Apparently I'm the only piker who cut out and went home immediately after this Luculan banquet (40 guests, 4 tables, 12 or so courses) at Moon Palace. Lucky me, I found myself smack between charming Chowhound venerables Cathy2 and dickson d, and in front of me the the following Shanghai fare (n.b.: A pox upon the first one who criticizes this meal based on "authenticity" rather than taste, in any way):
Cold Appetizers: An auspicious start. Cold fatty duck breast (succulent and I wish I'd taken more), barbecued rump roast (or maybe it was another cut, nothing too fancy, though), a salad of what I thought was mostly pickled cabbage, others thought was jellyfish and ultimately was decided to be a mixture of the two (in Shanghai, they must sell "Jellyfish Helper"); the mysterious "spongy brown rectangular prisms" (maybe tofu, maybe goat spleen -- who knows, it was tasty); and cucumber salad. Plus some nice ginger sauce and hot pepper oil for dipping.
Combination Casserole Soup: A "soup to nuts" soup, containing two types of fish balls (judging from the diameter, musta been groupers!) and salted pork. Nothing extraordinary, but good hot soup needn't be extraordinary on a cold night like tonight.
Eel (with ginger in brown gravy): Very nice presentation of this normally disgusting creature; sliced up nice and thin, with gravy and cilantro and ginger all over it, I actually took a liking to Mr. Eel. Seriously, this was one of the highlights of the meal.
Shanghai Pork Thigh: I felt like a Tudor king when they brought out this beautifully roasted, burnt sienna colored hog hank. The meat was tender and delightful, and not hard to see why, given the 1/2 inch carapace of fat and skin surrounding it. With some encouragement (read, cajoling) from Cathy2, I ate big chunks of the unctuous rind; it felt like some sort of Atkins initiation ritual, and trust me on this: a little bit of the pork thigh fat goes a long way. Delicious.
Sauteed Shrimp: This dish was a reentry into normality land. The shrimp were presented with one of those mayonnaise-and-fruity kind of sauces from the "fancy" side of the menu at the suburban strip mall chinese places we all know. The shrimp itself was, unexpectedly, very high quality, and I was coy and canny enough to get the last one at our table.
Abalone with Asparagus in house special sauce: In my opinion, this was THE highlight of the meal. Although I was informed the abalone was only so-so and tasted "canned," all I can say after sucking down more than my share of this wonderful dish is, how do you get any better abalone than these delightfully flavorful and tender medallions? Well, I guess the first thing you'd need is a boat.
Stir Fried Baby Chicken: Poor baby chickens; it's a shame they had to die for this so-so course. Basically just little pieces of chopped up roast squab; lots of bones and gristle in my serving, unfortunately. Well, maybe I just missed the point on this one. Not bad meat, but I just didn't get it, because the tininess of the bird didn't seem to impart any sort of extraordinary succulence.
Lion's Head Meatball Casserole: Another highlight of the meal for me. The meatballs were just fantastic, weaving two or three layers of flavor and a good firm texture. With a mildly seasoned sauce, these were just wonderful. The most surprising part? I never guessed I'd like lion head meat so much!
Dessert: Unfortunately, this was a real disappointment. Canned fruit salad heated up with an egg drop (or so it appeared). Just a perfunctory dessert, not worth the calories.
Despite the disappointing dessert, this overall was a great dining experience, even if the staff clearly was working overtime to move us along (our group filled half the restaurant at a fixed price, so I can understand the need for speed).
Also one caveat, I didn't sample at least one item, the sea cucumber in brown sauce. Others said it was good, though.
Hope to read some other posts on this dinner.
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