Monday, March 21, 2005

Oakland, CA - Legendary Palace

In my mind, one of the best ways to start out a late, sunny Sunday morning isn't with an overwhelming, stomach-sinking Sunday brunch, but rather, a leisurely grazing of dim sum, both familiar and new. Fresh, toothly, quality dim sum and steaming, potent earthy tea (PO(h)-nay / PO(h)-lay being my family's preference, depending on how you pronounce it) never fails to elict a sigh of pure happiness from me.

Legendary Palace of Oakland Chinatown provides quality dim sum (*** Do not go here for the regular dinner menu, which leaves something to be desired, only visit for the dim sum!***), providing that you do not go on a holiday weekend (then, as with many places, the quality plummets abysmally). The price is more than fair, I believe, with the entire bill (including tip) coming out to be ~$50 for four people. My stomach is already craving its next visit there!

Chinese restaurants are enamored with a few decoration accents including but not restricted to: gold-gilded phoenixes and dragons, red wallpaper, neon purple and turquoise light accents recessed in ceiling alcoves, aquariums, money trees, incense, and... chandeliers. I spent our waiting time shooting pictures of their chandeliers, experimenting with the best camera settings with which to capture the sparkling, fractured light spectrums.

And then... it was all about the food.

One of the lightest, flake-crumbling honey-glazed savory pastries that I've enjoyed.

Inside was a treasure of succulent, rich, sticky jewels of sweet-salty cha siu, Chinese roasted pork.

Chicken feet, which (when done well) simply melts in your mouth in tender dissolving layers of meat. Imbued with a sweet garlic, black bean, and meat brothy sauce that is warming, mildly sweet, and sometimes with a discreet chili kick, it dances lusciously on your tongue. For those who shy away from the high concentration of bones and looks of the dish, I say that it is just as, if not more, satisfying than sucking the last bits of fatty, smoky-sweet sauced pork from baby-back ribs.

Full-flavored roughly-minced shimp, water chestnuts, and cilantro stuffed inside of delicately crispy deep-tried bean curd skins (made from the 'skin' that forms upon resting warm soy-based liquids, somewhat like hot milk on the stove).

The same lovely bean curd skins wrapped around a moist filling of pork, bamboo shoots, and crunchy wood ear, and then braised in a rich sweet-soy, sesame, and pork broth. Flavor oozes out of this dish with every bite, and it is one of my favorites, although I always forget the name of it. (shin-JHOOK-ghuen)

Whoo...! I'm used to this dish being a mild, refreshing combination of naturally-sweet shrimp and crunchy green bell pepper coated with lots of flavorable sauce, but this particular rendition was hot, hot, HOT, with chili peppers taking over the dish. Quite good, but I had to take a short break before going back to sampling other dishes.

Braised (deep-fried and then sauteed in a black-bean sauce) tofu with shrimps embedded on top provided beautiful textures on the tongue.

The fried tofu forms a crunchy skin, while maintaining a silky interior.

These fried nuggets look boringly innocuous, but this newcomer really amazed me when I bit into it to find...

... a soft custard-like filling (I suspect fried milk, which is a mixture of milk and egg white, creating a creamy, mild custard) in which chunks of onion, mushrooms, pork, and fish were suspended. Delicious!

And of course, there were the usual culprits (and much-beloved by me) of siu mai (pork dumplings) and ha gow (shrimp dumplings).

The ha gow were particularly good here, with generous portions of entire shrimps and bamboo shoot accents inside perfect toothy, resilient wheat-starch wrappers that picked up the shrimp flavor wonderfully. A must-try!

And lastly... sweet mango pudding enrobed in creamy evaporated milk. The perfect, light ending to the day's decadent start. :9

Legendary Palace
708 Franklin Street
Oakland, CA 94607


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