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Ocean Jewels rules!

Ocean Jewels is a bright, airy modern banquet hall opposite Flushing Mall. It serves Hong Kong style Cantonese food. I've been there three times over the past few years, and each time I've thought, this place has the potential to be New York's finest Chinese restaurant. After tonight, I think that is what it is.

Totally on a whim, I spent $19 to order steamed fish pieces with peculiar flavor. With a name like that, how could I resist? It arrived beautifully presented, the pieces carefully arranged on a big white platter. While not peculiar, the dish was unique, though it was inspired by the steamed fish with preserved vegetables that you can find just about anywhere in Chinatown. But it was a traditional dish refined and reinterpreted by a master chef. The fish was sea bass, and it was so good I was tempted to just eat it plain. It was served on a bed of what looked like preserved vegetables but were, I believe, fresh and macerated in house. Each vegetable had a distinctive flavor. There were dried plums, exotic shoots I had never seen before, flavorful tree ear fungus... all excellent. A very light salty broth brought out the different flavors.

If I had friends in Los Angeles and they took me to have this dish in the San Gabriel Valley, and said, Brian, didn't we tell you that the Chinese food here is light-years above what you can get in New York, I would have replied, yes you did, and you were right.

The only problem is that there are two menus (both in English) with several hundred dishes between them, and most of these dishes didn't appeal to me. But if every dish is as good as what I had tonight (or the fish head dish I had last year), I'd say that this is far and away the best Chinese food to be had in New York.

Ocean Jewels, 133-30 39 Av, Flushing (718) 359-8600


NOTE: Here, for the record, is my description of the fish head dish, written in September 2006. It too is a traditional Cantonese entree totally recast by a very talented and inventive chef:

"I had the fish head, not with clams but steamed with diced pepper. The steamed head was cut into strips, artfully arranged on a big plate shaped like a fish, covered with minced everything -- preserved veg, diced parsnips, chives, shredded meat, a bit of shrimp paste... but no diced pepper. Around all this was a red, fiery broth... not hot for Sichuan but hotter than anything I've had in a Cantonese place. I've never seen anything quite like this, though I've had steamed fish head with black bean sauce at Cantoon Garden in Manhattan"

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  1. i actually really like ocean jewel as well...if you have enough people you should get a private room in the back, makes for a great place to sit for a couple hours have some great food and go get drunk

    1. > if every dish is as good as what I had tonight (or the fish head dish I had last year), I'd say that this is far and away the best Chinese food to be had in New York.

      That's one huge "if," of course, especially given a sprawling menu of hundreds of items. Most likely Ocean Jewels, like most places, does some better than others.

      But I appreciate your report, as always, for its detail, context, and inviting chowish tone (see earlier Flushing tips at http://www.chow.com/digest/1114 ). Welcome back to town!

      Ocean Jewels
      133-30 39th Ave, Queens, NY 11354

      3 Replies
      1. re: squid kun

        thank you for your review - it sounds like it's best to go to a place like this with a larger group of people?

        1. re: Linda

          Thank you. Yes it's best with a large group... but I always eat alone, and I've had good luck there

          If you want to plan ahead, their menu is online at their website (link in my post above)

        2. re: squid kun

          Yes that's one huge if. Lots more research is needed. I will be happy to do it!!!

        3. Well, I'll have to try this place. I was convinced recently that Imperial Palace in Flushing is the best Cantonese in New York. Have you been there, Brian?


          1 Reply
          1. re: Peter Cherches

            I love Imperial Palace. I wrote the original post to which you replied (and thank you for the detalied description of your meal, it gives me new ideas) http://www.chowhound.com/topics/331182 I think BOTH places are best, since they do different things, as far as I can see. Imperial Palace takes dishes you can find in a lot of places and prepares them far better than almost anyone, takes them to a new level. The things I had at Ocean Jewels were, though inspired by traditional dishes, basically new dishes, creations of a talented chef. As far as I can determine (from extensive Internet research) Ocean Jewels is as close as we come to those new wave HK style Monterey Park banquet halls (like Triumphal Palace) that everyone on the LA board is touting.

          2. Haven't had dinner here but Ocean Jewels is my #1 dim sum spot. Everything is very fresh.

            1 Reply
            1. re: moymoy

              Yeah, I had pretty good dim sum here too. Looking forward to having some dinner one night now.

            2. any thoughts "versus" amazing 66? I've only been to ocean jewels for dim sum (excellent) but not for dinner or a formal meal. I've always enjoyed my dishes at amazing 66, just wondering how the two stand in relation to one another?

