Tag Archives: lobster

Seafood on the Seashore

Posted from Santa Barbara, California, United States.

It was Sunday night on Memorial Day weekend, and Pearl had a hankering for seafood. Based on various reviews proclaiming its merits, we took a walk down to Stearns Wharf to try The Harbor Restaurant. My initial impressions were not promising. The decor and atmosphere seemed to match every generic seafood restaurant I’ve been to in California. The great views off the pier certainly gives it an edge, and we enjoyed shooting sunset photos while navigating the crowds. Even though every hotel in town was sold out, we were quickly seated, and the restaurant was half empty. This should have been a warning.

The Harbor Restaurant

Being Santa Barbara, you’d expect a good wine list, and they didn’t disappoint. I found a very extensive selection, primarily of California wines, to be encouraging, and not representative of most restaurants like this. Unfortunately, we didn’t go in for a full bottle, and the wines offered by the glass were mostly limited to a couple of generics found in almost every restaurant, with 2 exceptions: Flying Goat Pinot Noir (which we had tasted the day before at the winery) and EOS Zinfandel. I went for the Zin, and thought it very enjoyable, the highlight of my meal.Santa Barbara Sunset

We started with some raw oysters on the half shell. There were 3 different varieties on the normal menu, but a special added a fourth. The waiter didn’t know anything about them, which should have been a warning. I found them tasting too much like a bay under a pier and lacking in fresh ocean taste. I also found lots of bits of shell in each, and unseparated meat, indicating poor shucking technique.four kinds of oysters on the half shell

For our main courses, Pearl selected a whole Maine lobster and thoroughly enjoyed it. Granted, it was lobster with a ton of butter, and served with a side of corn-on-the-cob, both of which she finds impossible to pass up. But there certainly wasn’t anything spectacular about the lobster and the corn was bland.lobster with corn on the cob

I’m not much of a seafood fan, and almost half of the menu was steaks and sandwiches, including a prime rib dinner. This seemed promising, instead of the usual single filet mignon or strip steak entry found at seafood restaurants. Since the previous night was heavy on the steak, I opted for something a little lighter and chose the prime rib french dip sandwich. I was very disappointed. The meat was well-done, and clearly not made from their prime rib dinner. It was dry and flavorless, and had the texture of boiled or steamed beef. The bread was nice and fluffy with a light crispy crust, just like you’d find at Philipe’s in LA, but the the dipping sauce was generic, salty, thick, and tasted like it came out of a packet mix or can. Again, clearly not made with the pan drippings from a ribeye roast supposedly being prepared in-house. I didn’t even finish the sandwich.

French dip

So, overall verdict, if you want good, but generic seafood with great views, this is worth a stop. But if you want something new, or have terrestrial eaters in your party, keep looking.

Day 2, the second banquet

Posted from Central, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong.

So I promised the details on this fantastic banquet we had on our second day. One of the most famous restaurants in Hong Kong is Yung Kee in Central. Renowned for its roast goose recipe, the restaurant now owns the entire 14 floor building that it is located in. It’s even been awarded a star from the Michelin Guide. We had a private room on the more luxurious 4th floor to celebrate the 75th birthday of my wife’s uncle.

Thousand Year Egg
Thousand Year Egg

Starting off the dinner was the infamous dish, 1000 year egg. Some consider it a delicacy, but apparently it’s a fairly common dish and is frequently used in congee. It had a jelly-like consistency, tasted somewhat like a pickle, and had the most amazing colors to it. My photo doesn’t do the iridescence justice. Apparently it’s made by wrapping a duck egg in clay, soaked with various salts and acids for up to several months. The longer, the better.

Following the egg was a treo of appetizers representing Health, Wealth, and Happiness. First, “money purses”, small pouches of minced pork, wrapped up in a layer of rice dough and boiled. The end result looks surprisingly like a tiny purse or bag that people used to wear on their belts.

Pork Money Bags
Pork Money Bags
Closeup of Pork Money Bags
Closeup of Pork Money Bags

The second of the treo was fried sea cucumber stomachs. I had never had sea cucumber before, and was quite surprised. The dish was light and crispy, with a slight ocean taste, but mostly it was like eating french fries.

