Asia Pearl Banquet Chowdown
Last night 30 Hounds got together for a banquet at Asia Pearl in 3288 Pierce St, Richmond. We had a separate room but still had a view of the main dining room. We were able to truly enjoy the food and company!
Thanks as always to Yimster for his efforts to get us the most interesting special dishes!
Here they are:
Peanuts and cucumber appetizer
Peking Duck Cannapes
Roast Duck with minced vegetables
Beef sauteed with many mushrooms
Seafood soup with fishmaws and sea cucumber
Tofu with concentrated golden chicken soup and crab
Abalone ($300 a pound!)with pea shoots
Salt and pepper crab
Fried scallop rice
tapioca and corn dessert
Did I forget one?
Thanks to everyone for a great evening!
The link to the pictures is:
Thank you for organizing and to Yimster for ordering such a tasty meal. DH and I were honored to be among the many guests at this great event. The presentation of the dishes was beautiful and the service was much better than I am accustomed to getting when at a Chinese restaurant.
DH and I both picked the salt and pepper crab as our favorite dish but wish it would have come out early so we could have eaten more. As Yimster knows, I am crazy about that salt and pepper preparation! I was surprised at how light and delicious the corncake was-- have never seen that dish anywhere before but would love to have it again. I loved the flavors in the beef and mushroom dish. Mary said it was the leeks that added that extra bit of flavor.
I had the servers pack up the leftover sea bass and roast duck and beef and mushrooms. I hope someone from our table was able to take it home and enjoy it. Wish we could have stayed longer to visit but DH needed to get on the road for home. Thanks to everyone for a fun evening.
re: Melanie Wong
I liked the rich thick golden chicken soup with tofu, crab the best
The Sea Bass dish the least because I found it too well done.
The Salt and Pepper crab was most interesting to me that it seem too mild at first taste but as I had the second pieces I really found that the like hand on the seasoning show off the taste of the crab.
The new presentation was the friut salas duck skin.
Thanks, yimster. If I sounded annoyed, at the time I posted that actually I was shocked that there were so few posts. I wasn't there, but I know it's a lot of trouble to deal with a party of 30. How can true chowhounds not have an opinion about the dining gala you and Marlon put together...
ARRRGGGHHHHH!! I was so busy this past week, that this completely slipped my mind. My apologies go out to:
1) Marlon for fronting my portion of the meal. I set up an online bill payment from my bank account, which should result in a check in your mailbox next week.
2) Those of you who were worried that something may have happened to me enroute to the dinner. Brainfart is the extent of what befell me.
3) Anyone who wanted to attend, but couldn't because the list was full. I would've gladly have given up my spot if I had known prior that I was going to miss the festivities.
Menu sounded scrumptious. I'm still kicking myself that I missed this. BAH!
I've got to say, the preparations were more contemporary than I had expected. For example, the Peking Duck skin came atop an apple salad (think Waldorf minus the celery and walnuts) which was atop a pair of Pringles (yes, the potato chips). And the seabass had a very sweet glaze baked into it. Mind you, despite being modern it was a good meal and an excellent opportunity to get together with many fellow 'hounds.
And although I've never had anything like the corn fritter dessert in a Chinese restaurant, it was excellent. Despite my promise to myself to eat in moderation, I had seconds on that one. Karen and I had been having a conversation about the lack of yellow corn and the overabundance of super sweet white corn, so two desserts that featured yellow corn was a treat.
A special thanks to Marlon and Yimster for making all of the arrangements.
re: Peter Yee
I loved the duck skin on top of apple salad with mayo on top of a Pringles potato chip. If you'd have told me the ingredients and asked if I thought I'd like it I'd have guffawed in your face.
The bass was the best! Perfectly cooked and lucious. It was one of the best fish I ever ate (in the top 5). The black cod at NOPA last week was in the top 2.
Salt/pepper/chili fried crab was also spectacular and I also wish it'd been served earlier.
The duck salad in lettuce cups was pretty good, but nothing memorable (I had squab served the same way a couple of weeks ago from Legendary Palace which was just as good).