              1. Jeff, it's hard to say which is better, Ocean Jewels or Imperial Palace or Amazing 66. I love them all for different things (and I realize I am shortchanging Manhattan Chinatown in this post, you can get excellent food there, the only problem being that the place that excels one month might lag the next month, so restaurant recommendations have the shelf life of eggs). I usually order casseroles at Imperial Palace (I must try something else!), braised or steamed dishes at Amazing 66, and as I said at Ocean Jewels I try to get some wonderful new creation. They are all the best. (But if I can manage to find a lot more dishes as good as the peculiar fish, I think Ocean Jewels will become my favorite.)

                1. I had a wonderful dish last night. I ordered steamed tofu with beef and preserved vegs. It took a while. As I waited, I watched the tanks full fo exotic fish, huge Dungeness crabs and live shrimp, happily swimming and unaware that they would make a lovely dish for some lucky patron. Then a big bamboo steamer arrived. On a huge lotus leaf rested perfect medallions of tofu ( and lovely tofu it was, the first time I've had tofu that didn't have a slight sawdust taste when tasted plain) Atop the tofu was pulled beef (shredded but sticking together a bit) that had apparently been marinated in something to give it a rich flavor, and fresh green vegetables that had been marinated too (not preserved vegs from a jar). Below was about two tablespoons of a rich, intense beef consomme. It was awesome! Even the obligatory fruit dish was great. Fresh pineapple, lychee (probably frest), and watermelon slices. The seeds in each watermelon slice had been removed by hand, there were marks where they were dug out.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Brian S

                    Brian, it is always a pleasure...keep up the good work, thanks, and happy eating!!!

                  2. Two more visits, two more dishes, each so beautifully presented I wish I'd brought a camera to preserve them for posterity. And each unique to this restaurant, not just copies of dishes I've had a hundred times before.

                    1. Dofu. A scattering of dofu cubes, pillowy soft inside, with a very thin crisp outer layer that had been mixed with spices so they were delicious to eat plain. Amidst the cubes was a thick viscous concoction made of egg yolks blended with minced meat, celery and green peppers.

                    2. Duck A boundary wall of green vegetable stems fenced in an enclosure filled with pieces of succulent skin-on braised duck topped with fresh button mushrooms, dried mushrooms, and a floppy mushroom I couldn't identify. Atop all this was a layer of shredded dry scallops held together with a small amount of a clear sauce. Hidden among this were areas of straw mushrooms which looked like the scallops but tasted totally different, so I never knew which taste I was going to get. I'm not sure whether the rich, gamy, umami-laden taste of the scallops enhanced the duck or clashed with it, so I played it safe by eating half the duck with the scallops, the other half with just mushrooms.

                    1. I went to Ocean Jewels this weekend with some seasoned veterans of the restaurant and they took care of ordering. Good fish maw soup, good sauteed pea shoots, a very good house roasted chicken topped with fried garlic, scallions and other spices, another very good dish of what was described to me as BBQ'd beef, which are tender pieces of beef (probably softened with baking soda), sauteed to medium rare with some spices, including, I believe fennel pollen, and covered with a light coating of a soy based sauce. However, the showstopper, was the steamed dungeoness crab "stuffed" with sweet rice. In this dish, the crab is hacked up, and wrapped inside a set of large lotus leave, along with sweet rice (i.e., sticky rice) and some aromatics like garlic, and steamed. The result was a wonderful steamed crab, and an even better rice dish, especially when mixed with the crab tomalley (i.e., the brain, or kani-miso in Japanese). This was a real winner of a dish, and a first time for me. I'll likely go back just to have this again.

                      1. What do people think of the dim sum here? I see that Moymoy and Silverjay above commented that it's their #1 spot.
                        I tried it for the first time last week and thought it was delicious. Very fresh, mostly the hot stuff was hot or at least warm. There were some interesting dumplings and a lot of variety for a weekday. Do they bring a lot more special stuff around on weekends? How crowded does it get?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: bolletje

                          I've tried other dim sum places in Flushing, and I think Ocean Jewel is the best. The freshness certainly shows in their clams with black bean sauce, and tofu dessert (served warm with sugar syrup). I tend to order the regular dim sum dishes so I can't say much about variety, they seem to be the same on weekends as in weekdays. You could always order from the menu if you want. They definitely get crowded on weekends and the wait can be long, while on weekdays I don't think I've ever had to wait to be seated but I've yet to see it close to empty.

