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Mr Taster's getting married! Help me with my Chinese banquet.

Mr Taster Jan 5, 2007 09:35 PM

Hi all-- well after two years it looks as if my Lovely Tasting Assistant (LTA) and I have finally decided to become lifelong chow partners.

We're getting married pretty quickly (end of Feb) so we don't have a lot of time to put this together. We're having a small wedding 30-40 people and are looking for a post-wedding banquet. Our short list is as follows:

-- Empress Pavilion

-- Ocean Star

-- That other "Empress" next to Ocean Star... never eaten here, but have seen many weddings there when I've been through)

-- Mission 261 (never eaten here either, but it looks beautiful)

Food budget not to exceed 2-3k.

I've heard from a Chinese caterer friend of mine that often the restaurants will give you a cake as part of the package. Is this true?

I've done some research but am wondering what current opinions are. Wedding will be at a friend's garden in North Hollywood, so Chinatown is more preferable to MP, but as always we will drive for good food... especially if we can use this as an excuse to expose our lao wai (foreigner) friends and relatives to the culinary glories of the San Gabriel Valley!

Also, since I'm Jewish and she's Taiwanese, we'd love to do a culinary melding of the culinary cultures, but I don't know how well that platter of Langer's pastrami would travel... anyone have experience reheating the stuff? Also a Sunday wedding is a problem for Langers since they are closed... drat! We just might have to move the wedding to Monday :)

(Before anyone asks, there will be no stinky tofu at the wedding... Cantonese food will have to sub for Taiwanese food in this instance!)

Thanks 'hounds!

Mr Taster

  1. OCAnn Jan 5, 2007 09:36 PM

    OMG! =D I can't offer any help, but let me be the first to say CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

    1. j
      JudiAU Jan 5, 2007 09:43 PM

      No suggestions, although I look forward to the report.

      Congratulations!

      1. Debbie W Jan 5, 2007 09:56 PM

        What about chicken soup w/kreplach? Not too far from won ton soup. Congrats - guess the 6 months in Asia sealed the deal!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Debbie W
          Mr Taster Jan 5, 2007 10:04 PM

          You know what they say.... traveling together can make or break a relationship... we were together literally 24/7 for nearly 7 months (the only time we were apart was when we were visiting her mom and dad and they made us sleep in separate rooms). We had our share of fights of course, but in the end they sort of melt away.

          Anyway, enough sentiment... on with the food reports!

          'Hounds? Banquet me up proper!

          Mr Taster

        2. t
          trojanita Jan 5, 2007 09:58 PM

          Woot! Congrats!

          Look at this thread; should give you some ideas.

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          Empress in Monterey Park wasn't good at all the last time i ate there.

          Mission 261: i've heard good things about it.

          Ocean Star: was so great in '03 but the quality of food is declining plus I heard the one of owners was very nasty to wedding guests.

          2 Replies
          1. re: trojanita
            Mr Taster Jan 5, 2007 10:01 PM

            This thread you refer to was the most relevant one I could find in the Chowhound archives, though note that the initial post is 6 years old... that's why I'm hoping for some more updated info about these places from 'hounds who have recently visited.

            Thanks!

            Mr Taster

            1. re: Mr Taster
              t
              trojanita Jan 5, 2007 10:12 PM

              Hiya mr. taster,

              If you scroll further down the thread, there are responses from this past month.

              I went to a wedding banquet at hop li in arcadia last november. Not very elegant but the food was very good. Just please avoid the San Gabriel Hilton. :)

          2. Ciao Bob Jan 5, 2007 10:01 PM

            Mazel Tov!

            My Girlfriend threw me a fantastic 40th at Ocean Seafood in Chinatown a few years ago. While I never go there for dim sum and rarely for dinner the banquet was, to my great surprise, flawless. Size was about what you want and pricewise (she told me later) far "more affordable" than the places she looked in SGV that I generally haunt.

            1. PeterL Jan 5, 2007 10:11 PM

              That's not a great budget, about $50 to $70 per person? But it depends on what kind of menu. If you want sharks fin that may be a little low. For a four tables party you may want to look for a smaller venue and order from the family dinner menu.

              Mission is good looking but I am not sure about banquet food. I would be negative on Empress Pavilion in ChiTown. How about the San Gabriel Hilton? We just had a school reunion banquet there and the food was very good. But it may be beyond your budget.

              As for the free wedding cake, are you serious? Nothing is ever free. You'd be lucky if they don't charge you for cutting the cake your brought.

              1 Reply
              1. re: PeterL
                wilafur Jan 5, 2007 10:15 PM

                i went to a wedding banquet this past summer at the SG hilton and the food was mdeiocre at best.

              2. kingkong5 Jan 5, 2007 10:24 PM

                Congratulations on the upcoming nuptials! That's not a lot of time to plan and get invitations out, but good luck with it all anyway.

                My advice is to call each of the restaurants and speak to their wedding/banquet coordinator. They will have a price list they can fax to you (at least in my experience, they all did). Then you can compare the different menus, etc. I think depending on the food choices, it will be between $300-600/table of 10, which should fit in your budget. Drinks, party favors, and non-food items will add, but that's not your food budget.

                1. p
                  PayOrPlay Jan 5, 2007 10:26 PM

                  Mazel tov! We went to a nice wedding banquet at Empress Pavilion last year, very well done, surprisingly good service and food quality. Mission 261 is beautiful and does very interesting banquet menus but the prices tend to be higher, and it's not clear if they still have chefs good enough to pull off the really ambitious recipes they used to do --you should definitely check it out, though, some of the selections are fascinating, and we were perfectly satisfied with our last meal there, a few months ago. I haven't been to a banquet at Ocean Star in years, can't comment.

                  Re the cross-cultural element: lox and other smoked fish, chopped liver, cholent, knishes, strudel, cheesecake (assuming you can find a decent one in LA) stand up well in this context. I orchestrated such a mixed Jewish-Asian celebration banquet some years ago, with considerable culinary success, in a private home--the piece de resistance being a whole Filipino-style suckling pig that got the particular attention of the Jewish guests (even after the table on which is stood suddenly collapsed, sending that poor li'l porker sprawling onto the floor!)

