I thought I’d heard about all the good dim sum spots in the Bay Area, so I was surprised to hear friends suggest China Village in the tiny town of Belmont.
The Peninsula has some of the more popular dim sum spots, but China Village Seafood Restaurant was never on my radar. So I decided to check it out recently with my friends Tat and Jeanne.
Just right off the Ralston Avenue exit on Highway 101, this place looks almost like a hole-in-a-wall from the outside. Ample parking in the back, the dining room is your typical Hong Kong-style restaurant but a bit smaller than I expected. Since we got there early, we didn’t have an issue getting a table – compared to the waits that can happen at other popular dim sum tea houses.
The dim sum comes out in traditional carts and trays, and on the side there was a cooking station that I’d never seen at a dim sum house. It was a bit confusing because the dishes didn’t seem like they were being made from scratch, so it was more for show, warming up dishes like pickled ginger eggs.
My first impression of the dim sum was that they all had flavor, so each bite was tasty like the siu mai (one of my standards) and the steamed lo mai gai (sticky rice chicken). But the preparations were a bit rustic and not as refined as other dim sum places. This means shapes weren’t as perfect or skins weren’t paper thin, but you still wanted to pop them in your mouth.
One of the things I like about getting dim sum is the variety of choices coming from the steamers or plates. But China Village didn’t seem to have much to offer. Although it had some of the popular standards, there seemed to be a lot of deep-fried offerings and what looked like dinner entrees (probably to appeal to non-Asian palates).
The carts going around seemed to repeat themselves. Still, there were some interesting finds, like Tat’s favorite of fried milk with almond crust (I know, it’s fried, but I just tried one bite).
There were a few missteps, such as a dough-to-filling ratio problem in a lot of the baked items, like my dim sum favorite egg custard baked buns. While the filling was nice and sweet, there was way too much bun. Same with the baked roasted char siu pork, which had too much of the flakey pie crust (that was overly sugary in the coating). And my other all-time favorite, xiao lung bao (or steamed Shanghai soup dumplings) were poorly executed with a funky smell to the pork filling.
The Last Bite
Despite the few missteps in certain dishes, China Village was still a fun dim sum dining experience because of the overall good flavor in most dishes. While it’s not refined and don’t offer as many dishes, the relatively low price and absence of massive crowds make this a little family favorite for those who live in the area and a nice respite from the hectic dim sum scene elsewhere.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
China Village Seafood Restaurant, 600 Ralston Ave., Belmont, Calif. PH: 650.593.1831. Open weekdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; weekends, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. www.chinavillagebelmont.com
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