The beef dish would have been just ordinary if not for the fabulous mushrooms. Several different kinds and largish pieces.
The fish maw soup was too bland (or as my hubby would say "too subtle for me"). The fried rice may have been great, but I was too stuffed at this point.
I also really liked the rice crispie/corn cake dessert. It was oily and crispy and there was condensed milk to pour over.
Dried abalone with greens was also very good. I thought Yimster said it was more than $300/lb...but I tend to exaggerate. The saltiness of the abalone sauce was great with the greens. Of course I could eat about 3 tons of pea shoots, Chinese broc, and the like.
The company was fun, funny and friendly, although I wish we'd had some kind of formal interaction among the tables. Don't know if that'd be possible unless we had somebody with a large bell or a gavel.
Just got back in town after a quick trip out of town. I said dried whole abalone can cost up to 300 dollars a pound depend on the size and other factors. I said that before I tasted this dish. We did get real abalone but they presliced then dried and this verison is much cheaper. When I tasted the abalone it lack the mild "bitter" aftertaste found in high grade of abalone. But was very glad everyone was able to try this dish. Will add my two cent after I get a good night rest.
re: Peter Yee
First, add my thanks to Marlon for coordinating and Yimster for ordering! I too enjoyed visiting with old and new CH friends!
I concur on the contemporary preps rather than traditional - I guess I was expecting more traditional dishes but found the contemporary presentations interesting.
I gave in to my duck lust afer everyone had a serving and there was a lovely hunk o skin with a nice fatty/meat layer left on it - it was very tasty indeed!
My taste buds aren't what they could or should be but I found the flavor of the minced duck meat lacking; if I hadn't known that it was duck, I wouldn't have realized it... The beef and mixed mushroom dish was very tasty to me but I would have preferred if if the beef had been sliced thinner. I believe there were King Oyster mushrooms as well as a couple of others and they were very nice.
I enjoyed the fish maw/sea cucumber soup and could have eaten more but I knew there were many dishes to follow...
The tofu with crab, tobiko and golden sauce was a comforting, flavorful, texturally pleasing dish, though I found the bright neon yellow color of the sauce somewhat unnerving. The nice whole shelled crab leg on top of the tofu was appreciated as well as the crunch of the tobiko. I could have eaten another plate of this and passed on the abalone and pea shoots.
I love pea shoots but missed the garlic that they are usually sauteed with; without the garlic they were too subtle for me although the sauce added some flavor. The abalone is wasted on me, heathen that I am; I'd have been satisfied with some nicely prepared scallops.
The salt and pepper crab I thought was one of the better ones I've been served. While this is not my favorite way to eat crab, I thought the batter coating was much lighter than any I've seen lately and I absolutely love the crunchy garlic and chile bits plus the salt and pepper flavor was delish - but then I love just about anything done salt and pepper :-)
The crispy corn cakes with sweetened condensed milk was just a guilty pleasure sort of dessert! Made me think of rice crispy treats but with a yummy corn flavor instead! My gluttony took over again and I had seconds of this too!
Now it's back to WW!!!
Thanks for the report and photos. Looks very tasty. I really hope that others will chime in about their impressions...
May I ask how much this feast was per person? Are there certain dishes that must be ordered ahead of time?
To answer Carb Lover's question: cost (pre-paid) was $45 per person including tax and tip.
I keep thinking there was one more dish, as it seemed like there was SOOO much food, but for the life of me, I can't think of what it was if so, so I guess Marlon got them all.
As always, for me the best part of this wonderful evening was the Houndish company, and particularly the opportunity to catch up with friends we hadn't seen in a while. I enjoyed the food very much, but there was so much of it that I think some items sort of got lost on my palate...I tried to pace myself, but alas unsucessfully, which was a real pity, since, like dimsumgirl, I thought some of the best came at the end!
The corn fritter! Yumm! it came with condensed milk to sweeten it up a bit, but didn't really need it. I also had seconds, even though I really didn't have room for them. I'd definitely want to order that again.
