A Chinese Feast

Posted by in The Dining Room

At my cousin’s wedding banquet in New York, we were treated to an outstanding Chinese dinner at East Manor in Elmhurst. The Menu:

Cold Cut plate, which consisted of Chinese roasted pork with crispy skin, pickled cuttlefish, whole baby octopus. Although some might think it an unusual composition, the items were a wonderful contrast and balance to each other. The salty earthiness of the pork was countered by the light tang of the cuttlefish, and the beet-colored octopus made a bold statement about the quality and caliber of the dishes we were about to enjoy.

Shrimp with walnuts and broccoli – This is a delicious, sublime dish that can be easily overdone. Jumbo shrimp were lightly dredged and deep fried, then coated in a very delicate sauce that just clung to the shrimp, not drowning or masking their natural goodness. Large honeyed walnuts were then sprinkled on top, adding a nice textural element to the tender shrimp. Steamed broccoli surrounded the enormous platter, mounded with the shrimp. I’ve had this dish before, and the sauce can be too heavy, the shrimp overcooked, etc. This was perfect in every way.

Chicken and pork with mushrooms and celery – A straightforward stir fry, with long, tender pieces of chicken and pork tossed with shiitake mushrooms, scallions, and celery. A delicious combination of flavors and textures. The sauce was very light, allowing the freshness of the ingredients to shine through.

Squid with sugar snap peas – Another nice stir-fry, with large pieces of squid stir fried in a light sauce, served with sugar snaps. The squid was cooked perfectly and was very tender.

Beef T-Bone – This steak had a wonderful, sweet crispy crust, and the meat was cut off and presented with the bone. Delicious.

Shark’s Fin Soup – a Chinese banquet delicacy. The broth was a rich, slightly thick chicken broth, peppered with minced pork, chicken and ham. I detected shiitake mushrooms as well. The shark’s fin was delicate, with a crisp tooth and flavor similar to scallops. Wonderful.

By this point in the meal, we were all saying, “there’s MORE?” Oh yes…

Chinese Fried Chicken – one of the best I’ve ever had. Very crispy, brown skin, and the meat was tender and juicy. Served with lemon and a salt seasoned with five spice powder.

Lobster – Another Chinese banquet delicacy. A whole lobster was hacked, either steamed or deep fried, then stir fried with a tasty sauce. The lobster meat was cooked to perfection, not tough or rubbery, and the sauce did not overpower.

Steamed Whole Fish – Unless very fresh, a fish prepared in this manner can be very fishy. Not so here. Cooked to tender perfection, the bass? had a simple sauce of soy sauce, oil, scallions and ginger.

Noodles – Representing long life and a long marriage, these premium noodles were served very simply, with bits of scallion and shiitake, and seasoned very little. Very fresh, they had a nice, firm tooth and were very refreshing.

Fried Rice – This was an interesting dish. Lightly seasoned with fermented fish paste, the rice had unusual textural components, like golden raisins.

A fruit platter and sweet red bean soup finished out the meal, not to mention wedding cake!

One of the best banquets I’ve ever had, the focus was definitely on the freshness of all the ingredients. The preparation method never masked or overshadowed any of the food. The service staff did an impeccable job, given the fact that they were serving 500 seated guests. Each plate was removed from the table before bringing the next dish. Clean plates were provided with each course. A truly impressive event to celebrate my cousin’s marriage!

Good thing I don’t have many of these weddings to attend; my wardrobe couldn’t take it!