Friday, August 17, 2018

Chinatown Update: Yun's Idea Cuisine, Huangcheng Noodle House, and So Much Boba

by Janelle Bitker
Fri, Aug 17, 2018 at 9:26 AM

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While many Oakland Chinatown restaurant spaces languish empty, others have been churning through concepts rapidly.

The single storefront to see the most change in the past couple of years is located at 366 8th St. In late 2014, Kee Wong and Hon Chan opened Chilli Padi, which was Oakland’s only Malaysian restaurant at the time. But it didn’t last. Last year, the owners rebranded and reopened it as Hotpot Factory, a spot that seemed to capitalize on the soaring interest in hot pot. That didn’t even last a full year. Earlier this week, the owners tried a new concept: Yun’s Idea Cuisine. Manager Kevin Li said the owners no longer wanted to use open flames in the dining room, so they brought on a chef from Shanghai to specialize in Shanghainese cuisine.

“It’s really good. It’s very beautiful,” Li said. “The taste is really good.”

The lengthy menu includes soups, dim sum, noodles, dumplings, cold dishes, and more than 20 Shanghainese options, which tend to taste sweeter than other Chinese regional styles. (Li specifically recommended the Shanghai-style pork in soy sauce, fried pork in sweet and sour sauce, and pork soup dumplings.) Folks who work in the area might want to try Yun’s Idea’s $9.99 lunch specials, which include a main dish, vegetables, rice, soup, and small appetizers.

Earlier this summer, Chinatown’s long-running Shanghainese restaurant, aptly called Shanghai Restaurant, closed for good. It, too, was abruptly replaced, with Chan’s Kitchen (930 Webster St.), a Taiwanese spot with another branch in Newark, opening just weeks later.

And then there’s Huangcheng Noodle House (734 Webster St.), which replaced Nan Cafe, which went through multiple iterations in its short existence as a Hong Kong-style cafe and then a Sichuan restaurant. Now, the space specializes in Shanxi-style knife shaved noodles, a thick and chewy style that’s notoriously tricky to make. The technique involves taking a block of dough in one hand and a knife in the other, and then rapidly shaving slices into a pot of boiling water.

Meanwhile, the parade of bubble tea spots never seems to end. Royaltea (702 Webster St.), the second branch of a popular Fremont business, recently opened with a classy interior. One Zo, a relatively new Taiwanese brand that claims to be the world’s first bubble tea store to make its own boba fresh onsite, will enter the Bay Area market at 362 8th St. The inner East Bay’s first location of Meet Fresh, a Taiwanese drinks and dessert chain, is also under construction at 382 8th St. While the East Bay hosts a number of Hong Kong-style dessert spots, there are far fewer places to find Taiwanese-specific sweets. Expect shaved ice, herbal jelly, taro balls, and tofu pudding topped with an assortment of mung beans, barley, lotus seeds, or sweet potato. At least it’s not another place solely devoted to boba.

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