                          1. re: sharonj

                            I've been to Ocean Jewels a few times, but recently, I went to Gala Manor. I prefer the latter because of a much wider selection of dim sum plus I think it is less pricey. qualitywise, I think there is little to differentiate between them. both being wonderful.

                        2. Back to Ocean Jewels tonight. I decided to order one of the more expensive fish dishes. I told myself the money would be well spent in the service of chowhounds everywhere. So I got sable Chiu Chow style. ($20) A wait brimming with pleasant anticipation, then out came a big soup bowl. Eek! I thought. I got a soup! But it wasn't. What it was was a study in sour. Pieces of a firm white fish, perfectly steamed, were artfully arranged in a pyramid, surrounded by a yummy sour broth. Above and among the fish nuggets were thin slices of red and green pepper, purple onion, celery, and a few very hot chili peppers, as well as cracked black peppercorns. All except the peppercorns had been macerated or pickled in house. They ranged from something like a sour dill pickle in taste to things fresh and barely macerated. The onions had been soaked in lemon juice and there were also a few ultrathin slices of lime rind, so every once in a while there would be a clear sharp citric flavor a lot like galangal. In fact the whole thing was a blend of clear sharp flavors. It reminded me a lot of something you might find at Jean-Georges, or Union Pacific back in the glory days before the captain tanked the ship.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Brian S

                            Brian I want to sit down at your table someday!! Is this a place a group of complete novices can go and have a great meal? Can I get a list of must-orders? Thanks yet again!

                            1. re: erica

                              Thank you for your confidence in me. I hope it's justified. Both menus have English translations, and some of the many headwaiters in dark suits and tie speak good English, so yes you can go. As to what to order, I've described about five dishes above, both in the OP and in some of my replies to myself. I recommend all of them, especially the fish with "peculiar flavor" described in the OP.

                              Oh, and not relevant to anything, they have the nicest men's rooms in Flushing, with rock paneled walls designed to look like a cliff face, and wood trim.

                          2. I def. have to try this place out...
                            I like Congee Village, how does that compare?

                            1. I've been valiantly going through the menu, telling myself it's my contribution to Chowhound and using that as an excuse for a grand old time. Two more visits.

                              1) Hog's maw with pepper. I don't usually like stir-fries, but this one looked like a scattering of precious jewels on the plate. Bright, glossy pieces of red, yellow and green peppers and silky-smooth pig's stomach. The peppers were crunchy, greaseless, perfectly cooked. On the bottom, barely visible, was a thin, rich XO sauce.

                              2) Sichuan-style water-cooked fish You can usually bet money that if a restaurant does a dish from another region that dish will be insipid. This is the exception. They didn't try to copy Sichuan food, but instead created a dish which captured the spirit of the Sichuan water-cooked food using their own style. Big pieces of sea bass were heaped over bean sprouts and surrounded by a yellow soup with a rich, lovely flavor. Strewn on top were about 20 hot red chili peppers, which I made the mistake of eating. They were hot... but sooo good.

                              Ocean Jewels is elegant. Its style reminds me quite a bit of Jean-Georges Vongerichten. If he'd served some of these dishes at 66, it would still be in business.

                              1. Brian I have read many of your posts and I agree that Amazing 66 is just amazing. Ocean Jewels is pretty good but you should maybe try Jade Asian Restaurant across from the municipal lot. The decor is much nicer and it is a little more comfortable since they space the tables a little further away from each other. I have eaten there a couple of times and everytime it has been on the money so far. They also have very good dim sum.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: suprakent

                                  Yes Jade Asian is great too. I do prefer Ocean Jewels I think.

                                2. I'm loving this thread. I definitely intend to make an outing to Ocean Jewels within the next few months. One question, though: Did they really use parsnips, rather than daikon in the fish head dish? I've never had a Chinese dish that used parsnips.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Pan

                                    It's probably daikon.... though I've had a lot of unique things at Ocean Jewels.

                                  2. You make snicker, but my favorite item here is the sweet buns with that sweet, slightly-salty frosting on top. I wish they did them so well at other places. I haven't even been able to find them in the bakeries.

                                    1. I'm glad you brought this thread up again. I am now in Oklahoma but I went to Ocean Jewels about four or five more times before I left. It is elegant (more headwaiters in dark suits than most places have waiters), it is packed and very lively on weekend nights, and it's always a fun place to be.