                  1. Dommy Jan 5, 2007 10:35 PM

                    Many Congrats!!! :) Your Fi might have already started researching on-line but there are several wedding specific websites out there that can help with Banquets... Here are two that are very helpful...

                    http://www.ggwedding.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=7&sid=50a0c38c18a6fcd95baf3eee5ec228ac

                    http://www.dimsumwedding.com/banquetfacilitiesla.htm

                    Also the Knot just added a Chinese Wedding section if you guys are interested in any of the banquet 'formalities' at all...

                    http://www.chineseweddingsbytheknot.com/

                    And of course despite what they might show on TV a great number of LA/OC area Knotties are Asian, so there is a lot of crazy details and pictures about banquets in their bios...

                    --Dommy!

                    1. w
                      WHills Jan 5, 2007 10:38 PM

                      Universal Hilton (much better food than San Gabriel Hilton) does great Chinese as well as American banquets. It would be the closest for you too. I'm sure they could do something within your price range if you arrange it with them.

                      Empress Pavilions in Chinatown (mediocre)

                      Empress in Monterey Park is generally good

                      Capital Seafood on Atlantic/Garvey has nice decor, and the food I had there was good (shark fin's, lobster, etc.)

                      Ocean Star is good, but I think Empress next to it is better.

                      1. monku Jan 5, 2007 10:46 PM

                        Copy of my recent post to that 6 year old original post below.

                        No Empress won't give you a cake free. We ordered our cake from Phoneix Bakery and they delivered it free. They have several different cake fillings to choose from and believe we chose some strawberry custard type filling.

                        on Jan 02, 2007 monku replied

                        Check out Empress Pavillion. We had the wedding ceremony and banquet there several years ago and were quite satisfied. My mother wanted a certain menu which would appeal to Lofan people and they were very accomodating. They'll put together anything you want. They do a good presentation, the food is good and comes out when you tell them when you want it served. They also let us bring in our own wine and champagne. Any Chinese place you go to if you say you're going to pay in cash, they'll give you a break.

                        My multi-millionaire boss who never went to a Chinese banquet was so impressed and he never stops talking about the meal he had there and no complaints from any of our Chinese friends and relatives.

                        I've been to several banquets there for other occaisions and its always been good.

                        1. ipsedixit Jan 5, 2007 11:04 PM

                          Congrats!

                          Nix both Empress Pavilion (Chinatown) and 888. The former is very average and the latter is in flux with new management/chef.

                          I would suggest either Ocean Star or Mission 261. In both places, if you reserve either 3 or 4 tables (10 person/table), you'll be able to get a private room and a much better and quiet atmosphere. It beats having the restaurant just wall off a section for your private party.

                          Also consider Triumphal Palace. With 40 people, you might just have a large enough group to book the entire room.

                          But, call ahead. Each place will have set banquet menus ranging from 150/table to upwards of 800/table, depending on the dishes offered.

                          If your budget is 2-3k, and assuming you have 40 people (or 4 tables), you're probably looking at a mid to upper range menu, somewhere in the range of 500/table. I'm assuming here that your budget will have to include tax and no open bar, right?

                          As for the cake, I'm not sure I would want to go with any of the "gratis" cakes (or desserts) that the restaurants will offer. They are usu. bland and very non-descript.

                          As an alternative, you can get a very decent wedding cake at Van's Bakery (860 East Valley Blvd., San Gabriel,(626) 571-5845). They are Vietnamese, and can do wonders with a tight budget.

                          Again, congrats and report back wherever you end up.

                          1. j
                            Jesdamala Jan 5, 2007 11:13 PM

                            Langers steams up to perfection! It is what they suggest...now how to steam a whole lot of it? I have an oval electric steamer, a couple of minutes and it is just where it should be..but a restaurant where you decide to hold this fabulous fusion of peoples will probably know, and be willing to aid! We have brought Langer's home in multiple of ways...non hot...in a huge chunk to slice here...hot..however one can grab Langer's we have done it! Simply steam in a whole piece or already sliced, and I don't think you will be disapppointed. Check with Langer's. IF you were not serious about adding Langer's to your banquet, forgive me, but I think it is a sensational idea. This is a marriage of Taster's and I am sure your guests will absolutely appreciate this touch!

                            1. j
                              Jesdamala Jan 5, 2007 11:18 PM

                              Now I see, belatedly, that Langer's being closed on Sunday is a concern for you. I have a wonderful suggestion..call them..and they will I am sure be able to reassure you that it will be fine! You can order in a piece or pieces and have sliced and steamed wherever the venue is. The venue may charge you a bit, but I think this is a sensational idea! Ask for the owner, who is the son of the original owner, and I forget his name, forgive me. My SO has had many conversations with him, I am sure he will be thrilled to participate in this!
                              Short of opening on a Sunday! If you have any doubts, order a one lb. 'chunk'...take it home, wait a day...slice (probably you don't have a meat slicer, but don't they do it by hand?)...give it a brief steam, and see if the quality holds!

                              1. Snackish Jan 5, 2007 11:21 PM

                                Congratulations. I have always enjoyed your posts so much. I wish you and LTA all the best.

