Xiao Bao Makes Good on Its Name


Becky Burke

People who pause to think about the name of Xiao Bao Biscuit, which last month continued its march to national prominence with a New York Times write-up, often ask what kind of biscuits the Spring Street restaurant serves.

Typically, the answer is none. But the response changes on Fridays, when bang bang biscuits hit the menu.

The chicken biscuits are a riff on shaobing, a Northern Chinese layered flatbread that’s often covered with sesame seeds. The Xiao Bao crew added yeast as “a nod to our name and the South and growing up eating biscuits,” owner Josh Walker e-mails. “(Yes it’s technically fusion. )” Continue reading

Wei Mei Opens Next Month in Northwoods Marketplace

mei wei tv menu(whole) (1)

When Peter Fang owned New Dragon in Hollywood, the restaurant served the typical Chinese-American staples: The menu was crammed with sweet-and-sour-this and that-fried rice. But Fang is determined to winnow down the standard dish list at his newest venture, Wei Mei Diner.

“We try to have a simple menu,” Fang says. “You go to any Chinese restaurant, it’s too many things.” Continue reading

Chef Switch at Riso Noodle House

soupThere is still an “Authentic Chinese Menu” at Riso Noodle House, but the dishes are now being prepared by a Vietnamese chef.

The West Ashley restaurant — which I had hailed for its second menu, featuring tripe noodle soup; soybean pork feet and steamed beef balls – last month hired a new chef after owner Patty Ho’s partner had to leave the kitchen permanently because of damage to his hand.

Ho described the injury as related to repetitive motion. “The pain was getting worse,” Ho says, adding that he had delayed surgery. Continue reading

Local Entrepreneur Introduces Mobile Dim Sum Concept

aramarktruckDim sum has been on a roll seemingly since the invention of the wheeled metal cart, but a Mt. Pleasant entrepreneur is taking the mobile concept a step further with a dim sum food truck.

Although Chad Moore hasn’t yet hit the road, he’s purchased an old Aramark truck and this week flew to Hong Kong for an intensive dumpling tutorial. The preliminary menu for Dim Sum Good Thoughts includes har gow (translucent shrimp dumplings); shumai (tightly-packed pork dumplings, although Moore’s plotting a vegetarian version) and fun guo (the typically thicker-skinned pork and shrimp dumplings), as well as a pair of barbecue buns. He’s also contemplating serving xiao long bao, the soup dumplings that are the subject of countless obsessions.

To fund the project, Moore’s posted a $15,000 ask on Kickstarter. Within a day of launching his campaign, he’d received $1125 from three backers. Continue reading

Warming Up With Riso’s “Authentic Chinese Menu” Noodle Soup

soupMoving from Seattle to Charleston last year meant trading chicken feet for shrimp heads, an exchange which was easier to swallow before the onset of genuinely cold weather made every day feel like an excellent day for dim sum.

If you’re not already enamored of chicken feet, there’s nothing I can say to sway you: Gelatinous skin and chewy tendons don’t come across as selling points, I know. And chicken feet’s resemblance to human hands probably doesn’t help. But chicken feet, one of the great intersections of Chinese and Jewish cuisines, have a deep-set braised flavor that’s ideal fodder for extending gnawing sessions. Chicken feet, rice noodles and turnip cakes are my idea of a perfect dim sum meal.

So I was thrilled when an online amble led me to a Yelp review citing the chicken feet at Riso Noodle House in West Ashley. “For those wanting more authentic flavors, they give you a second menu full of more unusual flavors such as chicken feet,” Brandon H., a curry fan, reported back in July. Continue reading

Lee Lee’s Hot Kitchen Imports Chinese Restaurant Cooks From Seattle


Gorman E. / Yelp

If construction stays on course, Lee Lee’s Hot Kitchen could be open by Christmas, one of the biggest days on any Chinese restaurant’s calendar.

Owner Karalee Nielsen Fallert, formerly of Revolutionary Eating Ventures, is aiming to open the 1700 square-foot restaurant at 218 President Street between Dec. 19 and Dec. 31. She says many of her current customers are anxious to try Lee Lee’s sweet-and-sour pork, Mongolian beef and salt-and-pepper shrimp.

“They’re coming from places where there are multi-ethnic cuisines,” Fallert says. “And that’s an area where we still lack, big time. From the time I came to Charleston 13 years ago, I realized we didn’t have great Chinese food here.”

Fallert’s now trying to rectify the situation by importing the kitchen crew from a recently-closed Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of Seattle. The restaurant belonged to Lily Lai, an ethnically Taiwanese chef; Fallert worked under Lai in Salt Lake City, and has always wanted to partner with her on a project. Continue reading

Vinh Nguyen Cooking at Xiao Bao Biscuit This Friday Night

Xiao Bao Biscuit has settled on a date for the previously announced kitchen cameo by New York City chef Vinh Nguyen.

Nguyen, returning from a cooking stint in China, will take over the restaurant’s menu this Friday night. The restaurant will operate on its normal schedule, and Xiao Bao’s Joey Ryan says Nguyen’s Vietnamese-inflected  dishes will be priced in line with the standard Xiao Bao menu.

“He is an amazing guy, and a big part of the inspiration for Josh choosing to cook for a living,” Ryan says of Nguyen. “We are happy to have him here and share his perspective with our guests.”

The restaurant opens at 5:30 p.m. for dinner.

Chef With Fusion Expertise Announces Ristorante LIDI

I once had the chance to quiz a server who worked Alaskan cruises about the various food preferences of the boat’s international clientele. The common denominator, he said, was Caesar salad. “Everyone likes Caesar salad,” he said.

Jason Colon, a Le Cordon Bleu alum readying to open a restaurant on Daniel Island, would know: His resume includes “assisting in the opening” of an Italian chain with locations in China, Korea and Japan, and a sous chef stint at an Italian restaurant in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, there’s no indication Colon plans to serve the “Italian Chinese fusion” dishes he perfected on Oahu at Ristorante LIDI, scheduled to open later this fall. A release describes the restaurant at 901 Island Park Drive as specializing in “authentic, affordable Italian cuisine from regional Italian traditions.” Continue reading

NYC Chef to Swing by XBB — But Will He Bring the XLB?

avlxyzCharleston isn’t always on the way to New York City, but if you’re coming from China, it’s close enough: Former Brooklyn chef Vinh Nguyen, who’s just completed a working stint in Shanghai, is planning to guest chef a Xiao Bao Biscuit dinner on his way home next month.

“He’s been doing a lot of travelling around Asia,” XBB owner Josh Walker says of the influences which might appear on Nguyen’s menu.

Shanghainese cuisine tends to make heavy use of soy, sugar and seafood. But the region’s best-known dish is xiao long bao, the soup dumplings which have inspired obsessions that would make the average ramen lover blush. Continue reading

Chopsticks House Succeeds as City’s Only Bubble Tea Outpost

bobamenuIt’s a reliably bad idea to go looking for an edible specialty of the last place you lived in your new hometown. Not only are the search results bound to be disheartening, but the whole endeavor’s unfairly dismissive of local culinary culture. At least that was my stance until Saturday, when I really wanted a coconut bubble tea.

Bubble, or boba, tea originated in late-1980s Taiwan, possibly when a teahouse staffer impulsively poured her tapioca pudding into her iced tea. Whether or not the story’s true, flavored tea with chewy tapioca balls is now slurped compulsively across East Asia and in North American cities with significant Asian populations. In Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley, an entire subculture has sprung up around boba shops.

In downtown Charleston, though, there’s only one source for bubble tea: Chopsticks House, a quick-service Chinese restaurant which got into the boba biz about 18 months ago. Continue reading