                                      I had a strange dish of baked curried seafood in a ramekin (called Portuguese because of course it was 16th century Portuguese traders who brought curry to China and Japan); a subpar casserole of eggplant and seafood (DON'T order casseroles here, it's the one thing they don't excel in); thin sable steaks seared until crispy and served with soy; similar steaks served on a sizzling platter cooked tableside with black bean sauce added; and a simple yet perfect soup with grilled shrimp, fish pieces soaked in sesame oil, and cucumber slices in a perfect fish stock.

                                      So I have had about fifteen meals here in all. Perhaps three have been original creative dishes that could have been served -- and acclaimed -- at, say, Jean-Georges in Manhattan. (And the diners would say, "Ahhh, only Mr Vongenrichten could create something like this!") The rest were more ordinary but still (except for casseroles) excellently prepared.

                                      But it's those three great dishes that draw me to Ocean Jewels. What if it were discovered that da Vinci had painted a hundred mediocre paintings? No one would care, because he gave us the Mona Lisa.

                                      10 Replies
                                          1. re: Brian S

                                            oh i found something new to order at ocean jewel that is pretty good although a bit off the beaten path...the t-bone steak (haha weird for a chinese restaurant)

                                            i went there not that long ago with my friend who literally eats there 3-4 times a week b/c his dad has some type of relationship with the owners and he told me about it

                                            its basically a very large steak with the bone in it that has been cut up (looks kind of like the porterhouse at lugers)...it has a nice semi sweet soy sauce on it and the steak was probably broiled as its almost crispy on the outside; it goes well with the meal, recommend trying it

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              I am planning to go here next week with a group so please keep the ideas coming!!! Brian..sorry you are AWOL for awhile..hope all is well..

                                              1. re: erica

                                                Oh I hope you enjoy it! If I get to recommend one dish, my first choice would be steamed fish pieces with peculiar flavor. If you don't want that, my second choice is Sichuan-style water-cooked fish. And third comes sable Chiu Chow style. All are described in my posts above, though I might have gotten some of the names wrong.

                                                1. re: Brian S

                                                  I have no doubt that if there are any hidden gem in Okla, you'll be the one to find them and both educate and enthrall us with your reviews. :-}

                                                    1. re: Brian S

                                                      And, of course, I was correct :-}
                                                      Always a pure pleasure to read your postings...

                                              2. re: Lau

                                                I went to Ocean Jewels on Saturday after reading this particular post. i had a yen (no pun intended) for the t-bone steak, which sounded yummy. BIG MISTAKE. First, they didn't ask me how I wanted it cooked, they told me it would be well-done. I told them, "no, please make it rare." The small, thin, t-bone came out, cut up as Lau said, and there was a crispy, sweet glaze covering the steak, that was sort of like the covering for creme brule. But the steak was horrible! It was well done, and I realized afterwards why....they deep fry this steak! That's how they get the outside to be crispy. The steak was uniform cooked through. It was obviously not grilled, but deep-fried. What a huge waste of beef and what a big time disappointment. Serves me right for ordering steak in a seafood restaurant, but I thought for $19.95, if its like a Lugar's, I can't go wrong. Well, it was awful.

                                                1. re: myclawyer

                                                  "Serves me right for ordering steak in a seafood restaurant,"

                                                  There is a reason it's called OCEAN Jewels. :-}
                                                  Try it agian and order somehting with seafood.

                                        1. I had the fish with peculiar flavor this weekend and did not enjoy it in the way BrianS did. There were layers of flavors and textures but most flavors were not appealing to me or the people I was eating with. I can see the flavors in the dish being very polarizing. I did find the fish to be quite tasty by itself and perfectly done. We focused on eating the fish after sampling the additional elements. Unfortunately the last couple of pieces had a strong amonia flavor, like you might have with skate that was not prepared properly. I am not sure if this can also occur in sea bass too or if there was something else in there. Really put a damper on the dish and to a degree the meal. We did eat all the other pieces before the offending ones, so saying something to the staff was not done. I regret not having done that now.

                                          We also did the stuffed eggplant with japanese wasabi sauce. This was the most enjoyable dish of the three we tried. A creamy wasabi sauce over japanese eggplant stuffed with a shrimp mix. A little bit on the sweet side (coconut cream I believe) but all three of us agreed it was tasty and had no problem finishing it off.

                                          The last dish we tried was the least adventurous. Chicken Szechuan style - we had picked the lamb szechuan style first but was advised it was not available that night. Not sure if it would have made a difference. This dish had good flavor dish but lacke in character or wow factor. Not too far from what I would expect from my neighborhood takeout joint and not something I would travel very far for. The meat appeared to be deep fry blanched before being stir fryed with the peppers.

