Sunday, October 10, 2010

As I Said in Yesterday’s Blog . . .

we enjoyed the Ginger Café so much that we returned for two other lunches. Given that Gilroy is an area where agriculture is the predominate industry, Mexican restaurants abound. But all received somewhat “iffy” reviews, so we decided to stick with a sure thing.

On our second visit, we stuck with the plan of three dim sum items and one lunch entrée, plus a late addition to the line-up. The soup that day was a bland and almost tasteless (imitation) crab in broth with egg threads and scallions. I finally poured in a few glugs of soy sauce and a spoonful of hot chile paste to give it some oomph. That helped—marginally.

We started with an order of the Pan Fried Blue Crab Dumplings (left in the photo) filled with crabmeat, celery, mushrooms, cream cheese, and vermicelli. These were reminiscent of the crab Rangoon served at one of our favorite suburban Philadelphia Chinese restaurants (Concerto Fusion Cuisine, Morrisville, PA), and, like the crab Rangoon, were a little too rich from the cream cheese filling.

Our second dim sum item was the steamed Shanghai Dumplings (right in photo above)filled with pork, ginger and scallions with a tart vinegary dipping sauce. Both of us agreed that the sauce overpowered the delicate flavor of the filling and, after the first dumpling, ate them minus the sauce.

Then came the dim sum winner—the Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups. Four extra crisp cup-shaped lettuce leaves came with a dish of sautéed minced chicken, diced carrots, and green peppers sitting on a bed of crispy noodles. This was all about contrasting textures. The tiny nuggets of chicken had been sautéed in a soy- and hoisen-based sauce and, like the chicken in the Dry Sautéed String Beans (yesterday’s blog), were moist and soft. (By soft I don’t mean mushy; I mean juicy tender.) Place a large spoonful of this mixture into a crisp lettuce cup and add some of the crispy noodles. Wrap the lettuce leaf around the mixture and enjoy the contrast between tender and crisp.

For our shared lunch entrée we chose the Satay Three Delights—a stir-fry with calamari, chicken, shrimp, asparagus, and carrots. Of the three entrees we tried, this was the least successful. I am accustomed to satays with a strong peanut or toasted sesame presence. This came with a very mild and slightly sweet sauce. All of the components were well prepared but the stir-fry sauce was lacking something. I left wishing that we had ordered the string beans.

Then Chuck glanced at the back of the specialty drinks menu and found a list of four or five desserts. Now dessert is not a big thing in Chinese restaurants. You may find lichees in syrup or ice cream, but dessert creativity is hard to find. Except here. Listed (and pictured) on the menu was Red Bean Shaved Ice. The café “shaved” a quantity of ice to a consistency larger than a snow cone or Italian water ice; this was drizzled with sweet red syrup similar to grenadine; next came a layer of sweet gelatin chopped into small cubes; and, finally, this was topped with sweet red beans. Wow. You have the crunchy ice balanced by the soft gelatin and beans. This was light, refreshing, and not ultra sweet. Just right to share.

The day of our final visit, the soup was chicken and corn in a light chicken stock with very small pieces of ground chicken, corn, and egg threads. Again, soy and chile paste was added to my portion. I realize that when one orders the soup off the menu, you get a higher quality product. But I fondly remember the soup of the day at China Chili in Phoenix and their savory broths filled with veggies and meat.

This time we decided to order one dim sum and two lunch entrees. For the dim sum we returned to our favorite--the Minced Chicken Lettuce Cups. And it was just as taste and texture satisfying as at our prior visit.

For one of the entrees, we returned to the Dry Sautéed String Beans with chicken, and, as with the lettuce cups, we found to be equally enjoyable as Visit One and, if possible, even spicier,

Our second entrée—designated on the menu with three chilies for heat—was the Chili Chicken. Chunks of chicken were battered and stir fried and then tossed with a sweet garlic chili sauce. This was delicious, but lacked the texture contrast that we found with the string beans and chicken.

We had been ordering the plain steamed rice, but Chuck wanted to sample the fried rice so one of our entrees came with steamed and the other with fried. The fried rice was good (not as good as mine) with carrots, peas, scallion, and scrambled egg.

To finish the meal, another order of the Red Bean Shaved Ice.

Good Chinese food is hard to find. As much as I’d like to give Ginger Café a higher rating, their soups did them in and the highest that I can go is 4.0 Addies.

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