A Taste of Boathouse Asian Eatery

Carey Sweet

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There are plenty of global small plates restaurants in Sonoma County, though getting your hands on a full array of dim sum can require more of a search. So here is a terrific new place to add to the coveted list of family-owned dim sum shops: Boathouse Asian Eatery at Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park.

assortment of dishes in Sonoma County

The upscale, popular restaurant has offered a vibrant mix of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese since it opened in late 2016. This November, owners Catherine Do, Hans Mogensen and executive chef Tu Do added an extensive dim sum menu to the line-up, and, like the other cuisines presented at the eatery, it’s authentic and absolutely delicious.

All the dim sum is made from scratch, under the guidance of master dim sum chef Pit-fun Li, and cooked to order, be that steamed, fried, sautéed, baked or as soup. Born in Hong Kong, chef Pit began his culinary career as an apprentice under master dim sum chef HanRong Li at the Guangzhou Restaurant Group in China when he was just 17 years old.

fried rice and shumani soup

The look: You’re welcomed by a centerpiece oyster and sushi bar, and a tall, uplit tree reaching toward the second-floor loft. Gray banquettes and chairs are brightened with red and gold Japanese fabric pillows, dramatic pendant lighting are sophisticated, and a white brick wall is painted with a theatrical Japanese-style octopus mural. Thanks to tightly sealed floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll forget you’re eating in a bustling casino; it feels like a cozy cocoon in here, although it’s a cocoon populated by lots and lots of customers busily working away with their chopsticks.

To eat: Choosing dishes is as easy as can be, thanks to laminated photo menus with descriptions, and also a paper checklist that you fill out like a sushi request. Our server knew the dishes well, and was able to give additional information, such as which dumplings included pork (for a non-pork-eater at my table), and what some unfamiliar options were, like a “Chinese donut rice roll.”

sauteed green vegetables in Sonoma County

The idea is to order a lot of assorted dishes, and just sample away. Some dishes will seem the same, but dip in a chopstick, and discover how the #1 rice roll differs from the #3 rice roll since the #1 bundles firm shrimp ($7.95) while the #3 brings beef ($7.50) tucked in the slippery rice noodle pockets, both doused in a sweet soy sauce.

I can’t resist the classic shumai, a trio of tightly woven knobs of minced pork and shrimp served in their little steamer basket ($5.95), and the juicy pork and broth stuffed xiao long bao ($8.50). Har Gow dumplings are plump with shrimp, and like all the doughs, fillings and broths here, are made from scratch.

For the lotus leaf sticky rice chicken, think two small burritos of tender, toothsome leaf wrapped around glutinous rice, Chinese sausage, shredded chicken, scallop and salted egg yolk ($6.50). The dumpling noodle soup is another absolute must ($15). More entrée size than the pop-in-your-mouth bites, the big bowl of steaming broth is packed with firm ramen noodles, tender bok choy, thin slices of pork, and three gorgeous dumplings stuffed with more pork and bursting with more broth.

Those Chinese donut rice rolls ($7.50) aren’t dessert, by the way, but crispy Chinese fried dough (youtiao) wrapped inside silky rice noodles and steamed. It is then garnished with a drizzle of sweet soy sauce, and is indeed somewhat sweet but also savory.   

To note: Currently, the dim sum menu is offered Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. But Boathouse owners plan to roll it out to daily service in the coming year, expanding the seating area to serve what is already a wait-in-line crowd. Dim sum is also table service right now, but plans are to introduce carts in the future.

Dessert: Everyone loves the classic egg custard tarts ($6.50), but try the red bean tapioca, as well  ($6.50). It’s nearly a liquid, studded with rice pearls, a bit of sugar, and coconut. Divine. 

To drink: An assortment of teas ($.450-5) makes a traditional accompaniment, though since this is brunch-style food, you might want to treat yourself to a mimosa ($11) or hot sake ($7-$9).

Details: 288 Golf Course Drive, Rohnert Park, 707- 588-9440, boathouseasianeatery.com.