Dan is rather ambivalent about media dinners. We've had some amazing meals thanks to PR outreach, but he remains a picky date. Say the words "group dinner" and he's out. There will be no making small talk with strangers, thankyouverymuch. However, when I first heard from Del Mar Rendezvous in January, he actually nagged me to take them up on the offer of dinner. My schedule didn't allow it, but when DMR came calling again a few weeks ago, I had to say yes.
For Dan. Of course.
Being big fans of Dumpling Inn, we were curious about Del Mar Rendezvous, which came from the same family of owners as Dumpling Inn. Executive Chef Tony Su was baptized by fire at Dumpling Inn, where he started cooking with very little restaurant experience. He picked it up quickly and eventually ended up at DMR, once owned by his parents.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to try their Restaurant Week Menu, we headed north with Erin and her hubby James. As we settled down and started talking about drinks, we noticed something: the menus are rather... detailed.
There's the main menu, the Restaurant Week menu, the Restaurant Week drink specials menu, the vegetarian/vegan menu, and the gluten-free menu. Shuffling through the stacks like lackeys at a big corporate meeting, we figured out our drinks, then our dishes. Erin wanted to add a few extras to the Restaurant Week dishes, one of which was the BBQ pork slices.
Done in the classic Cantonese style (char siu), it was well-done. Surprisingly so, considering that neither Del Mar Rendezvous nor Dumpling Inn primarily serve Cantonese cuisine. We added the RW menu's steamed dumpling sampler and yu hsiang eggplant. The dumpling sampler included shrimp dumplings (har gao), another Cantonese touch, which was also nicely done. The other two types, soup dumpling (xiao long bao) and vegetable, fared less well. The veggie dumplings had dried out in the steamer, while the soup dumplings were devoid of soup. On a nitpicky note, Dan and I like to mix our own dumpling dipping sauce and didn't care for the mixture that came with the dumplings.
The eggplant tasted of good wok hei (a searingly hot surface is a must when stir-frying eggplant) and we also sampled the honey-glazed spare ribs. If you like a sweet glaze and ribs that fall off the bone, these are it. Dan Schreiber, the general manager, mentioned that the walnut shrimp was a particular standout at DMR. That caught my attention, because it's another Cantonese touch seen often in banquet menus.
Usually, I can't stand the dish. Every single celebratory occasion in my family was punctuated by that damned shrimp dish. For Americans who feast on the traditional Thanksgiving meal, it's like saying you can't stand candied yams. It's lightly breaded prawns drenched in a sweet mayo sauce. When done well, it's deliciously sweet and savory. When done poorly, it's a sugar bomb or worse, raw mayonnaise.
Skeptically, I ordered the walnut shrimp, bracing myself for the worst. Well, rest assured that DMR gets the sweet-savory balance right. The shrimp's worth a try and it is neither cloyingly sweet nor blandly fatty with mayo.
Our table declined to sample the seafood entrees for a few reasons, from dislike of fish to an avoidance of Chilean sea bass. The exception we made was for shrimp: in the dumplings, with the sweetened mayo, and lastly, with the konnyaku. We opted for the Singapore chow version from the gluten-free menu. Konnyaku is starch derived from a plant that is shaped a lot like a calla lily, but has an enormous corm (starch storage part) that sticks way out from the middle. The corm's starch is turned into a gelatinous brick, then shaved into noodles.
The Singapore chow konnyaku was terrifically executed to the point where I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between the konnyaku noodles and thin rice noodles. The light curry flavor, the shrimp, and the shredded bits of egg... it was perfect. I would have exchanged the snow peas for the BBQ pork mentioned earlier, but that’s personal preference.
There was the "Three Cup Chicken," or sanbeiji, named for its base of 1 cup soy sauce, 1 cup rice wine, and 1 cup sesame oil. After a very long cook time in an earthenware pot, the chicken ends up crisping and the sauce has thoroughly reduced. It was tasty, especially with a bowl of rice, and I appreciated that dark meat, bone-in, skin-on chicken was used, with the connective tissue rendering to form a rich sauce.
We also sampled the Mongolian-style lamb, which was good. Cooked medium rare and served Frenched, they’re a handheld treat and certainly tasty. At this point, we were ready for dessert, with James, Dan, and I extolling the virtues of mud pie. Not that we’d ever tried DMR’s version, but you really can’t go wrong with coffee or chocolate ice cream piled high on a chocolate cookie crust.
DMR didn’t disappoint with two enormous mountains of mocha ice cream on cookie crusts. It was so good that two slices barely held the four of us back. We also sampled the fresh mango sorbet, which is light and sweet. The cinnamon banana eggrolls were also a winner, but I’m very partial to the mud pie.
Sounds delightful? Good, because I’m giving away for a gift certificate for a Restaurant Week dinner. Good for two people plus an upgrade to either the Mongolian Lamb or the Chilean sea bass ($84 value), this certificate must be used while the Restaurant Week menu is offered, from September 8 to September 30. Since multiple giveaways have already occurred, those of you who didn’t win have one more chance. And if this is your first time hearing of DMR, then join the party and leave a comment for your chance to win.
Two possible entries:
-Leave one comment on this post telling me your favorite Chinese dish of all time. If you don’t have a lot of experience with Chinese food, tell me what dish you’d like to try most.
-Leave a legitimate email when entering the giveaway. Entries without email addresses will not be considered.
-For one extra entry, tweet: @MeanderingEats YO! I want to have a Restaurant Week meal at @DMRendezvous!
-Please ensure that @MeanderingEats is in your tweet or it will not be considered.
The Fine Print:
-Contest will close at 11:59pm PDT on Friday, September 14, 2012.
-Each entry is assigned a number in the order received. The numbers are entered into Random.org for a drawing.
-Winners of another Del Mar Rendezvous September 2012 Restaurant Week gift certificate are ineligible for entry.
-Hosts of the giveaways and those associated with their respective sites are ineligible for entry.
-Winners will be announced early morning on Saturday, September 15, 2012. Winner has until 11:59pm PDT on September 15 to respond to their notification email. If there is no response, another winner will be selected.
-Certificate must be used for the Restaurant Week menu by September 30, 2012. If certificate is not used by this time, the value of the card will be lost and not replaced.
-The certificate will be mailed and Meandering Eats will not be held liable for the loss or destruction of the certificate in transit or in the winner's possession.
Thank you to Dan Schreiber and Del Mar Rendezvous for the invitation to dine with them and for sponsoring the giveaway. Although my meal was complimentary, my opinions are always my own.
Update: I collated the entries based on when they were received and numbered them in order. Unfortunately, I could not accept entries that did not provide a means of contact, either in the comment or through Disqus/Twitter. The number range was fed into Random.org and this was the result:
The winner is... Stacy!
Thanks for playing, everyone!
|Patio seating at Del Mar Rendezvous|