For a while it seemed like I was eating Chinese food every other week, then *poof* ... a dry spell. Well Chinese food is back with a vengeance. We're having a family gathering in a couple of weeks so we've already booked a reservation with Ocean Seafood, but we wanted to test some of the dishes in the banquet selection.
My family has been going to Ocean Seafood for years, back when it was stilled called Miriwa. We mostly go there for dim sum, so we weren't sure how the dinner menu would be. We weren't able to sample all of the dishes off of the banquet as some of them are exclusive to that menu, but we were able to try a lot of dishes.
We opened with the B.B.Q. combination platter, but unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures on account of our hunger. I can tell you it contained pickled jellyfish, char siu (barbeque pork), roast duck, and soy beans. The char siu and duck were expectedly good, as we regularly get char siu to go. I don't often eat jelly fish, but it was good, like salty, sour gelatin noodles. The soy beans were a surprise, literally, as they were hidden underneath.
The next dish up was braised shark's fin with shredded chicken. I've only had shark's fin a handful of times in my life, and while it's good, I've never felt it too be worth the value. I find that reconstituted scallop can offer a similar texture, and flavor-wise it pretty much takes on the identity of the stock, which in this case seemed to be chicken or a chicken/seafood blend. The soup was good, but no shark's fin dish will ever compare to the one I had in Japan. I shouldn't be biased, but I judge all shark's fin dishes by that dish (which wasn't a soup by the way) because it was that good. Adding the vinegar did add an extra bit of dimension to the flavors which in turn made it stand out a little more.
Baked crab with ginger and green onion came out next, and was the clear MVD (Most Valuable Dish) of the meal. I find Chinese crab or lobster to be difficult to eat, since it's usually coated in cornstarch and pan-fried with the sauce making it increasingly difficult to eat. But one couldn't deny the wonderful marriage of flavors involved in bringing this dish together. The was the bite of ginger and the roundness of the green onions which came together in a savory blend with the naturally sweet crab meat. We also benefited from an incredibly large crab that itself was meaty and succulent. God bless that crab. I should mention that there were only four of us, but the minute that crab showed up it was a goner. In fact, there was nothing left to take home, and I'm only halfway through describing the meal.
We also ordered steamed cod. We picked one with a disproportionately large head. Or rather make that a disproportionately small body. It was still good, cooked just right so that it was still juicy and just flaking. Where the flavors in the crab were bold and up front, the cod was a more subtle and balanced well with everything else. I also made the mistake of trying to eat the eye (which was chalky) rather than the area around the eye (which was slimy, but in a good way).
The last two dishes out were braised abalone with black mushrooms and house chow mein. After having had mediocre chow mein the last three or four times, I was finally reminded of how good chow mein can be. There wasn't anything particularly different in this chow mein when compared to the others, but the execution was far superior. The noodles were genuinely crispy with a gravy that wasn't thick or goopy so that it consumed the noodles. Both the noodles and the gravy managed to retain their identities while also combining as one, and that's how a good chow mein should be. Once the dish takes on the identity of one or the other completely, it becomes lost, as either a mushy mess or a never-ending chewy, crunch fest. As a house chow mein, it came with the requisite bok choy, char siu, squid, cod, and shrimp, all of which were good and distinct like the rest of the components.
While the chow mein was clearly good, the abalone did not fare so well to put it mildly (which it was). Like with the shark's fin, I guess I'm just not that big a fan of abalone. It's not that I dislike the taste or the texture, but I feel that there a similar things out there that cost considerably less, like clams. It didn't help that the abalone was accompanied with bok choy and shiitake which themselves are commonplace and uninspiring. A good shiitake is a good shiitake, but still when they're in pretty much every other dish, they're not special. And the same goes for the bok choy. Still, abalone is a delicacy and it is different from clams or squid. I'd still eat it gladly if put in front of me, as long as I don't have to pay for it.
Because of our decadent meal the restaurant manager comped us dessert, a plate of gelatin and a plate of coconut and taro gelatin. I especially enjoyed the coconut and taro gelatin, as I am quite fond of taro.
If I wasn't already full (which I was), then the gelatin was the straw that broke the camel's back. After that I was done, and from then on I can't recall much. But I do recall the delicious crab that I'll be looking forward to eating come the actual banquet. Yum!
Some other notes about Ocean Seafood:
- We were probably one of only four or five parties dining that night in the large serving area. However one of those parties was a thirty person Asian tour group that took up 15% of the restaurant. The group brought me back to my youth, as about half of them were wearing plaid over-shirts. Sister C would have totally blended in if she went over. She just needed to feather her hair more.
750 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012