Monday, February 06, 2006

Happy Harbour Restaurant, Rowland Heights, CA

Happy Harbour is currently considered the top (or at the very least, the second best) Chinese seafood restaurant in the California southland. In Rowland Heights, a restaurant had better be good to convince people to make the trek out there. I've got the good fortune of coming from a family of foodies who like to frequent these fine Chinese restaurants and we've developed a bit of a familiarity with some of the restaurant owners/managers. Jackie Zhou, the Directing Manager, made sure we were taken very good care of, but everything leads me to believe that the service in this restaurant is beyond what you would normally expect from a Chinese restaurant.

We had the luxury of their finest private room, a beautiful corner room hidden behind two large exquisitely decorated glass doors. At all times the room was attended by two waiters who made sure your tea cup, beer glass or wine glass was always full. On one side of the room was a dining table for ten; on the other side, couches and seating area for people to relax to the side. Upon entering, a waiter would greet you and direct you to the seating area to pour you a cup of tea of your choice. When your party fully arrived, they would move you to the main dining table and bring out some appetizers as well as show you the wine bottles they had previously brought to the room to recommend. It was all class. I can't say enough about the service or the decor. It was classic Chinese decor done up in a very traditional seafood restaurant style, but clean, professional and very well executed.

The food was great. I'm not even going to go into details of each dish other than to say that they were good in allowing the natural tastes of the dishes to come out instead of having sauce overbear the natural flavors. The portions were ridiculously large. We had 13 dishes plus some freebies and each was just way too big. Just think.... a large whole roast pig, the second biggest bowl of shark fin I've ever had (second only to one at the Thai Village Restaurant in Singapore) It could have easily fed 15 people. We suspect that their normal servings are not that size but that due to the special circumstances of the dinner that night, they made the dinner a bit glitzier than normal. The manager admitted to us that the profit margin on our dinner was less than the profit margin they'd have had on a normal table and we believe him wholeheartedly. The food was very tasty and elegantly presented. Each time a dish came out, the manager would come showcase it to the table and tell us what it was and then they'd take it aside and divy it up into ten portions. Without further ado since my words can't do enough justice to the food, this is what we had:

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Universal Hilton

The Universal Hilton by the world famous Universal City and Universal Studios is a great location for travelers out of town looking to enjoy a couple days near a fun theme park. But for many in the southland, it has long been dreaded when associated with a Chinese wedding. Tonight, my impression (and my entire table of 10) of the place has been changed, for the better.

- The Lobster Salad was a delight. The lobster was fresh as was the fruit and the sauce, though creamy, was not overbearing.
- The Braised Lamb Chop was very flavorful and cooked just right. The meat was both succulent and tender.
- The Braised Ying Yang Scallops were not bad: two methods of cooking scallops, both decent. I'm not a big scallops fan but I managed to finish both of them.
- The Prince's Shark Fin Soup with Crabmeat wasn't bad at all. Of course, you could barely spot shark fin in it, but the taste was not bad. I put a little bit of vinegar in mine to improve the flavor, but realistically, the soup was pretty good. It's just that I had some much better shark fin soup the night before (more on that later!) and that unfortunately affected my opinion tonight.
- The Braised Abalone with Fish Maw was excellently done on a bed of lettuce. I very much enjoyed the flavor and thought the fish maw was prepared superbly.
- Garden Vegetables Topped with Conpoy Topping turned out to be broccoli topped with dried scallops. It was another braised type dish but pretty tasty. Nothing to write home about, but not a disappointment other than the fact the garden vegetables were boring.
- Chef's Special Succulent Garlic Roast Chicken wasn't really all that special at all. It was fairly tasty but the chicken was a bit overcooked and could have been presented a little bit better.
- The Steamed Fresh Catch was tasty and the table finished it quickly. The fish was fresh and the sauce just right. They also steamed the fish just right.
- Double Happiness Egg Noodles with Mushrooms was actually very tasty. By this time, everyone was too full to eat, but I managed to put down quite a bit still. Light and springy with just enough flavor, these noodles were a great way to end the meal.
- Puree of Sweet Beans and Lotus Seeds was a fancy name for a sweet dessert that many restaurants will serve at the end of the meal. I didn't think it was that bad although several at the table complained that it was too sweet.

Everyone pretty much was impressed with the meal and thought that a new chef had been hired. Next time someone says we're having a Chinese banquet at the Universal Hilton, I'll remember this experience and not cringe.