Restaurant Week is almost here (September 16-21) and I recently was invited to preview the Restaurant Week menu at Del Mar Rendezvous (“DMR”). In addition, I’m giving away a dinner for 2 at DMR during restaurant week! Details at the bottom of this post. DMR is offering a $30 prix fixe menu and has extended their RW from September 8-30.
DMR remains the only Chinese American restaurant to date that I actually enjoy dining at. My first visit can be found here. The key distinction is that the restaurant doesn’t served Americanized Chinese Food, but rather something more like Chinese food with American influences. Co-owner and Head Chef Tony Su is of Taiwanese descent (his parents own Dumpling Inn) and learned to cook traditional, authentic Chinese dishes. The menu consists mostly of traditional Chinese dishes that are more suitable to the Western palate, with some unconventional elements. There are also some items which you would never find at a traditional Chinese restaurant, such as options for a gluten free or vegetarian menu and a large selection of wine and beers.
Manager and co-owner Dan Schreiber, one of my favorite restaurant managers to chat with, also arranged for us to try out a new on demand private driving company, Uber. Uber offers private town car and limo transportation with prices comparable to a taxi service. You don’t need to reserve ahead, instead you simply text them about 20 minutes before you need to leave and they will promptly give you an ETA. You can follow the progress of the driver with your phone app if you want, and they will also text and call you right before they arrive too. (More information on my review of Uber at the end of this post.) DMR guests during restaurant week will also receive $30 credit to try Uber for themselves.
We started dinner off with some teas and wine. I chose the plum oolong tea, my favorite one here. DH opted for his own pot of green tea. The Restaurant Week menu offers discounted wine flights. Or if you really like wine, come dine on a Sunday where bottles are 50% off! We were seriously tempted to get a bottle but knew we wouldn’t be able to finish.
Steamed Dumpling Sampler: 2 Ha Gau (Shrimp), 2 Su Jiao (Vegetable), and 2 Xiao Long Bao (Pork) dumplings
There are five appetizers to choose from on the RW menu and I chose to try the steamed dumpling sampler. Last time I had tried the XLB here and commented that it was odd that it wasn’t served with vinegar and fresh ginger. The manager took that to heart and now they serve the XLB with fresh ginger, vinegar and a soup soon. Technically, XLB is traditionally served with a black rice vinegar, which has a less acidic taste than the table white vinegar we were offered, but I’m happy they made an effort.
The shrimp dumplings had little bits of chopped water chestnuts mixed with the shrimp. Since I love water chestnuts, I loved this addition. DH prefers the traditional shrimp only version served often at dim sum.
The vegetable dumplings had some crusty, parts on the top edges of the skin which wasn’t pleasant to look at or taste. But the rest of the dumpling was good and I really pleased with the filling which reminded me of the filling used in chive pockets. It’s the only time I’ve eaten a vegetarian dumpling and did not miss the meat. This was actually my favorite of the three.
Honey glazed spare ribs
DH chose the honey glazed spare ribs, braised for two hours in five spice. The meat was quite tender and easily slid off the bone. No need to get messy.
Three-Cup Chicken “Sanbeiji”
We had the hardest time choosing our entrees, with so many options that looked delicious. The Mongolian rack of lamb (requires additional $12 add-on from the $30 prix fixe menu) jumped to my attention right away. We also really wanted to get the walnut shrimp which has been my favorite dish here from my previous visits. However, when I saw the traditional Taiwanese dish Three Cup Chicken offered, I couldn’t help but be curious. I was actually really surprised that they put it on the RW menu because it’s not a dish that one would think would be popular. It’s full of bone fragments, skin, and the presentation is not very pretty either. It’s also a dish that I’ve found is consistently made wrong at Chinese restaurants and most versions I’ve tried have been pretty poor.
In the end, curiosity won and I had to try it. Because of the long preparation, the dish must be requested ahead of time. The restaurant suggests you order it when you make your reservation. It’s also only available for RW and not on the regular menu.
Pronounced “Sanbeiji,” the dish literally translates to three cup chicken. Three refers to the three main ingredients, sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, and soy sauce. Cups refers to the measurements because the three ingredients are used in equal ratios (i.e., 1/3 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/3 cup). The dish looks humble and doesn’t taste that complicated. Yet I’ve had horrendous renditions of it, to the point where I no longer order it unless I’m in Taiwan. The key to making a good version is the basil. Basil leaves are supposed to be added towards the end, so that the flavor of the leaves come out and create a mouth-watering aroma as well.
