UPDATED: Ordering Off the Chinese Only Menu at Embassy Kitchen 彌敦閣 in San Gabriel, CA

UPDATED: Ordering Off the Chinese Only Menu at Embassy Kitchen 彌敦閣 in San Gabriel, CA

Updated: Added photos of the Crispy Boneless Chicken Stuffed with Sticky Rice, Imitation Shark’s Fin with Egg Whites, Crispy Bean Curd with Bamboo Pith and Shrimp Roe Sauce, and Oyster Omelette.

If you’re able to order off their Chinese only menu, then you open yourself up to a culinary adventure you don’t find in many Hong Kong style Cantonese restaurants.  Some of these dishes require extra time to prepare, and therefor need to be ordered in advanced.

The best of these dishes is the Crispy Boneless Chicken Stuffed with Shrimp Paste.  The skin was crispy, and the shrimp paste was flavorful, making every bite delicious.  With a larger party, we had 1 1/2 orders of the chicken on the plate, and that amount made for an impressive presentation

There is another Crispy Boneless Chicken that’s stuffed with sticky rice instead.  While the presentation was nice, it wasn’t as enjoyable to eat.  The sticky rice didn’t add much flavor to the the chicken.

Both of these chicken dishes, as well as the Stuffed Chicken Wings and the Tilapia Rolls, need to be ordered 24 hours in advance as these dishes are more labor intensive.  Each of these dishes is around $40-$50.

Tilapia Rolls were unique to me, as you bite into pickled red ginger along with thousand year old egg.  The sulfuric flavor of the egg could be somewhat offputting to some, especially when combined with the tart and spiciness of the ginger.

Aside from preparing these elaborate dishes well, they’re good at the simpler dishes as well such as the Scrambled Egg with Shrimp.  The scrambled egg is well seasoned and is cooked to the point where the eggs remain wet, which prevents it from overcooking and drying out when it sits on the plate for a few minutes.

The pricing is on the higher side when compared to other restaurants such as Sam Woo and Sham Tseng.

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Dinner at Moon House Chinese Cuisine 福滿樓 in West Los Angeles, CA

Dinner at Moon House Chinese Cuisine 福滿樓 in West Los Angeles, CA

For the last 2 years, Moon House has been the “go to” place for solid Chinese (mainly Cantonese) food on the Westside, and for the most part, the food is excellent.  This place has also been packed in the past Chinese students from UCLA, as well as those who live out on the Westside.  However, during this time, prices have been slowly creeping up.  What used to be inexpensive and reasonable is now getting to the point of being moderately pricey.   Lunch Specials that used to cost $8 or $9 a dish, and a Buy 4 Lunch Special Entrees and Get 1 Free promo, now run about $12 to $14.  And that Buy 4 and Get 1 Free promo is no more.

In addition to the higher prices, their Health Inspection Rating dropped, for the first time ever, from an “A” rating.  Worse, the rating dropped to a “C.”  It makes one wonder if the 2 issues may be the cause for their foot traffic to noticeably drop off some?  So, we wonder if the offering of a 40% Off Facebook Discount was in response to the decline in sales?  Whatever the reason was, we took advantage of it and dined on 16 different dishes, most of which were prepared well and were tasty.

The most luxurious item they had available was the Peking (Beijing) Duck.  Though it may not have been the best preparation, it was more than adequate to satiate our palates.

The one true disappointment of the evening was the Salt & Pepper Calamari.  The flour coating on the outside could have used a few more seconds frying in oil, so that the calamari would be nice and crispy.  Instead, it was a little gummy, and there was a off taste to the calamari.

Service was good here.  With the discount, we saved about $120 on our dinner, and with the cost of $23 per person, this meal was quite a steal.

If you can read Chinese or use a translator app, you may want to ask for the Chinese only menu to order dishes non-Chinese readers don’t know about.

As always, click on the thumbnails to enlarge the photos.

Dim Sum and More at Longo Seafood Restaurant 鴻德品位 in Rosemead, CA

Dim Sum and More at Longo Seafood Restaurant 鴻德品位 in Rosemead, CA

Longo Seafood sits in the space that once was Sun City Seafood Restaurant, which also served traditional, but inexpensive, dim sum where you order from various carts that roam about the dining area continuously.   Sun City lasted for about 6 years before going through a change in management.  Sun City then closed and reopened as Crown Palace.  Dim sum wasn’t any better than its predecessor, and after 9 months, Crown Palace shuttered its doors.

