandro, CA] Ming Tasty 鳳凰名粥- Is the non-descriptive English name leading to the absurdly low Yelp rating?

Ming Tasty has two branches- Sunnyvale and San Leandro. I went to the one in Sunnyvale, which is in the same plaza as Saigon Seafood Harbor. On Yelp, the two branches got some pretty atrocious ratings- 3 stars and 2.5 stars respectively, which served as a sufficient deterrent for a number of years until recently.

I put the Chinese name of the restaurant at the title- translated as Phoenix famous congee/ jook, and that’s what I ordered. They have a large menu of congee- 40+, including fancier ones that are not as often seen in other restaurants. I got the conch and chicken congee. Satisfying and tasty giant bowl of congee. Not exactly a 2.5 or a 3. And I would be more than happy to try other congee on the menu. The server said its 生滚粥, which traditionally means the meat/ ingredients were cooked in the pot of boiling congee to impart flavors, though I didn’t inquire further how much traditional congee cooking techniques they employ in the kitchen.

The egg shrimp sauce stir fried rice noodle was ok- a little on the salty side. They don’t know what they are doing with the wonton shrimp noodle. If this limited sample is somewhat reflective of their entire menu, which is that the congee are good, but the rest of the items are middling, is the Yelp ratings dragged down by the portion of the non-Congee menu and the folks who don’t order their specialty?

Hypothetical question- Can the Bay Area support a mostly congee joint, i.e. they trim down their menu to mostly congee which they seem to be better at and a few supporting items? Too specialist?

Back to the congee? Any other congee on the menu that stands out?

All the congee. Pic from Yelp.

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With such a variety, its surprising they say the meats are cooked with the congee.

Is it typical for a jook specialist to not be open for breakfast? I think Ming Tasty is open 11am to 3am

Chinese restaurants rarely get more than a 3 rating on Yelp. I wish there was a way to filter out the white people reviews.


Some Yelp Elites who look Asian in their photos didn’t order any congee in their reviews. Hence my original hypothesis that the English name has something to do with people not recognizing the specialty.

This brings to mind @chandavkl 's article about Yelp Chinese restaurant rating. Though in this case the low rating seems to be of a slightly different reason.

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This specialist is in a pretty quiet mall in a residential neighborhood, except during lunch. I can’t imagine much traffic in the AM if they are open. On the other hand, if a jook specialist isn’t open for breakfast in Chinatown, that’d be weird.

Till midnight in SV, 930 in SL. The only issue eating a giant bowl of congee at 11:30pm is that its challenging to sleep with all those bathroom runs.

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I’m not sure I’d agree with your premise that white people bring down the ratings of Chinese restaurants. My hunch would be that their tastes are, if anything, more forgiving of Chinese food; if they simply had a low opinion of Chinese food, they wouldn’t be eating at Chinese restaurants.

In the case of MIng Tasty, however, Sampson may be right that the English name may be distracting non-Chinese speaking patrons from its strengths.

I think its somewhat hard to anticipate the impact to a Chinese establishment’s rating from a typical American, for the reason that most of them order off the section of the menu (if there is one) that is catered more to American taste. (And the group on these forums aren’t what I consider typical) In other words, they have different expectations. The parallel issue for the kitchen is, it may be fully adept in cooking the Chinese side of the menu, but it will have to learn how to cook the American specialties if it has no prior experience in doing so. Its almost like there are two restaurants within one.

Case in point, I show up at Yum’s, the can’t-be-any-more-Cantonese place in Fremont, for a lunch during the weekends. A group of non-Chinese walked in, asked for the menu, inquired about the lunch specials. When told the specials were only available on weekdays, they walked out. Had they walked in during a weekday, ate and reviewed, the rating would be for what I speculate to be dishes that the Chinese clientele don’t focus on.

I have seen that. Restaurants (even jook) specialize morning vs targeting late night. These days the trend is go for late. During weekday, people who need to go to work, just eat at home or skip breakfast. Weekend, people just want to sleep in.

I think it is fine to have a congee specialize restaurant as long as it has a good reputation. Look there are plenty soup dumpling or liangpi specialized restaurants. I do think something an overwhelming menu is more negative than a positive. It is a little too over-whelming. People want choices, but not too much.

The problem I think is that there are many places good with their congee too. Is this place really head and shoulder above them. Maybe not.

Restaurants get a lot of ratings from all kind of non-food related things. Overall, it is really an experience and expectation game. A restaurant which offers you a good experience with average foods will still get a better rating than a restaurant which offer you average experience with good foods.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a liangpi specialized restaurant. Soup dumplings marginally (DTF and SDK) but you can’t make a meal from xiaolong bao or liangpi (which is typically served in appetizer-sized portion).

I don’t know congee culture, but my wife loves to make pao fan (the Shanghai equivalent to zhou) with her leftover rice (or even cook some rice for that purpose) . However, she bursts out laughing to see something so humble on a restaurant menu.

Yeah, you know already, not just congee, but many food here like pho, ramen are eaten in places like these in Asia:


And I was kinda amused when this Hong Kong style ‘dai pai dong’ style place opened up in SSF, complete with plastic chairs and folding tables in an indoor space.

Photo credits go to Ovolo, John Harvey, National Geographic, Yelp

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Yum, fresh frog porridge! :slight_smile:

Yes, I’ve been to congee joints in HK (especially for lunch when I was working in Yau Ma Tei) but I can’t think of anything comparable in Shanghai, probably because rice is not exalted to the level of noodles there.

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Speaking of frog congee, Ming Tasty also has it on their menu. Whether its as fresh as yours we’ll see.

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I didn’t have a premise regarding the ratings. I want to filter out the white people because, as @sck pointed out, Chinese people eat food not often offered to Caucasian customers.

I would like to be able to sort the ratings for informed reviews, rather than a whiny vegan complaining about MSG in her lo mein. :roll_eyes:

Its remarkable that for both of their branches, 44% of the customers mention variations of congee in their reviews. If one uses % as a proxy for the proportion of patrons who ate congee there, then slightly less than half order their specialty.

Which begs the question, if their other stuff is average, why do people go back to eat them?

If that’s not the issue, I guess that implies that people who are eating the average stuff are reviewing more than often than their jook eating customer, does that mean there is a significant self-selection bias on Yelp? (I think my bowl of jook warrants a 3.5 to 4) Perhaps the people feel more opinionated to comment on the average dishes if they eat only the average while the contented jook-eating customers don’t bother reviewing? Or perhaps, for similar reasons that led to the founding of Chihou, that Chinese speaking patrons don’t bother reviewing on Yelp- that they found the rating useless, or they don’t like to type in English, etc. etc.?

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My theory would be this: there is a certain percentage of Yelp reviewers, maybe a high percentage, who only visit a restaurant once, out of curiosity and to bulk up their review stats. Congee would not be their first choice unless they were specifically jonesing for congee, and if they are not particularly impressed with their non-congee fare they submit mediocre reviews.

Then. there are the congee mavens like yourself. If you like the congee, you are likely to return, but are likely to only review once. If you have many recirculated congee customers as well as a steady influx of non-congee looky-loos, there is an inherent bias. Congee customers may only provide 44 percent of the new customer reviews, but may account for much more than 44 percent of the customer visits.

Reviews, unfortunately, are not weighted by the number of return visits a customer makes.

Hmm, I’m confused. I’m a 40-something white woman and I don’t yelp and I love congee. Am I even allowed to eat at this restaurant?

No! No conjee for you!

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Haha! Well played