It is always a little disheartening celebrating Chinese New Year away from family and away from the hustle and bustle of where the action is. It isn’t a holiday here in the US, and there are no days off. I always try to do a few traditional things such as make tea eggs and pass out red envelopes to the kids. Usually, my aunt will cook up a storm and invite us over, but she is in Taiwan this year, so my cousins and I decide to go out for dinner last night, to spend some time with family on Chinese New Year’s Eve, which is the traditional night to have the big family feast.
It was a late evening seeing every Chinese restaurant in the vicinity was fully booked. We manage to garner a reservation at Capital Seafood for 8.15pm at the Irvine Spectrum — Diamond Jamboree was booked solid. We arrive a little early and there are still people trying to get into the restaurant. I hear the manager tell them it would be a 45 minute wait!
Between my cousin-in-law and I, we take a while to figure out what to order. We want to go traditional, but it is difficult as the menu is not set up for us to do so – it is still the same menu as always. We end up asking the kids what they want to eat and go from there.
We start with a couple of appetizers — Dim Sum Platter consists of four different types of dim sum totaling 10 pieces — BBQ pork buns, spinach and mushroom dumplings, shu mai and har gow.
Next, we have a plate of Canton Style BBQ Pork which the kids relish with glee. The pork is lean, though flavor-wise, not quite the same as the ones I enjoy while in Hong Kong.
The kids love Garlic Salt Pork Chops, and I am surprised to see they are generous with the portion. Fried pork chops are tossed in garlic, jalapeno, scallions and spicy salt.
Honey Walnut Shrimp is not one of my favorite dishes because it tends to be laden with mayo. I am pleasantly surprised by the one here. The shrimp is coated in a light sauce while still retaining a crispy exterior. There is glazed walnuts, cantaloupe and honeydew as accompaniments.
Usually, a host of vegetarian dishes are prepared or offered during the new year, but we make do with House String Beans, which appeals to everyone. It is flavorful sautéed with garlic and chile.
Next, Garlic Pea Sprouts arrives piping hot at the table. It is well executed with the greens exhibiting a beautiful green hue. One of the kids is reluctant to eat her vegetables and we had to almost force her to eat the pea sprouts.
We round out the meal with Combination Hong Kong Style Chow Mein – panfried noodles topped with shrimp, scallops, calamari, chicken, beef and imitation crab of all things…
… as well as Salty Fish and Chicken Fried Rice which, I am impressed the kids all want more of. It possesses “wok hei” which is extremely important when it comes to fried rice. It is also the same reason why I am never able to make it quite the same as a restaurant due to the lack of “wok hei” or “breath of the wok” meaning the amount of BTUs the stove is able to emit.
While I did not consciously order eight dishes, I guess sub-consciously, I must have. It would have been detrimental to order seven dishes which is generally what is traditionally ordered at the meal after a funeral — which typically happens in a restaurant and not someone’s home like a wake. My superstitious ex-roommate in Hong Kong always orders an extra dish to avoid having seven dishes on the table — she did this when I was in Hong Kong this time!
So, the Year of the Monkey is here and we spent New Year’s Eve eating with family. Even though the meal is not a traditional one, it’s the sharing with family that is most important.
Capital Seafood Irvine Spectrum
85 Spectrum Center Dr #329
Irvine, CA 92618