Fast forward to over a year later, and the space went through a complete renovation inside and out, but mostly inside.  It was lavishly decorated to give a feel of a higher end Chinese dim sum palace.  More importantly, the food has improved substantially, with offerings of specialty dim sum that are made from high end quality ingredients such as black truffles, foie gras, and wagyu beef.

However, without proper execution, or even proper development of recipes, adding higher end ingredients to traditional dim sum dishes doesn’t necessarily mean that dish will work.

Foie gras used in a steamed dumpling was first done by the original owners of Lunasia in Alhambra when it opened about 10 years ago.  The one item that was to be their signature dish was their Foie Gras Dumpling, which was a roundish steamed dumpling with a shrimp filling, topped with a small piece of foie.  Unfortunately, for the most part, these dumplings were overcooked, so when you bit into one you, you bit into a piece of overcooked duck liver as well, leaving your mouth with this dry, gritty muddy taste that overpowered the shrimp filling.

Longo, though, does do a better job at presenting foie gras in a steamed dumpling.  With a clean palate, you can get that subtle hint of foie from your first bite into their dumpling.  The problem was that, it was just a hint.  Unless you’re able to identify the flavor, you’ll easily miss it.  For many at my table, it was not worth paying the extra money for that.

More successful are Longo’s Black Truffle Siu Mai.  I taste finely shaved black truffles placed on top of their siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings).  You do get that truffle flavor with every bite.  At about $3 per dumpling, it’s a better deal (and taste) than the Black Truffle XLBs at Din Tai Fung (which run about $4.50 per mini-XLB).

Having Wagyu Beef in rice rolls (cheung fun) is like making a hamburger patty out of Kobe beef, a seemingly waste.  The beef in these rice rolls come across as overcooked.  I prefer the traditional beef rice rolls made with a marinated ground beef filling.

And while the Longo Lobster Dumplings weren’t bad, ordering the Longo Shrimp Dumpling will give you the same experience.  Only a small piece of lobster meat is placed on top of the shrimp filling inside the Longo Lobster Dumpling, and the flavor and texture of the lobster disappear when it becomes overcooked in a dumpling that’s 80% shrimp inside.

Service is typical as to what you expect from other dim sum palaces.  Just because they look higher end in decor inside, and offer fancy dim sum dishes, you’re not going to be treated as you would while dining at Patina.

And did anyone leave here with a dry mouth?  Whenever I get that dreadful feeling, it’s usually because the food has been seasoned with too much salt.

As always, click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

Another Sichuan Feast at Hop Woo 合和 in West LA

Another Sichuan Feast at Hop Woo 合和 in West LA

Came back for a hedonistic feast with a group of about 22.  This time, we wanted to sample more dishes on their Sichuan menu, as well as offering a couple of familiar Cantonese dishes to give our palates a rest from the barrage of spicy, mouth numbing food.  And in this meal we got quite a bit of that numbing quality from the Sichuan peppercorns used in the Boiled Fish with Rattan Peppers, and Rock Cod Fish.

Food was excellent as before, but many in our group enjoyed the shrimp, cauliflower and eggplant dishes a lot.

So glad that the former owner of Meet in Chengdu in Monterey Park sold off the restaurant in order to join forces at Hop Woo, bringing with him one of his better chefs.

Cantonese Banquet Style Dinner at Xiang Yuan Gourmet 湘緣美食 in Temple City, CA

Cantonese Banquet Style Dinner at Xiang Yuan Gourmet 湘緣美食 in Temple City, CA

In celebrating a good friend’s 60th birthday, we ordered the $388 set banquet menu which includes 10 courses, much of them being nice seafood dishes.  And with one vegetarian at the table, we supplemented the dinner with a couple of extra courses of vegetable dishes.

We decided to give Xiang Yuan a try for dinner since we enjoyed their dim sum, and their dinner items, though tasty and solid, were unfortunately not mind-blowing.

The service was excellent, and corkage was waived for our party of 20 that had one of their private rooms reserved.  These two factors helped made the dinner more enjoyable.

