Thursday, October 01, 2009

Not Feeling So Creative at Creations

You wouldn’t think Chinese people have a sweet tooth if you look at the scarcity of desserts offered up on menus. Chinese dinners typically end with fresh fruit (in Asia) and fortune cookies (in Americanized Chinese restaurants in the United States).

But Creations Dessert House is trying to buck that trend, selling a variety of Asian-style desserts day and night. This restaurant (it’s more like a café) is part of a Hong Kong-based chain called Hui Lau Shan (named after the founder). Its first U.S. outpost is on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco’s outer Richmond neighborhood.

I took my Mom and sister to Creations for an afternoon snack during their visit last week. The exterior really looked like some place in Hong Kong with its fiery dragons and red-and-gold motif. Inside, it looked like a frozen yogurt shop with the pastel colors and flat-screen TV.

The menu is this big placard showing photos of the desserts and teensy-weensy printing of the names and descriptions. This was horror to my eyes. (I mean, really, 8 point font? Seriously?)

The offerings are broken up into categories representing common Chinese dessert types: bird’s nest (dessert made with the popular Chinese soup ingredient), crystal snow (think snow cones), glutinous rice balls (like Japanese mochi), sago (tapioca pearls) and anything mango.

It did seem a bit overwhelming, even though the photos all looked the same because most of the desserts were topped with mixed fruits that looked all the same. Out of pure exasperation, I just went with something from the Mango Mania section because I love mango. So I ordered the Sago in Mango Juice with Extra Mango ($4.50).

My sister felt the same pressures and also ordered from the mango section, but she went for the Black Glutinous Rice in Coconut Juice with Extra Mango ($4.50). My Mom went off menu and ordered the Black Sesame Juice with Glutinous Rice Balls ($5.50), something my dad used to make fresh for us (the black sesame, not the rice balls).

Our orders arrived and the bowls looked pretty big, although somewhat sloppily assembled by our young server. My mango dessert was OK, although the mangoes weren’t super sweet. I liked my sister’s mango dessert better because of the contrast with the black sticky rice (similar to desserts found at Thai restaurants). Both our desserts are served cold and my Mom’s was warm. The black sesame juice or pudding was nice but I liked the full body in my dad’s version. Creations’ version seemed a bit thinned out.

Side note: I also ordered a glass of watermelon juice ($2.95) that was really refreshing, and my Mom—unlike me—ordered the special fried turnovers filled with cheese and crab meat. She will eat anything fried.

It took a long time for the fried crab turnovers to arrive, but it looked fresh and the skin was crunchy. They were like fried won tons. (I tried one so I could tell you guys about it.) Unfortunately, the filling was gross. And I rarely use that word in food reviews, but it was, mostly because the cheese was some processed cheese that was so watery it reminded my sister of mayonnaise. And my Mom complained that there wasn’t enough crab meat to really get a crab flavor.

Creations has been open for awhile and it’s starting to show some wear and tear. While generally clean, it just feels a bit tired. And what’s odd is that they serve their dessert with plastic utensils. (I think they do have regular flatware but maybe the servers are too lazy to wash them so they just pass out the plastic ones, which are tiny.)

Creations is a nice idea because Asian-style desserts can hit the spot when you have the sweet tooth. But it’s kind of hit and miss depending on who’s serving you at that moment. Without much competition, I can’t really see it improving much.

Creations Dessert House, 5217 Geary Blvd. (between 16th and 17th Streets), San Francisco. PH: 415.668.8812

Other sweet posts:
Georgetown Cupcakes (Washington, D.C.)
What’s Up at Fentons
Lush Gelato


A said...

You missed their famous specialty:
Fresh Mango Mochi! The Best if you like Mochi & Fresh Mango! It's #31 which is 3 to an order for $2.50. If you want the tray it's 2 orders: 6 for $5!

Carolyn Jung said...

I have to say that with the exception of custard tarts and almond Jello, Chinese desserts just have never done it for me. I'd take a European baked good hands-down over a Chinese sweet of any kind. Maybe it's because so many of the Chinese ones are soupy, and incredibly sweet.

It's kind of fun that this Asian dessert place opened. But too bad the offerings aren't better. Sounds like you guys won't be back.

Single Guy Ben said...

My sister brought me mango mochi from Hawaii that I love, so I'm good on mochi for awhile. But maybe I'll check out Creations' if I have a craving for that.

Carolyn, I agree the European desserts are crazy creative. But sometimes I do crave my dad's black sesame pudding.

Cookie said...

How sad that the fried wontons were gross! It does seem a bit strange to add cheese to any Chinese dish though even if they were served in wonton skins.

Palidor said...

That's too bad about the crab turnovers. Do they have Chinese red bean dessert? That's one of my favorites!

Single Guy Ben said...

Cookie, they were fried nicely, but it was really the filling that ruined it.

Palidor, of course they have red bean! It's soup form.