Monday, April 26, 2010

Lobster and Wedded Bliss at New Capital Seafood

This past Saturday, 230 competitors and thousands of hungry Los Angelenos descended upon the Los Angeles Center Studios for the Grilled Cheese Invitational sponsored by America’s favorite Tillamook Cheese. The buzz surrounding the event was hotter than the melted taleggio on Eric Greenspan’s award-winning short rib grilled cheese, and everyone who is anyone in the LA dining community seemed to be braving the long lines for a cheesy fix.

Everyone, of course, except me.

Yet, I wasn’t the least bit disappointed that I wasn’t eating my weight in dairy on Saturday. I had much bigger fish to fry (and, incidentally, eat) – Cathy of Gastronomy Blog’s long-anticipated wedding, and a reception to follow at New Capital Seafood in the San Gabriel Valley. Grilled cheese had nothing on seeing my dear friend walk down the aisle in one of the most beautiful wedding dresses I’ve ever seen. And it had nothing on the 11-course feast (12 with the sesame balls and red bean pastry bites) that I and the other guests enjoyed at the restaurant that evening.

Despite living in Los Angeles for nearly five years now, Saturday was only my second time eating Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley. I’d had a memorable experience noshing on some roasted duck at Sam Woo last year, but had yet to make the drive back. As embarrassing as this is to admit, the last time I had Chinese was actually at PF Chang’s in September. I stand by those tangy lemon pepper shrimp, but I was still completely and unreasonably overdue for a dose of authentic Chinese in a restaurant that doesn’t belong under the header, “Stuff White People Like.” On Saturday night, New Capital Seafood gave me that dining experience.

To start, there was a barbecue meat platter teaming with duck, pork, beef tendon, and some gelatinous-like strands that looked to me like some sort of sautéed glass noodle or pickled vegetable. I boldly heaped the item onto my plate and was shocked when my date for the evening, Danny from Kung Food Panda, looked at me in surprise and asked, “Diana, you like jelly fish?”

As it turns out, I don’t.

The tender cubes of wok-fried French-style beef that appeared on our table’s Lazy Susan next were far more to my liking. I couldn’t tear my hands away from the serving spoon that accompanied the caramelized nuggets of beef that, given their sweetness, would probably qualify as the aforementioned “Stuff White People Like.” I did, however, pause long enough to savor a taste of the Szechuan-style sautéed prawns that came crowned by a garden of spritely broccoli crowns. The plump shrimp were minimally dressed and seasoned with red pepper flakes – a preparation that showcased the clean flavor and crisp texture of the fresh crustaceans.

A large cauldron of hot and sour soup arrived next – a welcome interruption to the protein-heavy plates that preceded it. Brimming with green onions, supple strands of tofu, pork and wood ear mushrooms, the broth-based soup cleansed my palate and breathed life back into my rapidly filling stomach. I was ready for the Peking duck.

Like with the jelly fish, I had to look to Danny for advice on how to eat the roasted slices of duck and crispy skin.

“Where’s the meat?” I asked in confusion as I lifted a piece of skin with a marginal amount of attached flesh onto my plate.

“The skin is the best part.” He insisted, and then showed me how to fill the accompanying bao (steamed bun) with the duck, green onions and hoisin sauce.

“Just a little!” Danny said, as I readied a heaping spoonful of the hoisin sauce to pour over my skin sandwich. “It’s very salty.”

I nodded, glad that I had him as my Peking duck guide, but also grateful when I could navigate my fork around more familiar territory -- the braised haricot verts that were lavished in a slightly sweetened oyster and soy sauce.

The three courses that followed were, along with the French-style beef, my favorites of the evening. The large chunks of supple lobster adorned with scallions and ginger that I almost mistook for thin slices of fingerling potato made it clear why the restaurant is named New Capital Seafood. Happiness is using one’s fingers to pry the restaurant’s butter-kissed lobster from its shell. Or, at least it was for those of us who weren’t the bride and groom. (I think they most likely had a different interpretation of happiness that evening.)

