Occupation: Public Relations Director
Location: Los Altos Hills
Favorite Restaurant: Chef Chu’s
Reviewed Chef Chu’s: Friday, March 2, 2012
With the motto inspired by Virginia Woolf, English Modernist Writer, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” the legendary Chef Lawrence C.C. Chu is celebrating Chef Chu’s famous restaurant’s 40th Anniversary with his devotion and creativity to Chinese cooking.
Orchestrating an oasis of lavish choices of uniquely traditional dishes with his own personal interpretation, Chef Chu’s menu offers a culinary joy of the very best Chinese cuisine has to offer. With the knowledgeable and very polite and eager to please staff, the service is superb, the food is fabulous, the price is right, and the ample portions (share!!) arrive speedy and steamy.
But Chef Chu’s is more than just a dining outing, it is an experience of visiting a friendly family-run establishment where people dine, celebrate special occasions, get together for a chat at the bar, and sample the most amazing cuisine of China without leaving the Bay Area. Although I just learned that Chef Lawrence Chu is leading a spectacular Historic Cultural & Culinary Tour of China on October 15 to 30, 2012 (for additional information call Winnie Lee at 916-395-7489).
The atmosphere is lively and busy, but never hectic, with reservations highly recommended. The inviting ambience and the constant buzz of activities are always present at the entry lobby, delightful and charming once you are seated. From the local regular patrons to the visiting CEOs, celebrities and the world’s leaders and dignitaries, such as President Bush Sr., John Kennedy, Jr., Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Serena Williams, Jeremy Lin (see his autographed jersey), Steve Young, just to name a few, the restaurant’s “Wall of Fame” displays many autographed photos with kind and warm personal notes to Lawrence Chu, his wife Ruth, and their family: Larry Jr. and Jennifer, who manage and work at the restaurant and successfully continue the well established tradition of being the shining star of Chinese restaurants. Chef Lawrence Chu’s youngest son, Jon M. Chu, the famous Hollywood movie director of the “Step Up 2” and “Step Up 3D” fame, as well as the “Never Say Never” with Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith, invited young stars to taste his father’s famous cuisine on their promotional tour in the Bay Area. Note a large autographed poster of Justin Bieber in the reception area.
On my recent visit to his restaurant I purchased Chef’s Chu ($30) colorful, and full of his award-winning recipes and photographs, cookbook. With the title of 40th Anniversary: Celebrating Your Place at Our Table the book reflects perfectly his philosophy of cooking, and our attraction to his famous restaurant. I do not cook, it’s bad for my jewelry… so I will leaf through the book, salivate while I am reading it, and rush to the phone to make reservations.
And as one famous movie star and CA governor says: “I’ll be back.”
Here is a short description of the dishes I have tried at Chef Chu’s restaurant and managed to bring some leftover delicacies home (no cooking next day!)
Crab & Cheese Puffs (crab meat and cream cheese-filled won ton wrappers)
Hot and Sour Soup (with pork, shrimp, tofu, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms in thick chicken broth, dry sherry, spices)
Jumbo Prawns Candied Pecans: Deep fried jumbo prawns smothered with light tart-sweet Chinese mustard mayo sauce, sweetened condensed milk, and honey, garnished with candied pecans; it is the all time favorite dish on the menu
Rack of Lamb with Lemongrass: Pan-seared to succulent perfection rack of lamb marinated in soy sauce, Chinese barbeque sauce, hoisin, rice wine, lemongrass and garlic
Sautéed Vegetables Delight – a rhapsody of sautéed, in-season vegetables; fresh, crunchy and perfect; in gentle sauce to preserve the taste of every ingredient
Almond Delight: “no guilt” dessert: smooth and creamy almond-flavored gelatin cubes served with a fruit medley. Light and refreshing after a fulfilling meal – this is a true traditional Chinese dessert
Crispy Fried Banana: Lightly–battered, deep-fried banana, topped with whipped cream, roasted peanuts with a choice of ice cream. A drizzle of warm melted dark chocolate dazzle your pallet. Light and fluffy – definitely for sharing
Glazed Apple: Chef Chu’s signature and very popular “fabulous dessert,” per Chef Chu: fresh apple wedges, lightly battered and deep-fried, dipped in a hot-caramelized syrup. Served in an ice bath to harden the whimsical sculpture-like glaze.