I was surprised to find spice in DMR’s version, as I’ve never had a spicy version before. The spice also masked some of the flavor of the basil. As I continued to eat this though, it grew on me. I would have preferred the basil flavor to be stronger, but this was a pretty decent version of Sanbeiji, and the best version I’ve had in San Diego.
If you are really curious about Three Cup Chicken, I’d recommend you give DMR’s version a try. Though, personally, when I come to restaurant week, I like to pick the really special/more expensive dishes that leave me thinking about my meal for days. Three Cup Chicken is a very homey dish and doesn’t really have a wow factor no matter how well it is made. If I were to recommend RW options, I would probably recommend the lamb and the shrimp. Though I didn’t sample the lamb, Dan mentioned it was by far his favorite thing on the RW menu.
I already wrote praises about this on my previous post. I really enjoy the version here, with their extra large shrimp. It’s not too heavy on the mayonnaise, allowing the shrimp to really be the star. Perhaps I hyped it up too much in my head, but I remember the shrimp being slightly bigger last time. These were still big though, as you can see they are as large as the pieces of broccoli.
The entrees are served with a choice of brown or white rice.
Xango (banana cheesecake wrapped in a cinnamon pastry and topped with powdered sugar, whipped cream, caramel, and chocolate sauce)
This is a popular dessert at DMR. It’s quite delicious though I can never eat too much of it as I’m not really good with fried desserts. If you’re a fan of bananas, I definitely recommend you try it though.
Mango Sorbet, served on a mango shell and topped with raspberry sauce
This was just a simple mango sorbet but I really enjoyed it. I love mango sorbet.
We had a really pleasant meal here, as always. Afterwards, we got a chance to chat a little more with Dan. His enthusiasm for his restaurant is catching and I could practically see the wheels turning in his head as he told us about things they are exploring for the menu and the restaurant itself in the future. For example, they hope to offer a free range peking duck in the future. Also, when they recently renovated the restaurant, they added low flush toilets, which DH felt compelled to visit and snap a photo of.
The best part was, after our meal, we didn’t need to drive! Really awesome because we are both lightweights when it comes to drinking. So a little more about Uber. Uber is an on demand private driver company. Like a taxi, you can hire them for airport services or just a regular night on the town. The prices are comparable to taxis but with so many more benefits (no tips, no cash, nice limo car, private driver, exact times provided so you know when to step outside, a beneficial review system). To use Uber, you have to download the app and sign up for an account. About 20 minutes before you need to leave, you simply order a ride. They promptly respond telling you how long it will take for the driver to arrive. For both my trips it was 15 minutes. Then a screen pops up with the driver’s name and their ratings from other customers. The rating system helps ensure you will have good quality drivers. A few moments before the car arrives, you get another text saying the car is almost here. Then you get a call from the driver telling you there are here. After that you just hop in your car and give them your destination. The car ride is charged to your credit card which was entered when you signed up for the service. Tip is already included in the rates so no money needs to exchange hands at all. You just sit back and relax in your nice air conditioned town car. You can find out more about Uber here. And as I previously mentioned, diners at DMR during RW will get $30 credit to try Uber too.
Now onto the giveaway! The giveaway is for dinner for 2 at DMR from the Restaurant Week menu, which DMR has extended from September 8-30. The dinner for 2 includes add-ons, so you can get the Mongolian lamb or the sesame ahi tuna without paying extra. Contest runs until 11:59pm on Monday September 10, 2012. I will use random.org to generate a random number winner. There are three ways to enter.
1. Leave a comment at the end of this post and tell me which dish from the RW menu you are most interested in trying.
2. For an additional entry, like this post on FB, then leave a separate comment at the end of this post telling me you’ve done so.
3. For an additional entry, tweet the following message “Win dinner for 2 at Del Mar Rendezvous @kirbiecravings http://bit.ly/PHKuBW”. Then leave a separate comment at the end of this post telling me you’ve done so.
Del Mar Rendezvous
1555 Camino Del Mar
Suite # 102
Del Mar, California 92014