                                          Looking around the room at the other tables, there were a few tables with a ground meat and snow pea pod steamed dish that I would try next time, and maybe try some of the other suggestions made here.

                                          10 Replies
                                          1. re: dhs

                                            Along with 9 friends, I tried Ocean Jewels last night. I hate to say this, but we were disappointed and I can only imagine that we/I ordered poorly. Although I had many recommendations culled from posts here, I was outvoted on a few dishes (water-cooked fish, for one). I will have to return for a second visit someday, but for now, here is what we ate and my impressions.

                                            Before I write the list, I will mention one small sour note. Taking Lau's suggestion, I asked for a private room in the back for our group of 10 people.
                                            The woman who greeted us replied to my request as follows:

                                            "Private room in back..you have five hundred dollars???"

                                            The restaurant was all-but-empty when we arrived at 6:30 but did fill up slowly and about half the tables were taken by the time we left at 8:30. Also, although they advertise free parking in the adjacent lot, the parking ticket states something on the order of "Please pay $2. to the attendant." Another small thing, but duly noted here..

                                            So...here is what we ordered; keep in mind that most of these were NOT the dishes that had been recommended above by BrianS and others:

                                            Peking Duck (as an appetizer for the table)...Good; not greasy. Served already cut up, with the slightly thick Cantonese=style bun/pancakes. No second duck dish was offered.

                                            Fried Prawns with Lemongrass. Good dish but not exceptional in any way. Served in the shell but unfortunately, decapitated. Slight crispyness from light frying.

                                            Lamb with Scallions...Not available

                                            Half fried chicken...good; white meat not dried out; lovely golden crispy skin; no obvious batter. I would have opted for the chef's special roast chicken with garlic but was outvoted. In the end: Chicken.

                                            Eggplant with Wasabi Sauce stuffed with shrimp. Interesting and unusual. Chunks of eggplant stuffed with a shrimp force-meat. Topped with an egg-based wasabi sauce devoid of any wasabi heat. Akin to those prawn, walnut, mayo-type dishes that seem to be popular in HK-style places (??) To me, more interesting than delicious. Most people at the table disliked it strongly.
                                            Good for novelty value..

                                            Sweet and Sour Pork..Standby for one of the diners...not bad..crisp fried coating, not drowning in s/s sauce but not memorable. The s/s pork afcionado at the table declared it to be "ok."

                                            Whole fish with ginger and black bean sauce. Served without the head to the dismay of one diner.. Not good..I found the fish mushy, although it supposedly came from the tank in the dining room...

                                            Steamed and Stuffed bean curd. Soft tofu squares surrounded by young gai lan and topped with one small shrimp each. Bland; poor menu choice on my part.

                                            Pea Shoots/leaves with garlic. Lovely; lots of leaves and fewer stems. Golden, softened garlic on top.

                                            Pan Fried Seafood Noodle. Wheat noodle with lots of scallops, shrimp, squid and green veg in a light sauce. Very good rendition.

                                            With tip and a total of about 15 beers, the dinner cost $35.00 per person. (Does this sound very expensive considering what we ordered??)

                                            Service is good, beers are poured into glasses, English spoken by many staff members.

                                            After dinner I ducked in to Little Pepper a few steps behind the large parking lot. Just before 9pm that place was packed and every table was slurping hotpot. After having eaten there about 3 times I received a warm welcome from the two friendly ladies that seem to run the show (one from Chengdu and one from Shanghai) Gave them a brief lesson in counting from 1 to 10 in English and picked up my (non-spicy) favorite: Pork with bamboo shoots, for tonight's dinner.

                                            So..where did I go wrong..just bad selections?????

                                            1. re: erica

                                              Sorry to hear about your disappointing meal. I'm sure some of the other people here can offer you better insight than I can as I've never had dinner here, just dim sum. But I think Ocean Jewel is a Cantonese place. Some of the items you ordered don't sound Cantonese like peking duck, prawns with lemongrass, lamb with scallions. Also, the steamed tofu/shrimp dish isn't supposed to be a pow-in-your-face type of dish. The eggplant with wasabi -- yeah, I'm also not a fan of those new HK style dishes as well. The person who invented that awful prawn with mayo thing should be put away. I know a lot of people love it, but I just don't find it palatable. And it definitely sounds like they cut the heads off because you're not Asian (or at least I'm assuming you guys aren't Asian). Too bad because prawn heads and fish cheeks are really delicious.