                                1. j
                                  Jerome Jan 5, 2007 11:31 PM

                                  Sounds like fun.
                                  Real traditional jewish foods even ashkenazi foods as opposed to more americanized deli servings are closer to chinese, esp northern chinese palates.
                                  real gefilte fish - where the whole carp fish is boned, some of the meat is scraped, made into the mass with eggs and mixed with other fish (like pike or mullet), then restuffed and poached, and served cold with its own natural gelatin in a broth flavored with carrot onion and perhaps peppers isn't that foreign to northern chinese sensabilities.
                                  As well, real chicken soup with chicken's feet and follicles/unlaid eggs is no stranger to a chinese kitchen. Stuffed cabbages, esp made in a smaller size would be fine.
                                  If we want to meld ny deli "jewish" food, then you might as well meld chop suey as well. That said, smoked fish - besides salmon, features in both cuisines. Sweet sour sauces - in both, esp on stuffed cabbages and peppers. egg and mushroom dishes are common in both (again, mostly northern chinese foods).
                                  In Hungary (including slovakia and transylvania) and Alsace, jews were known for goose, esp foie gras (seriously) and cracklings; goose cracklings (or the poorer relations, the Russian and polish chicken cracklings, griven) would be fine with the chinese guests.
                                  When you say she's taiwanese, is she waisheng ren or really the old pre-49 taiwanese?
                                  If you want to meld more, consider the yemenite iraqi or moroccan jewish kitchens, shakshouka, foods with s'khug, harissa etc can be spicy which is quite popular with the younger generations of taiwanese.
                                  As far as the taiwanese kitchen goes, consider avoiding the pigs blood soup or any blood soup as far as jewish food taboos, even highly assimilated lefty universalist new york jewish folks might have an issue.
                                  yellow river style carp might be a nice compromise. or huaiyang style "squirrel fish" with pine nuts.
                                  In general, although there is a historical nexus of american jews and cantonese food, i've found that non-american jewish people (chile, israel, europe in general - ashkenazim) find northern chinese food more familiar in terms of flavors, varieties and such - a big loaf of the scallion sesame bread from tunglaishun or china islamic is an easier sell than a meal without bread, just with rice. I had an uncle originally from Bulgaria (sfaradi) who could not stand chinese food as it only came with rice and a meal was not a meal to him without bread. Period. Dimsum was a bit easier with the bao, but rice alone (even though there is plenty of rice in the balkan diet) just didn't cut it.

                                  For the more traditional dishes, check around with the caterers who supply the more traditional communities. Esp, for the soups with feet and unlaid eggs.

                                  and congrats and for the record, laowai is as acceptable for some of your guests as goyim is for the others. Should be fun for everyone. Mazal tov.

                                  1. Pei Jan 5, 2007 11:53 PM

                                    Congratulations!

                                    Is there a reason you're excluding 888 Seafood? I don't know if they have a room for 30-40, so maybe you're a step ahead of me there.

                                    I had my graduation banquet for about 25 people, $50-60 a person. Everyone was stuffed to the gills, and we had among other things

                                    -winter melon seafood soup in the giant gourd
                                    -lobster AND crab
                                    -an enormous cold platter
                                    -roast duck, peking style

                                    There were at least 10 courses total, but my memory is failing me at this moment. The group was a mix of people who grew up in SGV and people with very limited experience with Chinese food, and the menu managed to please everyone. I think we brought the cake, but there was no plating fee or corkage.

                                    One of the friends who was at that meal with me took her grandparents back more recently for a birthday, and she said it was still good even though they only had a table of 10.

                                    1. Ciao Bob Jan 6, 2007 01:45 AM

                                      Another thought, MT. (My first response was based on your Chinatown request.) The back room at Chang's Garden is probably large enough and the food is quite excellent Shanghainese with very good Sichuan dishes as well (Water Boiled Beef, Chili Wontons are as good as Chung King IMHO). Their beef rolls are similar in quality to 101 Noodle Express. They also do wonderful soups. I would guess it is a lot less expensive than a top notch Cantonese joint and food-wise far less "been-there-done-that." The typical Cantonese Banquet menu I find tasty but fairly run-of-the-mill, once you've done a few.

                                      1. Mr Taster Jan 6, 2007 09:27 AM

                                        Great suggestions, all... today we visited Empress Pavilion, Ocean Seafood (both Chinatown) as well as Ocean Star, Empress Harbor and Mission 261 in SGV and out of all of them we really fell in love with Mission 261, and in particular their wine patio in the back. Most of the others seemed to have squat, tight rooms (Empress Harbor was a slight exception) however Mission 261's wine patio was a so superior as to eclipse all the others. It was intimate and elegant, complete with vine covered trellis and wrought iron chairs. See (lousy) photo at: http://www.mission261.com/facility_09...

                                        The big problem is that unfortunately there seems to be no way of tasting the banquet menu beforehand (all of these restaurants seem to be working off the same menu of sucking pig/abalone/sharks fin soup, etc.) 261 seems to be all about dim sum, so even if we go tasting on Sunday morning that's not what we'll be eating if we order up the wedding banquet.

                                        A Beijing Chinese wedding coordinator friend of mine highly recommended the Universal Hilton. I was shocked at the rec, but she insists they have a Chinese kitchen and that the food is very good. It would certainly be closer (the wedding will be at a friend's garden in North Hollywood) but I am truly worried that they will serve up laowai Chinese to my family, who I am hoping to educate a bit on real Chinese food. Besides, it would more be in the spirit of our daily life to drag some friends out to the San Gabriel Valley for authentic Chinese food, and we want our wedding to be a reflection of our life and tastes to share with our friends and families.

                                        What do you think?

                                        Mr Taster

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: Mr Taster
                                          Ciao Bob Jan 6, 2007 11:21 AM

                                          R U sold on the Cantonese Banquet? If not, there are many more -- and more interesting -- ways to go in the SGV.

                                          1. re: Mr Taster
                                            monku Jan 6, 2007 05:08 PM

                                            Problem with people like wedding coordinators is it wouldn't surprise me if they get a "cut" from everything they recommend to you including a restaurant they steer you towards.

                                            Having a regular meal at a particular place and a banquet are two different types of service. I recommended Empress Pavillion because I've been to many different banquets for different types of things...weddings(mine in particular too), funeral luncheons, club meetings, birthday parties, etc.. and the banquet food is consistent.

                                            Again, its all about negotiation with what you want on the menu, you don't have to take their standardized banquet selections. Also negotiate in cash if you're able to...could easily save yourself 10% or more.

                                            1. re: Mr Taster
                                              PeterL Jan 7, 2007 03:43 AM

                                              Absolutely no problem with the Universal Hilton. I attended a wedding banquet there with 500 guests and the food was excellent. My only concern is that since it's a hotel banquet facility and not a restaurant, it may not respond to a small party like yours as well. In any event definitely check them out. Yes they have a Chinese kitchen and does lots of Chinese wedding banquets.

                                              Of course parking is great, as is Mission 261.

                                              1. re: Mr Taster
                                                notmartha Jan 7, 2007 04:18 AM

                                                Congrats!

