Dishes are small, there are plenty of them, and the flavors effected from ingredient pairings are perhaps some that one has never tasted together before. Novel...evidence of the master behind the kitchen. $$$. Reservations must be made! Accepts credit cards. I follow and echo Vicky L's sentiments about allowing my frugal self to disappear, in full deference to this review. Sitting at my gorgeous Crate and Barrel dining room table, looking out at the wondrous work of the marina sun on my garden outside. Listening to Sarah Brightman's magic and taking a break from the heaviness (but beauty) of Andrew Pham's writing (aim to devour everything he's written...).... 4.5 stars only because of the prices charged (he's a one man show, literally), and the decor upgrade/revamping would transform the meal altogether and make the experience complete. Properly and finally motivated (this occurred when Brightman hit the high G with piercing authority!) to review one of the best Chinese dinners I have had in a long while.. at least, here in the States. Chef Nei, I admire so much. He, a genius who is trapped and limited by his own need for control over every infinitesimal detail of his cuisine, at last unable to unlock the mental chest of recipes of many regions of China that he is able to master. I grew to like him immensely, chatted for a while after dinner, and was very thankful for his larger-than-life talent. And, in the end, I left the restaurant feeling sorry for his loneliness...I feel it when I look into his eyes. He decided to keep the restaurant open for us... our lone reservation, which, in the end, turned out to allow a few (1, to be exact) other obviously eager patrons. Yes, how we did it, I do not know. Shall never, but thankful to the chinese culinary gods that he decided to open to cook for my parents and myself. We came to sample his 'middle of Middle Kingdom" cooking wonder. I longed for those flavors that I have only read about in many books. I wanted to close my eyes and appreciate the tenderest, sweetest of combinations. For $300, all 3 of us did say steep in price. Dishes are not large, but there are several. One comes with pre-set price points, with the lowest tasting menu at $80/pp. Size of dining party affects price charged. Please keep in mind that you are paying solely for trying his culinary skills and genius in dish composition! It's not about anything else but that here! When picking apart how many ingredients are loaded into each small dish, and considering how many dishes came our way, it was a meal of a lifetime, and an experience difficult to capture in the English language. Starters were a medley of dishes... pork skins, ham, mushrooms, picked radishes, kong cai, among others.. delicate and palate-opening, we thought that 80% of the medley was wonderful. Just a few fell flat in flavor and pop. And then the ball started rolling, and slowly, out came all of the dishes: 1. Abalone fillet with egg whites and mayo combo EXCELLENT 2. Gluten "meen gun" with asparagus, sauteed with radishes and mushrooms 3. Crystal shrimp... so 'seen'/fresh, the shrimp were singing. Taste was extraordinary. 4. Dancing mushrooms 5. Edamame with gogi berries and tofu skin. Unique, full of flavor for veg dish EXCELLENT 6. Spareribs and taro. Perhaps one of the standouts for me.EXCELLENT Ate that one slowly 7. Xigua with gingko nuts. oh my---the smoothness of the fresh squash prepared with some sort of starch and coupled with freshness and unique taste of gingko-- fab. 8. Crispy beef prepared with scallions and plum sauce EXCELLENT 9. Golden fish... the filets were so fragile and perfectly cooked.. gorgeous flavor and texture noodles with 'lap yuk': a pork belly-type of layered pork. HOT but the kick was yum!! 11. 3 veggie combination including leeks. I just cannot recall the rest. 12. Bursting Fire dish 13. DESSERT: AND YOU THOUGHT YOU LIKE DEEP-FRIED BANANAS....try his house special of deep-fried eggplant!! with all seeds scraped, the heady, melty, silken texture of the eggplant came through in the most delicate of batters... something one would imagine picking up in SE Asia. An other-worldy type of tempura batter (must have used ice). I'm warning the reader that it's not the ambiance that makes this place so great. Rather, it's the repertoire that he knows. The knife skills are evident in the dishes. I couldn't resist commenting, and he seemed to sincerely invite me back into his kitchen to observe. He commented a bit about his life, and for a flicker of a moment, I felt the burning loneliness that must be his life.. full of passion for his food, and held back for his language and cultural differences, unable to fully flourish with all this potential. I felt very very fortunate that evening; he didn't mind spending some time chatting after our meal, although I was ever-sensitive of the party that came in after us.
Jana C. on Jun 1, 2012