The duck skin on the pringle appetizer canape was great, and the 'waldorf' salad also had tiny bits of very finely chopped melon (cantelope I think) that had a lot of flavor. I ate two, mostly just to get more of that skin...:-)
The roast duck with minced vegetables, served with lettuce leafs to eat lettuce cup style, was too finely minced for my taste.
The beef dish with mushrooms was indeed quite flavorful.
The crab and tofu was interesting, I also liked the roe, and the tofu was quite lovely and silky, but I was already lagging at that point...one I would have liked to have tried earlier in the progression to get a better sense of it.
The abalone to me was the biggest disappointment: it could have as easily been an abalone mushroom, as far as taste goes, with a fairly one-dimensional sauce, and was a bit rubbery, though the greens were refreshing. But then, I am spoiled as a diver with lots of friends who are ab divers: I've already had fresh just out of the water abalone once this month, and will again next week weather gods permitting, so I think I couldn't appreciate this one(which I believe was either canned or dried and reconstituted).Anyway, I only took a bite or two and left the rest, which seems a wasteful pity at that price, but I did notice that no one else at my table was eyeing it wistfully (at least as far as I could tell :-)).
The smoked sea bass had a lot of flavor and was a very nice version, but just a tad overdone for my taste.
The fried scallop rice was delicious, with lots of flavors from dried scallop, bits of pork and other goodies! Another dish I wish had come earlier in the meal!
I am not a big fan of the salt and pepper version of crab, but this one did have less of the chili and garlic bits then some I've had.
Service was indeed very good: plates were consistently replaced, water kept filled, etc.
Thanks so much to Yimster and to Marlon for organizing such a memorable evening; hubby and I had a great time and a tough time getting up the next morning for our quick dive trip to Monterey (but we managed, thanks to a bit of the leftovers for breakfast, so yes, dimsumgirl, they did get enjoyed!
As others have said, Yimster and Marlon deserve great thanks for planning and organizing and the companionship, as usual, was the highlight of the dinner. I am still full.
As Peter has indicated, this was a modernized version of some familiar dishes. And the most surprising part of the meal was the preparation and presentation. The tiny, finely done dicing of the fruit (waldorf salad indeed!) served with the duck skin was impressive. The combination of sweet & acid fruit with the crispy, fatty skin was a highlight for me. The chip, however, was silly and useless. The second half of the Peking duck was also marked by fine knife-work: tiny dicing of duck meat and vegetables made for a visual treat although I agree with Susan that this preparation sacrificed flavor for appearance.
The beef with several kinds of mushrooms and green beans was very tasty, although despite the impressive array of fungi, a rather conventional kind of taste. I enjoyed the Fujienese-style fried rice very much, while some missed the wokky oiliness of the more standard kind. And the tofu dish, with its dollop of tobiko and chunk of crab bathed in golden sauce, was my top favorite. I too wish it had come earlier in the meal or that I was less full by this time. The golden sauce, I wondered, could be reduced chicken stock with egg yolk to thicken. Is this possibly the case?
I was not too fond of the crab, but my bias is for a crab cooked less than is done in restaurants (and preferably in season) and without the batter which was rather thick in Asia Pearl's version. And if there were any of the tasty innards under the shell, they were so buried under batter that I did not want to check. The smoked abalone was interesting but not astonishing and I was happier with the dau miu along side it. The sea bass I liked quite a bit; perhaps the best-done dish of the evening. The sweetness of the sauce was not cloying and the piece I got was still moist. The fish maw soup led to a discussion at our table about whether maw was the stomach or the mouth parts but on the way home I suddenly remembered AH! it is the swim bladder. Anyway, it was nice but a little too thickened and seemed to lack strong flavor for my taste.
As others have indicated, the unique corn fritter was a surprise and great. Just when I thought I could not swallow another thing.
To sum up, this modern restaurant offered us excellent service and showed creativity in presentation. Somehow, though, I was not as impressed with the flavors as in more traditional dinners. I could see myself stopping in for a dish of that tofu while on a shopping trip to Ranch 99 but not making Asia Pearl a destination. I did not see a connection in the food here with The Kitchen in Millbrae but we were doing a special banquet not the regular menu, so perhaps they are related as Melanie had speculated.
I am still full.