If anything can easily be improved, it would be their lobster entree.  For these banquet menus, they should have on hand 2 to 3 lb lobsters to serve.  Instead, we seemed to have gotten two and a half 1-pound lobsters arranged on the plate.  And with the lobsters chopped into tiny pieces, it made it a bit challenging to find the pieces that contain lobster meat.

Another thing that can be improved up would be to balance the menu a bit better.  Outside of the soup and appetizer course, there was no other meat (beef or pork) nor poultry dish on the menu.

Sichuanese and Cantonese Food at Hop Woo Restaurant 合和 in West LA

Sichuanese and Cantonese Food at Hop Woo Restaurant 合和 in West LA

I can remember when Hop Woo first opened on the Westside.  It was around 2000, and I was working for a solo practitioner/attorney in Bel Air at the time.  I discovered them when I was running errands in the area.  At that time, much like their sister restaurant in Chinatown, they were serving solid Hong Kong style Cantonese food, as well as offering a deli section with roast pork, BBQ pork, roast duck and soy sauce chicken to name a few.  However, when the interest plateaued over the years, so has the quality of the food.  And with that, the crowds became smaller at nights and weekends.

Recently, noticing the Los Angelinos’ craze for authentic Sichuanese cuisine, a new manager brought in a chef who specialized in preparing popular Sichuan dishes, and the result, from word of mouth, was packed dining rooms full of Chinese expats who work in the area or work/study at UCLA.

When ordering the Sichuanese dishes, ask specifically for the Sichuan 四川 menu, a paper menu, separate from the regular menu.  When ordering dishes such as Mapo Tofu or Kung Pao Chicken, which appear on both menus, indicate you want the Sichuan menu preparation, so that you don’t end up with the Americanized version.

The highlight of the menu is the Spicy Chicken (口水雞, cold chicken in spicy chile oil), where the meat is moist and silky, the type of chicken meat you expect in Hainan Chicken, but only now, it’s drenched in a bath of red chile pepper oil with sesame seeds.  Add Sichuan peppercorns, and you have an amazing dish that tingles you mouth nicely.

Their other dishes are quite good as well, especially when you ask them to reduce the amount of salt used in the preparation of the Sichuan dishes.  Sichuanese and Hunanese restaurants in the US, for some reason, use a lot of salt in their dishes.  Sometimes it enhances the Ma-La 麻辣 flavor (balance of the numbing sensation from the Sichuan peppercorns (or Ma 麻) and the spiciness from the dried red chile peppers (or La 辣).  Sometimes, after the spicy burn settles, it’s just salty.  Asking them to cook with reduced salt seemed to have solved that issue for us, though I wonder with the reduce salt, if it might have altered the flavors somewhat at all…

One disappointment has been the lack of Spicy Cold Jelly (Noodles).  It’s never been available every time I’ve eaten there in the last 3 months.    Oh, and parking here is a bitch.  Arrive early to find parking in the streets in the area.

Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the photo.

 

在金都吃點心, Eating Dim Sum at Capital Seafood Restaurant in Arcadia, CA

在金都吃點心, Eating Dim Sum at Capital Seafood Restaurant in Arcadia, CA

Small chain of restaurants with 2 locations in Irvine, and one location in Arcadia that provides a higher end style of dining.  Though this location has been here for years, today’s brunch was the very first here at Capital Seafood.  Prices here are moderate, especially when compared to the other dim sum palaces, with prices starting at $3.98 per plate and up.

At the Irvine Spectrum location, I discovered their delicious shrimp egg rolls which were deep fried to a golden brown and absolutely crunchy and delicious.  Here, it was almost the same, except that their shrimp egg rolls are now prepared in Taiwanese style: long, thin cigar like egg rolls filled with only pieces of shrimp, with the ends twisted closed and deep fried.  They are then cut in half before being served with a sweet brown sauce. That and the mixed mushroom egg rolls were delicious.

Other stand outs were the Baked Pineapple Bun filled with salted egg yolk custard, Hong Kong style egg custard tarts, and Shrimp Dumplings in Supreme Broth.

The only item that I found disappointing was the Rice Noodle Wraps/Crepes filled with ground beef.  The beef was minced and then marinated with too much corn starch that the filling did not taste like beef at all, and the texture was somewhat off putting, like a paste.

While they’re trying to provide you with a higher end dining experience, it can be difficult to flag down a wait person to take your order sheet, or to assist you with any other needs you have.

As always, click over a thumbnail in order to enlarge.