                                                I don't think Mission 261 is all about the dim sum. I don't think they get as much buzz as Triumphal Palace for dinner for instance, that's all (not that I found Triumphal Palace worth the hype). I think if atmosphere is important to you, I can't see anyplace else that will beat it. I would give it a shot by showing up for dinner and ordering a few dishes off the menu to see if the kitchen is up to snuff.

                                                An idea about Jewish-Chinese blending is - maybe serve bite sized Jewish food style canapes before the banquet?

                                                1. re: notmartha
                                                  Pei Jan 8, 2007 05:16 PM

                                                  In that vein, are there traditional Jewish desserts for a wedding? Chinese cuisine is a little short on desserts.

                                                2. re: Mr Taster
                                                  ipsedixit Jan 8, 2007 04:21 AM

                                                  Save yourself some heartache, avoid the Universal Hilton like a cheap nylon rental tux.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                    PeterL Jan 8, 2007 06:26 AM

                                                    Care to elaborate? I person have had a great banquet experience at the Universal Hilton. It seems that at least a couple of others here had the same.

                                                    1. re: PeterL
                                                      Mr Taster Jan 8, 2007 07:41 AM

                                                      yes, I would also like to hear ipsedixit's reasons.... we are going to check it out tomorrow & would like to know what red flags to look for or ask about.

                                                      Mr Taster

                                                      1. re: Mr Taster
                                                        ipsedixit Jan 8, 2007 05:19 PM

                                                        Dollar for dollar the Hilton cannot compare with the better HK-banquet style restaurants in SGV (e.g. Ocean Star, Mission 261, Sea Harbour, etc.)

                                                        I've been to 2 banquets (both times as guests) at the Hilton. Each time the food was lackluster and unimaginative.

                                                        The cold appetizer course (or "ping-pang") had nothing but some sliced beef and some pickled/preserved veggies -- they didn't even bother to have jellyfish, or the like.

                                                        The seafood items did not seem fresh at all, with the scallops tasting very mushy and the sea cucumbers overcooked to the point of silliness.

                                                        The roast duck we had one time felt like it was bought from a take-out joint.

                                                        For comparable prices, you're better off at one of the many SGV places.

                                                        Just my opinion. YMMV.

                                                        Good luck.

                                                        1. re: Mr Taster
                                                          monku Jan 9, 2007 03:14 AM

                                                          I've never been to a banquet at the Universal Hilton. I definitely agree with ipsedixit that dollar for dollar you can't compare...can't be-the hotel operates on a different profit structure than a restaurant.

                                                          I'd also check out the kitchen and see what kind of staff they have..is it an all Chinese staff or is it a few Chinese chefs and Mexican assistants in the kitchen.

                                                          Unfortunately even if you ordered a meal there to sample, it isn't going to be the same meal or under the same condtions you'll have at a banquet. Unless they do a lot of banquets on a regular basis I'd be skeptical about the freshness and variety of the offerings.

                                                          Anywhere you go negotiate your own menu if you don't like what you see on the standard banquet offerings. When I go to banquets there are some dishes that are just left untouched because some people don't know what it is or its just adequate, don't be afraid to substitute it with something else.

                                                          1. re: monku
                                                            PeterL Jan 9, 2007 04:37 AM

                                                            Since you've never been to the Universal Hilton, you wouldn't know that they do lots of banquet business and have been doing so for many years. I first attended a wedding banquet there over 12 years ago. There were 500 guests and they did a great job. Even the steamed fish was done perfectly. And it's not easy to steam 50 fishes at the same time. I don't care who's in the kitchen, it's the result that counts. I remember over 20 years ago I first encountered Mexican cooks in Chinese kitchens. The food is great, what difference does it make? I would say most kitchens in LA and NYC has Latin prep cooks working there.

                                                    2. re: Mr Taster
                                                      chica Jan 8, 2007 05:58 AM

                                                      CONGRATULATIONS!!!

                                                      I've been to banquets at most of the restaurants you tried. Between the two you've narrowed down to, I would recommend Mission 261. The banquet menus and service is good, and ambience is considerably more 'traditional' than Universal Hilton - I agree that it would be a nice change for non-Asians to experience more authentic Chinese food out of the PF Changs, hotel, and similar genre atmosphere. Plus, even Asians seem to agree with your choice - it's my understanding that some classy, moneymaking Asian equivalent to rotary club groups hold their monthly meetings there. :)

                                                      The only bonus Universal Hilton offers, imo, is its larger space, including the dining floor, and technology capabilities - ie, dj, microphone, slideshow, etc. Food-wise, it's pretty regular Chinese dishes...not very memorable, as I can't remember anything especially good!

                                                      My sister had her wedding banquet at Oceanstar - I like how they could quarter off the entire back of the restaurant for the event. However, it was kinda noisy with the rest of the restaurant patrons outside...then again, it's sweet to have your portrait at the front of the restaurant and be congratulated by complete strangers on your special day. :)

                                                      For Empress Pavilion, at least you can entirely rent out one of the two dining rooms. They'll have projector and technology capabilities, too, but then again...not much dancing room! I distinctly remember there wasn't even enough room to catch the bridal bouquet. :D

                                                      Empress Harbor has dancing room, but the food eh, and yes - I found it was quite tight. However, it dOes have a bar...you'd find the guys there for most of the night. haha.

                                                      Best wishes, and report back. Congratulations again!

                                                    3. j
                                                      Jwsel Jan 6, 2007 04:02 PM

                                                      I went to a wonderful 12-course wedding banquet last summer at the Sam Woo Seafood on Valley Blvd. in San Gabriel. I know it's not as well-liked as the restaurants here, but the food for the wedding was fabulous and they had a very large room that will amply hold your wedding party. My friend was allowed to select her courses, though she chose to include duck, abalone, and suckling pig. The food was excellent.

                                                      The only qualm I had was that the room was not fully ready when we arrived and the furniture seemed rather run-down.

                                                      1. raytamsgv Jan 6, 2007 05:03 PM

                                                        First, congratulations! When you plan, remember to keep it as stress free as possible. My wedding had a tea ceremony, church wedding, reception, and banquet all in day--it was exhausting.