Hot tea, water
On our previous numerous visits we enjoyed:
Braised Fish with Shiitake Mushrooms
Braised Fish in Hot Chile Black Bean Sauce
Wok Seared Salmon in Spicy Black Bean Sauce
Minced Shrimp in Lettuce Cups
In plan for my next visit:
Classic and Plump Roasted Peking Duck with carved out fat! Marinated in crushed lemongrass and honey-coated barbeque sauce. Deboned and carved by the chef. Served with steamed lotus buns, slivered scallops, and duck sauce. Requires 4 hours advance notice, better yet call the day before.
Occupation: Operations Manager
Favorite Restaurant: Lanesplitter Pizza and Pub
Reviewed Chef Chu’s: Thursday, March 8, 2012
It’s a long way to Los Altos, especially when I live close to Chinatown in Oakland, but worth the trip. When you walk into Chef Chu’s, the first thing we saw was the kitchen with chefs working away at the stove. The place was bright and clean with a smiling host ready to seat us.
At Chef Chu’s everything was good. We started with the Chinese Chicken Salad, lightly dressed and very tasty. The broth of the wonton soup was rich and flavorful, and the wontons were filled with pork stuffing. The servers ladled the soup into bowls, making the experience seem elegant.
Lemon Chicken came next, moist inside with a crispy coating and tangy, light and delicious lemon sauce. Finally we finished with Fried Bananas and a bowl of chocolate sauce on the side…decadent!
A great experience with excellent food, great service, everything was good. If I lived locally I would definitely go and also enjoy it for a great Saturday night take-out.
Occupation: Financial Marketing Director
Favorite Restaurant: chiaroscuro
Reviewed Chef Chu’s: Tuesday, March 13, 2012
This journey did not start off well as we drove for 1 hour and 20 minutes, due to traffic. Once we arrived, immediately I was taking in the ambience of the restaurant. It was very warm and inviting and pretty crowded. I definitely noticed a lot of locals eating at the restaurant, which gave me the impression that this must be a superb Chinese restaurant. Immediately, we were seated into a nice spacious booth. My guests and I were really starving, so not having to wait for a table was nice. Unfortunately that is where it ended. Our waiter came to the table and brought tea and did not bother asking us if we wanted anything else to drink. My husband asked for a wine list, and she came back with water. Then we ordered some pot stickers to start, and when our waitress came to bring them to us she said, “These are burnt, is that okay?” I was shocked that she would even ask us if we wanted to eat burnt pot stickers. We sent the pot stickers back and within 10 minutes she returned with fresh pot stickers. They were very dry, and the shell was very, very greasy. When taking our order, we asked the waitress for recommendations on the menu: that did not happen. We ordered the glazed lemon chicken, sweet and sour prawns, pan-seared black pepper steak, Fresh Clam Soup with Ginger and shrimp fried rice.
The shrimp fried rice was very good. It was very fresh and very light. The lemon chicken was horrible; it had a very dry texture and was overcooked, and the sauce was a little too tangy for my blood. The sweet and sour sauce was actually coated on the prawns, which we enjoyed, and the flavor was just right. The dish was tossed with pineapples, green and red peppers, and carrots. Fresh Clam Soup was anything, but fresh and the clams were dry, and I could not taste any ginger, rather I could taste more salt and pepper and basil in the soup. The pan-seared pepper steak was pretty decent. The combination of the sauce mixed with the pepper added a bit more spice to the dish, which was the perfect complement over steamed white rice. We never received a wine list, and the waitress only stopped by our table once to refill the water.
Overall the service was horrible and definitely the food needs a lot of improvements. I would not recommend to my friends even those that live in the area. It was such a disappointment with the service and mediocre food. The positive thing I can say is that the price is really reasonable and the portions are bountiful.