Tasty Place (Millbrae) lives up to its name

Not wanting to deal with the lack of parking in the sunset or Richmond, I head down to Millbrae to the recently opened Tasty Place. The chef is from Northeastern China, and the backbone of the menu is starch-based— dumplings and noodles, hand cut wheat or dishes made with glass noodles. They have an assortment of cold dishes and the ones that went by me looked pretty good.

The server recommends as specialties the fish and celery dumplings; the shrimp pork and chives dumplings; vegetarian dumplings; stewed pork foot; clear cold noodle with sesame sauce; and the spareribs or pork belly with fermented napa and clear noodles, and the roasted eggplant, which he said was a particular specialty. The noodles are a mix of northern and Sichuan dishes.

The fish dumplings were great and more pierogie like in construction than is typical for northern/Northeastern Chinese boiled dumplings in the Bay Area, which tend toward fat on the bottom with thick wrappers. The cooks roll out the skins in a glassed off area in the rear of the restaurant. The finished half moon shaped dumplings lie flat. The fish is mild and tasty, Celery supplies freshness, water chestnuts add crunch, and the filling holds together without being pasty.

The house noodle soup is excellent, and according to the server closer to Sichuan style than Northeastern china per se. The soup reminded me a bit of Chongqing xiao mian (and is labeled as xiao mian in Chinese)- aromatic reddish soup with chilies, Sichuan chili bean paste (doubanjiang), background of numbing Sichuan peppercorns, and I think I like it better than the versions I’ve had at local Chongqing restaurants. It’s topped with crushed peanuts and juicy ground pork that has umami fermenty flavors. It’s light grayish, either from sesame paste or pork fat and the greens added a nice touch.

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I returned for another good meal. The chef is from Anshan, the third largest city in Liaoning province (after shenyang and dalian).

The [ed. House special mix] had a lovely composition and greeted me with the aroma of dried chilies. The salad has a similar tart dressing as the “mixed cauliflower” served at other Dongbei restaurant, but the solid ingredients are very different. Whereas other versions use tofu bamboo, this uses strips of dry tofu, cut to match the width of seaweed slivers. I’ve not been a fan of dry tofu, The kind with a crisscross pattern on it, in salty – savory Shanghai Nice preparations, but it and the cup-like jelly ear mushrooms really shine here as the texture backdrops for the acidic sweet dressing. Just the right amount of sliced green onions.

The stewed pork hoof is first smoked and then slowly stewed. this is excellent gnawing material-- The smoking isn’t subtle, but I enjoyed this more than the ribs I had the night before at 4505 meats.

The roasted chicken as a smoky edge, but otherwise didn’t differentiate itself from hey western preparation

The "roasted "eggplant is deep-fried and then cooked in a wok. Not what I was expecting, but not greasy and pretty good

The servers are very nice and checked in to see how the meal was a few times on each visit.

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Visited Tasty Place this past Wednesday night with my SO. We ordered:

  1. Mixed Vegetable Salad: Not what we were expecting per hyperbowler’s photos – instead got a gochujang-y flavored mix of wood ear, peanuts, seaweed, tofu, and cucumbers. A little too salty for me but the SO enjoyed it.
  2. House Special (fish + celery) dumplings (steamed): Delicious, a bit juicy with layered flavors of white fish, a bit of anise, and the freshness of celery. 12/plate and enormous.
  3. Pork and fermented cabbage dumplings (fried): Also delicious, though possibly a little lacking in salt. Fried beautifully on one side.
  4. Beef and pickled mustard green noodle soup: Strong notes of sichuan peppercorn in the broth, not a whole lot of pickled. Tasty nonetheless, with noodles that were perfectly cooked when they arrived and quickly got soft in the hot broth. Beef was tender though not very flavorful.
  5. Veggie dumplings (fried): cabbage/tofu/cellophane noodles. Simply flavored and wolfed down by the new arrivals from the airport.

All in all, we would definitely return. I want to explore their wok dishes as well as more of the dumplings.

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Thanks for the update!