                                                        That's a small wedding party (either 3 or 4 tables). Because it's so small, you will likely share the restaurant with one or more other parties, meaning you will hear drunk, middle-aged Chinese men singing karaoke so badly that even William Hung sounds good in comparison. Try to book your banquet at a restaurant with real rooms (not created with room partitions) so their singing won't mar your banquet. Empress Harbor in Monterey Park has good food, and they have at least one real room that can seat about 40 people. IIRC, Ocean Star has a few true rooms, but I don't know how much they can seat.

                                                        You can probably get a very decent meal for $500/table. I would recommend getting a cake from a Chinese bakery instead of the restaurant--better selection and prices. They'll deliver to the restaurant.

                                                        Any restaurant will be willing to design whatever menu you wish for your budget, though I'm not sure if they are guaranteed to be kosher. I don't know if the sound system will be included.

                                                        I would advise you to book the room as soon as possible. In the unlikely event that the big places are booked up, you can always try having your event at a smaller restaurant, such as MPV in Alhambra.

                                                        1. w
                                                          WHills Jan 6, 2007 05:59 PM

                                                          Universal Hilton has great Chinese food. They have a good Chinese chef that is better than San Gabriel Hilton. My friend had her wedding here, and I have been to company parties there. Definitely as good as Empress Pavilions and other Chinese restaurants. You should really check it out before making a decision.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: WHills
                                                            d
                                                            DeskPotato Jan 7, 2007 01:12 AM

                                                            I agree. I attended a wedding reception at the Universal Hilton a couple of years ago and was surprised to find the Chinese food to be quite good. I don't know about the current quality nor the pricing but it might be worth checking out.

                                                          2. a
                                                            altstarr Jan 7, 2007 01:30 AM

                                                            With your small wedding party, check out the Private Banquet Room on the Second Floor of the Universal Hilton. I haven't seen it for 5 or 6 yers, but I recall the could set up the room with a 30 person Circular Table. It is like a United Nations meeting. A Chinese Banquet is served with waiters serving each guest.

                                                            It works well when there is a program of speeches, toasts, etc. The room also had a big screen rear projection TV for Karaoke and could show video's of the bridal couple if available.

                                                            It's less food oriented, but for a special place for a special event like your weddding, I would give it serious consideration.

                                                            altstarr

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: altstarr
                                                              Chandavkl Jan 7, 2007 03:50 AM

                                                              Great suggestion if they still have that option. Went to one of those a few years ago and it was an excellent setup with excellent food.

                                                            2. m
                                                              Mos Jan 8, 2007 01:34 AM

                                                              Congratulations Mr. Taster and LTA!

                                                              I am Jewish and will be planning a wedding with my Cantonese-American fiancee within the next year. We've just started looking for venues and I'm really curious to hear what you find out and where you end up having your reception in Feb.

                                                              The one place that we did check out was Mission 261, which we do love for many reasons (Food/Parking/Atmosphere etc...) but the one thing that we were concerned about was the cost of the room. This may be a little different as we would have 120-150 people, but we were told that aside from the food, there is an additional charge of $6000 (for the 150 capacity room) and $10000 for the larger room.

                                                              Can you or anyone else let me know if this is normal? if other restaurants have similar charges for the room? I'm just learning about this whole process and would appreciate any help.

                                                              oh - BTW also, my sister attended a banquet at the Universal Hilton several years ago and said that it was excellent!

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Mos
                                                                Mr Taster Jan 8, 2007 07:48 AM

                                                                When we checked out Mission 261, we met with the manager Robert and he told us that there would be a minimum food charge for certain rooms (the club room had a 2500 min, and the room with the fireplace had a 1500 minimum... less for both if we decide to do it on a weekday.) However there was no talk of a "room charge" per se.

                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                  m
                                                                  Mos Jan 8, 2007 02:51 PM

                                                                  Thanks for the info. Maybe someone there misguided us.

                                                                  I don't think we'd have a problem meeting the minumum as there will probably be about 15 tables or so. This might actually work out if there is no room charge! I am interested in hearing what you find out on your visit to the Universal Hilton!

                                                                  Mos

                                                              2. bernardo Jan 8, 2007 04:01 AM

                                                                Reserve a picnic area in one on the large parks and hold a gigantic pot luck and have each hound sign up to bring a special dish (or bring drinks or utensils). This would be a better, cheaper and more fitting, amazing and precedent breaking party than in any hotel or restaurant. If it rains then you resked of course.

                                                                12 Replies
                                                                1. re: bernardo
                                                                  PeterL Jan 8, 2007 06:29 AM

                                                                  That would be the talk of the community (both Taiwanese and Jewish) for years to come, as something children should never do to their parents (e.g. have a pot luck wedding).

                                                                  1. re: PeterL
                                                                    bernardo Jan 8, 2007 08:05 PM

                                                                    I hope you're not equating a potluck with chow carefully, lovingly & competently selected by hounds with the run of the mill variety at the office or church. And sure, you could check off the box with a small banquet for family but still give everyone else something beyond chicken feet really worth crowing about.

                                                                    1. re: bernardo
                                                                      PeterL Jan 8, 2007 08:31 PM

                                                                      I don't care if Flay, Battali and Morimoto each brings a dish. Parents (both Chinese and Jewish) would rather die than have their kids' wedding banquet a potluck affair.

                                                                      1. re: PeterL
                                                                        notmartha Jan 8, 2007 09:21 PM

                                                                        I don't know about Jewish, but for chinese, you'll lose 'face' if you have a crappy/cheapo one. Rightly or wrongly, the more tables, the more costly per table, the 'better' it is. Not saying I agree, but that's the old style - my parent's generation way of thinking.

                                                                        The thing is it's customary to give out cash to the happy couple, and so you can't be so stingy with the food.

                                                                        1. re: notmartha
                                                                          bernardo Jan 9, 2007 02:36 AM

                                                                          Hey, with hounds providing the chow there'd be much more cash left for the happy couple.