                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                Yes I am certain that you are correct. I tried to order mostly from their specials list and a few of those dishes were on that, so... One diner did complain about the lack of a head on the fish...nothing was resolved since they told him that the head was, in fact, on the dish which it clearly was not. Next time I will try to remember to make our preferences for cheeks and heads known when I order, just in case!!

                                                1. re: erica

                                                  I too am sorry you weren't bowled over by your dining experience, though, when I reread your post, it didn't sound as though what you got was all that disappointing. Still, I'm surprised that you didn't write down a list of specific dish recc from Brian and others.
                                                  One of the problems of going to dine with a large crowd is that it's hard to get a concensus, RE: What to order.. Perhaps a smaller group will work better. As for the private rooms, as a rule, unless a reservation is specifically made for a private room, or the restaurant is full, I don't believe they open them for walk-ins.

                                                  1. re: Tay

                                                    Thanks, Tay. You are correct about the difficulty of getting a consensus. In no way was our dinner bad, it just was not as good as I had expected. I will make sure to try OJ again, perhaps with a smaller group. But then, with a smaller group you do not get to sample so many different dishes.. What to do??

                                                    1. re: erica

                                                      "Tayor-made" rule:
                                                      Order whatever you'd like/can afford and take the rest home :-}

                                                      Fortunately, OJ is not so costly that you will find that prohibitive.
                                                      I know it's not the same as having it freshly prepared, but you'll reap some reward. Try to figure out which dishes will reheat more successfully, just taste those and take them home and while dining out, enjoy the dishes that will not.

                                              2. re: erica

                                                Oh Erica, I've put off answering this in the hope that if I log on several times and read it, it might change to your having had a wonderful time. I was really looking forward, for weeks, to your visit to Ocean Jewels and I'm dreadfully sorry it was a disappointment. I haven't ordered any of the things you had. I don't know what happened; I visited Ocean Jewels about a month ago and it was as good as ever.

                                                1. re: Brian S

                                                  Brian: To tell the truth, I hesitated about writing anything at all because I did not want to be so negative. I almost feel as if I am criticizing you and I certainly did not want to appear to be doing that!!

                                                  In rethinking, I am certain that the disappointment originated in poor ordering on our parts.

                                                  Although I tried to stick with the specials (and not all of these are Cantonese, as someone pointed out about the lemongrass prawns) I was outvoted a few times by people who were less curious about the more unusual dishes. For example, I actually told the waiter that we wanted the water-cooked fish, which I believe he said was bass filet that night. But to my dismay, the black bean/ginger/scallion treatment was substituted by my friend, because THAT preparation could be done with head-on fish, which turned out to be tilapia, I think.

                                                  (And as you have read, the head became lost somewhere between the kitchen and the table)

                                                  This is an issue that has arisen before with my group and I would like to know your opinion:

                                                  People seem to feel that we have a better chance of getting fresher fish if we order a whole fish (ie with the head) than if we order a fish-filet dish. Does this make any sense to you? I think that the restaurant must begin with whole fish for all of their fish dishes and just filet them when needed. True???

                                                  Also, is choosing a fish from the tank a guarantee of freshness? Is fish from the tank more expensive? (Please do not laugh at my ignorance here!!)

                                                  Between the two places, OJ and Amazing 66, I did like the latter better. Perhaps part of this was that the people at 66 were really friendly and helpful with the ordering and at least one or two of the workers were more proficient in English. I have been back twice for their lunch specials; the tall woman with the long curly hair (who is from Canton/Guangzhou) is especially willing to discuss food with me.

                                                  SO..the next question is: How many people can cram into Chengdu Heaven??

                                                  1. re: erica

                                                    Thanks for your kind words! I'll try to answer later.

                                                    1. re: erica

                                                      You will generally get fresher fish from ordering a whole fish because there is no guarantee of freshness from a filet. With a whole fish, you can examine the eyes and gills to see how fresh it is. I've purchased fresh whole fish in Chinatown. As I'm kind of picky about my fish, I've had no issues with it. But I've always been disappointed when I've purchased filets there. I don't think a restaurant necessarily begins with a whole fish and fillets it. And if they do, they'll probably take the least fresh fish and filet it at the restaurant.

                                                      When you choose from a tank, presumably the fish are alive. Sadly I've seen some dead fish in tanks. But I'll bet that nobody will choose them. I don't know if this is an urban myth, but I've heard that some places will have you pick out a fish from the tank and cook another one. Hopefully this doesn't happen. And it's a LOT more expensive to pick out a fish from the tank.