I grew up eating home-cooked Chinese meals nearly everyday. I was raised on weekly dim sum lunches with extended family (where we were expected to behave while the adults enjoyed their yum cha (drink tea) time); Sunday night dinners at Grandma’s house with my dad’s 3 other siblings’ and families - there was always soup, and at least five dishes and often sesame dessert soup (grandma’s favorite). And while you can’t replace grandma’s cooking, or those noisy dim sum lunches in a huge Chinatown restaurant, I can still find really delicious Chinese meals in Wine Country. Here are our favorites.
Dim Sum at Hang Ah Prior to Indoor Dining Restrictions
Hang Ah Dim Sum, Santa Rosa. Hang Ah is never disappointing. Steamed to order, their dim sum is always delicious and satisfying. Our favorites: Shu Mai, Chive Dumplings, Taro Puffs, Rice Noodle Wrapped Flour Crispy, Rice Noodle Wrapped Around Shrimp, Lotus Sweet Rice, Baked Custard Bun, and Custard Egg Tarts. (There are a lot of favorites here, I know.) Not in the mood for dim sum? Then try the Hong Kong Style Crispy Noodle, or Chow Fun with Gravy. Really a favorite one is a simple dish that I also make at home - soy sauce chow mein (thin egg noodles, green onions, white onions and bean sprouts). Only offering takeout right now.
Fantasy Chinese Restaurant, Petaluma · Fantasy Chinese specializes in Hong Kong style BBQ items and seasonal seafood like crab and lobster fished out of their tank. Don't let the humble location fool you. Fantasy is no ordinary restaurant, offering the best Hong Kong Style BBQ north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Roast Duck, Barbecued Pork, Crispy Roast Pork Belly, Salt and Pepper Crab, Dried Scallop and Egg White Fried Rice, Spicy Garlic Eggplant, West Lake Minced Beef Soup are among favorites. They round out their menu with offering Chinese Hot Pot, also available as takeaway. Call ahead for take out orders. For now, only takeout available until further notice. Check out recent press here.
Fantasy Petaluma Offerings: Top: Duck, Lobster, Braised Pork Belly,
Bottom: Salt & Pepper Crab, Wonton and BBQ Pork Egg Noodle Soup, Hot Pot with Two Broths
China Village, Cotati · A standalone building in Cotati, this local favorite offers delicious steamed Shanghai Dumplings and ample portions of Honey Walnut Prawns to delight everyone. Salt and Pepper Pork is also a standout here. Comfortable spaces and private dining rooms available when restrictions lift. For now, only take out is available.
Empress M, Napa · A newcomer to the area, Empress M has plenty of outside dining space in the courtyard. Dim sum was the highlight here - shrimp dumplings, chive dumplings, baked custard tarts and sesame balls were empirically scrumptious. Spicy means spicy here too - the spicy chicken wings were on point! If you could only eat one thing here it would be the sesame balls. Check out this recent article on Napa Valley Register.
The courtyard at Empress M awaits you
There you have it. Yes, farm-to-table Californian cuisine reigns and Mediterranean, Italian-inspired menus abound in Wine Country, but on occasion there is comfort and familiarity of a wonderfully cooked Chinese meal. Some of these spots may not be set among the most beautiful vineyards; in fact, quite the opposite - it may be a converted A&W or next to a QuickMart, but there are some restaurants where the food is so good, you’ll get off the beaten path for something less than usual. Although Empress M is beautiful.
Tomorrow is the 15th Day of the Lunar New Year. Enjoy and Happy Year of the Ox!