                                                                          Regardless, what's more important, cost or quality? Because if hounds were to provide the chow you bet your bippy it would be of better quality than most banquet meals. I've had dozens of meals at weddings that must have cost a small fortune but frankly were boring and middling quality at best. Total waste regardless whether parents loved it or not, and of course the guests are always too polite to complain.

                                                                          Anyway, I'd be genuinely surprised if you can do a banquet with chow that truly knocks your guests' socks off for anything less than a benjie pp. However, a Chinese or Thai banquet arguably offers the best hope at least for those who are proficient at ordering.

                                                                          1. re: bernardo
                                                                            PeterL Jan 9, 2007 04:39 AM

                                                                            The only thing that matters is how the parents feel. Nothing else matters. If you want good chow, go out on your own. The wedding banquet is for the parents, and ultimately all the friends and relatives.

                                                                            1. re: PeterL
                                                                              chica Jan 9, 2007 04:50 AM

                                                                              Not being selfish or anything, but I certainly hope my future wedding banquet will be all about me, the bride, and my husband, and not the parents or in-laws. I definitely don't want debates over food to get in the way of the happiest day of my life. In fact, as a chowhound, I hope it becomes an integral vein that brings all the parties together! =D

                                                                              1. re: chica
                                                                                Mr Taster Jan 9, 2007 05:49 AM

                                                                                Our wedding will definitely be for my bride and I. There are minor concessions to be made as always, but overall we'll be doing something that makes us happy and since our friends know us as that couple "who always drags us out to the san gabriel valley but damn why can't I get Chinese food this good in Mar Vista?"

                                                                                Most of these friends I've know for upwards of 10 (or more) years so they won't be disappointed. We might throw the relatives from out of town for a loop, but we've specifically made this a small primarily-friends affair so any complaints by those who don't know us well will be minimized.

                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                  Dommy Jan 9, 2007 05:05 PM

                                                                                  I think then the best thing for you guys to do is just visit to all the places and talk to the managers. It sounds like you guys aren't all hung up on the whole "Wedding Banquet" formalities for this celebration (I'm sure the Taiwan one will be a blow out as well!) so instead focus on what matters with you, which is the food, and frame this as a "Wedding Celebration Banquet". This might also help the managers in getting the idea that this is something 'different'...

                                                                                  Of course, as with all meeting with Wedding Vendors (I'm sure you guys have already noticed, attach the word Wedding to anything and automatically with price sky rockets), before meeting have a guest count, a budget and what your expectations are (Even jot down a sample menu) and THEN you guys can negotiate from there!! What ever your budget is, I'm sure the restaurants will be willing to work with you... :)

                                                                                  Best of luck!! :)

                                                                                  --Dommy!

                                                                                  1. re: Dommy
                                                                                    Mr Taster Jan 9, 2007 05:36 PM

                                                                                    Thanks Dommy! Actually aside from the banquet hall, we're doing quite well in avoiding anything specifically "wedding" related. We're ordering our invitations using our flickr photos from when we traveled in Asia (they have a partner that processes your photos into cards/books/etc.). My LTA's dress will be a red & gold chinese dress, so we avoid the rediculous excess of a one-time-only white gown. (In Chinese tradition, white is the color for funerals-- though western "church" weddings are becoming very popular, even though they have no religious significance. Thankfully neither one of us feels in any way bound by conventional wedding traditions, nor by the "unconventional" ones (Khalil Gibran anyone? How cliche :-) so we're very happy to make something unique that suits us personally without conforming to standards with which we don't agree or cannot relate to (i.e. no bibles anywhere near the place). We've considered asking our guests not to bring gifts (and instead donate to a Cambodian relief organization or something, those people are so hard off, let me tell you...), but that freaked my mom out, who was beside herself since she had shelled out a lot of dough to all my cousins in anticipation that my aunts and uncles would return the favor some day. So we may reverse the policy for the relatives, and just tell the friends "no gifts".

                                                                                    It is our desire to have a ceremony which is sincere and reflects our personalities... as such we have recruited my friend of 10 years to performs the ceremony (he is one of those internet-ordained Universal Life Church ministers) and the venue is at a friend's house, in their backyard garden, so no anonymous rabbis or impersonal courthouses. We just want a simple ceremony, incorporating only those traditions that we feel comfortable with, surrounded by the people that mean the most to us, in an informal and as unpressured a way as possible (hence our desire for no gifts, which always adds pressure to my plate) while still maintaining a standard which raises the occasion to an appropriate standard.

                                                                                    But maybe not so informal as a potluck..... :)

                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                      Dommy Jan 9, 2007 05:54 PM

                                                                                      Or let everyone know that Red Envelopes are one size fits all... ;)

                                                                                      That all sounds wonderful! :) One thing I saw recently that I really liked is that in leiu of favors there was a 'giving board'. Just a simple board was a nice envelope for each of the couple's three favorite charities. Then the guests can put their name into the envelope of their choice and a small donation is made in their name.

                                                                                      Again Congrats and have fun "tasting!" :)

                                                                                      --Dommy!

                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                        PeterL Jan 9, 2007 09:38 PM

                                                                                        Ah so you are not against pleasing at least your mother. I can tell you that for Chinese giving to charities as a wedding present is very unlucky. Save that gesture for Christmas, but stick to more traditional for wedding.

                                                                                        I officiated at my niece's wedding. You don't have to be any kind of minister. Just pay a fee to the State registrar's office (or whatever they are called), swear allegiance to the state constitution, and anyone can officiate at any wedding.

                                                                                        Back to the "banquet", since you are not having a "traditional" wedding banquet, with 4 tables you can just pick from the restaurants's standard family menu. The most I have paid was about $50 a person. And since you are feeling untraditional and charitable, no shark fins, which will lower your prices significantly.

                                                                  2. m
                                                                    Mos Jan 8, 2007 04:28 AM

                                                                    That woukd be a nice precedent breaking party, but my she's pretty set on the Chinese Banquet thing. We have no problem with the cost of the food but were just wondering if that much for extra to reserve the room is a normal thing, if it was only something that Mission does? or if it could be negotiated.

                                                                    anyone?

