We had a very nice dinner at Louie's California Chinese Cuisine. We had two tables, seventeen people.
Raw fish salad: a good blend of raw fish, shredded radish, ginger, pickled onion, fried wonton skins, a bit of chili, and other wonderful crunchy/tasty bits. A great way to start the meal.
Shrimp dumpling soup: a very rich broth, in a small bowl, with a single huge dumpling. The several shrimp packed into the dumpling were sweet and crunchy.
Mushrooms with Mustard Greens: with oyster-sauce, very pristine and distinct flavors. The greens and the mushrooms are cooked separately. The jade-colored greens were crunchy, perfectly cooked. The mushrooms were rich and flavorful.
Pork Shank: This is the front leg of the pig, a huge hunk of pork with the skin on. A classic Shanghai dish. In Louie's version the pork is first deep-fried to crisp the skin, then braised in a sweet soy mixture for a long time. The skin retains its crunchiness, the fat melts away, the meat is meltingly tender. The waiter plucked the bone away; it came out in one pull, with nothing attached.
Steamed Tofu: chunks of tofu, with shrimp paste on top, lightly dressed with soy-sauce . Simple, straightforward flavor. I think it's important to have simple dishes mixed among the richer banquet fare.
Tea-smoked sea bass; this was a big hit with everyone. A huge chunk of seabass, perfectly cooked. The "tea-smoking" left a red, sweet glaze on the outside. The fish was juicy and tender. An expensive dish but worth it. Previous posters have noted that the same dish, ordered in a smaller portion , is not as successful because it dries out.
Special Noodles with Abalone Sauce: these "dry-braised" noodles, with bits of mushroom, were exceptionally tasty. In a previous post Yimster explained that the restaurant serves dried abalone at high-priced dinners. These dried abalone need soaking, and the soaking liquid is used for cooking the noodles.
Scallop and Ginger Fried Rice: delicious golden rice, redolent of ginger, with chunks of scallop.
Thousand Layer Cake: some felt cheated, inasmuch as there were only five layers, but it was tasty. Presented in a steamer, in which it had presumably been cooked, it was a sponge-like cake with a sweet filling (apricot jam?).
We brought our home-made wine: 1988 Sparkling Wine (disgorged the evening before), and 2001 Cabernet in magnums.
Louie's is a former Japanese restaurant, and there are four semiprivate rooms linked with Shoji screens that can be configured for various numbers of diners. We occupied two of the rooms. Service was impeccable. Cost was $22 each, including tip and tax. I don't think they charged a corkage fee, but we opened and poured the wine ourselves. Validated parking is at the Holiday Inn across the street.
Of course we had ordered the dinner in advance, tipped off to the best dishes by previous Chowhound posts. One needs to set things up in advance with Harry, the manager.
Louie's California Chinese Cuisine
646 Washington Street (just below Kearny)