Chef’s Experience China Bistro is one of Hayward’s newest chic restaurants stationed bravely on Foothill Boulevard near A Street. They’ve cleverly revamped this rather large space to accommodate a stunningly modern design, with elegant and tasteful decor that is a complete surprise when entering from the dingy parking lot behind the run-down shopping center where CE is located.
Let’s face it, downtown Hayward needs a face lift. It’s gotten better over the past few decades – B Street can actually gather a crowd (that isn’t necessarily gang related) on a Saturday night – but overall, the decrepit storefronts that line Foothill, Main, and Mission and many of the cross streets aren’t terribly desirable destinations for most folks, especially the younger crowd. And while many businesses have tried to change this, only few have succeeded like Chef’s Experience has.
Opened only a few years ago in early 2005, this medium-sized bistro restaurant has been going strong. The place looks great, giving the feel of an upscale restaurant without the hassle of having to drive very far (if you’re in the Hayward/Castro Valley area, that is). And even if you are a bit further, I would recommend a trip in for a night at this place – the Hot Braised Salmon is to die for, figuratively speaking (unless you’re a salmon).
So, the place looks great: check. The menu is extensive and offers many delicious sounding choices: check. The service is quick, friendly, and competent: check. And the food? Well the food is just great. Checks all around, my friends, go and eat and be merry.
I’ve been a few times but this last time I feel like I really perfected my dish-choosing skills and ordered all excellent items. The last time we went, I wasn’t a huge fan of a couple things we ordered – which isn’t to say they weren’t good, I just didn’t like them a whole lot. But this time, we made a b-line for the good stuff: shrimp dumplings to start, not one but two orders of hot braised salmon (there were 4 of use eating), dry fried string beans in black bean sauce, fake chicken (I love gluten!) kung pao style, and just some plain old white rice. It was fabulous.
Let’s talk about that salmon for a moment. I was craving this for weeks since my last visit to The Chef. Imagine sweet and sour chicken. Now, instead of tiny little balls of chicken, try instead a nice meaty slab of delicious fresh salmon. Then get rid of that heavy, greasy breading and replace it with a similar substance that is instead thin and crisp. Now, imagine that the thick sweet and sour sauce made of corn syrup and red dye #2 is instead light and thin and slightly less corn-syrup-esque, with orange dye #2. Then scatter a generous amount of cooked broccoli (not that raw crap that Chinese restaurants so often like to throw at you) around the plate. That is how the Chef makes hot braised salmon, and damn it if it isn’t one of the best foods I’ve ever had.
As for the rest of the dishes, the dumplings were simply heaven, as you might expect from a deep fried breaded thing, the fake kung pao chicken was good (my mom would like me to duly note that she thought this dish was GREAT), the green beans were super duper good (and healthy too – I love veggies!), and the rice was…rice. The tea was delivered promptly and continually in heavy, pretty pots, and my mom even ordered me a delicious dessert-y mudslide-type drink (Kahlua, Frangelico, Bailey’s, Coffee, and Chocolate swirls) after she saw me ogling it on the little drink table menu, and it was a tasty treat.
I even gave this place a 5/5 for service since the wait staff is so dang nice, intelligent, and responsive, time after time. I’ve only been a few times, but my mom and her boyfriend report that they receive similar service every time they go. Way to be on top of things Chef’s Experience, we need great places like you here in Hayward!