Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cooking Papa--Santa Clara, CA

Having passed by North China restaurant on Homestead dozens of times with my dad, we finally wanted to give it a try for lunch yesterday. However, when we got there at 12:05 there were piles of people waiting outside. There was a new restaurant, Cooking Papa, that displaced North China and the reception was overwhelming. So, we tried again today, this time with my wife and the twins tagging along, to eat dinner. Thinking we'd beat the rush, we got there at 5:15 but it turned out we got the last parking spot and the last available table that could hold the five of us. Expectations ran very high.

The first dish to arrive was the Hainan Chicken. The rice, though probably cooked with broth, was bland. The chicken itself was tender and flavorful, especially when compared to the disaster at Hong Kong Bistro in Mountain View. Just to compare against last weekend's Nutrition House we tried the Fried Rice with Chicken and Salted Fish. The fish was much more tender than last week's, but it over-salted the dish. I needed to add some of the bland rice from the Hainan Chicken to knock down the salinity. It has been nearly four hours since dinner as I write and my wife and I are still thirsty despite drinking water since coming home.

The pea sprouts were average and not finished. The mayonnaise shrimp with walnuts turned out well, but when is this dish ever bad? The House Special Fried Noodles was tasty, greasy and loaded with a variety of goodies such as chicken, squid and shrimp. The Peking Duck, for $18.50, was a great value. The presentation was exquisite and came with a hot bamboo basket filled with small steamed buns. Cooking Papa nailed the skin--the most important part of Peking Duck--perfectly. It was shiny, crisp and with just the right amount of fat.

The highlight of the night, though, was what we had for dessert. First came the mango, grapefruit and sago in mango sauce. It had the flavor of mango pudding but the texture of the grapefruit made it interesting. The dish was served cold and I was delighted that both my boys couldn't finish their servings so I could have more. Perhaps even better, though, was what came next, with the understated name, "Hong Kong Style Egg Puff". It brought our table to life. The exterior was slightly crisp and sweet, but the interior was spongy soft. This is one item that must be consumed once served--don't bother bringing it home. Almost as pleasant a surprise was the price: four puffs for $3.

If the stars are aligned again (that is, if we can get there early enough), I'd certainly look forward to going to Cooking Papa again. One could make the argument that the value is good--our dinner came to $85 after tax but before tip--but I like it more for the quality of some of the dishes that aren't really matched by other restaurants nearby. The House Special Fried Noodles and the Peking Duck stood out. And, those desserts! My, oh my.

Cooking Papa
2830 Homestead Rd.
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 247-3748