Lunch at Happy Family, vegetarian, Monterey Park
So , went down with a group (five in toto) to Happy Family in its new digs (for me) in Monterey Park. The new space is the old Charming Garden (hsiang garden) Hunan space at 111 n monterey park.
practical matters - make sure when you order to specify that you don't want all the dishes brought out at once, if this is your preference. I haven't had to do it ina long time, usually because of my rule of no more than 2 stir-fried dishes if at all possible - so the kitchen has to stagger. The vast majority of the dishes at happy family involve some stir-frying so they came all at once, in fact, the cold plate after one hot dish (i think ipse might find this unacceptable as well, but i'm just guessing.)
Anyway, once we told them, well, it still didn't help much, but next time.
SO - we ordered the cold dish - three varieties, mock smoked fish (a few people's favorite of the meal), vegetarian "duck" (more like a tasty skin) and mock jellyfish salad (very nicely done). All delicious In fact I liked everything. So I won't be gushing from here on..
Soup - my usual - the lion's head/monkey head mushroom soup was not available and supposedly hadn't been for a while ( houtoutgu) so we got the lily flower soup - delicate (if you like it, bland if you don't) broth with enoki and shiitake shredded mushrooms, knotted lily flowers, shredded bamboo shoots. My co-diners did ask about adding some of the spicy sauce brought with the cold dishes. I told them (since i was elected "guide") that i thought next time, go ahead, but they should try and taste what it should taste like this time. This is buddhist vegetarian food, not too spicy for the most part, and from regions of teh country which aren't that capsicum mad. If they want hot, let's go to hengyang chilli king next time. But my suggestion - at least try to be aware of it one time and then change it up.
others willl disagree i'm sure.
Then the five main dishes -
wheat gluten (kao fu) with mustard greens - slightly thick brown sauce. yummy, esp for teh green lover in the group.
(spicy) sea weed with basil (jiu ceng) - very basilly, strong basil, the sea weed wasn't the usual shredded hai dai - this was like rectangles of kelp stalks. slightly thick, toothy, a bit chewy, really good. nice surprize.
Special (bamboo) fungus with tofu - this is like a very mild spongy, almost delicate but loofa-like textured vegetable, not a lot of flavor but really interesting texture (it is chinese food, folks). I really liked this. The tofu was about 4" squares, 1/2 inch thick, quickly deep fried, not borwned but some moisture removed. Slightly sweet broth reduction sauce.Nice contrast to the seaweed.
Illy bulb (really flower bulb) that's broken up and looks like onion (another bulb) but much milder in taste with asparagus and snow peas. stir fried. The asparagus was still crunchy and a thick type, the lily bulb made the dish - some diners thought it was a very mild onion until we talked about what it was.
vegetarian mock hunan ham (as in from hunan not spicy) served with a nice bao wrapper, a honey sauce and fresh pineapple. Very midwestern picnic feeling and a nice end to the meal.
rather than the usual steamed rice, we got a pot of the baen laden congee/ porridge/ zhou/ juk/ xifan, and yes, the westside has finally tainted one of my fave places, BROWN rice. I had never ever ever seen the character for brown rice in a restaurant - here it is, folks, enjoy, and i hope never to see it again at one (the people who ate the brown rice enjoyed it, i stuck to the xifan)
Total with tip - $18 per person.
111 n atlantic, #351
monterey park ca