Friday, January 1, 2010


Happy New Year to you all!

Yes, I know I have been MIA the last month or so. No matter how much I try, the Holiday Season with all the entertaining, being entertained, shopping, visiting and everything else that goes with it, seem to take all my time. While I love it all, I am happy to be starting a new year and getting back to this blog.

Jim and I have a New Year's Day lunch tradition of going out for a dim sum lunch. Our favorite close-to-home restaurant, Tin's Tea House, closed rather abruptly last year, with promises of reopening in a new local location. Well, that has not yet happened, and, while we have Oakland and San Francisco Chinatowns not far from us, we've gotten spoiled and lazy with being able to drive a couple of miles for outstanding Dim Sum.

A week ago,I was in panic mode and ready to resort to frozen Dim Sum eaten at home.

Then, I took a walk down Walnut Creek's Main Street and spotted Modern China Café in the spot that several restaurants and bakeries have occupied. It was closed when I walked by but there were sample menus to take by the entrance. Lo and behold! they serve Dim Sum every day of the week from noon until 6 p.m.

Later in the day, I phoned them and was told they had just opened, a "soft opening" with no fanfare. So, at noon today, we headed over to Modern China Café.

The restaurant is stunningly beautiful. The pumpkin-colored walls are relaxing. The walls are decorated with Chinese art and photographs. The two indoor dining rooms have beautiful and comfortable furnishings. The dishes, serving pieces, and flatware are all lovely. There is a full bar.

As for our lunch, the Dim Sum was delicious and I look forward to returning for more and to sample some of the other dishes on menu.

My favorites of our choices were The Baked BBQ Pork Buns and the Crispy Calamari.

The Shrimp & Chive Dumplings were delicious too. The Bell Pepper stuffed with Shrimp and served with Black Bean Sauce, was tasty, but hard to pick up...for this one I gave up on chopsticks and resorted to a fork.

The Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls were tasty but probably the least distinctive of our choices.

For our dessert (sweet) Dim Sum, we chose the Sweet Sesame Balls. All these dishes, with a pot of Chrysanthemum Tea cost about $20 before tip. We left satisfied.

Several of the Chinese waiters, and possibly one chef, checked on us frequently and described such things as the tasty dipping sauce that was served with the Calamari. They told us that each selection is prepared to order...I was pleased at how fresh everything tasted.

While I know that Modern China Café is only unofficially opened and that I should not be too harsh on them, there are a few things that I hope will change to assure their success. I don't know who owns/manages the restaurant but there seem to be a mix of Caucasian and Chinese people running it. Our Caucasian waiter certainly tried to make our meal a pleasant one, but did not have enough familiarity with the menu or even the different types of tea that were being offered. I don't think this is the right place for him to be working, pleasant as he is.

Also, there was only one table at which there were Chinese people dining. This makes me wonder about the restaurant's connections with the local Chinese population, which is fairly large. Again, I realize the restaurant has yet to get much publicity, but I would think that those associated with it would be inviting their Chinese friends and associates to come on it.

As I've mentioned, Modern China Café is open daily for lunch and dinner. In addition to its food, it features specialty cocktails and a full bar. During Happy Hour ( 3 to 6 p.m.), all Dim Sum is only $2 a plate; at other times, Dim Sum plates (usually 3 pieces) cost between $2.25 and $3.50.

Modern China Café's Grand Opening Party is Friday, January 8 from 5 -8 p.m. Stop by, if you don't get to try them out beforehand. I think this is a nice new addition to Walnut Creek's dining scene.


mary ann said...

Well, I just caught up with your blog! The holidays always throw me off too. This restaurant looks fabulous and I have to say that whenever GraceAnn is on KGO radio, I stop whatever I am doing to listen. What a wonderful sense of humor and appreciation of food, SF and its culture. Happy New Year to you and Jim and keep posting, I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

We had to check this restaurant out as soon as we read your blog. Unfortunately our experience wasn't as pleasant as yours. The baked bbq pork buns were cold, the crab and cream cheese egg rolls didn't taste as if there was any crab or cream cheese in them. They graciously replaced this order with the vegetarian egg rolls when we expressed our displeasure. We were not informed of the ingredients in the various dipping sauces. The waiter we had was pleasant and checked in on us frequently, maybe a little too frequently. He didn't even offer hot tea as a beverage. We know this was a soft opening for the restaurant, but probably will not return.

Where-To-Guide said...

Just a word on Anonymous's comments...we had some of the same experiences with our server not knowing about ingredients and not even knowing what the different kinds of tea were. It was only when the Chinese servers and cooks came to our table that we got the kind of information we were looking for.
As I look around Walnut Creek at it's current assortment of Asian/Fusian restaurants and several new ones about to open, I expect that Modern China will have to become more "authentic" or it won't make it.