You might not recall, but I posted here a few months ago. I'm a Brooklynite of half-Chinese ancestry who was raised in the Bay Area and was returning to SF to get married. (The wedding was the 16th of January.) I'd posted here about a place to have a Chinese banquet-style wedding reception, and I'm here to report, as requested, how it all came out.
It came out marvelously.
The backstory: My (non-Chinese) fiance and I had a small wedding list and had chosen Ton Kiang's upstairs dining room as the location for our reception. However, my very Chinese mother had protested long and loud that the choice was unsuitable, that the food would be terrible, that the decor was boring and tired, and that I would be much, much better off going with the restaurant her relatives recommended someplace called Gold Mountain.
In a compromise agreement, to maintain the small size we wanted for our wedding, we agreed to let my mother throw a pre-wedding bash for us at Gold Mountain on the Friday before the event, and that she could invite whomever she chose so long as she paid for it herself. That way she could have all the control she wanted, and we could have the wedding we wanted.
I endured many a long-distance tirade on my foolish insistence on Ton Kiang (I kept howling, "But the food! The food is good! We tried it!") and several times had to rebuff my mother's offer of hosting the entire wedding reception at Gold Mountain to spare me the shame of revealing my ineptitude in choosing a place to eat. The lower price of the banquet menu at Ton Kiang further reinforced my mother's perception of me as a dolt. "Why so cheap?" she howled. "It will be so bad!" Then, after she asked me if they had a bridal changing room and I explained that I could change in the bathroom, she said, "This place is no good!"
At one point, in fear, I posted on Chowhound, begging for recommendations and/or reassurances, and got plenty of both. After sending sisters out to various suggested places (we were *very* close to switching to R&G Lounge based on my sister's review of the crab), we decided to stick to our guns.
Fortuitously or non-fortuitously, depending on your point of view, my mother and I chose, independently, almost entirely identical menus at our respective banquets.
The Gold Mountain menu, as well as I can remember it:
Cold jellyfish salad and assorted cold sliced meats
Shark fin soup
Lobster in garlic sauce
Stir fried greens and black mushrooms
The Ton Kiang menu:
Deluxe Chilled Appetizer Platter
Roasted Shrimp Meat Stuffed crab claws
Squab Sauteed with Virginia Ham (*with crisp, sweet, plump, beautiful snowpeas, I can't even describe to you the beauty of)
Shark's Fin with Dried Scallop Soup
Peking Duck Servbed with Steamed Buns
Steamed Whole Lobster in Garlic Sauce
Chinese Mushrooms with Mustard Greens
Oven Baked Chilean Sea Bass
Combination Fried Rice
House Made Dessert
The Ton Kiang version was, dish for dish, far, far superior to the Gold Mountain version.
My mother is a committed Chinese food lover. I suspect she had no money to send me to college because of her commitment to buying, every week, pounds and pounds of fresh seafood and boxes of dim sum from Oakland Chinatown ever since I can remember. She had mocked my choice of Ton Kiang from the beginning and had continued mocking me up until the weekend of the event.
Imagine my delight, then, to get to Ton Kiang and find that the florist I've hired has gorgeously hung red and gold New Year's lanterns from the ceiling and put fabulous Japanese-style ikebana arrangements, using seasonal branches and citrus fruits, on the tables with a scattering of orchids, making the place look remarkably festive. And then to have my mother, in the second course, chewing rapturously on a crab claw, turn to me and say, "The food here is much, much better." She gestured toward the claw. "They control the heat and make it juicy. And it tastes so fresh."
She repeated her assessment in the second course. Then another triumph occurred during the duck course, when my mother-in-law, a committed dark-meat hater who confessed she is not a fan of Chinese food, actually tried the duck...and liked it. Unlike the duck at Gold Mountain, which had been sullied by inexpert globs of trapped spongy duck grease, the Peking duck at Ton Kiang was crisp where it should be crisp, dry where it should be dry, lean and flavorful with a tender chew in the meat. We converted her in one dinner to both duck and Chinese food, folks.
I confess, I had been afraid how it would go because I knew Ton Kiang's specialty was dim sum, so what if the banquet fell short? But it seems whoever is in that kitchen is an expert and to be trusted, even with something as tricky as Peking duck. I must write Ton Kiang a letter to thank them for giving me something to gloat to my mother about for decades to come. Plus, the service was ten times better than Gold Mountain: it was efficient, professional, attentive, friendly, and kept our wine glasses filled.
All in all, we had a glorious time. So thanks to all you Chowhounds for your suggestions, your interest, and your good wishes. I think the next time my mother goes out for Chinese in San Francisco, she might take those pesky relatives of hers to Ton Kiang.
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