High-quality service is hard to come by. Good service is plentiful, but service that is at once unobtrusive yet closely attentive, and that makes the patron feel important without any fawning by the server -#8212; that's rare.
Yet I found it at M.Y. China, Martin Yan's duplicate version of his Market Street restaurant in San Francisco, located in the Graton Resort - Casino in Rohnert Park. The service itself was a big part of the pleasure of dining there.
There is a downside to the location. The restaurant is open to the casino floor, so it can be noisy. Worse, because Indian casinos can allow smoking, the smell from the gaming floor tends to waft into M.Y. China.
As you walk into the restaurant, there's a large full bar where you can eat and drink and watch the noodle pullers. These guys are adults' equivalent of the pizza throwers at Mary's Pizza Shacks that so entertain the kids. It's fun to watch them pull long ropes of dough out to the full length of their outstretched arms, then twist the dough into coils, then pull it back out.
The noodles go into dishes like Beijing Knife-Cut Noodles ($12, 3 stars). Pieces of a noodle rope are laid hot in the bottom of a bowl. They're topped with cool cucumbers, bean sprouts, a puff of carrot threads, and a sprig or two of cilantro. A hot, very spicy bean sauce containing black Chinese mushrooms is poured beside the vegetables.
As you fish down in the bowl to bring up a piece of noodle, you also get smidgens of the other ingredients that combine in different ways -#8212; all fresh and delicious. It's a fun and interesting bowl of very good food.
This is not a typical Chinese restaurant with a hundred combinations of a handful of ingredients. These are creations by master cooks Martin Yan and executive chef Tony Wu.
The walls of the main dining room are a strong pattern of black and white lit from below, while ceiling partitions are red.
A setback in the rear wall holds images of 18 sitting saints. There is a large prayer wheel in front that you can spin on the way in or out.
The menu starts with 15 kinds of dim sum, one of which was Curry Chicken Savory Puffs ($5 for two, 1-1/2 stars). These were deep-fried and sugary sweet, with no discernible curry flavor. Moving on to a page of five "small eats," the Wild Boar Lettuce Cups ($9, 3 stars) were excellent. Two cupped lettuce leaves held hot ladlefuls of chopped boar in a bean sauce, topped with scallions and bean sprouts.
A dish called Chang Fen ($7, 2 stars) came sizzling to the table in a small iron skillet. It consisted of noodles rolled up and cut into cylinders, bean sprouts, bell peppers, green onions and a house sauce. It tasted good, but was oily.
You know how in most Chinese restaurants sliced beef strips are invariably chewy? Well, not the Wok Seared Beef ($18, 3 stars) at M.Y. China, probably because the price suggests they use a tender cut of steak. It's a big plate, with the meat wokked in a sweet sauce and served on a bed of arugula.
A half order of Peking Roast Duck ($20, 3 stars) was plenty for one person and could have served two. The plate of crispy skin and sliced breast meat came with a handful of bao-dumpling-like white buns -#8212; cucumbers, scallions and hoisin sauce. Take a step toward heaven by slipping a slice of crispy skin into a bao and dabbing it with hoisin, then eating it like a slider. Yum.