After tasting practice Saturday morning, my winepal Oliver and I grabbed lunch nearby at South Sea Seafood Village. Id not been here since it opened more than two years ago. At 1:30pm, the place was hopping upstairs and down and was still nearly full. A table for two opened up right away and was the same spot Id had before. Up against the fish tanks and next to the aisle where the servers emerge from the kitchen with trays of food, its the best spot for grabbing fresh hot dishes. Oliver found the chandeliers, white and gilt rococo ornamentation and liberally red interior garishly interesting. (g)
Since it was late in lunch service, the hostess suggested that I order from the menu card. In hindsight, I wish I hadnt, as there was plenty of food still in circulation up to the time we left. Also, I would have been able to judge some of the early dishes and avoid a few things. Results were mixed and mostly negative.
In the do not put in mouth category, the fried taro dumplings looked fine. However, the frying oil was rancid and something in the filling had a moldy, spoiled taste. The har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings) looked beautiful when the lid to the basket was removed. I let them cool down a bit, and when the steam cleared, the wrappers split open without even touching them. Inside were two whole shrimp. Unfortunately, the shrimp had thick black veins and were rubbery from overcooking. The wrappers were grainy, further indication that these har gau were probably made ahead and reheated.
In the decent but not exciting category, char siu so (bbq pork baked turnovers) had overly minced but tasty filling in a slightly stale pastry crust. The Teochew fun gwor had a tender-chewy wrapper and complex filling, although Oliver felt the flavor was a bit muddled. The roast duck had lovely crisp skin, nice soy beans, and deliciously seasoned sauce, but even the breast pieces were a little too chewy. Hard to understand why it wasnt more tender as I could see the crate of the purveyor, Reichardt, in the kitchen.
Finally, a few things in the good and recommended catgory, the surf clam was steamed with supreme soy, a bountiful pile of minced garlic and some chopped scallions. Slightly overdone and a little rubbery in parts, it was still a lovely dish. Oliver was taken by the Italianate simplicity of the preparation that emphasized the essential freshness of the shellfish. We were somewhat rueful that we didnt have any plain rice to soak up the delectable juices. The rice noodle rolls sautéed with XO sauce were well-browned and intensely flavored. The fried sesame balls for dessert were not the thinnest, yet the exterior was very crisp and the shell was chewy and filled with light-colored lotus seed paste. Its hard to believe that these came out of the same kitchen as the terrible taro dumplings.
Quality-wise, atthis number of misses, I wont return for dim sum until theres ample evidence theres been a change in the dim sum kitchen. More evidence that an all-Chinese customer make-up is no proof of quality. The skill shown with the duck, surf clam, and noodles, however, would encourage me to come back for dinner. For price-quantity, Id ordered almost enough for three. With one TsingTao, the tab was $40 with tax and a 20% tip.
Courtesy of ChowNews #1, heres the contact info:
South Sea Seafood Village [Sunset]
1420 Irving St