Restaurant: Chef Tony
Location: 2 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105. (626) 803-0028
Date: February 26, 2020
Cuisine: Cantonese Dim Sum
Rating: Dumplings good, but portions tiny
The Lunch Quest gang is always keen to try a new Chinese spot.
So we trekked out to Pasadena once we heard that the original chef from Sea Harbor was opening up a new “fancy” dim sum spot in Pasadena.
This is in the old 800 degrees space and nicely built out… up stairs at least.
There is an attractive bar.
But our six person party was banished to the “dungeon.” The basement was claustrophobic and smelled of “potty.” Ick. It was pretty off-putting.
Sauces in the usual microscopic dishes.
Lobster Salad. This is a “whole” order ($28.80). It was tasty, but very small.
Steamed chicken feet in brown sauce.
Shrimp dumpling with gold leaf. These are basically har gow (below) but with a black dough and gold leaf. They don’t taste too different. One of the nice things about Chef Tony is that almost all the dumplings can be ordered by the piece as well as by the order. This really helps when you have a person count that isn’t divisible by 3 or 4.
Har Gow. Very nice classic shrimp dumplings — except they are $2 each and at many places they are $2-3 an order!
Shrimp and Pork dumpling with Black Truffle. Pretty much your usual shu mai but with truffle. They were good, but I’m not sure the truffle actually improves anything.
Baked BBQ Pork Bun. Excellent version with the usual sweet interior.
Shrimp wonton with house spicy sauce. Very nice and delicate with quite a bit of salty flavor.
Shrimp, crab meat, and matsutake dumplings. Nice delicate dumplings.
Juicy Pork dumplings (XLB). Very good example of the Cantonese variant of these.
Pan-fried shrimp & pork pandan bun. Doughy, but with a very nice flavor. Quite tasty.
Deep fried pork dumpling. Just an ok version of this chewy fried type.
Deep fried tofu in Thai sauce. Nice tender tofu. Quite good.
Pan-fried radish cake with XO sauce. I really liked this dish. It had the soft/starchy daikon texture with lots of umami XO flavor.
Squid ink pasta with crab meat and gold leaf. This was a total disappointment. It was just vaguely fishy with a strong red pepper flavor. Not terribly good at all.
Stir-fried rice noodle with beef. This was much better. Like Chinese beef Pad Thai.
Deep fried crispy king prawn. Tasty and super crispy but also super fried.
BBQ Pork. Delicious and pretty much coated in syrup.
Braised eggplant with minced pork on rice noodle casserole. Not a ton of eggplant but I enjoyed the chewy “rice noodle” with the sauce.
Sliced Chinese broccoli with black truffle sauce. Now this was only $6.80, but it was embarrassingly tiny. We are talking 2 inches across!
Sautéed string beans with minced pork. Decent tasting but also about 1/3 the size of a typical version of this dish. It was hard to split 6 ways.
Coconut pudding. These were super cute, but very bland. Basically nearly flavorless coconut jelly (vaguely sweet) pressed into bunny moulds.
Overall, Chef Tony is not a phenomenal experience. The dumplings were actually pretty good, being a bit fancier and smaller and more delicate like they are in Hong Kong. But many of the other dishes were a bit limp. It’s still in soft opening and a few things on the menu (like Chow Fun) weren’t available. Service was fine. QPR isn’t great. Some dishes are laughably small. Some are way more expensive than at a larger “Cantonese Palace.” Some are both. I’d certainly rather go to a place like World Seafood, Elite, or Grand Harbor. For me, Pasadena is also further away than the SGV and more difficult to park in.
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