First Bites: Capital Seafood in Arcadia
- Will Owen Nov 12, 2010 08:26 PM
This is I think a new one; just noticed it on my way to a medical appointment yesterday (Thursday) morning. It's on Huntington between Second and Fifth, just east of the Derby. Then Mrs. O and I went to a little gathering in Monrovia last night, and she suggested we check the place out for a bite afterwards.
It was far from packed, but it's a very sleek and elegant place in the Hong Kong style. Well-trained and friendly wait staff, napkins as thick as mover's blankets, but on the other hand they pile dirty dishes on an adjacent table instead of whisking them away immediately... still, the atmosphere was a good one. We had snacked a bit at the party, so wanted just a couple of complementary dishes. Mrs. O immediately noticed a Vietnamese favorite, the strangely-named "French-style Beef" (can someone please explain that?), and then the Pea Leaves in Garlic Sauce. We had been supplied with a bowl of shelled peanuts to nibble on, and some excellent tea - loose-leaf, not bagged - came shortly thereafter. The chopsticks, I was happy to see, were not the usual dreadful heavy, slippery plastic, but either laquered wood or a good facsimile, light and wieldy.
Okay, the food: it was better than our expectations. The beef made our previous favorite, that at Newport Seafood in San Gabriel, look like the cartoon version. That is yummy; this was beefy, rich, sweet, tangy, unctuous, compelling. Each morsel was a perfect bite of meat, even after we'd lingered and it had gotten cold. The pea leaves were also simply perfect, neither too tender nor at all stringy, lovely rich flavor and a sauce that avoided both runny and gooey extremes.
The dessert, unannounced and complimentary, was a good-sized cup of a Hong Kong-style tapioca liquid custard, with a burnt-sugar taste and color, some wiggly shreds of some kind of flavorless jelly, and a few very strange starchy bean-like objects that looked like miniature toy turnips. Except for these garnishes I found the thing quite nice - they could have just given me the custard and I'd have been happy. When we were in Hong Kong I discovered I just didn't get most Chinese desserts, and this was about 50% a confirmation of that, though sweet tofu in ginger syrup is something very much otherwise, hint, hint.
We appreciated the level of attention exercised both by the wait folks and the kitchen. This is a class act, and not hideously expensive: $30 plus tax and tip is maybe a bit high for two dishes in the SGV, but it was good stuff, better than average. On the one hand it is a chain, and it runs to a formula; on the other hand, you can get fried pig intestine as an appetizer. We got their (menu-only) dim sum menu for future reference, well-illustrated with three price levels clearly marked, and we will be checking out that part of their business pretty soon. So far we're impressed.
The dim sum menu is far from adventurous, and we expect no revelations. We were sufficiently taken by the dinner kitchen's attention to detail with our rather prosaic dishes that we want to see if the same holds true for such things as har gow and shu mai. Of course it may very well not, but it won't be an expensive waste of time at any rate.
Thanks for the link!
I think the dim sum is more expensive than the Capital Seafood in Monterey Park. When I returned a few weeks ago, they switched to cart-style dim sum.
I also went there to help a relative try a number of dishes for a possible banquet. The scallops were excellent. We had the winter melon soup that was cooked in half of a winter melon--it was some of the best soup I've ever had. But it was a daily special. In general, the food is the same quality that you would find in most large Cantonese seafood places. It's not adventurous place, but they did a good job with every dish we ordered.
I think the maitre d's name is William. He was extremely helpful, and he his English is very good. Non-Chinese speakers should have absolutely no problems talking with him. He was also very nice to my kids.
It's interesting that they actually have a few small booths and rooms to the right side when you enter. That seems more for the business crowd than for large groups, which is what you might expect in that area.
In the grand scale of things, you can certainly find better and perhaps more affordable restaurants, but you would need to drive farther. I think they are aiming for the more upscale business and non-Chinese clientele based on the type of service they provide, the look and feel of their menu, the decor, and the level of English fluency for much of the staff.
FYI, they have switched back to ordering dim sum off the menu. I'm not sure why they went from menu, to carts, and back to menu again. Maybe because they aren't getting much volume of traffic?
We live about five minutes away, so it's convenient for us when we don't feel like a longer drive down to the Monterey Park vicinity. The dim sum is competent -- and there are some standout dishes -- but I agree that it mostly doesn't rise above "competent." My recommendations would be the har gow (with shaved asparagus), shrimp dumplings in soup, cold pickles, and the black & white sesame balls. They also have some kind of a hot almond custard under puff pastry that looks incredibly rich and delicious -- but we haven't tried it.
They did a nice job decorating the establishment. The main dining room is OK, but do check out the little private rooms off to the side. The bathrooms are also very well-appointed.
That almond custard is more like an almond milk tea under a pastry shell. I like almond-flavored drinks in the first place, but I like this a lot because the steam from the beverage rises up and infuses the underside of the shell with an almond flavor, but the topside of the shell is flaky and crispy.
<i>Mrs. O immediately noticed a Vietnamese favorite, the strangely-named "French-style Beef" (can someone please explain that?)</i>
french-style beef aka shaken beef aka french diced beef aka cubed beef aka bo luc lac.
the name, like french fries, does not necessarily mean it comes from the french. it actually refers to the cut. the beef is suppose to be french cut or cubed diced.