5 Joy Restaurant
1489 Beach Park Blvd
Foster city, CA 94404
Joy, aka 5 Joy Restaurant is a small restaurant in the Beach Park plaza strip mall bordering the San Francisco Bay in Foster City, just south of the Highway 92 San Mateo Bridge. A hidden gem in the middle of no where.
Be sure to check out Top 10 Chinese Restaurants in San Francisco
They serve Taiwanese style Chinese food along with some Shanghainese Cuisine and Shanxi items. Food from Taiwan can be significantly different than other Chinese regions. A recent Anthony Bourdain Layover Episode sheds light on this. Joy has been in existence for over 10 years and moved to this new larger location in 2008. The restaurant is a lot nicer now though the bathroom could still use work!
This review encompasses experiences made over many visits, the last of which was in the Summer of 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic.
Decor, Vibe – 5 Joy is small, unremarkable, noisy but popular for get family and friend get togethers. Not a place for a quiet date. The seating outside is good for warmer summer days. Deep fried Stinky tofu anyone? This place serves up tons of it and wrecks of it when you walk in sometimes. Several tables of non Asians were dining helping to blend the audience. Servers spoke English well.
5 Joy Menu (Click on any picture to zoom in)
5 Joy has a large menu with many Taiwanese Cuisine specialties as well as some Shanghainese dishes and the usual Chinese restaurant staples. Some special items are available only on the weekend. There used to be a 2 page Chinese only menu that has now been incorporated into a large regular menu although some items have been removed. On our last visit they have a fancy new menu with color pictures.
Off the menu items like Luo Bor Si Yue Tang (Shredded daikon and fish soup) and Organic chicken soup with American ginseng need to be ordered ahead of time. Ask the lady owner for details as prices are subject to change.
Old 1 page Chef’s Special is shown. The old ones marked with 2 stars are the best. This site has actually translated the old menu into English
5 Joy Food Picks:
Insider note: During the Chinese New Year season, usually early February, they sell freshly made Chinese sweet Nian Gao pudding cakes with dates and nuts for $20. It goes fast, so you need to call ahead.
Fried chive “ravioli” ($8.95) is like a Scallion pancake with chives, egg and rice noodles stuffed inside. Two huge ones. Served very hot out of the fryer, but one time it was a bit greasy and falling apart. Even looks artery clogging. Yum. They now have named it Volauvent with leek roll.
Shredded Pancake ($4.25) was a Scallion pancake ripped apart, making it almost like a roti prada. Very crispy and also worth the fried food penalty.
Fried Thread Roll ($3.95) was one good sized deep fried bun with sweetened condensed milk. Perfect deep fired crispiness. On another occasion it looked more like 3 small buns with threading in the middle.
Scallion Pancake ($5.50) was super hot and full of scallions. Crispy crust and subtle flavor made it good.
House Special chicken (Basil sauce) aka Three Cup Chicken ($13.95) – Great dish in a clay pot, with just the right sweetness and basil flavor on pieces of cubed chicken. One of the best versions we have had, in fact we went to Taiwan in late 2014 and still like this one better. Interestingly, leftovers get a chance to absorb the flavor, making it better the next day!
Dry Fried String Beans ($12.95) – Simple, fresh and good veggies. Not too greasy and just enough flavorings.
Black Mushrooms with baby bok choy ($8.95) was a nice veggie dish. Tender greens with small slices of mushroom.
Luo Bor Si Yue Tang (Shredded daikon and fish soup) ($20.95) was a huge soup with whole carp and lots of shredded daikon. Really flavorful soup and tender fish. Bones though! Enough to feed 4-6 people+. Leftovers the next day were still very tasty. This dish is no longer on the menu but can be advanced ordered. Must preorder ahead of time.
8 Treasure Rice Pudding ($5.95) with lots of sticky rice, beans, raisins, red bean paste inside, and dried logan on top was pretty good. One time we got one that was not too sugary, and possessed rice was a little lumpy in spots indicating that it was not cooked long enough. We later found out that this is made then frozen, and later re-steamed. On our last visit, this was out sold out. This item is not on the menu. In 2019 they said they stopped selling it.
Chitterlings & Pig blood stew ($9.95) is a classic Taiwanese dish that comes atop a heater candle. Tasty and tender guts with a good amount of spicy heat.
Eggplant with basil in hot garlic sauce ($8.50) was super hot out of the kitchen and very well done. The spices were not overwhelming and the eggplant thinly sliced and very fresh.
Shanghai Steamed juicy buns or Xiao Long Bao ($6.50) for 8 small but meat filled little dumplings. A fair version of the classic. Not much soup. Thick wrapper, although inside meat isn’t the greatest tasting. Din Tai Fung Santa Clara or Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae is still better quality wise. The rule on when to order this is – ONLY in a Shanghai Chinese restaurant, not Taiwanese or Cantonese.
Crispy Skin Duckling ($14.95 for half) was very heavily deep fried and hence very crunchy. Fried too far causing flavor to evaporate so they put a good amount of seasoning salt on.
Stewed pork with rice ($4.25) – Simple dish with bits of flavorful braised pork blended into rice.
Cold Bean Curd Noodle Salad ($4.75) was a pretty and basic dish with thinly sliced bean curd. Not a lot of character.
Braised Beef Noodle Soup ($7.50) had some very nicely tender braised beef but the noodles were not hand made. Home style broth was good. This dish was solid but not exceptional.
Lamb with Green Onions ($10.95) was fully of thinly sliced low quality gamey lamb with garlic, scallions, and pea shoots. It was a fair dish with a little bit of spiciness that could have been better.
Wuxi spare ribs ($10.95) is a Shanghainese dish with tender pork bones in a slightly week red sauce. Good but not stellar.
Shanghai Rice Noodle Cakes ($6.50) had decent sized rice noodle cakes with bits of pork and Napa cabbage.
XO Sauce Hand Cut Noodle Chow Mein ($10.50) had thick jaggy well done noodles but a marginal sauce. Couple shrimp, mushrooms, but tasteless scallops.
Squash ($8.95) – Too soft and had a chemically gross after taste.
Sesame Bread w/green onion ($5.95) was a poor interpretation of this dish. Big portion. Yeast made it thicker but the flavor was a weird chivey one.
Spicy Chicken Wings ($9.25) are very spicy to the point of being numbing. Chicken wings are chopped up and hard to eat. San Tung in San Francisco makes the best chicken wings.
5 Joy’s Service was fine, with food coming our rapidly. It deteriorates when the place fills up though. Refills and requests happen faster than most places. We did have to track down a waiter to order and get the bill.
The place offers good value and food for those who like this type of Chinese cuisine. It may not be what some people are looking for, but try our recommended dishes to get acquainted. You don’t come here for pot stickers, sweet and sour, or lemon chicken.
After or before a meal at 5 Joy restaurant, you can burn off calories by crossing the street and walking on the Foster City foot path. This extends all the way down to Oracle in Belmont, and goes North to the SFO airport.
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