Kudos to Marlon and Yimster for arranging this lovely banquet.I agree with previous posters that the service was exceptional. Tea and water were constantly replenished throughout the meal, and plates were frequently changed between the courses. Anyone who knows me knows I am a freak about having cloth napkins at a restaurant, even going to the extent of bringing my own just in case. No need to worry here, cloth napkins provided and paper only appeared during the crab course which was also accompanied by a sealed wet nap (oh for the days of the hot wet towels I use to remember from NY when served such finger food.)
My favorites for the evening were the beef and mushrooms, minced duck with lettuce cups, the sea bass, and the tofu with crab and tobiko garnish. The abalone was tender but bland, the accompanying steamed pea shoots were wonderful. I thought there was too much fat and meat left on the duck skin course but the novelty of using Pringles instead of pancakes was amusing. I only learned from a previous poster that there was supposed to be dried scallops in the rice dish. In my previous encounters with them the flavor was much more assertive, here it was subtle to the point of being undetectable to me.The salt and pepper crab was the least satisfying for me. I thought the crab was too difficult to get out of the shell and too dry when you did finally accomplish that task. The crisp corn fritters with sweetened condensed milk proved to be a welcome ending to this feast, but wait, we had sweet tapioca and corn soup as the ultimate concluding offering.
I enjoyed the company of the guests at my table, and look forward to future food adventures with them.
I will add my thanks to Marlon, for organizing, and the Yimster, for getting the best out of the kitchen.
Here's my view of the food:
Peanuts and cucumber appetizer - Superb examples of anise-boiled peanuts (very flavorful, not too dominated by anise, and the right kind of slippery-crisp, not gummy), and a very special, wonderfully textured chunk of tangy pickled cucmumber. I love Chinese pickles when done right, and these were right on.
Peking Duck Cannapes - OK, this was a little too avant-garde for me, what with the apples and the Pringles. I ate the duck off the top, and found it nicely rich, but a little lacking in skin crispness and duck flavor. Not bad at all, good even, but not special.
Roast Duck with minced vegetables - I have a soft spot for these hot stir-fries in a cold lettuce leaf, so I liked this quite a bit, though I felt that the green beans, while texturally interesting, tended to subdue the flavor of duck a bit too much.
Beef sauteed with many mushrooms - Now this was magical to my taste; not a fancy-sounding dish, but the chewy texture of the beef, the overt caramelized soy flavor on the outside of the beef, the intense glow of umami over the whole thing, just brought out the best from the beef and the wonderful mushrooms. A triumph of execution.
Seafood soup with fishmaws and sea cucumber - Wow. Subtly flavored, so many wonderful textures, a true luxury and yet a calming comfort food.
Tofu with concentrated golden chicken soup and crab - Another bulls-eye, the creamy tofu texture and the languidly thick, deeply-flavored broth combining to make a dish that felt like eating dessert, it was so creamily intense, yet it was all savoriness, no sweet.
Abalone ($300 a pound!)with pea shoots - Beautiful, just the right texture, with golden-brown abalone sauce covering the plate. It went perfectly with the pea shoots. Another winner.
Smoked sea-bass - Not smoky at all, unlike other versions, and moister and softer and flakier too, not bouncy and firm. This is my new favorite version of this dish.
Salt and pepper crab. Okay, I was getting seriously full by this point, but I had to try this -- and the flavor of the perfectly-cooked crab came right on through what looked like a heavy breading, but turned out to be light and not greasy.
Fried scallop rice: Fried rice, plus a thick liquid, something I've run into before but had forgotten about. Quite subtly flavored and quite tasty.
Corncake dessert - Unusual and clever, but not quite my kind of thing
tapioca and corn dessert -- I thought this was going to be weird, but it was actually just like a typical warm tapioca dessert soup, with a few bits of corn and an overt corn flavor that added to the usual flavors without overshadowing or distracting. I wouldn't want this to substitute for tapioca dessert soup all the time, but it makes an interesting and worthy variation.
Definitely a great meal.
Bryan, would you say the golden chicken soup was akin to the thick and luscious soup in this dish that we had at China Village? That was boiled down chicken soup, three days in the making.