Fried Sea Cucumber
Fried Sea Cucumber Stomachs

The third of the set was a traditional dish that apparently is very rare today. Stacked up like coins were pork-fat medallions, duck pate, and water chestnut, slathered in an egg-yolk sauce. It was incredibly delicious, even though I generally dislike patte.

Duck Patte, Pork-fat Medallions, and Water Chestnut
Duck Pate, Pork-fat Medallions, and Water Chestnut

The next dish of the meal is the one the restaurant is famous for. The Roast Goose was prepared in a similar style to Peking Duck. Yes, it was as delicious as it looks.

Roast Goose
The Famous Yung Kee Roast Goose

Following the roast goose was a common delicacy for Chinese banquets, shark fin soup. This was the second time I had shark-fin soup, but a very different preparation from anything I had expected. It came to the table a very vibrant orange, and had a creamy consistency, although I doubt any dairy products were used. Surprisingly, there was no fishy taste to it at all, in fact if I didn’t know better, I would have sworn it was a cheese soup.

Shark Fin Soup
Shark Fin Soup

The next dish was also seafood, so I wasn’t thrilled when it arrived. Individual stuffed crab claws were then breaded and fried, making for very attractive dishes. Perfect portion size, and the tip of the claw exposed, made these very appealing and memorable. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor and enjoyed the light chili sauce garnishing each claw when served.

Stuffed Crab Claw
Stuffed Crab Claw

Following the crab claws was the most visually impressive dish of the evening. A huge platter came to the table, arranging several different varieties of eggplant in a light sauce.

Crab-Stuffed Eggplant
Crab-Stuffed Eggplant

The purple chinese eggplant arranged vertically was stuffed with crab meat, and on top was sea cucumber. The photos are deceptive, each of those vertical towers was at least 3 inches tall.

Crab-Stuffed Eggplant
Crab-Stuffed Eggplant

My wife was very jealous, as she’s allergic to eggplant.

Crab-Stuffed Eggplant
Crab-Stuffed Eggplant

Even when portioned out into individual servings, the dish was very beautiful. I have to commend the servers at their plating skills. The techniques over the course of the evening as they split up the large dishes were very antithetical to what I’ve come to expect from Chinese cuisine.

After the eggplant came one final seafood dish, lobster noodles. The noodles were cooked in a lobster broth and were clearly the focus of the dish, even though there was lobster piled on top. Again, the photos are deceptive, as the full dish brought to the table was easily 30 inches across, a veritable mountain of lobster.

Lobster Noodles
Lobster Noodles
Lobster Noodles
Lobster Noodles

Wrapping up the main dishes were a huge plate of noodles (clearly the inspiration for chow mein) and fried rice. These are typical ends to a chinese banquet, allowing people to fill up with the over abundance of food. Considering how stuffed we already were at this point, it was mostly gratuitous, but I tried some anyways. Naturally they were delicious.

Fried Rice
Fried Rice

Noodles
Noodles

That brings us to desert. Since it was a birthday, there was a cake covered in strawberries, and of course, since it was a chinese banquet, we also had the ubiquitous red bean soup and fresh fruit platter.

Birthday Cake with the Chinese Character for Longevity
Cake with the Chinese character for Longevity

Red Bean Soup
Red Bean Soup

Fresh Fruit Platter
Melons, Kiwi, and Mango

And finally, the icing on the cake, ( there were mini peaches in the cake decoration), we had Longevity Peaches. However, these aren’t actually fruit; they’re steamed rice buns with a lotus paste and duck egg center. Shaped and colored to resemble peaches, these are a traditional birthday dish. There is a Chinese legend about a monkey who travels to a far-off garden to eat peaches that grant eternal life. Because of this, the peach is a symbol of longevity in Chinese culture, and peaches made from gold are often gifted for long-lived anniversaries or birthdays.

a large mysterious steamer waiting to be opened
a large mysterious steamer waiting to be opened

Each of these “baby buts”, as my wife likes to call them, was about the size of my fist, and I have large fists.

Longevity Peaches
Longevity Peaches
Longevity Peaches
Longevity Peaches

That’s it for this banquet. Only the second day of our trip to Hong Kong, and already we’ve shot over 100 pictures just of food. Next time, some local snack and everyday dishes.