Birthday Banquet @ Gourmet Carousel, SF
Last month we celebrated Uncle Hughes' 90th birthday, as well as his son's 50th and granddaughter's 15th, with a Chinese banquet. Reading Gourmet Carousel on the invitation as a venue surprised me, as it didn't seem to be that big of a place for a family party. The second surprise was seeing for myself that seven round tables can squeeze into the small dining room with some room leftover for a cake table and other walk-in business.
Handsdown, the best dish was an appetizer of fried quail. Split, battered and deep-fried, these little birds were so juicy, brimming with flavor, and a delight to nibble off the bone to get all that crunchy skin and succulent flesh. This was the first time I'd had this style of preparation and it's changed my mind about quail. They're almost always dried out, whether roasted, sauteed, or fried, but not these. The multi-colored pastel shrimp chips were good too.
Other standouts were the walnut prawns and the long-life yee fu noodles. The prawns were decent size and cooked just right. The candied walnuts were freshly fried, very fragrant and plentiful, almost in equal proportion to the shrimp.
The yee fu noodle dish was a vegetarian version blended with julienned veggies. The spongey noodles were infused with deliciously complex flavors and had a nice chewy texture. Even though I was no longer hungry at the end of this dinner, I had a second helping. I was seated next to Uncle James, who asked me, "do you know the origin of yee fu mein?" Since he's the most scholarly of my uncles, I knew I'd get a well-researched answer from him. "Don't tell me it's a Chinese-American dish", I said. He smiled and assured me it was from the old country. "Yee" is the family name, and "fu" refers to the family residence, meaning noodles in the style of the Yees' house. Apparently, the noodles arose from the Yee family cook dropping the noodles into frying oil by accident instead of boiling water. Not wanting to waste them, he continued with his recipe by adding them to some soup and discovered that they were a delicious vehicle for absorbing flavors from the liquid.
Serving size was generous as is typical at Gourmet Carousel and there were tons of leftovers. I'm already plotting my return for more of that amazing quail.
1559 Franklin St