Sounds like the dried abalone was once again the great cultural divider! (vbg)
re: Melanie Wong
Regarding the soup vs. China Village, I have to say I can't remember for sure (it has been what, 18 months?). I think the China Village one may have been "purer;" this one may well have had some help from base or something like it. But I'm not against a bit of kitchen trickery when it works, and this definitely worked, whether there was trickery or not.
I can understand Abalone taking some time to get accustomed to. Not that it's scary like intestines or brains, but more of a "what's the big deal?" But that subtle flavor has a way of getting into your head eventually.
No, we've been in China Village Master Chef withdrawals for more than 2 years, sadly. Here's a link to the similar debate/discussion about the abalone at that dinner -
I agree that abalone is not a scary thing. What I think is interesting is that those who like the fresh product don't care for the dried. Likewise with dried scallops, dried shrimp, dried oysters, etc., whereas you and I don't feel that way. We had a mini-Buddha jumps over the wall at a chow dinner and it was a complete waste of money for 'hounds who attended. But it was my favorite dish of the night!
re: Melanie Wong
I agree that, to my taste the fresh out of the ocean is much better than the dried, (or at least than the dried we had Thursday night, as I am not sure I've had that much dried to compare it to). OTOH, I do like dried scallops and shrimps (don't think I've ever had a dried oyster, would like to try one). I'd love to get your impression of the fresh grilled abalone we serve at our dive club potlucks...
It's interesting that Yimster said these were sliced and then dried, because they were perfectly shaped to look like whole (small) abs: someone did an excellent job with the knife work on that!
I don't usually get out on a school night, but I wouldn't have missed this meal for anything.
The highlight for me was definitely the tofu with concentrated golden chicken soup and crab. I found the creaminess of the tofu, coupled with the rich yellow soup and roe, positively decadent.
Other dishes that would bring me back in a heartbeat:
--Beef tenderloin with king oyster and enoki mushrooms in the honey pepper sauce: Excellent mix of textures and flavors.
--Peking duck canapes: I admit it. I loved the luxury of the duck served on a simple Pringle. The crunch of the chip and of the apples balanced out the fattiness of the meat. I had three!
Every banquet designed by Yimster is an education; each dish opens my eyes a bit more to the intricacies of Chinese cuisine. Thanks again, Yimster and Marlon, for organizing this exquisite meal.
re: Lillian Hsu
Lillian: I am so glad I had a chance to meet you if only briefly. I too seldom get out on a school night but this was well worth the trip and the hour and a half drive each way! I did love that tofu dish with the rich yellow sauce. I will have to go back just for that. I hope it is available on the regular menu or if not that someone would be willing to share the chinese written version of it so that I could order it again. My biggest regret of the evening is that we were not each provided a copy of the menu (in Chinese) so that we can go and order it again. I was tempted to take the one copy that was there but didn't want to risk never being invited to another event again. I agree with you that every meal with Yimster is an education. I might add that every conversation is also an education. I loved seeing old CH friends and meeting up with a few new ones. I am sorry that I didn't get to meet more of the attendees.
I think Sea Bass is NOT the same species as Chilean Sea Bass. My impression of Chilean Sea Bass is that it is a lot thinner, milder and bonier than what we ate (though I could be wrong, as it has been so long since I've knowingly eaten Chilean Sea Bass that my memory is faulty....)
What we ate could have been Black Sea Bass, or alternatively Black Rock Fish, which confusingly enough is also known as Sea Bass. I suspect we were eating the later, but it is just a guess. Either are good to best choices on the MBA list (see http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch... and search for sea bass). However, since I am no help on the Chinese names unfortunately I can't know for sure...so I will be optimistic and assume it wasn't Chilean Sea Bass (though there have been some postings lately that Chilean Sea Bass is coming back and may not be the 'avoid' fish it once was).
As Yimster probably knows, since he likes to tease me about it, :-) my objection to Shark Fin is as much a personal one as a political one...(hey, I figure if I don't eat what we divers euphemistically refer to as 'The Landlord', he won't eat me....)