                                                                    thanks

                                                                    1. j
                                                                      jaia Jan 8, 2007 11:53 AM

                                                                      We had our wedding at Sam Woo's 3 years ago. We were very satisfied with the food and pricing, although as someone else mentioned, the furniture and decor are not that great.

                                                                      I would avoid Ocean Star as the food and management have declined significantly, and Mission 261 which I think is overpriced, not even taking into consideration their charge for the room which I've never heard of at a Chinese restaurant.

                                                                      Universal Hilton does a fine job.

                                                                      Two weeks ago, I went to a banquet at the place on the corner of Garvey and Atlantic, on the 2nd floor, have forgotten the name (is that the "other" Empress everyone is referring to? I thought there was the word "Harbor" in the name). The food was very good and the decor was pretty good for a Chinese restaurant! They have a few small banquet rooms, but they can actually put up full wall panels to block off any size of the dining room, too, which was nice.

                                                                      Good luck, and Congratulations!

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: jaia
                                                                        h
                                                                        hungryhyena Jan 8, 2007 08:34 PM

                                                                        does NBC Seafood in MP do banquets? They have great hong kong style food. I've only been there for dim sum.

                                                                        1. re: hungryhyena
                                                                          raytamsgv Jan 8, 2007 08:48 PM

                                                                          Yes, they have banquets there.

                                                                          1. re: hungryhyena
                                                                            monku Jan 9, 2007 02:53 AM

                                                                            Problem with NBC is unless you have 400+ people, you aren't going to get the whole restaurant to yourself and the general public is mixed in along with your party.

                                                                            Otherwise the do a decent job on banquet food for large parties.

                                                                            At Empress Pavillion they have room partitions that they can configure to the size of your party, but if there's another party with a loud band or music next to you going on the partiftions aren't sound proof.

                                                                            1. re: monku
                                                                              PeterL Jan 9, 2007 04:40 AM

                                                                              NBC has many different size rooms that can accommodate different size parties.

                                                                              1. re: PeterL
                                                                                monku Jan 9, 2007 05:07 AM

                                                                                NBC is always busy. I've been to large banquets that couldn't fill up the main large dining room and it was mixed in with the regular dining customers.
                                                                                Even if you have a small private room with 40 people you're still at the mercy of the restaurant and their main business which might be other banquets and regular diners. The intimacy of your event is in that room and that's it.

                                                                                1. re: monku
                                                                                  PeterL Jan 9, 2007 03:15 PM

                                                                                  That's true of just about every Chinese banquet place.

                                                                        2. j
                                                                          Jerome Jan 8, 2007 09:18 PM

                                                                          caveat: until recently, cantonese cuisine wasn't that highly regarded in taiwan.
                                                                          in the 50's, the waisheng were mostly either from Jiang-zhe (huaiyang and vicinity) like Genmo. Chiang chieh-shih, or from Hunan - esp the military. Yes they were from all over, but these two areas were quite dominant. The local cuisine is related to Fujian cuisine. Most cantonese that left did not go to taiwan. rather to hongkong, south east asia (philippines, indonesia, malaysia) and canada, the US, Europe, etc. So, oddly, cantonese cuisine wasn't all that appreciated.

                                                                          So you might want to check with the inlaws if there's any vestige of cantonese cuisine not being up to what they consider banquet worthy.
                                                                          Look - i'm not saying it's not great food. But I know people from taiwan who aren't acquainted with banquet food from shandong - who just think that it's too poor etc for really good food. just a caveat.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Jerome
                                                                            Mr Taster Jan 8, 2007 10:32 PM

                                                                            Luckily her mom is not the kind of person who would care about such things. We'll be having a second banquet in Taiwan to celebrate with the rest of her family.

                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                          2. j
                                                                            Jerome Jan 9, 2007 03:41 AM

                                                                            if you are really going chinese banquet - ask to see photos of the presentations - do they do vegetable garnishes, carved daikons, etc, are the cold plates elaborate enough (dragon phoenix plates, peacock plates, carved winter melon etc). If you go banquet, go for real.

                                                                            1. la vida dulce Jan 9, 2007 04:50 AM

                                                                              I vote for either Mission 261 or Triumphal Palace. Empress Harbor in my neighborhood would also be a good choice. Probably less expensive as the other two. Just for your information, there is a very fine Chinese bakery also in Monterey Park near the 99 Ranch Market on Garvey and Atlantic. Kee Wah Bakery, website: www.keewah.com
                                                                              Beautiful pastries, lovely cakes, some of the prettiest dessert presentations. Congratulations!

                                                                              1. s
                                                                                shimpiphany Jan 9, 2007 08:35 PM

                                                                                my wife and i had our engagement banquet at sam woo seafood in focus plaza - they were very cooperative, the food was better than my experiences in the dining room, and they charged us NO CORKAGE for the wine or soda, which we provided ourselves to save money. they sat us in a private room near the front, so an entire wall was glass with a great view of the mountains (as well as the chaotic and endlessly entertaining gladiators in the parking lot).

                                                                                we had about 40-50 people.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: shimpiphany
                                                                                  Dommy Jan 9, 2007 08:43 PM

                                                                                  I'm not 100% sure, but I was at Focus Plaza last night and Sam Woo looked like it had closed shop... :(

                                                                                  --Dommy!

                                                                                  1. re: Dommy
                                                                                    ipsedixit Jan 9, 2007 08:59 PM

                                                                                    Both of them?

                                                                                    There are two, one on the lower level and another more fancy one upstairs IIRC.

                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                      Dommy Jan 9, 2007 09:10 PM

                                                                                      Like I said, I wasn't 100% sure, but the one on top last night was all dark and kinda spooky lookin'... I was there ~8:30pm...

                                                                                      --Dommy!

                                                                                      1. re: Dommy
                                                                                        ipsedixit Jan 9, 2007 09:12 PM

                                                                                        Oh well, too many of them anyway ...

                                                                                2. Ciao Bob Jan 9, 2007 08:49 PM

                                                                                  It sure did...Sam Woo Seafood that is...the BBQ place was going gangbusters last Saturday.