Oops, I appear to have named the wrong dish in my original post! Glad to hear your SO enjoyed the other dish (I’ve now edited my original post)

They have mantis shrimp right now as a wall special, either in a salt and pepper version or a spicy mala version.

I’ve never had mantis shrimp before, but it’s mention on another thread piqued my curiosity. I got the spicy version.

The meat was super juicy and absorbed charred chili and Sichuan peppercorns flavor—- I’d order this over Chongqing Chicken any day. For a non-Sichuan restaurant, they continue to impress me with their use of high quality Sichuan ingredients, Sichuan peppercorns in this case, ya cai in their admirable Dan Dan noodles.

Do people eat the whole mantis shrimp head to tail, Shell and all? I needed to suck and scavenge for meat in the tail, which I found to have too thick/pointy a shell to swallow.

Some more winners from a recent meal:

  • Clear cold noodle in sesame paste: super thin, wide mung bean noodles, in a sesame paste and sesame oil sauce.

  • Tasty roasted chicken: they’ve finally nailed down the smokiness in this cold appetizer

  • Chicken dumplings: these are always good, but I think they improved the recipe by adding some Sichuan peppercorns. Either that, or some on my plate spilled onto the dumpling.

Mmm… good question. I don’t tend to suck the head parts for shrimp so I actually didn’t bother trying for the head of the mantis shrimp. I remember seeing a family friend go towards the area but didn’t really see if they tried eating the parts of the head. Shell wise, I don’t think its a good idea to eat the shell compared to normal shrimp. The mantis shrimp has a really tough shell and there are some points on the mantis shrimp that are pretty much like barbs (kinda like spotted prawn shells on steroids).

I should give this place another go. We last went when it was the grand opening month and things probably weren’t as smooth.

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The Dongbei connection explains alot as the roasted chicken and stewed pork hoof are all reminders of classic Shandong dishes, the root of Dongbei cuisine.

When I visited, I found the wrappers rather thin, perhaps a consistency issue.

But overall, it’s a solid place and I would visit again if in the area.

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Do you find the wrappers to be too thin to hold together, or just thinner than typical jiaozi? The owner told me that she learned the thin style in Anshan, and suggested it’s more a household or teacher preference than a regional preference per se.

Incidentally, they used to own Gao’s in Milpitas, which had a more Dongbei focus.

Do you have any favorite places right now for Dongbei food?

Just thinner than typical jiaozi. It reminded me of the other place that had thin wrappers, Yang Dumplings in Fremont.

My favorite Dongbei right now is Green Apple Bistro in Cupertino Wolfe Ranch 99 plaza. Although strangely, that place also has a strong Sichuan line up along with the Dongbei dishes. It seems to be more and more common to have these bi- or tri-specialty places in the bay area.

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Hmm, is the mixture of cuisines a little more common place in the Bay Area restaurants vs in LA? I will admit, I really haven’t paid too much to the differentiation between Sichuan, Dongbei, Hunan type cuisines. I just wonder if its because of a broader appeal in that sense? From what I understand, the larger immigrant population from China in the East Coast tends to be from the Fujian province. Not too certain on SFBA side.

In addition to repeat dishes, I tried an eggplant dish today that’s pictured on their menu but I didn’t catch it’s name. I can swear I’ve eaten something like this elsewhere. Is this a Dongbei or a Sichuan dish?

Complex and tasty. Raw garlic and sautéed ground pork flank the outstretched eggplant. The garlic gets cooked as it’s mixed into the piping hot, spicy and tangy, sauced eggplant.

It’s getting more and more common in the SFBA. One main reason is that even in major Chinese cities, the spicy Sichuan and Hunan cuisines have gotten popular and common in traditionally non-spicy cuisine such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen. Due to the expanding mainland Chinese residents in the SFBA, those restaurant trends are happening here as well.

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That dish does look really good. I’m not familiar with the dish but would guess it is more Sichuan related.

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I’d thought of Green Apple Bistro as mostly Sichuan, but it’s definitely a good place.
My favorite Dongbei place has been Nutrition House in Milpitas (in the 99 Ranch complex.) Informal, open late, good for groups. Most of the time I go there it’s just for a quick salty soy milk lunch on the way to the office.

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