The final savory courses of the evening – the steamed whole black cod that came bathed in a soy ginger broth and topped with cilantro and scallions, and the cleansing mound of jasmine fried rice were a stunning finish to the meal. Despite my satiation level, I slyly returned for a third helping of the delicate white fish and accompanying broth that I luxuriously spooned over the rice.
While the restaurant also brought out sesame balls, mini red-bean pastries and tofu with ginger for dessert, at this juncture in the evening, my stomach only had eyes for Cathy and Vernon’s pristine three-tier wedding cake that was custom-made by food blogger Sarah the Bear. Sarah made two different filling options for the yellow cake frosted with Italian meringue buttercream – lemon mousse with blackberry jam, and passion fruit curd. Both slices were far more gourmet than any other wedding cake I’ve eaten, but the tartness of the lemon paired with the sweet blackberry jam won me over. This is a cake worth saving in the freezer for that one-year anniversary.

From the yellow sashes on the ring girls’ dresses to the sunlight that streamed over the ceremony at Greystone Mansion – blessing the special couple with its warm glow, to the spectacular banquet reception, Cathy’s wedding was a feast for the eyes, senses and mouth. She and her “stellar” groom are off to an auspicious start for their wedded life together. I wish them a lifetime of happiness together -- filled with buttery chunks of lobster.

New Capital Seafood
140 W Valley Blvd
Fl/4 #D
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 288-1899


Sarah said...

Diana, thanks so much for the great pics of my cake and the kind words! What a wonderful occasion!

weezermonkey said...

Au contraire!

This is totally stuff white people like!

Daily Gluttony said...

We always liked it when we had people like you at our Chinese banquet table 'cause it meant more jellyfish & Peking duck for us!!! heehee :)

Diana said...

Sarah - It really was! I'm so glad I got to sit at your table - it was fun seeing you again. Can't wait for EMB 2!

Weez - Touche. ;)

Pam - Haha, Danny seemed happy to take the jelly fish off my hands. I'm glad I tried it though!

Anna A. said...

That is quite the Vietnaimese - Chinese banquet wedding feast. Looks and sounds like it was waaaaay better than my little brother's (but ssshhhh let's not tell). I don't like jelly fish either.

Jenn said...

I remember last year I wanted to attempted in making some peking duck. That is...until i found out that it's a bit of a long process. hahaha... call me lazy. I may eventually try it. ...eventually...

Esi said...

Glad you had a blast at the wedding and enjoyed (most) of the proteins!

Kung Food Panda said...

LOL @ Pam! I think we think alike!

Great times and thanks for being an awesome date Diana! I'm always there to eat any leftover jellyfish :)

bagnatic said...

diana, it's great that you try everything. maybe the jellyfish will grow on you one day.

Diana said...

Anna - Your secret is safe with me!

Jenn - I think I'll leave the duck to the experts! I'm not sure I want to know just how much fat is required to get the skin so crispy and delicious...

Esi - Hah, yes MOST of the proteins. :)

Danny - Good to know. I may have to keep you around!

Amy - I think a willingness to try new things is probably one of the more important qualities for a food blogger to have. That said, I'm still a bit squeamish about the thought of eating tripe or pig's blood... :-/

Jenny said...

OhmyGOSH! That is a FEAST! Not even sure how you fit the cake in after all that tasty BBQ! But I guess, there's always a second tummy for dessert ;)

Ravenous Couple said...

aww..too bad about the truffles..still have mine and kim's--she's not eating it so we'll save it for you! :)

yutjangsah said...

Yum tht looks delish! We're going for take two soon.

The Duo Dishes said...

Thanks for sharing the name of this restaurant. A trip east for a good meal is on deck

Nomsnotbombs said...

Haha OF COURSE Cathy had amazing food at her reception. Everything looks great! Hope everyone had fun :)

Diana said...

Jenny - There's always a little room in my belly for dessert, but I was definitely hurting after! It was a TON of food!

Hong & Kim - Aww you don't have to do that! But if you insist, I probably wouldn't refuse... ;)

Sook - Take two + strawberry donuts.

Chrystal & Amir - I highly recommend a trip out east - you'll get a ton of food without breaking the bank!

Misty - Best wedding food EVER! Cathy's a rockstar.

Gastronomer said...

Thank you for attending our nuptials and dancing like a champion! We're still nibbling away on the leftover lobster. It's still soooo good!