                                                                                  1. j
                                                                                    Jerome Jan 9, 2007 10:42 PM

                                                                                    oh ada...taster -
                                                                                    if it's really a wedding, why not get the beautifully presented dishes that you don't get just walking in? If the cooks are really trained and not just folks who decided to start a restaurant in a new country, the beauty of the dishes will blow everybody away.

                                                                                    http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/09416...
                                                                                    just look at this page for an idea

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Jerome
                                                                                      notmartha Jan 10, 2007 04:31 PM

                                                                                      That's beautiful. Have to say though most banquets I went to (not anytime recently) didn't have that fancy of a cold appetizer platter.

                                                                                    2. jcwla Jan 10, 2007 05:23 PM

                                                                                      Congrats.

                                                                                      1. j
                                                                                        Jesdamala Jan 29, 2007 12:46 PM

                                                                                        Has Mr. Taster and his LTA finalized their plans? Do let us know!

                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Jesdamala
                                                                                          Mr Taster Jan 29, 2007 03:49 PM

                                                                                          We've put a $200 deposit down at Mission 261. Was dealing with Robert... he was great at first but now we're having troubles reaching him and we're hoping this isn't indicative of future service!

                                                                                          Mr Taster
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                                                                                          1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                            j
                                                                                            Jesdamala Jan 29, 2007 05:56 PM

                                                                                            Go over....find out...and best of wishes...and I do want to hear, many of us do!
                                                                                            And, are you going to have Langer's as well? It will steam up fabulously, just get it in a big or several large pieces, then slice and steam. We have done this for a crowd many times!

                                                                                            1. re: Jesdamala
                                                                                              Mr Taster Jan 29, 2007 08:56 PM

                                                                                              Yes the plan is still to have a tray of Langers out & ready for people to nibble on before the ceremony....we're debating on how many sandwiches to get (cut into quarters with toothpicks probably) because we don't want people to spoil their appetite for that expensive banquet food we're paying for! I keep having these nightmare visions that the banquet food will be bad and people will keep saying "why didn't they get married at the deli??"

                                                                                              Steaming beforehand could be a problem as we will be picking up the tray of pre-made sandwiches on the way to the wedding..... then it will be a couple of hours before anyone actually arrives to eat. Any suggestions?

                                                                                              Mr Taster
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                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                j
                                                                                                Jesdamala Jan 29, 2007 09:24 PM

                                                                                                I was thinking that these morsels, sandwiches, would be assembled and put out on the spot, the place. Pre-made will be at room temp, and by then, I am sure congealed meat? I was thinking that the restaurant would give you the courtesy, your paying of course, of doing the assembly there. I was only suggesting steaming for the pastrami, which is how Langer's has told us to do it! And how we do it here! Hummmmm. Have you spoken to the restaurant about this 'addition'? The bread is fine room temp, etc. It is the pastrami that needs to be succulent and warm. I am thinking, thinking, thinking...Also, I think these can be done less than quarters...not sure how to say it, but they are the nibbles, the appetizers, the tease. Even a quarter of a Langer's sandwich is big..just me musing.

                                                                                            2. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                              bernardo Jan 29, 2007 08:11 PM

                                                                                              Hope it works out, but unfortunately not unexpected when you depend on the kindness of strangers as opposed to fellow (true believer devotee) hounds.

                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                m
                                                                                                Mos Feb 1, 2007 09:01 AM

                                                                                                I hope everything works out! We just put down a deposit with Robert last weekend for a date in August. He did seem very cool about everything. I am really interested to hear how things go!

                                                                                                Mos

                                                                                            3. Mr Taster Feb 1, 2007 09:11 AM

                                                                                              I wonder if anyone can suggest a delicious Chinese wedding cake? (caveat: it doesn't have to actually be a wedding cake-- we have about 40 people coming so one layer will be fine)

                                                                                              We tried the caramel mousse cake from JJ Bakery (in Arcadia, across from Din Tai Fung). The results were strange to my western tastes-- extremely light on flavor, but as I continued to eat it, the flavor sort of built up in my mouth. My LTA claims that this is because Chinese people don't like intensely sweet or rich things as western people do and as such Chinese cakes are intentionally made not very sweet.

                                                                                              In the end, I ended up really liking the mousse cake, but I wonder if there might be someing extra delicious a hound out there might be able to recommend?

                                                                                              Mr Taster
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                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                Dommy Feb 1, 2007 09:54 AM

                                                                                                Very L.A. is the strawberry cake at Pheonix Bakery in Chinatown. You couldn't have grown up in the City of Los Angeles without having a birthday cake from Pheonix at least once... :)

                                                                                                --Dommy!

                                                                                                1. re: Dommy
                                                                                                  Mr Taster Feb 1, 2007 10:14 AM

                                                                                                  Thanks Dommy... what's the cake like? Is it Chinesey or more western in taste?

                                                                                                  Mr Taster
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                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster
                                                                                                    Dommy Feb 1, 2007 10:21 AM

                                                                                                    It's very simple... it's chinesey as it's not overly sweet and the cake is spongy. But the frosting is a VERY light whipped cream which brings in a bit more 'sweetness' into play. This was part of the reason why it was so popular at kids b-day parties... it was not too sweet or pasty for the parents, not too 'wierd' for kids and no immediate sugar buzz...

                                                                                                    Here's their website:

                                                                                                    http://www.phoenixbakeryinc.com/cakes...

                                                                                                    --Dommy!

                                                                                                    1. re: Dommy
                                                                                                      Dommy Feb 1, 2007 03:28 PM

                                                                                                      Also if you wouldn't mind terribly to e-mail me at pmgonATaol.com, I have a nonfood specific wedding question to ask you! :)

                                                                                                      Thanks so much!!

                                                                                                      --Dommy!

                                                                                              2. Mr Taster Mar 3, 2007 10:36 AM

                                                                                                You may find my final report at this link:

                                                                                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/377001

                                                                                                Mr Taster
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                                                                                                1. Lightsuprooms Mar 6, 2007 11:25 AM

                                                                                                  Congrats Mr. Tster and Mrs. Taster... I actually lived in Taiwan when I was 3 till I was 8.. the biggest story around that time was a Jewish guy marrying a Chinese girl.. her married name was Mai Ling Schwartz...

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